To celebrate the release of 2022’s Scream, The Illuminerdi is proud to present a ranking of all seven projects in the beloved horror franchise.
Spoilers for the most recent installment lie ahead, so turn back now if you have yet to watch Scream 5. While it may not be the #1 spot on our ranking, it’s a meta bloodbath well worth the price of admission.
The latest film is available exclusively in theaters, as of Jan 14, 2022.
RANKED #1: SCREAM (1996)
The Scream story begins in 1996, where iconic horror director Wes Craven and writer Kevin Williamson astonished the world with the first film in the franchise. It blew fans away through its ability to mix of comedy and satire with genuine scares.
Scream was the one of the most brilliantly self-aware slasher films ever created at the time, a prestigious honor it holds to this day. Skeet Ulrich, Matthew Lillard, Courteney Cox, Neve Campbell, Jamie Kennedy and more made for a wonderful cast of horny, high, reckless teens fighting a masked murderer. It was slasher 101, and what made it even better was that the characters understood the tropes and clichés of the subgenre.
While many sequels have admirably tried, none have quite captured the same magic of Wes Craven’s original.
RANKED #2: SCREAM (TV SERIES, 2015)
The Scream MTV TV series is a rather polarizing entry within the franchise. Serving as a reboot to the franchise in 2015, only a few years after Scream 4 hit the big screen, this TV show took us out of Woodsboro and abandoned Ghostface, Sidney, and practically everything from the films. Sure, there were some superficial similarities and thematic connections, but in reality, Scream on TV had almost nothing to do with the story on film.
While that was more than enough to drive away Woodsboro diehards, openminded slasher fans quickly learned that the subgenre worked particularly well in episodic format. By serializing the series and spending far more time with the heroes and villains of Lakewood, (the town of MTV Scream) their deaths usually hit much harder.
This was an MTV show, and thus prone to the pitfalls associated with the network, but some of the characters were highlights of the entire franchise. John Karna’s Noah Foster, for example, was the best Randy Meeks analogue the franchise ever had, and it has had many. To top it all of, the reveal of the killer’s identity landed marvelously in both seasons of this prematurely rebooted TV show.
RANKED #3: SCREAM 3
Scream 3 was regarded by many fans of the film series to be a franchise low. This was the first entry without Randy Meeks, who died in the first sequel, and the production was notoriously troubled behind the scenes. The third entry in the franchise underwent rewrite after rewrite, compromising the integrity of the film in the eyes of some fans and critics.
Having recently rewatched Scream 3, I’m proud to report that the movie is an absolutely amazing installment in Wes Craven’s franchise. The comedy is almost as good as the first film, something that 2 failed to impress with. While the meta-commentary on trilogies doesn’t always work, the idea was a fun one, and it wasn’t the only overarching theme. Scream 3 is not only a brutal slasher featuring the most inventive and deadly Ghostface yet, it’s also a scathing commentary on the sexual exploitation of young women in Hollywood.
This was a smart, truly scary movie that broke away from formula in several ways, and it holds up to this day.
RANKED #4: SCREAM: RESURRECTION (TV SERIES, 2019)
Scream: Resurrection is actually the second most recent installment in the franchise, coming before 5, but don’t feel bad if you’ve never heard of it. This was easily the lowest-budget and least promoted installment in the franchise, but I consider it to be a hidden gem. Giorgia Whigam of The Punisher, RJ Cycler of Power Rangers, Keke Palmer, Mary J. Blige, Tyga and Tony Todd make up the craziest cast the franchise has ever assembled.
This project is a six-episode miniseries that can be streamed on Netflix, where it is confusingly available as season 3 of the MTV show. (While this is technically the third season of any TV show connected with the franchise, it is a complete reboot that exists independent of the previous show and the movies.)
Scream: Resurrection brought back Roger L. Jackson, the classic voice of Ghostface, as well as the iconic costume, which hadn’t been seen in eight years at that point. This reboot played by its own rules, creating a new slasher mystery about hypocrisy, secret identities, and high-school drama. The dialogue can be painfully bad at times, and the camerawork is nothing to write home about, but this show succeeds on all other accords.
Resurrection moves quickly, it’s unpredictable as hell, and the low-budget does not hold this Ghostface back from dishing out some of the best kills in the franchise.
RANKED #5: SCREAM (AKA SCREAM 5, 2022)
Scream (2022) is another amazing slasher film, one that brought the franchise back to formula. Sidney Prescott, Dewey, Gale Weathers and Ghostface are all back, along with a new assembly of Woodsboro teens. Each film in the horror quintet has a different self-referential angle, and 5 took on the “requel”. A “requel” is a reboot-sequel, like Halloween (2018), Terminator: Dark Fate or obviously the film in question. They bring back the legacy characters and fan-service to appease fans, while setting up the franchise for a new generation.
Scream (2022) succeeds as a “requel.” But when 4 was all about remakes, I have to ask, was a “requel” commentary really necessary? Admittedly, Ghostface’s return to the silver screen was incredibly captivating. The kills were to die for, and it was wonderful seeing the old guard return. But the commentary of Scream 5 has been done before, and the killers have almost the same motivation as one of the Ghostface killers in Resurrection.
While easily the most technically impressive film in the franchise, the story and twists of 5 left something to be desired.
RANKED #6: SCREAM 4
Scream 4 is the final film to be directed by Wes Craven before his passing in 2015. While Scream was originally intended to be a trilogy, the return of the original cast, director and writer all decided to return for this sequel, which arrived in 2011. While not actually serving as a remake, 4 took a stab at a satirizing horror remakes. Alison Brie, Emma Roberts and Marley Shelton all joined this project, which spoke out on the use and abuse of social media in the digital age.
While it is occasionally out of touch, the bloody story about Ghostface’s gore being streamed to the world hit home in a world where death and violence are only ever a click away. This project was perhaps the goofiest of the series, leaning into the comedy a bit too hard for its own good. If the death scenes were more memorable, and both Ghostface killers were impressive, maybe 4 would rank higher.
RANKED #7: SCREAM 2
The final and lowest ranked entry on our list is Scream 2, the original sequel. 2 is easily the most uninspired project in the entire series. Ghostface’s motivation and identity reveal were lackluster at best, and lazy at worst. As a direct follow-up to the incredibly successful and creative first movie, Scream 2 should have been something special. Instead, it mostly feels like its treading water.
There are some decent cracks at sequel tropes, and the occasionally frightening scene. But in general, Scream 2 is the definition of a sophomore slump.
The Scream franchise may have some installments that are better than others, but each and every project has something fun for fans of the slasher genre. The latest installment in the franchise, Scream 2022 (or 5) is available exclusively in theaters now.
Which project from the Scream franchise is your favorite? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below or on our social media!
KEEP READING: SCREAM REVIEW: “REQUEL” CALLS THE FRANCHISE BACK TO FORM