Happy Halloween Season Everybody!
My favorite time of year is finally upon us. From Halloween until New Year’s, I am brimming with the spirit of the respective current holiday. I love Halloween and I love Christmas (hence why I adore Nightmare Before Christmas) and I like to write about some on-topic…err, topics. Usually I do a 13 Days of Halloween concept, but I’m gonna mix it up this year and rank one of the greatest horror franchises of all time.
Friday the 13th is the tale of revenge, as the undead corpse of Jason Voorhees slaughters all of the promiscuous teenagers in his path, seeking revenge for the death of his beloved mother, who was seeking revenge for the drowning of her son by inattentive camp counselors who were busy having sex. It’s amazing how that sounds when you literally write it out! The Friday the 13th films aren’t known for strong or even very memorable characters, or even the strongest stories, but they are known for clever kills, well drawn out suspense, and atmosphere that isn’t easily rivaled. They are fun movies. For the most part.
The original series of films consists of ten parts. I watched all of them, and then included the Freddy Vs. Jason crossover flick with the Nightmare on Elm Street series, and the 2009 film which was called a remake by some but I see it as just another chapter. Friday ’09 if you will. I am choosing not to include the fan made Never Hike Alone, as it isn’t an official chapter, but I do recommend you watch it if you can find it, as it is very well done.
My list will absolutely be different from yours, so I’d like to know what you think in the comments.
With that said, here we go!
RANKING THE FRIDAY THE 13TH SERIES
SPOILER ALERT! If you haven’t seen the movies on this list, odds are I will spoil something about them. So read at your own discretion.
12. JASON GOES TO HELL: THE FINAL FRIDAY
Any movie franchise that goes on for this long is going to have some clunkers in there. Still, with a horror franchise, you can still have some fun watching the bad films! Right? Wrong. This ninth installment was torturous to watch. I hated every minute of it, from beginning to end. The ONLY redeeming quality of the movie was Freddy’s glove. THAT WAS IT. The rest of the movie blew. Big time.
Basically Jason is blown up by the military, and his spirit starts possessing people. The idea is that it’s scary because Jason could by anybody. That concept could work, if it was done well, but this movie just butchers it entirely. No clever kills, no good characters, and very little actual Jason in the look we know and love. Hell, I was actually expecting to maybe see some of Hell in this one. I thought it might be cheesy good to see Jason in a demonic hellscape, but I didn’t even get that. This movie, in my opinion, has no redeeming qualities, and I will not be revisiting this one.
Jason Goes to Hell isn’t just the worst of the series in my opinion, it’s one of the worst movies I’ve ever seen, period. I am happy this viewing was the first and only time watching this film. Unless you offer me a decent sum of money, I won’t be watching this one ever again.
11. JASON X
If Jason possessing people wasn’t a bad enough concept, Jason going to OUTER SPACE upper the cheese factor to the extreme. Fortunately, this schlock fest didn’t take itself seriously enough for me to put it on the bottom. Don’t let that fool you though, it’s still a bad movie.
Jason is frozen in a cryogenic state and awakened on a ship called the Grendel in the year 2455 along with a government scientist. Jason begins wrecking havoc as only Jason can, and the first part of the movie is your basic Jason fanfare, only in an Alien like environment (though not nearly as scary or good). Uber Jason is where the movie truly went off the rails, as the look is just plan stupid. Nothing truly original in the kill factory, especially if you’ve seen a movie in outer space where people get killed off. Hell you can just watch Doctor Who or Star Trek to see more imaginative kills.
The only reason I put this one above Jason Goes to Hell is that, as terrible as it was, the movie had some self-awareness to it. It knew it was bad, so it went for more corniness instead of seriousness. That itself is forgivable, but not enough to make me rank it any higher. Would I watch this one again? Probably not.
If you want to see a scary movie in outer space, watch Alien. If you want to see a fun movie in outer space, watch Star Wars. If you want to see a bad movie in outer space, you could do worse…but Jason X would be up there. I’d say just pretend this one never happened.
10. FRIDAY THE 13TH PART VIII: JASON TAKES MANHATTAN
If you’ve ever wanted to see Jason stalk the residents of New York City, watch the final part of this movie. The rest of the film takes place on a boat. Due to the budget being poor, the crew couldn’t really afford to shoot in New York City, so the majority of the movie is Jason killing people on a boat heading TO New York City, where the final part is mostly alleyways and the sewer, negating the title of the movie altogether.
I’ve always hated this film personally, since the first time I saw it, and the subsequent rewatching didn’t do it any favors. There are precisely TWO parts of this movie I like…the boombox scene, which is a legitimate laugh out loud moment, and the death scene for Julius, where Jason’s right hook takes his head clean off. The rest of the film is pretty tedious, with the boat trying to be a scary confined scene for drama but just being a boring set piece. You want to see Jason in Manhattan, and you barely get that. The real stinker is the unmasked Jason succumbing to water in the sewer and reverting back to his childhood state. It’s supposed to be symbolic, but it’s just damn lame.
Given that I’ve watched this movie more than once, I am more than okay going the rest of my life without another viewing. If you absolutely MUST see this one, prepare to be disappointed. Maybe if this story fell into the franchise at an earlier time, it would’ve been a bit better. But at part VIII, we wanted more, and we got disappointed.
I don’t blame you if you don’t like this one at all. Maybe if they re-did it with a bigger budget…
9. FRIDAY THE 13TH: A NEW BEGINNING
It’s telling that the fifth installment of a horror franchise that just called their last movie THE FINAL CHAPTER would be a letdown. It’s also a sign of things to come (with a notable exception of course). Some franchises become cash cows, and only look to make money instead of tell a good story. This is an example of Friday the 13th becoming tedious.
What hurts New Beginning is that it’s just plain boring. It’s a very uninspired chapter, focusing on the Tommy Jarvis character as a grown-up dealing with his mental instabilities from witnessing Jason’s murders. Jason Voorhees does NOT appear in this one, as the killer is presented as a lame twist copycatting Jason, setting up the idea that the future of Jason’s rampage would be based on people copying the legendary killer since he was officially killed off in Part IV. Unsurprisingly, this concept failed and resulted in Jason’s return in Part VI, but I honestly don’t blame them for trying. After all, what if this idea had worked? The franchise could’ve gone in a whole different direction. Tommy as the killer may have worked, if this movie hadn’t just been boring and uninspired.
Like I said, the filmmakers deserve credit for trying. The movie isn’t without bright points, as the rednecks are hilarious, and kills are pretty good. It’s the lame Tommy character that pulls it down for me. The lack of Jason is forgiven slightly by the twist killer, but with Jason only appearing in hallucinations and dreams, it really does make this movie stand out as a black sheep. I won’t go so far as to say don’t watch this one, but go into it with low expectations.
Don’t worry, there is one redeeming film following this one. Wait for it…
8. FRIDAY THE 13TH PART VII: THE NEW BLOOD
Before the series reached (not) Manhattan and created three bad films in a row, they gave us Part VII, which isn’t as good as its predecessor, but is much better than Part V, mostly because Jason is back.
I’m not a big fan of the psychic girl angle and the dead father with Jasom resurrection, but this film is a step up from part V in that it has a story with better characters, really good kills (that damn sleeping bag) and one of the coolest designs for Jason in any of the movies. Each saga entry has Jason get more and more decomposed, but this is the fine line where he’s basically zombified but still looks really cool. The movie is painfully formulaic in how the events unfold, which is why I rank it low, but I don’t dislike it. This is the first movie on this countdown I’d willingly watch again, and still enjoy myself.
Like I said, it isn’t perfect, but it also isn’t offensive. While Part V took a risk and failed, this movie plays it safe and mildly succeeds. The psychic element is a nice addition even if I didn’t care for it, and I do like how her father returns at the end to save the day. Predictable once you’ve seen the other movies, but it’s done in a good way that you won’t hate what you see. I’d honestly suggest this one. I wouldn’t make it a priority, but if you happen to catch a glimpse of it, give it a try.
Just stop here and go straight to Freddy Vs. Jason. Avoid 8, 9, and 10. For reals. Stop here. Please.
7. FREDDY VS. JASON
There are two ways crossovers can go. They can be complete letdowns that are obviously only being done to make a cheap buck, or they can be fun, well done, and you’re glad that they went that way. While Freddy Vs. Jason isn’t a masterpiece by any means, it’s a very good time, and I’m happy I watched this in theaters when it came out, and I don’t care if you don’t like it.
The plot is simple: Freddy recruits Jason to cause mayhem on Elm Street, making people remember him, so he can gain his powers back. But when Jason steals all the kills for himself, Freddy has to take him down. The human characters are forgettable, but the fight scenes with Freddy and Jason are a ton of fun. If you go into this one looking for an action movie and not a horror movie, you’ll definitely leave satisfied. With Jason being such a mute character, it’s really cool to see Freddy add his classic comedic quips to the movie. The film also gets all the locations and cliches from BOTH franchises in it, and features continuity from both series, so you have to admire the filmmakers for getting it right.
I understand how some people find issues with this movie, especially the ambiguous ending (I was personally rooting for Freddy anyway) but I thought it was a lot of fun. I do wish we had gotten the sequel featuring Ash Williams from the Evil Dead movies, but that may have been overkill. I’d leave Freddy Vs. Jason alone at this point, and I wouldn’t revisit any other horror crossovers anytime soon.
If you’ve never seen this movie, I say give it a chance. Just think action with comedy instead of pure horror.
6. FRIDAY THE 13TH (2009)
I was very skeptical of this movie when I sat down to watch it for the first time, having skipped it during its initial release. I was convinced it was just a remake of the original film, and thus I wasn’t interested in seeing. Fortunately, my horror aficionado friends informed me that was just another chapter in the franchise, despite what marketing would convince you of, so I was able to watch it with an open mind, and as a result, enjoyed what I saw.
Now don’t get me wrong, it’s still very by the numbers as far as Friday the 13th movies go, but it’s done quite well, with an intricate storyline attached to it. Jason does his usual killing of the campers spree, but this time he kidnaps one of the girls, since he resembles his mother at a young age. This results is SAM WINCHESTER and his friends going on a search for his missing sister, and we get a different take on the Jason chapters. Clever kills, decent suspense, and get this – CHARACTERS THAT ARE GOOD – make this a very welcome addition to the franchise. Instead of being bored with another remake and viewing it as painfully average as I expected, I ended up feeling quite satisfied with a later chapter in the saga and left with my expectations exceeded. While this movie certainly isn’t the best, it’s done very well and shouldn’t be passed up.
The movie was originally going to be an origin story, but the producers passed that up in exchange for a story showing how Jason came to his murderous ways logically. Like what Rob Zombie did for Michael Myers, the people behind the film wanted to being a small shread of humanity to the Jason Voorhees character. Whether or not you personally want to see that side of Jason is a matter of opinion, but surprisingly, I actually enjoyed the take on the character. Most importantly, I like the transition from burlap sack to hockey mask in this film much better than the Part II to Part III lack of explanation we get in the original films. I rank this movie in sixth place, but I would recommend it to anyone. It’s also unique in that you can view it without seeing any of the other previous movies and it will still make sense to you.
Don’t make the mistake I did and put off watching this version for nearly ten years because of some misconceptions you had about the film. Sit down and check out the 2009 version of Friday the 13th. I don’t think you’ll be disappointed.
QUICK AUTHOR’S NOTE: If I were ranking the fan film Never Hike Alone, it would be on this list either before or after the 2009 Friday the 13th, in case anyone was curious.
5. FRIDAY THE 13TH: THE FINAL CHAPTER
I find it quite humorous that the fourth installment of this franchise is titled “The Final Chapter.” It was intended to be the ending to the Jason Voorhees story itself and continue on with copycat storylines and Tommy Jarvis as a central character, but the failure of Part V brought Jason back. Still, while this installment is the weakest of the first four movies, it is a standout in the franchise as a whole.
The movie picks up right where Part III ends and introduces a new band of teenagers to get slaughtered, but they also give us a new family to care about: the Jarvis’s, notably, young Tommy, played by future teen heartthrob Corey Feldman. It’s the standard stuff, Jason returns, goes back to the camp, kills the partying teens, and targets the nearby family, but since it’s only the fourth movie, the kills are all done well and at the time were very creative. The best part of the movie is actually Tommy himself. The addition of a child in peril gives the movie a sense of urgency that was missing from the previous films. Corey Feldman does a very good job, and all of his scenes are interesting, which is more than can be said for the forgettable group of partying teen characters who only exist to get killed off. While it is easy to spot the series starting a downward momentum, this movie does do a good job wrapping up Jason’s story, was he not to continue on.
I enjoy the continuity this movie has with the second installment, when it is revealed that Rob is actually the brother of one of Jason’s victims in Part II, Sandra. Rob is a weird presence in the plot initially, until you learn his connection to Jason and his motive to kill him. Naturally Jason kills him too, but I do enjoy how these films tie together with the previous versions, which is lacking in later installments, where the only factor tying them together is Jason himself. This movie also reveals Jason’s true face…which previous versions HAD done, but this is the first time we see how crazy Jason’s face actually looks now. He’s decisively less human now, and at his peak scariest. Part IV is a must see film…but only after you’ve seen the first three!
I would gladly watch this one again. Like I said, some of the later films make me do think they should have stopped here, but we do get one bright beacon among the dimmer later movies, so all is not lost. I do think if the series stopped here this would’ve been a good film to go out on. Watching the first four movies, and only the first four, create a bookended story with a slightly ambiguous ending given the final shot of Tommy in the hospital. If you stopped here, you’d leave satisfied. And you wouldn’t have to suffer through parts VIII, IX, and X!
4. FRIDAY THE 13TH PART III
I have seen this movie make the bottom of a lot of lists, and I honestly didn’t understand why. My research seemed to indicate that a lot of the hatred stemmed from the cheap 3-D gimmick this film attempted, which was the norm for movies at the time. Unlike other 3-D flops (looking at you Jaws) I think this movie was a really good addition to the story, and I think it’s quite unfair to judge it solely on it trying to be 3-D! In fact, I find it almost appalling! I thought this movie was a great chapter and one of the best of the whole series!
This movie picks up right where Part II ended, with Jason getting new gear (like a certain trademark hockey mask) and killing off a whole new group of teenagers journeying through Camp Crystal Lake. This group of teens is a tad more likable than the others, especially since Shelly (the original hockey mask owner) stands up to a group of bikers, who Jason offs in the barn before their revenge can be extracted. This movie ups the kill creativity from the parts before it and does so quite well, with spearguns to the face, axes to the chest, and one hell of a skull crushing finale. Jason really picks up his iconic look in this one, and does so by destroying a group of characters who offer more than future installments creating randoms just to kill off. There are tons of callbacks to the previous movies, and the ending itself pays homage to the ending of the inaugural movie quite nicely. Adding in the tease of a dream was a nice touch, which allowed this movie to separate itself from the original.
Like I said before, the 3-D element is what seems to turn a lot of people off, but while I can see where the camera was set up for the effects, none of them were noticeable to me. By halfway through the film, I’d plain forgotten I was even watching a movie that was supposed to be in 3-D, because I was immersed in the atmosphere of the movie. If you were just so caught up in this film’s gimmick that didn’t even translate to the DVD copy I was watching, the problem is on you. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t care for 3-D and I don’t bother with 3-D films in this day and age because I simply aren’t into them, but that doesn’t mean I’m going to let a film’s 3-D aspect take away from my enjoyment of the movie. If you only hate on this movie because of that, I don’t know what else to tell you. If you don’t like the story, that’s different, but I hate to see a decent film buried by unfair criticism.
Part III isn’t perfect by any means, but it’s better than almost anything that follows it.
3. FRIDAY THE 13TH
Every franchise has a beginning, and this film from 1980 is what started this slasher collection in one hell of an exciting way. I almost wonder if the creators knew they were making an iconic film series when they started. Halloween was already a hit, so you can’t blame them for wanting to create a new icon in the slasher genre, which truly picked up steam in the 80’s. Jason Voorhees would soon become a household name, and ironically, he isn’t even the killer in this movie!
We start off back in 1958 at Camp Crystal Lake, where two counselors who have sneaked away to make out (and then some) are murdered by an unknown assailant. When the camp re-opens, a young girl named Annie is given a ride by a truck driver, who informed her of the history of the camp and declares it cursed. Two counselors were murdered the year after a 12-year-old boy drowned in the lake. Annie ends up with another ride shortly after, but winds up being killed by the person driving her. We then meet the lovely counselors, who are all given personalities and quirks (unlike later films) so you can actually feel some empathy for what’s to come. One of them is even played by Kevin Bacon! With a thunderstorm approaching, the teens do their own things (some do each other) while they are slowly picked off (Kevin Bacon does not beat Johnny Depp’s time in a slasher film). Everyone is killed except for Alice, who attempts to find solace in Betsy Palmer’s Pamela Voorhees character, until she learns the horror that it was Mrs. Voorhees extracting revenge upon the counselors, who she blames for her son’s drowning, because they weren’t watching them and were engaging in sexual activities. Alice does manage to decapitate Mrs. Voorhees with the soon to be iconic machete, and is nearly drowned the next morning by the decomposing body of Jason, who is revealed to still be alive in the lake.
This movie set the bar and kicked off everything. Without the original, there would be no Jason Voorhees, no connection to Friday the 13th other than old superstitions, and the probability that horror slashers wouldn’t have taken off they way they have. We could have a whole different landscape of scary movies today if it hadn’t been for a few select movies that were successful, and Friday the 13th is definitely one of them. While some people believe this movie hasn’t aged terribly well, I still think it does its job as a scary movie. While this one upped the gore factor after critics felt Halloween was lacking in blood, they kept a lot of the suspense and foreboding in tact. This movie was criticized by activists when it came out, yet it found success as an independent movie being distributed by a major American studio – a first for the horror genre.
I will never pass up an opportunity to sit down and watch the original Friday the 13th. Jason may not be prominent in the series’ first outing, but Betsy Palmer’s brilliant acting as his crazed mother more than makes up for it. If you’ve never seen this movie, give it a shot. It won’t leave you disappointed.
2. FRIDAY THE 13TH PART VI: JASON LIVES
During my binge, I noticed Part IV started a pretty distinct downward spiral. I liked it, but it was obvious the series quality was dropping. Part V confirmed this, with a movie that I really didn’t like, and considered it the worst one so far. Fortunately, everyone across the board told me that Part VI was excellent (even if seven and beyond went back to being bad) so I went in with cautious optimism. I was VERY happy with this installment, and think it is the second best movie of the entire franchise.
After Tommy Jarvis failed to capture my interest in Part V, and goes for full on redemption by digging up Jason’s body to fully destroy it. Unfortunately, he awakens the killer who swiftly rises from his grave and returns to his old ways, only with true supernatural abilities and strength this go around. Good job, Tommy! Jason’s killing spree effects the former Crystal Lake, now called Forrest Green, as he picks up counselor after counselor, with the crazed Tommy taking the blame for the murders due to his constant hallucinations about Jason. Of course, the cops end up being murdered by Jason too, proving that – SHOCK – the crazy guy was right all along! People never learn their lessons in these movies, do they? Hell, they even sort of break the fourth wall with their own self-awareness, which is why I was having such a good time. Naturally, Jason ends up at the camp, stalking Tommy while he and Megan try to protect the kids at the camp. Jason ends up battling Tommy in the lake, trying to drown him, but Tommy successfully pins him to the bottom by tying him to a boulder, in a good dramatic finale with a few false flags to lead you on before the terror starts. Jason truly returns home here.
What makes this movie work so well is that it presents Jason in a whole new light. Before he was strong, but now he’s flat out other-worldly, and Tommy has only himself to blame. After being an annoyance in Part V, Tommy becomes more sympathetic in this version, which helps make this movie stand out more. I mean, you’re watching for Jason, but it helps to have other characters to feel something towards. This was a welcome change in direction from the path the movies were starting to take, and sadly this is the last good movie of the original numbered series of films. Do yourself a favor and make sure you don’t skip Part VI.
1. FRIDAY THE 13TH PART II
How does one top an original movie? By making a sequel even better than the first one, that’s how! It has better kills, more interesting characters, more atmosphere, more nudity, more everything! In fact, had this been the film where we got the iconic hockey mask, I would call it the perfect installment. I believe Friday the 13th Part II is the best in the whole collection.
Alice cameos in the opening shot of the film, but is quickly eliminated due to her agent’s money request and a crazed fan of the first movie stalking her (both stories claim the other isn’t the case, but if they both exist, I’m sure there’s truth behind them). With Alice out of the way, an adult Jason seeks revenge on the teenagers working at Camp Crystal Lake for what they did to his poor beloved mother. He even kills off Crazy Ralph, the man nobody believed from the first movie. Poor guy! Jason gets more creative here than his mother, and all the kids who didn’t go out drinking pay the price for it. Poor wheelchair bound Mark’s death is somewhat comical. Jason’s sick twisted revenge involves hoarding his dead victims in a makeshift shack with the decomposing head of his mother’s corpse on a pedestal, making Jason’s official character transformation complete (sans mask). The jump scare with Jason’s return through the window is a great final touch to the movie, even if Paul’s death is basically ambiguous. Ginny is as likable as Alice was in the first movie, although she appears to ultimately survive the events of Friday the 13th.
This movie takes everything from the first film and kicks it up a notch. We have Jason stalking more victims, with more gruesome and creative deaths – some of which had to be heavily censored from the theatrical cut. Everything in this movie is done bigger and better than part one, which is what makes it stand out so much. For me, it’s the best of them all, and I’d happily sit down and watch this one anytime.
To wrap up my list, I’d watch the first four movies and the sixth one, and then go straight to Freddy Vs. Jason and the 2009 version. You truly can skip Part V without missing too much, and then don’t even bother with seven through ten. Jason X doesn’t even fit into the mythos of the series. Jason Goes to Hell only serves the purpose of bringing him together with Freddy Kruger, and Jason Takes Manhattan’s two fun scenes don’t make it worth a viewing. Part V only serves a purpose of expanding Tommy’s character, and Part VII is okay, but not worth going out of your way for.
The first four should be watched together, Part VI can be a standalone if you do it correctly, Freddy Vs. Jason gives you history of each franchise so you know what you missed, and the 2009 reboot is decisively standalone. Watch those and have fun!
That concludes my ranking of this horror franchise. Would you put the films in a different order? Let me know in the comments, and thanks for reading!