Arguably the first true slasher (or at least in the running for it), the original Texas Chainsaw Massacre was truly unlike anything audiences had ever seen before. Much like Michael Myers, Jason Vorhees, and Freddy Krueger, Leatherface has become a cultural icon due to the longevity of his franchise. So with the recent release of the new “requel”, and all the internet debate that’s followed, we thought it would be fun to go back and rank every movie in the franchise!
9. Leatherface (2017)
Who else remembers those direct-to-video sequels/prequels to the Scorpion King that no one really saw or paid attention to? That’s exactly what this movie feels like. Somewhere hidden in there is the tragedy of how Jed Sawyer becomes the infamous Leatherface.
But it doesn’t really do anything to properly set that up. Sure it explains his physical deformity in his face, but not his mental deterioration, considering he was actually quite thoughtful. Granted, similar things have been done in Rob Zombie’s Halloween, in an attempt to show how someone becomes a killer. But even there, we had more of a setup.
This movie just feels more like a prequel to Texas Chainsaw (2013) than to the original classic. It doesn’t really try anything new or have any real reason to exist. It feels more like it’s trying to be Devil’s Rejects with the brutal and corrupt sheriff and doesn’t even pull that off properly.
8. Leatherface: The Texas Chainsaw Massacre III (1990)
This isn’t a bad movie per se, in fact some of the movies higher up have more flaws. This one just feels the most bored and forgettable. Which is kind of an amazing feat because it features performances from both Ken Foree and Viggo Mortensen.
Both of them do the best they can, but between major retcons, the revelation that Leatherface fathered a daughter, and the complete change in the family dynamic, this movie feels like a corporate product designed to cash in on the success of the franchise.
To be fair, most movies are exactly this, but this one doesn’t really do much to set itself apart. It just sort of feels like a retread of the original but with a real made-for-TV quality to it.
7. Texas Chainsaw Massacre (2022)
To its credit, this movie knows exactly what it’s trying to do in terms of delivering on brutal kills and excess gore. So it definitely appeals to the demented part in all of us horror fans. But the movie itself is just a mess.
None of the characters are really interesting, Leatherface’s return seems kind of random and out of left field and it completely wastes the return of Sally. If you want to rip off Halloween 2018, that’s fine, but at least do it right and don’t build up a showdown just to have it go nowhere and feature the legacy character for just a few minutes of screentime.
6. Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Next Generation (1994)
Perhaps this movie is higher ranked than it should be, but hear me out. Yes, it’s absolutely ridiculous, the plot makes no sense, and it’s about as cheesy and ridiculous as it gets. But in terms of how enjoyable a movie is to watch, this one is much easier to revisit than a lot of the previous entries on this list!
The simple fact is Matthew McConaughey absolutely chews up every scene he’s in and elevates this movie from bargain bin mediocre to so insane and ridiculous that it’s entertaining. No, it’s not a “good” movie in terms of cinematic achievement. Rather it’s a fun movie that isn’t afraid to just go all out and hold absolutely nothing back.
5. Texas Chainsaw (2013)
If you’re willing to overlook the fact that the lead of this movie is only in her 20s and it’s supposed to be set 39 years after the original, this movie wasn’t a bad attempt at the soft reboot which wipes clean everything that came before it.
Granted it was released in 3D during that craze, but it never goes too overboard with it and it does contain kind of an interesting spin on the series. With a main character slowly discovering her own heritage and willingly joining the “family”, this movie does offer new and original ideas that hadn’t really been done with the series up to that point. It’s far from perfect, but it’s also pretty solid for most of its runtime.
4. The Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Beginning (2006)
For a long time, this movie was at the bottom of my personal rankings. But after seeing how badly Leatherface botched the whole prequel idea, it started to make this movie look better and it warranted a reassessment. Piggybacking on everything that was good about the remake, this one doubles down on the extreme hostilities that human beings are capable of inflicting upon each other.
R. Lee Ermey absolutely shines here as the harsh drill instructor he played in Full Metal Jacket goes full sadistic psychopath and it’s just a joy to watch. This franchise so frequently features Leatherface as the silent muscle and another character as the crazed talker, and Ermey sort of occupies both. The movie definitely has its flaws, but it’s a real treat on every rewatch.
3. The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (2003)
As far as remakes go, most would agree that this one is one of the better ones. The original movie’s brutality was very much a reflection of the Vietnam era and all of this violence and brutality. The same could be said of many movies of the 70s, which start pushing the envelope in terms of gore and subject matter. The same happened again in the 2000s as a reflection of the post-9/11 world and images coming back from Afghanistan and Iraq.
This remake came at the perfect time and served as the new generation’s take on the harsh realities that the world had become. Between R. Lee Ermey and a new and towering Leatherface, this movie drives home all the same disgust and grotesque terror that made the original famous. Only this one didn’t have to hold back as much in the blood and gore department!
Some will say that it surpasses the original, which is a bit of a stretch. However, it’s a damn good remake that holds up on its own and deserves every bit of praise and recognition that it gets.
2. The Texas Chainsaw Massacre Part 2 (1986)
How do you follow up a classic like the original movie, especially when you’re the very same director and the expectations are higher than ever? That answer is with this absolute gem of a satirical comedy that’s just as intense as that first movie, but takes things into fun and interesting directions.
Everything about this sequel is iconic, from Bill Moseley’s hilarious performance as Chop Top, the Sawyers winning the chili contest, Caroline Williams and her chemistry with Leatherface, and of course Dennis Hopper going full camp and wielding dual chainsaws. There’s just so much to love!
It smartly avoided just doing the exact same thing as its predecessor and as a result, it creates something new and interesting, an achievement that is sadly very rare for sequels. You can’t the original movie to be intrigued and disturbed, but you watch this one to laugh and be entertained.
1. The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (1974)
The last two entries come close, but of course it always had to be this movie in the top spot and you know exactly why! Not only did it essentially start the slasher genre (yes, this is the movie I credit as the first true slasher), but it revolutionized and inspired an entire generation of filmmakers.
It’s also a much smarter horror movie than general audiences give it credit for. So many people look at it as nothing more than gratuitous grotesquery, but it’s been interpreted so many different ways by different people. With interpretations ranging from a commentary on the meat industry to an allegory for Vietnam to a metaphor for how the industrial revolution ruined agrarian life, the fact that it has so many potential takeaways is a testament to how well it was made.
Having lasted in the cultural zeitgeist for nearly 50 years, there’s a reason that this movie is one we always go back to, and there’s a reason that every sequel (other than Part II) have tried to emulate this movie in one way or another. It remains not only one of the top 10 horror movies of the 1970s, but perhaps one of the top 10 horror movies of all time!
Which ones are your favorites? Let us know in the comments!