What’s your favorite scary movie?
Well, “Scream VI” star Jenna Ortega already has a list of her go-to horror films.
The “X” and “Wednesday” actress made her debut in the “Scream” franchise with 2022’s fifth installment. A newly-minted scream queen (literally), Ortega’s lifelong love of horror and gore has framed her decade-spanning career.
“I love horror films. I don’t know what it is about having blood thrown on your face and running around screaming bloody murder,” Ortega said during “The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon” in January 2023. “It really is so therapeutic, so much fun.”
However, Ortega has never pigeonholed herself solely as a one-note horror actress.
“I never really considered it because a lot of what I do is horror, and they all have these moody and nasty qualities, but what I love is that they also have a sassy teenage nature,” Ortega told Who What Wear. “The thing about horror is that it’s become a second home to me at this point. I’ve been on enough of those sets [that] I go and I know what’s expected of me. It feels like a typical 9-to-5.”
With roles in “Insidious: Chapter 2,” “Babysitter: Killer Queen,” and “You,” Ortega has cemented her place in horror history. A true cinephile, the former child star’s roots are as deeply seeded with Stanley Kubrick and François Truffaut as the Disney Channel.
The “Stuck in the Middle” alum urged Golden Globes viewers to revisit a Truffaut classic, saying when presenting an award during the ceremony, “If you haven’t seen ‘Jules and Jim,’ I don’t know what you’re doing. Get on that.”
Ortega also noted the “Kubrick stare” as a direct inspiration for her take on Wednesday Addams in the Tim Burton Netflix series. “She doesn’t blink,” Ortega said of the character during the “Today” show. “[Tim] likes it when I tilt my chin down and look through my eyebrows, kind of like a Kubrick stare, and then I relax all the muscles in my face.”
She knows her stuff. Tim Burton and Kubrick’s influences on Ortega’s acting further align with her taste in film. Keep scrolling to see Ortega’s top horror movie picks.
The 1988 “Chucky” franchise installment was the first film to truly scare Ortega.
“I think the first scary movie I watched or at least saw part of before I ran away in fear was ‘Child’s Play,’ I want to say,” Ortega said in an Elle video. “My older siblings and my tio were watching and I asked if I could watch the movie with them because I loved movies, and they said, ‘No, you’re going to be too scared.'”
She continued, “They sent me to my room, and I remember peeking around the corner of my hallway to watch the film, and I literally only saw his hand. I screamed in terror because I knew he was this murderous doll, and then every year I would have a nightmare about a hand up until I was about 15.”
Ironically, Ortega acted opposite a solo hand in “Wednesday” with Thing.
Ortega shared her love of “Wednesday” director Tim Burton’s 1996 campy classic during an episode of “Hot Ones.”
“When I was younger, I wanted to be one of the aliens from ‘Mars Attacks!’ so bad. But not the Lisa Marie one, the one with the exposed brain,” Ortega said. “Jack Nicholson, there’s Glenn Close in there. It’s an incredible movie. I feel like people don’t give it the credit it deserves.”
The sci-fi comedy follows the President (Jack Nicholson) and First Lady (Glenn Close) reacting to an alien invasion. Annette Bening, Pierce Brosnan, Sarah Jessica Parker, Danny DeVito, Pam Grier, Jack Black, Natalie Portman, and Martin Short are among the A-list ensemble cast.
Ortega couldn’t help but gush over “staple” film “Beetlejuice.” The Tim Burton-helmed feature follows a recently deceased couple, played by Geena Davis and Alec Baldwin, who haunt the owners of their old house. Jeffrey Jones, Catherine O’Hara, and Winona Ryder play the family that move into the home, with Michael Keaton iconically cast as a “bio-exorcist.”
“I feel like ‘Beetlejuice’ is a staple,” Ortega said on “Hot Ones” of the spooky 1988 comedy. “I’ve always appreciated ‘Beetlejuice.”
The 1980 film starring Jamie Lee Curtis is among Ortega’s most beloved slashers. “Prom Night” stars Oscar nominee Curtis as a high school senior whose prom is stalked by a masked killer seeking vengeance over the death of a young girl from years prior. Directed by Paul Lynch, “Prom Night” became a cult classic and led to three sequels, as well as later landing a 2008 remake starring Brittany Snow, with whom Ortega co-starred in Ti West’s “X.”
“This is just classic horror, but also incredibly innovative for its time,” Ortega told Rotten Tomatoes. “It was one of the first representations of a story where you really didn’t know who the killer is, which makes the whole thing such a worse scenario. And the editing and filming and even acting are all really very true to its time. I especially enjoy it.”
Ortega added during “Hot Ones” in March 2023, “It’s got all the classic teenage tropes. It’s got incredible gore. It’s inspired so many horror films to come since then. It’s just the proper way to do a slasher. If you ever needed some sort of guiding light, ‘Prom Night’ is a great one.”
“Possession” stars Sam Neill as a husband whose wife (Isabelle Adjani) decides to leave him amid her infidelity, but a surreal and sinister reason is behind her multiple affairs. Adjani won the Best Actress award at Cannes upon release but allegedly had a suicide attempt soon after in part due to controversial director Andrzej Żuławski’s “genius, but crazed” set practices, according to actor Neill.
“I really love ‘Possession.’ It was actually a recommendation from Mikey Madison, on the ‘Scream’ set,” Ortega told Rotten Tomatoes. “Not only is it hauntingly beautiful, but also unlike anything I’d ever seen before. I love watching a film and getting some kind of adrenalin out of it — that’s when I feel it’s done its job, when a film inspires you and gives you a bunch of ideas.”
“‘Insidious’ was one of the first horror films that I really saw. There are some shots in that film that stay with me, where I feel like I can still see the red-faced demon guy wherever I go,” Ortega recalled to Rotten Tomatoes of the 2010 film. “James Wan obviously knows what he’s doing in the horror department, but watching that as a 12-year-old was traumatizing. I have a lot of admiration for that one.”
Ortega went on to star in its 2013 sequel “Insidious: Chapter 2” as Annie, the only person who can see the spirit form of Elise Rainier (Lin Shaye) while paranormal investigators case her house.
“That was pretty exciting because I was working with James Wan who seemed to be doing every horror film at the time that was performing successfully at the box office,” Ortega reflected to Entertainment Weekly in March 2022. “At that time in my career, though, I was just happy to be there.”
Okay, a horror movie? Maybe not, though Ingmar Bergman’s haunting 1966 psychological thriller is certainly chilling on an existential level. It’s also one of Ortega’s all-time favorite films. A nurse named Alma (Bibi Andersson) relocates with her patient, famous actress Elisabet (Liv Ullmann), to a secluded cottage for intensive treatment. However, Alma starts to blur the lines between reality and delusion as she becomes intimately involved with Elisabet.
“Oh my god, I’d never seen anything like that before. That movie just gave me chills all over,” Ortega said. “There’s certain shots where the two main characters’ faces are split, and I just…It’s incredible.”
Anya Taylor-Joy’s screen debut in Robert Eggers’ “The Witch” proved to be a pivotal turning point of inspiration for Ortega.
“I have a lot of admiration for ‘The Witch.’ Everything about it — the cinematography, storyline, the performances — it’s so high quality and so beautifully done,” Ortega mused. “I think that’s a movie I thought about for weeks after I watched it. It just never gets old.”
Long before Ortega was cast in the “Scream” franchise, the actress told Sling TV back in 2016 that she loves the original “Scream” movie and its subsequent spin-off TV series, along with “American Horror Story.”
“I love ‘American Horror Story.’ My older sister watches the episodes before me though, so I know which scenes to skip over. It can be pretty grown-up sometimes, but my mom lets me watch it because the acting is phenomenal and I study the actresses’ performances to gain inspiration,” Ortega said at the time. “I also enjoy watching the show ‘Scream’ because I always love a good mystery and scare!”
She later told Entertainment Weekly that it was “nerve-wracking” to honor Wes Craven’s legacy in the first “Scream” movie sans the late creator.
Sign Up: Stay on top of the latest breaking film and TV news! Sign up for our Email Newsletters here.