The definition of the final girl isn’t set in stone, but it can be said that the character is someone who survives after the film systematically kills off all or most of the cast—someone who looked into the face of evil and made it out alive. The general consensus is that Sally Hardesty (Marilyn Burns) from The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (1974) is the original final girl. Some horror fans claim that in fact it was Jess Bradford, played by Olivia Hussey in Black Christmas (1974), that set the blueprint for films to come. Both movies were released on the same day in the same year, so it can be argued that both of these characters inspired future final girls in slashers. It’s also important to also recognize John Carpenter’s Laurie Strode in Halloween (1978) for popularizing the final girl.
The trope has evolved through the decades. Final girls have been made out of a pure flight or fight response, as well as out of pure luck. Others have survived because they were deemed “worthy” due to their “untainted” status. Women who did the “right” thing survived while their friends who partook in “unladylike” activities didn’t. Then there’s Scream’s well-behaved Sidney Prescott who has sex with her boyfriend for the first time and goes on to survive five films. The final girl grew into someone with more grit. Some examples include Maxine in X (2022), Grace in Ready or Not (2019), and Erin in You’re Next (2011). Ari Aster created a truly original final girl with Dani in his folk horror Midsommar (2019). The Loved Ones (2009) subverted the trope with final boy Brent (Xavier Samuel), a thought-provoking character who motivates the audience to sympathize with struggles that are exclusively viewed as women’s issues. Seemingly good-hearted Mandy (Amber Heard) turned the trope on its head when it was revealed (spoiler alert) she was the mastermind behind the killings in All the Boys Love Mandy Lane (2006).
And then there’s the type of character who should have been a final girl—whether that means she dies along with everyone else, the movie picked the wrong character for the trope, or she simply deserved to survive with “the final girl” in the end. Curated below are 13 horror movie characters who fit the bill—women who deserved to be final girls.
Barb is portrayed as a harshly-blunt and promiscuous young woman with an alcohol problem, but there’s much more to her character—she’s a sexually liberated, fearless, and a progressive feminist. The narrative hints at her underlying complexities, her insecurities, and her strained relationship with her mother. It even suggests her bisexuality in a brief part where she’s gawking at the centerfold of a Playboy magazine. She lives in a house filled with sorority sisters, but none of them see her. Barb’s hurting. She uses her wit and dons a whiskey glass in hand to guard herself. She’s the only one with the courage to stand up to the man making menacing phone calls to their house. It’s no coincidence that her death is the most violent of all the on-screen kills. In Billy’s sick mind, Barb had to be put in her place. She was way way cooler than her friends and certainly had depth worth exploring.
After surviving the events of the first ANOES movie, Nancy doesn’t reappear until the third installment. Here the audience sees her put her all into facing each new day. Our girl survived the unimaginable, went to college, began work on a doctorate, and landed an internship at Westin Hills Psychiatric Hospital. She’s brought onto a team that is researching a shared nightmare a group of teenagers are having. Instantly, she recognizes the problem as Freddy. Nancy uses everything she has learned to be there for the teens, and consequently meets her tragic end helping others. A final girl with grit like hers and who never cowered in the face of evil deserved to survive. Nancy faced her fears head-on and actively sought out her tormentor to put an end to him. She outsmarted him in the first film by making the decision to not be afraid. Fearlessness like hers deserved better.
Hallie’s (Elise Neal) death was a cruel decision by the writers and undoubtedly problematic. She was there for her roomie at every moment, only to fall into the dead Black best friend trope. Shortly before her death, she pleads with Sidney not to go back and take a look under the killer’s mask. “Stupid people go back, okay, smart people run—we’re smart people so we should just get the f*ck out of here,” she begs. Her instinct was telling her to flee, but ultimately her loyalty as a friend took over and led to her tragic death. They both could have made it, if only Sidney had listened to her. Sidney was fearless in her decision, but fell right into Ghostface’s trap and unintentionally made her friend prey. Hallie could have come back to later sequels, not only to serve as an emotional anchor for Sidney, but to display her growth to the audience. The young woman was smart, hopeful, excited for college, and thirsty for life. Hallie had potential for a great character arc. She was owed more than being just another one of Sidney’s friends who wound up dead.
A series of gruesome murders inspired by urban legends plagues a remote college campus in this slasher with a dark academia setting. The story is centered around Natalie (Alicia Witt) and follows her inner circle, which includes Sasha (Tara Reid), the most likable of her friends. The sex-positive radio host of the Under The Covers With Sasha show fits the bubbly blonde stereotype, but in no way is she dense. She displays depth, layers, and a self-assuredness that isn’t a mask for any insecurity. When the audience meets her, she’s dishing out sex advice and advocating for safe sex. Her boyfriend is a jerk to others and she calls him out on it. This girl is more than an avid reader of Cosmo. Filmmakers could have taken the narrative to a groundbreaking trajectory if the progressive, sexually liberated feminist had made it to the end. Natalie was a bore who made out with guys her friends liked, and who personally made me root for the villain. The audience could have at least had the gift of Sasha fighting alongside her to the very end.
Many fans of the Scream franchise cite the third installment as being the weakest. While this is definitely up for debate, one thing most can agree on is their love for the memorable Jennifer Jolie (Posey Parker). She had an undeniable it-factor with her hilarity, mannerisms, diva dramatics, and straight-forwardeness. The Other Gale Weathers deserved to be one of the last standing survivors. Jennifer is determined to survive by any means necessary, so she uses method acting to dive into the deep waters of investigative reporting…and to annoy the living breath out of Gale (Cournteney Cox). She’s not afraid to get close to the killer and the two end up surprisingly working well together. It would have been fun to explore more of their undeniable chemistry in other sequels.
Eden Lake had one of the worst horror endings of all time, as well as one of the most grim. What was supposed to be a beautiful, romantic countryside getaway for Jenny (Kelly Reilly) wound up being her last weekend on earth. The woman was terrorized, tied with the corpse of the man she loved to a pile of wood, survived almost being burned alive, and was severely traumatized by evil—and for what? She should have made it out of Eden Lake alive and transformed. Jenny deserved to mourn the loss of her would-be fiancé, to heal, and to rebuild her life from the ashes. Instead, the film gives us a heroine who outlasts and outsmarts the tortuous gang of teens only to end up in one of their homes after seemingly getting away to safety. It was a painful ending for the viewer to endure.
Chugs (Margo Harshman) is Barb Coard-coded in this movie about a group of sorority sisters being hunted down by a cloaked killer after a fatal prank months prior. She’s the wine-slugging, hedonistic, blithe one in the gang. The script leaned hard into the party girl stereotype by killing her off. Her death involved having a bottle of white wine shoved down her throat, and subsequently having her throat slashed. She shouldn’t have been written into a cliche, but into a survivor. The movie hints at her deep-rooted issues and possible past incestuous relationship with her brother, teasing the audience by failing to explore the complexities of a character who could have had an exceptional arc. She could have come out on the other side with a life-changing perspective that inspired her to heal from her trauma and addiction to prescription drugs. Cassidy (Briana Evigan), the protagonist, definitely deserved to survive in the end, but Chugs deserved to be right there with her—more so than the other two unremarkable survivors.
Danielle Harris plays Annie Brackett in the Rob Zombie franchise, and also starred as Jamie Lloyd in a previous Halloween timeline. Annie survived braving a fight topless against Michael in the first movie. Chances were stacked against her and she didn’t care—she did all she could to fight for her life. She survives her severe injuries and all the psychological trauma, only to be brutally killed off in the second film. Annie had grit, strength, and a fearlessness worthy of a final girl. With the ending (and alternate ending) the filmmakers gave Laurie (Scout Taylor-Compton), the film felt devoid of a final girl at all.
The Friday the 13th reboot shocks the audience by killing off the would-be final girl Jenna (Danielle Panabaker). She was the only kind and helpful person in her circle of friends. Jenna willingly offers to help Clay Miller (Jared Paladecki) find his missing sister Whitney (Amanda Rightetti). Her compassion is palpably pure. This selfless act would become her death sentence. Her kill hits hard because she nearly escapes before abruptly being impaled by Jason’s machete. It was quite shocking to have the Final Girl title go to Whitney, who did next to nothing to earn it. Sure, she pierces Jason with his own machete in the end, but only after being MIA for most of the film. Whitney wouldn’t have survived if it wasn’t for Jenna’s help.
Mike Flanagan’s Absentia is inspired by the classic Norwegian fairy tale, “The Three Billy Goats Gruff.” Instead of its characters facing a troll under a bridge, here they confront a Faustian insectoid creature that inhabits a dark tunnel. The being makes trades with those who pass through, but fulfills their end of the deal in the most nightmarish possible manner. Tricia (Courtney Bell) is preparing to declare her husband dead in absentia. Unbeknownst to her, he had made a trade that resulted in his vanishing. When he returns seven years after his disappearance, Tricia’s sister Callie (Katie Parker) links the tunnel to a string of other disappearances. The movie culminates with Callie offering herself up in exchange for her sister’s life. The creature agrees, presenting her with Tricia’s unborn fetus and trapping Callie in a grim limbo. A person who is willing to sacrifice themselves didn’t deserve that kind of atrocious fate—one worse than death.
The prequel to The Texas Chainsaw Massacre could have honored Sally Hardesty by seeing this heroine ultimately survive and be transformed in the end. Instead, the filmmakers put her through a brutal ordeal of terror and have her nearly escape, only to be gruesomely decapitated by someone she once trusted and who once saved her. After the trauma the nurse endured at the hands of the escapees from the mental institution, and later Leatherface’s sadistic family, she was owed her own bloodsoaked final girl transformation. While she deserved to survive, she undoubtedly would have been a loose end for the Sawyer family, so there’s some room for forgiveness here, but our girl was done dirty even in the alternate ending.
Rose (Sosie Bacon) deserved better. She deserved a support network who didn’t fail her. She deserved a sister who listened and didn’t chalk her up as unstable. She deserved a caring fiancé who didn’t refer to her as unhinged and pawned her off to her former therapist. She deserved to be a final girl and live on after she finally confronted her trauma. Her and Joel (Kyle Gallner) deserved a chance to re-explore their connection. Rosie was a devoted psychiatrist who truly cared about her work and the well-being of her patients. When she’s doomed with the curse, she fights like hell to avoid passing the trauma on to someone else. Her story culminates in her running away to the middle of nowhere, where nobody could find her. It’s here that she finally faces her childhood trauma and becomes resolved to put an end to the evil entity. When she discovers it was all a mirage, she accepts her fate and gives in to the demon to stop it. Unfortunately, she underestimated Joel’s love for her and he comes to save her, bearing witness and absorbing the curse.
Okay so picture this: Maxine and Bobby-Lynne both make it out of Pearl’s ranch bloodsoaked and determined more than ever to realize their American dream. Mia Goth is the scream queen of our time, but Brittany Snow’s Bobby-Lynne had a wow factor too—one that made her worthy of being a final girl alongside Maxine. Her death was a loss, even if it felt inevitable from the beginning. She has a rare quality rarely seen in non-final girls on screen—that strong sense of self, confidence, and unwavering faith in who she is. Bobby-Lynne is that woman who turns heads when she walks into a room, but there’s more to her. She challenges others and doesn’t let anyone undermine her. The girl is also a kind and genuinely good person. Even Lorraine (Jenna Ortega), the “church mouse” of the group, felt inspired by her and started embracing her sexuality. It’s ultimately Bobby-Lynne’s compassion (and her undeniable resemblance to Pearl’s sister-in-law Mitsy) that signs her death sentence when she’s made food for alligators. Her character was intriguing and worth exploring in MaXXXine. Imagine her and Maxine pairing up in the third installment. The two definitely had chemistry and compelling moments.