The Movie: 'Scream' (1996)
The Scene: Casey (Drew Barrymore) is home alone making stove top popcorn when the phone rings. Thinking it's a wrong number, she politely hangs up. The strange voice calls back. Casey stays on the line a little longer this time, after all, the caller's voice is a little distorted, but he is a bit of a charmer. They chat back and forth about scary movies (her favorite is 'Halloween'; his is 'A Nightmare on Elm Street') and it's all quite innocent until the mystery man mentions that he can see Casey.
Casey is not pleased by this news.
Why It's Iconic: It's no secret that horror was going through a rough patch in the 1990s. It's a historically cyclical genre within the industry and when Wes Craven's 'Scream' hit in '96, horror movies had cycled back out of popular culture. This scene announced the return of the genre. And it doesn't matter whether you love or hate the movie, there's little denying how memorable 'Scream' would go on to be.
Not only did this scene, the film's opening, introduce fans to Ghostface, a figure who would go on to become an icon as instantly recognizable as the Holy Trinity of Bogeymen (Michael Myers, Jason Voorhees and Freddy Krueger), but it introduced a self-aware breed of horror movies. Craven and screenwriter Kevin Williamson set out to deconstruct the films of the '80s that the current generation had been scared by growing up. Their goal was to create a sort of post-modern slasher where there were discernible rules to live by and that breaking the rules meant certain death. And it all begins with Casey's conversation with Ghostface, the robed enforcer of said rules.
Imitators/Flatterers: The most blatant offspring of 'Scream' is 'Scary Movie,' an entire film franchise that only exists because of the impact 'Scream' left on pop culture. Then there's the lesser known 'Shriek If You Know What I Did Last Friday The Thirteenth.' Ghostface has also popped up in 'Robot Chicken,' 'Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back' and 'Stan Helsing.'
Aside from its own spoof series, there are a handful of late '90s horror movies that owe their similarly self-aware nature to the successful collaboration of Craven and Williamson: 'I Know What You Did Last Summer' and its two sequels, 'Urban Legend' and its two sequels, 'Halloween H20' and, to a lesser but still genre-referential degree, 'The Faculty'.