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Scream is undoubtedly one of the most widely recognised and iconic horror franchises in history. The first, released in 1996, has been credited with revitalising the genre and even held the record for the highest-grossing slasher film in the world until the release of Halloween in 2018.

Despite initially ending as a trilogy in 2000, a fourth instalment came out 11 years later and a fifth 11 years after that. Released on 14 January 2022, Scream 5 will likely mark the beginning of a new era for the series after it made more than $55.4 million globally in the box office in its first five days – more than half of the $97.2 million its predecessor took during its entire cinematic run

Strong female leads such as Sidney Prescott (Neve Campbell) and Gale Weathers (Courteney Cox) combined with the humour and wit of the films instantly made Scream a cult classic – especially among members of the LGBTQ+ community. Although gay characters were never directly mentioned until the fourth instalment and an openly queer person doesn’t appear until the fifth, the mastermind of the movies, Kevin Williamson, recently revealed that they “are coded in gay survival” through his experiences as a gay man making him relate to the final girl’s struggle. 

Be it the shade thrown by Gale or Scream’s film within a film, Stab, the exaggerated, amusing and theatrical nature of the franchise has remained consistent throughout its 26-year history. The newly released “requel” makes it the perfect time to rank all five films from least to most camp, especially as its increasing diversity opens it up to more audiences.

SPOILER ALERT FOR ALL FIVE SCREAM MOVIES, OBVIOUSLY! 

5. Scream (1996)

Cast: Neve Campbell, David Arquette, Courteney Cox, Matthew Lillard, Rose McGowan, Skeet Ulrich, Jamie Kennedy, Liev Schreiber and Drew Barrymore.

Is the original movie one of the best ever made? Yes. Is it the favourite of most Scream fans? Sure. Is it as camp as its successors? Absolutely not. Despite the many theories that Billy Loomis (Skeet Ulrich) and Stu Macher (Matthew Lillard) were secretly having a gay lover affair, they’re just that – rumours. The real sources of camp in this movie are the over the top ways in which the characters die, the legendary opening scene and Gale Weathers – a fierce journalist who consistently reads her cameraman for filth and is about as 1990s as is possible in everything she does and wears (look up pictures of her in the iconic chartreuse suit for proof). The likes of Tatum Riley (Rose McGowan) embody how Scream goes hand in hand with comedy and horror, as after engaging in one of the franchise’s most meta interactions (“Please don’t kill me Mr. Ghostface, I want to be in the sequel!”) Tatum realises that she is in real danger and has to try to escape. She decides to squeeze through a cat flap in the garage, resulting in the killer opening the door and crushing her when it lifts her to the top.

Not long after, Stu meets his demise when Sidney drops a television playing the original Halloween directly onto his face which electrocutes him to death. Very few horrors could think up, let alone pull off, such theatrical deaths – but Scream does it with ease. There’s also the matter of the opening scene which would later become a signature moment of every sequel to follow. Casey Becker (Drew Barrymore) is targeted as she prepares to watch a scary movie with her boyfriend, resulting in both a humorous and terrifying interaction and showdown with the killer. Scream pushed horror boundaries further than ever by taking out one of its biggest names in the opening scene, solidifying the film’s status as camp through its exaggerated satirisation of the cliché that you always know who will survive based on how famous the person playing them is.

4. Scream 2 (1997)

Cast: Neve Campbell, David Arquette, Courteney Cox, Sarah Michelle Gellar, Jamie Kennedy, Laurie Metcalf, Elise Neal, Jerry O’Connell and Timothy Olyphant.

Sarah Michelle Gellar literally got thrown off a balcony after being chased through a sorority house. What more do you want, more gay icons meeting their demise in the most over the top ways possible? Well, don’t worry, because Scream 2 has you covered. Starring the likes of Jada Pinkett Smith, Tori Spelling and Portia de Rossi, the franchise’s first sequel boasts a star-studded line-up of legends who are responsible for most of its campiness. The OTT death of Jada’s Maureen Evans remains one of the most well known in Scream history, as she climbs onto the screen’s stage at the cinema to die in front of an audience watching in awe after being stabbed multiple times by Ghostface

Tori Spelling makes a cameo as Sidney Prescott when Scream 2 introduces Stab, its movie within a movie. Stab amps up the creativity and humour by roping in major actors to satirise the events of the first film. Despite not playing a huge role in this instalment, it eventually goes on to serve as a focus of all three films that follow – giving it a notable mention at this stage of the ranking. Playing a stereotypical 1990s sorority girl, Portia leads during arguably the most camp scene of the entire movie when Sidney explores Delta Lambda Zeta deciding whether or not to pledge. “It’s really weird, isn’t it? To think this fuss is all because of you! I mean, not directly but in some 6-degrees-Kevin-Bacon way,” she says to the film’s heroine after meeting her. Portia’s depiction of the character as a bitchy sorority girl with attitude is everything that camp aims to be, but isn’t enough to lift Scream 2 as second from last in this ranking.

3. Scream 5 (2022)

Cast: Neve Campbell, David Arquette, Courteney Cox, Melissa Barrera, Kyle Gallner, Mason Gooding, Mikey Madison, Dylan Minnette, Jenna Ortega, Jack Quaid and Marley Shelton.

The first Scream movie to feature an openly LGBTQ+ character, the fifth instalment’s main source of camp comes from its exaggerated level of self-awareness. The frequent references to its status as a sequel, reboot and remake run throughout and provide some of the franchise’s most comedic and meta moments to date. It owns the fact that it marketed itself as ‘Scream’ instead of ‘Scream 5’ to appeal to new audiences by using its film within a film series, Stab, to showcase in an overly dramatic climax and killer reveal

Speaking of the film’s overdramatic nature, let’s discuss the fact that it has some incredibly violent scenes and intense injuries that apparently affect the characters in no way, shape or form. Amber Freeman is literally shot three times and set on fire and still able to get back up and run through the house screaming with a knife; Sidney falls from a balcony, is stabbed and hits her head on a kitchen counter which after a while barely seems to bother her; Gale gets shot and has her wound poked by Amber before she’s up and walking around moments later, and so forth. Are we mad at it? Not at all. It adds to the theatrical nature of Scream, as well as reinforcing the rules of surviving – such as the killer always coming back for one final scare

Taking this one step further, Scream 5 serves as a major tribute to the OG film and cast which results in an ending that is eerily similar, yet different, to the original. It uses relatives of the original characters, appearances from surviving cast members of the first four films and a similar structure to the original Scream to deliver an homage to what fans first fell in love with. “You might be the most derivative one of them all, I mean Christ, the same house?” Sidney even tells the killer after being drawn back into Stu’s home from the first film.

2. Scream 4 (2011)

Cast: Neve Campbell, David Arquette, Courteney Cox, Emma Roberts, Hayden Panettiere, Anthony Anderson, Adam Brody, Rory Culkin, Mary McDonnell, Marley Shelton, Lucy Hale, Shenae Grimes and Kristen Bell.

Before you question why Scream 4 ranks so high on this list, take a second to remember that Jill Roberts is the equivalent of a ‘Twitter gay’ looking for social media fame. After watching Sidney become a well known figure by surviving three brutal killing sprees, Jill decides to start murdering those around her in order to frame herself as the victim and gain the same level of prominence. “I don’t need friends. I need fans,” she tells her cousin after revealing herself as Ghostface. The film’s commentary on the obsessive use of social media and internet fame in 2011 was not only ahead of its time, but also the means of delivering one of the most theatrical and campest climaxes in the history of any horror franchise – complete with Emma Roberts throwing herself into a glass coffee table, ripping her own hair out and even plunging a knife into her shoulder in order to become the “perfect victim.”

Then we come to THE gay icon Gale’s role in Scream 4. From telling Judy Hicks that her lemon squares “taste like ass” to dragging Sidney’s publicist Rebecca to going “rogue” and launching her own investigation into the murders – she took the movie to a heightened level of fierceness with her confidence and sass. This is something that can be said for her in all five films (though a little less in 2022’s instalment, we must admit) but it serves as one of the main sources of humour in the franchise’s original reboot and left the majority of fans gagged.

Speaking of a strong female lead, it would be rude not to mention Sidney’s characterisation in this one. By the time Scream 4 came around, it had been 15 years since she had first been the target of a serial killer. This is without doubt the most badass we see Sidney in all five films, as she gives no fucks every time she interacts with Ghostface which leads to some of her best action scenes to date – especially her kicking the killer in the face after the two fight in Olivia’s house – and it truly is camp.

Scream 4 also takes the aforementioned iconic opening scene to another level by utilising Stab to fill in some of the gaps of the 11 years in between the third and fourth films. With cameos by the likes of Kristen Bell, Shenae Grimes and Lucy Hale, to name a few, we essentially get three opening kills in one after seeing parts of two Stab films and then the actual beginning of Ghostface’s latest murder rampage. This alone could push Scream 4 to a high place on this list, as it is arguably the most over the top opening in the entire franchise. Combined with everything else we’ve mentioned? It easily becomes a contender for the top spot but instead just finishes in second place.

Oh, and there’s also a rule that the only way to survive is being gay. What could be more camp than that?

1. Scream 3 (2000)

Cast: Neve Campbell, David Arquette, Courteney Cox, Patrick Dempsey, Scott Foley, Lance Henriksen, Matt Keeslar, Jenny McCarthy, Emily Mortimer, Parker Posey, Deon Richmond, Kelly Rutherford and Liev Schreiber.

From Parker Posey’s iconic portrayal of Jennifer Jolie to the infamous Gale Weathers bangs, everything about Scream 3 is camp. In what was originally supposed to be the end of the franchise before the fourth and fifth instalments came about in the 22 years that followed its release, the comedy is dialled up and the horror down as the cliché of film trilogies is satirised. The plotline sees a new Ghostface draw Sidney out of hiding when he begins killing the cast of the film within a film, Stab 3, based on her life – paving the way for a hilarious depiction of what a group of Hollywood stars trying to solve a series of murders would look like. As Gale and Dewey work with the group, Scream 3 delivers some of the most over the top scenes in its 26 year history – such as the killer contacting the characters with clues of who he plans to kill next via fax machine before blowing up the house.

Then there are the lewks. I mean, they really are a MOMENT. Jennifer wearing Gale’s chartreuse lewk from the first film. Martha Meeks’ tinted shades and golden cheetah trousers. Gale’s bangs. Everything about the outfits reeks of the early-2000s and it’s impossible not to live for the campiness they serve up on a platter. Not to keep banging on about Gale and Jennifer, but they really do epitomise what it means to be camp in a horror film. Every scene of their iconic partnership is pure gold, but nothing showcases it more than their visit to the studio which results in some of the funniest quotes in Scream history. “Oh, come on,” Jennifer says in a confrontation with film producer John Milton (Lance Henriksen). “You have made millions off the story of her murder. You’re obsessed with her and you’re obsessed with her daughter!”

Then there’s the visit to the studio archives where the two meet Bianca (Carrie Fisher). “Hey, are you…” Gale asks Bianca before being met with a fierce “no”. In one of the most meta and hilarious interactions in the franchise, the latter then states: “I was up for Princess Leia. I was this close. So, who gets it? The one who sleeps with George Lucas.”

From the quotes to the outfits to the storyline, almost everything about Scream 3 is over the top, exaggerated and hilarious as it stays true to its horror roots and turns the camp dial all the way up – making it the highest ranking of the five films on this list.

Scream 5 is out everywhere now.