Between Stranger Things 4, the latest Halloween movies, and The Texas Chainsaw Massacre movie series on Netflix, a new generation of viewers is discovering the gory glory of slasher movies. It’s led to a horror renaissance, and it should clear a path to one of the most recognizable slasher franchises of all time, Friday the 13th. With that in mind, let’s rank all the ill-advised trips to Camp Crystal Lake.
Most of these center around the franchise’s central villain Jason Voorhees. After drowning in Crystal Lake as a child due to negligence by camp counselors, Jason eventually enacts revenge later as a zombie-like adult spirit upon learning that a lone counselor killed his mother. In the later movies, Jason’s protectiveness and obsession with his mother is often the driving force behind his killings and sometimes expose his own weaknesses.
There are a dozen movies in the Friday the 13th franchise, at least officially. Each film in the long-standing horror franchise has individually left its mark upon the horror community — although sometimes it’s for all the wrong reasons. For today’s list, we will stick strictly with the official movies, but head over to YouTube if you need your Jason fix in any other forms.
12. Friday the 13th, Part VIII: Jason Takes Manhattan (1989)
Almost a decade after the original Friday the 13th kicked off a pop culture phenomenon, the franchise was still limping along. After one of many resurrections, Jason Voorhees rises from the depths of Crystal Lake to hitch a boat ride to Manhattan Island. This is despite the fact that none of the first eight movies ever suggested that Crystal Lake was somehow connected to the Atlantic Ocean in any way, but that’s the least of its problems. Nonetheless, Jason gets a New York vacation, but our boy is a workaholic. A killing spree commences, and it doesn’t stop until he is washed away by good old NYC sewage that turns him back into a kid.
11. Jason Goes to Hell: The Final Friday (1993)
If today’s list is anything, it is a fight for last place. Jason Goes to Hell made a run at the bottom rung. It only took 13 years, countless savage murders, and one weekend stay in Manhattan for a swat team to finally descend upon Crystal Lake. Even after being blown up by the FBI, Jason’s spirit lived on … literally. For some reason, no one could resist eating his rotten, still-beating heart, allowing Jason to possess bodies left and right. What kept audiences talking was the final moment when Freddy Krueger’s razor glove drags Jason’s hockey mask to Hell. Of course, this wasn’t the end, thus teaching viewers to never trust a horror movie with the word “Final” in the title.
10. Friday the 13th, Part V: A New Beginning (1985)
Before Jason Vorhees became completely supernatural, the Friday the 13th franchise eyed a different route. The star of this movie was Tommy Jarvis, the hero from Part IV who seemingly killed the skulking monster. That created a mystery for New Beginning centering on who was under the hockey mask this time, which sounds like a job for Scooby and the gang. Once the mystery appeared to be solved, the film ends with a cliffhanger as Tommy himself sports the mask, hinting that he would be the next Jason. Fans weren’t having it, and plans for Tommy to be the franchise’s future killer were soon scrapped.
9. Jason X (2002)
Only on this list can Jason X not rank dead last. When the consensus score is 22% positive and it is not in the bottom three, this truly is a cinematic septic tank. In this grand adventure, Jason gets a sci-fi horror adventure. It’s 445 years into the future, and Camp Crystal Lake is an abandoned research facility. From there, Jason’s cryogenically frozen body is taken to a spaceship where he is revived and turned into a cyborg.
There’s no question that the filmmakers were aiming to make the single most ridiculous movie in the history of splatterfests. If this had been practically any other franchise, Jason X might have achieved that goal, but Friday the 13th has made an art of creating bad movies.
8. Friday the 13th, Part III (1982)
In the early 1980s, the 3D gimmick was all the rage. That was especially true for the third movie in horror franchises. A year after Jason came to life in three dimensions, the rapidly dwindling Jaws franchise attempted the trick with Jaws 3-D. Splatter fans appreciated Jason’s weapons and the gore coming through the screen, but this movie is mostly remembered for giving the villain his trademark hockey mask. Despite the dismal critical score, this was one of the highest-grossing movies in the Friday the 13th pantheon. It managed to reach the coveted number one spot at the box office on its way to reportedly grossing just over $36 million worldwide, according to Box Office Mojo.
7. Friday the 13th: The Final Chapter (1984)
As I said before, never trust a horror movie with the word “Final” in the title. Case in point: Friday the 13th: The Final Chapter. At the time, slasher films were losing their box office luster despite the massive returns from the franchise’s previous installment. The producers saw it as time to wrap up the Voorhees Family’s revenge story with one last bloodbath andr ecurring character Tommy Jarvis had the honor of killing Jason.
The critics may have despised The Final Chapter, but fans were far more appreciative. Based on audience reception, this would rank third overall. It also earned close to $24 million worldwide, which explains why this wasn’t the final chapter after all.
6. Friday the 13th (2009)
The early 2000s were a time of horror remakes. In the first decade of the 21st Century, A Nightmare on Elm Street, Halloween, The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, and Friday the 13th all got the reboot treatment. The only one to find success was Rob Zombie’s Halloween, which did well enough at the box office to warrant a sequel.
In the case of 2009’s Friday the 13th, audiences were ready for a new round of hockey-masked horror. While it ultimately fell short of the goal line, its Rotten Tomatoes critic and audience cumulative score outperformed more than half the other movies in the franchise.
5. Friday the 13th, Part VII: The New Blood (1988)
Say what you will about the Friday the 13th movies, but they were highly profitable. Although critics and fans generally gave it a thumbs down, the film reportedly earned over $19 million worldwide after having a budget of just under $3 million.
This time around, fans got to see Jason square off with someone who could hold her own against the superpowered zombie killer. Tina, armed with her telekinetic powers, gave Jason a run for his money, and she even ripped off his hockey mask to expose the rotting flesh underneath.
4. Friday the 13th, Part 2 (1981)
You have to give credit to 1980’s Friday the 13th creators for making audiences ravenous for the sequel. A year after one of the all-time great jump scares, fans were more than ready to return to Camp Crystal Lake. This time, they would see Jason avenge his mother’s death a year earlier. Audiences packed the theaters, and Part 2 earned close to $20 million after being made on a $1.25 million budget.
Did it make sense that Jason aged several years between the two movies? Not really, but it didn’t deter fans from buying tickets. The movie itself didn’t quite live up to the original, but Part 2 succeeded in creeping out audiences and establishing Jason as a modern horror icon.
3. Freddy vs. Jason (2003)
Ten years after Freddy took the hockey mask down to Hell, audiences finally saw the ultimate horror crossover. These were the two premiere monsters of the 1980s, each with massive franchises behind them. Granted, out of the 19 total movies between Freddy and Jason, only two films were critical successes, but they were highly profitable with legions of fans. And those fans got what they paid for in a serviceable movie that held true to the mythos of each franchise.
2. Friday the 13th, Part VI: Jason Lives (1986)
Friday the 13th Part 2 may have introduced the adult Jason that fans instantly loved, and Part III gave him the iconic hockey mask, but Part VI established one of the most famous additions to the mythos. It was in Jason Lives that the horror favorite truly became the undead monster we see in the rest of the original franchise. In a scene that echoes 1931’s Frankenstein, a deranged Tommy Jarvis digs up Jason’s body and stabs the decaying heart with an iron fence post. Lightning strikes the metal, and the electricity gives Jason new life. Apparently, it also gave him super strength and the ability to teleport, but who’s counting?
Interestingly enough, the first idea for Part VI was for Tommy to take up the hockey mask and machete as the new Jason, which was teased at the end of the previous movie. Since fans generally hated New Beginning, the producers decided it was best to go back to what worked with Jason Voorhees doing the dirty work.
1. Friday the 13th (1980)
Friday the 13th began as an unapologetic take on 1978’s Halloween. Where this movie steps out of Michael Myers’ shadow is in its villain, and we’re not talking about Jason. Instead of another menacing, overpowering giant stalking the grounds of Camp Crystal Lake, it was Pamela Voorhees played by Betsy Palmer. Despite the savage murders, Friday the 13th managed to make Pamela somewhat sympathetic by giving her a legitimate reason for her revenge story. She blamed the negligent counselors for the death of her special-needs son, and she was right. Still, maybe a lawsuit would have been the better way to go.
There’s no talking about 1980’s Friday the 13th without mentioning that scene. The surprise reveal of Jason leaping from the lake gave audiences one of the most famous scares in horror movie history.