Across all the Fast & Furious movies, the most important installment in the saga is 2011’s Fast Five. Directed by Justin Lin, Fast Five saw Dominic Toretto (Vin Diesel) and Brian O’Connor (Paul Walker) moving their vehicle-fixated brand of mayhem to Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. Now on the run from the law, Luke Hobbs (Dwayne Johnson) is sent in to bring Toretto to justice. While evading authorities, Toretto and O’Connor team up with an assortment of characters from prior Fast & Furious adventures, such as Roman Pearce (Tyrese Gibson) from 2 Fast 2 Furious, to steal the earnings of a notorious gangster.

From there, plenty of car chases, heist antics and high-wire stunts transpire. Such elements proved so enjoyable to audiences that Fast Five saw the series hitting new box office highs for the franchise. Grossing $626.1 million worldwide, Fast Five emerged as one of the biggest movies of 2011. Though later Fast & Furious titles surpassed that worldwide box office haul, Fast Five still redefined what this saga was capable of on a financial level. That’s not the only way Fast Five forever altered the Fast & Furious saga, though; in terms of tone, scope, and especially in its cast of characters, Fast Five proved to be the defining chapter of the franchise.

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One pivotal way Fast Five altered the Fast & Furious saga is by proving how flexible the franchise could be. The four preceding Fast & Furious installments were all mid-budget titles about street racing, with brief flashes of action. With Fast Five, though, the franchise morphed into a heist movie, complete with all the tropes of the genre. While fast cars were still a core part of the story, they were at the behest of something that resembled The Italian Job more than Tokyo Drift. Through this shift, Fast Five established the versatility of the Fast & Furious movies, paving the way for future installments to take on other genres, like spy thrillers and buddy-cop comedies in the process.

Another way Fast Five proved to be a defining chapter in the saga was in its embrace of over-the-top spectacle. The Fast and Furious titles had always been known for moments of heightened action. Thanks to a larger budget than its predecessors, Fast Five could take that to a whole new level. This resulted in some of Fast Five’s most memorable sequences, like Dom and Brian driving off a gigantic cliff or a climactic chase scene involving an enormous bank vault being lugged around by two cars. Such scenes provided the impetus for subsequent Fast & Furious installments to go even bigger in their car-centric set pieces.

Finally, Fast Five’s most important and defining feature in the franchise is establishing the central cast of characters for the Fast & Furious movies. Previously, Fast & Furious protagonists had come and gone, with the third installment (Tokyo Drift) handing the lead role over to a wholly new character. With Fast Five, though, a team was established that’s been at the center of the series ever since. Part of that group includes a character newly made for Fast Five, Luke Hobbs. This figure proved so popular that he got to co-headline Fast & Furious spinoff, Hobbs & Shaw, in 2019. The fact that such a pivotal character like Hobbs debuted in Fast Five is one of numerous reasons why this particular film has become the most important in the Fast & Furious saga.

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