The stars of horror aligned and today is Friday the 13th… in October. While Michael Myers owns the month, this is Jason Voorhees’ day. The Friday the 13th franchise goes back to 1980, when Sean S. Cunningham directed the original as a slasher ripoff of John Carpenter’s Halloween. Jason made his debut at the very end in one of horror’s legit greatest jump scares. His legend grew instantly, and by decade’s end, he was 8 (!) films deep. Now nearly 40 years later, the franchise has produced 10 films, 1 crossover, 1 remake, and a short-lived TV series… and damned if that doesn’t add up to 13! So in honor of Friday the 13th, we’re going to rank them from worst to first. Harry Manfredini … HIT THE MUSIC!
#13 – Friday the 13th: A New Beginning (1985) – A giant swing and miss all the way around. The “New Beginning” title is a deception, as Tommy Jarvis (the survivor of Part 4) is in a halfway house for troubled teens when a hockey mask-wearing killer starts offing kids. The nudity and gore is upped, but the “copycat” killer angle just felt off. Halloween III (1982) tried something similar and while the reception was equally negative, at least that film was good. There is literally no reason to watch this as part of the F13 franchise.
#12 – Friday the 13th (2009) – Rather than remaking the original, Marcus Nispel and the writing team blended the first four films into one huge mess. The remake/reimagining added nothing to the mythology, and made a boring, generic horror movie. Even the bad F13 movies have a certain rewatchability, but I barely even remember this one and have no desire to revisit it.
#11 – Friday the 13th Part VIII: Jason Takes Manhattan (1989) – My friends and I jokingly refer to this as “Jason Takes a Boat Ride to Vancouver” since the titular city features in only ten minutes at the end. By the time you get there, you might be sleeping. How’s this for a logical flaw? The franchise emanates from a LAKE, yet they cruise out to the OCEAN! Ugh. Terrible acting (especially for these movies) and a confusing ending make this a lesser entry. There are some fun kills, most notably Julius (VC Dupree) getting his head punched off by Jason.
#10 – Jason Goes to Hell: The Final Friday (1993) – A total clusterf*ck of a movie, but in spectacular NASCAR wreck fashion. The writers and director Adam Marcus retconned an entire mythology for Jason… in PART 9!!! Kane Hodder’s Jason is blown up early, leading a medical examiner to… eat his heart… and get possessed. There is a little demon Jason, shout outs to Evil Dead, the Freddy glove ending, and an absolutely killer tent sex/slaughter scene… but it’s just too insane to really be good.
#9 – Jason X (2001) – Eight years after the lunacy of Jason Goes to Hell and with Freddy vs. Jason trapped in developmental Hell… screw it, let’s go to space! Jason X is ridiculous fun, paying homage to earlier series highlights, making great use of futuristic tech, and creating Robo-Jason. This horror comedy also contains maybe the greatest kill in the series as Jason wakes up and freezes poor Adrienne’s head in liquid nitrogen before shattering her face. Brutal and awesome!
#8 – Friday the 13th: The Series (1987-1990) – Starting in Fall 1987, Friday the 13th: The Series ran over 70 episodes in 3 seasons. The TV show had nothing to do with Jason and was rather like a Tales from the Crypt meets Indiana Jones. The series focused on two antique store owners searching for cursed objects and dealing with scary stuff along the way. The show actually received two Emmy nominations and the seasons were released on DVD by CBS Home Entertainment from 08-09.
#7 – Friday the 13th (1980) – The original has retroactively gained “classic” status, but it’s not. It’s a minimal slasher with a really cool surprise twist and an amazing jump scare at the end that ignited a franchise. On those two facets alone, it receives a rank high above its quality. Oh yeah, check out Kevin Bacon.
#6 – Freddy vs. Jason (2003) – A decade after Freddy pulled Jason’s mask to Hell, we FINALLY got the battle of 80s horror icons and this somehow, someway, did NOT disappoint. Sure, the human acting ranges from bad to amateurish, but who cares? Freddy fought Jason and it was awesome! Featuring some great Jason kills, a decent enough story, a killer hard rock soundtrack, and an epic titular encounter, FvJ probably remains the best “versus” movie yet.
#5 – Friday the 13th Part 2 (1981) – The film that introduced the world to Jason Voorhees as an adult killer, Part 2 improves on the original in nearly every way. More believable kills, including the legendary double bed spear, and wheelchair machete death and my personal favorite “final girl” in the series, Amy Steel’s Ginny make this a Top 5 Friday.
#4 – Friday the 13th Part III-D (1982) – Part 3 is a great F13 film, historic for giving Jason his iconic hockey mask, while also featuring a criminally underrated Jason actor, Richard Brooker. Great F13 scenes of sex and gore including the handstand kill, a motorcycle gang and some fun 3-D action. Back to back quality sequels from director Steve Miner.
#3 – Friday the 13th Part VII: The New Blood (1988) – When Freddy vs. Jason was first conceived, it appeared unlikely the two studios would ever agree to it. The backup plan was this: Jason vs. Carrie, a unique twist on the series that most fans agree is right near the top of their list. Lar Park Lincoln does a serviceable job as the damaged Tina who uses her telekinesis to battle the rotting monster Jason, played for the first of four times by Kane Hodder. This incarnation of Jason is universally beloved. Hilariously, Jason never reuses the same weapon twice, despite amassing a huge body count.
#2 – Friday the 13th: The Final Chapter (1984) – The consummate Friday the 13th sequel is Part 4’s Final Chapter. An array of nubile youngsters including Crispin Glover head to Crystal Lake where they encounter the Jarvis family including horror fan Tommy (Corey Feldman). One of the most rewatchable films in the series, Part 4 ups the death count and sends Jason out in style thanks to Tom Savini’s makeup effects. Well… it was supposed to anyway.
#1 – Friday the 13th Part VI: Jason Lives (1986) – Jason died in Part 4. Dead and buried, an adult Tommy (Thom Mathews) digs him up and one rogue lightning strike later, “Franken-Jason” is born. This is the Jason most fans love, and CJ Graham was excellent in the role. Director Tom McLoughlin hits every note perfectly here, blending horror with comedy and homage. The James Bond opening title sequence, the Alice Cooper-infused soundtrack, the believe-it-or-not good genre acting, and fun characters elevated this over the rest. This is one of my favorite horror sequels and stands alone as the best Friday the 13th film.
Happy Friday the 13th, everyone! Here’s a video of all of Jason’s kills!