Total Recall

Rank Every Friday the 13th Movie

We count down every movie in the Friday the 13th franchise by Tomatometer.

by | October 11, 2017 | Comments

Every Friday is special in the film world, but this week, the calendar brings us to a particularly important date: Friday the 13th, otherwise known as the day horror buffs will forever associate with the gruesome antics of one Jason Voorhees. This year finds the hockey-masked killer continuing his long hiatus away from theaters, but we aren’t letting that keep us from taking a look back at the Friday the 13th franchise ranked according to Tomatometer — or inviting you to rank your personal favorites along the way. Ki ki ki ma ma ma, it’s time for Total Recall!


1. Friday the 13th (1980) 59%

(Photo by Paramount Pictures courtesy Everett Collection)

As ludicrous as later installments in the series became, the first Friday the 13th is downright elegant in its brutal simplicity. Put some kids in a remote location, let them get down to hormonal hijinks for a spell, and then wham! — unleash the bloody terror. Like the majority of the franchise that quickly followed, this Friday takes place at Camp Crystal Lake, where counselors gather to try and get the place back open after decades of disrepair. Turns out it’s been closed for a good reason: the “death curse” that followed after a boy drowned while a pair of careless supervisors were off horndogging. Unfortunately for our young cast (including a then-unknown Kevin Bacon), that curse is still very much in effect — in fact, it’s being carried out by the former camp cook, Pamela Voorhees, whose son Jason was the drowning victim. It’s as effective as it is exploitative, blending teen T&A with the elemental (albeit deranged) love of a mother driven to murder, and although it varies from subsequent installments in some key respects — most notably the change in antagonist that followed after Jason rose from his watery grave to continue the slaughter — it laid the low-budget template for a film series that helped define slasher thrills for the decade to follow. “For all its shoddiness, the film manages, just barely, to achieve its ignoble goals,” wrote the Chicago Reader’s Dave Kehr. “It delivers what it promises.”

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2. Friday the 13th, Part VI - Jason Lives (1986) 52%

(Photo by Paramount Pictures)

Later Friday films relied increasingly on progressively more ridiculous changes in setting, but the franchise’s mid-period installments were partly defined by the long conflict between Jason Voorhees and Tommy Jarvis, the young man who killed him in 1984’s erroneously titled Friday the 13th: The Final Chapter. After attempting to pivot away from Jason as the bad guy in 1985’s A New Beginning, the series got back to its roots the following year, reanimating the lumbering killer courtesy of a freak accident in a graveyard that occurs after Tommy — still haunted by dreams of Jason — digs up his corpse during a rainstorm and stabs him in the chest with a fencepost just in time for lightning to strike. By embracing the utter ridiculousness that the franchise required in order to keep going, Jason Lives earned the best reviews since the first Friday, all while cutting a path for its iconic villain to continue carving up campers indefinitely. “Is it a great horror picture? Oh, no,” admitted Ken Hanke for the Mountain Xpress. “Though within the confines of an artistically dubious series, it’s like a work of minor genius.”

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3. Freddy vs. Jason (2003) 41%

(Photo by New Line Cinema courtesy Everett Collection)

By the turn of the century, both Freddy Krueger and Jason Voorhees had seen better days at the box office, so after years of rumors and false starts, it was the perfect time for the slasher duo to pool their resources and deliver their long-awaited crossover movie. Enter 2003’s aptly named Freddy vs. Jason, in which Krueger — his powers at a low ebb after the teens of Springwood forget about him — uses Jason as his killing machine by proxy in order to get his murderous mojo back. Unfortunately for him, some of his would-be victims figure out that if they lure Freddy in to the real world, they can manipulate the two into fighting each other, thus setting up the battle royale horror fans of the ’80s had long imagined during years of debating who’d win. The results weren’t exactly a critical winner, but they offered enough gory fun for genre fans like Tom Long of the Detroit News, who wrote, “It’s bloody, it’s loud, it’s gratuitous, and it’s ridiculous. Sweet.”

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4. Friday the 13th Part 2 (1981) 34%

(Photo by Paramount Pictures courtesy Everett Collection)

As the credits rolled on the first Friday the 13th, Pamela Voorhees was dead — and so was Jason, presumably, given that his drowning decades before was what inspired his mom’s grief-driven murder spree. But the box office demanded a sequel, so for the following year’s Friday the 13th Part 2, Jason took over as the chief antagonist, sending a new group of libidinous camp counselors screaming to the great beyond. Like its predecessor, Part 2 sees the franchise still finding its feet; for instance, without his soon-to-be-signature hockey mask, Jason spends most of the movie lurching around with a burlap sack over his face. Still, the end result proved audiences would continue to turn out for this stuff on an annual basis as long as the filmmakers kept sending unsuspecting teens to Camp Crystal Lake for slaughter. “Yes, it’s a cheesy slasher film,” wrote Eric Goldman for IGN. “But you know that going in, and this is a well-done example of the genre.”

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5. Friday the 13th Part VII - The New Blood (1988) 30%

(Photo by Paramount Pictures courtesy Everett Collection)

After enjoying a critical rebound with Jason Lives — and officially turning the franchise’s star into a superhuman killer — Friday the 13th made an even larger leap into the paranormal with 1988’s Part VII: The New Blood. This time around, Jason squares off against Tina Shepherd (Lar Park Lincoln), a teen whose telekinetic powers accidentally rouse him from his watery resting place, setting in motion a good old-fashioned Crystal Lake killing spree — only this time, one whose intended quarry is stronger than most of the other would-be victims in the series. It wasn’t enough of a twist to curry favor with the majority of critics, many of whom had long since written off the Friday movies as annually appearing genre junk, but for those who still had some appreciation for Jason’s antics, the Carrie-style central conflict made it worth a watch. “You cannot really take the results seriously,” admitted Cinefantastique’s Steve Biodrowski. “But they are fun, offering both an interesting subplot and a chance to see something never really shown in a Friday film before: Jason getting his ass handed to him on a platter.”

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6. Friday the 13th (2009) 25%

(Photo by New Line Cinema courtesy Everett Collection)

When questioning whether a franchise reboot is worthwhile, it’s always good to ask whether a previous entry in the series sent a central character into space for no apparent reason. If the answer is “yes,” then you might have a good reason to start over — which brings us to 2009’s Friday the 13th, which offered Jason Voorhees a do-over after 11 movies and a sloppy bucket full of diminishing returns. Produced by Michael Bay’s Platinum Dunes banner, this 13th traces the loose contours of early Friday mythology while tinkering with whatever passes for Jason’s personality; for example, in addition to being a (far less clumsy) killer, he’s now also a kidnapper, grabbing a girl who reminds him of his dead mother and keeping her chained up in his secret lair. If it wasn’t quite the same ol’ same ol’ on the narrative front, neither was this reboot sufficiently smart or scary enough to impress critics; The Horror Show’s Scott Weinberg spoke for the minority when he wrote, “I’d say they did a solid enough job of resurrecting a simple scary tale for a new generation.”

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7. Friday the 13th - The Final Chapter (1984) 25%

(Photo by Paramount Pictures)

The first three Friday the 13th movies made gobs of money, but for a variety of reasons, neither Paramount execs nor producer Frank Mancuso Jr. saw a long future for the franchise, and they planned to get rid of Jason Voorhees once and for all with 1984’s The Final Chapter. This time around, Jason’s efforts to slaughter vacationing teens are complicated by the involvement of Crystal Lake residents the Jarvis family — particularly young Tommy (Corey Feldman), whose hobby of creating horror masks comes in handy in the final act when he disguises himself as young Jason and confuses the murderous oaf just long enough to put him out of commission. Pitting Jason against a kid added a fairly fresh wrinkle, and getting to see him without his mask just before he’s thwacked to death made for a decent ending to the series — but of course, once those box office receipts came in, yet another sequel was all but a foregone conclusion. “Watching it again today, it works oddly well,” wrote Combustible Celluloid’s Jeffrey M. Anderson. “Almost like a John Hughes movie that got lost and wandered into slasher territory.”

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8. Jason Goes to Hell - The Final Friday (1993) 24%

(Photo by New Line Cinema courtesy Everett Collection)
The lackluster performance of Jason Takes Manhattan made it pretty plain that the Friday the 13th franchise had seen better days — and was rapidly running out of sensible stories to tell — but the movies were always profitable enough to keep cranking them out. Ultimately, what really did Jason in were rights issues, studio squabbles, and the protracted development of the Freddy vs. Jason crossover, all of which contributed to the four-year layoff between the eighth and ninth installments in the series. Unfortunately, 1993’s Jason Goes to Hell: The Final Friday wasn’t really worth the wait as far as most critics were concerned, and in fairness, it wasn’t hard to see where they were coming from; more than a decade after the franchise launched, the once bluntly simple slasher had become the story of an undead maniac who could only be killed by a mystical dagger wielded by a member of his own family. Despite boasting some of the grossest Friday set pieces and an ending that featured a long-awaited cameo from Freddy, Jason Goes to Hell left a lot of critics griping that they knew how he felt. Still, it wasn’t all bad; according to Clint Morris of Moviehole, the allegedly Final Friday was “one of Jason’s finer moments.”

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9. Jason X (2002) 19%

In the closing moments of The Final Friday, the audience saw Jason dragged to Hell. So what’s his body doing back at Crystal Lake in the opening act of Jason X, and how in the world could any team of scientists be foolish enough to try and experiment on it? Minor concerns for a franchise that had long since required heavy suspension of disbelief — particularly in an installment that saw Voorhees cryogenically frozen for hundreds of years, taken into space by a team of doomed explorers, and eventually given a cyborg upgrade to become the even more fearsome Uber Jason. Needless to say, it’s deeply silly stuff, and even in the context of a film series known for triggering critical disdain, it ranks among the least-loved entries of the bunch. But if you’re in the mood to see a crazed killer wreaking havoc on a spaceship, you could probably do worse; as Rob Gonsalves for eFilmCritic argued, it delivers its own brand of “Exuberantly crappy bad fun.”

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10. Friday the 13th, Part V - A New Beginning (1985) 16%

(Photo by Paramount Pictures courtesy Everett Collection)

After sending Jason to his grave in The Final Chapter, Paramount execs were reminded of just how strong audience demand for more Friday the 13th sequels remained — so they tried to pivot into a new era for the franchise with 1985’s appropriately titled A New Beginning, in which a now-teenaged Tommy Jarvis struggles with the emotional aftershocks of offing Voorhees years previous. When a murder spree erupts at the halfway house where Tommy’s living, it looks like Jason’s risen from the grave, causing his young killer to further doubt his already fragile grip on reality and hinting at some potentially intriguing new narrative directions for the series… all of which were ultimately ignored in favor of a final reveal leaning heavily on some silly coincidences and a twist ending that went nowhere. It came as no surprise when the studio went back to the drawing board (and back to Jason) the following year; as Luke Y. Thompson wrote for New Times, “Like most of the film’s in this series, it’s seldom more than just about adequate. Love the flare-in-the-mouth kill, though.”

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11. Friday the 13th Part 3 (1982) 12%

(Photo by Paramount Pictures courtesy Everett Collection)

Today, Friday the 13th Part III is known among fans as the film in which Jason first dons his trademark hockey mask. At the time, however, it marked the spot where critics turned their backs on a series of films that had rapidly morphed from a bloody low-budget sensation into an annual moneymaking machine. As if to underscore the cash-driven nature of the entire enterprise, Part III was one of several high-profile horror features to see release in 3-D that year, along with new entries in the Jaws and Amityville Horror series — and although this Friday didn’t earn the worst reviews of the bunch, it was far from popular among pundits. As Variety bluntly summed it up, “Friday the 13th was dreadful and took in more than $17 million. Friday the 13th Part 2 was just as bad and took in more than $10 million. Friday the 13th Part III is terrible, too.”

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12. Friday the 13th Part VIII - Jason Takes Manhattan (1989) 8%

If the Muppets can take Manhattan, why not an undead machete-wielding maniac? For Friday the 13th fans, that question could have been met with any number of entertaining answers. Unfortunately, Jason suffered his own cuts — of the budgetary variety — during this sequel’s journey to theaters, resulting in a disappointing outing that might have been better titled Jason Spends Most of the Movie on a Cruise Ship. But even if audiences hadn’t had to wait until the final 30 minutes to see Voorhees take a slice out of the Big Apple, the movie’s odds of making a brand new start of it at the box office were slim; after a decade of killing sprees, demand for more Friday films had started to wane, and no matter how inventive filmmakers tried to get, it was hard to escape the feeling that it had all been done before. Still, even from the bottom of the franchise’s Tomatometer, this entry has its fans — among them Time Out’s Trevor Johnston, who reluctantly wrote that “For what it’s worth (very little),” it’s “probably the best in the series.”

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