Alrighty then! Let’s party like 1999.
Today we’re continuing our celebration of Women in Horror Month with a list of the top 90s scream queens. If you don’t see your favorite females in this list, make sure to check in our other top scream queens lists, as many of these actresses worked over multiple decades.
Let’s all just go ahead and give Courteney Cox a round of applause. Her performance as the tenacious reporter Gale Weathers in not one, not two, not three, but all four movies in Wes Craven’s Scream franchise.
Cox is a staple of 90s entertainment, rising to fame as Monica Geller on the comically popular TV show Friends. But I’d like to argue that Cox’s time in horror film helped truly round out her career, showing that her particular brand of comedy could fit nicely into other properties.
Sarah Michelle Gellar
What’s not to love about Sarah Michelle Gellar? Not only was she a legit vampire slayer on TV for years, but she was also in some of the biggest horror movies of the 90s, including Scream 2, The Grudge, and I Know What You Did Last Summer.
Gellar is the kind of instantly likable actor that you can’t help but root for. She’s down to earth, strong, and always ready with a clever quip.
Unlike any other decade, the 90s created more horror stars per film. Although Rose McGowan returned to the horror genre in the late 2000s in Robert Rodriguez’s Death Proof, it was her turn as Tatum Riley alongside Neve Campbell’s Sydney in Scream that cemented her as horror staple.
Not to mention, McGowan has one the best death scenes in any Wes Craven movie–and that’s saying something.
Jennifer Love Hewitt
This 90s box officer killer was famous for admitting to being afraid of horror movies in real life. Even so, it didn’t stop her from taking a indelible turn as final girl Julie James in I Know What You Did Last Summer.
Hewitt is another actress that exemplifies the 90s final girl zeitgeist. Although much of their dialogue is borderline cringe-inducing, there is a new, grittier groundedness that gives these characters a new edge. They’re a bit more cynical and certainly less innocent than their 80s counterparts, but they still exude a wholesomeness.
Whenever I’m feeling unsure or confused on my path through this life, I ask myself “what would Jennifer Tilly do?” I ask this because it’s clear she’s a badass boss who knows how to take care of herself.
This 90s bombshell is best known among horror fans as Tiffany, the delightfully evil girlfriend of Charles Lee Ray a.k.a. Chucky.
From her memorable voice to her jaw-dropping beauty, Tilly is an unforgettable figure in 90s horror. And yet, it’s not just her looks that she is known for, Tilly is a master of comedic timing, turning humdrum scenes with lackluster jokes into unforgettable classics.
Gillian Anderson was the thinking woman’s hero of the 90s. She played a capable, skeptical doctor-turned-FBI agent on the widely successful TV series The X-Files for six years before taking the same character to the big screen in the 1998 film of the same name.
Anderson is flawless in her titular role, bringing grace and intelligence to every scene she’s in–even if that scene includes cocooned aliens or talking to the less-than-desirable Lone Gunmen.
I’m sure that some of you would consider Anderson a stretch for this list, as most people would categorize her work as largely science fiction, but enough of the themes in are wrapped in horror to get a pass from me.
No other actress in the world could have played Helen Lyle in 1992’s Candyman like Virginia Madsen.
Innocent and whip smart, Helen is simultaneously victim, detective, hero, and potential villain, and Madsen plays them each like strings on a violin. This delicate performance was the perfect offset to the extreme violence and next-level scares jam-packed into every scene.
No one influenced 90s horror like Fairuza Balk. Her witchy turn as Nancy in The Craft left a lasting impression in an entire generation of goths. From spiky dog collars to deep burgundy lip color, Balk embodied turn-of-the-century nihilism found in high school across America.
Balk was well primed for the role, as a kid in the 80s she played Dorothy Gale in the super creepy sequel Return to Oz–which basically suggests that Dorothy is a hallucinating psycho.
In fact, psycho is a great adjective for Balk’s characters. She’s dangerous because she’s so unpredictable, and really, that’s the reason we love horror to begin with.
This girl-next-door embodies 90s scream queens like no other. For unforgettable turn as Sydney in Wes Craven’s Scream franchise set her apart from much of the decade’s protagonists.
As opposed to many who came before, Campbell’s Sydney is more three dimensional. She has goals, does well in school, cares about her friends, and even has opinions. Even though she is vulnerable, it’s easy for the audience to believe that she could survive against the terrifying Ghostface.
With the grace she’s become known for, Campbell effortlessly became the epitome of 90s “it” girl.
What do you think of our list? Are there 90s scream queens we forgot? Check back tomorrow for the Top 5 Scream Queens of Tomorrow.