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It’s finally October! If you’re like me and absolutely love Halloween, then you might’ve already started watching your favorite scary shows and movies to get yourself into the haunted spirit, but it’s never too late to expand your watchlist. These thirteen horror movies not only feature female leads but subvert the typical expectations for women in horror.  

Warning: Due to the nature of the genre, some horror movies contain triggering topics and themes. Viewer discretion is advised!

Scream (1996)

Starring: Neve Campbell, Courtney Cox

Director: Wes Craven

Available: To stream on HBO Max and rent on other platforms

Wes Craven’s “Scream” is a classic horror movie that combines satirical comedy and slasher tropes as it follows a string of murders committed in the fictional town of Woodsboro, California. Surrounded by a cast of well-known names, Neve Campbell transforms protagonist Sidney Prescott from cliché horror victim to heroine of both film and franchise. 

Fear Street Part One: 1994 (2021)

Starring: Kiana Madeira, Olivia Scott Welch

Director: Leigh Janiak

Available: To stream on Netflix

Next, we have the first installment of a modern slasher trilogy that was adapted from R. L. Stine’s book series. Set in 1994, this movie follows a group of teenagers in the fictional town of Shadyside who are endeavoring to uncover the connection between several town massacres and an alleged witch curse. Kiana Madeira stars as Deena Johnson, a grungy high schooler whose conflict with her closeted ex-girlfriend, Samantha Fraser (Olivia Scott Welch), plays a crucial role in the plot of the movie.

Fear Street Part Two: 1978 (2021)

Starring: Sadie Sink, Emily Rudd

Director: Leigh Janiak

Available: To stream on Netflix

My personal favorite of the Fear Street trilogy, part two, takes viewers back in time to 1978 to uncover a pivotal element of the Shadyside mystery. Reminiscent of other summer camp films such as “Friday the 13th” and “Sleepaway Camp, this movie follows sisters Ziggy (Sadie Sink) and Cindy Berman (Emily Rudd) at Camp Nightwing as they navigate the tensions of their sibling relationship while trying to survive a camp massacre. 

Fear Street Part Three: 1666 (2021)

Starring: Kiana Madeira, Olivia Scott Welch, Gillian Jacobs 

Director: Leigh Janiak

Available: To stream on Netflix

Tracing the origins of the Shadyside curse to the legend of Sarah Frier’s persecution, “Fear Street Part Three” takes a Salem Witch Trials-esque turn before providing a slasher-centric franchise resolution in the third act. Reprising their roles as star-crossed lovers, Madeira and Welch depict the strength of Sarah Frier and Hannah Miller as they’re socially persecuted for their love in early America. 

Black as Night (2021)

Starring: Asjha Cooper

Director: Maritte Lee Go

Available: To stream on Amazon Prime

This newly released Amazon Original stars Asjha Cooper as Shawna, a teenager in New Orleans who is determined to combat the vampires terrorizing the homeless population of her city. An action-filled vampire tale and coming of age story, this movie challenges expectations for the typical hero while making a statement about racial inequality and impoverished inner-city living conditions. 

Ginger Snaps (2000)

Starring: Katharine Isabelle, Emily Perkins

Director: John Fawcett

Available: For free on Tubi, and to stream on Amazon Prime and Vudu

This supernatural Canadian film centers around death-obsessed sisters, Bridgette (Emily Perkins) and Ginger Fitzgerald (Katharine Isabelle) after Ginger is attacked by a mysterious beast who has been terrorizing their suburb. Though it is dated by the practical effects of the 2000s, this movie provides a thought-provoking depiction of sisters navigating the strengths and weaknesses of their bond while growing up. 

Jennifer’s Body (2009)

Starring: Amanda Seyfried, Megan Fox

Director: Karyn Kusama

Available: To rent on Amazon Prime, Vudu, and other platforms

This comedy horror film about a demon-possessed high schooler was created in collaboration between writer Diablo Cody and director Karyn Kusama, the creators of “Juno.” Starring Megan Fox as Jennifer Check and Amanda Seyfried as Anita “Needy” Lesnicki, this movie explores the intricacies of female relationships in a similar vein to “Ginger Snaps,” but takes a differing angle in exploring the potential homoerotic undercurrents that can exist in female friendships. 

Tragedy Girls (2017)

Starring: Alexandra Shipp, Brianna Hildebrand

Director: Tyler MacIntyre

Available: To stream on Hulu with a premium subscription

Continuing the discourse on female-centered relationships, “Tragedy Girls” is a modern slasher comedy that subverts expectations about the victimized role of female protagonists in horror movies. It depicts its main characters, Sadie Cunningham (Brianna Hildebrand) and McKayla Hooper (Alexandra Shipp) as aspiring serial killers who exploit the tragedies of their town to gain followers online. 

The Girl with All the Gifts (2016)

Starring:  Sennia Nanua, Gemma Arterton, Glenn Close

Director: Colm McCarthy

Available: To stream with premium subscriptions of Amazon Prime or Hulu

Based on the novel of the same name, “The Girl with All the Gifts” is a British post-apocalyptic zombie film following a group of survivors whose military base is breached by “hungries.” At the center of the group is Melanie, one of the children who was imprisoned and schooled at the base, but who is exceptionally gifted and proves to be a life-saving addition to the team as they trek to London. 

The Ring (2002)

Starring: Naomi Watts

Director: Gore Verbinski

Available: To stream for free on Pluto TV or with a premium subscription on Amazon prime

Adapted from the 1998 Japanese horror film of the same name, “The Ring” stars Naomi Watts as journalist Rachel Keller who discovers a cursed videotape while investigating the death of her niece. After exposing both herself and her son to the curse, Keller teams up with a colleague to determine the origin of the curse in hopes of saving the life of her son. 

The Silence of the Lambs (1991)

Starring: Jodie Foster

Director: Jonathan Demme

Available:

Adapted from the 1988 novel by Thomas Harris, “The Silence of the Lambs” is a classic psychological horror film about Clarice Starling (Jodie Foster), an agent in training at the FBI academy. Starling must work with the infamous convicted serial killer Hannibal Lecter (Anthony Hopkins) to help solve an ongoing investigation of a string of terrible murders. Starling is forced to confront her own emotional demons while navigating through the predominately male worlds of FBI agents and serial killers. 

Us (2019)

Starring: Lupita Nyong’o

Director: Jordan Peele

Available: To stream with a premium subscription on Hulu

Directed by Jordan Peele, “Us” is a genuinely thrilling horror movie that can also be further interpreted as an examination of American society. Lupita Nyong’o stars as Adelaide Wilson, a mother who vacations with her husband and two children to their family beach house. There, they are confronted with their frightening doppelgangers and must fight for their lives. 

The Witch (2015)

Starring: Anya Taylor-Joy

Director: Robert Eggers

Available: To stream with premium subscriptions on Hulu and Amazon Prime

One of my personal favorites, The Witch is a slow-burning period horror set in 1630 New England. After being banished from a Puritan colony, a family of settlers faces new dangers when their youngest son mysteriously disappears and their eldest daughter, Thomasin (Anya Taylor-Joy) is accused of practicing witchcraft. Witchcraft accusations against women are nothing new, but this cinematically beautiful film and Anya Taylor-Joy’s performance make this film exceptionally haunting. 

Although the portrayal of women in horror movies hasn’t always been positive, especially with the lack of representation for women of color, this list scratches what will hopefully become only the surface of horror films featuring strong female leads. Let us know if you have any more recommendations by leaving a comment on our social media! 

Happy Halloween!

I am a senior Professional Writing and Rhetoric major with minors in English and Women's and Gender Studies. I'm passionate about women's issues, sustainability, and equality.
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