Calling somebody a Scream Queen is something of a misnomer. This point is brought up because an actress can be called that and not actually scream in a film. It truly comes down to how she distinguishes herself in a given role. It's not about how much she exercises her vocal talents. It's more about how many squeals she can illicit from the audience.
Some Scream Queens do, in fact, scream very well. Others do things in a horror movie to make people scream. It all comes down to the kind of scary movie that it is. A film like Scream is filled with people hollering at the top of their lungs, hence the title. A movie like It Follows is not. Yet, they are both very scary horror movies.
However, the Scream Queen resides on a certain block in pop culture. Usually, they are inordinately attractive. However, this is not a hard and fast rule. Some have the "girl next door" look. And it is only after following them through a horror movie (perhaps even seeing them scream), that their beauty comes out in their survival instincts. It is emotionally possible for someone to get better looking as the movie plays.
Next is the subject of nudity. A lot of scream queens take it off. Again, this is not a hard and fast rule. Often times it depends on the kind of horror movie it is. Usually, nudity happens as a way to express the vulnerability of said Scream Queen. This is why when a Scream Queen dies in the nude, the kill takes on another dimension.
Great care was taken in putting together our list for 13 Best Horror Movie Scream Queens of All Time. However, there was one guiding principal. How do these Scream Queens make us feel emotionally? What happens to men and women alike when these people come on the screen? So, sit back and enjoy this list. We're sure it will give you something to yell (and scream) about.
While not nude in the original 1978 Halloween, Jamie Lee Curtis certainly screamed a lot. This isn't what makes her one of the best Scream Queens. What sets Jamie Lee Curtis apart is her ability to be both smart, sexy...And normal. In Halloween, the film that put her in the Scream Queen realm, she uses her brain to outsmart the brother that wants to murder her. Halloween is the quintessential girl next door, and we as viewers really think she might shuffle the mortal coil. Halloween would go on to build a diverse resume that included many Scream Queen roles, even returning to the Halloween Franchise a few times. However, it is pretty impressive that one film all but cemented her status as a Scream Queen.
When you look up Scream Queen and Sigourney Weaveron IMDB, the title that comes up next to her name is Aliens. Truthfully, the title accompanying her name should probably be Alien. This was the film that showed us just how much of a survivor Sigourney Weaver could be. Her role here unfolds like a slow burn. That she ends up being the one who not only survives, but beats the alien was pretty darn groundbreaking for 1979. Considering that this was the era when Women's Liberation and the ERA really took the national spotlight, like Betsy Palmer later, Sigourney Weaver also elevated what a Scream Queen could be. Sure, Sigourney Weaver has more "straight" movies on her resume than slasher ones, but she is so good in the Alien films that it almost doesn't matter. And, while it may not be a horror movie, her work on the Ghostbusters films puts this Scream Queen in league all her own.
Some may scoff at Neve Campbell being on this list. After all, she isn't known as a horror actress and, as of late, we haven't really seen her on the big screen as much. Scream, despite whatever else the franchise has done or might do, is a damn good horror movie. When it came out, it took viewers by surprise with it's clever plot and self reflection on the very genre it was both celebrating and skewering. Amidst all this is Neve Campbell as Sidney Prescott. She is the crux of the movie because we see it through her eyes. As the events unfold, her surprise, fear, and confusion are everything we are experiencing. The stakes keep being raised and in the process we are seeing a reinvention of the Scream Queen. This 2.0 version is different than before. It has a past to account for. More girl next door than bad girl, Neve Campbell, for this movie at least, is a Scream Queen's perfect spokesperson.
With over 30 films to her credit, this Scream Queen seems pretty comfortable being Nancy from the A Nightmare on Elm Street series. Her work in this role is so good, so solid, so uniquely her own (anybody remember how groundbreaking this movie was when it first came out?), that it is honestly hard to imagine anybody else playing this role. In fact, this character must've had an indelible effect on Heather Langenkamp as well... She produced a documentary about playing this role! While not your traditional Scream Queen siren, or "girl next door" beauty, Heather Langenkamp is tough, smart and all Scream Queen.
Known for such films as The Return of the Living Dead, Creepozoids and Silent Night, Deadly Night, Linnea Quigley is truly one of the Godmothers of the Scream Queen sorority. Beginning her career in the mid-1970s with films like Death Sport and Don't Go Near the Park, it seems from the very beginning Linnea Quigley knew the kind of actress she wanted to be. The 1980s saw more of the same with roles in films like Hollywood Chainsaw Hookers, Dead Heat (with Joe Piscopo!) and Robot Ninja (directed by indy guru J.R. Bookwalter). She began the 1990s with Virgin High, and went on to do Pumpkinhead II: Blood Wings, Innocent Blood and many other films that were in and not in the horror genre. Perhaps, this grand dame of Scream Queens summed it up best when she said, "It's really boring to play the good, nice girl." Linnea, thank you, thank you, thank you for being the Scream Queen you are.
Shelley Duvall may not possess the assets that most Scream Queens possess to make them known. However, it is Shelley Duvall's work in Stanley Kubrick's The Shining that singularly lands her on this list! Yes, she appeared in the mid-80s version of The Twilight Zone, and movies like The 4th Floor and Big Monster on Campus, but The Shining is her Scream Queen making moment. Shelley Duvall's Wendy Torrance is a mother that just wants things to go right for her family. As her husband rapidly descends into madness, Wendy's transformation is more subtle but no less intense. She doesn't want to let go of the American Dream. She wants the hotel her husband Jack (Jack Nicholson) runs to work. She wants Danny, her son, to be okay. And, before her husband starts trying to kill his wife and their child, one papably feels Wendy wanting to scream. When it happens it is almost a thing of glory. A true release of pent up emotion. A scream worthy of Scream Queen status regardless of Shelley Duvall's other movies.
It's pretty cool that Danielle Harris began her Scream Queen pedigree in Halloween 4: The Return of Michael Myers and Halloween 5. It's even cooler that she was in Rob Zombie's Halloween reboots many years later. This tells us a few things, mainly, that Danielle Harris isn't afraid of much and she obviously likes being a Scream Queen. For her, the fun simply seems to be her ability to inhabit these worlds. Whether she lives or dies seems of little consequence. She just wants to have her chance... her moment on screen. As long as she gets that, Danielle Harris seems to know that everything else will take care of itself. And in doing so, she has cast herself as part serious actress, part genre bender, but always, ALWAYS a tried and true Scream Queen.
 Janet Leigh
If you're going to go back to where it all began, we may have found the birth of the Scream Queen here. As Marion Crane in 1960's Psycho, Janet Leigh is the picture of fear and torment. She is uneasy in just about every frame of this movie. From the moment she makes off (and essentially gets caught) with the money she stole from her jon, to her time spent in the Bates Motel talking to Norman (Anthony Perkins), to her eventual death at the hands of his "mother." This film was ground breaking for it's style, pacing, use of camera and many other filmic things. However, there never had been a Scream Queen like Janet Leigh on screen before this. She captivates us with her beauty (which, considering the story is really just an aside here). Janet Leigh would go on to do a bevy of films after this, she even appeared in such seminal fare as The Fog and Halloween: H20. But it is what she's done here in Psycho that forever cements her status as a Scream Queen. And she gave birth to Jamie Lee Curtis, literally making her the mother of Scream Queens!
 Julie Strain
This Scream Queen is truly a force of nature. Arguably, a perfect, physical specimen, at 6'1 she often towers over the competition. With movies like Witchcraft IV: The Virgin Heart, Fit to Kill, Psycho Cop Returns, Sorceress II and The Bare Wench Project 2: Scared Topless littering her over 100 plus film resume, Julie Strain seems almost born to be a Scream Queen. While she's been in bigger films like Beverly Hills Cop 3, Out for Justice and Double Impact, she wasn't anything close to the being the star (or even co-star) of those films. The best part? She honestly doesn't seem to care. That she's managed to be around the big time seems like reward enough. Is she scary? Not particularly. Are the movies scary? Hardly. However, she's probably the only person in involved with the Heavy Metal movies, that could be in a live action version of those films without any enhancements. Also, should you desire to see your Scream Queens share the screen, she co-stars with fellow queen Shannon Tweed in Victim of Desire!
Alright, where do we begin with this 1970s Scream Queen who broke the mold? Should we discuss her work in Someone's Watching Me!, The Fog, Escape From New York, Swamp Thing, Creepshow, The Thing... And we haven't even gotten out of the early 80s! What makes Adrienne Barbeau so great to watch is not just her brainy beauty, it's the fact that she isn't trying to be a Scream Queen. One never gets the feeling that she's using her sexuality. It is just on screen for viewers to revel in an enjoy. With a fairly lengthy resume (over 125 films!), Adrienne Barbeau has done it all but her work as a Scream Queen is the stuff of legend.
 Shannon Tweed
Alright, there probably isn't a man alive who hasn't at some point or another come across Shannon Tweed. This living fantasy isn't exactly known for horror movies, but her work in the thriller/suspense genre is so vast (over 100 films) that one can't deny Shannon Tweed's propers as a Scream Queen. One just needs to see her work in Last Call, Night Eyes 2 (or 3), Scorned, the Body Chemistry series or any of her 1990s work to know that this actress is the goods in every way. That she continues to act regularly is testament the fact that despite being uber-pretty, she isn't just a pretty face.
Felissa Rose, like Jamie Lee Curtis, is brilliant because she completely takes you by surprise. The film that put her on the map was Sleepaway Camp. Also like Jamie Lee Curtis, this was her first film and the film that gave her her Scream Queen pedigree. Now, Felissa Rose has gone on to do a bevy of other films. With names like Satan's Playground, Aliens vs. A-Holes and Silent Night, Zombie Night, this actress has certainly made her bones. However, she could have retired from the business, moved away to a remote island, and her work as Angela in Sleepaway Camp would have more than solidified her status. I have mentioned this before, but it bares repeating. She plays a shy girl who, when she opens up, reveals herself to be someone nobody would have ever expected.
With over 60 films to her credit, many crossing a litany of genres, Betsy Palmer might be the grand dame of Scream Queens. Why, do you ask? Is it because she has played the creepiest mother ever in the first Friday the 13th? Is it because she set an example of how to kill that her son Jason emulated in 9 more films? (One of them even taking the killing into outer space!) Is it because she can radiate warmth and cold bloodedness at the same time? Actually, it is none of these things that cements her Scream Queen status. What gives Betsy Palmer her cachet is that she has, essentially, brought the spawn of satan into the world. Her performance is so strong, so measured, so well conceived that I don't think I have ever heard anybody ask about Jason's dad? Is there a backstory on this guy? More to the point, Friday the 13th came out in 1980. Horror films are often called exploitation. The woman are seen as merely holding clothes until they remove them. Betsy Palmer elevated the Scream Queen, by making her one the toughest mothers to ever grace the silver screen.
Alright, enough of the screaming, what did you think? Who did we leave out? Did we knock this thing out of the park or was it all foul balls?? Remember, everybody has opinions so please keep yours nice!