Of all the horror icons, Leatherface is the only one I truly care about. You can have Freddy, Jason, and Michael; I’ll be in the corner chillin’ with Leatherface. Why? Well, let’s face it: Leatherface is the only one of these who could actually exist, thereby making him a more significant threat. And so, in the grand tradition of opinionated horror fans, I am here to rank The Texas Chainsaw Massacre flicks from worst to best – and it’s perfect timing as another entry in the series, Leatherface, is slated for release this year. Keep in mind that this is more of an opinion piece, so feel free to disagree.
Let’s get on with it, shall we?
7. The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (2003)
This Michael Bay-produced remake just reeks of a cheap cash-in, a testament to the barren imagination and exploitative nature of some filmmakers. Basically, five dingbats get chased and killed by Leatherface (Andrew Bryniarski). Gone is the grittiness of the original; here, the film tries too hard to be dark and disturbing and to get under the skin but fails miserably on all fronts. While it does have the benefit of some gore and a nice performance by R. Lee Ermey, the rest of the flick is so lackluster that it pretty much negates those two bits of light. If you’ve never seen a Texas Chainsaw Massacre film, don’t start with this one. Rubbish.
6. The Texas Chainsaw Massacre Part 2 (1986)
Doing away with the gritty style of the original and upping the gore and black comedy, this Tobe Hooper-directed sequel is hammy and stupid, and not in the good way. Dennis Hopper portrays Boude “Lefty” Enright, the uncle of Sally and Franklin from the first film, who is on a quest to bring Leatherface (Bill Johnson) and his family to justice. Aside from the presence of Hopper and Bill Moseley as Chop Top, and a decent chainsaw duel at the end between Lefty and Leatherface, this flick fails with unfunny comedy, absent scares, and little fun.
5. Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Next Generation (1994)
Considered by many to be the nadir of the series, but not by this particular writer. While it’s campy enough to pitch a tent and tacky enough to hang a poster with, the biggest offense this entry commits is being boring and forgettable. Four teens get in a car wreck on prom night and fall into the hands of Leatherface (Robert Jax) and his demented family. And we also get to see Leatherface as a drag queen. Thrilling. Though being helmed by Kim Henkel (writer and producer of the original), The Next Generation has none of the original’s vitality and comes off like a bad joke played on the fans. Don’t watch it and all will be well.
4. Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Beginning (2006)
Michael Bay obviously needed more money, hence the reason for this flick. While not awful, it’s just another forgettable entry. The movie explores how the Hewitt family came to be the murderous bunch that they are, as well as the birth of Leatherface (Andrew Bryniarski) and his job before he picked up the chainsaw. Then, four people appear on the scene and we get to watch them reduced to jerky for the remaining runtime. No harm, no foul if you bypass this one.
3. Texas Chainsaw 3D (2013)
Billed as a direct sequel to the 1974 original, this entry concerns Heather Miller (Alexandra Daddario) who discovers that her grandmother has passed away and left everything to her. She also discovers that she was adopted and that she’s actually Edith Sawyer – Leatherface’s (Dan Yeager) cousin! She and some friends go to collect her inheritance. We all know where it goes from here. Not awful, it’s just another bland and forgettable entry aimed at younger audiences who view Freddy vs Jason as the epitome of “great” horror.
2. Leatherface: The Texas Chainsaw Massacre III (1990)
In all honesty, this is the only other entry in the series worth watching. Not a perfect movie by any means, but more tolerable than the others. A traveling couple and survivalist (Ken Foree) do battle against Leatherface (R.A. Mihailoff) and his cannibal clan, which features a Viggo Mortenson. A decent entry that won’t exactly wow fans of the original, but won’t piss them off or annoy them either. If you’re only going to see one Chainsaw sequel, make it this one.
1. The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (1974)
Come on, is this really a surprise? Based on murderer and grave robber Ed Gein, not only is this the best entry in the series, but it’s one of the greatest horror films of all time. It’s also one of the few horror films to transcend the genre and become a classic of cinema. Five teens on a summer afternoon fall victim to Leatherface (Gunnar Hansen) and his family. Filmed in a documentary-like style that lends it a feeling of gritty realism, The Texas Chainsaw Massacre is a film that gets in your face and will burrow deep beneath your skin. If you haven’t seen it, you cannot rightfully call yourself a horror fan. So you’d better remedy that immediately.
What about you? How would you rank ol’ Leatherface’s exploits and adventures? Feel free to sound off in the comment section below.