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Ranking The ‘Friday The 13th’ Movies, Just Because

By / 10.21.13
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Halloween is coming up, and that means lots of horror movies on TV, and lots of franchises will be getting marathons on various cable channels. This includes the now oddly venerable Friday the 13th franchise, home of Jason Voorhees and pretty much the series that, for better or for worse, created the slasher genre. Some are good, some are bad, all of them are ranked.

A quick overview of our very arbitrary ranking system: If a movie had a crappy gimmick, it gets demoted (conversely, a gimmick that works ranks it more highly.) If a movie does not actually feature Jason, it gets demoted. If a movie lacks Jason's iconic features, such as a hockey mask, it gets demoted. And if a movie has a cop-out ending, it gets demoted. So now, on with the rankings!

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Fans hate this remake, largely thanks to the fact that it crams the first four movies into a fairly short running time, and by an objective scale, it's not a great movie, even if it does feature Major Kira on a murder spree. But the truth is, condensing the first four movies into one flick at least forces it to have a fairly rapid pace, even if it does jump around in a timeline excessively, like taking a six-week break half-way through for no good reason. It's at least an engaging, slick time on the couch if absolutely unsurprising that Paramount is looking to essentially reboot the franchise again.

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It's a little bizarre to see this movie and realize that it was ahead of its time, poking fun at cliches and throwing other ideas at the franchise. Tom McLaughlin, the writer and director, knows what he's writing and he knows it's patently insane, so he rolls with it. It's not really hard to see why this is a fan favorite, because it's actually a good time almost despite itself.

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This is pretty blatantly "Jason Meets Carrie", but to be honest, it runs with the concept. Everything about this movie from the plot on up is absolutely ridiculous, but it's well aware of that, and it makes up for it by making with the carnage, especially the legendarily ridiculous finale, which features telekinesis, fire, explosions, and zombies. Also helping considerably is Kane Hodder, who really got the short end of the stick for a role he embodies so well.

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After the disastrous Jason Goes To Hell (keep clicking, it's way the hell down there), New Line pretty obviously didn't care what filmmakers did with the franchise... so for some reason, they turned out this goofy love letter to gimmicky slasher films. "Jason in space" is a dumb idea, but they pay it off handsomely because everyone involved is looking to see just how far they can push it before the studio notices. Parody of Star Trek: The Next Generation? Check. In-jokes about bad cable SF series? Check. Everquest jokes? Check. It's not cinematic genius, but honestly, it's so purely entertaining it's hard to resist.

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The first of several attempts to kill this franchise, this gets a high ranking because it's one of the few Jason movies that's, ironically, a Jason movie as we know it. Jason is in his iconic hockey mask, out in the sticks, killing teenagers and assorted bikers and old people through semi-creative methods. For a franchise famed for sticking with what works it's a little odd that this actually makes the movie stand out. Oh, and if you can, see it in 3D.

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Paramount tried to put another bullet in the franchise with this, the second attempt to end it. Notice that none of them stick. A big part of the problem with this movie is that, for the first four movies, they actually expected you to have seen all of them and to be able to keep the continuity straight in your head, because you were paying close attention to names and faces. It both makes the movie a bit self-serious and utterly confusing because they act like you care about the characters, which you don't. Bonus demerit points for having the gall to end on a sequel hook despite being the supposed finale.

Nonetheless, it's a surprisingly good time for a slasher sequel. Some friends and beer and you've definitely got an hour and a half of quality entertainment.

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No, he doesn't. Justly reviled by critics and fans alike, this has two major flaws; the first is that it takes place on a cruise, and the second is that it fails to pay off what's actually a pretty compelling idea. Jason in a major population center is some seriously bad news, and the idea of Jason committing large scale carnage is tantalizing... but instead it's just Jason stabbing people on a cruise ship.

Oh, and he also has the saddest, most embarrassing death of the entire series: Being killed by the toxic waste that supposedly flows freely through New York's sewers in the late '80s. This was intended to be a finale, but unfortunately, it wasn't.

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That GIF up above is the best part of this movie. The idea of Jason running around possessing people ought never to have been entertained. And yet it was. Featuring both the lamest kills in the entire series (c'mon, Jason kills with a bear hug?) and probably the most convoluted, idiotic plot in the franchise's history, this likely marks the franchise's nadir. The only reason it isn't lower is that it actually has Jason in it.

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This ranks lowly mostly because, honestly, you can tell the franchise is still trying to figure out what it wants to be. Cribbing pretty heavily from The Hills Have Eyes in some respects, there's a lot here that's clumsy and frankly hasn't aged well, like Jason as a hick wearing a sack on his face. Hey, speaking of not aging well!

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Yeah, yeah, it's the first one, it started the franchise, whatever. You know what else it has? A crappy plot that's Psycho in reverse, resting the entire plot ultimately on the shoulders of Betsy Palmer, who simply isn't up to playing a nutjob. The gore came about because the movie knows the plot sucks, but they don't dare pretend it's not going to be ridiculous. Once you see Palmer try to play Jason, the entire thing collapses into a bad comedy. It also stars Kevin Bacon, although he thankfully hadn't yet developed the habit of surprising filmgoers with his penis. Instead you get his Speed-clad buttcrack. Hooray.

Ultimately, it's OK, as thrillers go, and it's easy to see why audiences at the time showed up in droves. But by the same token, it's aged like vinegar. In fact, there's only one movie in the franchise that's really ultimately worse.

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Easily the crappiest of the Jason movies, there's a reason part six immediately brought Jason Voorhees back to life. The stand-ins (who wear hockey masks anyway) are poor substitutes with thin justifications for their actions, and worse, this movie wastes what's actually a pretty good idea: Hacking a human being to death, even justifiably, is going to do a number on your psyche, and it almost looks like the movie is going to explore that. But nope, that opportunity gets flushed in the first fifteen minutes and it becomes a by-the-numbers turkey.

Those are our rankings: What are yours? Let us know in the comments.

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TAGSfranchisesFRIDAY THE 13THHorrorjason voorheesrankingsSLIDESHOWS

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