Best Final Girls

Michael Myers standing over terrified Laurie Strode, the final girl from the Halloween franchise.

Image Credit: WitchyGmod on Deviant Art.

Simply put, “final girl” refers to the young woman who’s clever enough to stay alive throughout the whole film. Final girls frequently occur in horror, science fiction, or action movies, although horror is the most common.

In many films, final girls abstain from alcohol, drugs, and sex, which many have criticized as a moral judgment on teenagers.

There are plenty of average ones who only survive due to a combination of sheer luck and idiotic friends, but this list features final girls who use their cunning and rebellious nature to fight back.

Note: This post contains spoilers.

 

 

Jess Bradford (Olivia Hussey)

Black Christmas (1974)

Rotten Tomatoes: 71%
Director: Bob Clark
Starring: Keir Dullea, Margot Kidder
Where To Watch: Peacock, Fandango, Vudu, Amazon Prime, Apple TV

This horror film departs quickly from the cliche of having the final girl be virginal. In fact, the crux of the plot revolves around Jess’s decision to obtain an abortion.

After explaining it to her boyfriend, a serial killer sneaks into Jess’s sorority house and begins murdering her sisters. She takes a stand against the killer and puts an end to the murder spree.

 

Laurie Strode (Jamie Lee Curtis)

Halloween (1978)

Rotten Tomatoes: 96%
Director: John Carpenter
Starring: Donald Pleasence, Nancy Kyes
Where To Watch: Fandango, Vudu, Amazon Prime, Apple TV

Halloween was the movie that made Jamie Lee Curtis known throughout the filmmaking community as the “scream queen,” and the name was well deserved.

Laurie has great reflexes and is aware of her surroundings, which is about the only reason she survives in the first movie.

Later on, the Halloween franchise gives more reasons behind Michael Meyers sparing Laurie, as well as why he was targeting her in the first place. In this movie, however, it’s her own ability to adapt that saves her.

 

Gale Weathers (Courteney Cox) & Sidney Prescott (Neve Campbell)

Scream (1996)

Rotten Tomatoes: 79%
Director: Wes Craven
Starring: David Arquette, Matthew Lillard
Where To Watch: HBOMax, Fandango, Vudu, Amazon Prime, Apple TV

This one is a twofer, because both of these leading ladies survive to the end of the movie—even though they couldn’t be more different.

Gale is a news reporter who is unwittingly roped into the shenanigans of the killing spree. Her drive to get the scoop on Ghostface keeps her involved throughout the franchise.

On the other hand, Sidney was initially targeted by Ghostface yet had the presence of mind and self-awareness of the horror genre to avoid those tropes that might get her killed.

That may not be new anymore, but when Scream was made, the idea of a character knowing the advice from previous horror movies just hadn’t been done yet. As a result, seeing Sidney take full advantage is a refreshing treat.

 

Ellen Ripley (Sigourney Weaver)

Alien (1979)

Rotten Tomatoes: 98%
Director: Ridley Scott
Starring: Tom Skerrit, John Hurt
Where To Watch: HBOMax, Fandango, Vudu, Amazon Prime, Apple TV, HBO Now

It’s hard to say anything new about Ripley, the Alien franchise’s beloved lead, but it is notable that the role was initially envisioned for a man.

Sigourney Weaver’s characterization of Ripley isn’t particularly feminine or masculine. Instead, she portrays a confident, capable woman who’s able to keep her head—even while everyone else is losing theirs to the alien invader.

 

Erin Harson (Sharni Vinson)

You’re Next (2011)

Rotten Tomatoes: 79%
Director: Adam Wingard
Starring: Nicholas Tucci, Barbara Crampton
Where To Watch: Peacock, Fandango, Vudu, Amazon Prime, Apple TV

This final girl is far more prepared than viewers typically see in horror or slasher movies.

Instead of passively reacting to the bloodshed and slaughter by hiding or trying to escape, Erin decides that the only way to be truly safe is to kill the killers. And boy, does she do it well.

The movie’s plot is pretty flimsy, with rich family members slaughtering each other to ultimately seize control of their inheritance. Still, the sight of a strong woman—who was conveniently raised in a survivalist compound in Middle America—taking charge and expertly wielding an ax is fantastic.

 

Dana Polk (Kristen Connolly)

The Cabin In The Woods (2012)

Rotten Tomatoes: 92%
Director: Joss Whedon
Starring: Chris Hemsworth, Fran Kranz
Where To Watch: Fandango, Hulu, Vudu, Amazon Prime, Apple TV

The Cabin in the Woods tackles every trope in the horror genre. It’s so meta that the final girl, Dana, actually discusses her status as the final girl with the main antagonist.

The tropes of each archetype must be sacrificed to appease powerful entities. “Final girls” are an optional trope and not strictly required for the sacrifice, which is why she often lives.

However, Dana refuses to continue with the sacrifices and saves one of the others, preventing the ritual from completing.

Though she does still count as the final girl because she lived through the majority of the movie, the ending implies that the world is destroyed. By extension, the audience believes Dana will soon be killed by the entities anyway, who were not pleased by her disobedience.

 

Imperator Furiosa (Charlize Theron)

Mad Max: Fury Road (2015)

Rotten Tomatoes: 97%
Director: George Miller
Starring: Tom Hardy, Nicholas Hoult
Where To Watch: Fandango, Vudu, Amazon Prime

Furiosa is the leader of the women who are escaping from their tyrannical husband and slave owner. She is a complete badass and gives as good as she takes.

Furiosa frequently clashes with the protagonist, Max, in his tactical decisions, but they learn to respect each other.

Although not a final girl in the traditional sense—since this is an action movie and not a slasher flick—Furiosa still encompasses a final girl’s traits and survives throughout the film.

Her role is that of a secondary protagonist, something that is quite common with final girls. It’s also surprising how much of a significant part her character has, considering that the film title and camera focus on Max.

 

via GIPHY

Final girls are found across several film genres, all too often surviving by little more than coincidence—or being slightly less dumber than the others in their group.

The most memorable survivors, however, are the final girls like these ones: women who survive due to cunning, great instincts…and, sometimes, a healthy dose of fear.

For more movie recommendations, check out the top 10 places to get murdered in horror films, greatest scary movies from every year this century, or the best movie monsters.

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