Ranking the Friday the 13th Films

I have always been a huge fan of the Friday the 13th series even since my older sister showed me the first one when I was in elementary school. In true American spirit, I was allowed to watch any of the violence but had to have my eyes covered during the sex scenes.

I have only recently completed the series – often times they blend together so much when viewing back to back I would get sick of them and stop watching. Finally having watched all of them over the series of a few months I was able to appreciate some of the nuances and differences among the different franchise entries and formulate my own ranking. Hope you enjoy and would love to hear what you think.

*****SPOILERS AHEAD*****

10. Jason X

This does have redeeming moments such as the sleeping bag hologram, but it’s low on my list because much like the 2009 Friday the 13th reboot it loses sight of some of the genuine fear and emotion present in earlier films in the franchise. Instead it’s ridiculous concept (comparatively speaking) and indifference to nearly every character makes it function as a parody of a Friday the 13th film. This works in moments like the hologram jokes but falls flat in other places.

9. Friday the 13th V: A New Beginning

Like most fans and casual moviegoers, I hate the infamous “fake” Jason movie where the killer is revealed to be a copycat and not Jason Voorhees. I like the idea (a seemingly normal EMT snaps when he realizes his son is the murder victim he was called to pick up), but the muddled story line and mostly despicable characters make this one of my least favorites.

8. Jason Goes to Hell

I don’t disdain this movie as much as some other fans. I like that they try something different and depict more of Jason’s impact and influence on the Crystal Lake community. It’s also the most queer of the Friday the 13th films, with Jason’s soul transmitting from body to body via an evil slug often delivered mouth to mouth regardless of gender. It’s also neat to see Jason’s childhood home even if its size doesn’t seem to gel with Jason’s seemingly lower class upbringing.

7. Friday the 13th IV: The Final Chapter

I really love the dynamic the Jarvis family brings to this film, but after the first three this always feels the weakest to me comparatively. And although adult Tommy Jarvis has grown on me as a “final guy” as the case may be, I always felt disappointed by the idea of a little kid besting Jason.

6. Friday the 13th VIII: Jason Takes Manhattan

There’s a lot to love about this one including one of my favorite kills in any Friday the 13th:

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It’s ridiculous, it’s frustrating, it’s fun, and it’s depiction of a crime-ridden, green heroin loaded NYC has aged poorly but hilariously. The characters spend most of the film on a ship, Jason’s motivation to stalk the lead girl makes no sense, yet…

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It still delivers on the shots one would hope for. This is my favorite of the goofy later entries to the franchise.

5. Friday the 13th Part VII: A New Blood

Pitched as Carrie vs. Jason, the final girl in this film uses telekinetic powers to give Jason a taste of his own medicine. There’s something immensely satisfying in watching Tina Shepard confuse the shit out of Jason while using her powers against him. It’s also neat the trailer built this as a sort of versus match between the two.

4. Friday the 13th VI: Jason Lives

After the ill-fated attempt to leave Jason behind in part 5, part 6 prominently showcases the fact it is bringing Jason back in both the name, trailer, and opening. It also sets the course for the rest of the series in cementing the supernatural aspects to Jason’s character.

I was so pleasantly surprised when I watched this for the first time a few weeks ago. There is some interesting meta humor, some insights into the town of Crystal Lake (which has changed its name to Forest Green in an attempt to escape its reputation), and is the only film in the series to feature campers at the newly reinstated camp. Unlike previous films which mostly treat Jason as a legend, the characters in this film are clearly shown to acknowledge Jason’s existence and the effect he has had on their town.

If you are interested in the final girl trope, this film is interesting in having a final girl who bucks a lot of the stereotypes associated with the character. Our final girl Megan is rebellious, impulsive, and sexually interested in returning lead Tommy Jarvis. In contrast, a character named Paula functions as a foil of Megan – she is not shown to have sex or drink during the film, and seems incredibly aware of her situation and alert to possible danger. Yet it’s Megan, not Paula, who helps defeat Jason in a climactic and action-packed final scene.

3. Friday the 13th

I love the first movie in this series but it isn’t my favorite. Lacking the essential DNA of many of the other films, it isn’t the best of the franchise even while it offers a delightfully unique killer reveal. Overshadowed by its sequels it is an important moment and a great twist to reveal the mother of the drowned boy is behind the revenge killings.

Our final girl Alice Hardy has a bit of a love interest (just what the hell did Steve say to her the night before the counselors arrived?), and is shown to drink and smoke pot while playing strip Monopoly. Although she doesn’t buck the stereotypes as much as Ginny does in the second movie she isn’t the virginal good girl typically associated with the final girl.

2. Friday the 13th Part III

If someone was only going to watch one Friday the 13th this should be it. Its  delightfully cheesy use of 3D technology and watching Jason finally don his iconic hockey mask are probably what most viewers expect and want from these movies. Even though it isn’t my top pick it is still the most “Friday the 13th-y” movie in the franchise to me.

1. Friday the 13th Part II

Clearly I’m a sucker for a well-developed final girl, and Ginny Field has always been the standout from the Friday the 13th series (which in all actuality is probably best known for its final “boy” Tommy Jarvis. Ginny is smart, funny, and pretty likely not a virgin. While out drinking she uses his knowledge of child psychology to profile Jason and describe how he would behave as an adult. She later uses this knowledge to trick Jason and get away from him. In this film Jason is far less Terminator like in his ability to efficiently kill. He struggles more when the teenagers fight back, and dons a  burlap sack over his head. Although the films haven’t hit their stride at this point, this film bucks some of the more persistent tropes of the later films – offering some character development for the ill-fated teenagers and a unique depiction of the iconic Jason Voorhees.

And that’s it! Probably a pretty standard ranking, but curious to hear you thoughts if you would rank them differently.

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