In 1992 Carol Clover coined the term 'final girl,' which was used to describe the last woman standing in horror movies. You know how it works: after she endures more horrific obstacles than you thought possible, the film is brought to a climax when that last remaining woman is left to take on, and defeat the killer.
The trope has been frequently used over the years in horror films -- particularly prior to the '80s -- and it remains a favorite of horror film directors to this day. The most recent example of the 'final girl' will be in the upcoming horror comedy flick The Final Girls, which stars Taissa Farmiga and Malin Åkerman, and is due for release on October 9th. Check out the hilarious looking trailer below:
So, to celebrate the release of The Final Girls, it seems only fair that we should honor the 'final girl' trope by remembering some of most badass ladies in horror. Obviously, this list (which comes from an amazing infographic made by HalloweenCostumes.com, check the whole thing out over HERE) by no means includes all 'final girls,' but it does give an awesome snapshot of some of the most iconic. Check it out:
Lila Crane in Psycho (1960)
Lila Crane isn't exactly the perfect example of a 'final girl' in that she doesn't kill or subdue Norman Bates, but requires help from Sam Loomis. However there's no denying she makes it through to the end of the film and her character no doubt helped pave the way for final girls of the future.
Sally Hardesty in The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (1974)
Sally Hardesty is the original final girl who inspired Carol Clover to write about the final girl theory in her book 'Men, Women and Chain Saws.' Sally went through some horrible trauma in The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, and was the only survivor of the film, though she was driven insane by the experience.
Laurie Strode in Halloween (1978)
In her attempt to protect her babysitting charges from "the Boogeyman," Michael Myers, Laurie Strode works her ass off to try and kill the crazed killer, employing knitting needles, coat hangers and finally Myers's own knife. Laurie makes it out of the film alive, however her friends Annie, Lynda and Bob weren't so lucky.
Ellen Ripley in Alien (1979)
Deviating from the slashing sub-genre of horror films, is the sci-fi horror Aliens and it's final girl, Ellen Ripley. Over the years, Ripley has become a total film heroine, and after that final battle with the alien and the grappling hook I'd say it's a title well earned!
Alice Hardy in Friday the 13th (1980)
After using multiple weapons against Mrs. Vorhees, it's the third final battle with a machete that takes down her attacker once and for all. Despite seeking refuge inside a canoe on the lake, Jason's decomposing body makes one last attempt to kill Friday the 13th's final girl, however it's too late and Alice makes it out alive (until the sequel, at least...).
Wendy Torrance in The Shining (1980)
After managing to keep herself, and her son, Danny, alive while her crazed husband, Jack, hacked down the bathroom door, Wendy Torrance was able to eventually escape the Overlook Hotel after Danny's quick thinking leads Jack to a frosty death.
Nancy Thompson in A Nightmare on Elm Street (1984)
In her book, Clover calls Nancy Thompson the "grittiest" of the final girls. Nancy proves herself as a worthy adversary to Freddy Kreuger through her well-thought out defense plan, including booby-traps and psychic attacks, to draw Freddy out of her dream.
Clarice Starling in The Silence of the Lambs (1991)
Clarice Starling used her smarts and skills to earn her position as the final girl in The Silence of the Lambs. In the climactic scene in the dark basement, it all could have gone Buffalo Bill's way, but the skin-suit tailor ended up giving himself away at the final second, and without hesitation Clarice emptied her gun into the bizarre serial killer.
Sidney Prescott in Scream (1996)
Sidney Prescott and Scream marks an interesting point in horror history, wherein the characters in the movie are all consciously aware of horror film history. Because of this awareness, Sidney is able to adapt, which ensures her survival. Scream challenged the traditional notion of the final girl, for example while final girls are often virginal, Sidney actually has sex in Scream, and still manages to survive (even more impressively she actually sleeps with one of the killers).
Rachel Keller in The Ring (2002)
While Rachel Keller is a final girl, she's a bit of an odd inclusion, due to the fact that although she survives the threat of the evil, dead girl Samara, she does not defeat her. Instead Rachel avoids both her own death, and that of her son by outwitting the curse, going to show that the concept of the 'final girl' is always evolving.
Sarah Carter in The Descent (2005)
Depending on which ending of The Descent you saw, you may have conflicting feelings over whether or not Sarah is a true final girl, however there's no doubt she's the final character left (despite whether or not she dies at the end), and she definitely makes short work of many crawlers, as well as her human enemy, Juno, with her badass pickaxe.
Erin in You're Next (2011)
Erin has to be one of best final girls in all of horror history. Using skills she learned growing up on the survivalist compound, she demonstrates her abilities by taking down basically anyone who gets in her way. When, much like Sidney in Scream, Erin's boyfriend reveals his involvement in the murders, Erin still isn't fazed and takes him down, just as law enforcement arrives.
Mia Allen in Evil Dead (2013)
Things didn't look good for heroin junkie Mia in Evil Dead, but after surviving being possessed, buried alive and being brought back to life, she eventually defeated the Abomination with a chainsaw, ending with the remainders of the demon sinking into the ground. The film may have ended with Mia down a hand, but she still made it out alive.