It’s no secret that horror movies dish out plenty of oversexed characters and misogynistic storylines. But every now and then, the genre unleashes a killer scream queen who’s not just a final girl, but a badass for the ages.
These killer female horror characters go beyond just getting their hands bloody; they kick the conventions of nightmare cinema straight in the teeth.
1. Laurie Strode, Halloween
Starring opposite a masked madman of epic proportions, Laurie (Jamie Lee Curtis) is John Carpenter’s babysitter who launched a thousand sequels. She also proved one should never underestimate what a woman can do with a knitting needle.
2. Sarah Carter, The Descent
Hell hath no fury like a jilted woman who also happens to be stuck in a cave crawling with cannibalistic creatures. Armed with a pickaxe and a nothing-to-lose attitude, Sarah (Shauna Macdonald) is one of Doomsday director Neil Marshall’s greatest creations.
3. Erin Harson, You’re Next
Never judge a woman by her size; judge her by her booby traps. Skilled in the art of ambush, Erin (Sharni Vinson) is the female lead this mumblegore horror by Adam Wingard. She may look petite, but she’ll turn the contents of your skull into tartare if you cross her.
4. Selena Nolastname, 28 Days Later
Though Cillian Murphy is technically the lead in Danny Boyle’s frenetic infection flick about a monkey-transmitted Rage virus turning the people of London into lightning-fast people eaters, Naomie Harris has a way of stealing the scene—and wielding a machete. Michonne from TWD, take note.
5. Regan MacNeil, The Exorcist
Regan, played by Linda Blair, is the 12-year-old star of William Peter Blatty’s semi-true horror story. She spends the majority of the film under the influence of a demon named Pazuzu. While she technically serves as the film’s antagonist post-possession, we still love her. And we’re not sure what makes her more badass: her swivel head tricks, crab-walking talents, or projectile pea-soup vomit.
6. Molly Reynolds, Lovely Molly
Lovely she is—especially when she’s fraternizing with a horned devil in Eduardo Sanchez’s first-person horror about a woman haunted by her past. A challenging role that finds newbie actress Gretchen Lodge nude for much of the reel, it’s one she absolutely slays.
7. Ellen Ripley, The Alien series
You can’t have a list of badass females without including the baddest of them all: Lieutenant First Class Ellen Louise Ripley. This pulse-rifle-toting cosmonaut who can annihilate space invaders with a child strapped to her hip is one of horror’s toughest protagonists—regardless of gender. She may as well be the inspiration behind the saying Who’s your daddy?
8. Anna Peterson, The Guest
Nothing gets past this feisty diner waitress—not even the dangerous soldier claiming to be her deceased soldier brother’s buddy. Go ahead and encore Maika Monroe’s badassery with her follow-up strong-female role as Jay Height in It Follows.
9. Jennifer Mills, I Spit on Your Grave
Originally titled Day of the Woman, the 1978 original of I Spit on Your Grave stars Camille Keaton as a writer who gets raped by a mob of perverts in the woods of upstate New York, then gets her bloody, burning, dismembering revenge.
10. Sidney Prescott, Scream
Her boyfriend tried. His mother tried. Her cousin tried. Even her own half-brother tried. But no one could take out the star of Wes Craven’s wildly successful franchise from the 1990s. Neve Campbell’s Sidney makes bloody stew out of a slew of killers, all of whom take cosplay a little too far.
Related: 11 BEST FUNNY HORROR MOVIES
11. Carrie White, Carrie
“They’re all going to laugh at you,” Margaret tells her outcast daughter played by Sissy Spacek. Fast-forward to Carrie’s telekinetic fit triggered by a blood-soaked prom-night prank, and Carrie gets revenge on her peers by trapping them in a burning gymnasium. Who’s laughing now?
12. Asami Yamazaki, Audition
A manipulative bachelor auditions pretty young things to star in what will be, in his humble opinion, their finest role yet—his wife. But he shouldn’t be surprised when the ex-ballerina he plucks from the crowd isn’t so keen on the arrangement, and instead takes to torturing him with needles and severing his limbs with a piano wire.
Still from "The Descent" via Lionsgate Films; Still from "Halloween" via Falcon International Productions; Still from "The Descent" via Lionsgate Films; Still from "You're Next" via Lionsgate Films; Still from "28 Days Later" via Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation; Still from "The Exorcist" via Warner Bros.; Still from "Lovely Molly" via Image Entertainment; Still from "Aliens" via Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation; Still from "The Guest" via ArtAffects Entertainment; Still from "I Spit on Your Grave" via Cinemagic Pictures; Still from "Scream" via Dimension Films; Still from "Carrie" via United Artists; Still from "Audition" via Creators Company Connection