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'Scream': Every kill from Wes Craven's original horror classic, ranked

As we prepare for Ghostface's return, let's celebrate the 25th anniversary of the original film's impressive body count.

By Matthew Jackson
Scream (1996) SCREENGRAB Sidney

It's been 25 years since Scream first slashed its way into theaters, and the film has lost none of its potency and influence in the last quarter-century.

Director Wes Craven and writer Kevin Williamson's meta-horror classic remains a high-water mark of the slasher genre that it simultaneously picks apart and lovingly follows, and there's seemingly still no shortage of ways to use the now-iconic Ghostface mask and the homicidal villain's glimmering blade. 

There are many reasons Scream has endured as long it has, from the iconic cast to the humor to the music, but it almost goes without saying that the clever, ruthlessly engineered death scenes remain one of the film's best elements. So, with 25 years of hindsight in our corner, we're looking back at each of the key kills from Scream ahead of the 2022 release of the fifth film in the franchise, and ranking them worst to best. 

7. Principal Himbry

Scream (1996) SCREENGRAB Himbry

Let's be clear about one thing right away: There are no bad kill scenes in Scream. They all work in one way or another, but Principal Himbry's is probably the least impactful of the seven deaths in the film, in part because his murder feels like an afterthought.

Ghostface is in the high school building, where he tries to go for Sidney only for her to escape again. After that fail, he then hangs around and guts the principal. Still, the scene has a great jump scare from behind a door, and Henry Winkler's scream as he dies is one for the ages. Plus, his death and subsequent staging on the football field, which we only hear about, is the driving force behind emptying out the movie marathon and allowing the killers to move in on Sidney in the final act.

6. Kenny the Camerman

Scream (1996) SCREENGRAB Kenny

Kenny is proof that even the background characters in Scream movies have personality to spare, as W. Earl Brown does a great job of playing second fiddle to Gale Weathers (Courteney Cox) and her endless ambition.

Because Kenny is forced to stick around as Gale chases the story, he ends up collateral damage in the final showdown — catching a knife in the throat as Sidney tries to escape Ghostface and calls on him to help her. Kenny's actual death happens fast, but it has two key side effects. For one thing, it really drives home for the audience that there are two Ghostfaces (we see the other leaving the living room in the house a second before Kenny dies, thanks to Gale's hidden camera). Second, what ends up happening to Kenny's body as Gale tries to make her escape is the stuff of Scream's dark comedy legend.

5. Steve Orth

Scream (1996) SCREENGRAB Steve

Scream's opening scene is so perfectly executed, and so focused on Drew Barrymore (more on that later), that it's easy to forget the first death in the film is actually Casey Becker's boyfriend, Steve Orth (Kevin Patrick Walls).

The opening phone conversation between Casey and Ghostface is essentially framed as a continued upping the ante, as Ghostface keeps adding more and more weight to his claims by first telling, and then showing, Casey just how close he is and what he can do. He pushes this into high gear by revealing that he's got Steve tied up on her patio, bloodied and rendered mute by tape on his mouth. Then, the killer uses the cover of darkness to creep back in and gut the poor guy. Steve's brutal demise gives us our first, instantly memorable splash of gore in the film. It's a great opening gambit, but it gets one-upped just a few minutes later.

4. Billy Loomis

Scream (1996) SCREENGRAB Billy

The last character to die in Scream is also the one who was the driving force behind much of the killing that came before.

Billy Loomis (Skeet Ulrich) spends most of the movie proving himself to be a master manipulator, largely by getting himself into Sidney's world (and eventually her bedroom) only to reveal at the eleventh hour that he is the mastermind behind the killings plaguing Woodsboro. Including the murder of Sid's own mother, which happens before the film begins. Billy's death is one of the least spectacular in Scream, since he gets shot rather than stabbed, but it's also the most satisfying. It also proves Randy's (Jamie Kennedy) rule that the killer always comes back for one last scare, something Scream sequels have taken full advantage of.

3. Stu Macher

Scream (1996) SCREENGRAB Stu

Though Stu (Matthew Lillard) might be just as unhinged as Billy, if not moreso, it's pretty clear that he's actually the second fiddle to the other Ghostface killer, even joking that he will blame "peer pressure" for his willingness to participate in the murders.

Lillard's twitchy, adrenaline-laced performance in the final scene, though, ensures that we will never forget Stu's over-the-top final moments, and the manner of his death is the exclamation point on his messed-up life. In a movie full of people commenting on horror films on TV, Stu ends up being the character who's murdered by that same TV while it's playing a horror movie. It's a fantastic meta visual, and a perfect use of 1996 technology as a deadly weapon.

2. Tatum Riley

Scream (1996) SCREENGRAB Tatum

Everyone knows Ghostface is a knife guy. In movie after movie, though he or she resorts to other weapons sometimes, it's that trademark knife that does most of the heavy lifting. Still, the killer is never above a little improvisation, and it's that spirit of taking what you're given that gives us the most visually interesting kill in Scream.

Though she thinks witnessing Ghostface in front of her might be a prank at first, Tatum Riley (Rose McGowan) soon realizes she's trapped in a garage with a killer, and even manages to fight him off at first. Sadly, she overestimates the size of the dog flap in the garage door mid-escape through it, and Ghostface uses that error to give her a crushing death that anyone with a similar automatic garage door has surely never forgotten.

1. Casey Becker

Scream (1996) SCREENGRAB Casey

It's been said thousands of times at this point, but there is really no underestimating just how impactful Scream's opening scene was in 1996. The film's marketing team not only made sure star Drew Barrymore (one of the most famous people in the film at the time) was a key fixture on the film's posters, but in some cases, she was the only face on the poster. She was a leading lady! She wasn't supposed to die, and the nerve-shredding opening sequence just kept playing up that instinct, giving us several near misses, moments when Casey seems to finally be one step ahead of her would-be killer. (In fact, Barrymore was original eyed for the role of Sidney.)

But halfway through the iconic opening sequence, the tables turn and the film does so in a devastating and terrifying way. Watching Casey Becker try to call her for Mom, only to find her windpipe is crushed and she can't scream, remains one of the most horrifying moments in any slasher film. It is dwarfed only by what happens moments later, when Casey's parents find her body hanging from a tree. It remains not just the best death scene in this film, but one of the best in any slasher film, bar none.