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All 5 Scream movies ranked: How do they stack up and where can you stream them?
It’s hard to believe that the original Scream came out over 25 years ago. For context, only 22 years had passed between the release of Black Christmas, arguably the first slasher film, and Scream, which built extensively on Black Christmas’ genre. The latest film, Scream (2022), has a massive legacy to contend with. So, where does it land in the franchise? Below, we offer our Scream movie ranking, including all five films.
Check out: The best scary movies on Hulu
An important note here is that while some Scream movies are better than others, it’s an incredibly reliable franchise. There are no bad Scream movies, and the latest installment is no exception. A sixth film has already been greenlit and is in pre-production, bringing back various fan-favorite characters.
Read on for how the existing five Scream films stack up against each other. You can currently watch all five films on Paramount Plus, but we’ve included where else to watch with each entry.
5. Scream 3 (2000)
Scream 3 hasn’t gotten a lot of love over the years. That’s a shame because it has a lot going for it. It lacks an iconic opening kill, and it gets a little overinvested in its own world-building and fictional history, making it lose a few points in the Scream movie rankings. Still, it’s very much in the game and pulling its weight as an essential entry.
Here, we follow Sidney as she’s pulled back in the game when murders begin on a studio lot where a film crew is shooting the latest film in the Stab franchise — films loosely based on Sidney’s life. Scream 3 goes all-in on self-reflexivity, with actors standing in for the characters we know and Sidney facing off with Ghostface in a replica of her childhood home. In retrospect, the film also features a villainous, exploitative, and abusive producer clearly modelled on the disgraced Harvey Weinstein, who not-so-coincidentally produced the first four Scream films.
4. Scream 4 (2011)
One of Scream 4’s biggest weaknesses is that it doesn’t seem to quite know how to fit itself into the horror landscape of 2011. Most of the slasher films of the 2000s were inspired by the original Scream. Meanwhile, found footage horror and “torture porn” like the Saw franchise had had their heyday. Scream 4 points to those subgenres and wraps them into itself, but none of it fully registers — certainly not in the way the original Scream relaunched slashers and become a new iconic example of the genre at least.
The film more than makes up for that tepid self-reflexivity with a cast of engaging new characters. Scream 4 came before the rise of “legasequels” or “requels” and balanced its legacy characters with a new batch of fast-talking teens who you want to follow as much as Sid, Gale, and Dewey. The film bombed when it came out, but it had a killer twist, and characters like Hayden Panettiere’s film-geek/popular-girl Kirby Reed have become fan favorites for good reason. It’s a solid Scream movie.
3. Scream (2022)
The first Scream film produced without the late Wes Craven, Scream (2022) has been a huge hit at the box office, nearly beating Scream 4’s entire box office draw just in its first weekend. And that’s during a pandemic. While it doesn’t quite manage to draw the same investment in its new teen victims as Scream 4 did, it does play with the conventions of the franchise in a fresh and clever way that’s perfectly in keeping with the original film.
It’s been more than 10 years since the last Woodsboro murders, but a new killer has donned the Ghostface mask. With the return of legacy characters and some sharp nods to the franchise history, the new film tackles the structure and meaning of “requels,” poking holes in its own existence as it subverts expectations and offers new twists on a familiar format. This is a terrific Scream movie and proof that the franchise is in good hands.
2. Scream (1996)
The original Scream is unbelievably close to earning the top spot in our Scream movie rankings. Re-launching the slasher genre in the 90s, Wes Craven’s Scream is both a loving homage and a reimaging of a genre that was losing some of its luster in the public eye. It follows teen Sidney Prescott and her friends trying to evade the mysterious Ghostface killer. The twist is that the characters (killers and victims alike) are hyperaware of the rules of horror films. Craven and screenwriter Kevin Williamson wink to the audience to scrounge up some fresh scares.
Scream was smart, cool, and scary, and it laid the groundwork for many new horror classics that had a sense of self-awareness, where the characters themselves knew about horror movies and their conventions just as well as those of us in the audience. It’s a stone-cold classic for a reason, and it’s certainly one of the best Scream movies.
1. Scream 2 (1997)
The original Scream will always hold a special place in our hearts no doubt. For many, it was an introduction to horror. For others, it was a jolt of energy into their favorite genre. With new killers hunting Sidney and her friends at college, Scream 2 could have been a hollow clone of its predecessor. Instead, it hit every note perfectly. It built on what came before, played the hits, and told an engaging story on its own. It is the best Scream movie among a franchise of gems.
Scream 2 offers everything we want in a good sequel. It’s familiar, with new twists. It brings back favorite characters while introducing great new ones. It builds on the self-reflexive mythology of the the original film without overdoing it. We get the film-within-a-film conceit of the Stab films and some explicit discussion of sequels and their distinct rules, along with a re-upping of very visible framing devices. One particularly great scene involves Dewey and Gale evading Ghostface in a sound booth, their fates tied to what is revealed via audiovisual production practices. One of the first victims of internet spoiler culture and leaked scripts, Scream 2’s finale was swapped out at the last minute and still stuck the landing.