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Sunday Scaries: Ranking the Films in the ‘Scream’ Franchise

Paramount Pictures

The Sunday Scaries are upon us once again! Yes, as the weekend concludes, most of us feel an oncoming sense of anticipatory dread about the week ahead. Anxiety about work manifests itself into a feeling that’s known as the Sunday Scaries. However, we at Awards Radar are here to combat that, by taking back the name. Now, we want you think about a horror-centric piece on the site when you hear the term. So, let us continue on with another installment of the Awards Radar Sunday Scaries! Today, we’re looking at one particular horror franchises, fueled by the newest release in the series…

The Scream franchise is one of the modern crown jewels of the horror genre. No slasher series has been more consistently effective, entertaining, or critically well-regarded than this one. I’ve previously gotten into why (which I’ll re-share next), but today, it seemed like a good time to take things a step forward. Why not go ahead and rank the Scream films?

Paramount Pictures / Spyglass Media Group

Back last year, I wrote about the franchise here in a previous Sunday Scaries piece. Take a look at some of what I had to say:

Scream is a franchise that now consists of five films, in addition to a television show. For the purposes of this article, I’m just going to focus on the movies. The thing about this series, which puts a meta spin on the slasher genre, is that they’re, to excuse a pun, almost always a cut above. Towing the line between horror and comedy, they manage to be legitimately frightening and funny. The gore, especially as the sequels came out, is jarring, while the winks at horror in general are largely spot on. So, today I want to ponder why this property has such a high batting average, especially when fright flicks rarely do so.

Truly, Scream really was a genre-buster back in 1996, kind of sneaking up on everyone, despite being helmed by Wes CravenScream 2 in 1997 expanded on it all, already defying the odds in being nearly as good as the original. The one valley to go with these peaks is Scream 3, which didn’t have series writer Kevin Williamson penning. However, after a long hiatus, Scream 4 was incredibly effective, even if the audience didn’t quite show up. Now, after Craven has passed and Dimension no longer owns the rights, a fifth film is here, just called Scream (as opposed to Scream 5), with the Ready or Not helmers directing, a new writing team, and a more modern reference point for horror. The thing is, it’s just as good, standing tall with not just the sequels, but the original.

So, why does this franchise seem to be more successful than others? I think it has a lot to do with the affection everyone involved has for the genre, but the clear-eyed vision they have for where it can be skewered. Knowing the rules, both in order to follow them, as well as to subvert them, allows for a ton of opportunities to have fun. Horror aficionados get as much or more out of these films, even if they’re meant for rowdy audiences on a Friday night. Craven and Williamson really hit on something here, with the height of creativity being how they can keep you guessing about who the killer/killers happen to be.

Here now is how I would rank the Scream movies:

6. Scream 3 – While clearly the weak point the series, Scream 3 is hardly bad. Wes Craven is still directing after all, even if Kevin Williamson isn’t the writer. That’s where you feel the difference, as it’s a little less clever than the other installments. Still, if this is the nadir of the otherwise very consistent installments, the property has no reason to be ashamed of this one. It’s simply the film with the least to say, as well as the least to say about it.

5. Scream VI – You’ve likely recently seen my review of Scream VI (here), but just in case, fear not. This is some of what I said: “Scream VI is tackling the concept of legacy sequels again, even acknowledging that it’s a sequel itself. Along with a change in setting to New York City, there’s an evolution of the franchise’s feel. That and the film might be the most violent one to date, which is really saying something. If I found it less surprising than the last one, the movie still almost entirely works, with any nitpicks being of the fairly small variety.”

4. Scream 2 – Tackling sequels in the same way it skewered slashers and horror flicks, Scream 2 arguably exceeded expectations. Craven and Williamson captured the magic, while moving into new territory. This one proved that the concept had staying power, so as much as the original, this is the reason why we’re still enjoying Scream to this day.

3. Scream 4 – The most divisive, and yet to me, underrated effort in the franchise, Scream 4 proved that the flicks could work in the modern era. Craven and Williamson returned for one final time, not quite passing the torch (that would be to directors Matt Bettinelli-Olpin and Tyler Gillett, as well as writers James Vanderbilt and Guy Busick in the fifth installment), but merging the old and the new. In some ways, this one is the Scream litmus test. If you know, you know.

2. Scream (2022) – Here’s what I had to say about this movie back when I published my rave review a little over a year ago. Behold one bit: “Scream is, perhaps surprisingly, the most meta of the series to date. Not content to just be a goof slasher flick (which it is), the film takes aim at sequels of its own ilk. Also on the chopping block is the fictional Stab franchise, as well as elevated horror in general. What could have been scattershot and an attempt to be relevant instead feels like genuine freshness and the natural next step for this series. The movie bites off a lot, but its intelligence and sense of fun means that it never comes off as more than it can chew.”

1. Scream (1996) – No surprises here, obviously. You can’t beat the original, which was a breath of fresh air for the slasher genre, as well as horror on the whole. Characters in a horror movie who don’t just know the rules of horror movies, but also know they’re in a horror movie. Slashers, horror comedies, so many have Scream to thank for their longevity. An undisputed classic, through and through.

Stay tuned for another Sunday Scaries installment next week!

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Written by Joey Magidson

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