After listening to a handful of podcasts with lists of the worst to best Friday the 13th movies, most notably Evolution of Horror and With Gourley and Rust, I decided to put my own list together. It’s likely that everyone’s list is different, but what struck me is exactly how different my list is from others. I really go for the self-aware and campy Friday the 13th movies; watching them should be fun—drinking some beers and eating some pizza with friends. So keep that in mind as you go through the list. I think that’s the real metric: how much fun is it?
Alright, so here we go:
Freddy Vs. Jason (2003)
Good. God. I was not a fan of this movie. It’s obviously the worst Friday the 13th because it’s mostly actually a Nightmare on Elm Street movie. Even beyond this, there’s just very little redeeming about it. It seemed to take itself way too seriously, while also trying to do campy horror fun—seems contradictory, and it feels that way too.
Worth a watch? Nope. I can’t see ever watching this again.
Friday the 13th Part VIII: Jason Takes Manhattan (1989)
Jason takes a boat. This movie is just kinda boring. It’s got some good moments: Jason slashing fake Joan Jett with her flying V guitar, and Jason punching a boxer’s head off with one go. But overall, it’s just got so much filler that it’s hard to pay much mind to.
Worth a watch? If you’re a slasher-fan who’s never seen it…sure.
Friday the 13th Part V: A New Beginning (1985)
This bottoms most people’s lists, but for me it’s at least got one thing Part 8 and FVJ don’t: Tommy Jarvis. Though it’s obviously the weakest of the Tommy trilogy, Part V’s Tommy is still a good character and adds that much more to the movie. Do I with he’d been played by Thom Matthews? Of course I do. But hey, at least Spider and Suicide are in this movie.
Worth a watch? Honestly I’ve revisited this one more than some that rank higher—It’s an easy one to put on when you’re just looking for something dumb to watch.
Friday the 13th (2009)
This is just an altogether forgettable movie. I liked the way they handled the mythology of Jason and didn’t bother redoing the first movie’s killer being Pamela Voorhees. This is one of the Platinum Dunes remakes, and honestly aside from the Texas Chain Saw Massacre (2003) it’s the best of that bunch. Despite this, I think it belongs just above Part V.
Worth a watch? Despite how absolutely forgettable it is, you may be pleasantly surprised.
Friday the 13th Part III (1982)
Despite the 3D, this is a perfectly decent installment in the franchise. True, this movie introduces the most annoying characters in the entire franchise (looking at you Shelley and your biker gang nemeses—Ali, Fox & Loco). But the things this movie does well, I’d say, it does really well. I love the haunted house sequence in this one, and the final battle between Chris and Jason is the best standoff thus far in the series.
Plus this is the one where Jason gets his mask! And how could I not mention Jason shooting Vera with a harpoon and then strolling off like a boss.
Worth a watch? I’d say yes, especially if you’re gonna do a little drinking game with some friends.
Friday the 13th (1980)
This is the one that started it all, but it’s origin as a Halloween rip-off and Paramount Pictures cash-grab is inescapable. It’s just not a very good movie. It takes itself too seriously, but isn’t deserving of it. If you don’t know who the killer is, then I suppose it could be fun to watch for that “twist.”
Worth a watch? Definitely a must see for horror fans. I probably won’t be watching again for years, but I’ve seen it a lot.
Friday the 13th Part VII: The New Blood (1988)
Carrie Vs. Jason. I wish they’d pushed the telekinesis further, but overall this movie works. It’s a little unfortunate that the subject matter is a little heavier than the other installments. Tina struggling with PTSD from having caused her father’s death and being tormented and exploited by Dr. Crews is heavy stuff. It is pretty great when Dr. Crews finally eats it though.
Worth a watch? For sure — and if it’s been a while since you’ve seen it, I’d recommend revisiting it.
Jason Goes to Hell: The Final Friday (1993)
As the title would suggest, this isn’t quite a Friday the 13th movie. The killer is only technically Jason throughout most of the movie, and (as my partner pointed out to me during our most recent rewatch) there isn’t a single Ki-Ki-Ki-Ma-Ma-Ma until the very end credits. But, this has one of the best opening sequences of any Jason movie.
It’s a legitimately fun expansion on the lore that introduces one of my favorite characters in the franchise—Creighton Duke: bad ass bounty hunter. Jason Goes to Hell may have also been the first Jason movie I ever saw, albeit chopped up for TV, so it’ll always be up there for me.
Worth a watch? Absolutely it is.
Friday the 13th Part II (1981)
I know this ones much lower on my list than it is for most people, but here’s the thing: this movie isn’t nearly as fun as I prefer Friday the 13th movies. Part II isn’t a good enough movie to take it seriously, and it isn’t campy enough to laugh at (or with). Though, I do think that Ginny is one of the strongest final girls of the franchise.
In contrast to the drawn out cat & mouse final standoff of the first movie, this one takes an oddly sentimental approach. While I wasn’t a huge fan of this, it sets up Jason’s psychology in important ways: he can be manipulated (which will be important later).
Worth a watch? Sure is: it has some good kills and an actually scary Jason.
Friday the 13th Part IV: The Final Chapter (1984)
Part VI introduces Tommy Jarvis (played by young Corey Feldman), the only character who’s got a multiple movie arch within the franchise. I like the Jarvis family in general. It’s fun to see what the permanent residents of Crystal Lake experience when Jason goes on his killing spree. I also appreciate what Rob Dier, who’s hunting Jason because he killed his sister in Part II, brings to the story. It just occurred to me that this movie attempts to tie the series thus far together with more than just stories of Jason and his mother. This one evolves the practice of manipulating Jason before attacking him as well.
Worth a watch? Definitely.
Jason X (2002)
Ok, well, here we go. I know I’m probably alone in this opinion, but this one’s just so absolutely bonkers that I just love it. It’s camp to the max, it knows what it’s doing and it just nails it every time. Every time you think to yourself, well this can’t possibly get any more ridiculous: you’re dead wrong…
I want so badly for a follow up to this movie that takes place on Earth 2 where the people don’t know what bicycles and hockey are. What else don’t they know? What kinds of crazy shit exists on this planet? Ugh I’m so intrigued.
Worth a watch? Yes. At least once. This is coming from someone who watched it almost weekly for about 6 months back in the late 2000s (and still loves it).
Friday the 13th Part VI: Jason Lives (1986)
I’ve gotten the impression this one’s a lot of people’s favorite Friday the 13th, and for good reason. Thom Matthews plays Tommy Jarvis and does a great job with it. Jason constantly outdoes himself with each kill. Jason is supernatural now, so he’s just kind of everywhere all the time. This movie has just the right amount of camp (and campers—for the first time in the franchise) and self-awareness. It’s everything I want from Friday the 13th. Just go watch it if you haven’t seen it. You won’t be disappointed.
Worth a watch? Duh.
If you want to get a feel for the franchise without watching 12 movies, I’d recommend watching parts 1, 2, 4 & 6. If you just want to see the campiest of them all, then absolutely check out the two New Line movies: Jason Goes to Hell & Jason X. They basically stand alone, provided that you know Jason is an unstoppable killer.
I didn’t talk too much about who the best/worst Jason’s are in each breakdown, but with the exception of Part 5 and Jason Goes to Hell having the worst Jasons and Part 2 having my favorite Jason, the order more or less follows my order for the movies.