Final Girls Face-Off: The Semi-Finals Round Is a Battle of the Decades

Most of the veteran final girls survived the first round. But one 2022 newcomer beat out her 1970s matchup to make it to the semi-finals.

Final Girls Face-Off: The Semi-Finals Round Is a Battle of the Decades
Photo:Compass International Pictures/Dimension Films/Warner Bros/A24

Welcome to Round 2 of our Final Girls Faceoff, where we pit archetypical final girls from the past 45 years of horror cinema against each other to see who comes out on top—the final final girl, if you will.

Round 1 found the old guard facing off with the new (-ish) guard (read: post-Scream). The results broke down like this: Halloween’s Laurie Strode dominated over Ready or Not’s Grace Le Domas (1,352 votes vs. 539). A Nightmare on Elm Street’s Nancy Thompson outlived Scream’s Tara Carpenter (1,134 votes to 630). X’s Maxine Minx squeaked by the Texas Chain Saw Massacre’s Sally Hardesty in their backwoods matchup (895 votes to 632). And Scream’s Sidney Prescott simply annihilated I Still Know What You Did Last Summer’s Karla Wilson (1,598 votes to 153).

This round’s faceoff will again be organized by era: Laurie vs. Nancy, and Maxine vs. Sidney. We’ll regroup once again prior to Halloween for the final round. Happy voting. But first: Some commentary on the competition as it stands so far and where it can go in the future:

Rich: What do we make of these results? We pitted the old guard against the new-ish guard (that is, post-Scream) in the first round and mostly the veteran final girls are the ones who survived.

Audra: I mean, no surprise there really. Who’s going to beat Laurie Strode or Sidney Prescott? They’re classic. It almost makes me wonder if the next Scream should have like a meta-final girl showdown.

Rich: I would love that. Sidney has to return at some point (pay the woman what she wants!), though as an aside, I thought Scream VI rocked despite her absence.

I think there’s probably something suggested by these results along the lines of: Final girls, they don’t make ‘em like they used to. That feels right to me anyway. I think the first wave of slashers were naive in a way that allowed for this archetype to gel. The newer movies, from Scream on, were by then well versed in the academic arguments and tropes.

Also, I think there’s less of a perception that only teenage boys watch horror movies and thus need female characters who can stand in as their counterparts so they can fully identify and enjoy these movies, as Carol J. Clover suggested in her essay that defined the final girl trope. We know now the horror audience is way broader and people can relate to all kinds of characters.

Audra: Agreed! Which, I think the results of our Maxine vs. Sally matchup showed. Maxine is kind of the anti-final girl if we’re comparing to her predecessors. First of all, she fucks, but she’s shown to be more savvy than she is book-smart. And she’s definitely not shy.

Rich: I wonder too if the high regard for X prequel Pearl (and anticipation of sequel MaXXXine) helped out there. The X universe is so much bigger than X.

There’s also Laurie Strode to think about—she’s in many ways prototypical, at least in terms of the original Halloween. But she’s changed over the years. The many timelines of the Halloween franchise have rendered Laurie Strode just as immortal and force-like as her adversary Michael Myers. She’s died, and come back in several forms. She always finds a way to kill Michael and he always finds a way to reanimate. They’re two sides of the same coin, which is fair. Only something superhuman could be a formidable opponent to him at this point.

Audra: Totally. Not to recall the “It’s About Trauma” 2018 press cycle, but I actually did love what she brought to the recent Halloween movies. Laurie’s evolution culminating in her becoming this embittered, doomsday, gun-toting survivalist whose family resents her made the most sense to me in terms of a final girl’s fate. That said though, in a way, that’s almost a worse form of punishment than death. Like, this is what becomes of women when you don’t believe them, y’all.

Rich: Yes, she’s in eternal limbo. I mean, Halloween Ends was supposed to be her last stand, but… I wouldn’t bet on it.

So who is your pick to win the whole thing?

Aura: Potentially unpopular opinion alert: Nancy Thompson is too soft. In a matchup with, say, Laurie, there’s no way she’s making it out of there. So, Nancy’s out. Maxine may be scrappy, but I don’t think she has the physical strength and mental fortitude that Laurie and Sidney have amassed. So, for me, it’s coming down to Laurie vs. Sidney and honestly, I could see either one of them taking it. In fact, I’d watch the fuck out of that movie.

Rich: Laurie to me feels like the right answer. If the David Gordon Green Halloween did anything it was fully remove that character’s passivity. She was training, even LIVING for the day when she and Myers would reunite.

But my heart is with Nancy. A Nightmare on Elm Street was the first slasher I loved. Nancy Thompson did the most with her life as the result of her scrapes with Freddy, becoming a therapist who taught troubled teens how to lucid dream. She’s also the most preternaturally ingenious of the bunch, a requirement for her to face an adversary that exists in her head. Her Rube Goldberg-like setup to pummel Freddy once she pulled him from the dream world and into the real world in the first movie? A feat of modern machinery by any stretch, but extremely impressive coming from a teenager. I would be happy to see her take the whole thing.

Audra: OK, you convinced me about Laurie. Though I will always love Sidney, you’re right. Laurie has nothing to lose and that’s a monumental part of what makes her terrifying. I respect your Nancy argument, but my final answer is Laurie.

Laurie Strode vs. Nancy Thompson

Jamie Lee Curtis as Laurie Strode in 1978’s Halloween, left, and Heather Langenkemp as Nancy Thompson in 1984’s Nightmare on Elm Street. Photo:Wikipedia/Warner Bros

Laurie Strode (Halloween franchise)

Number of movies survived: Six
Number of movies not survived: One

  • A master of the multiverse: Within the Halloween franchise, she has commanded three different timelines.
  • She takes pride in her work. As a babysitter, she almost literally stuck her neck out for those kids. And since it was the 70s, she couldn’t have been making more than three bucks an hour.
  • Will cut a dude’s head off if she has to.
  • Has a real “I’ve spent my whole life waiting for this reunion with my stalker” vibe.

Nancy Thompson (A Nightmare on Elm Street)

Number of movies survived: Three
Number of movies not survived: One

  • She’s able to survive (kind of) without sleep.
  • She’s smart! Not only did Nancy figure out who the murderer was, but she also learned ways to defeat him.
  • Anti-authoritarianism (“Screw your pass!”) has never sounded so sweet.
  • Even if she eventually meets her end, she’s one of Freddy Krueger’s most formidable opponents to date.

Maxine Minx vs. Sidney Prescott

Mia Goth as Maxine Minx in 2022’s X, and Neve Campbell as Sidney Prescott in 1996’s Scream. Photo:A24/Dimension Films

Maxine Minx (X)

Number of movies survived: One (soon to be two?)
Number of movies not survived: None

  • She not only survived a massacre at the farmhouse but also a fanatical Christian preacher for a father.
  • A master of blue eyeshadow and overalls.
  • Is there anyone more dangerous than someone driven by their own ambition?
  • Adept behind the wheel.

Sidney Prescott (Scream franchise)

Number of movies survived: Five
Number of movies not survived: None

  • Millennial Laurie Strode vibes–if only she were as paid.
  • She’s got trust issues, which normally might not be a good thing IRL. In a horror movie though, skepticism is as good as immortality.
  • She’s as compassionate as she is tough as nails (see Scream 3 when she becomes a crisis counselor for abused women).
  • Given everyone she’s ever cared about has either been brutally murdered or betrayed her, she’s psychologically resilient as well as physically resilient.
  • Can and will kill people–like, multiple people–if she has to.

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