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Is ‘Final Destination’ the Best Horror Franchise in History?

FINAL DESTINATION 5| image via New Line Cinema
Images courtesy of New Line Cinema

Final Destination is the best horror franchise in history. A part of me feels guilty saying that, especially as I survey all the figures of Jason Voorhees, Freddy Krueger, and Michael Myers adorning my desk at this very moment. But while Friday the 13th, A Nightmare on Elm Street, and Halloween all ultimately squandered their potential in later sequels, Final Destination has remained surprisingly consistent throughout its five entries, providing cheesy thrills without ever jumping the shark.

To understand how, let’s take a closer look at some of the issues other horror franchises have fallen victim to in the past.

A frequent dilemma is that the original film simply does not have much sequel potential, and so there is nothing new to say in future installments. As a direct result, storytellers begin throwing anything they can think of at the wall to see what sticks, getting nuttier and nuttier until a relatively serious picture has become a parody of itself. Think of A Nightmare on Elm Street; though a guilty pleasure, it’s a bizarre series just because of how all over the place it ends up being. One minute, Freddy is a terrifying representation of our subconscious fears, but the next, he’s like a demon Joker, slaughtering teenagers with a Power Glove and saying “bitch” a whole lot.

FREDDY's DEAD via New Line

To a lesser extent, this applies to Friday the 13th as well. It became apparent after Part III that teens being offed in the woods could only last so many movies and the kills had to be taken to the next level. So before long, Jason’s dead, he’s alive, he’s fighting a girl with telekinesis, he’s in hell and, finally, he’s in space. Once again, this is definitely not to say the franchise is bad, but it’s certainly erratic, jumping up and down in quality as regularly as an American Horror Story season. With both Nightmare and Friday, the problems stem from the first installment, which works on its own and doesn’t leave much room for continuation. The directors of each sequel had nowhere to go except somewhere utterly insane, inevitably leading to a shift in tone.

Then there’s the case of the overcomplicated franchise storyline. When writers realize their series will be around for a while, as moviegoers have inexplicably not grown tired of it, they might start developing an overarching narrative. Theoretically, if returning characters and cliffhangers are utilized from now on, it will look slightly less ridiculous that so many sequels are being produced. Very quickly, though, that storyline usually turns into a complete disaster, with each sequel like a Jenga block being added to an increasingly unstable tower.

Just recall what happened to Saw: the main villain died in Saw III, which seemed like a fine place to wrap things up. Unfortunately, Lionsgate wasn’t ready to leave Saw behind, and so the next few sequels devolved into an incomprehensible onslaught of plot twists, flashbacks, flashforwards, and parallel events in an attempt to craft a mythology to put most soap operas to shame. It was a valiant effort, but in the end, Saw just became too convoluted for its own good. It wasn’t a Nightmare on Elm Street scenario, where the series took a nosedive because it was difficult to keep coming up with ideas. Instead, Saw actually had far too much going on.

An even more cataclysmic example of the botched expansive narrative is Halloween; Tommy Lee Wallace should be commended for trying something different with Halloween III: Season of the Witch. But, as we all know, everyone wanted Michael Myers back, and so Compass Pictures sadly had no choice but to hunker down and prepare for a long stay in Haddonfield. The result was an absurd ongoing plot about a cult that is eventually revealed to have been in control of Michael Myers all along. By adding so much backstory and so many ludicrous reveals, John Carpenter’s simplistic slasher had transformed into a bloated mess.

Learning from history, then, a successful franchise must start off with sequel potential, and it must connect each installment without completely running the plot into the ground. That brings us to Final Destination, which meets exactly that description and which has proven itself to be our finest horror series.

From the beginning, Final Destination is clearly built to last as a franchise. The killer of the piece isn’t a specific man or monster whose return must be explained. No, the killer is death itself, an invisible antagonist who will be taking lives until the end of time, whether these movies are made or not. The premise is ideal for followups, as by definition it’s a story about something that happens all the time.

The deaths themselves are also always entertaining because the series allows for unlimited possibilities. With Friday the 13th, there are only so many ways a man with a machete can murder teenagers. Sure, some of the sequels get creative, like the sleeping bag kill in The New Blood or the frozen head smash in Jason X. But even the most innovative deaths are still some variation of a strong man slaughtering his victims with blunt force.

In the Final Destination movies, absolutely anything can happen and it will fit within the established rules without any issue. Want to kill someone in a brutal and realistic fashion by having them get hit by a bus or strangled by a clothes line? That works! Want to do something preposterous like have a flying barbed-wire fence slice someone into three pieces or have a set of weights crush a guy’s face like a watermelon? That works too! Death does whatever the hell it wants, and so the screenwriters can do whatever the hell they want. Friday the 13th had to journey into space in a desperate search for something unique, but Final Destination requires no such reach.

Final Destination also perfectly integrates its overarching plot, letting each film stand on its own but also ensuring it feels like a piece of a larger puzzle. Final Destination 2, for instance, reintroduces Clear Rivers, the only survivor of Flight 180. She becomes an integral part of the story, continuing her arc from the original and offering the valuable knowledge that comes with being a seasoned death-dodger. This sequel also expands upon the rules of the Final Destination canon, establishing what happens when a new life is added into the mix. Yet at the same time, it is not even necessary to have watched the first installment to enjoy this one. Right away, Final Destination is serving up sequels that please both casual and hardcore fans.

The same is true of Final Destination 3, which clearly exhibits the franchise’s DNA but is also a totally fresh narrative. Just as Final Destination 2 played with the idea of new life cancelling out death, this sequel involves a series of clues in the form of pictures that heavily foreshadow how each character will die. There were omens in the other movies, but now getting to the bottom of these specific photos is a major part of the drama, another effective way to spice things up.

The Final Destination, which is a bit more predictable compared to the predecessors, still answers another fascinating question: “What happens when someone who isn’t next in line tries to kill themselves?” Next up, Final Destination 5 revolves heavily around figuring out how committing murder affects death’s priorities, a cool idea not at all reflected in the previous four films.

As you can see, every sequel is connected as to not create a Season of the Witch scenario, but the bridge between all five is mostly a bonus intended to please hardcore fans. Never is the story dragged down by the need to explain an overly complex narrative with dozens of characters and increasingly stupid ideas like the lead character being under the influence of a cult. Instead, each movie is self-contained while nevertheless carrying over familiar elements, throwing in fun easter eggs, and addressing unanswered questions.

The only weak link is The Final Destination, which is cheapened by the poor special effects and awkward use of 3D, but it thankfully never verges into the franchise-ruining territory of Halloween: The Curse of Michael Myers or A Nightmare on Elm Street 2: Freddy’s Revenge. Even if fans found themselves disappointed with the fourth entry, the series quickly bounced back with Final Destination 5 just two years later, correcting every complaint and standing out as one of the strongest films yet.

What other series brings the same basic feel to every sequel but requires they all say something slightly different? What other franchise consistently impresses with the creative kills and jaw-dropping moments to top what came before, never jumping the shark with a trip to space? Most importantly, in what other franchise are 80% of the entries absolute perfection? Not Friday the 13th. Not A Nightmare on Elm Street. Not Halloween. Not Saw. Not The Texas Chainsaw Massacre. Not even Scream. 

In terms of pure creativity and consistency, Final Destination reigns supreme.



  • J Jett

    the short answer is NO!

    • nick

      The long answer is DEFINITELY NOT.

  • Grimphantom

    Meh, not really. Sure they are entertaining but it’s not something you can call “best horror franchise” the deaths are good but you get tired knowing that everyone will die, it’s like watching Happy Three Friends.

    • alwayswipetwice

      Oh man, I forgot about HTF! We need a movie immediately. And make it stop-motion while they’re at it.

  • DarkBree

    We have to agree Final Destination is the most consistent horror franchise like the article said. Every movie tries to bring something different to the franchise. Yes, we know that everybody dies at the end, but it’s still fun and entertaining and the deaths are creative. Even the fouth istallment – that it’s not a good movie – can be a guilty pleasure.

    • Amy

      I always enjoyed speculating which one or two would live, happens in every movie, and with the exception of Clear Rivers I don’t think there was a follow up on any of the characters that lived to the end of any of the movies except in passing. I also really enjoyed how it doesn’t become clear that FD5 is a prequel until the very end of the movie…I would love to see another installment, maybe a look at William Bludworth, the “coroner” who is in all of the movies (not seen in three, but has a few voice overs)…is he a survivor, death, a guardian angel would be a great direction for the movies.

      • DarkBree

        I was speculating this during the first three movies (FD3 was the first one I watched). But even if evebody died I was always curious how they would die and the same time sad, because I liked them. It was a big surprise the end of FD5. I would also love to see other installments, I hope in the future they will make them.

        • Amy

          It’s funny that you mention liking them, I couldn’t stand a few of the characters (like the racist in part 4, or the bitchy chick outside the racetrack in 4…lots of characters in 4 I found unlikable, I guess…) and really looked forward to the creative and fitting ways in which they bit it. ♫♪ why can’t we be friends ♪♫

          • DarkBree

            The characters of the fourth movie are horrible, I just like the main four: Nick, Lori, Janet and George. I couldn’t care less about the others. But I like the characters from the other movies.

  • Mr. Dry

    I HATE the fourth one but I love the franchise and this is mostly true, it is a pretty consistent franchise.

  • I find the entire franchise totally watchable on repeat. Doesn’t matter which one, if it’s on when I’m channel surfing, I’ll at least stop for a bit (if not for the duration). Four was a bit rough, but Five totally made up for it and remains one of my favorite “Whaaaaaaaaaaat!?” moments. Now I wish it was on right now so I could watch while I’m at the office. Would make the day so much better if I could.

  • Brett Strohl

    Final Destination is by far the best modern horror franchise…but honestly absolutely NOTHING is better, top to bottom, than the Basket Case trilogy ^_^

    • Jimmy Cthulhuhan

      Jesus, that’s weird…. I was gonna make the same joke (well, not so much a joke, I do think it’s better :-P) about Basket Case before even stepping foot on this page. What are the odds of that…

      But I don’t like Final Destination… 1 and 3 were ok, the rest, bleh.

      • Brett Strohl

        I’m not really joking at all. It might not be considered “great” in terms of influence or ticket sales etc, but I’ve never seen a better horror series, as far as quality, from top to bottom.

  • A2VL

    What about Evil Dead? Its also the most critically acclaimed horror series.

    • Brett Strohl

      It’s hard to be on board for best series since 1, 2, and 4 are basically the exact same movie.

      • Jimmy Cthulhuhan

        Same could be said of Final Destination… more so.

        • Brett Strohl

          They’re the same thing over and over, but not the exact same movie three times like Evil Dead.

  • Creepshow

    Scary Movie…hands down!!
    They stepped up their game in every goddamn sequel. To the point where you’d rather stare into the sun for 90 minutes.

    • alwayswipetwice

      I always love seeing what horror movies they spoof! Hopefully they do BvS and TMNT in Scary Movie 6!

      • Creepshow

        Slap yourself!
        I forgive you for that blasphemy.

        • alwayswipetwice

          Apologies. Sarcasm doesn’t translate too well to text.

          • Creepshow

            I hope we’ve seen the last of the Wayans’ shit.

          • alwayswipetwice

            I used to love the Wayans’ movies – the last one I liked was White Chicks. Now it’s more like “mildly entertained”. HH is decent, but HH2 is fucking garbage. Never been a fan of Zucker though. He’s the one responsible for SM3-5.

          • Creepshow

            In Living Color = the last time any Wayans was funny. (when Shawn was the DJ and nobody knew who Marlon was)

          • alwayswipetwice

            That show is definitely great, but I just find them funny as actors, so it’s hard for me to hate on them even in their worst. Their reactions and comedic timing are on point.

          • Creepshow

            Check that…I did like Marlon in The Lady Killers.

        • alwayswipetwice

          Then again… TMNT is technically “horror” according to this site. So…

  • alwayswipetwice

    I WANT FD6!

  • Orson Hyde

    I’ve made similar arguments for the Saw franchise. Sure saw gets up its own ass a bit in 5, 6, and 7; but it never ‘goes to space’ or turns into a slapstick parody of itself and so on. If only Hellraiser could be so consistent.

    • Brendan Morrow

      Yeah, overall I’m a fan of Saw as well, and I don’t think it ever went downhill in quite the same way other franchises did. I just wish it could have kept the momentum of the first three going – with the exception of VI, I found the last few sequels to be REALLY all over the place, and Saw 3D is one of the worst last installments in a series of all time in my opinion. Can’t say I didn’t enjoy the spectacle, though, and I definitely looked forward to every new sequel.

  • wehoaks

    Uh no.

  • wehoaks

    I love this franchise but it is not the best and here is why: no matter what new element they add, which fresh drama or plot device inserted, there is always the SAME EXACT OUTCOME. No one escapes death to live a long and happy life. That in of itself, the same damn ending, is STALE. And frankly that’s the first no no in horror.

    • Creepshow

      I can smell what you’re stepping in.

      • wehoaks

        Rob Zombie?

        • Creepshow

          You had to go there and ruffle some feathers. Didn’t you?

          • wehoaks


        • J Jett

          wehoaks, LOL. 🙂

    • alwayswipetwice

      They really need to be more articulate when they make “best” or “worst” lists. Either way, it’s still going to be somewhat subjective, but if they at least specify “most fun”, “most boring”, “franchise with the best kills/deaths”, there would be more of a conversation.

      For whatever it’s worth, this franchise is one of the most unique because it’s basically a horrific, live-action version of Looney Tunes (specifically the Road Runner/Wile E. Coyote). You almost expect the characters to hold up “Yikes!” signs before they get it. Personally, these movies almost get too intense and suspenseful that I wish they’d cartoon them up even more. Freak accidents are probably the most horrific thing in reality, so as much as I love this franchise, having to endure 90min of each one is daunting to say the least.

  • Javi Simon

    I wouldn’t call it the best horror franchise ever, but the series has always had a special place in my heart since I saw the first one as a kid in theaters. The last one is my favorite. Seriously, who saw that ending coming? And I love how Tony Todd kept popping up as this mysterious figure who is always close to the action, but never the victim.

  • Mr. Screamer

    Final Destination 5 is amazing, that ending is just brilliant. I would love a sixth movie, but as it is, the FD films are a very nice pentalogy.

    • Brendan Morrow

      As much as I want Final Destination 6, it definitely is fantastic the way the series comes full circle like that, and the twist really did throw me completely off guard. But this is the ONE instance where I’d be okay throwing a great ending out the window for more sequels because I want more Final Destination, dammit!

  • Adam Clifton

    The question that has never been asked is this… if they were meant to die in those big events, why get the vision warning the person about it in the first place?

    • wehoaks

      Yup. Bingo. Especially if Death just comes right back around and takes them out anyway. What’s the fucking point?

      • Adam Clifton

        There must be two opposing forces at work here. Or Death likes letting them think they can escape, but reels them in on the hook later

        • wehoaks

          I agree with both. But without an understanding it is MEH.

          • Robert a Bb

            maybe people felt that death was a joke. . people die whatever. but maybe death itself likes when people suffer and worry about WHEN ITS GOING TO HAPPEN. he heeds off fear and just likes to watch you panic and become paranoid .i wonder if they will ever have a movie where theres a real way to trick death. also what happens if you die then are brought back to life. does it just skip you till its your turn again?

          • Adam Clifton

            There IS an episode of Supernatural in its 6th season where ‘Death’ is claiming the lives of descendants that shouldn’t have been born. All because an angel went back in time and stopped the Titanic from sinking because he doesn’t like Celine Dion’s song. It’s explained that Fate is actually stopping time and moving deadly objects in their victim’s way and letting them get killed. I like to think that’s how it works in the Final Destination series

    • alwayswipetwice

      Something about predestination and spotting deja vu things in the Matrix. I’m pretty sure it all makes sense. Somehow…

  • Robert a Bb

    I think the guy who comes out to clean up the bodies in the final destination movies should just come out and admit he is DEATH. it just seems like he is

  • jasonlives1986

    2 and 4 are absolute trash, like just really bad.

    5 gets a pass cause the ending but the acting in that is perhaps the worst ever for a non dtv movi .

    1 and 3 though are awesome.

    So like any other franchise, some good and some bad.

  • Grandpa Fred

    Um, sorry, but unless a horror series includes not just Leprehaun In The Hood but also Leprechaun: Back 2 The Hood, there’s nothing else we should be talking about here.

    • Brendan Morrow

      Clearly you haven’t seen Final Destination Meets Leprechaun In The Hood: In Space: In 3D. It’s one of the greats!

  • Geno1987

    I think the crowning jewel of best horror franchise should go to Phantasm. Consistent throughout its entire run.

  • Halloween_Vic

    Final Destination is a solid franchise but not all 5 films are good and therefore I disagree with you. Definitely to each their own, but it is not the best horror franchise. I would say Scream is a better franchise as far as laughs,thrills, and the fun factor. I still say Halloween is the one for me lol but I do like final destination.

  • alwayswipetwice

    My pick for best horror franchise is probably Scream.

  • Nicolas Caiveau

    I like the Saw saga better, find it more consistent. Even with the convoluted plot. But Final Destination is a great series too.

  • J Jett

    i DO give this franchise major credit for doing the nearly impossible. FD5 was very very good. imo it’s best entry since part 1 and that’s a difficult thing to do with most franchises.

  • Ocelot006 .

    Can you be fired from this site?

    • Hans Stutgart

      The hell are you on about? That was a perfectly written piece! Just because you disagree with the source material, doesn’t mean the writing is poor.

  • i really wish they would make another. the Final Destination series is one of my favorites.

  • REC03

    Scream franchise>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>

  • WalkingDeadGuy

    I love the Final Destination franchise, but to be fair, its competition (NOES, F13) had more sequels, and most of the later sequels (starting at around the fifth sequel for both franchises) are what brought the series down. I think we’d have a closer race If we weigh NOES 1-5 or F13 part 1-5 against the Final Destination films.

  • Lirabelle

    You say this series never jumped the shark, but I’ve always felt like it’s entire premise was seeing how high the shark could jump.

    • alwayswipetwice

      Well said!

  • astronauta69


  • Thrash13

    I really enjoyed the Final Destination series, but I think the Scream and Saw series is better when all is said and done. I’m not sure I fully recovered from The Final Destination. It was pretty blah compared to the other 4. Well-written article though!

  • Blade

    Na son. I like them, but I wouldn’t even put them in my top 10 tbh

  • JoãoR.

    Maybe not the best, but def the most faithful to the original, consistent and creative.

  • the usual suspect

    Sorry but the Evil Dead franchise is the best and most consistently good (even though every film has a different tone) horror series. Every Evil Dead movie is a horror masterpiece and no one can deny that.

    • TG

      you name belies your ingenuity in finding “Every Evil Dead movie is a horror masterpiece and no one can deny that.” Till date, the rest of the world only classified the original as a Horror movie, and were ROFL everytime they viewed the sequels(including myself). At best, I can say they were entertaining, scary? By Kaiser Soze, HELL NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!

  • blueskythis

    Final destination 2, the highway chaos scene, remains one of my favourite scenes, up there with the Ghost Ship mass decap opening, dawn of the dead’s remake opener, and Bladerunner’s replicant-shot-falling-thru-the-plate-glass-window scene.

    I always use this Final D scene whenever I install a home entertainment system. Great franchise but the #2 is the best, best deaths all round, best tension at it’s excruciating bestest.

  • Randy Moses

    I like these movies as well. They tend to be very inventive. I’d like o see more of them.

  • anthonyd1

    Love the Final Destination Movies, but for me personally, Halloween is my favorite horror movie and Scream will always be my favorite horror series. Not many horror series have consistent characters you care about and Scream does a great job of developing Sidney’s story throughout the series while keeping it fun and fresh. SCREAM IS THE BEST HORROR MOVIE SERIES

  • EvilHead1981

    The best Final Destination movie was the 5th one, and the first one was an alright horror movie. 2 and 3 were banking on that horrible late 90s/00s style of “hot teen horror” that Scream and IKWYDLS paved the way for(urgh, hated this style of MTV-styled horror). The Final Destination was pure and utter SHIT!

    • AlanMorlock

      All the characters in the second o e are about 30. Your comment definitely fits the 3rd though. Distractingly many of the actors were from teen dramas at the time.

  • Mightygil

    While I wouldn’t necessarily say it’s the best it’s nice to see somebody hyping up a franchise for once that isn’t Friday the 13th, Nightmare on Elm Street or Halloween

  • Kirby4Ever

    Well, you do have to take into consideration the fact that Final Destination only has 5 films compared to the ‘big daddies’ like Friday, Halloween and Nightmare which have around 9-12, respectively. The franchises do have a couple that range from ‘disappointing’ to straight-up ‘awful’. But I’d say each also has a solid 4 or 5 (at least) which are pretty good. If they keep making Final Destination movies (where the hell is FD6, btw???), the true test would be to reexamine the franchise once it hits the double digit mark as well and see if it kept up its good track record or got worse as it went along which, GENERALLY speaking, is what happened to all the other big franchises.
    Personally, I think Friday the 13th and Evil Dead are the two ‘best’ horror franchises. Again, Evil Dead doesn’t even have a handful of films yet, so it’s not entirely fair, but I still think (so far) that each film played with the general plot set up by the first in unique ways and stood firmly on their own feet as enjoyable stand-alone films (the remake included/especially). Friday the 13th does admittedly have a couple films I really dislike, but four of the films are among my all time favorites, three are not far behind, and two I still find mildly enjoyable. 9 outta 12 is pretty damn good for a thirty year run!
    Also, even though Halloween 6 and Nightmare 2 aren’t my favorites in their franchises, I still find them MUCH more entertaining that FD4 (…I mean THE Final Destination). I really have a hard time sitting through that one! But I did find this article very interesting and think that, as a whole, Final Destination is under appreciated!

  • DrewHamster

    I wouldn’t say it’s the best, but it’s definitely my favorite. I do agree with the argument here though.

  • Trisha Tachanawa

    A consistent series yes, and the final entry did a great job of wrapping it all together. However best franchise imo “Scream” 🙂

    • marklola12 .

      errm how? the 1st 2 were the only good ones lol

  • James Allard

    I do not believe in “Guilty Pleasures,” if I like it I refuse to feel guilt, or shame. I do understand why others may find my tastes… not theirs.
    The FD series is one of the few I have seen in the theater, all five times. I loved the first two and was ready for the series to end there, but then it was announced (here on this site, btw) that Mr. Todd would be in the third… well, Hell, I had to go. Only to find that his voice was used and in far too little of the film at that.
    Never regretted a single trip, either.
    My biggest complaint is that the fourth was mis-titled… but, hey, they thought it was done.

    • Brendan Morrow

      It will ALWAYS bug me when I look at my DVD shelf and see the series go from Final Destination 3 to The Final Destination to Final Destination 5. Though I like the unintentional similarity to Friday the 13th where both fourth movies were supposed to be the last ones, and both immediately got sequels.

  • art123guy

    “The only weak link is The Final Destination, which is cheapened by the poor special effects and awkward use of 3D…”

    The real problem is the lead actor couldn’t emote for shit. His reaction to finding out everyone was dying and he could be next was the same as finding out what day it was.

  • marklola12 .

    shame the last one made less than The final destination
    I think this is why they have not made another yet

  • marklola12 .

    why in the video did they not count the deaths of the people on the plane or they only counting the main characters deaths lol

  • highgeorgebush

    Love the films and this article. The FD films don’t get enough respect in my opinion. Really hoping they make another one (or three!)

  • it sure is a really fun franchise.

  • David Nagle

    i agree love this movies and very clever too , i did hear final destination 6 is on the way LETS HOPE SO 🙂

  • PsychoMantis18

    Chucky is clearly the best horror franchise.
    Possibly Alien if it wasn’t ruined by the second.

  • TG

    Did anyone notice none of the victims/survivors ever mention God or angels, even after acknowledging Death as an evil malignant force, bent on stalking and finishing them off? It seems all of them were born American atheist group members. If even a single of them had sought refuge in God, or prayed even once, could he/she have been saved from the horrifying brutal end, and rather died peacefully in a non-accidental nature, thus ultimately breaking the circle aka design?

  • diapers

    Blasphemy! Friday the 13th, motherfuckers.

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