When it comes to slasher films, the villains almost always become the iconic sigil of their respective franchises. After all, they’re usually the ones returning sequel after sequel. But in doing so, it’s easy to forget about the protagonists themselves, many of whom occupy the horror title of “final girl”.
They’re (usually) the young women who manage to defeat the killer in the end, after watching many of their own family and friends fall victim first. So, just for fun, we decided to take a look at the 10 best final girls from horror movies!
We’re basing these rankings on three criteria: how interesting they are as a character, how creative they are in fighting their villain, and finally a lesser defined “badass” factor.
Honorable Mentions – These were all great characters that deserved a shoutout, but just missed being in the Top 10
10. Tina Shepard (Friday the 13th Part VII: The New Beginning)
Portrayed by Lar Park Lincoln
One of the goals with this sequel was to give Jason Vorhees more of a match, and heavily marketed as “Carrie vs. Jason” Tina very much fulfills this role in The New Beginning. On her own, Tina was an interesting enough character dealing with her own issues, like an overbearing mother, a manipulative psychiatrist, and struggling with the guilt of killing her own father.
So pitting her against Jason just felt like a bonus. Watching her use her telekinesis against him felt new and interesting, especially in a franchise that was running out of steam. Too many superhero movies feature a hero and villain with the exact same powers, but Tina is different enough from Jason that their clash is actually fun to watch!
9. Alexa Woods (Alien vs. Predator)
Portrayed by Sanaa Lathan
Unpopular opinion: Alien vs. Predator is a decent movie, and while its PG13 rating does hold it back a bit, it’s still worthy of recognition. And a lot of that has to do with its protagonist and final girl Alexa.
Not only does she manage to survive in the midst of a battle between two two extra terrestrial titans, but she goes so far as to gain the Predator’s respect, and even kill a Xenomorph, using its head as a shield. Alexa is bold, steadfast, and even gets inducted into the Predator’s tribe when it “marks” her with the scar for the prey that she killed. No one else on this list can say that.
8. Laurie Strode (Halloween Franchise)
Portrayed by Jamie Lee Curtis
There are perhaps no final girl more famous than Laurie Strode. She’s the lead of a slasher movie that went on to define the subgenre itself. She starts off very passive and in the original movie, things more so happen to her rather than her driving the plot. But she really shines in her legacy sequel returns, both with H20 and the newer trilogy.
Of all the characters on this list, Laurie is the one we see the most variations of at different points in her life (as well as in different timelines). And while her younger self isn’t as badass as 2018 Laurie, she still has a very strong protective instinct over the children she’s watching. She’s clearly terrified, but faces off with the boogeyman anyway, demonstrating just how brave she is.
7. Ellen Ripley (Alien Franchise)
Portrayed by Sigourney Weaver
We’ve already discussed badass Xenomorph slayer Alexa, but none are as iconic as Ripley herself. Firstly, she’s the sole survivor of Alien because she’s able to think on her feet and warned her crew about exactly what came to pass. And secondly, there is perhaps no more awesome scene in sci-fi horror than her yelling to the Xenomorph Queen, “Get away from her you bitch!”, before taking her on single handedly.
Ripley is first and foremost a survivor, but what elevates her character is the immense compassion she also has. This comes in the form of her becoming a surrogate mother to Newt, as well as her disgust with the Weyland corporation for their laissez faire approach to human casualties as collateral damage for their economic interests.
6. Sarah Connor (Terminator Franchise)
Portrayed by Linda Hamilton
Yes, the Terminator franchise is much more sci-fi action than it is horror, but for argument’s sake, the original film is very much a slasher movie. One with a final girl who goes through a full transformation from timid waitress who isn’t sure what she wants in life to doomsday prepper cyborg killer. In addition to dealing with a killer machine hellbent on murdering her and her son, Sarah also has to deal with society not believing her and institutionalizing her for doing what she knows is right.
5. Tree Gelbman (Happy Death Day, Happy Death Day 2U)
Portrayed by Jessica Rothe
While the Happy Death Day films delve more into sci-fi and comedy, they’re both solid slasher films that remain incredibly underrated. And a large part of that has to do with the protagonist Tree. Unlike every other character on this list, she actually does die, over and over again in fact. But in doing so she investigates her own murder and discovers who’s behind it.
In the beginning, Tree seems like nothing more than a self-centered sorority girl, who treats others with contempt. But as she lives the same day over and over, we find that there is a lot more to her and she even finds that there’s more to herself. We actually go from not really caring for her in the beginning to really rooting for her to solve her own death.
4. Sienna Shaw (Terrifier 2)
Portrayed by Lauren LaVera
Sienna may be the newest addition to the lineup of final girls but the slasher villain she faces is perhaps the most gruesome and horrific of all. No other horror villain relishes with such glee as Art the Clown when he brutally kills people. So it’s a pretty iconic position that Sienna occupies being his arch nemesis of sorts.
Between the backstory of her father drawing images of her and Art, we know that there’s definitely more to her than just being a survivor. We can infer from the not so subtle angel wings on her costume that she either is or represents some sort of angelic force to counter Art’s demonic. Much like the other characters listed, Sienna goes through a huge transformation herself.
In the beginning we see a teenage girl, still reeling with the trauma of her father’s recent death. But in trying to protect her brother, she gets this badass phoenix moment where she becomes a warrior. And based on what Damien Leone has hinted at, this is not the last we’ve seen or learned about Sienna!
3. Sidney Prescott (Scream Franchise)
Portrayed by Neve Campbell
Laurie Strode was the iconic final girl of the 70s, Nancy Thompson of the 80s, but Sidney Prescott takes that title for the 90s. At a time when the slasher was going out of style, Scream breathed new life, and with it a new type of final girl who was very much aware of all the tropes. When attacked by Ghostface, she smartly runs out the front door instead of back upstairs to be trapped.
She’s also the one who, sequel after sequel, manages to outwit or outfight a parade of Ghostface killers, who all seem obsessed with her for one reason or another. When it comes to their absurdly contrived motives, she gives them zero of the attention and awe they crave, and always manages to kill them. She’s survived all these years, and learns from each encounter. 2022’s Scream perfectly summarized her growth as a survivor when she famously said to Dewey, “I’m Sidney f**king Prescott, of course I have a gun!”
2. Kirsty Cotton (Hellraiser Franchise)
Portrayed by Ashley Laurence
Often overlooked among other final girls, Kirsty Cotton proves time and time again that she’s a force to be reckoned with. In the ultimate dark take on a Disney princess story, Kirsty is forced to deal with a wicked stepmother, who conspires with her evil uncle to kill her father and steal his skin.
A lot of people mistakenly see the cenobites as the villains of Hellraiser, but honestly they’re just forces of nature, neither good nor evil, neither angels nor demons. What gives Kirsty her incredibly high spot on this list is the fact that on two occasions (three if you count the direct to video sequel), she crossed paths with the cenobites and managed to wheel and deal with them to have her enemies eliminated.
While everyone else faces unimaginable pain at their hands, Kirsty always somehow manages to negotiate her way into not only surviving, but using them against her own villains.
1. Nancy Thompson (A Nightmare on Elm Street Franchise)
Portrayed by Heather Langenkamp
Who else could it be? Nancy Thompson remains the quintessential final girl for two reasons: she’s the only one who sees Krueger for the threat that he is and plans accordingly, and her ability to inspire others.
When her friends and boyfriend are killed one by one, Nancy steps into action, investigating a shocking truth from the past. And when she realizes that no one believes her, she takes it upon herself to fight Freddy, and even set up traps in house Home Alone style (6 years before that movie even came out).
The only reason she’s able to pull him into the real world is because she paid attention to how his dream powers work, and she’s bold and fearless in the face of certain death. And that’s just her in the first movie.
She also deserves a lot of recognition for her return in Dream Warriors, and the way that she’s a mentor to the troubled teenagers that Freddy has his eye on. No other final girl on this list inspires a new generation like Nancy does to rise up and fight their villain!
Who is your favorite final girl? Let us know in the comments!