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All Scream Films Ranked (From Worst to Best)

All Scream Films Ranked (From Worst to Best)

Zach Gilbert

The fifth Scream is set to hit theaters a year from today, but while we wait, let’s relook at all Scream films, ranked from worst to best.


A year from today, the fifth installment in the Scream franchise will grace the silver screen, introducing a new generation of horror hounds to the series that redefined and revolutionized the slasher genre just 25 years ago. While this will be the first sequel without series creator Wes Craven at the helm (who passed away in 2015), Ready or Not directors Matt Bettinelli-Olpin and Tyler Gillett are more than prepared to pay tribute to his legacy.

With a script from James Vanderbilt (Zodiac, The Amazing Spider-Man) and Guy Busick (Ready or Not, Urge) that blends the past with the present in petrifying fashion and a cast comprised of both the characters we already know and love (Neve Campbell’s Sidney Prescott, Courteney Cox’s Gale Weathers, David Arquette’s Dewey Riley) and a new generation of Ghostface bait (The Babysitter: Killer Queen’s Jenny Ortega, The Hunger Games’ Jack Quaid, Goosebumps’ Dylan Minnette), the fifth Scream is already shaping up to be a success. However, while we wait with bated breath to see what chaos this crew has cooked up, we can take this time to examine the franchise’s evolution thus far and relook at all Scream films, ranked from worst to best.


4. SCREAM 3

(2000)

Director: Wes Craven
Writer: Ehren Kruger

loud and clear reviews All Scream Films Ranked From Worst to Best Scream 3
Parker Posey and Courteney Cox in Scream 3 (Dimension Films)

Let’s just get one thing out of the way real quick – there are no “bad” Scream films, period. Though many have unfairly maligned Scream 3 for years (often due to the absence of the series’ lead screenwriter Kevin Williamson), when viewed alongside its predecessors, it’s not only an immensely satisfying step forward for the franchise – that doubles down on the movies’ meta genre subversion and further blurs the lines between fact and fiction as it hones in on the state of horror in modern-day Hollywood – but one that compellingly wraps up Sidney’s character arc and features the most gut-wrenching Ghostface reveal to date for our pained protagonist. Sure, it may not be quite as scary as some of the other sequels, and Sidney’s role may be a bit too reduced in the first half of the film, but with stellar new supporting characters (like Parker Posey’s plucky Jennifer Jolie), comical commentary on the insincerity of the film industry, and a captivatingly cathartic conclusion, Scream 3 is a thrilling trilogy capper in its own right, and a horror epic that is entirely unworthy of the enmity it’s endured over the years.


3. SCREAM 2

(1997)

Director: Wes Craven
Writer: Kevin Williamson

Scream 2
Jada Pinkett Smith in Scream 2 (Dimension Films)

Scream 2 was put into production right after the first film was released, debuting in theaters only one year later, and that rushed development certainly shows in the final product – the script isn’t as satisfyingly sharp, the subversiveness is sometimes a little “on the nose,” and some of the subplots can feel superfluous at times. Nevertheless, Craven’s direction is just as devilishly distinguished here as it was in the original film, and he ups the scale of his signature suspenseful setpieces significantly. Who could forget the opening murder of Jada Pinkett Smith’s Maureen Evans in the movie theater? How about Sarah Michelle Gellar’s Cici being chased around the sorority house? Or what of Gale and Dewey scheming to survive in the sound booth? Even if the story of Scream 2 can’t recapture “lightning in a bottle” brilliance of the first film’s ingeniousness and innovation, the scares here remain as relentlessly intense as ever, all leading to a chaotic climax that both pokes fun at pundits who blame real-life violence on the media and delivers on the brutal bombast we specifically come to see (with a terrific “final girl” team-up for Sidney and Gale).


2. SCREAM 4

(2011)

Director: Wes Craven
Writer: Kevin Williamson

See Also

loud and clear reviews All Scream Films Ranked From Worst to Best
Emma Roberts in Scream 4 (The Weinstein Co.)

Wes Craven and Kevin Williamson quite literally invented the “legacyquel” with 2011’s Scream 4 years before blockbusters like Star Wars: The Force Awakens and Jurassic World popularized the concept, compellingly combining the past with the present in this fervently anticipated fourthquel. After sitting out Scream 3, Williamson proved to be Scream 4’s secret weapon, as his strikingly sturdy script delivered on the promise of updating the Scream series for a new decade (roasting the recent “remake/reboot” trend in the horror genre with some skillful satire) and spotlighted a surplus of rising stars (such as Emma Roberts, Hayden Panettiere, and Rory Culkin) who all worked well alongside the original cast members instead of attempting to outshine them and/or replace them in any way. Scream 4 is most remembered for its riotous killer reveal, and while it won’t be spoiled here, Williamson must be commended for commenting on the menace of social media and Millennial entitlement far before it was “cool” to do so, and his caustic cultural critiques have sadly seemed to be more correct than he was ever given credit for.


1. SCREAM

(1996)

Director: Wes Craven
Writer: Kevin Williamson

loud and clear reviews All Scream Films Ranked From Worst to Best
Neve Campbell and Rose McGowan in Scream (Dimension Films)

There was honestly no other outcome. Even after all of these years, the original Scream reigns supreme, remaining as enormously entertaining and wondrously witty as it was back in 1996. After the likes of Jason, Freddy, and Michael had worn out their welcome throughout the 80s and into the early 90s, it was up to Scream to singlehandedly revive the slasher genre, and together, A Nightmare on Elm Street director Wes Craven and writer wunderkind Kevin Williamson turned horror on its head. Here, clichés were confronted head on (“Don’t have sex! Don’t drink or do drugs! And don’t you dare say ‘I’ll be back!’”), and the picture’s protagonists were actively aware of the schemes of serial killers in so-called “scary movies,” knowing how to outsmart them at their own game. This audaciously original approach to genre filmmaking asked audiences to forget the “formula” and reminded them how fun and fresh horror could be when done right. Naturally, a string of subsequent films attempted to follow in Scream’s footsteps and imitate its innovation (Halloween H20: 20 Years Later, I Know What You Did Last Summer, Final Destination), but none have ever come close to comparing to the clever and chilling story that started it all, and that’s why it earns its spot at the top of this ranking.


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