50 Most Bad-Ass Female Horror Leads

Femme fatales

Carnival of Souls (1962)

The Female Lead: Mary Henry (Candace Hilligoss) is a drag-racing organ player who’s being plagued by both a terrifying ghoul and a sleazy neighbour. She handles one better than the other. Also, arguably, she manages to survive her own death for quite a while.

Coolest Moment: Stumbling obliviously from the wreakage of a car crash, without so much as a scratch on her.

Does She Make It To The End Of The Movie: Technically, she barely makes it past the opening credits.

The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (1974)

The Female Lead: Sally Hardesty (Marilyn Burns) is the sole survivor of the titular massacre, though mostly thanks to luck and cardio. Her counterpart in the 2003 remake, Erin Hardesty (Jessica Biel), is considerably more badass.

Coolest Moment: Sally does a good line in jumping through windows; Erin actually does some damage to Leatherface and takes out the villainous sheriff.

Does She Make It To The End Of The Franchise: Yup, in both incarnations, though not without some serious PTSD.

Anthropophagus: The Beast (1980)

The Female Lead: Julie (Tisa Farrow) is one of a group of adventurous young tourists who pick the wrong Greek island for a summer getaway. While her friends make typical slasher movie mistakes, Julie holds it together long enough to figure out what’s going on and escape.

Coolest Moment: She pushes the killer down a well.

Does She Make It To The End Of The Movie: Yup.

The City Of The Dead (1960)

The Female Lead: Nan Barlow (Venetia Stevenson) is a teacher’s pet who’s determined to do her own hands-on research for her end-of-term project. Which would be fine, if she were studying anything but witchcraft.

Coolest Moment: The way she drives, undeterred, through ominous swirling fog to get to a remote village everyone tells her not to visit is inspiringly stubborn.

Does She Make It To The End Of The Movie: Tragically, no.

The Purge (2013)

The Female Lead: Married to a rich home security salesman, Mary Sandin (Lena Headey) is a prime target for envious neighbours during the annual killing spree that happens during the Purge. But she’s not going down without a fight.

Coolest Moment: The scene where she forces her murderous neighbours to sit down and talk round a table – and then breaks the face of a woman who’s not behaving herself properly – is kind of awesome.

Does She Make It To The End Of The Franchise: So far, yes.

Ring (1998)

The Female Lead: Reiko Asakawa (Nanako Matsushima) is a journalist investigating the bizarre deaths of some teenagers who supposedly watched a cursed videotape. In the course of her investigation, though, she manages to curse both herself and her young son, which was a bit daft.

(Her counterpart in the English language remake, Rachel Keller (Naomi Watts), does exactly the same thing.)

Coolest Moment: Climbing down into a well to retrieve the rotting remains of a potentially evil little girl must’ve taken nerves of steel.

Does She Make It To The End Of The Franchise: Reiko doesn’t; Rachel does.

An American Werewolf in London (1981)

The Female Lead: Alex Price (Jenny Agutter) is a nurse who picks the wrong patient to fall in love with, accidentally bringing a werewolf home with her.

Coolest Moment: Alex isn’t the violent type – she’s a nurse, after all – but the way she talks down a snarling werewolf at the climax of the film is pretty badass.

Does She Make It To The End Of The Movie: Yes.

May (2002)

The Female Lead: It’d be fair to say that May Canady (Angela Bettis) is a bit of a misfit. Bullied and ostracised for most of her life, she eventually takes it upon herself to punish her tormentors and make her own friend.

Coolest Moment: ‘Cool’ probably isn’t the right word for most of May’s antics.

Does She Make It To The End Of The Movie : Just about, though she’s rather the worse for wear.

Psycho (1960)

The Female Lead: When Marion Crane (Janet Leigh) rocks up at the Bates Motel, she’s no wide-eyed innocent – she’s a thief who robbed $40,000 from her employer in order to elope with her boyfriend. Unfortunately, she didn’t get that far.

Coolest Moment: It might seem particularly badass now, but in choosing to flush her notes down the loo, Marion made cinematic history – Psycho was the first American film to show a flushing toilet onscreen.

Does She Make It To The End Of The Franchise: Nowhere near.

Night of the Comet (1984)

The Female Lead: Valley girl Reggie Belmont (Catherine Mary Stewart) only survives the apocalypse by chance – but once she realises she’s one of the few survivors, she’s determined to stay that way.

Coolest Moment: Choosing to go shopping after the end of the world.

Does She Make It To The End Of The Movie: Yup.

We recommend