During the final showdown in horror movies, the last one standing is usually a woman. She can look any type of way, but because this is cinema, more often than not she’s attractive, independent, and a protagonist, who’s different from the rest. We must believe in her ability to stay alive, or, at the very least, be interested in her story. In the 1992 book Men, Women and Chain Saws: Gender in the Modern Horror Film, Carol J. Clover coined the term “final girl” for the trope of the last young woman alive in horror films. “She is the one who encounters the mutilated bodies of her friends and perceives the full extent of the preceding horror and her own peril; who is cornered, wounded; whom we see scream, stagger, fall, rise, and scream again,” Clover writes. “She is abject terror personified.”
Far from weak, she doesn’t crumble under the weight of that terror, but carries what Clover calls the “active investigating gaze” of the film. As she’s the opposite of the male killer, who seeks to penetrate her with knives and other phallic objects, the final girl is usually a good girl – she abstains from the drinking, drugs, and sex that will get her teenage peers killed. She’s quick-witted and clear-headed.
The trope has evolved to become more diverse and subvert the original intentions of male filmmakers (to titillate and reproduce the oppression women face from outside forces). More recently, the film theory has made it onto TikTok, with the final girl trope becoming well known across videos around best final girl fashion, fancams of favorite final girls, and hottest final girl crushes. Here, we rank our favorite final girls and explain why they are distinct from the rest.
The best final girls of all time, ranked