Horror royalty: young actresses deserving of a Scream Queen crown

Jenna Ortega (“Tara”) stars in Paramount Pictures and Spyglass Media Group's "Scream." Photo by Brownie Harris.
Jenna Ortega (“Tara”) stars in Paramount Pictures and Spyglass Media Group's "Scream." Photo by Brownie Harris. /

Whenever horror fans talk about a scream queen, it’s most often the very same iconic name that comes up: Jamie Leigh Curtis, of Halloween fame.

Her notoriety is well-deserved; in addition to the seven Halloween films she has appeared in, she also played starring roles in The Fog, Prom Night,  Terror Train and Virus.

Her designation as a scream queen is definitely justified, but there are a few other established females who have also been included in scream queen discussions. We are talking actresses such as Kelli Maroney (Chopping Mall, Night of the Comet), Neve Campbell (every Scream movie ever made), Dee Wallace (The Hills Have Eyes, Cujo), and Barbara Crampton (Chopping Mall, Castle Freak).

Each of these lovely ladies has fought off killers, been doused in blood and screamed their lungs out, and each of them has earned the love and admiration of horror fans. All you have to do is take a look at Twitter to know this is true. And each of them has earned their place in the horror hall of fame for their years of service to the genre.

But, who are the newer, up and coming scream queen options?

Scream Queens
Samara Weaving in the film READY OR NOT. Photo by Eric Zachanowich. © 2019 Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation All Rights Reserved /

I would definitely put Samara Weaving into the running for the modern scream queen title. Her first horror role was in the series Ash vs Evil Dead, where she played the role of Heather. Then she played opposite The Walking Dead’s Steven Yeun in the violent, bloody Mayhem, where she used a power tool as a very effective weapon.

In the Netflix film The Babysitter, she pulled off the trick of making viewers actually like the “bad guy,” the title character of Bee. Bee’s warm relationship with young Cole was the heart of this fun, gory film, which is one of my favorites to recommend to friends. Was she also a demon worshipper? Yeah, but she was SO cool!

Before making a small re-appearance as Bee in The Babysitter: Killer Queen, Weaving played the lead role of Grace in Ready or Not, my favorite horror film of 2019. She gave her all to running around a huge mansion while her new husband’s family tried to kill her, and she did it all in a wedding dress.

There is nothing not to like about Samara Weaving (including her trademark warbly scream), and I would pay to see her in just about anything.

Next up is Maika Monroe, who wowed fans in 2014’s It Follows. When her character of Jay hooks up with a seemingly nice guy, she finds herself trying to keep ahead of a relentless supernatural being who will kill her if she doesn’t pass it on to some other unsuspecting person. Monroe really made me root for her character, even when her fight to stay alive seemed hopeless.

Remember Quibi? The streaming service that offered up films and series in bite-sized 15 minute pieces? Quibi didn’t stick around for long, but it was up and running long enough to debut The Stranger, the chilling tale of Clare, a rideshare driver who picks up the wrong passenger (played by Dane DeHaan). After a frightening interaction with the strange man, he begins to stalk her, and it seems he knows everything about her.

In Watcher, Monroe appears as Julia, who moves to Romania with her husband. Julia starts to notice a strange person watching her from an adjacent building. Watcher debuted at Sundance, and is described as a very intense film, with Monroe giving an incredible performance.

My final submission for a Scream Queen crown is Jenna Ortega. At only 19, she is the youngest on this sort list, but she has a pretty impressive resume, having done everything from Disney roles, to heavy drama to horror. Her horror/thriller films include the Netflix series You, in which she played the role of young Ellie, Insidious: Chapter 2, The Babysitter: Killer Queen, 2022’s Scream (hello, final girl who manages to live while confined to a wheelchair), Studio 666 and the highly anticipated X. 

To add to her royalty status, Ortega will be playing the role of Wednesday Adams in the upcoming Netflix series Wednesday.

Scream Queen

I particularly loved her in The Babysitter: Killer Queen, where she played Phoebe, the rebellious teen who befriends Cole and helps defeat the demon-following cult members.

Ortega is an accomplished actress, and always manages to bring the combination of vulnerability and bada** to every role she plays in the horror genre. That’s a combo deserving of a Scream Queen crown. And, check out her scream in the trailer for X!

Next. Horror films directed by women part two. dark

Do you agree with my nominees for Scream Queen? Tell me who you would nominate in the comments section.