The Best Scream Queens in Horror Movie History

Horror films are easily my favorite genre of film, hands down. From the suspenseful and psychological thriller elements to the twists on the classic tropes that make these movies what they are, I absolutely cannot get enough of them. While I have been searching for new and innovative horror films, I’m still a huge fan of the classics, especially during Halloween. 


Throughout the development of horror films over the years, there was a term coined for the iconic actresses that had prominent roles--a scream queen. These scream queens were also oftentimes intertwined with the “final girl” trope in horror films as well--which refers to the last woman to survive in the slasher topic. These women often are the ones to confront the killer(s) and the one that the audience is meant to connect with the most. 


Here’s a list of some of the best badass women in the horror genre, and who have rightfully earned the title of scream queen, in no particular order.

  1. 1. Janet Leigh, portraying Marion Crane

    The first on this list is somewhat of a unique one, as the term gained prominence well after her appearance in Psycho, but I personally find her pretty deserving for this title as this film, and the iconic shower scene alone, are far too fundamental and groundbreaking to not be mentioned. While Leigh is not a final girl in the film, she set the stage for many other women to come, most of which are on this list.

  2. 2. Jamie Lee Curtis, portraying Laurie Strode

    Curtis, whose mother is Janet Leigh from above, is possibly tied for the best scream queen in my book. (See who she’s tied with later!) Curtis’ role as Laurie Strode in Halloween (and her reprisal in four of the sequels) awarded her with this title, as well as roles in other films like Prom Night and The Fog. Curtis’ performance is almost unmatched--she’s cunning, yet still is able to portray this soft, responsible character who (almost always) defies most of the frustrating antics that the rest of the stereotypical characters fall victim to. She is certainly a queen.

  3. 3. Heather Langenkamp, portraying Nancy Thompson

    Despite the fact that, during a recent rewatch, I’ve realized I do not actually enjoy A Nightmare on Elm Street as much as I thought I did, I still must acknowledge the character of Nancy Thompson and her deserving award of scream queen. Langenkamp’s character, like many on this list, became a final girl for her eventual decision to stand up to her fear of the “monster” facing her.

  4. 4. Marilyn Burns, portraying Sally Hardesty

    The character of Sally Hardesty became a catalyst for the theory of the final girl, which is part of the reason why I found it necessary to include her on this list of iconic scream queens. The late Marilyn Burns gained wide recognition for the role, much like many of the women on this list. The ending scene alone, with Burns’ character hysterically laughing and screaming simultaneously as she is the only one to escape Leatherface, is enough to reward her with the title.

  5. 5. Neve Campbell, portraying Sidney Prescott

    Now, here is where Jamie Lee Curtis has some competition. In my opinion, the character of Sidney Prescott, throughout all the four films (and hopefully the upcoming fifth!) takes the cake for the best, classic scream queen and final girl. My argument for this is for her confidence and boldness throughout, coupling with her unmatched awareness of the stereotypical choices made by characters in horror films. (The satire in Scream is *chef’s kiss*) 

    Sidenote: I want to also give a special shoutout to Drew Barrymore for her brief 12 minutes in the opening scene of Scream--mainly because she was deceivingly marketed as a main character in the film, and, arguably, stars in the most intense and fantastic scene of the whole movie.

Despite only five actresses and their respective characters being on this list, there are still several other amazing women who have portrayed incredible final girls and certainly are worthy of the title of scream queens--namely Linda Blair, Jennifer Love Hewitt, Sarah Michelle Gellar, and more recently in media, Emma Roberts, Anya Taylor-Joy, and Chloe Grace Mortez have also risen to prominence for their performances as scream queens. 


This Halloween, kick back and watch (or rewatch) a few horror movies that feature these beloved scream queens for that much-needed halloween scare ;)