Best Final Girls of Color
In no particular order because they're all great!
Horror can be a subversive genre, but many of its final girls (especially its most popular ones) do tend to skew young, conventionally attractive, and especially white. Here are some Final Girls of color who broke the mold and survived the odds.
Spoilers for Ringu, 28 Days Later, Alien vs Predator, Train to Busan, Us, Prey, Scream (2022), the Escape Room series, The First Purge, and the Forever Purge
Reiko Asakawa from Ringu
Reiko (played by Nanako Matsushima) is the protagonist of the original Japanese Ringu AKA The Ring (1998). She is a divorced mother, which already makes her distinct from the usual virgin teen/twenty-something that Final Girls are often pigeonholed into being. She’s incredibly clever, figuring out Sadako’s curse and backstory in seven days and ultimately realizing that she has to copy the tapes and keep showing them to people to save her son’s life. Seriously, the scene where she realizes her son has just watched the tape is about every parent’s nightmare.
Selena in 28 Days Later
Selena (played by Naomie Harris) is immediately introduced as a badass pragmatist who will do whatever it takes to survive, the kind of harsh survivor that would inspire later characters like Wichita from Zombieland. Still, she ultimately lets Jim’s optimism rub off on her and her hesitation to kill him when she thinks he’s infected saves them both. I know some people prefer the original ending with Jim dying and her fate being unknown, but I prefer having optimism win the day.
Alexa ‘Lex’ Woods from Aliens vs Predator
Another 2000s movie that would be called “woke PC trash” today for having a black woman protagonist, Lex (played by Sanaa Lathan) is a fitting successor to Ripley, able to hold her own against the Aliens. She also strikes up an unlikely partnership with a Predator known as Scar, and ultimately earns the respect of the Predator clan, getting a staff as a trophy.
Seong-kyeong and Su-an from Train to Busan
A pregnant woman and a young girl are two unlikely survivors of the zombie apocalypse, but never have I been gladder two people made it out alive. Su-an’s (played by Kim Su-an) relationship with her father is the emotional throughline of the story and no horror movie has made me cry as much as this one because of it. While Seong-kyeong (played by Jung Yu-Mi) may not have quite as much agency as some other women on this list, any pregnant woman who can catch up with a moving train is highly worthy of respect and the title of Final Girl.
Adelaide from US
This movie features not one but TWO amazing performances from Lupita Nyong’o, as well as a twist ending that somehow makes the movie’s ending even more resonant. The reveal that Adelaide is actually a Tethered and forcibly switched places with her human self as a child does make you wonder how / if there is any difference between the Tethered and us. Is Adelaide’s willingness to choke her doppelganger to ascend any different from what the other Tethered did?
Naru from Prey (2022)
A rare Indigenous Final Girl, Naru (played by Amber Midthunder) has the distinction of being one of the few people, male or female, to take down a Predator single-handedly. What’s most interesting is seeing how she and the Predator simultaneously develop their skills as they gear up to take on larger prey. Also, she has the cutest companion in Sarii the dog.
Sam and Tara Carpenter in Scream (2022)
Sisters protecting each other is sadly underexplored in horror, but the Carpenter sisters have an incredible bond despite not having seen each other in years. Sam (played by Melissa Barrera) deserves special mention for subverting the trope of ‘mentally ill individuals being inherently violent/dangerous to neurotypical people.’ But Tara holds her own and Jenna Ortega’s performance is heart-wrenching throughout.
Zoey from the Escape Room Series
Zoey (played by Taylor Russell) is creative, capable, and empathetic, which makes her a compelling character in this battle royale. What makes her so unique is that after she escapes, she devotes her life to taking down the organization that put her in the games, using her puzzle-solving skills to track down the organization and hopefully stop it. Even if it ultimately plays into their hands, her tenacity is to be admired.
Nya Charms from The First Purge
Nya (played by Lex Scott Davis) is a representation of the Black Women leading movements for social change. Nya knows that the Purge is just another way to punish poor people by literally encouraging them to kill each other and refuses to play the game she knows they rigged. The one issue I have is that this being a prequel, we know from the start that her efforts are for naught. We never know if / how she survived another 3+ decades of the Purge.
Adela from The Forever Purge
Adela (played by Ana de la Reguera) is incredibly badass and she and Juan make an awesome battle couple, fighting side by side to survive the ‘Forever Purge.’ Perhaps the best part of her character is the reveal that she and her husband had to flee Mexico because she was part of a women’s group that was fighting the drug cartels. It really shows the agency of the character and how she’s always fought to protect herself, her people, and her home.
Shout out to Bodies, Bodies, Bodies. I did not include it on the list because I have not seen it yet, but I heard good things about Amandla Stenberg’s character, Sophie.
Who’s your favorite Final Girl of color?
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