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Ranking All the Scream Movies (Updated with Scream VI)

When you think of the greatest slasher franchises of all time, what comes to mind? Halloween? Friday the 13th? A Nightmare on Elm Street? Those are probably the most obvious picks, but in my opinion, there’s another one that’s even better: Scream. Sure, the Scream films may not have a single iconic killer who spans the entire franchise (different people wearing the same mask doesn’t count), and there may not be a billion of them, but pound for pound (or, if you prefer, movie for movie), no other slasher series can hold a candle to it.

Not only is the original Scream one of the greatest horror films ever made, but the franchise also includes some of the greatest horror sequels of all time. It’s just a great series all around, so naturally, it gives rise to a very important question: how do the Scream movies stack up against each other? Granted, there’s no definitive way to answer that question, but it’s still a fun topic to discuss. It’s cool to see which films different fans prefer and why we prefer them, so to contribute to that conversation, here’s my ranking of all six entries in the franchise.

Update: Scream VI added on March 3, 2023.

Scream 3

Sarah hides from Ghostface

Hands down, the worst entry in this franchise Scream 3. In fact, it’s the only Scream movie I’m not a huge fan of. Granted, it’s decent enough that a completist like me can still enjoy it, but if you just take it on its own merits, it’s not exactly a quality film. It takes place during the filming of Stab 3, the third movie in the Scream universe’s own slasher franchise based on the real-world (well, real in these films, of course) events of the original Scream movie, and in my opinion, it has a whole bunch of problems.

For example, since it features the main trio from the first two films (Sidney, Dewey, and Gale) as well as the actors who play them in Stab 3, it gets super meta at times, but those scenes are almost never as fun as they’re supposed to be. Instead, they usually just make the movie feel like a bargain version of Wes Craven’s New Nightmare. On top of that, Scream 3 also adds some really convoluted twists to Billy and Stu’s motivation in the first film, and as a massive fan of the original Scream, I think that kind of tinkering is both unnecessary and detrimental to the franchise as a whole.

Those are just a few of the problems I have with this movie, but they’re enough to make my point. Although I can enjoy Scream 3 as a legitimate part of the overall Scream story, it’s undoubtedly the worst film in the franchise.

Scream 4

Two girls looking concerned

Next up, we have Scream 4. This was the last film Wes Craven ever directed, and while it has its fair share of detractors, I think it’s a damn fine way to finish out a legendary career. To be fair, I get why a lot of people don’t like it. It rehashes many of the same worn-out Scream tropes we’ve seen countless times before, so it’s a bit too familiar to rise to the upper echelon of this list. But if you can get past those admittedly tired cliches, you’ll see that this movie actually does add something to the franchise.

It updates the Scream formula for a new generation, and despite a few hiccups, it does so pretty successfully. See, this film came out 11 years after Scream 3, so unlike the previous sequels, it was able to poke fun at a whole new era of horror history. For instance, there’s a scene where Kirby is talking to the killer on the phone, and when Ghostface asks her a question about a remake of a classic horror movie, she lets loose a string of 15 recent titles that hammer home just how remake-heavy that era was.

It’s a really cool moment that perfectly satirizes 2000s horror, and the rest of the movie is chock-full of similarly fun commentary on the state of the genre at the time. Because of that, Scream 4 is mostly able to avoid the “been there, done that” curse that plagues the majority of genre films with the number four in their name, so even though it’s not nearly as good as the other entries on this list, it’s still a hell of a good time.

Scream VI

The "core four"

The newest addition to this article, Scream VI is hands down the best part six of any film series I’ve ever seen, and I don’t just mean that in a joking way. This movie is really freaking good, and it proves yet again that Scream is one of the absolute greatest horror franchises of all time. It has everything fans want from these films, like great characters, top-notch horror, and witty dialogue that dissects the current state of the genre, but much like Scream (2022), it also adds a few twists and turns to that tried-and-true formula.

For example, it honors the rest of the franchise in some really cool and creative ways, and the opening kill is unlike anything we’ve ever seen in a Scream movie. It’s a nearly perfect mix of nostalgia and novelty, and that makes for a really satisfying viewing experience.

That being said, Scream VI does have one big flaw that keeps it from being as good as Scream (2022): the killers. They’re great throughout most of the movie, but once we find out who they are, they’re just not that interesting. In fact, I was actually really disappointed with them overall, so even though I loved the vast majority of this film, the weak villains ultimately drag it down to the lower half of this list.

Scream (2022)

A young woman holds a phone to her ear as she picks up a kitchen knife.

Coming after another 11-year hiatus, Scream (2022) does exactly what its predecessor did, but better. It too updates the franchise for a new era, and it takes full advantage of all the ways the horror genre has changed since Scream 4. For example, it pokes fun at the idea of “elevated horror,” and it tackles the topic of toxic fandom in a really cool way.

So, given the similarities between this film and Scream 4, why does this one have the edge? Well, I’d say it’s two things. To begin, like I said, Scream 4 relies a bit too much on the same tropes the previous three movies did to death, but Scream (2022) bucks our expectations and subverts some of those cliches. For example, the other films all had a signature opening kill, but in this one, the opening “kill” ends up failing. The victim actually survives the attack, and she ends up becoming one of the best characters in the entire movie.

On top of that, Scream (2022) also features a better cast of newcomers. Don’t get me wrong, I like the new generation in Scream 4, but aside from Kirby, they don’t hold a candle to the new characters we get in this latest installment. In fact, I even like these newbies so much I wouldn’t mind if the series continued on solely with them and didn’t even try to bring Gale and Sidney back for Scream VI.

They’re that good, and when you combine these great characters with the cool way this film subverts some of our deeply entrenched expectations, you get one of the best installments in the franchise. Granted, it’s not quite my favorite Scream sequel, but it’s really close, so it more than deserves the number three spot on this list.

Scream 2

People sitting outside and talking

Coming in at number two, we have, appropriately enough, Scream 2. This is my favorite sequel in the franchise, but on the surface, its high ranking doesn’t seem to make sense. The film is pretty much just a rehash of the original Scream, so it has no business being anything but a cheap, soulless cash grab. On paper, it should be terrible, so how does it succeed against the odds?

Well, in a somewhat counterintuitive way, I’d say this movie’s similarities to the first Scream are actually the reason why it’s so good. It has the same great dialogue, the same awesome mystery, and a lot of the same amazing characters (along with some excellent new ones). Simply put, Wes Craven somehow managed to capture almost the exact same lightning in a bottle twice, so even though Scream 2 is lacking in originality, it’s still the second-best entry in the franchise.

Scream (1996)

A smiling young man holds a gun out with his hands open.

Without question, the best Scream movie is the meta horror classic that started it all. It’s a fantastic horror mystery with some great laughs and a whole bunch of awesome meta commentary, and it’s driven by quite possibly the best ensemble of characters the genre has ever given us. Seriously, name a better villainous duo than Stu Macher and Billy Loomis, or a better group of survivors than Sidney, Gale, Dewey, and Randy. It can’t be done. Hell, I still laugh out loud whenever I hear Stu say, “Liver alone,” and no matter how many times I watch Billy go full-on psycho killer and utter Norman Bates’s famous line, “We all go a little mad sometimes,” those words still send a few chills down my spine.

From the moment Casey Becker’s phone rings in the opening scene, pretty much every facet of this film is crafted to absolute perfection. Sure, there are a few minor things I could nitpick here and there, but by and large, I don’t really have anything negative to say about it. Scream is nearly flawless, so it’s not just the best entry in the franchise. It’s not even just one of the best slasher movies ever made. It’s one of the best horror films in any subgenre, so like I said before, there’s no question that it deserves the top spot on this list.


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  1. Personal ranking (best to worst)
    Original. It was revolutionary and reinvigored the slasher genre
    4. 4 has the best final act in the franchise. It also was a pretty good mystery in who the main villain was and why.
    2022 (5) this was a pretty solid movie with decent thrills and was nice see some non immortal heroes
    2. It has the best opening outside the original, but not much else going for it.
    3. This one drags. Courtney Cox’s bangs are the scariest thing in the movie.

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Written by JP Nunez

JP Nunez is a lifelong horror fan. From a very early age, he learned to love monsters, ghosts, and all things spooky, and it's still his favorite genre today.

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