How do you watch the Texas Chainsaw Massacre movies in order? Leatherface’s horror movie franchise is more convoluted than most, with several sequels, a few requels, a couple of prequels, and one remake to its name.
Since 1974, many have tried to follow Tobe Hooper’s genre-defining The Texas Chain Saw Massacre, himself included. None have quite captured what makes the original so visceral, and some didn’t even try. Hooper himself opted to stray towards what’s almost a comedy movie for his direct follow-up, and Kim Henkel, who co-wrote the script on the 1974 classic, just bizarrely dismantles the whole premise.
Along the way, there have been a gory slasher or two, even what would constitute a full-on massacre by means of a chainsaw, remarkably rare given how many times the title has been recycled. Shamefully enough, Leatherface’s own namesake thriller movies tend to be low points, too. This franchise has problems, and we’ll be going through all of them in our complete guide to watching the Texas Chainsaw Massacre movies from start to finish. Well, look, an attempt was made.
Original Texas Chainsaw Massacre timeline
- The Texas Chain Saw Massacre
- The Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2
- Leatherface: The Texas Chainsaw Massacre 3
- Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Next Generation
Leatherface’s movies start simple. In 1974, Tobe Hooper directed The Texas Chain Saw Massacre, then in 1986 he made a sequel, The Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2. Lighter and more comedic in tone, The Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2 takes place 13 years after the original, with Dennis Hopper as Boude ‘Lefty’ Enright, an uncle of Sally and Franklin Hardesty.
Since Sally’s lucky escape from the Sawyer family, Boude’s been looking into a serial killer using a chainsaw. A radio DJ, Vanita ‘Stretch’ Brock, records a call from a listener that seems to indicate they were another of Leatherface’s victims. Their investigation leads them to discovering the Sawyer hideout, and an explosive end for all involved.
Hooper and writer L. M. Kit Carson go back to the power tool killing sprees to create definitive closure. Hollywood being Hollywood, this didn’t last long, but Hooper’s followup is a self-effacing look at his own creation that stands as a pulpy parallel to the grim ’74 feature.
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Since The Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2 murdered the entire Sawyer clan, including Leatherface, any further sequels would have to retcon the storyline. Jeff Burr’s Leatherface: The Texas Chainsaw Massacre 3 does just that for an utterly daft riff on the ’74 classic by way of The Hitcher. A couple on a road trip are terrorised by the Sawyers, who stalk quiet roads for fresh meat. Trust us, it’s nowhere near as cool as it sounds.
On the one hand, Leatherface captures lightning using a golden chainsaw like a scene from Highlander, on the other, young Viggo Mortensen and the phrase ‘The saw is family’. Cheap effects, limited ideas, and the wrong kind of silly make it a low-point, it does lead into one of the highlights of the franchise: Texas Chainsaw Massacre 4: The Next Generation.
Did you know Renée Zellweger and Matthew McConaughey were in a Leatherface sequel? Written and directed by Kim Henkel, co-writer of the original, no less. The Next Generation is far from a conventional Texas Chainsaw Massacre movie, with Henkel creating an emphatic attempt to out-weird The Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2. It comes close too, and a preamble makes the second and third canon as “minor, yet apparently related incidents”.
Leatherface is a crossdresser, and McConaughey portrays their sociopathic brother Vilmer. Zellweger is Jenny, the final girl, and the last surviving member of a group of high school students. She’s captured and tortured during dinner, a recurring Texas chainsaw motif, and learns the Sawyers actually work for some unseen higher forces.
During her last-ditch attempt to run, Jenny is picked up by an unexpected plane where a representative from the commanding organisation of the Sawyers apologises for all that’s happened. Sally Hardesty makes a brief cameo at the end. No, we’re not making any of this up, and if you’d like more context it’s one that’s worth watching. A bizarre cap on the first era of the Texas Chainsaw Massacre.
- The Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Beginning
- The Texas Chainsaw Massacre
No horror icon stays dormant for long, and in the early 2000s, none other than Michael Bay was responsible for bringing back Leatherface. A remake of The Texas Chainsaw Massacre was the first project from Platinum Dunes, a new studio co-founded by Bay, Brad Fuller, and Andrew Fuller. It was spearheaded by director Marcus Nispel and writer Scott Kosar, both making their Hollywood debuts.
Jessica Biel takes on final girl duties as Erin Hardesty, for a glossy rethread of Hooper’s original. A full budget offers less primal dread, but ramped up gore still makes it an imposing watch. Andrew Bryniarski’s stature is enough for Leatherface to seem like a mutant that crawled out of your nightmares.
Of the remakes that would populate the decade, this stands up, low bar as that is to cross. It’s become a cult favourite among the fanbase, perhaps because it delivers on the premise with genuine dedication. The same cannot be said for the prequel we got a few years later, The Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Beginning.
According to this, Leatherface is born in an actual slaughterhouse and left in the trash. After the Hewitt family adopt him, he grows up to work in that same slaughterhouse, kills his boss, then murders another unassuming group of roadtrippin’ teens. A blasé, uninspired origin that offers little of substance beyond more of a flesh-masked killer using a chainsaw for murder in Texas.
- The Texas Chain Saw Massacre
- Texas Chainsaw 3D
Despite The Beginning making over $50 million on its $16 million budget, Platinum Dunes decided against more massacres, and let the rights lapse. Lionsgate picked them up, for a new sequel to the original called Texas Chainsaw 3D.
There are a few red flags in that sentence, the largest being the replacement of massacre with the term ‘3D’; a harbinger of what’s to come. Of the many additions to Leatherface’s legacy, Texas Chainsaw 3D is the most generic.
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Our chainsaw-wielding antagonist is given some shades of an anti-hero in what boils down to a by-the-books slasher that tries, and fails, to put a novel twist on the final girl and recurring killer dynamic. Just watch the bit where Alexandra Daddario encourages Leatherface like an attack dog.
After that, we have another – yes, another – prequel, Leatherface, by French extremity connoisseurs Julien Maury and Alexandre Bustillo. In conjunction with Seth M Sherwood’s mean-spirited screenplay, they manage to conjure something that’s worthy of its lineage. The deaths are flippant and cruel, and the portrait of a young Leatherface sees him as a product of a ruthlessly inhumane system. All told, a rough note to leave the franchise dormant on.
- The Texas Chain Saw Massacre
- Texas Chainsaw Massacre
Finally, we reach the most current iteration of power-tool-themed bloodbaths. In 2022, Netflix released another sequel to Hooper’s timeless classic, named Texas Chainsaw Massacre. If you’re keeping count, that’s four films with almost that exact title.
This is another legacy ‘requel’, where it’s 50 years after the events of the first. A group of hapless influencers are looking to invest in a quiet Texan town. Little do they know, they’re disturbing a beast who’ll be the death of them all. Sally Hardesty makes another return, this time a dedicated ranger who’s been waiting for her chance to face Leatherface again.
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A bloody second act is the centrepiece, around which is a slightly slapshot screenplay with heavy ideas it doesn’t commit to enough. David Blue Garcia is director, with Chris Thomas Devlin writing the script, from a story by Fede Álvarez and Rodo Sayagues, masterminds behind the Evil Dead remake.
It’s gruesome, nihilistic, and controversial, good places to start for another swing at some sense of continuity here. Garcia has said he has plenty of ideas for sequels. For whatever’s next, we ask for two things: make it another sequel, and name it something other than Leatherface.