It’s almost Friday the 13th, the most unlucky day in the world by many people’s beliefs. However, it’s also an opportunity to revisit one of the most beloved, albeit twisted, movie franchises in history. “Friday the 13th” helped raise the bar pretty high for the slasher movie genre. Now, on its namesake day, we’re ranking all 12 movies in the franchise from best to worst.
1) “Friday The 13th: The Final Chapter” (1984)
The fourth film in the franchise is by far its best. Sure it’s a little dated at this point, but it was the first time that the creators thought the story was going to end, so they tied a nice little bow onto everything. Not only does it have some of the most spectacularly abrupt and painful kills of any movie in the series, it carries some emotional weight in the form of the character Tommy Jarvis (Cory Feldman) who triumphantly takes out the serial killer in the end, only to return in the next two movies when Jason, as he always does, returns.
2) “Friday The 13th: Part 2” (1981)
Believe it or not, Jason Voorhees doesn’t appear in the franchise until the second movie, we’ll get to why later. The second movie ranks high on the list simply for establishing the formula that the next 10 movies would follow. A boy drowned in a lake, now evil has brought him back to terrorize teens (who drink, smoke and have sex) in the most horrific ways possible. Filmmakers pulled out all the stops in this movie and created not only some of the most gruesome kills, but some of the most creative. Jason whacks a guy in a wheelchair down a flight of stairs for heaven’s sake. The one blemish on this installment in the franchise is Voorhees’ look. The big bad guy doesn’t get his trademark hockey mask until the third movie. For “Part 2” he wears an embarrassing bag on his head.
3) “Friday The 13th” (1980)
The film that started this whole mess ranks in at No. 3 on our list. Although purists might mar this one for not including Jason (at least as fans know him), the twist ending coupled with the originality of the premise makes this one a "can’t miss." For those who don’t know, the killer in the movie is never seen until the very end when it is discovered that Mrs. Voorhees (Betsy Palmer) was the killer all along. The canon is established that her son, Jason, drowned at Camp Crystal Lake due to kids picking on him and counselors not paying attention. Mamma Voorhees returns years later with a vengeance only to have her head cut off. That doesn’t sit well with Jason, who only appears as a zombified child in the final few seconds of the movie.
4) “Friday The 13th Part VIII: Jason Takes Manhattan” (1989)
No, you’re not reading that title incorrectly and I didn’t mistype. The eighth installment of the franchise saw everyone’s favorite hockey-masked killer arrive on the concrete jungle island of Manhattan. Admittedly it’s probably higher on the list than it should be, given that it’s poorly made, the characters are one-dimensional and the title misleads the viewer (Jason only takes Manhattan for the last 20-ish minutes of the film, it mostly takes place on a boat). Still, despite all its flaws, this movie is absolutely the most fun installment in the franchise. It takes “So bad it’s good” to a whole new level. It also has one of my favorite scenes in which a talented boxer gets cornered by Jason on a rooftop and decides to try and punch his way out. Spoiler alert: it doesn’t go well. If only someone had told the characters in the most populated city in the world not to try and avoid Jason by moving exclusively in back alleys.
5) “Friday The 13th Part VI: Jason Lives” (1986)
The sixth film in the franchise solidified Voorhees as a supernatural being. Admittedly coming back from the dead several times in the past pretty much made that point clear, but the sixth movie brought the character back by way of a lightning strike, giving him an explanation for his super strength and invulnerability. I mean, sure a relentless killer chasing you down to murder you is scary, but one that can’t be hurt while doing it is a downright nightmare. After the fifth movie, which will be addressed much lower on the list, ended by setting Tommy Jarvis up as the new killer, fans reacted so poorly to the idea that director Tom McLoughlin had to make the call to bring Jason back again and again… and again. For that reason, this movie makes the “above average” tier.
6) “Jason Goes To Hell: The Final Friday” (1993)
What makes this film rank dead middle of the list is its bold new way of portraying not only Voorhees, but the mythos surrounding his actions thus far. With nine movies under his belt, it made sense to try and expand on the character. Part 9 gets heavily into the history of how Voorhees became the supernatural villain that fans know and love. What it also accomplishes quite well is imagining a world in which people are aware that a supernatural being has continually risen from the grave to murder a slew of teens. At one point in this movie, the FBI even unleashes a barrage of bullets and explosions to take the killer down, something that fans in 1993 had likely been pining for over the previous decade of movies. Still, it was strange to back away from traditional horror and step foot into the world of explaining away evil.
7) “Freddy Vs. Jason” (2003)
Who doesn’t love a good monster-movie throw down? In this bold idea, Jason was pit against fellow slasher villain Freddy Kruger. Relying on people’s fear to survive, the “Nightmare on Elm Street” killer searches the depths of hell for someone who can strike the same fear into the citizens of Elm Street that he once did. Once they were scared enough, he could return to the world of haunting their dreams. The only problem is that, once Jason gets to killing, it’s really hard to make him stop. This movie is absolutely campy, but it’s not as out there as it could be, all things considered. Still, it ranks lower on the list than fellow “so bad it’s good” title “Jason Takes Manhattan” simply because the movie tried a little too hard to be in on its own joke. We don’t watch these movies to laugh, we watch to be terrified. It does have the noteworthy accolade of being the movie in which Jason breaks his kills-per-movie record when he chops indiscriminately at a cornfield rave of teens.
8) “Friday the 13th: A New Beginning” (1985)
Everything about this movie gets it wrong. Even the name is way off. This is the first movie to bring back a character from the previous films (other than Jason). After murdering Jason as a kid, Tommy Jarvis finds his way to a halfway house of sorts for the mentally disturbed that seeks to assimilate them back into society. So, right out of the box, Tommy makes this movie a very familiar story, not a “New Beginning.” It tries to live up to the name at the very end when Tommy seemingly cannot overcome the hallucinations of Jason and decides to just become the next psycho murderer that wears a hockey mask. Luckily fans hated that idea enough to stop it dead in its tracks. However, all of this could be excusable if it wasn’t for the most egregious sin of “A New Beginning.” It is the only movie that doesn’t include Jason. That’s right, the big reveal at the end of the movie was that the person terrorizing everyone was a copycat killer – a plot device that did literally nothing to benefit the story. It very easily could have been Jason again, it just wasn’t.
9) “Friday The 13th Part III” (1982)
Not only does this movie look the worst in the franchise, but it was made in 3D before 3D was at all cool. The gimmick didn’t stand up to the test of time and now, when fans want to go backwards and watch the movie as a fan, they need to put up with a bunch of really lame sight gags. He shoots a harpoon right at the camera, stabs his machete right at the camera and punches through a window…right at the camera. Although it was the very early days of franchising slasher villains, the decisions made in the making of this movie put it way low on our list.
10) “Friday The 13th Part VII: The New Blood” (1988)
When they got away with resurrecting Jason by way of a lightning bolt in “Part 6” the film’s creators probably thought they could get away with anything, like telekinesis. Guess what, they couldn’t. Jason has a lot of creative kills in the movie but spends the whole time with an exposed rib cage and really no motivation for murdering people other than the fact that it’s simply what he does. The film ends with a showdown in a house in which Jason gets tossed around by the super-powered protagonist in one of the strangest final set pieces in the franchise’s history. This movie ranks so low on the list not for being bad, but for being so utterly forgettable.
11) “Friday The 13th” (2009 Reboot)
This movie does a good job of adapting Jason Voorhees to the modern age. Unfortunately, it’s just another typical horror reboot that tries to pay too much lip service to fans. It retreads horror movie tropes that have been done to death and justifies it by citing the original source material. In the end, this movie equates to a very good looking and violent impression of what made the original films so good – a bad impression at that.
12) “Jason X” (2001)
There is a laundry list of flaws with this movie. First of all, it takes a classic horror character and introduces him to the world of science fiction. While that sounds fun in theory, in practice it led to one of the worst movie in the franchise to date. There’s simply no fear to be had in an artificial environment like a space ship. Furthermore, the movie relied entirely too much on the Jason’s invulnerability. Shooting him once or twice and having him be OK is one thing, but to have him go up against a space marine squad with automatic weapons is just ridiculous. Speaking of ridiculous, the movie ends with Jason accidentally getting a cybernetic upgrade. He is sucked out of an air lock and, coincidentally, lands at Crystal Lake. There’s not much else to say about this cuckoo film other than “Boo!”