‘Friday the 13th’ Films Ranked

One of the most successful horror franchises of all time, the Friday the 13th series has had some highs and (very low) lows over the years. The slasher pics have provided a whole lot of sex, blood, scares, laughs, and Jason Voorhees. Next to the Halloween and A Nightmare on Elm Street series, the Friday the 13th movies provide a defining characteristic to the horror period of the late 70s through the early 90s. And to this day, the films are still sought out by genre fans who want a bit of scary fun. But which film is the best in the series? Which is the worst? After countless hours of seeing Jason hack and slash, here are my rankings of every Friday the 13th film. Feel free to comment below and let me know how you would rank them.

12. Jason X  (2001)

This is the one where Jason’s body is thawed out hundreds of years in the future and he kills people aboard a SPACESHIP. The film is knowing in its jumping of the shark, but instead of spinning its ridiculous setup in a fun way — like “Part VI” — it all just comes across as desperate and dumb. Props for the David Cronenberg cameo and the ice-face smash, though. Grade: D+

11. Friday the 13th Part VII: The New Blood  (1988)

“Friday the 13th Part VII: The New Blood” was the first entry to feature fan favorite Kane Hodder as Jason. And Jason never looked cooler than he does in this entry, with the chain, broken mask, torn outfit, etc. Plus there’s that amazing sleeping bag kill that stands among the best in the series. Even so, “The New Blood” feels tame and lame thanks to the MPAA butchering it and the whole plot involving telekinetic Tina (Lar Park Lincoln) feels weirdly out of place from beginning to end. Some might rank this one higher on the list, but to me it’s a half-assed “Carrie versus Jason” idea in search of a real movie. Grade: D+

10. Friday the 13th Part VIII: Jason Takes Manhattan  (1989)

The idea of Jason being unleashed on The City that Never Sleeps is brilliant when it comes to horror concepts. It’s too bad then that 80% of “Friday the 13th Part VIII: Jason Takes Manhattan” is spent on a boring boat set. This is a rather forgettable entry, and its ending where Jason turns back into a young boy because of toxic waste is just laughably nonsensical. Hilarious highlight: Jason decapitates a boxing champion with one punch to the face. You read that correctly. Grade: C-

9. Friday the 13th  (2009)

The 2009 remake “Friday the 13th” attempts to be more modern and scary in its execution, but instead it’s just grimly boring and exposition-heavy. The film looks good on a technical level and is occasionally exciting, but the entire thing just feels like it’s a clone of bits and scraps of other films in the series and slashers in general. It’s not completely terrible, but rather a “slasher film of the week” and unmemorable compared to the original. Grade: C-

8. Friday the 13th: A New Beginning  (1985)

With Jason “dead” from the previous film, “Friday the 13th: A New Beginning” had to come up with a new direction as it was only planned after the fourth film made too much money for the producers to let the series end. In this sense, the plot does have a bit of mystery to it in guessing the killer, but that doesn’t necessarily mean it’s involving enough to care. Everything here is pretty much run-of-the-mill slasher material, despite a couple of WTF moments — such as a singing session in a port-a-potty. Grade: C

7. Jason Goes to Hell: The Final Friday  (1993)

The ninth entry in the series, “Jason Goes to Hell: The Final Friday,” has an awesome and surprising opening scene and an even better final shot to the film (teasing “Freddy vs. Jason”). The film is often maligned by diehard fans of the series since Jason is barely in it, but to me it’s at least somewhat more interesting than a few other entries. But “Final Friday” is a mess of horror gimmicks and pushes backstory that doesn’t really work, adding up to another mediocre sequel in the long run. Grade: C

6. Friday the 13th Part 2  (1981)

AKA the first one with Jason as the killer. “Friday the 13th Part 2” opens with a tightly suspenseful scene involving a fridge and an ice pick. From there it pretty much hits the formula button set by the original film, with the “plot” being very similar but lacking the freshness of the first. The cinematography also looks much trashier despite the film having over double the original’s budget. Still, Ginny (Amy Steel) makes for a capable final girl and some scenes have an admittedly spooky urban legend feel to them. The spear murder is also a creative and memorable kill among the “80s slasher kill collection.” Grade: C+

5. Freddy vs. Jason  (2003)

The battle promised ten years earlier in “Jason Goes to Hell: The Final Friday” finally came to fruition with “Freddy vs. Jason.” The result: a silly but exciting bit of guilty pleasure mayhem for fans. The acting is surprisingly good from most of the cast, including a young Jason Ritter. Freddy using Jason as a killing puppet for most of the film is fun for what it’s worth, but the real sparks come when the two go head to head at the end. Cringe moment: “How sweet, dark meat.” Grade: B-

4. Friday the 13th Part III  (1982)

All of the “Friday the 13th” staples came into place with “Friday the 13th Part III”: Jason finally dons his famous hockey mask in this one, and he kills a bunch of sex-hungry teens at Camp Crystal Lake. The film cashed in on the then 3D craze, so some of the shots without 3D glasses look pretty ridiculous. But Steve Miner — who also directed the second installment — ups the pacing and gore here while the film also gets a tough final girl in Chris (Dana Kimmell). Plus the film has three of the most intense kills in the whole series: the spear-gun, the head stand split, and the skull crush. The oddball inclusion of the biker characters is also a unique choice. Overall “Part III” is one of more underrated entries in the franchise in my opinion as it’s often ranked lower. Grade: B-

3. Friday the 13th: The Final Chapter  (1984)

A true favorite among “Friday the 13th” series fans, “Friday the 13th: The Final Chapter” truly has a boogeyman feel with the inclusion of the stormy nighttime settings, a party cabin replete with an old projector, and the fear from young Tommy Jarvis (Corey Feldman). As if Feldman didn’t already give the movie a classic 80s vibe, the cast also includes Crispin Glover as one of the partying teens. The film benefits from having more of a variety of victim characters (scared kid, partying teens, vengeful brother, etc.) this time around, and the attacks by Jason are especially quick and brutal (love that harpoon to the groin). The climax may also be the best one of the series. There isn’t much originality to the storytelling, but as a slasher sequel “The Final Chapter” is an entertaining bloodbath. Grade: B-

2. Friday the 13th Part VI: Jason Lives  (1986)

After the disappointing “Friday the 13th: A New Beginning,” producers heard fan cries and brought back Jason in “Friday the 13th Part VI: Jason Lives.” How? By getting electrocuted and brought back to life the Frankenstein way, duh. Despite this stupid setup, the sixth entry rises near the top of the list by placing its tongue firmly in its cheek while still managing to feel attached to the series. Filled with flashy kills (that RV scene is insane) and smart, meta humor, the sixth entry is the most flat-out entertaining horror ride in the series — and a perfect choice to throw on for a horror night with friends, beer, and snacks. It also concludes the Tommy-versus-Jason trilogy (parts IV, V, and VI) with fireworks; no other protagonist ever stood out as much as Tommy Jarvis (Thom Mathews) in the series. Grade: B

1. Friday the 13th  (1980)

Some “Friday the 13th” series fans argue that the fourth or sixth installment is the top film in the franchise, but to me the original still holds the creepy crown and is — despite some flaws — a genuine horror classic. There’s just something about its gritty camerawork and campfire tale-style that hooks, and there’s a strong mystery quality to trying to guess the killer since Jason had yet to become the main antagonist. Betsy Palmer’s performance and the shock ending are also dynamite. Bonus: Arguably the best kill in the entire series is done to Jack, played by none other than a young Kevin Bacon. Grade: B+

Written by
Daniel Rester is one of the administrators and lead writers on the We Live Film portion of We Live Entertainment. He is a Southern Oregon University alumnus and has a Bachelor of Science degree with a double major in Communication (Film, Television, and Convergent Media) and Emerging Media and Digital Arts. He has been involved with writing and directing shorts for years, and even wrote and directed a feature-length film for his capstone. Daniel also won 2nd place in the Feature Screenplay Competition in the 2015 Oregon Film Awards for his screenplay "Emma Was Here."

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