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Every Scream Movie & TV Show Ranked, From Worst To Best

The Scream series has had its ups and downs, so with 2022’s Scream reboot on the way, how do the franchise’s movies and TV shows rank in comparison with each other? Nightmare On Elm Street creator Wes Craven’s Scream revolutionized the slasher subgenre in the mid-‘90s by adding an element of self-aware humor to the formula. Scream’s teenage heroes knew all of the cliched rules involved in surviving a slasher, and yet they were still gruesomely killed by a sharp-witted masked murderer who proved just as savvy as their victims.

However, the franchise could not maintain its stellar critical reception forever. Scream 2 earned impressive write-ups upon its 1998 release, but 2000s Scream 3 saw the departure of screenwriter Kevin Williamson and many critics and viewers alike felt his replacement Ehren Kruger failed to recapture the magic of earlier outings. 2010s Scream 4 was more divisive, with many reviewers calling it a welcome return to form while others claimed the meta-slasher genre was outdated.

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Related: Who Is Scream 2022’s New Killer? Every Ghostface Theory Explained

2015’s Scream TV series, meanwhile, was a small-town mystery more akin to Netflix’s recent book adaptation There’s Someone Inside Your House than Craven’s movies and earned the ire of fans who felt it bore little resemblance to the original franchise. However, while the 2019 revival Scream: Resurrection skewed closer to the movie’s tone, it couldn’t quite prove as successful as the films with critics. 2022’s upcoming reboot promises to bring back Ghostface’s iconic mask along with Sidney Prescott, Dewey, Gale, and the voice of Roger L. Jackson. With so many additions to the series, audiences are naturally curious about how the Scream movies and TV shows rank in comparison with each other, and which are the best and worst.


7. Scream (2015 MTV series)


MTV Scream

Coming in dead last is 2015’s in-name-only Scream series from MTV. While Netflix hits like Midnight Mass or The Haunting of Hill House proved that small-screen horror anthologies can soar, Scream’s TV adaptation is a two-season damp squib that feels more like a CW soap opera than a slasher movie. Despite the best attempts of a talented cast including Bex Taylor-Klaus, John Karna, and the agreeably campy duo Carlson Young and Tom Maden, the first season has the tone and lifeless visual style of a teen drama with a murder mystery subplot hastily tacked on. Season 1 is at least superior to the irredeemable season 2, but both are the weakest outings of the Scream series so far and can’t compare to their big-screen counterparts (not least because of the absence of the irreplaceable Ghostface mask).


6. Scream: Resurrection (2019 MTV Revival)


Scream season 3

2019’s Scream: Resurrection is a livelier, more inventive attempt at adapting Scream to the small screen than its predecessor. That said, when ranking the horror movies and series based on Scream, the belated third season revival still falls short of even the worst of the theatrical releases. An injection of talent including new lead RJ Cyler, scene-stealer Giorgia Whigham, and the always-welcome Keke Palmer can’t salvage the absurdly ill-considered twist ending. Spoilers (for a barely-watched series) abound, but having the killer attribute their sociopathy to loving horror movies is an ill-considered twist for any show, let alone one in a franchise that was built on referencing classic slasher movies.


5. Scream 3 (2000)


scream 3 parker posey

Scream 3 earned a reputation as the worst movie of the series for good reason, and the sequel’s decision to relocate the action to Hollywood results in too much broad humor. However, while it’s nowhere near as strong as the rest of the films, Scream 3 has the wonky charm of Wes Craven’s early TV movies and its silliness is forgivable thanks to the cast’s stellar chemistry. Some setpieces, like the gas-leak explosion, are genuinely striking attempts to fuse a big budget with the typical slasher setup of the franchise, but despite these high points, the ludicrous and tasteless killer reveal doesn’t work. The attempt to highlight Hollywood’s institutional mistreatment of women is admirable, but the twist is still exploitative and poorly handled despite the filmmaker’s good intentions.


Related: There’s Someone Inside Your House: Every Horror Movie Reference Explained

4. Scream 4 (2011)


Scream 4 Sidney Prescott Armed With Knife

Bringing back original screenwriter Kevin Williamson ensured that Scream 4 felt like a return to form for the franchise, but the sequel takes a surprising approach to rebooting the dormant series. Like the later, funnier Friday the 13th movies, Scream 4 leans hard into its comedic elements from the audacious opening (which features not one, but two fakeouts in quick succession) through to the gory, over-the-top ending. It’s the silliest and surprisingly warmest movie of the series, and Scream 4 has a palpable affection for its returning characters.

A phenomenal young cast including Rory Culkin, Adam Brody, Alison Brie, and breakout star Hayden Panettiere makes Scream 4 a sequel that is impossible to dislike, but there is a major issue with the horror comedy. With so much charming banter, there are few legitimately scary sequences, and the lighter tone means the returning characters never seem to be in real peril. That said, there’s nothing wrong with a horror movie that’s too much fun, and Wes Craven’s final film is an irresistibly sweet love letter to the genre itself.

3. Scream 2 (1998)


Omar Epps and Jade Pinkett Smith in Scream 2

The “Is Aliens is superior to Alien?” debate appears in an early Scream 2 scene as Scream survivor Randy, franchise newcomer Cici and Timothy Olyphant’s Mickey question whether a sequel can ever outstrip the original during a Film Studies class. It is an audacious gag, as director Craven and screenwriter Williamson practically dare viewers to call Scream 2 inferior to its predecessor. However, the triumphant sequel more than earns the sequence. Scream 2 is a sequel that can go toe-to-toe with 1996’s original and many of its most impressive setpieces are even tenser than those seen in its predecessor.

Scream 2 is a masterclass of tension-building, whether it is the killer stalking a victim through a soundproof studio, Sidney crawling over the killer’s seemingly unconscious body to escape a car wreck, or watching Buffy heroine Sarah Michelle Gellar attempt to escape Ghostface. However, the sequel is let down by a cheap, impossible-to-predict killer reveal that saps it off some effectiveness and ensures it can’t quite measure up to the original. That said, Liev Schreiber’s final line almost makes up for the surprise, and Scream 2 remains an effective, brutal follow-up.

Related: Why Matthew Lillard Should Return As Stu Macher In Scream 5

2. Scream (2022)


Scream 2022 characters connect to past movies family link sam

Rebooting a dormant franchise after years of inactivity is always a tricky proposition, as proven by 2019’s Black Christmas, 2019’s Child’s Play, and the many other belated sequels, re-imaginings, and remakes that are satirically skewered in 2022’s Scream reboot. However, while no one could hope to replace the legendary Wes Craven when it comes to directing the meta-slasher franchise, Scream’s 2022 reboot proves that the Radio Silence collective could offer a more-than-fitting follow-up. From revealing that Scream 3’s Mark Kincaid is now Sidney’s husband and the father of her children, to killing off one of the original legacy characters in one of the franchise’s few surprisingly devastating deaths, Scream’s 2022 reboot proves the series can still offer a fresh and original story while also simultaneously doing justice to the beloved earlier movies.

The kills are inventive and gruesome, the killer reveal is ingenious, and the commentary on the movie industry is as sharp as ever. However, where Scream’s 2022 reboot impresses most is in the movie’s ability to make the long-lasting franchise relevant for a new generation. From the opening scene onwards, Scream’s 2022 reboot takes the ingredients that made the earlier movies in the series so successful and subverts, twists, and rearranges the same tropes in inventive, original new directions. Admittedly, an appearance from Matthew Lillard’s Stu Macher might have taken Scream’s 2022 reboot into perfect sequel territory but, even without a showing from the erstwhile Shaggy, it’s a gory, funny, clever, and compelling addition to a franchise that many fans thought was finished for good.


1. Scream (1996)


Scream

The original and still the greatest meta-slasher, 1996’s Scream is in a league of its own. Williamson’s razor-sharp screenplay (originally titled “Scary Movie”) elevates what could have been a pedestrian effort, but Craven’s direction is the star of the show. From the devastating opening (still daring decades later) to the charming, energetic performances of the cast, the self-referential slasher Scream represents a distillation of the legendary director’s talents. The unrelenting brutality of The Last House on the Left is mirrored in Casey and Tatum’s nigh-on unwatchable deaths, the creepy atmosphere that pervades A Nightmare On Elm Street runs through the streets of Woodsboro, and the meta-humor of New Nightmare is refined and honed into a more crowd-pleasing style.

The humor never blunts the effectiveness of the horror, the characters are lovable and it is authentically upsetting to see them killed off, and the central whodunit has a clever pay-off. While Scream’s 2022 reboot brings back the original’s characters, the new outing will undeniably have big shoes to fill when it arrives in theatres. As fresh, funny, and frightening as it was upon release 25 years ago, Scream remains a testament to the talent of its director and a high watermark in the slasher genre.

More: When Is Scream 2022 Set? How Long After The First Movie?

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