Ranking the Entire Texas Chainsaw Massacre Series

When it comes to iconic slasher franchises, we always think of Halloween, Friday the 13th, and A Nightmare on Elm Street.  Very often, The Texas Chainsaw Massacre is overlooked as a franchise, and Leatherface doesn’t get nearly as much attention as his fellow slashers.

Which is rather strange, considering his cinematic debut predated that of Michael Myers, Jason Vorhees, and Freddy Krueger.  So as this incredibly bizarre franchise (and we’ll see just how bizarre it gets) celebrates its 45th anniversary, let’s take a closer look at each entry and rank them worst to best!

8. The Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Beginning

R. Lee Ermey is about the only interesting component of this film.

It was honestly difficult to decide whether this or Next Generation deserved the bottom slot.  From a strictly filmmaking standpoint, The Beginning has fewer flaws and is more coherent.  But it’s also incredibly forgettable.

Aside from R. Lee Ermey being his normal awesome self, this film really is a just a paint (with blood) by numbers exercise in torture porn that doesn’t really set itself apart.  And a prequel displaying how Leatherface became homicidal due to corporate downsizing just isn’t what fans had in mind for a good Texas Chainsaw Massacre film.

7. Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Next Generation

This films was so bad that Matthew McConnaughey even tried to get his lawyers to block its re-release in 1997, because he was so ashamed of it!

As previously mentioned, Next Generation is by far the most absurd and all over the place entry.  Where to even begin?!  Between the strange government/secret society subplot, to Leatherface’s incredibly strange look, to Matthew McConaughey being the craziest we’ve ever seen him on film, it’s just crazy, adrenaline-rush of a film.

In a strange way, it looks and feels even cheaper than the original.  But it remains an embaressment to the careers of both Matthew McConaughey and Renée Zellweger, and we can’t forgive the idiotic “twist” of having Leatherface and his cannibalistic family on the government payroll.

6. Leatherface

This mask is simply far too clean and professional-looking to be Leatherface’s!

To be fair, Leatherface isn’t a terrible film overall, it just doesn’t feel at all like a Texas Chainsaw Massacre film.  It’s well shot, well-acted, and has a strong sense of mood and atmosphere.  In many ways, it feels like the Hannibal Rising of this franchise.

If it was a standalone horror film about one man’s descent into madness and cannibalism, it would be one thing, but to call it Leatherface just feels a bit insulting.  Also, it oddly tried really hard to connect with the stranger parts of Texas Chainsaw 3D (more on that later).

5. Leatherface: The Texas Chainsaw Massacre III

Long before Viggo Mortensen was cutting up Orcs in Middle-Earth, he was slicing up and eating people in Texas!

After the incredibly bizarre dark satire that that was Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2, this entry felt truer in tone to the original.  It has all the dirty, disgusting grit that fans had come to love about this series.  Plus it includes such legends as Ken Foree and Viggo Mortensen (in his creepiest role of his career).

All that said however, it has a cheap feel to it, and not in a good way.  It’s very watered down and has a very 90’s TV movie vibe.  It’s a decent entry, but at the end of the day, it’s one of the more forgettable entries.

4. The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (2003)

This remake was just as violent as everyone mistakenly believes the original was.

Horror remakes are very hit or miss, and this film started the trend that would dominated the early 2000’s to today.  It essentially captures the dark and gritty spirit of the original, while embracing much more violence than it ever did.

Leatherface himself  is a strong and dominating force, and R. Lee Ermey makes for a nice addition, even being creepier than Leatherface at some times.  As far as remakes go, it’s certainly passable, but obviously, it could never truly compare to the original.

3. Texas Chainsaw 3D

In this film, Leatherface goes from terrifying villain to special needs relative who needs constant care.

After the series had been through three sequels that conflict with each other’s continuity, a remake, and a prequel to that remake, it was decided to take simply the franchise and just do a direct sequel to the original (much like 2018’s Halloween).

It makes some questionable choices by having its main character be about 15 years younger than she should be, not to mentioned boiling the whole cannibalistic Sawyer family down to a blood feud with another family.  But aside from all that, it’s a solid slasher that attempts to humanize Leatherface more than ever before.

It has its missteps, but the whole idea of him having a cousin choose to care for him and enable his killings is just screwed up enough to score high on this list!

2. The Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2

The films doubles down so much on satire, that its poster was a parody of The Breakfast Club!

This sequel was greatly successful for two main reasons: bringing back Tobe Hooper as director, and unlike most sequels, Hooper going in a completely different direction.  The first film could never be outdone in it grotesque and brutal nature, so Hooper went more for a dark satire and it works almost too brilliantly.

Between an over the top Dennis Hopper (who’s just as crazy as the Sawyer family) to Bill Moseley in one of his most iconic performances as Chop Top, this sequel is incredibly fun and keeps true to the continuity of the original, while going in a new direction.  It’s everything that a sequel is supposed to be.  It raises the stakes and scale of the original, but doesn’t merely try to replicate it.

1. The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (1974)

Rob Zombie later said his entire film career (as well as House of 1000 Corpses) was inspired by this classic!

How could anything other than this take the #1 spot?!  Not only is Texas Chainsaw Massacre arguably the first true slasher (beating Black Christmas by two months and Halloween by four years), but it inspired an entire generation of filmmakers.

It remains a beacon of the ultra-brutal, gritty horror films of the 1970’s, many of which were direct responses to the gruesome images from Vietnam being broadcasted on the evening news.  Despite having a reputation is a nasty, disgusting slasher, The Texas Chainsaw Massacre is much more brilliant and intellectual than it gets credit for.

Countless film critics and other academics have pointed to the many themes of industrialization, counter culture, and even the parallels to the meat industry the film contains.  And it’s all topped off with brilliant camerawork and direction by a young Tobe Hooper, who almost tricked us into believing this was in a fact a real snuff film!

Which of these awesomely brutal films is your favorite/least favorite?  Do you agree with our rankings?  We would love to hear yours in the comments!


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