"The Texas Chainsaw Massacre" Ranked
The Texas Chainsaw Massacre is probably the most important movie in slasher history, and the horror genre as a whole. A pioneering work of horror birthed from the American New Wave; Texas Chainsaw redefined what horror could be. The series has since had 8 installments with a ninth one coming out this month, extending the franchise into its 48th year. So, with this new installment coming out, what better time than to revisit and rank all 8 parts of one of the most iconic horror series in American history.
#8: The Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Next Generation (1995) dir. Kim Henkel
The Next Generation is the 4th in the series and undoubtedly the most bizarre. After the second film established a goofier tone, and the third one basically annihilated the thematic depth of the first two, the 4th one threw all caution to the wind with a complete disaster of a film. This film copies the original’s story almost line for line (They even reuse the “Look what your brother did to the door” line) only difference being an unnecessary introduction of more lore. If you read my analysis of Friday the 13th you understand that I believe that simplicity is key in a slasher franchise, and The Next Generation goes the complete opposite direction. This installment added a cyborg Matthew McConaughey who works for the cannibal illuminati that killed JFK, and I think that best sums up the embarrassment that is The Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Next Generation.
#7: Leatherface: The Texas Chainsaw Massacre III (1990) dir. Jeff Burr
Leatherface isn’t just a bad movie, it’s the death of a series. Each franchise had a moment where the franchise dies and the original (or other good ones) becomes a distant memory in a bloated carcass of uninspired slashers. Leatherface is a potent example of that franchise death. It copies the original plot but fundamentally misunderstands what made it special. While it’s easy to call this one mindless, it feels more like a slap in the face to the original and a very dark omen for what the franchise held in store.
#6: The Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Beginning (2006) dir. Jonathan Liebesman
The prequel to the remake is just slightly more uninspired and awful than its predecessor. The Beginning decides to pay homage to the potent Vietnam themes of the original by including a Vietnam draft subplot. Unfortunately, that’s where the similarities end. This is a rehash of the 2006 remake with slight tweaks in makeup to make characters look younger. Shockingly unoriginal and barely even a slasher, let alone Texas Chainsaw movie. Another in a long line of disastrous horror prequels.
#5: The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (2003) dir. Marcus Nispel
The best thing I can say about the remake is that it takes some story risks. Unfortunately, those story risks end up causing more harm than good and we get yet another unnecessary horror remake. It’s an interesting type of film as it does feel remarkably different in the overall series, but it still ends up failing in the same ways. Anyways, definitely the worst of the 2000’s horror remake trend. The Hills Have Eyes is the best in case you’re wondering.
#4: Leatherface (2017) dir. Julien Maury & Alexandre Bustillo
Leatherface takes the franchise in another bold direction with a proper Leatherface origin story, albeit one that nobody asked for. The highlight of this is certainly the extreme gore courtesy of French directors Julien Maury and Alexandre Bustillo, responsible for the controversial 2007 film, Inside. The gore is arguably the most intense of the series, but the accolades stop there. A Leatherface origin is a fundamentally broken idea, and the abysmal storytelling on display is proof. Most interesting thing about it is how it’s the second prequel in a single franchise.
#3: Texas Chainsaw 3-D (2013) dir. John Lussenhop
This is where we luckily pivot from abysmal and unwatchable to not great but fun. 3D is what the franchise should’ve been since the third, mindless horror. It fully severs itself from the original’s brilliance and decides to be stupid. This stupidity is a double-edged sword though. We get fun violence, ridiculous plots, and an unbelievably hilarious redemption arc for the bloodthirsty serial killer/cannibal, Leatherface. At the same time, characters are awful, the effects are terrible, and there’s a lot of filler content. Still, there’s enough to enjoy making it worthwhile in the series, but it is certainly not a good movie by any means.
#2: The Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2 (1986) dir. Tobe Hooper
The only other movie in the series directed by Tobe Hooper might just be the most insane movie in the series. Hooper obviously understood that the original was a product of the cultural zeitgeist of the time and attempting to recapture that feeling of apocalyptic dread would be a fool’s errand. As a result, Texas Chainsaw 2 pivots to full blown comedy, a ridiculously over the top piece of satire. While the goofiness is fun, it often flies too close to the sun and becomes irritating. I personally found the character Chop Top to be particularly grating, but he’s carved out his own niche in cult horror. Regardless, Texas Chainsaw 2 is a great time and a memorable horror/comedy with an incredibly unhinged performance from the legendary Dennis Hopper.
#1: The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (1974) dir. Tobe Hooper
It was never even close. The 1974 Texas Chainsaw Massacre is one of the best films ever made. Period. A blistering descent into pure evil that reflected an America in decline. Perfect cinematography, unnerving sound, horrifying production design, and a crew who braved abhorrent conditions to make a masterpiece. A perfect horror film and an unforgettable snapshot of a decaying democracy, there will never be another movie like the original Texas Chainsaw Massacre.