I don’t actually call the Friday The 13th movies “Friday The 13th”.
I mean… I know that’s the name of the Franchise, but it just doesn’t work for me. They’re “Jason Movies”. They’ve always been “Jason Movies” to me, and they always will be “Jason Movies” to me. Even when a startling number of them don’t have… you know… Jason in them. That’s weird. But they don’t.
What’s even worse is that starting with Part 4, they all got subtitles that I never bothered to learn. What is the difference between The Final Chapter and A New Beginning and The New Blood? I have no idea.
The point is, in addition to my rankings, I’m also going to share with you what I call each movie to help keep them straight in my head. These titles are much more fitting, I’m sure you’ll agree.
I’ve blathered on about Jason before. Twice, at least, by this point. I don’t need to belabor the point about how much I love these flicks even though they have clearly affected my psyche. Even the bad ones, I love. The very worst Jason Movie, I will give no less than a 1.5 out of 5. Even if the movie is objectively bad and poorly made and OBVIOUSLY a deserving 0.5-er… I can’t do it. There’s too much goodwill, and I will watch them again without hesitation at the slightest provocation.
The Jason franchise pretty brilliantly strings together trilogies across other trilogies as it goes, too. You could break a lot of the franchise down into groupings of three, actually:
-Parts 2 through 4 is the Long Weekend trilogy where Jason[s] torment people around Crystal Lake over the span of, like, 3 days.
-Parts 4 through 6 are the Tommy Jarvis Trilogy where Tommy grows up affected by the masked killer.
-Parts 6 through 8 are the Zombie Jason Trilogy where a reanimated and now quite definitely undead Jason stalks again until his final canonical demise.
-And then, I guess Parts 9, 10, and Freddy Vs Jason makes up the Continuity Doesn’t Matter Anymore Trilogy where nothing tends to affect or be affected by other movies in the franchise.
So you can see that parts 4 and 6 are themselves part of two separate trilogies each, which is actually pretty creative! Part 6, for instance, brings to wraps the Jarvis story while also FINALLY introducing us to Zombie Jason, who is the focus of the next three movies.
(And wait! You could consider Parts 1 through 3 as either the Pamela Voorhees trilogy–because she or her corpse appears in all three–or the Ambiguous Maybe A Dream Sequence trilogy–because each one has a weird “So, did that really happen?” conclusion)
I’ve ranked The Halloween franchise before, but it’s a lot harder with Jason. Sure he never hits the peak of John Carpenter’s original classic, but he never bottoms out as badly as Resurrection or the Zombie reboot, either. The Jason Movies are, to me, a MUCH tighter cluster. There are twelve movies to rank here, and from number 11 up all the way to number 5, we’re talking a true hair’s breadth of a difference. I could flip many of those around depending on how I feel when I wake up in the morning.
So in honor of Friday the 13th–so gloriously following up Halloween because OF COURSE IT DOES in this mess of a year that is 2020–let’s go through my personal ranking preference of the Jason Movies:
12 – Friday The 13th Part 5
I’m not necessarily holding the lack of actual Jason against this flick, though that certainly helps nothing. This movie just amazes me with the sheer audacity of it all. They actually made and released this movie! In theaters!
Do you ever watch a season of a TV show, and by episode six or seven of the season, you are comfortably into Filler Episode territory? Where the writers are padding out the run time and maybe just doing characterization without much plot furthering? Now imagine they released that episode as a feature length film. That’s Part 5 all over.
This movie is just a stop-gap in the Tommy Jarvis trilogy to show his developing PTSD before we get to Part 6. It doesn’t really accomplish anything on its own, and it’s so looney. It’s directed by a guy who mostly just made porn, and it’s easily the most “Do You Want To See Boobs? Here Are Some Boobs” of the whole franchise. Also, the kills are extremely repetitive.
There are some positives to be found in the classic Jason Movie goofiness–Tommy goes full MMA on two different guys, Demon has a whole restaurant of prepared food in his van, and Reggie is a fun addition–but on the whole, it’s the weakest, most inexplicable entry in the series. But also the most audacious.
11 – Friday The 13th Part 4
A lot of people would have this entry in at least their Top Five, but I’ve actually watched this one twice in 2020 Covid Times alone, and you know what? It’s not that good.
Sure it has some Name Actors in Crispin Glover and Corey Feldman, but this is an incredibly weak entry full of some truly awful scene editing (there are multiple moments in the film that are not clear at all as to what actually just happened) and the first real taste you get of characters who are generic and bland and really just there to be interesting kills.
That aside, it’s a Jason so I do enjoy some stuff. Jason does his first Kool-Aid Man through a door! Corey Feldman may be the only person actually trying, but he works hard to put this flick over. There’s some stuff here, but you have to look for it through the shoddy craftsmanship.
10 – Jason Goes To Hell, The Final Friday
Words can’t express how much this flick pissed me off as a kid with exactly HOW LITTLE Hockey Mask Jason there is in it. It infuriated me. The premise of this one is that the army fucking napalms Jason right at the start (it was bound to happen), but then his spirit starts jumping from host to host to continue killing. So it IS Jason, but… it isn’t JASON-Jason, you know?
Also, whereas other Jason Movies early in the series toy with the idea that the ending to the previous movie didn’t actually happen, this is the first one that just says “screw it!” and ignores ANYTHING that came before it. How did Jason get out of that Manhattan sewer? How did he un-mutate? Movie don’t care! All of the other entries before this one told one cohesive, flowing story, but this one just went and did its own thing. It convinced me that the “real” Jason timeline ended with Part 8, and everything since has been What If stories. Which is fine for what they are.
I do enjoy the army just surprise attacking Jason at the beginning because it’s so rewarding to see. And Steven Williams is awesome as always, here playing a bounty hunter out to end Jason once and for all.
9 – Jason X
There was a part of me that still so hated Jason Part 9 when Part 10 came out, that I was gleeful that it paid as little attention to the end of Jason Goes To Hell as that movie did to its forefathers. But it doesn’t fix the Manhattan timeline, either, so we’re back to another Jason Elseworlds.
As far as my thoughts? Look, I’m just saying… rewatch the Jasons. These were NEVER serious movies. They always joyfully blended slasher horror with silly goofiness. These movies always knew exactly what they were. And yet, when the franchise shot him into space and made him Mega Jason, suddenly this was a bridge too far for everyone.
This movie is exactly what it needed to be. It’s a TENTH movie in a franchise! Why not just play around at that point? Sure, outer space Jason gets turned into a Super Jason. Why the hell not, really? What else was this movie going to do that hadn’t been done before?
But it’s still only ninth of the list because it’s so cheap looking, and the idea that futuristic space ships all look like dimly lit warehouses in low-budget flicks is such a dumb trope. And I know I just gave the movie credit for this, but… damn, it’s really a departure from what Jason ever was.
Mostly this is underappreciated. But still not that great.
8 – Friday The 13th 2009
A Jason who takes hostages and shoots bow-and-arrows with superhero level accuracy is not exactly true to the canon, but you know what? It’s a LOT more like Jason than Rob Zombie’s Halloween was like Michael Myers. So at least it tried.
This movie looks good and has some of the best cinematography in the franchise. Jared Padalecki brings gravitas to the reboot as an instantly relatable and charismatic character. How do you get horror fans to not just cheer the iconic monster? Bring in a popular actor to oppose him! It’s a good idea.
Nothing about the attempted franchise reset in 2009 is particularly bad, but nothing is really great, either. And for a reboot, that feels like a missed opportunity. It’s just… a fine Jason Movie.
7 – Friday The 13th Part 3
When I think of Part 3, there is one thing I definitively always go to: the really cheesy and overdone 3D effects they shoe-horn in all over the place. Why bother with acting or writing when you can just have people yo-yo right over the camera. WATCH OUT! EVERYTHING IS COMING RIGHT AT YOU!
If you can somehow ignore that, you are not only a better person than I, but you will be rewarded with a fairly decent Jason Movie. This is the debut of Hockey Mask Jason (three flicks in!), and I still refuse to believe that Hockey Mask is the same character as Baghead Jason… and I don’t buy that either of them are Jason Voorhees, the boy that drowned in Crystal Lake. But that’s neither here nor there.
Part 3 sees a fun, if weirdly disparate, group of lakeside cabin partiers meet up with the (a?) Crystal Lake serial killer just the day after the events of part 2 (humorously, there is five years between the first movie and the initial sequel, but Part 2 through 4 all take place over a long weekend). They run afoul of a biker gang AND Jason, so there’s danger all over the place!
6 – Friday The 13th Part 8
Okay, so the actual title to this one is a bit of lie. Jason spends maybe ten minutes of the movie in Manhattan. We don’t get nearly as much Jason vs the NYPD as we may have been promised, but what do you expect?
People give this movie more crap for having ten minutes of Manhattan than they give Jason Goes To Hell, which has zero minutes of hell!
But if you can look past the misleading title, you realize that the cruise ship setting this movie utilizes is far superior. Before this, Jason existed in an outdoors woods setting. Why don’t his victims just run back to civilization?! But on a boat? The true sense of claustrophobia sets in because there is nowhere to go (except into the water, where you could probably swim to shore since you’re just somewhere between New Jersey and Manhattan, but don’t think about that!). Jason is unstoppable and after you, and all you can do is hope to survive until the ship reaches land.
It’s actually a pretty good Jason Movie. It just fails to deliver on its promise.
5 – Friday The 13th
The Movie That Started The Menace has EVEN LESS Jason that parts 5 or 9! This one is all about a mysterious killer murdering the teenagers at Camp Crystal Lake one by one for unseen motivations.
The movie plays itself as a mystery–and, indeed, is often categorized as a Horror/Mystery–but the reveal of Pamela Voorhees as the killer doesn’t really work because she is not a character until that point! You’re left wondering who the killer is, only to have the movie unveil her as an entirely new character. Even the nihilist in me–who loves the ending to The Sopranos and thinks absurdist out-of-nowhere conclusions are great–felt ripped off by that.
But that’s where the first movie kind of works, because it’s maybe the only one where the killer isn’t the star, the cast of victims is… including a young Kevin Bacon! This is less about the fun of watching Jason track down his foes and more about the suspense of who will be alive when it’s all said and done.
Also, only the first two Jasons have relevant and wholly-realized final girl characters, with Alice being the sole survivor here when she is able to turn the tables on Mrs. Voorhees and chop her head clean off.
4 – Friday The 13th Part 7
This was the first Jason I saw on the big screen, with my mom and [eventual, but not at the time] step-dad taking me to the drive-in when I was most likely seven years old. I remember my step-dad crouching behind my seat in the car and doing “Ch-ch-ch-ch. Ah-ah-ah-ah” to get me extra scared.
Again, everyone saw Jason X and thought “Well that was silly”, but no one minded that three movies earlier, we got a telekinetic! I imagine the conversation at the studio went like this.
Producer: Well, we made Jason a super powered zombie. What do we do now to make him just not overwhelm everyone?
Screenwriter: Let’s have him fight a superhero!
Producer: Genius! But now we have the opposite problem. How do we make Jason scary to a superhero?
Screenwriter: Uh… make the hero a girl?
And that was it!
I poke fun, but this movie is worthwhile because it comes SO out of nowhere and actually has an interesting story centered around out young Jean Grey In Training.
3 – Friday The 13th Part 6
I really love this one, and I think it’s one of the most fun across the whole series. This might, to me, be most exemplary of what Jason should be.
We finally get maggot-infested, undead Jason, which is always the Jason I think of when I picture the machete-wielding killer. We bring back Tommy Jarvis as our protagonist. And we actually have innocent CHILDREN involved, really raising the stakes (professional mechanic/electrician Tommy Jarvis from Part 4 doesn’t count).
The kills are a blast in this one (Jason kills multiple people with one slash on several occasions), and the characters are more fun and relatable than they have been since Part 2. And this is where Jason started embracing its inherent goofy nature in a way that actually works (Halloween was never able to do it).
2 – Freddy Vs Jason
I am only human, and the premise of Jason fighting with Freddy is just too much to ignore.
I know that this movie is campy and somehow almost sets up Jason as an accidental anti-hero, but that’s part of the fun. Freddy is all personality and snark. Jason is a mindless death machine. So the roles were obvious. And yeah, there’s stuff like Freddy turning O2 tanks into ballistic missiles just by scratching them. But this movie 100% knew what it wanted to be–what it NEEDED to be–and had no qualms with just going for it.
They kind of overplay the elemental aspect of things (Freddy fears fire; Jason fears water) to help force along the dichotomy, but the rest of the flick works. Freddy enters a sleeping Jason’s dreams to urge him to go to Springwood to inspire fear in the kids there who have never heard of Freddy. From there, Jason’s spree slowly empowers Freddy who then wants Jason to leave so he can have the kids to himself. But Jason doesn’t share food! So they fight over it both in and out of the dream world.
It’s just fun. It’s just… FUN. It’s not a very good horror film because it’s not scary, and by this point you definitely care more about the icons than the throwaway protagonists. But who cares? It was Batman Vs Superman done right and fourteen years sooner.
1 – Friday The 13th Part 2
The first Friday sequel is undoubtedly the best movie in the franchise, even if you will never convince me that the antagonist here would ever go on to don a hockey mask and continue terrorizing people at and around Crystal Lake. Baghead isn’t Hockey Mask, sheeple! Wake up and stop believing what Big Horror wants you to believe!
It is with this movie that the series perfected everything. The cast of counselors is actually realistic and sympathetic and fully fleshed-out. Jason is scary, and not a silly mystery killer with a lame reveal. The horror is mixed perfectly with campy goofiness (Jason falling off of a chair like an idiot will never not make me laugh, while the “Paul, there’s somebody else in this room” moment is the most dread-inspiring across all twelve flicks). It took these movies just two tries to get it all perfectly right, but they’d never reach those heights again.
Jason Part 2 is a legit 4.5 / 5.0 for me. It’s not 1978’s Halloween. It may not even be Halloween 4. But I think it’s an incredibly well-done, self-aware slasher.
If you somehow want even more–SO MUCH MORE, actually–of my thoughts on the Friday franchise, follow Pint O’ Comics on Facebook, where I have been helping those guys do video reviews of the whole franchise, one by one. You can listen to my INCREDIBLY COMPELLING rationale on why Ginny from Part 2 is absolutely pregnant even though the movie never tells you that!
Until next time… take care!