Jason Voorhees, the Friday The 13th masked mass murderer who has terrorized horny teenagers at camp sites for generations, has had many faces. This is both a credit to the various makeup artists designing Jason’s gruesome face and the performers wearing those makeups beneath that iconic hockey mask. This Friday the 13th holiday, we rank the latter. The top Jason will be pretty obvious to most Friday fiends… but how does the rest of this list shake out?
We should note that the Friday The 13th franchise also sports three major non-Jason serial killer characters, in the original Friday The 13th, Friday The 13th Part V: A New Beginning (although Jason does make a tiny cameo in both of these films), and of course Freddy Vs. Jason. These rankings will comprise the actual Jasons only.
Child Jasons will be mentioned along with their adult counterparts’ individual entries, except in the one instance where a child Jason is all we get.
9. The Potato Sack Jasons: Steve Daskewisz, Warrington Gillette, Ellen Lutter (Friday The 13th Part 2)
Ladies and gentlemen, we have reached the nadir of this list. In the franchise’s seven-hour documentary Crystal Lake Memories (2013), a secondhand anecdote is shared by official Part 2 Jason Steve Daskewisz. According to Daskewisz, a stuntman, director Steve Miner brought him in to supplement actor Warrington Gillette, who was unable to perform many of his own stunts. In delineating which Jason is which, we know that Gillette-as-Jason killed Crazy Ralph (Walter J. Gorney), but Daskewisz portrayed Jason during many forest chase sequences. Gillette went uncredited in the final film, but he did portray the unmasked Jason.
Costume designer Ellen Lutter portrayed Jason’s feet during his first on-screen appearance in this film. Both main Jason performers were not quite the hulking menaces that the character would become in later films, as director Steve Miner and producer Sean S. Cunningham were still feeling their way through the creation of this iconic movie monster. They were a bit slight and undersized, with Daskewisz standing at 5’11” and Gillette at 6’1″.
The general qualifiers by which we grade Jasons are hard to assess here because of one brutal obstruction. Ultimately, you could be Marlon Brando under there, but there’s just nothing scary about a guy running around the woods with a pillow case over his head. Yes, Gillette’s grotesque Jason makeup, seen in a small smattering of climactic shots when Jason is finally unmasked (and featured on the flick’s poster because, again, the pillow case Jason wears most of the time is not scary), is plenty sinister. But the echoes of that stupid burlap bag will reverberate until the end of time as one of the ultimate cinematic sins, one so unforgivable that it dooms these Jasons to the bottom of these rankings.
8. The Hallucination Jason: Tom Morga, John Hock (Friday The 13th Part V: A New Beginning)
Jason very, very briefly haunts a grown-up Tommy in sweaty dreams and waking mirages. He is distinguishable from Fake Jason, an aggrieved paramedic (Dick Wieand), in that Actual Jason’s hockey mask retains the cut on its upper righthand edge incurred from a machete to the face he suffered at the hands of the Jarvis clan in The Final Friday. It also has a small red triangular mark in the center of the brow, whereas Not Jason’s mask has blue marks on either cheek. Morga doesn’t get to do much, in this critic’s least favorite franchise installment, so gauging him against Jasons who appeared throughout a film feels somewhat unfair. Then again, he wasn’t wearing a potato sack over his head, so he can’t be dead last here.
The 6’1.5″ Morga holds a unique, Lon Chaney Jr.-esque distinction among ’80s horror monsters: he is the only person to portray Jason, Michael Myers (in just the gas station scene of Halloween 4), and Leatherface (during only the bridge battle of The Texas Chainsaw Massacre Part 2).
John Hock only officially played Jason Voorhees during Tommy’s first dream sequence (which also featured a Corey Feldman cameo), though he also doubled for Not Jason elsewhere in the flick.
7. The Swamp Thing Jason: Ari Lehman (Friday The 13th ’80)
Swamp Thing Jason is only in this puppy for just a matter of seconds, a slow-motion Gotcha! epilogue jump-scare attack of Final Girl Alice (Adrienne King) that was so effective it paved the way for the series’ signature villain in subsequent movies. We are treated to a great Tom Savini character makeup, too, covered with swampy lake grime. Lehman was just 14 at the time of filming.
6. The WWE Jason: Ken Kirzinger, Doug Tait, Glenn Ennis (Kirzinger — Freddy Vs. Jason, stunt double for Kane Hodder in Friday The 13th Part VIII: Jason Takes Manhattan when Jason gets hit by a cop car; Tait and Ennis — Freddy Vs. Jason only)
Hulking 6’7″ stuntman Ken Kirzinger replaced four-time Jason Kane Hodder in an unpopular casting choice at the time. In the franchise entry that is as much of an extended comic book wrestling match as it is a traditional horror movie, Kirzinger turns in a serviceable performance as an almost cartoonishly ‘roided-out foil for the more cerebral, crispy child killer Freddy Krueger (Robert Englund). Keeping in line with the wrestling theme, Englund’s stunt double for the film was WWE pro Rey Mysterio.
Kid Jason (Spencer Stump), seen in flashback, is the subject of some pretty cruel summer camp bullying and his makeup is fairly tasteful and realistic compared to prior franchise entries.
The FVJ vintage of Jason loses major credibility here due to his physical fear of water. Come on, man. For a reshoot, Tait played Jason during the film’s ambiguous conclusion, wherein Jason carries Krueger’s winking decapitated head across Crystal Lake. Ennis was brought in for a few stunt moments (to… double a stunt man, but whatever), including the corn field rager that Jason slashes to pieces while on fire.
5. The Greatest Hits Jason: Derek Mears (Friday The 13th, circa 2009)
An amateur cage fighter, the 6’5″ Mears channeled the “best of” component of the remake, both in his look and physicality. Makeup artist Scott Stoddard combined Tom Savini’s character makeups in Part I and Part IV plus Carl Fuller’s grizzled “mountain man” makeup in Part 2. The Mears Jason returned to the running Jason of the original few films, while still enjoying plenty of slow plodding.
The significantly more torture-porn reboot narratively combined elements of the first four flicks (plus a nod to the sleeping bag gag in Part VII, though the actual kill is different), so perhaps it fits that this Jason is also something of a compilation. Mears benefits from being a trained actor, not just a stunt man, and clearly a student of his predecessors. He is a menacing, looming presence, frequently given added power by being filmed at a low angle by cinematographer Daniel Pearl. Caleb Guss portrays Kid Jason here.
4. The Jason From The Black Lagoon: Ted White (Friday The 13th: The Final Chapter)
White, who had already been a stunt performer in Hollywood for 35 years (including an early turn as a Gill Man stunt double in Creature From The Black Lagoon 30 years prior to cameras rolling on Final Chapter), was 57 years old when cameras rolled on Part IV. Though he has the appropriately robust stuntman physique and cuts an intimidating figure, the 6’4″ White only has one effective speed: plodding and sinister. When his movements speed up (especially when he’s jogging in wide shots), his age becomes obvious, as Red Letter Media critics Jay Bauman and Josh Davis point out in their excellent extended review of Final Chapter and Jason Lives. White’s ranking here also benefits from being a competent Jason in the best Friday The 13th movie. The Tom Savini character design here was a fun revision of Part III.
“At the time I was not really overly proud of making the film. You know I was offered the fifth one and the sixth one, I could have done either one of them, and I turned them down,” White commented during his interview for Crystal Lake Memories. “I’m sorry now that I did turn them down.” So are we, Ted.
3. The Living Dead Jason: Dan Bradley and C.J. Graham (Friday The 13th Part VI: Jason Lives)
We are treated to multiple Jasons once again in Part VI, the film’s terrific Zombie Jason horror comedy. 6’5″ Dan Bradley was fired halfway through filming, replaced by the 6’3″ C. J. Graham, per the doc. Together, theirs is the most self-aware of all Jasons, appearing in the funniest (on purpose, at least) franchise entry. The Living Dead Jason looms large over his victims, and has a verticality to rival Roy Hibbert, leaping atop buses and trees with impressive alacrity.
2. The He’s Coming Right For Us Jason: Richard Brooker (Friday The 13th Part III)
Richard Brooker was the first hockey-masked Jason, one of the bulkier and more physically intimidating Jasons who moved with a real brute menace and physical grace. This should come as no surprise, really, since the 6’3″ Brooker was a former trapeze artist. There is a dynamism to his movements, too — he proves equally sinister with plodding slow-burn physicality and fast-twitch thrashing, as when he destroys the contents of the barn in the movie’s climax. Brooker, a bit lithe for Jason, bulked out his Jason figure with white foam padding. His clothing was thus a bit too tight, making him seem that much physically intimidating, as he was literally popping out his wardrobe. The character makeup for Brooker’s unmasked Jason, designed by makeup effects director Doug White, was uniquely creepy (Brooker was outfitted into three distinctly different makeup designs, including one by Stan Winston before he bowed out of the project). Plus, you know, he was in 3D.
1. The Ultimate Jason: Kane Hodder (Friday The 13th Part VII: The New Blood, Friday The 13th Part VIII: Jason Takes Manhattan, Jason Goes to Hell: The Final Friday, Jason X)
Kane Hodder is typically thought of as the top Jason because he was the only iteration to appear as the prime Jason in multiple flicks (again, Ken Kirzinger appeared in two, but he was only the main Jason for Freddy Vs. Jason). Though some of his flicks were spotty after Part VII, the 6’2.65″ Hodder was a consistently high-quality, stabilizing presence even while the narratives faltered. He provided a fun, hulking, larger-than-life presence, with his signature heavy-breathing, barrel-chested menace, to the proceedings.
John Carl Buechler wanted to replace C.J. Graham for his Friday franchise entry, Friday The 13th Part VII: The New Blood, and he wanted someone with whom he had prior experience. Buechler had been the makeup artist on the Renny Harlin-helmed Prison (1987), the film that nabbed Harlin A Nightmare on Elm Street 4: The Dream Master (1988), co-starring Hodder. Buechler explained his decision in a 2007 conversation with FridayThe13thFilms.com: “I explained that I wanted to create a whole new look for Jason; a torn up living dead ghost that inhabited a decomposing body. The make-up effects would ‘bulk him up’ a bit, and they would also allow for CHUNKS to be missing from his rotting frame.” Buechler noted that, during the production of Prison, “Kane proved to be an exceptional talent. A great stuntman, actor, and mime.”
Hodder discussed some of the performative notes he established as Jason in his very own documentary, To Hell and Back: The Kane Hodder Story (2017). “I thought when Jason is staring at someone, and not moving, he looks like a mannequin,” Hodder said. “So what can I do to still do that same stare, but add life to the character? I came up with the breathing thing. To me, that made it look like the character was about to spring any moment; even though he’s motionless, staring at you, the heaving chest looks scary as hell!”
A child Jason, portrayed by Timothy Burr Mirkovich with both a deformed and (confusingly) a non-deformed visage, briefly appears in Jason Takes Manhattan.