Final Girl Face-Off: We Have a Winner

Your votes are in and the title goes to Scream's Sidney Prescott, who just squeaked by A Nightmare on Elm Street's Nancy Thompson.

Final Girl Face-Off: We Have a Winner
Photo:IMDb/Dimension Films

The results of our Final Girl Face-Off are in, and by a little over a percentage point and a half, Scream’s Sidney Prescott is the winner. In the final round, she beat A Nightmare on Elm Street’s Nancy Thompson by 53 votes (879 votes to 826). Prior to that, Sidney clobbered X’s Maxine (690 votes to 493), and, in the first round, she annihilated I Still Know What You Did Last Summer’s Karla Wilson (1,598 votes to a measly 153).

It’s hardly a surprise that Sidney won here—since the release of Scream in 1996, the franchise has shown a tenacious relevance. The slasher can be roughly divided into two eras: before Scream and after. Its self-aware, hyper-literate take on the genre inspired a new generation of savvy slashers (Urban Legend and Halloween H20, anyone?). The Scream franchise itself is among the sturdiest the genre has ever seen—I don’t think there’s a bad movie in the bunch, and the lesser ones are way better than other franchise nadirs (like Halloween: Resurrection and Freddy’s Dead: The Final Nightmare). Scream’s 2022 “requel” (of the same name) reinvigorated the franchise (with the help of surviving characters like Neve Campbell’s Sidney), clearing the path for this year’s Scream VI to become one of the strongest Scream entries, over 25 years after the first.

Perhaps the real surprise is Nancy’s formidability as an opponent here given that the actor who portrayed her, Heather Langenkamp, hasn’t appeared in a Nightmare on Elm Street movie since 1994’s Wes Craven’s New Nightmare, a meta precursor to Scream. In fact, Nightmare as a franchise has been as dead as a child in Freddy Krueger’s boiler room for the better part of three decades now (a 2010 remake was widely derided, though I think it’s kind of underrated). Freddy’s dead, but Nancy endures.

Nancy is ingenious and benevolent, and yet there’s something every-woman about Sidney that makes her the perfect final girl champ. As we previously pointed out, she’s as compassionate as she is tough as nails (see Scream 3 when she becomes a crisis counselor for abused women). Given that virtually everyone she’s ever cared about has either been brutally murdered or betrayed her, she’s psychologically resilient as well as physically resilient. And, most importantly, she can and will kill people–like, multiple people–if she has to. She’s easily rattled but not enough to knock her off her game and has the ability to convert her deep sensitivity into a punishing rage. Plus, she fucks, thus shattering the virginal image of the final girl that Carol J. Clover wrote about in her seminal book that introduced the world to the final girl trope, Men, Women, and Chain Saws: Gender in the Modern Horror Film. It’s one thing to be final girl; it’s another to be an iconoclastic final girl. Sidney is all that and more, our final final girl.

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