Scream Franchise (ranked)

Scream is the best horror franchise. And if it’s not the best, it’s at least the most consistent. The worst installment in the franchise is better than the worst of just about every other franchise—I won’t even qualify this by saying “with 5 or more movies,” because I think it’s just that definitive. 

All of the sequels do at least one thing I really enjoy. Whether it’s bringing the idea of sequels front and center, exploring the toxicity of Hollywood (pre-MeToo, I should add), dealing with internet culture, and finally tackling fandoms and recent trends in horror, Scream’s sequels continuously build on each other innovatively and manage to bring back every actor they need, which just adds so much to it. 

All that said, why don’t I just get to it.

Scream 3 (2000)

As with all lists like this, opinions are divided about whether this is actually the worst of the franchise. This one really leans into the comedic aspects of these movies, unlike most of the others which either blend that with horror, or go all in on the drama. The opening sequence with Cotton is top tier for the franchise, and the voice emulator tech, despite begging some logistical questions, is a lot of fun. Plus this movie attempts to explore Sidney’s PTSD a lot differently from the prior two films, such as when she’s on the set of the movie and sees her mother.

As for the kills in this one, they skew comedic rather than scary. “Whoever smells the gas” via fax is hilarious looking back now. I don’t remember what I thought about this at the time, when fax machines were exciting new technology, but I do like that these movies always try and incorporate something as a sign of the times. Fax machines were just so hilariously useless even back then. 

Shoutout to Gale’s bangs, though.

All that said, Scream 3 is undoubtedly better than several Halloween, A Nightmare on Elm Street, Friday the 13th, Texas Chainsaw Massacre, Hellraiser, Saw, Conjuring and extended Conjuring-averse movies. Every franchise is gonna have a weak point, and as far as weaknesses go, this is a damn fine movie in the Scream franchise – and the killer fake out worked on me the first time I saw it. 

Worth a watch? Sure, if you’re really into Gale and Dewey’s “will they; won’t they” arc and want to see Sidney return to a more badass version of herself.

Scream 4 (2011)

I don’t mean this how it’s going to sound, and I can explain, but Scream 4 should’ve been Scream (2022). What this movie does well is introduce a whole new set of teens for audiences to love, and I think overall it succeeds in doing this. The problem is that the filmmakers can’t see beyond Sidney Prescott. The passing of the torch in Scream (2022) was done damn near perfectly, but there’s no one left at the end of Scream 4 except Dewey, Gale, Judy and Sidney. I guess I’m mostly bummed that Kirby died. 

It’s also got some good kills and genuinely tense set pieces—specifically Rebecca’s encounter with Ghostface in the parking structure. There are a few callbacks to prior films, which I always appreciate. Can’t argue with Kirby being the new Randy either. She takes on the role of super knowledgeable film nerd, while also being cool, which is something Randy never really was. And we see a lot more of the Stab movie in this one, which is always fun. 

Aside from this, I think the cold open was decent, but probably the weakest in the franchise. I get that they were doing the whole meta thing, and the movie developed that concept well enough, but still, most of the Scream cold opens are scary and almost self-contained short films (especially the original Scream, but I feel like this could apply to 2, 3 and 2022 as well). This one doesn’t quite strike the balance of comedy and scary that it seems to be going for, but for the rest of the movie, there’s much more emphasis on the horror-drama of Woodsboro. 

“Don’t fuck with the original!”

Worth a watch? I think so, but the only thing it adds to the franchise (in terms of plot) is Gale and Dewey’s relationship. This movie returns to the horror-drama tone of Scream, while also being an overall enjoyable experience.

Scream 2 (1997)

Scream 2 opens strong with two students going to see the new Stab movie. The characters, played by Omar Epps and Jada Pinket-Smith, talk at length about how horror movies have historically been really shit to Black folks. Then, they both die by Ghostface’s blade. Later, two other Black characters are introduced, and one of them survives, so that’s good. While I don’t think Jada Pinket-Smith’s death is scary, it is absolutely horrific—and that scream she lets out before the packed and rowdy movie theater chills me to the bone. 

Aside from that, Scream 2 continues with the survivors of Stu’s party in the original. We get some classic Randy, some Dewey & Gale romance, and some Sidney doing her thing. This is probably Sidney’s weakest period, actually. She’s much more timid in this one, even compared to the Sidney of the original. While this one centers Dewey and Gale in ways that may divide audiences, nevertheless I enjoyed their arc. 

This movie does have some of the best set pieces in the franchise though. The whole sequence with Cici Cooper is fantastic, probably my favorite scene in this movie, and until Scream 2022 the most direct callback to Casey Becker’s cold open. In addition to this, there’s the incredible sequence with Gale and Dewey in the studio—poor Dewey really takes a beating in this one. Watching them watch the videos of Ghostface’s victims just before they were killed and then the video showing them was great, and then soundproof glass attack is also so good.

As a sequel, Scream 2 does most of what we’d want it to do—it ups the gore from the first one, expands on character arcs, and introduces us to likable new characters in the franchise. Unfortunately we don’t get to take any of these new characters with us to Scream 3.

Worth a watch? Definitely. Even though this is in the middle of the list, that doesn’t mean it’s bad. It’s just got some tough competition. For me, this is a nostalgia movie, but even removing the fact that I saw it when I was 10 from the equation, it’s a perfectly fine sequel.

Scream (2022)

When I first watched this, I thought to myself, “wow, a real contender for my second favorite of the franchise,” but I wanted to hold out and rewatch the whole series before making such a claim. Having seen both within a week or so of each other, I can assuredly say that I prefer Scream 2022. Overall, the film does everything I’d want from a Scream movie. It introduces the most likable characters of any sequel so far, and we will get to take some of them with us to whatever the March 31, 2023 release will be called. (Quick note to the filmmakers, just call it Scream 6, for the love of god. Scream 2 would just further complicate the franchise, and something dumb like Scream: Louder or Scream: Until You’re Coughing Up Blood would just be lame.)

Anyways, this movie effectively “passes the torch” to a new generation of young adults that I’m excited to see more of. Scream 2022 includes the first openly LGBT+ character (Mindy Meeks-Martin). Woodsboro itself seems to have gotten much more diverse during the 10 year interim between Scream 4 and Scream 2022, and I’m here for it. Not only has this movie given us a new cast of characters to follow into subsequent installments, but the movie actually somewhat responds to Jada Pinket-Smith’s remarks that these movies are “white movies for white people.” For newcomers to the series, this is much more welcoming film than prior installments.

Throughout the movie, there’s a clear return to this franchise’s roots as a horror-whodunit. The cold open is by far the best of all the sequels, and just about every kill set piece is incredible. There was one that hit the intersection of horror and drama such that you may even tear up, I know I did. Sidney has gone full-on badass in this one as well (and it’s not the cartoonish badassery that fans got with Laurie Strode in Halloween 2018). Sidney has had enough of this shit, and you know it.

Of all the remake-sequels that have happened over the past 2-4 years, this one absolutely nails it. It expands on the town of Woodsboro without needing to change things we already know or retconning stuff that makes no sense. I’m not entirely sure about this, but I wouldn’t be surprised if newer audiences were able to skip 2-4 and just watch this one immediately after Scream 1996. I’m not recommending this, I’m just thinking about how this is such a strong follow-up that it may even work as a stand alone sequel. No doubt, the viewer’s experience would be a lot more surface level, and much of the emotional gravity could be missed, but it might work.

Worth a watch? You know it is. This is a perfect “requel.” 

Scream (1996)

What is there even to say? This movie is just about perfect. Easily in my top 5 horror movies of all time, and probably also in my top 10 movies of all time.

Worth a watch? 100% Yes! f you haven’t seen it, stop reading my stupid list and go watch it, and If you have seen it, treat yourself and watch it again!

What I’d like to see in Scream 6

We’re kind of in uncharted territory with this upcoming release. I can’t think of a requel that’s had a sequel. As much as I’d like to see Stu Macher come back, that ship has sailed; he’s super dead, sorry folks. It’s a new franchise now, and we’ve got a whole new group of survivors watch. Honestly, I don’t even think they should bring back Sidney at this point. Maybe a phone call or brief cameo. Same with Gale—at most, a TV channel could be playing a little of her show in the background or something like that.

Overall, I think what I’d like to see is Sam and Tara who, having left Woodsboro, find that the trouble follows them. This wouldn’t be dissimilar to the Scream 2 premise. I’m sure Tara will be in college by this point, so maybe they will sort of re-evaluate all the ways that Scream 2 went wrong and make a better version of that. In addition to Sam and Tara’s arcs, I’m very excited to see how the twins’ characters evolve—Mindy may be my favorite horror movie character to hit the screens in 2022.

She’s just the best.

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