Back before anyone knew the name Jason Vorhees, director and producer Sean S. Cunningham had a title and an image (the Friday The 13th logo smashing through a pane of glass) but not much else. With the help of writer Victor Miller, they created a film set over one night as a group of teens setting up a summer camp, and away from any adults, are picked off one by one. The rest, as they say, is history.
Other than the sheer number of them, the most remarkable thing about the Friday The 13th movies is that not a single one is particularly good (at least, not by traditional standards). But after 30-plus years, 12 movies, more than 200 deaths, and adventures that span from space to hell, the series has earned its respect.
With that, we’ve decided to take a stab (sorry) at ranking all of these films from worst to best. What’s so great about the F13 movies is that everyone has a different favorite. With 12 films, there are practically a kajillion different rankings that are possible, so it is highly unlikely to find someone who will rank the films in the same order you do (or as we’re about to).
So, without further ado, let’s get this started.
12. Friday The 13th Part VIII: Jason Takes Manhattan (1989)
Director: Rob Hedden
Cast: Kane Hodder, Jensen Daggett, Scott Reeves, Barbara Bingham, Peter Mark Richman, Martin Cummins, V. C. Dupree, Kelly Hu, Saffron Henderson, Sharlene Martin
After years of mindless repetition, the eighth entry of the Friday The 13th series finally gave us a new twist on the franchise. Too bad it wasn’t a twist that anybody was particularly interested in seeing. This time around we find Jason Voorhees stalking a group of high school graduates on a ship en route to, and later in, New York City.
Every movie series has its ups and downs. This was definitely Friday The 13th’s “down”. There are simply too many flaws to keep track of, from ridiculous plot elements, an uneven pace to a lack of chills and incompatible attempts at humor. Though, we must admit that watching Jason literally knock a guy’s head off with a single punch is always fun to watch.
11. Jason Goes To Hell: The Final Friday (1993)
Director: Adam Marcus
Cast: Kane Hodder, John D. LeMay, Kari Keegan, Steven Williams, Allison Smith, Steven Culp, Erin Gray, Leslie Jordan, Michelle Clunie, Kathryn Atwood, Michael B. Silver
If longtime fans of the Friday The 13th saga had anything to say about it, the people behind this movie would burn in the same place as its hockey-masked star. However, the film admittedly deserves credit for its boldness. This time around Jason’s supernatural origins are revealed. Apparently, Jason isn’t really the person we thought he was, he’s more or less an evil spirit that can be transferred from body to body at will (in the words of Céline Dion, his heart will go on, literally).
One big problem with this film that is rarely addressed is its insistence on mocking the series. At one point, one of the characters sarcastically asks a trio of teens headed for Camp Crystal Lake whether they plan to smoke dope, engage in premarital sex and then get slaughtered. It’s supposed to be a funny meta moment but it just comes across as… awkward.
The Final Friday also lacks a certain charm that the other movies had. Probably because this was made on a higher budget and the filmmakers were actually trying to accomplish things that weren’t accomplished in the previous movies (which wasn’t necessarily a good thing, in this case). Fans of the series who aren’t too picky, go ahead and enjoy. All others, seek caution.
10. Jason X (2001)
Director: Jim Isaac
Cast: Kane Hodder, Lexa Doig, Lisa Ryder, Chuck Campbell, Melyssa Ade
Basic plot: It’s 2455 and Jason is loose on a spaceship killing a bunch of brainless, annoying 20-somethings. Is it scary? No. Is it a good movie? No. Is it fun? VERY! If you can get past the fact that the film is technically not good and just sit back and enjoy the ridiculousness, then you’ll be just fine.
There are sexy half-naked holograms who want to smoke pot and have sex. You have a female robot who kicks Jason’s ass all across the ship. And you even have horror icon David Cronenberg making an appearance. It’s not exactly 2001: A Space Odyssey, but what did you expect?
9. Friday The 13th Part VII: The New Blood (1988)
Director: John Carl Buechler
Cast: Kane Hodder, Lar Park Lincoln, Kevin Spirtas, Susan Blu, Terry Kiser, Susan Jennifer Sullivan, Elizabeth Kaitan, Jon Renfield, Staci Greason, Heidi Kozak
While this isn’t technically the greatest Friday The 13th film it could probably be considered the “fan favorite” of the series. This was the first time Jason went up against someone who could actually stand their ground. Namely, a young lady named Tina Shepard (who fans lovingly refer to as Carrie White) who has telekinetic powers.
With her powers Tina strangles Jason with an electoral cord, flings deadly weapons at him and even sets him on fire. And the best part of all, she actually lives to tell the tale. So, not only does she go toe to toe with Jason Voorhees but she proves that the greatest horror slasher of all time was no match for her. If this chick isn’t bad-ass then we don’t know the meaning of the word.
8. Friday The 13th: A New Beginning (1985)
Director: Danny Steinmann
Cast: John Shepherd, Shavar Ross, Richard Young, Juliette Cummins, Carol Locatell, John Robert Dixon, Tiffany Helm, Debi Sue Voorhees, Jere Fields, Miguel A. Núñez, Jr.
Okay, put your pitchforks down! Yes, we are well aware of the general consensus of this film. For some reason people always seem to have nothing but bad things to say about this fifth entry of the franchise. And we can certainly understand why. For one, it doesn’t even feature Jason as the actual killer. The killer is just some guy named Roy who is upset that his son got killed over a candy bar. Point number two… well, we don’t know what point number two is.
Indeed, if you can get beyond the fact that Jason is nowhere to be found then you might find yourself enjoying this film immensely. The kills are just as impressive as its predecessors. It’s actually pretty hilarious (the enchilada scene, in particular, is a standout). Tiffany Helm as Violet gives us the best version of the robot dance ever put to film. It’s the last movie of the franchise that was still realistic and didn’t feature its antagonist as an unstoppable killing machine. And on top of it all, Debi Sue Voorhees as Tina is still the hottest female character of the entire F13 franchise. Enough said.
7. Friday The 13th (2009)
Director: Marcus Nispel
Cast: Jared Padalecki, Danielle Panabaker, Derek Mears, Julianna Guill, Travis Van Winkle, Amanda Righetti, Aaron Yoo, Willa Ford, Arlen Escarpeta, America Olivo
When it was first announced that Michael Bay would be producing a Friday The 13th reboot, fans of the franchise let out a simultaneous groan. When the film was finally released, it made a ton of money, but there seemed to be this string of unfounded disapproval for the picture. However, we’d argue that this film is one of the more stronger entries of a franchise that completely fell off the tracks years before.
Over the years Jason went from a simple deranged psychopath, to a zombie, to a parody of himself. However, most horror fans will always remember him for the beast that he originally was. And that is what makes this remake/reimagining of Friday The 13th such a success (for the most part). Sure, he runs now, but he is a hulking beast again. There is a bit of added development in the relationship Jason has with his mother, but the story remains the same. He is still taking revenge on sex-crazed teenagers stupid enough to venture to camp on Crystal Lake. Plus, it has the best sex scene of the entire franchise, so take that!
6. Freddy vs. Jason (2003)
Director: Ronny Yu
Cast: Robert Englund, Ken Kirzinger, Monica Keena, Jason Ritter, Kelly Rowland, Katharine Isabelle, Chris Marquette, Lochlyn Munro, Kyle Labine, Odessa Munroe
It took over a decade (longer than that actually) for it to finally happen but in 2003 we finally got to see horror’s two biggest icons – Freddy Krueger and Jason Voorhees – duke it out on-screen. Prior to the film being released it felt like a Presidential campaign, who were you going to vote for.
In the film, Freddy has become unable to haunt people’s dreams as the citizens of Springwood have generally forgotten about Freddy with the passage of time. In order to regain his power, Freddy manipulates Jason into resurrecting himself and traveling to Springwood to cause panic and fear, leading to rumors that Freddy has returned. A murderous rivalry ensues.
With the amount of excitement leading up to this event it was next to impossible for the film to meet anyone’s expectations. However, that doesn’t mean that it wasn’t a strong entry for both of the respective franchises. Aside from the final battle you get the usual dose of sex, nudity, drugs, violence and rock & roll. The only letdown is the ending. SPOILER ALERT: Nobody really wins.
5. Friday The 13th Part VI: Jason Lives (1986)
Director: Tom McLoughlin
Cast: Thom Mathews, Jennifer Cooke, C. J. Graham, David Kagen, Renee Jones, Darcy DeMoss, Tom Fridley, Kerry Noonan, Ann Ryerson, Nancy McLoughlin, Courtney Vickery
By the time this sixth entry of the series came around, the filmmakers were pretty much out of ideas as to how to have Jason come back and kill some more. He had been hit by a car, stabbed and even taken an ax to the head and he just kept on coming back. The solution? Well, this is the film where Jason became a certified zombie, literally rising from the dead out of the grave to cause havoc.
After A New Beginning it was just nice to have the actual Jason back in the mix, zombie or not. Overall, this is one of the better installments of the F13 series. We should also mention that there is a little girl in the film whose name is Nancy. Could this have been an homage to Nightmare On Elm Street? Probably not, but whatever.
4. Friday The 13th Part 2 (1981)
Director: Steve Miner
Cast: Amy Steel, John Furey, Kirsten Baker, Stu Charno, Marta Kober, Bill Randolph, Russell Todd, Lauren-Marie Taylor, Tom McBride, Walt Gorney, Adrienne King
Many fans remember this film the most for being the debut of Jason Voorhees, or at least the debut of adult Jason Voorhees. It’s also memorable because it’s the only film where Jason is the killer and he isn’t wearing his iconic hockey mask. Instead he’s wearing a homemade sack mask with one eye hole cut out of it (which is far more scary if you ask us).
Jason proves he can live up to his mother’s legacy by mercilessly killing a new group of teenagers in new inventive ways. This is also, by the way, the last time that any sympathy can be felt for anyone dumb enough to go up to Camp Crystal Lake. The rest of the sequels are filled with people who deserve to die anyway for being so naive.
3. Friday The 13th (1980)
Director: Sean S. Cunningham
Cast: Adrienne King, Betsy Palmer, Jeannine Taylor, Robbi Morgan, Kevin Bacon, Laurie Bartram, Harry Crosby, Mark Nelson, Peter Brouwer, Ari Lehman
This is it, the movie that started it all. The little slasher movie that could. The film about a mother who just couldn’t stand the fact that a few camp counselors were “making love” while her son drowned so she decided to kill a bunch of teens who had nothing to do with it.
Not exactly a masterpiece, but certainly not a waste of time either. This film is basically a starters set for aspiring film-buffs who want to get into watching horror films. Friday The 13th may play as a clichéd slasher, a story of sex equalling butchery, but it plays so effectively well and is a horror movie that is too important to simply be dismissed. It collects everything appealing about the horror genre and wraps it up neatly into this fantastic package. A true classic.
2. Friday The 13th Part III (1982)
Director: Steve Miner
Cast: Richard Brooker, Dana Kimmell, Paul Kratka, Tracie Savage, Jeffrey Rogers, Catherine Parks, Larry Zerner, David Katims, Rachel Howard, Gloria Charles
As classic as the original Friday The 13th is nobody can really deny that a few of it sequels are far superior. The first film was a surprise hit, the second film tried its best to top it and it wasn’t until the third film that the franchise started to find its swagger.
Everybody has their favorite moment. Whether it’s watching a kid take a machete to the crotch or the moment where Jason dons his infamous hockey mask for the very first time. As far as Friday’s go, you can’t go wrong this one. Third time was definitely the charm.
1. Friday The 13th: The Final Chapter (1984)
Director: Joseph Zito
Cast: Ted White, Corey Feldman, Kimberly Beck, Erich Anderson, Crispin Glover, Peter Barton, Barbara Howard, Lawrence Monoson, Judie Aronson, Camilla More, Carey More
Friday The 13th: The Final Chapter is like a compilation or a “best of” of the entire F13 series. Everything that a Jason movie is known for is presented here in all its grandeur; horny teenagers, weed smoking, skinny-dipping and machetes to the face. It’s glorious.
Indeed, The Final Chapter has everything you’d want from a F13 flick. The kills are especially gruesome and come in seemingly endless succession, the female soon-to-be victims are all buxom, sexy, and have no problem going topless, and the comic relief nerds are actually kind of funny. Hell, even a young Corey Feldman isn’t at all grating as the horror movie lover who gets to finish Jason off “for good.” If somebody was unfamiliar with Jason and the F13 films and you could only play one movie for them, this would be the one. It’s everything.
Agree or disagree with our ranking? Let us know in the comment section below.