Feminist Horror Movies? Hell Yeah!
My love for horror movies was born when I was just a sweet tween. The Shining and Nightmare on Elm Street were two of the first horror flicks I watched, and what followed was viewing after viewing of shitty slasher flicks that featured scantily clad women getting laid, making bad decisions, and then dying horrific deaths. To my knowledge, Final Girls were not yet a real thing. Ah the 80’s.
Over the years, it has been a struggle to find horror movies with female protagonists that really spoke to me. Fortunately, my incredible dedication to the horror genre over the past 30-plus years has led me to be able to share some awesome horror movies with kickass Final Girls that you should binge-watch this Halloween.
Before I list my top picks for your badass Halloween girl’s night in horror movie binge, let me introduce the definition of a Final Girl for those of you who may not be into this movie genre as deeply as I am.
What is a Final Girl?
According to the good ol’ dictionary, “The final girl is a trope in horror movies, referring to the female protagonist who remains alive at the end of the film after the other characters have been killed when she is usually placed in a position to confront the killer.”
For the purposes of this article, I’m not just focusing on female leads in horror movies who survive their killers. I chose my favorite Final Girl flicks based on how good the horror movie was and how badass the female lead is. These women don’t just survive. They thrive and are a legitimate force to reckon with by the end of their respective movies.
So, without further delay…
10 Best Horror Movies with Kick Ass Final Girls.
Alice: Resident Evil
I’ll admit, this franchise went south fast, but Alice is one of my favorite action-horror movie heroines and an undeniably awesome Final Girl. I’d love to hang out with her and Selene (see number 9) any day. I definitely plan to cue up the first Resident Evil in the next day or two.
Selene: Under World
I love a good vampire/werewolf crossover flick and the Underworld franchise kept me interested for a while. What I never tired of was watching Kate Beckinsale’s character kick ass and save her male counterparts. I’ve watched Under World more than once: which says a lot.
Gwen: Black Phone
The Black Phone came out in 2021 so it’s still relatively new. And while the character Gwen played by Madeleine McGraw, isn’t the focus of this story, she is definitely key to the movie’s success and her brother’s survival. The Black Phone takes place in 1978 and follows 13-year-old Finney Shaw (Mason Thames) who is abducted by a serial killer known as “The Grabber” (Ethan Hawke) and is trapped in a soundproof basement. When a disconnected black phone begins to ring, Finney hears the voices of the killer’s past victims who try to help him escape the deadly fate they were faced with.
The reality is, that Finney’s younger sister Gwen is the true key to his escape. She’s a witty, brother-loving badass from beginning to end who uses her supernatural premonitions while dealing with an abusive father to find him. I’d like to see a sequel with her at the center of the story.
Rachel Keller: The Ring
I’m not sure why Rachel Keller hasn’t earned more accolades as a horror movie Final Girl. The Ring literally scared the shit out of me the first time I watched it. A determined mother and journalist, Rachel braves the absolute most terrifying situations in order to save her son…which she manages to do by the end. This movie makes keeping the TV on while watching extra difficult.
Clarice Starling: The Silence of the Lambs
The Silence of the Lambs is undoubtedly one of the ultimate psychological thrillers that lands squarely in the horror movie genre, and Clarice Starling is a strong female protagonist that claims Final girl status using her intellect and brilliant skillet. I have an extra soft spot for her because I too grew up on a sheep farm. Ahhhh Clarice.
Grace: Ready or not
Ready or Not is a black comedy/horror movie crossover, but it definitely lands in my top 10 picks for best Final Girl Horror flicks. Grace starts out looking like she’s going to fit the typical “die before the end” blond airhead horror movie trope, but surprises everyone by turning her wedding dress into military garb and killing some crazies. She doesn’t just barely survive. She comes up roses after an incredible blood bath.
Erin Harson –You’re next
I recently rewatched this horror movie and enjoyed every last minute of it. What I love about the female protagonist Erin Harson is that she takes viewers (and her co-characters) by complete surprise. She starts out looking like she might be the next dead bimbo in this slasher flick, but turns out to be a highly trained survivalist who was trained for this very type of situation. Erin is one of my favorite types of Final Girls. She doesn’t just survive her attackers, she brutally kicks their asses…and might even enjoy it a little.
Laurie Strode – Halloween
Laurie Strode played by Jaime Lee Curtis is unarguably one of the first Final Girls in the Horror movie genre. She survives (again and again) one of the most iconic killers in slasher flick history: Michael Myers. And she does it using a variety of cool weapons like a hanger and knitting needles. Perhaps she should appear closer to the number one spot, but the truth is, I’m not a fan of the Halloween franchise. One is fun, but the rest get old. I would not necessarily prioritize any of these movies for my Halloween weekend binge-watch list. But you certainly should try to fit one in before October is officially over.
The Hunt is an underrated horror movie that serves as the perfect metaphor for who America is right now. Crystal is one of my favorite Final Girls because…well…she embodies what so many of us feel like on almost a daily basis. An ex-military expert Crystal has combat skill set that puts Jason Bourne to shame. She’s a certified badass and watching her kick ass is actually a bit cathartic. She’s the kind of Final Girl I’d hope to be should trump win the 2020 election.
Ellen Ripley –Aliens
Ellen Ripley, played by Sigourney Weaver, in the Alien franchise should probably be my number one pick for Ultimate Final Girl. Both Alien and Aliens are two of my all-time favorite Scifi/Horror Movie flicks. And Ellen Ripley is undeniably a badass female lead who took control over a male-dominated crew and with a calm ferocity rarely captured in horror flicks survives one of the most terrifying monsters AND manages to save her cat (Alien), a kid, and a man (Aliens). Well, kinda. There’s no doubt the franchise lost its luster throughout the sequels, but Ellen Ripley never lost her status as a kick-ass female protagonist.
#1 Sarah Carter – The Descent.
My number one pick for the best Final Girl Horror flick is Sarah Carter in The Descent. This is one of my all-time favorite horror movies, first because it was a total surprise. Its cast featured virtually all unknown actors (at the time it came out) and the script is completely girl-powered. The plot captures what works against female friendships and the success of feminism in the real world as the characters embark on the ultimate girlfriends’ getaway.
I love Final Girl Sarah Carter, because she goes into her adventure riddled with panic and anxiety and literally goes through a bloody rebirth to come out the other side a legit badass survivor. Make sure you get to watch this one before your Halloween weekend is over.