Although originally devised to simply cash in on the wave of spooky-day-related buzz following the success of John Carpenter‘s seminal slasher Halloween, Jason Voorhees ended up giving Halloween‘s Michael Myers a run for his money when Sean S. Cunningham’s Friday the 13th was released, flinging the barn doors wide open for The Camp Crystal Lake Killer to emerge as a horror icon in his own right.
The ensuing franchise might not have proven too popular with movie critics but it went on to amass a huge fanbase, becoming the highest-grossing franchise in horror history until the release of Universal and Blumhouse’s direct sequel to the original Halloween just last year.
Over the years, audiences have been treated to a grand total of ten bonafide sequels, one crossover and one reboot with each new entry implementing a number or adjustments – some more subtle and others just plain unfathomably bizarre – to lure fans back for more. As a result, the Friday The 13th franchise has had its maximum highs and its ultimate lows over the better part of four decades, as our ranking of the entire franchise proves below…
12. JASON X (2001) – Jason in space. The shittest one by a light year
What happens: Jason Voorhees returns with a space nanobot facelift and a brand new machete, but his murderous attitude hasn’t changed one iota when he is awakened on a spaceship in a far away future.
What’s new: With the franchise having been milked for all it was worth by now, the Friday the 13th cow was running on curd fumes. So what did they come up with? A space opera slasher, of course.
Where’s Jason? Jason was captured by the US government in 2010 and held at the Crystal Lake Research Facility in the hopes of killing him off scientifically. Following a barrage of failed attempts, the government gives him the Han Solo frozen stasis treatment only for his cryogenic pod to be discovered all of 447 years later.
Standout scene: There’s a smashing moment where Jason dunks poor Adrienne Thomas-Hart into a sink full of liquid nitrogen and proceeds to shatter her frozen face into smithereens
Kill count: 23 kills (21 Jason kills and 2 accidental deaths)
Is it any good? Everyone knows that Jason X was just in it for the laughs but Todd Farmer’s (The Messengers, My Bloody Valentine) premise was so far out there that there was little that Director Jim Isaac could do to save this doomed space mission that essentially killed the franchise. X really didn’t mark the spot in this case.
11. JASON GOES TO HELL: THE FINAL FRIDAY (1993) – Jason is a ghost. Ghost this one yourself
What happens: Jason’s body is blown up, allowing his spirit to jump from host to host allowing the carnage to continue.
What’s new: Jason’s supernatural origins are revealed.
Where’s Jason? He’s sort of still here, even if only in “spirit.”
Standout scene: Horror fans rubbed their eyes in disbelief when they were teased a possible horror icon mash-up when Jason is stabbed in the heart before Freddy Krueger’s clawed hand makes a pre-final credits cameo.
Kill count: 21 kills (19 Jason kills and 2 accidental kills)
Is it any good? If the formula feels surprisingly familiar it’s probably because Wes Craven did it better four year’s earlier with Shocker, and the sheer ridiculousness of implementing these ideas into the Friday the 13th franchise ultimately lead to monotony rather than excitement.
10. FRIDAY THE 13TH PART VII: THE NEW BLOOD (1988) – Jason meets Stranger Things
What happens: It’s Carrie vs. Jason as a telekinetic teenager accidentally releases Camp Crystal Lake’s slasher and only she (and her [un]dead father) can stop him.
What’s new: Psychokinetic abilities are added to the mix, just because.
Where’s Jason? Jason is chained to the bottom of his favourite lake, again, but not for long, again.
Standout scene: One of the memorable moments from the entire franchise that can be described in just four words: Death by sleeping bag.
Kill count: 15 Jason kills
Is it any good? It might have sounded like a good idea on paper but the psychokinetic element was implemented with zilch validity whatsoever and just snuck in to change the world’s rules to keep the plot moving, so did anything but revive a now fast-fading franchise.
9. FRIDAY THE 13TH (2009) – the blah remake
What happens: Marcus Nispel’s remake is basically a pick ‘n’ mix pastiche of the franchise’s first three films, all crammed into a 90-minute perfunctory yarn.
What’s new: It’s the first Friday the 13th film that takes itself deadly serious and reminds us that Jason still has a scary side to him.
Where’s Jason? Gone are his old one-note homicidal maniac tendendies of old. He’s become a bit of a MacGyver on the quiet, dwelling in an extensive underground maze under Camp Crystal Lake, rigged with a smorgasbord of homemade traps.
Standout scene: This is a toughy as we’re not exacty spoilt for choice, but kudos to Nispel for duping us into thinking we know exactly who the ‘final girl’ is.
Kill count: 16, but Jason only dealt out 14 of these.
Is it any good? The film went out of its way to update the franchise with its slick cinematography, and making Jason somewhat frightening again. Unfortunately, the script did little to nothing to reinvigorate the saga, and New Line and Paramount Pictures’ attempts to revive the franchise ultimately came to nothing more than this “standalone film” … at least for now.
8. FRIDAY THE 13TH PART VIII: JASON TAKES MANHATTAN (1989) – The One Where Jason Gets A Boat To New York
What happens: Don’t be fooled by the misleading title. As much as audiences were promised a whole new setting, Jason only gets to spend some quality time in the Big Apple for the last 20 minutes or so – as most of the story sees Jason doing what he does best on a ship full of high school graduates on their way to Manhattan.
What’s new: Jason gets to see new sights and deal with the dregs of New York – albeit very late in the day.
Where’s Jason? He’s still free-diving in his favourite lake again until the cruise boat’s anchor drags an electrical cable over his body.
Standout scene: Jason goes as far as punching a guy’s head clean off during a hilarious boxing match, but the most iconic scene sees Jason cross paths with a group of punks listening to a song that warns us of how dangerous life in New York City really is. Jason reveals his face to them and their reactions are 24 carat gold.
Kill count: 19 (18 Jason kills and 1 accidental kill)
Is it any good? The boat scenes are so formulaic that this sinking ship turns into a snoozefest way to fast. Once we do finally see Jason in unfamiliar surroundings though, the pace really starts to pick up, which is a real shame as the orginal script included many more scenes in Manhattan – most of which had to be ditched as production only allowed them two days to shoot in NYC.
7. FRIDAY THE 13TH: A NEW BEGINNING (1985) – Tommy Jarvis takes centre stage but, er, where’s Jason?!
What happens: Still haunted by his past, Tommy Jarvis – the only relation to the franchise in this entry – starts to fear for his life again when, despite having killed Jason himself, a similar spate of brutal murders start occurring at the hand of a hockey-masked assailant.
What’s new: Ted White, who played Jason in the previous entry, was offered the opportunity to reprise his role, but turned it down so we ended up with a new killer: a father out to avenge the death of his son.
Where’s Jason? On sabbatical leave.
Standout scene: While the entire franchise is renowned for its gore and explicit nudity, A New Beginning pushed the carnage, sex and drugs envelope to the utmost edge. A particular highlight here is Demon’s (Miguel A. Núñez Jr.) outlandishly entertaining death scene in a trailer park outhouse. That’s just my opinion, but if it were up to Melanie Kinnaman (Pam), her favourite moments are when she’s wearing a wet see through t-shirt. She’s often said that she only felt she looked great on film once they turned the water sprinklers on.
Kill count: 19 copycat kills
Is it any good? A New Beginning had audiences thinking Danny Steinman (The Unseen, Savage Streets) would take Jason in new and exciting directions only to discover that the franchise thought it could keep punters happy without the now iconic villain. It wasn’t the worst decision in the world though as the plot twists offered something a bit different and shared a lot more in common with the original film than any other entry.
6. FRIDAY THE 13TH PART III (1982) – yer classic Jason slasher, but with eye-popping 3D-like kills
What happens: Just as Jason revives from severe injuries sustained in the previous film, a group of co-eds arrive for their hols, just in time for Jason to continue his killing spree.
What’s new: The use of 3D filmmaking to ensure that the same old, same old premise doesn’t actually feel so same old, same old, with every kill popping out from the screen, both figuratively and literally speaking.
Where’s Jason? This time round, he’s moved to a nearby vacation home to keep his hobby alive.
Standout scene: Whilst audiences probably didn’t think so much of it when the film first came out, Jason created horror history here when he donned the now iconic hockey mask for the first time in the franchise.
Kill count: 12 Jason Kills
Is it any good? This one’s got its fair share of outlandish and highly entertaining moments as Jason takes out a new set of campers in pretty inventive ways, but it also features some of the worst special effects decisions of the franchise – decisions that ended up pulling us out of the mayhem rather than immersing us in it.
5. FREDDY VS. JASON (2003) – a surprisingly enjoyable clash of the titans
What happens: Teased from the final moments of Jason Goes to Hell, Freddy Krueger and Jason Voorhees return to terrorise the teenage population of Elm Street. Except this time, they’re out to get each other, too.
What’s new: The film retroactively establishes two of horror’s greatest icons in a shared universe.
Where’s Jason? Freddy can no longer haunt people in their dreams as everyone’s forgotten about him so he resurrects Jason and lures him over to Springwood to spread panic and fear amongst the locals in an attempt to regain his power over them.
Standout scene: Freddy’s decapitated head winking at the camera, which left us yearning for that sadly doomed-to-never-come-to-fruition sequel.
Kill count: 18. 17 Jason kills and 1 Freddy kill. It’s assumed that Freddy was killed at the end of the movie, but a final coda suggest he isn’t dead, so we’ve not included it here.
Is it any good? It’s hugely entertaining thanks to how unabashedly self-aware the whole thing is, brilliantly uniting Jason’s taciturn terror with Freddy’s characteristic unwholesome humour.
4. FRIDAY THE 13TH PART VI: JASON LIVES (1986) – the one where Jason gets supernatural
What happens: The filmmakers originally intended for Tommy Jarvis to become the saga’s new villain but instead sent him to the cemetery to get rid of Jason’s body. He had just one job to do but inadvertently brings Jason back to life instead.
What’s new: We’re introduced to Jason’s supernatural side and the franchise took a deep dive into the world of slapstick, serving up some of the most creative kills of the saga.
Where’s Jason? As Jason had nothing directly to do with Part V, many die-hard fans didn’t even consider is part of the Friday the 13th canon, so it was only natural for the franchise to venture back to Jason’s grave in the hope that he wasn’t really dead.
Standout scene: Two not so smart chaps jump-start the mayhem, quite literally, digging up Jason’s grave in the middle of a thunderstorm. They proceed to stab his corpse with a piece of metal fence when, as terrible luck would have it, a lightning bolt strikes it, sending 1.21 gigawatts of power into Jason’s flux capacitor. Great Scott!
Kill count: 18 Jason kills
Is it any good? Although director, Tom McLoughlin (One Dark Night) stuck to the franchise’s formula of favouring comedy over horror, Jason’s welcome return proved to be pretty damned effective and, despite the aforementioned lightning bolt bunk, the rest of the movie steers well clear of spoof pitfalls.
3. FRIDAY THE 13TH PART 2 (1981) – lightning strikes twice, in a not-shit horror sequel
What happens: Mrs. Voorhees is dead, and Camp Crystal Lake is shut down, but a neighbouring camp is stalked by an unknown assailant.
What’s new: Jason (if you don’t count his surprise – albeit ethereal – cameo at the end of the first film).
Where’s Jason? This is the first time Jason really rears his ugly head – sans hockey mask – hiding himself behind a burlap sack with a single eyehole.
Standout scene: With Jason hot one her tail, Ginny stumbles upon a makeshift shrine with his unhinged mother’s severed head serving as the centrepiece.
Kill count: 9 Jason kills
Is it any good? The second film never quite lives up to the legacy of the original, but it’s still a solid entry in the canon of ’80s slasher films as a whole. And let’s face it, it introduced us to one of the most enduring horror movie villains of all time – as proven by the fact that we’re here writing this list almost 40 years later.
2. FRIDAY THE 13TH: THE FINAL CHAPTER (1984) – a fun, fearsome false-ending
What happens: Initially intended to end the franchise for good, Jason (yet again) spontaneously revives and embarks on a killing spree as he makes his way back to his home at Camp Crystal Lake.
What’s new: This was the first “false promise” to end Jason’s killing spree. It’s also the first time we meet Tommy Jarvis (Cory Feldman in this entry), a long-running character in the franchise’s story arc.
Where’s Jason? On cleaning up the crime scene left behind in the previous movie, the paramedics deliver him to the county morgue.
Standout scene: By far the most memorable moment here is just as creepy as any of the others on the list, even though it doesn’t involve a single drop of blood: Jimbo’s (Crispin Glover) spasmodic “mating ritual” of deliberately dorky proportions… that surprisingly works.
Kill count: 13 Jason kills
Is it any good? “Holy Jesus jumping Christmas shit,” it is! Director, Joseph Zito and screenwriter, Carney Cohen came up with by far the best spin whilst sticking to the original mythology of the franchise that made it so great in the first place.
1. FRIDAY THE 13TH (1980) – yup, the one that started it all
What happens: The Camp Crystal Lake counsellors are preparing everything for the summer, but little do they know there’s a killed in their midst.
What’s new: Absolutely everything. Audiences were witnessing the beginnings of a franchise that helped define the slasher genre.
Where’s Jason? Mum’s the word as that’s the million dollar question here.
Standout scene: The original film’s revelatory twist blew everyone’s minds when the film was first released but it was the shocking image of a deformed Jason pouncing out of the crystalline water in the films final reel that ultimately paved the way for the Friday the 13th franchise we all know and love today.
Kill count: 10 (albeit *spoiler alert* 0 Jason kills)
Is it any good? First parts are always tough to beat and although Jason’s killing spreee doesn’t officially begin until part 2, the original film is the truly the only one in the entire franchise that kept us guessing right up to the very end.