The Best Final Girls in Horror Movies

The term ‘Final Girl’ was initially coined by Carol J. Clover in her 1992 book Men, Women, and Chainsaws: Gender in the Modern Horror Film, which is an in-depth argument about the appeal of horror cinema from a feminist perspective (I highly recommend it!). Final Girls are the last surviving characters in horror films who have outrun the killer up until this point; now they have to face off against the enemy in a final, climactic battle.

There are so many great examples of female characters in horror movies that absolutely kick butt. Many people don’t look at horror films in high regard, but there are so many great things about the cinematography and character depth that any movie nerd can appreciate and enjoy. The female characters in my favorite horror movies are not depicted as weak victims, but rather as sassy and clever heroines who are capable of saving themselves. What more can you ask for in a role model for learning how to stand up for yourself?

Below is a list of my favorite horror movies that have some of the most impressive female characters as Final Girls:

1. Sidney Prescott (Scream franchise)

For me, Sidney Prescott is a classic Final Girl who reigns supreme in the genre. At the beginning of the first film, she’s had a rough year as a result of her mother’s passing. Her troubles only escalate when she starts getting threatening phone calls from the murderer that is stalking around her hometown of Woodsboro. All of the movies set up a similar chase scene between the masked killer and Sidney in the third act, and somewhere in the climactic battle, she figures out who is coming after her and why.

I love Sidney’s character throughout these movies because we get to see her overcome these similar tragic situations in high school, college, and as an adult. We see her go through so much in order to fight and survive, and she carries a lot on her back whenever she can’t save everyone. Through the movies, she quickly grows into an intelligent woman who’s never afraid to confront the killer head-on. Nothing surprises her anymore by the fourth and final film in the series, because she’s simply adapted to a lifestyle that’s all about saving herself and defeating the killer so the cycle of violence will end.

2. Laurie Strode (Halloween franchise)

The Halloween franchise is iconic because of its masked slasher and unique kills, but the viewer cannot forget about the Final Girl, Laurie Strode, who has had to deal with Michael Myers’ antics for years of sequels. Laurie is first introduced as a down-to-earth, respectable teenager in the 1978 movie who has taken on the job as babysitter for Halloween night. When Michael Myers escapes the local sanitarium and goes on a murder spree on that same night, Laurie gets wrapped up into the danger he enacts on her and her rebellious friends.

Laurie is a unique character because she is thrown into the position of a Final Girl where she has to defend herself from the unknown, seemingly unstoppable killer. With a knitting needle and a coat hanger in hand, she is able to ward off the attacks made by Myers when he gets into the house and survive Halloween night. Even in Halloween (2018), she can still hold her own against the persistent Michael Myers when he makes a return 40 years later. At least now, she’s upgraded from knitting needles to firearms for her and her family’s safety throughout the course of the film!

3. Nancy Thompson (A Nightmare on Elm Street franchise)

The young Nany Thompson in this unique horror series is an amazing Final Girl because she is the first person to ever fight Freddy Krueger—the disfigured spirit of a serial killer who haunts people’s dreams with the intent to murder them in their sleep—and survive. After her best friend dies in her sleep under suspicious circumstances, Nancy starts getting visits from the man with the red and green striped shirt and bladed glove. She’s one of the brightest Final Girls because she is quickly able to determine who the man is that’s haunting her dreams, what his intentions are, and how to evade his gruesome attacks on her mind. From keeping herself awake for hours on end to creating traps throughout her house to try and stop Krueger.

She survives the movie and becomes a recurring character for several more. We see just how Freddy Krueger affected her future when we see her grow up to have a degree in psychiatry and a specialty in nightmare disorders. She’s such an intelligent and resilient character who will stop at nothing to defeat her enemy once and for all so he doesn’t hurt anyone else she cares about.

4. Erin Harson (You’re Next)

During the Davison family celebration of a wedding anniversary, things take a terrifying turn in this movie entitled You’re Next when a group of masked killers engage in a cat-and-mouse game with the family on the large estate. College student, Erin Harson, is one of the brother’s girlfriends at the event, and she quickly surprises the people around her with the training she gained from growing up on a survivalist compound in Australia.

In this modern take on a slasher film, Erin is a spectacular example of a Final Girl because she puts her survivalist skills to the test immediately. She helps members of the Davison family board up the windows, collect weapons from around the house, and even set traps for the killers when they attempt to get inside. Similar to Nancy in A Nightmare on Elm Street, Erin’s a girl that is intelligent and composed in her moments of retaliation. She’s certainly not afraid to wield a weapon!

I hope these women and their heroic actions inspire you to check out their films and have a greater appreciation for the horror genre. The Final Girl trope is one of the most memorable parts of horror movies because they have strong women as the skilled survivors from tense and horrible situations. These are just a few examples of great movies of the genre that will be sure to get you in the Halloween spirit this year!