Last week, a friend of mine sent me a list of someone’s favorite final girls. I eagerly clicked on the link — because lists plus horror equals yay! — only to find myself completely enraged by the inclusion of Marie from High Tension, which . . . no. I absolutely refuse to accept Marie as a final girl because she fucking isn’t one. The term is somewhat open to interpretation (as I’ll briefly discuss later) but seriously, no. That movie, I swear to God.
Moving on. I knew I’d have to make my own list of favorite final girls in response, which would be difficult because most lists include boring heroines like Sally from The Texas Chainsaw Massacre or Jess from Black Christmas. I like these movies, but unfortunately, final girls with actual personality is a relatively modern invention — and even modern horror regularly fails on that score. And as much as I felt like I should include Sarah from The Descent — for being, you know, all competent and kick-ass, I just couldn’t get past the fact that I really, really disliked her. So until I finally make myself give that movie a second chance, she’s out of the running.
With that in mind — and continuing my penchant for creating blog posts at least one week after time-of-the-year relevancy — here are my favorite final girls.
There will, rather obviously, be spoilers. In fact, there will be ALL the spoilers. Please don’t assume I’m kidding about the spoilers. Read at your own peril.
Top Ten Favorite Final Girls
10. Jenny (Renée Zellweger) – The Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Next Generation
If you haven’t seen this movie, please understand: this is a terrible film. Do not rent this with the expectation that it will be good, or even vaguely coherent. It will not, and you will be highly disappointed. Even as a so-bad-it’s-good film, it’s . . . well, special. Leatherface alone, I mean, wow. And Jenny, by and large, is not a particularly great heroine because that would imply that she, or any of the other characters in this story, are well-drawn. Obviously, this is not the case.
Still, Jenny has earned a tiny spot in my odd little nostalgic heart. This is partially because TCM: TNG is the movie that introduced me to my love of mocking absurdly awful horror films. But it’s also because of this one moment, where Jenny — wearing the most hideous dress, complete with this weird silver fringe shit and one ridiculously large red flower — tells Leatherface to “sit the fuck down and shut up.” The delivery is amazing. This is the sound my heart makes when I’m continuously surrounded by aggressively annoying people, and I kind of love her for it.
9. Allison (Katrina Bowden) – Tucker and Dale vs Evil
In a movie where the hillbillies are the good guys and city kids accidentally leap headfirst into wood chippers, Katrina Bowden has the not-entirely-enviable task of playing the stereotypically sweet heroine straight whilst simultaneously making her likable at the same time. But she does a good job with it because I do like Allison. Her best moment in the whole movie is when she tries to do a sit-down therapy session with both Dale, our primary hillbilly protagonist, and Chad, our would-be hero and clear antagonist. It doesn’t work at all, of course. In fact, considering that it ends in three deaths and one cabin explosion, it could be considered a colossal failure, but hey, what’s important is that she tried, right?
8. Cassidy (Briana Evigan) – Sorority Row
Cassidy is your fairly typical final girl: she’s the nice girl in the sorority, the only one who wanted to go to the cops when a prank got their friend killed. (She’s also the first girl on the list who, technically, isn’t a final girl. Final girl and survivor girl are often used interchangeably, but I’m not sure a final girl actually needs to survive. Really, she just needs to be the last girl standing, but Cass isn’t standing alone: two other girls survive with her. But honestly, that’s generally allowed these days. That’s way more acceptable than the idea that Marie from High Tension is a final girl. Sweet baby Christ.)
The thing that makes Cass different from so many other final girls: she’s snarky as hell. Sure, she has a couple of dumb lines that I’d erase if I could. But for the most part, she’s funny and likable, and the chemistry between her and Leah Pipes makes this movie so much more entertaining than I ever thought it would be. (And obviously, Carrie Fisher doesn’t hurt either. Carrie Fisher should play the den mother in every sorority horror film from now on.)
7. Laurie Strode (Jamie Lee Curtis) – Halloween, Halloween 2, Halloween H20: 20 Years Later
Laurie Strode is one of the few classic final girls I have on my list, and surprisingly, this mostly has to do with H20. I’ll have to give Halloween another chance at some point, but despite some truly awesome music, I never fully warmed up to that movie. (Though, to be fair, it has been quite some time since I’ve seen it.) I did like the sequel, but I barely remember anything about Laurie herself. I got absolutely zero sense of her personality in that film. In H20, though, we get to see what’s become of her after twenty years — has a kid, became a teacher, basically living in fear — and all of that pretty seemed believable to me. I’m all about the evolution of characters, and Laurie Strode’s worked.
Best moment, hands down, is when Laurie decapitates Michael. (We don’t speak of any later films in that franchise because they have ceased to exist. Such is the mighty power of my will. Think about that, and FEAR ME.)
6. Riley (Shanley Caswell) – Detention
So, this movie is nuts. In a much better way than Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Next Generation, obviously, but still. NUTS. A surprising number of teens actually survive this movie (including the goth girl, which never happens), but since one of them is an alien and a handful of others travel back in time to save the world — or at least the school — that’s hardly the weirdest thing about Detention.
Every character is kind of a parody in this movie. We have jocks, hipsters, mean girls, nerds. Riley, our heroine, is a sarcastic, vegetarian feminist, and while the movie pokes some fun at her, like it pokes fun at everyone, I personally was never offended. (For the record: I’m sarcastic and a feminist, but not a vegetarian.) Riley’s very funny and likable, and she and Josh Hutcherson make great co-leads. I’ve never seen the actress in anything else, but I’d like to based on this alone.
Best moment? Well, I’m a sucker for the Dirty Dancing esque dance scene to “MMM-Bop,” but that just doesn’t sound very horror, does it? Well, too bad, because it’s what I have at the moment.
5. Dana (Kristen Connolly) – The Cabin in the Woods
Dana makes for a very atypical final girl. When we meet her, she’s dancing without any pants on in full view of an open window. She’s also decidedly not a virgin, although the people who intend to sacrifice her and her friends more or less overlook that. Dana intentionally releases all the monsters trapped in the secret underground lair. She even tries to kill her own friend at the end of the movie, although to be fair, she is trying to save the world at that particular point. I can’t decide if hitting the big red button is her best moment — because it’s pretty badass and leads to the best slaughter scene ever — or if it’s when she apologizes for trying to kill Marty and agrees that maybe the whole world is better off without humanity. That scene is both funny and surprisingly sweet, and it is definitely one of my favorite movie endings of all time.
4. Ginny (Amy Steel) – Friday the 13th: Part Two
I haven’t watched them all yet, but of the Friday the 13th movies I have seen, Ginny is easily my favorite heroine, certainly more interesting than Alice (the girl who directly preceded her) and a thousand times less annoying than Chris (who came directly after). Ginny is smart and sarcastic and doesn’t take any shit from anyone, least of all her boyfriend, which, man. That’s such a refreshing quality in a horror movie heroine.
Also, if memory serves, Ginny is not a virgin, which is even more unusual, considering this movie was made in 1981. (Of course, this is also the movie where going out drinking totally saves one dude’s life, further proving that Part Two is absolutely the best Friday the 13th movie there is.)
Ginny takes Jason down with child psychology and a machete. And admittedly, this is a temporary takedown because Jason always has to pop up for one last annoying scare, but come on . . . you’ve gotta like a final girl whose weapons are child psychology and a machete, right? That’s pretty amazing.
3. Ripley (Sigourney Weaver) – Alien, Aliens
Ripley is the only final girl on this list who’s trying to survive an evil alien instead of a psychotic killer, but that doesn’t disqualify her from the running. In fact, Ripley is a fantastic final girl: one of my favorite things about Alien, actually, is that she’s a competent woman but decidedly not an action hero. Or, honestly, even the clear survivor girl. If you could somehow watch Alien for the first time without knowing anything about the franchise or the stars involved — good luck — it wouldn’t be immediately clear that Ripley is your protagonist. Which I think is kind of cool, actually. As a rule, horror tends to be an unfortunately predictable genre where you almost always know who’s going to make it and who won’t. But wouldn’t it be so much more interesting if you didn’t know those things? If watching a scary movie was like watching an episode of Game of Thrones or, come to think of it, The Walking Dead? Horror should really embrace the idea that anyone can die.
By the time Aliens came out, Ripley kind of morphed from an everywoman to a Big Damn Hero, but — much like Laurie Strode — I really enjoy the evolution of her character. Her trauma and fear makes her relatable, but her badassery is empowering and never feels out of character or ridiculous. There aren’t a lot of heroines like Ripley, which is unfortunate and why we need more female-dominated action films, not to mention horror movies with competent, realistic women — not just Nice Girls Who Never Do Bad Things.
As far as Best Moment goes, honestly. Do I even need to say it?
2. Sidney (Neve Campbell) – Scream, Scream 2, Scream 3, Scream 4
Hard core nostalgia for this one, considering Scream was my introduction to the slasher genre. Sidney was the first girl to criticize horror movies for being insulting and horror movie heroines, in particular, for being stupid. She punches Gale Weathers, which possibly isn’t a very mature response but is pretty funny, regardless. I’d been thinking that she was the first non-virgin to survive a slasher movie, but I’m actually pretty sure now that’s Ginny. Still, Scream changed the game entirely for horror, and Sidney ushered in a new line of horror movie heroines.
Her best moment is hard to pick. I love when she turns the situation around on Stu and Billy, donning a Ghostface mask and calling them on the phone. I also like when she kills Emma Roberts with a defibrillator in Scream 4 and creepily lies down beside her corpse. (That movie has so many problems, but I LOVE that creepy ass moment.) Still, I think I might have to go back to the original film, when Sidney shoots Billy in the head as he tries to come back for one last scare. That was pretty awesome, especially the first time you watched it.
1. Erin (Sharni Vinson) – You’re Next
I reviewed this movie only last week, so I don’t know I have anything particularly new or insightful to say here. But if you’ll allow me to briefly sum up: Erin takes out seven people in this movie, six of whom are bad guys and five of whom actively try to kill her at least once. She tries her best to keep everyone alive, and she might have managed it, too, if three of her supposed allies weren’t actually evil, money-grubbing bastards. Erin improvises, sets traps, and kills her attackers with all manner of weapons, including blenders. I can’t tell you how much I want to see a crossover fanfiction where she and a now grown up (and presumably much darker) Kevin McAllister defend their position with whatever they can find around the house.
I also really like that Erin’s not an obvious badass from the beginning, that she seems like a relatively normal, well-adjusted person who just happens to have grown up on a survivor compound. I like that her past helps her survive, is a part of her, but doesn’t define her throughout the entire movie. That’s a nice touch.
Erin’s best moment? No question. It’s gotta go to the blender kill. That was AMAZING.
Well, there you have it, folks. There’s my list, only one week past Halloween. Don’t see any of your favorite final girls? Think there were worthier contenders? Sound off in the comments below.