SPOILER WARNING: The following article goes into explicit details about several major scenes from the first five Scream movies. If you have never seen any of these killer classics, don’t say we didn’t warn you…
While initially conceived as an homage to classic slashers, director Wes Craven and writer Kevin Williamson’s Scream immediately earned itself a spot among the greatest horror movies of all time in 1996. Not only did its twisted whodunnit-style narrative and clever deconstruction of common tropes make it a hit, but some truly inventive and visceral kill scenes also helped solidify its legacy.
The subsequent Scream movies, which have featured a variety of settings, would only continue to prove that the franchise was one of the best at keeping up a good body count and looking good doing it. In honor of the latest upcoming follow-up, Scream VI – in theaters Friday, March 10 – and in partnership with AMC Theatres – which already has tickets to the new thriller available for purchase online and has highlighted the film within their Thrills & Chills program – we present this ranked list of our favorite death scenes from the series’ first five installments.
6. Cici Cooper (Scream 2)
It is practically tradition for the Scream movies to kill off their more recognizable stars and very early on, too. Thus, we should have known Sarah Michelle Gellar’s fate would come pretty soon after the Buffy the Vampire Slayer star first appears as Cici Cooper in the college-set 1997 sequel, Scream 2.
Cici’s night alone at her sorority house is interrupted by an ominous phone call from Ghostface, who causes Cici to make the classic mistake of running upstairs when he reveals himself. When the killer catches up to her, he tosses her through a set of glass doors, stabs her twice, and throws her from a balcony to a devastating end. Few Scream victims have been successfully killed in such a way, but even this one pales in comparison to some crazier death scenes.
5. Amber Freeman (Scream, 2022)
One of the craziest death scenes in Scream movie history (and easily the best from 2022 “requel” trend satire aptly titled Scream), technically, does not count. Mikey Madison’s Amber Freeman – after she and Jack Quaid’s Richie are revealed to be the murderers – officially meets her end by Tara’s (Jenna Ortega) gunshot, but her “fake out” death scene is too epic not to include.
During a kitchen fight with Sidney Prescott (Neve Campbell) and Gale Weathers (Courteney Cox), Amber’s face is doused with hand sanitizer, which makes her face susceptible to the inferno that erupts when a bullet to the arm sends her spinning face-forward into the stove as she accidentally ignites a burner. What makes this scene especially memorable is that Madison’s character in Once Upon a Time in Hollywood, coincidentally, died in a similar fashion just three years earlier.
4. Maureen Evans (Scream 2)
Another huge star whose screen time in Scream 2 was severely limited, but depicted to profound effect, was Jada Pinkett Smith (before adding future husband, Will’s, last name) as Maureen Evans in the sequel’s brilliantly meta opening. The college student attends a special screening of Stab (based on the events of the first movie) when she was murdered by a new Ghostface, posing as her previously slain boyfriend, Phil (Omar Epps).
We could write an entire article about what makes this one of the most traumatic and viscerally shocking moments in all of the Scream movies – from the way the killer’s attack on Maureen mirrors what plays out on the screen to the horror-loving audience’s slow, terrified realization that they are witnessing an actual death. Pinkett Smith’s performance, however, is what makes it truly heartbreaking.
3. Deputy Anthony Perkins (Scream 4)
As a tribute to a genre known for its occasional cheesiness, the Scream movies are also commended for kills that are played for laughs – such as that of Deputy Perkins, which we believe is, easily, the most memorable and unique death scene in 2011’s Scream 4. After taking a knife to the forehead and with blood pouring down his face, he still manages to get out of his car and walk several feet before uttering a random insult toward Bruce Willis and collapsing to the ground.
While what happens to Anthony Anderson’s character (who is eponymous with Psycho’s legendary Norman Bates actor) seems pretty ridiculous, it is actually medically possible for someone to survive moments after suffering a stab to the head. The mere idea that this could really happen to someone – and reportedly has – makes this all the more horrifying.
2. Tatum Riley (Scream, 1996)
Of course, no matter how impressively frightening or lovingly cheesy the kills in further Scream movies have been, none have been able to hold a candle to the original’s achievements. For instance, when is the last time you saw a horror movie death scene as unique and valuably cautionary as what happens to Rose McGowan’s Tatum Riley?
In trying to escape Ghostface during a party at Stu Macher’s (Matthew Lillard) house, Tatum makes a desperate, but misguided, attempt at crawling through the garage door’s doggy door. When she gets stuck, the killer seizes an opportunity to turn on the garage door opener and let the ceiling snap her neck and flatten her head as she collides with it.
1. Casey Becker (Scream, 1996)
It may not always sound like a good sign when the scene widely considered to be the best of your entire franchise is the first scene of the first movie. However, the opening scene of the original Scream would not hurt the film and its sequels, but perfectly set the tone, thanks in part to the shocking revelation that the film’s biggest star, Drew Barrymore, was appearing in the movie for the first and last time – in reference to Janet Leigh’s early death in Psycho.
Barrymore’s Casey Becker receives a phone call from a stranger that culminates into a high-stakes challenge in horror movie knowledge and an ill-fated race for her life, made all the more saddening by the E.T. star’s flawlessly manic and achingly empathetic performance. The most emotionally and visually brutal moments come when Casey – having been stabbed and strangled – is unable to call out to her mother, who soon finds her daughter’s lifeless body hanging from a tree.
The first scene of Scream is one of the most haunting moments I have ever experienced and remains a seminal moment in my evolution as an admirer of horror movies. In fact, you could say that it provided me with a great deal of early education in the genre’s history, being chock-full of references to the classics. It is nice to be able to call these movies, and the shocking deaths depicted in them, as classics as well.
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Jason Wiese writes feature stories for CinemaBlend. His occupation results from years dreaming of a filmmaking career, settling on a "professional film fan" career, studying journalism at Lindenwood University in St. Charles, MO (where he served as Culture Editor for its student-run print and online publications), and a brief stint of reviewing movies for fun. He would later continue that side-hustle of film criticism on TikTok (@wiesewisdom), where he posts videos on a semi-weekly basis. Look for his name in almost any article about Batman.