Curated Collections: Scream Movie Rankings

With the release of Scream 6, let’s look back at the iconic horror franchise.

Photo Courtesy / YouTube Paramount Pictures

The Scream franchise has been a horror staple since 1996, when Wes Craven and Kevin Williamson’s blend of meta-humor and traditional slasher villainy reinvented an entire genre. With the sixth film now in theaters — and five previous gory and quippy entries to choose from — let’s rank the installments from worst to best.

“Scream 3” (2000) 

“Scream 3” is an objectively enjoyable horror movie. By this point in the franchise, the repeated formula of Ghostface pursuing Sidney Prescott and the usual cast of tertiary characters had worn a little thin. The dynamics still work, and the Ghostface reveal is a legitimate twist, but three movies in four years seemed to effectively over-saturate the market, and “Scream 3” is largely forgotten among fans of the franchise. 

“Scream 4” (2011) 

The final film directed by Craven before his death in 2015, “Scream 4” convincingly breathed new life into the dormant franchise. Benefiting from an 11-year gap between films and the successful implementation of a handful of compelling new characters, the fourth entry feels like a brand-new take on the “Scream” formula. Hayden Panettiere and Emma Roberts join the recurring cast of Neve Campbell, Courtney Cox and David Arquette to take on an especially brutal version of the masked killer. “Scream 4” improves on the shortcomings of its predecessor, and serves as a fitting curtain call for a horror legend. 

“Scream” (2022) 

The fifth installment, annoyingly titled identically to the original film, was directed by Tyler Gillett and Matt Bettinelli-Olpin. “Scream” starred burgeoning superstar Jenna Ortega around, you guessed it, Neve Campbell, Courteney Cox, and David Arquette. 

“Scream” really strips things down and gets back to basics, a group of high school friends and a brand new iteration of Ghostface on the loose. Despite the simplicity, “Scream” is packed with young acting talent and a series of great chase scenes. Bonus points for the updated Ghostface mask. 

“Scream 2” (1997)

“Scream 2” came out less than a year after the original. The film starred Neve Campbell and the surviving characters of the first film and was set entirely on a college campus. 

The premise is simple and characteristically metatextual, there’s a blockbuster movie based on the events of the first film, and there’s an imitation killer targeting college students. 

“Scream 2” starts with an all-time opening scene starring Omar Epps and Jada Pinkett Smith that would make Chris Rock smile, and remains excellent throughout the course of the 2-hour runtime. To put it simply, “Scream 2” is one of the best sequels ever made. 

“Scream” (1996)

Arguably the greatest slasher movie, the original “Scream” is one of the most influential films of all time. Its biting meta dialogue and comedic exploitation of horror tropes led to an endless array of copycat films and over $700 million in total box office revenue.

 Famously, the film’s top-billed star Drew Barrymore is killed in the opening scene, and the story pivots to a collection of lesser-known actors. 

“Scream” is an enigma. It’s a raunchy teen comedy wrapped inside a violent whodunit. An admittedly insane premise, but the impact of the film has endured decades of sequels. “Scream” still remains endlessly re-watchable and quotable twenty-six years after its initial release.