1. Scream (1996)
It’s no surprise that the original makes the top of the list. After all, there would be no franchise without this gem that Craven and Williamson created. Everything about the film fits together — from the soundtrack to the performances to the writing.
More importantly the film set the stage for the meta slasher sub-genre for it fully captured the pop culture-savvy, house party-attending high school teenagers obsessed with horror movies and ultimately finding themselves in one. Any fan of the franchise will clearly remember film nerd Randy (Jamie Kennedy) educating his peers on the rules of surviving a horror movie, and watching Halloween at Stu (Matthew Lillard)’s house party and yelling at Jamie Lee Curtis on the TV to turn around, not realizing that Ghostface was behind him.
Of course, there are so many iconic scenes that horror fans will appreciate, from the opening segment with Drew Barrymore’s Casey getting killed off – Williamson even admitted that casting Barrymore in such a brief role was a strategic choice to surprise viewers – to Tatum (Rose McGowan)’s gruesome death as she attempts to crawl through the garage door. All these tense moments showed appreciation to the horror genre.
Overall, the film established the satirical tone of self-referential meta slashers that guided franchise. As Dewey says in Scream (2022), “it all goes back to the original,” referencing how the film’s killing spree undoubtedly connected to the past. But his words also cement the impact that the original film has on the franchise and the horror genre in general.