Jason Voorhees has somehow captured the hearts of millions of people worldwide, and has maintained a rabid fan base since his first brief appearance in the original FRIDAY THE 13TH in 1980. He has been portrayed by numerous actors and stuntmen, racked up a healthy number of kills (around 160 or so), and been further disfigured by multiple “final girls,” fellow cinematic boogeymen, space marines, and Corey Feldman.
Why has Jason remained so popular after all these years? Is it because he has a tragic backstory? Is it because of his indomitable spirit and will to live? Or perhaps it’s because of all the blood and boobs we get to see in each movie? For whatever reason, his presence alone has cranked up the FRIDAY THE 13TH franchise to a whopping twelve movies in less than four decades.
And right now, I am going to rank those films starting with what I would consider the worst of the series, and working my way up to my absolute favorite FRIDAY THE 13TH movie of all time!
WARNING: LOTS OF SPOILERS AHEAD!
12. FRIDAY THE 13TH PART VIII: JASON TAKES MANHATTAN (1989)
AKA: Mutiny on the Lazarus; Jason Balboa
Synopsis: Jason Voorhees hops on a cruise ship and heads for the Big Apple. Obscene teleportations and total idiocy ensue.
Body Count: 17 (plus one luxury liner and one “ghetto blaster”)
My Favorite Kill: A kid named Julius gets his “block knocked off” by Jason during a rooftop boxing match.
Jason portrayed by: Kane Hodder
FRIDAY THE 13TH PART VIII: JASON TAKES MANHATTAN… Oh how I loathe thee! Seriously, how do you f*ck something like this up? When you hear the title, you get all giddy and envision Jason storming throughout NYC and tearing shit up. You can picture him eviscerating street thugs, beheading valiant cops, and spreading a reign of terror unseen in the annals of horror film history. And then you watch the movie and wonder… “where did it all go wrong?”
In JASON TAKES MANHATTAN, Mr. Voorhees comes back to life in a rather convenient way (and somehow looks less worm-eaten than he did in the previous film), snags a new hockey mask, and sneaks aboard a luxury cruise liner filled with about twenty people.
But he gets to New York really quickly to start his reign of terror right? Nope! They spend the majority of the movie on that damned boat, which luckily sinks near Manhattan Island just after the third act kicks in. Instead of killing everyone in sight, Jason focuses in on the film’s main characters and briefly chases them around Manhattan, while shoving rudely past everyone else.
By this point, you’ve probably already had it with the amazing teleportations of Jason Voorhees (it reaches parody level by the end of the movie) but the filmmakers decide to kick you in the nuts one last time with a rather lame demise for cinema’s greatest slasher antihero.
Apparently toxic waste is flushed through the (rather clean) sewers of Manhattan on a nightly basis (a “C.H.U.D.” control measure perhaps?) and poor Jason gets caught in a tidal wave of green death water, turning him into an oozing skeleton with murder on its mind. Actually I’m lying. It actually turns him into a shivering child curled into the fetal position.
Seriously, the god damned teaser trailer was so amazing! HOW DID THEY MESS THIS UP?!
Yes I completely abhor this movie and have no qualms with putting it at the bottom of the list. The concept was a great one, but apparently the folks at Paramount saw this as an opportunity to finish off their bastard child once and for all. (True story: For some reason, Paramount always seemed embarrassed about the success of this series.) Luckily, this is (in my opinion) the worst of the bunch, so lets climb the ladder to the top and see what I consider to be the best of the bunch, shall we?
11. JASON GOES TO HELL: THE FINAL FRIDAY (1993)
AKA: Evil Dead IV: Jason Goes to Hell; Tumor-Man Begins
Synopsis: Jason is revealed to have demonic origins and is hunted by a bad-ass bounty hunter and a high school nerd.
Body Count: 23
My Favorite Kill: Jason gets obliterated by a S.W.A.T. army and the F.B.I.!
Jason portrayed by: Kane Hodder
You know, I almost want to put this one at the bottom of the heap as it completely changes up Jason’s origins, and also features the worst-looking Voorhees makeup in the series. Seriously, either Jason wasn’t getting enough steady slashing work, or he had a severe allergic reaction to something, because he is fat in this movie! And what is up with that damned mask?! Did his face eat it?!
In JASON GOES TO HELL, the mighty Voorhees chases after a would-be victim and steps right into a trap. (Unfortunately Admiral Ackbar was not there to warn him.) S.W.A.T. teams and F.B.I. agents surround the obese slasher and open fire, turning him into a pile of smoking debris on the ground.
As much as I would like to say that that was the end of this mega-budget fan film, I can’t because a coroner is suddenly overcome with the urge to eat Jason Voorhees’ still-beating heart. After his snack, said coroner (Richard Gant) is now possessed by the evil demonic spirit of Jason.
He then goes on a rampage, with Jason’s spirit hopping from body to body by vomiting the creature from Greydon Clark’s UNINVITED into people’s mouths. His end game is to seek resurrection through the blood of another Voorhees. All that stands between Jason and a newborn baby that happens to be a relative, is a nerdy guy and a bounty hunter (Creighton Duke, played by Steven Williams) that is familiar with Jason’s supernatural origins.
In the final act, Jason is finally resurrected when the miniature demonic critter that gives him life, leaps out of a used up host body and claws its way into Erin Gray‘s vagina. Since said woman was a blood-relation, Jason is reborn… as the rotund, grunting beast we saw at the opening of the movie? The Hell?! He mowed through roughly two dozen people to end up back where he started?!
During the climax, Jason is stabbed with the Khandarian dagger from the EVIL DEAD films (Hidden Easter Egg: Look for the Necronomicon in the ole Voorhees house!) and is dragged down into the ground by big rubbery hands. Then, just to sort of apologize for the previous hour and a half, the filmmakers toss in a quick scene where Freddy Krueger’s clawed hand pops out of the ground and grabs Jason’s hockey mask.
To be fair, it was nice to see someone try and do something different with the FRIDAY THE 13TH series, but in the end, its just a big mess of a movie. Personally, I think they should of had Jason battle a body-hopping demon rather than be said creature, and turned him into a semi-heroic figure.
That way, we would have still gotten our body count, and wouldn’t really have had to change the film’s climax too much. While battling the demon, Jason would end up defeating it’s mortal vessel, thus forcing the demon to possess his own body before he is ultimately dragged down to Hell.
Instead we get a goofy demonic Jason that looks like he’s built out of cancerous tumors.
10. JASON X (2001)
AKA: Robo-Voorhees; The Jason-ator; Uber-Jason Uber Alles
Synopsis: Jason Voorhees ends up in space, is destroyed, then gets rebuilt into an unstoppable cyborg by malfunctioning nano-technology.
Body Count: 21 (plus one virtual reality alien, two virtual reality girls, and one space station)
My Favorite Kill: Jason uses a “virtual reality girl in a sleeping bag” to beat another “virtual reality girl in a sleeping bag” to death.
Jason portrayed by: Kane Hodder
Present Day Earth: David Cronenberg and the military have captured Jason Voorhees and are running tests to see why the unstoppable mongoloid murder machine keeps ticking. Apparently Jason has a fast healing factor that would put Wolverine to shame and the military is trying to recreate it. Unfortunately for them, Jason breaks those chains that bind him and goes on a killing spree before being cryogenically frozen by (and with) Lexa Doig.
Futuristic Earth: Skip ahead to the year 2455 where a group of students on a science vessel from “Earth 2” venture to the wastelands of Ye Olde Planet Earth and discover both Lexa Doig and the Voorheescicle. The kids, not knowing what they have, bring both frozen bodies back to their ship.
Lexa’s natural hotness thaws her out, and she warns everyone about the danger that is to come. In the meantime, Jason also thaws and goes on a killing spree in his all new and confusing environment. With no options left, a squad of tough-as-nails space marines are called in to up the kill count.
Eventually Jason is defeated when one of the young students weaponizes his sexy android, Kay-Em 14. She soundly defeats the thought-to-be unstoppable killer but wait… what’s this?! Jason’s corpse fell into a nano-tech machine that heals wounded people, but because so much of his tissue has been lost, those pesky nanites decide to infuse the soon-to-be-reanimated corpse with space-age steel. (Whoops!)
In no time at all, Uber-Jason is born and causing trouble for our main characters. In the end they escape their space station before it explodes. And Jason? Well, he ends up burning up in the atmoshere of Earth 2. Whether he survived or not is unknown, but if he did, he’s probably ready to use his newly augmented body to kill futuristic campers and horny teens.
JASON X is a huge departure from all the other films and has its tongue firmly in cheek. I know quite a few fans that despise this movie, but I for one enjoy it. The filmmakers and cast are obviously not taking this movie seriously, so to truly enjoy it, you have to have that sort of mindset. This movie is dumb, but in a fun way, and if anything should be taken as a really well done fan film.
Plus, how can you truly hate any movie whose trailer is voiced over by Optimus Prime?!
9. FREDDY VS. JASON (2003)
AKA: Dead vs. Ped; Elm St. the 13th; Slasher Showdown
Synopsis: Freddy uses Jason to strike fear into the people of Springwood, then tries to kill Jason because he’s hogging all the victims.
Body Count: 22 (23 if you count Freddy; also, it is still unknown how many ravers Jason kills in the film, so the actual bodycount is higher.)
My Favorite Kill: Jason’s patented “Craftmatic Adjustable DEATH” moment in the film, when he folds a dude in half with a matress!
FREDDY VS. JASON is one of those dream films that we all talked about for days on end… when we were ten years old. When I first heard it was going into production I was quite frankly shocked, and admittedly a little excited too. When I first saw it, I mostly hated it, particularly because a lot of the dialogue (and the acting) is so awful.
The idea of this crossover is that Freddy is held in check, and super bored in limbo, because everyone in Springwood takes Hypnocil and no longer dreams. Somehow, he discovers Jason in far off Crystal Lake, and resuscitates the sleeping slasher. Posing as Pamela Voorhees, Freddy sends Jason to Springwood to start hacking through the locals, and begins to slowly make his presence known in dreams.
Freddy’s convoluted plan actually begins to work, but he is denied any murderous satisfaction because Jason is too damned single-minded to just quit killing people. So how can a bodiless dream demon put the kibosh on his sleepless foe? By possessing a stoner and using his body to inject Jason with a lethal dose of tranquilizers.
Jason zonks out and battles Freddy relentlessly in dreamland until Mr. Krueger finds Jason’s one big fear: Water. (Yeah… Seeing as how Jason spends a lot of time in the water in his undead form, this makes no sense whatsoever.)
Luckily Jason overcomes this plothole, and eventually duels with the Springwood Slasher in the real world in a fairly entertaining matchup. Seeing as how Jason is the lesser of two evils, the remaining characters in the film decide to help him defeat Freddy, resulting in Krueger’s eventual decapitation.
Looking back, though it is heavily flawed, this movie does manage to get a few things right. Jason’s nightmare sequence as a kid at Crystal Lake is particularly well done, and Robert Englund brings back the “dirty old man” version of Freddy that was sorely missing from later entries in the NIGHTMARE ON ELM ST. series.
There’s also a lot of little homages to both franchises sprinkled throughout the film that should elicit a genuine smile from you before one of the main characters says or does something completely idiotic and makes you cringe.
It’s far from perfect and it\’s not art, but damn it, this is a fun flick!
8. FRIDAY THE 13TH (2009)
AKA: Stoner Slayer; Friday the 13th: Jason Takes a Hostage
Synopsis: Jason Voorhees’ origin story is retold in this Platinum Dunes’ remake. Does this mean Freddy vs. Jason vs. Leatherface is plausible now?
Body Count: 13 (14 if you count Mrs. Voorhees in the opening sequence.)
My Favorite Kill: Jason slams a machete through a dock and buries the blade in the skull of a topless blonde.
Jason portrayed by: Derek Mears
Though I was pretty leery at first, I admit that I actively went to witness Jason’s return to the big screen on opening night. To me, it was made all the more exciting by the fact that it was the first (and last) New Line produced FRIDAY THE 13TH film that actually had “Friday the 13th” in its title!
So was it all that it was cracked up to be? Yes and no. The movie covers the original FRIDAY THE 13TH in its opening moments, with a young Jason witnessing his mother’s decapitation, then picking up a ridiculously enormous machete when the “final girl” runs off.
Years later, Jason is all “growed up” and doing what he does best to anyone that invades his territory (or steals from his gigantic stash of marijuana plants). He’s wearing a sack over his face (a la FRIDAY THE 13TH PART 2) and soon upgrades to a hockey mask, which he discovers in the attic of a redneck’s barn. (Really? That’s it? There’s no huge moment where he finds and dons the mask for the first time ever? God damn it, you scriptwriters are lazy!)
This movie doesn’t really bring much new to the table, but there are a few cool surprises. We get our first “running Jason,” which is kind of a big deal since we’re all used to him walking slowly and patiently after his victims. Also, Mr. Voorhees takes his first hostage ever, which sent a lot of fans into a rage. While there is a reason for Jason’s urge to kidnap a girl it was definitely unexpected.
Also, I thought it was kind of cool when its revealed that Jason, despite his murderous urges and physical deformity, is apparently the “Bob Villa of the slasher kingdom.” He has a massive underground bunker system throughout Crystal Lake (which explains his ability to seemingly teleport ahead of his victims), builds and sets traps, and even develops a new way to kill someone in a sleeping bag! His momma would be so proud!
All in all, this is actually a pretty decent reboot and only fails to satisfy on a few levels (e.g. Main douchebag character Trent gets his comeuppance, but it doesn’t seem like its enough.) To tell you the truth, I wouldn’t really mind if they made another one, but since this remake already (sort of) covered the first three original films, will Jason become a zombie in the next one? I guess we’ll find out on October 13th, 2017!
7. FRIDAY THE 13TH PART 2 (1981)
AKA: The Camp That Dreaded Sundown; I Am Not an Animal: The Jason Voorhees Story; The Bagman Cometh
Synopsis: Camp Crystal Lake is about to be reopened and a bag-headed Jason Voorhees will have none of it!
Body Count: 10
My Favorite Kill: Mark, the wheelchair-bound gent, gets a machete to the face and rolls backwards down a long flight of stairs. Epic!
Jason portrayed by: Warrington Gillette & Steven Dash
Out of all the original FRIDAY THE 13TH films, PART 2 has to be one of my least favorites, if only because it is a bit on the boring side. Plus Jason isn’t, shall we say, fully leveled up here, so he suffers defeat after a few embarrassing blunders. But before I get into that, lets take a quick look at this first official “Jason” film, shall we?
A fellow named Paul Holt is setting up a campground next to the remains of the infamous Camp Crystal Lake, which is now referred to as Camp Blood. He tells his staff to stay away from the abandoned campgrounds, but naturally no one listens. Soon a mysterious figure masked with a burlap sack, begins knocking off the counselors-in-training one at a time. By the end of the film, the only person left alive is Ginny Field, who manages to give “Deliverance Voorhees” a real run for his money.
She evades his attacks and manages to stay one step ahead of him until she unleashes her secret weapon: PSYCHOLOGY! You see, Ginny is studying to be a psych major and she turns the tables on her attacker when she finds his homemade shack in the woods. In the back room of the ramshackle building, there’s a shrine to Pamela Voorhees, complete with her head, rotting body, and lots of candles for mood lighting. Ginny bars the door and swipes Pam’s sweater, then pretends to be Jason’s mother once he forces his way into the room.
Jason’s mind is simply f*cked by this turn of events, allowing Ginny to grab a nearby machete and slam it into her would-be killer. She escapes with her life, but as the film ends, we see that Jason is merely wounded and though he’s in terrible pain, he’s ready to bring on some pain of his own!
I’ve had a recent change of heart with FRIDAY THE 13TH PART 2 after sponsoring it at Hudson Horror Show, and it now ranks higher than when I originally posted this list. Though it does start off slow, and has a low body count (only two more kills than its predecessor), it’s a crucial part of the series’ mythos. This is the film that gives us a flesh and blood Jason that is continuing his mother’s work! And he proves to be pretty friggin’ sneaky and clever at times for a feral kid that grew up in the woods on his own! But when he has his big battle of wits with Ginny at the climax, she really makes him look bad.
The most hilarious moment in the film comes when Jason is in Ginny’s cabin and fools her into thinking that he left. As she’s under the bed (and pissing her pants), Jason silently stands next to the bed, on a chair, with his trusty pitchfork in hand. When Ginny thinks he’s gone, she begins to crawl out, sees Jason staring down at her, and screams. Most likely feeling triumphant, Jason raises the pitchfork for the kill, when suddenly, the chair crumbles beneath his weight and he takes a spill. (“DOH!”)
This first sequel to FRIDAY THE 13TH bridges the first and third films together quite well. And although Jason doesn’t do so hot on this first killing spree (Only ten kills? I guess you can blame it on the limited visibility of the bag!), he has it almost perfected in the next installment.
That’s the first round of films from the FRIDAY THE 13TH series. CLICK HERE to find out how the remaining six movies fared as I continue my journey through cinema’s longest-running slasher franchise! If you agree (or disagree) with my rankings thus far, feel free to share your thoughts in the comments below, or over on the Vault’s Facebook and Twitter pages!