The female characters in horror films always get flack and are represented as weak, hysterical, and lacking in common sense. Who is usually the first character to die? A female. They often do things that make us scream at the screen, “What are you doing?? Get out of there!” or “Why did she do that? She’s so stupid!” They ask who’s there, go investigate, find the killer (or rather, get found by the killer), try to run away, and get killed.
Now, on a side note, I will admit that I’d probably do the same things as the first female in the film – as I usually do. If I hear a noise in the house when I’m home alone, I ask who’s there and do a thorough investigation of the house and premises, accompanied by a weapon in my hand just in case there actually is someone there. I’ve never called the police, just acted on it myself. That might not be the smartest thing to do, because if someone really were there, I’d most likely not survive the night. But that’s just me personally. So the way females are portrayed as stupid in horror films is not exactly unrealistic, but it is overly portrayed, which is when it becomes insulting. Anyway, back to the point of the article.
So after the first female character gets killed off, the screen goes to black and up pops the title of the film, leading into the main character, which is also usually female. This female, however, often becomes the final girl and possibly even the heroine of the film. So not all females in horror films are stupid, brainless, promiscuous women. Those who aren’t those things are usually the final girls and potential heroines. That’s what this article/list is about: final girls and horror heroines.
Before I get into the list, though, let me explain the difference between a final girl and a horror heroine, explained in an article by Lady Geek Girl and Friends. A final girl is a female who simply makes it until the end, or close to the end, of a horror movie. There’s nothing really special about her ability-wise or strength-wise. She’s usually the good girl in the bunch, but she’s not strong or a good fighter. She’s just lucky. A horror heroine, on the other hand, is a strong-willed, smart fighter who defeats the villain, or at least saves others in the end. She’s more than lucky – heck, she doesn’t even need luck. She’s a headstrong warrior. Some final girls and horror heroines survive the whole film, while others don’t. It doesn’t matter, though, because they made it to the end and some defeat the bad guys (i.e. heroines). This list will consist of both types of female characters, with some being both.
#1. Sidney Prescott
Sidney survived all four films. Not many can do that, and I can’t think of many at all who have. The poor girl just can’t get a break. Everyone seems to want her dead – her boyfriend, her brother, her boyfriend's mother, and her cousin...just to name a few. It just doesn’t end for her. Yet, she’s still standing and defeats every single one of them. You’d think people would know not to mess with her by now. She’s not just a final girl. She’s a true horror heroine who always proves to be resilient. Like Sidney said...
#2. Laurie Strode (both versions)
I can’t imagine finding out my biological brother is a serial killer, especially the notorious Michael Myers…and that he wants to kill me. The original Laurie (played by Jamie Lee Curtis) survives all the way until Halloween: Resurrection. If the two remakes had gone further, I don’t know if Laurie (played by Scout Taylor-Compton) would have survived, considering how differently Rob Zombie made them. There’s even an alternate ending in the second one where Laurie gets shot to death by the police, so who’s to say.
Either way, Laurie Strode is a fighter. The original Laurie goes from final girl in the first two films to horror heroine in Halloween: H20 until her eventual death. The new Laurie is just a final girl.
#3. Nancy Thompson/Heather Langenkamp
It’s not easy defeating someone who lives in the dream world, although Freddy is never truly beaten, until New Nightmare at least. Nancy Thompson is an innocent, beautiful, semi-popular teenage girl from a suburban town, but she proves to be no ordinary girl. She’s just a final girl at first, but proves to be a horror heroine in the third one when she kills Freddy before dying herself. In Wes Craven’s New Nightmare, she’s just Heather Langenkamp and Nancy is a character in the A Nightmare on Elm Street films.
This film is a different take on Nancy and dives into the life of the girl who played her, even though the film itself is completely fictional. Nonetheless, Freddy turns out to be real in this film and is fixated on Heather and her family and wants them all dead. But she won’t have it. In the end, she destroys him and saves her son. A true badass if you ask me. But hey, you never mess with a woman’s child. She will destroy you. A horror heroine for sure.
#4. Alice Parks
When it comes to surviving a serial killer, Sidney and Laurie are the queens. But when it comes to combating chemical-zombies, the queen is none other than Alice Parks. The ultimate zombie fighter, Alice was originally working for the very corporation (Umbrella) that exposed the people infected with the T-virus, before she turned against them and was infected with it herself. However, she doesn’t turn into one of them; rather, she becomes superhuman and, eventually, a “T-virus/human hybrid.” Alice is definitely not a force to be reckoned with for zombies. They’ll never defeat her. She is one of the few horror heroines to survive an entire franchise. Now that’s badass.
#5. Sally Hardesty
Face it, most of us would never survive Leatherface. Most actually don’t. But Sally manages to escape from his entrapment by, wait for it, outrunning him. Most survivors in these types of films don’t simply outrun their captors/attempted murderers. No, they usually outsmart them and kill them. But Sally just runs away. Granted, Leatherface is a big guy running with a big chainsaw in his hand that’s turned on and ready to slice through whatever it touches. So I guess it’s a good thing he and his weapon are heavy; otherwise, Sally may not have made it. She’s just a final girl.
#6. Gale Weathers
I’ve never seen Gale mentioned on any of these types of lists, and I don’t know why. The top female survivors in horror are usually main characters, I know. I get that. But there are plenty of supporting characters that are badass and heroic too. Don’t forget that Gale – just like Sidney – survived the entire franchise, helped solve the murders, and even killed some of the murderers as well.
While she didn’t lose her family and best friends to the killers like Sidney did, she’s still a fighter, a survivor, and a hero. She’s badass too and a horror heroine.
#7. Jamie Lloyd
Daughter of Laurie Strode in the fourth and fifth Halloween films, Jamie is the only one on this list who’s actually a child. She survives multiple attacks from Michael, her uncle (can you imagine?), and loses both her parents and her foster family at just 8 years old. While she’s definitely traumatized, to the point where she’s mute in the fifth film, she’s still a tough, strong girl. On top of that, she has a telepathic bond with him that allows her to know when he’s near someone wanting or trying to kill them. I mean come on, telepathy? That’d be awesome to have. Anyway, she survives until she’s 15 years old (although she’s played by a different actress at that point, in the sixth film), when Michael kills her after she has a baby (her having a baby is a whole other story I won't get into right now). Jamie may have died, but she’s the toughest kid in horror. A strong final girl.
#8. Clarice Starling
This FBI Agent is extremely fearless and smart. I would never have the courage to talk to Hannibal Lecter and continually visit him the way Clarice Starling does. In order to find Buffalo Bill, a kidnapper and serial killer who turns his victims' skin to clothing, Clarice enlists the help of Hannibal Lecter, a psychiatrist and psychopath who is also a serial killer and cannibal. (Yeah, I'd personally stay away.) Clarice eventually must escape from the clutches of Buffalo Bill and ends up killing him by gunshot literally a second before he was going to kill her. A ballsy, amazing agent if I do say so myself. Clarice is truly a badass horror heroine. In fact, she's the highest-ranked heroine in movie history, not just horror history, while Hannibal Lector is the highest-ranked villain in history. These two just go hand in hand.
#9. Carrie White
Carrie is one of my favorite horror films (I like both versions) and one of the most badass women in horror. She can defeat and/or destroy anyone without even touching them. In the end, she ends up destroying everyone – even those who didn’t hurt her and tried to help her (Miss Collins in the original and Miss Desjardin in the remake) – and she destroys herself as well. (Although, after everything she went through, I can't really say I blame her.)
Her power took over and no one or anything could stop it, not even herself. So is she a horror heroine? A heroine turned villain? Or just a final girl (until she dies)? You decide. I say she’s a bit of everything.
#10. Helen Lyle
A skeptic and eventual victim of Candyman, Helen is both a horror heroine and a final girl...as well as an eventual third type of character – a villain. After Candyman takes a woman’s baby towards the end of the film, Helen agrees to sacrifice herself at Candyman’s request in order for the baby to be spared. However, Candyman doesn’t keep up his end of the bargain and tries to have the baby killed in a fire anyway. Helen goes into the huge bonfire and saves the baby before she dies, which makes her a horror heroine. Despite her death, she’s still alive in the afterlife, which makes her a sort of final girl. Yet, she turns into a vengeful spirit like Candyman, making her a villain now. Thus, she’s a special character. A final girl, a heroine, and a villain all in one.
Honorable mention: Julie James
With all the other badass characters on this list, I couldn’t include Julie in my top 10. She’s no Sidney or Laurie, but she does survive a murderous, hook-for-a-hand fisherman’s attack twice over – at least until the last 60 seconds of the second film, where her death is implied rather than shown. Nonetheless, she put up a good fight, even if she was aided by her boyfriend Ray. But hey, there’s nothing wrong with needing a little help in getting away from a psychopathic fisherman who’s hell-bent on killing you. I’d need help, I know that for sure. So, Julie is a final girl. I love I Know What You Did Last Summer – it’s one of my favorite horror films – and I love Julie James. Actually, she was the only character I really liked.
So there you have it, my personal top ten list of the final/heroic female characters in horror.