DID YOU READ

List: The Best Films of 2008

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12192008_wendyandlucy.jpgIt feels completely appropriate in a year of incredible financial turmoil, particularly in the independent film sector, that so many good movies were made about people teetering on the edge of economic extinction. My own list features two such films, without even getting around to “Slumdog Millionaire,” “Frozen River” or the small but immensely powerful “Shotgun Stories.” Movie stars were feeling the pinch, too: in the semiautobiographical “JCVD,” audiences saw faded action hero Jean-Claude Van Damme resorting to begging his agent for money to pay for his divorce.

Stars, and studios too. Even before the bottom fell out of the economy, Hollywood studios were beginning to shutter their indie divisions; Paramount eliminated Vantage, Warner Brothers closed Picturehouse and Warner Independent and absorbed New Line. It wasn’t much better for smaller distributors: David O. Russell’s upcoming “Nailed” was in the news all summer because its production kept getting shut down by unions whose members weren’t getting paid by financier Capitol Films, whose subsidiary ThinkFilm had its own cash problems this year, when they couldn’t afford to purchase newspaper ads the Friday of the opening of their release “Then She Found Me.” Just last week the Yari Film Group filed for bankruptcy. Their big hit from a few years ago? “Crash.” There were weeks when the entire independent film world seemed embodied by Michelle Williams’ penniless drifter in “Wendy and Lucy:” every move they made seemed to draw them inexorably deeper into the financial quicksand.

There wasn’t exactly an artistic crash to match, but you could argue that the movies suffered a very mild creative recession in 2008. Strong as this year’s slate was, few if any equaled the remarkable heights of last year’s “No Country For Old Men” or “Zodiac.” On a personal level, I found myself on the outside looking in at a lot of the consensus critical hits: I thought both “Slumdog” and “WALL-E” started as strongly as any movie this year, but tapered off over the course of extremely disappointing final acts. Critical consensus may be a thing of the past anyway soon, the way newspaper and magazine film critics are losing their jobs.

Despite all of that gloominess, there was still much to celebrate in the movies of 2008. It was a year of impressive comebacks (JCVD himself for one, the magnetic fallen star of my number five film for another), of great dysfunctional onscreen families (my numbers two and ten), and more innovation in the documentary form (numbers one and nine). Some special movies even found ways to ask important questions of audiences, even as they entertained us: how far should the law go to stop a criminal (number three)? What does certainty mean in the absence of proof (number eight)?

In dark times, movies have always provided an escape. Even in an “off year” like this one, these ten films, plus the ones provided by my colleagues Alison Willmore and Michael Atkinson, gave us that and so much more.

12192008_mywinnipeg.jpg1. My Winnipeg
In the four years I’ve made top ten lists here on IFC.com, an IFC Film has never appeared even once, a convenient way to avoid accusations of a conflict of interest. I’ll risk them in this case because no movie I saw in 2008 was as exciting, imaginative, hysterically funny or hysterically sad as “My Winnipeg.” Guy Maddin was hired to direct a documentary to his hometown, a place he describes, with a good deal of pride, as “the strangest city in North America,” but wound up delivering a “docu-fantasia” where dream logic prevails, sleepwalking is a recurring motif and local history blends with myth and even parts of Maddin’s own childhood. In repeatedly returning to the image of a man on a train heading out of Winnipeg that can never quite break free from the city’s gravitational orbit, the film becomes a delightful piece of escapism on its subject’s inability to escape his past or his beloved home.

2. Rachel Getting Married
Jonathan Demme felt Jenny Lumet’s unique screenplay about a very dysfunctional family’s reunion for one of its daughters’ wedding deserved a visual strategy equally unusual. Shooting digitally with a minimum of crew and equipment he not only imbued the film with the feeling that the camera was a fly-on-the-wall videographer capturing the essential moments of this remarkable wedding, but he also brought out the raw, naturalistic beauty of digital photography in the way few filmmakers have.

3. The Dark Knight
Christopher Nolan’s superior sequel to his impressive “Batman Begins” was almost as much fun to discuss as it was to watch. In the moment, there were the expansive chase and fight sequences (even more stunning in IMAX) and Heath Ledger’s truly terrifying performance as The Joker. Afterwards, you debated movie’s message about the murky moral waters the film’s hero swims in to achieve his goal (extreme wiretapping, prisoner torture and the like). So many people focused on the question of whether Batman was supposed to represent President Bush that they missed the other possible parallel: that of district attorney Harvey Dent, whose courage under fire unites a frazzled community before checks out of reality completely and starts letting others make his decisions for him.

4. Wendy and Lucy
Watching director Kelly Reichardt’s minimalist masterpiece about a young woman searching for her lost dog is like savoring a fine wine; it’s about appreciating subtle flavors, nuances and clarity. Let those who would dismiss the film as “too small” have their gallons boxes of rubbish; “Wendy and Lucy” is vintage American independent filmmaking.

12192008_thewrestler.jpg5. The Wrestler
This beautifully sad film, simultaneously depressing and uplifting, was shot and set in the decaying suburbs and beach towns of New Jersey, and looks and feels like the movie the Dardennes might have made if they grew up as WWF fans in the 1980s. Mickey Rourke, using his own faded film career as his inspiration, groans and grunts with every step: for his Randy “The Ram” Robinson the very act of living day to day is a struggle greater than any Saturday Night’s Main Event. Real (fake) wrestling could only wish it was this emotionally devastating.

6. Milk
How can we ever explain Josh Brolin’s remarkable mid-career relevance? For so long he was that guy who looked like his dad and made schlocky movies, but now, out of nowhere, he’s the most interesting actor in Hollywood. He’s like the acting equivalent of a baseball player who discovers HGH at age 37 and suddenly hits 60 home runs in a season. In Gus Van Sant’s beautiful and incredibly timely biopic “Milk” he steals scene after scene as troubled San Francisco supervisor Dan White, and he’s stealing from Sean Penn, who’s giving the performance of a career full of career performances.

7. Let the Right One In
The rare horror film that’s many different kinds of scary. It’s creepy scary (as in the relationship between 12-year-old vampire Eli and the man who might be her father, caretaker, or — worst of all — a former boyfriend), it’s gross-out scary (like the scene where Eli bleeds from every pore of her body because she’s entered a house uninvited), it’s shocking scary (like the gorefest finale at the swimming pool).

8. Doubt
It’s common to see a movie with several great performances — most of the movies on this list qualify — but how often do you a movie with nothing but great performances? In “Doubt” all four leads — Meryl Streep, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Amy Adams and Viola Davis — were equally outstanding. The film’s titular theme, elucidated in a crisp screenplay from director and source material playwright John Patrick Shanley, couldn’t be more timely, either.

9. Dear Zachary: A Letter to a Son About His Father
Kurt Kuenne set out to make a documentary as a tribute to his murdered friend Andrew Bagby, and became a witness to a series of events involving the people he left behind so impossibly tragic that they would seem laughably contrived in a fiction film (the fact that the woman suspected in the Bagby murder turns out to be an ex-girlfriend AND is carrying his unborn son is just the very tip of the iceberg). You could argue that by withholding certain information about where his story is going to heighten its emotional impact, Kuenne isn’t playing fair. But then, as this movie shows so powerfully, life rarely does.

12192008_achristmastale.jpg10. A Christmas Tale
Only a filmmaker as talented and as daring as Arnaud Desplechin could make such a warm comedy out of terminal cancer. “A Christmas Tale”‘s barebones description — an estranged family returns home for the first time in years because the matriarch is dying of cancer and a bone-marrow donor is needed — sounds like a downer. But Despleschin’s technique, including (but not limited to) flashback, narration, split-screen, irises, dissolves, direct address, plays within the film – makes the film one of the liveliest (and alive-est, if we can pretend for a moment that that’s a word) of the year.

Honorable mentions (in alphabetical order): The Bank Job, Burn After Reading, Chicago 10, Encounters at the End of the World, The Fall, Pineapple Express, Quid Pro Quo, Shotgun Stories, Snow Angels, Step Brothers.

Alison Willmore

It wasn’t a disappointing year so much as one without surprises — while 2008 had its share of fine films, there was nothing audacious that arrived out of nowhere to knock my socks off, to show me something new. Arnaud Desplechin’s “A Christmas Tale” was one of the few that felt truly electric, the dysfunctional family gathering chestnut filtered through an insanely cinematic prism, a far richer, larger-than-life Gallic one-upping of Demme’s uneven and staunchly naturalistic “Rachel Getting Married.”

Gus Van Sant contributed the headily semi-experimental “Paranoid Park,” but it was “Milk,” his return to not just traditional narrative but the claustrophobic confines of the biopic, that was unexpectedly appealing, a portrait of a martyr to a cause that never lost sight of the flesh and blood humanity of its subjects. “Happy-Go-Lucky” and “Frownland” were combative, with infuriating main characters that challenged your ability to sympathize — initially, for the former, and quite possible ever for the latter. And “Wendy and Lucy” and “The Order of Myths” offered, through their incisive observations of a fictional girl who loses her dog and a very real and still racially segregated southern celebration, deep focus ruminations on where we are as a nation. The majority of the films on the list below I first saw over half a year ago — due to the nature of the festival circuit, sure, but also to the fact that the more recent releases that have been clustered in the current award season have been letdowns.

1. A Christmas Tale
2. Wendy and Lucy
3. Paranoid Park
4. Happy-Go-Lucky
12192008_milk.jpg5. Silent Light
6. The Order of Myths
7. Frownland
8. Milk
9. Momma’s Man
10. Reprise

Honorable mentions, in alphabetical order: Flight of the Red Balloon, Love Songs, My Winnipeg, Snow Angels, Vicky Cristina Barcelona, WALL-E, Waltz with Bashir, Woman on the Beach, The Wrestler

Michael Atkinson

As usual these days (but not, notably, last year), 2008 was rescued by the Asians, even if they didn’t remain in Asia proper. Otherwise, my list looks like a clear vote for the new wave-ist upsurge in minimalist realism/realist minimalism, Asian or American, which always seems all the more remarkable when compared in taste tests with Hollywood parade floats and middle-class-middle-age-courting Euro-dramas, which if anything often resemble the unbearable U.S. studio product of decades past. A cinema of idiosyncratic personal force overshadows the products of the machine, even as the “specialty” venues dwindle.

1. My Winnipeg
2. Ballast
3. Wendy and Lucy
4. Silent Light
5. Still Life
6. Waltz with Bashir
7. Flight of the Red Balloon
8. The Wrestler
9. Synecdoche, New York
10. My Blueberry Nights

Honorable mentions, in order: Times and Winds, The Duchess of Langeais, WALL-E, Appaloosa, Che, Alexandra, Pineapple Express, Jellyfish, Milk, The Edge of Heaven, Boy A, My Father My Lord, Encounters at the End of the World, Snow Angels, Chop Shop, Stuff and Dough, In Bruges

[Photos: “Wendy and Lucy,” Oscilloscope Pictures, 2008; “My Winnipeg,” IFC Films, 2008; “The Wrestler,” Fox Searchlight, 2008; “A Christmas Tale,” IFC Films, 2008; “Milk,” Focus Features, 2008]

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Hail to the Clark

10 Reasons Clark Griswold Would Make A Great President

Hit the holiday road with National Lampoon's Vacation during IFC's '80s Weekend.

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Photo Credit: Warner Bros./Everett Collection

It’s an important election year, with candidates deemed controversial and polarizing. Our country is at a crossroads, with global uncertainty and domestic difficulties aplenty. America needs a true leader. Someone with a strong moral compass and great values. Someone with the guts to make the difficult decisions yet sensitive enough to care for our citizens like they were members of his own family. Someone who knows that in our search for finding our way again maybe what we need most of all…is a quest for fun.

That’s right, none other than Clark W. Griswold would get our vote for President this year. The wild, wacky and well-traveled patriarch of the Griswold clan can make America great again. He’s got all the qualities we as a nation need desperately from our commander-in-chief. Don’t believe us? You can see for yourself in National Lampoon’s Vacation, airing during ’80s Weekend on IFC. In the meantime, we’ll give you a few reasons why we’re stumping for Griswold come November.

1. A Natural Leader

Clark Griswold Natural Leader
Warner Bros.

Look at any list of the signs that indicate natural leadership and you’ll feel like you’re reading the resume of Clark Griswold. People gravitate naturally to him. His children respect and admire him. (Most of the time.) His wife loves her man — her “Sparky,” if you will. And other women (particularly ones who look like Christie Brinkley) find him irresistible, too. Confident, likable, relatable and above all trustworthy, Griswold’s optimism towards life and his many adventures make him the perfect person to lead us on our next proverbial four year trek to the promised land/an amusement park. When things are at their darkest we need someone who can see the light and lead us to a brighter day.


2. Strong Family Values

Clark Griswold Natural Leader
Warner Bros.

Many critics believe that a return to core family values will help to right the ship for our country, that a strong home builds a strong America. Clark Griswold is a family man, plain and simple. Keeping his family unit tight with simple #squadgoals of spending quality bonding time together and having fun indicates he’s the kind of throwback dad with a sense of purpose…and adventure! No matter the circumstances, road blocks, dead pets, closed parks or jelly of the month club memberships, Clark is there for his family the way he’d be there for the American people. The kind of president everyone would want to have a good father/son chat with.


3. Financially Compassionate

Part of being President is understanding who needs financial aid, when to give it and how much to give…something Griswold has plenty of experience with. When his wife’s cousin Eddie needed a loan due to some uniquely unfortunate circumstances, who was the first to reach for his wallet? That’s right, the same man funding his family’s cross-country vacation after having just purchased a brand-new car. One would imagine no family member too big, or weird, would fail with Griswold in office.


4. A “Win at all costs” attitude

When the moose told Clark that Wally World was closed, did he just pack it up and turn around? When he took his family to Europe, did he let a little roundabout get in the way of seeing the sights? When everything goes wrong just before the holidays does Clark let the situation get the best of him, resulting in a profanity-laden outburst in front of his family? Well, maybe. But still Griswold makes the best of every situation possible. And he’s resourceful enough to turn a loss into a win. Or do what it takes to make the best situation for those closest to him.


5. He knows our land from sea to shining sea

Clark Griswold Natural Leader
Warner Bros.

Clark Griswold knows to lead effectively you need to know the land. He has that explorer’s spirit and understands the value of a road trip, “because getting there is half the fun.” Why fly to California from Chicago when you can take a great American road trip and see the country? A country with so much beauty, so much to offer. America is a land of opportunity, and the only way to know it is to travel down that great “Holiday Road” and see it for yourself. Sometimes you have to get lost to find your way again, right?


6. Negotiator Extraordinaire

Just because he looks the part of an average man doesn’t mean you can just pull a fast one on ol’ Clark Griswold. No sir, this guy won’t get bullied or hoodwinked — he knows the art of the deal and is a fair negotiator. He won’t get taken advantage of, and certainly isn’t the type to settle for less. With complicated foreign relations and increasing debt, a vote for Griswold is a vote for stability where it matters most. From rural America to the most challenging of urban environments, Clark has street smarts to spare.


7. Diplomacy Skills, Both Foreign and Domestic

Why build a wall when you can elect a president who’s an ace at mending fences? Clark Griswold is a uniter, not a divider. Because of his real life experience visiting famous European locales, he can relate to and deal with all kinds of people in our evolving, ever-changing world. He might not know that the snooty French waiter is insulting him, but he’ll still order from the menu with pride.


8. Experience Dealing with Refugees

Merry Christmas
Warner Bros.

When Clark’s hapless Aunt Edna is thrust upon him during his family’s cross-country trip does he refuse her a seat? Of course not. When Cousin Eddie and his family show up, unannounced, for a Christmas vacation with the Griswolds, Clark opens his family’s home and heart to them, no questions asked. Eddie even parks his RV in front of Clark’s home, obscuring his holiday decorations and emptying his “sh—er” on the front lawn for the neighbors to see. But no matter to Clark, who knows taking in those less fortunate, accepting your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to find a good sewer for their RV waste, is how America became so diverse.


9. He gives great quotes

Christmas Clark Griswold
Warner Bros.

Seriously, the man is a quote machine. Time and again he seems to have the right words for the right situation, giving the kinds of epic speeches that summarize any situation, no matter how outrageous or dire. The job of POTUS is extremely stressful, but voters can rest assured that Griswold will know what to say. You have to admit, under duress he does have a way with words.


10. He’s tech savvy

Clark just has a natural feel for machines. And as we become more attached to our devices we’ll need someone who’s gadget friendly and can continue to help our country evolve technologically. Plus, with a growing population there’ll be a greater strain on the energy supply. And while no one will confuse him with Elon Musk any time soon, someone like Clark Griswold who can work green with an eye toward reducing our energy consumption would be ideal.

Watch National Lampoon’s Vacation this weekend on IFC.

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Shut Up and Dance

10 Things You Didn’t Know About Footloose

Get on the dance floor with Footloose during IFC's '80s Weekend.

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Photo Credit: Paramount Pictures/Everett Collection

The 1984 classic Footloose gave us a tale of disgruntled teenagers, a Kenny Loggins powerhouse hit and kicked off the Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon game. We all remember Bacon’s moves and the soundtrack, rife with karaoke power ballads, but as you tune in to Footloose during IFC’s ’80s Weekend, here’s a few fun things you might not have known.

1. It Was Based on a True Story.

Footloose cast
Paramount Pictures

Footloose‘s Bomont is loosely based on Elmore City, a town in Oklahoma known for the saying “If the South is the Bible belt, then we are the buckle.” Dancing really was outlawed, until the juniors at the local high school asked to allow dancing at their prom. Kevin Bacon’s character Ren McCormack was based on Leonard Coffee and Rex Kennedy, leaders in the pro-dance movement. Though they were probably less dreamy and “footloose.”


2. The Real Town Reverend Also Hated Dancing.

Footloose Dance Your Ass Off
Paramount Pictures

Though the high schoolers were very polite in their request, they were met with some stern disapproval. The town reverend F.R. Johnson said “No good has ever come from a dance,” and that it would cause a “surge in pregnancies at the school.” One citizen was fearful “because when boys and girls breathe in each other’s ears, that’s the next step.” Whatever dance that involves heavy breathing into your partner’s ears should stay outlawed.


3. Footloose and Fame have a connection.

Footloose Dance
Paramount Pictures

Dean Pitchford wrote the lyrics to Fame and won an Oscar for his efforts. When Pitchford heard the story of Elmore, he knew he had to do bring it to the big screen. The fact that he only wrote lyrics and had never written a screenplay was no impediment. He even traveled to Elmore to get the feel of the locals, which was easy once he found the town. It was so small, he actually drove through it without realizing he’d passed it until he got to a “You’re Now Leaving Elmore” sign.


4. The Tractor Chicken Scene Was Pure Fiction.

Footloose Tractor
Paramount Pictures

Generally, residents of Elmore found the movie to be fairly accurate, though with a little Hollywood exaggeration. When asked if they ever played chicken with tractors Mary Ann Temple-Lee, the inspiration for Ariel, said “You’ve got to be kidding. Our dads would’ve killed us. The tractors are like $100,000 and a major part of the family income!” The scene is less fun knowing that $200,000 of equipment and a poor farmers livelihood are being thrown away for an overblown penis measuring contest.


5. Tom Cruise Almost Played Ren.

Risky Business
Warner Bros.

Tom’s famouse underwear dance scene scored him consideration for the Footloose lead. But Kevin Bacon can thank All the Right Moves for helping him score the role of Ren, since Cruise had to pass on Footloose to film the football flick.


6. Kevin Bacon had four dance doubles.

Footloose Kevin Bacon
Paramount Pictures

Bacon told People that he was “furious” about having gymnastics and dance doubles perform the tricky flips and other moves during his famous dance sequence. While most of the moves are pure Bacon, the actor remembers, “I had a stunt double, a dance double and two gymnastics doubles. There were five of us in the f—ing outfit, and I felt horrible.”


7. It Spawned a Successful Broadway Musical.

Footloose Musical
Richard Rodgers Theater

Footloose opened on Broadway in 1998 and ran for two years, with many national tours and UK productions. Dean Pitchford wrote the book and lyrics of the show which featured all the pop hits of the soundtrack with a few originals. If you’re dying to see Footloose on stage, you don’t need to go to Broadway — it’s in the top 20 most produced high school musicals. So, run down to your local school to watch two teenagers awkwardly sing “Almost Paradise.”


8. Chris Penn Really Couldn’t Dance.

The montage where Ren teaches Willard Hewitt (Chris Penn) to dance was added because Chris Penn really, as the Genesis song goes, could not dance at all. Penn had such a hard time, the crew started to describe dance moves in wrestling terms. Being a former wrestler, he eventually caught on.


9. The Parents Were Barely Older than the Kids.

Footloose Dianne Wiest
Paramount Pictures

Dianne Wiest and John Lithgow play Ariel’s extremely strict, old-fashioned parents. In reality, Dianne Wiest was only nine years older than Ariel (Lori Singer) at the time and John Lithgow was 12 years older. Somehow it’s not hard to imagine a 12-year-old Lithgow as a pretty intimidating figure, so it all works out.


10. Daryl Hannah Almost Played Ariel.

Daryl Hannah Splash
Touchstone Pictures

Jennifer Jason Leigh, Melanie Griffith, Rosanna Arquette, Meg Ryan and pretty much every other actress in Hollywood during the ’80s were considered for the role of Ariel. Daryl Hannah was offered the part, but turned it down to star opposite Tom Hanks in Splash. In hindsight it’s pretty odd that she turned down the part that shares a name with a mermaid to play a mermaid.

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Friday Night Frights

Every Friday the 13th Movie Ranked

Catch a Friday the 13th movie marathon to kick off IFC's '80s Weekend.

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Photo Credit: Paramount Pictures/Everett Collection

The Friday the 13th movies have been a part of pop culture for as long as many of us have been alive. And yet, how many can really distinguish the movies themselves from each other? More than any other franchise, the Jason flicks all seem to blur together into a bloody stew of decapitated heads and cavorting teens. Still, there are some gems among the carnage. To celebrate IFC’s Friday the 13th marathon kicking off ’80s Weekend, we thought we’d take a look back at the franchise as a whole, and rank which ones warrant a repeat viewing, and which should get the sharp end of a machete.

12. Friday the 13th Part III (1982)

Friday the 13th Part III
Paramount Pictures

First, let’s address the 3D elephant in the room. The powers that be behind Friday the 13th Part III knew they needed something big to lure audiences back to Crystal Lake, and so, as was seemingly required of threequels back in the ’80s, the filmmakers slapped some cheap looking 3D effects up on the screen and hoped for the best.

The thing is, while the 3D is hokey, it’s probably the best thing about this tired third outing. Director Steve Miner had brought a fresh take to the previous film in the franchise, the aptly named Friday the 13th Part II, but he seems to have hit a wall here, simply rehashing the same style and story from his last outing. The best moments, in fact, are the bananas 3D kills, like Jason squeezing a victim’s head until his eyeball pops out.

But most of the effects are cheap to the point of laughable. We’re talking visible strings, people. If there’s one word to describe this third entry in the franchise, it’s bland, and that isn’t going to fly in a series defined by over-the-top gore. If it weren’t for the fact that Jason’s iconic hockey mask made its debut here, this would be a completely forgettable outing from start to finish.


11. Jason Goes to Hell: The Final Friday (1993)

Jason Goes to Hell
New Line Cinema

Friday flicks have the bad habit of billing themselves as the “final” chapter, only to return a year later with a cheaper budget, and a goofier premise. Still, this “Final Friday” stands out as the weakest of the lot, mainly because Jason barely appears in it. Instead, his spirit hops from body to body, like Sam Beckett from Quantum Leap, but with some serious bloodlust.

The rules never make sense, even by the loose standards of this franchise, so we’re left with a confusing journey full of magical daggers and family prophecies. Throw in a cheap Halloween nod (or yet another rip-off), when we learn that the final would-be victim also happens to be Jason’s long lost sister, and you’ve got a franchise running of fumes. When the best moment of the movie happens in the final seconds, as Freddy Krueger’s claw bursts from the ground and drag’s Jason’s mask to Hell (setting up a Freddy Vs. Jason crossover that took a decade to actually happen), you know you have a movie that’s just treading bloody water.


10. Friday the 13th Part VIII: Jason Takes Manhattan (1989)

Jason Manhattan
Paramount Pictures

When you bill a movie as Jason in the Big Apple, only to spend the majority of the runtime cruising down a presumably much cheaper to shoot on river, the audience is going feel like it was taken for a ride, literally and figuratively. Still, while Jason Takes Manhattan is often thought of as the worst Friday movie, it has some goofy thrills that at least make it good for a laugh.

A rooftop fight scene, where a boxer tries to take the fight to our campground killer, is hilarious, thanks to a head spinning climax. And the laughably poor New York sets, that seem to compromise one city block and a few Canadian actors, make for a fun “Midnight Movie” vibe. This is an awful movie, from start to finish, but at least it isn’t boring.


9. Friday the 13th (2009)

Friday the 13th reboot
New Line Cinema

The early ’00s saw a rash of horror remakes from the good people at Platinum Dunes. Nightmare on Elm Street, Halloween, and, of course, Friday the 13th. None worked particularly well, but at least Nightmare and Halloween tried to establish their own voice. Friday was just a bland rehash, with a slightly higher production value than the bare bones effort of the ’80s and ’90s. There are some fun kills to be sure. Veronica Mars and Party Down star Ryan Hansen gets a particularly absurd death that almost warrants one more entry in the franchise. Almost.


8. Friday the 13th: A New Beginning (1985)

Friday the 13th New Beginning
Paramount Pictures

Yet another Friday the 13th movie that forgets to, you know, have Jason in it, the big twist here is that the grieving father of a murdered boy is the one doing the killing. If that sounds familiar, it’s because that was the plot of the first Friday the 13th. Not only does this movie skimp on the supernatural slaughter from that Voorhees fella, it also manages to rip off its own franchise in the process.

Yes, there are some fun kills, and loads of wacky sex comedy (hey, it was the mid-’80s), but the feeble attempt to set up a new killer — first with that deadly daddy, and then with Tommy Jarvis, an adult version of the Corey Feldman character introduced in the previous entry — falls flat twice.


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

Friday the 13th New Blood
Paramount Pictures

New Blood is notable for one very special (and very ridiculous) reason. Instead of the typical bevy of nubile teens that are usually served up for Jason’s machete, this movie introduces a telekinetic girl with a serious chip on her shoulder. The plot is confusing, the super-powered storyline self-serious, and the final showdown not as epic as it should have been. But still…telekinesis!

Unfortunately, this movie has some of the weakest kills in the series, thanks to a last minute decision to cut down the gore to secure a R-rating. In a series based on gratuitous violence, skipping over the bloody bits is like trying to slice and dice a couple having sex with one arm tied behind your back.


6. Jason X (2001)

Friday the 13th Jason X
New Line Cinema

After the confusing misfire that was Jason Goes to Hell, it was only natural that a franchise largely centered around the murderous shenanigans of a particular summer camp would jump hundreds of years in the future, and into outer space. Wait, what?

Trying desperately for a fresh spin on a tired formula, the filmmakers behind Jason X made a truly awful movie, which is incredibly entertaining in spite of itself. Essentially a riff on Alien by a group of filmmakers who have never seen Alien, the story centers around a rugged crew trapped on a spaceship with none other than Jason Voorhees.

There are some truly head scratching choices here, like an android whose nipple falls off and a futuristic update on Jason’s iconic hockey mask that makes him look like he’s auditioning for a Shaquille O’Neal movie. Still, this entry ends up being incredibly watchable thanks to its idiotic premise, and some laugh-out-loud nonsense, like a holodeck scene that sees our favorite camp killer beating the living hell out of two holographic topless campers. Gotta get the T&A in somehow.


5. Friday the 13th Part VI: Jason Lives (1986)

Friday the 13th Jason Lives
Paramount Pictures

A surprisingly effective entry in the aging franchise, Jason Lives seems to know what it is, and how to just have fun with it. The jokes fly, and are often funny. The movie finds Jason punching through a man’s heart, hiding in a Winnebago bathroom, and bringing a machete to a paint ball fight in a scene that devolves into straight up slapstick.

True blue horror fans might shun this Friday entry for its comedy chops, but this is one of the few movies in the series to have a purposeful tone, and achieve it. If only the filmmakers hadn’t, for some inexplicable reason, ditched the nudity that is a cornerstone of the series, this movie might be much higher up on the list. Let’s be honest, a Friday the 13th movie without gratuitous boobage is not a Friday the 13th movie we can fully endorse.


4. Freddy vs. Jason (2003)

Freddy V Jason
New Line Cinema

After the fan freak-out inducing final image of Jason Goes To Hell, it took another 10 years of development hell before we finally got to see Freddy and Jason face off on the big screen. And while this movie tends to veer more towards the Nightmare side of things, Jason gets his licks in too.

While, yet again, you can’t call this a good movie per se, it is one of the most entertaining flicks Jason’s ever appeared in. Freddy gets to deliver the one liners, dream logic shakes up the tired Friday formula, and Jason gets to be Jason without having to carry an entire movie on his weary shoulders.


3. Friday the 13th: The Final Chapter (1984)

Friday the 13th The Final Chapter
Paramount Pictures

Corey Feldman as a creepy kid! Crispin Glover in the weirdest dance number this side of Can’t Buy Me Love! This movie couldn’t be more ’80s if Debbie Gibson did the soundtrack.

Probably the best directed entry of the original movies, this is a solid Friday the 13th movie from start to finish. It has decent performances, fun kills and an actual story arc for young Tommy Jarvis (Corey Feldman), who’s slowly driven mad by his run-ins with the hockey mask wearing killer.

Sure, even this well made sequel can’t escape the schlocky charms of the franchise. There are flashbacks galore here, including an unprecedented flashback within a flashback, that seem more a result of lazy writing than an actual coherent vision. But all in all, this is a solid horror flick, even if it would lead to two inferior entries in the “Tommy Jarvis” trilogy that plagued the middle of the franchise.


2. Friday the 13th (1980)

Friday the 13th
Paramount Pictures

The first, and nearly the best, the original Friday the 13th somehow manages to be a classic without a single hockey mask in its runtime. While the movie centers on the usual slaughter of randy teens down at Crystal Lake, the twist here is that it’s Jason’s mother, a vengeful matriarch getting even for her son’s death, who’s doing all the killing. With some iconic deaths, none more so than a young, naked Kevin Bacon taking an arrow through the throat, this movie set the sturdy foundation that the franchise was built upon.


1. Friday the 13th Part 2 (1981)

Friday the 13th Part 2
Paramount Pictures

The Friday the 13th movies were guilty pleasures for many of us growing up. They were the movies we weren’t allowed to watch. The ones that gave us nightmares long after we’d forgotten which one was which. Still, when you look at the franchise as a whole, there aren’t a lot of high points. Compared to the sarcastic lunacy of the Nightmare movies, or the stripped down terror of the Halloween franchise, the Friday the 13th movies feel like a mishmash of boobs and blood in search of a compelling story.

The second film in the franchise, which established Jason as a monstrous murderer behind a mask, is probably the most coherent film in the series. It has leads with actual points of view, and a spooky final act in which one of them is forced to play house with Jason, pretending to be his long dead mother. Sure, the filmmakers here knocked off the Halloween franchise pretty blatantly in an attempt to find a formula they could repeat after killing the main bad gal of the first film, but it somehow works, making for an entertaining bit of blood soaked fluff.

Kick off ’80s weekend with a Friday the 13th movie marathon on IFC.

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