Unless you are a horror fan, the term "final girl" might be lost on you. To put it simply, a final girl is the lone survivor of a horror movie, and, more times than not, the last person standing is a woman. The final girl has withstood attacks and losses that ultimately empower her. She perseveres in the face of danger and lives to tell the tale. Usually.
Final girls are seen throughout the various sub-genres of horror, but they are especially popular in slashers. While their role has changed over time, they are all built on a subversion of the "damsel in distress" theme found in classic folklore. So, let's look at ten of the scariest final girl movies to never watch alone.
10 Night of the Living Dead (1990)
While visiting a loved one in the cemetery with her brother, Barbara is attacked by zombies. Her brother doesn't make it, but Barbara finds shelter at a nearby farmhouse with other survivors.
The Barbara depicted in Tom Savini's 1990 remake is a total opposite of the one seen in George A. Romero's original movie. That is namely because Barbara survives and fights back. She ultimately takes charge after being subjected to zombie terror. Although a lot of critics were harsh towards the remake back then, they found this new Barbara to be a highlight.
9 Just Before Dawn (1981)
A group of campers arrives in the forest to check out some recently purchased property. The local ranger warns them to not go any further up the trail, though. As the party sets up camp, a killer lurks nearby, waiting to attack.
The slasher craze following the original Halloween and Friday the 13th gave way to a number of copycats. Though to their credit, a number of these movies were entertaining in their own right. One in particular, Just Before Dawn, incorporates more elements of Deliverance as the action solely takes place away from the suburbs or a summer camp.
8 Alien (1979)
Aboard the commercial spaceship Nostromo, the crew is awakened from cryo-sleep by a distress call. They investigate an alien ship, which contains a hostile extraterrestrial lifeform.
Final girls are not limited to horror, but Ridley Scott's Alien is a sci-fi movie built on the standard slasher formula. We have a cast of people being systematically killed by an often unseen enemy. That's prime slasher territory. When left on her own, Sigourney Weaver's Ellen Ripley is urged to become the hero we all need if we were thrown into this awful situation.
7 Friday the 13th Part 2 (1981)
Not too long after the original Crystal Lake massacre, another summer camp is targeted by a killer. Is there a connection? Does the legend of Jason Voorhees bear some truth after all?
With the first Friday the 13th being a financial success, it was unsurprising when Paramount wanted to make a sequel. Behind the scenes, however, there was some dispute over making Jason the villain. The sequel wasn't any better received by critics, but fans find Part 2 to be an improvement on the original in several ways. For example, fans love Ginny, the surviving camp counselor who used her education in child psychology to trick Jason.
6 The Prowler (1981)
A double murder thirty-five years ago is the inspiration behind a present-day rash of killings in a New Jersey town. The killer is dressed in World War II-era U.S. army fatigues, and he's partial to a pitchfork as his weapon of choice. Now, he's set his sights on the college kids attending an annual community dance.
The Prowler is yet another Friday the 13th imitator, but it's rightfully gained a cult following. The gore special effects alone—crafted by Tom Savini—elevate this one above other slashers from the golden age.
5 You're Next (2011)
During an uncomfortable family dinner inside an isolated mansion, the guests are attacked by armed intruders wearing animal masks. The interlopers, however, didn't count on one of the guests being a trained survivalist. With her know-how and plenty of makeshift weapons at her disposal, the woman battles these depraved killers.
Adam Wingard and Simon Barrett expertly combine slasher and home invasion tropes in You're Next. Aside from being a hard-hitting survival-horror movie riddled with violence, You're Next also serves as a black comedy. The jokes and imaginative death sequences are surprisingly humorous amidst all the carnage and death.
4 The Town That Dreaded Sundown (2014)
Every Halloween in Texarkana, the town hosts a drive-in showing of the movie The Town That Dreaded Sundown, which is based on a real-life string of murders from 1946. One year, though, someone dresses up as the infamous Phantom Killer and kills in his name.
This is not a typical remake, as it's more of a metafictional sequel. The film acknowledges the 1976 movie has little resemblance to the actual case, too. Nevertheless, The Town That Dreaded Sundown is a smart, suspenseful update that bears similarities to Wes Craven's Scream franchise.
3 Tourist Trap (1979)
A group of people finds themselves stuck at a roadside museum filled with mannequins. Trapped inside, they are then attacked by a killer with supernatural powers.
As unoriginal as the idea of Tourist Trap sounds, the film's execution is what makes this such a seminal entry in the heyday of slashers. The movie boasts a substantial amount of eerie atmosphere in addition to a unique villain. Interestingly enough, the 2005 version of House of Wax is more like a remake of Tourist Trap than the 1953 film starring Vincent Price.
2 The Texas Chain Saw Massacre (1974)
Friends driving through Texas pick up a distraught hitchhiker. The woman is severely traumatized, but the reason why is unclear. In time, however, they will well understand. Something terrible then ensues, causing the remaining passengers to stop the van and find help nearby. They eventually come to a random house, unaware that it's home to a serial killer and his cannibalistic relatives.
Sally is one of the most famous final girls in all of horror history. Though she never experiences the same physical torture as her companions, she definitely does not come out emotionally unscathed.
1 Black Christmas (1974)
Around Christmastime, an unseen intruder infiltrates a random sorority house. The stragglers at the house then experience a series of menacing, obscene phone calls. Finally, the women start to disappear without the others realizing it has to do with the creepy calls.
Bob Clark's Black Christmas predates the slasher boom by several years. This is why it is often referred to as a proto-slasher. Black Christmas is also the first horror movie to substantially use the urban legend "The Babysitter and the Man Upstairs." The film's heroine is not only an adept survivor, but she is also, incidentally, an embodier of women's rights.