There are certain cinematic genres that experience their ups and downs, but there always seems to be an appetite for horror, especially when it comes to some of the genre’s more tried and true staples. Horror is incredibly broad and it can cover everything from transformative monster movies to raw psychological trauma. The dependable tension of slasher cinema, where a committed killer stalks their prey, continues to be a genre favorite.
One of the biggest reasons that slasher movies work so well is because of their “final girl” concept where one dedicated heroine will do whatever it takes to survive. Horror fans all know A Nightmare on Elm Street‘s Nancy Thompson, Scream‘s Sidney Prescott, and even I know what you did last summer‘s Julie James, but there are some other essential horror heavy hitters who deserve just as much recognition.
10 Alice Johnson
A Nightmare On Elm Street 4: The Dream Master
When horror fans think of Freddy Krueger’s final girls, it’s typically Heather Langenkamp’s Nancy Thompson from the original Nightmare on Elm Street who first comes to mind. However, over the years, Lisa Wilcox’s Alice Johnson from Elm Street 4 and 5 has become more of a fan favourite.
Alice Johnson is introduced as the lead in The Dream Master as a teenage girl who shares a strange supernatural and psychic connection to Freddy Krueger that gets further developed in The Dream Child. Alice Johnson doesn’t start off the Elm Street franchise, but it arguably leaves a greater impact on Freddy Krueger than Nancy does.
9 Jessie Burlingame
Backwoods cannibals have become surprisingly popular and the Wrong turn Movies have dominated this horror subgenre across seven movies. The first Wrong turn The movie introduces Eliza Dushku’s Jessie Burlingame, one of the few individuals to actually survive an attack from Three Finger, Saw-Tooth, and the rest of this cannibalistic clan.
Wrong turn It begins like many misguided slasher movies where a trip to the woods or getting lost and asking for directions becomes a death sentence. Dushku’s Jessie doesn’t get enough credit for having to watch her friends get viciously annihilated, but actually surviving the ordeal and not getting turned into collateral damage in one of the movie’s many sequels.
8 Natalie Simon
The late 1990s were filled with self-aware slasher movies that attempted to cash in on the success of horror movies like Scream. Urban Legend is a unique exception that’s on par with the decade’s best slasher offerings. A simple premise chronicles a serial killer whose murders are inspired by various apocryphal urban legends.
The effective film features an excellent cast that includes Joshua Jackson, Michael Rosenbaum, Jared Leto, and Alicia Witt, as the standout final girl, Natalie Simon. Rebecca Gayheart’s vengeful villain harbors the greatest resentment against Witt’s Natalie, yet she’s able to survive this traumatic ordeal. She’s a final girl who survives because of her wits and resilience.
Horror’s home invasion subgenre is still incredibly popular, but it was having a real Renaissance during the 2010s. You’re Next comes from Adam Wingard and Simon Barrett and does for the home invasion genre what Scream did for slasher movies.
This self-aware claustrophobic carnage accrues a large body count, but Sharni Vinson’s Erin finds herself resiliently prepared for each obstacle that these masked assailants throw at her due to years of survival training. It’s extremely satisfying to see Erin consistently rise to the occasion and actively come into her own under this intense pressure rather than cower in fear.
Mike Flanagan has become one of the most reliable names in horror, whether it’s through feature films like Oculus or television series like midnight mass and The Haunting of Hill House. Hush is a deeply restrained home invasion story that reflects how powerful minimalism can be. A masked murderer victimizes a deaf-mute novelist during a terrifying domestic attack.
Flanagan keeps Hush limited to select players, which helps turn Maddie into an unlikely warrior who proves that she can handle herself in the face of adversity. Hush lacks the supernatural elements of many of Flanagan’s horror stories, but itworks as well as it does because it’s so grounded.
5 Taylor Gentry
Behind The Mask: The Rise Of Leslie Vernon
Behind the Mask: The Rise of Leslie Vernon leans into audiences’ self-aware obsession with slasher icons through this macabre mockumentary. Behind the mask is set up as a documentary where a contemporary serial killer hires a journalist and camera crew to document his in-progress legacy.
Behind the mask successfully deconstructs slasher movies, but also indulges in the area. Taylor Gentry, the journalist hired to film Vernon’s horrors, learns that she’s the virgin final girl target that he’s been interested in from the start. Taylor is able to take out Leslie, through his own self-described means of execution, as his constructed legacy also becomes her own complicated final girl origin story.
4 Sarah Carter
The Descent He looks powerfully at grief, trauma, and trust as a group of female friends engage in a strenuous spelunking expedition in an underground cave system as a means of therapy. Interpersonal drama breaks out between Sarah Carter and her friends.
Soon, infidelity and betrayal are the least of their concerns once subterranean cave monsters attack. The Descent Part 2 treats the movie’s less powerful truncated ending as canon, wherein Sarah does escape from her subterranean horror experience, only to return in the sequel and undergo an even worse supernatural assault.
3 Ceclia “Cee” Kass
The Invisible Man
Universal’s Dark Universe may be a lost pipe dream at this point, but Leigh Whannell’s modern adaptation of The Invisible Man is an incredibly powerful tale of gaslighting and abuse that hits as hard as it does because of its grounded and believable horrors, not its supernatural qualities.
Elisabeth Moss gives a tour de force performance as Cecilia “Cee” Kass who’s grown accustomed to a submissive lifestyle where her abusive partner calls the shots. Cee can’t accept that Adrian is really gone and her claims that he’s somehow become invisible are treated like hysterical claims instead of a survivor’s truth.
2 Anita “Needy” Lesnicki
Jennifer’s body, scripted by Diablo Cody and directed by Karyn Kusama, is a tongue-in-cheek feminist horror film that got poor treatment upon its initial release due to regrettable, antithetical marketing. Amanda Seyfried and Megan Fox have infectious chemistry as the extremely odd couple, Needy Lesnicki and the titular Jennifer, the latter of which just so happens to be possessed by a demon.
Needy experiences the horrors of toxic female friendship, high school, and a demonic vendetta, but she comes out the other side of Jennifer’s body as a more confident and well-rounded individual, even if she needs to get some blood on her hands to reach this place.
1 Virginia “Ginny” Field
Friday the 13th: Part II
Virginia “Ginny” Field is the heroine at the center of Friday the 13th: Part II, who makes all the right decisions so that she survives this brutal experience. That being said, she’s still left mentally traumatized.
The Friday the 13th The franchise’s original plan was to follow Ginny to a mental institution in the third film, where Jason Voorhees would once again terrorize her, but Amy Steel didn’t want to get typecast in this final girl paradigm. Ginny becomes a popular enough final girl that she receives a playful cameo in Friday the 13th: Part IIIas well as a quick appearance through archival footage in The Final Chapter.
NEXT: 10 Horror Tropes We Still Love
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