The Final Girl Trope and the women of horror who best embody it is something I’ve written about many times and I never am bored of it. With Halloween several weeks behind us as we inch closer to Thanksgiving and Christmas, I thought it was the perfect time to remind everyone that talking and writing about horror never gets old. There is always a time to celebrate the genre, the killers and the female protagonists who give Jason Voorhees, Leatherface, and Michael Myers a run for their money.
I’ve written many lists about Final Girls: underrated Final Girls, Final Girls who beat the odds, Final Girls who should return for a sequel, and women who were almost Final Girls, but I’ve never written about my personal favorite Final Girls.
I think it’s time to change that. Today, my dear reader, you get another glimpse into my mad mind as we discuss and celebrate my favorite Final Girls of all time. This list is purely subjective—your list of favorite Final Girls might look completely different. Without further ado, lock your doors and windows, grab a butcher knife, and let’s dive into my top five favorite Final Girls of all time.
Nancy Thompson (Heather Langenkamp) is one of the heroines of the Nightmare on Elm Street series. She and her friends begin suffering horrific nightmares inflicted on them by the deceased and heavily burnt serial killer, Freddy Krueger. One by one, Nancy’s friends die in real life while they sleep as Freddy kills them simultaneously in their dreams. Nancy desperately fights to stay awake as she explores Freddy’s origins and discovers he’s a dream demon. She uses some quick thinking to lure Freddy out of the dream realm into the real world, where she sets him ablaze, seemingly defeating him.
Nancy returns later in the series to gather the remaining Elm Street children and teach them to use their dream powers to fight Freddy. Nancy is clever, brave, and resourceful. After a long history of Final Girls relying on men to save them from the masked killer trying to end their lives, Nancy is a breath of fresh air. She’s an active participant in her own story and rather than waiting for an external force to save her, she takes the fight right to Krueger.
Nancy sadly doesn’t survive the Elm Street series, but she fights to her last breath and went out like a boss. Heather Langenkamp appeared in the meta film Wes Craven’s New Nightmare in which she must embody Nancy to fight an evil version of Freddy in the real world. Depending on what you consider canon, after her death, Nancy became the guardian of Good dreams. Pretty epic if you ask me.
The Alien and Predator franchises feature several kick-ass heroines, but one of the most underrated is Alien vs. Predator‘s Alexa Woods. Played by Sanaa Lathan (Blade, Harley Quinn) Alexa is one of the coolest Final Girls ever. In her first scene, Alexa is undertaking a dangerous climbing expedition in the snow and ice. When a giant pyramid is uncovered in the Artic, Weyland Industries hires Alexa to lead the expedition.
She is arguably one of the most capable people in the mission briefing room. She’s the one everyone turns to for advice about dealing with survival and unexpected situations. But even Alexa couldn’t prepare for what awaited the team at their destination: the battleground between two of the universe’s scariest aliens: the Xenomorph and the Predator.
Despite the horrific odds stacked against her, Alexa not only survives the encounter but teams up with the Predator to fight the Alien Queen, earning the respect of the Predator and his people. I watched Alien vs. Predator as a kid and loved Alexa. I loved her one liners, her chase scene with the Alien Queen, and the air of command she easily held. Alexa only appeared in one film, but with the renewed interest in both the Predator and the Xenomorph franchises, perhaps she will grace our screens again.
Look, I know what you’re saying. Sidney Prescott is the definitive Final Girl of the Scream franchise, and perhaps one of the most iconic Final Girls of our generation. But for me, Gale is right behind her, never far from the action, never without a gorgeous outfit or sarcastic one-liner that makes everyone afraid to cross her. Gale’s arc across the five (soon to be six!!!) Scream films are truly unique to the character as she grows from a jaded reporter aching for fame to a leading Final Girl in her own right. Courtney Cox brings just the right amount of sass and vulnerability to the character that makes it almost impossible not to root for her. Gale isn’t perfect, but she’s hilarious and very intelligent and easily steals whatever scene she’s in.
I loved Gale’s chase scene in Scream 2. It’s Scream 3, the much-maligned middle child of the Scream franchise, that gives Gale time to shine as she investigates the past of Sidney’s mother and tries to escape Ghostface as he racks up a body count in Hollywood. I also loved Gale’s back-and-forth with Jennifer Jolie (Parker Posey). In my head-canon, Jennifer survives Scream 3 and opens a detective agency with Gale. Let’s make it happen!
Gale’s relationship with Dewey is one of the most heartwarming but sad plots of the franchise, and it will be interesting to see Gale without Dewey by her side in Scream 6. Regardless of what’s to come, Gale will certainly hold her own and I can’t wait to see her again.
Julie James and Karla Wilson
I’m going to cheat with this next entry and include two Final Girls for the price of one: Julie James and Karla Wilson. I Know What You Did Last Summer follows a group of teens who accidentally run over and kill a pedestrian, cover up the crime, and then are stalked and murdered by a fish-hook-wielding killer. The sequel, I Still Know What You Did Last Summer, follows the survivor from the first film, Julie James (Jennifer Love Hewitt) as she and her friends, including Karla Wilson (played by R&B star Brandy), vacation in the Bahamas.
Their dream vacation turns into one of horror and bloodshed when the fish-hook-wielding killer stalks them and begins killing everyone he encounters on the island. Despite several bloody run-ins with the killer that almost ends both their lives, Julie and Karla survive the film, weary but alive. I love Julie James because she’s played by Jennifer Love Hewitt, one of the definitive actors of my teen years who kept me company for five seasons of Ghost Whisper.
Brandy is one of my favorite musical artists of all time, and I love the amount of fun energy she brought to her portrayal of Karla. I would love to see Brandy and Hewitt return to horror, especially since the television adaptation of I Know What You Did Last Summer was so poorly received. Let’s end the franchise on a high note and bring these two ladies back for one more encounter with the fish-hook killer.
Out of all the Final Girls from the Friday the 13th series, of whom there are many, Ginny Field is the coolest and most resourceful. Played by Amy Steele in Friday the 13th Part 2, Ginny is one the counselors hired by Paul Holt to work at Pacanack Lodge, a campsite close enough to Camp Crystal Lake that it alerts the unstoppable killer, Jason Voorhees. The clever and level-headed Ginny seems almost out of the place compared to the rest of the ill-fated counselors, but her presence in the film is a welcome one. I loved her sense of humor and her chemistry with Paul.
Unlike many Final Girls in the series, Ginny is more fleshed out. Her frustrations at being looked down upon a very clear, but she never loses her wit or her kindness. She’s also studying to be a child psychologist, and extends empathy toward Jason for the trauma of his childhood and witnessing the death of his mother. This later comes in handy when Ginny pretends to be Pamela Voorhees when the hulking masked killer finally confronts her with a machete.
Ginny almost returned as the protagonist of Friday the 13th Part 3 but the film went in different direction and Amy Steele passed on the role, though she later regretted it. I would love to see an older Ginny return in a future Friday the 13th film. She’s just too cool to leave behind.
Who are your favorite Final Girls of all time? Let me know in the comments. For all things horror and pop culture, check out my website. Stay nerdy! If you want to support the site, feel free to leave a tip below!
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