Goodbye, Woodsboro. Hello, New York. The survivors of the latest Ghostface attacks think they’re safe with their new lives in the Big Apple, but oh how wrong they are. In the upcoming Scream VI, chaos reigns supreme in the city that never sleeps when a new Ghostface emerges, this one more violent and ruthless than any of our survivors have seen before. The film will center around the surviving sisters Sam (Melissa Barrera) and Tara Carpenter (Jenna Ortega), along with the niece and nephew of Randy Meeks, Mindy (Jasmin Savoy Brown) and Chad (Mason Gooding). After the events of the last installment, Gale Weathers (Courteney Cox) is also forced to deal with the legacy that Dewey (David Arquette) has left behind. A shift in setting as well as characters will give the franchise new grounds to explore, while also remaining true to its origin – a slasher whodunit with a dash of black comedy that isn’t afraid to poke a little fun at itself. But, before venturing into the big city, let’s look back on where each installment in the franchise falls, in a ranking from worst to best.
6. Scream 3 (2000)
In any trilogy, all the previously established rules are thrown out in the third installment. That’s just a fact and Scream 3 lets us know that will be the case with this movie too right off the bat. It never tries to hide what it is: full of unexpected twists and turns that will turn everything you know completely on its head. It’s Darth Vader revealing that he is Luke’s father. It’s Luke finding out that Leia is his sister. And to really hammer it home, Carrie Fisher even has a cameo appearance in the film. Only, all the twists that worked in the Star Wars trilogy don’t exactly land as well in the original Scream trilogy. Rather than add to the story with an interesting layer, the twist of Sidney (Neve Campbell) having a secret half-brother – the son of deceased Maureen Prescott – who has been the one orchestrating the Ghostface killings since the original case, instead just undermines everything that came before it. Later films seem to even just ignore this little detail, as Sidney herself goes on to credit Billy (Skeet Ulrich) with starting the Ghostface killings, not Roman (Scott Foley). That alone pretty much solidifies the belief that the whole premise of Scream 3 is at best, not great. Honestly, I’m fine with just pretending that this movie doesn’t exist at all, because the best part about it was the ending – and not just because it was over, but mainly because the will-they-won’t-they relationship between Gale and Dewey finally reaches a satisfying conclusion. For now.
5. Scream 4 (2011)
Probably the best thing that you can say about Scream 4 is that it fully recognizes that it was a bit of a disappointment compared to the rest of the franchise. Or a lot of a disappointment. With the self-referential Stab franchise that exists within the Scream universe, the characters in Scream (2022) complain about how awful Stab 8 was and how it completely ruined the franchise by trying to go too far off the book and turning Stab into something that it was never meant to be. Well, that’s exactly what Scream 4 did. Eleven years after the ending of the original trilogy, Scream 4 tried to revitalize the franchise, and it wasn’t really successful in doing so. It wanted to turn Scream into a smart, elevated horror movie, when all anyone really wants from a good Scream movie is a jumpscare-filled whodunit with a high body count and plenty of chase scenes. Deciding between Scream 3 and Scream 4 for the last spot on this list was hard, but at least Scream 4 helped launch lead antagonist Emma Roberts’s career. Before her screen debut, Emma was mostly seen only in family and teen movies, but her crazed performance in Scream 4 pushed her into the horror spotlight, later starring in Scream Queens (2015-2016) and American Horror Story (2011-), amongst other projects. Alright, the movie did have an entertaining final fight sequence in the hospital between Sidney, Gale, and Jill, so that gives it another edge over Scream 3 in my book.
4. Scream 2 (1997)
This script tells it like it is: sequels suck! Only, maybe not all the time. Some sequels are even better than the original. Like The Godfather Part II. And while Scream 2 is by no means better than the original, it doesn’t completely suck. The film suffered from rewrite after rewrite, and even worse, it was the first film that was leaked on this brand-new thing called the Internet. We’re talking about the soothing days of dial-up, even before Google had a presence. Talk about a tough break. Originally, Sidney’s college roommate Hallie (Elise Neal) was intended to be the Ghostface killer, but because of the leaks, film student Mickey (Timothy Olyphant) and Mrs. Loomis (Laurie Metcalf) were revealed as the killers in the final cut. With rewrites and a tight filming schedule, the plot gets messy in places, but it still doesn’t completely ruin the whole franchise like Scream 3, nor does it try to be something that it’s not like Scream 4, so that bumps it up on the list. And, if I’m being honest, the suspenseful chase sequence between Ghostface, Gale, and Dewey in the sound booth maze is one of my favorites to watch across the whole franchise. Maybe even across all slasher movies.
3. Scream (2022)
Over ten years after Scream 4, and twenty-six years after the original film, the fifth installment of the franchise serves as both a continuation of the previous installment, as well as a reboot of the franchise – or a requel, as Mindy, niece of the original horror film buff, Randy, calls it. And unlike Scream 4, this one is successful with it. While still managing to feel fresh and original, it serves as a love story to the original film by bringing in the second-generation descendants of the original cast. Most notably, of course, is Billy Loomis’ illegitimate daughter and the main protagonist of the reboot, Sam. It largely follows the pre-existing formula with new characters and new targets in the town of Woodsboro, mixed with bringing back beloved original favorites, to serve as a brand-new Scream for a brand-new generation. We go back to the roots with the boyfriend (and best friend) serving as the duo killing team, which might be a little overdone by now, but it works for this franchise, especially with there being not just one main target, but two in the Carpenter sisters. Plus, bringing back Billy Loomis, at least in a ghost form, and having the final chase back at the original Macher house again? That just instantly tugs on the nostalgia strings. Really, the biggest mystery in this film is how someone still manages to have a landline phone.
2. Scream VI (2023)
If Scream (2022) is a love story to the original movie, then Scream VI is an ode to the whole franchise. You’ll want to make sure you’ve rewatched all the previous movies before checking out this one, because it is all coming back. A sequel to the requel, as Mindy explains to the Core Four – the four survivors of the previous film, Sam, Tara, Chad, and Mindy – along with some new faces, must be bigger than everything that came before it. And this time? No rules. Which means trust no one. Set in one of the biggest cities of the world, Scream VI does just that. You think it would be easier to survive amongst the crowds of New York, but oh how wrong that assumption is. Not even the subway is safe. Everyone can be a target, including legacy characters Gale and Kirby (Hayden Panettiere), returning from Scream 4. This Ghostface is bloodier and more violent than any previous incarnation, with some truly gut-wrenching, brutal deaths that are not for the faint of heart. While many victims before met unsavory ends, Scream VI takes the slasher elements to a whole new level. It easily has the second-best opening scene in the franchise, with a moment of total whiplash right at the start. In a good way! Though the lack of Sidney in the film is notable, it never detracts from the story, and instead gives the other characters – a mismatched family with a ton of trauma to unpack – plenty of time to develop and shine. It’s full of twist after twist, and we get to see Sam, daughter of Billy Loomis, in one of her absolute best moments. Now, what comes after a sequel to the requel?
1. Scream (1996)
There was really no question about the number one spot. It just doesn’t get any better than the original. Right away, it sets the tone for the whole franchise that will eventually follow, and who could forget Drew Barrymore’s iconic opening scene cooking up some popcorn when she receives a call from an unknown number asking what her favorite scary movie is. It’s easily the best opening killing sequence in the franchise. The original introduces us to the cursed life of Sidney Prescott and the unfortunate folks that happen to find themselves connected to her, namely reporter (and later author) Gale Weathers and sheriff Dewey Riley. It also gave us the best Ghostface in Billy Loomis and his partner-in-crime Stu Macher (Matthew Lillard), offering a surprising twist in the horror genre in which there are two antagonists rather than one – a pattern that the rest of the franchise would follow. Novel at the time was also having the lead character’s boyfriend be the killer – and Billy took the trope a step further by also being responsible for the death of Sidney’s mother. Billy and Stu’s killing spree serves as the blueprint for the in-universe Stab movies that are based off the Woodsboro murders, another plotline that the franchise would include in every film that follows. And since imitation is the highest form of flattery, nearly every Ghostface afterwards would have a motive that ties back to Billy and Stu, having been inspired either by them directly, or by the Stab movies. Billy also has the only original motive – pure, old-fashioned revenge and a feeling of maternal abandonment that he wants to force on Sidney as well. Of course, Scream also helped launch the careers of its entire, largely unknown cast. Neve Campbell’s prior works consisted mainly of television one-offs, David Arquette and Matthew Lillard had just a few small roles under their belts, and Skeet Ulrich had mostly uncredited work on his resume. The only truly known actor at the time of filming was Courteney Cox, who of course could also be seen in every living room in America on a small sitcom called Friends. It’s no surprise at all that the original Scream is not only the best in the franchise, but an overall favorite of horror enthusiasts everywhere.
Follow step one of surviving a horror movie and get tickets to see Scream VI, exclusively in theaters on March 10.