Although perhaps not mentioned in the same breath as Halloween, Friday the 13th, or A Nightmare on Elm Street, it’s becoming increasingly more difficult to not mention Scream in the conversation for best horror franchise of all time. Maybe it’s missing the nostalgia factor that the other franchises have but in terms of quality, Scream is towards the top. Which is what makes Scream film rankings so difficult to do. But hey, you’re not reading this for me to talk about how difficult my job can be, so let’s rank these films. It’s going to be a scream, baby!
(This article will contain light spoilers for each film. If you haven’t seen them all, proceed with caution)
6. Scream 4
I know, I know. There are some people who will dismiss my Scream film rankings right now because of calling Wes Craven’s final film the weakest in the series. But it is and we need to discuss that. In a recent rewatch, I found myself really struggling with a few things. First and most problematic, the legacy characters didn’t feel like themselves at all. Dewey (David Arquette) is lovable, the real-life Cowardly Lion who found his courage; whose battle scars don’t define him but do slow him down. In Scream 4, he came across as almost mean and definitely cold, especially to Gale (Courtney Cox). It didn’t come across as character evolution, it came across as not writing the character well.
Dewey wasn’t the only one. Gale is directionless and missing the confidence that makes her a legendary horror character. Sidney (Neve Campbell) seemed shoehorned into the plot without a purpose, except for the film’s final act. Which, fine, the final act was significantly better than the rest of the film, but it was still beneath what the modern-day Scream Queen deserved. And don’t get me started on the weak group of teens we followed around for the whole film. The most forgettable of the franchise.
5. Scream 6
Let me start by saying that I really enjoy Scream 6. Quality-wise, it’s a huge leap from Scream 4. Upping the brutality, bringing back Kirby (Hayden Panettiere), some strong character development and the excellent backdrop of NYC made for a really good film. But can we talk about how bad the end was?
Scream 6 absolutely suffers from an incredibly weak killer reveal, which was by far the worst of the series. The motivation felt weak, it was way too gimmicky. If it were any other characters for any other reason, this film would be higher in my rankings, no questions asked.
Interesting to note that the lack of Sidney isn’t really a factor in this film being ranked second to last. Even though it was weird to not have her in the film, I thought they handled her absence well.
4. Scream 2
Another controversial take, I know, but I stand by this decision wholeheartedly. Scream 2 is an amazing film. It’s fun. It’s sexy. It’s scary. It established that there was real franchise value here. But as the series progressed, the original sequel hasn’t aged as well as other films in this franchise.
I’ve long argued that killing Randy in the original sequel was a huge mistake; a mistake they’ve tried to account for several times since this film. Randy’s horror nerd persona and the incorporation of genre trends into the narrative was a huge part of Scream’s identity. Killing him killed part of what makes this series unique.
In retrospect, Scream 2 didn’t move the series forward the way that other entries did. It was a fun continuation of the first film, having us follow the same characters with new dangers. It’s safe, which isn’t a bad thing at all. It’s a good movie. But being safe and killing off an important character too soon bumps you down the Scream film rankings.
3. Scream 3
Scream 3 had us fully invested in the concept of a trilogy. For more than a decade, this series was just that, which given Hollywood’s fixation with sequels, is actually impressive. This film catches a lot of grief for its emphasis on comedy but given the post-Columbine times we were living in, toning down the violence was a necessity.
But the film turned its restrictions into a positive. The story takes some heavy-handed shots at Harvey Weinstein way before that was the norm. Scream 3 also tells a layered story, built upon grief and psychological trauma that manages to be hysterical at times, but still sexy and fresh. This wasn’t just another Scream movie. This felt like a real conclusion and a satisfying one at that.
Toss in some great new additions to the cast and a tremendous killer reveal and you have an excellent sequel.
2. Scream 5
I’ve never understood the criticism of Scream 5, personally. The film is a love letter to Wes Craven and not just the original Scream either. There are Dream Warriors vibes and homages all throughout the film, including some really incredible Craven-style long-angled shots, giving long-time genre fans warm and fuzzy feelings.
It’s not just the Craven love that makes this film so special. The legacy characters felt true to themselves. Their journeys are reflected in their stories. It felt real. Then the new characters were the most authentic and well-rounded group of fresh faces since the original. It didn’t feel like a group of victims or bodies for a new killer to pad the numbers. These characters were three-dimensional and that was sorely missing from Craven’s final film.
The concept of a “requel” was reminiscent of the originality of the original film. Sure, it was a reboot to some extent, but it was very much a continuation of the story we were already invested in. It made for a great plot but it was also the kind of genre commentary we came to expect from the series. Scream 5 was a thrill ride from start to finish with a strong emotional undercurrent, which makes it stand apart from most films, in this series included.
The original takes the top spot on my Scream film rankings. This is likely an unsurprising result but I’ll defend my position nonetheless. Scream was a breath of fresh air into a genre that was in a dark period. Franchise burnout was real. Horror’s golden age of the previous decade was now a thing of the past. The genre needed something new and fresh. Wes Craven and Kevin Williamson delivered just that. Almost 30 years and 5 sequels later, Scream is still going strong and helped revive the genre in the process.
What did you think of my Scream film rankings? Be sure to drop a comment and let me know!
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