2022 has been quite the year for fans of the beloved Scream franchise. It hosted the first theatrical release in the series since the fourth installment back in 2011. It also allowed us to revisit our favorite fabled town of Woodsboro. Meeting wonderful new characters like Mindy, Chad, and the Carpenter sisters – while catching up with the horror genre’s most esteemed trinity: Gale, Dewey, and Sidney.
Scream 2022 was not only a love letter to the late Master of Horror, Wes Craven, and the genre he’s left such a legendary mark on – but of the stand-out slasher series that changed the foundation of horror in the mid-to-late nineties.
To no surprise, audiences reciprocated the affection of the cast and crew as the film was widely enjoyed and celebrated by the horror community. The outpour of love and support from fans was a clear indicator that the Scream franchise was in great hands with the Radio Silence team, and the clamor for a follow-up to the film had fans teeming with eager anticipation.
Thankfully, the studio announced a sequel, and the sixth installment is currently under production. The film has a release scheduled for March 2023 with the surviving cast members returning to their roles, though mystery and rumors surround whether Neve Campbell will make an appearance as the iconic final girl, Sidney.
However, I’m not here to talk about rumors.
This past August would’ve been Wes Craven’s 83rd birthday, and of course, it got me thinking about his work and ultimately Scream– an obvious favorite of mine. While the series is best known for its sharp dialogue – a testament to Kevin Williamson’s clever writing – the Scream series is no slouch when kill/death scenes are in question. The opening to the first Scream is home to one of the most memorable kills in film history and arguably the best opening sequence in a horror film period.
Keeping in the theme of follow-ups and celebration, I figured what better way to celebrate the buzz of a new Scream sequel and the franchise’s legacy, along with commemorating one of its creators, than by ranking the best and most memorable kills in the series.
Before we get there, let’s have a stab at some Honorable Mentions.
15 – Tyson Fox, Scream 3 (2000)
At the tail end of our list of honorable mentions is one of the more comedic-yet-brutal lead-ups to a kill in the third Scream. Tyson’s quips with the Ghostface killer chasing him through this never-ending mansion is one of many whimsical aspects of the third entry. However, the brutal way Tyson lands, breaking his neck in the process, makes for a cringe-like moment of shock as he lays there motionless. To make matters worse, he’s thrown off the balcony and left there. Maybe he would’ve been better off doing that Shakespeare in the Park he talked about earlier.
14 – Steven Orth, Scream (1996)
Technically the first “on-screen” kill of a Ghostface killer in the series, the gore in this kill varies on which version of the film you watch. Like most slashers in its heyday, the inaugural Scream had to cut down on some of the blood and gore for the folks behind the MPAA rating system. That means a gnarly kill like Steve’s got reduced to just a couple of frames in the final version. However, some cuts of the film include the extra seconds of Steve’s intestines hanging out – which is horrifying and is made all the better by the iconic build-up to the kill, which tests both Casey and the audience’s knowledge of horror trivia.
13 – CiCi Cooper, Scream 2 (1997)
This kill comes as a product of one of the best chase sequences in the series, as a great game of cat and mouse ensues between Ghostface and CiCi, played by the vampire slayer and person knowing of last summer’s secret, Sarah Michelle Gellar. The exchanges on the phone leading up to her inevitable death and seeing a shadowy killer rummaging through the background help assert this death sequence as memorable, especially since you root for CiCi to make it through.
12 – Phil Stevens, Scream 2 (1997)
A kill that was so good it was worth parodying in Scary Movie. In the opening sequence of Scream 2, we see Phil and Maureen going to catch a sneak preview of the newest Stab– the in-universe movie based on the events of the first Scream. The humor and dialogue between these characters are great and memorable on their own, especially for fans of the horror genre who like to point out the sometimes ridiculous nature of slasher movies and their characters. The added creepiness of a psycho killer hiding in the sea of other ravenous Ghostface enthusiasts and sticking a knife THROUGH the wall of a bathroom stall and into a man’s skull is brutal and part of what makes that beginning of Scream 2 so damn good.
11 – Jill Roberts, Scream 4 (2011)
The final kill in Wes Craven’s last picture belongs to Jill – arguably, one of the more interesting Ghostface killers in the series. Fueled by her hatred of Sidney and desire to achieve fame in a digital media age, Jill almost has everyone fooled by the last couple of minutes, but an ever-resilient Sidney and sharper Gale presents a flaw in her plan.
The way she goes out is innovative and fun – shocked in the head by a defibrillator and shot– and gifts us one of those great Sid and Gale working together moments that further the relationship of the two most badass women in the series.
#10 – Stu Macher, Scream (1996)
To kick off the Top Ten list is Stu’s electrifying death at the end of the first Scream. It’s no secret that a lot of the kills in the Scream franchise are pretty much limited to a stab or gunshot – which isn’t as dull as it sounds (we’ll see later on) – but it’s hard not to appreciate when there’s a different kind of kill up for display. Especially one as gratifying as seeing Sidney dropping a massive TV set right on Stu’s head and crushing it.
#9 – Amber Freeman, Scream (2022)
The first of a few appearances for the latest installment in the series; this, much like Jill’s, gives us another great Sidney and Gale moment as they team up to take out Mikey Madison’s Amber, one of the two Ghostfaces in this entry. The back-and-forth scuffle leads to a great fire stunt that feels reminiscent of another “fire” Mikey Madison performance before finally being put down by 2022’s Scream Queen, Jenna Ortega’s Tara Carpenter. And speaking of the Carpenter sisters…
#8 – Richie Kirsch, Scream (2022)
Sam’s brutal takedown of Richie makes it at the eighth spot on the list. Richie – played perfectly by Jack Quaid, seemed like one of the most relatable and sensible characters in the series as he appropriately suggests they should just get out of Woodsboro before the third act comes creepin’. However, his reveal as the other half of the Ghostface duo – which involves him hilariously reacting to being shot by Sidney, felt faithful to the series as it was one of those red herrings turned true. But, it’s not the subversion that puts him on the list. Sam, revealed to be (in my best Mickey from Scream 2 impression) Billy’s Daughter, unleashes a fury of stabbings at Richie. The blood-splattering all over Sam and Richie as he tries to weasel his way out of it– prompting Sam to give him a throat slit for his troubles, is just a perfect bow on this stellar entry in the franchise.
#7 – Officer Richards, Scream 2 (1997)
Randy’s rundown of sequel rules comes true in the second Scream as this kill – arguably the best in this film – is as brutal as it sounds. A pipe going all the way THROUGH a man’s head and into the car windshield is horrifying, and the little twitches Officer Richards’ fingers make as he dies help bring this gnarly death together in a bloody fashion.
#6 – Officer Perkins, Scream 4 (2011)
A kill that has grown on me since first seeing it. The humor leading up to and after Officer Perkins gets stabbed square in the forehead may sway people on its effectiveness – however, it’s a knife going straight into someone’s head. It’s an insanely brutal and bloody affair. The late Wes Craven was inspired to include this death in the film after reading a story about a man who had been stabbed in the head and walked to the hospital afterward, giving us this tremendous death sequence in a sequel with plenty of great kills to spare.
#5 – Wes & Judy Hicks, Scream (2022)
I was going to include these as two separate entries when I was first drafting this list, but it felt right to put them as a two-for-one since they are a part of one massively well-put-together sequence. As Officer “Ju-Dee” rushes home to save her son Wes after Ghostface calls and threatens the two, Sheriff Judy makes it to her house – sadly receiving a cold steel knife for her troubles. The kill is noteworthy since we get a rare daylight death in the series, and it amps up the intensity of this entire kill sequence since we’re now waiting to see where Ghostface will pop out and attack an unsuspecting Wes. Wes’ death is also incredible since we can see the knife escape through his neck/throat – a spectacular job done by the film’s special effects crew, Bearded Skulls Makeup, and FX and ReDefine FX. Their work leaves us with a substantial bloody and gruesome scene we don’t often get to see in the series.
#4 – Dewey Riley, Scream (2022)
To be completely honest, I’m sure many Scream fans knew that someone in the big three was going to perish in this entry since stakes are needed to keep things fresh and exciting. But suspecting and “knowing” something might happen doesn’t remove the weight of the act when it becomes realized – and damn, was this death heavy. Everyone’s favorite Deputy goes out in typical Dewey fashion, saving as many people as he can before putting out the menace behind the Ghostface mask for good. But an abrupt phone call by Gale distracts Dewdrop long enough for Ghostface to strike – putting a knife deep within his sternum and one in Dewey’s back, damn-near gutting the Woodsboro cowboy and leaving him dead in a puddle of his blood and the audience’s tears. It’s never easy when a series favorite dies – ask those still mourning Randy’s death from Scream 2 (there are dozens of us) – however, when executed perfectly and given the weight and sincerity it deserves, it makes for a truly impactful and kill worthy mention.
#3 – Olivia Morris, Scream 4 (2011)
Another stand-out kill in the fourth entry and easily its best. Craven and Co. spared no expense when making this kill one of the bloodiest, most intense deaths of all the Scream movies – rightfully earning a top spot on this list. As Jill and Kirby stand in horror watching from across the street, it builds the emotional weight of this sequence. Yet, Sidney’s gruesome discovery of a room covered in blood, gore, and organs is an upgrade from the tiny glimpse we saw with Steven in the first Scream.
This kill is a stellar example of what makes this series and both Craven’s direction and Williamson’s writing; the expert building of tension and knowing exactly when to go all out with the brutality leaves us with one of the best the series has to offer.
#2 – Tatum Riley, Scream (1996)
There are so many things that just make this kill an iconic death in both Scream and horror. I mean, how often do you see a garage door killing someone? A smug and striking Ghostface taunts a soon-to-be helpless Tatum, forcing her to seek safety through the only other way out of this compact garage – the cat door. The impressiveness of actually seeing a resilient Tatum decide to crawl her way through the door – only to be caught and ultimately crushed by the motorized door is a sight to behold. Especially since the camera never pulls away from it, as we see the effect of the door crushing her neck.
#1 – Casey Becker, Scream (1996)
Was it going to be anything else other than this? Of course not. Much like when you think of a kill from John Carpenter’s Halloween– you think of Michael Myers killing Bob in the kitchen. Or with Friday the 13th, it’s the chopping off of Mrs. Voorhees’ head. The point is, some kills are just so damn iconic and ingrained into the pantheon of horror – no matter what other incredibly twisted and gore-filled kill you can come up with, it’s hard to top them. Casey’s death happens to be the cream of the crop. An expertly directed sequence by Wes sees Drew Barrymore’s Casey tormented by a sultry-voiced stalker on the other line, increasing the tension with every question and every peak outside the dark, misty landscape around her. After she witnesses Steve’s gutting and realizes nothing is stopping this mysterious maniac from getting in, she arms herself and leaves – hoping something can rid her of this ghostly figure.
However, false hope and some fatal stab wounds are all she finds as Ghostface catches up to her and gets her down. Mrs. Becker hears her daughter’s final breaths over the phone, prompting her to rush outside and see Casey’s disemboweled, bloody body hanging for all to witness – giving us the first of many iconic openings in the Scream series. Hell, not just Scream– but unquestionably the best opening sequence in horror history. There’s a reason that this film revitalized the horror genre, and its lasting impact is so influential all 25-plus years after.
Sure, many can and will argue that there isn’t much depth to the kills of the Scream series, but the charm to these films lies in just how grounded and tangible the world of Scream feels. They don’t need a killer with superhuman feats of strength slamming an occupied sleeping bag to a tree to instill fear in us and these characters. All it takes is the direction of a red right hand to dial and ask an unsuspecting victim, “What’s your favorite scary movie?”