Earlier this month, Shout Factory released an incredible box set celebrating the entire Friday the 13th film franchise. This stunning collection includes all ten of the original Friday the 13th films, Freddy vs. Jason, AND the Friday the 13th remake that was released in 2009.
It is a gorgeous set that you can purchase here if you so desire — https://amzn.to/3ouJI2I
As a long time fan of the franchise, I decided to travel back to the year 1980 and watch the entire series from the beginning! So, where does each film fall in terms of quality? I tried to take both my personal tastes and the quality of each film into account when crafting this order. So, here I have listed all 12 films from worst to best.
12. Friday the 13th: Part VIII - Jason Takes Manhattan
This film had more potential than many of the other films in the franchise, but sadly that potential was wasted. When someone says “Jason Takes Manhattan”, you would think that more than fifteen minutes of the film would take place… you know… in Manhattan. It’s not everyone’s fault, as budget cuts slashed (pun intended) this sequel down to simply being “Jason on a boat… with Manhattan there for a few minute." Not even a gloriously cheesy kill (punching a boxer’s head clean off) can save this one from simply feeling tired and lame.
11. Friday the 13th: Part V - A New Beginning
This one has always been seen as the black sheep of the franchise because it doesn’t even feature Jason or his mother (other than the opening dream sequence). Instead, we get a man who is using the Jason legend as a cover for his hideous deeds. The lack of Jason is a definite negative. As are the redneck mother/son combo (probably the most grating characters in the entire franchise). But the film isn’t all bad. Reggie and Demon are fun characters, and the film features a pitch black sense of humor. It’s not great, but maybe not quite the dumpster fire we all thought it was.
10. Friday the 13th (2009)
The problem with the Friday the 13th remake isn’t the script. It’s clear it was written as a loving homage to the franchise, with hints and nods to nearly every film that came before; creating something of a “greatest hits” type film. There are even fun bits of humor from several characters (mainly the ever reliable stoners). However, the studio chose the same man who rebooted The Texas Chainsaw Massacre in 2003 to helm this newest take. I have nothing against the 2003 Chainsaw film. It holds a special place in my heart. But Friday the 13th does not and should not have the same feeling as that film. So while the script had its heart in the right place, sadly the directing fails to capture the spirit of the films of yesterday. But still, Jason is brutal, and it does have some solid kills, including the amazing death of that douche bag Trent. Also Sam Winchester himself Jared Padalecki is always a plus.
9. Jason Goes to Hell: The Final Friday
The Final Friday, this film was not. Movie number nine also sits in ninth place in my list. Here is another film that I am somewhat torn about. It’s for certain a crazy entry in the franchise. And I’m still not fully on board with the whole body-swap thing going on. But it does have some fun characters (I’m looking at you Rusty Schwimmer and Leslie Jones) and has the pacing of an action movie. Seriously, Jason kills more people in here than he does in any other film (Jason X only beats it because of a technicality). I also can’t fully hate a film ballsy enough to suggest that Jason is a damn Deadite from Evil Dead (my favorite horror franchise). There are even connections to Creepshow and A Nightmare on Elm Street as well, crafting a secret horror universe decades before Marvel made cinematic universes a household idea. So while nowhere near my favorite, I also totally see the merit in this odd entry in the franchise.
8.Friday the 13th: Part 3 - 3D
Part 3 is a perfectly serviceable film in the franchise. Of course that sounds disrespectful to one of the highest grossing entries. Seriously, this film had an opening weekend of twenty eight million dollars. TWENTY EIGHT MILLION ON OPENING WEEKEND! Some modern films fail to break TEN million dollars opening weekend, so imagine making twenty eight back in 1982! This film is also famous for giving Jason his iconic hockey mask, while also breaking new boundaries for 3D filmmaking. Part 3 is an important entry in the franchise and deserves respect because of that. It also features a fairly iconic opening sequence with Jason stalking the owners of a local convenience store. But sadly, after that the characters become boring and typical; the bikers are among my least favorite in any of the movies. So aside from a few great moments, the film feels like the franchise was running out of steam. Thank goodness part four breathed new life into Jason.
7. Friday the 13th: Part 2 (TIE)
Friday the 13th was a smash hit, so obviously the studio wanted a sequel ASAP. Problem was, you killed off your killer at the end. So what are you to do? Well why not bring back Pamela’s dead son Jason? Part 2 is a solid sequel, bringing twice the kills, intensity, and gore to the franchise. Its teen characters are fun and enjoyable to watch, Ginny is a great protagonist, and the film has fantastic pacing. The burlap sack over the head is a wonderfully creepy look and Jason actually runs in his first outing which adds an extra level of danger to the mix. This sequel also started the horror movie tradition of murdering your survivor from the previous entry before the opening credits of the current film. This is a sequel that lives up to the original in every way. For me, it’s pretty much tied with the first film in terms of quality and entertainment.
6) Friday the 13th (1980) (TIE)
The one that started it all. Halloween may have birthed the slasher genre, but Friday the 13th popularized it. This film has been ripped off and copied so many times, but the original always stands above. The first Friday has a simplicity to it that is refreshing. The teens are just likable enough for you to feel bad when they get killed (with Kevin Bacon turning in a charming early career performance). And the twist at the end has become so iconic it’s not even seen as a twist anymore. Everyone forgets that Jason is NOT the killer in the first film. No, the killer isn’t a man or some deranged looney, but rather a mother that has gone mad with grief over the loss of her son. Betsy Palmer added a certain gravitas to the role which has made Pamela Voorhees an icon, even if her son took over the face of the franchise. This one still holds up extremely well. We have much to thank this film for.
5. Jason X
Jason X is hands down the DUMBEST entry in the franchise. It also happens to be one of the most entertaining. Jason in space? Yes, please! This film got a ton of flack back when it came out, but looking back now, it’s goofy, self-aware tone has aged quite well. I firmly believe the Friday the 13th films work best when the audience is having fun and this one leans into that 100%. It’s also one of the few “horror icon goes to space” plots that actually makes a relative amount of sense. That’s because everyone involved is completely on board. They know it’s goofy and you can tell everyone had a blast working on this. And they don’t skimp on the sci-fi rigamarole either, throwing everything (including the kitchen sink) at Jason. It has fantastically fun kills. Technically, Jason is responsible for events that lead to the destruction of an entire space station, meaning this film’s body count is in the HUNDREDS. Then you get the icing on the cake that is Uber-Jason? Yeah, this film is the perfect midnight beer and popcorn flick.
4. Friday the 13th: Part IV - The Final Chapter
Corey Feldman for life! The king of 80s child actors strikes again, giving us one of the most memorable entries in the franchise. Number four in the series also makes number four on the list! At this point, Friday the 13th was a monster film series. And even though Part 3 was weak in the character department, it made enough money to guarantee a sequel. What sets this film apart is the fact that it was originally intended to be the final film, so they actually KILL Jason. It’s brutal too. Corey Feldman’s character Tommy Jarvis turns Jason’s head into pulp. But this one also features some fun and memorable teenagers, what with the iconic twins, “Give Teddy Bear a kiss” Teddy, and even a young and adorably awkward Crispin Glover. Jason feels much more threatening in this film for some reason, too. Also, that opening scene in the morgue will always stick with me.
3. Friday the 13th: Part VII - The New Blood (TIE)
This one has always been a favorite of mine. It’s the film that introduced Kane Hodder as Jason, and he quickly became THE BEST Jason. Kane adds an extra level of menace and aggressiveness to the character. This means that even though this film is the least bloody in the series (the MPAA really trimmed everything they could out of this one) it is simultaneously the most violent. Tina may be a Carrie rip-off, but giving us a slightly supernaturally-fueled protagonist gave us someone who could actually go toe-to-toe with Jason. The action climax is one of the biggest in the franchise, and Jason’s final demise has a rare element of emotional poetry and closure to it. The make-up and mask is also the best in the franchise. It’s no wonder Jason’s look in this film has become his most popular. This film keeps what makes Friday the 13th, you know, Friday the 13th, while adding just the right new elements. This is tied for my favorite straight Friday film in the franchise.
2. Friday the 13th: Part VI - Jason Lives (TIE)
Part VI - Jason Lives is tied with Part VII as my favorite straight Friday the 13th film in the franchise. It’s the film that gave Jason new life. Literally. Harkening back to the Hammer and Universal horror films of old, Part VI is a wonderfully gothic entry in the series. It is also an early example of the horror/comedy genre and was one of the first horror films to straight-up break the fourth wall! You’ll laugh, you’ll scream, you’ll cheer when Tommy Jarvis finally gets his revenge. With laugh-out-loud jokes, some of the best kills of the franchise, and the pacing of a roller coaster ride, this entry is a total blast from start to finish. Jason Lives INDEED!
1. Freddy vs. Jason
Here it is. My favorite film in the Friday the 13th franchise. Technically, this is a crossover event with A Nightmare on Elm Street. That is why I specified with the last two entries about them being STRAIGHT Friday the 13th films. Freddy vs. Jason languished in development hell for nearly a decade before finally being realized. And it did not disappoint. The film was very careful to fit right in line with the continuity of both franchises, delivering a clever plot that features Freddy resurrecting Jason to kill teenagers in order to bring the fear of Freddy back to Springwood. But what makes this film take the number one spot is its tone and style. It is SO MUCH FUN. Director Ronny Yu brings an over-the-top energy to this clash of titans. Robert Englund is in top form in what would turn out to be his final performance as Freddy Krueger, bringing just the right level of menace and cheekiness to the character. And even though Kane Hodder sadly doesn’t play Jason, the killer is still at his ruthless best. The characters are fun, the plot clever, and the kills are stunning. It’s also one of the few films that utilizes heavy metal music correctly. Freddy vs. Jason was instrumental to my upbringing and I can watch it over and over again. That is why it takes the top spot.