What’s the critics’ favorite scary movie?
When it comes to horror franchises, none remain as culturally relevant as Scream. Created by Kevin Williamson to poke loving fun at horror while serving up its own take on the genre, the series has earned a place in the horror hall of fame alongside the movies it regularly references. With each subsequent sequel finding a new topic of the genre to target, the franchise has remained one of the most consistently solid in horror, as it always delivers all the laughs and scares that fans expect.
Aside from its meta approach, Scream is also unique because each entry directly follows the last and brings back the surviving cast members. While most horror movies, such as Friday the 13th, always use the same killer while featuring a new cast, Scream does the opposite with a new killer(s) donning the Ghostface mask in each movie. This approach has proven to be a hit with critics, with all but one entry rated fresh on Rotten Tomatoes.
‘Scream 3’ (2000)
Taking Scream’s meta element to even greater heights, Scream 3is set in Hollywood and revolves around the production of Stab 3, a fictional slasher movie based on the life of franchise heroine Sidney Prescott (Neve Campbell). As Sidney remains in hiding after surviving the past two movies, a new Ghostface carves up Tinsel Town as they target the cast and crew of Stab 3 to lure Sidney out into the open.
Even though she has less screen time in Scream 3 than in the past two installments, Campbell gives one of her best performances as Sidney as she grapples with the darkness that has overshadowed her life. Co-leads Dewey Riley (David Arquette) and Gale Weathers (Courtney Cox) take center stage to great effect, as the lovable pair’s “will they, won’t they” relationship is finally resolved as they continue being one of the best couples in horror. While Scream 3 is regarded as the weakest entry in the franchise, it is still an entertaining meta-slasher movie that stands above other films in the genre.
‘Scream 4’ (2011)
While Scream 3 was pitched as the final chapter in the original trilogy, a good horror franchise never stays dead. Scream 4catches up with Sidney a decade later as her book tour brings her back to Woodsboro, her hometown, where the killings began. While she is overjoyed to reunite with Dewey, Gale, and her teenage cousin Jill (Emma Roberts), not everyone is happy to see Sidney return as a new Ghostface begins stalking the neighborhoods of Woodsboro once more.
With horror changing rapidly since Scream’s debut in the ’90s, Scream 4 aims at the concepts of reboots and balances the need to pay respect to the original while introducing a new generation to the franchise. This is represented by the movie’s focus on Sidney and Jill, who is pitched as the new version of her cousin as she and her friends become key targets of the new killer. Scream 4 would be franchise director and horror master Wes Craven’s last entry in the series before his death in 2015, and he left fans with a fun, modern-day slasher movie.
Truly pivoting the franchise to a new generation of characters, 2022’s Scream(the fifth entry in the series) revolves around Sam Carpenter (Melissa Barrera) as she returns to her hometown of Woodsboro after her sister Tara (Jenna Ortega) is savagely attacked by Ghostface. As Sam and her loyal boyfriend Richie (Jack Quaid) mingle with Sam’s old group of friends, they soon realize they are the latest targets and suspects in a new wave of Ghostface killings and must look to the original trio for guidance.
Legacy sequels are all the rage at the moment. Scream nails this concept perfectly, from its numberless title to bringing back the original cast in effective supporting roles that advance their storylines while allowing the likable newcomers to take center stage. This latest Ghostface also proves to be the franchise’s most brutal as the days of simple one-time stabbings are long gone, with 2022’s take on the character being a leg-breaking, knife-happy killing machine. Thankfully new directors Matt Bettinelli-Olpin and Tyler Gillett still incorporate the franchise’s trademark sense of humor to keep things relatively light amid the carnage.
‘Scream VI’ (2023)
The latest entry in the franchise, Scream VI, makes the bold decision to move the series from small-town suburbia to the Big Apple. As the survivors of the previous movie journey to the big city as a way to move on from their harrowing ordeal, a new Ghostface makes their presence known. Joined by some legacy characters, the new crew fights to survive a killer that claims to be even more deadly than those who came before.
Reviews have been highly positive for the sixth entry, with praise being given to the development of the new cast, the heightened tension and brutality, and how the film uses its New York setting to create frightening set-pieces. The second movie in the series to be directed by Matt Bettinelli-Olpin and Tyler Gillett, the franchise seems to be in fantastic hands as it seeks to reclaim its place at the top of the horror genre.
Still reeling from the murder of her mother a year ago, teenager Sidney is faced with more tragedy as her quiet town becomes the hunting ground for a masked murderer. As Sidney, her boyfriend Billy (Skeet Ulrich), and their friends attempt to still go about their young, carefree lives, they find themselves at the mercy of their horror-movie-loving stalker. As Sidney fights to survive, plucky reporter Gale and rookie deputy Dewey attempt to unmask the culprit without being added to the body count.
The one that started it all, the original Scream rapidly reignited interest in horror as the genre started to fade in the ’90s. With a smart script and a great cast full of recognizable faces, Scream is one of the greatest horror movies of all time, as it remains just as scary and humorous almost thirty years later. Perhaps the biggest indicator of the film’s success and influence is the wave of imitators that tried to cash in on Scream’s teen slasher formula in the late ’90s, with none able to reach the same heights as this meta masterpiece.
‘Scream 2’ (1997)
Picking up two years after the original, Scream 2sees Sidney attempting to move on from the Woodsboro massacre as she attends college. Things are going well for her: she has a caring new boyfriend, a new group of friends and has a major part in the school’s latest theater production. That all changes when someone picks up the knife left by the first film’s killer and carries on the Ghostface killings. Unable to trust those she has let grow close to her, Sidney is forced to face her masked tormentor once more in this college-set horror classic.
The highest-rated Scream movie on Rotten Tomatoes, Scream 2 is considered by many to be the best sequel in the franchise. The movie toys with the concept of horror sequels, doubling down on the need to increase the cast and the kill count while also poking fun at the fact that the audience automatically expects the stakes and the action to be raised. Scream 2 loses none of the originality of the original and even manages to contain some surprises of its own as it offers some of the best set-pieces of the franchise, such as the opening set in a movie theater.