Wes Craven’s Scream series redefined the slasher genre with self-aware, genre-blending thrills. The iconic mix of comedy and horror (along with the Ghostface mask) helped define the 90s.
With a successful outing early last year and another film in the works, the Scream franchise is back in the cultural zeitgeist. That makes this the perfect time to rank each Scream movie from worst to best. With multiple quality installments, it’s no easy task to pick favorites.
But let’s take a stab at it.
Scream 3 (2000)
Scream 3 was not as well-received as the first two movies in the franchise. It was criticized for being too predictable and lacking the self-awareness and wit of the earlier films. The movie fell victim to the tropes that it was supposed to take a postmodern knife to.
The characters felt willfully naive, even for a horror movie. The result is a movie that feels more like a failed comedy than a true slasher movie. Scream 3 was rightfully panned by critics and audiences but that doesn’t mean that it wasn’t a fun watch. There are laughs to be had and a few surprising twists of the knife towards the end. Overall, the movie wasn’t a serious addition and was a sad way to end the trilogy. Its poor performance put the franchise on hold for over a decade as audiences were done screaming.
How silly did Scream 3 get? Jay and Silent Bob made an in-character appearance on a movie set.
Scream 4 (2011)
Scream 4 was a bit of a mixed bag for many fans of the franchise. It introduced some new and interesting characters, and it had a few suspenseful, memorable moments (including one of the most extreme kills of the franchise). The slasher wasn’t as “cutting-edge” as it tried to be, as the movie’s theme of technology fell as flat as some of the movie’s jokes. Ultimately, the fourth installment was a fun film that lacked a clear vision.
Scream 5 (2022)
Horror fans lost an icon when Wes Craven died in 2015. That means that Scream 5 (titled simply “Scream”) would be the first movie in the series that would be directed by someone else. Matt Bettinelli-Olpin and Tyler Gillett took up the challenge and they did a damned good job
Scream 5 was a welcomed return to Woodsboro and an improvement over the previous two installments. The franchise’s meta-analysis returned to proper form in a revival that fans needed, providing self-aware commentary on the “requel” (Reboot/Sequel) phenomena and toxic fandom. Jenna Ortega and Melissa Barrera shine as newcomers and the original cast return with more than just cheap nostalgia. In one of the most debated decisions in Scream history, a fan favorite finally meets their end.
Overall, Scream 5 understands the heart and soul of the franchise.
“Real Stab [Scream] movies are meta slasher whodunits, full stop.”
Wes would be proud.
Scream 2 (1997)
Scream 2 was a worthy sequel to the original movie, building on the meta-themes and character arcs established in the first film. The screenplay managed to subvert expectations and keep audiences guessing while also making fun of sequel tropes. The movie also firmly cemented the two-killer trope as and continued the tradition of chilling, stand-alone openers with the slaying of Jada Pinkett Smith’s character in a crowded theater.
The sequel also proved that fan favorites can die and that no one, except for maybe Sydney, is safe. RIP Randy.
There’s no beating the original.
Scream is widely regarded as a classic of the horror genre, and it revitalized the slasher movie in the 1990s. Unlike most slashers that came before it, Scream was brutally reflective.
The result was a film that was as much a love letter to the genre as it was a critique. In addition to its smart script, the movie also had a strong cast led by Neve Campbell as the traumatized but capable Sidney Prescott. David Arquette and Courtney Cox have palpable on-screen chemistry as the charming officer Dewey and the brash news reporter Gale Weathers. The pair’s romance and bickering were so real, in fact, that the two ended up getting married and divorced in real life.
That concludes our list. While the earlier films were the best, the franchise is still showing some life (and on-screen deaths). Expect one of these movies to lose its spot as Scream 6 hits theaters later this year. Until then, you can watch every Scream movie on Paramount Plus.