The story of the infamous cinematic serial killer Leatherface began with Tobe Hooper’s 1974 low-budget horror film The Texas Chain Saw Massacre. With its shocking costuming, implied gore, and cannibalistic antagonists, the movie continues to top lists of the best horror movies of all time. Hooper released The Texas Chain Saw Massacre 2 in 1986, capitalizing on the success of franchises like Friday the 13th and Halloween – franchises whose narratives were heavily influenced by Hooper’s original film.
Numerous additional sequels, prequels, and remakes later, The Texas Chain Saw Massacre has become a successful franchise in its own right. While they may not be as financially prosperous or critically acclaimed as their siblings in the genre, the Leatherface flicks maintain a large following among fans of scary movies.
Updated on February 22nd, 2022 by Mark Birrell: Though the Texas Chainsaw Massacre movies have never quite tapped into the riches of the various slasher franchises that were–in part–inspired by Tobe Hooper’s original film, they’re still going and the release of the newest sequel to take the name has rejuvenated interest in the series once again. The Texas Chainsaw Massacre movies ranked by IMDb show the interesting history that one of horror history’s most standout franchises has had.
9 Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Next Generation (1995) – 3.3
• Available on HBO Max
The Next Generation is the fourth addition to the franchise, a film written and directed by Kim Henkel – who co-wrote the first movie’s screenplay with Tobe Hooper. The Next Generation follows a group of teens who encounter Leatherface and his deranged relatives on their prom night.
Henkel considers the film a parody of the franchise, but audiences were not impressed and it bombed at the box office. The Next Generation has since gained a cult status among critics and fans who appreciate its absurdist humor, the take on Leatherface, and the acting from a young Matthew McConaughey and Renée Zellweger.
8 Texas Chainsaw 3D (2013) – 4.8
• Available on Peacock
The seventh film in the horror franchise, John Luessenhop’s Texas Chainsaw 3D is considered a direct sequel to the 1974 movie, ignoring the subsequent installments. Set four decades after the events of the first film, it focuses on a character named Heather Miller, who happens to be Leatherface’s long-lost cousin.
Miller, played by Alexandra Daddario, reunites with her chainsaw-wielding relative in order to claim an inheritance she’s owed. While a profitable movie in theatres, Texas Chainsaw 3D was derailed by critics for plot holes, poor acting, and a lack of inventive terror sequences.
7 Leatherface (2017) – 5.0
• Available on Pluto TV
The eighth installment in the franchise, Leatherface is a prequel that follows its title character’s evolution into a mass murderer and cannibal. Directed by Julien Maury and Alexandre Bustillo, the prequel came into being after the success of Texas Chainsaw 3D.
The filmmakers attempted to remain as dedicated to the original films, both The Texas Chain Saw Massacre and The Texas Chain Saw Massacre 2, as possible. Despite stellar acting from Stephen Dorff and Lili Taylor, Leatherface doesn’t approach the creativity and wit of its source material.
6 Texas Chainsaw Massacre (2022) – 5.0
• Available on Netflix
According to producer Christa Campbell, a sizable delay in the release to Leatherface caused the production and distribution team of Millennium Films and Lionsgate to lose the rights to the franchise. They were subsequently picked up by Legendary Pictures, who opted to reboot the series once again in a similar fashion to Texas Chainsaw 3D and other successful classic horror title reboots of recent years, such as the 2018 sequel to Halloween, by ignoring all other story continuity for a direct sequel to the first film.
Texas Chainsaw Massacre (2022) also chose to forgo the messy theatrical release model that mired Leatherface‘s distribution, releasing straight to Netflix. It’s proven to be as equally divisive as its predecessor in the franchise with some fans praising the copious gore but others passionately criticizing its treatment of original protagonist Sally, who returns as a legacy character like Jamie Lee Curtis in Halloween (2018).
5 Leatherface: The Texas Chainsaw Massacre III (1990) – 5.1
• Available on Max Go
New Line Cinema produced and distributed Jeff Burr’s follow-up to The Texas Chain Saw Massacre 2, which accompanies Leatherface and his extended family (including a young Viggo Mortensen) as they continue to terrorize people in the Texas backwoods. What New Line Cinema hoped would be the first of many sequels turned out to be the only one due to its poor reception at the box office.
Due to its graphic violence, The Texas Chainsaw Massacre III almost earned an X rating, one that was avoided after cutting over 4 minutes of gore from the movie. Still, the movie’s extreme horror turned off critics and audiences alike.
4 The Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2 (1986) – 5.6
• Available on Hoopla
Tobe Hooper returned 12 years after the first film with this darkly comedic sequel. Instead of relying on documentary-style filming and minimal bloodshed, Hooper goes all out here, and the result is an over-the-top bloodbath.
In The Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2, the chainsaws are bigger, the characters are more animated, and the body parts pile high. With its memorable performances from Dennis Hopper and Caroline Williams, what was considered a mediocre movie upon release has since become considered one of the best Texas Chainsaw Massacre movies.
3 The Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Beginning (2006) – 5.8
• Available on Netflix
After Marcus Nispel revived the franchise with his 2003 remake of the original slasher movie, Jonathan Liebesman released this prequel to the remake – the sixth installment. Like 2017’s Leatherface, The Beginning digs into the lives of Leatherface and the rest of the Sawyer clan.
Most of The Beginning, which stars Jordana Brewster and Matt Bomer, is set in 1969 and it relies on the overused road-tripping trope to lure its victim into Leatherface’s trap. The Beginning earned back its budget in theatres, but it was considered a critical failure.
2 The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (2003) – 6.2
• Available on Netflix
Many crew members involved in the making of the 1974 The Texas Chain Saw Massacre returned for the remake, including Tobe Hooper and Kim Henkel – who served as producers. While set in 1973, the remake brings young, new faces like Jessica Biel into the franchise, as well as faster action sequences, more jump scares, and elevated brutality.
Critics hated the fifth installment, deeming it completely unnecessary. However, audiences loved it, and it went on to earn over $100 million in theatres, making it the most profitable in the franchise and ranked comfortably as one of the best Texas Chainsaw Massacre movies.
1 The Texas Chain Saw Massacre (1974) – 7.5
• Available on Showtime, Shudder, Tubi, and IMDb TV
In the minds of diehard fans and critics, no other film in the franchise comes close to the original for the title of best Texas Chainsaw Massacre movie. Made with less than $140,000, the movie established multiple tropes in the horror genre: the masked killer, road-tripping victims, and the use of a signature weapon – to name a few.
Inspired by serial killer Ed Gein, Leatherface and his cannibal relatives terrorize passersby unfortunate enough to run through their blight-ridden small town. Through subtle hints and foreboding interactions, the film relies on dread instead of bloodshed to instill fear in audiences.
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