The term “final girl” comes from the Carol Clover book Men, Women, and Chainsaws, in which she describes the concept of the final girl as the last girl standing in a horror film. While final girls are one of the most prevalent tropes in horror cinema, one of the lesser-seen tropes is the final boy, a surviving male character who either defeats the creature or makes it through to the end of a horror film with their life intact.
There’s no way to talk about final boys without recognizing that many of them are coded as queer in the same way that final girls are coded as asexual or as lesbians. Whether it’s through their hairstyle, a specific prop, or a fear of intimacy with the opposite sex, these final characters are meant to be understood as something different.
Some of the best final boys in film are those who either define the trope or completely subvert it. They each have their own peculiar traits, but they're all so much fun to watch on screen.
Who They Were Up Against: The Deadites, a collection ancient Sumerian demons who look and act just like Ash's friends and loved ones.
How They Survived: He chops up the demon who's taken on the guise of his girlfriend, gouges out another demon's eyes, and burns the Necronomicon, causing his adversaries to melt.
Close Call(s): Pretty much the entire movie is a close call for Ash, but the closest of them all comes in the final moments of the film when Ash is attacked from behind by an unseen force. Even though it looks like it eats Ash, he's returned for just about ever iteration of the film since 1981.
What They Went On To Do: Ash, played by the king of B-movies Bruce Campbell, transformed into a more wise-cracking character over the course of the series. Campbell has appeared in pretty much every movie and TV show that would have him. Most recently, he starred in the revival series Ash vs Evil Dead.
Who They Were Up Against: The Armitages, a family of upper-crust WASPs who've developed a system for literally stealing the bodies of black people via a combination of hypnotism and brain surgery.
How They Survived: Chris has to fight his way to safety through just about everyone he meets in the film. One by one, he has to tear through pretty much every character with a speaking role in order to survive. The climactic finale culminates with Chris shoving a pair of deer horns through a guy’s chest and hitting a woman with a car before leaving his ex-girlfriend to perish in the middle of the road.
Close Call(s): The second act ends with Chris descending into the "sunken place," an area of subconsciousness where a person is no longer in control of their body and can only watch what's happening to them through a kind of mental television set. For a moment it looks as if he's going to be there forever.
What They Went On To Do: Chris escapes enslavement and flees back to New York City. The actor behind the role, Daniel Kaluuya, has gone on to appear in everything from Marvel's Black Panther to the underappreciated Widows.
Who They Were Up Against: The unstoppable, intangible force of death.
How They Survived: Alex uses his wits to trace the course of death's plan and attempts to maneuver around the inevitable. He keeps an eye on the omens that are laid out for him, and at one point, he even moves to a heavily guarded cabin in the woods.
Close Call(s): Pretty much every scene with Alex is a close call. He's almost blown up on a plane at the beginning of the film, he's nearly hit by a bus, and the film ends with a giant neon sign disconnecting and swinging towards him only to hit one of his friends.
What They Went On To Do: The afterlife came for Alex as it does for us all, off-screen and without warning. It's revealed in Final Destination II that a brick fell on his head. Actor Devon Sawa hasn't suffered the same fate, and lives another day to appear in films like the follow up to SLC Punk, Punk's Dead, and the TV series Nikita.
Who They Were Up Against: Jason Voorhees, the unstoppable madman who stalks Crystal Lake.
How They Survived: Tommy outsmarts Jason by shaving his head and pretending to be an apparition from his past. With Jason stunned, Tommy hacks away at him with his own machete.
Close Call(s): Tommy is more or less safe from the action throughout most of the movie, as Jason is far more concerned with the cute teens vacationing in the cabin next door (one of them is played by Crispin Glover). However, after Tommy barricades himself in his room with his sister, Jason breaks in with a hammer before being knocked over with a lamp. Jason nearly catches Tommy when he and his sister attempt to run past him, but Jason decides to chase Tommy's sister instead.
What They Went On To Do: Tommy Jarvis went onto appear in two more films, and he even gets a chance to grapple with his trauma over facing down a serial slayer twice in his young life. Fans believe he was meant to pick up the mantle of Jason and continue slaying an all-new generation; unfortunately, that never came to fruition.
The boy behind the first incarnation of Tommy Jarvis, Corey Feldman, went onto appear in pretty much every beloved movie of the 1980s - The Goonies, Stand By Me, and The Lost Boys.