Who would’ve thought during the mid-2000s that an action movie inspired by a Vibe magazine article and “Point Break” would morph into one of the most successful film franchises ever?

What began as a street racing crime flick set in the neighborhoods of Los Angeles has now grown into a tentpole multibillion-dollar phenomenon that has shaped pop culture. Along the way, we’ve watched the family of good-hearted criminals transforming from stealing electronics to becoming kings of their local racing circuit to international mercenaries tasked with taking down global terrorists.

The Fast and Furious franchise has always delivered some of the most beloved chase scenes, along with vehicular heists and destruction, that have made a global appeal. The best of these sequences perfectly rode the thin line where the action was rooted in some semblance of realism while simultaneously threatening to tether into complete parody. With Fast X arriving in theaters this week, we’re looking back at 10 of the most insane and well-choreographed action set pieces spawned by the franchise.

10. The Boat Jump in 2 Fast 2 Furious

Boat Jump Scene - 2 Fast 2 Furious
Paul Walker in 2 Fast 2 Furious.

Vin Diesel didn’t return for the second film in the saga, probably oblivious to the fact that it would soon turn into a billion-dollar franchise. But 2 Fast 2 Furious, despite being widely regarded as the worst film in the franchise, did have some redeeming moments of pure action.

Paul Walker reprised his role as Brian, and along with Tyrese Gibson’s iconic character, Roman, the two jump a Camaro from a harbor onto the back of a yacht. The reason was to save a damsel in distress with time running out. After a hundred things go wrong, Brian makes it onto the boat, thus making the fans wonder, “Did that car just fly?” Well, it was a question that fans would soon stop asking.

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9. Gas Tanker Heist in Fast & Furious

Michelle Rodriguez & Vin Diesel in Fast & Furious.

Fast & Furious marked the fourth entry in the franchise. It was basically a reboot that brought back the original cast members, Paul Walker, Vin Diesel, Jordana Brewster, and Michelle Rodriguez. After the mediocre response to Tokyo Drift – the lowest-grossing film in the franchise – director Justin Lin reunited Dominic Toretto and FBI agent, Brian O’Conner, continuing to work together to stop a drug lord, Arturo Braga. 

The film provided both a return to form and a pivotal step toward the set-piece-centric family extravaganza that translated into a box-office success. The change in direction became evident right with the opening set piece, as the film throws us right in the middle of Dom Toretto in an ongoing roadside heist. But naturally, the stakes this time around are much higher, as the team needs to take down a giant 18-wheeler truck carrying a gas tanker that could blow at any moment. It’s not as bombastic and absurd as the sequences that the sequel (as well as the prequel) films delivered. But it’s earnest, self-aware, and pure fun.

8. Harpooning Dom’s Car in The Fate of the Furious

Best Action Sequences in the Fast & Furious Franchise
Vin Diesel & Charlize Theron in The Fate of the Furious.

In the eighth film of the franchise, the team faces perhaps their toughest opponent of all – Dom Toretto himself. After inexplicably going rogue, Dom joins hands with a notorious cyber-terrorist. But in fact, the villain has his baby son hostage and hence, threatens to kill the baby unless Dom does exactly what she says without anyone else’s knowledge.

During the film’s second act, which takes place in New York, Cypher uses Dom to steal a nuclear football from a Russian official while his team tries to stop him. It’s a consistently well-filmed and punchy car chase, even when it defies all the laws of physics. But in a film loaded with bonkers and over-the-top action, it’s this sequence that delivers on its high-octane thrills by not going overboard with the suspension of disbelief. The action is played vividly in broad daylight, but what takes it to the next level is seeing Dom fight his own team. After all, as the films never, ever stop reiterating, they are family.

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7. Final Truck Heist in The Fast And The Furious

Vin Diesel and Paul Walker in The Fast And The Furious.

Back when director Rob Cohen was inspired to make the first-ever fast and furious film after reading a 1998 Vibe magazine article called “Racer X” based in Los Angeles, no one expected it to one day turn into a multi-billion dollar franchise. The fairly simple plot, also partly inspired by films such as “Point Break,” tasked an undercover cop with taking down a crew of carjackers. The stakes were minimal, the motivation was to get quick getaways and money off of stealing DVD players. And, of course, there’s street racing.

But the set piece that started it all and laid the blueprint for the ever-escalating heist sequences remains the truck robbery at the end of this film. Re-watching the sequence gives you not just a view of the time that’s passed but also reminds you of a time when our heroes weren’t all that invulnerable. That’s what creates a palpable sense of danger and urgency in this tense action set piece that goes on for over six minutes. When the driver fires off a shotgun with Vincent’s arm all twisted around a wire, you practically feel the buckshot flying past Brian’s face.

6. Skydiving Cars in Furious 7

Paul Walker in Furious 7.

There was a lot that changed between F6 and F7, the most tragic of which was the untimely death of Paul Walker. After Justin Lin’s direction and sense of scale being attached to most of the fast and furious films, now it was time for the franchise to expand and go big. Although James Wan’s way of filming action did bring a new appeal to the film, the hyperactive and high frame rate and quick-cut editing didn’t particularly make for as exciting hand-to-hand combat sequences. Thankfully, the film had plenty of high-octane action that was hitherto unseen on the big screen.

The craziest thing about this iconic skydiving sequence is that it only marks the beginning of a near-fifteen minute non-stop action scene that sees Brian rescue Ramsey, fight Tony Jaa, and then sprint off the side of a falling bus as it lands on the roof of another car. The spatiality of the action remains consistently clean and easy to track, moving fluidly from one sub-action scene to the next within a larger sequence. It’s not just good action filming, but also brilliant structuring of it on paper.

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5. The Never-Ending Runway in Fast & Furious 6

Runaway Action Sequence in Fast & Furious 6
Vin Diesel in Fast & Furious 6.

Various theories and calculations have concluded that in order for this action set piece to have actually played out, the runway would have to be around 18-28 miles long. For context, the longest runway in the world is about 3.4 miles long. But that’s precisely why it makes it to the list. The runway sequence in “Fast & Furious 6” could be looked at as a metaphor for the bonkers nature of this never-ending franchise in general. It’s too much to take it seriously, but it’s not nearly enough.

The scene plays out on a ridiculously long runway as our heroes try to bring Owen Shaw’s plane down using wires fired into the wings of the giant plane. Like the best action sequences, there’s a three-act structure even in this climactic piece. It’s all well-lit, despite taking place at night, while the action choreography is easy to follow. There’s action unraveling both within and outside the plane, all edited seamlessly while also building toward an emotional moment in the death of Gisele.

4.  The Opening & The Great Train Robbery in Fast Five

Vin Diesel and Paul Walker in Fast Five.

The only reason why Dom’s escape from prison doesn’t make it to the list is that it acted as a direct gateway into this fantastic fifth film. It’s a scene that single-handedly proved how Justin Lin was making the film to reinvigorate the franchise and take it to another level. It was long past the days of street races and local rivalry but not quite the time of skydiving cars out of airplanes. Fast Five remains the best film in the franchise because it embraced whatever lies in between; it understood what makes a good Fast & Furious film, and an old-fashioned train heist with upgraded swaggy cars was enough to set the tone for the rest of the film’s jam-packed runtime.

Fast Five set the bar high for tentpole set-piece spectacles to come, and the train heist remains one of the sleekest action set pieces in the franchise. Dom, Brian, Mia, and Vince all get their personal moments to shine as the dynamics shift due to some unspoken agendas motivating the job. It’s quick and stylish, with fast getaway cars and a death-defying dive off a cliff. As a fan, you consume it with a satiating gulp while knowing right off the bat that the film is going to take the franchise to the next level.

3. The Skyscraper Jump in Furious 7

A bonkers moment that was spoiled in the film’s trailers, but one that still ended up surprising die-hard fans of the franchise. Dom and Brian drive through not just two but three Dubai skyscrapers while jumping off the car at the last moment. The overarching tall landscape of the location just adds to the spectacle of the sequence, making it one of the franchise’s most memorably glorious images.

There’s a palpable tension that’s built throughout the hacking scene, complimented by a hilarious diversion courtesy of Roman and a backdoor kickass hand-to-hand fight scene involving Letty. It is all built with a piercing momentum to the grand moment through the tall skyscrapers that have since become one of the most beloved sequences in the whole franchise.

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2. The Tank Chase in Fast and Furious 6

Tyrese Gibson in Fast & Furious 6.

Before Dom and his crew were spoiled by discovering how cars aren’t just useful for driving but also for skydiving and stopping a torpedo, Fast & Furious 6 gave us one of the best highway chase sequences in action history. After the wide critical as well as commercial success of Fast Five, everyone was expecting the sixth film to deliver something that everyone was no doubt anticipating highly. Well, filmmaker Justin Lin sure as hell delivered. 

The set pieces in the sixth film were all staged to perfect eloquence, but it’s this highway tank chase that makes for one of the most enthralling moments. Apart from the well-edited and choreographed action, it’s also the characterization of the little moments that breathe a sense of awe into the scene. For instance, the moment when Dom takes a deep gasp after having barely made it through a collapsing bridge. It immediately grounds our heroes into a sense of realism before they turned all super. 

1. Dragging the Vault in Fast Five

As discussed earlier, Fast Five remains the turning point for the Fast franchise precisely because it understood that having larger stakes doesn’t have to come at the cost of good direction and on-location practical film-making. The pacing and the white-knuckle thrills of the film hold up even upon countless rewatches. But what makes it even more satisfying to revisit is its path-breaking ending.

The finale sees Dom and Bryan literally towing a gigantic bank vault through the streets of Rio. It’s self-aware, yet never to the point that it turns itself into a parody. The emotional stakes of the events prior set the core for the climax, as it leads to one of the most dementedly brilliant cars chases you’ll ever watch. The team’s escape with the main villain’s money feels extremely satisfying and uplifting, especially after having grown with these characters for over a decade.

All these years later, the Fast franchise surely has delivered upon the promise of giving bigger and more grandeur action set pieces. But this one feels earnestly emotional and exhilarating while also standing as a testament to the global success of the whole franchise. Now how do you top that?

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