'Need for Speed' vs. 'The Fast and the Furious' - Which is the Better Car Movie?

Fast and Furious Need For Speed Movie

Need for Speed is the latest attempt at adapting a video game for feature film audiences, a feat that has been attempted many times before to mostly disappointing results. Beyond that, though, Need for Speed is a rare entry in the car movie genre, which has been dominated for the last decade by The Fast and the Furious franchise.

We wouldn't say the two are direct competitors, as both deploy different approaches, but there is no question Need for Speed is going after a similar audience. Considering that, we thought it would be interesting to compare the two freshman efforts of each franchise based on a few key categories. Keep reading to find out which film ultimately wins.


7 The Cars

Need for Speed - McLaren P1

Admittedly, The Fast and the Furious and Need for Speed deploy two strikingly different approaches when it comes to their car selections. F&F, for example, was focused on the import tuner scene, where Japanese models like Mitsubishi's Eclipse and Honda's Civic are transformed into high performance machines. Sure, each car had its own personality (flashy colors, light kits, body modifications), but they were more like extensions of their racer's personality. That being said, very few of the cars on display in The Fast and the Furious left us drooling.

Need for Speed, on the other hand, goes for broke with some of the most exotic cars on the planet, from Bugatti to McLaren to Koenigsegg. These are cars that are worth more than some of the Need for Speed actor's salaries, and we're not joking. More importantly, though, they are fast all by themselves (see: our Complete Need for Speed Car Guide). In terms of each film's car "cast," the competition isn't even close.

The Winner: Need for Speed


6 The Cast

The Fast and the Furious Cast

If we're talking most celebrated cast, then Need for Speed edges out F&F by a wide margin due in large (whole) part to Golden Globe and Emmy winner Aaron Paul. Unfortunately, the rest of the Need for Speed cast is populated by lesser known faces and one big name star in Michael Keaton. What's worse, a lot of the supporting cast is relegated to the role of comedic relief in some form or another. Keaton, Paul, and Imogen Poots are honestly the only noteworthy members of the cast both as actors and as characters.

The Fast and the Furious didn't boast much in the way of top name talent when it first debuted, but at the very least it tried to fill out its cast with a wide variety of personalities. Leading man Paul Walker admittedly wasn't as well known as Aaron Paul at the time, but the folks behind F&F surrounded him with a cast that didn't feel like a bunch of one-note clichés. It says a lot when, five movies later, audiences turn out in droves to see the original cast reunite.

The Winner: The Fast and the Furious


5 The Love Interest

Imogen Poots as Julia in 'Need for Speed'

The Fast and the Furious doubles down with two love interests, but unfortunately it relegates both Letty (Michelle Rodriguez) and Mia (Jordana Brewster) to the periphery. They are the gear head girlfriends or potential girlfriends who have some knowledge about cars, but get little screen time. Rodriguez does get a few actual action moments, but her brief late-film stunts are greatly overshadowed.

Then there is Imogen Poots, who is alongside Aaron Paul for almost the entire film, even hopping behind the wheel for one of the film's better action sequences. She's a Brit with an attitude, and the perfect counterbalance to Paul's character. To be fair, Poots has her share of damsel in distress moments, but her screen time and strength of character help put her above your typical love interest role.

The Winner: Need for Speed


4 The Villain

Vin Diesel in The Fast and the Furious

Dominic Cooper's role as Dino Brewster, the villain in Need for Speed, is appropriately slimy, but it doesn't resonate on a level that one could call memorable. Sure, he does the horrific deed, he further backs that up with more underhanded moves, and he never learns his lesson, but the characterization of Brewster is merely that of a passable villain. While Aaron Paul delivers a decent hero, he far outclasses Cooper's villain.

We'll admit that this category is a little unfair since Vin Diesel is as much the protagonist as the villain, but his role as Dom Toretto still stands heads and shoulders above Cooper's. Even if he isn't one in real life, Diesel's personality and physique scream gear head, and he's plenty menacing to boot. The Fast and the Furious has a solid history of taking its villains or anti-heroes and making them bona fide leads - just look at The Rock - and it all started with Diesel. He wins in a landslide.

The Winner: The Fast and the Furious


3 The Stunts

The Fast and the Furious Final Stunt

Video game branding and Aaron Paul aside, Need for Speed's major selling point is its use of practical stunt work throughout. Director Scott Waugh boasts an impressive career as a stunt man, so it felt only right that his first big budget film aspire to truly recreating the action seen on screen. And what Need for Speed does deliver is impressive in terms of believability. Unfortunately, practical stunts that consist mostly of car flips, jumps, and explosions only work for so long before they start to lose their appeal.

While Need for Speed does pack more stunts into its 2-hour+ run time, it could easily be argued that The Fast and the Furious' stunt work is more memorable. Who could forget that awesome Christmas Vacation-esque moment when the Honda Civic zips underneath the semi truck? Or that final race between muscle car, tuner car, and train? Need for Speed impresses with practicality, but The Fast and the Furious has "cooler" stunts and that's all that really matters.

The Winner: The Fast and the Furious


2 The Races

Need for Speed Mustang

Here's a case where picking a winner ultimately comes down to the viewer's definition of a race. In Need for Speed, the marquee race of the film is the De Leon, a single lap road course that features forest and coastal scenery. It's the type of race that Need for Speed video game players would expect to see, complete with tailing cop cars and traps, and is a major highlight of the film.

The Fast and the Furious, on the other hand, focuses on the drag race – the 10-second dash between start and finish line. While the film does an admirable job of trying to introduce tension into what should be a split second event, there is very little focus placed on the actual racing in F&F. Walker and Diesel have their initial confrontation and climactic showdown, but the racing takes a back seat to the drama. The idea of Race Wars sounded cool, though.

The Winner: Need for Speed


1 The Final Verdict: Entertainment Factor

The Fast and Furious Need for Speed Comparison

While the singular elements highlighted above might help one film distinguish itself from the other, the ultimate determinant of a film's success (on its own or comparatively) is its entertainment value. As a result, The Fast and the Furious breaks the tie for being the more enjoyable film to watch overall. Need for Speed does have its strengths and its moments (read our review), but it's hard to see the film jumpstarting a billion dollar franchise like The Fast and the Furious did.

Still, Need for Speed's use of practical stunts and the presence of Aaron Paul offer enough potential that it would be interesting to see where Electronic Arts and DreamWorks go in a sequel. For first films, however, the title goes to The Fast and the Furious.


Which film did you enjoy more - The Fast and the Furious or Need for Speed? What do you think are each film's individual strengths?

Need for Speed is in theaters now.

Follow Anthony on Twitter @ANTaormina

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