Growing up in the 90’s with video rental stores and cable TV movie marathons, it was hard to deny the charm and allure of the Friday The 13th franchise. You saw enough and were definitely too young to be watching, but you were entranced. So when I finally got to watch the movies I was hooked. 25 years after first watching a Friday the 13th film, I regularly put them on, show them to others, and enjoy the discourse about them online. It’s a franchise with an amazing fan base and you really do get to appreciate all that it has to offer through communal respect for these movies.
While my ranking change ever so slightly on every rewatch, this is a pretty definitive list. Some may disagree and hey, if you do, leave a comment with your rankings of the series. I’m curious where certain entries land for people.
12) Jason Goes to Hell: The Final Friday
OK, so bottom of the barrel here but we have Jason Goes To Hell. It’s not a good film, in fact at times it seems to directly fly into the face of good cinema and good taste.
It’s also just bugged me for many years that the director of this film was just sort of flying by the seat of his pants. He’s since tried to go and explain things post-release but it doesn’t make things any easier to understand. In fact it makes even less sense! Go figure right.
There’s also an odd sense of humor in the film, everything feels a bit too much like a wink and a nod. Like when a Best Man delivers a line about his friend but it’s all stuff you don’t get. There’s also the oddest of moments, like when the coroner bites into Jason’s heart like it’s an apple, or when a man is strapped to a table by ‘Jason’ and shaved. It just makes no sense.
There are some upsides here. There are some pretty gruesome kills, benefit of the ‘unrated cut’ of movies that became the thing for horror movies. All in all, this is the least interesting and well-made of any of the Friday The 13th films
11) Jason X
OK, so maybe sending any slasher movie villain to space is a bad creative choice, but New Line Cinema at the time was biding their time for Freddy Vs. Jason and needed to keep Jason relevant so they made this movie. Which stings in that this movie exists mainly to build up an audience for another movie, and it shows.
The plot is borderline non-sensical; and the characters all spew insanely stupid dialogue; but there are some cool kills, including the legendary liquid nitrogen kill.
10) Friday the 13th Part VII: The New Blood
This film is interesting in that it was designed to be very effects and gore heavy, with this being the goriest Friday The 13th yet. Which has a place in the franchise and in horror in general; however, director John Carl Buechler had to battle the MPAA and his own Producers. This makes for a film that on paper is incredible, but in execution is such a let down. The masters of that footage has since been long gone; so there’s no way we’d ever get a Director’s Cut of this, which is a true shame.
As it is, there’s a lot of quick kills with a lot of the kills being undercut by editing. This leaves you with the plot and characters which leave much to be desired.
9) Friday The 13th
Wait, I don’t have the original Friday The 13th film at the top spot? Blasphemy!
In all seriousness however, this movie is pretty slow, and lacking a lot of kills. A lot of kills happen out of frame or off camera. Even when you do see the kills, it’s relatively disappointing.
Where this movie redeems itself is with characters you actually like, and Pamela Voorhees. A character in a short amount of time became very memorable.
8) Freddy Vs. Jason
Nearly 20 years in the making, Freddy Vs. Jason had a lot to live up to, and it was met with a middling response, and deservedly so. Through some questionable script decisions, and also their decision to not bring back fan-favorite actor, Kane Hodder, the film faced an uphill battle.
There’s a lot of weird moments in this film that don’t quite make sense or seem a bit too ‘of the time’ including a cringe inducing line delivery by Kelly Rowland; or an overall bad performance by Jason Ritter who seemingly can’t stop smiling when delivering sad or dramatic dialogue.
If you are going to watch this, you’re watching it for the last 20-30 minutes where you get that sweet payoff to the title of the movie. Is it worth the build up though? Probably not.
7) Friday the 13th Part III
Part III is always a mixed bag for me. On one hand, it’s in that mold of Part 2 (and to a lesser extent, the original) where it’s kids being killed at Crystal Lake. You have your standard archetypes here, including the “why didn’t you ditch him while he was in the washroom” character of Shelly.
I would be curious at what point in the screenwriting process the biker gang was added. They feel fully unnecessary; even the one seemingly is hacked to death by Jason but then shows up in the finale.
The kills also haven’t aged well. Since this is aiming (almost literally) for 3D a lot of the special effects look cheesy. I wouldn’t be surprised if some of the budget got taken away for 3D.
This is, of course, is the movie where Jason gets his mask and I do really love Jason in this. He’s a menace. He hulks around and is a force to be reckoned with; and when he flashes his face for Chris, you realize gone are the days of Jason being a helpless victim, he’s a full-blown terrorizer in this and I love it. Not really many sympathies for Jason and I like my Jason like that.
This is still better than some of the later entries that are just boring or contrived (i.e. Jason Goes To Hell) but it lacks a lot of polish and some interesting character development. It’s interesting that in the subsequent film the producers dropped the 3D in favor of character development and making a well-polished film.
6) Friday the 13th (2009)
Like the last entry, this movie also has some lighting issues; but mostly this is just a really solid flick.
It plays out almost more like a Greatest Hits of Friday the 13th moments. There’s a lot of references and callbacks but it feels natural and not too forced. Some of the characters are great, others less so, but it feels like a Friday The 13th movie should.
Sadly the last act takes place at night and things are very dark, so it makes it hard to see things even though the horror and action are pretty good.
5) Friday the 13th Part VIII: Jason Takes Manhattan
This film gets a fair amount of hate, and unjustifiably so.
Yeah, the film largely doesn’t take place in Manhattan. This never bothered me. Jason Goes To Hell doesn’t take place in hell and the franchise’s most well lauded entry, Part 4: The Final Chapter, is anything but the final chapter. Was it a dumb idea? Sure. Does it ruin the movie? No.
OK now that I’ve gotten that off my chest, this film is actually kind of fun. There’s not a lot of blood so you probably could show this to someone who isn’t into gore but the kills are so inventive. Nuclear waste, hypodermic needles, guitar bashing, sauna rocks, and of course Jason goes all one punch man on us.
My biggest complaint in this movie will always be the characters. Rennie was clearly always supposed to be Tina Shepard; which explains why she has psychic abilities with no context or backstory. It’s like they wrote the script for Lar Park Lincoln’s Tina and then when she didn’t come back they only changed parts of it. Oops! She just never works as a final girl.
This is a hell of a lot of fun, and while the characters rarely work, let’s be honest you’re watching this to see them die and the film does a great job of that. Here’s hoping that this film sees more of an appreciation once people get over the whole title mislead.
4) Friday The 13th: A New Beginning
The most underrated film in the franchise.
The reveal that Jason is not the killer never bothered me. You never have any reason to assume it’s not Jason; and before this there wasn’t much of a continuity for Jason. He’s only really the Jason we know for the third act of Part III and the entirety of The Final Chapter.
Sure there are red herrings like the vagrant but why bother? In screenings of this most people assume Roy is Jason.
The reveal of Roy being the killer works better than that of Pamela. I wish they gave Roy a scene where he explains himself more rather than the exposition dump we get from the Sheriff.
There’s solid kills and nudity in this. A better ratio than most films in the franchise.
3) Friday The 13th: Part 2
It’s interesting that Part 2 is essentially more of the same as the first film albeit a much better film.
Kill count is 10. Same as first film but most of the deaths are on-screen except one. Alice dying is more impactful than hitchhiker girl from first. Paul is more engaging than Steve Christy; and dare I say it: Ginny is a better protagonist than Alice.
The film does suffer from continuity issues. For one, Jason’s backstory is completely re-written. Jason is no longer a footnote in the story; he IS the story. It is interesting that the film clearly is playing catch up when it clearly is making most of this up. It is fine if you can look past it but I can’t.
Finally, Paul. SERIOUSLY WHAT THE HAPPENED TO PAUL!? I can’t think of any other film where one of the main characters disappears in last 5 min of film and no explanation is given. Some people think it’s clever. I think the filmmakers honestly forgot he existed.
For what it’s worth, Vickie is the hottest Friday The 13th girl.
Is Part 2 good? Yeah. I dare say you could skip the first film and go to it. Film is overall better. Some story beats are not well done but it’s still a fun film.
2) Friday the 13th: The Final Chapter
Frank Mancuso Jr. (Producer on many FT13th movies) came to the conclusion that the franchise needed a definitive “ending point” so they decided that with three successful films to end Jason.
You have to give the filmmakers credit. Knowing that Jason is essentially on his way out they kept elements that worked in previous films (i.e. Jason is a hunter, chilling sound effects, etc) and improved on areas that needed improving. For instance, removing camp counselors and focusing on a recently divorced mother with her two kids and a bunch of horny teens makes for an interesting dynamic.
This film sets up Tommy Jarvis as the killer going forward, which would’ve been a great idea, but they botched the idea in Part 5, and barely made the landing in Part 6 where Tommy is regarded as being crazy but for us as the audience we know he can’t be the killer. Alas, it’s interesting to see the franchise set up this idea that Jason is simply a man made vengeful by the death of his loved ones. Anyone, including Tommy, is capable of becoming Jason.
While this isn’t my favorite Friday film, it’s my favorite depiction of Jason. He kills people in so many unique ways, throwing people out windows, nailing people to doorways and windows. This is clearly Jason who relishes in the mental torment of his victims and that’s displayed so well here.
If I had one complaint it would be the clearly obvious set up for a sequel. When the sister swings at Jason with a machete and knocks his mask off, it’s hilarious how this is an intentional move by the studio to keep Jason alive.
If you’re one who prefers a straight up horror movie, this is the best representation of that in this franchise.
1) Friday the 13th Part VI: Jason Lives
It’s rare that within a franchise as long lasting and expansive as Friday The 13th that the 6th film in the franchise ends up being it’s best.
A forced hand due to the backlash to Part V; which is a film I enjoy but I can also see where the backlash comes from. The powers that be had one goal: bring Jason back, and get the franchise back on track.
They did just that. By adding humor, relatable characters, and of course, a Tommy Jarvis you care about (sorry John Shepherd but you’re forgettable in Part V). This makes for a film that I will take over any day over any other Friday The 13th film. It’s pure enjoyment.
I love the Megan-Tommy relationship here. They’re equals. Megan isn’t helpless, and Tommy isn’t flawless. They are both at that perfect place. I’d like to imagine that they got married and had kids. Of course, that’s gonna be awkward when your future Father-In-Law is bent in half like a folding chair.
Some people complain that there’s too much humor and I do agree with that. Though it seems a tad much, it never feels overwhelming and there’s still enough dread permeating enough. It’s as perfectly balanced as the Friday The 13th franchise gets before you get to laughably bad New Line films.
This film walks up to the pitch ready to deliver a fun and enjoyable Friday The 13th film and it does so expertly. It’s not the pure Friday The 13th experience’ you’d get with Parts 2, 3, or 4; but it’s the one I’d choose to rewatch any day of the week.
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