I’m so excited about today’s post! I am finally sharing my ranking of The Texas Chainsaw Massacre franchise! If you love gore, a chainsaw-wielding maniac, a deranged family and a sticky, hot Southern backdrop, these are the movies for you. I will just mention that overall, this was a very hit-and-miss series for me. The timelines were messy, the names of both Leatherface and his clan kept changing and a lot of things didn’t make sense. By the end of my bulk-viewing, I compiled a list of the perfect ingredients (in my opinion) for a fantastic TCM movie. 1.) Leatherface has to be the main villain. If he’s not the big bad, I’m not interested. 2.) The film has to be serious and horrific in tone. I’m not as big a fan of the campy stuff and 3.) There has to be a somewhat cohesive and interesting storyline.
Now that that’s out of the way, from favourite to least favourite, here is my list!
1.) The Texas Chain Saw Massacre (1974)
In first place, we of course have the original film from 1974. Five friends head out to rural Texas to visit the grave of a grandfather. On the way, they stumble across what appears to be a deserted house, only to discover something sinister within. Something armed with a chainsaw. The director, Tobe Hooper, intended for the movie to be more of a horror comedy. However, for its time, seeing a villain wearing other people’s faces and wielding a chainsaw, proved to have the opposite effect. Audiences were terrified…and rightfully so! The cast were traumatised after filming, especially Marilyn Burns (who played final girl: Sally), as the torture scenes felt a little too real and she was injured on set. There are iconic moments in this movie that are replicated across the franchise: a.) the girl wearing the red shorts, walking toward the farmhouse, b.) the chainsaw-wielding dance at the end, c.) the dead armadillo on the side of the road and d.) the camera flash sound-effect that is signature to this series. Initially, the film was banned in several countries, despite the violence only being inferred. It was and will remain a classic in horror history.
2.) The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (2003)
In second place, we have the 2003 remake. If you told me this was your favourite film in the franchise, I wouldn’t blame you. It’s iconic! A group of young travelers, including Erin (played by Jessica Biel), come across an isolated rural home while driving through Texas. Unfortunately for them, the decrepit structure is home to a family of deranged backwoods killers, most notably a hulking masked brute known as Leatherface, who begins to hunt the stranded youths down. This movie fulfilled my checklist perfectly. Leatherface was the main villain, he was scary as hell and the story made perfect sense. It was also the goriest feature in the franchise. Unlike the original, the violence was no longer inferred. It was bloody and in your face. Not to mention, we got a kickass, gorgeous final girl that gave us grit and determination in spades. I am a huge fan of early 2000 horrors and this one was no exception.
3.) Texas Chainsaw 3D (2013)
At this point, my list may start to feel controversial but hear me out. In third place, we have Texas Chainsaw 3D from 2013. It’s supposed to be a sequel to the 1974 feature. Decades ago, residents of Newt, Texas, long suspected that the Sawyer family were responsible for the disappearances of many people. When their suspicions were finally confirmed, vigilantes torched the compound and killed every member of the notorious clan…or so they thought. Years later, a young woman named Heather (played by Alexandra Daddario) learns that she has inherited Texas property from an unknown relative. What she’s unaware of, is what awaits her in the mansion’s dank cellar. This installment had everything I wanted in a TCM movie. Gore, scary Leatherface, homages to the original film, an interesting and fleshed-out (pardon the pun) storyline and a good twist. I liked that the lines were blurry around who was truly evil. I wasn’t expecting to enjoy this film as much as I did but it’s safe to say, it earned its place near the top.
4.) The Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Beginning (2006)
The Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Beginning, from 2006, is a prequel to the 2003 remake. It follows Chrissie and her friends, as they set out on a road trip for a final fling before one of them is shipped off to Vietnam. Along the way, bikers harass the foursome and cause an accident that throws Chrissie from the vehicle. The lawman, who arrives on the scene, brings the group to the Hewitt homestead (note: not Sawyer in this one), where young Leatherface is learning the tools of terror. Despite the so-so acting, I didn’t mind this installment. It had a lot of gory moments and shocking scenes. It sits in the middle for me as the last, halfway decent film in the franchise. Sorry!
5.) The Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2 (1986)
I know The Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2 from 1986 has become a cult classic but it had me confused and perplexed. Leatherface is up to his cannibalistic ways once again, along with the rest of his twisted clan. This time, the masked killer has set his sights on pretty disc-jockey, Vanita “Stretch” Brock (played by Caroline Williams). Alongside Texas lawman, Lefty Enright (played by Dennis Hopper), they battle the psychopath and his family deep within their lair – a macabre abandoned amusement park. This is what I think went wrong. Director, Tobe Hooper, originally wanted the 1974 film to be a campy, dark comedy. When it horrified audiences and had the opposite effect, he decided to overcompensate with the next movie. This installment was completely different to its predecessor. It was goofy, ridiculous and over-the-top. Leatherface was not the main villain. In fact, he actually tries to help his victim escape, thanks to her charms. There was a very uncomfortable scene where he attempts to pleasure her with his chainsaw. The whole thing was strange and out of place from what came before. I don’t want to laugh at the maniac, I want to be terrified of him. None of it made sense, including the timeline. It just felt like a fever dream I wanted to wake up from!
6.) Texas Chainsaw Massacre – The Next Generation (1995)
In sixth place, we have Texas Chainsaw Massacre – The Next Generation from 1995. After leaving their prom early, innocent Jenny and three other teenagers crash their car in the backwoods of Texas. In search of help, they run into Vilmer Slaughter, a vicious psychopath with a mechanical leg, and his twisted family, including the serial killer: Leatherface. As the group of friends struggle to survive the maniacal methods of torture, Jenny discovers the secret origins behind the family’s lust for blood. What the hell was this movie? Our notorious masked killer was suddenly a cross-dresser in women’s makeup and clothing. Not that there’s anything wrong with that but it was difficult to take seriously! The main villain, played by Matthew McConaughey, was wildly unhinged. Renée Zellweger could not act for peanuts and there was a weird, cultish leader who appeared to be into S&M. I was laughing the entire way through and not in a positive way. I wish this was the worst film in the franchise, but we are just getting started!
7.) Leatherface (2017)
In seventh place, we have Leatherface from 2017. This was intended to be the ultimate villain origin story. A violent teen and three others, kidnap a young nurse while escaping from a Texas mental institution. Pursued by a vengeful sheriff, the disturbed young man embarks on a murderous rampage that shapes him into a legendary killer known as Leatherface. My main issue with this film was that it didn’t feel like any other movie in the franchise. If not for the title, I would not have known this was from the TCM universe. I liked the twist and that was about it. I really don’t have much more to say.
8.) Texas Chainsaw Massacre (2022)
The most recent movie in the franchise was Texas Chainsaw Massacre from 2022…and it was a hot mess. It follows a group of young influencers, who want to revitalise a deserted Texas town. It isn’t long before they face up against the infamous serial murderer: Leatherface, who is thirsty for carnage. Where do I even begin? Leatherface may have been the main villain, but he acted like he belonged in another franchise. Halloween maybe? It felt a little too Michael Myers’ish. Not to mention, the writers decided to bring back Sally from the original film (despite her being a different actress), only to kill her off towards the end. The teenagers themselves were insufferable and annoying. I didn’t care what happened to them. I wish this installment hadn’t been made. It was a dumpster fire.
9.) Leatherface – The Texas Chainsaw Massacre III (1990)
In last place, we have Leatherface – The Texas Chainsaw Massacre III from 1990. I strongly disliked this film, and I honestly thought the 2022 installment would be last, until I watched this one. Driving through Texas, young yuppie couple Michelle and Ryan stop at the Last Chance Gas Station, but after they witness the owner attacking a hitchhiker named Tex (played by Viggo Mortensen), they panic and flee. In their hasty departure, they get lost and soon find themselves pursued by the chainsaw-toting maniac known as Leatherface. While running, the couple bump into survivalist: Benny, who they team up with in an effort to escape. Maybe I missed something, but nothing happens in this film. The big bad is barely in it. The majority of the scenes take place at night when it’s too dark to see and the characters themselves are irritating beyond belief. Not to mention, Leatherface died in the previous film, but we are meant to forget that he’s suddenly alive in this one? Not buying it!
Thank you so much for reading! How would you rank the franchise? I would love to know your thoughts!
Peace & Love xoxo