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Characters in 'Scream VI'
Image via Paramount Pictures

Every ‘Scream’ movie, ranked

This ranking's a real scream.

Even if, somehow, you have never seen a single frame of a movie in the Scream franchise, you are familiar with its villain, the mask-donning killer by the name of Ghostface. Despite it being over 25 years since the original film in the series was first released, there has never been a Halloween without hundreds of fans dressing up in the famous costume, a testament to the franchise’s endurance as one of the great horror franchises. Few could have predicted, back in 1996, that this would be the case, but fans quickly fell in love with the series’ wonderful heightened tone and genuine jump scares.

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Created by writer Kevin Williamson and director Wes Craven, Scream was the first film to play into the fact that moviegoers had, at this point, seen many films in the slasher genre, and so knew the clichés that came with it. The characters of the film were as aware as the audience, which made the cat and mouse game between Ghostface and his prey all the more interesting and, at times, genuinely and intentionally humorous. The franchise has continued to grow and grow since that original film and we are now getting a highly-anticipated sixth entry into the franchise with 2023’s Scream VI. In honor of the new film, we have ranked all the movies of the Scream franchise from worst to best. 

6. Scream 4 (2011)

Scream 4, which arrived almost 15 years after the original, marks the final entry to be written by series creator Kevin Williamson and directed by horror legend Wes Craven and one could argue that might be for the best. When you get four films into a series, you start to get diminishing returns, evidenced by this, the worst Scream movie in the franchise. Once again starring series’ regular Neve Campbell, David Arquette, and Courteney Cox, Scream 4 (sometimes stylized as SCRE4M) adds Emma Roberts, Hayden Panettiere, and Anthony Anderson into the Scream universe. The results are decidedly mixed, as the set-up, which sees the character returning to Woodsboro on the 15th anniversary of the original murders, fails to produce the excitement of some of the other installments. Many commented upon the fact that the irony of the original, which made it such a treat, was beginning to become cliché in and of itself.  

5. Scream 3 (2000)

Unlike the first two entries into the series (and the aforementioned Scream 4), Scream 3’s screenplay was not written by Williamson but by Ehren Kruger, who, incidentally, is nominated for an Academy Award this year for his work on another sequel film Top Gun: Maverick. Many point to Scream 3 as the film in which the comedic elements of the series went a little too far, overshadowing the horror elements many loved about the first two films. The point is valid, as this is an extremely metatextual film, in which Ghostface is murdering the cast of the Stab 3, itself a third film in a franchise about a killer who wears a mask and kills with a knife. As it turns out, many of the horror elements were missing due to the film’s timing coinciding closely with the Columbine School Shooting and the outrage over violence in film and television that ensued. To avoid being associated with those horrific events, Scream 3 decided to put the focus elsewhere. Despite harsh reviews from critics Scream 3 remained a force at the box office, making over $160 million overall.  

4. Scream (2022)

2022’s Scream marked a return to the series after an 11-year layoff and the first not to be directed by Craven after his death in 2015. Despite the long layoff, this is in fact a direct sequel to Scream 4 and brings back much of the original cast, including notable newcomer Jenna Ortega. Like previous installments, Scream is very willing to comment upon itself, with characters within the movie discussing the different between and sequel and a “requel,” a description which can be used for this movie. The comedy may lead to mixed results but those behind the scenes, which includes directors Matt Bettinelli-Olpin and Tyler Gillett and writers James Vanderbilt and Guy Busick, do a good job of reviving the series.  

3. Scream VI (2023)

Perhaps it’s the meteoric rise of actress Jenna Ortega, or the relative success of 2022’s “requel,” but people are really excited for this next installment into the Scream franchise. Set as a direct sequel to the events of Scream (2022), Scream VI tells the stories of the survivors as they move to New York City in an attempt to extricate themselves from Ghostface’s wrath only to once again face a series of grisly murders. This movie is notable for being the first film in the series not to feature Neve Campbell, arguably the center of the entire series. 

2. Scream (1996)

Scream is where it all started and so holds a special place in the canon of slasher films as a whole. At this point, director Wes Craven has already established himself as one of the preeminent horror auteurs, having already made films like The Hills Have Eyes and A Nightmare on Elm Street. Scream only solidified his place, presenting a movie that knew it was a horror movie and so acted accordingly, poking fun at some of the tropes and clichés he himself established throughout his work. 

1. Scream 2 (1997)

The original Scream movie was a huge box office success, making over $170 million on a budget of only $15 million. That kind of return made a sequel all but guaranteed. And so, only a year after the original movie, we get Scream 2, which sees the cast return for another battle with Ghostface while adding significant names like Timothy Olyphant, Jada Pinkett Smith, Liev Schreiber, and Sarah Michelle Gellar. Scream 2 was even more successful than the original, both critically and financially, setting up the Scream franchise for additional films in the future. You can stream Scream 2 and all the rest of the Scream movies on our list (aside from Scream VI) now on Paramount Plus. 

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Sean Fennell
Sean Fennell is a pop-culture obsessive from Philadelphia who's desperate attempt to watch, read, and listen to everything is the great battle of his time. Sean graduated with a Journalism degree from Shippensburg University in 2015 and since that time has been freelancing for sites all over the web, covering everything from music to television to movies and interviewing dozens of creative minds along the way. If you’re wondering whether he has seen or heard it, he has, and he has thoughts.