Every Scream Movie, Ranked By Scariness

Summary

  • The Scream franchise has to continually find new ways to deliver scares and keep audiences on the edge of their seats.
  • Some Scream movies have been too goofy to be truly scary, while others redefined the horror genre and shocked audiences.
  • The original Scream is considered the scariest due to its unsettling level of believability and well-developed villains.


As one of the most popular horror franchises of all time, there is always a debate about which Scream movie is the scariest. Along with being a fun commentary on the horror genre, the Scream movies deliver thrills and chills. Ghostface has become an iconic horror movie killer since 1996, striking fear in audiences despite the satirical subversive subtext of the wider movie. As the franchise continues on with six entries as of 2023, Scream movies have to keep finding new ways to deliver the unexpected and keep audiences on the edge of their seats with some great scares.

The Scream series has grown in a number of ways with new characters and new settings, but the movies that have provided genuine horror have included memorable kills, intense sequences, and the ability to keep the audience on their toes. The title for the scariest Scream movie is a mixed competition — some entries redefined the horror genre and shocked audiences, while other entries have been too goofy to be truly scary. While each Scream movie has its moments, there is a clear winner for the scariest movie in the franchise.

RELATED: The 15 Best Horror Movies of All Time


6 Scream 3 (2000)

Ghostface(s): Roman Bridger (Scott Foley)

Ghostface hovers over Cotton Weary

There’s a widely-held consensus among Scream fans that the third installment isn’t as memorable as the others. The film was going to be much different, with Scream 3 originally featuring Matthew Lillard’s Stu Macher returning to play a key part. However, due to a mass tragedy occurring in real life with the shooting at Columbine, the studio had to make some major changes to the script. However, the toned-down violence isn’t truly to blame, as the bigger issues are with a silly script and some unlikable characters.

Not only was the unmasking scene quite predictable (Roman Bridger being “killed” offscreen makes him the obvious villain), but many hated the concept of voice changer too, with many calling it bothersome and undermining Ghostface’s terrifying nature. While meta-commentary is a big part of the franchise, Scream 3 veered closer to parody with appearances from Jay and Silent Bob. The jump scares were also lacking their usual suspenseful edge as well, with the writers going for lazy laughs rather than smart shocks. The fact that the franchise’s original writer, Kevin Williamson, wasn’t really at the helm of the script helps explain why Scream 3 just didn’t live up to its predecessors.

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5 Scream 4 (2011)

Ghostface(s): Jill Roberts (Emma Roberts) And Charlie Walker (Rory Culkin)

Unlike the trilogy’s finale, the reboot sequel, Scream 4, strove for scares over laughs. It succeeded more often than not and showed that Wes Craven hadn’t lost his touch when crafting Scream 4‘s dread-inducing drawn-out phone call scenes. In fact, Kirby Reed’s listing off other horror movie franchises in an effort to save someone — who ends up being a killer — is as captivating and devastating as the original film’s opening scene with Casey Becker.

Sidney, Gale and Dewey as older adults diminished the impact of Scream 4‘s scares, as they weren’t the same vulnerable young teens running from Ghostface. With those legacy characters still around, Scream 4 felt too crowded for many of its new characters. With Scream opening scenes being so iconic in the franchise, it is notable that Scream 4‘s is the weakest of the bunch despite its ambitious idea. Taking Ghostface further into the 21st century and making him more ruthless did mean Scream 4 was scarier than its predecessor, but it doesn’t hold up to the rest of the franchise for the genuine fear factor.

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4 Scream 2 (1997)

Ghostface(s): Debbie Salt/Nancy Loomis (Laurie Metcalf) And Mickey Altieri (Timothy Olyphant)

Maureen seeks protection from Ghostface

Though Scream 2 is often viewed mostly as a rehash of the original, it is still a fun follow-up. It also features some shocking kills courtesy of the new Ghostface killers, though the reveal of Timothy Olyphant’s Mickey in particular was hardly a shock. Even with the tell, the sequel is just about as scary as the original, and Olyphant makes the Ghostface truly intimidating. Furthermore, the third act of Scream 2 provides a genuine surprise with the true identity of “Debby Salt” (Laurie Metcalf) as Billy Loomis’ mother.

Like Olyphant, Metcalf brings a chaotic aura to the role that makes her rank among the scariest Ghostface killers. However, while scenes like the movie theater-set opening are legitimate horror cinema classics, other scenes escape logic too much to be frightening (e.g. the death of Sidney’s best friend, Hallie). Scream 2‘s positives outweigh its negatives though. Craven’s mastery of genuinely tense chase scenes makes for some notable highlights, particularly CiCi Cooper’s (Sarah Michelle Gellar) at the Omega Beta Zeta sorority house and Gale’s Ghostface escape in the sound studio. It also deserves credit for having the courage to kill off fan-favorite character Randy Meets (Jamie Kennedy).

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3 Scream (2022)

Ghostface(s): Richie Kirsch (Jack Quaid) And Amber Freeman (Mikey Madison)

Ghostface in Scream 2022

A near-perfect merging of reverence and a modern viewpoint, Scream (2022) is every bit as successful a franchise revival as Halloween. Bettinelli-Olpin and Gillett bring a spark to their direction that’s matched in power by screenwriters James Vanderbilt and Guy Busick’s love for Craven’s original film. Taking the Scream franchise into the current horror field means bringing a more intense energy to the franchise, making some of the past movies feel tame by comparison.

As soon as original Scream character Dewey dies it is clear this latest movie is not playing around. The kills are a lot gorier while the tense sequences play out expertly, including the scene in which Wes (Dylan Minnette) is the obvious next victim, but the scene teases the audience with one false jump scare after another. It all builds to a climax that pays homage to the party scene in the original Scream, although it doesn’t quite top it. The commentary of the new movie also adds a little grounded terror with the idea of toxic fan culture taking a deadly turn.

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2 Scream VI (2023)

Ghostface(s): Wayne Bailey (Dermot Mulroney), Ethan Landry (Jack Champion), Quinn Bailey (Liana Liberato), And Jason Carvey (Tony Revolori)

The most recent Scream movie continues to up the intensity while bringing the franchise into the modern era. Scream 6 shifts the action to New York City where Sam, Tara and their friends contend with a new Ghostface stalking them. As with the last movie, Scream 6 honors what fans love about the Scream franchise while trying some new things, including the excellent opening sequence that flips fan expectations with some effective results.

The New York City setting also offers some terrifying set pieces including the apartment escape scene, the bodega attack, and the subway sequence. Some of them are more memorable than others but it shows the franchise’s ability to try new and exciting things this far into its run. The movie stumbles a bit with its mystery as it tries too hard with its red herrings while also assuming the big twist is less obvious than it really is. However, it is a more vicious Ghostface with Scream 6 featuring the most brutal kills in the franchise.

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1 Scream (1996)

Ghostface(s): Billy Loomis (Skeet Ulrich) And Stu Macher (Matthew Lillard)

Ghostface in Scream 1996

The original Scream has an unsettling level of believability, and it has everything to do with the villains. It all begins with Scream‘s iconic opening scene with Drew Barrymore’s Casey Becker receiving a call from Ghostface asking about her favorite scary movie. The sequence is pulse-pounding and unexpected, cementing as an all-time great horror movie scene. While the movie never quite tops that, there are plenty of memorable scares that follow.

An astoundingly well-written film that fleshes out the antagonists as much as the protagonists, Craven’s original Scream made the people of Woodsboro, California feel as real as the fictional town itself. But it’s the real-world motivations of Billy Loomis and Stu Macher that make the original film the scariest. One wants revenge and the other is desperately seeking the approval of his friend. It grounds them in a disturbing realistic way that differs from most slasher movie masked killers. Scream is scary because there’s nothing in it a human being couldn’t do in the real world.

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  • Scream 6 Poster-2

    Scream 6

    Release Date:
    2023-03-10

    Director:
    Matt Bettinelli-Olpin, Tyler Gillett

    Cast:
    Melissa Barrera, Courteney Cox, Jasmin Savoy Brown, Mason Gooding, Jenna Ortega, Hayden Panettiere

    Rating:
    R

    Runtime:
    2h 2m

    Main Genre:
    Horror

    Genres:
    Horror, Thriller

    Writers:
    James Vanderbilt, Guy Busick

    Summary:
    Scream 6 (SCREAIVI) is the sixth entry in the classic horror franchise and is a direct sequel to the fifth movie chronologically. The Woodsboro Ghostface killings have led the four survivors to leave the town and start over in New York City. Unfortunately for the Carpenter sisters and the Meeks twins, the Ghostface legacy has re-emerged and has begun a new string of murders in the bustling city.

    Prequel:
    Scream 5

    Budget:
    33–35 million

    Studio(s):
    Paramount Pictures

    Distributor(s):
    Paramount Pictures

    prequel(s):
    Scream (2022), Scream, Scream 3, Scream 2, Scream 4

    Franchise(s):
    Scream

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