Two and a half years ago I took on the task of ranking all of the Friday the 13th films for Bloody Disgusting. Admittedly, I made that list based off of my memory of the films, some of which I hadn’t watched in several years. This year I remedied that by actually watching them all over the course of a weekend (that’s almost 20 hours of movies, you guys) and let me tell you, doing that really gives you a new perspective on certain entries. I discovered that while some of the films were just as good (or bad) as I remember, my opinion on others had changed drastically. Because of that I thought it might be beneficial to set the record straight and update my official ranking of the franchise here on Bloody Disgusting. It should be noted that both quality and entertainment value (because very few of these films are of actually of high quality) were taken into account when ranking these films. Let’s get to it, shall we?
***SPOILERS for the Friday the 13th franchise to follow.***
12. Friday the 13th Part V: A New Beginning
I swear I remember this movie being a lot better than it actually is. For years I have been touting A New Beginning as the underrated dark horse of the franchise, and I’m quite embarrassed about it now. Upon a re-watch, the film sticks out like a sore thumb. It just isn’t good. It’s a complete mess of a film, and it’s not even because Jason isn’t the killer. Not helping matters is that the film was rushed into production and was released just 11 months(!) after the release of The Final Chapter. While the film does have the distinction of being one of the meaner films of the franchise (it boasts a whopping 21 deaths), they lack variety. A New Beginning has a trashiness to it (it features the most sex and nudity out of any of the films up until that point) that some may find endearing, others may just find it to be trashy. To top things off, none of the characters are particularly likable or memorable, making A New Beginning the most difficult entry in the franchise to sit through. Oh yeah, and Pam (Melanie Kinnaman) is still the franchise’s worst final girl.
11. Jason Goes to Hell: The Final Friday
Jason Goes to Hell is arguably the worst entry in the franchise quality-wise (and Harry Manfredini’s new score is awful), but it’s so dumb that it’s hard not to be entertained by it. The film actually gets off to a promising start, with a meta cold open that sees an FBI agent using her bare skin to lure Jason out of hiding. The scene culminates in Jason being blown to smithereens. It’s all downhill from there though, as the rest of the film is convoluted, silly and just plain weird (and not always in the best way). It’s easy to see why the film polarized fans, as Jason’s physical form is absent for the majority of the film and a supernatural, Evil Dead-inspired backstory was created for the character. Still, it’s got some great kills (the pole ripping through that woman’s chest and torso is truly epic) and is so ridiculous that, if viewed as a comedy, the film has is almost worth a watch. Is it good though? Absolutely not.
10. Friday the 13th Part VIII: Jason Takes Manhattan
Ignoring the fact that it takes an hour to get to Manhattan (and even then about 20 minutes are spent in alleyways and another 10 minutes spent in the sewers, leaving 5 minutes spend in Times Square), Jason Takes Manhattan is just kind of boring. At 100 minutes it is the longest film in the franchise, but it feels even longer than that. A lot of things in the film don’t make a lot of sense either. The franchise has never been known for sticking to continuity, but final girl Rennie’s (Jensen Daggett) backstory with Jason makes absolutely no sense: the film takes place in 2002 and her “attack” by child Jason would have taken place in 1993…a full 40 years after Jason originally drowned. And don’t even get me started on how a boat gets from Crystal Lake to Manhattan. The ending, which sees Jason turned back into a regular human child after being hit with a wave of toxic waste, plays even worse now than it (probably) did back in 1989. The film is not completely without merit, however, as it does feature one great kill (head punch, anyone?).
9. Friday the 13th (1980)
And this is where I lose most of you. It’s okay. I understand. The original Friday the 13th is heralded as one of the best horror films ever made (I even made this statement on more than one occasion), but it has not aged well. At all. And it’s even worse when you watch all of the sequels immediately after it. Sure, Tom Savini’s makeup effects are iconic and Harry Manfredini’s score is classic, but you can feel the filmmakers trying to pad the runtime as much as they can (do we really need to see Alice making a pot of coffee in real time?). The acting is beyond bad and Sean S. Cunningham’s direction is devoid of any energy whatsoever. The game of strip monopoly is more engaging than the actual plot of the film! This isn’t to say the film isn’t an important landmark in horror cinema. It absolutely is. Not only was it the first film of its kind to secure distribution in the United States by a major studio, but it was a major box office success, earning $39.7 million on a budget of $550,000. It essentially started the slasher craze of the ’80s. The horror genre owes a lot to Friday the 13th, but that doesn’t mean it’s a good film. It’s simply…fine.
8. Freddy Vs. Jason
“WHAT?! How could he think the dumpster fire known as Freddy Vs. Jason is better than the seminal classic Friday the 13th?!” Because it’s entertaining. Freddy Vs. Jason has plenty of problems, but if you were looking for something to put on in the background on a lazy summer afternoon, you could do a lot worse than Freddy Vs. Jason. Ronny Yu’s clash of the horror titans is over-the-top, gratuitous, offensive and sometimes insulting, but it’s also hilariously entertaining, incredibly gory and goofy as all get out. There is an energy present in the film that is somewhat endearing, and this is mostly thanks to Yu’s direction. Friday the 13th may have been the more important film, but if I’m going to choose between that film and Freddy Vs. Jason to watch for sheer entertainment value, it will always be Freddy Vs. Jason.
7. Friday the 13th Part VII: The New Blood
Friday the 13th Part VII: The New Blood is a film that I’ve never held a lot of love for. The Jason vs. Carrie angle was too gimmicky and the heavy cuts imposed upon the film by the MPAA took out most of the blood and gore, making the film a rather toothless affair. Maybe it’s just because I was coming off of the high that is Part VI, but a repeat viewing shows that The New Blood is a total blast of a film that features the franchise’s most compelling final girl since Ginny (Amy Steel) in Part 2. Jason’s design is quite possibly the best one in the franchise (that spine!) and he employs some nifty kills this time around (that sleeping bag!). If the film has one major weak spot, it’s the climax. After a lengthy battle, Tina’s father jumps out of the lake and drags Jason back down to the depths. It’s an anticlimactic resolution (that robs our final girl of an important victory) to an otherwise solid climax.
6. Jason X
The Friday the 13th franchise has a knack for not delivering on its promises quickly enough. Just like it takes Jason one hour to get to Manhattan in Jason Takes Manhattan, it takes him an hour to become Über Jason in Jason X. It doesn’t matter though, because until he shows up you’ve got David Cronenberg in a fun cameo appearance, one of the best deaths in the franchise (liquid nitrogen!) and some of the funniest dialogue the franchise has ever seen (“He’s screwed,” “Now basically….we die.”). Jason X is a tongue-in-cheek adventure that never pretends to be anything it isn’t, and that is a big-budget (at $11 million, it was the largest for the franchise at the time) cheesy SyFy movie with charm to spare. The film garnered a fair amount of hate when it was released in 2002 and it’s easy to see why: people just wanted to finally see Freddy Vs. Jason! Little did they know that Jason x would be the superior film. And hey, if you ever wanted to see Paolo Valisari get butchered (and really, who hasn’t?), this is your chance!
5. Friday the 13th (2009)
Marcus Nispel’s (The Texas Chainsaw Massacre) remake of Friday the 13th is essentially a “Greatest Hits” collection of the franchise and there is absolutely nothing wrong with that. Though the film never quite matches the very high bar set by the 25-minute(!) pre-title sequence, it maintains a fun and breezy pace for its 97-minute runtime (106 minutes if you watch the “Killer Cut,” which is the superior version if only because douchebag Trent’s death is way more brutal). Filled with an attractive bunch of CW stars (Supernatural‘s Jared Padalecki, The Flash‘s Danielle Panabaker, The Tomorrow People‘s Aaron Yoo), the remake manages to do justice to the franchise that spawned it while not doing anything particularly innovative with the formula. If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it though, right?
4. Friday the 13th Part 3
Friday the 13th Part 3 and Friday the 13th Part 2 switched places on my ranking this time around. While Part 3 is notable for Jason acquiring his signature hockey mask and for its fun (if gimmicky) use of 3-D, the film suffers from a lack of compelling lead characters (the most interesting ones, like Catherine Parks’ Vera, are among the first to be killed off) and a bland final girl in Chris Higgins (it doesn’t help that Dana Kimmell’s performance is one of the worst the franchise had seen at that point). Still, Friday the 13th Part 3 is a goofier outing than Part 2, making for a highly entertaining viewing experience. Part 3 is quintessential Friday the 13th and that is the main reason it ranks so high on this list. It plays a lot better when viewed on its own instead of right after Part 2, which is the better film.
3. Friday the 13th: The Final Chapter
I know I just said that Part 3 was quintessential Friday the 13th, but The Final Chapter is really quintessential Friday the 13th. Not only does it have the most likable group of teens in the entire franchise, but it also has some of the most memorable kills (this should come as no surprise considering the fact that special effects maestro Tom Savini returned to kill off the character that he created). The Prowler‘s Joseph Zito steps into the director’s chair for this installment, and he brings a certain gravitas to the proceedings that was missing from the last film. The Final Chapter moves along at a brisk pace, but what it really benefits from is the inclusion of the Jarvis family. Rather than a final girl, the film has Tommy Jarvis (Corey Feldman) be the one to kill Jason, and it’s a nice deviation from the rules that the franchise had established up until this point. Other than that minute detail, there isn’t really much about The Final Chapter that sets it apart from the other films in the franchise, but it’s executed almost perfectly. While some may call the film a retread, others (myself included) may say it perfects the formula.
2. Friday the 13th Part 2
I always thought Friday the 13th Part 2 was just fine. Not great. Not terrible. Just fine. It worked a little bit better than the original, but still felt a little amateur. Much like Part VII, I found a new respect for Part 2 this time around mostly because after watching all of them, I realized that it really is the only film in the franchise to actually be, well, scary. The film shouldn’t work as well as it does, especially considering it runs at an anemic 74 minutes if you remove the 6-minute recap of the first film, the 5-minute scene in which Alice (Adrienne King) is killed off and the 2-minute end credits. But it does work well. Extremely well, in fact. The film introduced Jason as the main antagonist in the series, and sack-head Jason (clearly drawing inspiration from The Town That Dreaded Sundown) is a frightening sight to behold. This is the only film in the franchise in which Jason actually feels like a real human antagonist. Director Steve Miner (Friday the 13th Part 3, Halloween: H20 and Lake Placid) works in quite a few frightening shots throughout the film (the shot of Jason running towards the cabin Ginny has just sought refuge in stands out) and maintains a tense atmosphere throughout. The film is brutal, with Mark’s death being a highlight. The climactic chase scene with Ginny (Amy Steel, a final girl for the ages) is a long, grueling sequence that ranks up there with Sarah Michelle Gellar’s chase scene in I Know What You Did Last Summer in terms of suspense. It proves to be as exhausting for the viewer (in a good way) as it is for the character. The same could be said for the entirety of Friday the 13th Part 2.
1. Friday the 13th Part VI: Jason Lives
Friday the 13th Part VI: Jason Lives introduces zombie Jason to the world, and it’s marvelous. After the critical and commercial failure that was A New Beginning, Paramount decided to resurrect their cash cow. Only this time the script, written by the film’s director Tom McLoughlin, pokes fun at the franchise it’s a part of. The meta humor in Jason Lives may be too much for those who enjoy the scare factor of the previous entries, but by this point the series had become a joke, so why not join in on it? The film revels in the clichés that have plagued the franchise and frequently subverts audience expectations. It’s also the only film in the franchise to not contain any nudity. That it breaks away from franchise conventions so much makes it kind of surprising that it works as well as it does. What isn’t surprising is that it is the only entry to actually earn positive reviews from critics. It’s too bad the box office didn’t reflect that, as it was the lowest-grossing film in the franchise up until that point, most likely thanks to the people who still felt burned by A New Beginning. This prevented the series from continuing its streak of meta humor (at least until Jason X was released 17 years later), but at least we’ll always have the glorious Jason Lives. It is hands down the best (and most fun) Friday the 13th film.
How do you rank the Friday the 13th films? Let us know in the comments below! And if you need a quick reference to my rankings, here they are in one handy graphic (thank you Letterboxd!):