Hello, Sidney: Scream and Its Sequels, From Top to Bottom

In less than a week, Scream 5 will hit theatres and officially kick off the 2022 horror movie schedule. Aside from Halloween Ends, it’s arguably this year’s most anticipated genre offering. Over a decade has passed since the last Scream movie and a lot has changed in horror. James Vanderbilt and Gary Busick take over the writing duties from Kevin Williamson. And Matt Bettinelli-Olpin and Tyler Gillett (V/H/S, Ready or Not) are behind the camera in place of the late Wes Craven. Early reviews suggest Craven would be pleased with the results. But before Scream 5 hits theaters it’s time to sit down and rank Scream and its follow-ups – all four movies from one of horror’s most successful franchises.

4 – Scream 3 (2000)

No surprises here. Despite the consistency in creative talent across the franchise, Scream 3 marked a noticeable drop in quality. To date, it’s the lowest rated Scream movie and the second worst box office performer. Maybe new screenwriter Ehren Kruger should have focused on how the typically underperforming quality of trilogy cappers. Instead, Scream 3 tackles the rules of the trilogy – something that really doesn’t exist in the horror genre. Though it’s not a bad movie, Craven emphasizes humor and a convoluted ‘whodunnit’ story that needlessly retcons much of what we know about the series. All of the cast – old and new characters alike – are a blast to watch here. And there’s several fun scenes … it’s just the worst of the Scream series.

3 – Scream 4 (2011)

In the past, I’ve made the argument that Scream 4 would have worked better if it was Scream 3. To some extent, that’s still true – Scream 3 really didn’t have much of a reason to exist. Comparatively, Scream 4 had a whole decade of horror trends with which to work. After re-visiting Scream 4 recently, my original stance on this sequel has softened quite a bit. This is a much better sequel than I initially gave it credit for – it holds up quite well to multiple viewings. Williamson’s script and story set-up are clever, Craven puts the ‘R-rating’ back into the franchise, and the sequel’s commentary is only more relevant today.

This is a much better sequel than I initially gave it credit for – it holds up quite well to multiple viewings.

While it’s always nice to see Campbell, Cox, and Arquette back together, the young cast are instantly welcome additions to the franchise. Who doesn’t still hope that Hayden Panettiere’s ‘Kirby’ somehow survived? Emma Roberts plays what might be the franchise’s best villain since Billy and Stu.

2 – Scream 2 (1997)

In hindsight, Scream 2 shouldn’t have worked. Rushed into development following Scream’s massive success, Craven and Williamson were tasked with following up one of the biggest game changers in horror. Somehow everything came together in a horror sequel that dishes plenty of meta reflection on why sequels don’t work while simultaneously avoiding those pitfalls. Both the movie’s killer opening and climax rival what Craven accomplished a year earlier. In addition, this sequel packs itself with cast of talent young-and-upcoming actors. Throw in a shocking death and a decent ‘whodunnit’ that follows on the original without just re-hashing and Scream 2 may just be one of the better horror sequels.

1 – Scream (1996)

Head over to Rotten Tomatoes and you’ll see that Scream 2 actually holds a higher TomatoMeter score. But Wes Craven’s original is the top of the Scream franchise. Period. Simply put, Scream was a game-changer for the genre at a time when horror was lukewarm with audiences. Drew Barrymore’s small part remains one of the best opening scenes in horror. Not since Janet Leigh took a shower at the Bates Motel has a horror movie swerved audiences. Williamson’s scripts is genuinely clever and funny. Everyone in the cast completely nails it. And Craven’s balancing of horror, humor, and mystery is expert. This is the movie that re-invigorated horror while also giving us an iconic villain in Ghost Face and Neve Campbell’s Sidney Prescott, one of the genre’s best protagonists.

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I am a Criminology professor in Canada but I've always had a passion for horror films. Over the years I've slowly begun incorporating my interest in the horror genre into my research. After years of saying I wanted to write more about horror I have finally decided to create my own blog where I can share some of my passion and insights into the films I love.

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