Wes Craven’s Scream works wonderfully as a slasher movie that incorporates elements of a whodunit, but it also goes a step further with a subversive self-aware edge. Its villains are inspired by iconic horror villains and its protagonists are fully aware of the kind of movie they’re in, making Scream the ultimate satire of scary movies.
In order to satirically critique the genre that made him a household name, Craven included references to countless horror classics (and a few classics of other genres) throughout Scream.
10 When A Stranger Calls (1979)
Fred Walton’s tense mystery thriller When a Stranger Calls is most notable for its terrifying opening 20 minutes, in which a babysitter is harassed by a mysterious caller that the police identify as being inside the house.
The whole opening scene of Scream, with Drew Barrymore as a teen home alone answering the phone to a playful killer, is an overt homage to When a Stranger Calls – minus the murdered children.
9 Halloween (1978)
There had been slashers before it, but the movie that laid out the template for the subgenre that Scream lampoons and inspired a generation of low-budget horror filmmakers to attempt their own was John Carpenter’s seminal 1978 masterpiece Halloween. In Scream, Jamie Kennedy watches Carpenter’s movie at the house party.
There’s a delightfully meta moment when the Ghostface killer approaches him from behind as he watches Michael Myers approach an equally oblivious Jamie Lee Curtis from behind and he yells out, “Turn around, Jamie! Jamie, look behind you!”
8 Psycho (1960)
Alfred Hitchcock’s 1960 thriller masterpiece Psycho is initially set up as a noir about Marion Crane embezzling money from her boss, but it becomes a slash-‘em-up horror movie at the midpoint when Marion is butchered in the shower by Norman Bates. Psycho is widely regarded to be the first ever slasher, so it’s appropriate that Scream includes a nod to the Hitchcockian gem.
Billy Loomis quotes the movie, “We all go a little mad sometimes,” before attributing the line: “Anthony Perkins, Psycho.” As a bonus, the name “Loomis” is a reference to the Psycho character Sam Loomis (who was also the namesake of Dr. Loomis in Halloween).
7 Clueless (1995)
Wes Craven didn’t just include references to horror movies in Scream. He also included a nod to Clueless, Amy Heckerling’s teen comedy reimagining of Jane Austen’s Emma that had just hit theaters and captured the zeitgeist a year earlier.
Stuart says the line “As if!” to Randy. This is the iconic catchphrase of Cher Horowitz, the popular, self-centered high schooler played by Alicia Silverstone in Clueless.
6 Friday The 13th (1980)
One of the Halloween imitators that established the slasher trend of the ‘80s was Friday the 13th, in which a group of teens go to hang out at an abandoned summer camp and get picked off one by one by an unseen murderer.
When the Ghostface killer calls an unsuspecting Casey in the opening scene of Scream, he asks her a bunch of trivia questions about classic horror movies. He catches her out when he asks for the name of the killer from Friday the 13th and she says, “Jason.” Jason is the killer in all the Friday the 13th sequels, but it’s actually his vengeful mother Pamela in the first one. This crucial mistake costs Casey her life.
5 Serpico (1973)
Sidney Lumet’s Serpico is a true-to-life crime thriller about an undercover cop tackling corruption in the NYPD. Al Pacino gives one of the finest performances of his career in the eccentric title role.
The line, “I always had a thing for you, Sid,” is spoken by Al Pacino at the end of Serpico and by Matthew Lillard at the end of Scream. The line in Serpico refers to Police Chief Sidney Green, played by John Randolph, but it lined up nicely with the protagonist of Scream being called Sidney Prescott.
4 The Silence Of The Lambs (1991)
Jonathan Demme’s The Silence of the Lambs is, so far, the only horror movie to win Best Picture at the Academy Awards. Anthony Hopkins and Jodie Foster’s powerful acting helped to elevate the movie above its grisly genre trappings.
In Scream, Billy tells Sidney that her personal problems – particularly grief over losing her mother – are similar to Foster’s character Clarice Starling in The Silence of the Lambs. Foster won Best Actress for her poignant turn as a female FBI recruit in a male-dominated workplace, reeling from various childhood traumas.
3 Rebel Without A Cause (1955)
Released after its star James Dean’s untimely passing, 1955’s Rebel Without a Cause is Nicholas Ray’s seminal coming-of-age drama about life in the suburbs and the generation gap.
The line “There’s nobody here but us chickens!” from Scream is taken from Rebel Without a Cause. Both movies are about rebellious teens, but the blood-soaked rebellion in Scream is very different than in the James Dean hit.
2 Carrie (1976)
Brian De Palma’s adaptation of Stephen King’s debut novel Carrie is one of the most acclaimed horror movies ever made. The movie is notable for its climactic prom sequence, in which the popular kids team up to dump a bucket of pig’s blood on Carrie’s head.
When Scream’s final twist reveals that Billy and Stu have been dual Ghostface killers all along, Billy tells Sidney that he used corn syrup as blood to fake his death and mentions that it’s the same prop De Palma used for the fake blood in Carrie.
1 A Nightmare On Elm Street (1984)
Most of the movie references in Scream are nods to films by other directors, but Wes Craven included a particularly meta throwback to his own slasher classic, A Nightmare on Elm Street.
The janitor at the high school is called Fred and wears the same red-and-green striped sweater as Freddy Krueger from the Nightmare movies. Fred is even played by Craven himself.
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