The Best Horror Movie Heroines Who Knew How to Save Themselves

Far too often these days, your average monster movie, slasher picture, or garden variety horror flick doesn't have much in the way of heroism. In the second rate slate of jump-scare fodder, we're stuck with a vacant leading lady, one who isn't too hard on the eyes but who is just relegated to bad decisions and high-pitched shrieks. But the horror genre hasn't always treated its heroines so poorly. In fact, glancing back to the glory days of the sinister '70s and campy '80s (and to a few odd instances in the grungy '90s and meta '00s), we find a handful of terrific female roles at the head of horror cinema.

Some are hard-noses brutes from the start. Others are pragmatic intellectuals who use their brains to take out the demonic foe at the center of the story. Some make it to the end, going on to live another day with whatever other parties were lucky enough to survive the evil force's wrath. Others... well, they join the silent majority, but sing out an unflappable legacy.

In honor of Halloween, check out this gallery of our favorite heroines for horror movies. Whether faced with a hungry zombie, killer alien, malicious murderer, or amorphous blob, each of these women knows exactly how to handle herself.

Image: Paramount Pictures

RIPLEY (Sigourney Weaver in 'Alien')

Why She’s So Fantastic It’s Freaky: An unsurprising winner, the toughest, sharpest, and most engaging heroine of the bunch, thanks both to Sigourney Weaver’s wordless skulking through the claustrophobic first Alien, as well as her high-octane warfare in her second go ‘round as Ellen Ripley. She’s as good as horror characters come.

Image: 20th Century Fox

LAURIE STRODE (Jamie Lee Curtis in 'Halloween')

Why She’s Petrifyingly Perfect: Although Jamie Lee Curtis has come quite a ways from slicing up pumpkin-headed monstrosities, it’s a testament to her Halloween performance that such a decorated actress still maintains affectionate connotations to the horror staple.

Image: Compass International Pictures

GINNY FIELD (Amy Steel in 'Friday the 13th Part 2')

Why She’s Blood-Curdlingly Badass: For standing up to evil with a rock-solid jaw and a pair of quick hands, we owe Ginny a respectful nod. But for totally one-upping the first film in her series with a rare superior sequel, we owe her a full-fledged salute.

Image: Paramount Pictures

MEG PENNY (Shawnee Smith in 'The Blob')

Why She’s Mortifyingly Marvelous: It’s not many a human being who can take a shotgun to the gullet of a formless blob and not look totally ridiculous. Shawnee Smith deserves points just for that.

Image: Tristar Pictures

ERIN THE SURVIVALIST (Sharni Visin in 'You're Next')

Why She’s Spookily Spectacular: Few can handle themselves this well when meeting a significant other’s family for the first time under normal circumstances… let alone when a series of murders overtakes the clan. But thanks her her special skill set, Erin quickly seizes the upper hand.

Image: Lionsgate

SARAH (Shauna Macdonald in 'The Descent')

Why She’s Terrifyingly Tough: Things may never seem too hopeful down in the who-knows-what-they-are-infested-with caverns that takes Sarah and company’s life down an unexpected path one day… but even through this bleak, weighty horror film, Sarah never once loses her vigilance or gumption.

Image: Lionsgate

SIDNEY (Neve Campbell in 'Scream')

Why She’s Chillingly Choice: Carrying an entire film series, spanning a decade and a half, with wry wit and earnest spunk, Scream’s Sidney single-handedly redefined a genre and a trope for an entire generation.

Image: Dimension Films

LILA CRANE (Vera Miles in 'Psycho')

Why She’s a Horrifyingly Heroic: Although she only shows up halfway through the film, Lila is in earnest its hero, braving the perilous and eerie Bates Motel with as much a thirst for justice as she has for answers.

Image: Universal Pictures

HELEN LYLE (Virginia Madsen in 'Candyman')

Why She’s Scarily Stupendous: This overall underrated horror flick has one of the most underrated horror heroes; Helen entering gang territory in order to solve an impenetrable mystery, stopping her conquest for justice not even after being injured and hospitalized.

Image: Tristar Pictures/Polygram Filmed Entertainment

NANCY THOMPSON (Heather Lagenkamp in 'Nightmare on Elm Street')

Why She’s Frightfully Fierce: Nancy defied all explicable possibility (and the expectations of her parents) when she literally pulled a man out from within her subconscious in order to rid herself of his dastardly grip.

Image: New Line Cinema