Asst. Arts & Entertainment Editor
Warning: This list includes minor spoilers for various films.
The ‘final girl’ trope is one of my favorite tropes in films, and perhaps my favorite horror trope ever. The term “final girls” is primarily used in slasher/horror films to define a woman who is the sole survivor of a group of people being chased by a killer or villain. The final girl has a final confrontation with this killer because of her implied moral superiority. Here, I will rank my favorite final girls from a handful of horror movies from my least to most favorite.
“Tree” — Happy Death Day/Happy Death Day 2U [Xfinity]
In Happy Death Day, Theresa “Tree” Gelbman repeatedly dies on her birthday. The only way to stop this endless loop is for Tree to find out who her killer is and stop her death from happening. What’s different about this film than a lot of other slasher films is Tree is the only one who dies every time this loop happens, yet she also dies differently every time. What I loved about Tree being a college student is that, by a certain amount of loops, you could just tell she was more annoyed than she was scared or upset, which is a very realistic portrayal of college students. The only reason Tree is last on the list is because she had a lot of final girls to measure up to.
Nancy — A Nightmare on Elm Street
Many people are familiar with Freddy Krueger from A Nightmare on Elm Street, a classic ’80s slasher. In this film, when teenagers are fast asleep, Freddy Krueger invades their nightmares, killing them in reality. What I love about Nancy Thompson’s character is her devotion to the truth, knowing the parents of the town are hiding something, which helps her to survive.
Julie — I Know What You Did Last Summer trilogy [Amazon Prime]
A year after a group of friends try to cover up an accident, someone comes after them and starts killing them. Julie James and her friends accidentally ran over someone then dumped his body in the water. The chaos ensues with a letter Julie receives, explaining that the sender knows what her and her friends did. While Julie isn’t my favorite, she was still an enjoyable and realistic final girl.
“Needy” — Jennifer’s Body [Amazon Prime]
In Jennifer’s Body, Jennifer Check becomes possessed by a demon because of a ritual gone wrong. She casually begins to kill and devour boys at her school because “boys are just placeholders” (I couldn’t agree more). Anita “Needy” Lesnicky is Jennifer’s nerdy best friend who tries to stop her. Needy has to make a decision between her best friend and innocent people. The only reason Needy isn’t higher on my list is because, honestly, a part of me was rooting for Jennifer.
Zoey — Escape Room
When Escape Room first came out in theaters, I was super excited about it. The movie starts off with different people getting invited to an escape room. Once they begin playing, they soon realize escaping is actually a matter of life or death. The people in the escape room playing have never met each other but eventually find out they have something in common. Before coming to the escape room, at different points in their life, they have all escaped death. Zoey Davis is a perfect final girl, who never goes against her morals, and cleverly fights back the people behind the escape room. Zoey is also the first Black final girl of a horror film, subverting the trope of Black people dying first in horror films.
Clear Rivers — Final Destination franchise [Amazon Prime]
While Final Destination isn’t your typical slasher film, it is still a fun thriller where a group of young friends die off one by one (I don’t know what you’d call this, but it may be my favorite horror subgenre). Final Destination begins with one of the friends, Alex, having a premonition about the plane they are boarding exploding. (The plane does inevitably explode.) The people who got off the plane have cheated death, and one by one start dying in very mysterious yet fatal deaths. Clear Rivers is actually one of my favorite final girls because of her sacrifice in the second Final Destination movie. She thought outside of the box to keep herself safe from death, but, when she found out everything was happening to a new group of people, she decided to help them.
Deena — Fear Street trilogy [Netflix]
The Fear Street Trilogy takes place over different decades, the first taking place in 1994, next in 1978, and the last one taking place in 1666. The 1994 film focuses on Deena and her friends in their town Shadyside, where unhinged killings by unlikely murderers begin to happen. Deena has to not only find a way to survive, but understand why this keeps happening. The pieces start coming together in the 1978 film, which takes place at a summer camp, and, lastly, 1666 reveals this all started with a witch, and many other secrets about the town are revealed. Deena is an amazing final girl; not only is she always ready to fight, but she is very selfless. She goes out of her way to save her girlfriend and keep her younger brother protected, and never loses hope even when her girlfriend becomes possessed. I also loved that Deena was a gay woman of color — rare for a character in the horror genre, especially of a final girl.
Sidney — Scream franchise
My favorite final girl, and one of the most well-known, is Sidney Prescott. Scream is one of my favorite horror movies, so it’s no surprise that Sidney is my favorite final girl. Scream was my introduction to the final girl trope. From the first Scream, I was obsessed with Sidney Prescott and her character arc. Prescott had so much trauma and, on top of many of her friends dying, and finding out her boyfriend was one of the killers, she then killed her boyfriend — and this was just one movie. Prescott is in some serious need of therapy. All of this trauma and yet Prescott is a resilient fighter who is always ready when a new Ghostface appears, and even so she remains a vulnerable and authentic final girl.
If you are already missing Halloween as we look to a new holiday season, and you want movies to watch with a protagonist you’ll root for, a bad—ss female character, and strong lead wrapped in one, I highly suggest these final girl films.
Featured Image: Courtesy of Yahoo!