Slashers and survivors: Horror's top 5 "final girls"

Categories: Lists

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Jamie Lee Curtis in Halloween
The "final girl" -- one of horror film's best-known genre conventions -- is the virginal and ostensibly pure heroine who either kills the monster, or at least lives to see the end of the movie. Some scholars, including Carol J. Clover (in her book, Men, Women and Chainsaws: Gender in the Modern Horror Film), cite the final girl as an example of the impact of feminism on popular culture. In honor of A Nightmare on Elm Street's Heather Langenkamp, who appears in person tonight at The Watching Hour: An Evening With Heather Langenkamp at Denver FilmCenter, we put together this list of our top five final girls of all time.

5. Alice, Friday the 13th (1980)
It's actually Jason's mother, Mrs. Voorhees, who does the killing in the first Friday the 13th, which is pretty badass if you ask us. What's even more badass is when the somewhat stereotypical final girl, Alice (Adrienne King), decapitates Mrs. Voorhees with a machete, Jason-style.

4. Nancy Thompson, the Nightmare on Elm Street (1984)
Heather Langenkamp, who we interviewed yesterday, played Nancy Thompson three times (in Nightmare 1, Nightmare 3: Dream Warriors and Wes Craven's New Nightmare), and she kicked the shit out of Freddy in every appearance. Girl power!

3. Clarice Starling, the Silence of the Lambs (1991)
Jodie Foster won a Best Actress Oscar for her career-defining portrayal of Clarice Starling, one of several Academy Awards for Jonathan Demme's psych-thriller masterpiece, which also won for Best Picture. Drawing inspiration from the horror genre, Silence brings together two notable psychopaths with a keen interest in Clarice's sexuality (we won't repeat what Miggs says to her here), and her final showdown versus Buffalo Bill-in-night-vision-goggles is one of the most iconic scenes of '90s cinema.

2. Sally Hardesty, the Texas Chain Saw Massacre (1974)
One of the first slasher films, the original Texas Chain Saw Massacre established many of the genre conventions, including the use of power tools as murder weapons and the depiction of the killer as a hulking, faceless monster. The film also features final girl Sally Hardesty (Marilyn Burns), who is the only protagonist to survive and presumably tell her horrifying story. She escapes in the back of a pickup truck, with Leatherface waving his chainsaw overhead in another iconic moment.

1. Laurie Strode, Halloween (1978)
John Carpenter's Halloween is the quintessential slasher flick, and Jamie Lee Curtis makes a good case for her passionate portrayal of Laurie Strode as our number one final girl. Who can forget her blood-curdling screams as she tries to escape from her deranged brother, Michael? Laurie is ultimately saved by Dr. Loomis, which may not be the most empowering moment on our list, but it's one of the most memorable.

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