What's your favorite scary movie? If it's not Scream, then you're wrong. The franchise as a whole has a special place in my heart, even if some installments were certainly better than others. For me, the films are easy to rank—Scream, Scream 4, Scream 2, and... no, I don't think there was a Scream 3.
Throughout the four films, Sidney Prescott (Neve Campbell) and her allies have fought for their lives against a killer hiding behind the guise of Ghostface. Many died, fewer survived. There has been betrayal, heartbreak, love, loss, and triumph. Some characters definitely overstayed their welcome, while others were gone all too soon. It's harder to put this large collection of beloved and despised characters into a pecking order—but it's not impossible.
With the fifth movie in the franchise hitting theaters on January 14th, what better time is there to look back on the characters in this series that have made the biggest impact? Here are 16 of the best and worst Scream characters, ranked.
16. Roman Bridger (Scream 3)
Most people can agree on the fact that Scream 3 is the disappointment of the franchise—and that extends to the film's villain. As the only Ghostface in the franchise to be working alone, there was really a lot riding on Roman Bridger (Scott Foley). But the film just gave him too much power and not enough development.
At first depicted as a single-minded director, he was revealed not only as the killer, but as Sidney's vengeance-seeking illegitimate half-brother. What's more, the film retroactively attributes the tragedies of the other films to him, as he is the one who inspired Billy Loomis to go on his murder spree in the first film. It's a sloppy motive that undercuts two very successful films, and for that, Roman Bridger is at the bottom of the barrel of Scream characters.
15. Jennifer Jolie (Scream 3)
One step up from the bottom we have Jennifer Jolie (Parker Posey). But to be fair, she was pretty much put in the film to be hated. An actress in Stab 3, she portrays Gale Weathers (Courtney Cox)—and is in constant conflict with her. Naturally, most Scream fans have loyalty to the franchise veteran, so Jennifer just becomes a thorn in viewers' sides as much as she is in Gale's. Throughout the film she gets a little too chummy with Dewey, (David Arquette), and that, even more than her portrayed cowardice, is the final nail in her coffin.
14. Mickey Altieri (Scream 2)
As far as villains go, Mickey Altieri (Timothy Olyphant) isn't so bad. It's a great performance from a great actor, and Mickey is unhinged in a way that doesn't really need much sense or reason behind it. The main reason he ranks so low is that he was a fairly obvious suspect. That's ultimately okay since the real shock was that the second killer who was pulling all the strings was Billy's mom, but in comparison to that twist, he just falls a little short. Plus, before he was revealed as the killer, he's a mostly lackluster character that doesn't do much to carve his own niche in the friend group.
13. Cotton Weary (Scream 1, 2, and 3)
First seen in the original Scream film in news footage, Cotton Weary (Liev Schreiber) is a character that was very satisfying to see fleshed out more in the second film. Interesting doesn't necessarily make him likable though, and he's not quite enough of a jerk to make him someone you love to hate.
Wrongly accused of Sidney's mother's murder, he's not the villain he was originally made out to be. He is, however, manipulative, greedy, and obsessed with getting his 15 minutes of fame. In Scream 2, he managed to wrangle what he wanted out of Sidney, but did ultimately save her life. His unfortunate end in the third film was a disappointing conclusion to his development.
12. Tatum Riley (Scream)
In this franchise, it's really hard being Sidney Prescott's best friend. Tatum Riley (Rose McGowan) was the first to prove that to be true in the original Scream film. Tatum is the kind of character you expect to see in a slasher film—a teenage party girl who doesn't take the danger all around her very seriously. Still, she does her best to be there for Sidney, even if she doesn't really grasp the full depth of her best friend's emotions. She has a pretty spot on sibling relationship with Dewey, too, which wins her definite points with audiences.
Tatum has some awesome fashion and an iconic death scene, but at the end of the day, she hasn't made the same mark on the franchise as some of the other characters.
11. Hallie McDaniel (Scream 2)
Hallie McDaniel (Elise Neal) is Sidney's college friend, and while she didn't go through the same nightmare that Sidney did, she really shows up for her. She encourages Sidney to get out of her shell and experience life, but when things take a dangerous turn, she is always right there next to Sidney, facing down the violence. She is one of the few people Sidney trusts entirely—enough to take her along with her on a ride to a secret location.
Unfortunately, that ride ends in death for Hallie. It's not all that unexpected, but it's definitely a bummer, since she was so good for Sidney. If the film had given her more time and development on screen, she would definitely rank higher on the list. As it is, she's a little bit sidelined.
10. Charlie Walker (Scream 4)
Rory Culkin gives an outstanding performance as Charlie Walker in Scream 4. Through much of the film he functions as a modernized version of Randy Meeks (Jamie Kennedy), using his love of horror cinema to outline the rules the killer is bound to follow. He's more mild-mannered, but, as teenagers often do in these films, values his movie marathon over the safety of Woodsboro's teens.
Of course, this reckless self-involvement makes a little more sense when it's revealed he's one of the killers of the film. It's a satisfying twist, as Randy was heavily teased as the killer in previous films, and Charlie's parallel role definitely fulfills that prophecy. However, once he takes on the mantle of Ghostface, Charlie is a much less interesting character. His motive isn't super strong, primarily driven by his romance with the main antagonist, Jill (Emma Roberts), and his bitter old feelings for Kirby (Hayden Panettiere), despite the fact that she eventually returns his affections.
9. Randy Meeks (Scream 1, 2, and 3)
Randy Meeks is a lovable geek, for sure. A friend of Sidney's, he uses his obsessive horror knowledge to try and guide their friend group through the bloody ordeal of Ghostface. His meta commentary defined this movie as one of the reigning champions of horror satire. He was always a good friend, and while he harbored romantic feelings for Sidney, the fact that she never felt the same way didn't inspire resentment in him. Which is really the bare minimum, but it's a big ask in a franchise full of killers.
Appearing in three films—as a posthumous recording in the third installment—Randy tends to be a bit polarizing for audiences. He can be a bit over the top, which leads to a love him or hate him reception. Still, his character was the frame which the franchise was built on—calling out the tropes of old to redefine slasher movies. That's something worth appreciating regardless of how you feel about him.
8. Jill Roberts (Scream 4)
Jill Roberts is Sidney's younger cousin. As a typical teenager, Jill is largely forgettable. She doesn't have much personality besides resenting Sidney and embracing a victimized mentality. Following the disaster that was Scream 3, it was easy enough to believe she was just a poor attempt at framing a new star for the series. However, by the end of the film, Jill was revealed to be one of the most vicious killers of the entire franchise.
Jill craved the attention Sidney got from the ongoing tragedy that was her life. So she was willing to kill anyone she had to in order to get that same sense of adoration—even her own mother. She manipulated her friends, family, and lovers to frame herself as the sole survivor of a copycat event—the true final girl. She was clever, conniving, and ruthless. If her ruse as a heroine had been a little more endearing, she'd rise much closer to the top of this list.
7. Derek Feldman (Scream 2)
Be still my beating heart. Derek Feldman (Jerry O'Connell) added some much needed, non-murderous romance to Sidney's life. An aspiring doctor who was handsome, kind, funny, and more than willing to make a fool out of himself to make Sidney happy, Derek was a phenomenal boyfriend. He was supportive and patient, and he never hesitated to run head-first into danger when he thought Sidney was in trouble. After all of the betrayal Sidney faced in her life, Derek was truly the spot of good that she deserved.
Unfortunately, trauma and manipulation made it difficult for Sidney to trust anyone in the end—especially a lover. While Derek was tied up, Ghostface toyed with Sidney's paranoia. Her inability to take the risk and release him resulted in him being shot in the chest. As he bleeds out, his last words are "I never would have hurt you." As both a foil to Sidney's first boyfriend, Billy (Skeet Ulrich), and an exemplification of how emotionally wounded the first deadly ordeal has left her, Derek is one of the better characters in the entire franchise.
6. Stu Macher (Scream)
Oh, Stu Macher (Matthew Lillard)—the worse half of the original knife-wielding Ghostface duo. He was never the conniving force behind the killings, but that didn't make him any less vicious, having no qualms about tearing into current girlfriends and exes alike. What sets him higher than most Scream villains is that, even before he's revealed to be a killer, he is a captivating and beloved character.
Stu brings the comedy to a dark situation, making the horror all the more potent. He's not the sharpest crayon in the box, and his behavior doesn't hide the fact that he's the killer all that well. But even one of his last lines, "My mom and dad are going to be so mad at me," adds a few tittering laughs to a wholly tragic spree. He doesn't really have any motive to be seen, but Billy would agree he doesn't need one.
5. Billy Loomis (Scream)
Besides leaving quite a few teenage girls watching the film a little confused and conflicted by the end of it all, Billy Loomis is one of the best characters in the franchise because he does evil so damn well. He's given a lot of screen time—more than most killers in the series—and he certainly has the most fleshed out development of the villainous lot. No pun intended...
From an outside perspective, Billy is flawed in ways that ring very true to real life teenage boys—impatient for sex and more than a little emotionally clueless. His real flaws, of course, are far from typical. He is a gaslighter extraordinaire, tormenting Sidney and playing the victim over her alleged poor treatment of him. He is a great pretender, making it seem impossible that he's the killer before launching into his final offensive. He's dark, dangerous, and yes, okay, he's sexy. He's one of the scariest killers in horror, as he's able to get so close and strip people down to vulnerability.
4. Kirby Reed (Scream 4)
Kirby Reed is everything Jill Roberts could never be. She was a self-assured fighter who wasn't afraid to go after what she wanted. She was a pretty good friend, too. She brought the same sense of humor and determination that Sidney did in her first film. Really, by all intents and purposes, she should have been the next final girl to emerge from the franchise. But as the fourth film in the series, one can never know what to expect.
Her murder at the hands of Charlie was the death the hit the hardest in Scream 4. Her casual mastery of the horror genre made her immediately endearing, and she was the easiest character to root for amongst the newbies. I was almost inconsolable when she was killed. But some fans are speculating she might make a return in the next film...
3. Dewey Riley (Scream 1-4)
Is it any surprise that the core three made it to the top of this list? They survived four movies for a reason. Dewey is really the heart of these movies, stepping into an older brother role for Sidney and comprising one very important half of the franchise's unlikely yet vital romance.
As a deputy in the first film, Dewey is portrayed as a little childish and bumbling. However, through the course of the franchise, Dewey really matures and sharpens up, lending to his position as the sheriff in the fourth installment. He is a protector through and through, giving his all to tracking down every iteration of Ghostface, even when it gets him injured time and time again. But he's just too lovable to kick the bucket—he wasn't supposed to survive the first film at all, but test audiences responded much more favorably to him making a comeback.
2. Gale Weathers (Scream 1-4)
Gale Weathers may not always be likable, but she is always bad-ass. She makes her appearance in Scream as an ambitious reporter who will do anything it takes to gain acclaim. She penned a book refuting Sidney's claim that Cotton Weary killed her mother, and while she might have been insensitive and opportunistic about the whole situation, well... she was right.
She has her fair share of faults. She can be rude, bossy, and highly unethical in her work. But she's not as heartless as she may seem. Her love for Dewey is honest, if not complicated. Even though she and Sidney might not necessarily love spending time together, they built a trust that has them relying on one another in life or death situations. She has a love for the truth, and she will fight tooth and nail for it. She is fearless and brilliant, and honestly, seeing a woman with such rough emotional edges is a little refreshing.
As long as we can forgive her for the bangs she had in Scream 3, she easily ranks at number two on this list.
1. Sidney Prescott (Scream 1-4)
You didn't expect anything else, did you? Without Sidney Prescott, the entire franchise would fall apart—and not just because she's the main character. Plenty of horror franchises have replaced iconic leads with fresh new faces, but Scream knows that Sidney—and Neve Campbell—is the special ingredient to their very successful movie formula. While this movie franchise was adapted into a fairly enjoyable television series, none of the main characters had that something special that elevated the show into something great.
Sidney is not the timid and virtuously pure heroine a lot of classic horror likes to reward. She is a real person with palpable fears, desires, faults, and strengths. She is protective of her mother's memory, regardless of the mistakes she might have made. She is vulnerable to Billy's manipulations, and hesitant to Derek's affections. She is a clever survivor who refuses to just lie down and take it. She's witty and deeply compassionate. While her trauma has sometimes made her closed-off to life's experiences, she uses her empathy, as seen in the third and fourth films, to help other victims of violence.
Sometimes she's wrong, and sometimes she's right. But she always sees it through. She never runs from the fight—never lets someone else deal with the dangers that are targeting her. Her relentless spirit is what makes her not just the best character in the Scream franchise, but one of the best characters across all of film.