Top Five Final Girls in Horror

With it being October, we have officially entered the spookiest time of year. When people think of this month, some people envision cozy autumn attire, leaves changing to various hues of reds, oranges, and yellows or Starbucks’ infamous Pumpkin Spice Lattes. When I think of October, however, the first thing that comes to mind are horror films. Of the numerous horror subgenres out there, my favorite is slasher films. For those of you familiar with slashers, the center of them are the final girls. 

Now, for those of you who don’t know, a “final girl” is basically the last girl or woman standing. She is the one who confronts the killer and is the one who will tell her tale of survival. There have been a plethora of final girls in slasher film history, but this list will focus on my personal top five. I plan to also do a list of my favorite female characters of horror in general, so be on the lookout for that, too! Without further ado, onto the list. 

  1. 1. Jess Bradford

    Before “Halloween,” there was “Black Christmas.” At the center of this 1974 Canadian slasher film is Jess Bradford, who is portrayed by Olivia Huessy. I did not know of “Black Christmas’” existence until this year but even so, it ranks high on my list of favorite slasher films. Jess, too, has also made it onto my list of favorite final girls. What makes Jess stand out are the personal struggles she faces while her sorority sisters are picked off one by one by the deranged killer who has infiltrated their sorority house. While “Black Christmas” does primarily focus on the murder plot, Jess goes through her own subplot with her boyfriend who wants to get married and have her put aside her own ambitions for their family. Jess, however, does not want to and instead plans to get an abortion. The film never portrays Jess’ actions as selfish and takes this plotline seriously and considering the time of “Black Christmas’” release, this is amazing.

  2. 2. Laurie Strode

    A prominent character in the “Halloween” series, Laurie Strode is one of the most famous final girls (and characters in general) of horror. Portrayed by Jamie Lee Curtis in her debut film role, Laurie is one of the earliest examples of the final girl. She exhibits the textbook characteristics of a final girl – she is innocent when compared to her friends who indulge in sex and drugs (even though Laurie does smoke at one point) and sticks to her duty of babysitting on Halloween night. Despite these traits, however, Laurie is brave and resourceful, doing all she can to protect the children she is babysitting from Michael Myers when he rampages through Haddonfield. These characteristics also carry into the newest installments of “Halloween,” especially the 2018 version, where we now see Laurie as an older woman with post-traumatic stress who prepares to confront Michael Myers one last time on Halloween night.

  3. 3. Nancy Thompson

    Another classic final girl, Nancy Thompsom is the main protagonist of “A Nightmare on Elm Street.” Regarded as one of the most influential horror characters in the genre, Nancy is unlike other final girls. While most are portrayed as innocent and vulnerable, she is anything but. Portrayed by Heather Langenkamp, Nancy is depicted as a headstrong teenager who isn’t afraid to look danger in the face. When she becomes aware of Freddy Kruger’s presence and his dangerous nature, she resorts to caffeine and other stimulants in order to stay awake and figure out how to get rid of the entity. This is what makes Nancy so resilient; even though she is suffering emotionally from Freddy Kruger’s torment, she still maintains her sanity and determination enough to fight him until the very end. No matter what, she won’t let him win.

  4. 4. Sydney Prescott

    The central character of the “Scream” series, Sydney Prescott is one of the most famous examples of the final girl in modern horror. What makes Sydney stand out in comparison to other final girls is how she (unknowingly) challenged the “rules” they are supposed to follow. Final girls are supposed to be delicate, damsels in distress who do not partake in drugs, sex or other immoral acts for pleasure. If characters (especially women) do engage in such acts, they are usually murdered by the killer not long after. Sydney, however, engages in sexual intercourse in the first “Scream” film and survives until the end. It’s an interesting take on the final girl trope and shows that while it is a central characteristic, it has become quite outdated and twists are welcome.

  5. 5. Erin Harson

    Our last final girl on the list is Erin Harson, who is another example of the trope in modern horror. The central character of “You’re Next,” what makes Erin stand out amongst the majority of final girls is her survivalist background, which she obtained due to growing up in a survival compound. When her boyfriend’s family is attacked by a group of masked assailants, Erin uses her survivalist knowledge to survive the bloody night and take down the masked individuals one by one. If you’re someone who wants to see the final girl fight back with as much grit and strength as the killer, then Erin Harson is your girl.