A Horror-Obsessed Feminist's 4 Favorite Scream Queens

As a huge fan of horror movies and womxn empowerment, nothing brings me more satisfaction than to see womxn persevering through terrifying circumstances and coming out as the final girl. Especially in recent years, the big screen has been blessed with countless female-led horror films that simultaneously make me jump with fear and feel a sense of pride as I am reminded of the strength womxn possess to overcome anything. 

What a time to be alive to see these incredible depictions of womxn, but what an excruciatingly difficult time to have to pick my faves out of all the scarily fantastic performances. But just as the womxn in these films have taken up their own feats, I too have pushed through to present you with my 4 favorite scream queens. Major spoiler alerts ahead!

  1. 1. Florence Pugh in "Midsommar"

    Yes, Ari Aster’s Midsommar is about a woman joining a murderous, inbred, Swedish cult with a cottage core aesthetic straight off your pinterest board. Yes, it’s quite predatory of said cult to take in a vulnerable, lonely woman who has lost everything. However, the feminist themes of this movie are undeniably fascinating as Dani, played by Florence Pugh, rises from the literal ashes of her gaslighting, birthday-forgetting boyfriend Christian (who definitely had it coming). When you break the movie down at its core, it’s a story of a woman overcoming the tremendous loss of her sister and parents, while also detaching herself from a toxic relationship. While I don’t necessarily agree with her choice of community, I can sympathize with and admire her strength to leave behind the tragedies of her past to become a literal [May] queen. Even if the smile she bears in the end is tinged with madness, at least she now has a place where she can be held, and a place to call home.

  2. 2. Lupita Nyong'o in "Little Monsters"

    Lupita Nyong’o unarguably gave one of her best performances playing Adelaide and Red in Jordan Peele’s 2019 film, Us. Though, I definitely think she deserves some praise for her role as the ray-of-sunshine kindergarten teacher, Miss Aubrey Caroline, in Little Monsters. Miss Caroline flawlessly pulls off the impossible task of keeping her entire class safe from a break out of zombies whilst on a field trip. Instead of totally breaking down from the immense pressure of this life-or-death situation, as many of the male characters did, she maintains her composure all throughout the chaos for the sake of her kiddos. She is even able to quickly implement creative tactics, like convincing them they are in a game of tag and the zombies are “it.” Through this, she miraculously manages to not alert these small children that they are in real danger, even as the zombies slowly chase them. Thus, this ukulele-playing, Taylor Swift-singing, zombie-slaying woman rightfully takes a spot on this list!

  3. 3. Maika Monroe in "Villains"

    Though I initially started thirst-watching Villains for Bill Skarsgaard’s portrayal of a himbo, I ended up falling in love with Maika Monroe’s quirky, ditzy but fiercely caring portrayal of Jules. She and her boyfriend, Mickey, are inexperienced bandits headed to Florida to sell seashells for a living when they wander into the wrong house to rob: one that belongs to a pair of strangely polite serial killers with a little girl named “Sweetiepie” chained in their basement. Even when Mickey recognizes how ridiculously stupid it is to do the right thing of refusing to leave without Sweetiepie for the sake of their own lives, Jules still has too much heart to care solely about her survival. Despite being impulsive and seemingly unwise, she has some serious guts. In the course of the movie, she rips out her tongue piercing as a tool to unlock handcuffs, climbs up a laundry shoot, and even pulls herself out of a drug-induced daze that should have killed her. Besides her courage, she’s everything a conventional final girl wouldn’t be, and yet she manages to be the last one standing with Sweetiepie. Just as Mickey did, I would quite literally die for Jules.

  4. 4. Victoria Pedretti in "The Haunting of Bly Manor"

    Despite being a horror series, The Haunting of Bly Manor has an incredible amount of heart, particularly with Dani, an au pair tasked with caring for orphaned children in a haunted manor. Dani is portrayed by Victoria Pedretti, and at the climax of the series, Dani performs a selfless act of courage to take the vengeful spirit of Viola, the past owner of the manor, into her body so it would never take the life of any child or person again. Though this seems like a tragic end, Dani prevails to live an incredibly fruitful life with Jamie, her lover. Their years are limited, but Dani is finally happy: no longer letting the ghosts of her past, such as her late fiancé that haunted her throughout the series, or present, Viola, dictate her life. Instead, she appreciates each day she has with her wife in their cute flower shop, apartment and travels. Even after Dani passes away, we see what is presumably her hand resting on the shoulder of Jamie in the final scene. Even after death, Dani still holds the same tenderness she had in life as she becomes the spirit who takes the place of Viola, but not the malevolent spirit Viola was. Not to mention, my heart was so happy to see a breach of heteronormative relationships in film with Dani and Jamie’s adorable romance.

With the film industry increasingly attempting to create inclusive, uplifting spaces for womxn to show off just how powerful they are, I can’t wait to see what’s next in store for feminist fans of horror. As much as I love and appreciate the protagonists that have been put before us already, there is still a major need for opening up these spaces for BIPOC actresses in lead roles as well. We all deserve to see representations of ourselves and our images, which cannot be fulfilled with solely casting blonde, white womxn to lead the majority of horror films (and films in general). Here’s to hoping the future of horror continues to be female, with more strides towards inclusivity!