13 Horror Movie Heroines That Kick Butt

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Ellen Ripley (Sigourney Weaver) in Aliens (Image via 20th Century Fox)

Would you like to see a horror movie where women actually survive and take charge? Read on to see our top picks for kick-ass women in horror movies.

If you’re even remotely a fan of horror movies, then you know that the women in horror typically get a raw deal. They die or are fundamentally traumatized in droves, whether they are a gaggle of sorority sisters or a collection of innocent bystanders drawn into the drama.

Occasionally, they’re villains. For example, see Jason’s mother from Friday the 13th or Samara/Sadako from the Ring franchise. That’s certainly more interesting than your standard horror movie victim, but it’s not necessarily something for us to be proud of.
What I’m looking for are horror movie heroines who are strong, smart, and make it all the way to the end of their respective films (more or less). And while I’m sure that I would end up a quivering mess after going through some of the trials they face, these female characters come out looking a far sight stronger.

A few of the women included here could be described as “final girls”. A “final girl” is a trope especially beloved by slasher films that refer to the last woman to survive. Why she survives is a point of contention for fans and theorists alike. The final girl is often a “good” girl, meaning that she dresses conservatively, shies away from sex, and doesn’t indulge in drugs or too much alcohol.

The final girl is often considered to be an audience surrogate, or at least the vessel for the consciousness of the audience and the engine which moves the plot forward through her actions. She might even have a unisex name, supposedly to help the audience identify with her terror. Witness horror movie characters with names like Jay or Ripley (though plenty of other characters on this list possess distinctly feminine names).

The whole concept of final girls, and any attendant notions of “purity” and “goodness”, could probably account for an entire article on its own. Suffice it to say, this is a central theme you may notice, and one that filmmakers have used and critiqued throughout horror movie history.

A final warning: this list contains spoilers. While I’ve tried not to reveal too many major plot points, some discussions of the characters involved meant that I had to spoil a few things. If you haven’t seen one of the movies listed and want to go in blind, consider a brief waiting period before you dive into this list.