Horror, Fantasy and Female Empowerment: 11 Scary Movies With Badass Women

8:02 AM 7/14/2016

by Allison Crist

A roundup of movies that defy female stereotypes.

GHOSTBUSTERS Leslie Jones Melissa McCarthy Kristen Wiig Kate McKinnon Still 2 H 2016
Courtesy of Sony Pictures

There's no denying that the upcoming reboot of Ghostbusters has faced a lot of backlash

Whether the negative response stems from misogyny -- or, according to the director of both 1984's Ghostbusters and its sequel, nostalgia -- it's led to many questioning the role women play in films that fall into both the horror and fantasy genres.

At the same time, movies within these genres that do feature women are often pegged as "final girl" slasher flicks -- a term created by feminist academic Carol J. Clover in her book Men, Women, and Chainsaws: Gender in the Modern Horror Film. What this ideology boils down to is that a majority of horror films either portray women in a misogynistic light, or use the "final girl" formula -- the last character left standing against a killer or monster who is typically smart, a virgin, and avoids alcohol and drugs (i.e. Scream's Sidney Prescott, The Cabin in the Woods' Dana Polk and Halloween's Laurie Strode).

However, there are a variety of movies that repel these stereotypes. 

  • The Girl, 'A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night'

    Known simply as "The Girl" (Sheila Vand), she's a skateboarding vampire preying on men who are mean to women in the deserted Iranian town of Bad City. 

  • Rose, 'Silent Hill'

    Rose (Radha Mitchell) embarks on a mission to save her daughter from the mysterious Silent Hill -- and nothing can stop her (not even demons). She's a force to be reckoned with in this female-dominated film.

  • Thomasin, 'The Witch'

    If any movie has political undertones, it's The Witch. Thomasin (Anya Taylor-Joy) refuses to take on the archetypal puritan role of being a wife and mother, but instead, forges a life of her own.

  • Amelia, 'The Babadook'

    The Babadook follows single mother Amelia (Essie Davis), who faces real-life and relatable struggles as she deals with the part of the film that makes it a horror. She's complex, and undoubtedly strong.

  • Sarah, 'The Descent'

    Sarah (Shauna Macdonald) is just one of the many badass women in The Descent. She and her friends are literally fighting for their lives, and are willing to do whatever it takes to survive.

  • Erin, 'You're Next'

    When masked assailants invade the house, Erin (Sharni Vinson) refuses to hide or run away. Instead, she takes it upon herself to defend her friends.

  • Mandy, 'All the Boys Love Mandy Lane'

    Mandy (Amber Heard) is the furthest thing from a "final girl." In fact, she's more so a villain than anything else. Regardless, she goes from a bullied outsider to the girl every boy in town wants to be with after blossoming one summer -- and she's definitely not having it.

  • Ripley, 'Alien,' 'Aliens'

    In both the original and its sequel, Ellen Ripley (Sigourney Weaver) is a fearless action hero. She's brilliant; however, her intelligence is different than that of a typical "final girl." The character was also particularly groundbreaking for the time. 

  • Lisa, 'Haunter'

    Abigail Breslin's character, Lisa, is definitive proof that no girl needs saving in any sort of movie. She's not only faced with the task of saving herself, but also her family. 

  • Nancy, 'A Nightmare on Elm Street'

    Nancy (Heather Langenkamp) not only refuses to sit back and let Freddy destroy her, but she defends both herself and her friends and family. Also, is there anything better than one of her final lines to Freddy? "I take back every bit of energy I gave you. You're nothing. You're shit." 

  • Hayley, 'Hard Candy'

    The horror in Hard Candy doesn't lie in monsters or ghosts, but a much more real-life situation -- a man who preys on teen girls. Hayley (Ellen Page) uses her knowledge of the man's wrongdoings and takes matters into her own hands.