It's Friday the 13th once again, and you know what that means: It's time to revisit the highs and lows of one of horror's most iconic franchises. Which of the original Friday the 13th movies is best, and which should you boot up tonight if you only have time for one? Here is our ranking of all 12 films and a guide on where to watch them all:
12. Jason Goes to Hell: The Final Friday (1993)
- Where to watch: Video on demand
Jason Goes to Hell: The Final Friday is the second Friday the 13th movie that falsely claims to be the franchise's final chapter — but it's the only one that might make you wish it was actually true.
Before you get too excited at the prospect of a Dante's Inferno situation, we don't actually see Jason in hell in Jason Goes to Hell. This ninth installment initially attempts to kill him off in the most definitive way possible, having Jason blown to bits in the opening scene. But from there, we learn that Jason has inexplicably gained the power to possess people, so he can continue killing through them.
There's a fine line in this series between good silly and bad silly, and most fans agree Jason vomiting a magical worm creature that proceeds to hop from body to body is firmly in the latter category. Jason Goes to Hell comes close to ruining the mythology of the whole franchise, which has devolved from a ghost story you'd tell over a campfire into Xena: Warrior Princess with a magical dagger and visual effects resembling a Saturday morning cartoon.
Besides, nine films in, who wants to watch a Friday the 13th movie with regular human killers? Leaning harder into the central conceit might have at least made Jason Goes to Hell a cult classic on a camp level, but most of the time, it's just dull, and you wish you were watching Invasion of the Body Snatchers instead. It's impossible to take seriously, but not fun enough to laugh along with. With the exception of one scene in a tent, the movie's kills are also fairly forgettable, though at least we get some impressive practical effects with the worm creature.
No wonder this was the last Friday for almost a decade. Where do you even go from here?
11. Jason X (2002)
- Where to watch: Video on demand
…You go to space, of course!
Taking a franchise into outer space has become shorthand for running out of ideas, but Friday the 13th did it for real with 2002's Jason X. In an utterly preposterous setup, Jason is being held by the U.S. government in the 21st century before he is conveniently cryogenically frozen, waking up in the year 2455 and ending up on board a spaceship. Oh, to be a fly on the wall in that pitch meeting.
Jason X looks and feels like a SyFy original movie despite receiving a theatrical release, from its visual effects that look right out of a PlayStation game to some of the most wooden performances of the series. But at least it commits to the premise the entire time without apology, unlike the next entry on our list. If you're perversely interested in seeing what a wacky sci-fi Jason movie would look like, you're going to get it and then some with Jason X right from the first few minutes. There's a novelty to witnessing all the zaniness the franchise can get out of its futuristic setting, including an absurd moment where a man tries to give an android realistic human breasts and a throwaway line where we learn hockey was apparently outlawed in 2024. Enjoy these last two years while you can, NHL fans!
Jason X also has the edge over Jason Goes to Hell if only for having Jason in it the entire time and featuring lots of great, gory kills, many of which make inventive use of the environment — including a kill scene set in a virtual reality simulation, as well as the series' single most brutal death ever. It's rarely boring and consistently amusing, sometimes intentionally and often unintentionally. But any attempt to mine tension out of this situation falls flat, even though you'd think the claustrophobic setting would be ideal for making the series scary again, Alien style.
Still, while Jason Goes to Hell can be skipped without missing much, the infamous liquid nitrogen scene alone makes Jason X a must-see for any self-respecting Friday the 13th fan. Just be prepared to cringe more than usual.
10. Friday the 13th Part VIII: Jason Takes Manhattan (1989)
- Where to watch: Starz
Rarely has a movie failed to live up to its title as much as Friday the 13th Part VIII: Jason Takes Manhattan.
The hook is a juicy one: What if Jason ventured from Camp Crystal Lake into New York City? That premise provides endless opportunities, but would you believe that Jason doesn't even arrive in Manhattan until over an hour into the film, and he spends more than half the runtime on a boat?
Yes, a more accurate title would be Jason Takes a Boat to Manhattan, as most of the movie revolves around Jason killing people on a ship that happens to be headed toward New York City. The film doesn't make the best use of this nautical environment for particularly interesting kills — what's the point of having one take place on a dance floor when it's going to just be a run-of-the-mill strangulation? — so we get the sense the first hour is just filler because it was too expensive to film more than a few scenes in New York City. It's also ridiculous to imagine Jason getting around this crowded boat without constantly being noticed; there really is no explanation for his movement anymore other than that he can literally teleport.
Once we finally get to Manhattan, the film picks up significantly and starts to actually utilize its new location, though usually in ways played for laughs; Jason walking through Times Square and angrily knocking over a boombox never gets old. But a subplot involving the lead character seeing visions of a young Jason never adds up to much, leading to a total head-scratcher of an ending. Also, prepare for one of film history's most ludicrous depictions of New York City — who knew there were so many barrels of acid everywhere?
Jason Takes Manhattan isn't a total wash, but watching highlights of just the New York City scenes on YouTube without all the boat nonsense would probably be the superior viewing experience.
9. Friday the 13th Part VII: The New Blood (1988)
- Where to watch: Starz
How do you inject new ideas into a slasher franchise seven movies in? Friday the 13th Part VII: The New Blood tries its best, and it's the first sequel with a radically different hook than the rest. Years before Freddy vs. Jason, this is essentially Carrie vs. Jason, as the main character is a girl with telekinetic powers.
It's admirable that The New Blood takes a big swing to change things up, and the result is an excellent final showdown that isn't merely a retread of what we've seen six times before. The film goes all out showing how someone with telekinesis would battle Jason, although the ending is so baffling, it almost ruins the whole thing. At the same time, The New Blood doesn't do as much with its hook as you might expect. Tina uses her powers sparingly before the final battle, which doesn't arrive for over an hour and 10 minutes. Before then, her abilities mostly manifest themselves via premonitions that almost any character with or without telekinesis could be having.
The New Blood might have been stronger if it fully embraced being different from the rest of the series. But the film's fatal flaw is that the kills are noticeably tamer than usual. It does have one of the greatest deaths in the series just based on the concept behind it — yes, we're talking about the sleeping bag one — but even that was watered down from the original version. Making us feel like we're watching the movie edited on TV is the worst sin a Friday the 13th movie can commit.
8. Freddy vs. Jason (2003)
- Where to watch: Video on demand
The only highlight of Jason Goes to Hell was a surprise MCU-style ending, in which Freddy Krueger's glove emerges out of nowhere to grab Jason's hockey mask, teasing a showdown between the two iconic slashers.
That showdown didn't come to fruition for an entire decade, as the film languished in development hell. But for the most part, the final product didn't disappoint. The two killers aren't just haphazardly tossed together, and Freddy vs. Jason devises a clever way to combine their storylines. Freddy has lost his powers because teenagers are no longer afraid of him, so he brings Jason back from the dead and sends him on a killing spree, starting on Elm Street, in the hopes the murders will be pinned on him and this will facilitate his return.
The result is a mash-up of the best of a Freddy movie and the best of a Jason movie, including the dream sequences of the former and real-world slashings of the latter. The way the film seamlessly fuses the lore of both franchises and doesn't give either character short shrift is also impressive, and whoever realized the two killers are polar opposites (because Freddy died by fire and Jason died by water) must have felt so excited to make that connection. Mostly, though, Freddy vs. Jason is just about the novelty of seeing two legendary characters go at it, as none of the human kills rank among the best of either series.
7. Friday the 13th: A New Beginning (1985)
- Where to watch: Starz
Think of Friday the 13th: A New Beginning as the Halloween Ends (or Halloween III: Season of the Witch) of the series: a film that changed up the formula by sidelining the main villain and still gets grief for it to this day.
Despite Jason definitively dying in the previous film (which was literally titled The Final Chapter), A New Beginning hit theaters less than one year later. So how does the movie revive him? It turns out, it doesn't! We spend the entire film seemingly watching the real Jason go on another killing spree, only for a twist ending to reveal that (spoiler alert!) it wasn't Jason, but a copycat killer.
Your tolerance of A New Beginning will hinge on how receptive you are to this reveal. But if you're open to it, you may find it refreshing that for a series that can get quite predictable, this entry sets out to subvert expectations, while still delivering a fundamentally Friday the 13th experience. That begins early on with a shocking death that gleefully messes with the formula by not even involving a masked killer. But while there's an interesting idea here about how Jason's legacy can continue after his death, the film doesn't come up with a very strong reason for this new killer to model himself after Jason — or become a killer at all. Not only did we have little reason to suspect a copycat, but the copycat is just some guy who had barely been in the movie and whose connection to the story we only learn about after the fact.
A New Beginning is the first time Friday the 13th really feels like an ongoing story, though, as the plot revolves around a previous survivor, Tommy Jarvis, who's haunted by the events of the last film. But Tommy is too passive as a character, barely even speaking for much of the movie. Besides, the twist removes any weight we felt during the final confrontation considering Tommy isn't really coming face-to-face with the man who has haunted him since childhood after all. But the film makes up for all this with a massive body count and many creative deaths, even if it sometimes feels like it's pulling its punches with too much gore kept off-screen.
Despite its flaws, A New Beginning is a bit underrated, given fans often refuse to acknowledge its positive qualities simply because there's no Jason. At least there's a masked killer who looks and acts exactly like him, which is more than Jason Goes to Hell had to offer. The film mainly stands out like a sore thumb today because the copycat conceit was immediately abandoned in the next film, though the idea of an iconic killer's mask being used by a different character each time was later successfully incorporated into the Scream series.
6. Friday the 13th Part III (1982)
- Where to watch: Starz
The biggest problem with Friday the 13th's second sequel is right there in the title, or at least the title that appears on the poster: Friday the 13th Part 3: 3D.
Yes, this third film was originally released in 3D, and as a result, it's riddled with one obnoxious visual gag after another, where random objects come toward the screen as if we're watching a Friday the 13th attraction at Universal Orlando. But these days, not all the home video releases include a 3D version, and if they do, it doesn't exactly look like Avatar. It's hard to imagine it was that spectacular even at the time, considering the underwhelming way the 3D is utilized.
It's a distraction in what is otherwise a crucial sequel, as this is the first to introduce Jason wearing his iconic hockey mask. We begin seeing him on screen more often as the series moves away from the original idea of the killer being a somewhat concealed evil force (though he's still not quite the unstoppable, supernatural being from later movies). Jason seems much more human and vulnerable here, coming across as more like a deranged killer who's been living in the woods than an actual zombie. But even regular human Jason turns in some of the series' all-time great kills — the highlight involving a shirtless man unlucky enough to be walking on his hands before Jason arrives — and one of its most memorable final showdowns, set in a barn.
Part III suffers from some of the franchise's more annoying characters, but it does have a strong idea at its center with a final girl, Chris, who had an encounter with Jason years earlier and returned to Camp Crystal Lake to deal with the trauma. That backstory (which Jamie "Trauma" Lee Curtis would approve of) provides more reason to be invested in the third act, though it might have worked better had the movie focused more on Chris and not waited so long to introduce this aspect of her character.
Still, Part III is an all-around solid entry weighed down primarily by that 3D gimmick. But as the first film to establish Jason's look, it can't be skipped, and besides, the groovy disco theme almost makes up for any flaws.
5. Friday the 13th (2009)
- Where to watch: Video on demand
Could the Michael Bay-produced Friday the 13th reboot actually be a stronger film than much of the original series? Believe it or not, it's true. Not counting Freddy vs. Jason, the last Friday the 13th entry prior to 2009 was Jason X, which bombed at the box office. It was past time for the series to take itself seriously again, and that's what we get with the 2009 remake.
Here, Jason is back to being a real, terrifying threat, as is quickly established in a subversive first act. We're tricked into believing the movie is setting up its central cast of characters, a group of teens who go camping near Crystal Lake. It's all rather familiar … until Jason (spoiler alert!) easily kills almost every one of them before the title card drops a whopping 20 minutes in. It's a hilarious surprise, and talk about a film that doesn't make us wait for the goods; we get a complete Friday the 13th movie in the first act.
The rest of the film follows the brother of one of the opening victims, who's trying to find out what happened to his sister. The tone is grim and decidedly not fun, and the deaths are vicious in a way intended to make us wince, not laugh. One can argue it goes too far in that direction with such a mean tone, losing the series' campy appeal, though there's still plenty of absurd dialogue to laugh at. But since Jason literally went to space in the installment before this one, it was important for the pendulum to swing back in the other direction, reminding audiences why the character isn't (always) a joke.
With the pieces otherwise in place for the series to be relaunched, it's a shame there was never any sequel. Fourteen years later, this is still the end of the franchise, and thanks to a legal battle over the rights to Jason, no additional movies are in sight — and just when the series was about to reach its 13th installment.
4. Friday the 13th (1980)
- Where to watch: Paramount+
There are franchises like Halloween, where the original is such a bonafide classic that no sequel could hope to top it. But Friday the 13th isn't one of them.
The 1980 original isn't considered a standout slasher on the level of Halloween, and famously, it doesn't even have Jason in it — at least, not as an adult. The killer is instead (spoiler alert!) his mother, Pamela Voorhees, who seeks revenge after her son apparently drowned at Camp Crystal Lake as a kid. But we only find that out at the very end, as the film keeps the killer off-screen, and the reveal might have had more impact if we didn't just meet Pamela mere minutes beforehand.
A lot of what Friday the 13th did had already been done better in other slashers, especially Halloween. Still, it was important to the development of the slasher genre in that it helped cement many of its tropes, and it relies much more on gore — as we now come to expect from the genre — compared to the more subtle Halloween. The first film has an appealingly creepy, restrained atmosphere that none of the sequels ever quite matched by going so over-the-top with the kills and having more involved third acts, though compared to the later movies' faster pace, quite a bit of the film feels like it's just wasting time. But it features a few iconic kills throughout, including the famous scene where Kevin Bacon is speared through the throat, which still holds up visually. The ending scare revealing a young Jason popping out of Camp Crystal Lake also remains bone-chilling, the closest the original series gets to being truly scary.
Friday the 13th is a strange example of a movie that both spawned a hit franchise and works well on its own, but it is also missing much of what fans now love about the series — namely, the main antagonist. Approach this one like you're watching a prologue to Friday the 13th, rather than a regular entry.
3. Friday the 13th Part 2 (1981)
- Where to watch: Starz
If you're embarking on a Friday the 13th marathon hoping to see Jason Voorhees in his hockey mask, Friday the 13th Part 2 at least gets you halfway there.
This is the series' first entry to feature Jason as the killer after the original only mentioned him as a boy who drowned at Camp Crystal Lake — though it's kept vague whether his return here means he didn't drown in the first place or whether he did drown, but was brought back as a zombie. Either way, still missing is Jason's iconic hockey mask, as he wears a sack over his head this time. It's a generic, unmemorable look that weighs down the sequel considering how important a killer's unique appearance is in a slasher.
On the other hand, Part 2 is the first Friday the 13th film to start effectively building up the legend of Jason, including with a spooky scene depicting characters talking about him over a campfire. The deaths also start getting more enjoyably gratuitous and comedic here; one involving a man in a wheelchair is downright mean, but darkly funny, a combination that would come to define the series.
What makes Part II one of the better sequels, though, is that it features the series' most likable "final girl": Ginny Field, who's far more charismatic than Alice in the original, and one of the few characters in the series who isn't aggressively annoying. She fearlessly takes on Jason in the final showdown, devising a smart way to defeat him that pays off some of the backstory that was set up earlier. The franchise would have benefited greatly from making Ginny a continuing protagonist like Sidney Prescott in Scream, but sadly, this is her first and last appearance.
2. Friday the 13th: The Final Chapter (1984)
- Where to watch: Starz
They saved the best for last … until they didn't.
Friday the 13th: The Final Chapter was meant to end the series — though needless to say, based on the length of this article, it didn't. But The Final Chapter is also easily Friday the 13th's most entertaining film up until this point.
For one, virtually every kill is a showstopper. They feel like they come more frequently than in prior films — and indeed, there are more total than in the first three parts — and you really feel the franchise has come to appreciate the need to go all out for every death. If you're the kind of person who watches Friday the 13th movies largely for the kills, The Final Chapter satisfies.
The film also benefits from following two groups of characters, one being the familiar gang of teens, and another being their neighbors, including Corey Feldman's Tommy Jarvis. That gives The Final Chapter more variety and helps maintain a breezier pace, as we're able to cut back and forth between different storylines without dwelling too long on one or the other. In general, our leads here are a bit more memorable than usual. For one, Tommy and his sister, Trish, are significantly less grating than the typical line-up of brainless teenagers. What's more, seeing a monster movie fanatic face off against Jason probably did a lot to birth a Friday the 13th obsession in millions of young horror fans who were essentially seeing themselves on screen. Come for Tommy, but stay for Crispin Glover giving a hilariously goofy performance as a geeky teen and busting out a nutso dance that deserves to gain a new life on TikTok one of these days.
The film hardly feels like a grand finale given this series barely had any recurring protagonists, though it tries its best via one lead who is related to a previous victim and an ending that goes full circle with the original (though the series would ultimately not do much with it, and return the following year). But all in all, from incredible kills to gross-out gore and a tense final battle, The Final Chapter provides everything you want from a Jason movie — unless, keeping in mind it would be followed by eight more films, you want an accurate title.
1. Friday the 13th Part VI: Jason Lives (1986)
- Where to watch: Starz
Friday the 13th Part VI: Jason Lives exists in a sweet spot for Friday the 13th: After the series decides to lean into campy absurdity, but before it goes way too far with it. The result is the franchise's best, and most downright fun, entry to date.
The attempt to move on from Jason with a copycat killer in A New Beginning was widely rejected, so with the follow-up, the franchise throws up its hands in defeat by flat-out resurrecting him. A random bolt of lightning strikes Jason's corpse in a graveyard, bringing him back as a zombie, Frankenstein-style. Sure, why not? So little effort is put into Jason's return, we can't help but laugh, and between that and an opening gag that parodies James Bond, it's clear the main goal is now just to have a cheesy good time. Jason Lives is the first installment that's intentionally comedic throughout, at times bordering on a spoof of previous films, and there's even meta humor that comes close to breaking the fourth wall in a way that was fairly unique for the time. But almost all of its gags land, and it takes itself just seriously enough to avoid jumping the shark.
We once again follow Tommy Jarvis from the previous two films, but he has been replaced with a much better actor and now has a personality that was missing from A New Beginning. Plus, Tommy is an active character now, spending the movie trying to warn people that Jason is alive. This injects much-needed forward momentum into a series that, at its worst, can leave us just waiting around for the kills and for the characters to figure out that Jason is on a murder spree. Jason, who is now unambiguously a supernatural being, also feels more like a main character than in previous films, and the movie explores the ways in which he has become a legend, keeping him everpresent, and scenes rarely feel like pure filler. A big deal is made of the fact that Jason is seemingly back, in contrast to the previous chapter, in which barely anybody seemed to care about his apparent return.
Jason Lives also has some of the funniest kills in the series, and like The Final Chapter, they come early and often so we're never bored. The movie builds to an explosive confrontation between Tommy and Jason that serves as a satisfying conclusion to that arc and a solid sendoff for Tommy, even though there will be additional sequels.
If you want to feel even a little scared, your best bet is still either the original 1980 movie or the 2009 reboot. But for pure entertainment value, and a showcase of why horror fans still obsess over Friday the 13th to this day, you can't do better than Jason Lives.