Ranking the Scream Franchise From Worst to First

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Scream Franchise

The entire Scream franchise has played an important role in developing my love and appreciation of horror films. Until 2011 when Scream 4 was released, I had only watched the other Scream franchise films in passing or as I was scrolling through what to watch on TV. After watching the fourth film at home, I was completely blown away by what I saw. Whether it was the gore, humor, my introduction to the “final girl” trope, or the ways the film was self-aware of what it was doing, watching Scream 4 instantly made me want to watch the rest of the series. From there, I delved deeper into the franchise and went on to watch various other horror films. Looking back after 11 years, I don’t think I could have chosen a better franchise to introduce me to the horror genre.

After Wes Craven died in 2015, it was hard to imagine another sequel to the film series would be made. Scream 4 wrapped the main characters’ arcs well and didn’t leave much room for a new story. While I feel that Scream 4 provided a worthy conclusion to the original series, I can’t help but feel excited about a new installment into the franchise. With Scream (2022) premiering this week, I wanted to look back at the entire franchise and rank both the films and tv series. Given that I normally make an effort to rewatch the films and tv series in the Scream franchise at least once a year, this was an ideal time for me to give my official ranking of everything to do with Scream.

For this ranking, I focused on various elements, including how the film was made. It’s also worth taking note of how funny and scary the films and series are since the Scream franchise is known for this. Because the films and TV series both have masked killers, I’ll be taking a look at how successful or not the big revelations were. The kills are an essential part of any horror film. which is something I considered while making this ranking list. Lastly, how entertaining the films were played a big role when making final decisions. You’re in spoiler territory now. 

6. Scream 3 (2000)

Plot: While Sidney (Neve Campbell) and her friends visit the Hollywood set of Stab 3, the third film based on the Woodsboro murders, another Ghostface killer rises to terrorize them.

While I thoroughly enjoy everything about the Scream franchise and rewatch everything from it at least once a year, there are a lot of issues with Scream 3. The most blatant issue is how unrealistic the killer’s voice changer is. Completely replicating other people’s voices takes away any real sense of horror from the killer. 

Up to this point, most of the killer reveals in the Scream franchise have had enough build-up to make a big impact on Sydney’s life while also following within the continuity that had been set up. Unfortunately, Roman’s (Scott Foley) was rather lackluster and had little buildup to make his motivations credible. Roman being Sydney’s half-brother completely contradict that the first film established and retcons the catalyst of the entire film series.

On a more positive note, there are plenty of elements in Scream 3 that are quite enjoyable. Parker Posey was incredible throughout the entire film. Her over-the-top portrayal of a Gale-like character is always entertaining to watch. The film also provides a great conclusion to the Dewey (David Arquette) and Gale (Courteney Cox) romance arc that’s been developing since the first film. Their characters were given the spotlight in this film and were able to finally be together. No matter where the story went after this, it was clear that Dewey and Gale will always be meant to be.

Scream 3 also features a small cameo from Randy (Jamie Kennedy), who explains the rules of the final film in trilogies. While I don’t fully like the scene itself, it’s nice to see one of my favorite characters in the film series make a return in the film.

5. Scream 2 (1997)

Plot: Two years after the first series of murders, as Sidney acclimates to college life, someone donning the Ghostface costume begins a new string of killings.

It’s clear from the opening scene that Scream 2 will have kills that are much more horrifying. Maureen’s (Jada Pinkett Smith) death in the movie theater is truly horrifying and brutal. Seeing her being stabbed in a room full of fans wearing the same mask as the killer was an interesting choice but also incredibly scary. Scream 2 also thrives with its heavy focus on Sidney and how she continues to cope with the events from the first film while being targeted once again. It does an incredible job in showing that she only has a few people that she can trust.

Scream 2 excels with its incredible cast. The chemistry between Dewey and Gale increases even more from the first film. Randy continues to be the metacharacter of the film series, this time placing heavy emphasis on sequels. Cotton (Liev Schreiber) plays a bigger role in this film and is given much more character development other than the man with who Sydney’s mom was having an affair. Special props have to go to Laurie Metcalf, who plays Billy’s mother but transforms herself into an unknown reporter. Her entire purpose is revenge, which isn’t necessarily a new motive, but her dedication is worthy of appreciation.

Unfortunately, Scream 2 suffers from quite a few questionable choices. The biggest mistake the film made was killing off Randy. I appreciate the film having the courage to kill off a central character but it doesn’t make sense to me as to why it had to be Randy. Also, making Mickey one of the killers was disappointing. With Randy being killed off midway through the film, it would have made bigger sense for Mickey to be the new metacharacter. His desire for fame would have worked had the film put more emphasis on this by having Mickey show up more in the film.

4. Scream: The Series

Scream - But Why Tho

Plot: A serialized anthology series that follows a group of teenagers being targeted by a masked serial killer.

I wasn’t quite sure what to expect when the show was announced, especially since it was premiering on MTV and with a new mask being introduced, and the fact that it would be a completely new story. However, I was pleasantly surprised by the end of the pilot episode. The entire journey of discovering who the killer is in the first two seasons of Scream: The Series is full of suspense and several eerie moments. The show isn’t afraid to hold anything back in terms of violence and how gory kills can get. The killer’s mask adds to the mystery of their identity and what it means for those being targeted. There is more than enough world-building into the history of the killer to flesh out the motivations of the killers.

The new cast in Scream: The Series fits into what the demographic for MTV would have been around this time. While the acting isn’t always on par with what fans may have been used to seeing in the film series, the characters fit well into the roles and tropes that reflect what was set up in the original Scream. Emma (Willa Fitzgerald) is very much a modern-day final girl and does whatever she can to find out who the killer is. Audrey (Bex Taylor-Klaus) and Noah (John Karna) are what Randy was to the film series but are written in a way that doesn’t make them feel like a direct copy.

I definitely would have placed Scream: The Series higher on this list had it not been for its horrendous third season. The season was doomed from the start given the Weinstein affiliation. The new season got rid of the entire cast from the first two seasons and told a new original story. The entire season was released as a 3-night event, with 2 episodes premiering every night. Season 3 included the most diverse cast from anything that the Scream franchise had released up to this point, but nothing new was added to make an impression. The kills, killer reveal, and characters failed to make this season worth watching.

3. Scream 4 (2011)

Scream Films

Plot: Ten years have passed, and Sidney Prescott, who has put herself back together thanks in part to her writing, is visited by the Ghostface Killer.

One of the first things I noticed when watching Scream 4 for the first time is how much it stands out from the rest in the brutality and the gore. Olivia’s (Marielle Jaffe) death in her bedroom and the aftermath of the attack are incredibly brutal to watch. Since Scream 4 takes place in a new generation, it’s almost as if it’s expected for the brutality and gore to be elevated. It never seems forced or done for the sake of shock factor

The film also brings about a course correction for the franchise up to this point by bringing the film out of the 90s. With the rise of viral videos, live streams, and reality TV fame, it makes sense that all of these elements were included in Scream 4. It also makes sense that Jill’s (Emma Roberts) and Charlie’s (Rory Culkin) motivations for killing are rooted in elements that correlate with the time of the film’s release. Their reveals are built up well and provide a fresh look at what can motivate people in the modern age to kill. Major props have to be given to Jill for how far she was willing to go to prove that she was a legitimate final girl.

This isn’t to say that Scream 4 does not have flaws.  For one, it’s clear that this is a different Woodborough. The original film established Woodsborough as a typical small American town that was rocked by horrendous murders. It makes sense for the town to have changed but from what is shown in the film, that small-town appeal is completely gone. I also wish that the film dared to kill off one of its main characters. Not only was a new generation of characters being introduced, but it would’ve shown its audience that it had faith in a new cast to carry the series. Kirby (Hayden Panettiere) would have been the obvious choice to take over as the series lead. Gale seemed to be the more obvious choice, especially after not showing up until the final confrontation.

2. Scream (2022)

Scream (2022) - But Why Tho

Plot: Twenty-five years after the original series of murders in Woodsboro, a new Ghostface emerges, and Sidney Prescott must return to uncover the truth.

There’s a quote from Spider-Man: No Way Home that best describes my thoughts when walking into Scream (2022), “If you expect disappointment, then you can never really be disappointed.” Knowing that the directors of 2019’s Ready or Not,  and , were directing the film wasn’t enough to hype me up for the release of this film. However, the opening scene quickly reassured me that this film was in great hands. In the age of smart homes, it makes sense that this will be included as a way for the killers to manipulate their victims. Just like with the last modern age sequel, Scream (2022) brings the series into the new decade that its audience can relate to.

Scream (2022) paid homage to the original film of the series while also telling a story that fits well within the world that’s been established for quite some time now. Some moments lean towards nostalgia but also manage to not delve too much into it. The film stuck to its roots to show the impact that the murders had on certain characters of a new generation like Sam (Melissa Barrera). There were also moments where the film poked fun at the previous films in the series but didn’t completely trash what was established. The big killer reveals at the end were a bit predictable, especially since the film focuses on two specific moments where questionable actions are made by two certain characters. However, their motivations fit well within the commentaries that the Scream franchise is known for.

1. Scream (1996)

Sidney Prescott, Scream, Wes Craven, Horror

Plot: A year after the murder of her mother, a teenage girl is terrorized by a new killer, who targets the girl and her friends by using horror films as part of a deadly game.

It shouldn’t be surprising that Scream is at the top of my list. No matter what the other films or TV series attempted to accomplish, nothing could beat out the original. In my opinion, Scream helped define the horror genre for at least 10 years after its release. Horror films were once again a part of mainstream films and were getting much more attention. The film grossed well over $170 million at the box office by the end of its official run in theaters. Scream was completely self-aware with the amount of timely commentary that it made. The film shows that humor can blend well within horror films while being able to take itself seriously. It finds ways to put the heroine in danger while also making the “who done it” mystery incredibly entertaining.

The main characters of Scream are introduced and established very well. Campbell establishes Sydney as a true final girl and as the foundation of the Scream franchise. The Gale and Dewey relationship arc is built up well with multiple possibilities as to whether it could be taken in future films. Randy redefines what the surrogate horror character for audience members is while being able to rely on comedy to make his character stand out.

Scream is very much Sydney’s story but Matthew Lillard completely steals the show. He brings out the film’s humor even if it at times is overly exaggerated and dark. The scene where the main group of friends finds out about the first murder and Lillard’s character makes a joke about it comes to mind. His mannerisms in every scene are incredible to watch, especially when he and Billy (Skeet Ulrich) are interrogating Randy at the movie rental store. His motivation for murder is random but truly terrifying, which perfectly sums up what makes his character stand out from the rest.

Ranking the films and TV series in the Scream franchise was a lot harder than I imagined it would be. There is a lot about this franchise that I love but there are flaws that shaped my final decisions. My ranking may change depending on how Scream (2022) turns out but I can’t help but feel excited to see it. I have faith that the Scream franchise is in good hands if this film sparks new sequels and its directors return.

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