9+ Top Scream Queens of 2023

From high-profile performances to lesser-known indie standouts, these are the scream queens who helped define horror in 2023.

Melissa Barrera and Jenna Ortega began 2023 as two of the best and most widely-known scream queens in modern horror.

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What does it take to be regarded as a “scream queen”? For some actresses, it only takes one iconic role in a horror movie. One indelible performance in the right movie at the right time, and they’ll forever be a scream queen regardless of what types of movies they appear in for the rest of their career. Other actresses build up a reputation over years of work, making repeated appearances in horror movies until their status as a scream queen is undeniable. This article celebrates the scream queens of 2023, from the iconic performers, to the genre mainstays, and everyone in-between.

The term “scream queen” can be somewhat nebulous, so the definition of who does and doesn’t deserve the title varies from person to person. With that in mind, this list isn’t meant to offend anyone through exclusion. We can only watch so many horror movies during one year, so it’s entirely possible we missed some fantastic people. If you think we forgot someone who should be among the talented women on this list, please let us know.

The Top Scream Queens of 2023

Alyssa Sutherland

Alyssa Sutherland in Evil Dead Rise (2023).
Alyssa Sutherland’s performance as Ellie in Evil Dead Rise is one of those rare, singular horror roles that automatically catapults someone to scream queen status.

Horror Appearances in 2023: Evil Dead Rise

Evil Dead Rise isn’t the first horror movie Alyssa Sutherland has acted in, but it is the movie that made her a horror megastar. After terrifying and delighting audiences with her role as a mother who terrorizes her own children as a vicious Deadite, Alyssa was welcomed into the world of horror with open arms. Alyssa appeared at multiple horror conventions throughout 2023, and it’s likely she has a permanent home on the convention scene if she wants it. Hopefully we’ll also see Alyssa in many more horror films in the future.

Jenna Ortega and Melissa Barrera

Jenna Ortega and Melissa Barrera in Scream VI (2023).
Unfortunately, Scream VI appears to be the final time we’ll see Jenna Ortega and Melissa Barrera as the Carpenter sisters, but we can hope that they’ll work together on another horror movie in the future.

Horror Appearances in 2023: Scream VI

Jenna Ortega solidified her status as a scream queen in 2022 with high-profile appearances in multiple horror movies, including Scream (2022) as Tara Carpenter. Melissa Barerra also achieved scream queen status in 2022, mainly through her terrific portrayal as the newest final girl of the Scream franchise, Sam Carpenter. In 2023 both Jenna and Melissa reprised their Scream roles in Scream VI, one of the biggest horror films of the year. Fans talked about Jenna and Melissa all year, first speculating about what’s next for their characters, then speculating about what’s next for them as actors when it was revealed that neither would return for Scream VII for different reasons. What’s next includes more horror, certainly.

May Kelly

May Kelly in Winnie the Pooh: Blood and Honey.
May Kelly’s most-seen horror movie of 2023 was Winnie the Pooh: Blood and Honey in which she plays a character who gets lost near the 100 Acre Wood, but is found by a feral Pooh Bear.

Horror Appearances in 2023: Winnie the Pooh: Blood and Honey, Medusa’s Venom, Alien Invasion, Sky Monster, Mary Had a Little Lamb, Three Blind Mice, The Loch Ness Horror, Monsternado

Full disclosure: May Kelly is the inspiration for this article. She is the definition of a scream queen who puts in the work and establishes herself by being great in every role, and by being prolific within in the horror genre. She appeared in a ridiculous number of movies released in 2023, with the majority of her films being horror and thriller. Scream queens like May Kelly are beloved by horror fans because their enthusiasm for the genre is apparent. Her work deserves to be highlighted and brought to the attention of more fans, because it is people like May who help keep indie horror, and by extension the entire horror genre, alive.

Scout Taylor-Compton

Scout Taylor-Compton in Bury the Bride.
Bury the Bride was the first of Scout Taylor-Compton’s horror movies to be released in 2023.

Horror Appearances in 2023: Bury the Bride, Captive, A Creature Was Stirring

Scout Taylor-Compton’s most prominent role in horror was her portrayal of Laurie Strode in Rob Zombie’s two Halloween movies from 2007 and 2009. Over the years since then, Scout has starred in horror films regularly, and she is a firmly-established scream queen. In 2023, she appeared in multiple horror flicks, she voiced a character in The Texas Chain Saw Massacre video game, and the podcast she co-hosts with fellow scream queen Danielle Harris, Talk Scary to Me, was picked up by Bloody Disgusting’s podcast network. Scout Taylor-Compton shows no signs of slowing down her amazing contributions to the horror genre.

Laya DeLeon Hayes

Laya DeLeon Hayes in The Angry Black Girl and Her Monster.
Laya DeLeon Hayes appeared in The Angry Black Girl and Her Monster, a modern take on the classic Frankenstein story.

Horror Appearances in 2023: The Angry Black Girl and Her Monster, A Southern Haunting, Slayers: A Buffyverse Story (audio drama)

Laya DeLeon Hayes isn’t new to acting, but in 2023 she was new to starring roles within the horror genre. Laya’s first year in horror saw her star as a brilliant young version of Dr. Frankenstein in The Angry Black Girl and Her Monster, as a haunted young woman in A Southern Haunting, and as a vampire slayer in the audio drama Slayers: A Buffyverse Story. Laya made a strong impression in 2023, one worthy of being seen as the beginning scream queen.

Marin Ireland

Marin Ireland in Birth/Rebirth.
Marin Ireland plays the captivatingly complex character Rose Casper in Birth/Rebirth.

Horror Appearances in 2023: Birth/Rebirth, The Boogeyman

Marin Ireland is a fabulous actor known for her intense roles. She’s not necessarily known primarily for horror, but, among other accolades, she was nominated for a Fangoria Chainsaw Award in 2021 for her role in The Dark and the Wicked. In 2023 she appeared in two prominent horror movies. First was The Boogeyman where Marin plays a woman whose experiences with the supernatural have left her broken. Then, in Birth/Rebirth, Marin gives an amazing performance as a morgue technician who can bring the dead back to life. Her character, Rose, is cold and off-putting at first, but as we get to know her, she becomes sympathetic, scary, tender, and callous all at the same time. With Rose, Marin Ireland gave one of the absolute best horror performances of 2023.

Jessa Flux

Jessa Flux in Murdercise.
Murdercise (pictured) and Debbie Does Demons were Jessa Flux’s most prominent roles in 2023.

Horror Appearances in 2023: Murdercise, Debbie Does Demons, CarousHELL 3, Shingles: The Movie

With credits on IMDB dating back to 2017, and most of those credits involving horror, Jessa Flux has firmly established her claim on the title of “scream queen.” Jessa Flux should be spoken of alongside the generation of scream queens who established themselves in low-budget horror in the 1980s and 1990s—b-movie stars like Linnea Quigley, Brinke Stevens, and Michelle Bauer. Those are iconic names, and Jessa Flux has already achieved a similar status in the modern era. In 2023, Jessa’s best role was in Murdercise as an obnoxious star of a dirty aerobics video. She’s fantastic.

Cleopatra Coleman

Cleopatra Coleman in Infinity Pool.
Half of the movies Cleopatra Coleman appeared in that were released in North America during 2023 were horror, including Infinity Pool seen here.

Horror Appearances in 2023: Infinity Pool, Cobweb

Cleopatra Coleman’s appearances in horror movies in 2023 were both in supporting roles, but making those supporting roles as memorable as they are earns her a spot on this list. In Infinity Pool, Cleopatra is the voice of reason and one of the only sympathetic characters in a disturbing scenario. In Cobweb, she is the final hope of salvation for the film’s main character when his situation goes from horrible to horrific. Hopefully, if Cleopatra Coleman chooses to take more roles in horror, her presence in the genre will become even greater.

More of the Best Scream Queens in 2023

Samara Weaving in Scream VI.
Spoiler: In 2023 Samara Weaving joined an exclusive list of well-known stars who get murdered in the opening scene of a Scream movie.
  • Mia Goth – Mia Goth had a breakout year in horror in 2022 (following up years of great work in the genre). 2023 was relatively quiet for her since she only appeared in one movie, Infinity Pool, but her impact in that movie alone was huge.
  • Jena Malone – Jena Malone has been a scream queen for years. In 2023 her roles in Swallowed and Consecration were a great return to horror after a few years in other genres.
  • Heather Graham – Heather Graham appears in a wide variety of film genres. In 2023 alone she was in two horror films, Suitable Flesh and Oracle, and then followed that up with a Christmas-themed romantic comedy.
  • Barbara Crampton – Barbara Crampton is a horror icon who continues to thrive in the genre. In 2023 her best horror role was in Suitable Flesh as a doctor who learns too late that her friend isn’t losing her mind.
  • Taissa Farmiga – Taissa Farmiga has been in a good number of horror movies, though in 2023 her only horror role was in The Nun II.
  • Storm Reid – Though her biggest 2023 horror role was in The Nun II, Storm Reid also appeared in an episode of The Last of Us, and in the thriller Missing.
  • Danielle Scott – Like May Kelly listed above, Danielle Scott earns her status by appearing in many horror movies in 2023. She even appeared with May Kelly in multiple movies including Monsternado.
  • Samara Weaving – Though she’s certainly had bigger years in horror, getting the opening-kill spot in a Scream movie (in Scream VI) is a badge of honor that essentially confirms an actor’s scream queen (and sometimes king) status.

Further Reading

Meet The Author

Chris has a degree in film studies at Temple University’s campus in Tokyo, Japan. He is a renowned expert on horror cinema.