I hope you don’t have a flight to catch today, because if you were superstitious like me, you’d cancel it! March 17th marked the anniversary of a movie that made everybody not only weary of planes, but a little weak in the knees for Devon Sawa as well- Final Destination. The film hit at the perfect time, capitalizing on the fear and paranoia people felt after a year of Y2K theories. Created by Jeffrey Reddick, Final Destination boasts one of the best horror movie premises of all time: a group of students cheat death after one has a premonition of his classmates’ fiery death. Now, Death is coming after them in the form of a gorey, Rube Goldberg-esque “accident”. Some thought the 90’s were a dark time for horror, but the new century was kicking off with a bang. How subversive to have a movie with Death himself as an invisible slasher.
Final Destination was a massive box office success, generating $112 million dollars on a budget of $23 million, spawning 4 sequel films. The best part? The sequels are just good as the first! It is rare to see a film franchise with the consistency of the Final Destination series, as they stay true to their roots. The five-film franchise would go on to develop a cult following and rake in over $665 million dollars worldwide, making it one of the most successful movie franchises of all-time. In honor of Final Destination’s 18th birthday, I re-watched all five movies and have ranked them from best to worst. How does the underrated franchise hold up over the years, and more importantly, how do you rank them? Let’s take a look at mine to start!
5. The Final Destination (2009)
Coming in last place, The Final Destination. The fourth installment in the franchise is unanimously the weakest film, mainly because of its laziness. Final Destination 3 was actually supposed to be the last film of the series, but in 2009 3D was just becoming a big thing so the franchise decided to capitalize on the new-again fad and head back into theatres. The result was a lackluster effort, with protagonists you didn’t care about at all and a bland premonition sequence. For the most part, all the kills are pretty forgettable. Every death scene was worked around 3D effects, which didn’t add any depth or enhance the film in any way. Die hard fans were not happy, but luckily this lead to one last film, and a proper send-off. Even as the worst film of the series, still a fun drunk watch that helps break up your ill conceived 10-hour movie marathon.
Best Death: The pool scene, and it’s not even close. Talk about your worst childhood fears come to life. I think we’ve all been worried about getting sucked into the bottom of the pool, at one time or another. This scene also gets extra points for featuring the very underrated 2009 hit Corona & Lime by Schwayze in the background.
4. Final Destination 2 (2003)
Final Destination 2 surprised me the most during my re-watch. Tragically, it does not hold up as much as the others. Don’t get me wrong, it’s still great. The use of practical effects mixed with CGI was still in its early days and I still get nervous in traffic behind semi-trucks transporting logs. But the rest of the film doesn’t hold a candle to that scene. The biggest detriment to the film was the dynamic between our protagonists. This film tried to band the survivors together, which only ends in soap opera style bickering. Final Destination 2 also sees the return of Clear Rivers from the first film, which felt like the result of a rewrites/reshoots, because she stuck out like a sore thumb. Later films would return to focusing on one or two of the main survivors, rather than the whole cast. Still an entertaining watch with creative kills, nonetheless.
Best Death: When Tim is crushed by a glass pane. It’s a fantastic bait-and-switch. He almost dies during his dentist appointment so we think he’s safe, only for poor Timmy to get smashed on his way out. Also satisfying because that kid was super annoying.
3. Final Destination (2000)
Sitting right in the middle is the one that started it all, the OG Final Destination, if you will. The first film holds up incredibly well, most likely because it’s the closest to a straight forward horror movie in the series. It operates like a typical slasher movie, except we can’t see the killer. People tend to lean to this film because it’s the least-indulgent of the franchise, with the majority of it’s kills based in tension rather than shock and awe. Heartthrob Devon Sawa is at the height of his powers, giving a very entertaining performance. I think the only reason I have this one further down is because I enjoy the Final Destination films a bit more when they are having fun, where this film is the more serious one. But as the original, Final Destination is still a solid film regardless, and with right argument, could still land at the top of any fan’s list.
Best Death: When Alex’s best friend Tod dies in the bathroom, giving the appearance that he killed himself.. This was the first death of the film and not only set the bar for the film, but the franchise as a whole. Devon Sawa also sells the scene fantastically with his reactions.
2. Final Destination 5 (2011)
It’s rare for a series to go out on a high note, but Final Destination 5 was the cherry on top for fans of the franchise. After fans and critics alike were left with a bad taste in their mouth after The Final Destination, the team decided to add one more installment. The fifth movie was a return to top-form as we got all the best parts of previous films rolled into one. A protagonist that we cared about, the most intense opening scene of the franchise, and some of the most bloody, intricate kills. Final Destination 5 had it all!
I think we can all agree that the most impressive part of the film was justifying it as the final movie. Director Steve Quale pulls a fast one on us and (Spoiler Alert) it’s a surprise prequel that loops back to the very first film. How they managed to keep this a secret still amazes me. And clearly, I wasn’t the only one impressed. Final Destination 5 is the highest reviewed film of the franchise, sporting the only positive Rotten Tomatoes rating at 62% Fresh. I like this one more and more each time I watch it, and it was extremely close to claiming the top spot.
Best Death: the gymnastics kill is a masterclass in tension, I still clench my fist through the whole routine and then the final image of her mangled body… *shudders*
1. Final Destination 3 (2006)
Starting off my list with a little controversy, as I’ve heard people call Final Destination 3 the worst film of the bunch. I disagree wholeheartedly. Much like the Saw franchise, everybody has a different favorite and watches them for different reasons. For me, the third installment gives us the best of both worlds of what the franchise has to offer: the more serious mystery aspect of how to stop death and the bloody campiness. In this one, we get a protagonist that we care about in the form of Mary Elizabeth Winstead in one of her first movie experiences. The roller coaster opening is brilliant because, what is scarier than meeting your bitter doom while having the time of you’re life at an amusement park? Oh the irony!
But getting down to business, what would these films be without its kills? The tanning bed death, the gnarly drive-through accident, and an insanely bonkers third act make Final Destination 3 the most wickedly fun film of the franchise.
Best Death: the scene where the macho football guy won’t stop working out when being warned about his imminent death, only to have his head crushed by the machine.
“There are no accidents, no coincidences, no escapes. You can’t cheat death.”
And that is my ranking of the Final Destination franchise! I’m sure your list looks a lot different than mine, but that’s the fun of this series. I truly do think the this franchise doesn’t get the love it deserves. The original film was so innovative as a highly realistic supernatural horror. The franchise has literally changed the way we look at the world when we get on a plane or even just walking down the street. 18 years later, and these films are still being watched. The Final Destination team understood its fan base and it’s identity, crafting one of the most entertaining franchises in horror.
To celebrate it’s adulthood, why not marathon the movies yourself! Just be sure to check all your doors and windows, because (in the words of William Bludworth portrayed by horror icon Tony Todd), “there are no accidents, no coincidences, no escapes. You can’t cheat death.”