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Woman Power in Horror Movies: Top 10 Female Horror Roles

BlackTequilaKiss 18 Comments

Ever since horror movies, a certain label has existed: The women play the damsel in distress and the men typically are the heroes of the day. But as the years pass, horror has changed. This mantra that once existed has long disappeared.

Since the 70’s and before, the woman protagonist has become a more prevalent figure. Ripley (Aliens) and many others have shown the typical formula can be changed. Recently on HorrorMovies.ca, a thread brought this matter to attention.

It primarily was discussing a particular film (Jennifer’s Body) and its lack of sales amid which the main star (the notable Megan Fox) was citing many factors for its failure. In addition it was brought up as to what movies best depict women in empowering roles in terms of both strength and heroism.

There are plenty of examples:

Labyrinth, Thelma and Louise, hell even Matilda hits on the idea but these of course are more the mainstream movies. So then the question becomes: what are some of the best examples of horror films that place a woman in a position of power.

So after the thread I decided to conduct my own research and the actual number of horror movies where the woman is the dominant figure actually surprised me. They are diverse, different and provide a unique insight into film. So here is my list of the best horror movies that promote ‘woman power':

10: All the Boys Love Mandy Lane

Odd one to make the list? Perhaps, but in the end this an almost brilliant example of girl power in a movie. The title alone makes it a given, but respect has to go to the movie itself which doesn’t use other horror movies to be effective. The end effect of the movie is particularly jarring and for that reason this movie deserves to make the list.

Woman Power in Horror Movies: Top 10 Female Horror Roles

9. Resident Evil (2002)

Alice, the all action female starlet. This movie caused a divide when it came out and understandably so. Whilst it can never compare to the game itself, the all feminine lead in Milla Jovovich is what makes it, in my humble opinion, worth watching. With some excellent gore and some great fight scenes this is a girl power flick. It may have the tough males, yes, but in the end Alice is the main star and because of her that’s why this is by and far a girl power horror film.

Woman Power in Horror Movies: Top 10 Female Horror Roles

8. Species

I could have put Scream or any countless others here but instead I opted for a classic sci-fi horror we all are well acquainted with. Sil (played by Natasha Henstridge) is a beautiful but deadly creature. Throughout the movie she uses her feminism and beauty to lure those she wants into a false sense of security.

It’s woman power in its rawest form and it’s a movie that sells because Henstridge creates a character we should rightly dislike and yet find ourselves torn. It’s a fantastic gem that spawned plenty of other Species films but for this list there was only ever one that could top my list.

Woman Power in Horror Movies: Top 10 Female Horror Roles

7. Carrie

Rather an odd choice given the ending, but still a worthy addition. We know the story of Carrie; what she endures at home and what she has to deal with at school. And yet throughout she stays strong headed; shows she is capable of looking out for herself; and of course she has a ‘special gift’. Sissy Spacek played the role fantastically and actually did a good job of making the character from the Stephen King story her own.

Pure ‘woman power’ horror? This can remain up for discussion, but in my opinion it deserves that honour and I can only hope you guys think so too.

Woman Power in Horror Movies: Top 10 Female Horror Roles

6. Ginger Snaps (2000)

Does this film really need any introduction? The entire film from beginning to end is a metaphorical message of female and teenage puberty in its ugliest form.

It’s about two sisters, one as we know who transforms throughout the movie into a werewolf and her sister who has to find a way to deal with the problems. You want a better example of woman power in a horror movie? You’re looking at it. Gore and gristle aside this is one of the more powerful female horrors in the last couple of years.

Woman Power in Horror Movies: Top 10 Female Horror Roles

5. Teeth

This movie might not be well renowned outside of horror circles, but for a low budget indie production it is big on both heart and the message it conveys.

Jess Weixler as Dawn was a quiet revelation who created a big splash and was one of the best things to promote of this film. As woman power goes she really was in a movie that gave plenty of it. Definitely a film with ‘bite’!

Woman Power in Horror Movies: Top 10 Female Horror Roles

4. The Descent

This was a strong follow up to director Neil Marshall’s Dog Soldiers. With not a male in sight (only a little at the very beginning), this is complete ‘woman power’. Women turning on women, monsters in the dark and a claustrophobic atmosphere all make this a must see.

So far we have seen a plethora of differently themed horror movies topping the list. Some you might agree with, some you might not, but there is no denying there impact on the genre and there use of the term, ‘woman power’. So without further ado I give you the top 3 woman power horror films…..

Woman Power in Horror Movies: Top 10 Female Horror Roles

3. The Silence of the Lambs

Let’s take away the fact this causes divide over it’s specifics as horror and just focus on a few facts. It’s a cannibal film; it has truly horrific moments of horror; and it gave us one of the finest female protagonists in movie history, Clarice Starling.

Her intellect against Hannibal’s is a compelling dynamic. Their interaction and struggle for control really gave the film a sense of realism and soul to the characters. In a movie where many men largely dominate, Clarice provided one of the brightest spots and shows us that ‘woman power’ can exist on an intellectual level as well. This film deserved to be at No.3.

Woman Power in Horror Movies: Top 10 Female Horror Roles

2. Halloween

If we are discussing the power of women then it would be regrettable to have a lot of feminine heroes and not include Laurie from Halloween. We have Michael Myers and Dr. Loomis, so it is quite male dominated, but Laurie shows us that you can fight the bad guy and win. Myers aside, Laurie’s character is powerful and becomes memorable in its own right. The ending is curious but there’s no denying this is one kick ass version of woman power!

Woman Power in Horror Movies: Top 10 Female Horror Roles

And for the top spot:

1. Alien/Aliens

: Of course the supreme choice is Ripley of Alien/s. Never has there been a better case of kicking ass (in space, no less) and showing the aliens that you don’t mess with us. Why it works of course is due to several reasons. The first is the sense of entrapment, in space you do not have anyone you can turn to, no authority figure so it’s down to you and only you to do something about the danger that awaits you. The second and smartest choice was letting a lot of the males be the first to bite the dust.

They could have very easily let Ripley die and given the main lead to a male instead (which originally was the plan believe it or not), but in the end they made the smart choice of keeping her as the only one left. Weaver plays the strong female lead perfectly and might even be considered the finest example of ‘woman power’ in horror. In my estimation no other movies have portrayed a female character of such formidable substance.

Woman Power in Horror Movies: Top 10 Female Horror Roles

And there is my list. Of course there are many more that could have been on the list, but as it stands they just missed the mark; however special mention goes to:

  • Scream, Inside, Hard Candy, Hostel 2, Silent Hill, High Tension, The Craft, I Spit on Your Grave, Laid to Rest and Martyrs.

Those are my choices for woman power in horror and now I want to hear what your choices would have been. Do you think the list is accurate and what movies other movies would you add to the list of feminine empowered horror? Thanks for reading everyone and I look forward to your feedback.

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18 Comments

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      1. seesoccer December 2, 2012 at 4:39 pm

        The only thing I dislike about this list is you used a photo from Rob Zombie’s Halloween rather than from the original 1978 film.

        • HorrorMovies December 2, 2012 at 9:31 pm

          That was a mix up by the editor ( me ) sorry lol.

        • seesoccer December 2, 2012 at 10:07 pm

          Thanks and I didn’t mean to sound harsh. I just have an aversion to anything related to Zombie’s Halloween.

        • HorrorMovies December 5, 2012 at 2:30 pm

          You are not alone :) Thanks for keeping us square.

      2. Leanne Buckler December 2, 2012 at 10:07 pm

        Most of these women although they initial appear strong and powerful eventually fall into the trap of damsel in distress (silence of the lambs, Halloween they also fall into the trap of sexualising women(species, teeth, resident evil) ultimately taking any power away from them and bending them to the will of the male view (identified by theorist Laura mulvey in 70’s) ripely comes the closest to being a truly powerful woman as she is not overtly sexualised for the benefit of the viewer and manages to stay strong (although only a woman could defeat the alien as it represents the male fear of birth)

        • Herner Klenthur
          Herner Klenthur December 4, 2012 at 12:04 am

          One of the most insightful comments I’ve read on site all week

        • HorrorMovies December 5, 2012 at 2:30 pm

          Leanne outstanding commentary.

      3. Zander May 11, 2014 at 5:44 pm

        your next. that girl owned that movie. plus the down under accent. boom.

        • Zander May 11, 2014 at 5:45 pm

          your’e*

      4. Tiago May 11, 2014 at 7:31 pm

        So the meaning of “woman power” is a woman that acts like a tuff man? In my opinion this actually a male chauvinist point of view.
        Women are not as tuff as men. Rounda Rousey can’t beat Renan Barão.
        From my experience with women they like to be protected and they want to feel safe. And to empower a woman all you need to do is treat her with respect and care. To pretend like men and women are equal in every aspect is just political correctness non-sense, and everyone who has any relationship with women knows it does not work like that in real life.
        Carrie and Teeth are both examples of male chauvinist fears, where femininity is represented as a threat.

        • angrymog July 8, 2014 at 11:44 pm

          *Tough

          And wow… I’ve read some stupid comments, but yours totally wins today. Congrats!

      5. Travis July 12, 2014 at 10:09 pm

        There really was no excuse for not including Neve Campbell/Sidney Prescott (and possibly Gale Weathers, too) in an article about strong women in horror. There have never been ANY stronger women in horror than those two. It makes it especially egregious that the author even MENTIONED that they were deliberately leaving Scream out to make room for the alien creature in “Species” (which maybe wasn’t technically a “woman”, in a film that isn’t technically “horror”).
        This article is crap.

      6. Travis July 12, 2014 at 10:14 pm

        Oh, and Laurie Strode from the first Halloween is NOT a strong character! She’s the weakest damsel in distress to ever be featured in a horror movie and she’s the character that set the precedent of having horror protagonists repeatedly do stupid things. She stabs Michael Myers with a coat hanger and then sits down right next to his body, with her back turned, and starts crying without bothering to check to see if he’s dead. She misses chance after chance to finish him off. I don’t know how so many people have been fooled into thinking Laurie Strode is a strong character or that the first Halloween is even a good movie.

      7. Real Woman July 18, 2014 at 1:58 am

        Christine Brown from Sam Raimi’s “Drag Me to Hell”. She may not have won but she fought, she floundered and fought some more. That’s a strong relatable female.

      8. Dan July 21, 2014 at 8:07 pm

        Also in ‘Carrie’ – Piper Laurie was absolutely fantastic as the mother who finally drove Carrie over the edge entirely. I didn’t even want to watch the re-make because of her and Spacek.

      9. Sabrina August 4, 2014 at 6:28 pm

        I watched a movie YEARS ago, one of those late night cable deals. It was the first slasher film I had ever seen with a female “villain”. She showed up at a farmhouse and of course starts talking people out. You find out as the film goes on that she is the farmers daughter and he repeatedly raped her through the years giving her 2 kids that he and his wife raised as there own. She had long dark hair and always appeared in white. It had to be made in the very late 70’s or the early 80’s. Does anyone know the name of this film? I’ve looked for it for years.

      10. Jeffrey C August 6, 2014 at 8:25 pm

        I thought Pollyana McIntosh was amazing in The Woman !

      11. Banksy September 1, 2014 at 11:14 pm

        Nancy Thompson, no doubt, she put up one hell of a fight against Freddy.