Fast Five is the best Fast and Furious movie. That might seem like a strange statement to make in an article all about The Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift, but let me explain. I can understand the greatness of Fast Five. It introduced The Rock to the series, has some of the greatest set pieces in the franchise (especially with that wrecking ball vault scene) and probably has the best story out of the 8 movie deep franchise. That said, just because I can admit that Fast Five is the best movie in the series, that doesn’t mean that it’s my favorite. I’m a The Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift man, myself. Because “On the streets of Tokyo… speed needs no translation.”
Now look, I understand that my opinion is in the minority here. In fact, when people do marathon runs of watching the Fast and the Furious movies, MCU-style, I know a lot of people groan at having to watch 3 again since it’s so different from the rest of the series. It’s also absent of most of the fan favorite characters. But, like Halloween III: Season of the Witch, which is another third film in a long-running series that a lot of fans hate, I just can’t get enough of the third Fast and the Furious movie. And with Fast and Furious 9 coming soon, I thought now was as good a time as any to ruminate over why I love this movie so much. So, without further ado, 5 reasons why The Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift is my favorite film in the series. “If you’re not first, you’re last!” Oh, wait. That’s another racing movie.
Minor spoilers up ahead.
It's The Last Movie In The Series That Is Actually Focused On Racing
I know the trend started in Fast & Furious with the series being more action movies than racing movies, but Fast Five sealed the deal completely by essentially being a fast car heist flick. But The Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift is purely a racing movie. In fact, it might be the purest racing movie in the entire series. I’ll explain. While you always had intrigue and police drama with Paul Walker’s undercover cop character, Brian O’Conner (RIP, Paul Walker), Tokyo Drift is about a high school student who races for respect and the ability to stay in Japan.
After drag racing in the beginning of the film, and getting into a gnarly accident, our hero, Sean (played by Lucas Black) has to go to Japan in order to not have to go to juve. But once he’s there, it’s pretty much all racing, all the time, with the climax of the film even being an epic race down a mountain full of bitching drifting (more on that later), and high-speed stakes. The whole conceit of the film is about who can be the “Drift King” and all disputes are pretty much settled behind the wheel. And for somebody who actually LIKED the drag racing aspects of the first movie, I really appreciate it in this film. We never got it this good again.
The Story Is Not Too Complex And Deals With The Series' Most Relatable Protagonist
Lucas Black’s character, Sean, is a kid (who damn well looks like he’s in his late 20s) who gets in trouble because he drives too fast. And while I can’t relate to that since I drive like a grandma, I knew plenty of kids back in my high school who would drive like maniacs on the highway, swerving in and out of traffic like they had a death wish or something. In that way, Sean makes for a much more relatable character than, say, Dominic “I don't have friends, I have family” Toretto (played by Vin Diesel), who always seemed too cool for school.
And while the stories in the earlier films were simpler, the series has gotten so ridiculous by this point (and I’m not saying that’s a bad thing), that you kind of just have to shut your brain off and not even think about why Jason Statham is saving a baby in a plane. I miss the simplicity of a dude just racing for respect. Those were the days.
Japan Is A Character In Itself
The series has traveled the globe over the course of the franchise, but they’re more just spaces for massive set pieces. You’ll see our heroes racing through London, or Spain, or New York, or Abu Dhabi, but that’s only window dressing. Really, the locations don’t serve much of a purpose in any of the Fast and the Furious movies. They’re mostly just a blur.
Not so with the third movie in the series. Tokyo is a huge factor in this film and is even like a character in itself. The night lights, the mountains, the overall community, it all just gives the movie a real sense of place unlike any of the other films in the series. I might have liked it even more if Han was the main character of the movie and the protagonist wasn’t some Gaijin, but you know. Hollywood. It is what it is.
It's The Introduction Of Han, Who's My Favorite Character In The Series
Again, a lot of people hate on The Fast and the Furious, Tokyo Drift, but this was the movie that effectively made the next three movies in the series prequels just so they could include freaking Han Lue, and that’s because he’s awesome! Played by Sung Kang, Han is suave and cool. When he gets behind the wheel, you just believe it, and his arc in the later, er, earlier stories only gets better as he becomes an intricate part of the team.
And here’s the thing. Han freaking dies in this movie! We find out in later films that it was Jason Statham’s character, Shaw, who killed his character, which doesn’t really make much sense, but whatever—but his absence is so plainly felt in this movie later on that it actually drives the story forward to its awesome climax. Yep, Han is the man, and he kills it in this movie, which leads me to my final point.
A Movie Centralized Around The Concept Of Drifting Is Just Plain Cool
Han teaches Sean how to drift, and drifting is cool. I first learned about drifting (then called “powersliding”) in Mario Kart of all places. I didn’t really know that the technique was actually real, so when I saw it in Tokyo Drift, it freaking blew my mind that the idea of sliding into turns could make for the concept of a whole movie.
That’s another reason why I call Tokyo Drift the purest racing film in the franchise, since such a large portion of the movie focuses on having the best time by sliding into turns. It makes the one-dimensional drag racing in the first two films feel rudimentary by comparison.
I would honestly rather watch The Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift over any of the other movies in the series since it can stand alone, and also because I find it extremely entertaining. But if you want to watch The Fast and the Furious movies in order like one big marathon, then maybe give it another chance with an open mind, since it’s probably better than you remember it. For the next movie in the Fast series and other 2021 movies, make sure to stop by often.