In honor of Women in Horror Month, let’s take a look at some of the coolest underrated and overlooked final girls from recent years and way back when.
Out of all horror tropes, the most famous one is that of the final girl. A final girl is the one that makes it to the end of the movie, the heroine of the film, who has faced the killer and survived to tell the tale. (There are notable exceptions where she and perhaps a male counterpart or children in her charge are left alive as well.) Some final girls are icons in and of themselves and have become popular among horror fans.
There are some that are most definitely rightly adored and get lots of love heaped upon them. However, like our list of ten modern final girls who defy stereotypes and expectations, this list is going to look at some of horror’s final girls who don’t get the amount of love that they deserve.
These under-appreciated ladies are fierce and intelligent survivors who break the mold. They might not be generally thought of when the phrase final girl is brought up, but they are no less deserving of the title or recognition.
1. Kiersey Clemons as Jenn in Sweetheart (2019)
One of the most overlooked and most awesome movies of last year featured one of the most resilient and compelling final girls in the past ten years. Kiersey Clemons stars as Jenn, a survivor of a wrecked cruise ship who washes up on a deserted island. Jenn learns that she not only has to battle the elements on the island but also an aquatic monster that feeds on those that wind up on the island. Jenn is crafty and resourceful as she adapts to her new surroundings and the threat of the monster.
Clemons’s portrayal is strong and helps buoy the film’s tension. It’s impossible to not be sucked into the world that Jenn has found herself in and root for her as she finally has to take a stand against the monster. Here’s hoping that this skillful film from director JD Dillard gains a following over the years because it is truly exceptional and gives the world one impressively subversive final girl who will make her truth known at any cost.
2. Mary Elizabeth Winstead as Michelle in 10 Cloverfield Lane (2016)
Mary Elizabeth Winstead is no stranger to horror and has played two respectively wonderful final girls in Final Destination 3 (2006) and The Thing (2011), but 10 Cloverfield Lane solidified her modern scream queen status. Michelle is a woman who is used to running away from tough situations and after a spat with her fiancé she decides to flee the situation which lands her in an arguably worse situation.
Michelle is involved in a car accident that leads her to being trapped in a bunker with doomsday prepper Howard and well-meaning country boy Emmett. Howard informs Michelle that a cataclysmic event has taken place and caused the air to be toxic. Michelle has to navigate her awkward situation as best she can as she and Emmett learn that Howard is not what he seems. Michelle’s innate quick thinking and tenacity help her through the film and the breathtaking finale.
3. Simone Landers as Thoomi in Cargo (2017)
Simone Landers takes on an emotional role in the 2017 adaptation of the 2011 short film Cargo. Thoomi is a young aboriginal girl who is thrust into the midst of the zombie apocalypse in Australia. The film sets itself apart from most other zombie fair by simply being set in Australia and featuring an actual aboriginal actress in a leading role. Landers stars opposite veteran actor Martin Freeman as Andy, an infected man who is looking for a safe haven for his infant daughter after he turns.
Thoomi and Andy’s paths cross and the two become allies and battle against the harsh zombie filled terrain. It’s not your average zombie film and Thoomi is not your average final girl, but the journey that she goes on leads to one beautiful and bittersweet ending.
4. Paola Lara as Estrella in Tigers are Not Afraid (2017)
Paola Lara’s Estrella is a girl who is caught in the middle of the Mexican Drug War. When Estrella’s mother goes missing and is murdered, she turns to a group of other orphans for comfort and companionship. The world that Estrella and her friends inhabit is one that is studded with violent terror and magical realism. Lara gives one heartbreaking and tender performance that sticks with the viewer long after the film has ended.
The film’s relevant topic and plot makes Lara’s Estrella’s final girl status even more interesting and definitive. There’s a lot to love about this movie, and Estrella is most definitely one of the film’s many strengths.
5. Angela Goethals as Taylor in Behind the Mask: The Rise of Leslie Vernon (2006)
Angela Goethals’s Taylor is a purposeful play on the trope of the final girl. Throughout the film, Taylor and her friends follow the mentally unstable Leslie as he preps to become an iconic serial killer. Leslie has picked a high school girl to be his final girl to be, or so it seems. When it comes down the wire and Taylor and company have to try to stop the highly unpredictable Leslie from murdering a bunch of hapless high schoolers, she quickly discovers that Leslie’s chosen final girl was a red herring all along.
Taylor herself is the final girl in question, the one that Leslie has culled to be the one to defeat him…this time. Taylor offers is a smart take on the classic conventions of the trope in this hilarious and meta horror comedy.
6. Mia Wasikowska as Edith Cushing in Crimson Peak (2015)
Mia Wasikowska’s Edith Cushing is a gothic horror final girl dream. Edith is beyond witty and a driven and capable writer that women can readily identify with. She’s like something ripped from the pages of a Bronte or Shelley novel with her sensibilities and the dastardly situation that she is plopped unknowingly into the middle of. Edith reigns supreme at the end of the film, having to fight her way out in a pretty gauzy blood spattered nightgown.
Who hasn’t daydreamed about being a nightgown clad gothic heroine who has to run down long spooky halls with a lighted candelabra? Good news is that you can live out those highly specific horror lady fantasies by watching Crimson Peak.
7. Diana Peñalver as Paquita in Braindead/Dead Alive (1992)
When people think of the film Braindead (aka Dead Alive), they often think about zombiefied mothers, ass kicking priests, and lawnmower massacres. I certainly cannot blame them for that. But one character in the midst of this comedic horror madness that often goes ignored in many horror discussions is none other than Paquita. Paquita is the daughter of a Spanish Romani shopkeeper in Wellington, New Zealand, who catches the eye of sweet Lionel. What follows is half horror movie, half romantic comedy.
Boy meets girl, boy loses girl, boy gets girl back — but with the insane backdrop of an impending zombie apocalypse. It’s gooey, gory, and surprisingly sweet. Many forget that toward the end, Paquita kicks into zombie fighting mode, unafraid to face the hoard right alongside Lionel. That’s couple goals for sure. Paquita is adorable and girly, but she never stops being a survivor.
8. Lisa Wilcox as Alice Johnson in A Nightmare on Elm Street 4: The Dream Master (1988) and A Nightmare on Elm Street: The Dream Child (1989)
Alice Johnson is one of the least discussed heroines from the famous and beloved A Nightmare on Elm Street film franchise. Alice follows in the footsteps of Nancy and Kristen from the first and third films and goes toe to toe with literal nightmare personified, Freddy Kruger. She is meek and sweet and not the confrontational sort. But by the end of the fourth film, she has to harness the power and the courage deep inside her to stop Kruger before it’s too late.
Over the course of installments four and five, Alice suffers a lot of setbacks and tragedy. Yet, she perseveres against the forces of evil. And for the first time in the series, a heroine is given a truly happy ending, rather than suffering from the dreaded “sudden sequel death” syndrome.
9. Kate Siegel as Maddie Young in Hush (2016)
Kate Siegel and Mike Flanagan came up for the concept of Hush on a dinner date, making them twenty times more interesting and creative than the majority of couples out there. Hush presents the audience with one cool heroine who just so happens to be deaf. Maddie is the proverbial writer who has taken to solitude to get some writing done, a favorite staple of the horror genre — with a twist. Maddie lost her hearing at a young age due to illness, and for all of the film she has to rely on her other senses in order to survive her unique and terrifying situation.
As if home invasion and being stalked and possibly murdered by a complete stranger wasn’t scary enough, imagine doing it without being able to hear the person trying to kill you. Siegel carries the film with little dialogue, which is not an easy feat at all. Maddie is realistically outside of her element in having to fight for her life, like most people would be in this situation, and that adds to the painfully taut realism of her ordeal.
10. Amanda Seyfried as Needy Lesnicki in Jennifer’s Body (2009)
Needy’s not your typical final girl. In the end, she goes on a rampage for revenge against the band members who caused the whole chaos that ensues in the movie. Needy is the lifelong friend of beautiful and popular Jennifer. Needy’s love for Jennifer borders the line between platonic and romantic, giving the movie serious bisexual undertones throughout.
When Jennifer is unsuccessfully sacrificed to Satan by a band in search for fame, she reanimates as a possessed man eater. By the end of the film, Needy might be more anti-heroine than actual heroine. But nonetheless, she is one dynamic and unique final girl that deserves more attention.