HomeFilmPioneering Final Girls: a look at the original heroines of horror

Pioneering Final Girls: a look at the original heroines of horror

Halloween - Jamie Lee Curtis
Credit: Lionsgate

The concept of the ‘Final Girl’ has become a staple in the horror genre, representing the survivor and hero of a terrifying ordeal. While the term itself wasn’t coined until the 1990s, the archetype of the Final Girl has existed in horror films for decades.

The original Final Girls in horror films set the stage for the diverse and resilient heroines we see in today’s genre cinema. These pioneering characters challenged traditional gender roles, showcasing intelligence, strength, and determination as essential qualities for survival in the face of unspeakable horrors. They have not only entertained audiences but also empowered viewers to root for characters who refuse to be victims, making them enduring icons in the history of horror cinema.

We’re delving into the original Final Girls who laid the foundation for this iconic character in the world of horror cinema….

1
Laurie Strode (Jamie Lee Curtis) – ‘Halloween’ (1978)

One of the most iconic Final Girls is Laurie Strode from John Carpenter’s ‘Halloween’. Portrayed by Jamie Lee Curtis, Laurie is the quintessential girl-next-door who finds herself pursued by the relentless and masked killer, Michael Myers. Laurie’s resourcefulness, intelligence, and bravery in the face of terror set the standard for future Final Girls. She proved that survival often depended on inner strength and determination.

2
Sally Hardesty (Marilyn Burns) – ‘The Texas Chain Saw Massacre’ (1974)

Tobe Hooper’s ‘The Texas Chain Saw Massacre’ introduced audiences to Sally Hardesty, portrayed by Marilyn Burns. This film, inspired by real events, showcased the brutal ordeal of Sally and her friends as they encountered a family of cannibals in rural Texas. Sally’s raw and frenetic performance is a stark reminder of the physical and emotional toll on Final Girls. She is an early example of a character who fights to escape the clutches of madness.

3
Ellen Ripley (Sigourney Weaver) – ‘Alien’ (1979)

Ridley Scott’s ‘Alien’ introduced a different kind of Final Girl in the form of Ellen Ripley, portrayed by Sigourney Weaver. Ripley was a tough, resourceful, and intelligent character who faced off against the deadly xenomorph. Her strength and determination in the face of an extraterrestrial threat redefined the role of women in sci-fi and horror genres. Ripley’s character paved the way for complex and capable female protagonists.

4
Nancy Thompson (Heather Langenkamp) – ‘A Nightmare on Elm Street’ (1984)

Wes Craven’s ‘A Nightmare on Elm Street’ introduced audiences to Nancy Thompson, portrayed by Heather Langenkamp. Nancy is a teenage girl who battles the sadistic Freddy Krueger in her dreams. Her character is marked by her intelligence and resourcefulness, as she tries to unravel the mystery of Freddy’s powers and find a way to defeat him. Nancy’s courage and determination to protect herself and her friends left a lasting impact on the horror genre.

5
Ginny Field (Amy Steel) – ‘Friday the 13th Part 2’ (1981)

In ‘Friday the 13th Part 2’, Amy Steel’s character, Ginny Field, became one of the pioneering Final Girls in the slasher subgenre. Ginny used her knowledge of psychology to outsmart Jason Voorhees and ultimately survive the night. Her portrayal demonstrated that Final Girls could be resourceful and strategic in their fight for survival.

Pip Ellwood-Hughes
Pip Ellwood-Hughes
Pip is the Editor of Entertainment Focus and the Managing Director of agency Piñata Media.

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