Top 10 Best Final Girls in Horror Movies
A Final Girl is the heart of a standard Slasher film. In the large aspect of cinema, men can sometimes dominate in other genres but there is no greater satisfaction in a horror movie than watching a woman take charge and show a psycho whose boss!
The Final Girl is the last one standing. She is the one who we in the audience root for. They are characters who sometimes lack life experience but gain it in spades once they are faced against a psychopathic killer. A Final Girl has been loosely referenced over the years in horror films but as films have changed and modern-day characters continually evolve, there is still a defining element to the relevance of a Final Girl and their essential role in a horror film.
In this article, I am going to be ranking the TOP 10 Final Girls in horror. Some are to be expected while others might be characters that have been overlooked in the realm of Slasher films. A Final Girl originated in the early 70s and throughout the 80s, 90s, 2000s, and 2010s, a Final Girl continues to be at the epicenter of a classic horror film.
Tree Gelbman, Happy Death Day (2017), Happy Death Day 2U (2019)
Played by Jessica Rothe
Tree plays against the attributes of the final girls back in the days when we were blessed with a Friday the 13th and A Nightmare on Elm Street almost every year. Unlike the usual pure and resourceful Final Girls, Tree plays is the opposite of that character archetype starting with the fact that she is not very likeable. She’s self-involved and breaks the rules. But by the end of Happy Death Day, she becomes a modern-day heroine, not taking an BS from the killer and defeating them with wit but also by taking action.
Jesse Walsh, A Nightmare on Elm Street 2: Freddy’s Revenge (1985)
Played by Mark Patton
Can there be a male Scream Queen? Short answer (Insert Jesse Scream) YES! In what is widely considered to be the gayest horror film ever made, the writers of this sequel to the 80’s horror classic decided to pin Freddy against a leading man. The homoerotic subtext throughout this film is obvious and continues to be the main topic when this movie is discussed among fans. In this film, Freddy uses Jesse’s body to trap his victims. What makes Jesse a Final Girl is the fact that his character is written as though it is female centered. He represents many of the qualities of a Final Girl as he finds himself in situations of distress and ultimately, he is saved by his female co-star Lisa, played by Kim Myers. A Nightmare on Elm Street 2: Freddy’s Revenge is the only film in the series to feature a male Final Girl and the film itself is very entertaining and sticks out in many fans minds for this scene alone:
Erin Harson, You’re Next (2011)
2011’s You’re Next isn’t too far of the mark from your standard home invasion movie. But what clearly separates this film from the types of slasher movies we’ve seen in the past, is that we get a Final Girl who is ready to fight. When Erin accompanies her boyfriend to his family reunion, the night quickly turns into a bloodbath when a group of masked killers start taking everyone out one by one. But what they don’t know is that Erin grew up in a survivalist compound and she is fully equipped to reap destruction on these home invaders using booby traps and anything else she can get her hands on to show these killers who’s next.
Rachel Carruthers, Halloween 4: The Return of Michael Myers (1988), Halloween 5: The Revenge of Michael Myers (1989)
Played by Ellie Cornell
Rachel is your average 1980’s teen whose story comes full circle by the end of Halloween 4. She doesn’t see her adopted younger sister Jamie, the niece of Michael Myers as her real sister, but that doesn’t stop Rachel from being Jamie’s protector. Rachel runs from Michael but she also fights back in some of the most memorable scenes in the entire series. For me, Rachel is right up there with Laurie Strode as being the most impactful character in the series. I will never forgive the writers of Halloween 5 for so poorly doing away with Rachel in replacement of the annoying character Tina. Justice for Rachel!
Nancy Thompson, A Nightmare on Elm Street (1984), A Nightmare on Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors (1987), Wes Craven’s New Nightmare (1994)
Played by Heather Langenkamp
Nancy is the only Final Girl in the entire Elm Street series who knows how to defeat Freddy. She doesn’t rely on silly magical tactics to destroy Freddy. She simply turns her back on him and relinquishes any power she ever gave him. It could have been an easy ending to what would later be six more sequels and a remake... not saying each of these films aren't great in their own way. I love my Nightmare marathons!
Jess Bradford, Black Christmas (1974)
Played by Olivia Hussey
What stands out here is that Jess is not only facing off against an unknown killer who is hiding in the walls of her sorority house. She is facing real life adult problems. Jess plays against the traditional qualities of a final girl. She is not pure. In fact, she is faced with the dilemma of having an abortion. She is contemplating her relationship with her boyfriend, slowly becoming more and more convinced that he may be the killer. But Jess is strong-willed, standing up against the men who confront her and eventually fighting back against who she thinks is the killer.
Ginny Field, Friday the 13th Part 2 (1981)
Played by Amy Steel
No series in horror history has established as many final girls as the 12-film franchise Friday the 13th. Almost every film in this beloved franchise pins Jason against the last woman standing. As we’ve seen from franchises like A Nightmare on Elm Street and Halloween, typically it’s the original Final Girl that stands out from the rest as she is the one who is the first to defeat the monster. And while Alice in the original Friday the 13th is a competent Final Girl (She beheads Jason’s mother with a Machete, how badass is that?!) It’s Jason’s first opponent Ginny in Part 2 that really enhances the characteristics that would become evident in the Final Girl archetype.
What sets Ginny apart from other Final Girls in this franchise is that initially she sympathizes with the killer. She sees Jason as a poor soul, witnessing his own mother’s brutality. Ginny attempts to read into the pain and suffering Jason endured as a child. This doesn’t stop Ginny from facing off against Jason, even using her childhood psychology as a way of getting through to Jason and trying to stop him from killing…
10 sequels later, it’s clear she didn’t convince him but she succeeds in escaping Jason’s bloody rampage at Crystal Lake and establishing herself as the most memorable Final Girl from this franchise.
Ellen Ripley, Alien (1979), Aliens (1986), Alien 3 (1992), Alien Resurrection (1997)
Played by Sigourney Weaver
Ripley sets herself apart from the conventional Final Girl because she is not fighting a man wielding a butcher knife or receiving anonymous phone calls… She is battling aliens. In the original Alien, Ripley is not initially viewed as the main character. But she is the only one who thinks ahead to what these alien lifeforms can do. Ripley takes action and evolves into the pivotal role of the protagonist in the Alien series. As ridiculous as the later films would become, in the first two installments Ellen Ripley is an action hero that fights for survival and is one step ahead of everyone else.
Laurie Strode, Halloween (1978), Halloween II (1981), Halloween H20 (1998), Halloween: Resurrection (2002), Halloween (2018)
Played by Jamie Lee Curtis
The term Final Girl was originally coined by Carol J. Clover in her 1992 book Men, Women, and Chainsaws: Gender in the Modern Horror Film. According to Clover, a Final Girl is the “investigating consciousness” of a horror film. She exhibits intelligence, curiosity, and vigilance. This is Laurie Strode. Laurie may not be the first Final Girl to ever appear on film, but she is the identifying factor in the distinction between a victim and a sole survivor. She has the character arc that would later become quintessential to the universal “rules” to surviving a horror movie. Over the past 40 years, Laurie Strode has fought back against her murderous brother, determined to kill her. While the timeline and plot between Laurie and Michael has changed numerous times, Laurie’s character hasn’t. Laurie is a fighter and whether she is playing Michael’s sister or is a random stranger he happens to taunt, Laurie will continue to fight back against Michael Myers.
Sidney Prescott, Scream (1996), Scream 2 (1997), Scream 3 (2000), Scream 4 (2011)
Played by Neve Campbell
Wes Craven’s Scream forever changed the standard of the modern-day horror film. And that goes for the franchise’s ultimate Final Girl, Sidney Prescott. In a franchise revolved around its central characters being aware of the clichés of a horror film, Scream turns the tables and breaks the rules. When we first meet Sidney, she seems very much like the Laurie Strode archetype that horror fanatics had come to expect. She is intelligent, virginal, and vulnerable. But once confronted with the Ghostface Killer, Sidney fights back and becomes the modern-day horror movie heroine.
Confronted 4 separate times by killers donning the Ghostface mask, Sidney knows her life is like a horror movie, it’s a constant reminder from other characters in the franchise and the usual motive from the Ghostface Killers in these movies is to recreate their own version of slasher films. But despite that realization early in the first film, Sidney spends the entire series not following the rules of a horror film and that seems to be her key to survival. In the original Scream, Sidney loses her virginity shortly before confronting the killer. This leads us to think Sidney is going to die because well, those are the rules. But it’s Sidney’s life experiences that lead her to become the strong and self-aware Final Girl she establishes herself to be. If Halloween’s Laurie Strode set the tone for what it means to be a Final Girl, Scream reinvented the wheel with Sidney Prescott.