All Six 'Scream' Movies, Ranked

All Six 'Scream' Movies, Ranked

- By Nicolás Delgadillo

All of the Scream movies are good, but which are the best?

Wes Craven’s extremely 90s and increasingly meta slasher movie Scream changed the horror game forever when it came out in 1996. With a slick self-awareness and obvious love for all things horror, the landmark film delivered expertly staged and bloody thrills with genuinely likable characters and a sharp sense of humor. The pair of sequels - Scream 2 and Scream 3 - that quickly followed officially immortalized the franchise’s heroes of Sidney Prescott (Neve Campbell), Gale Weathers (Courteney Cox), and Dewey Riley (David Arquette) in both the horror world and all of pop culture, as well as the now iconic Ghostface killer. The series also cemented Craven’s place as a filmmaking legend.

Eleven years later, everyone returned to Woodsboro in 2011’s Scream 4, a legacy sequel (before everyone was doing it) that served as a brilliant modern cap to the original trilogy. It was Craven’s final film before his death and a fitting new finale for the saga. Another decade later, Hollywood did what Hollywood always does, so Scream came back once again for a fifth round with a different pair of filmmakers (Ready or Not’s Matt Bettinelli-Olpin and Tyler Gillett) at the helm.

A fresh core cast of Jenna Ortega, Melissa Barrera, Jasmin Savoy Brown and Mason Gooding, as well as the original trio, helped make 2022's Scream a sharp return for the franchise. A new trilogy was quickly announced with the same directing duo for the next two sequels, the first of which has already arrived! Scream VI moves the survivors out of Woodsboro, but as we know, trouble always follows them. This is a particularly tough franchise to rank, so sound off on how you would try to rank this iconic movie series.

Ghostface Takes Manhattan in 'Scream VI'

'Scream VI' (2023)
Now playing in theaters

The sequel to the requel takes things to New York City this time around and goes bigger and bloodier with the violence. Scream VI may just be the goriest of a franchise known not to pull many punches, and to its credit, the film is able to deliver on well-staged and intense action. This one definitely isn't for the squeamish. If your slasher needs are satisfied by a record number of onscreen stabs, you'll have little issue with the latest Ghostface rampage. But this sixth film largely feels like its spinning its wheels and running out of ideas. The change of location barely factors into the story at all outside of a subway attack (and it's not as if NYC is the only place that has those...) and despite its self-announced self-awareness, nothing is really changed up all that much. It has one of the more disappointing reveals of the series, but the returning cast and the welcome return of Hayden Panettiere keep things lively until then. Plus that subway scene is great.

Neve Campbell as Sidney Prescott in 'Scream 3'

‘Scream 3’ (2000)
Currently streaming on Paramount+

The original original ending to the franchise, Scream 3 fully incorporates its in-joke of the ‘Stab’ movies into its plot, as a new Ghostface begins murdering the cast of the upcoming one. The series’ metahumor and murder mystery plot is just as sharp as its ever been, but a troubled production and a studio mandate on curbing the film’s violence stop the third film from being all that it could be. It mostly just feels a bit tired, and its commentary on Hollywood and abuses of power, particularly against women, is inspired but ultimately feels underexplored. Still, this ends up being a strong finale to the initial trilogy. Seeing Dewey and Gale together at the end is emotional for sure, but that final shot of Sidney leaving the front door open, no longer feeling the need to keep looking over her shoulder? Perfection.

Hayden Panettiere as Kirby Reed and Emma Roberts as Jill Roberts in 'Scream 4'

‘Scream 4’ (2011)
Currently streaming on Paramount+

Scream 4 was ahead of its time in several ways. It’s a legacy sequel that came before the era of legacy sequels, revisiting the past by bringing the original trio back to the cursed town of Woodsboro when a copycat killer emerges killing the current crop of high schoolers. The film’s perceptions of social media, live streaming, and the motives of a 21st century horror villain were downright prescient. Even though it falls into the usual slasher structure, it still keeps a great pace and as always, has a sharp wit. A pair of tremendous performances from Hayden Panettiere and Emma Roberts really give the film a boost, and unlike most other legacy sequels, the original cast is directly involved in the plot rather than acting as mere window dressing. These films always hinge on their third acts, and this is one of the best ones.

Jenna Ortega as Tara Carpenter in 'Scream'

‘Scream’ (2022)
Currently streaming on Paramount+

The reboot of the series and the first to not be directed by Craven ups the intensity of both the scares and the violence, making for some of the most nail-biting and brutal sequences of the entire franchise. It’s also one that recaptures the genuine youthful energy of the first two films, thanks to the new cast that are given all the fun lines about the modern day horror and blockbuster scene as well as all of the meta jokes. Once again, going through the same usual motions of slasher movies while commenting on them still doesn’t exactly excuse it, but this time around that inescapable loop and forced familiarity is given some purpose. It’s also very funny and very clever to boot, providing a clever take on toxic media fandom that pairs well with the vicious fun of its final bloodbath. While not perfect, this "requel" is, by most accounts, a scream.

Read full Knotfest write-up: 'Scream' Returns to Reclaim the Slasher Crown

Courteney Cox as Gale Weathers in 'Scream 2'

‘Scream 2’ (1997)
Currently streaming on Paramount+

It’s a downright miracle that Scream 2 is often just as great and sometimes even better than the first considering it was put into production and released less than a year after it. Craven’s first sequel is everything a sequel should be - it’s bigger, smarter, funnier, and of course, there’s a higher body count. The death of poor Randy (Jamie Kennedy) is one of the rare times the franchise actually takes the bold step of permanently killing off one of the original survivors, truly giving the impression that nobody is safe. The film’s finale may not be quite as great as the first, but the setup and ensuing action leading up to it are much livelier and more fun. Everything’s working in this one’s favor.

Drew Barrymore as Casey Becker in 'Scream'

‘Scream’ (1996)
Currently streaming on Paramount+

As they say, don’t fuck with the original. While there are many that have a preference for this iconic horror landmark’s sequel (and there’s certainly merit there), the first is still the best for two reasons: The opening scene and the entire third act. They’re the blueprints for not just the Scream series itself, but countless other horrors and thrillers and movies in general from that point on. That first phone conversation between the unfortunate Casey Becker (Drew Barrymore) and the sadistic killer on the other end (voiced by Roger L. Jackson) immediately shifted something in the culture, honing in on the period’s fears and growing familiarity with horror tropes and conventions. The final 40 minutes at the house is just flawless; a true masterclass in putting together a climax that still can’t be topped even decades later.

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