I think I’ve made it clear that I really like the Friday the 13th movies. There are twelve of these movies, with a thirteenth slated to come out next year and while they get a bad rap for being schlocky tits-and-gore horror movies (spoilers: they are 100% unapologetic schlocky tits-and-gore horror movies), they are for the most part way better than they deserve to be. Sure, the series has its lows, but there are more decent-to-great Friday the 13th movies than most franchises have movies, total. So, if you’re interested in getting your feet wet with arguably the biggest slasher series, I’m going to let you know what is worth watching, and what you should skip. Here’s the Friday the 13th series, ranked from worst to best. Obviously, this is my personal opinion. If you disagree with my rankings, great. I don’t care. Welcome to the internet.
12. Jason Goes to Hell: The Final Friday (1993)
Fuck this movie. This shouldn’t even be a part of the Friday the 13th franchise. If I could rank this movie lower than last, I would. Jason is in the first five minutes before getting gunned down by a SWAT team. Then, Jason gets resurrected by… nothing. Jason is dead for the vast majority of the running time, but the writers decided to shoehorn in some voodoo bullshit and have Jason’s heart possess people and make them do the killing for him. The kills are boring, and don’t play out with the campy (pun intended) gore that the F13 franchise is known for. The only decent part of the movie is the very end, when they hint at the possibility of a Freddy and Jason crossover, but I would rather they make a half decent slasher than try and cram in references to other horror franchises. This is the third of the four movies starring Kane Hodder as Jason and after the shitshow that was Part VIII, I feel sorry for him. Hodder is my favorite Jason, and it seems like he just got handed shittier and shittier movies as his Friday the 13th career went on. Do not watch this movie.
11. Friday the 13th: A New Beginning (1985)
Spoilers: Jason isn’t in this movie. Like, that dude in the hockey mask in the .gif next to this paragraph is somebody dressed as Jason. I want to firmly cement here how offensive Jason Goes to Hell is in that a Friday the 13th movie that doesn’t even fucking include Jason Voorhees for one fucking frame is better than it. Ahem. Anyways, this movie is boring. The kills are uninspired and cliché. All the characters suck. With nobody to root for and a dull imitation of Jason, this is like the Halloween 5 of the Friday the 13th franchise. Even the Tommy Jarvis’ story through parts IV to VI doesn’t need this movie. The Final Chapter could easily have led straight into Jason Lives, and they could have left A New Beginning in the dust. Unless you want to be a completionist, pass on this one.
10. Friday the 13th Part VIII: Jason Takes Manhattan (1989)
This is the one that usually caps the shit end of the list when people rank the Friday the 13th franchise. The premise: amazing. Jason Voorhees unleashed in NYC, wreaking terror and racking up a body count far greater than any movie before it. This movie is nicknamed by fans as Friday the 13th Part VIII: Jason Takes A Cruise, and rightfully so, because majority of the running time is spent with Jason killing teenagers on a cruise ship heading to Manhattan. However, most people hate this movie because of how much if failed to live up to its potential. Once you know that Jason Takes Manhattan is pretty much Manhattanless, it’s an easily digestible, paint by numbers slasher. It does benefit from some of the better kills in the franchise though. A girl taking a hot pink flying V guitar to the face and a guy getting punched so hard his head flies off are cheer worthy moments in an otherwise average movie.
9. Friday the 13th Part 3 (1982)
Meet Jason… in a whole new dimension! That’s what the back of the DVD says. If you haven’t figured it out, Friday the 13th Part 3 is one of the zillion ’80s movies that was released in 3D. The first time I watched Part 3 was in 2D, and you can tell it was made specifically for the 3D gimmick. It’s chock full of jump-out-of-the-screen shots but past that, this movie is pretty forgettable. It’s got a couple decent kills (the harpoon and head crush come of mind) and this is the movie where Jason gets his iconic mask, but that’s really all this one has going for it. I tried watching it in 3D recently, but I barely made it through the first five minutes without almost hurling. I’m not sure what went wrong, but if anybody has seen this in 3D, maybe it becomes a masterpiece. Probably not, though.
8. Jason X (2001)
The first time I saw Jason X, I thought I was watching the pinnacle of cinema. This movie is the definition of schlock. Kane Hodder reprised the role of Mr. Voorhees for the final time (barring Hodder’s motion capture work on the upcoming Friday the 13th game) in his long and illustrious career of playing big burly dudes that kill people. Jason X is stupid and it knows it. Upon rewatching it, I found the parts without Jason in it dragged, but a couple key moments in Jason X elevate it to a good-bad movie. The legendary liquid nitrogen face smash. The birth of Über Jason. The 1980’s Crystal Lake holodeck program. Oh, also, this takes place in the future, in space. Yeah. It’s nuts. A lot of people hate this movie because of how dumb it is, but it sacrifices the serious, gritty tone of the other F13 movies and ramps the cheese up to 11. Recommended only if you’re hammered already or you like watching bad movies like I do.
7. Freddy vs. Jason (2003)
Speaking of schlock: Freddy Vs. Jason is up next. It’s similar to Jason X in that the moments without Freddy or Jason are kind of lame, but the moments with either one of them are great, and the moments with the both of them are doubly so. I have a soft spot for FvJ, because I’m also a fan of the Nightmare on Elm Street series. I can recognize that it isn’t the greatest of movies, but there are some legitimately awesome sequences in this flick. The scene of Jason walking through the corn field on fire might be my favorite from any of these movies. Also, the early 2000s hard rock sound track is tons of fun. If you’re looking for something better than Batman v Superman: Dawn of Boredom that came out almost 15 years prior, check out Freddy vs. Jason.
6. Friday the 13th (2009)
The 2009 version of Friday the 13th is part of the reason Scream 4 exists. It’s a remake that didn’t really need to happen. It’s clearly a cash-in on an existing and well known IP, but that’s really where the issues end for me. Michael Bay and co. could have easily fucked this up beyond belief, but they didn’t. They opted to condense the first three parts of the original series into one movie, and honestly pulled it off pretty okay. Like a lot of those before it, this is a pretty formulaic slasher (it’s nowhere near as horrid as Platinum Dunes’ remakes of A Nightmare on Elm Street and Texas Chainsaw Massacre were) but Jason being portrayed as more of a survivalist/ hunter figure is a nice touch. Personally, I think the first twenty some odd minutes (up until the title card) can stand alone as an amazing Friday the 13th short film. It’s efficient, witty, and the kills are absolutely brutal. I only wish the rest of the movie followed suit. At least there’s some gratuitous boobage later on in the film. Overall, I like it. Check it out if you’ve got an hour and a half free.
5. Friday the 13th Part VII: The New Blood (1988)
Alright, we’re getting past the halfway point. We’re into the heavy hitters now. The New Blood was Kane Hodder’s first appearance as Jason, and holy shit did he do a good job. Jason’s costume design was amazing, and Hodder brought an intimidating presence to Jason that nobody realized was missing. His immense stature paired with his signature heavy, labored breathing gave an old character new life (heh). The plot and kills are pretty paint by number, except for the fact that Jason’s adversary in Part VII is none other that a telekinetic girl. While gimmicky as hell, it did provide a bit of freshness giving the audience a character that could actually stand up to Jason and dish out some pain back at him. Easily the best of the Hodder movies, this movie is worth the time just for how amazing Jason looks and is portrayed.
4. Friday the 13th (1980)
Ah yes, the one that started it all. Well, not really. That honor belongs to John Carpenter’s 1978 horror masterpiece, Halloween. Friday the 13th started off as a cash grab rip off of Halloween, but luckily Tom Savini’s gruesome makeup and effects turned it into a classic. While I do love this movie (it is after all, the movie that first got me into slashers), you can tell it’s a bit of a rushed attempt to cash in on another movie. A fair amount of the screen time in between kills is filler, but the kills themselves are brutal and unforgiving enough to make it worth the price of admission. Let’s not forget the ending either. The last five minutes of this movie scared me so thoroughly, I almost couldn’t fall asleep the night I watched it. It’s a horror classic for a reason, and if you haven’t seen it, I highly recommend it.
3. Friday the 13th: The Final Chapter (1984)
Tom Savini returns! This is a return to form after the somewhat floundering of Part 3. I’ve said before that slashers need to be at least either scary or fun. This one is both. Savini brings some of the most brutal gore and kills in the franchise back for The Final Chapter, and the main cast of characters are tons of fun to watch. Crispin Glover is hilarious as a dopey, nerdy ’80s teen (also, he performs the greatest dance moves ever put to film) and Corey Feldman kicks off the Tommy Jarvis character that many fans know and love. This is probably the third scariest of the franchise (behind the original and Part 2), and second most fun to watch. This is easily one of the best ’80s slasher movies for me. Definitely check it out if it you can.
2. Friday the 13th Part 2 (1981)
Part 2. The introduction of adult Jason. While a lot of people always think of Jason Voorhees as the guy with the hockey mask and the machete, most horror fans know that Friday the 13th Part 2 has the creepy as hell sackhead Jason. Being such an early entry in the franchise, Part 2 is still grounded in reality which helps keep the scare factor up. Jason isn’t some boogeyman zombie character here, he’s just a pissed off, fucked up, huge guy who’s just looking to shed some blood, plain and simple. Part 2 has a lot less gore than the original, but it doesn’t stop the kills from being any less brutal. This movie also has one of the best casts of teenagers of all the movies. They’re legitimately likable and fun to watch, which makes their inevitable deaths that much more effective. While definitely overlooked because of the lack of hockey mask, Part 2 is one of the best slasher movies ever made and I give it my highest recommendation.
1. Friday the 13th Part VI: Jason Lives (1986)
Hail to the king, baby. Part VI is the Friday the 13th movie. You would think that six movies into a franchise would be where things have devolved into a confounding, derivative mess, but everyone is in top form here. Right off the bat you know this one isn’t going to be a serious, gritty movie, and that’s okay. But instead of floundering in in-jokes and references what we have is probably the most fun to watch slasher movie of all time. The kills are creative, brutal and plentiful, the cast is in top form (they did the right thing and focused on two main characters instead of a whole group of five or six), and the jokes all stick. Tommy Jarvis’ arc comes to a close in Part VI in probably one of the coolest endings to a Friday the 13th film. I’ve probably seen this movie more than any other Friday the 13th, and for good reason. It’s entertaining. And isn’t that why we watch movies? To be entertained? Scary or not, this one is pure fun and it’ll have you and your friends devouring popcorn with your eyes glued to the screen. This is the best slasher movie of the ’80s.
So there you have it, folks. It was really hard to rank these movies, especially those in the middle of the list. I love the Friday the 13th franchise, and anybody who hasn’t been introduced to it should definitely check it out. You know exactly what you’re getting into when you watch a Friday the 13th movie, but regardless how repetitive they may get, they’re tons of fun to watch. Even the mediocre ones aren’t terrible. Stay away from The Final Friday, though. That one is a piece of shit.
What is your favorite Friday the 13th movie? Would you rank the franchise differently? Let me know in the comments below!