10 Best Horror Movie Scream Queens: Then and Now

Updated on November 6, 2018
Rachel M Johnson profile image

Rachel M. Johnson is a lover of all things pop culture. She's been writing about music and entertainment online for over two years.


"Scream queens" were once simply described as attractive damsels-in-distress that starred in horror films. However, this definition has shifted over the years and the ladies can be either victims or heroines who rise above the villain. In order to receive the beloved title, several things must be considered, including acting abilities, film contributions and that ever-important lung capacity. Here is a list of iconic horror film scream queens.

Click thumbnail to view full-size

Jamie Lee Curtis

Then: In 1978, the then-unknown Jamie Lee Curtis was paid $8,000 to star as Laurie Strode in John Carpenter's Halloween. It was the 20-year-old's acting debut and the role would help establish Curtis as a certified "scream queen". She would go on to appear in a slew of horror films throughout the early 80s, including Prom Night, The Fog and Terror Train. Aside from the horror genre, Curtis has also starred in A Fish Called Wanda (1988), True Lies (1994) and The Tailor of Panama (2001).

Now: The actress has had a very successful film career since her Halloween debut. Curtis is the daughter of actors Tony Curtis and Janet Leigh, a fellow scream queen of Psycho fame. She had reprised her role of Laurie in four sequels, most recently 2018's Halloween. Curtis has also appeared in Freaky Friday, Christmas with the Kranks, and You Again. She also starred in the aptly named TV show Scream Queens from 2015-2016.

Click thumbnail to view full-size

Neve Campbell

Then: Before starring as Ghostface's unknowing target Sidney Prescott in 1996's Scream, Neve Campbell had appeared in the hit film The Craft and the critcally acclaimed TV series Party of Five. Her role in Scream received significant praise and earned her the Saturn Award for Best Actress. She would also go on to star in the 1998 films Wild Things and 54, and Panic, opposite Donald Sutherland and William H. Macy.

Now: Campbell reprised her role as Sidney in 3 Scream sequels, with her final appearance in 2011's Scream 4. She also starred in the 2012 mini-series Titanic: Blood and Steel, Grey's Anatomy and most recently in House of Cards as LeAnn Harvey. She appeared alongside Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson in the 2018 action film Skyscraper.

Click thumbnail to view full-size

Shelley Duvall

Then: Before her star-making role in The Shining, Shelley Duvall appeared in films including McCabe & Mrs. Miller, 3 Women, and Annie Hall. She was cast as Wendy Torrance in 1980's The Shining, a role that would propel her into stardom. Though her performance in the horror film earned her critical acclaim, the process took a toll on the actress. Director Stanley Kubrick would often antagonize her and the other actors in order to give it the psychological factor he desired. Duvall was forced to perform the iconic baseball bat scene 127 times, and even lost clumps of hair during filming due to stress. She would go on to star in Popeye opposite Robin Williams, Time Bandits, Roxanne, and The Portrait of a Lady.

Now: Though Duvall would go on to appear in films such as 1998's Home Fries, Tale of the Mummy, and The 4th Floor, her final role was in the 2002 independent movie Manna from Heaven. She has lived out of the public eye since 2002, and in 2016 was reported to be suffering from a mental illness. Duvall appeared on Dr. Phil, demonstrating bizarre behavior. The Actors Fund of America is said to be working to help the actress pay and seek treatment.

Click thumbnail to view full-size

Danielle Harris

Then: Before becoming a bonafide scream queen, Danielle Harris began her career as a child actress by appearing in films like Don't Tell Mom the Babysitter's Dead, The Last Boy Scout, and Free Willy. She played the role of Jamie Llloyd in 1988's Halloween 4, and returned the following year for the sequel Halloween 5: The Revenge of Michael Meyers. She would later go on to star in the rebooted Halloween franchise. Harris would also provide voice-work for the animated show The Wild Thornberrys.

Now: Harris would go on to star as Annie Bracket in the 2007 Rob Zombie remake of Halloween, which went on to gross over an impressive $80 million. That same year she starred in the horror film Left for Dead, and also appeared in the slasher movies Blood Night: The Legend of Mary Hatchet, Fear Clinic, and Halloween II. Most recently Harris appeared in See No Evil 2, and Camp Cold Brook, as well as in Psych, Bones, and Robot Chicken.

Click thumbnail to view full-size

Fay Wray

Then: Having been dubbed one of the first official scream queens, actress Fay Wray rose to fame when she starred as Ann Darrow in the 1933 blockbuster classic King Kong. The actress was paid $10,000 ($200,000 in 2017 dollars), and would become most associated with the role. Wray had previously starred in the horror film Doctor X (1932). Wray would stick to the genre, later appearing in The Vampire Bat (1933) and The Most Dangerous Game.

Now: Though she initially retired in 1942, due to financial troubles she resumed acting, starring in TV shows such as The Pride of the Family, Perry Mason, and Alred Hitchcock Presents. Her later film credits include Queen Bee, Gideon's Trumpet, and the documentary Broadway: The Golden Age, by the Legends Who Were There. She was reportedly offered the role of the older Rose in 1997's Titanic, but turned it down. Wray passed away at the age of 96 in 2004.

Click thumbnail to view full-size

Sarah Michelle Gellar

Then: In 1997, up-and-coming actress Sarah Michelle Gellar had just debuted her hit show Buffy the Vampire Slayer, which would go on to become a cult classic series. She had previously appeared on the daytime soap opera All My Children, from 1993-1995. In October of 1997, Gellar would star in the slasher film I Know What You Did Last Summer, which became a box-office success. That same year she also appeared in another horror film, Scream 2. Gellar also famously portrayed Kathryn Merteuil in Cruel Intentions.

Now: Gellar would go on to star as Daphne Blake in 2002's Scooby-Doo, and its 2004 sequel Scooby-Doo 2: Monster's Unleashed. The actress returned to her horror roots when she starred in The Grudge, and 2006's The Return. Gellar's other acting roles include the films TMNT and Possession, and the TV shows Ringer and The Crazy Ones. In 2015, she co-founded the food-crafting brand Foodstirs.

Click thumbnail to view full-size

Janet Leigh

Then: Before starring as the doomed Marion Crane in Alfred Hitchcock's cult classic Psycho (1960), Janet Leigh appeared in multiple hit films including Little Women, Safari and Touch of Evil. For her role in Pyscho, Leigh earned a Golden Globe Award for Best Supporting Actress and was nominated for an Oscar. The film is widely considered to be one of the earliest examples of the slasher film genre, and Leigh became a scream queen for her portrayal. She would go on to appear in The Manchurian Candidate, Bye Bye Birdie, and with her daughter Jamie Lee Curtis in 1980's The Fog.

Now: Leigh had a lucrative film career that spanned decades, but that momentum slowed down in her later years. She made TV appearances in shows like The Love Boat, Murder, She Wrote, and The Twilight Zone. Her last film credit was Bad Girls From Valley High in 2005. Leigh also wrote four books between 1984 and 2002, two of which were novels. The iconic actress passed away in 2004 at the age of 77.

Click thumbnail to view full-size

Linda Blair

Then: Known for her starring role in arguably one of the scariest films of all time, actress Linda Blair had previously appeared in Hidden Faces and The Sporting Club before being cast in 1973's The Exorcist. She was selected from a field of 600 applicants, and was only 13 when she filmed the movie. Her portrayal of the possessed child Regan earned her a Golden Globe and Academy Award nomination. She would reprise the role in its sequel, 1977's Exorcist II: The Heretic. Blair would appear in other slasher films including Hell Night, Grotesque, Witchery and Repossessed.

Now: Blair would go on to host Scariest Places on Earth, from 2001 to 2006. She also appeared in the shows Supernatural and Pit Boss. The actress appeared in the comedy webseries Whoa! and in the films The Green Fairy and Surge of Power: Revenge of the Sequel. Blair is also a passionate animal rights activist.

Click thumbnail to view full-size

Jennifer Love Hewitt

Then: Jennifer Love Hewitt received her breakthrough role as Sarah Reeves Merrin on the hit teen drama Party of Five (1995-1999). She starred along fellow scream queen Neve Campbell on the show, and rose to fame when she appeared in 1997's I Know What You Did Last Summer. The slasher film helped cement Hewitt's stardom, and she would go on to star in it's sequel, I Still Know What You Did Last Summer. The actress also had roles in films such as Can't Hardly Wait, Heartbreakers, and The Tuxedo.

Now: Since her slasher days, Hewitt has had a successful television career, starring in the supernatural drama Ghost Whisperer from 2005 to 2010. She also appeared in The Client List, and as Special Agent Kate Callahan on Criminal Minds. Beginning in 2018, the actress has starred in the first responder drama series 9-1-1.

Click thumbnail to view full-size

Vera Farmiga

Then: Perhaps the newest name to become a certified scream queen, actress Vera Farmiga had a very successful film career outside of the horror genre. She had starred in the critically acclaimed movies The Departed, The Boy in the Striped Pajamas, and Up in the Air. Farmiga starred as real-life paranormal investigator Lorraine Warren in the blockbuster horror film The Conjuring (2013) and its sequel The Conjuring 2 (2016). Her other horror film roles include Joshua and The Orphan.

Now: Farmiga starred in the drama-thriller series Bates Motel from 2013 to 2017, and in 2018's The Nun. She will also appear in Annabelle 3, further solidifying her title as a contemporary scream queen. Aside from the horror genre, Farmiga has most recently starred alongside Liam Neeson in 2018's The Commuter, and the biographical drama The Front Runner.

© 2018 Rachel M Johnson


    0 of 8192 characters used
    Post Comment
    • Rachel M Johnson profile imageAUTHOR

      Rachel M Johnson 

      8 months ago

      Hi Dale, thank you! Fay Wray was definitely one of the original scream queens so she had to be on the list! I will look up Barbara Crampton though, her name sounds familiar! Thanks!

    • GetitScene profile image

      Dale Anderson 

      8 months ago from The High Seas

      This was a good list. I was happy to see Fay Wray included, well done! I would say that no list of Scream Queens is complete without Barbara Crampton (Re-Animator).


    This website uses cookies

    As a user in the EEA, your approval is needed on a few things. To provide a better website experience, reelrundown.com uses cookies (and other similar technologies) and may collect, process, and share personal data. Please choose which areas of our service you consent to our doing so.

    For more information on managing or withdrawing consents and how we handle data, visit our Privacy Policy at: https://maven.io/company/pages/privacy

    Show Details
    HubPages Device IDThis is used to identify particular browsers or devices when the access the service, and is used for security reasons.
    LoginThis is necessary to sign in to the HubPages Service.
    Google RecaptchaThis is used to prevent bots and spam. (Privacy Policy)
    AkismetThis is used to detect comment spam. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide data on traffic to our website, all personally identifyable data is anonymized. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Traffic PixelThis is used to collect data on traffic to articles and other pages on our site. Unless you are signed in to a HubPages account, all personally identifiable information is anonymized.
    Amazon Web ServicesThis is a cloud services platform that we used to host our service. (Privacy Policy)
    CloudflareThis is a cloud CDN service that we use to efficiently deliver files required for our service to operate such as javascript, cascading style sheets, images, and videos. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Hosted LibrariesJavascript software libraries such as jQuery are loaded at endpoints on the googleapis.com or gstatic.com domains, for performance and efficiency reasons. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Custom SearchThis is feature allows you to search the site. (Privacy Policy)
    Google MapsSome articles have Google Maps embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    Google ChartsThis is used to display charts and graphs on articles and the author center. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSense Host APIThis service allows you to sign up for or associate a Google AdSense account with HubPages, so that you can earn money from ads on your articles. No data is shared unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Google YouTubeSome articles have YouTube videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    VimeoSome articles have Vimeo videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    PaypalThis is used for a registered author who enrolls in the HubPages Earnings program and requests to be paid via PayPal. No data is shared with Paypal unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook LoginYou can use this to streamline signing up for, or signing in to your Hubpages account. No data is shared with Facebook unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    MavenThis supports the Maven widget and search functionality. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSenseThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Google DoubleClickGoogle provides ad serving technology and runs an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Index ExchangeThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    SovrnThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook AdsThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Unified Ad MarketplaceThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    AppNexusThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    OpenxThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Rubicon ProjectThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    TripleLiftThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Say MediaWe partner with Say Media to deliver ad campaigns on our sites. (Privacy Policy)
    Remarketing PixelsWe may use remarketing pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to advertise the HubPages Service to people that have visited our sites.
    Conversion Tracking PixelsWe may use conversion tracking pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to identify when an advertisement has successfully resulted in the desired action, such as signing up for the HubPages Service or publishing an article on the HubPages Service.
    Author Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide traffic data and reports to the authors of articles on the HubPages Service. (Privacy Policy)
    ComscoreComScore is a media measurement and analytics company providing marketing data and analytics to enterprises, media and advertising agencies, and publishers. Non-consent will result in ComScore only processing obfuscated personal data. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Tracking PixelSome articles display amazon products as part of the Amazon Affiliate program, this pixel provides traffic statistics for those products (Privacy Policy)
    ClickscoThis is a data management platform studying reader behavior (Privacy Policy)