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What Horror's Most Famous Final Girls Are Doing Today

There are a lot of horror movie tropes we've come to love over the years as fans, especially when it comes to certain character types. There's the strange old man who warns the kids there will be trouble, the intrepid scientist trying to get everyone to believe there's a madman on the loose, the whiny character whose death is satisfying, the jock who does something stupid and dies first, and on and on and on. Some of these tropes get tired over time, but few have shown as much as staying power as that of "the final girl."

The final girl is a staple of the slasher movie genre in particular, but the character can be traced to just about every other subgenre along the way, as well. The idea, at its core, is relatively simple. The horror movie kills off every other major character — and a few minor ones — but leaves one key protagonist alive to tell the story and sometimes even to kill the bad guy. Through a combination of brains, brutality, and pure survival instinct, final girls have become a cornerstone of popular horror storytelling, and they've made stars out of the women who've played them. In celebration of their impact, here's what the most famous final girls ever are up to now.

(Be warned — spoilers below.)

Olivia Hussey survived Black Christmas

After her worldwide breakthrough in the 1968 film adaptation of Shakespeare's classic Romeo and Juliet, Olivia Hussey took new film roles only sparingly for a few years. But in 1974, she became part of an entirely different sort of classic when she took the leading role in Black Christmas

One of the earliest slasher films to follow the formula we now know, Black Christmas is the story of a mysterious killer stalking a sorority house full of young women, and Hussey's character, Jess, is the last one standing. As a final girl, Jess proves to be both resourceful and brave, and she gets some added depth from a subplot in the film that focuses on her decision to end a pregnancy against the wishes of her angry musician boyfriend.

Since Black Christmas went on to become one of the most influential slasher movies ever made, Hussey has kept working regularly. Her other horror credits include the prequel film Psycho IV: The Beginning and the original miniseries adaptation of Stephen King's IT. As for her other film and TV roles, there's Ivanhoe, Headspace, Mother Teresa, Seven Days of Grace, and 1066. But while she's kept busy, none of her projects have quite equaled the scares of her terrifying Christmas horror flick.

Marilyn Burns gave a brutal, bloody performance in The Texas Chainsaw Massacre

Few final girls have ever been put through the gauntlet quite like the one Marilyn Burns endured as Sally Hardesty in The Texas Chainsaw Massacre. Tobe Hooper's legendary slasher film tells the grisly tale of a group of young people who stumble upon a family of cannibals in middle of nowhere one sweltering summer day. All these years later, the film still has the ability to play like a sort of waking nightmare, and that's thanks in no small part to Burns' absolutely committed performance. 

As Sally, she endures everything from watching her friends and her brother die to running through thorn bushes in the woods to being tied to a chair while an impossibly old man attempts to beat her to death, and she sells it all. Plus, with her defiant laugh in the film's blood-soaked final seconds, she may have become part of the most iconic final scene in slasher movie history.

The Texas Chainsaw Massacre was Burns' first major film role, and she acted only sporadically after that. She appeared in Hooper's film Eaten Alive in 1976, made a cameo in Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Next Generation, and had a small role in Texas Chainsaw in 2013. She died in 2014 at the age of 65, and her final film role in In a Madman's World was released three years later.

Sigourney Weaver became a sci-fi final girl with Alien

Ridley Scott's sci-fi horror classic Alien isn't necessarily deemed a slasher movie by most viewers, but it does follow a lot of the same rhythms. It's the story of a killer stalking a bunch of people in a confined space just like many slashers. The difference is that the killer is an alien monster, and the space is an actual starship. But even if you don't consider the movie a slasher, you have to give Sigourney Weaver's Ellen Ripley credit for outlasting the Xenomorph to become one of horror's greatest final girls.

Weaver went on to play Ripley in three more Alien films over the next 18 years, and the role helped make her into an international superstar. Her other film credits include classics like Ghostbusters, Galaxy Quest, Gorillas in the Mist, and Working Girl. Plus, until Endgame came along, she held the distinction of playing in the highest-grossing film of all time with Avatar. Though she hasn't signed on for another Alien sequel yet, she'll continue on her amazing legacy with Ghostbusters: Afterlife and James Cameron's Avatar sequels. 

Adrienne King escaped Camp Crystal Lake in Friday the 13th

The success of John Carpenter's Halloween led producers to contemplate more films in what would become the established slasher formula, which ultimately gave us the long-running Friday the 13th franchise. Within that franchise, Adrienne King's Alice is the first, and for many fans, the ultimate Friday final girl. After following what have now become a great many of the classic final girl rhythms throughout the film, she outlasts all of her friends and then manages to behead Pamela Voorhees and escape to safety, which then sets up the legendary jump scare of Jason's ghost. 

Even now, King remains an unforgettable presence in the horror genre, in part because her presence seemed so brief. King reprised her role for the opening scene of Friday the 13th Part 2, where her character was killed off by Jason himself, then she largely disappeared from live-action acting for decades. In the interim, she did voice work, providing looping background voices for films like Jerry Maguire, Titanic, Almost Famous, and more. However, he returned to acting in the 2010s for short films and features including Tales of Poe and Killer Therapy, and she's appeared at horror conventions celebrating her work as Alice.

Amy Steel picked up the final girl mantle in Friday the 13th Part 2

Adrienne King was the first final girl in Friday the 13th history, but even she couldn't escape from Jason Voorhees. The first woman to do that would be King's successor, Amy Steel, who played Ginny in Friday the 13th Part 2 and became the first person to outsmart the silent, masked killer. In the climax of the film, in an effort to escape no matter what, Ginny puts on a dingy gray sweater and shouts orders at Jason in the hope that he'll believe she's his dead mother. It works long enough for her to wound Jason and apparently outlast him. Jason would be back, of course, but he never managed to kill Ginny, except in the jump scare dream sequence at the end of the film.

Steel continued acting regularly after Friday the 13th Part 2, appearing in other horror films like April Fool's Day and booking prolific TV work on shows like Family Ties, For Love and Honor, and more recently, Chicago Hope and JAG. She's been largely out of the spotlight since the early 2000s, but she did recently return for an appearance in the film Tales of Poe – co-starring final girl Adrienne King — and has been a guest at horror conventions celebrating her scream queen status.

Heather Langenkamp lived the dream after A Nightmare on Elm Street

For many final girls, surviving until the very end of a horror movie is more a question of outlasting than actually beating the bad guy. You have to be smart, resourceful, and quick, but even if you are all of those things, you're usually lucky to just get by. Then there are final girls like Nancy Thompson in A Nightmare on Elm Street, who became so determined to defeat the dream demon known as Freddy Krueger that she set traps for him around her house, Home Alone-style.

As Nancy, the smart and curious girl driven mad by sleeplessness as she battles Freddy, Heather Langenkamp became an instant horror legend. She returned to the role two more times after the first Nightmare, once for the third installment in the franchise, Dream Warriors, and once as a loose version of herself in creator Wes Craven's meta-horror classic New Nightmare. These days, she continues to act periodically, with recent projects including The Bet, The Bay, and Portal. She also works in visual effects as part of AFX Studio, an award-winning make-up and creature effects company co-founded by her husband, David Leroy Anderson.

Ashley Laurence had such sights to show us with Hellraiser

Some of the best final girls enter their respective horror franchises as unknowns, allowing us to both project ourselves onto them as they go through the story and to be dazzled by the full power of their performance as they unleash it. This was the case with Ashley Laurence, who made her feature film debut with Hellraiser in 1987. As Kirsty Cotton, Laurence had to outlast not just a flesh-hungry maniac but a cabal of literal demons who came from a magic puzzle box, and she did it with an energy that made her an instant scream queen.

Laurence returned to the Hellraiser franchise three more times over the years, including Hellraiser II, Hellraiser III, and Hellraiser: Hellseeker. She's worked regularly in film and television since her breakthrough, with recent roles including Lightning Bug, ER, and Red. She's also confirmed to make a return to horror in the upcoming second season of the Shudder anthology series Creepshow, so in other words, she's keeping busy. We're also hoping she's keeping far away from any mysterious puzzle boxes.

Neve Campbell brought the final girl back to life with Scream

Neve Campbell was already an established young actress with roles in hits like Party of Five when she landed the character of Sidney Prescott in Scream. That film's release in 1996, coupled with the release of The Craft that same year, made her into a horror icon and a new kind of final girl for the 1990s. Like the rest of Scream, Sidney was a character who seemed to understand the inherent conventions of the genre she existed in, and she was able to both participate in and subvert them. The result was an all-time great horror character.

Campbell has since continued acting regularly, with recent roles including House of Cards, Manhattan, Skyscraper, Castle in the Ground, and more. But she's also never left Sidney Prescott behind. Campbell has returned for all three Scream sequels made between 1997 and 2011, and it seems she's not done yet. In 2020, Campbell confirmed that she will return as Sidney once again for Scream 5.

Kristen Connolly subverted the rules in The Cabin in the Woods

Like Scream before it, The Cabin in the Woods is a self-aware horror film that uses the tropes of the slasher genre in new ways while also never fully abandoning them. And as Dana Polk, Kristen Connolly is set up from the beginning as the final girl because, as the film slowly reveals, she's been cast as "the Virgin" in a ritual presided over by a massive global entity in order to appease elder gods who'll wipe out the Earth if they don't get their sacrifice. The fact that she seems predestined to fill this role allows Connolly's character to do a few things other final girls rarely get to do, including simply refusing to play by the movie's rules at the end.

Since The Cabin in the Woods, Connolly has continued to appear regularly in film and television, with long-running roles on series like Zoo, The Whispers, and House of Cards, as well as roles in films including A Good Marriage, The Bay, and Worst Friends. Most recently, she's been seen on the acclaimed CBS supernatural series Evil, so she's definitely keeping the horror theme going strong.

Jamie Lee Curtis became the ultimate final girl with Halloween

There were other final girls before her, but to this day, Jamie Lee Curtis' performance as Laurie Strode in Halloween remains the template for the trope among many horror fans. Laurie is soft-spoken, shy, doesn't have a sex life like her friends (who get murdered), and perhaps most importantly, she's observant enough to take advantage of her surroundings and stand a chance while fighting Michael Myers. It's the role that made Curtis, daughter of Psycho star Janet Leigh, a horror icon, and it remains the gold standard for many slasher movie fans.

Curtis returned to role of Laurie Strode for Halloween II in 1981, joining other horror classics like Prom Night and The Fog in between, then left the horror genre largely behind for a while to focus on other roles. Her career is expansive and diverse, including hits ranging from Trading Places to True Lies, but she couldn't abandon Laurie forever. After returning to the character for Halloween H20 and seemingly killing her off in Halloween: Resurrection, Curtis returned in 2018 for a new set of sequels beginning with Halloween and continuing with the upcoming Halloween Kills and Halloween Ends.