The way we understand horror films changed forever with the publication of Carol Clover's 1992 book Men, Women, and Chainsaws: Gender in the Modern Horror Film. Her basic argument is that although slasher movies seem to delight in the sadistic torment of female victims, they are actually providing the audience a point of identification with the last woman standing, which Clover identified as the "Final Girl."
The Final Girl is female, but she has a gender ambiguous name. She propels the plot forward with her investigative nature. She is pure, abstaining from sex and drugs. And she faces the killer in a final showdown, ultimately surviving by defeating him or through a third party's intervention. In horror series, however, the Final Girl often dies in the sequel, paving the way for a new Final Girl to carry the torch.
These characteristics are not set in stone, and the Final Girl has developed over time. Even Laurie Strode, Halloween's Final Girl and one of Clover's primary examples, was a new breed of Final Girl when she reemerged in Halloween: H20. The following list represents characters who fit into the Final Girl model, some more snugly than others. But all have left an impression in the genre.