Sommerleigh Pollonais, Horror Head Writer
When I think of the Texas Chainsaw Massacre franchise, I think messy and in more ways than may seem obvious. As horror franchises go this one probably isn’t topping that many lists because most of the series is made up of remakes, reboots and reimaginings instead of straight forward sequels.
That said, there’s no denying Tobe Hooper’s first film made a lasting impact on the genre, an indelible mark that leaves new directors and writers trying over and over again to hit that bullseye and fans returning with hopes of catching lightning in a bottle once more. How many times have they tried you wonder? The answer is eight and today I’m gonna take a meat hook to them as I line them up in order of bloody goodness.
Here are ALL NINE TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE MOVIES RANKED:
#9 Leatherface: The Texas Chainsaw Massacre III (1990)
Of all the TCM movies this one is the least memorable for me to the point where I totally forgot what it was about.
It does have a few positives though, such as Ken Foree (Dawn of the Dead, From Beyond) as badass Leatherface hunter Benny and, of all things, a young Viggo Mortensen as one of the Sawyer clan, as well as possibly the best chainsaw old LF has ever owned in the form of a golden one with the words “The Saw is Family” written on it. But the rest of the movie comes across as generic, and if you skipped it you wouldn’t be missing much.
#8 Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Next Generation (1995)
A little while back I made a list of horror movies I used to hate that I now love. While TCM:TNG wasn’t high up enough on my radar to make that list, I have to be honest and say it’s not as bad as I first remembered.
While this one is weak on scares, heavy on schlock and has one of the worst looking Leatherface masks in the franchise (at least for this horror fan) it DOES have one of the most committedly over the top performances by a very intense and very entertaining Matthew McConaughey as LF relative Vilmer, as well as a young Reneé Zellweger holding her own against him.
They give it their all and if you’re in the mood for some “so-bad-it’s good” horror you could do a lot worse. But sadly it’s not enough to make The Next Generation stand out higher on this list.
#7 Texas Chainsaw 3D (2013)
On one hand I have a huge girl crush on Alexandra Daddario and this was the first movie I saw her in. But no matter how many pretty people they pack in here, Texas Chainsaw 3D is as by the numbers as they come.
Actually it’s a bit worse than that because they try to turn old Leatherface into some type of anti-hero here by making him the “family protector” instead of just a straight-up annihilator of unlucky outsiders that happen across his path. It’s not all bad though as the pacing is good and they do bring back some of the key players of the franchise such as the legendary Gunnar Hansen, Marilyn Burns and Bill Mosely. Those performances are great and let’s face it, their mere presence elevates what is basically a slasher movie with Leatherface guest starring as the main villain into a TCM movie worthy of at least one viewing.
#6 Leatherface (2017)
Oh what could’ve been! Lionsgate brought in not one but two horror auteurs in the form of Julien Maury and Alexandre Bustillo (directors of Inside and Livid respectively) to direct this new origin story for Leatherface. On one hand the movie looks polished with a cinematic style that fits well into the TCM universe. There’s also a very memorable action sequence in a diner with a bloody shoot-out that more than satisfies the gore hound in me.
Sadly, the pacing is very sluggish and the whole road-trip element didn’t work for me as it grinds most of the energy to a halt. I give Leatherface points for trying something new and actually adding an original spin on the story. But even with a great look and a solid performance by Stephen Dorff as the vengeance seeking Texas Ranger, this is the one I think a lot of people would forget even existed in the franchise.
#5 Texas Chainsaw Massacre (2022)
Halloween 2018 this ain’t!
The visuals plus sound design works and, even with some wonky CGI here and there, the kills deliver. Actor Mark Burnham makes for a very imposing Leatherface and like Halloween 2018 they go for the revenge angle by bringing back the character of Sally Hardesty, the final girl of original film The Texas Chain Saw Massacre (1974).
If the focus was kept on her and her journey of revenge then this could’ve been something special. There’s also fun to be had at the expense of cancel culture, gentrification and social media influencers which make up most of the main cast of characters. And sadly therein lies the main problem here as a horror movie with unlikeable leads is not a horror movie that leaves a lasting impression.
As soon as all of my favourite people got axed (figuratively speaking) I checked out on this movie, just waiting to see who died next and for the credits to roll. Good but not good enough is the best way I can describe this entry in the franchise.
#4 The Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Beginning (2006)
In this era (early 2000s) there were two “new” TCM movies, both of which were designed to be reimaginings of the origin story. This one has some strengths with lead characters you actually will feel sympathy for in Chrissie and Eric, played by Jordana Brewster (The Faculty, Fast and Furious franchise) and Matt Bomer (White Collar, Doom Patrol) respectively.
Throw in a ridiculously fun turn from R. Lee Ermey as the maniacal Sheriff Hoyt and this one feels right in a lot of ways. The problem here is the movie relies heavily on nostalgia to sell itself. Think every Batman movie that shows us Bruce’s parents dying in an alley for the nine billionth time and you’ll know what I mean. Add in a mostly forgettable story and you’ll see why it didn’t make it higher on this list.
#3 The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (2003)
The “R” word is never an easy thing to sell to fans so when it was announced a straight up remake of The Texas Chainsaw Massacre was on the way most of the horror loving world rolled their eyes so hard they ended up temporarily blind. Thankfully Director Marcus Nispel made some clever choices that not only paid homage to the original but delivered a movie that stands strongly on its own.
The cinematography is superb, the sound design evokes all things Leatherface, and the atmosphere made me feel all the stomach churning things the original did. Throw in R. Lee Ermey (the man can do no wrong) and Jessica Biel as one helluva a final girl and of all the recent TCM sequels/remakes and reimaginings out there, this is the one that sticks with me the most.
#2 The Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2 (1986)
Talk about taking it up a notch or ten! Tobe Hooper returned to direct the sequel 12 years later and moved the sadistic Sawyer clan to an abandoned amusement park that somehow fits perfectly with these people when you think about it. Bill Mosely is a staple of this franchise and one of the few actors who has consistently returned to his role as Leatherface’s sadistic sibling Chop Top. He’s joined by the late great genre staple Dennis Hopper as the cop hunting them down and Caroline Williams as final girl Stretch who may I say is another horror heroine who doesn’t get enough praise for her memorable performance.
Its over-the-top crazy, gory and has the kind of black comedy that only horror movies can get away with. If you’re a fan of 80’s horror I highly recommend giving this one another look.
#1 The Texas Chain Saw Massacre (1974)
Was there every any doubt?
1974’s TCM isn’t just a horror movie; it’s the horror movie that other films of the genre have emulated for years and strove to be like. There are very and I mean VERY few horror movies that upon rewatching I find myself feeling the very same emotions I did upon first viewing (now THERE’s an idea for my next list…). And even 50-plus years later I still find myself tensing up from the opening credits to the very last frame of a mentally broken Sally and a deranged, chainsaw revving, dancing in the sunlight Leatherface, still very much alive to haunt my dreams.
If you’ve seen it (and you damn well should!) you’ll easily see why this is a film still being studied by modern filmmakers to this very day.
So that’s my list. Do you agree with it? Disagree? Feel free to sound off in the comments. And you can check out more great slasher content below:
Sommerleigh of the House Pollonais. First of Her Name. Sushi Lover, Queen of Horror Movies, Comic Books and Binge Watching Netflix. Mother of two beautiful black cats named Vader and Kylo. I think eating Popcorn at the movies should be mandatory, PS4 makes the best games ever, and I’ll be talking about movies until the zombie apocalypse comes.
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