I've been a movie enthusiast my whole life and been writing movie reviews for over 14 years.
Before the fifth film in the wildly popular Scream franchise (title Scream) opens in January of 2022 (hopefully), let’s recap and rank the first four films.
Because of previous Scream(s) director Wes Craven’s death in 2015, this new Scream will be directed by Matt Bettinelli-Olpin and Tyler Gillett (Ready or Not, Southbound). If Scream adheres to its January 14, 2022, release date, it will be 25 years and 25 days since the first Scream was released in 1996.
There will be spoilers, so if you haven’t seen any of the Scream movies, it’s really odd that you clicked on this unless you just want to start from 5 and work your way backwards. It’s out of the box, but Ghostface probably wouldn’t have a problem with it.
1. Scream (1996)
The one that started it all and still the gold standard for the franchise. Kevin Williamson’s whip smart script killed off the biggest star at the time (Drew Barrymore) before she could take a bite out of her popcorn. Scream introduced us to film geek Randy (Jamie Kennedy), vicious reporter Gale Weathers (Courteney Cox, making herself no friends), inept but invincible police officer Deputy Dewey (David Arquette), and, of course, a Final Goddess for a generation in Sydney Prescott (Neve Campbell).
“What's the point? They're all the same. Some stupid killer stalking some big-breasted girl who can't act who is always running up the stairs when she should be running out the front door. It's insulting.”
Though you do wish Sydney had better taste in boyfriends. Kevin Williamson’s characters were as well-versed in horror movies as the audience. There’s a consensus that states that the 90s was a pretty bad decade for horror. It wasn’t because of Scream.
The first one (duh)
2. Scream 2 (1997)
Released barely a year after the box-office success of Scream, Scream 2 takes place two years after the events of the first movie. Sydney and Co are off to college, and murders are once again taking place. Syd has a boyfriend, which is nice because you’d think Sydney would have issues since, you know.
“Well, you're forgetting one thing about Billy Loomis…I f*****g killed him!”
As Randy states, the kills in Scream 2 are gorier and more ridiculous, but none of them are too over the top. Scream 2 is a better sequel than you’d ever hope for or expect as there’s not that much that separates it from the original. The killer(s) identities feel a little more forced in this one, but it’s so well executed(!) that you don’t think about it until long after the movie is over. And I’ll bet you’ve got that Partridge family song stuck in your head.
Randy’s death for the sheer surprise. Killing off such a popular character midway through the movie lets you know no one was safe.
3. Scream 4 (2011)
Original Scream writer Kevin Williamson returned to pen the fourth movie, and despite behind the scenes drama over countless rewrites, Scream 4 works more than it doesn’t and is quite a step up from Scream 3. One of the best things 4 had going for it is the 11 years between sequels. While the meta-modernizing of 4 doesn’t always work, Scream 4 is still a pretty satisfying experience and would have been a solid ending had the franchise stopped at 4.
“You forgot the first rule of remakes…Don't f**k with the original!”
It’s actually surprising Wes Craven’s final movie before he passed is coherent as it is considering all the controversy over the writing of the script. Scream 4 improves upon a second viewing and Hayden Panettiere rattling off remakes in one breath alone is worth a watch.
Like the original Scream, the first 10 minutes of Scream 4 show has the best kill and the most creative opening sequence considering how fresh it has to be after 15 years (at the time) and 3 killer opening scenes.
4. Scream 3 (2000)
It’s not outright terrible, but even if you didn’t know original writer Kevin Williamson didn’t write this, there’s something off about the entire movie. The cast is game, Wes Craven’s direction is serviceable, but the entire movie feels like a copy of a copy. Scream 1 would make fun of Scream 3.
“Oh you know the usual small talk. "What's new?" "How you been?" "How do you wanna die?”
The only real thing 3 has going for it is the bucking of the two killer formula and revealing that only one was behind everything. It’s the only time you’re actually surprised.
Poor Cotton. You didn’t realize how much you liked him until he was gutted.
We all hope Scream 2022 makes its release date since, as of this writing, we’re still in the middle of a pandemic. But if you still need to catch up or reacquaint yourself with the franchise, we hope you’re well and able to hear Ghostface ’22 ask you what your favorite scary movie is.