Ranking of the Top Five Friday the 13th Films

Which films are the best in the franchise?

By L.B. Lubomski

Image via New Line Cinema / CC BY

Friday the 13th is arguably the most popular and recognizable horror movie franchise of all time. It has spawned a total of 12 movies, including both a remake and a crossover with A Nightmare on Elm Street, a TV show (with practically no relation to the actual films), two video games, and numerous comic books and novels. The films by themselves have grossed over $464 million. Friday the 13th: The Game has sold over two million copies. With these numbers, there is no denying the popularity and reach of everyone's favorite hockey mask-wearing psychopath. Today, in honor of the first Friday the 13th of 2018, we will take a look at the best Friday the 13th films and give our opinion on what makes them so enjoyable.

5. Friday the 13th Part VIII: Jason Takes Manhattan

If for no other reason, Jason Takes Manhattan gets a spot on this list due to being different. Yes, the title is a bit misleading since only the last quarter of the film really takes place in Manhattan. Due to budget issues, most of the film had to be filmed on a boat en route to Manhattan instead. Still, the shots at the end of the film with Jason Voorhees walking around Times Square are amazing. Kane Hodder's second outing as Jason really brings the slasher to life and we get to see the beginnings of "angry" Jason with his heavy chest breathing and seething rage.

There are three scenes in particular that really make Manhattan special. The first is Jason's kill of rocker chick J.J. with her own guitar in the boat's engine room. The second is when he confronts the punks on the streets of New York after kicking their radio and responds by lifting his mask and showing them his decaying face, causing them to flee. The third and possibly best scene is the rooftop boxing match between Jason and his victim Julius Gaw. Julius beats at Jason to no avail, running out of stamina and then literally loses his head in a single punch. These are the kinds of almost self-aware scenes that make Jason Takes Manhattan so enjoyable.

4. Freddy vs. Jason

Our next spot features the horror superstar crossover Freddy vs. Jason. This film was the culmination of years of speculation and build-up, and was exactly what fans wanted to see ever since the cliffhanger ending at the end of Jason Goes to Hell: The Final Friday when Freddy Krueger's clawed glove reached out of the ground and dragged Jason's mask down to Hell. Unfortunately, it would take ten years to make it all happen and, in the end, many were left disappointed by the replacement of Kane Hodder as Jason Voorhees. Having played him in the previous four films, Hodder had become synonymous with the man behind the hockey mask. Thus diehard horror fans were denied the "ultimate" match-up of Hodder vs Robert Englund.

Despite this questionable recasting, we still got a solid versus film. Freddy, no longer remembered and powerless, tricks Jason into heading to Springwood to kill in his name. However, Jason does his job too well without pause, forcing an unprecedented battle between the two slashers. Say what you will about the plot and characters being weak in this film, but at the end of the day, that epic 20-plus minute battle between the Dream Demon and the Crystal Lake Killer was well worth the wait. Then, just when you thought you knew who the victor was, fans got a little wink and a laugh that proved to be the final send off for Robert Englund's portrayal of Freddy. What a way to go out, though!

3. Friday the 13th (1980)

This is the film that started it all, the very first Friday the 13th. Some fans don't like it as much since Jason is not actually the killer, with his mother Pamela instead committing the murders in his name. Also, unlike later films in the series, this one is more of a "whodunit?" murder mystery with the killer mostly off-screen. However, without this film there would be no franchise at all. It is the foundation that built up the lore of Camp Crystal Lake and Jason Voorhees and its success at the box office helped to secure the future of Friday the 13th. The original Friday also features first-class acting, particularly from Betsy Palmer who did an amazing job portraying Jason's unstable mother.

We even got to see a very young Kevin Bacon in action before he takes an arrow through his throat. Friday the 13th also features one the coolest kills in the franchise when Pamela gets her head lopped off with a machete. Her hands reach up and she starts flexing her fingers as blood squirts out of her neck. This is breathtakingly brutal stuff all created by special effects guru Tom Savini, fresh off his work on Romero's Dawn of the Dead. Also worth mentioning is that the end of the original Friday has one of the best final jump scares in horror movie history, possibly rivaled only by Carrie. This is of course the scene where Alice is attacked by child Jason's decaying, moss-covered form, leaping from the water and pulling her under the waves. Of course, it was all a dream, wasn't it?

2. Friday the 13th Part IV: The Final Chapter

The Final Chapter is often listed as a fan-favorite for many reasons. This is our introduction to Tommy Jarvis, played by a young Corey Feldman in one of his first roles before The Goonies and Gremlins. In this film, Jason Voorhees is still running loose in the Crystal Lake area during his killing spree in 1984. Fresh from his encounter at Higgins Haven in the previous film, Jason sets his sights on a group of vacationing campers as well as the Jarvis Family. What makes The Final Chapter great is the kills. Jimmy's (Crispin Glover) death is a stand-out after Jason gives him the corkscrew he so desperately needed through his hand before taking a cleaver to his head for good measure. Another camper, Paul, takes a fatal shot to the groin, and then also we have Rob Dier's famous "he's killing me!" scene in the basement.

The team behind Friday the 13th had finally perfected their trade, with each kill feeling not only fresh but also realistic and horribly gory. This is especially true when looking at the way Jason was killed as Jarvis takes Jason's own machete and slams it into the side of his head. The killer then falls to the floor where the machete is pushed all the way through his head as he slumps towards the ground. Just when you think it's over, Jason's body twitches and we cut to Tommy repeatedly hacking Jason up with the machete as the screen fades. While this was clearly not the final Friday, Jason's bloody send-off is the stuff of legends in the horror community.

1. Friday the 13th Part VI: Jason Lives

Jason Lives has it all. From the first appearance of the invulnerable "zombie" Jason to the best iteration of Tommy Jarvis from legendary horror actor Thom Matthews, this film represents the best of what the franchise has to offer. Tommy, haunted by his past encounter with Jason, returns to his grave to make sure he is really dead. Through a series of mishaps, he accidentally brings the deceased slasher back to life. Jason then engages in his favorite pastime, killing everyone he runs into. This includes an entire group of corporate office workers who were playing paintball. Jason realizes his new-found strength after accidentally ripping one guy's arm off during this encounter. Being dead has its perks, I guess.

The best kill has to be Jason's final victim, who gets literally bent in half with his spine snapping like a twig. There's no blood in this kill, but my god does it have a powerful impact. It was at this point in the franchise that the death scenes really started to reach a new level, getting not only more creative but more over-the-top, something that would come to define the brutality of Jason Voorhees. Kills aside, in addition to fan-favorite character Tommy Jarvis, Jason Lives also features one of the toughest female leads in a horror film through Megan Garris (Jennifer Cooke). She is every bit Tommy's equal, even saving his life in the end. And how does Jason go out this time? How about a boat motor to the face before being weighed down and drowned at the bottom of Crystal Lake? Ouch. It for all these reasons and more that we feel Jason Lives deserves the top spot on our list.

Do you agree with our list? Let us know your top five Friday the 13th films in the comments below and let us know why they are your favorites.

About the Author

L.B. Lubomski

Lawrence "L.B." Lubomski is an avid horror movie fan, gamer, musician, historian, and aspiring author. Born and raised in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, L.B. was exposed to the works of local filmmaker and godfather of zombie cinema George A. Romero early on. He has since developed a particular fondness for Italian zombie/cannibal and slasher films. This passion for horror extends into other media, from survival horror video games such as Resident Evil to horror-inspired musical artists. In his spare time, L.B. pursues many interests including building his collection of vinyl records, action figures, and vintage video games as well as drumming in various local bands.