All 7 ‘Texas Chainsaw Massacre’ Movies Ranked from Worst to Best
Note: Collider’s Halloween horror month continues this week with a look at horror’s most iconic, enduring franchises. We kicked things off the Halloween movies ranked and Nightmare on Elm Street movies ranked, and today we’re looking back on the Texas Chainsaw Massacre franchise. Stay tuned throughout the week for more on horror’s biggest hits and get ready for a monster mash next week!
The Texas Chainsaw Massacre films have gone through quite the transformation over the years. It all began with a pure and downright terrifying display of sadism that’ll make you think twice before picking up a hitchhiker or visiting a tiny Texas town. Many tried to recreate what Tobe Hooper achieved in the 1974 original, but added backstory, gore and dark humor kept most from tapping into the sheer terror of the situation. Check out how all seven Texas Chainsaw movies stack up in the list below.
7) Texas Chainsaw 3D (2013)
There are some ridiculous movies in the Texas Chainsaw film franchise, but the latest installment, Texas Chainsaw 3D, finds itself at rock bottom because it is by far the laziest of the bunch. In fact, this one earned the bottom spot mere minutes into the film simply because the timeline of the movie makes absolutely no sense at all. Texas Chainsaw 3D kicks off shortly after the events of the original film. The residents of Newt, Texas are furious about what the Sawyer family did, so they take it upon themselves to murder every single one of them – except for one, baby Edith Sawyer. The movie picks back up when Edith is all grown up, goes by the name Heather Miller and knows absolutely nothing about her heritage. So let’s start there. The film begins in 1974 and then jumps forward to the present day, 2012 or 2013. A little simple math will quickly reveal that that would mean Heather should be close to 40. Not only does Alexandra Daddario most certainly not look like she’s 40, but no one else in the film has aged 40 years either. And that’s only one of the film’s many, many inexcusable errors and poor filmmaking decisions. It makes absolutely no sense for Leatherface to make a scene at a crowded carnival, it’s downright hilarious when Heather falls down the stairs of the house and then trips over the graveyard fence for absolutely no reason whatsoever, the line, “Do your thing cuz,” makes me want to vomit, the fact that Daddario is wearing half a shirt or an unbuttoned shirt the entire movie infuriates me, and then, to top it all off, we’re expected to excuse everything that Leatherface has done and be thrilled that he and Edith can live happily ever after together.
6) Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Next Generation (1994)
Texas Chainsaw 3D is the worst of the worst, but The Next Generation isn’t far behind. The movie begins with a bunch of obnoxious high school students who wind up lost in the woods instead of at prom. Eventually they bump into Leatherface, but he’s actually not the primary villain of the film. That title belongs to Matthew McConaughey’s character, Vilmer, a certifiable psychopath with a mechanical leg who works for the Illuminati (or an Illuminati-like organization). It’s abundantly clear that Kim Henkel attempted to recreate the utter terror and ruthlessness of the original, but he doesn’t even come close thanks to the cheap and tacky visuals, the lack of atmosphere and the fact that he overcomplicates the lore to the point that The Next Generation doesn’t even feel like a Texas Chainsaw film anymore. Yes, there’s Leatherface, but he spends the entire movie whining and screaming like a baby and doesn’t seem to have any aim whatsoever with his signature weapon.
5) The Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2 (1986)
Just look at the poster for Tobe Hooper’s The Texas Chain Saw Massacre follow-up. This thing is a demented slapstick/family drama/splatterfest mash-up. The story begins 13 years after the events of the first film with Sally and Franklin’s uncle, Lefty (Dennis Hopper), still trying to track down those responsible for what happened to them. Lucky for him, a radio DJ named Stretch (Caroline Williams) gets a call during her show and winds up broadcasting Leatherface’s latest kill live on the air. This thing is as kooky as they come with Jim Siedow competing in chili cook-offs (bet you can guess what his signature ingredient is), Hopper proudly brandishing three chainsaws at once and Williams doing a full-blown victory dance on top of the Swayers’ house of horrors. The Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2 is no Texas Chain Saw sequel. It’s an incoherent, gratuitous and obnoxious spoof with Bill Johnson taking the Leatherface shuffle to cartoonish proportions.
4) Leatherface: The Texas Chainsaw Massacre III (1990)
Leatherface is an improvement, but not by much. I appreciate the simplicity of the narrative, especially compared to the nonsensical mayhem in The Next Generation, but there is absolutely no reason for this movie to be titled Leatherface at all. Similar to The Next Generation, the movie is less about Leatherface and much more so about the leader of the family, in this case Tex played by Viggo Mortensen. Mortensen balances Tex’s manipulation skills with his maniacal behavior far better than McConaughey, but in the end, he’s a forgettable villain. Kate Hodge and William Butler also make for some pretty unremarkable heroes. The only one who’s a true joy to watch is Ken Foree as military survivalist Benny. Leatherface isn’t a particularly bloody installment (the MPAA notoriously gave the film an X rating so the more graphic material was removed), but it also isn’t hokey like Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2, putting it slightly more in line with the original film.
3) The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (2003)
Part of the appeal of the original Texas Chain Saw Massacre is how gritty and brutal it is. The glossy, commercial vibe of director Marcus Nispel and producer Michael Bay’s 2003 remake does detract from the savagery of Leatherface, but they do manage to fill that hole well enough by upping the violence and gore. No, you don’t want to weaken the atmosphere and barbarity of the situation with flashy, hollow kill scenes but, for the most part, that’s inevitable with remakes. Nispel certainly knows how to shoot a pretty picture with highly effective set pieces, but he fails to establish any forward momentum, connective tissue or texture, and that keeps the film from getting under you skin like the original and, instead, makes it more of a guilty pleasure and fleeting thrill.
2) The Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Beginning (2006)
I’m likely in the minority on this one, but I think Bay and the guys at Platinum Dunes come far closer to capturing the spirit and brutality of the 1974 film with Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Beginning. The prequel takes us back to 1939 and explains that Leatherface was actually the abandoned baby of a slaughterhouse employee who died during childbirth. Years later, he’s working at that same slaughterhouse but the health department shuts them down. Furious, Leatherface refuses to leave, picks up the chainsaw for the very first time and, with Sheriff Hoyt/Charlie Hewitt Jr.’s (R. Lee Ermey) guidance, begins his murder spree. The beauty of the original film is that it never bothers to spell out why the family liked to kill and eat people. Exposition like this should reduce the scare factor, but director Jonathan Liebesman makes Leatherface feel like such a hulking, all-powerful monster that he gets away with it. On top of that, Liebesman also manages to do one thing that most other Texas Chainsaw movies cannot: make you care about the characters. Chrissie (Jordana Brewster), Eric (Matt Bomer), Dean (Taylor Handley) and Bailey (Diora Baird) have many familiar qualities, but for the most part, they’re nice, normal people who don’t scream the entire movie and don’t make too many stupid decisions either.
1) The Texas Chain Saw Massacre (1974)
I adore the large majority of the slasher classics, but after countless viewings, The Texas Chain Saw Massacre is one of few that can still put me on edge every single time I watch it. I’ve lost my patience for brainless leads and an excess of shrieking, but both work well here thanks to the nightmarish scenario and overwhelmingly powerful atmosphere. Hooper and cinematographer Daniel Pearl establish an exceptionally engrossing visual language that puts everything far too close for comfort. There’s a reason this story has been remade, rebooted and continued time and time again. There’s something so fascinatingly twisted about a family taking such pleasure in violence and torture. However, most of the follow-ups pale in comparison because they forgo texture and focus too much on exposition, blood and guts. And the funny thing is, the 1974 original barely had any of that at all.