When people think of strong female leads, they may recall films such as Lara Croft: Tomb Raider or perhaps The Hunger Games. While those are both great examples of female action heroes, horror films with female leads are also a common thing.
Since the early days of the genre, horror films and women screaming in terror have gone hand in hand. What started with "scream queens" - conventionally beautiful, terrified women who are usually rescued by men before the end of horror films - eventually turned to “final girls” or females who survive horror movie villains and live to tell the story of what happened.
Like scream queens, final girls start out as damsels in distress, but modern final girls are strong enough to survive using their intelligence and brawn instead of by depending on a male to rescue them. More and more of these strong female horror films are making their way to the mainstream and to the horror streaming app Shudder, which you can check out for a free seven-day trial and costs a fraction of a movie ticket ($5.99/month) afterwards.
The best female-led horror films tend to feature this new breed of final girls, as it's always exciting to see seemingly hopeless victims rescue themselves.
In the original 1978 Halloween, 17-year-old Laurie Strode (Jamie Lee Curtis) is both the primary protagonist and the final girl. Strode, a babysitter watching a young boy on Halloween, ends up being stalked by madman Michael Myers who brutally slays her best friends.
Strode repeatedly defends herself against Myers using homespun weapons such as a knitting needle, a knife, and a wire hanger, but Myers survives all the attacks and ends up attempting to strangle Strode. Thankfully, she's saved by Dr. Samuel Loomis, who shoots Myers off a balcony. You can watch the original final girl kick ass over on Shudder, the best app for horror fans.Is this amazing, female-led horror?
- Photo: MGM
Clarice Starling (Jodie Foster) is arguably one of the best-known final girls of all time. An FBI agent, Starling seems to be living in a man’s world, as her colleagues regularly hit on her and fail to take her seriously.
Surprisingly, Starling seems to get the most respect from Hannibal Lector, a brilliant psychologist turned incarcerated serial slayer whom Starling gets assigned to interview. With the help of Lector, Starling tracks down the elusive slayer Buffalo Bill. At times both strong and vulnerable, Starling is a great heroine and a shockingly relatable female lead.Is this amazing, female-led horror?
- Photo: New Line Cinema
When most people think of A Nightmare on Elm Street, they think of Freddy Krueger, a burnt-up predator who uses his glove with razor blades to end teens while they’re asleep. However, Nancy Thompson (Heather Langenkamp) is just as crucial as Krueger. Thompson is your typical final girl in that she is innocent and unassuming, but her role is so much more than that. She is exceptionally courageous and uses her brain to try to outsmart Krueger.
Thompson figures out she can wake up while dreaming and also bring items back from her dreams. She sets up traps around her house to slow down Krueger and even captures him in her basement before pouring gasoline on him and setting him on fire.
Thompson doesn’t become the final girl by chance (or due to a man saving her). Instead, she uses her intelligence to defeat Krueger. Langenkamp went on to play Nancy in both A Nightmare on Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors and New Nightmare.Is this amazing, female-led horror?
- Photo: Dimension Films[
Scream is a witty horror franchise that began in 1996 as a parody of the horror genre. Sidney Prescott (Neve Campbell) is the final girl in the original film and its sequels. In the first Scream, as the anniversary of Sidney's mother's untimely end approaches, a serial slayer in a Ghostface Halloween mask attempts to end Sidney's life and the lives of her friends.
Not only does Sidney endure the attacks, she also has no problem fighting back. At one point, she bashes the killer with a door; another time, she uses a cordless phone as a weapon.Is this amazing, female-led horror?