18 Feminist Horror Movie Characters That Deserve Some Halloween Recognition
For many feminists, the horror genre, and Halloween itself, can be something of a minefield. After all, there's a ton of horror movies known for their exploitative treatment of women, and the ubiquity of female-oriented "sexy" versions of Halloween costumes can sometimes make the spooky season less than fun. But thankfully, there's also another side to this coin that provides some balance. Some of the best feminist horror movies of all time also just so happen to be some of the best horror movies, period. And if you happen to be needing a little boost of empowerment on Oct. 31, then there are loads of inspiring feminist horror movie characters whom you can totally vibe off.
Whether you're simply desperate to find a character to create a last-minute Halloween costume, or if you're looking for a set of female characters to inspire you to be strong and kick-ass when some jerk makes a sexist comment, they're all included here. These are characters who are incredibly strong in their own way. Be it their capacity for survival, their intelligence, their outspoken nature, or their physical prowess against enemies, these ladies all have it and deserve some rightful celebration this Halloween.
1. The Girl (A Girl Walks Home Alone At Night)
Devastatingly cool and utterly fearless, the character known only as "The Girl" in Ana Lily Amirpour's Iranian vampire masterpiece is unfazed by the horrors of the world (and, indeed, her own bloodthirsty horror). Confident and assured in her sense of strength and self, The Girl is an empowering figure to watch.
2. Eli (Let The Right One In)
Whether you choose to watch the Swedish original or the American remake, young female vampire Eli remains a feminist marvel of a character (and another vampire). Independent and ferociously strong, Eli rejects any notions of becoming a victim, and instead dominates volatile situations to protect herself and those she cares about.
3. Maureen (Scream 2)
You might not think that a character who is denied the opportunity to survive the mere introduction of a film is worthy of recognition, but Scream 2's Maureen (played by Jada Pinkett Smith), definitely is. Existing as a vital commentary on the tokenization of African-American characters in horror movies (and the overall inherent sexism of these films), Maureen is opinionated, headstrong, and switched on. She may get killed before the first act can even begin, but her death serves a vital purpose — as an important statement on the "first to die" trope, rather than a literal enactment of it.
4. Clarice Starling (The Silence Of The Lambs)
Clarice may be beyond iconic, but it tends to be Hannibal Lector (or Buffalo Bill) that is everyone's go-to character from The Silence of the Lambs that they want to celebrate in some way. Not only is Clarice to be admired for her smarts and power, but also for her determination to succeed within a field of work, which the film implies is heavily male dominated.
5. Anita (Jennifer's Body)
This vastly underrated film has two prime horror heroines at its forefront who never receive the recognition they deserve. Though Megan Fox's portrayal of sexual succubus Jennifer is enjoyable in its own right, it's her best friend Anita (aka Needy, played by Amanda Seyfried) who's the real star, as fans see her using her smarts to try and save her friend — regardless of her realization that their friendship may in fact be totally toxic.
6. Carrie White (Carrie)
A teenage girl who uses the power of her mind to strike back against the people who inflict regular abuse upon her, Carrie's actions may ultimately be terrifying and horrific, but her ability to rise up and choose not to be a victim is something to be admired.
7. Nancy Thompson (A Nightmare On Elm Street)
Easily my favorite horror movie heroine of all time (I even have her tattooed on my arm), Nancy is remarkably intelligent, brave, and strong throughout A Nightmare On Elm Street. The finale sees the character defeating Freddy Krueger (a character whom it's heavily implied is a sexual predator, as well as a killer) by essentially verbally castrating him — she takes back her power and refuses to be afraid of him.
8. Jay (It Follows)
Vulnerable yet strong, and flawed yet smart, Jay is a complex character who refuses to let a sexually transmitted haunting put her off sex for life. And it's a wonderfully refreshing way for the "sex equals death" horror movie trope to be turned on its head.
9. Ellen Ripley (Alien)
Come on, do I really need to tell you at this point why ruthless, domineering, and utterly badass Ripley is a feminist heroine worthy of some Halloween recognition? I don't think I do. She's everything.
10. Thomasin (The Witch)
Robert Eggers' atmospheric folk-tale nightmare of a movie provided a new feminist heroine in the form of oppressed teenager, Thomasin. During the course of the movie, she's forced to reckon with parents who want to sell her off as a wife and think of her as a failure, due to her lack of maternal instinct. But boy, does she shut them down.
11. Alice (Resident Evil)
Milla Jovovich's Alice might not be the first feminist force of horror that you think of, but she's totally worthy of it. Regardless of how you might feel about the Resident Evil movies, there's no denying that Alice is a consistently tenacious character who stands her ground against men, zombies, and a whole host of monsters — without even breaking a sweat.
12. Barbara (Night Of The Living Dead)
The evolution of Barbra in the 1990 remake of Night Of The Living Dead is a vast upgrade from the one in the original. From being utterly shaken and vulnerable in the first half of the movie, Barbara then grows to become a fearless zombie slayer in the latter half, and that's truly something to be admired and celebrated.
13. Claire (The Innkeepers)
Claire is a totally low-key feminist hero of horror, but she remains one worth recognition nonetheless. Endearing for her ghost-hunting obsession, Claire is repeatedly shown as being far braver than her male counterpart. She's also shown as experiencing totally real, everyday emotions which are never once portrayed as being a weakness.
14. Laurie Strode (Halloween)
Everyone's favorite girl-next-door, Strode is the sort of archetypal, dorky character that audiences no doubt expected to be completely weak when Halloween was first released. But she was anything but that. As well as dealing with some truly heavy family problems, Strode also had to face the murder of her friends whilst striving for survival and carrying out babysitting duties. And she does it all with inspiring levels of strength.
15. Brigitte (Ginger Snaps)
Ginger Snaps is a feminist horror classic, and the relationship between the two sibling protagonists (Ginger and Brigitte) is a big part of that. So when Ginger becomes a werewolf with a truly insatiable appetite for sex, flesh, and destruction, Brigitte is understandably horrified, but never stops supporting her. That includes allowing Ginger to revel in her newly discovered sexual agency, even when she disagrees with it.
16. Erin (You're Next)
Adam Wingard's home-invasion horror completely twisted the genre on its head by revealing it's key female protagonist as being anything but a victim. Instead, Erin is the literal definition of a survival expert and effortlessly turns the hunters into the hunted. It's supremely empowering to watch.
17. Michelle (10 Cloverfield Lane)
The real horror of 10 Cloverfield Lane came from witnessing what is undoubtedly a narrative about the horrors of domestic abuse. After being "rescued" from a car crash during a widespread chemical attack, Michelle is held in a bunker by an aggressive and controlling captor who claims he's keeping her safe. However, Michelle's determination to outwit her captor and smartly use everything at her disposal to try and escape him marks her as a strong and inspiring survivor.
18. Sarah (The Descent)
Sarah has a lot of emotions to juggle in The Descent. As well as still mourning the death of her daughter and husband, she also has to contend with being on a holiday from hell with a woman who was having an affair with him. On top of that, she also has to deal with being trapped in a cave without a clear exit, while being hunted down by some ferocious cave dwelling monsters. But she does all of it with clarity, focus, and a compelling sense of drive.
I'm sure everyone has their own way to acknowledge and celebrate such feminist characters, and this Halloween I hope that the appreciation of these fierce women helps you to kick ass at partying, spookiness, and horror movie marathons wherever you are.
Images: Giphy (15); New Line Cinema; Lionsgate (2); Columbia Pictures