by Kyle Anderson
Today is Friday the 13th, the unluckiest day of the year! That gives me an excuse to indulge in one of my favorite pasttimes as an amateur "Friday the 13th" historian. I can't remember when my obsession with the adventures of Jason Voorhees really began, but I do know that I've studied this series from top to bottom multiple times.
Perhaps you're new to the "Friday" game and need some guidance. The natural urge would be to start from the beginning, but that would be a mistake that would result in sadness and nausea. Since the continuity between movies doesn't matter in the slightest, it's best to take them out of order. But where to start? Glad you asked. Here are the 12 "Friday the 13th" films, ranked in order of greatness from truly excellent to whatever "Jason Goes to Hell" is. Stay lucky!
Friday the 13th: The Final Chapter
The cornerstone of any "Friday the 13th" aficionado's DVD collection, "The Final Chapter" works on every level that these movies are supposed to: It creates a nice psychological mood, has some great kills, is funny when it needs to be and has a genuinely disturbing ending. Also, it features this scene of Crispin Glover dancing.
Friday the 13th Part 2
Of all the films in this series, "Part 2" is probably the best "movie," in the sense that it tells a pretty coherent story and builds some reasonable relationships between the characters. (This is all relative, of course. I'm certainly not arguing that any of these people deserves an Oscar or anything.) As a bonus, it has one of the finest kills in the whole series, involving an arrow to the eye, a guy in a wheelchair and a flight of stairs.
Friday the 13th
The original is somewhat impressive as a historical record, but it suffers from a troublesome trope in slasher flicks: The characters spend too long not even knowing what's going on. The final 10 minutes of stalk and chase are pretty stellar, but it seems like it takes forever to get there. Still, the atmosphere is creepy and Betsy Palmer's performance as Pamela Voorhees is pretty great.
Freddy Vs. Jason
Jason's long-awaited showdown with Freddy Krueger is less a slasher flick and more an extra-violent action movie, but it kicks a whole boatload of ass. It gets extra points for an especially big, scary Jason. Many people prefer Kane Hodder in the role (he was in the seventh, eighth, ninth and tenth movies), but Ken Kirzinger lends the right amount of menace and savagery with just the right amount of sadness necessary to remind the audience of Jason's long-lost humanity.
Friday the 13th 3D
The set-up is sort of absurd (there is a biker gang involved, for some reason), but on the other hand, it's in 3-D! Plus, it marks the beginning of the hockey mask as Jason's signature accessory.
Friday the 13th Part VIII: Jason Takes Manhattan
Okay, so this movie is actually terrible, but I love it so much that it makes the upper echelon of these films. Honestly, even though the ones above this one are better, I've seen "Jason Takes Manhattan" more times than any of the others. Some things you should know: Most of this movie takes place on a cruise, suggesting that Crystal Lake is somehow connected to the Hudson River. Also, they only spend the last 15 minutes of the film in New York, and even then, it's obviously Vancouver. Jason somehow morphs into a child at the end, and nobody knows why or ever mentions it again. There's a subway fight that is pretty great. And finally, it contains my favorite kill in the whole series.
Utterly killed upon its release, there are actually quite a few joys to be found in Jason's trip to space (and the future). There are a handful of inventive kills (like this one!), some nice zingers, something of a meta tone and a handful of scenes that don't make any sense whatsover. (For anybody who has seen it: "You pass!")
Friday the 13th Part VI: Jason Lives
This one marked the entry of "Zombie Jason" into the series, essentially turning the undead Voorhees from a crazed psychopath to a supernatural killing machine. It's pretty much a cookie-cutter slasher movie, but the opening sequence — in which a character impales the corpse of Jason with a metal rod and accidentally revives him with the help of a lightning strike — is pure gold.
Friday the 13th (2009)
The reset of the series creates a good mood but doesn't deliver too many memorable kills. Plus, there's an air of seriousness and foreboding that makes the fear a little bit more real but removes the campy fun that marked the later entries of the series. In a sense, it fails because it's not lame enough.
Friday the 13th Part VII: The New Blood
Not much happening in this one, save for the dude from "Weekend at Bernie's" in a strange villain role and a plot involving telekenesis. Jason is sort of in the background, and anytime he's not around, all you have left are bad movies. Which brings us to...
Friday the 13th Part V: A New Beginning
Spoiler: It's not even Jason. It's an impersonator. I just saved you 90 boring minutes.
Jason Goes to Hell: The Final Friday
Oh boy. Again, Jason is absent for most of the movie. A quick plot synopsis: Jason dies, somebody eats his heart, his evil jumps from body to body via some sort of demon worm, a bounty hunter tries to chase down said worm and way too much mythology is introduced. Along the way, everybody fails.