While many Stephen King fans tune in to the master of horror's works for a good scare or a long, engaging tale, fans also appreciate the wide variety of women in his works. King's books and films aren't without their issues, but many of his representations of women are authentic, exciting, and even empowering. Even his lead villainous women are often strong and commanding of our attention.
From fierce heroines who took on supernatural powers that threatened the people they loved to some of the most chilling women of our nightmares, Stephen King has created some of the most compelling female leads in history.
10 Fran Goldsmith, The Stand
Managing life during the Apocalypse while pregnant isn't anyone's idea of a good time, but young Fran Goldsmith does it while maintaining a strong moral compass, dealing with one of the worst incels ever written and grieving the loss of her family.
While Fran does miss the book's biggest confrontation, she represents the best of what society is throughout the behemoth of a novel, even sacrificing the comfort and safety of the community she's helped to maintain for a more family-oriented life without all the politics and corruption at the end of the book. Some cite her as their least favorite character, particularly in the miniseries, but she's without question the strongest character.
9 Charlene ‘Charlie’ McGee, Firestarter
If you love Stranger Things, thank Firestarer, which obviously inspired a lot of Eleven's story. It's one of King's works that most heavily features the supernatural gifts of a young family torn apart by a government agency who wants to utilize them for their own benefit. Between being on the run with her father, exhibiting pyrokinetic gifts and fighting for her life all as a young child, Charlie is an incredible character.
Charlie's big revenge scene following the demise of her father is one of the most horrifying moments in fiction; not only is the little girl left without her protector, but she has been forced to become the protector herself, and in her moment of grief and fury she lashes out to destroy everyone who surrounds her while they run for their lives.
8 Jessie Burlingame, Gerald’s Game
Not everything scary in King's universe is all monsters, wiggling fingers out of sink drains and telekinesis. Many of his best works include a lot of psychological horror, as is demonstrated in works like The Girl Who Loved Tom Gordon and Gerald's Game. In the latter book, Jessie Burlingame has to deal with the real life trauma of nearly being assaulted by her own husband before accidentally ending him, only to be trapped for nearly the whole book in the most vulnerable position she could be in.
Jessie's story grips us by our guts as we follow both the troubles of her mind and memories as well as her literal physical predicament, which ended up far more sinister than we expected.
7 Annie Wilkes, Misery
We all love our fandoms, but fans who become obsessed with their favorite authors are known to take their love a little too far sometimes. This was the case in King's 1987 novel Misery, in which author Paul Sheldon is brutally tormented by his number one fan, former nurse Annie Wilkes, who is scarier than many of King's actual supernatural monsters. Annie's rage, cunning acts of manipulation and violence make her one of the greatest King villains of all time.
Wilkes is also an example of one of the Stephen King characters that Kathy Bates brought to life so well, with the other being Dolores Claiborne.
6 Sara Tidwell And Jo Noonan
Bag of Bones is a masterful novel about grief, love, a curse and ghosts. The two main ghosts of the novel, Sara Tidwell and Jo Noonan, wife of protagonist Mike, create an incredible showdown between their powers and a desire to either harm or save a child. We learn that Tidwell's bloodthirsty actions are fueled by a curse she created to enact revenge on the racist men of the town who assaulted her and ended the lives of both Sara and her son.
Both Sara and Jo are ghosts we empathize with and journeying alongside them as they drive the protagonist to near madness between their actions is an unforgettable experience. Skip the miniseries and read the book.
5 Mrs. Carmody, The Mist
"What's the matter with you? Don't you believe in God?" Mrs. Carmody was already a force to be reckoned with back in 1980 in the pages of King's novella The Mist, but the incredible Marcia Gay Harden really brought the unstable fundamentalist to life. She builds upon the concept of another one of King's most infamous women, Margaret White, also known as Carrie's mother, but does even more damage since her hold is over the people of the supermarket rather than one teenager.
Carmody represents all that is wrong with extremist views and behavior, particularly when it's used to control other people. Carmody's archetype can unfortunately be commonly seen throughout history, including in modern society.
4 Susannah Dean, The Dark Tower
Susannah Dean isn't always a heroine. In fact, she isn't even always Susannah, but even with her multiple personalities, she's always the strongest person in the room. King has written many of his heroes as people with disabilities, and Susannah, who lost her legs in a violent accident, is an example of one of them.
She's the only surviving member of Roland's ka-tet and one of the most important characters in the series, even if she's attempting to off her own love interest or birthing a succubus baby. The Lady of Shadows is psychotic and violent at times, but it sure does come in handy in tough spots.
3 Rosie McClendon, Rose Madder
Seeing one drop of blood on the bed after 14 years of a terrible, abusive marriage sent Rosie McClendon, formerly Rose Daniels, onto a mythical journey of freedom. Her husband, Norman, is one of King's most brutal villains, and as a police officer he gets away with his violent behavior.
Rose's journey is parallel to the Rose Madder painting she discovered, and as more details of the haunting work are revealed, Norman becomes closer to finding her. Following a quest for the woman in the painting, the painted figure assists Rose in destroying her menacing ex. While King himself says the work is "trying too hard" and many fans don't consider it a favorite, "Rosie Real" is a character who sticks with you long after the book has been closed, as is the disturbing woman in the painting.
2 Donna Trenton, Cujo
Donna Trenton isn't perfect by any means, and she makes some terrible mistakes, but she represents the fierce mother in all of us that will do whatever it takes to save our children from whatever threatens them, even if it's a monstrous, rabid dog. Out of sheer desperation and determination, she takes out the terrifying beast even after it has taken out several people, including Sheriff George Bannerman.
Poor Tad didn't make it in the novel, leaving us with such a brutal ending to an already harrowing tale, so the movie gave us a more uplifting ending with the boy's survival. Either way, anyone who has read or seen Cujo can't forget the dog or the mother who ended him. Wendy Torrence of The Shining gets an honorable mention for the same reason, although Stanley Kubrick pretty much left her a hot mess in our memories.
1 Carrie White, Carrie
She was the one who started it all, and whether or not they're all going to laugh at her, Carrie made sure that no one ever forgot her. King's first published novel tackles school bullying, fundamentalism and coming of age with his trademark horror and fascination with telekinesis, themes that are present in many of his works. Carrie's tragic tale took on the Hades that is high school in a way that the author's novella Rage failed to do later, and even though King was informed that he'd be typecast as a horror writer following Carrie and his subsequent books, he still continued to map the human spirit and universal experiences within the fantastical and, yes, often horrifying confines of his universe.
Fans will forever be grateful for Carrie, for Sissy Spacek's incredible portrayal of the teen and for everything that's happened since, no matter how many remakes clutter her timeline.