10 Of The Greatest Teen Scream Horror Movies To Fuel Your '90s Nostalgia
The most iconic horror movies of the '90s and early '00s are worth revisiting, even if they are a little dated.
With the 5th installment of the Scream franchise in theaters, we've been feeling a little more nostalgic than usual about our favorite horror movies. Specifically, the horror movies that the original Scream helped pave the way for way back when.
These are the ultimate "you know it when you see it" movies. They're usually slashers that put teenagers or college students in some sort of peril. They almost always featured an actor who, at the time, was famous for a role on a major '90s TV show like Dawson's Creek, Buffy, or Gilmore Girls. They were, more often than not, deeply self-referential to the horror genre as a whole, providing plenty of winks and nods back to either the careers of their actors or other horror movie killers. Add to this a heaping helping of '90s technology--big, clunky CRT monitors and TVs, early dial-up internet, brick cell phones or beepers, VHS tapes, you name it--and you've got the recipe for something truly memorable.
So enjoy this stroll down memory lane as we look back on the 10 best teen scream horror movies of the '90s.
1. Scream (1996)
It's almost impossible to imagine what this whole subgenre of horror movie would look like without Scream. One part brand new thriller, one part nostalgic, self-referential look back at the slashers of the '70s and '80s, Scream paved the way for a whole new horror aesthetic full of (definitely not teenaged) teens in weird, fantastical schools terrorized by gimmicky killers or supernatural forces.
2. Final Destination (2000)
What if literally everything you did in your daily life turned into a deathtrap? This is the biggest question asked by Final Destination, a movie where things like exploding pieces of clunky CRT PCs turned into deadly weapons and accidentally tripping at the wrong time could land you strangled by a clothesline in your own backyard. It also starred '90s dreamboat Devon Sawa, Kerr Smith of Dawson's Creek, Seann William Scott who just came off American Pie and Ali Larter of Varsity Blues, just to really drive home the vibe of the whole thing.
3. Thirteen Ghosts (2001)
Okay, okay, we'll admit to including this one on the list just for Mathew Lillard, who had also starred in Scream, despite the fact that it does deviate a bit from the traditional teen scream formula. It's not about college kids or teenagers facing off against a slasher-killer while trying to get to the homecoming dance on time or anything like that, but it's still worth a watch, if only because the practical effects still do hold up despite their age.
4. Urban Legend (1998)
Starring a young Jared Leto, who had gained fame from My So-Called Life and another Dawson's Creek alum, Joshua Jackson, Urban Legend pits college kids against, well, urban legends. Everything from a hatchet wielding hitchhiker to a person succumbing to a stomach explosion thanks to pop rocks and soda (or, well, cleaning products in this case, but the idea was the same) get a featured moment in this particular slasher.
5. I Know What You Did Last Summer (1997)
A hit-and-run murder spirals out of control when a group of college kids realize their secret may not be as safe as they originally thought. This one is actually based on a novel from the 1970s, though plenty of liberties were taken to give the story a more modern (or, modern for the '90s) bent. It also starred Sarah Michelle Gellar, of Buffy the Vampire Slayer fame, and Jennifer Love Hewitt who was famous for Party of Five at the time.
6. The Faculty (1998)
Less slasher and more sci-fi, The Faculty zeroed in on a high school slowly being overtaken by alien parasites controlling the teachers. While this one didn't rely too heavily on actors who made names for themselves in popular '90s sitcoms and TV dramas, it did launch the early careers of actors like Josh Hartnett, and feature young Elijah Wood, Salma Hayek, and even Jon Stewart.
7. Halloween H20: 20 Years Later (1998)
The Halloween franchise as a whole may not be a "teen scream" but this particular entry certainly has enough hallmarks of the era to be a serious contender. Even the tagline, "this summer, terror won't be taking a vacation" was angled to capture the sexy, stylized thriller aesthetic that had become popular. Also, LL Cool J was in this one (along with Dawson's Creek star Michelle WIlliams and The Faculty's Josh Hartnett), so do with that what you will.
8. The Craft (1996)
If Scream helped develop the archetypal style for thrillers and slashers in the era, The Craft did the same for supernatural horror. With high school kids inexplicably being way into murder and witchcraft on top of all the typical teenage drama you'd find at any Catholic prep school, The Craft has become something of a cult classic--and hey, it also happened to star Skeet Ulrich and Neve Campbell–and this was months before Scream's release.
9. House of Wax (2005)
A late comer to the subgenre but one that deserves to be counted nonetheless is House of Wax with its goofy ad campaign boasting about the death of a character played by the one and only Paris Hilton. It also starred Gilmore Girls and Dawson's Creek alum Chad Michael Murray. So, sure, things may have been winding down by 2005 for the teen scream bubble, but there was clearly some gas left in the tank.
10. Scary Movie (2000)
If there was any doubt as to just how popular this particular style and subgenre of horror movies were, we have to remember that it got its very own parody movie franchise. The Scary Movie franchise had four sequels, despite the first movie's tagline reading "No Mercy. No shame. No sequel."