Body representation in horror is hard to find, but if you’d like to see some great performances from larger actors, we’ve got you covered.
Our Date Night series continues with a look at films perfect for anyone who finds beauty in all shapes and sizes and wants to see more realistic portrayals of the human body in film and television.
Diversity in horror is so important, and we love to see more representation of all types. While we want to see more racially diverse films, more female-driven projects, and more queer representation in horror, we also want to see a greater representation of different body types and lead characters who don’t fit the stereotypical ideal. While we’ve seen a lot of progress in recent years, there is still much room for improvement regarding how plus-size characters — especially female characters — are portrayed in Hollywood.
The following five horror properties feature outstanding performances from a plus-size actress in a prominent role.
While we’d still really love to see many more roles for plus-size women where they are allowed to be the hero, central protagonist, love interest, and final girl, we give big props to any filmmaker who casts an incredibly talented and capable larger (by Hollywood standards) woman in a memorable role.
If you are a plus-sized single looking for a romantic partner to enjoy a great movie date night with, there are many online matchmaking services to help you find the one. There are even great plus-size dating apps to choose from, with review sites that will cast an objective eye over which of these would most suit your aspirations. You can download apps to your smart device and then commence flirting with the fabulous plus-size singles you come across.
1. Absentia (2011)
Mike Flanagan has become one of the indie horror’s most celebrated auteurs, making a name for himself with chilling, brilliantly executed Stephen King adaptations like Gerald’s Game and Doctor Sleep, spine-tingling horror thrillers like Oculus and Hush, and critically-acclaimed Netflix series’ like The Haunting of Hill House and The Haunting of Bly Manor, as well as the most recent Midnight Mass.
But before Flanagan became a household name, he burst onto the scene with his debut, Kickstarter-funded, micro-budget feature film Absentia.
We now know Flanagan as a master craftsman who excels at exploring dread and emotional horror rooted in grief and loss. And he was showcasing those skills from the very start of his career. Written, directed, and edited by Flanagan on a budget of only $70,000, it’s impressive what Flanagan was able to do with the intensely creepy Absentia.
Tricia (Courtney Bell) is a pregnant woman whose husband has been missing for long enough to be formally declared ‘in absentia.’ When her former addict sister, Callie (Katie Parker), comes to stay, Tricia presents her with a copy of the childhood fable, The Three Billy Goats Gruff (featuring an evil troll). What follows is a twisting tale, with mysterious objects and circumstances that seem to allude to her husband’s continued presence.
Dark and gripping, this horror film will have you on the edge of your seat.
2. The Silence of the Lambs (1991)
Based on a novel by suspense writer Thomas Harris, this creepy and compelling movie with considerable star power brought horror into the respectable mainstream. (We know there’s debate about whether or not this classifies as a horror movie, but we think a pretty compelling case can be made for classifying it as such.)
Jodie Foster stars as Clarice Starling, an FBI agent who enlists the help of incarcerated serial killer Dr. Hannibal Lecter (Anthony Hopkins) in catching another serial slayer, Buffalo Bill (Ted Levine). The trail eventually leads to Bill’s murky subterranean lair, where the evil murderer (and skinner of his victims) has imprisoned a plus-sized senator’s daughter.
Rather than awaiting her grisly fate, the chubby girl manages to lure Bill’s pet dog into her cell, threatening to harm it unless he lets her go free. Luckily, Clarice’s instincts compel her to break into this property to assist in her escape and overpower Bill.
The Silence of the Lambs was released on February 14, 1991, and quickly became the fifth highest-grossing film of the year worldwide. It was only the third film to win Academy Awards in all five major categories, including Best Picture, Best Director, Best Actor, Best Actress, and Best Adapted Screenplay. It is the only horror film to win Best Picture.
Regularly cited by critics, film directors, and audiences as one of the greatest and most influential films of all time, it’s impossible to go wrong in choosing this film for any great movie night.
3. Piggy (2022)
One of the most impressive and unforgettable films of 2022 is the Spanish horror film by Carlota Pereda, Piggy, based on Pereda’s 2019 short film of the same name. It stars the captivating Laura Galán (who reprises her role from the short film) as a young woman named Sara who is mercilessly bullied by her classmates — and even shamed by her own family members — as a result of her weight.
While it’s a shame bigger actresses like Galán are being cast in roles that make their weight a central plot point, it’s still refreshing to see a beautiful woman of her size taking center stage in a powerful leading role. She is given the chance to truly shine as both a sympathetic victim and a problematic but powerful heroine/anti-hero — without making her a caricature or an unhinged, unrelatable villain.
Piggy follows an overweight teen’s harrowing experience at a local pool where she is dangerously bullied by three fellow teens to the point where she is afraid for her life. After a humiliating walk home in the sweltering summer sun, wearing nothing but a bikini (her clothes, shoes, and towel were swiped by her bullies), Sara witnesses the brutal kidnapping of her tormentors by someone she perceives as a dark, avenging angel. It’s immediately apparent that the kidnapper intends to punish these girls for their cruelty towards Sara.
Racked with guilt but secretly believing the girls are getting what they deserve, Sara struggles with her compliment participation in the kidnapping and whether or not to put herself at risk by telling others about it.
Currently holding a 92% on Rotten Tomatoes, the film has been widely praised for its sharp social commentary, atmospheric terror, and exceptional character work by Galán. It’s a riveting performance that helps carry the film, and it will be criminal if she doesn’t go on to have a long and flourishing career.
4. Misery (1990)
Another great literary adaptation, Misery is yet another award-winning film based on one of the popular novels by master of suspense Stephen King. This horror/thriller is all about an obsessive, plus-sized literary fan who makes life a living hell for a popular writer.
Directed by veteran Hollywood director Rob Reiner, James Caan plays author Paul Sheldon, who comes across one of his greatest fans, Annie (Kathy Bates), after becoming lost in a blizzard. Coming to and finding himself imprisoned, he has no option but to try his best to escape the clutches of his increasingly deranged captor (who is incensed that Paul has killed off her favorite character).
At one point, in the film’s most infamous and unforgettable scenes, Annie ensures he won’t be going anywhere soon by taking a sledgehammer to his ankles.
While the plus-sized character here is far from a role model, Bates’ performance won many well-deserved accolades — including the Academy Award for Best Actress — and made her a household name. Bates has gone on to wow audiences in many horror and non-horror roles and still embraces her love of genre acting in spite of her stellar reputation in the industry.
Misery may be Bates’ most famous role, but she is also beloved by genre fans for her outstanding work in the Ryan Murphy juggernaut series American Horror Story. Murphy truly knows how to write roles Hollywood’s leading ladies can really sink their teeth into, and he’s a proponent of diverse casting, which we applaud him for.
And that brings us to our final recommendation on this list…
5. American Horror Story: Coven (2013)
Kathy Bates is not the only remarkably talented plus-size actress who made waves in Murphy’s AHS universe.
In the wildly popular third season of the horror anthology series American Horror Story, subtitled Coven, we get to know a coven of witches living in 2013 New Orleans. Descended from Salem, these powerful witches gather together to hone their craft and await the reveal of the next Supreme — the leader of the cover and the most powerful of all witches.
Coven was a huge success for many reasons, not the least of which was its stellar ensemble cast. Plus-sized black actress Gabourey Sidibe plays Queenie, a fan-favorite character. Queeny is a force to be reckoned with, whose ancestry goes back to the notorious 16th-century Salem witchhunts while revolving around present-day Voodoo practitioners. Her fierce and commanding performance shows that, while she has been treated as an outsider for most of her life, she has been empowered to fight back against bullies.
Sidibe gained critical acclaim for her sensitive depiction of someone forced to make a stand against difficult odds. Also, as a ‘human voodoo doll,’ she can self-harm and then transfer the injuries and pain onto another person who might be some distance away. It’s a wickedly cool power that is deliciously fun to watch, and Sidibe really sells it.
If you’ve never seen American Horror Story, Coven is a great season to jump into. Because all the seasons are fairly self-contained, you can watch this one without having seen any of the other seasons. And it ranks very high among fans because of how witty, stylish, sexy, and ridiculously fun it is. Plus, it oozes glam and girl power, and the cast is phenomenal.
At the end of the day, we need more media that reflects beauty in all its many forms — because plus-size men and women are no less desirable or deserving of love, respect, and admiration.