A month shy of her 20th birthday, Jamie Lee Curtis made her film acting debut as unlucky babysitter Laurie Strode in John Carpenter's 1978 horror classic. The film kicked off an unending dance of death between Laurie and masked madman Michael Myers, pitting them against one another in five films thus far with another two—Halloween Kills and Halloween Ends—on the way, making Laurie horror's most prolific final girl without question.
Everywhere poor Sidney Prescott goes, masked killers are sure to follow. There's no other final girl on this list who's faced down more murderers than the plucky heroine of the Scream franchise. And no matter who they may be—deranged boyfriend, deranged half-brother, deranged niece—nothing beats the sheer elation of watching Sid come out on top every time. Here's hoping the currently filming Scream 5 doesn't dare dream of dispatching this absolute queen.
Sure, Sidney is the beating heart of the Scream series. But it's the sardonic and cutthroat Gale Weathers, always by Sid's side, who really steals the show. From adversaries in the first film to true family by the fourth, you can't have one without the other. Nor should you want to. If they aren't both still breathing when the Scream 5 credits roll, we riot. (Take Dewey, though. You can have him.)
The Alien franchise eventually devolved into more of a sci-fi action series, but Ridley Scott's 1979 masterpiece that started it all is a masterclass in horror. And at the center of it is Ellen Ripley, who watched as everyone around her on the Nostromo was ripped to shreds. Like Curtis a year before her, this was Weaver's first leading role that would come to define her career. But for good reason, as Ripley's a total badass.
The big twist at the end of Jordan Peele's 2019 fright fest was that the final girl wasn't exactly the hero we believed her to be. And yet, in Nyong'o's very capable hands, she's still a legend. So though we remain scared of you, Adelaide/Red, we salute you just the same.
In the 1997 adaptation of Lois Duncan's novel, Hewitt's Julie James really only survives because she's saved by someone else. It's not until the 1998 sequel that she takes matters into her own hands and shoots Ben Willis (Muse Watson) dead. (Or so she thinks. We'll never get over that frustrating final jump scare in the epilogue that wanted us to believe the dumb fisherman was somehow impervious to death.) At any rate, it's because of her that we have the iconic "What are you waiting for?" GIF. And for that, we're grateful.
In this 2000 supernatural slasher, Larter's Clear Rivers—talk about a wild name—outruns death itself, you guys. We have no choice but to stan. Of course, as in life itself, death comes for everyone eventually and she doesn't make it out of the 2003 sequel alive. But you can't fault her for that too much. It's death we're talking about here.
Anyone who can hold her own against both the Xenomorphs from the Alien franchise and the Predators from their titular franchise, as Lathan's Lex did in this 2004 mash-up, is a damn legend in our book. Not only did she survive being caught in the middle of a war between the two otherworldly factions, but she even teamed up with the Predators, earning their respect as a warrior. Let's see Arnold Schwarzenegger, who famously faced off against one of them in 1987's Predator, try that.
If Tobe Hooper's 1974 film gave birth the the slasher genre, then it's Marilyn Burns' lone survivor Sally who stands tall as the first true final girl. The archetype wouldn't come into focus until JLC in Halloween four years later, but this is its origin story.
King's camp counselor Annie doesn't just survive the bloodbath out at Camp Crystal Lake in this 1980 classic, she freaking decapitates the killer—who any horror fan worth their salt knows isn't actually Jason Voorhees, but his mother—with a machete. A legend.
Langenkamp's Nancy is the only one left standing at the end of Wes Craven's 1984 classic, conquering Freddy Krueger and his fear-based control of her. A decade later, it was Langenkamp, returning to play a fictional version of herself in New Nightmare—Craven's meta conclusion to the franchise—who closed the book on Freddy for good. Talk about an arc.
Sure, Pugh's Dani is only left standing at the end of Ari Aster's 2019 folk horror film because she gives into the creepy commune's pagan rituals (read: murder) and participates alongside them. But she's still standing, and that's what counts, right? Right?!
Rothe's Tree relives her own murder over and over again in, not one, but two films in this franchise that kicked off in 2017. And though she's supremely unlucky, she also manages to solve the case both times. So, kudos to her.
After learning she's married into one truly twisted family in this 2019 comedy-horror film, Weaving's Grace proves herself more than capable of holding her own against a laundry list of in-laws in league with Satan.