They say not to judge a book by its cover, but you can certainly judge one by its title. It’s your first step into the book’s world and, unlike the cover, is actually made by the book’s writer. Same goes for video games, TV, and of course movies. One franchise has turned the simple element of its titles and turned them into a singular art form, wherein merely the reveal of said title is massive news. That franchise is also the single greatest film franchise on the planet. I know it’s the greatest because this happened:
There are 8 movies currently in the Fast & Furious franchise. These are their titles:
The Fast and the Furious
2 Fast 2 Furious
The Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift
Fast & Furious
Fast & Furious 6
The Fate of the Furious
Every one of these titles tells a story, both of the film, society, and what was happening behind the scenes. Each one is brilliant in its own way. But they all start from one place, the beginning.
Live life a quarter mile at a time.
The Fast and the Furious really is just Point Blank with cars. Well, cars and FAMILY. That core idea of family is what has allowed this franchise to bloom like it has while still retaining a semblance of depth beneath its bluster. This first title tries to convey that depth by speaking hyperbolicly of the central players in the film. They are the fast. They are the furious. But which is which? Vin Diesel wins every race against Paul Walker, which would make him the fast. But he’s also the one who’s accused of beating someone to death with a wrench.
Fun fact, throughout the franchise Torettos pick up wrenches to weaponize. This happens again in Fast Five and Furious 7 as a call back to the serious crime that makes the police look into Vin Diesel.
He clearly has anger issues, so is he the furious too? Is the title really just speaking uniformly about Vin Diesel, or do we give the title of “the fast” to Paul Walker simply because he can’t be referred to as “the furious?” We may never know the answers to these questions. What we do know is that this title would set the template for everything that came after. Just about the only rule for future entries into the franchise would be the required appearance of either the word “fast” or “furious.”
Of course they decided to make a statement straight away on the sequel.
How Fast Do You Want It?
To follow up a movie like The Fast and the Furious, all the sequel had to promise was that it would be faster, or more furious. But no, this wouldn’t simply be faster. It would be TOO FAST. TOO FURIOUS. You won’t be able to handle how fast and furious this movie truly is. Look at those neon lights coming off of those cars. The world will fall away and it will merely be us and our speed. Our fury will be all encompassing. We are no longer describing the characters, we are describing the world we are about to enter. You are not prepared.
Fun fact, this is the worst film in the franchise.
Since Paul Walker was the only returning star from the original film, this film couldn’t be sold as the continuing adventures of Dom and Brian. Instead it was marketed as the next level. The chases would be bigger, the bromances deeper, the ladies hotter. They would do that thing where a car drives under and through a truck. It followed the rules set by the first, utilizing both “fast” and “furious” and introducing a new one. This series doesn’t just use the number of its entry, it bathes in it.
Then the third film completely disregarded that rule.
On the streets of Tokyo speed needs no translation.
The Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift is the most divisive film in the franchise. For many, like myself, it is the best entry in the series, for others it is the weakest. This is probably because it ditches the entire original cast in favor of a southern boy with the thickest accent known to man going to Tokyo where he learns to drift, cool racing where you skid around corners. I do it in Mario Kart all the time. The title is clearly a dry run for the alternate universe version of these movies where they go straight to DVD and each one is titled something along the lines of, The Fast and the Furious: Havana Nights, The Fast and the Furious: Philadelphia Wheelie, or the like. But instead the return to physical cars and the beloved character of Han brought many fans in to watch, that with a cameo by Vin Diesel in the end brought the series back from the brink.
Fun fact, this movie is actually sixth in the series timeline.
The title is comprehensive. You’re getting the fast, who in this case is Drift King, you’re getting the furious, who is absolutely Lucas Black, and they will be Tokyo Drifitng. It’s the most economical title, but that also makes it stand apart from the others. It breaks the rules, but that’s alright. That’s actually the third rule. There are no rules.
For example, how to confuse your audience by using the original title again but just slightly differently.
New Model. Original Parts.
Fast & Furious takes the undercurrent of 2 Fast 2 Furious that it describes the franchise and not the characters, and works it like none other. Behind the scenes this was when the words saga and mythology started being thrown around for the franchise. It was the beginning of something bigger while also being much smaller than what would follow. The film itself is the most utilitarian and necessary of the sequels. It had to get Brian and Dom together again so they could go off on adventures and nurture their bromance. It’s probably the darkest of the franchise, with Vin Diesel investigating the death of Michelle Rodriguez, but it also has the most exhilarating finale.
Fun fact, there’s a sequence in this film where Vin Diesel reconstructs Michelle Rodriguez’s death through sheer car knowledge. A sequence that turns out to be entirely wrong when Michelle Rodriguez turns up alive 2 movie later.
Again a Fast & Furious movie refuses to use a number. Again it makes sense. Fast & Furious is the soft reboot of the series. An ideal entry point to come in on and stick around for the ride. Just make sure to buckle up, it’ll be f– well you see where I was going.
Except nobody expected what came next.
Feel the Speed. Feel the Rush.
Something I learned early in school was to choose between either writing out numbers or just entering the digit. Fast Five took that rule, looked at 2 Fast 2 Furious, remembered there are no rules, and threw it out the window. Again it feels like the title is describing the Fast Five in this film, but there are eleven central characters in this movie so which five are the Fast Five. Let’s assume Vin Diesel and Paul Walker, then I assume you add Tyreese and Sun Kang because they came over from the other films, but then who is the fifth fast? Is it The Rock? What happened to the furious? I know people are angry in this movie. Is that no longer relevant? More importantly, why do the words Fast and Five share the same F? Is it a metaphor for Vin Diesel’s bromance love triangle tension between both Paul Walker and The Rock? Probably.
Fun fact, this is all practical:
Fast Five is the peak of the series. After this one they were on a hot streak, which is why the titling gets a little lazy moving forward.
All Roads Lead to This.
For much of the marketing for this one I felt they lost their way with titles. It was simply an earlier title with a number at the end. I expected better from The Fast and the Furious. Then, in the movie itself, the title appears as Furious 6. The first word and the ampersand deleted entirely. Surprising the entire audience with a reminder that they still know what they are. This one wasn’t describing the franchise but the Furious 6, most likely including Vin Diesel, Paul Walker, The Rock, Michelle Rodriguez, Luke Evans, and Jason Statham (stay past the credits!). This is also the last movie to take place before Tokyo Drift in the timeline, so technically this movie is fifth. Oh, and they’re back to typing digits!
Fun fact, Rita Ora starts a street race at night in London in this film, implying that this is a regular thing she does.
Technically, since this film is Furious 6, that puts it in an odd position next to its follow up.
Vengeance Hits Home.
Literally! Jason Statham blows up Vin Diesel’s home! Furious 7 will always be connected to the unfortunate passing of Paul Walker. It feels like it was heavily rejiggered from something different, but it also has the scene where they all drop from a plane onto a mountain road to catch a bus with a super hacker on board. So yeah it’s still amazing. This is also the first time the number of Furious people syncs up perfectly with the core team. They’re The Rock, Michelle Rodriguez, Paul Walker, Vin Diesel, Tyreese, Ludacris, and Jordana Brewster. It also has the second best ending of the series, but for compleely different reasons than the first.
Fun fact, this will make you cry:
There are three eras of Fast & Furious. Pre-Rock; counting The Fast and the Furious through Fast & Furious, The Crew; counting Fast Five through Furious 7 (notable for every one of these featuring a number in the title), and following this we enter the Post-Paul Walker era. They knew they had to shake things up moving forward, and the perfect place to start was the title.
Family no more.
Surprisingly it took until the eight film for this series to use an outright pun in its title. F8 and Fate being interchangeable in the marketing. Well played. It sends a message of moving forward from the tragedy of Paul Walkers passing into the future for these characters. The plot also plays into the balancing effect his character had in the stories. Vin Diesel is adrift without his bromance, and his beef with The Rock is evident on screen as well as off.
Fun fact, The Rock called a cast member in this one a “candy ass” and though we all thought it was Scott Eastman, it turned out to be Vin Diesel whose ass was candy.
Eight movies in and these movies are still finding new ways to title themselves, a surprise and delight every time. May the next two, yes two, have titles as elegant as the Fate of the Furious, bearing the beautiful return of the word “the” in the title.
Thought for the record, it looks like the Fate of the Furious is that they just kind of forgive each other no matter how egregious their past crimes were. Like, the things Vin Diesel does in this movie are about on par with some of the stuff from Civil War, but while the Avengers broke up the FAMILY is as strong as ever. Hell they even let Jason Statham sit at the table when he shouldn’t because he KILLED HAN.
Fun fact, Han’s full name is Han Seol-Oh.
PS, This wound up taking itself far more seriously than I intended. Much like my own interest in these movies.