The Friday the 13th film franchise has long been mauled by the critics and - often - even its biggest fans. It's a stalk and slash series with a primitive notion of being scary which, when compared to the original Halloween and that other stalk and slasher franchise, Alien, is not very subtle at all. The films have grossed millions and the series has hit its twelfth entry but, like any long-running franchise, some are definitely better than others.
Bizarrely, the Friday the 13th film rights have been given back to Paramount in a deal which will allow Warner Bros. to co-produce Christopher Nolan's 2014 summer blockbuster Interstellar. That Jason Vorhees has been a negotiating chip between two of the biggest studios for a Christopher Nolan epic is both strange and speaks volumes. In a way, they can chuck anything out under the moniker and it'll make money. Just ask Michael Bay. The word that the thirteenth instalment will be a found-footage entry is both disappointingly unoriginal for a horror film and yet oddly original for this franchise. Chances of quality are low, but get Adam Wingard or Alexander Aja to direct and interest will be piqued for the film.
If nothing else, in Jason (or Josh, as he was originally called) Vorhees the franchise has its hero. Is he subtle and scary like Michael Myers? No. Is it witty and demonic like Freddy? No. Is he even an intelligent monster like Hannibal Lecter? Of course not. Jason walks solidly and murders teens who smoke, drink and - horror of horrors - participate in consensual sex. !*$% them.
If you take the films for what they are though, they are fun, trashy slashers. You don't go to a Hugh Grant romantic comedy expecting depth and originality. Same with most superhero films. You want a lot of boxes ticked and, as fans, there's nothing wrong with that. The Friday the 13th franchise will never really convert newcomers to the series, but it's not there for that. It follows the slasher rules (unstoppable killer, sex equals death, virginal Final Girl) and often gives us a bit of a rollercoaster treat.
Obviously, some are worse than others (and my God, some of them are bad). Some, however, are actually pretty interesting and have some good, almost original ideas in them. It also helped launch the careers of Kevin Bacon, Crispin Glover and Corey Feldman. On top of that, it's squeezed in a David Cronenberg cameo in Jason X so it gets horror plaudits for that alone. It's also become a franchise monster, in horror movie terms, spawning the twelve movies, books, comics, an ill-fated unrelated TV series, games and toys. Unfortunately, a franchise game has never been released but we can all dream...
Many people have put the franchise in rank order in the past. I've not read anyone else's list (but will now this is written to compare) and your list will no doubt be different. Here's hoping, anyway. What one horror film loves, another hates. That's what makes horror, sci-fi, fantasy and superhero films so much fun to discuss and debate.
So, here is the Friday the 13th franchise in rank order (with spoilers included)...