The final girl is an often disputed topic, especially since the film industry has evolved her into a hero of sorts instead of a woman solely fighting to survive. When I first studied the final girl, I was in a film class about 10 years ago. This was before The Hunger Games, Divergent, and the other movies that redefined the female’s role. This was before the final girl seeped into other genres, and there were few final girl-guy combos. According to today’s views of the final girl, even Dorothy from the Wizard of Oz could rank high on the list.
Let’s look at the horror genre, and who the final girl is in a horror movie. According to Carol J. Clover, author of Men, Women, and Chainsaws: Gender in the Modern Horror Film, the final girl simply possesses two qualities:
- She undergoes agonizing trials
- She virtually or actually destroys the antagonist and saves herself
With these rules in mind, here are my Top 3 Final Girls:
3. Sidney Prescott, Scream franchise
Four movies and 20 years later, Sidney Prescott may be the updated version of Laurie Strode, the final girl from Halloween. Because this movie spans several, the focus will be on the first.
Scream: Mostly a virgin in the first film, Sidney kicks and slams her way to survival. She’s the “more behaved” girl among her group, doesn’t party a lot, and it’s clear she begins as a virgin who’s fighting to keep her purity. Sidney is so smart she immediately suspects her boyfriend, who turns out to be one of the killers. As her friends start getting killed, her main goal is to survive but also protect others.
She kicks the killer down stairs, hits him, shoots him, cusses them, and ends up battered and bruised. Sidney beats the stuffing out of Ghostface over and over again. She runs a lot! Sidney finally submits to her boyfriend and loses her virginity. Afterward, he reveals himself as one of the killers. So in this case, the final girl is literally and figuratively devirginized, which instantly makes her stronger. She may cry, she may ask why, but she never stops fighting to survive.
2. Erin, You’re Next
The only nonfranchise and newest film on the list, Erin is well deserving of her No. 2 spot. She’s not pure, drinks whiskey, dates her ex-teacher, and hails from Australia. She’s almost the opposite of final girl 101, but that’s the beauty of her character and the evolution of the final girl. The definition has evolved to include a more realistic female, one who may be flawed, but it doesn’t stop her from kicking serious boo-tay.
You’re Next: A family has arranged for almost everyone to be killed, so two brothers can inherit the family fortune. Erin is supposed to survive as “a witness,” but because she serves as a threat, all the antagonists try to kill her at some point. She does everything she can to protect this family she barely knows, but when the truth comes out, so do the knives and blender. She reaches her breaking point, and her only goal is to save herself. And she does. She kills everyone – even the cop at the end, accidentally.
1. Laurie Strode, Halloween franchise
No one beats Laurie. This buttoned-up virgin babysitter beats the crap out of Michael Myers a few dozen times. Sure, she has some breakdowns, but overall, her character grows into a mature, confident woman. Because the Halloween franchise expands eight movies, and Laurie is in many sequels and the remakes, I’m focusing on the original Halloween and Halloween II.
Halloween: She’s smart, unsure, pure, studies instead of partying, and serves as a good role model to teen girls. She doesn’t succumb to peer pressure, and her character still serves as a role model some 30-plus years later. She’s stalked by Myers throughout the entire movie, and he kills nearly everyone in his way. She is responsible for herself but has to protect the kids as well, which she does. She immediately directs them out of harm’s way. Laurie stabs Myers with a knitting needle (win!), a coat hanger, and manages to run and hide until Loomis shoots him.
Halloween II: Laurie has to fight to survive later that night! This sequel takes place only hours after the first; it all happens in less than 24 hours. She’s injured and exhausted, broken, but still strong enough to escape Myers while he chases her throughout the hospital and its complex. Laurie’s endurance and need for survival remains rare in horror movies, and she stabs and limps her way to safety until Myers goes kaboom!
BONUS: Ellen Ripley, Alien franchise (courtesy of James)
Ripley also goes against the horror movie stereotype. In the first two films, she shows some exceptional horror movie common sense. She’s typically composed and level-headed.
Alien: She’s the one who reminds everyone how unwise it is to bring the unknown alien creature on board the ship. She advises against leaving the planet before the ship is repaired. She’s the one who finally decides on a plan of action to escape the xenomorph. Plus, she went back to save the cat!
Aliens: She is stunned at the short-sighted foolishness of the Weyland-Yutani corporate suits, refuses to participate in the mission until it’s promised the goal is the annihilation of the aliens, and she has to take command of the mission when the leaders prove too senseless to be effective.
Ripley is unique because almost never in the first two films (and only in the third due to the circumstances of the environment) is her gender ever discussed. She’s a flight officer, a survivor, a fighter, and leader. The only reference to her gender is made by another woman – in Aliens when Vazquez (who Jim Sterling calls “one of the toughest bastards ever”) asks who “Snow White” is. Ripley is a final girl because she refuses to let events happen to her. She affects events, and she determines the plot. She can also melee fight an alien queen and WIN.