As a fan of horror for many years now, the one series I had held off watching was the Texas Chainsaw Massacre movies, mainly because I wasn’t equipped to handle the gore of later installments when I was younger. But, when I got to college, I did several marathons.
And boy, do I have thoughts.
In honor of all upcoming horror movies, as well as the new addition to the TCM franchise, I’m going to be ranking every single movie in this famous horror series from worst to best. And, big reminder - spoilers down below!!
8. Texas Chainsaw 3D (2013)
Alright, let’s start this off right - Texas Chainsaw 3D is the worst movie in this franchise by a landslide.
Look, I see what they were trying to do with this. It’s a newer addition so there’s bound to be blood and gore that’s amplified a million times more than the original, and the addition of 3D to try and make it feel more “realistic” is (I guess) a nice touch. But at the end of the day, the movie falls flat on its head.
Even if it’s considered a direct sequel to the original movie, most of it didn’t work, from the story and acting, to the kills, even. It was just a bad time all around. Even Alexandra Daddario couldn’t save this one.
7. Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Next Generation (1995)
As the fourth movie in the franchise, Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Next Generation is basically the same tale as the original, except this time it takes place on prom night.
This movie is off its rocker from beginning to end. The whole point of Leatherface was that he was so mentally deranged and screwed up in the first movie from the abuse of his original family that it turned him into a monster. Was he as scary as some other horror movie villains? Not to me, but he was, at the very least, uncomfortable to watch in the first film.
The only upside is that you get to see Matthew McConaughey and Renée Zellweger before they were famous, but even they couldn’t save this ridiculous movie. It just makes a joke out of the whole franchise.
6. Leatherface (2017)
You know, on a base level, I can appreciate what Leatherface was trying to do back in 2017. It was trying to reinvent the franchise by giving the killer of the original Texas Chainsaw Massacre a proper origin story.
Newer movies have done this successfully, such as 2021’s Candyman, or even the latest spin on the Halloween franchise.
Leatherface did not succeed in that regard.
It had so much going for it, but yet, I don’t think the 2017 version of this iconic villain did him justice. There were too many plot holes for my liking, and while I do think that it kept to the original source material a lot better than many of the sequels, it just wasn’t able to stick the landing like later movies have.
5. Leatherface: The Texas Chainsaw Massacre III (1990)
This third installment of the franchise was, to say the least, what I think kept me from the franchise for a while.
When Leatherface: The Texas Chainsaw Massacre III came out, a big gripe that both fans and critics had with the movie was that it had way too much gore. And now, as an adult who has re-watched the movie several times, I totally agree.
One of the big draws of the original Texas Chainsaw Massacre was the creepiness of the family. There wasn’t that much blood involved at all, but the very idea of these insane people living out their lives in the middle of nowhere, where they could take any victim they wanted without any consequences, was terrifying. The movie didn’t need blood to make you scared, just like many of the original films of the slasher genre.
However, this film made it so bloody that even me, a fan who watches horror, zombie, and fantasy TV shows with a lot of blood and violence, had to turn away. There were moments that were just too much. The story in of itself was entertaining, but it’s overshadowed by the heinous amount of gore that was added to a franchise that didn’t need it in the first place.
4. The Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Beginning (2006)
Next up is The Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Beginning. Considered a prequel to another movie we’ll get to later on, this is another instance like Leatherface where the creators of the film wanted to give the Hewitt clan a genuine backstory.
While it’s not the best version, it’s certainly better than Leatherface.
Like it or not, The Beginning is a worthy entry that tries to tell the story of how Leatherface came to be, even if it’s still not the best way of doing so. Whenever we reach that perfect origin story will be the best day ever, but for now, this is probably one of the better ones we'll get.
3. The Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2 (1986)
I might get some flack for putting the first direct sequel to the original at only number three, but I have to say it - this franchise shouldn’t ever step into comedy.
While it’s awesome that the original director came back for Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2 (Tobe Hooper), this movie is too much. I can understand the fan-love behind it, but hear me out - I’m not going into Texas Chainsaw Massacre looking to laugh, y'all.
If I wanted to do that, I’d watch the 2018 Halloween that had some really funny moments. Or heck, even Scream (which had an awesome opening weekend recently), had comedic moments that I felt fit those types of horror movies. Even if they're in the slasher genre, comedy is something that's always worked well in those movie sagas.
But, the TCM series shouldn’t ever be a comedy, and this sequel felt so much like they were trying to make this into a dark comedy that just doesn't work for me.
I can appreciate that the stakes felt higher and that there was a respectable amount of gore in this sequel (compared to the bloodbath later sequels would get), but it was the complete opposite of what the original film did. All it had in common was Leatherface.
2. The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (2003)
If we want to talk about remakes that work (at least a little bit), The Texas Chainsaw Massacre from 2003 fits that bill. Not only did Tobe Hooper and Kim Henkel from the original movie return as producers for the film, but the movie took place back in 1973, having that same element of “we are all alone and there is no way out.”
What makes this movie even more special is that I feel like they actually tried to do something with this remake rather than just make it more horrifying. Yes, there was more blood and gore (which is expected at this point), but the story is so much better to follow along to than many of the other ones on this list, and the action sequences are so much more fun. Jessica Biel, in the lead role, was really great casting, and I loved her performance.
Even if critics weren’t the biggest fans, I still enjoyed this film for what it was. However, only one can beat all of these.
1. The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (1974)
I mean, obviously.
You just can’t beat the original Texas Chainsaw Massacre from 1974. It didn’t need massive buckets of blood. It didn’t need hundreds of jumpscares. It didn't need an all-star cast. All it needed was a deranged man in a mask made of human skin, and a killer scream queen.
There’s almost something charming about the original film after watching all the sequels and remakes that butcher (pun intended) the first movie. It’s eerie in all the right spots, had a decent amount of blood and scariness, and is an all-around great horror film that not only builds suspense from the start, but pays off in the end, creating an iconic villain for the ages.
All of this is why it must be number one on this list. It’s one of the best horror movies ever, hands down.
While I am excited for Netflix's newest entry in the series, considering what we know about the new Texas Chainsaw Massacre, nothing can quite outdo the original. But, I guess we’ll just have to wait and see.
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Big nerd and lover of Game of Thrones/A Song of Ice and Fire. Will forever hate season eight. Superhero and horror geek. And please don't debate me on The Last of Us 2, it was amazing!