Texas Chainsaw Massacre Franchise (ranked)

During the course of this rewatch, I’ve realized that this franchise has some of the worst sequels of all the big horror franchises. Though they are some of the worst movies, especially in comparison to the original 1974 horror treasure, I did enjoy doing most of these rewatches.

Let’s get to it:

Leatherface (2017)

An entirely pointless entry. Leatherface’s backstory is irrelevant as far as I’m concerned. His enigmatic presence only adds to the terror. But here we go, explaining how he went from being a nice, young, attractive man to a monster: he got shot in the face after witnessing a friend of his killed by a cop. Ok. Add to this an overbearing mother who believes a little too firmly in the myths of stranger-danger. This movie really adds absolutely nothing to the mythology: every single element of Leatherface’s character we see developed here had been covered before. It honestly felt like a boring biopic.

Worth a watch? Definitely not. I wouldn’t recommend wasting your time unless you’re a completist.

The Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Beginning (2006)

I know this movie has its fans, and I don’t begrudge anyone their taste, but my god did I dislike this movie. For me, this was everything that horror was doing badly and wrong in the mid 2000s. R Lee Ermey’s sadistic Sheriff Hoyt does indeed steal the show, unfortunately it’s a show I don’t want to watch. From the sepia overtones to the unrelenting cruelty, The Beginning just isn’t for me at all. Though it is the one with the most chainsaw kills.

As far as the story goes, I’m just not clear on what the point of this movie is. We know the victims won’t survive from the beginning, so is it just meant to demonstrate the inhumanity of the Hewitt family? It’s never boring, but it’s never much fun or scary either. It’s just mean spirited.

Worth a watch? Nope. I don’t imagine I’ll ever revisit this one again either.

Texas Chainsaw 3D (2013)

The first half of this movie is perfectly fine, but once Heather starts siding with Leatherface (who just killed all her friends and tried to kill her as well), it’s just unforgivably stupid. “Do your thing, cuz!” Holy. What? I’d have bought her taking Leatherface’s side in the final standoff, if it were clearly an “enemy of my enemy” / he’s the one on this side of the conflict that isn’t trying to kill me anymore. Pitting one against the other, in order to distract both while she makes an escape, I’d understand. But for her to decide to live the life her grandma had been living is just baffling.

Worth a watch? There’s some alright stuff in here, but it’s nothing you won’t find in better entries to the franchise. I’d say don’t bother.

The Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2 (1986)

This is the one entry into this franchise that I haven’t seen in a couple years, so maybe take this ranking with a grain of salt. From what I recall, I found this a great example of a cult horror movie that isn’t for everyone: and I’m just one of the people it’s not for. This movie is a wild ride, and under the right circumstances, I’m sure it’s a blast. I personally found it too long and kinda boring. But, if there were a midnight showing of it somewhere in my city, I’d almost certainly go see it again.

Worth a watch? Even though I put it a little low on the list, I’d say it’s an essential to the cult horror experience. A friend of mine said, “Rob Zombie built his entire career trying to remake [TCM 2],” so take from that what you will.

Leatherface: The Texas Chainsaw Massacre III (1990)

Here’s another movie that’s pretty ridiculous. It’s not as overtly campy as Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2, and maybe it does drag a little more than the prior entry. But I think overall, it’s a more enjoyable movie. I liked that the first half of the movie was much more of a typical slasher type movie, with people creeping through the woods and Leatherface chasing them. I also really dug much of the soundtrack, which was just this generic instrumental rock music. If you’re a gorehound though, this movie will disappoint: it’s clear this was made on a small budget. The way they consistently cut away from potential gore made me think maybe they were trying to get a PG rating, like Tobe Hooper with the original.

There’s a lot of recognizable names and faces in this movie as well. You’ve got Viggo Mortenson playing a total maniac. Ken Foree (of Dawn of the Dead) as Benny, a full-on badass who basically saves the day. Beyond that all the stunts were coordinated by Kane Hodder (Jason in parts VII–X), and that’s not the only crossover this movie has with the Friday the 13th franchise. Jennifer Banko plays the little girl in the Sawyer family, and she was also young Tina Shephard in Friday the 13th Part VII. All those familiar faces add to the fun. 

Worth a watch? Yeah, I think so. It’s far from being both the worst and the best. It’s right in the middle.

The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (2003)

Honestly, the best of all the Platinum Dunes remakes from this era. As can’t be overstated: none of these movies even come close to reproducing the brilliance and terror of the original 1974 Texas Chain Saw Massacre. But this movie is a thoroughly enjoyable piece of early 2000s horror. R Lee Ermey’s Sheriff Hoyt is way more tolerable in this movie (as opposed to The Beginning). He manages to be scary, confrontational and intimidating without being unduly cruel.

“What are you afraid of a little blood?”

Yes I have some issues with the re-imagining of Leatherface as a purely sadistic figure, rather than an arguably misunderstood home defender, but that’s to be expected from a Michael Bay movie. He’s not exactly known for nuance.

The biggest issue with it is that damn sepia filter: what were filmmakers thinking during this time? Why was everything tinged with green and brown? Really dates marks the era.

Worth a watch? Indeed it is, if you can stand the filter.

Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Next Generation (1995)

What a gem. Is it a good movie? Definitely not. But it’s such a good time, despite having literally zero chainsaw kills in the movie. There’s so many echos of the original in this movie it almost feels like a remake. While I’m glad that Tobe Hooper was there for the original, I’m also glad Kim Henkel got to make this manic nightmare of a film.

I know I’ve said this about the prior two movies on this list, but this movie is just so absolutely and relentlessly bonkers. Do those other movies involve the illuminati working out some kind of cenobite-pain-transcendence research? Or Matthew McConaughey doing his best Nic Cage impression and walking with a robotic leg? Or Leatherface in full-on unapologetic drag? Or the delightful Spottishes who are casually drinking Bloody Mary’s while driving at what has to be 6am? 

“There’s a monster chasing her with a chainsaw”

No, much to their detriment, they don’t.

Worth a watch? Unequivocally yes, but only if you appreciate camp. it’s the most fun you’ll have during a Texas Chainsaw Massacre movie, no doubt.

The Texas Chain Saw Massacre (1974)

As will surprise no one, this is and always will be number one on this list. It’s a constant barrage of horror—literally everything about it, including the making of, is layered with visceral terror. I’ll leave it at that.

Worth a watch? Every chance you get.

Final Thoughts

I really wish I could remember who said this and which franchise they were talking about, but their advice would apply very well to this franchise: If you’re going to watch them all, if you’re committed to doing that, watch them in reverse order of release. That way, they’ll (basically) only get better. 

If you just want to get a feel for the world of Leatherface, then I’d say just watch 1, 2, & the 2003 remake. Those will give you all the basics of the franchise. If you’ve never seen any of them, and want a full on camp experience, watch 1, 2, 3 & 4 (The Next Generation), and ignore the rest. I really would not recommend any that came out after the 2003 remake—they’re just so bad and boring.

I can’t wait to see what’s in store for us with the 2022 release—one more day!

3 thoughts on “Texas Chainsaw Massacre Franchise (ranked)

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