One of horror’s most prolific monsters, Jason Voorhees has spent a lot of time causing blood-splattering chaos in the Friday the 13th movies, to the point where one might think he’d get tired of all swinging all those machetes and gouging all those eye sockets. But that’s the thing about unexplainable vengeance-driven monsters with muddied origin stories: they only stop killing when audiences stop watching.
To celebrate Friday the 13th popping up just a month ahead of the Halloween season’s arrival, I thought I’d take a look back at Jason Voorhees’ reign of terror to celebrate the most iconic kills from each of the Friday the 13th movies. Note that by “iconic,” I’m not necessarily talking about the most gory or effects-driven death, even though some of those do indeed pop up. I’m rounding up the kill scenes that had the most people talking after the movie for any number of reasons.
And just remember, it’s perfectly fine if you don’t agree with my picks, since Jason Voorhees, and Pamela Voorhees and Part V’s Rod Burns, have more than enough victims for everyone to have their own personal rankings. For now, though, let’s kick things off with a little Six Degrees of Friday the 13th.
Friday the 13th (1980)
The very first Friday the 13th movie was, simplistically speaking, a cash-grab in the wake of Halloween‘s success at the box office, and director Sean Cunningham had no clue the franchise would become such a premiere horror staple. He also likely had zero inklings that the first film’s Kevin Bacon would become one of the biggest movie stars on the planet in the coming decades.
Kevin Bacon’s Jack wasn’t killed by Jason Voorhees proper – he was one of murderous mommy Pamela Voorhees’ nine victims – which almost makes his death even more special. He was killed via an arrow through the neck, as delivered from beneath the bed he was lying on, so clearly Wu-Tang Clan’s “Check Ya Neck” hadn’t come out yet. The special effects work seen here comes from horror mastermind Tom Savini, and though it wasn’t the most complicated shot, Bacon’s neck splurts remain as effective as any effects in the entire Friday the 13th film franchise.
Friday the 13th Part 2
Directed by future horror mainstay Steve Miner, Friday the 13th Part 2 marks the true introduction of Jason Voorhees as the central killer of the franchise, with his dearly missed mommy getting killed off at the end of the previous movie. That was about all it did, story-wise, with the sequel mostly retreading Camp Crystal Lake visitors getting picked off one by one; or by two, in Jef and Sandra’s case, which was all sexy until it suddenly wasn’t at all.
Some might say that Adrienne King’s Alice gets the most iconic death, since she was the first film’s Final Girl Alice, but Jason’s big revenge was a rather bland icepick to the head. The second death was not only another reprisal, that of Walt Gorney’s Crazy Ralph, but it was also more chilling, and also logistically IMPOSSIBLE even by Friday the 13th‘s wacky logic. Ralph is voyeuristically perving while standing against a tree (not the impossible part), and Jason pulls wire across Ralph’s throat, even though there’s no feasible way Jason could have maneuvered that while standing behind the tree. The death of a series wackadoo, along with the immediate embrace of supernatural weirdness, makes Crazy Ralph the top pick for Friday the 13th Part 2.
Friday the 13 Part 3
At just the third film in the franchise, Friday the 13th joined the 3-D bandwagon, giving a loosely plotted film the advantage of such unforgettable shots as “having a pitchfork handle’s end come at your face slowly” and “having an eyeball pop out in your general direction for half a second.” (That second one is legitimately awesome, for the record.) Jason also got his signature hockey mask in Friday the 13th Part III (which arbitrarily jumped to Roman numerals for some of the rest of the sequels).
As far as iconic deaths go, Friday the 13th Part III wasn’t exactly an embarrassment of riches. But we did get a post-coital Andy walking around on his hands, and then taking a machete to the groin and getting his lower bits lopped in half. This might have lost out to the guy who got killed while trying to take a shit – because we’re already at that point of stretching the term “iconic” out – if not for Jason somehow then shoving Andy’s spatchcocked body into the rafters in order to freak his pregnant girlfriend out right before stabbing her through a hammock. Jason already proving himself the Bobby Fischer of slasher movies.
Friday the 13th: The Final Chapter
Friday the 13th: The Final Chapter‘s most iconic death would be the death of THE TRUTH, since there were so many movies that came after this. It was meant to be the last one, which is why Tom Savini returned, which is likely why there are so many great kills in this fourth film. There’s the guy who directly acknowledged his death by screaming “He’s killing me!” over and over. There’s that face being smashed against shower tiles, the woman being thrown slow-motion onto a car, the weirdo coroner’s hacksaw head-twist and more.
But because we’re talking iconic, I have to go with a kill-shot centered on another soon-to-be-famous actor, Crispin Glover, whose character Jimmy gets his hand impaled by a corkscrew and then takes a cleaver straight to the face. And. He. Deserves. It. Combine all of the above, and it’s Friday the 13th magic at its best.
Friday the 13th: A New Beginning
You know what isn’t beginning in Friday the 13th: A New Beginning? My appreciation for Jason Voorhees ripoff artists like Roy Burns. The fifth film in the Friday the 13th franchise takes a detour from the norm by actually keeping Jason dead while a copycat killer rises up and terrorizes a halfway house inhabited by franchise character Tommy Jarvis. There are a ton of deaths in this flick, but to me, the most memorable and different one of all was suffered by another of the franchise’s more insufferable characters.
While Mother Ethel Hubbard threw raw vegetables into a pot of water, which she called believed was already a meal, her miffed son Junior was tearing ass around the yard on a motorcycle was whine-screaming. As Junior is passing by a tree, Roy Burns swings a cleaver out and clothesline-decapitates Junior, whose head goes tumbling as his body crashes along with the motorcycle. It’s a solid death that’s punctuated by Roy killing Mother, who squeezes a tomato as she dies. Not quite worthy of a chef’s kiss, but it’s the best that Roy Burns could do.
Friday the 13th Part VI: Jason Lives
Jason Voorhees returns! Lives! Does More Things! Friday the 13th‘s sixth entry turns the supernatural dial to 11, where it remains for the rest of the franchise. This movie offers up the ridiculousness where someone tries to offer Jason money not to kill her, and then a credit card is seen floating away from her cold, dead hand. Jason also literally rips someone’s heart out, and if that don’t beat all…
The most iconic death in Friday the 13th Part VI, though, involves one of the series’ very few car stunts, which was a huge deal at the time. After crushing Nikki’s head inside the RV that Cort is driving (while also rocking the fuck out), Jason stabs Cort in the head with a knife, which sends the RV off the road, where it flips onto its side and bursts into flames. And out comes Jason to stand atop the fallen RV like the wreck-surviving undead warrior that he now is.
Friday the 13th Part VII: The New Blood
Showcasing actor Kane Hodder’s first time behind Jason’s mask, Friday the 13th Part VII: The New Blood is not memorable for a whole lot of other things. It’s basically “Jason vs. Carrie,” with a telekinetic girl battling Jason and…people die.
However, what makes (a very small part of) this movie great is the scene in which Judy gets slammed into a tree while inside of her sleeping bag. While not as gruesome as it might have been had the censors not been all over this movie, Jason using a woman as a baseball bat remains one of the most revered kills all the Friday the 13th movies. It’s all about the crunch you hear, and also what you don’t hear.
Friday the 13th Part VIII: Jason Takes Manhattan
Another movie title that lies to audiences, with Jason spending very little time actually in New York. He also spends very little time doing anything amazing in Friday the 13th Part VIII: Jason Takes Manhattan. This is not a standout movie.
As such, there aren’t a lot of kills that go down in iconic fashions, but videocamera enthusiast Wayne Webber gets stuck with a pretty devastating death when looking at the big picture. First, Jason tosses him onto a control panel, and it’s the most hectic of all the control panel deaths in these movies. He immediately catches on fire, and sparks are flying nowhere near his point of impact. It’s kind of amazing, and his twitching hand at the end is comically disturbing. Plus, his death definitely causes problems for that boat and everyone in it, so Jason was going for victims by proxy with this one.
Jason Goes to Hell: The Final Friday
And now for something completely different…a Friday the 13th movie that doesn’t have the franchise title in the name, and also features the evil spirit of Jason Voorhees traveling from person to person. It’s not exactly the most celebrated movie, which is like saying liver and onions isn’t the most celebrated breakfast cereal.
But for all its issues, Jason Goes to Hell does feature perhaps the most fucked-up sex death in any Friday the 13th movie. Taking things back to basics, Deborah and Luke are getting it on inside a tent when Jason picks up a rail spike and plunges it into the tent and through Deborah’s nude torso, cutting her in half. WHILE LUKE IS STILL ALL UP IN THAT. Granted, he doesn’t live much longer to craft a tale for the grandchildren that he won’t be having with Deborah. Jason straight-up hates orgasms.
No one in their right mind would think sending Jason Voorhees to space is a good idea. Ipso facto, no one in the movie Jason X is in their right mind, because they sent Jason to space. This is a movie that somehow features a cameo and on-screen death for David Cronenberg, the highly lauded director of such classics as The Fly, Videodrome and A History of Violence. He gets impaled through the stomach while trying to run away, and it’s pretty badass.
However, everyone who watched Jason X immediately committed to memory the moment when Jason pushed Adrienne’s face into the liquid nitrogen, and then smashed her frozen face into bloodied smithereens. If the rest of the movie had been this cheer-worthy, then…well, I seriously can’t even hyperbolize what that kind of world would be like.
Freddy vs. Jason
No, Freddy vs. Jason isn’t technically a Friday the 13th movie, but it’s a “Jason Voorhees” movie, so it fits in as much as Jason Goes to Hell does. This mash-up horror-comedy with Nightmare on Elm Street‘s Freddy Krueger featured one of the weirdest kill sequences in any horror movie: the stoner guy’s caterpillar dream sequence. But that was more of a Freddy thing, even if Jason was the one who did the murdering.
As such, the most iconic kill in Freddy vs. Jason ups the ante on one of Jason’s previous highlights. He stabs the turdball Trey repeatedly in the back before bending the dude’s bed in half, crushing his body backwards in the process. Bodies don’t work like that, Jason! But this kill worked better than any of his others in Freddy vs. Jason, and it still makes me uncomfortable to think about Trey’s calves hitting his shoulder blades.
Friday the 13th (2009)
For the franchise’s first big reboot, Friday the 13th gave Jason Voorhees a psychological spin that gave his actions more motivational purpose than they’d had in many of the prior films, and once again made him feel like more of a victim than just a pure killer. Of course, he also felt more vicious at times, such as when he strung Amanda up inside a sleeping bag over a burning fire, or when he stabbed the lovable Chewie in the throat so many times with that screwdriver.
This truly almost went to the shocking death of Danielle Panabaker’s Jenna, since she was presumed to be a survivor by that point during the characters’ escape. But no, Jason brutally murdering the piece of shit Trent is Friday the 13th‘s most iconic death in 2009. The guy was the character most deserving of having his body meet a blade, and Jason introduced them in the nastiest of ways. Plus, instead of just dumping the body on the ground like he normally does, Jason speared him onto the back of a guy’s truck just before he drove away.
Fans have been waiting years to see a 13th film come out of the Friday the 13th franchise, but every time it looks like one is going to happen, some kind of legal snafu pops up and stalls things anew. So there’s a chance we won’t get to see one for quite a while still, but always know that Jason is out there watching, and waiting for the best moment to strike, and also figuring out the best way to shove your body into a pantry so that there’s maximum jump-scare potential when someone else opens it.