Texas Chainsaw Massacre Movies Ranked

3. The Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Beginning (2006)

Controversially, the subsequent prequel to 2003’s The Texas Chainsaw Massacre actually ended up being a superior experience.

Using the Vietnam war for context, The Beginning follows a group of teens in late-60s USA with starkly contrasting views about the conflict and their nation’s involvement in it, marking the first time a TCM film had ever been explicitly political in its messaging. The encounters between Dean, a pro-war patriot, and his brother Eric, who plans on dodging the draft, makes for some genuinely interesting character moments – something the series isn’t renowned for. There’s some fascinating anti-war commentary in here too, with screenwriter Sheldon Turner earning plaudits for the boldness of his narrative.

Of course, there’s plenty of blood and guts to go around too. Rather than actually showing the beginning of Leatherface’s bloody rampages as the title suggests, it instead follows the early years of the Hewitt family leading up to the 2003 remake.

R. Lee Ermey returns for even more gleeful depravity, and though Leatherface is less of a presence here, The Beginning is a rare case of the prequel besting the original.

2. The Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2 (1986)

After the astonishing success of The Texas Chain Saw Massacre in 1974, and the ominous reputation it garnered, expectations were unsurprisingly sky-high for the sequel. Tobe Hooper, now a renowned horror director thanks to other work like Poltergeist and The Funhouse, defied all expectations by doing something totally different with The Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2.

In many ways, you could argue that Texas Chainsaw 2 isn’t really a horror: comedy and satire are far-and-away the focus here, with a more explicit message about the meat industry, slapstick humour with the Sawyer family, and much less emphasis on atmosphere and tone. While some may find that disappointing, it’s testament to the directorial vision and agency of Hooper. Rather than rehashing his big breakout hit, he took the property and did something nobody expected, which is to be applauded.

Dennis Hopper is brilliant as Sally’s uncle Lefty, with a performance so littered with flair that his part in the bonkers final act will leave you breathless. As he runs into a cave, chainsaw in hand, screaming out for revenge, you’ll truly appreciate just how different this film is.

Everything The Texas Chain Saw Massacre is, its sequel purposefully subverts. It’ll take a few watches to get your head around quite how much of a left-turn this is, but switch-your-brain-off comedy-horrors don’t come much better than this.

1. The Texas Chain Saw Massacre (1974)

Tobe Hooper’s 1974 original horror hit The Texas Chain Saw Massacre has earned its place in the annals of horror history for good reason, and almost fifty years on it is just as bone-shreddingly tense and unnerving as it has ever been.

In our current era of CGI blood, gorefests and jumpscares, the unceasing sense of dread in The Texas Chain Saw Massacre seems all the more masterful. Hooper uses violence so sparingly – rarely showing it in-camera – and the fear tends to build from your own imagination, which leaves the horror to linger in your mind.

Yet more than just a truly perfect slasher film, The Texas Chain Saw Massacre really is the father of contemporary horror cinema. Sure, there had been horror hits before – including The Exorcist the year before (1973) – but TCM’s conviction at displaying (supposedly) real-life violence was so stirring and powerful that the film’s legacy remains just as glittering today.

It’s a film where every second builds the tension, from the unhinged hitchhiker’s horrifying self-mutilation to the absolutely carnage-laden dinner scene, and there’s no other horror film quite as exhausting as this.

The Texas Chain Saw Massacre redefined what horror films can be, and its influence is still felt today.

Recommended for you: 10 Best Horror Movie Moments of the 1970s

Would you rank the Texas Chainsaw movies in the same order? If not, what would you change? Let us know in the comments below, and be sure to follow @thefilmagazine on Twitter and Facebook for more lists like this one.

Written by Luke Hinton

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