Subscribe Now

The ‘Fast and Furious’ Series Through the Years: From the Early Days to ‘F9’ and Beyond

1428049615_mcdsaha_ec188_h_the fast the furious zoom
 Universal Pictures/Everett Collection

They don’t have friends — they have family. A lot has happened in the Fast and Furious universe since the franchise debuted, both onscreen and off.

Back in 2001, few viewers could have imagined that the first entry in the series, The Fast and the Furious, would spawn even one sequel, let alone a multibillion-dollar franchise that includes an animated TV series and a theme park ride.

The original film was loosely based on Ken Li’s “Racer X,” a Vibe magazine article about illegal street racing in New York City. The late Paul Walker, then relatively unknown, starred as Brian O’Conner, a Los Angeles police officer sent to infiltrate a heist crew led by Dominic Toretto (Vin Diesel). Naturally, Brian comes to respect Dom for his driving skills and strict moral code, and by the end of the movie decides to let him go free.

While the movie racked up $40 million at the box office during its opening weekend, critics were not blown away. “The Fast and the Furious is Rebel Without a Cause without a cause,” the Washington Post wrote in June 2001. “The Young and the Restless with gas fumes. The Quick and the Dead with skid marks.”

The late Roger Ebert, however, was slightly more impressed by the movie’s strange blend of intense action scenes and sincere bromance. “It doesn’t have a brain in its head, but it has some great chase scenes,” he wrote. “The Fast and the Furious is not a great movie, but it delivers what it promises to deliver, and knows that a chase scene is supposed to be about something more than special effects.”

Diesel, then pursuing marquee stardom in XXX and The Chronicles of Riddick, did not return for 2003’s 2 Fast 2 Furious or 2006’s The Fast and The Furious: Tokyo Drift, but by movie No. 4 — 2009’s Fast & Furious — he had seen the error of his ways. (The actor did make a cameo in Tokyo Drift, but only after Universal agreed to give him the film rights to the Riddick series.)

The California native now sees the franchise as his legacy, especially since Walker’s 2013 death in a car accident. “It’s not uncommon that I’ll give a speech on set where I’ll say, ‘We’re making this franchise for people that are no longer with us,’ which is very real, and the implications of that are very heavy,” he told Men’s Health in June 2021. “‘But at the same time, we’re making the franchise for the people that aren’t born yet.’ When you have a unique perspective of creating a franchise that spans generations, you realize, OK, we all have to be as brilliant as possible. We have to reach as high as we can. Because it may be more important than just a movie. More important than two hours of escapism. There may be something more at play.”

Keep scrolling to take a look back at everything that’s happened in The Fast Saga: