The 5 Most Badass Women in Horror Films

As Beyond Retro release their Halloween campaign featuring a group of badass brides taking down their male opressors, we take a look at other women who’ve kicked ass in horror

The 5 Most Badass Women in Horror Films

by Limara Salt |
Published on

Feminism in film is, quite rightly, this year’s big topic. Films are scrutinised as to whether they’re Bechdel test passing, actresses are grilled left, right and centre about their feminist creditials and this year, the BFI has dubbed the London Film Festival as ‘the year of the strong woman’.

While that remains to be seen, as Halloween approaches, we’re shifting our cinematic leanings, as we do every year, over to horror. It’s arguably the genre that has given us more iconic female protagonists than any other movie group. Yes, admittedly, this is also the genre that features plenty of scantily clad girls with their brains located in their bust, but bear with us.

Horror films have also put women in the forefront, transformed them from weak victims into the ‘Final Girl’ who takes on the killer and wins. Well, at least until the sequel.

While the likes of Lila Crane in 1960s Psycho used her wit to escape the threat, modern incarnations of women in horror began with Laurie Strode (played by the iconic scream queen, Jamie Lee Curtis) in John Carpenter’s 1978 slasher Halloween. She set the standard for sexually inexperienced (if not total virgins) who went from being the hunted to the hero.

It was this concept of female characters in horror taking charge of their own destiny that inspired vintage shop Beyond Retro’s Halloween campaign this year. Called Beyond The Dead (you can watch it below), it features ‘seven deadly brides’ who use their wiles to win out over their male opressors.

To celebrate, here’s five more women who have our heart in horror.

1. Ellen Ripley, 1979’s Alien

With space replacing a small suburban town and an alien replacing a masked, knife-wielding killer, Alien introduced us to one of – if not the – ultimate cinematic heroines. But before she got the chance to take on the Alien Queen in a power loader, Ellen Ripley (Sigourney Weaver) was fighting to survive aboard the Nostromo aircraft.

Apart from one leering shot while in her M&S knickers towards the end, Ripley is never sexualised and never underestimated even if she is slightly ignored.

The beauty of her survival is that she was the young, pretty warrant officer nobody expected to live when the alien started knocking people off. The film used the assumptions of the audience to its advantage and helped create arguably the most iconic female movie character.


2. Nancy Thompson, 1984’s A Nightmare on Elm Street

If Laurie Strode was the icon of 1970s horror, then Nancy Thompson ruled the 1980s. Assertive and intelligent, Nancy (Heather Langenkamp) began experiencing nightmares about a man with knives for fingers at the same time as her friends, but while they perished she used caffeine to stay awake before figuring out who he was and how to (temporarily) stop him.

While she bit the dust in the sequel, Nancy’s sole focus was on survival instead of boys and was so industrious that she set traps and outwitted many adults as well as the killer.

3. Clarice Starling, 1991’s The Silence of the Lambs

When Clarice Starling (an Oscar-winning Jodie Foster) steps into a lift full of men towering over her, it’s clear to the audience that the FBI student is a woman in a man’s world. Indeed, when working on a case she chastises a male colleague when he suggests she leaves the room while he inspects a gruesome dead body they were both called to look at.

The way she rebuffs the advances of a leery asylum manager, along with her intelligence and talent, endears her to Hannibal Lector, and it’s those qualities that helps her evade and defeat Buffalo Bill after a chase in a darkened corridor straight out of a classic horror.

The Silence of the Lambs

4. Jay Height, 2015’s It Follows

Much like the way fairy tales were constructed to scare children straight, horror films have often punished their female characters for having sex, which is why one of the rules to surviving one is that you have to remain a virgin. This year’s It Follows took it one step further by making sex – or at least something transmitted via sex – the killer, and the only way to save yourself was to fuck someone and put them in the firing line.

What made Jay Height such an interesting character is that while she exposes herself to danger by having sex, she also embraces it to live figuratively and literally.

5. Sidney Prescott, 1996’s Scream

While I Know What You Did Last Summer’s Julie James and Urban Legend’s Natalie Simon also contributed to the late-’90s revival of badass female characters, the undisputed queen is Scream’s Sidney Prescott (Neve Campbell).

The Scream movies are clearly more self-aware than your average horror, as they aimed to deconstruct the rules of the genre while following them – such as Sidney bemoaning idiot girls running upstairs from a killer then doing just that while being chased by Ghostface – but that doesn’t take away from what an amazing character and cinematic role model she is.

Sidney is the vulnerable daughter of a murdered woman, but she’s still incredibly tough, she’s virginal, but embraces her sexuality and does the deed when she’s good and ready, and while she has no interest in being the hero, when the time comes she too can kill.

Beyond Retro’s Beyond The Dead collection of pre-bloodied clothing for Halloween is available now in store and online. Prices range from £25-£44.

Like this? Then you might also be interested in:

Endless Slutty Downton Abbey Requests. And Other Realities Of Working In A Vintage Store At Halloween

What To Do With All Those Leftover Pumpkin Guts You’ve Got After Carving

Your Bechdel-Passing Halloween Horror Film Hitlist

Follow Limara on Twitter @YourTurnHeather

This article originally appeared on The Debrief.

Just so you know, whilst we may receive a commission or other compensation from the links on this website, we never allow this to influence product selections - read why you should trust us