The final girl trope is a unique characteristic of the horror movie genre. A Final Girl refers to the woman who is still alive at the end of the movie to face down the final boss. In contrast to most genres, horror has always featured women surviving and having agency in their survival.
These heroines originated in the slasher films of the 1970s and 1980s. Final Girls are generally separated from other women in the movie early on. They are always shown with wholesome personalities and generally abstain from drugs, alcohol, and sex.
Here are the best (and worst) final girls of all time:
Best monster movie Final Girl: Michelle from 10 Cloverfield Lane
Michelle is the protagonist and Final Girl of 10 Cloverfield Lane. After a car accident, she awakens in a bunker with two men, (Howard, the owner of the bunker, and Emmett, a farm hand) and is told the outside world is unsafe as the air is “unsafe” after a recent “attack”. Michelle befriends Emmett and the two work out a plan to escape from Howard’s bunker together. Upon discovery, Howard kills Emmett but Michelle is able to escape. Driving away, she decides to join the fight with other survivors rather than drive toward safety.
Best Final Girl Move: Fashioning a makeshift Hazmat suit in secret.
Final Girl rating: 5/10
Best alien movie Final Girl: Ellen Ripley from Alien
Ellen Ripley was a warrant officer and third in command on a freight space ship in Alien. She was the sole survivor of the first movie and appeared throughout the franchise. Ripley demonstrates physical strength, bravery and intelligence as she hunts down Xenomorphs, the alien species that her crew comes into contact with. She is known as a badass and one of the strongest examples of a Final Girl as she has both military experience and a degree in engineering. Bonus: she’s also a cat lady.
Best Final Girl Move: Killing a Xenomorph queen.
Final Girl rating: 9/10
Best witch movie Final Girl: Thomasin from The VVitch
Thomasin and her family live in a remote wooded setting in 1630’s New England as they have been banished from their Puritan colony. One day while playing, Thomasin loses her baby brother to a witch. Her mother and father become suspicious of her, wondering if Thomasin might be a witch. Thomasin’s brother Caleb soon becomes ill under suspicious circumstances and her family threatens to bring Thomasin to trial for witchcraft.
Best Final Girl Move: Embracing her powers and levitating in a clearing with her coven.
Final Girl rating: 4/10
Best Final Girl who loves feminism: Rose Armitage from Get Out
Horror movies have a long history of having subversive political messages. Jordan Peele reinvigorated this concept for the 2010’s with Get Out. The protagonist’s girlfriend, Rose Armitage, is presented as a feminist, typically the wholesome, intelligent woman who would survive to the end along with, or instead of, her boyfriend. However, the twist of Get Out is that Rose’s white feminism is exposed for what it is: not intersectional and not inclusive of the boyfriend she’s supposed to love. Rather, Rose is able to help her family commit evil by supposing her own victimhood and interests are above those of the African American men she dates and entraps.
Best Final Girl Move: Dangling the keys in front of her traumatized boyfriend.
Final Girl rating: 0/10
Best heroine Final Girl who saves the day: Erin Harson from You’re Next
Erin visits her boyfriend’s wealthy family for the first time at their large country home in the woods. Unexpectedly, the family comes under siege from mysterious masked intruders in the forest surrounding the property. Unbeknownst to her boyfriend, Erin actually grew up on a survivalist compound in Australia. She shows the family members that she has the skills and intelligence to outsmart the villains, even after discovering that her boyfriend is among them.
Best Final Girl Move: Killing one of the bad guys with a, wait for it… BLENDER. It has to be a horror movie first.
Final Girl rating: 8/10
Best Final Girl boyfriend: Chris Flynn from Wrong Turn
Wrong Turn has an awesome final girl in Eliza Dushku’s Jessie but she’s helped along by the mysterious Chris Flynn, who has crossed paths with her friend group on his way to a job interview in Raleigh. Together, the duo become acquainted as they fight off the incestuous mountain men who incapacitated their vehicles and trapped them in the Appalachian mountains. The love interest between Jessie and Chris grows as they outsmart the cannibal mountain men and fight their way back to civilization. It’s a yummy love story inside a great horror movie.
Best Final Girl Move: Blowing up the cannibal’s cabin.
Final Girl rating: 4/10
Best ‘Nightmare’ Final Girl: Nancy Thompson
In A Nightmare on Elm Street, Nancy Thompson is a high school student who begins dreaming of a disfigured man with knives for fingers. She soon learns her friends are having the same dreams and the man’s name is Freddy Kreuger, and that the damage he does in those “nightmares” is real. Eventually, Nancy learns she can pull Kreuger out of the dream and leads him into her home, which she has booby-trapped.
Best Final Girl Move: Pulling Freddy Kreuger out of her dream and into the real world, where he’s no longer in charge.
Final Girl Rating: 5/10
Best Final Girl of the Scream Franchise: Sidney Prescott
Sidney is one of the GOAT final girls. She’s survived through 4 Scream movies where she has expressly been the main target of Ghostface. Knowledgable about horror movie tropes, Sidney isn’t a typical final girl. She also loses her virginity to her boyfriend (also the killer) in the original Scream movie, thus going directly against a big part of the Final Girl trope. Sidney is an intelligent and strong survivor, frequently tricking Ghostface so that she is able to escape harm. We do have also to give an honorable mention here for Gail Weathers and Kirby Reed (yes, we are Kirby is actually still alive truthers) for their hard work kicking ass against Ghostface.
Best Final Girl Move: Secretly wearing a bullet proof vest in Scream 3
Final Girl Rating: 8/10
Best Halloween Final Girl: Laurie Strode
Laurie Strode is one of the most iconic Final Girls in the horror genre. She appeared in Halloween, Halloween II, Halloween H20, Halloween: Resurrection, Halloween (2018) and is scheduled to appear in Halloween Kills and Halloween Ends. Originally, Laurie is a high school student and babysitter in the town of Haddonfield the night Michael Myers returns home from spending most of his life in a mental hospital after murdering his sister one Halloween. He stalks her and her charges but Laurie manages to keep them safe and fight back against The Shape. Eventually she is rescued by Dr. Samuel Loomis, though in later films she vanquishes Michael herself. Eventually it is revealed that Lauris is in fact Cynthia Myers, who was only two when her brother Michael Myers murdered their older sister Judith. Her identity was obscured to protect her from Michael.
Best Final Girl move: Fashioning a weapon out of a wire coat hanger while trapped in a closet.
Final Girl rating: 8/10
Worst Final Girl: Caroline Ellis in The Skeleton Key
Sometimes the Final Girl trope is used to manipulate the audience into expecting a happy(ish) ending. In The Skeleton Key the audience expectation is that Kate Hudson’s Caroline Ellis uses her intelligence and hutzpah to defeat the Big Boss in the end. However, it’s revealed that all of Caroline’s work has only aided her aggressors in stealing her body so that they may experience immortality.
Worst Final Girl move: Beginning to believe in hoodoo in order to “protect” herself from her employer.
Final Girl rating: -5/10
Worst Final Girl boyfriend: Glenn from A Nightmare on Elm Street
Let’s face it, Glenn is pretty much useless. Not only does he not help Nancy in defeating Freddy Krueger, but he falls asleep on watch. This allows Freddy to yeet him from the dream world all the way back to reality, where Nancy stumbles upon his corpse being vomited up from his bed.
Worst Final Girl move: Falling asleep while there’s a killer who attacks kids while they are sleeping.
Final Girl rating: -10/10
Final Girl Honorable Mentions
Chris Higgins from Friday the 13th
Sally Hardesty from Texas Chainsaw Massacre
Tara Hayes from Hostel
Kirsty from Hellraiser