The Top 5 Horror Movies: Scream Takes 1st Place

5/5 Falcons

Julia D’Amato, Contributing Writer

“What’s your favorite scary movie?” asks killer Ghostface in the iconic opening scene of the 1996 horror movie Scream. In response to this question, I will answer what Casey Becker failed to say: Scream is the very best scary movie of all time. 

Set in early fall in a fictional Californian town and starring Drew Barrymore, Neve Campbell, Courtney Cox, and Skeet Ulrich, Scream is a groundbreaking horror film made successful by its realistic dialogue, satirical elements, and unique plot. The slasher movie follows a group of students as they tackle high school while a killer is on the loose.

The film is not afraid to challenge the usual rules of the horror genre.

Scream begins with a captivating—yet horrifying—scene in which Casey Becker (Drew Barrymore) has an unsettling phone conversation with a mysterious man. The man, Ghostface, does not disclose his identity, initially charming Casey through flirtation and rhetorical questions. However, Casey becomes increasingly petrified after Ghostface mentions that he is watching her. Barrymore’s acting in this scene is masterful; her convincing crying performance (made possible by director Wes Craven, who allegedly induced tears through telling animal-lover Barrymore stories about animal cruelty) sets a tone of fear and alertness for the viewer. 

From there, Scream weaves together a complicated storyline, filled with unpredictable criminals and saviors. The film’s dialogue stands out as captivating, striking the right balance between coy teenage small-talk and petrifying, over-the-top thriller cliches. Landline telephones become a symbol of impending doom, as most characters who pick up the phone are found dead the next day. 

An excellent aspect of Scream is its original plot. Few thriller movies kill off A-list actors in the opening scene, but Scream does just that. The film is not afraid to challenge the usual rules of the horror genre. For example, the unchaste Sidney (Neve Campbell) survives, contrary to the stereotype of virgins being the only women to make it to the end of horror movies. 

Scream’s brilliant elements of satire and self-awareness are illuminated right off the bat, with Casey referencing many other horror films—such as Halloween and The Nightmare on Elm Street—during her first-scene conversation with Ghostface. Later, high school student Randy is shown comparing his world to that of a horror movie, saying “If this was a scary movie, I would be the main suspect.” The strongest example of satire is during the climactic scene of Scream, when the friend group watches Halloween together and shout at the movie’s characters to “Look around!” or “Be careful!” unaware that they themselves are surrounded by killers. 

By and large, Scream deserves a full 5/5 Falcon rating for its dialogue, satire, and originality. Following closely behind Scream in the ranking of best horror movies are the classic Halloween, the older Rosemary’s Baby, the famous Psycho, and the chilling Don’t Look Now. However, Scream triumphs all as the most captivating, clever, and creative horror movie ever produced. It is a must-see this Halloween season. 

This piece also appears in our October 2022 print edition.