Written by: Lois Kennedy
What makes an actress a scream queen? A laundry list of horror movie roles. But what makes a scream queen great? A breakthrough character, an affinity for the genre, and a refusal to play only victims. Today’s top five scream queens are savaging the silver screen (and the small screen) with their brains, beauty, and badassness.
05. Olivia Cooke
The least experienced scream queen on the list (hey, she’s not even old enough to drink yet), Olivia still has an impressive resume. Her first foray into horror was the miniseries The Secret of Crickley Hall. Next was her breakthrough performance as Norman Bates’s buddy Emma on Bates Motel. Her horror career has taken off since then, with roles in The Signal, Ruby’s Skin, The Quiet Ones, and the upcoming Ouija. Olivia is quite the busy bee in Hollywood; at the rate which she’s releasing horror movies, we can expect great things from her in the future.
04. Fiona Dourif
As the daughter of Brad Dourif, the voice (and sometimes face) of Chucky, Fiona was born into horror movie royalty. Though her first few acting jobs were of the non-horror variety, she has come into her own as a scream queen. She won a role on True Blood in 2011 and appeared in the short horror film Cold Living in 2012. Her breakthrough was opposite her father as final girl Nica in 2013’s Curse of Chucky. Since then, she has played She in the short film She and stars in the upcoming Fear Clinic with another member of horror movie royalty—Nightmare on Elm Street’s Robert Englund.
03. Chloe Grace Moretz
Probably best known for her role as the tiny foul-mouthed superhero Hit Girl in Kick-Ass, Chloe also has quite a few horror movies under her belt. She portrayed the beleaguered Chelsea Lutz in 2005’s The Amityville Horror at only eight years of age. In 2006, she appeared in Room 6 and Wicked Little Things, as well as The Eye in 2008. Her breakthrough role was the vampire Abby in 2010’s Let Me In at the tender age of thirteen. At age sixteen, she became the first actress to play Stephen King’s Carrie who was actually a teenager—no small feat given the complexity of the role. Despite a disturbing turn to the world of chick flicks like If I Stay, two of her upcoming projects promise a return to scream queen-dom: Dark Places (a thriller) and The Fifth Wave (sci-fi).
02. Tiffany Shepis
Having appeared in almost one hundred horror movies, Tiffany tops the list as the most prolific scream queen. Often mixing humor and sexuality with horror, her body of work includes Chainsaw Cheerleaders, Zombies! Zombies! Zombies!, Bonnie and Clyde vs. Dracula, Sharknado 2: The Second One, and, appropriately enough, The Queen of Screams. Her breakthrough role was in 2006’s Nightmare Man as the cynical amateur weapons expert Mia, who battles the title character with much more aplomb than the whiny protagonist. Having worked consistently in the genre since 1996, she shows no sign of slowing down; of her eleven upcoming projects, ten are horror movies.
01. Danielle Harris
A versatile actress, Danielle has graced such cheesy fare as One Life to Live, Free Willy, and Boy Meets World. She received her first taste of horror at the age of eleven in 1988’s Halloween IV playing Michael Myers’s niece, a role she reprised the following year in Halloween V. After a long break, she returned to the genre in the late 90’s slasher Urban Legend. The role that finally cemented her status as a scream queen was Annie in 2007’s Halloween. Since then she has appeared in multiple horror films, such as Left for Dead, Prank, Halloween II, Blood Night: The Legend of Mary Hatchet, The Black Waters of Echo’s Pond, Cyrus, Stake Land, Shivers, Hallows’ Eve, Camp Dread, and Ghost of Goodnight Lane. Her most impressive role is final girl Marybeth in Hatchet II and Hatchet III. While there may or may not be a Hatchet IV, Danielle is still hard at work in the horror genre, with the upcoming See No Evil 2 and, most exciting, as Barbara in Night of the Living Dead: Origins.
Being a great scream queen means more than, as the title suggests, knowing how to scream. It involves toughness, resourcefulness, and the ability to kick ass—while screaming. It’s not an easy job, but we need them, and they always come through for us. Hail to the queen, baby.
Author’s note: I am deeply indebted to Internet Movie Database for names and dates of films.
About the Author: Lois Kennedy is an avid horror fan who loves to write. You can find her on Facebook under her real name and her wacky pseudonym Ghoulie Joe. You can check out her video reviews on her YouTube channel GhoulieJoe.