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The Friday the 13th series includes some of the best films in the horror genre, as well as a few laughable flops. The franchise is comprised of 12 slasher films in total, but which are the best Friday the 13th movies?
We all know the story here. Jason Voorhees drowns as a young boy at Camp Crystal Lake due to the negligence of some distracted, horny camp counselors. The place is cursed, and decades later, he returns and goes on a killing spree. But it doesn't stop there. Jason would keep killing for decades to come, everywhere from New York City to space, boozy and sex crazed teens would meet his machete.
It's interesting to think about the films themes as a time capsule of the 80s, where during the Reagan years we saw America grow increasingly conservative. We began teaching abstinence in schools, put people in prison for non-violent drug crimes and threw away the key, and yes, gave birth to Jason Voorhees. He punished lovers of booze, weed, and pre-marital sex in a way the courts could not — with death.
If you're a long time fan of the series, or are just looking for somewhere to jump in, these are the best Friday the 13th movies.
Freddy vs. Jason
Freddy vs. Jason is actually a very Friday the 13th movie. Bad acting and implausible plot lines are a hallmark of the franchise, and are to be expected — we don't need to know how Jason managed to get inside Freddy's dream or vice versa — we are willing to suspend our disbelief.
Thankfully, in this installment, they are actually pretty entertaining. Since it's the last watchable film of the series, it deserves a spot on the list of best Friday the 13th movies.
It's full of sex and trashy dialogue, and the showdown between the two iconic killers is about as good as anybody could have hoped for. While not necessary to enjoy or understand the rest of the series, it makes a nice stand-alone slasher film all its own.
Friday the 13th: Part III
The third installment of the original run of Jason Voorhees slashers is one that shouldn't be missed. It was originally released in 3D, leading to some of the more fun kills of the series. The story here is simple — revenge on horny teenagers — but it's done in a way that makes it feel bigger than the first two.
A great detail in Part III is that we get to know how Jason came to wear his trademark hockey mask. If you are the type who likes to know how certain thing began, Part III is definitely one of the best Friday the 13th movies.
Friday the 13th
The film that started it all has to be included in the best Friday the 13th movies. It's one of the founding films of the entire slasher genre, and for as cheap as it can look at times, it's a pretty classically structured horror story.
It's a great way to start off the series, as Jason's mother stalks and kills the selfish teens that let her little boy die in the lake. In that sense, it's almost a straight revenge movie with some teen sex and drug scenes mixed in. The original also does a successful job of building a sense of foreboding, as the campers are picked off slow and methodically, as opposed to some of the later films that are all brute force and blood.
It's where the legend began, so I'd advise you to start here, even if the production values look a little outdated. It's a classic early 80s B-cinema.
Friday the 13th: The Final Chapter
Many critics and fans consider The Final Chapter to be the height of the entire franchise, and easily one of the best Friday the 13th movies. We finally meet Tommy Jarvis here, who would become Jason's primary nemesis throughout the rest of the films.
The kills here are some of Jason's finest, and they range from quick to barbaric — the film is not short on blood. It's also the most balanced overall in the series, as the humor and savagery were never more perfectly mixed.
This installment is jam-packed with nudity, sex, drug use, and gore... making it a quintessential Friday the 13th.
Jason Goes to Hell: The Final Friday
This is the last film in the original run before all the remakes — yes, it's after the Final Chapter — coming out in 1993. Critics trashed the film pretty relentlessly, but that doesn't mean there isn't a lot to like here.
Criticisms included the idea of Jason "possessing" the body of people to kill his victims for him as being too nuts, while others simply for being another formulaic entry in the series with poor acting and plot holes. These people are missing the point — it's always been riddled with plot holes and poor acting! This isn't Citizen Kane or even Forrest Gump, but as a B-movie slasher, it's tremendously entertaining.
In addition, it sets in motion the showdown between Freddy and Jason ten years later, which we already mentioned is one of the best Friday the 13th movies.