February has been designated as Women in Horror Month, so I thought a great way to celebrate this year is by ranking some of the best female characters in horror movie history.
When most people think of women in horror, they may picture the dumb big-haired bimbo running around screaming being absolutely useless as viewers scream at her common-sense tips for surviving the terror she is in. However, with a closer look, you will realize that horror is filled with a variety of female characters from those completely useless damsels in distress to the badass final girls who dish out as much punishment as the big bad that’s chasing them. Strong, smart, and sexy just barely scratch the surface when describing many of these ladies. Also, we have some stone-cold killers that give Jason, Freddy, and Michael a run for their money as they slash, maim and murder their way through their own victims.
Come and celebrate all sorts of female characters with me as we count down the 100 Greatest Female Characters in Horror history!
* Be cautious of spoilers below
10. Rosemary Woodhouse (Mia Farrow) | Rosemary’s Baby (1968)
It may have been made in the ’60s, but Rosemary’s Baby continues to scare modern audiences with its satanic and cult themes. In the film, Mia Farrow’s pregnant character, Rosemary, suspects a cult wants to take her baby after its born. Later, it’s revealed to be much worse. Farrow was never the director’s first choice to play Rosemary, as she didn’t have the right all-American look. But after the auditions, she was clearly the right choice. And we can’t imagine anyone else playing the role. She really brought that character and her struggles to life on screen.
9. Clarice Starling (Jodi Foster) | The Silence of the Lambs (1991)
Being one of my favorite psychological horror films, The Silence of the Lambs also has some all-time characters. One, in particular, being Clarice Starling which also happens to my favorite Jodie Foster role. Starling is independent, intelligent, and strives for success in her heavily male-dominated career field and pushes her way through sexist commentary and ignorant actions to solve the case. As a character, she represents a strong lead, with some of the best on-screen chemistry between protagonist and antagonist in film history.
8. Sally Hardesty (Marilyn Burns) | The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (1974)
On a road trip with friends to visit her grandfather’s grave after reports of grave robbing turns to hellish nightmare after running into the twisted family behind the film’s brutal slayings. She’d deserve praise alone for simply outlasting her friends and brother against the likes of Leatherface, but that she endures a creepy dinner party where she’s the intended meal earns her high marks. She survives being tied up, taunted, and hammer swings to her skull from grandpa only to free herself and throw herself through a second-floor window out of the sheer instinct to survive. Then she fights through fatigue and overwhelming fear in one of the most intense chase scenes to finally make it to safety is no small feat.
7. Regan MacNeil (Linda Blair) | The Exorcist (1973)
When it comes to infamous horror films, every moviegoer alive knows something about The Exorcist. The movie features a 13-year-old Linda Blair as Regan who happens to be possessed by the devil. While the special effects were certainly good at the time, it was Blair’s powerful performance as the head-turning possessed little girl that audiences are still talking about. Today, Blair is still best known for her iconic performance, as The Exorcist is considered one of the best horror movies ever to be created.
6. Sidney Prescott (Neve Campbell) | Scream Franchise
It’s difficult to think of a final girl and horror heroine that’s endured as much as Sidney Prescott has. After the rape and murder of her mother, she then has to contend with being the target of the Ghostface killer at the young age of 17. That he happens to be her own boyfriend Billy Loomis and his best friend Stu only twists the knife further, as her true friends fall around her. But even after she continues to remain Ghostface’s focus, as various people pick up the mask and mantle time and time again, throughout her life well into adulthood. Through betrayals, the loss of nearly everyone around her, massive trust issues, and countless attempts on her life, she somehow comes out with her sanity intact and even stronger than before. Impressive.
5. Nancy Thompson (Heather Langenkamp) | A Nightmare on Elm Street (1984)
Nancy Thompson goes down as one of the first final girls to not stand idly by as Freddy Krueger sliced and diced the people around her. She made a plan to fight back and did just that going one on one with the burned menace. She would help others reached their dream potential in order for more to be able to fight the nightmare killer and go down as one of the strongest and most recognizable figures in horror history. Heather Langenkamp’s portrayal would help endure Nancy to our horror hearts as one of the best final girls to ever grace the screen.
4. Carrie White (Sissy Spacek) | Carrie (1976)
There are plenty of Stephen King adaptations from the ’70s to today that could be discussed, but when it comes to powerful performances, no one could forget Sissy Spacek as Carrie White. In Carrie, Spacek’s character is bullied by her classmates and abused by her overtly-religious mother until she finally snaps on prom night. Even though she may have become a “villain” after her telekinetic powers went into hyperdrive from the awful prank, I’d like to think most people were cheering her on as the bullies and her mother got what they deserved.
3. Marion Crane (Janet Leigh) | Psycho (1960)
Psycho may be one of the most iconic horror movies of all time. And even those who haven’t seen the film are familiar with one scene in particular that features a knife and a woman in the shower. Janet Leigh screaming in her bathroom as her character, Marion Crane, was stabbed to death will forever remain in horror-lovers’ hearts.
Psycho defined Leigh’s career, but she was in plenty of films after that. And you’re probably familiar with her very famous daughter, Jamie Lee Curtis.
2. Ellen Ripley (Sigourney Weaver) | Alien Franchise
The high standard by which all strong female leads are measured, there’s no one else like Ellen Ripley. The warrant officer of the Nostromo is introduced as the sole voice of sound reason, not only deciphering the alien transmission as a warning rather than distress call, and refusing to let Kane back on board due to quarantine regulations. She’s ignored, resulting in catastrophic events for the crew, but her intelligence, cool demeanor under pressure, and toughness meant her survival. Against one of horror’s toughest villains, Ripley is counted on again and again in the series to save the day. That she was initially written as a man is even better; Ripley is never defined by the men around her or her relationships with them. She’s just pure Xenomorph butt-kicking badass.
1. Laurie Strode (Jamie Lee Curtis) | Halloween Franchise
Halloween night was never the same for teenager Laurie Strode, who unwittingly went to battle with Michael Myers and survived. The only responsible one among her friends, Laurie is the rare final girl that had the added weight of ensuring the two kids in her care were safe while being hunted down by the Boogeyman incarnate. That she not only succeeded but warded off his attacks multiple times through the Doyle household made her an instant final girl for the ages.
She would go on to face Michael multiple times but it’s her last round with him that help me select her as the greatest female character in horror. She had changed so much from her first encounter to this last one. She went from a meek and frazzled girl just trying to survive, to a strong and damaged woman on the hunt. Laurie Strode would become the ultimate final girl that all others would be compared too. She is one of the most well-known characters in all of horror and deserves the horror all the recognition for her greatness.
Well, that’s the list. What do you think of the number one overall pick? Is there someone else you think should have been number one?