The Final Girl, a fine and time-honoured horror tradition. That strong-willed, quick-witted, ass-kicking female who has the fortitude to be the last person standing. You may already be able to predict a few notable names but where exactly they find themselves on this list may surprise you.
There are innumerable Final Girls worthy of a tip of the hat, here are 10 of the best.
10. Thomasin – The Witch (2015)
Thomasin doesn’t have an easy life. Her family are exiled from their settlement and they have to start anew in the untamed New England wilderness. When her baby brother disappears Thomasin is blamed for not keeping a watchful eye on him. In teasing her younger siblings, Thomasin convinces them that she is a Witch, not a smart move in less enlightened times. When her younger brother falls deathly ill also, her entire family turn on Thomasin. In a downward spiral of abduction, goat attacks and death, Thomasin is the last person left alive in her family. Thomasin not so much beats the evil that destroyed her family, she embraces it. In doing so, ambiguously becoming the very thing she claimed to in jest to be. A Final Girl with a difference.
9. Mia Allen – Evil Dead (2013)
Mia does not have a good time during the course of the Evil Dead remake. A recovering drug addict, Mia went on a trip with her friends as a final ditch effort to kick her habit and bury her demons. Instead, poor old Mia becomes possessed by another, very tangible demon. Violated by a demonic tree, beaten, self-mutilated and minus one appendage by the film’s end, if ever there was a Final Girl who deserved to make it out alive, it’s Mia.
8. Sarah – The Descent (2005)
Sarah is trying to run away from her pain. Robbed of both her husband & daughter in an automobile accident, Sarah has very real survivors guilt. Tempted on a getaway with her friends, Sarah embarks on a caving expedition from which they’ll never return. You see, there’s something in the dark, something they’ve awoken and it’s hungry. There may be some argument in Sarah’s inclusion in this list. In the original (and in my opinion, superior) cut of the film, there are no survivors. Sarah is revealed after the Juno jump-scare to still be in that cave, hallucinating as the crawlers close in. So even if she only survived in her own damaged psyche, Sarah was a Final Girl who went through hell to find her own peace.
7. Kirsty Cotton – Hellraiser (1987)
She opened the box, they came. To be fair, Kirsty did bring a lot of what she goes through in Hellraiser upon herself. Did she not hear what curiosity did to the cat?! Having the worst uncle in the history of worst uncles certainly doesn’t help matters. Uncle Frank systematically tears Kirsty’s world apart. He consorts in murder with her step-mother and masquerades as her murdered father. When Kirsty finally gets one up on Frank and Julia, sicking the Cenobite’s on her sucky family, you can’t help but punch the air. Kirsty is wily and smart, two of the definite hallmarks of a Final Girl.
6. Sarah Connor – The Terminator (1984)
Sarah Connor is not your typical survivor in The Terminator. She is a million miles away from the ass-kicker she becomes in T2 but The Terminator is all about how she becomes that survivor. She carries the weight of knowing she needs to bring mankind’s saviour into the world. From a meek and helpless young woman, she becomes a born survivor. Forged in battle and spurred by loss, when she hits that button and utters the immortal line “You’re Terminated f*cker” a big screen bad-ass was born.
5. Sally Hardesty – The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (1974)
Sally’s just a good ole southern girl looking to have some fun with her friends on a summer road trip. She couldn’t in a million years imagine the horror she was about to experience. The thing that makes Sally so worthy of Final Girl status is that she could be any one of us. She’s reacting to what is happening around her with utter incredulity and horror. She witnesses her disabled brother carved up right in front of her. She is then captured and psychologically tortured by The Sawyer clan. An emotionally and psychologically broken Sally picks her moment of escape perfectly fleeing for the safety of that pick-up truck as Leatherface does his special little chainsaw dance.
4. Nancy Thompson – A Nightmare on Elm Street (1984)
Nancy had a pretty rough time in A Nightmare on Elm Street. Her friends start getting offed in their sleep with alarming regularity. Then her boyfriend is eaten by his own bed and her own dreams are plagued by a guy who could seriously do with some moisturizer and a manicure. Nancy certainly knows how to fight fire with fire when she realizes she has to use dream-logic to survive the pursuit of Freddy. She’s also the source of one of the ultimate horror kiss-off lines ever, more than worthy of Final Girl status.
3. Sydney Prescott – Scream (1996)
I’m sensing a trend with a lot of final girls, suffering, and Syd certainly endured a lot in Scream. Already traumatized by her mothers murder, she now has to witness a copy-cat killer offing her school friends, stalking and mocking her by phone. Then there’s the added torture of her being unsure of who the hell this person is. When it turns out to be her own boyfriend Billy and his psychotic cohort Stu, Syd turn from victim to bad-ass in taking the fight back to this pair of d-bags. If all that doesn’t earn you a Top 3 spot, nothing will.
2. Ellen Ripley – Alien (1979)
Ellen Ripley is a company woman. Shes good at her job and doesn’t suffer fools. When she and her fellow crew touch-down on LV-426 on company orders, she runs everything by the book. Things go sour, she try’s to enforce a quarantine when one of the crew comes back from an expedition with some kind of parasite attached to his face. When the gestating creature burst forth from crew-mate Kane, something changes in Ripley, a survival mechanism kicks into action and a cinematic bad-ass is born. The rest of her crew get picked off one by one but Ripley endures against “the perfect organism”.
1. Laurie Strode – Halloween (1978)
Come on, there was only going to be one top spot pick. Undoubtedly, it was going to be the original final girl (that may be argued but it’s my list dammit). Laurie is the archetype final girl, innocent, virginal, unassuming but with a hidden strength to endure boundless horror. She is the template for which all final girls which have followed are molded from. Laurie is the progenitor of the most enduring trope in modern horror. She’s the sweet yet resourceful girl next door. Laurie thinks this will be just another boring Halloween babysitting, she has no idea of the escaped mental patient ready to change her life forever that Halloween night. She resists Michael Myers relentless onslaught and even gives him a taste of his own medicine with the pointy end of his own knife. Dr Loomis may bring the big guy down with a half-dozen rounds but it’s Laurie’s will to survive, something that permeates every Final Girl that followed, that earns her the top spot.