A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Friday the 13th is the 1980 genre-defining slasher horror movie that started the long-running franchise. Expect lots of slasher horror violence, blood, and gore, as camp counselors are picked off one by one in a variety of gruesome ways: axes, spears, arrows, knives, machete. Characters are speared in the head, chopped in the forehead, decapitated. In a flashback scene, a young boy is shown from a distance to be drowning in Crystal Lake while pleading for his mother. Some gratuitous sexual content includes brief female nudity and moaning during a sex scene, a flashback scene in which two characters are seemingly on the verge of having sex when they are killed, characters play a game of "strip Monopoly," and talk of sex throughout. One character pretends to be drowning and uses the mouth-to-mouth resuscitation by a fellow camper as a chance to make out with his love interest. There's marijuana smoking, beer drinking, and occasional profanity, including "s--t." Native American stereotyping occurs in one scene. Jump scares throughout.
- Parents say
- Kids say
What's the story?
A 1958 prologue (it looks like 1978) shows two young summer camp counselors about to have sex when a mystery assailant -- apparently someone they know -- slashes them to death. The camp, now known to locals as "Camp Blood," is closed for 20 years as a result, but is now reopening, on a dark-and-stormy Friday the 13th. Another group of young, largely sex-minded counselors are gathering for orientation (it's a small mercy that despite the summer camp setting, kids are not present in most Jason movies). Sure enough, an unseen attacker again begins knifing them to death, one by one. Since these youths are prone to playing practical jokes on one another, or sneaking off for sex and drugs, they take little note of their cohorts' strange absences until nearly all of them are dead.
Is it any good?
Unless you award points for the creative, gross-out makeup (by cult-hero special effects artist Tom Savini), FRIDAY THE 13TH isn't a great horror movie. It has not aged very well. Even in the metaphor-stretched world of horror where intellectuals argue that flesh-eating zombies are really symbols of mindless consumerism, nobody defends Friday the 13th that way. Yet this movie series is infamous: Practically every kid knows about it. Hockey-masked "Jason" costumes are popular, and sequels continue to be produced. Too bad the first movie is, well, too bad.
Unlike other popular films in the genre, Friday the 13th hardly works as a whodunit, because the Camp Blood murderer is nobody we've met or really know anything about. That just leaves the movie as one killing after another, with abundant, er, dead space in between. The doomed camp counselors go swimming, play "strip Monopoly," and chat unremarkably. Still, horror fans will be interested to see how the franchise began.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about the victims of choice in typical slasher movies. Why does the marauder often prey on the most sexually active characters first?
At the time of its release, in the aftermath of the blockbuster hit Halloween, there were many gory and bloody slasher movies intended to appeal to the "teen market." Why do you think these movies remain so popular?
How was gratuitous sex presented in the movie? Did it seem necessary, or, like the violence, was it a way to try to appeal to a younger audience?
- In theaters: May 9, 1980
- On DVD or streaming: October 5, 2004
- Cast: Adrienne King, Harry Crosby, Kevin Bacon
- Director: Sean Cunningham
- Studio: Paramount Pictures
- Genre: Horror
- Run time: 95 minutes
- MPAA rating: R
- MPAA explanation: graphic violence, profanity, sex, alcohol and drug use
- Last updated: November 24, 2020
Our editors recommend
For kids who love horror
Top advice and articles
Common Sense Media's unbiased ratings are created by expert reviewers and aren't influenced by the product's creators or by any of our funders, affiliates, or partners.
Streaming options powered by JustWatch