The best horror films subvert norms and expectations, using dread to compel audiences to keep watching. In these slasher movies, the strongest characters are those who live through their tortuous on-screen ordeals by using physical prowess, intellectual power, and problem-solving skills to outwit their aggressors. As Nancy Thompson declares in the original A Nightmare on Elm Street, "I'm into survival."
Intense and tenacious, the characters on this list adapt to their circumstances and do their best to save those around them from the terror lingering in the corner. Blood-soaked, emotionally traumatized, and palpably scarred, these final girls and boys sabotage genre expectations by enduring. While some of them deal with supernatural entities and events, others are thrown into frightful, real-life circumstances they must fight their way out of, and boy, do they fight.
Which of these characters are the strongest? Who would be on your team in the event your life becomes a scary movie?
- Photo: 20th Century Fox
What She's Up Against: Warrant officer Ripley squares off against the vicious extraterrestrial Xenomorph. This salivating alien with corrosive blood uses the humans aboard the Nostromo as reproductive hosts. Deep in space, the ship's crew must combat the monstrous creature as it lurks in air ducts and shadows.
How She Survives: Ripley, like the alien chasing her, relies on the configuration of the industrial spaceship she's stuck in to aid in her survival. Using the technology and tools at her disposal, Ripley is soon the only crew member left alive. She's forced to put the Nostromo in self-destruct mode and avoids the explosion by retreating to the ship's shuttle just in time.
Close Call: Once she's on the shuttle, though, Ripley soon discovers the Xenomorph has followed her on board. Resourceful Ripley sucks the alien out of the shuttle by engaging the airlock. While it's latched to the shuttle's exterior engine, holding on for dear life, she ignites the exhaust and blasts it into space.Strong scary movie survivalist?
- Photo: Compass International Films
Who She's Up Against: The boogeyman made flesh. Babysitter Laurie is pursued on Halloween night by the masked madman, Michael Myers, who, as a child, slayed his older sister 15 years prior on the same night. Now, the Shape has returned to continue his bloody Halloween tradition.
How She Survives: Laurie is one of the original final girls, an innocent woman stereotype employed to either add or undermine moral agency in horror movies. Despite being young, Laurie is not naive, and she's forced to prove herself throughout the course of the movie. While all her coupled friends meet Michael's large knife, Laurie manages to stay a step ahead of him until Michael's psychiatrist, Dr. Loomis, appears and takes out the deranged slayer.
Close Calls: Michael and Laurie get too close for comfort many times. He corners her in a hallway and chases her up the stairs of the Doyle house, where she's babysitting. She transforms quickly into a skilled survivalist once she realizes what she's up against.Strong scary movie survivalist?
- Photo: New Line Cinema
Who She's Up Against: Freddy Krueger, the infamous child slayer who haunted the dreams of teens after he was burned alive by the parents of missing kids in Springwood, OH. This disfigured nightmare-maker is not only capable of ending his targets' lives while they sleep, but he also comes equipped with a knife-fingered glove on his right hand, making his presence even more terrifying.
How She Survives: Teenager Nancy Thompson catches on to what Freddy is up to as he closes in on her while she slumbers. Nancy's friends succumb to Krueger, meeting awful and bloody ends, but it's game over for Freddy once the resourceful young lady realizes she can destroy the monster by depriving him of what he needs to thrive: her fear. By turning away from Freddy as he goes after her, Nancy takes away his power, and he disappears.
Close Calls: Every time she falls asleep, Nancy puts herself at risk of becoming Krueger's next target. At school, at home, or anywhere else, there's no place to hide from Freddy.Strong scary movie survivalist?
- Photo: Orion Pictures
Who She's Up Against: The insane genius of the cannibalistic Hannibal Lecter, as well as the basement-dwelling, moth-loving, skin-suit-tailoring Jame "Buffalo Bill" Gumb. Clarice must also navigate the convoluted organizational structure of the Federal Bureau of Investigation.
How She Survives: The young trainee from West Virginia learns how to play the games demanded of her in order to track down the person taking and slaying women. From institutionalized Lecter's riddles to the clues left behind by Buffalo Bill, Starling becomes a master decipherer of madness. She goes with her gut while using her education to guide her investigation.
Close Call: In a terrifying sequence, Starling finds herself alone in the pitch black basement of Buffalo Bill, the slayer she's been after for months. With his night-vision goggles, Buffalo Bill watches Starling move through the darkness, and as he clicks his revolver, the observant and braced Starling is able to open fire before Buffalo Bill can barrage her.Strong scary movie survivalist?