The Fast and the Furious franchise has become a worldwide phenomenon and this week, Hollywood is releasing the eight installment titled, The Fate of the Furious. On top of this, Vin Diesel and other people involved with the iconic franchise have revealed that there are several additional sequels in the works. Given this information, it is understandable that you would ask yourself what made these movies so popular and why people are still rushing to the theaters to see them. Let’s take a look at what has made this franchise such a cultural phenomenon.
The Fast and the Furious series spans all the way back to 2001, when The Fast and the Furious was released. The movie was produced by Universal Studios and it was based off of an article titled “Racer X”, which was about Japanese race cars competing at night in the streets of New York. Of course, the film is a very loose adaptation, as it takes place in Los Angeles and the plot is very different from the actual article. At the time, the concept was pretty original, something Hollywood had never quite depicted in film.
Universal chose Rob Cohen to direct the action movie, since he directed many of the studios previous releases including Dragonheart, Daylight, and The Skulls. Cohen had also expressed interest in directing a movie about street racing. So, The Fast and the Furious seemed like the perfect fit. To prepare for the movie, Cohen actually attended street races to get a first-hand experience of the culture in order to accurately portray its lifestyle on film. The Fast and the Furious had a $38 million budget and in the end, it was a huge hit, making over $200 million at the worldwide box office.
The first film was so successful and critically acclaimed that two sequels titled 2 Fast 2 Furious and The Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift were released in 2003 and 2006. While the first sequel was a bit more successful than the original, Tokyo Drift took a significant dip at the box office and was called “an adequate follow-up to the previous Fast and Furious installments” by Rotten Tomatoes. Many people believe that the third movie wasn’t as successful because it didn’t focus on the characters people fell in love with from the previous two installments.
The franchise’s future was looking very bleak around 2007 as Universal Studios wasn’t confident that the Fast and the Furious trilogy could expand any further. In a 2013 interview, the studio’s co-president Jeffrey Kirschenbaum told TheWrap, “The talk internally was that the franchise was played out. At that point we were weighing whether to go straight to video or not for future sequels. We weren’t sure what we were going to do.” At one point, Universal Pictures realized that Vin Diesel’s absence was hurting the franchise and if they were able to bring him back, there would be a slight chance that they would be able to orchestrate a rebirth of the series. In this revamp, Universal would tone down on the racing elements of the movie and move the spotlight onto the action, adventure, and crime aspects to appeal to a larger audience.
Fast and Furious (2009) would take place five years after the events of the first film and the story would continue from there with Fast 5 and Fast & Furious 6. From the fourth installment on, each film would become a greater box office hit. Fast and the Furious (2009) grossed over $350 million worldwide, Fast Five grossed $625 million, and Fast & Furious 6 made Universal a whopping $785 million worldwide in 2013.
After this, Vin Diesel signed on to return for future films and to become the producer along with Neal Moritz. With two trilogies released, Universal realized it was time to change the films once again, as Hollywood was also changing. At the time, audiences craved large-scale action movies like The Avengers and even the Mission Impossible and James Bond movies.
So, a second revamp of the series came with a diverse cast, heightened stakes, and more action and explosives than the previous two trilogies. They would also expand Dwyane Johnson’s role due to his massive (and highly deserved) Hollywood appeal. With these new elements (and sadly the loss of Paul Walker), Furious 7 was one of the highest grossing movies of all-time, bringing in over $1.5 billion at the worldwide box office. Vin Diesel announced that it was the beginning of a “new trilogy” and that there are plans at Universal to develop at least a tenth movie in the ever-growing franchise.