With a new movie now in theaters, Scream fans and critics alike have been sharing their personal rankings of the franchise. Having had some time to sleep on Scream 6 and let the dust settle, I think I am ready for my verdict.
Below are my placements for the six Scream movies from my favorite at the top to my least favorite at the bottom. I specify personal favorites because my order of critical best to worst is slightly different, which I will talk about at the end.
I will be including my reasoning for each ranking, but will not be delving into spoiler territory for any of the films. That being said, my rankings, praises, and critiques will all make the most sense to someone who has seen all six movies. If you need to take a break to fill in a couple of blanks, my thoughts will be here when you get back.
1. Scream (1996)
Of course, my favorite Scream movie is the original Scream. I am a big fan of meta-horror and Wes Craven absolutely nailed it. This movie brought something new and fresh to the Slasher genre at a time in horror history when that was sorely needed. It’s iconic, and it is perfect as a scary movie with comedic elements.
2. Scream 2 (1997)
Scream 2 makes the two biggest missteps of the franchise, but I still love it. A common criticism I see of this one is that it was more of the same. I personally am glad I got a little more classic Scream before the franchise explored new territory in its subsequent sequels. That’s exactly what I wanted and aside from one serenading scene and one truly unfortunate death, this is a sequel that delivered perfectly.
3. Scream (2022)
I did truly enjoy 5cream. I remember walking out of the theater thinking that this was going to be my movie of the year. (Although with how competitive the horror scene was last year, it barely made my Top 20 when all was said and done.) I’m a fan of the team behind this, Radio Silence, and I was impressed at the bold decisions they made in taking over the franchise. I did have some pet peeves regarding the timeline and cast chemistry, but I liked the brutality and freshness of this revival.
4. Scream 3 (2000)
This is where my “best” list and my “favorite” list divert. Critically speaking, Scream 3 is the worst of the Scream movies. It’s silly, it’s over the top. It somehow over-utilized the technology of the time while also not explaining how a lot of things work. There are a lot of complaints to be had.
I placed it here mostly to be honest. I got into the Scream movies when they were still a trilogy, and nostalgia gives me so much love for those original three. I liked the story they were trying to tell in this installment, even if it was too ambitious underneath all the cheesiness. If you asked me to sit down and watch 3 Scream movies, I’m probably going to go for that original trilogy because it just sends me back to my childhood, sneaking around to watch my favorite scary movies.
5. Scream 4 (2011)
Scream 4 is better executed than Scream 3 and feels like a stronger slasher. It has my two favorite cameos of the franchise. Overall, I liked the story and I think they did a great job (especially for the time) of bringing a classic franchise into a more modern setting. Much like the original Scream was ahead of its time, Scream 4 came years before a lot of current “requel” trends and I have to give it credit there.
Unfortunately, the pet peeves really cut into my personal enjoyment of the film. This is my least favorite depiction of two of my favorite core characters. There were two other characters introduced in this movie who I also don’t like, despite one being a fan favorite. I think many of the gags, like many of the jumpscares, have diminished for me over time.
6. Scream 6 (2023)
This leaves my last slot going to Scream 6. My words coming out of the theater were “at least it’s not the worst one” and I do think that’s true. Critically, it’s not the worst one – in fact, on its own merits, I’d rank it above both 3 and 4. The performances were good, I think the cast chemistry improved from 5, and there was an interesting setting to use. My favorite element, and what I think makes it work as a film, was the character arcs. The main characters learn and bond and grow which concludes in a satisfying way.
Unfortunately, this is the only Scream movie that I felt disappointed with immediately after watching and it features the only time I’ve been bored with a Ghostface. There was a lot of fanservice that I felt was used in place of a comedic element. It further convoluted an already questionable timeline. While I think it had a lot of potential, I can’t help but feel disappointed that I came out of a theater not immediately wanting to rewatch a Scream movie. That hurt too deeply for me to place this on my personal list anywhere but last.
So these have been my personal favorite and spoiler-free Scream rankings. (My critical best ranking, for those of you who lost track but would still like to complain to me, was 1, 2, 5, 6, 4, 3.)
All in all, this is still one of the most solid, long-running horror franchises, and you know that I’m going to be there on opening day when Scream 7 comes out.