9 Great Modern-Day Final Girls From Recent Horror Movies

Georgina Campbell as Tess Marshall in Barbarian
(Image credit: 20th Century Studios)

There are many stereotypical tropes that appear in horror movies, but one of the most overused is the “final girl”: the last character alive to confront the killer.

Once upon a time, the final girl was a shell of a character who could only defeat the monster thanks to luck or coincidence. But in more modern horror movies, we see final girls who not only defeat their monster but completely flip the trope on its head.

We have to give homage to the OG final girls, like Laurie Strode and Sidney Prescott, but this article is about totally badass final girls from horror movies that came out more recently. Oh, and there are spoilers ahead, so beware!

Georgina Campbell as Tess Marshall in Barbarian

(Image credit: 20th Century Studios)

Tess Marshall (Georgina Campbell - Barbarian)

From the first scenes of Barbarian, Tess Marshall is a very self-aware woman. When she first enters the double-booked Airbnb, we can see Tess assessing her surroundings, locking doors behind her, and learning as much as she can about her potential attacker. Even though her co-habitant, Keith (played by It leading man Bill Skarsgård) is actually harmless, Tess demonstrates that she’s not going to be taken by surprise if danger comes her way.

When the real danger is revealed in the form of a “monster” in the basement, Tess must flex her survival skills in very different ways. Unlike the men who fall victim before her, Tess learns how to understand her capturer. Rather than dismiss them as a monster, Tess is empathetic towards her, and that’s what really saves her.

Kristin Connolly as Dana in The Cabin in the Woods

(Image credit: Lionsgate)

Dana (Kristin Connolly - The Cabin In The Woods)

The Cabin in the Woods subverts nearly every horror stereotype in the book, but the movie’s final girl, Dana (Kristin Connolly) bends the horror rules in more ways than one.

As pointed out here, and in other horror flicks like Scream, the final girl is usually a virgin who outwits the monster because of her purity or moral superiority. That’s not Dana, a college student who’s just getting over a fling with one of her professors. Dana also has a co-final girl/guy, Marty—who just might be the first comic relief character to ever make it to the final scenes of a scary movie.

Dana further subverts the stereotype by letting the world burn at the end. She realizes it’s too late to save herself, but it’s not too late to bring everybody else down with her. The scene of Dana and Marty smoking a joint as Apocalypse rolls in is one of my favorites in all horror films.

Samara Weaving as Grace in Ready or Not

(Image credit: Searchlight Pictures)

Grace (Samara Weaving - Ready Or Not)

One of my favorite final girls of recent memory is Grace Le Domas from the 2019 horror film, Ready Or Not. Grace starts out as the victim of her in-laws’ murderous hide-and-seek tradition, but by the end of the film it’s clear she actually found some enjoyment in participating in the ritual.

Grace’s triumphant exit at the finale of the film solidifies the fact that she dodged a huge bullet with this family, both literally and metaphorically. What’s more satisfying than throwing your wedding ring at your abusive ex?

Kate Siegel as Maddie in Hush

(Image credit: Netflix)

Maddie (Kate Siegel - Hush)

One of my favorite horror movies is Hush, which stars Mike Flanagan-verse actor Kate Siegel as Maddie, a deaf woman under the attack of a home invasion.

Maddie’s attacker can tell that she’s smart, but it’s clear he sees her as a weak opponent. Maddie fights him tooth and nail until the bitter end, using her creativity and resourcefulness to come out on top.

Also worth noting—Maddie’s cat survives until the end of the movie as well. Double final girls.

Keke Palmer as Emerald Hayworth in Nope

(Image credit: Universal)

Emerald Hayworth (Keke Palmer - Nope)

The “final girl” is usually white—characters who are people of color, gay, or serve as the comedic relief are often the first to be taken out and rarely survive to the end of the movie.

Jordan Peele’s 2022 horror film, Nope completely flips the script with Emerald Haywood, a queer woman of color played by Keke Palmer. As expected, Palmer brings her real-life sense of humor to her character, providing many of the film’s most comedic lines.

Not only does Em survive to the end, she actually gets to be the one to expose Jean Jacket to the world. She’s truly a final girl like no other.

Sharni Vinson as Erin in You're Next

(Image credit: Lionsgate)

Erin (Sharni Vinson - You’re Next)

You’re Next might follow some horror tropes to a T—for example, in the opening scene two characters die after having sex—but the horror film’s final girl, Erin, is anything but expected.

If I were a paid hit man, I probably wouldn’t expect my target to be skilled in apocalypse survival. But, that’s what the masked assassins get with Erin, who was raised in a doomsday survivalist compound.

Erin beats out multiple attackers in hand-to-hand combat, and knows how to booby trap the hell out of a vacation home. And don’t let this girl get her hands anywhere near a blender. You’re Next completely scraps the idea of a damsel in distress and instead gives us a badass woman with no qualms about doing whatever it takes to survive.

Maika Monroe as Jay in It Follows

(Image credit: Northern Lights)

Jay (Maika Monroe - It Follows)

This horror film about a sexually-transmitted possession stars Maika Monroe as Jay, the newest victim of an entity that passes from person to person via intercourse.

It Follows is kind of a play on the entire “if you have sex during a horror film you’ll die” trope, but like all the films on this list there’s a twist. You can escape from the entity by passing it on to someone else.

While the movie has a somewhat ambiguous ending, Jay survives to the end by passing the entity on to others. It’s implied she’ll have to keep passing the entity on in order to survive, but she’s more than capable of doing so.

Jessica Rothe as Tree Gelbman in Happy Death Day

(Image credit: Universal Pictures)

Tree Gelbman (Jessica Rothe - Happy Death Day)

Jessica Rothe carries Happy Death Day, a time loop horror movie where the only way to make it to tomorrow is to kill the person who’s about to kill you.

It’s a confusing concept, but Tree Gelbman is a very smart final girl. She solves the mystery of her predicament much faster than other fictional characters do (in Groundhog Day, it took Phil like, a year to break the loop). She also successfully takes out a serial killer and hangs herself in her quest to break the loop. 

Tree even gets a sequel, appropriately titled Happy Death Day 2U.

Florence Pugh as Dani in Midsommar

(Image credit: A24)

Dani (Florence Pugh - Midsommar)

The real horror of this movie isn’t the cult—it’s the chains of an unfulfilling relationship. 

Ari Aster’s cult favorite, Midsommar, stars Florence Pugh as Dani, a girl with a traumatic family history and an emotionally neglectful boyfriend. At first, Dani seems like the victim of the murderous Swedish cult they encounter while on a trip with classmates. But, as Dani becomes indoctrinated into the cult herself, she finds herself empowered by the community and sense of belonging she’s found.

Does Dani become the “anti-hero” of Midsommar? It’s hard to say. Like most of the final girls on this list, that’s up to viewer discretion to decide.

All of these final girls are well-worth the title, and have added something great to modern horror movies.

She/her. Lover of female-led comedies, Saturday Night Live, and THAT scene in Fleabag. Will probably get up halfway through the movie to add more butter to the popcorn.