Friday the 13th Movies Ranked
We rank the Friday the 13th movies from worst to best—just in time for ... Friday the 13th.
Friday the 13th isn’t just a slasher film series; it’s a superstitious non-holiday when bad stuff happens. For instance, a young boy might accidentally drown, leading his grief-stricken mother to go on a killing spree that ends in her death, inspiring the lad to return, don a hockey mask, and start slittin’ throats.
That’s the story of Jason Voorhees, told (and re-told and revised) over a dozen movies and 193 bodies.
Since there’s a Friday the 13th in October this year, we’re ranking the Friday the 13th movies in order from worst to best. But before you read on, heed this warning: Spoilers ahead. Turn back now, or, as Crazy Ralph tells Crystal Lake campers, you’re doomed.
#12. Friday the 13th Part VIII: Jason Takes Manhattan (1989)—The one that’s a snooze cruise
In first-time director Rob Hedden’s Friday the 13th sequel, Jason again lies in standby mode under Crystal Lake but boots right up when a boat anchor cuts underwater cables. Wow, that was easy—and trite. Jason boards the boat, which is taking high school kids and their chaperones to Manhattan, and starts a string of 13 murders so “meh” that we constantly ask, “Are we there yet?”
When we finally reach the city—an hour into the film—the kill rate slows to half-speed. Only five kills happen in the concrete jungle before Rennie and her boyfriend Sean throw acid in Jason’s face, melting him back into his younger self before he drowns again—this time in toxic wastewater.
Finally, to the sound of cheesy ‘80s night-rock, Rennie and Sean embrace, and Rennie’s lost dog magically reappears after getting lost in the first act. Then everyone walks off into the sexy New York night like none of this ridiculousness just happened. Even the hot, steaming garbage littering 1989 Times Square is better than Jason Takes Manhattan.
#11. Jason Goes to Hell: The Final Friday (1993)—The one where anyone could be Jason
In the first Friday the 13th film from New Line, Jason is a parasitic, body-jumping hellspawn—a novel but ultimately disappointing approach. Over, at this point, seven films, we’ve grown accustomed to watching Jason slice and dice. Now, thanks to a slimy parasitic Jason slug from Hell, we have Multi-Jason: A bunch of slug-pregnant normies channeling J’s terrifying presence and mainly failing.
Sure, there are some epic, juicy kills and fantastic gore effects (like the Jason slug), but they can’t carry us past the silly premise and tacked-on, late-series backstory details. Also, wasn’t this supposed to take place in Hell? Why another broken promise so soon after Jason Takes Manhattan?
Watch it for the gory body horror and for Jason actor Kane Hodder’s winking appearance as a security guard (a nod to this sequel’s gimmick)—plus the mullet Hodder wore during the hairstyle’s first wave.
#10. Friday the 13th Part V: A New Beginning (1985)—The one without Jason
We knew it wasn’t the end when young Tommy Jarvis (Corey Feldman) chopped up Jason at the end of The Final Chapter. Why would you slaughter your cash cow when the milk still flows? Also, the filmmakers strongly hint at a sequel when Tommy Jarvis (Corey Feldman) glares into the camera at the end of TFC.
Jason really is dead, though. But an older, tougher Tommy (John Shepherd) hasn’t let his guard down as he settles into a halfway camp after a stint in a psychiatric hospital. One day, a fellow camper snaps, killing an obnoxious peer. We know the culprit, yet other campers begin dying brutally. What a stupid coincidence—did Jason return from the dead because someone else spilled blood on his turf? I guess so. But this time, Jason’s mask has blue (instead of red) accents.
Even the barely astute—nay, the barely alert—can clock what’s happening: This Jason is a copycat. Still, A New Beginning keeps trying to fake us out, framing Tommy as the killer. Meanwhile, not-Jason mows down the rest of the drug-crazed, exhibitionist campers—I mean, rehabbers.
Goofy but passable, A New Beginning should’ve come out under a different name. Then, the sixth Friday film, Jason Lives, would’ve made a more worthy follow-up to The Final Chapter. And maybe Jason Takes Manhattan wouldn’t have happened.
#9. Friday the 13th Part VII: The New Blood (1988)—The one with the telekinetic final girl
After the outrageous but acceptable course correction of Friday the 13th Part VI: Jason Lives, the series returned to the well of half-baked ideas and pulled up this bucket of weaksauce.
The idea of a telekinetic final girl makes some sense. How else could an untrained teenage girl defeat an unstoppable brute except with supernatural ranged weaponry? But the poor execution makes it look silly. If Jason can take automatic rifle fire and keep comin’, why would flying nails and collapsing awnings stop him?
No shade on C.J. Graham’s work as Zombie Jason in Jason Lives, but Kane Hodder brings new gravitas to the role, especially in this badass streamlined Zombie Jason design. Hodder’s Jason gets in some good kills, too, but it’s too bad MPAA censors robbed them of their full, splattery splendor.
#8. Friday the 13th Part III (1982)—The one where Jason gets his mask . . . in 3D!
This third installment follows the same formula as the first Friday the 13th movies. Since 1982 was a simpler time, we accepted this three-gurgitation because it adds a shiny thing: 3D. Now the blood and boobs are comin’ right for ya!
Today, it’s harder to experience Friday the 13th Part III in 3D. Most of us still rock 2D TVs, but we can at least use our imaginations to appreciate silly shots like the yo-yo nose boop or cool kills like the speargun-to-the-eye, handstand split, and 3D eyeball pop.
Even with the fun 3D shots, Part III is repetitive, gimmicky, and slow. It’d be maddening if there weren’t so much to laugh at: The goofy ’80s intro music, shockingly lousy acting (“Oh my gaaaaawwwwwd!”), and some delicious WTF moments (Jason’s post-kill stroll and that terrible fake head from the eyeball scene). And then there are crowd-pleasing (if recycled) moments like Pamela Voorhees breaching Crystal Lake like Baby J did in the first film. Lots of people like Part III, though, and we’d be remiss not to mention this sequel’s significant contribution to Friday lore: The moment Jason finds his mask (after slitting Shelly’s throat).
#7. Jason X (2001)—The one where Jason goes to space camp
Spason has two eyes. Yay, science! (Video screenshot from YouTube)
The Friday the 13th series had already tried Sackhead Jason, 3D Jason, Imposter Jason, Zombie Jason, Slug/Multi-Jason, and Freddy’s Pet Jason. So why not give Space Jason (Spason!) a shot? For most of Jason X, the thawed-out ninth iteration of Jason does his slashy thing on a spaceship. Whoa. Then Jason 9.0 gets pulverized, but it’s not the end. Digital nano-stuff makes him better, faster, stronger—Uber Jason, as the fans call him (but we prefer Spason.)
The premise, story, acting, and certain sets elicit scoffs from many fans—but Jason X is everything we want from a slasher movie. Its 23 kills are the standing franchise record, with several standouts—like the skill-shot skewering of David Cronenberg (in a cameo), the liquid-nitrogen head crush, and the slow, twisty screw kill with its obvious-but-awesome one-liner. And, lest anyone be homesick for Camp Crystal Lake, we get to visit it—and the requisite Friday-the-13th hotties—via simulation.
Jason X is big, dumb fun—a total popcorn movie you shouldn’t think about too much. (If we had, it’d probably rate a bit lower.)
#6. Freddy vs. Jason (2003)—The one with hot slasher-on-slasher action
The end of Jason Goes to Hell teases this crossover film, whose title teases a tête-à-tête between two terror titans—Jason and A Nightmare on Elm Street‘s Freddy Krueger—but it starts as a collab. Well, it’s more like hellbound Freddy masquerades as Pamela Voorhees to trick Jason into stabbing up Springwood to stir up the fear Freddy needs to get back there.
It’s interesting, for sure, to see a film blend dreamy Elm Street storytelling with Friday’s (relatively speaking) real-world ultraviolence. The conflict is even more compelling as Freddy monitors Jason’s 17-kill spree, slowly realizing there ain’t enough room in Springwood for two alpha-creeps, and the film culminates in an epic (and epically gross) 20-minute showdown.
#5. Friday the 13th (2009)—The one that could’ve sucked, but doesn’t
When Michael Bay’s Platinum Dunes production company announced its Friday the 13th reboot, we knew to expect the series’ hallmarks: Brutality, blood, and bewbs—on ‘roids. And that’s great! If any series can benefit from Bay’s turgid mise en scène, it’s Friday the 13th. Granted, it probably helps that Marcus Nispel (who helmed the 2003 Texas Chainsaw Massacre reboot) directed instead of Bay. Otherwise, we might have Jason X2: Rise of the Tittybots.
In addition to cranking up the violence and nudity, Nispel starts the film at Pamela Voorhees’ decapitation and skips the Sackhead stuff. Reboot Jason (Derek Mears) appears right away, fully grown (taller, even) and masked—not to mention faster, more intense, and diabolical (he uses traps and cooks a camper in her sleeping bag over a fire). Gratuitous nudity and stoner humor temper the reboot’s darker parts, making the film one of the better classic-film reboots. And since reboots tend to suck, that’s saying a lot.
Thanks to intellectual property disputes, we may never see that 13th Friday film, which may or may not be good (lookin’ at you, David Gordon Hallo-Green). But at least we can look forward to Peacock‘s upcoming Crystal Lake prequel series from A24(!).
#4. Friday the 13th Part II (1981)—The one where Jason rocks burlap
A recap of Friday the 13th‘s good parts—including the gobsmacking finale—sets the tone, and we cut to the original film’s final girl, Alice Hardy, who’s safe at home but still worried about Jason. She briefly lets her guard down to feed her cat, opening the fridge to see Pamela’s rotting head next to the milk. Then Jason scrambles her brains with an icepick.
Alice’s shocking, tragic end primes us for more camper carnage. Five years later, at a nearby camp, Sackhead Jason (modeled after the IRL Texarkana killer you might recall from 1976’s The Town That Dreaded Sundown) is in business for himself.
As he avenges both his drowning and his mother’s beheading, Jason logs only 9 (confirmed) kills—the fewest of any Friday the 13th movie. You’d think they would’ve upped the ante for the sequel. Still, Part II is an enjoyable watch, primarily for its formidable final girl, Ginny (Amy Steel). She fights harder and more intelligently than Alice, using her child psychology background to get into Jason’s head—before taking him out with a machete. Because it’s a slasher movie, Jason gets in one last attack, but plucky Ginny survives even that.
#3. Friday the 13th Part VI: Jason Lives (1986)—The one with Zombie Jason
The best horror movies are fun and freaky—Friday the 13th Part VI: Jason Lives is all that and a Zombie Jason.
When Tommy Jarvis (played by Thom Mathews this time) and Allen Hawes (Welcome Back, Kotter‘s Ron Palillo) unearth and torch Jason’s body, lightning zaps Jason back to life. After killing Hawes, Jason (C.J. Graham)—a walking mountain of slime and worms—slips on his old mask (Tommy planned to destroy it, too) and gets back to business.
Depending on who you ask, Jason Lives either benefits or suffers from tonal inconsistency—we’re in the former camp. The film provides genuine chills (lumpy, wormy ZomJay), thrills (a triple-decapitation!), and laughs (the happy-face tree kill). Bonus points for the film’s three Alice Cooper songs: the Jason tribute “He’s Back (The Man Behind The Mask),” “Teenage Frankenstein,” and “Hard Rock Summer,” all of which make Jason Lives feel like a party (with murder).
#2. Friday the 13th (1980)—The first one; the O.G.; the one with Kevin Bacon
Sean S. Cunningham’s original Friday the 13th (1980) is not the best Friday the 13th movie—but it was the spark. If it didn’t exist, neither would the others. Jason’s not the killer, so what? Mrs. Voorhees being the first killer is a killer twist, and Betsy Palmer literally and figuratively slays in the role.
We feel Jason’s presence (“ki-ki-ki, ma-ma-ma”) from hearing the urban legend to his iconic end-of-film splash. His character arc continues through the first three sequels as he evolves from boogeyman to Sackhead to his “final,” hockey-masked form in the fourth film. (It’s too bad the series continuity couldn’t be as coherent, but that’s a whole ‘nother article.)
Moreover, the O.G. Friday is still mysterious, suspenseful, and terrifying after 50+ years. And there’s no denying that final battle between demented, grieving Mrs. Voorhees and sweet Alice Hardy. The shocking, gory, slo-mo moment when Jason’s mom loses her head (just one of master effects artist Tom Savini’s touches) is forever one of horror’s best final kills.
#1. Friday the 13th Part IV: The Final Chapter (1984)—The first last one (feat. Corey Feldman and Crispin Glover)
How ironic that the fourth Friday the 13th movie is better than the first—and that eight more chapters followed this “final” one. (And that Crispin Glover’s dorky dancing gets him laid.)
The first three films milked dry the summer camp/lake house, party-people-must-die angle, so Joseph Zito’s The Final Chapter shakes things up a little. We’re still in the woods, and there is plenty of horny teenage machete fodder. But instead of a final girl, this protagonist is 12-year-old Tommy Jarvis (a cherubic Corey Feldman), a horror fan with incredible practical effects skills.
It’s a compelling shift—Tommy’s a kid who’s into monsters and now must fight one. The film’s 13 kills benefit from screenwriter Barney Cohen’s creativity, Tom Savini’s return as practical effects boss, and Ted White’s faster, more brutal work as Jason. That said, Tommy gets one of the most striking kills in the film when he hacks the soul outta Jason in the end—losing his mind in the process.