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The Final Girl That Horror Fans Think Is The All-Time Best

The tropes of horror movies are well-established: it's one of the reasons fans of the genre can find even the most disturbing films oddly comforting. Hear a strange noise down in the basement? You'd better not go down there alone! Plagued by mysterious, threatening phone calls? They might be coming from... inside the house! And if you think you've dealt the death blow to that masked psychopath who just murdered your friends, you probably won't want to turn your back on him — because the chances are pretty good that if you do, you'll soon feel his terrifying presence right behind you.

One of the most reliable and beloved tropes in all of horror, though, is the final girl. You know her — the always-virtuous, often virginal one, usually reserved and quiet while all of her buddies are partying. She's nearly always keyed into the looming danger long before any of those lunkheads see it coming, and as such, she is without exception the last one standing — left to face the killer all by her lonesome in the third act, relying only on her wits and bravery to save her skin.

We've seen a slew of iconic final girls in the history of slasher flicks, but recently, a Reddit poll attempted to rank the greatest. Participants were asked to name their favorite among the following five choices: Sally Hardesty (Marilyn Burns) from Tobe Hooper's 1974 proto-slasher film The Texas Chain Saw Massacre, Laurie Strode (Jamie Lee Curtis) from John Carpenter's 1978 masterpiece Halloween, Ginny Field (Amy Steel) from Steve Miner's 1981 sequel Friday the 13th Part 2, the most underrated entry in that illustrious series, Nancy Thompson (Heather Langenkamp) from Wes Craven's game-changing 1984 flick A Nightmare on Elm Street, and Sidney Prescott (Neve Campbell) from Craven's other game-changer, 1996's Scream.

Ranking the final girls

These final girls are all total badasses, but somebody had to come in last. Garnering the fewest number of votes, with 13 (serendipitously enough), was Friday the 13th Part 2's Ginny — one of the bravest, most resourceful women to ever face off against the infamous Jason Voorhees. Her discovery of Jason's creepy shack in the woods, with its decorative centerpiece consisting of his mother's severed head and ratty old sweater, should have been enough to make her lose her mind with fear — but she kept her wits about her even when Jason made his appearance. She had the nerve to put on the sweater in an effort to fool Jason into thinking she was his dead mother — a gambit which worked, albeit temporarily. 

Next, with 29 votes: The Texas Chain Saw Massacre's Sally, who survived the freakiest dinner party of all time courtesy of Leatherface (Gunnar Hansen) and his family. In the film's chaotic final moments, Sally manages to elude Leatherface and the babbling psycho known only as the Hitchhiker long enough to make it to a main road, where the timely intervention of a passing trucker secures her escape. The flick's final shots — of Sally being spirited away in the back of a pickup truck, simultaneously laughing, crying, and screaming while Leatherface whirls about, revving his chainsaw in anger and frustration — are nothing short of iconic.

Our second runner-up, with 63 votes: A Nightmare on Elm Street's Nancy, who single-handedly conquered the dream stalker Freddy Krueger by coming to the simple realization that by getting control of her fear, she could take away his power. Langenkamp would return to the role of Nancy in two Nightmare sequels, making her one of few final girls to make a repeat appearance — along with the next contestant, the poll's first runner-up.

First runner-up Sidney Prescott is another great Wes Craven character

That Sidney Prescott found herself in the middle of the events of Scream appeared, at first, to be simple bad luck. A high school student whose mother had (ostensibly) been murdered by a lover the year prior, Sidney is at first just as perplexed as everyone else when her friends start dropping like flies, and her own father Neil (Lawrence Hecht) comes under suspicion. As it eventually turns out, Sidney's mother and her cheating ways were the impetus for the entire ghastly killing spree: unfortunately for the horror movie-obsessed Ghost Face killer, though, Sidney turns out to be the wrong girl to mess with.

Make that killers, plural, as the murders are revealed to be the work of Sidney's boyfriend Billy (Skeet Ulrich) with an assist from his friend Stu (Matthew Lillard). The pair had actually been the ones behind the murder of Sidney's mom, as she had been having an affair with Billy's father — an indiscretion which had broken up Billy's family. Perhaps the duo shouldn't have based their series of grisly murders on well-known horror movie tropes, leaving Sidney as the final girl: after she disables the two by knocking them out, fellow survivor Randy (Jamie Kennedy) notes that in horror movies, leaving the killer alive always results in their popping up to menace the final girl one last time. Sidney takes his observation to heart, and does what so few of those girls have done: she takes the gun she had previously pinched from the grievously wounded Deputy Riley (David Arquette), and shoots Billy square in the head, definitively putting an end to the threat.

Truly, Sidney was one of the greatest final girls of all time — but we have to agree that the poll's winner was the greatest, and established virtually every aspect of the trope we all know and love today.

Fans voted Laurie Strode the best final girl of them all

Jamie Lee Curtis was only 19 when she landed the role of Laurie Strode in Halloween, which John Carpenter — whom fans on Reddit have also named the greatest horror director of all time — shot on a tiny budget with very little expectations of mainstream success. That the film became a phenomenon which essentially kicked off the slasher movie boom of the eighties was a testament not just to his razor-sharp instincts as a director, but to the performance of Curtis, who gave us a heroine in Laurie who was at once vulnerable and tough, frightened yet determined — and possessed of a will to survive which was ever-so-slightly more than equal to the will of the "Boogeyman," the terrifying Michael Myers, to put an end to her life.

Curtis — who, incidentally, is the daughter of Janet Leigh, whose character took a fateful shower in Alfred Hitchcock's Psycho — is fantastic in Halloween, imbuing Laurie with a girl-next-door authenticity that had the flick's audiences genuinely concerned about, and invested in, her chances for survival. They needn't have worried — like so many final girls would after her, Laurie declined to partake in her friends' drinking and premarital sex, and she became instinctively aware of the looming threat that none of them registered until it was too late. Then, when the chips were down and she was the last girl standing, she defended herself valiantly against the malevolent force of nature that was Myers, holding him off long enough for his former psychiatrist Dr. Loomis (Donald Pleasance) to make a timely appearance with six hot slugs of lead.

Of course, even he couldn't end Myers' threat for good, and as we saw in 2018's Halloween, the Shatner-faced fiend is as determined as ever to catch up to Laurie for a little chat, even four decades later. As we're sure the upcoming Halloween Kills and Halloween Ends will reveal, though, he should have quit while he was ahead — because Laurie Strode, the greatest final girl there ever was, isn't going to go down easy.