It’s Friday the 13th, and what better day could there be to compile a list like Friday the 13th Movies Ranked? While this list is all in good fun, I have to admit that I found it to be surprisingly difficult to put together. That’s because the Friday the 13th franchise is my favorite of all franchises and I love every one of these films. Ranking them was like trying to rank my major internal organs. Some may work better than others, but I need them all! I struggled to decide which order to put them in, and ended up listing them based on which ones I would most like to watch at any given time. So here they are, listed from “Yes, put that movie on right now!” to “Sure, okay, let’s watch it.” Check it out, then let us know how you would rank the movies by leaving a comment below.
FRIDAY THE 13TH PART III (1982)
The Jason everyone knows is born here. This is where he gets his iconic hockey mask, and he wears it while taking out a group of youths vacationing at a cabin on the edge of Crystal Lake. Part 2 director Steve Miner returned for this one and managed to make it creepy while also packing it with gimmicks meant to be seen in 3D on the big screen – and you ever have the chance to see Friday the 13th Part III in 3D, go for it. It’s an awesome experience. Especially when you get to watch the hulking, hockey masked Jason (Richard Brooker) engage the final girl in one of the best chases of the franchise. A 13 minute sequence that goes all over the cabin property.
FRIDAY THE 13TH (1980)
Director Sean S. Cunningham’s Friday the 13th has achieved classic status – and yet somehow it still doesn’t get enough respect or credit for how effectively creepy it is. A low budget but well crafted production, it delivers a dark-yet-fun atmosphere, an unnerving back story, an incredible score, amazing special effects (courtesy of Tom Savini), and an unforgettable performance by Betsy Palmer. Palmer shows up late in the film as a grieving mother out to avenge her young son, who drowned at Camp Crystal Lake more than twenty years earlier because the counselors weren’t paying attention. The new counselors didn’t have anything to do with it, but they pay the price.
FRIDAY THE 13TH: THE FINAL CHAPTER (1984)
A family living in a house out in the woods. A group of young people renting the house right across from them. And Jason Voorhees (Ted White this time) lurking nearby, waiting to strike. Director Joseph Zito brought a very dark atmosphere to this film, and yet it’s also a whole lot of fun, featuring some of the best, most likeable young characters in the entire series. (Plus some wild dancing from Crispin Glover.) Tom Savini believed “The Final Chapter” subtitle and returned to supply the bloodshed for Jason’s send-off. The kills are brutal, even the ones that are cut quickly, and the showiest of all is reserved for Jason himself. Jason is legitimately scary in this film, but a clever young boy named Tommy Jarvis figures out how to defeat the monster. For now.
JASON LIVES: FRIDAY THE 13TH PART VI (1986)
Tasked with bringing Jason Voorhees back from the dead, writer/director Tom McLoughlin looked to the Universal Monsters era for inspiration and resurrected Jason Frankenstein-style, with a well-placed lightning bolt. Jason rises from his grave a bit rotten but stronger than ever, just in time for the re-opening of Camp Crystal Lake. As returning adversary Tommy Jarvis tries to stop Jason, McLoughlin treats the viewer to fun characters, humorous lines and situations, cool stunts, great cinematography, and a rock ‘n roll soundtrack. Jason Lives pushes the comedy further than any of the previous movies, but it works because Jason himself (CJ Graham) is never the butt of the joke. McLoughlin found a way to bring fresh energy to the franchise while still keeping it in the woods.
FRIDAY THE 13TH PART 2 (1981)
Friday the 13th Part 2 is so good, it’s easy to overlook the fact that it’s built on a very odd decision: the one to make Jason Voorhees, the drowned child whose mother was out for vengeance in the first movie, the killer this time around. This isn’t the Jason who would become a pop culture icon. This is a backwoods fellow who wears a sack on his head (with Steve Dash being the man under the sack). But he’s also a terrifying killer who slashes his way through a new batch of counselors. Director Steve Miner did a great job of replicating the tone of the first movie, and the film features one of the best heroines in the franchise: child psychologist Ginny Fields, who comes up with a clever way of stopping Jason in his tracks.
FRIDAY THE 13TH PART VII: THE NEW BLOOD (1988)
When Paramount couldn’t secure a deal with New Line Cinema to make Freddy vs. Jason, they shifted gears and made a sequel that is basically Jason vs. Carrie. You have the same set-up as The Final Chapter, partying youths in a house across from a family home, but this time the family home is occupied by a troubled girl with telekinetic abilities. Like Tommy in Jason Lives, that girl (named Tina) accidentally resurrects Jason, then has to deal with the consequences. And when it comes time for their showdown, Tina uses her telekinesis to dish out quite a beating to the hockey masked slasher. It’s pretty awesome. Kane Hodder made his Jason debut in this film, and director / FX artist John Carl Beuchler gave him a great rotten look.
FRIDAY THE 13TH: A NEW BEGINNING (1985)
After years of psychiatric treatments, Friday the 13th: The Final Chapter hero Tommy Jarvis arrives at Pinehurst Halfway House… and soon a killer in a hockey mask starts picking off the staff of the halfway house, the troubled youths staying there, and people in the surrounding area. The identity of the killer is meant to be a mystery, but it’s pretty hard to miss the clues. Directed by Danny Steinmann, A New Beginning has a bad reputation, but it’s still a lot of fun. Jason (Tom Morga and Johnny Hock) may only be present in Tommy’s hallucinations, but we still get a hockey masked killer who acts just like him. The characters are ridiculous, the movie is extremely sleazy, but that’s all just part of its charm.
FREDDY VS. JASON (2003)
After a long trip through development hell, Freddy vs. Jason finally reached theatres in 2003, with director Ronny Yu bringing the concept to the screen with great style. Robert Englund reprises the role of dream stalker Freddy Krueger, who uses the image of Mrs. Voorhees to encourage Jason Voorhees (Ken Kirzinger) to rise from Hell and head over to his old haunt of Elm Street to commit murder and stir up fear. Fear that will allow Freddy to return to the dreams of the Elm Street kids. But when Jason overstays his welcome and claims too many victims on Elm Street, the slashers clash. Fights take place in both the dream world and at Camp Crystal Lake, and the climactic battle is a glorious bloodbath.
FRIDAY THE 13TH (2009)
Ideas from the first four were mixed together for this reboot, a collaboration between Paramount and New Line Cinema. Derek Mears plays a Jason Voorhees who is faster and more intense than ever before. He’s wearing a sack on his head when we first see him, and later in the film he acquires a hockey mask. The set-up is the same as we’ve seen multiple times: Jason slashes his way through a bunch of youths who are vacationing at a house near Crystal Lake. The movie also draws from the end of Part 2 for its most controversial element: when Jason crosses paths with a young woman who resembles his mother, he locks her up in his mine shaft lair instead of killing her. Some fans think it’s a logical extension of what we saw in Part 2, other fans hate it.
FRIDAY THE 13TH PART VIII: JASON TAKES MANHATTAN (1989)
The Paramount era came to an end with Jason Takes Manhattan, which underwhelmed at the box office when movie-goers saw that it didn’t really deliver on the promise of the title. Jason (Kane Hodder) spends most of the film on a cruise ship that’s on its way to Manhattan, knocking off youths who are on board for a senior trip. When they do reach their destination, Manhattan is mostly played by Vancouver alleyways. But there is a great moment where we see Jason standing in the middle of Times Square. Part VIII also disappoints with a spacey heroine who’s always tripping, since director Rob Hedden wanted to work in some Elm Street-esque elements. The movie is fun, but you can see why Paramount gave up.
JASON GOES TO HELL: THE FINAL FRIDAY (1993)
The franchise moved to New Line Cinema with this installment, and director Adam Marcus set out to deliver a film that would be very different from any of its predecessors. He certainly accomplished that. Jason Voorhees (Kane Hodder) is blasted to pieces by the FBI in the opening sequence… then spends the rest of the movie possessing people, starting with the coroner who is compelled to eat his heart. Jason’s spirit moves from body to body as he seeks out family members we never heard of before, because this movie creates its own mythology. “Through a Voorhees was he born, through a Voorhees may he be reborn, and only by the hands of a Voorhees will he die.” How can he die? By being stabbed with a magic dagger that sends him straight to Hell.
JASON X (2002)
While Freddy vs. Jason was making its way through development hell, director James Isaac decided to make another Friday the 13th sequel – one that would be set in the future to avoid causing continuity issues with the Freddy crossover. So a frozen Jason (Kane Hodder) gets blasted into space in the year 2455, and once he thaws out it’s business as usual because the ship he’s on happens to be inhabited by a bunch of youngsters. Plus some Marines, but those aren’t a problem. The cyborg causes him more trouble, but once his body gets blasted apart he just gets a new one, thanks to nanotechnology. Jason is upgraded into Uber Jason! Jason X is extremely goofy, and highly entertaining when you’re in the mood for absurdity.