The Friday the 13th franchise had been a slasher staple in the horror community for 40 years. Jason had evolved from scary killer to supernatural monster and left a trail of pop culture galore the size of the Grand Canyon. His influence may be vast, but his films only count to eleven if you exclude his crossover with A Nightmare on Elm Street. Through those eleven films Jason Voorhees had cemented himself in horror infamy, and these are his stories ranked from worst to best.
11) Jason Goes to Hell: The Final Friday
Where does one begin with a movie whose script had Halloween levels of mythological retcon and acting that had been corrupted by popular culture? Not to mention that this movie is the Quantum Leap of Friday movies, and not in a good way. If you were expecting Jason you’ll be sorely disappointed. Also, Hell doesn’t come into play until the very last scene leaving only the most drawn out of plots.
10) Part VIII: Jason Takes Manhattan
Similarly to “Hell,” while Manhattan is in the title of this installment it doesn’t come into play until the third act. Until then, it’s a slasher movie on a cruise ship. This is also around the time where the movies wanted to take Jason out of Camp Crystal Lake and into the ‘real’ world, which always felt wrong. Jason was no longer a character, but an icon and so his stories must suffer.
9) A New Beginning
What do you do when a franchise is supposed to end, but it’s still profitable? Make another and try to make it different. A New Beginning is just that as it had enough mystery to keep you connected within a different but familiar place. While it has its moments it’s still a mess with over the top characters doing stupid things. The franchise may have struggled to find its new footing, but this was certainly a valiant effort.
8) Part III
The 3D edition! After the success of the first two movies Part III took a step back and started the gimmicks of the franchise. Audiences now knew what to expect, the 3D emphasized the kills, but the special aesthetic that made the first two movies so atmospheric was starting to wane. A fun, if messy, watch.
7) Part VII: The New Blood
Psychics! Now Jason isn’t the only supernatural being in these movies. Though that brings the Friday the 13th franchise out of the standard slasher cases and into the realm of campy powers that diminished the impact of the kills, but also gave them more gleeful deaths. Also, this is the introduction of Kane Hodder in the iconic role which allowed Jason to do more stunts on camera. Yay stunts!
6) Jason X
This is easily the most talked about entry. Jason goes to space. Magnetic nipples. Insane deaths that involve freezing body parts. This movie knows what it is in the popular culture and swerves hard to make love to it. While providing a standard Jason killing spree story it also references an astronomical amount of horror films, like Jason’s new mask that looks like a metallic face hugger. It’s definitely not quality, but you won’t be able to forget this one.
5) Friday the 13th (2009)
The remake/reboot! And it’s actually good! This entry has some of the best kills in the franchise as well as bringing the whole mythology back to Earth (literally) as Jason comes back to his roots. There are some good subversions going on in the story, but more importantly it embraces the Camp Crystal Lake legacy of pre-marital sex, booze, and irresponsible young adults.
4) The Final Chapter
The third installment may have been fun, but The Final Chapter is a great step in the right direction as it lives up to its name and introduces one of the series’ most iconic characters, Tommy. This would have been a good send up, but instead it ends a solid era in the Friday the 13th franchise in epic fashion. Memorable, able to still have stakes, and empathetic characters.
3) Part VI: Jason Lives
A new era. Possibly the most well known Friday film as it’s the beginning of zombie Jason and his supernatural powers. This movie takes hold of the new mythology and holds firm as it does what it’s supposed to by honoring what came before, but acknowledging that it’s the beginning to a new era, and added to the franchise in a way that no one expected.
2) Friday the 13th (1980)
The original. It holds up really well and if you grew up in the current pop culture climate it may even have an unintended twist that you didn’t see coming. There is no campiness here, at least none intended, as it really puts you in the mood for what makes the woods creepy at night. Even if you watch it with friends you’ll still feel isolated and alone in the best possible of ways. Truly a horror classic.
1) Part 2
A great example of how a sequel can be equal, or better, to the original as it brings back familiar plot points while making it different as it all progresses the story. Part 2 is an incredible movie that keeps you on edge right up until that twisted ending. The characters are truly lovable and their plight is the most invested. Not only is this a classic too, but a fantastic film to break down and study from.
Happy Friday the 13th!