The final girl is one of the most popular tropes of horror movies and appear in many of the biggest movies of the genre. The term final girl was coined by professor Carol J. Clover in her 1992 book “Men, Women and Chainsaws: Gender in the Modern Horror Film” and describes any female primary character who survives the villain at the end of the film. The final girl has evolved throughout time and is still employed in horror to this day. Take a look at our favorite final girls from horror history and let us know your favorite character on this list in the comments section.
Lila Crane, “Psycho” (1960)
Considered to be one of the very first final girls in horror, Lila Crane is introduced to the film when she goes looking after her sister Marion. With the help of a private investigator, Lila finds the Bates Motel and learns the insidious truth about it’s owner, murderer Norman Bates. She survives him and appears in the author, Robert Bloch’s sequel novel “Psycho II.”
Lila Crane is played by Vera Miles in the original 1962 film and Julianne Moore in the 1998 remake.
Sally Hardesty, “The Texas Chainsaw Massacre” (1974)
Regarded as one of the most influential films in horror, this film follows Sally Hardesty and her friends who find themselves prisoners to a family of cannibals. Sally Hardesty is the presumed sole survivor of the group, as she flees from Leatherface at the end of the film in the back of a pickup truck. In the subsequent sequels, it’s mentioned that she went into catatonia when recounting her story to the police, only returning for a brief cameo in 1995’s “Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Next Generation.”
Sally Hardesty was played by Marilyn Burns.
Jess Bradford, “Black Christmas” (1974)
“Black Christmas” follows Jess Bradford and her sorority sisters, who are stalked by a crazed killer during Christmas time. The film garnered success for it’s inventive strategy of keeping most of the murders contained to the sorority house, with the killer lurking in the attic. Although Jess’s fate is technically left ambiguous by the end of the film, she’s still regarded as a final girl to the horror world and this film made waves by including a subplot of her wanting to have an abortion.
Jess Bradford is played by Olivia Hussey (who’s best known for playing Juliet in 1968’s “Romeo and Juliet) in the original film, Katie Cassidy (whose character’s name is changed by Kelli Presley) in the 2006 remake and Imogen Poots (whose character’s name is changed to Riley Stone) in the 2019 remake.
Suzy Bannion, “Suspiria” (1977)
This Italian horror movie follows an American ballet dancer named Suzy Bannion, who attends a dance academy in Germany only to discover that the school is run by a coven of murderous witches. The film became beloved by audiences worldwide, particularly because of the protagonist, who takes down the witches and escapes into the night as the school is consumed in fire.
Suzy Bannion is played by Jessica Harper in the original film and Dakota Johnson in the 2018 remake. Harper played a small role as Anke Meier in the 2018 film.
Laurie Strode, “Halloween” (1978)
Actor Jamie Lee Curtis made her film debut as final girl Laurie Strode in 1978’s “Halloween” and her career took off from there. In the first film, Laurie is a high school babysitter who’s stalked by Michael Myers, a masked murder who escapes from a mental institution 15 years after murdering his sister. Strode goes on to appear in a number of the film’s sequels, including 1981’s “Halloween II,” 1998’s “Halloween H20: 20 Years Later,” 2002’s “Halloween Resurrection,” as well as the Rob Zombie remakes and 2018’s “Halloween.” She’s expected to make a return for the franchise’s upcoming sequel’s 2021’s “Halloween Kills,” and 2022’s “Halloween Ends.”
Laurie Strode is played by Jamie Lee Curtis throughout the franchise, aside from in the Rob Zombie remakes, where Scout Taylor-Compton took over the role.
Ellen Ripley, “Alien” (1979)
Prior to this film, many of the final girls are high schoolers and young adults who’re stalked by a killer. This is not the case for Ellen Ripley of “Alien,” a warrant officer of the Nostromo who vanquishes the alien in the first film. Ripley appears each of the film’s sequels, 1986’s “Aliens,” 1992’s “Alien 3” and 1997’s “Alien Resurrection.”
Ellen Ripley is played by Sigourney Weaver in the four original films and is voiced by Andrea Deck in the 2019 animated series “Alien: Isolation.”
Alice Hardy, “Friday the 13th” (1980)
Following in the success of slashers like “Halloween,” director Sean S. Cunningham gave us “Friday the 13th,” which follows a group of teenage camp counselors at Camp Crystal Lake who’re stalked and murdered by an unknown killer (later revealed to be Mrs. Voorhees). The sole survivor of the first film is Alice Hardy, who qualifies as a final girl for her appearance in the first film, but is later killed off in 1981’s “Friday the 13th Part 2.”
Alice Hardy is portrayed by Adrienne King in the original two films.
Nancy Thompson, “A Nightmare on Elm Street” (1984)
In the first of the “A Nightmare on Elm Street” films, a group of teenagers living on the same street are stalked and killed in their dreams by Freddy Krueger, the spirit of a serial killer equipped with a glove of razor blades. The film’s final girl, Nancy Thompson, takes Krueger head on and outmatches him at the end of the film. Nancy Thompson stars in the 1984 original, as well as “A Nightmare on Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors,” where she’s killed off.
Nancy Thompson is played by Heather Langenkamp in the original films and by Rooney Mara (renamed Nancy Holbrook) in the 2010 remake.
Kirsty Cotton, “Hellraiser” (1987)
The “Hellraiser” franchise was created by Clive Barker and if you’ve seen these movies, then you know they’re pretty strange. The first film’s final girl is Kirsty Cotton, who moves with her family to England and soon discovers that her stepmother is resurrecting her uncle Frank (who has been killed supernatural beings called Cenobites after awakening them with a puzzle box) by sacrificing people in their attic. Kirsty manages to bargain with the leader of the Cenobites, Pinhead and later banishes them using the puzzle box. Kirsty appears in the film’s sequels 1988’s “Hellbound: Hellraiser II,” 1992’s “Hellraiser III: Hell on Earth” and 2002’s “Hellraiser: Hellseeker.”
Kirsty Cotton is portrayed by Ashley Laurence in the franchise.
Sidney Prescott, “Scream” (1996)
“Scream” is an homage to great horror slashers of the 1970s and 1980s, particularly “Halloween,” “Friday the 13th” and “A Nightmare on Elm Street.” The film follows a high school student named Sidney Prescott who’s tormented and targeted by a mysterious killer named Ghostface wearing a Halloween costume. Sidney escapes Ghostface’s killings in not only the first film, but manages to avoid death in 1997’s “Scream 2,” 2000’s “Scream 3” and 2011’s “Scream 4.” She’s set to appear in 2022’s “Scream,” as well.
Sidney Prescott is portrayed by Neve Campbell in the franchise.