The definitive ranking of all four Scream films
‘Please don’t kill me Mr. Ghostface, I wanna be in the sequel!’
When I tell you the mere thought of the impending Scream 5 (simply titled: Scream) gives me heart palpitations, I am not saying it with an ounce of melodrama. Scream is my favourite horror franchise of all time, and the fact that we’re about to get a fifth entry with the core three characters and actors back is cinematic euphoria as far as I’m concerned. Last night, I got to watch Scream in the cinema for the first time in my life. It’s a comfort blanket film (as is the whole series really), one that I’ve seen at least 50 times. But seeing such a game changer on the big screen, hearing an audience react to its iconic quips and genre flipping moments was insane. After the film, a live podcast was recorded and a main theme of it was how that in the sequels, the format never tires. All other slasher franchises dwindle out in sequels because their killer either becomes indestructible or nonsensical. But anyone can be Ghostface. Scream films are the whodunnit of horror, and the self-aware nature of them make the kills cleverer and hard to predict. But which is best? Here are all four Scream films ranked from worst to best:
4. Scream 3
The temptation to simply set the pic above as Courtney Cox’s horrible Scream 3 haircut was high to say the least. Gale Weathers’ horrible bangs is simultaneously the worst and most scary aspect of the franchise’s third instalment. Scream 3 never hits like the other entries do, mostly because it’s the only one not written by Kevin Williamson and it SHOWS. The camp outweighs the wit, the reveals are unsatisfying and everything to do with Roman is a misfire. Do I hate Scream 3? No. I love this universe and can have a good time with it. Is it a good film? Definitely not. Easily the bottom of the barrel when getting Scream films ranked.
3. Scream 4
I have the fondest of memories when it comes to Scream 4. It was the first Scream film I ever saw, released in 2011 as I was turning 15 and could finally go and see films with that rating in the cinema without trying to blag to someone on the ticket desk that I was of age. Scream 4 is not actually as weird a place to begin your relationship with the franchise as you might think. It’s got a rebooting vibe to it all, with the young high schoolers colliding with the original survivors from the first three. It does an excellent job of modernising the franchise whilst celebrating all the nostalgia of how impactful the original trilogy was. Neve, Courtney and David all slide back into Sidney, Gale and Dewey with so much ease, and the newcomers are the most memorable bunch since the core gang of the first.
But Scream 4 belongs to Emma Roberts. Her turn as Jill, Sidney’s jealous and psychopathic cousin who wants to make her own celebrity survivor tale and will kill to do so, is easily some of Emma Roberts finest work. It’s the role she was born to play. The kills are wild, the metaverse of the film-within-a-film Stab series is great and Scream 4 constantly keeps you guessing. It’s aged marvellously, and whilst Scream 3 is clearly the worst when the films are ranked against each other, this one is leaps and bounds better than it.
2. Scream 2
Scream 2 is arguably the greatest horror sequel ever made. It takes everything you loved about the first and builds on it in a way that feels completely natural and in keeping with what would happen in this universe. How do you follow up from Drew Barrymore’s ICONIC opening scene of Scream for the sequel? You set it in a cinema with people there to watch the events of the first film fictionalised WITHIN the second. It’s genius, and makes so much sense for a franchise born out of film references. All the audience sat in Ghostface masks really hammers home how much that that costume is readily available and anyone can put it on and be the killer.
Add in a fun college setting, the iconic reveal of Debbie Salt aka Billy Loomis’ mum as the killer and THEE Sarah Michelle Gellar joining the cast and it’s a sequel to die for. Literally.
It’s hard to truly grasp how pivotal Scream was for the horror genre after so many copycat films have tried to recreate its magic. The characters being aware of the genre and nearly always talking in every scene in pop culture references and horror tropes was groundbreaking, and it still is something to behold to this day. The killing off of Drew Barrymore, one of the film’s biggest known stars and promoted as if she was the lead role, is one that shocks immensely. The opening scene is so famous for a reason – it could be a standalone horror short. A self contained story of the phone call from hell. The scene pivots from comedy to dread with such vigour, and the visceral terror of her parents returning home as the kill is still occurring and her mother listening to Casey Becker’s final breaths is chilling.
Every cast member and character is amazing. Neve Campbell as Sidney is a final girl for the ages, across all the films but definitively here. She is strong willed and her lines are iconic (“Not in my movie” gives me tingles every time). Courtney Cox plays Gale Weathers with such camp, selfish force that she’s hard not to become infatuated with. David Arquette is endlessly charming and SO hot as Dewey. Rose McGowan is exactly what you need the best friend character to be as Tatum, and the fact she doesn’t get to be in the sequel makes her death the one that leaves the biggest hole. Flanking up everyone is Matthew Lillard who’s perfectly deranged, Skeet Ulrich not far behind him and there’s not really anyone who puts a foot wrong. Every death feels like a loss, and that’s exactly how a slasher should make you feel. An absolute classic, and if Scream 5 manages to usurp it as the highest ranked of the films it will be a miracle.