Scream is a 1996 American slasher film directed by Wes Craven and written by Kevin Williamson. The film stars David Arquette, Neve Campbell, Courteney Cox, Matthew Lillard, Rose McGowan, Skeet Ulrich, and Drew Barrymore. Released on December 20, 1996, Scream follows the character of Sidney Prescott (Campbell), a high school student in the fictional town of Woodsboro, California, who becomes the target of a mysterious killer in a Halloween costume known as Ghostface. The film combines black comedy and “whodunit” mystery with the violence of the slasher genre to satirize the clichés of the horror movie genre popularized in films such as Halloween (1978), Friday the 13th (1980) and A Nightmare on Elm Street (1984). The film was considered unique at the time of its release for featuring characters who were aware of real world horror films and openly discussed the clichés that Scream attempted to subvert.
High school student Casey Becker receives a flirty phone call from an unknown person, asking her, “What’s your favorite scary movie?” However, the caller turns sadistic and threatens her life. He reveals that her boyfriend Steve Orth is being held hostage and demands she answer questions about horror films. After Casey gets one wrong, Steve is murdered. When Casey refuses to answer more questions, she is murdered by a masked killer. Her parents come home to find her corpse hanging from a tree.
The following day, the news media descend on the town and a police investigation begins. Meanwhile, Sidney Prescott struggles with the impending first anniversary of her mother’s murder by Cotton Weary. While waiting at home for her friend Tatum Riley, Sidney receives a threatening phone call. After she hangs up she is attacked by the killer, but manages to escape. Sidney’s boyfriend Billy Loomis arrives shortly after, but after he drops his cell phone, Sidney suspects him of making the call and flees. Billy is arrested and Sidney spends the night at Tatum’s house, where she receives another threatening call. Billy is released the next day. Suspicion has shifted to Sidney’s father Neil Prescott, as the calls have been traced to his phone. School is suspended in the wake of the murders. After the students have left the school, Principal Himbry is stabbed to death in his office. Tatum’s boyfriend Stu Macher throws a party to celebrate the school’s closure. The party is attended by Sidney, Tatum, their friend Randy Meeks, and many other students. Reporter Gale Weathers attends uninvited to cover the situation, as she expects the killer to strike. Tatum’s brother deputy sheriff Dewey Riley also looks out for the murderer at the party. Tatum is killed during the party by having her neck crushed by the garage door. Billy arrives to speak to Sidney privately, and the two ultimately consummate their relationship. Dewey and Gale investigate a nearby abandoned car. Many party attendees are drawn away after hearing news of Himbry’s death; Sidney, Billy, Randy, Stu, and Gale’s cameraman Kenny remain.
After having sex, Sidney and Billy are attacked by the killer, who seemingly murders Billy. Sidney narrowly escapes from the house and seeks help from Kenny, but the killer slits his throat; Sidney then flees again. Gale and Dewey, having discovered that the car belongs to Neil Prescott, return to the house. They believe Neil is the killer and has come to the party to continue his spree. Gale tries to escape in her van, but drives off the road to avoid hitting Sidney and crashes. Meanwhile, Dewey is stabbed in the back while investigating in the house, and Sidney takes his gun. Stu and Randy appear and accuse each other of being the killer. Sidney retreats into the house, where she finds Billy wounded but still alive. She gives Billy the gun; he lets Randy into the house and shoots him. Billy reveals that he feigned his injuries and is actually the killer; Stu is his accomplice.
Billy and Stu discuss their plan to kill Sidney and frame the murder spree on her father, whom they have taken hostage. The pair also reveal that they, not Cotton, murdered her mother Maureen, as she was having an affair with Billy’s father, which drove his mother away. Gale, who survived the crash, intervenes, and Sidney takes advantage of this to turn the tables on her attackers, killing Stu. Randy is revealed to be wounded but alive. Billy attacks Sidney but she shoots him in the head, killing him. As the sun rises and police arrive, Dewey, badly injured, is taken away by ambulance and Gale makes an impromptu news report about the night’s events.