Ranking the Scream Films Before the Release of Scream 6

Joe Meola ‘25 / Emertainment Monthly Staff Writer

On March 10, 2023 moviegoers will see the release of Scream 6, the sixth installment of the late Wes Craven’s Scream franchise. This will be the second film released following Craven’s death, and it is a direct sequel to last year’s Scream. The series is popular for its creative kills, whodunnit storytelling, and metacommentary on both the slasher genre of horror films and on the medium of film as a whole. Everyone has their favorite–and least favorite–movies in the series, so, before Scream 6 comes out, let’s determine which films are the best and which are the worst.

At the bottom of the list is Scream 3. Released in 2000, this film follows series leads Sidney Prescott, Gale Weathers, and Dewey Riley in Hollywood as a new version of the Ghostface killer begins targeting cast members of the newest Stab film, the “movie within a movie” based on events depicted in the previous two films. This premise does a brilliant job at amplifying the metacommentary that the series is famous for, and the killer himself is perhaps the most competent and physically intimidating of the whole franchise, but the reveal of the killer’s identity towards the end of the film is what places Scream 3 at the bottom of this ranking. The killer is revealed to be Roman Bridger, the director of Stab 3, who not only reveals that he is Sidney’s secret, long-lost half-brother, but also that he was the true mastermind behind the killings performed by Billy Loomis and Stu Macher in the first film (including the murder of Maureen Prescott that occurred a year prior). This reveal completely cheapens and undermines the plot of the original Scream and reduces original antagonist Billy Loomis from psychotic criminal mastermind to Roman’s easily-manipulated lackey.

Next up is Scream 2, which follows a new series of killings as Sidney attends college with Randy Meeks, a fellow survivor of the Woodsboro killings of the first film. This is perhaps the most uneventful of the Scream movies, but at least it does not fundamentally and retroactively change the original. Also, the reveal that the primary mastermind behind this set of killings is Billy Loomis’ mother, seeking revenge upon Sidney for killing her son, is a very interesting twist.

Scream from 2022 is a soft relaunch of the franchise. While Sidney, Gale, and Dewey do appear as members of the supporting cast, the primary focus of the film is Sam Carpenter–the illegitimate daughter of Billy Loomis–her half-sister Tara, her boyfriend Richie, and Tara’s friends in Woodsboro, many of whom have some sort of connection to characters in previous films. The killer this time around is targeting their victims based upon connections to previous killings, placing the main and supporting cast in the line of fire. The metacommentary of this latest entry in the Scream series is mainly on the idea of the “re-quel,” a film that is a sequel that is also a soft reboot, such as 2018’s Halloween movie and Disney’s Star Wars sequel trilogy. Much of the meta humor is delivered by Mindy Meeks-Martin, niece of Randy, who would often be the source of the meta-ness in previous films. The reveal of the killers is pretty mediocre, but not bad; essentially Tara’s best friend Amber and Richie are revealed to be toxic super-fans of the Stab movies and want to make it their mission to create the perfect sequel. This does provide some excellent commentary on toxic fandom as a whole, feeling very reminiscent of the Star Wars fandom in recent years.

The number two spot belongs to Scream 4, Wes Craven’s last Scream film. In the film, a new series of killings occurs as Sidney Prescott returns to Woodsboro to promote a book she wrote about her various experiences surviving masked murder sprees. In addition to Sidney, the film focuses on her younger cousin Jill Roberts, as she and her friends become targeted by the new incarnation of Ghostface. This new killer adapts themself for the modern era, capturing all their kills on camera to eventually release to the public. There are many things Scream 4 does far better than any other sequel of Scream to date. First of all, it has the best cold open of any of the sequels, as it consists of various levels of “movie-in-a-movie,” each level having an inventive, gory murder scene. Second of all, its overall story cements it as a worthy successor to the original, with a lot of great twists and turns, metacommentary that is neither too preachy nor heavy-handed, and plot elements that allow it to stand on its own. Most importantly, it has the best killer reveal besides that of the original, as it is revealed that Jill is in fact the primary mastermind (aided by Charlie), seeking to spin her own twisted film narrative in Woodsboro in which she rather than Sidney is finally the star. It’s an overall solid twist that makes sense while still being a shock to audiences. Furthermore, this reveal serves as an excellent commentary on people’s desire to place themselves in the spotlight in the digital era.

It should not come as a surprise that the first Scream is at the top of this ranking. It’s an absolute classic and one of the most famous slasher, mystery, and satire films of all time. The film follows Sidney Prescott on the one year anniversary of the brutal murder of her mother, Maureen. While the killer was supposedly apprehended, there are still many questions left unsolved, and matters become even more complicated when a masked killer begins targeting Sidney and her classmates in the small town of Woodsboro. What follows is an elaborate murder mystery full of great kills and excellent meta-humor (delivered by fan-favorite character Randy Meeks). It is eventually revealed that not only this series of murders, but also the prior murder of Maureen Prescott, is part of an elaborate revenge plot by Sidney’s boyfriend Billy Loomis (and his friend Stu Macher), whose mother walked out on him because his father had an affair with Maureen. 

Something about the original Scream just feels incredibly special. The film was truly unique for its time, and it still is today despite various attempts to recreate its whitty, macabre magic. Scream unravels a truly compelling mystery accompanied by elaborate kills and the brilliant meta-humor that has made the franchise iconic. It also has the series’ best use of the “movie-in-a-movie” trope. The Stab movies do not exist yet in this universe, so instead this form of meta-humor is achieved through characters’ viewing of the 1978 Halloween film. The primary example of this is when Randy (played by Jamie Kennedy) is watching the film and trying to warn Jamie Lee Curtis (the actress who plays the character of Laurie Strode in Halloween) that the killer is behind her, while there is also a killer standing behind him. Jamie warns Jamie about a killer behind Jamie when there is also a killer behind Jamie. Is your brain broken? Good. Scream is amazing.

While the formula behind each of the Scream films (and also all three seasons of the TV series, which wasn’t even touched during this ranking) is relatively the same, and while some are certainly better than others, each is a worthwhile watch that stands well on its own. Hopefully, March’s Scream 6 will be no exception.

Show More

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Back to top button