The ‘Final Girl’ is a commonly used trope in many horror movies and typically refers to the last woman standing after all the murder and mayhem has ensued. She will typically be virtuosic, and have a strong moral grounding. However, these characteristics have swayed over the years to put a modern day spin on the classic trope. According to Carol J. Clover (via Horror Obsessive), author of Men, Women, and Chainsawsthe use of a Final Girl dates back to Lila Crane, the sister in Alfred Hitchcock’s thriller, Psycho. Yet, many would counter argue that Sally Hardyston, the lone survivor of Leatherface in The Texas Chainsaw Massacre was horror’s original Final Girl.
Clover’s book dissects the origins of the Final Girl and how women in horror are presented through a predominantly male lens. However, a lot has changed in the genre since Clover’s book was published in 1992. In 1996, Scream introduced Sidney Prescott, a Final Girl who, like her predecessor Laurie Strode in Halloween, fights back against the killer. Even more recent feminist horror films like You’re Next and Ready or Not have completely redefined the way women in horror are presented. They are strong links who not only survive and out smart the killer, but also fight back and take names. Here’s a look at horror’s top eight Final Girls in horror movies, ranked.
8 Grace Le Domas – Ready or Not
On the night of her wedding, Grace is forced to draw a card from her new in-laws’ game box that will act as her initiation into the family. Unbeknownst to Grace, all will be well as long as she does not pick the “Hide and Seek” card, but if she does, her new in-laws will hunt her down in order to carry out the family’s satanic sacrificial ritual. Grace from Ready or Not holds a spot as one of today’s best Final Girls because she survives the night without taking any causalities of her own. Once she knows the family’s plan, she rips her wedding dress, puts on her sneakers, and prepares for battle. Yes, she may have attempted to grab a non-working gun as a weapon, but she still thought to grab a weapon. She is the last one standing at the end of the film after the entire Le Domas family bursts into smithereens for not completing the ritual before sunrise. Ultimately, Grace beats the gamers at their own game.
7 Erin Harson – You’re Next
Erin Harson, the loan survivor in You’re Next, must use the skills she learned during her youth living in a survivalist compound to outsmart the masked killers that are attacking her boyfriend’s family home. After it is revealed that her boyfriend and his brother hired killers to take out the entire family, in order to claim their father’s inheritance, Erin is forced to kill them both. Tragically, by the time police arrive at the scene, it appears as if Erin has slaughtered the entire family, and she is shot by the responding officer. It can be assumed that Erin survives the gun shot wound, but her fate is unclear. Erin is one of the most instinctual Final Girls of modern horror, with some of the quickest survival tactics to date.
6 Dani Ardor – Midsummer
After the tragic murder and suicide of her sister and parents, a grieving Dani joins her boyfriend Christian and his friends on a trio to Sweden for what is explained as a research project for their final papers. After only a few days there, it is clear that there is something much more ritualistic about the spring festival, and the group encounters some disturbing festivities. However, Midsummer asserts that the true villain of the movie is Dani’s boyfriend Christian, who is constantly manipulating her and brushing off her feelings. The two are toxic together, but Dani’s depression, coupled with the emotional abuse ensued by Christian, escalate the events of the film to ultimately lead to the shocking, but satisfying ending. Dani is not your typical Final Girl. She does not outsmart a killer or escape the clutches of a chainsaw-wielding maniac – Dani is a survivor of depression, grief, and emotional abuse, easily making her a Final Girl in one of the most aesthetically beautiful horror cult films made to date.
5 Maddie Young – Hush
It is no surprise that Mike Flanagan’s 2016 thriller Hush sits at a 93% on Rotten Tomatoes. Flanagan takes the classic story of a home invasion, but with an added twist. Maddie is a deaf author living alone in the secluded woods. When a masked man decides to go on a random killing spree, he is intrigued by Maddie because she can not hear him and is seemingly at a complete disadvantage. The game of cat and mouse grows tired when the man realizes that Maddie isn’t as easy of a target as he once thought. Maddie isn’t a typical thought when considering Final Girls, being that she lives in isolation. However, her unmistakable wit and ability to outsmart the violent masked man are key to her deserving a spot among horror final women.
4 Sally Hardyston – The Texas Chainsaw Massacre
Sally Hardyston, the survivor of the 1974 The Texas Chainsaw Massacre is adhered to by many as horror’s first Final Girl. Sally is victim to some of the most gruesome and grotesque events to ever appear on-screen, and her interaction with the Sawyer family was enough to make anyone wish they were dead. However, Sally’s strength and will to survive is unlike any other, which is part the reason that the final scene of The Texas Chainsaw Massacre is so effective. All she can do is laugh and shake with joy that she escaped, but as she drives away, Leatherface displays his own range of emotions.
3 Nancy Thompson – A Nightmare on Elm Street
How do you defeat a killer who attacks you in your dreams? By pulling him into the real world, and setting up a slew of booby traps. Nancy Thompson from A Nightmare on Elm Street is one of the most notable women in horror. She seemingly defeats the burned Fred Krueger, but ultimately meets her demise saving others in the third installment of the franchise. Nancy faces her fears and the literal man of her nightmares heads on, making her one of the best Final Girls of 80s horror.
2 Sidney Prescott – Scream
Sidney Prescott has been Scream‘s Final Girl for the entirety of the franchise. She has survived nine different variations of Ghostface, and managed to get out of Woodsboro for good. Except when trouble inevitably calls. The 1996 ultra-meta slasher revitalized the horror genre, and Sidney gave birth to a new kind of Final Girl. Sidney embodied the trope and obeyed the definition of what it takes to survive a horror movie by Randy’s rules, that is, until she decides to sleep with her boyfriend Billy, making her the first Final Girl to not only break the rules and survive, but also redefine the rules of her own movie.
1 Laurie Strode
In Halloween, Laurie Strode is more than just a Final Girl. She is a horror staple and hands-down one of the most well known women in horror. So much so that Jamie Lee Curtis is one of the most notable horror legends. Laurie has faced Micheal to an unmeasurable extent, and in more ways than one, Micheal shaped her entire life. From the 1978 attacks, Laurie has become a survivalist. She spends her life preparing for the day that Micheal will make his return. She seeks to ensure that she is a Final Girl, and that her family survives him as well.
Ripped from the Headlines: 5 Horror Classic Movies Based on True Stories
About The Author