The days of the timid, “I’m-too-scared-to-do-anything” female characters in horror films is over. There’s nothing I hate more than when a filmmaker writes a female role in which she’s only there to either be saved by a male character or to die. We all know women are tougher and stronger than that. I’ve seen plenty of women keep their shit together in a crisis a lot better than a man!!
Below is my list of female characters in horror movies who kick some serious ass. They may not be the lead role in the film, they may not even be the “good guy,” and they may not even live, but these are female characters who are strong and fierce. You will notice that Ripley from the ALIEN franchise and Alice from the RESIDENT EVIL franchise are absent from my list. They are too obvious of choices!!
Who are your choices for some ass-kicking female characters in horror films? Who did I miss? Is there someone on my list that you don’t think belongs? Sound off below!!
Marie in HIGH TENSION (2003)
Arguably the film that launched the modern new wave of hardcore, brutal horror films. Writer-director Alexandre Aja gives us a home invasion film that becomes a road rage flick with plenty of gore and violence along the way. Marie is a fierce woman who doesn’t back down even in the face of pure terror. She is determined to fight to her last dying breathe if need be in order to protect her kidnapped friend. Yeah yeah yeah, I know the ending didn’t work for most people, but what a ride this film is!!
Sarah in THE DESCENT (2005)
How could I leave Sarah (Shauna Macdonald) off my list? THE DESCENT has the distinction of having an all-female cast, and even though I singled out Sarah, really the entire cast of women kick ass. There’s something about Sarah that edges her out as the best ass-kicker of the group. Writer-director Neil Marshall gives us a morally ambiguous lead character with Sarah. There are times you root for her and other times when you want to see those bat-like creatures tear her apart. But despite how you feel about Sarah, there’s no denying that she kicks some major ass.
Barbara in NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD (1990)
Tom Savini, who directed the 1990 remake of Romero’s classic film, did a lot of things right in the remake. The main thing he got right was the re-writing of the character of Barbara (Patricia Tallman). Barbara starts off the film just like the original Barbara from the 1968 film, but eventually Barbara snaps out of her panic and decides she wants to fight, and she’s not going to rely on the men to protect her. She becomes the fiercest ass-kicker in the film. Nice work, Tom!!
La Femme in INSIDE (2007)
Known only as “The Woman,” Béatrice Dalle’s performance as the completely psychotic, yet extremely focused, killer is nothing short of chilling and brutal. She only says a handful of words the entire film, yet she is one of the most terrifying modern-day killers you will find. That scissor scene will leave you breathless. Leave it to the French.
Anna in MARTYRS (2008)
Anna (Morjana Alaoui) is one of the best female characters I’ve seen written and acted in over a decade. Hell, she might be the strongest female character to ever be in a movie, period. Anna is not the typical female heroine who beats down the bad guys. Anna gets seriously fucked up in this film!! She endures various levels of suffering, each stage more brutal than the one before it, in order to reach the state of martyrdom. This, though, isn’t just torture-porn. Director Laugier gives us one of the best films this reviewer has ever seen. At the end of the day, Anna is a survivor. Through all of her suffering she becomes more knowledgeable than when she started. Alaoui is absolutely amazing in the role and I can’t imagine the nightmares she had after filming this one.
Amelia in THE BABADOOK (2014)
Amelia (Essie Davis) isn’t battling ghosts or demons or a psychopathic killer. She’s battling herself and mental illness in this fantastic film. Amelia is a single mother with a difficult child who is overly tired, sick, and long overdue for a vacation. But she’s on this list because she’s a fighter who doesn’t give up even when it would have be so easy to do so. In the end, she beats down the “creature,” but what makes her such a bad ass is that every day for the rest of her life Amelia is going to have to battle the same “creature” in order to make sure it stays chained up where it belongs.
Rosetta in HELL FIRE (2012)
I’ll be honest. After watching this film and Selene Beretta’s performance as Rosetta, I instantly fell in love. Rosetta is gorgeous, has a filthy mouth, and is the most violent character, male or female, I’ve seen in a long time. Rosetta is most definitely not the “good guy” in this film. In fact, I don’t think there is a good character in this entire flick!! But damn if Rosetta doesn’t kick some serious ass.
Jennifer in I SPIT ON YOUR GRAVE (2010)
This is a perfect case where the remake is better than the original. Waaaay better. Director Steven R. Monroe does a fantastic job with this remake. He keeps all the elements that made the original so eye-squintingly good and doesn’t pull any punches on either the rape or the revenge scenes. Jennifer (Sarah Butler) gives one helluva performance as the stranger in a strange land who is brutalized and then calculates her revenge. Not taking anything away from the original Jennifer (Camille Keaton), there’s just a raw kind of power and presence that Sarah Butler brought to her Jennifer that wasn’t in the original. And that ending, yikes!!
Hope in BROKEN (2006)
Talk about a nihilistic film that doesn’t so much as offer one ray of hope!! I went into BROKEN expecting just another torture porn film, but got so much more. Hope (Nadja Brand) comes home from a date, kisses her young daughter, and then goes to bed. She wakes up in the middle of the woods with a psychopath tormenting her and making her survive forty days of sadistic games. The whole time Hope knows the man also took her daughter, but has no idea what he’s done or is doing to her. The ending will make you want to drag a razor blade across your wrists!! Actress Nadja Brand is fantastic in the lead as a woman who will do anything to save her child … and ‘anything’ she does. A brutal movie with a strong, fierce female lead.
Jennifer in BAD BIOLOGY (2008)
Relative newcomer Charlee Danielson plays the lead role as a woman with seven clits trying to find true love in this Frank Henenlotter flick. Danielson is amazing in this role. Sure, she kills some of her lovers in the throes of passion, but her character isn’t black or white. Jennifer isn’t good and she’s not evil. She’s just a woman trying to live with her condition as she attempts to find a suitable partner. Danielson plays the role brilliantly with the perfect blend of innocence and raw sexuality.
Nicki Brand in VIDEODROME (1983)
Deborah Harry comes off as a kind of Black Widow in this film. She’s smart, sexy, always looking for a little kink, and is fearless. Her bad ass-ness doesn’t come from beating the shit out of others, she’s a bad ass because she watches a real snuff film and decides she wants to be in the next episode!! Her Nicki Brand character to James Woods’ Max Renn has to be one of the most dysfunctional, anti-love affairs in modern cinema. When Brand turns to Renn and asks him, “Wanna try a few things,” it’ll send shivers up and down your spine.
Madeline in GRACE (2009)
Jordan Ladd’s portrayal of Madeline is nothing short of brilliant. Like Nicki Brand above, Madeline isn’t out there kicking the sacks off of douchy guys. Madeline’s strength comes from her situation. She loses her unborn child and husband in the last month of her pregnancy. Her grief is so great and her love so strong that she wills her dead baby back to life. The scene in the tub with Jordan Ladd holding her dead baby is one of the most powerful scenes you’ll find in any horror film. Madeline is one tough cookie!!
Sign off below in the comments section and tell me who your favorite ass-kicking females characters are.