Every “Friday The 13th” Film Ranked Worst To Best

Friday the 13th is one of the most recognisable names in horror cinema. And of course the franchise features one of the genre’s most iconic and terrifying villains. Let’s check out which films are worth celebrating, which films are best avoided, and which should never have been made.

As scary movie villains go they don’t come more infamous than renowned murderer Jason Voorhees. The “curse” of Camp Crystal Lake is horrifically personified in this ski mask-wearing killer who, after drowning due to the negligence of summer camp staff, returns year after year to maim and mutilate those who dare to visit for the season.

Sean S. Cunningham got the franchise started with his 1980 effort, a film that contributed to the slasher film craze of the late 1970s and throughout the 1980s. The genre slowly died by the end of the decade only to be revitalised by Wes Craven and Kevin Williamson with the creation of self-referential horror Scream (which spawned its own franchise).

Trawling through the Friday the 13th films reveals a couple of things. Firstly, watching so many bloody horror films in a row is bad for your mental health. It’s exhausting. Secondly, despite the franchise’s notoriety and cult success, the films aren’t very good. Formulas are repeated, characters are cut from cardboard, and logic is thrown out the window.

But that’s what I’m here for. I’ve watched all the Friday the 13th films back-to-back to sort the good from the bad and the ugly.

12. Friday The 13th – A New Beginning (Part V) (Danny Steinmann, 1985, USA)

Friday the 13th, part 5, a new beginningThe worst film of the entire franchise is Friday the 13th – A New Beginning. It’s the fifth Friday the 13th film to be release. It ended former pornography director Danny Steinmann’s mainstream film career who, in upping the exploitation beyond bearable levels, produced a plotless, characterless mess built to titillate and amuse lowbrow lovers with gore and nudity. It really is awful.

11. Jason Goes To Hell: The Final Friday (Adam Marcus, 1993, USA)

The only Friday the 13th film to be released in the 1990s after Paramount had dumped the franchise only for it to be picked up by New Line Cinema, Jason Goes To Hell: The Final Friday has very little going for it. Enthusiasm for the genre and the character was low anyway but by removing Jason Voorhees from the story as a physical character, director Adam Marcus also suffered the chagrin of seasoned fans. Here, Jason’s spirit is used to make killers out various characters through possession. The supernatural element doesn’t work in part because of the director’s inexperience as well as the studio’s inability to know exactly what to do with the franchise or where to take it in future.

10. Friday The 13th (Marcus Nispel, 2009, USA)

Top 10 Horror Film RemakesThere’s very little to recommend this remake. It will introduce modern audiences to the franchise and has that contemporary gloss that differentiates it from the murky film stock used on the low budget original. But for fans of the series, it offers little invention, its plot bringing together elements previously seen in parts one through four. Backstory hinders rather than complements and Voorhees is given new character traits (such as physical speed) that limit the effectiveness of his traditional menace.

9. Friday The 13th Part VIII: Jason Takes Manhattan (Rob Heddon, 1989, USA)

Every “Friday The 13th” Film Ranked Worst To BestA terrible mess that lacks any sort of plot but at least Jason gets to leave Camp Crystal Lake for a nightly excursion to the big city. There’s some nice special-effects towards the end but you’d have fallen asleep by the time they arrive.

8. Freddy Versus Jason (Ronny Yu, 2003, USA)

I suppose this should get extra points for being the notable – and, in some quarters, much anticipated – head-to-head between two of horror cinema’s most iconic villains. But it’s so boring. It’s a gimmicky piece of rubbish that on paper seems like a crowd-pleaser but lacks any sense of fun. It probably arrived too late following the genre’s renewed popularity in the 1990s and as a result lacks enough of that self-referential styling that made Scream such a delight.

7. Friday The 13th – Part III (Steve Miner, 1982, USA)

Freddy Versus Jason wasn’t the only time the franchise had turned to gimmicks in an attempt to remain fresh. 3D was an emerging fad in 1982. Even by 21st century standards, 3D is largely a waste of time in feature films. However, 3D in 1982 is even worse. Director Steve Miner, who had previously made Friday the 13th Part 2, knows his way around a camera (and a good film) but he’s short-changed here as a result of the studio’s desire to add 3D to the mix. It means we get thrown out of the story by things artificially coming out of the screen. Apart from that gimmicky addition, the film is largely a rehash of what happened in the previous film making it almost pointless.

6. Jason X (James Isaac, 2001, USA)

Jason X is a surprise. It’s a surprise because it’s actually quite entertaining. It’s a crazy assortment of outlandish ideas hinged on a formulaic plot. As a slasher film it’s a rather turgid affair, and it isn’t very scary. But the playful use of Jason Voorhees as a villain gives the tenth instalment of the franchise an added energy and a postmodern vibe inspired by the self-referential success of 1996’s Scream. Fans of the original film might be put off by the villain becoming a comic sideshow that’s used to point fun at. But, it’s an enjoyable mishmash of teen slasher cliché and science-fiction intrigue. The crazy last 20 minutes might the franchise’s most memorable.

5. Friday The 13th Part VII: The New Blood (John Buechler, 1988, USA)

The franchise was running out of steam by 1988 but it did have life left in it courtesy of a Carrie meets Friday the 13th premise that injected something new into the formula. It’s a shame it remains under-developed but it means Part VII stands out amongst the others in the series.

4. Friday The 13th – Part II (Steve Miner, 1981, USA)

Funnily enough, this is the first film in which Jason Voorhees is the killer. The iconic horror movie villain is not the bad guy in the original film so Part 2 gets the distinction of introducing us to him. It’s basically a rehash of the first film. It’s similarly satisfying without that infamous last minute twist.

3. Jason Lives: Friday The 13th Part VI (Tom McLoughlin, 1986, USA)

Every “Friday The 13th” Film Ranked Worst To BestDirector Tom McLoughlin was a fledgling director when he made Jason Lives: Friday the 13th Part VI but, despite not going on to a successful Hollywood film career, he shows an ability to string together a coherent plot and deliver one of the more enjoyable movies of the franchise.

2. Friday The 13th – The Final Chapter (Part IV) (Joseph Zito, 1984, USA)

The second best Friday the 13th film is the fourth in the series. The Final Chapter stars a young Corey Feldman who has to come to his older sister’s aid when Jason takes a fancy to her. This is silly fun from a director – Joseph Zito – who knew a thing or two about exciting audiences eager for exploitation cinema having previously made The Prowler in 1981 and later high concept action-adventure with Invasion USA, Missing In Action and Red Scorpion. The film follows a very similar path to those that preceded it, however, it’s a better film than Part III and the most enjoyable of the sequels.

1. Friday The 13th (Sean S. Cunningham, 1980, USA)

Friday the 13th, Film, Original, poster/image, part 1The raw and bloody original was a lot less influential than people think. It was massively inspired by John Carpenter’s Halloween and not nearly as good. But the genre has always been about exploitation and Friday the 13th is founded on this approach. As a result it remains one of the defining and memorable slasher films because it effectively utilised, therefore defining, the conventions of the genre. It’s all there – final girl, sex and promiscuity, violence, gore, inventive deaths, running around in the dark alone screaming “I’ll be right back”. And it has an ending as unforgettable as they come.

Over to you: how would you rank the Friday the 13th films?

Written and Compiled by Dan Stephens

Dan Stephens
About the Author
Dan Stephens is the founder and editor of Top 10 Films. He's usually pondering his next list, often inspired by his adoration for 1980s Hollywood, a time-travelling DeLorean and an adventurous archaeologist going by the name Indiana.

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  1. Avatar
    Dan Grant Reply

    I’m going to respectfully disagree with you Dan. Friday the 13th was a lot more influential that you give it credit for. Halloween took horror to different levels and gave it all kinds of exposure but the similarities between Friday and Halloween are minimal. I just finished reading On Location in Blairstown, the Making of Friday the 13th. And it goes into great detail as to how not only the film was made but how it changed the landscape of horror. Halloween was a bloodless, suspenseful film. Friday the 13th was full of gore, latex, incredible practical effects and it made a star out of Tom Savini. I’m taking nothing away from Halloween, because it is my favourite horror movie, but Friday’s influence, imo, and from what I have read, is at least on par with or perhaps even greater than Halloweens. You can even go back a bit further and look at some of Mario Bava’s work (which some claim influenced Cunningham but he denies). He made one film in 1971 called Bay of Blood that has a lot of the typical horror movie tropes. There’s even an impalement scene exactly like the one in Friday the 13th part II. But I digress.

    Halloween came out first so it gets a lot of credit for shaping horror for years to come, but Friday the 13th did so many things differently. And the way I see it, so in my humble opinion, Friday the 13th was more responsible for horror as it was shaped in the early 80’s than Halloween was.

    But, that’s the beauty of film, we all have an opinion and that’s what makes these lists so much fun.

    • Dan
      Dan Reply

      I suppose Friday the 13th deserves credit for influencing independent cinema’s attempts to rekindle its financial success. But I’ve always felt Bob Clark’s brilliant Black Christmas got the slasher genre ball rolling. It, alongside Halloween and Texas Chainsaw Massacre, were the genre’s big influencing factors for its 80s heyday.

      • Avatar
        Dan Grant Reply

        I have a lot of love for Black Christmas and Texas. But I don’t think they really had the same influence as Halloween and Friday did for 80’s slasher films. But just a difference of opinion. I could talk horror movies all day with you, Dan. I think a trip to England is in my cards perhaps later this year. We must get together for drinks and horror movie discussion.

  2. Avatar
    Dan Grant Reply

    For what it’s worth, here’s my ranking of them:

    12) Friday the 13th : Jason Takes Manhattan: A horrible film with one cool kill, the rest is absolute rubbish.

    11) Jason Goes to Hell: The beginning felt like a real Friday the 13th movie, the rest didn’t.

    10) Jason X: Jason in space? Oh boy.

    9) Friday the 13th 7: No blood, no nudity, and Kane Hodder is a horrible Jason.

    8) Friday the 13th 6: The last of the passable Friday’s. But director McLoughlin goes for comedy instead of horror. There’s some really good stuff in here, like the last 20 minutes and the kill where Jason snaps the sheriff in half is one of the best Friday kills.

    7) Friday the 13th (2009): I thought Platinum Dunes and director Nispel did a fine job with the remake. They had the right formula and they took a few risks. It had some great kills and some good characters that you were happy to see die.

    6) Friday the 13th Part V: Yep, this has a very bad reputation. It has Roy as the killer. It has an ambulance driver as the killer….WTF. And yet there is something endearing about this one. Somewhere out there, is a version of the film that is much more bloody and gruesome than the one we have all seen. I know most dont share this opinion, but this one was a good entry into the series. It has more kills than usual, beautiful people, and a great score. I love junior and his filthy mother and seeing him lose his head was one of the best parts of the movie.

    5) Freddy vs Jason: The two icons meet and battle it out. So much fun. I remember hooting at this one when watching it in the theatre.

    4) Friday the 13th part II: Steve Miner helped produce the first and takes over the reigns in this one. You can tell he loves the franchise as he puts a good effort into this one. There are some really inventive deaths and some truly horrific moments. The final twenty minutes is terrific.

    3) Friday the 13th part III: Jason gets his mask. Shelly is comic relief. And it has one of the best kills in film history as Andy meets an untimely and painful death walking on his hands.

    2) Friday the 13th (1980). Sean Cunningham took out a full page add in Variety in 1979 saying that the scariest film ever made was going to be released in November of 1979. He had no script, no funding, no actors and just a slight idea of what the film was going to be about. He hired Tom savini for 15K and then went out and made horror movie history. Friday the 13th is one of the most influential horror films of all time.

    1) The Final Chapter: Tom Savini returned so he could kill Jason, and boy does he ever. The Final Chapter is directed beautifully by Joe Zito and he lets Jason loose. The kills are violent and poetic to watch. Add in a terrific cast that includes George McFly and the final chapter is the best Friday the 13th film, imo.

  3. Avatar
    Dan Grant Reply

    Now, having said all of that….thanks for writing this one, Dan. I always enjoy your opinions, even if we disagree sometimes. I love that you have seen all the Friday the 13th’s. And it’s a well written article.

  4. Avatar
    Mark Fraser Reply

    Sorry, I got lost at: “Director Steve Miner … knows his way around a camera (and a good film).” A camera perhaps … Not a fan of the franchise, but now interested in seeing Jason X.

    I did watched No 4 on video in the early 1990s after seeing Tom Savini rave about the head-sliding-down-a-machete climatic moment on the Scream Greats doco. Of course, as was common at that time, it had been trimmed by the Australian video censors.

    “The raw and bloody original was a lot less influential than people think.” It’s not that I also disagree with this, but I think it’s not as raw and bloody as it used to be – events in the gore genre have well and truly surpassed it. Last year I bought a $2.50 second hand two disc set of the original. It was still rated R, but this was because of “medium level violence”.

    • Dan
      Dan Reply

      Maybe I gave Miner too much credit. I revisited H20 after writing this and realised it wasn’t as good as I remembered. In fact, I switched it before the end. But he’s still got Forever Young and Lake Placid on that CV. Oh, and erm, Big Bully!

  5. Avatar
    Dan Grant Reply

    Steve Miner has been working steadily since he was a PA on Last House the Left. He’s done a lot of TV work including the Wonder Years and Dawson’s Creek. He also, as Dan said, did Forever Young and Lake Placid. You can add House and Soul Man into the conversation as well. I’ve always liked Miner’s work.

  6. Avatar
    Lenny Reply

    You lost me when you you listed Part 5 at the bottom. There is really only one reason that it gets so much hate from fans of the franchise and that is because *spoiler alert* Jason is not the killer in the film. Sure it’s an awful reveal , but the rest of the film is just like any of the early Friday the 13 films. It’s stupid, but no more stupid than zombie Jason or demon worm Jason or space Jason.

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