“Fast & Furious,” the fourth film in an action-movie franchise centered around the world of illegal street racing, debuts in U.S. theaters on April 3, 2009, kicking off a record-breaking $72.5 million opening weekend at the box office. “Fast & Furious,” starring Vin Diesel, Paul Walker, Jordana Brewster and Michelle Rodriguez, recorded the all-time highest-grossing opening of any car-themed film, besting the 2006 animated feature “Cars,” which raked in more than $60 million in its opening weekend and went on to earn more than $244 million at the box office.
The road leading to “Fast & Furious” began with the sleeper hit “The Fast and the Furious,” which opened in theaters across America on June 18, 2001, and was followed by 2003’s “2 Fast 2 Furious” and 2006’s “The Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift.” The “Fast and the Furious” films, which feature dramatic car scenes, pulsating music and good-looking actors and actresses, received mixed reviews from critics but were popular with audiences and spawned a line of video games.
In addition to the “Fast and the Furious” franchise, street racing has been depicted in such popular movies as “American Graffiti” (1973) and “Grease” (1978). The 1976 movie “Cannonball,” starring David Carradine, was based on a real-life, illegal, cross-country race called the Cannonball Baker Sea-to-Shining-Sea Memorial Trophy Dash. That race was first held in the early 1970s, in part to protest America’s new 55 mph speed limit. (Cannonball Baker refers to Edwin “Cannon Ball” Baker, an auto and motorcycle racer who became famous for his record-setting cross-country drives in the early 20th century.) In the 1980s, the actor Burt Reynolds also starred in a series of films inspired by the outlawed race: 1981’s “The Cannonball Run,” 1984’s “Cannonball Run II” and 1989’s “Speed Zone!”