Before you continue, if you haven’t read PART ONE of my FRIDAY THE 13TH rankings, then CLICK HERE to get caught up! If you already have read that entry, then continue onward and see what I consider to be the six best FRIDAY THE 13TH films ever made!
6. FRIDAY THE 13TH (1980)
AKA: Serial Mom; Birth of a Franchise
Synopsis: When porn-mustachioed Steve Christy attempts to reopen the “cursed” Camp Crystal Lake, people start dying!
Body Count: 8
My Favorite Kill: Everyone always picks the “arrow through Kevin Bacon’s throat” kill, but my fave is when his gal Marcie gets a hatchet to the face!
Jason portrayed by: Ari Lehman
Pamela Voorhess portrayed by: Betsy Palmer
With the success of John Carpenter’s HALLOWEEN, many filmmakers and production companies sought to jump on the gravy train, leading to a seemingly endless stream of slasher flicks all throughout the 80s. Out of the maelstrom of dime-a-dozen slasher films, one little movie in particular ended up becoming a huge hit.
It utilized the stalking-POV technique from HALLOWEEN, but kept the killer’s identity a mystery up to the end. And it delivered some of the most shocking and memorable onscreen deaths seen at the time.
That movie of course, was FRIDAY THE 13TH! The story is a simple one: Camp Crystal Lake is closed down after two teens are murdered by a mysterious killer, then years later the camp is reopened by an optimistic fellow by the name of Steve Christy.
He has a group of teens come to the camp to get the place fixed up in time for its grand opening, and things go smoothly until Christy leaves the camp to run some errands. It seems that the killer has returned and soon the counselors are all being violently dispatched, one by one.
The film reaches a crescendo when Alice (Adrienne King) realizes she may be the very last person alive in the camp. She comes under attack from the unseen adversary and ends up running into a kindly older woman named Pamela Voorhees (Betsy Palmer).
At first Pam seems nice enough and very sympathetic to Alice’s situation, and then she just off the rails! What follows is one of the greatest climaxes in all of horror history!
For a very long time, I had written off the original FRIDAY THE 13TH as the weakest film of the series. But after revisiting it in recent years, I’ve discovered that this is a great little movie, and I have a newfound appreciation for it. It may not have started the slasher sub-genre, but it most certainly inspired many of the films that have been made since its release.
It’s a milestone of filmmaking, and provides a simplistic (and nearly perfect) blueprint as to what a slasher film is supposed to be. Plus it was the first in the series to feature the amazing music of the extremely talented Harry Manfredini (who also created the iconic “ki ki ki ma ma ma” sound heard in every film) and early makeup f/x work by Tom Savini!
Even if it isn’t your favorite film in the franchise, you best respect FRIDAY THE 13TH!
5. FRIDAY THE 13TH PART 3D (1982)
AKA: Jason Pokes You in the Eye; Friday the 13th Part Gimmick
Synopsis: Jason pulls himself together after the events of Part 2 and slays a houseful of partying kids and a trio of bikers.
Body Count: 12 (13 if you count Debbie’s unborn child.)
My Favorite Kill: Andy walks down a hallway on his hands and is punished with a machete to the junk! OUCH!
Jason portrayed by: Richard Brooker
FRIDAY THE 13TH PART 3D was when the franchise really started to pick up steam. All cheesy 3D effects aside, this one featured some of the coolest kills in the series, and introduces Jason as not only a serial killing juggernaut but as a possible rapist too. (More on that in a moment.)
PART 3 takes place right where the previous film left off, with Jason still at large after being psyched out by Ginny. He makes his way back into the woods surrounding Crystal Lake and happens upon a little cabin (complete with creepy red barn) where a gal named Chris and some of her friends plan on having a weekend getaway.
Of course, you know how things are going to go, but this entry into the FRIDAY THE 13TH series holds a few surprises for us viewers. First off, this movie came out during a short-lived period where 3D was all the rage (unfortunately, that gimmick has seen a resurgence and we, the filmgoing public, are getting screwed over because of it), so a lot of things come directly at the camera including yo-yos, eyeballs, garden tools, and at one point, even a fake rattlesnake.
Even though the 3D version is now readily available on DVD (and Blu-ray!), most people have only seen the normal “2D” version, which makes most of the 3D scenes look really cheap. But if anything, that works in the movie’s favor as these scenes provide a bit of unintentional comedic relief from the film’s more horrific elements.
Also, there’s a flashback sequence in the film where Chris reveals that she already had a run-in with Mr. Voorhees in the past. This provides some insight into why she gives her boyfriend the cold shoulder whenever he’s looking for a little action. Apparently its because she ran away from home one fateful night and got lost in the woods, only to come across a large, deformed man.
We get a brief glimpse of the events as they unfolded, and its hinted that she has become a total prude because of something Jason may have done to her. Yes, you read that right folks: Jason Voorhees is a rapist!
Another cool thing about the movie is that Jason has improved his game significantly since the last film, and seems nearly unstoppable this time around. My theory is that he got a renewed sense of self-confidence after donning his trademark hockey mask for the first time. This is understandable, because it kind of looks bad-ass and hides his freakish face, plus it is easier to see out of than a burlap sack!
At the film’s climax, Chris is that last one standing and manages to not only (unsuccessfully) hang Jason, but bury a freakin’ axe in his skull! This seems to stop the Voorhees Death Machine but Chris is forever mentally and emotionally scarred and trips some major balls before the cops show up to scratch their heads in confusion.
This entry is easily one of my favorites in the franchise, and features one of the best Jason portrayers to date: Richard Brooker. His version of Jason Voorhees is frighteningly intelligent, swift, and brutal, and every time he’s on the screen, he commands your full attention. This movie also boasts a pretty rockin’ soundtrack and if you have the chance, check it out in 3D. It actually looks pretty cool!
4. FRIDAY THE 13TH PART VII: THE NEW BLOOD (1988)
AKA: Carrie vs. Jason; Weekend at Voorhees’
Synopsis: Jason, still chained beneath Crystal Lake, is accidentally resurrected by a girl with telekinetic powers. Now its up to her to put Jason back where he belongs.
Kill Count: 15 (16 if you count Tina’s dad in the beginning.)
My Favorite Kill: A girl in sleeping bag gets bashed against a tree.
Jason portrayed by: Kane Hodder
Once my all-time favorite FRIDAY THE 13TH film, THE NEW BLOOD has since dropped in the rankings after I recently revisited several entries into this franchise. Directed by John Carl Buechler (TROLL, CELLAR DWELLER, THE DUNGEONMASTER, et al.), this particular movie features my all-time favorite Jason Voorhees makeup f/x.
Taking place about a decade after the events of JASON LIVES, THE NEW BLOOD begins with an amazing intro chronicling the legend of Jason Voorhees. (Opening introduction narrated by “Crazy Ralph” himself, Walt Gorney!)
Afterwards, we meet a young girl named Tina. During an argument between her folks, Tina races out of the house, hops in a boat, and paddles out into Crystal Lake. (And yes, our favorite hockey-masked zombie is still quietly chained below.) Tina’s dad comes outside to apologize and get his daughter back to the safety of dry land, but is ultimately killed when the dock beneath him is collapsed by Tina’s apparent telekinetic abilities.
The film then leaps ahead another decade or so, and Tina is now a troubled “teen,” trying to deal with her telekinesis. Her therapist, Dr. Crews (Terry Kiser from WEEKEND AT BERNIE’S!) has brought her and her mother (Susan Blu, the voice of Arcee from the animated TRANSFORMERS!) to Crystal Lake to confront her fears and get a grip on her dangerously unpredictable powers.
And then disaster strikes. Tina, fed up with Dr. Crews, and upset that she can’t be normal like the partying coeds in the cabin next door, decides to try and bring her dad back with her powers. (Wait, huh? They never recovered the body?!)
She instead frees Jason and brings him back to life yet again, but this time our main machete man is in pretty rough shape. His clothing is tattered, his flesh is rotting (some of his bones are even visible), and there’s not much mask left to cover his horrifying visage. Tina faints, and Jason ventures off into the woods around Crystal Lake to begin the body count anew.
The movie plays out like your typical FRIDAY THE 13TH from this point on, with Jason dispatching horny teens in a variety of fun ways. (e.g. He bashes a girl in a sleeping bag against a tree, slams a party horn into another girl’s eye-socket, and uses a motorized tree-trimming saw to eviscerate the much-despised Dr. Crews.)
During the thrilling climax, Jason has taken out everyone except for Tina and her love interest, Nick. Trapped, with no chance of escape, Tina begins putting her telekinetic powers to use and gives Jason the beating of his (un)life! He gets hit with a mentally-thrown couch, strangled by sentient electrical wire, knocked through a staircase, blasted with nails, set on fire, and has the roof over a front porch dropped right on his head. (A stunt that almost nearly killed Kane Hodder!)
But even after all of that punishment, Jason just keeps coming. With no other tricks up her sleeve, Tina tries to resurrect her father again, which surprisingly works! Her (slightly mossy?) zombie-dad bursts up through the dock, wraps a chain around Jason’s neck, and drags him back to his resting place underwater.
THE NEW BLOOD had it pretty rough before its initial release in movie theaters. There were some big script changes (believe it or not, this was originally intended to be FREDDY VS. JASON!) disagreements over certain scenes in the film between John Buechler and the producers (in the ending, Tina’s father was supposed to be as horrifically decomposed as Jason), and the film was “raped” by the MPAA.
Just about every death in the film was pared-down so that this film could receive its “R” rating for its theatrical release! Worst of all, a lot the uncut footage has gone missing, so we may never get to see a fully unrated version of the film! Despite all of that though, I consider this to be one the best of the bunch, with great makeup effects (by John Buechler), a cool little storyline, and some very satisfying (though heavily edited) kills.
3. FRIDAY THE 13TH PART V: A NEW BEGINNING (1985)
AKA: Death LARP; Friday the Faux-teenth
Synopsis: Years after his duel with Jason Voorhees, Tommy Jarvis ends up at a house for troubled teens, where the killings begin anew…
Kill Count: 20 (22 if you count the two guys that die in Tommy’s dream)
My Favorite Kill: A gent named Eddie gets his head crushed… WITH A LEATHER BELT! (As seen HERE.)
Jason portrayed by: Tom Morga
I’m sure many of you are surprised by the inclusion of this particular film in the top five. FRIDAY THE 13TH PART V: A NEW BEGINNING is very much the black sheep of the series, as it is the only one that (SPOILER ALERT!!!) does not feature Jason Voorhees.
Actually, let me rephrase that: This is the only film to not feature the REAL Jason Voorhees. That fact alone has made this movie one of the least loved in the franchise, but I urge all of you NEW BEGINNING haters to reconsider your opinions on this movie.
The film opens with a cool nightmare sequence where Jason steps forth from the grave and kills two people, while a slightly older Corey Feldman looks on in terror. We discover that its been years since the demise of Mr. Voorhees, and now Tommy Jarvis is a “troubled teen” that is on his way to a halfway house.
But things do not go smoothly for Tommy because soon after his arrival, one of his fellow roommates (the doughy, chocolate-loving Joey) is hacked up with an axe by another patient that has obvious anger management issues.
This unexpected murder sets off a chain reaction, and soon a certain hockey-masked maniac begins cutting a swathe of vengeance throughout the area. Eventually, the cast gets thinned down to Tommy, Reggie the Reckless (Shavar Ross), and Pam who all battle Jason in an old barn. (A nod towards Part 3D perhaps?)
Despite being injured numerous times, the masked killer impressively keeps coming, and chases the trio of survivors up into the hay loft. It is here that Tommy comes face to face with his greatest fear… and pusses out. Instead of attacking Jason, Tommy goes catatonic until slashed across the abdomen with a machete.
With Tommy out of the way, Jason goes after his remaining targets but is thwarted after Tommy finally grows a pair and shoves Jason out of the loft and down onto a tractor harrow. As the three survivors glance down, they discover that (SPOILER ALERT AGAIN!!!) there is no monster behind the mask.
Nope! Turns out that the killer is actually a paramedic that we briefly see earlier in the film. This guy’s name is Roy, and Joey (the chocolate-eating buffoon that literally ‘got the axe’) was his son. Apparently Roy decided that the best way to express his grief was to impersonate a dead serial killer and murder as many people as he could.
As the film ends, Pam visits Tommy at the hospital where he’s recuperating from his wounds. However as she enters his room, she discovers that the window has been broken and that Tommy is missing. As she ventures closer to the window to investigate, Tommy steps out from behind the door. He’s armed with a butcher knife, and is wearing Roy’s hockey mask!
The idea behind this cliffhanger ending was that future installments of the FRIDAY THE 13TH series would feature an ongoing curse, where someone new would take up the hockey mask each time. This idea was abandoned (mostly because PART V’s poor critical reception), though it was sort of resurrected years later in JASON GOES TO HELL.
A NEW BEGINNING is one of the better films in the series in my opinion. I think it gets unfair treatment from a lot of fans, if only because of the ending. Truthfully, if that bothers you at all, then compare the handiwork of Roy to Jason and tell me that the grieving paramedic sullied Jason’s name in any way. If anything, this guy could teach Jason Voorhees a thing or two about killing folks!
Roy takes some punishment and keeps coming at the finale, and he pulls off some truly inventive kills (e.g. a road flare is shoved into a guy’s mouth; one guy’s head is crushed with a leather belt; Demon’s outhouse impaling) and also utilizes the old tried and true methods of slicing, stabbing, and gouging.
But with Jason dead and gone, and with Roy pushing up daisies, how can the series continue onward? Sure Tommy may end up being the killer in the next movie, but he’ll probably die too. I suppose all that’s left to do is bring Jason back from the grave!
2. FRIDAY THE 13TH PART VI: JASON LIVES (1986)
AKA: Man With the Golden Machete; The Tommy Jarvis Chronicles
Synopsis: Tommy Jarvis, now in his 20’s and fresh out of a mental institution, accidentally brings Jason back from the dead!
Kill Count: 18
My Favorite Kill: Oh gosh… what to pick, what to pick… I guess I’ll go with Sheriff Garris getting folded in half by Jason. Ouchie!
Jason portrayed by: C.J. Graham and Dan Bradley
Two years after Jason’s actual demise, Paramount decided to literally bring him back from the dead. FRIDAY THE 13TH PART VI: JASON LIVES is where the series began its spiral into self-referential humor, with several slapstick deaths, and a James Bond parody during the opening credits.
In this film, Tommy Jarvis (played by RETURN OF THE LIVING DEAD star, Thom Matthews) returns and is now a somewhat stable adult, looking to bury his childhood fears forever. To do this, he feels that he must dig up the rotting corpse of Jason Voorhees, just to make sure he’s dead. (Sort of ironic, no?)
Enlisting the help of an unnamed sidekick, Tommy digs up Jason, then attacks the corpse with a rod ripped from the nearby cemetery fence. As he walks away to grab some gasoline, a bolt of lightning from an oncoming storm hits the rod. In true Frankenstein fashion, Jason comes back to murderous life. Tommy escapes (but his buddy isn’t so lucky) and tries to alert the authorities, only to get thrown in prison.
Jason then methodically stomps through the woods, back to Camp Crystal Lake (which is now known as Camp Forest Green) killing goofy paintballers and other unfortunate victims along the way. Tommy, with the aid of the Sheriff’s daughter, escapes his cell and heads off to the former Camp Blood to save the day. But how can you kill someone that is already dead, and was already hard enough to kill when he was alive? The truth is, you can’t. So, Tommy does the next best thing.
He lures Jason out into Crystal Lake, and then chains the zombiefied killer to a large rock. During their struggle, Jason snaps Tommy’s boat in two, then drags his arch-nemesis underwater. Tommy struggles to free himself from the undead anchor until he expires.
Sheriff Garris’ daughter then dives into the lake to save Tommy, and as she begins pulling his body towards shore, Jason grabs her leg. As she attempts to free herself from her attacker, she grabs onto the back half of Tommy’s boat and manages to get the motor running.
She aims the propeller at Jason, whose face and neck are promptly chopped up by the spinning blades, causing him to convulse violently underwater. Eventually Jason goes limp and silently remains in his watery grave until the next movie.
JASON LIVES is a big favorite amongst fans, because it’s such an entertaining spoof of slasher films. It has some of the most memorable kills, a great cast, an eerie score, a theme song written and performed by Alice Cooper, and features one of the best incarnations of Jason I’ve seen to date.
C.J. Graham portrays Jason as an unstoppable killing machine that fears nothing, and sets a pretty high standard for anyone else playing the role in future films. But as enjoyable as this one is, it isn’t my absolute favorite of the bunch. That honor is reserved for what was intended to be the “Final Friday.”
1. FRIDAY THE 13TH PART IV: THE FINAL CHAPTER (1984)
AKA: Feldman the 13th; Dead F*ck McFly
Synopsis: Jason escapes from a hospital morgue and returns to Camp Crystal Lake to terrorize “Mouth” from THE GOONIES and George McFly!
Kill Count: 13 (14 if you count Jason himself.)
My Favorite Kill: Seeing George McFly get a cleaver to the face is good; seeing Jason fall to the floor and have a machete slowly slice through his skull is even better!
Jason portrayed by: Ted White
All the previously discussed films brought something new to the series, but in my opinion THE FINAL CHAPTER surpasses them all. The production here has a slicker feel, the makeup and gore effects were done by the ingenious Tom Savini, and Jason has finally come into his own as a serial slasher. He is downright untouchable.
Picking up where number three left off, Jason’s body is taken to a nearby hospital morgue. Feeling restless, the homicidal hulk kills a horny doctor and nurse, then ventures back to the wilds of Crystal Lake to punish more promiscuous teens. Among these soon-to-be victims is George McFly himself, Crispin Glover, who steals the show as a nerdy guy who worries about his sexual prowess and dances like he’s having an epileptic seizure.
Another big name in the cast is a very young Corey Feldman who plays Jason’s eventual arch-nemesis, Tommy Jarvis. Tommy is a whiz-kid that has an obsession with monster movies and makes his own creature masks. While that may sound like a useless hobby now, I assure you that it comes in handy later.
Jason, as usual, begins picking off victims one by one, until all that is left is Tommy, his older sister Trish, and a fellow named Rob who has actually been hunting Jason to avenge the death of his sister. Jason ends up making short work of Rob (“He’s killing meeeee!”), then goes after Trish, who holds her own long enough for Tommy to devise a plan.
Tommy, using sketches from a newspaper article, shaves his head and puts on a bit of makeup to make himself look like a young Jason. Though the end result makes him look more like a miniature Uncle Fester, Jason is jarred by the sight of Tommy and is distracted long enough for Trish to make her move.
She takes a swing at Jason with a machete, and during the awkward moment following his unmasking, Tommy picks up the machete and plants it firmly in the Jason’s face. Shocked, the marauding mongoloid falls face-first to the floor, and slowly drives the edged weapon deeper into his skull. Even after that, Jason shows some signs of life, so (the now mentally disturbed) Tommy continues to hack away!
THE FINAL CHAPTER is one of the absolute best in the FRIDAY THE 13TH series, and would have ended it all on a high note. A lot of love and attention went into this film, and it really shows. However, where there’s a will (i.e. a buttload of money to be made) there’s a way, and if Michael Myers and Freddy could keep coming back, then why not Jason too?!
Admittedly, this two-part list is merely my own personal evaluation of the FRIDAY THE 13TH series, and is in no way a definitive ranking. While I may believe that JASON TAKES MANHATTAN is at the bottom of the heap, and THE FINAL CHAPTER is all the way at the top, you may not. So if you disagree with me, then by all means feel free to share your thoughts below, or over at the Vault’s Facebook and Twitter pages!
Thanks for reading fellow slasher fans and Happy Friday the 13th!