Friday the 13th is one of my favorite horror franchises. Every fall season, I break out that DVD boxset of mine and end up watching most, if not all, of the first eight Jason movies. So, having seen many of these films recently, I feel now is as good of a time as any to rank them in order from what I think is the best to worst!
1. Friday the 13th Part VI: Jason Lives (1986)
While I think the first four movies capture the spirit of the series best, Jason Lives is a much better produced and better looking movie. It’s a slick, polished production and just about as commercial as you can make a slasher movie. There’s some good purposeful humor in this movie. There’s also a legit and solid storyline this time as well centering around young Tommy Jarvis as he tries to destroy Jason once and for all. There’s also two excellent Alice Cooper songs in this movie: “Hard Rock Summer” and “He’s Back (The Man Behind the Mask)”. Whenever I’m able to talk someone into watching a Friday the 13th movie, this is the one I want to show them first.
2. Friday the 13th Part III (1982)
Okay, I admit here’s where the race gets pretty tight for the next few entries. I think a good chunk of these movies are equally fun but Part III utilizes 3-D technology (which was experiencing a resurgence in the early ’80s) in some cheesy & fun ways and it’s also the movie where Jason dons the hockey mask for the first time. In addition to owning this one via the DVD box set, I also own the stand alone 3-D DVD release. It’s fun but I haven’t been able to sit through the entire movie with the 3-D glasses yet because it strains my eyes so much.
3. Friday the 13th Part VII: The New Blood (1987)
The New Blood features the debut of Kane Hodder playing the role of Jason. He would go on to portray Jason in three more movies and he is easily the preferred Jason among Friday the 13th fans. With this movie, there was an interesting twist because it’s not just Jason stalking through the woods slashing up people. He ends up doing battle with a teenage girl who has telekinetic powers. I guess the studio thought it was time to shake things up a bit but according to Wikipedia, it was during this time that Paramount and New Line Cinema were in talks to have Jason battle A Nightmare On Elm Street‘s Freddy Krueger. Plans fell through at the time, but I can’t help but think that the studio figured if they couldn’t have Freddy then they would create their own super-powered being to battle Jason.
4. Friday the 13th: The Final Chapter (1984)
“The Final Chapter” (yeah right). I’ve seen some reviews stating this is the best of the bunch. It’s definitely solid and is the last of the movies that fits the stereotypical Friday the 13th mold (Would this be the “classic” period?) but it lacks that cheesy, trashy fun vibe that some of the other movies have. I still like it but it’s a bit darker and more serious though it does introduce the character of Tommy Jarvis (who would go on to appear in the next two entries in the series).
5. Friday the 13th (1980)
The one that started it all is the one that features Jason’s mom as the killer! Oops, spoiler alert. This is a pretty legendary horror film. Who would expect the mom to be the killer? Who can forget that decapitation scene? Yes, it’s the sleazy step-brother to Halloween but it is creative in its own right and solidified the slasher genre and paved the way for an entire decade of horror movies.
6. Friday the 13th Part 2 (1981)
I really hate the fact that Jason runs around with a sack over his head and overalls looking like a country bumpkin. Otherwise, I would have rated this one higher. He looks so stupid and his body language is nothing like the Jason we would all come to know and love. It’s very odd to see Jason running or hearing him scream.
7. Friday the 13th Part VIII: Jason Takes Manhattan (1988)
This is the first Jason movie I ever watched. I was probably 9 or 10 years old at the time. My mom rented it for a slumber party my sister was going to have and my mom let me watch it that afternoon before the party started as long as I promised I wouldn’t have any nightmares. I sat in front of that TV all alone and watched something that was simultaneously the coolest and scariest thing I had ever seen. It would be another 7 or 8 years until I bothered watching another Friday the 13th movie.
I admit it’s completely dumb to put Jason in New York but I didn’t know any better at the time so this movie will always have a place in my heart. And the scene where Jason literally punches a guy’s head off will always stand out to me as one of the best moments in the entire franchise.
8. Freddy Vs. Jason (2003)
I was so ready for this movie. Over 10 years in the making, I couldn’t believe they finally pulled it off. The only bad thing is that Kane Hodder wasn’t brought in to play Jason. Freddy vs. Jason, Robert Englund vs. Kane Hodder! That’s what the people wanted to see but the directed said he didn’t like the way Kane’s eyes looked or something lame like that.
This is a FUN movie. The interaction between Jason and Freddy is great. It’s a shame we never got a sequel because this movie made over $100 million but it was decided to reboot both series instead.
9. Friday the 13th: A New Beginning (1985)
Often cited as the most bleak, brutal and joyless entry in the entire franchise, A New Blood doesn’t feature Jason Voorhees at all. Instead, it’s a copycat killer and by the end of the movie, we see Tommy Jarvis (who has cracked up) putting on the hockey mask. It really did seem like a new beginning but the people wanted Jason under that mask. Not Tommy or anyone else.
It’s really not a bad movie, but, yeah. We want Jason.
10. Friday the 13th (2009)
Speaking of joyless… Whatever you want to call this (a remake, reboot, re-imagining… whatever), It was pretty bland. They did do their own thing here, so points to them for that but what they did wasn’t very special. I’m sure there will be a sequel at some point (even though this movie didn’t do too well), so I just hope they’ll get more back to basics with the next one.
11. Jason X (2001/2002)
Despite the dumb “Jason in space” gimmick, I was very excited for this movie to be released because it was going to be the first Friday the 13th movie I’d have seen in the theaters. The movie came out in 2001 overseas but wasn’t released until 2002 in the U.S. for whatever reason.
This is obviously a silly movie and they knew it. But just because you’re aware you’re making a silly movie, that doesn’t mean it’s okay to do so.
12. Jason Goes to Hell: The Final Friday (1993)
Complete trash that rewrote the rules of the series. Since when has Jason’s spirit been able to jump from body to body? New Line Cinema had bought the movie rights from Paramount and this is what they give us? Then they teased the audience by having Freddy’s hand grab Jason’s mask at the end but it would be another 10 years before we’d ever get the payoff for that.
Your Horror Movie Recommendation of the Day:
His Name Was Jason: 30 Years of Friday the 13th (2009)
A very good documentary looking back on the entire franchise. I wonder how the recently released Crystal Lake Memories documentary compares…