'The Fast and the Furious’ Facts: Inside the Finances of the Epic Movie Franchise
Few modern movie franchises can match the fun and the financial success of “The Fast and the Furious.” Unlike competing superhero franchise films, they are not based on preexisting stories, like a comic book or graphic novel. The world that these movies have created is totally their own. It’s filled with fast cars, lots of parties, and, of course, a whole lot of talk about “family.”
It’s also an incredibly lucrative world, raking in more than $5.1 billion at the box office for the first eight installments. And with the final two movies on the horizon — the final film is set to premiere in 2021 — there are plenty of ways the franchise will continue. Between spinoffs, TV shows and theme park experiences, the world of the Furious crew don’t seem to be going anywhere 2 Fast.
Here’s a general roundup of some of the most notable financial and story facts about the franchise, both behind-the-scenes and by the numbers. The movies are listed in chronological order from when they were released.
*All box office numbers are from BoxOfficeMojo and the Metascore is from IMDB.
'The Fast and the Furious' (2001)
Inspired by an article on street racing, the creators, screenwriter Gary Scott Thompson and director Rob Cohen, wanted to delve into the subculture of street racing in Los Angeles and the drama that unfolds around it. The original movie name was purchased from a 1955 film of the same title.
Plot-wise, it’s often compared to "Point Break" with an undercover cop infiltrating a community of sport enthusiasts and part-time criminals. They — purposefully or accidentally — tip their hat to the comparisons in the film by visiting the same restaurant in Malibu where a character from "Point Break" works.
A handful of leading men were originally approached for Paul Walker’s role of Brian O’Conner, including Mark Wahlberg and Christian Bale. Vin Diesel was a star on the rise thanks to his breakout role in "Pitch Black." Despite the fact that he was in contention, his role was originally offered to Timothy Olyphant, who turned it down.
Vin Diesel was eventually chosen to costar as Dominic Toretto along with Walker. And, despite the fact that they didn’t even have drivers licenses yet, Jordana Brewster and Michelle Rodriguez snagged two of the leading lady roles and secured their place in the franchise. The original film even has a cameo from rapper Ja Rule.
'The Fast and the Furious' at the Box Office
Budget: $38 million
Worldwide gross: $207,283,925
Total profit: $169,283,925
With a massive profit margin, the original film was considered a hit. It was at least popular enough with both audiences and Universal Studios to warrant the creation of a sequel.
'2 Fast 2 Furious' (2003)
Thanks to the financial success of the first film, Universal Studios wanted to make a sequel. At the time Vin Diesel wasn’t interested and focused on some other projects. He also said that he felt movie sequels “lacked substance,” so he bowed out.
As a result, the storyline followed the film’s other star, Paul Walker’s character, and introduced a new leading lady, Eva Mendes. Though Mendes wouldn’t be in any future films (except a cameo in "Fast Five"), the film did introduce two more staples to the franchise, Tej (played by rapper Ludacris) and Roman (played by singer-turned-actor Tyrese Gibson).
'2 Fast 2 Furious' at the Box Office
Budget: $76 million
Worldwide gross: $236,350,661
Total profit: $160,350,661
Despite its relatively lackluster critical response, the sequel still did really well financially at the box office. Universal Studios wanted to continue to capitalize on the public’s interest and began production pretty quickly for another installment in the series.
'The Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift' (2006)
Chris Morgan, the screenwriter of “Tokyo Drift,” originally pitched the idea with Vin Diesel in mind as the main character. The studio, however, wanted the setting to be at a high school. Often seen as the outlier in the franchise, the movie follows a high school student who’s sent away to Tokyo where he learns this specific type of racing subculture (the “drift”).
One character, Han (who was named Han Seoul-oh in reference to Han Solo from "Star Wars"), was introduced in this movie but killed off. At the very end of the movie, Vin Diesel made a cameo which arguably saved the film from being unconnected to the rest of the storylines. Interestingly, he did so in order to own rights to his own franchise.
Because of the somewhat confusing timeline of “Tokyo Drift,” the filmmakers decided to place this in the future so Han could return in future films. They would eventually tie it into the rest of the storylines, but it would take a few years.
'The Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift' at the Box Office
Worldwide gross: $158,468,292
Total profit: N/A
Despite the fact that there was a lot of controversy and criticism around the film, it still grossed a healthy amount of money at the box office.
And thanks to the popularity and interest of Vin Diesel’s cameo, there seemed to be enough excitement from fans to possibly see another film in the franchise.
This time, Vin Diesel took more creative control and began shaping the future of the franchise.
'Fast & Furious' (2009)
Thanks to Dominic Toretto’s cameo at the very end of "Tokyo Drift," fans seemed willing and ready for another movie in the franchise. Vin Diesel now shifted gears as both actor and producer in the movie, and brought back many of the original stars including Jordana Brewster, Michelle Rodriguez, and Paul Walker. Walker was originally hesitant to reenter the franchise that seemed to be losing steam, but Diesel assured him that this movie would be a true sequel to the first.
The movie still followed the world of street racing, but focused more on the crew, their “family,” and started introducing major set pieces that the franchise would become known for like planes and tanks. It also (supposedly) killed off Michelle Rodriguez’s character, Letty, proving that they were willing to kill off their stars. It also introduced the character Gisele (played by future Wonder Woman Gal Gadot) and reintroduced the character of Han.
'Fast & Furious' at the Box Office
Budget: $85 million
Worldwide gross: $363,164,265
Total profit: $278,164,265
Finally beginning to find its footing, this film did better financially than any previous franchise film had done before. It proved that audiences still wanted to see more from the franchise and started to establish some of what you could expect from future movies. Unsurprisingly, work began quickly on development for another movie.
'Fast Five' (2011)
“Fast Five” was the first time the storylines shifted away from purely the world of car and street racing and into more of a heist movie. The location changed to Brazil and the character of Luke Hobbs was added. Originally created for Tommy Lee Jones, a fan suggested Vin Diesel consider Dwayne Johnson for the part. The film was supposed to wrap up the sort of trilogy of the first, fourth and now fifth movies (the second and third being considered out of the chronology, of course).
'Fast Five' at the Box Office
Budget: $125 million
Worldwide gross: $626,137,675
Total profit: $501,137675
Even with its big budget, this movie ended up being the biggest financial and critical success of the franchise thus far. And, despite the fact that it was made to wrap up the storylines nicely, development quickly began for another film in the franchise. And the fact that there was an Eva Mendes cameo in the credits, hinting the major character Letty didn’t actually die, suggests that the creators maybe weren’t ready to end the story just yet, which was a surprise even to the actress who played her.
'Fast & Furious 6' (2013)
Grossing over a half billion dollars in the last film, audiences clearly were loving what the “Fast” franchise was serving up. The element of the heist film that “Fast Five” included was kept for the storyline for this next movie, and the location moved to Europe. The film introduced the Owen Shaw (played by Luke Evans) as a major bad guy. It also reintroduced Letty and saw many of the same favorite characters up to some of the same over-the-top car-oriented shenanigans fans came to expect from the movies. In fact, stunt coordinators crashed 300 cars during the filming of this installment alone.
'Fast & Furious 6' at the Box Office
Budget: $160 million
Worldwide gross: $788,679,850
Total profit: $628,679,850
Like the previous two before it, this latest installment became the most financially successful yet. What was perhaps most impressive about these numbers is that the foreign grosses for these movies is incredible. This installment grossed more than $550,000,000 overseas, which meant it had some serious international selling power.
'Furious 7' (2015)
Though "Furious 7" was original set to be released in 2014, tragedy hit the franchise when Paul Walker died in a car crash in Los Angeles. The movie was halfway through filming and, though many of his scenes were filmed, about half the movie was not yet done.
Two of Paul’s brothers stepped in to help, along with a digital team, to finish the film without him. Understandably, that slowed up production and pushed the release date back until 2015. Rather than kill off his character in the films, they decided to let him wrap up nicely into retirement giving him a thoughtful and heartfelt send off at the end of the film.
The storyline of the movie itself shifted a bit from heist into a spy action movie, incorporating modern technology and some of the ridiculous stunts fans expect to see (like cars falling out of planes, which actually happened). It also introduced Jason Statham as another despicable villain Deckard Shaw, and helps wrap up how “Tokyo Drift” fits into the rest of the franchise timelines. It also introduced Kurt Russell as “Mr. Nobody.”
'Furious 7' at the Box Office
Budget: $190 million
Worldwide gross: $1,516,045,911
Total profit: $1,326,045,911
Currently the most financially successful film of the franchise, this movie grossed over $1.5 billion worldwide.
Incredibly, too, its worldwide popularity seemed to only increase, with the foreign gross alone hitting over $1 billion ($1,163,038,891).
Even with its hefty budget, this franchise proves to make its money back — and then some — on each investment.
'The Fate of the Furious' (2017)
Though these movies may seem never-ending, this film promises to be the first of one final trilogy to end the franchise.
It has many of the same stars you’ve come to expect with the notable exception of Paul Walker. His character is given quiet, minor hat tips throughout the film.
This film has good guys who turn bad, bad guys turned good, and new extra bad villain played by Charlize Theron.
'The Fate of the Furious' at the Box Office
Budget: $250 million
Worldwide gross: 1,236,005,118
Total profit: $986,005,118
Domestically, this film didn’t make back its budget, grossing only $226,008,385.
But, once again, it proved its global power by making up for that domestic gross with a foreign gross over $1 billion yet again ($1,009,996,733 to be exact).
The Forgotten Furious
This already prolific film franchise actually has two short films to add to its world. The first is called “Turbo Charged Prelude” and was released in 2003 leading up to the first Paul Walker-centric sequel.
The second, “Los Bandoleros,” was written and directed by Vin Diesel and explains why his character was missing from the prior two movies (the first two technical sequels in the franchise).
Originally released in 2009, it sets up the fourth series in the franchise, “Fast & Furious” with a little more character development.
The Future of the Furious
The follow up to the final trilogy of the series was supposed to be released in 2019. But with the spinoff “Hobbs & Shaw” set to be released in August 2019, the date was pushed back.
This supposedly caused tension between Dwayne Johnson and some of his F&F cast members. Universal Studios set the new premiere date for the final two Fast & Furious installments to be May 2020 and April 2021.
The details of the movies aren’t yet public, but they’ll likely follow the same chronological style that has been working for the franchise since the fourth installment.
Though the Fast & Furious movies 3 through 8 were all written by Chris Morgan (as was the “Hobbs & Shaw” spinoff) the 9th movie will have a new writer, Daniel Casey. And the final writer is yet unannounced.
They also have a Fast & Furious experience during the tram tours at Universal Studios Hollywood, an animated TV show in development at Netflix, and an untitled female-centric spinoff also in the works.