‘Scream Queen’ is a label that was once worn with trepidation but it has evolved over the years in to a title that those on which it is bestowed can be proud. Not every actress that makes a horror film is a scream queen. Only a select few performers that have made noteworthy contributions to genre film and become closely affiliated with the horror genre can rightfully call themselves scream queens.
To honor some of our all time favorite leading ladies of horror, we have compiled a list that spotlights 17 of the most memorable scream queens in horror cinema history.
Though she has recently made headlines for her relationship with Johnny Depp, Amber Heard first gained notoriety as the titular character in All the Boys Love Mandy Lane. She has since gone on to appear in films like The Ward, Zombieland, and Machete Kills. Amber Heard is a genre icon in the making and a force to be reckoned with.
Though she is still building a name for herself, Sara Paxton’s genre film resume is already very impressive. The actress has starred in The Innkeepers, Bait, The Last House on the Left (2009), and Cheap Thrills. She has proved herself as a performer that isn’t afraid of being typecast in horror and her body of work within the genre film arena is very impressive.
The Party of Five star was reportedly nervous about appearing in Wes Craven’s Scream after making The Craft because she didn’t want to be typecast as a horror actor. But Campbell decided to take the part because it was an opportunity to play the lead in a film; now, Campbell’s portrayal of Sydney Prescott represents the role she is best known for to date. Between the Scream franchise and her early career appearance in The Craft, Neve Campbell has more than established herself as a bona fide scream queen.
Sarah Michelle Gellar
In addition to playing Buffy Summers on the small screen, Sarah Michelle Gellar has also amassed a series of big screen horror credits: She appeared in I Known What You Did Last Summer, Scream 2, The Grudge, and The Grudge 2. In recent years, Gellar has been more active in television than film and hasn’t been doing a lot in the horror realm but horror fans will always remember her for the series of genre film and television roles she appeared in throughout the ‘90s and early 2000s.
As The daughter of famed director Dario Argento, Asia Argento has had the opportunity to appear in several of her father’s films (Trauma, Mother of Tears, and The Stendhal Syndrome). She has also popped up in titles like George A. Romero’s Land of the Dead. The actress has become closely associated with the horror film genre over the years and is a welcome addition to any film for most horror fans.
Lori Lethin made appearances in the ‘80s horror films Return to Horror High, The Prey, and Bloody Birthday. She gained a large cult following for her fantastic turn as final girl Joyce in Bloody Birthday. And she impressively played multiple roles in Return to Horror High. Though she is now retired from acting, Lori Lethin left a lasting impression on horror film fans throughout the course of her reign as a scream queen.
She’s been acting since she was a preteen and has been involved with horror cinema since very early in her career. In fact, Danielle Harris’ first feature film role was in Halloween 4 and her second was in Halloween 5. She continued to act into adulthood and has come back to the horror genre in a big way. In 2007, Harris appeared in Rob Zombie’s Halloween remake and has steadily worked in a series of genre pictures since then. She has also been gaining experience behind the camera, recently serving as director on the feature film Among Friends.
Janet Leigh needs no introduction. She was an icon and a silver screen legend. Leigh is perhaps best known for her starring performance in Alfred Hitchcock’s Psycho but also popped up alongside her daughter in the 1980 horror film The Fog as well as in Halloween: H20. The world lost a great star when she passed away in 2004.
Genre film star Brinke Stevens has popped up in countless horror film productions, ranging from Sorority Babes in the Slimeball Bowl-o-Rama and Slumber Party Massacre to Mega Scorpions. Brinke Stevens is a B-Movie icon and a regular player in the world of horror cinema.
Voted scream queen of the decade in 2002 by readers of Draculina Magazine, Debbie Rochon has rightfully earned her place on this list. Rochon has appeared in over 200 films – most of them horror. Among her feature credits are titles like the Troma classics, Tromeo and Juliet, The Toxic Avenger IV, and Terror Firmer.
With appearances in Chopping Mall, Reanimator and You’re Next, Barbara Crampton is a scream queen that has stood the test of time. She has often been called Stuart Gordon’s muse and recently interviewed the famed macabre director for Fangoria Magazine. Crampton has been acting for over 30 years and is still every bit as enchanting as she was in her earliest film roles.
Linnea Quigley is a scream queen tried and true. She has starred in films like Night of the Demons and Return of the Living Dead as well as appeared in her own horror themed work out video.
Not only has Heather Langenkamp appeared in three of Wes Craven’s Nightmare on Elm Street films, she also made a cameo appearance in the 1989 Craven helmed film Shocker. While she still works in front of the camera from time to time, Langenkamp is now working behind the camera doing special makeup effects. She worked on the FX makeup for The Cabin in the Woods as well as Star Trek: Into Darkness.
P.J. Soles has appeared in two of the most influential horror films of all time. She had prominent roles in Carrie and John Carpenter’s Halloween. She later went on to star in Rob Zombie’s modern horror classic The Devil’s Rejects. P.J. Soles is a quintessential scream queen with a legendary resume.
Linda Blair has appeared in a number of horror and grindhouse features. She most famously starred in The Exorcist as a young girl and went on to play the lead in Savage Streets and Hell Night. Blair continues to act from time to time but now here main focus is on her charity for homeless pets.
As John Carpenter’s one time wife, Adrienne Barbeau has been a major player in the genre film arena for years. She has appeared in The Fog, Swamp Thing, Creepshow, and many other noteworthy horror titles. She has also made a variety of mainstream film and television appearances. Barbeau is a versatile performer and a fan favorite amongst horror fans.
Jamie Lee Curtis
Jamie Lee Curtis is largely regarded as the number one scream queen of all time and it’s not without good reason. The actress has made appearances in Halloween, Prom Night, Terror Train, and many other horror films and thrillers. She is beloved by audiences and even though she didn’t set out to work in horror films, she is still good-natured when remembering where she got her start.