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SYFY WIRE I Know What You Did Last Summer

I Know What You Did Last Summer Had an Amazing 1990s Cast

Forget about Scream — This is where the real ‘90s star power came to get slashed.

By Benjamin Bullard
Julie James (Jennifer Love Hewitt) and Helen Shivers (Sarah Michelle Gellar) look in fear as Barry William Cox (Ryan Phillippe) points a flashlight to the ground.

Kevin Williamson stuck a slasher’s dagger right in the heart of 1990s horror, reanimating what had by then become a tired and listless genre by writing Wes Craven’s Scream. An instant horror classic, Scream made for an especially auspicious beginning, serving as Williamson’s sensational, trope-smashing 1997 movie screenwriting debut. But by the following fall, he'd picked up the still-bloody blade and kept right on stabbing, delivering a more earnestly frightful scary story — one with roots in creepy urban legend — with I Know What You Did Last Summer (streaming here on Peacock).

Scream and I Know What You Did Last Summer each took different approaches to freaking out slasher fans. One was a savvy, almost satirical tweak on viewers’ in-group understanding of how horror movies work; the other, a straightforward campfire scary tale buoyed by an innocent, almost 1980s small-town vibe. But on top of their common writing ancestry, the two movies each had one more thing in common — a killer cast of 1990s standouts, signified by a mix of contemporary and future A-list stars who lent both films a layer of character sheen that elevated them beyond Williamson’s already-awesome script material.

RELATED: 12 Killer Slasher Movies to Stream on Peacock Right Now!

Scream gets all the love these days for taking a handful of 1990s household names (Drew Barrymore, Courtney Cox, Henry Winkler, David Arquette) and tossing even more future star power (Neve Campbell, Matthew Lillard, Rose McGowan, Jamie Kennedy) into the mix. But it’s easy to forget just how stacked the casting sheet also was for I Know What You Did Last Summer — a movie whose ridiculously loaded ensemble, though slightly less eclectic, nevertheless sent at least half a dozen big acting names surging toward the early 2000s (and beyond) to careers that, in hindsight, make IKWYDLS seem like a singularly remarkable early springboard.

Don’t believe it? Browse this list of I Know What You Did Last Summer acting alumni… and behold all the talent that coalesced, if only for a moment, around a lil’ 1990s slasher flick about a hook-wielding weirdo in a rain slicker.

I Know What You Did Last Summer's Cast Was Packed with Talent

Sarah Michelle Gellar

Helen Shivers (Sarah Michelle Gellar) smiles with a crown on her head and bouquet in her hands in I Know What You Did Last Summer (1997).

Buffy Summers, Helen Shivers, Cici Cooper: Did Sarah Michelle Gellar have some kind of late-‘90s monopoly on great scary screen names or what? Thanks to the launch of Buffy the Vampire Slayer only months earlier, fright fans had a whole year to get acquainted with SMG, until then known mainly for youthful roles highlighted by an award-winning soap star turn on All My Children.

In I Know What You Did Last Summer, Gellar played local beauty queen Helen Shivers, a starry-eyed high school grad whose future dreams — like those of most of her pals — failed to launch her far from her sleepy coastal North Carolina hometown. Along with ex-boyfriend Barry (Ryan Phillippe), she’s one of the members of the core-four teen quartet who doesn’t survive after forming a pact early in the film never to disclose their deadly senior-year secret. As everyone knows, though, Gellar didn’t stay away from slasher flicks for long. Two months after dying onscreen in I Know What You Did Last Summer, she turned up to play the horror victim all over again as Cici in the Williamson-penned Scream 2.

Freddie Prinze Jr.

Ray Bronson (Freddie Prinze Jr.) is angry in front of a house in I Know What You Did Last Summer (1997).

Think of it as a match made in horror-movie heaven. Gellar and future husband Freddie Prinze Jr. met for the very first time on the IKWYDLS set, kicking off a three-year courtship before making things official in 2002. The long-lasting celebrity couple is still together today, having stopped for some pretty fun screen pairings — including their 2000s Scooby-Doo mystery match-up (as Fred and Daphne) — along the way.

Prinze played level-headed teen Ray Bronson in I Know What You Did Last Summer, a guy who ultimately survives and saves the day — despite occasionally drawing the rest of the group’s suspicions, after the body count starts mounting and the facts don’t seem to add up. Alongside Jennifer Love Hewitt, Prinze was one of two stars from the original film to appear in the sequel, 1998’s I Still Know What You Did Last Summer (streaming on Peacock here).

RELATED: 5 More '90s Horror Flicks that Deserve a Revival Alongside I Know What You Did Last Summer

Jennifer Love Hewitt

Julie James (Jennifer Love Hewitt) appears angry on a dock in I Know What You Did Last Summer (1997).

Jennifer Love Hewitt took final girl honors in I Know What You Did Last Summer as Julie James, a promising high school grad who (unlike the rest of the gang) at least tried to follow through on her long-term plans by tackling college head-on. Not that it did her much good, of course; more than anyone else who was in on the pact, Julie’s conscience remained afflicted by memories of the group's deadly deed, transforming her appearance from that of a bubbly senior-year showstopper to a hollow-eyed college freshman. Her grades sucked, her attention span was shattered, and even overcoming the movie’s original nightmare didn’t solve her lingering problems. She’s the last thing fans see in the film, right after discovering an ominous new message and getting jumped in a communal college shower stall.

Hewitt would go on to appear in the movie’s 1998 sequel before embarking on a screen career highlighted by major roles in Can't Hardly Wait (1998), Heartbreakers (2001), The Tuxedo (2002), the 2000s Garfield films, and leading small-screen turns on Ghost Whisperer, The Client List, and Criminal Minds.

Ryan Phillippe

Barry William Cox (Ryan Philippe) looks forlorn in I Know What You Did Last Summer (1997).

Every teen-movie friend group needs that one guy who’s just a little too over the top and intense, and Ryan Phillippe was more than up to the task in I Know What You Did Last Summer. As Helen’s high-strung, hard-drinking high school boyfriend Barry Cox, Phillippe’s hotheaded character tempted horror-movie fate by pushing early for the gang to dispose of their incriminating hit-and-run evidence. He kept the pressure on the rest of the way, too, confronting a totally innocent guy (Max, played by Johnny Galecki) and blaming Ray (Prinze) for being the actual creep until the movie’s mysterious stalker finally emerged.

Though the movie killed off his character with prejudice, Phillippe’s big-screen career was just getting started. All through the turn of the century and beyond, he took on an amazingly diverse range of roles in films that include 54 (1998), 1999’s Cruel Intentions (which re-teamed him with Gellar), Gosford Park (2001), Crash (2004), The Lincoln Lawyer (2011), and tons more.

Johnny Galecki

Yes, you’re reading that right. Even the dude from The Big Bang Theory had a role to play — albeit a thankless one — in I Know What You Did Last Summer. Johnny Galecki might best be known these days for a career-spanning slew of sitcom turns on shows like Roseanne, Hope & Faith, The Conners, and (of course) The Big Bang Theory, but he donned fisherman’s gear for a far darker turn in IKWYDLS as Max Neurick — an ill-fated high school misfit and shore worker whose innocent interest in Helen sets off Barry’s overprotective radar. Max is there mostly to provide a plausible whodunnit diversion as the story circles toward the big reveal of the movie’s true killer, which is a fancy way of saying he’s kind of disposable. After a couple of dust-ups with Barry and his misplaced suspicions, Max is one of the first teens to die… before the hook-wielding stalker sets his sights on Barry himself.

Bridgette Wilson

She’s retired from acting now, but for a hot minute in the 1990s and early 2000s, Bridgette Wilson enjoyed a string of high-profile film appearances that made the most of her pop-idol status as a real-life teenage beauty queen. Even before I Know What You Did Last Summer, she’d already been spotted in ‘90s-era big-screen romps like Arnold Schwarzenegger’s Last Action Hero, Adam Sandler’s Billy Madison, and the 1995 live-action film adaptation of Mortal Kombat (as Special Forces badass Sonya Blade) — so her brief but high-impact IKWYDLS turn as Helen’s slightly-judgmental older sister, Elsa, made her kind of hard to miss. Alas, Elsa fared no better than her lil’ sis in the movie, despite all her cautious finger-wagging. The butchering fisherman catches her dead to rights inside her family’s shop at night, putting Wilson’s scream-queen career temporarily on pause... until, that is, she turned up two years later for another grisly onscreen death in 1999’s House on Haunted Hill.

Anne Heche

Missy Egan (Anne Heche) holds a knife in front of a shed in I Know What You Did Last Summer (1997).

Go ahead and fight us — but even though her role was small, we think Anne Heche might’ve been the best pure actor among I Know What You Did Last Summer’s already-loaded cast. Heche brought just the right mix of unhinged rural crazy and wounded survivor’s vulnerability to her quirky role as Missy Egan, the backwoods-living relative left behind to mourn her brother David — the movie’s mysterious car-crash victim. IKWYDLS was actually a pretty slight diversion in a career as deep and extensive as Heche’s. Like Phillippe, she’d go on to portray a wide variety of memorable characters in a broad array of genres with roles in Wag the Dog (1997), Six Days, Seven Nights (1998), Gus Van Sant’s controversial Psycho remake (1998), The Other Guys (2011), and Cedar Rapids (2011), to name but a few. Tragically, Heche passed away in 2022, succumbing to injuries she sustained in a Los Angeles-area car crash.

Watch the entire trilogy on Peacock! I Know What You Did Last Summer is streaming here — alongside sequels I Still Know What You Did Last Summer here, and I’ll Always Know What You Did Last Summer here.