Jason with an ax in the Friday the 13th remake

‘Friday the 13th’ Cheat Sheet: A Guide To Watching Every Film in the Horror Franchise

Ki ki ki ma ma ma.

Camping or going to camp is fun for some people—until they get brutally murdered, as is the case for most campers in the Friday the 13th franchise. I’m a big fan of the slasher genre, so I’ve seen all of the Friday the 13th films. And I sure as hell will be watching Bryan Fuller’s upcoming series. Let’s face it, slashers are generally entertaining, even when they fall flat in every other aspect.

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The Friday the 13th franchise isn’t for everyone. There’s nothing wrong with being a hardcore fan of the series, it’s just unfortunate that a lot of the films bleed together and are full of shitty characters or plot lines. And if you’re looking for a break down of the franchise in chronological order, you’re in the right place, reader.

Friday the 13th (1980)

Pamela Voorhees being iconic in Friday the 13th
(Paramount Pictures)

“A new owner and several young counselors gather to reopen Camp Crystal Lake, where a young boy drowned and several vicious murders occurred years earlier. They’ve ignored the locals’ warnings that the place has a death curse … and one by one they find out how unlucky Friday the 13th can be as they are stalked by a violent killer.”

This first entry will forever hold icon status among horror fans (despite how it’s slightly boring until the killer reveal). Betsy Palmer’s unhinged performance is fucking perfection, Alice (Adrienne King) is a final girl to remember, and the subversive reveal of a woman as the killer is still interesting. If you haven’t watched the movie in some time, put it on while it’s raining and maximize the vibes.

Friday the 13th Part 2 (1981)

Ginny being the final girl we deserve in Friday the 13th Part 2
(Paramount Pictures)

“Five years after the massacre at Camp Crystal Lake, the nerve-wracking legend of Jason Voorhees and his diabolical mother lives on. Despite ominous warnings from the locals to stay away from ‘Camp Blood,’ a group of counselors at a nearby summer camp decide to explore the area where seven people were brutally slaughtered. All too soon, they encounter horrors of their own.”

Contrary to what Casey Becker (Drew Barrymore) thought in Scream, Jason wasn’t the killer in the first film. Still, Jason (Steve Daskewisz) with the sack mask is even scarier than the hockey mask if I’m being honest. Part 2 kicked things up a notch and gave us Ginny (Amy Steel) as a memorable final girl! It’s certainly a fan-favorite and remains one of the best entries in the franchise. Unfortunately, the sequel dispatches with Alice immediately, and that still bugs me. Otherwise? It’s even better than the first film.

Friday the 13th Part III

Jason with an ax in his forehead in Friday the 13th Part III
(Paramount Pictures)

“A carefree summer becomes a deadly nightmare for another group of naïve counselors who choose to ignore Camp Crystal Lake’s gruesome legacy. They find themselves in a bloody game of cat-and-mouse with the maniacal Jason who stalks their every move … and ruthlessly kills them off one by one.”

Sequels sometimes fail horribly and make us wish we had our own personal erase button to press and make them disappear. Friday the 13th Part III isn’t one of those films. It’s certainly a slasher that doesn’t have a lot of depth to it—who gives a damn, though? At the end of the day, this entry is one hell of a ride and is a lot of fun to watch, not to mention it’s got a few surprises sprinkled throughout.

Friday the 13th: The Final Chapter (1984)

Jimmy's infamous dance in Friday the 13th: The Final Chapter
(Paramount Pictures)

“After the Crystal Lake Massacres, Jason is pronounced dead and taken to the hospital morgue, where he is mysteriously revived, allowing his diabolical spree to continue at the camp where the gruesome slaughtering began. But this time, in addition to terrified teenagers, he meets a young boy named Tommy Jarvis who has a special talent for horror masks and make up, leading up to a horrifying, bloody battle that will keep you on the edge of your seat. Has the diabolical Jason finally met his match?”

It may not have been well received upon initial release, but fans tend to hold The Final Chapter in high regard. And it’s not solely because of Crispin Glover’s horrible dancing. There’s a whole lot of nonsense, sex, murders, and memorable scenes throughout this sequel—not to mention the introduction of Tommy Jarvis (Corey Feldman), a character who comes back more than once. What’s not to love about a child duping Jason in the end? Ignore anyone who aggressively hates this entry. It’s certainly not the worst of the bunch.

Friday the 13th Part V: A New Beginning (1985)

Violet being weird in Friday the 13th Part V: A New Beginning
(Paramount Pictures)

“Young Tommy Jarvis may have escaped from Crystal Lake, but he’s still haunted by the gruesome events that happened there. When gory murders start happening at the secluded halfway house for troubled teens where he now lives, it seems like his nightmarish nemesis, Jason Voorhees, is back for more sadistic slaughters. But as things spiral out of control and the body count rises, Tommy begins to wonder if he’s become the killer he fears most.”

It’s not an exaggeration when I say this is one of the worst Friday the 13th films. Of course it’s good for a laugh and has some memorable kills and characters. Outside of all that? The movie is an epic failure, especially once it’s revealed (spoiler!) that Jason wasn’t even the killer all along. Take me at my word, you only need to watch Part V one time.

Friday the 13th Part VI: Jason Lives (1985)

Jason coming back with a vengeance in Friday the 13th Part VI: Jason Lives
(Paramount Pictures)

“As a child, Tommy Jarvis killed mass-murderer Jason Voorhees. But now, years later, he is tormented by the fear that maybe Jason isn’t really dead. Determined to finish off the infamous killer once and for all, Tommy and a friend dig up Jason’s corpse in order to cremate him. Unfortunately, things go seriously awry, and Jason is instead resurrected, sparking a new chain of ruthlessly brutal murders.”

You would seriously be hard pressed to find a horror fan who hates this entry (if they’ve seen it). There’s so much to love about Part VI, including how clever it is. This film was doing meta before Scream was even born, and it introduced so many cool elements to the franchise. This version of Tommy Jarvis (Thom Mathews) is the best one, and Jason’s kills are absolutely bonkers. It’s one of my personal favorites for everything I mentioned above and more.

Friday the 13th Part VII: The New Blood (1988)

Jason killing aggressively in Friday the 13th VII: The New Blood
(Paramount Pictures)

“Young Tina Shepard possesses the gift of telekinesis, allowing her to move things and see the future, using the power of her mind. But when a devious doctor tries to exploit her ability, the gift becomes a hellish curse. Tina unwittingly unchains the merciless bloodthirsty Jason Voorhees from his watery grave, igniting a bloodbath that ends in the ultimate showdown in strength of mind versus pure evil matter.”

Sure, this is essentially Carrie White vs. Jason, but is that really a bad thing? Occasionally you need to let yourself have some fun and just embrace the absurdity. Part VII marks the first of Kane Hodder’s many appearances as Jason. One of the main reasons why this film is successful is because of Hodder’s physical performance. And if you take the next entry into consideration, this one is a fucking masterpiece.

Friday the 13th Part VIII: Jason Takes Manhattan 

Jason chilling in NYC in Friday the 13th Part VIII: Jason Takes Manhattan
(Paramount Pictures)

“High school senior Rennie Wickham is in for the ride of her life – and possibly her death – when she and her classmates take a graduation cruise bound for New York City. Little do they know that crazed serial killer Jason is a stowaway who quickly transforms the teen-filled ‘love boat’ celebration into the ultimate voyage of the damned!”

Oh, the trickery of a title that doesn’t even make sense for the actual movie. Jason mainly kills people on a boat, it has a weird plot, there’s next to no time spent in New York, and it has some airhead humor sprinkled in. There’s no harm in having fun with this movie, but there’s no denying that it sucks overall.

Jason Goes to Hell: The Final Friday (1993)

Freddy pulling the glove to hell in Jason Goes to Hell: The Final Friday
(New Line Cinema)

“Tracked down and blown to bits by the FBI, everyone assumes that Jason is dead. But everybody assumes wrong. Jason is reborn with the ability to assume the identity of anyone he touches.”

Thinking about how this film exists is like stepping on Lego. Nobody wants to do it. Yes, that’s harsh and I don’t care because there’s so much wrong with this film. Honestly, there’s next to nothing redeemable about Jason Goes to Hell. It’s hard to even care about Freddy’s gloved hand popping up to grab the mask in the final scene. It’s one of those films that you can skip on a rewatch of the franchise.

Jason X (2001)

Iconic death in Jason X
(New Line Cinema)

“In the year 2455, Old Earth is now a contaminated planet abandoned for centuries – a brown world of violent storms, toxic landmasses and poisonous seas. Yet humans have returned to the deadly place that they once fled, not to live, but to research the ancient, rusting artifacts of the long-gone civilizations. But it’s not the harmful environment that could prove fatal to the intrepid, young explorers who have just landed on Old Earth. For them, it’s Friday the 13th, and Jason lives!”

Jason in space? Yes. The concept may sound cool in theory, but the film is sloppily executed and just barely qualifies as mediocre. Sci-fi slashers aren’t a common thing, and that’s a shame because if it was done right, it’d be fucking cool. It’s also a real shame that this was the last time Kane Hodder played Jason. If only he’d been part of a better film.

Freddy vs. Jason (2003)

Freddy and Jason fighting in Freddy vs. Jason
(New Line Cinema)

“In an attempt to free himself from a state of forgotten limbo, evil dream-demon Freddy Krueger (Robert Englund) devises a plan to manipulate un-dead mass murderer Jason Voorhees (Ken Kirzenger) into slicing-and-dicing his way through the teenage population of Springwood. But when the master of dreams loses control of his monster, a brutal fight to the death is the only way out in this long anticipated crossover between two of modern horror’s most notorious killers!”

Despite the ways in which it fails, Freddy vs. Jason earned A LOT of money. It was the highest grossing film in both the Nightmare on Elm Street and Friday the 13th franchises. Imagine a crossover having that much impact and still being discussed to this day. Freddy (Robert Englund) paired relatively well with Jason (Ken Kirzenger) and their interactions ranged from hilarious to almost tragic. Poor Jason was being bullied during the entire film—when he wasn’t murdering all the teens that Freddy wanted to kill. It’s a blast aside from the very dated dialogue, the stupid exposition scene, and some of the characters.

Friday the 13th (2009)

Whitney scrambling to get away from Jason in Friday the 13th reboot
(Warner Bros. Pictures)

“A group of young adults visit a boarded up campsite named Crystal Lake where they soon encounter the mysterious Jason Voorhees and his deadly intentions.”

Say what you want about this reboot, but it’s actually pretty good. It doesn’t matter that it didn’t bring anything new to the franchise. The first 10-plus minutes feel like a top notch slasher short film, the kills are gruesome, Jason (Derek Mears) is actually fucking scary, and the atmosphere is perfect. I’d actually consider it one of my favorite horror reboots. And it would definitely be a good slasher to watch with a bunch of folks. It also might be the last Friday the 13th film ever, so folks should try to cherish it a bit more.

(featured image: Warner Bros.)

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Vanessa Maki
Vanessa Maki (she/her) is a queer Blerd and contributing writer for The Mary Sue. She first started writing for digital magazines in 2018 and her articles have appeared in Pink Advocate (defunct), The Gay Gaze (defunct), Dread Central and more. She primarily writes about movies, TV, and anime. Efforts to make her stop loving complex/villainous characters or horror as a genre will be futile.