SCREAM QUEENS! Yes, those actresses best known for their roles in horror films. While the term once applied simply to attractive young damsels-in-distress the roles and actresses have expanded. These ladies range from victims to victimizers. Today we are going to be counting down our absolute favorite ladies in the genre. Now, a list of scream queens is a difficult one to make. You have to take several things into account, their acting abilities, their contributions to the horror genre, and of course their lung capacity. So without further ado, these are the 25 best scream queens in horror history.
25. Michelle Bauer
Before Michelle starred in countless b-movie classics she was actually a full-fledged porno star, appearing in films like Bad Girls (1981) and Café Flesh (1982), under the name Pia Snow. She also did some acting for the Playboy Channel before she started working with b-movie director Fred Olen Ray. Michelle went on to star in such horror and b-movie classics such as; Nightmare Sisters (1987), Hollywood Chainsaw Hookers (1988), Evil Toons (1992) and a film featuring a smörgåsbord of horror beauties, Scream Queen Hot Tub Party (1991)
24. Marilyn Burns
Marilyn Burns is probably best known for her role as Sally Hardesty in Tobe Hooper’s down south horror classic The Texas Chain Saw Massacre. The stories about the making of the film are legendary, during the infamous dinner scene Leatherface actually cut Marilyn’s finger because they couldn’t get the fake blood to work properly. She experienced many genuine injuries during filming and the final scene where she is hysterical came across as so authentic partly because of everything she had gone though. She would go on to star in films like Helter Skelter (1976), Eaten Alive (1977), Kiss Daddy Goodbye (1981) and more recently Texas Chainsaw 3D (2013) .
23. P.J. Soles
Best known to horror fans as the “obligatory tit shot” girl in John Carpenter’s Halloween, P.J. Soles had memorable roles in a small number of horror classics early in her career. First as the red baseball cap wearing mean girl Norma Watson in Brian De Palma’s supernatural Stehphen King adaptation Carrie and then as the final victim of the Michael Myers in the original Halloween. She also starred in horror films such as; The Possessed (1977), and years later gave a memorable cameo in Rob Zombie’s The Devils Rejects in 2005.
22. Rose McGowan
Rose McGowan started her career in the Pauly Shore starring Encino Man, if that isn’t scary what is?! Horror fans first got acquainted with McGowan when she co-starred in Wes Craven’s Scream (1996) as outspoken Tatum. Her character also had arguably the greatest death scene of the entire franchise. After the killer attacks her in a garage. She tries to escape through a cat door fitted to the automatic garage door, but becomes trapped, and the killer raises the door. Her neck is crushed between the rising door and the top of its frame, killing her quite gruesomely. McGowan also played lovable witch Paige Matthews in the supernatural series Charmed for 110 episodes. She also starred in films like Devil in the Flesh (1998), Phantoms (1998), and The Black Dahlia (2006). She also played a one-legged stripper in the middle of a zombie apocalypse in Robert Rodriguez’s Planet Terror in 2007.
21. Linda Blair
Linda Blair is best known for her role as the demonically possessed child Regan in the vomit hurling, tongue protruding, crucifix masturbating film The Exorcist. She went on to appear in of a number of low-budget horror and exploitation films, including Hell Night (1981), Chained Heat (1983) and Savage Streets (1984). Though, the less we say about Exorcist II: The Heretic (1977), the better.
20. Sheri Moon Zombie
As the wife of rock star and horror auteur Rob Zombie, you could guess she’s be into the genre. Sheri Moon Zombie is best known to horror fans as Vera-Ellen “Baby” Firefly in House of 1000 Corpses (2003) and The Devil’s Rejects (2005). She was killed off quickly in Tobe Hooper’s .Toolbox Murders (2004). She played the mother of horror icon Michael Myers in Halloween (2007), and Halloween II (2009). She also starred in and slept in the nude in The Lords Of Salem (2013). She has played the helpless victim and the murderous victimizer both to first-rate effect.
19. Barbara Steele
Barbara Steele is best known for starring in Italian gothic horror films of the 1960s. Her breakthrough role came in Italian director Mario Bava’s Black Sunday (1960). Steele starred in a string of horror films, including The Pit and the Pendulum (1961), The Horrible Dr. Hichcock (1962), The Ghost (1963), The Long Hair of Death (1964), and David Cronenberg’s Shivers (1975) among others.
18. Neve Campbell
Neve Campbell is best known to horror fans for her role as s Sidney Prescott in Wes Craven’s horror film series Scream. For four films between 1996 to 2011 her character had to endure threatening phone calls inquiring about her favorite scary movie. She also starred as one of four teenage girls pursing witchcraft, Bonnie Prescott, in The Craft (1996).
17. Asia Argento
When your father is giallo Italian film director Dario Argento it feels almost destined that you’d enter the genre yourself. In fact Asia Argento has admitted that she initially didn’t act out of ambition but rather to get her father’s attention. Asia has starred in horror films such as Demons 2 (1986), The Stendhal Syndrome(1996), The Phantom of the Opera (1998) Land of the Dead (2005), among others.
16. Sarah Michelle Gellar
Sarah Michelle Gellar came to prominence in the late 90s, landing roles in 1997’s horror films I Know What You Did Last Summer and Scream 2. She also starred in The Grudge in 2004.Though, her biggest horror cred comes courtesy of her role as Buffy Summers on the hit show Buffy the Vampire Slayer (1997-2003). We’re still waiting for her triumph return to the genre.
15. Cassandra “Elvira” Peterson
Cassandra Peterson is best known for her portrayal of the horror hostess Elvira, Mistress of the Dark. She gained popularity on Los Angeles television station KHJ wearing a black, revealing, gothic, cleavage-enhancing gown as host of Movie Macabre, a weekly horror movie show. If your parents were cool enough to let you stay up and watch all that cleavage and horror on late night TV, you had it made.
14. Dee Wallace
Dee Wallace has had an impact on horror that few can match. When it comes to women representing horror, few can do it as well, or as often. She has appeared in endless films in the genre including; The Hills Have Eyes (1977), The Howling (1981), Cujo (1983), Critters (1986), and more recently Rob Zombie’s The Lords Of Salem.
13. Ingrid Pitt
One of the most influential and memorable female horror stars of our time, Ingrid Pitt is known for her natural voluptuous curves and perpetuity for portraying some of the most beautiful creatures of the night. It was ultimately her work with Hammer Film Productions that elevated her to cult figure status. The actress starred in films inducing; The Vampire Lovers (1970), Countess Dracula (1971), The House That Dripped Blood (1971) and had a small but memorable part in The Wicker Man (1973).
12. Debbie Rochon
Known mostly for her work with the overtly sexual, nudity-filled, and intentionally sadistic Troma Entertainment with films such as Tromeo and Juliet (1996), Terror Firmer (1999), and Citizen Toxie: The Toxic Avenger IV (2000). Other notable roles include Santa Claws (1996), Satan Hates You (2010) and The Theatre Bizarre (2011).
11. Tiffany Shepis
Tiffany has been contributing to the horror genre since the tender age of 12. Her first role was in the Troma Entertainment’s Tromeo and Juliet. She has since gone on to become one of the hardest working actresses out there, with over fifty credits to her name, most of them in the horror genre. She has appeared in films such as; Dorm of the Dead (2007), Chainsaw Cheerleaders (2008), and played Diana in Adam Gierasch’s remake Night of the Demons (2009).
10. Katharine Isabelle
Katharine Isabelle is notable due to the fact that she is one of the few scream queens to rise to prominence rather recently. The actress first came to our attention with her role as Ginger Fitzgerald in the Ginger Snaps trilogy, She played Gibb Smith in the epic monster mash up Freddy vs. Jason (2003) and while her nude shower scene employed the use of a body double it was still quite memorable. More recently she played psychotic surgeon Mary Mason in the Soska Sisters film American Mary (2012), and Margot Verger in the NBC show Hannibal.
9. Heather Langenkamp
Heather Langenkamp is best known for her role as Nancy Thompson from the A Nightmare on Elm Street films. In the original A Nightmare On Elm Street (1984), Nancy reluctantly faces off against Freddy Krueger cementing their status as the greatest horror movie heroine vs. horror slasher of all time. She would later serve as executive producer and narrator for the documentary Never Sleep Again: The Elm Street Legacy.
8. Evelyn Ankers
Nicknamed the “Queen of the Screamers,” Ankers is from time to time considered the original scream queen due to her initial roles for Universal Studios, including The Wolfman (1941), Son of Dracula (1943), and The Invisible Man’s Revenge (1944). Sadly she retired at the age of 32 to become a housewife, but her legacy will always be that of one of the most prominent women of the genre.
7. Barbara Crampton
Widely known as the renowned Stuart Gordon’s muse, Barbara Crampton was featured in several of the director’s films throughout the ‘80s and ‘90s, including Re-Animator (1985), From Beyond (1986) and Castle Freak (1995). She has made a recent return to horror, with roles in You’re Next (2011) and The Lords of Salem.
6. Adrienne Barbeau
Adrienne Barbeau started as a TV actress, but soon made the transition to the preeminent scream queen of her time. She was briefly married to horror icon John Carpenter, and starred in several of his films. Notable roles include The Fog (1980), Swamp Thing (1982), and the George A. Romero and Stephen King collaboration Creepshow (1982).
5. Fay Wray
Fay Wray was a scream queen before the term was even recognized. She appeared in some of the greatest films of the genre including Doctor X (1932) and The Vampire Bat (1933). Of course she also starred as Ann Darrow in the classic King Kong (1933), and if you’ve seen the original King Kong you will know that she indeed has a pair of lungs on her.
4. Janet Leigh
The Mother of Jamie Lee Curtis (who we’ll get to in a moment) Janet Leigh has appeared in a number of critically acclaimed films including Psycho (1960) and The Fog (1980). Just off the strength off her shower death scene in Alfred Hitchcock’s Psycho Leigh deserves her spot.
3. Linnea Quigley
Linnea Quigley is the definition of a scream queen. With over a hundred movies and three decades in the business; her spot is solidified. She has appeared in so many films if you go to her Wikipedia page they don’t even have her entire filmography present. From dancing naked in a graveyard in The Return of the Living Dead (1985) to the infamous lipstick scene in Night of the Demons (1988). This genre legend will always have a special place in our hearts.
2. Jamie Lee Curtis
Jamie Lee Curtis is generally considered the ultimate scream queen. Her portrayal of “final girl” Laurie Strode in Halloween in 1978 is pitch perfect. She later performed the formula consecutively with The Fog, Prom Night, and Terror Train.
1. Danielle Harris
Danielle Harris celebrated her eleventh birthday on the set of Halloween 4: The Return of Michael Myers in 1988, her first horror film of many more to come. Danielle earns the top spot purely off of her dedication to the genre. While other actress gained famed off of horror films, only to leave the genre when they became popular, Danielle is one of the few to leave the genre only to return stronger than before. Her horror movie filmography is commendable and quite impressive. From Jamie Lloyd in the Halloween films to Marybeth Dunston in the Hatchet series. Other notable films include; Urban Legend (1998), Rob Zombie’s Halloween (2007), Left for Dead (2007), and Blood Night: The Legend of Mary Hatchet (2009). At only 37 years old, we hope to see plenty more from her in the future.
Who’s your favorite scream queen of all time? Sound off in the comment section below.