10 Best Horror Heroines
For years, horror films often portrayed women as the helpless victims who met their demise at the hands of a killer, be it supernatural or human. But as times changed, so did the movies. In the late ‘70s, we saw the rise of strong female protagonists in films such as Halloween and Alien, and that trend has continued today with memorable characters such as FBI agent Clarice Starling in The Silence of the Lambs, or Sidney Prescott in the Scream franchise. And speaking of Scream, a whole new troupe of leading ladies will be tasked with facing off with that dreaded Ghostface when it premieres on June 30 at 10 PM ET/PT on MTV.
Below, we take a look at 10 female horror heroines that have dared to take on some of Hollywood’s most memorable monsters.
Jamie Lee Curtis gave birth to the term “scream queen” after portraying the young and innocent Laurie Strode in the original Halloween film. Halloween was released in 1978 and told the story of a disturbed madman named Michael Myers, who escapes from a mental institute 15 years after killing his older sister during his youth. Myers begins stalking the promiscuous and frisky high school students of Haddonfield, Ill, but is particularly fixated on stalking Strode - who is later revealed to be Myers’ biological sister. Curtis, as Strode, escaped Myers’ wrath in the first installment and became horror’s favorite “sole survivor” character. She would later go on to appear in the second, seventh and eighth Halloween films, proving that when it comes to escaping murderous villains, nice girls do finish last.
Ever since her appearance in 1979’s Alien, Ellen Ripley has been considered one of film’s most badass heroes of any franchise. Sigourney Weaver portrayed Ripley in the initial film, and became the only human left breathing onboard the spaceship Nostromo after a vicious attack by a giant alien creature. In the sequel Aliens, Ripley went from smart survivor to full-on, badass mode as she strapped on weapons and declared war against the Xenomorphs. With memorable one-liners and a no-nonsense attitude, Ellen Ripley is unquestionably one of our all-time favorite heroines.
Freddy Krueger strikes dread and shivers through anyone who sees his image, or hears his name. And while we, as frightened viewers, know that Freddy is a fictional character, imagine having to fight the terror one-on-one on your own? Heather Langenkamp as Nancy Thompson was the first character to take on, and successfully defeat, Freddy Krueger in Wes Craven’s 1984 classic horror flick. Taking on a nightmarish entity that doesn’t have a physical form? That deserves kudos in our book.
OK, so maybe Beetlejuice is more comedy than horror. But can we say just how much we love Winona Ryder in this movie? Ryder, who plays socially awkward outcast Lydia Deetz, finds herself in a bit of a predicament when she unknowingly steps into the world of the dead and must protect a recently deceased couple (played by Alec Baldwin and Geena Davis) from a foul-mouthed, obnoxious spirit named Betelgeuse. Ryder plays Lydia wonderfully weird, and she's become of our all-time favorite teenage characters.
Jodie Foster’s portrayal as FBI agent Clarice Starling is often regarded as one film’s most magnificent character performances. Foster starred opposite Anthony Hopkins as the chilling Hannibal Lecter in 1991’s The Silence of the Lambs. In the film, Foster is tasked with tracking down a serial kidnapper and murderer named Buffalo Bill. To find him, she consults Lecter, an intelligent and cunning psychiatrist who is incarcerated for killing and eating his victims. Foster would go on to win an Academy Award for her fearless performance.
As kids, we’ve all played the Bloody Mary game in the darkness of our bathrooms at one point or another. Candyman, the 1992 cult favorite, preyed upon this fear by introducing an entity who appears after one says the name, Candyman, five times. The flick starred Madsen as Helen Lyle, a grad student who accidentally summons the monster while trying to prove his existence. Like Freddy Krueger, Candyman the character was visually every bit as scary as the story itself. To go up against a guy that just magically appears with a murderous thirst? We don’t know how you do it.
Buffy Summers became every high school teen’s idol in the late ‘90s all thanks to Sarah Michelle Gellar’s brilliant performance in Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Series creator Joss Whedon had stated that he wanted to write about a teenage female character that was fierce and brave, rather than lost and helpless. Buffy the Vampire Slayer told the story of a girl named Buffy who, along with her tight circle of friends, fights supernatural forces all while trying to lead normal teenage lives. The show ran for seven seasons on television between 1997 and 2003 and became a ‘90s pop culture favorite. Its cult fanbase continues to delight in the show’s glory to this day.
With five Resident Evil films and a sixth due in 2016, there are no signs of Milla Jovovich slowing down anytime soon. Resident Evil has spawned a number of a videogames, novels and animated features centered around a world that has been decimated by a zombie viral outbreak at the hands of the Umbrella Corporation. But it is Jovovich who carries the film franchise as Alice, a highly skilled assassin with nearly superhuman martial arts and gun battle abilities. Make no mistake about this beauty: looks can be deadly.
Maika Monroe is the perhaps the least known among the actors on this list, but make no mistake about it, you’ll hear more about her in the coming years. Monroe starred in 2014’s acclaimed favorite, It Follows, about a teenage girl named Jay who finds a supernatural force following her after a date gone wrong. The chilling indie film became one of the year’s best reviewed films, and has made Monroe an actress to watch. Proof? Her next gig is a starring role in Independence Day 2, which is due to hit theaters in the summer of 2016.
After the teen scream crazy of the ‘80s, there really wasn’t a heroine to root for in horror until 1996, when Party of Five star Neve Campbell starred in Wes Craven’s sleeper success slasher flick, Scream. Like Jamie Lee Curtis before her, Campbell became rose to stardom by taking on the underdog role of Sidney Prescott, a high school teen still dealing with the gruesome murder of her mother. When her high school classmates begin dropping dead one by one, Sidney becomes the unlikely hero as she solves the mystery of who is wearing the Ghostface mask and why? After watching her dodge stab after stab in Scream and its three sequels, we’ve fully subscribed to the Sidney Prescott Guide to Surviving a Horror Movie.
And we won't have to wait for long: Ghostface will return to terrorize a whole new generation with MTV's Scream series begins on Tuesday, June 30 at 10 PM ET/PT on MTV.
Consider Emma our hopeful heroine in MTV's upcoming Scream, airing Tuesday, June 30 at 10 PM ET/PT. Emma is the peacemaker of her popular group. This might be due, at least in part, to Emma’s father walking out on her and her mother years ago. It’s been a rough road back to normalcy, but Emma is resilient and always tries to look for the good in people — something the killer takes advantage of.