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Actress Fay Wray (1907–2004) is considered to be one of the first scream queens.

A scream queen (a wordplay on screen queen)[1] is an actress who is prominent and influential in horror films, either through a notable appearance or recurring roles. A scream king is the male equivalent. Notable female examples include Barbara Steele, Sandra Peabody, Linda Blair, Olivia Hussey, Marilyn Burns, Neve Campbell, Daria Nicolodi, Dee Wallace, Jamie Lee Curtis, Mia Goth, Samara Weaving, Heather Langenkamp, Shawnee Smith, Sarah Michelle Gellar and Linnea Quigley.[2]


The term "scream queen" is more specifically used to refer to the attractive young damsels-in-distress[3] characters that have appeared in a number of films in the horror genre. Lloyd Kaufman, co-founder of Troma Entertainment, noted that being a scream queen is "more than just crying and having ketchup thrown on you. You not only have to be attractive, but you also have to have a big brain. You have to be frightened, you have to be sad, you have to be romantic."[3]

Debbie Rochon, often described as a scream queen herself, wrote in an article originally published in GC Magazine that "a true Scream Queen isn't The Perfect Woman. She's sexy, seductive, but most importantly attainable to the average guy, or so it would seem."[4] Although the earlier scream queens might be women that "just had to look pretty and shriek a lot until the hero of the film got around to save them." The later scream queens showcase women worrying about something other than a guy...unless said guy is the one trying to kill them, with some of them wreaking vengeance by defeating the villain.[5]



The prominence of women in horror films dates back to the silent film era, with films such as The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari (1920) and Nosferatu (1922). George Feltenstein, film historian and senior vice president of theatrical catalog marketing at Warner Home Video, states, "Women screaming in terror has been a Hollywood mainstay – even when films were silent".[3] Fay Wray, an actress starring in King Kong (1933), is sometimes referred to as the "very first scream queen".[6] Anne Gwynne, Chris Pine's grandmother, is known for scream queen roles in the 1930s and 1940s.[7][8][9] Janet Leigh, playing Marion in Alfred Hitchcock's Psycho (1960), is regarded as the "one of the most iconic[10]" scream queens in horror film history.[11]


Sandra Peabody, shown as Mari Collingwood in The Last House on the Left (1972), would become primarily known for her horror film roles.

Four actresses in the 1970s became seminal examples of a "scream queen" for the decade: Sandra Peabody, who portrayed Mari Collingwood in The Last House on the Left (1972), Marilyn Burns, who portrayed Sally Hardesty in The Texas Chain Saw Massacre (1974), Olivia Hussey, who portrayed Jess Bradford in Black Christmas (1974), and Jamie Lee Curtis, who portrayed Laurie Strode in Halloween (1978).[12]

After The Last House on the Left, Peabody went on to appear in the horror films Voices of Desire (1972), Massage Parlor Murders (1973), Case of the Full Moon Murders (1973), and Legacy of Satan (1974). Burns followed her performance in The Texas Chainsaw Massacre with roles in Helter Skelter (1976) and Eaten Alive (1977). In Halloween, Jamie Lee Curtis, daughter of Psycho actress Janet Leigh, had her first film role. Portraying Laurie Strode in Halloween, Curtis has been called the "ultimate 'scream queen'".[13] Curtis went on to star in several other horror films after that, including The Fog, Prom Night, Terror Train, Halloween II, and Halloween H20: 20 Years Later.[14][15]

Dee Wallace appeared in Wes Craven's 1977 horror film The Hills Have Eyes before going on to establish herself as a scream queen in the 1980s by appearing in The Howling (1981), Cujo (1983) and Critters (1986).[16]

Daria Nicolodi played the role of the scream queen in most of her films (Deep Red, Inferno, Phenomena, Terror at the Opera). Director Mario Bava also called on Nicolodi for Shock (1977). In 1982, Nicolodi played Anne in Dario Argento's Tenebrae.[16]

Veronica Cartwright was also a prominent scream queen of the 1970s, appearing in the 1978 remake of Invasion of the Body Snatchers as well as Alien in 1979. She began her career as a scream queen in Alfred Hitchcock’s The Birds.


The success of Halloween revived slasher films during the late 1970s and 1980s.[17] Examples include Terror Train and Prom Night, in which Jamie Lee Curtis would again play the scream queen; Friday the 13th, the first entry to have both a female antagonist (Betsy Palmer) and protagonist (Adrienne King);[18] and A Nightmare on Elm Street, now considered a slasher classic,[19] which introduced supernatural serial killer Freddy Krueger, and whose leading actress, Heather Langenkamp, was dubbed a scream queen, and went on to become one of the most influential.

Linnea Quigley was a scream queen during the 1980s, appearing specifically in low-budget and cult-classic films such as Graduation Day, Silent Night, Deadly Night, Return of the Living Dead and Night of the Demons. British actress Catriona MacColl became a scream queen after appearing in three Italian horror films directed by Lucio Fulci, City of the Living Dead (1980), The Beyond (1981) and House by the Cemetery (1981).

Following her Saturn Award-nominated performance in Exorcist II: The Heretic, Oscar-nominee Linda Blair parlayed her classic 1973 The Exorcist role into a slew of 80s horror performances, including Hell Night. She would continue making horror films into the 1990s, with a cameo in Wes Craven's Scream. In 2008, at the Malaga Fantasy & Horror Film Festival, Blair received a lifetime achievement award for her work in the horror genre.


Neve Campbell of Scream fame.

During the 1990s, Debbie Rochon starred in dozens of Troma Production horror films and was voted by Draculina magazine as its "Scream Queen of the Decade". Sheryl Lee played murder victims Laura Palmer and Maddy Ferguson in the TV series Twin Peaks (1990–91) and spin-off film Twin Peaks: Fire Walk with Me (1992) and has been described as a "scream queen", in particular for scenes in the otherworldly Black Lodge.[20][21][22][23]

Neve Campbell's first American feature film was the cult horror classic The Craft (1996). She later starred as Sidney Prescott in the Scream film series. Jennifer Love Hewitt was labeled a scream queen after starring as Julie James in the I Know What You Did Last Summer films.[15] The first film of that trilogy also had a starring role for Sarah Michelle Gellar as Helen Shivers, who went on to appear in other horror films made during the 1990s and new millennium, including Scream 2 and The Grudge film series.[24]


In 2005, Shauna Macdonald starred in The Descent, which established her as a scream queen[25][26][27] and for which she was nominated for the Saturn Award for Best Actress.[28] Elisha Cuthbert starred in the horror film House of Wax (2005) and Captivity (2007), gaining the status by from films.[29][30] In 2007, USA Today published an article listing on modern scream queens interviewing actresses Sheri Moon Zombie, Jaimie Alexander, Andrea Bogart, Mercedes McNab, Tiffany Shepis and Cerina Vincent.[3] Since 2007 and her appearance in Halloween, Danielle Harris has increased her genre work, being subsequently called "horror's reigning scream queen" by the NY Daily News.[31] Erica Leerhsen has been called a scream queen because of her roles in films like Book of Shadows: Blair Witch 2 (2000), The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (2003), and Wrong Turn 2: Dead End (2007).[32][33]


Bipasha Basu has been referred as "Bollywood's Scream Queen" due to her contributions to horror in India with her blockbuster horror movies like Raaz (2002) and Raaz 3D (2012), as well as films like Aatma (2013), Creature 3D (2014), and Alone (2015).[34]

In 2016, Screen Rant listed the "15 Greatest Scream Queens in Horror History", which includes Linda Blair, Danielle Harris, Lisa Wilcox, Vera Farmiga, Janet Leigh, Marilyn Burns, Veronica Cartwright, Neve Campbell, Naomi Watts, Heather Langenkamp, Eva Green, Chloë Grace Moretz, Sarah Michelle Gellar, Barbara Steele and Jamie Lee Curtis.[35]

Indonesian actress Tara Basro has been described as a "scream queen" for her roles in Joko Anwar's films Satan's Slaves (2017) and Impetigore (2019).[36][37]

Australian actress Samara Weaving began her contribution to the horror genre by starring in the first season of Ash vs Evil Dead (2015), before landing the lead role in the black comedy horror The Babysitter (2017). Weaving solidified her status as a scream queen with her performance in the commercially and critically successful Ready or Not (2019). In 2023, Weaving played the iconic role of opening kill in Scream VI. Popularised by the Scream franchise.


Melissa Barrera having starred in the slasher Scream (2022) and the sequel Scream VI (2023) and the horror thriller Bed Rest (2022), establishing herself as a scream queen.[38][39] Mia Goth having started in several horror movies previously before her breakout roles in the X trilogy (2022–2024), it was inevitable that she would gain the title "scream queen".[40][41] Jenna Ortega starred in the slasher films X and Scream (both 2022), also known as a scream queen.[22][42][43] Ortega reprised her Scream role for the sequel, Scream VI (2023).[44]

Scream Queens Illustrated magazine

Scream Queens Illustrated magazine featured pictorials, interviews, reviews, and other content concerning such Hollywood scream queens as Barbara Bauer, Becky Sunshine, Tina Krause, Julia Hayes, Julie Strain, Monique Gabrielle, Brinke Stevens, Linnea Quigley, Rhonda Shear, Xenia Gratsos ("Brioni Farrell"), Lorissa McComas, June Wilkinson, Debbie Rochon, Sherri Frazer, Melissa Wolf, and Cassandra Peterson ("Elvira").[45]

Scream king

Robert Englund, best known for playing Freddy Krueger in the Nightmare on Elm Street (franchise), is an example a "scream king".

The term "scream king" has been used to refer to male leading actors who have made their name through taking on leading roles in horror movies as a "final guy" character. Rachel Roth defines the rise of the "scream kings" as a result of moving away from formulas where men are typically cast as monsters for a female character to fight off and female actresses being cast less as victims and sometimes as the monster or villain themselves. Roth cites Bruce Campbell as an early example of a scream king for his role in the Evil Dead franchise.[46] Campbell has also been referred to as "the definitive scream king."[47] Another notable early example of a scream king would be Robert Englund, who played Freddy Krueger in the Nightmare on Elm Street franchise.[48][49]

Other notable scream kings include Devon Sawa, known for Idle Hands and Final Destination; Patrick Wilson, who appeared in the Insidious and The Conjuring franchises; Evan Peters for his recurring roles in American Horror Story; Bill Skarsgård, for his appearances in It, Barbarian and Nosferatu;[50] Daniel Kaluuya, for his performances in Get Out and Nope; Kyle Gallner, whose appearances include The Haunting in Connecticut, Scream and Smile;[51] Finn Wolfhard, for his roles in It and the Netflix series Stranger Things;[52][53] and Shawn Roberts, who has appeared in zombie films such as Land of the Dead, Diary of the Dead, and the Resident Evil franchise.[54][55]

Mark Patton, star of A Nightmare on Elm Street 2: Freddy's Revenge (1985), has been touted at horror conventions as mainstream horror's first "male scream queen".[56]


This section needs additional citations for verification. Please help improve this article by adding citations to reliable sources in this section. Unsourced material may be challenged and removed.Find sources: "Scream queen" – news · newspapers · books · scholar · JSTOR (February 2022) (Learn how and when to remove this message)
Years active Actor First horror film (or series) Notes
1920–1980 Fay Wray King Kong (1933)
1946–2004 Janet Leigh Psycho (1960) Mother of Jamie Lee Curtis
1958–present Veronica Cartwright The Birds
1958–present Barbara Steele Black Sunday
1962–present Linda Blair The Exorcist
1965–present Olivia Hussey Black Christmas (1974)
1965–present Sandra Peabody The Last House on the Left
1970–2014 Marilyn Burns Texas Chainsaw Massacre
1970–2020 Daria Nicolodi Deep Red
1974–present Dee Wallace The Hills Have Eyes (1977) Best known for Cujo
1976–present Bruce Campbell Evil Dead
1977–present Jamie Lee Curtis[57] Halloween (1978) Daughter of Janet Leigh
1978–present Caitriona MacColl City of the Living Dead
1978–present Linnea Quigley Psycho from Texas Best known for Return of the Living Dead
1968–present Adrienne Barbeau[58] The Fog (1980)
1980–present Connie Britton The Last Winter Best known for American Horror Story
1981–present Sarah Michelle Gellar I Know What You Did Last Summer
1982–present Mark Patton A Nightmare on Elm Street 2: Freddy's Revenge
1982–present Debbie Rochon Lurkers
1983–present Heather Langenkamp A Nightmare on Elm Street
1983–present Felissa Rose[59][60] Sleepaway Camp
1984–present Barbara Crampton Body Double
1984–present Courteney Cox Scream
1985–present Danielle Harris Halloween 4: The Return of Michael Myers
1986–present Sheryl Lee Twin Peaks
1986–present Asia Argento Demons 2 Best known for Land of the Dead
1986–present Miranda Otto The 13th Floor Best known for Annabelle: Creation
1986–present Naomi Watts Children of the Corn IV: The Gathering Best known for The Ring (2002)
1988–present Shawnee Smith The Blob Best known for Saw (2004)
1989–present Jennifer Love Hewitt I Know What You Did Last Summer
1989–present Katharine Isabelle Disturbing Behavior Best known for Ginger Snaps
1990–present Toni Collette The Sixth Sense Best known for Hereditary
1991–present Neve Campbell The Dark Best known for the Scream franchise
1991–present Kate Beckinsale Haunted Best known for the Underworld franchise
1991–present Melissa McBride The Mist Best known for The Walking Dead
1991–2011 Mercedes McNab Hatchet
1994–present Sarah Paulson American Horror Story
1995–present Patrick Wilson Insidious
1995–present Lea Michele Scream Queens Best known for Glee
1996–present Rose McGowan Scream (1996 film)
1996–present Bipasha Basu Raaz (2002)
1996–present Elisha Cuthbert Are You Afraid of the Dark? Best known for House of Wax (2005)
1996–present Vera Farmiga Joshua Older sister of Taissa Farmiga
1996–present Tiffany Shepis Terror Firmer
1996–present Sheri Moon Zombie House of 1000 Corpses
1997–present Shawn Roberts Goosebumps Best known for the Resident Evil franchise
1997–present Mary Elizabeth Winstead Wolf Lake Appeared in three separate horror movie franchises: The Ring, Final Destination, and Cloverfield
1999–present Ali Larter House on Haunted Hill (1999) Best known for Final Destination and Resident Evil
1999–present Shauna Macdonald The Descent
1999–present Cerina Vincent Fear Runs Silent Best known for Cabin Fever (2002)
2000–present Erica Leerhsen Book of Shadows: Blair Witch 2 [32]
2001–present Emma Roberts Scream 4 Best known for American Horror Story and Scream Queens
2002–present Abigail Breslin Signs Best known for Scream Queens
2002–present Jodelle Ferland Carrie (2002) Best known for Case 39
2002–present Finn Wittrock American Horror Story
2004–present Chloë Grace Moretz The Amityville Horror (2005) Best known for Carrie
2004–present Riley Keough Kiss of the Damned Best known for The Lodge
2004–present Allison Williams Get Out
2006–present Kate Siegel The Curse of the Black Dahlia Best known for Hush and partnership with husband, Mike Flanagan
2008–present Samara Weaving Ash vs Evil Dead (2015 series) Best known for Ready or Not
2010–present Jessica Rothe Happy Death Day
2011–present Jane Levy Evil Dead
2011–present Melissa Barrera Scream (2022) [61][62][63]
2011–present Taissa Farmiga American Horror Story Younger sister of Vera Farmiga
2012–present Olivia Cooke The Secret of Crickley Hall Best known for Bates Motel
2012–present Maika Monroe It Follows
2012–present Jenna Ortega Insidious: Chapter 2 Best known for Wednesday (2022)
2012–present Lulu Wilson Ouija: Origin of Evil
2013–present Mia Goth A Cure For Wellness Best known for the X film series
2013–present Lupita Nyong'o Us
2014–present Victoria Pedretti The Haunting of Hill House Best known for You (2018)
2015–present Billie Lourd Scream Queens Best known for American Horror Story and Scream Queens

See also


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