The Fast & Furious blockbuster franchise unfolds over nearly 14 hours so far—and that’s before an eighth movie in the $4 billion series, The Fate of the Furious, arrives in theaters on Friday. The newest film will speak in a lucrative language that audiences have learned to crave: gear shifts, engine revs, car chases, angry banter about cars, and sips of Corona. Exactly how fast and how furious is the Fast & Furious cinematic universe? The family at Bloomberg decided to meticulously analyze all seven movies to track their evolution. We counted just about everything that could be turned into a meaningful metric, even screen time for men’s biceps.
The Fast and the Furious entered the world 16 years ago as a niche film in the street-racing subgenre. Seven movies later, the series has become another big-budget, testosterone-infused action extravaganza. Illegal racing in Los Angeles has given way to international criminal syndicates and battles involving tanks, drones, attack helicopters–even a nuclear submarine. Over the course of the series, the time characters spend actually racing has declined, while the time they spend involved in high-speed chases and other thrill rides has increased.
As the action ramped up, so did the box-office success. Turning to more violence and combat after the failure of the race-heavy third film, Tokyo Drift, the series has become a reliable cash cow for Universal Pictures and Comcast, its parent since 2011. Furious 7 was the most successful effort to date, grossing $1.5 billion worldwide and scoring a 79 percent rating on review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes.
Racing culture was once an integral part of this series, with key plot points hinging on who finished first. The last few films, by contrast, have all but dropped the original racing elements—and as the time spent racing declined, so did such automotive staples as nitrous oxide speed boosts and scenes set at or inside garages. Multipurpose hideouts became the home bases for auto body and engine work.
Dominic Toretto (that’s Vin Diesel’s character) and his crew have ditched the 10-second drag strip to instead fight elite former soldiers. The quantity of action-driving sequences skyrocketed in the fourth film, Fast & Furious, as the crew infiltrated a drug smuggling operation. Since then moviegoers have witnessed an automotive version of a classic Western train heist, a lengthy clash down an airplane runway, and a high-speed escape in a sports car that jumps between three skyscrapers. Firearms, once relatively scarce, are present in nearly a quarter of the seventh movie.
A big travel budget is a staple of the modern action franchise, and as this series grew, so did the number of locations visited in each movie. The first film was mainly an L.A. story. The seventh included trips to the United Arab Emirates and Azerbaijan.
Although each movie carries a PG-13 rating, this is a franchise that celebrates body parts, particularly arms and derrieres. Men frequently go sleeveless, and women are often followed from behind by the camera. The weather could be a factor, with bare biceps time peaking in the second movie, set in Florida, and gratuitous rear end time peaking in the fifth movie, set in Brazil.
Over the course of eight movies, the franchise has managed to maintain the continuity of its cast, and it makes sure fans take notice. As the sequel numbers ticked higher, so too did the hugs. Dialogue focusing on the Fast & Furious cast being a “family” neared its peak in 2013’s Furious 7, released soon after star Paul Walker died in a real-world car accident. The series has developed a distinctive vocabulary of buddy-movie affection with such staples as the crew roll-up, in which two or more people arrive at the same destination at the same time, but in different cars. The films have become more family-like in another way: the language is a little cleaner.
As Fast & Furious built momentum at the box-office, its producers could afford to bring in A-list actors. The original cast, which had each been in only a few films before 2001, have now been joined by Dwayne “the Rock” Johnson, Jason Statham, and Kurt Russell. The latest movie, The Fate of the Furious, keeps that trio and adds Charlize Theron, making it the most experienced group of thespians in the franchise.
The car budget took off alongside these top-flight actors. While the early films almost exclusively featured American muscle cars and Japanese hot hatchbacks—the types of cars favored by actual street racers—later sequels have been peppered with exotic, multimillion-dollar machines. There have been cameos for the Bugatti Veyron, which costs north of $2 million, as well as a vintage Ford GT40, a holy vessel among car collectors. The bad guys, meanwhile, started showing up in European luxury cars rather than souped-up Hondas.
This measures the length of any race involving motorized vehicles (cars, jet skis, etc.), including, but not limited to, formal competitions between two or more drivers, impromptu street races, and individual time trials for racing or drifting. For races that do not conclude with a scene shift, racing time ends when the competition appears to conclude. A formal race between two people ends when the winner crosses the finish line. A formal race between more than two people, on the other hand, might end when the penultimate finisher crosses the finish line if the other losing racers fail to finish. Also included in this metric are any mid-race pauses in which racers stop momentarily and stare one another down or flashbacks occurring prior to a race. Scenes that include a live video feed of a race are included in the tally of racing time; scenes in which characters review previously recorded race footage are excluded. Race-like competitions such as a demolition derby are also included in racing time.
This measures the length of any scene in which a motorized vehicle is involved in a chase; dashes recklessly toward or away from a place or person; or performs an uncommon maneuver (e.g., high-speed driving in formation; launching a car onto a boat; dropping a car out of the back of an airborne plane; dragging a bank vault through the streets of Rio de Janeiro; donuts; etc.) A chase ends when all vehicles involved either are no longer in the scene or have come to a full stop. We referred to this category informally as “action driving.”
We excluded scenes in which police drive quickly to the scene of a crime, deciding that a chase begins only when police are in pursuit of another party in a motorized vehicle. A chase involving vehicles operated remotely or set into motion by parties not on board counts in this metric, as do scenes in which characters watch live video feed of a chase in progress or experience a flashback to a prior chase. Again, we excluded time in which characters review previously recorded chase footage. The operation of a small, remote-controlled car has been excluded.
This metric captures all moments in which movie characters discuss races, auto customization, or cars in general. Included here is a portion of a rap song with lyrics about racing. Excluded are automotive metaphors for sex or dogma.
This metric quantifies time at or inside personal, commercial, or school-based garages; auto parts stores; or body shops. Included here are the driveways and roads immediately outside such places. At Dominic Toretto’s house, for example, time at his personal garage and driveway are included, while time in the adjacent yard and picnic area are excluded.
This measures time inside large, cavernous rooms or hangars that house vehicles and equipment for vigilantes (e.g., Dominic Toretto’s crew), criminals (e.g., Owen or Deckard Shaw’s crews) or law enforcement agencies (e.g., U.S. Customs and Border Protection, the Diplomatic Security Service, or whichever arm of the U.S. government or military is said to run a covert operations base in El Segundo, Calif.). If a hideout has been vacated – the equipment removed and the inhabitants gone – it is no longer a hideout.
The total number of times nitrous oxide is used in or out of a race for any purpose, including to achieve a speed boost, cause an explosion, power a harpoon, or forcibly eject a passenger door. Double boosts are counted twice. Excluded here are uses of nitromethane, which is frowned upon in this series.
This counts all time during which one or more engines can be heard roaring without a coincident movement in the vehicle’s wheels.
The number of times a driver is observed changing gears. A visible gear shift is defined here as a shot of a gear knob or stick changing position and/or a clutch pedal being pressed or released. Shots of an emergency brake being engaged are not included in this metric.
The number of times a speedometer or tachometer is the primary focus of a shot.
This tally includes all visible explosions. An explosion involving a car is one that occurs in, on, or immediately adjacent to, a car. An explosion not involving a car is self-evident. Included here is one explosion that results not in a fiery blast but in plumes of sewage erupting from five toilets.
This captures all times in which a projectile weapon is used or held in such a way that it may be used. A holstered gun is excluded, while a gun held by its grip is included. A wielded weapon does not have to be visible once it has been established in the scene. Gun time ends when the scene shifts or the weapon is no longer being wielded. Included here are many varieties of guns, shoulder-mounted rocket launchers, electromagnetic pulse weapons designed to disable vehicles, a drone established as armed, a tank turret once established as ready to fire, and banks of remote-controlled automatic weapons deployed from beneath a truck. We excluded harpoon launchers.
Any time in which two or more characters are physically fighting or attacking one another is counted in this metric. Fight time is the duration of a fight in a scene. If the scene shifts before the fight is ended, fight time is suspended until the scene shifts back to the fighters. A fight begins when a character winds up for the initial attack. A fight stops when all bodies are at rest or one character has another suspended in a hold. A single attack, however brief, can constitute hand-to-hand combat.
This measurement includes all times in which a group of people socialize, including parties, barbeques, and certain racing-related events. A sufficiently large group in a garage or hideout and not involved in work may constitute a social gathering. These sequences can be deemed to have ended in the case of an interruption even before participants vacate a scene.
A measure of all moments in which one or more characters rides on the outside of a moving vehicle, either visibly or out of the frame. A character is riding outside if their center of gravity appears to be outside the vehicle. Excluded here are times when passengers ride casually in the backs of pickup trucks.
A count of two-armed embraces wherein the arms of at least one person wrap around the body of one or more individuals.
Number of utterances of the word “family,” in any language.
Number of utterances of the word “team” or “teams.”
Number of utterances of “shit” or “f***,” or any variation thereof. Includes instances when the word is inaudible but clearly mouthed.
Number of times two or more members of a group arrive at a location in separate vehicles and park together. Included here are roll-ups by protagonists, antagonists, and the police.
Number of times a character drinks a Corona beer out of a bottle. Includes one instance of Dominic Toretto lifting a bottle toward his lips, just prior to a cut.
This tally captures all instances in which one or more bare male biceps muscles is visible on screen. A muscle is considered visible only if the character is shirtless, disrobing, or wearing a sleeveless shirt. This is a highly restrictive counting methodology since biceps are often visible on characters in close- or loose-fitting shirts. Included here is a brief shot of a televised broadcast of The Incredible Hulk, featuring a shirtless Lou Ferrigno.
A metric of all times during which one or more female rear is featured prominently in the foreground, in or near the primary focus of a shot. A rear end may be dressed in any number of coverings, including but not limited to leather pants, bathing suits, thongs, and skirts of various lengths. Includes the rear ends of women portrayed in digital images displayed on screens. Excluded here is the screen time of the many rear ends in the background or clearly outside the primary focus. We also excluded what appear to be incidental occurrences, such as two women fighting and a mother bending over to hug her daughter, as well as a male rear end in a pair of snakeskin pants.
The number of film acting credits of the first 10 actors on each film’s IMDb page, excluding credits within the Fast & Furious franchise.
Six analysts watched the iTunes digital downloads of the seven Fast and Furious films, with at least two viewers per movie, and recorded in a spreadsheet the tally and time indexes of the variables reported here. Each recorded duration is rounded to the nearest second, and no timed variable was assigned less than one second in duration. The standard editions of the films were used.