Get Out Alive! Our Top Ten Final Girls in Horror Movies
by Kyle Anderson on September 13, 2013
One of the key components of the modern horror movie (1970s forward) is the idea of the “Final Girl.” Especially in slasher movies, the final girl is often the most chaste or innocent, or the least overtly sexual, and is the one who begins as a victim and ends up besting the hulking, maniacal knife-and-mask-haver. This quickly became a trope of ’80s horror and beyond, and has even been inverted a few times with a few men who fit the bill. Here, being that it’s Friday the 13th, is our list of the ten best (or our favorite) final girls (and a couple boys) in horror. And, for an extra level of fun, we’ve placed them in ascending order from least useful to most useful.
Oh, and since these people are called “final” girls, it’s implied that they survive to the end of a movie, so, you know, SPOILER ALERT.
#10. Sally Hardesty (Marilyn Burns) – The Texas Chain Saw Massacre (1974)
You can’t really blame Sally for not being particularly heroic (the movie came out before the trend of final girls really began), especially considering she’d escaped from the backwoods cannibal family a couple of times already and just kept getting pulled back. By the end of the movie, after seeing how messed up Leatherface’s kin truly are, she is able to make a run for it and it’s not easy. A well-timed semi truck and a casually-passing pickup do her a world of good.
#9. Ash Williams (Bruce Campbell) – The Evil Dead (1982)
All right, before everyone jumps up my backside about Ash being a badass hero and a quip-spouting machine, I would like to remind you all that he was a complete and utter load in Sam Raimi’s first Evil Dead movie. He was the most put-upon and cowardly character in the movie, and yet he was the one left standing (and screaming) by the end. If not for the sequels, he’d never have been called “Groovy.”
#8. Kirsty Cotton (Ashley Laurence) – Hellraiser (1987)
Kirsty is an interesting case because, through most of Hellraiser, she is about as far from the main character as possible. It was mainly about her uncle Frank being a creepy Cenobite lover who is slowly being rebuilt from the blood and skeleton up whilst her stepmother kills people to make that happen. But, by the end, the only one left is Kirsty and the fully realized Cenobites, led by the iconic Pinhead. She pretty much saves the whole world, which is good payment for being perved over by no fewer than three characters.
#7. Alice Hardy (Adrienne King) – Friday the 13th (1980)
For a franchise known primarily for its bad guy, the first movie (which did not have Jason Voorhees as the teen-slayer) actually had a pretty great final girl. Ostensibly the least interesting of the counselors at Camp Crystal Lake, Alice is the one to figure out the mystery of who’s doing the murderin’, and then cuts that person’s damn head off. She’s also the key feature of one of the most memorable final scares in horror movies. (She gets killed first thing in the sequel. Shame.)
#6. David Drayton (Thomas Jane) – The Mist (2007)
This one’s a bit of a stretch, being that David is the hero throughout the movie, but he fits a lot of the criteria for final person, most notably that he’s the last one of the cast to survive the movie, but he’s also the smartest and therefore least likely to die. He’d be a lot higher on the list if he, you know, didn’t murder all the other good guys five seconds before they get saved. Oh, that Frank “Downer” Darabont.
#5. Stretch (Caroline Williams) – The Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2 (1986)
Even though we’ve already got this franchise’s first final girl on the list, Stretch makes the cut (Get it? Chainsaw?) because she’s one of the key examples of a “Final Girl.” She’s strong, she’s smart, she’s slightly more masculine (especially when paired against Leatherface’s derogatorily feminine depiction), and she slices the baddies up but good. Plus, she has a chainsaw dance at the end that mimic’s Leatherface’s in the first film, which is pretty killer.
#4. Sidney Prescott (Neve Campbell) – Scream (1996)
Scream is a movie that post-modernizes the slasher movie in just about every way possible, including the surviving female. She’s set up to be the last one standing, and although there are a few other characters who don’t eat it, subverting a few of the staples of the genre, Sidney’s actions and outcome ensure that she’ll fit the bill perfectly. What? You thought Rose McGowan was going to last to the end?
#3. Nancy Thompson (Heather Langenkamp) – A Nightmare on Elm Street (1984)
Wes Craven is good about having final girls (see the above) and the character in his supernatural slasher masterpiece is by far his best. Nancy’s bookish, shy, has a father who’s an ineffectual sheriff, a mother who’s an alcoholic in denial, and her boyfriend (Johnny Depp) gets sucked into a bed and completely exsanguinated. That last one’s not strictly required. Still, it’s Nancy who figures out how to beat Freddy at his own dream-controlling game… Or does she? Yeah, she does.
#2. Ellen Ripley (Sigourney Weaver) – Alien (1979)
She may have become a full-on action hero in the second movie (which is friggin great, by the bye), but the first Alien is very much a slasher movie in space and Ripley, who is certainly not the lead (that would probably fall to Tom Skerritt’s Dallas), ends up being the only survivor, along with Jones the cat, of the xenomorph’s Nostromo-destroying rampage. And the final scene with her in the escape pod is one of the tensest in film history. Period.
#1. Laurie Strode (Jamie Lee Curtis) – Halloween (1978)
Why is Laurie the number one? Because without her, this trope wouldn’t exist. The first genre-defining slasher movie is one of John Carpenter’s very best. Laurie is a prude goody-two-shoes, as opposed to her slutty, untrustworthy friends, and it’s up to her to save two little children from the godfather of the masked slasher, Michael Myers. It’s explained in sequels why Michael is fixated on her, but the first movie just suggests she’s in the wrong place at the wrong time. Also, you have to hand it to anyone who survives three different movies. Okay, she dies in a fourth, but that movie’s terrible anyway.
So what do you think of our list? Have we left off somebody major? Who’s your favorite? Let us know in them there comments below this here post.