The TOP 13 Most KICK-ASS HEROINES in Horror

From film to comics, they’re the toughest — and the coolest.

Isabelle Huppert in Elle

In these terrifying times, we all want someone to save us. And a lot of us are looking for any kind of diversion through which we can vicariously face down our fears.

Enter writer Helen Mullane; artists Dom Reardon, Matthew Dow Smith and Jock; and colorist Lee Loughridge, who’ve brought us Humanoids’ Nicnevin and the Bloody Queen, an unsettling coming-of-age horror story.

Here’s the official description:

“London teen ‘Nissy’ Oswald is stuck in the countryside for the entire summer with only her mother and little brother for company, but things start to look up when she meets Reggie, an attractive and mysterious older man to whom she feels inexorably drawn. As Nissy divides her time between feuding with her mother and lusting for Reggie, the small town is rocked by a grisly murder and everything changes.”

With badass women facing impossible odds on her mind, writer Mullane has provided us with THE TOP 13 MOST KICK-ASS HEROINES IN HORROR:


There are few characters in the world of genre tropes as misunderstood as the horror heroine. For too long the prevailing wisdom has been that for a girl to survive a horror movie they had to be nice, they had to be sweet and they had to live clean with no drinking and certainly no sex.

But for every paint-by-numbers slasher (satirized to blockbusting effect in Wes Craven’s Scream series, “Absolutely no sex!”) there’s an interesting and challenging horror movie with more to offer than tits and gore.

Nicnevin and the Bloody Queen

Since the very earliest days of horror there’ve been at least one badass heroine for every simpering goodie two shoes. But rarer than the tough girls, the cool chicks and the sexy badassess are the complex heroines. You know, those women who are tough, but also vulnerable. Smart, but maybe also wrong sometimes.

Here are 13 of my favorite horror heroines: Some are kick-ass women we’re all rooting for while others are complicated anti-heroes or even all out villains. These fascinating characters prove that women in horror can be so much more than your run-of-the-mill, basic-as-hell Final Girl.

This entire TOP 13 – in no particular order — is riddled with SPOILERS, so…

Alien. Of course no list of women in horror would be complete without mentioning the OG: Ripley (raised to the status of icon by Sigourney Weaver) was a strong female character who was not only strong. Smart, compassionate and not presented as particularly sexualized, Ripley was scared enough to make her courage in the face of it inspiring. As it turns out, that depth is mostly because the character was written as a man, but however we got this strident, capable and complicated woman we got her, and that’s what’s important. Ripley has forever become the benchmark for women in horror who are badass, but also actual people.

It Follows. It Follows tells the story of Jay (Maika Monroe), a teen whose carefree sexual encounter with the guy she’s been dating (Hugh, played by Jake Weary) is destined to be her last. As soon as they’ve had sex her beau informs her that she is now in the sights of an entity that is hell bent on killing her. She has no choice but to pass the entity on to another victim through sex. Whereas slashers of the past would pass swift retribution on to promiscuous women, in this film sex and sexuality is part of a thematically rich tapestry. Jay has our complete sympathy, her life is now forever changed through no fault of her own and we’re totally behind her as she finds a way to cope with that.

Fatale. Ed Brubaker and Sean Phillips play masterfully with our expectations in this long running horror noir Image Comics series. Josephine starts the series as a classic femme fatale — gorgeous and in trouble. But we soon see that there’s much more to her than meets the eye as she is an ageless and powerful being who feeds off the men who worship her. She is a fascinating and abstruse character, a well-wrought rebuke to the one-note femmes fatale of a lot of noir.

Beautiful Darkness. One of the most disturbing comic books of recent years, creators Fabien Vehlmann and Kerascoet imbue this graphic novel published by Drawn amd Quarterly with a deep darkness and cynicism that belie the art’s sunny cuteness. The hero is the adorable little Aurora who spends most of the book caring for and trying to lead a ragtag bunch of little sprites. They have been ejected from the body of a little girl as she dies and have are attempting to make a new life around the corpse. As the apathy of her companions and mindlessness of the woodland creatures, alongside the casual cruelty of the beautiful Zelie, push Aurora further than she can stand, she takes her life into her own hands and escapes. When she decides to take action to protect her new life, we find that she is capable of savagery just as profound as the others’.

Excision. Part teen comedy, part shocking body horror, Excision explores mental illness and the complicated emotions of a supreme outsider. AnnaLynne McCord is electrifying as Pauline, an amusing, smart and cynical but deeply disturbed young woman who is equally excluded at school and at home. The film explores her mundane real life alongside her outrageous fantasies of sex and violence. She is a dark yet compelling antihero whose dark heart develops throughout the film.

Jennifer’s Body. Unfairly maligned upon its release, Jennifer’s Body has enjoyed a bit of a reassessment of late, and rightly so. The friendship of Needy and her childhood best friend Jennifer at first seems one-sided, but we soon understand that it is in fact toxically co-dependent. Both Megan Fox and Amanda Seyfried give spirited performances and bring the friendship to life. It feels like a tragedy as Needy gradually realizes that her friend is destroying the things dearest to her and she has to confront and kill her. But that complicated and immortal “sandbox love” remains, and when she escapes her confinement in a mental institution the first thing she does is exact bloody revenge on those who originally hurt Jennifer.

Sugar Hill. Diana “Sugar” Hill, was badass, kick-ass and ahead of her time. When mobsters kill her boyfriend and start a campaign of harassment, Sugar kicks back. She approaches a voudousant she knows and gets an army of zombie assassins to help solve the problem. The film is a super fun thrill ride, and it’s the strong central performance from Marki Bey as Sugar, who is determined to take down the gangsters that ruined her life, that really shines.

The Girl With All the Gifts. Just when we thought the zombie movie was truly (un)dead, this bold take on the subgenre emerged. Melanie (Sennia Nanua who is an electric presence in her first feature film role) is a young girl who is both a “hungry” as they’re called within this world, and of sound mind — in fact, she’s sparklingly bright and empathetic. We come to understand the true brilliance of her character at the end of the film, when she chooses to end the world as we know it. But she does not really end the world — as she says, it’s just not yours anymore.

The Descent. Boasting a brilliant ensemble cast, The Descent is one of the ultimate women-led horror movies. Technically dazzling and claustrophobically terrifying, the film showed women with a range of personalities, both good and bad. The simmering undercurrent of resentment and treachery between selfish Juno (Natalie Mendoza) and tragedy-riven Sarah (Shauna Macdonald) adds an extra dimension to the horror that surrounds them. Their complicated friendship divides our sympathies and leads to the film’s incredible emotional punch.

Thriller: A Cruel Picture. Surely the most brutal movie on our list, and perhaps the most nihilistic. Thriller stars underrated sleaze queen Christina Lindberg as a young mute ingenue taken on a date, drugged and horrifically abused. The film is a tough, grueling watch as the viewer is subjected to the dehumanizing monotony of her ordeal. But in stolen moments she gathers weapons and skills, and the film culminates in one of the most satisfying rampages of revenge in exploitation cinema.

Elle. Another take on the rape revenge subgenre. In contrast to Lindberg’s disarming innocence, Isabelle Huppert — in a stunning performance — seems glacial, ruthless and extremely capable. The film is as much a character study, exploring a strong woman learning to cope with trauma, as it is a dark cat-and-mouse thriller.

Audition. While this is not a film that stands a deep feminist read, Asami (Eihi Shiina in chilling form) remains an iconic and unusual character. Lightly drawn cipher she may be, but she is also a walking rebuke to the arrogance and sense of entitlement a patriarchal society encourages successful men to have. And she goes in.


Uzumaki. Kirie is the schoolgirl protagonist of Junji Ito’s masterful manga Uzumaki. And while this reader has a hard time understanding her decision to not leave her town when it’s infected by spirals, in most other ways she is a resourceful and practical character who saves herself and others throughout the manga’s increasingly horrifying volume. The premise is surreal and the execution truly distressing in this incredible horror fable, as the concept of what would happen in a world infected by spirals is taken to the absolute outer limits.

Nicnevin and the Bloody Queen is available now from Humanoids.

Helen Mullane began her career in film distribution, managing the release of major films for the likes of Studio Canal and EOne. Later, she produced the feature documentary Futureshock! The Story of 2000AD and various shorts such as the multi-award-winning Nasty. Helen currently resides in northern Sweden where she lives with 80 huskies, balancing her time between writing and dog mushing.


— The 13 Greatest HORROR COMICS Ever, by Ron Marz and Matthew Dow Smith. Click here.

— The 13 Greatest HORROR ARTISTS Ever, by Ron Marz and Matthew Dow Smith. Click here.

Author: Dan Greenfield

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