There’s no one who knows survival like a woman, and no group who have persevered like the black community, so I think it’s safe to say that Black Final Girls are some of the most badass characters the horror genre has to offer.
As February has been shared by Black History Month and Women in Horror month, this seems the perfect time to celebrate the eclectic ladies who have not only pushed through the horrors of everyday life but also survived the monsters of their respective films as well. Here’s a handful of the best Black Final Girls and Heroines in horror! (We’re talking survivors here, so spoilers ahead!)
10. Jessie Adams (Spree)
Kicking off the list is a recent addition to the Final Girl canon. Jessie Adams is a social media famous comedian who catches the eye of a psychopathic driver Kurt Kunkle. SNL alum Sasheer Zamata delivers the role with overwhelming confidence and charisma, but it’s Jessie’s importance to the theme of the film about chasing fame that makes her such a dynamic character. Though she handles business like a boss, surviving Kurt’s killing spree: however, we see in the aftermath that Jessie might be just as flawed as her antagonist.
9. Reese Wilson (Urban Legends & Urban Legends: Final Cut)
Next up we have a double dose of Loretta Devine as Pendleton University police officer Reese Wilson. Devine is a seasoned vet, who has appeared in over 50 movies in her career to date. Devine takes an often tropey character and adding a layer of grounded relatability to a pair of simple slashers. Reese is much more than the standard officer side character, who swoops in to save the protagonists on multiple occasions throughout the two films. Reese is the definition of clutch.
8. Lex Woods (Alien vs. Predator)
Alexa Woods is a seasoned guide trusted to lead a team of scientists through Antartica to explore a strange alien pyramid, so right off the bat Lex is displayed as a respected figure for her keen survival skills. Lex is so skilled that she not only outlasts her crew members, but earns the respect of a Yautja warrior and teams up with him to take out the Xenomorph threats. If you make friends with a Predator, you’re automatically on this list. Plus, Sanaa Lathan might have the best hair on this list: slaying and slayin, guuuurl!
7. Rita Veder (Vampire in Brooklyn)
Not gonna lie, I rewatched Vampire in Brooklyn and it’s not the best. However, Angela Bassett shines as Rita Veder; a good detective tortured by the demons and mysteries of her past. She already has enough on her plate until a vampire comes along to seduce her. When the movie isn’t busy indulging Eddie Murphy’s character comedy, it does succeed in being a hypnotic vampire romance with palpable chemistry between Rita and Maximillian. Bassett’s striking presence is beautiful to watch as she grapples with her mortality and sensual desires.
6. Melanie (The Girl with All the Gifts)
One of the rare cases of the heroine being a monster herself, Melanie is just as special as the film’s title suggests. Melanie is a zombie-human hybrid who helps protect a group of scientists and soldiers through the vapid land. Through Melanie, the supporting cast learns lessons in humanity from her, seeing past her animalistic actions. Young actress Sennia Nanua carries the film with maturity, displaying a large range of emotion. Melanie is equal parts adorable and vicious as we watch her protect those she cares about. I mean, the blood messily smeared across her mouth like a kid after snack time: how cute is that!?
5. Selena (28 Days Later)
After years of work in television and short films, Naomi Harris burst onto the film scene in 28 Days Later as apocalypse survivor Selena. From the moment we’re introduced to Selena, we see her as very capable and resourceful in dispatching zombies. She also is emotionally and mentally strong, killing her infected friend immediately knowing it’s the right thing to do. Throughout the film, Selena is protecting lead protagonist Jim more often than not while also taking on a paternal role in looking after Hannah. Whether it be in the face of zombies or soldiers with sexual assault intentions, Selena maintains her composure showing her Final Girl prowess.
4. Brenda Meeks (the Scary Movie franchise)
The only character to appear in four of the five Scary Movie entires besides Anna Farris is Regina Hall as Cindy’s best friend Brenda Meeks. In a franchise with not much consistency, Hall provides steady laughs across the spoof films (even after dying in the first installment). Between her hilarious reactions to the shenanigans around her and Hall’s impeccable comedic timing: Brenda manages to steal every scene she’s in, often overshadowing her lead counterpart. Though the Scary Movie series has gotten its share of flack over the years, we must salute Regina Hall for her years of service in our Black Final Girl’s Ring of Honor.
3. Jenn Remming (Sweetheart)
Jenn is one of the lesser-known names on the list, but she definitely shouldn’t! Sweetheart is an indie monster movie following Jenn (played by Kirsie Clemons) battling a beefy sea monster after being stranded on an island. We spend the entire first half with Jenn alone on the island, learning how she thinks and how resourceful she is. Then when her boyfriend and friend are also revealed to survive, she must figure a way off the island while trying to protect them from the monster (which they don’t believe is real). The film is a slow burn at times, but you are certainly rewarded at the end with a spectacular final showdown against the monster. With her make shift traps/weapons and fearless attitude, Jenn is on Dutch from Predator levels of bad-assery.
2. Jeryline (Demon Knight)
Who doesn’t love a good redemption arc? Jada Pinkett-Smith plays ex-con Jeryline just trying to survive a night of demons. She is the epitome of cool, sporting a blonde pixie cut with a take-no-shit attitude. Jeryline is an example of making all the right decisions one should make as a Final Girl, subverting tropes usually displayed by black and female characters in horror movies. She employs a mix of brains and braun to survive the night, killing The Collector with an iconic bloody spit to the face. Demon Knight has received much more praise over the years since its release, in big part to Jada Pinkett-Smith delivering us the gold standard for Black Final Girls.
1. Adelaide/Miss Audrey Caroline (Us/Little Monsters)
I had to cheat a bit to close out the list, as Lupita Nyong’o gave us two wonderful Black Final Girl performances in 2019 between Jordan Peele’s doppelgänger horror Us and Hulu’s direct-to-streaming zombie flick Little Monsters. Of course Nyong’o received lots of praise for her dual role in Us, adding layers to how we think of typical protagonists/antagonists in horror. After suppressing the trauma of her past, Adelaide unleashes her primal tendencies to protect her family from their doppelgängers. Not only is Adelaide written wonderfully by Peele, adding nuance to a Black Final Girl through the lens of a black director but Lupita’s charged performance is exhilarating to watch.
Little Monster shows her range in a different way, with Lupita balancing comedy amidst portraying the protector of her class. Lupita exudes a warm through her infectious smile, which she will turn on a dime when it’s time to bash some zombie children’s brains in! Both roles show off Lupita’s dynamic range: and with her career less than 10 years old, we have the potential for even more Lupita-led horror films in the future to add to her Black Final Girl resumé.
There you have it, folks! Ten (eleven) terrific Black Final Girls that can be found throughout horror. As you can tell by the list, we didn’t start getting a larger influx of BFGs until the 2000s (not that they didn’t exist), but I’m hopeful so see more as we see more diverse voices enter the horror genre. Representation certainly does matter, as girls and women of every shade deserve to see a Final Girl that looks like them kick ass on screen. Make sure to check out these strong ladies in action if you haven’t seen all the films mentioned!