The simplest definition of this is "the last characterleft alive to confront the killer" in a Slasher Movie. The character in question tends to follow a certain set of characteristics. The most obvious one is being (almost) Always Female. Especially in older works, she'll also almost certainly be a virgin, remain fully clothed, avoid Death by Sex, and probably won't drink alcohol, smoke tobacco, or take drugs, either. Finally, she'll probably turn out to be more intelligent and resourceful than the other victims, occasionally even evolving into a type of Action Girl by the movie's end. Looking at the Sorting Algorithm of Mortality, you could say that the Final Girl is a combination of The Hero, The Cutie, and the Damsel in Distress - which obviously gives her a very low deadness score. The Final Girl is usually but not always brunette, often in contrast to a promiscuous blonde who traditionally gets killed off.
It's also interesting to note how the Final Girl can be interpreted in film theory. On one hand, the character seems to be the living embodiment of stereotypical conservative attitudes of what women "should be". (Although these same conservative qualities may have also made her warier and better at keeping a cool head than her more reckless or impulsive peers). On the other, feminists have noticed that through this device, the males in the audience are forced to identify with a woman in the climax of the movie. In practical terms, the makers of a horror film want the victim to experience abject terror in the climax, and feel that viewers would reject a film that showed a man experiencing such abject terror.
The term was coined by Carol J. Clover in her 1992 book Men, Women, And Chain Saws: Gender In The Modern Horror Film, a critical examination of slasher movies.
If the Final Girl appears in a sequel to the movie she survived, there is a very high chance that she will fall victim to Sudden Sequel Death Syndrome.
This trope has seen a growing number of subversions, aversions, and parodies in recent years, which suggests it may be slowly weakening. Then again, the Action Survivor's replacing the Action Hero points in an interesting direction.
Thank God for Lowered Monster Difficulty.
Often overlaps with Token Wholesome. Compare and contrast Kill the Cutie and Men Are the Expendable Gender. Has nothing to do with Last Girl Wins, which is about romantic pairings.
The comic book Hack/Slash stars a former Final Girl who becomes a slasher-hunter. She gradually meets up with other (mostly female) slasher survivors, ultimately assembled in the finale storyarc as the All-Final Girl Team.
In Scream (1996), the main character has sex (with the killer!), but still maintains her final girl status throughout the entire film franchise.
Played pretty straight with Simona and the child-killer in the Italian L'immoralita`, except that the final girl is eleven-and-a-half... and no longer a virgin... and she's the one who did all the on-screen killing, except for her father whose suicide helped touch off her Roaring Rampage of Revenge. All the child-killer's victims had already been dispatched before the film began, and he's shown burying the last of them in a shallow grave at the beginning. Let's just say that what accounts for her survival in the sorting algorithm is that everyone else in the film was demonstrably even worse.
Alien does this. And it should be noted that every role in the film was written as gender neutral (which is probably why everyone just used their last names for the whole film), so it could have easily been a Final Guy instead.
It's a common misconception that all of the subsequent Alien movies followed suit; in reality, there were other survivors in the second and fourth movies, and Ripley actually dies in the third.
Prometheus: Shaw, sort of: David also survives of a fashion, although in a state of Bishop-like discombobulation thanks to an Engineer.
Trish from Jeepers Creepers fits into the Final Girl trope, as the only real other main character, her brother, is murdered and torn apart for his body parts.
Played straight in the official ending of Autopsy from the third set of After Dark Horrorfest. The Final Girl manages to escape the insane doctor and nurse who had killed all of her friends.
It is, however, subverted in the alternate ending where instead of escaping or being killed, she is strapped to a bed with all her organs removed but still functioning to keep the doctor's ailing wife alive.
In Turbulence, a serial killer gets loose aboard a specially chartered 747, putting everyone in the cargo hold except for the cute, intrepid flight attendant who has to take him down. Slight variant on this trope in that, after she dispatches the serial killer, she still has to land the plane.
Halloween (1978) was the Trope Codifier and introduced the Death by Sex trope (actually unintentional) which became a staple of the genre. Laurie Strode's actress, Jamie Lee Curtis, was typecast as a Final Girl early on in her career so if she was in a slasher film, she would definitely be surviving. Except in Halloween: Resurrection.
The Evil Dead series subverts this, but not in spirit. The main character's name, "Ashley", is usually reserved for women nowadays.
In Nine Dead, Kelley Murphy was the sole surviving female of the movie. In the end, she shot the masked shooter, leaving 9 people dead in the room.Subverted in that Kelley murdered the two men who should have survived with her to stay out of jail.
In Ginger Snaps, the quieter, plainer sister of Ginger is the last major character left alive after Ginger kills Sam, who is forced to kill the werewolf that was once her sister and best friend.
Subverted in "Saw II" regarding the character Amanda Young. After the male protagonist saves her life, it is revealed she was one of the masterminds behind the ordeal in the first place.
In murder mystery Harper's Island, protagonist Abby Mills is female, beautiful, clean-living, and is strongly implied to be a virgin. She has a Dark and Troubled Past and only picks up the Idiot Ball towards the last few episodes. Also, she is the object of affection of one of the murderers. She survives along with her love interest (and a little girl with Infant Immortality and by extension the girl's mother), and is the one to kill the murderer.
Gender Inverted in Psychoville where at the end of Series Two, Mr. Jelly is the lone survivor who calls out Grace for the murders. David Sowerbutts also survives, but is not present at Andrews Nanotech.
The "survivor" of Cry Wolf (also provides the film's "twist" ending).
The movie Shrooms gleefully takes aim at the whole concept of the Final Girl. At the end the Final Girl discovers that she herself is the killer, having been driven insane by the titular Shrooms.
Buffy from Buffy the Vampire Slayer is a survives the whole movie, but is meant to be a subversion of the typical opening victim who dies before the title. While the good and wholesome activist girl we're meant to initially believe is the final girl turns out to be the first victim.
Played with in the movie Mindhunters, there are two of the original group left standing - a guy and a girl, but seeing as the boy is the killer, she is technically the Final Girl standing. But alas it's not technically true, as one of the other victims is shown to have just passed out.
Final Destination 3, in which the makers explicitly went out of their way to kill the Final Girl. Whether the two people she saved live or die is left open in the theatrical version.
The girl who looks most likely to be the Final Girl in The Deadly Spawn dies in the last 20 minutes and is replaced by another girl who arrived shortly before two-thirds of the way through the film. The monster ends up being killed by the precocious little boy who was hiding in the basement where he was cornered by the monster earlier, figured out its weaknesses by observing it, and had enough know-how to construct a home-made bomb when he finally got free.
The Cottage, saw the Final Girl turn out to be so unpleasant and obnoxious that the technically-bad but not actually evil kidnappers who made up the other three heroes were much more sympathetic characters. Hilariously she not only releases the monster but manages to get herself killed by said monster before any of the guys - it is probably not a good idea to mouth off to a psychotic 7-foot tall deformed cannibal when he is about to brain someone with a shovel.
Cindy Campbell from the Scary Movie films is pretty much a sustained spoof of Final Girls.
The slasher film final girl spoof was done a few decades previously (and just as, if not more, effectively) in 1982's Pandemonium, with the character of Candy, who was not only a comedic take on the Final Girl, but also on Carrie.
Averted in The Ruins. Technically there is a Final Girl but she is not the main character, and is not the most intelligent or resourceful one amongst the victims. Her boyfriend is the wise and resourceful leader, but he sacrifices himself to save her. Ultimately, the end implies that she is doomed anyway.
Averted in The Descent. The cast of female spelunkers gets whittled down one by one, but ultimately the Final Girl crosses a Moral Event Horizon, losing audience sympathy. In the end, she seems to escape, but the scene cuts to reveal that it was just a fantasy and she's irrevocably trapped in the cave. Due to Executive Meddling, the Final Girl trope is upheld in the American version, and she escapes.
Played straight in the original cut of Deep Blue Sea, but averted in the finished cut, because test audiences found the female lead to be obnoxious and self-centered. The Plucky Comic Relief survived in her place. It should be noted that in both a shark wrangler - halfway between Action Hero and Action Survivor - also lives.
Subverted in Hostel. The film's only surviving character is Paxton, who is not only male, but a heavy drinker and drug user who spends the first half of the film screwing anything with a pulse. By contrast, Josh, who dies earlier, is relatively innocent—although Josh's ambiguous sexuality may make him an example of Bury Your Gays.
Also subverted in Hostel 2. Beth, the Final Girl who we've come to see as innocent and virginal, turns out to be just as ruthless and bloodthirsty as her captors. She brutally castrates her "hunter" and strikes a deal with Sasha, the club's ringleader. In contrast Lorna, the untouched Cloudcuckoolander, is the first to die and was selected specifically because she was a virgin. Her "hunter" had a Countess Bathory fetish.
Subverted the hell out of in Saw. Amanda is the only one of Jigsaw's victims to get free of his traps, but she's not the typically innocent Final Girl (she had been addicted to heroin) and she agrees with the man that tried to kill her. In the second movie, the sweet, innocent-like (at least by Saw standards) blonde girl dies fairly early on. The final girl? Amanda again, and she's working with the killer.
In Saw VI, the only survivors of the Roulette Trap are, you guessed it, female.
Saw 3D has a Final Boy in Bobby Dagen.
Dr. Gordon is revealed to have both escaped in Saw 1, and is only survivor of the series, having put Detective Hoffman in the bathroom trap without a saw.
The 2009 remake has a Final Girl, but also has a decoy Final Girl in Jenna who is quite possibly on screen for more time than actual Final Girl Whitney until her sudden death near the end. Additionally there is another survivor in Whitney's brother Clay.
Speaking of Jason Goes to Hell, its arguable Stephen is more the main protagonist than Jessica.
The seventh and eighth installments, The New Blood and Jason Takes Manhattan respectively, have the male love interest survive alongside the Final Girl character for the entire final act.
Inverted big time in 2008 horror movie Credo. It's all typical with our sweet and innocent main character being the last one out of our group to die... That is, until it's revealed most of the movie was all just a hallucination brought on by an evil demon to get her to hang herself. The other college twats are just fine, playing with an Ouija Board downstairs.
This trope, and the extreme lampshade hanging thereof, is a central plot element in the slasher deconstructionBehind the Mask: The Rise of Leslie Vernon, where the character is referred to as a "survivor girl." Vernon spends most of the movie setting one character up as the final girl, both to the viewer and the crew filming his exploits. However, it turns out that Vernon's final girl is a decoy, and sexually active at that. It is the female reporter in the film crew who is his real final girl all along, and she fulfills her role exactly according to the trope.
In April Fools' Day, the cast are whittled down to two and the killer is revealed to be the secret and crazy twin sister of one of the characters. The boy gets locked in a closet while the Final Girl is left to confront the crazy twin. She backs into a room, and there are all the "dead," people, behaving calmly and casually as though nothing had happened. After about thirty seconds of her freaking out, they start laughing and explain that that the whole thing was both a elaborate practical joke and a test for a "Murder Mystery," inn, there is no twin. Then they have a party.
In Feast the character identified as "Heroine" (Occupation: Wear tanktops, tote shotgun, save day) is accidentally shot, knocked out a second floor window and swarmed by monsters about halfway through the movie. We then get the real Final Girl, Tuffy, who is now credited as "Heroine #2".
In Pitch Black, the woman who seems most likely to be the final girl is killed off only a few minutes before the movie ends, though the fact that she tries to sacrifice the passengers of the ship she was piloting early in the film hints at her redemptivedeath. The only characters to survive the movie are ironically the ones most likely to die in another slasher flick: the pacifist black man; the teenage girl who pretended to be a ''boy'' for the first half of the movie and has just reached sexualmaturity; and Riddick, the Villain Protagonist, who survives due to Executive Meddling that turned out to be very profitable. This approach is arguably what sets the film apart and part of why the sequel fails to deliver the same emotional punch. Pitch Black is a survival movie in space that subverts character expectations; The Chronicles of Riddick tries more to be straightforward Star Wars.
In the film Crazy Eights, the character Beth is built up to be the final girl, only to become the second victim when a horrible monster visits her and persuades her to rip out her own jaw to remove her guilt. The final girl is actually Jennifer, but she prepares to kill herself as the movie abruptly ends.
Also subverted in the 2005 film The Dark, where Maria Bello's character Adèle fights through the Welsh interpretation of the afterlife to save her daughter, only to unintentionally kill herself and switch places with her. And depending on how you interpret the ending, she may not have even succeeded in saving her daughter.
The Evil Dead subverted the trope by having the sweet virginal girl raped by trees and then possessed. Her brother, Ashely J. Williams, becomes the Final Guy, though even he gets possessed at the end. In the sequels, he reverts back to humanity and becomes the boomstick-toting, chainsaw-handedBadass we know and love.
Averted in House of 1000 Corpses, where the final girl escapes the killer family, but the driver of the car that gives her a lift back to town is the Monster Clown Captain Spaulding, who turns out to be part of the killer family.
Very cleverly subverted in the sequel The Devils Rejects. By the end, Baby becomes a sort of final girl when Sheriff Wydell is chasing her. Very interesting seeing the villain become the final girl.
Averted in Perfume, where the killer saves the beautiful Laura Richis as his final victim to complete his perfect perfume. Laura's wealthy father uses all his power to protect her, but the killer walks right through all his defenses, right into Laura's bedroom, and kills her.
Subverted in Grizzly Park, where Bebe, the ditzy, sweet girl, survives most of the movie, but it turns out it was all an act, and she is really a mean, spoiled bitch. Ranger Bob ends up sending the bear to kill her once he finds out.
Subverted, along with every other aspect of the genre, by Funny Games. The Final Middle-Aged Woman is tied up on a boat, when she spots a knife dropped there at the beginning of the film. But before she can accomplish anything, the killers nonchalantly pitch her over the side. THE END
Identity subverts this in multiple ways: the character set up as the Final Girl was a prostitute, thus subverting the virgin-and-pure side of things. We then find out one of the other characters believed to have died was actually still alive. Said character, who was actually the killer, returns to finish the Final Girl off. Furthermore, the Final Girl, the character that killed her and all of the other characters who didn't make it were actually the multiple personalities of a serial killer, and the whole thing was being played out in his mind. The "killing" of the characters was his real-life attempt to integrate. So when you get down to it, there's really no Final Girl at all, and no person at the motel ever really died.
In After Dark Horrorfest 4's movie Kill Theory subverts this trope when the expected final girl stabs her boyfriend in the stomach, breaking the rules and ends up being killed by the actual final girl who she had shot earlier.
The Wishmaster series is prone to playing with this. While played completely straight in the original, the sequel's Final Girl was a goth burglar who actually kills a guy in the opening, during a heist gone wrong, though she later redeems herself, in order to beat the Djinn. The protagonist of Wishmaster 4: The Prophecy Fulfilled is also shown having sex at least twice, including with the Djinn.
Thoroughly subverted in Trick 'r Treat with Laurie, whose name is a reference to Jamie Lee Curtis' Final Girl in the Halloween films, a cute virgin dressed as Little Red Riding Hood who is surrounded by loud, promiscuous friends who want to get her laid. However, none of them were in danger at all. It turns out that they're a pack of bloodthirsty werewolves, and that all along they were actually looking for a man so that Laurie could eat him.
Set up in Damnatus, where Nira is the last of the party left alive (with the hero even commenting that if anyone's going to make it out alive, it will be her), but when the daemon catches up with her she dies just like the rest.
Subverted to hell and back in All the Boys Love Mandy Lane. The innocent and pure Mandy appears to be this at first, but then comes The Reveal that, the whole time, she was working with the killer, with whom she had entered a Suicide Pact. It's then given a Double Subversion when Mandy backs out of the pact at the last minute, allowing her to be the Final Girl after all.
Inverted with Student Bodies, in which everyone is suspicious that the obvious Final Girl is really the killer.
In Scream 4, the character of Jill Roberts takes this trope and puts it through the ringer. She was the killer all along, and planned to frame somebody else for it so that she can come out looking like the Final Girl and ride the publicity to book deals and talk show appearances, following in the footsteps of her older cousin Sidney.
Sidney herself evolves from a straight, if lampshaded, example into a deconstruction as the series progresses. Her life comes to be defined by her "perpetual victimhood," with all of the effects that this would have on her. By the third film, she's effectively become a hermit, working from home under a fake name while suffering recurring nightmares about being murdered by Ghostface. She gets better by the fourth film, though, given the passage of time, the settling of her family drama, and presumably, years of therapy.
Scream 4 actually features a group of film junkies debating the trope at one point. One of them mentions that virgins can die now, which prompts one of the girls to say something about not getting to live as long as her two friends.
Invoked and subverted in The Cabin in the Woods. When the monsters ritually slaughter the college kids, Dana, the victim labelled as "The Virgin", can't be killed unless all the others are killed first, and, as long as she's suffered a lot and is the last one left standing, she can be allowed to escape the monsters without ruining the ritual. However, it turns out that Marty, one of the earlier male victims, wasn't as dead as everyone thought, and comes back to save Dana and kick some monster ass... and end the world in the process.
Further subverted by the fact that Dana, who the technicians had set up to become "The Virgin", was in fact screwing her professor in order to pass the class, while Jules, who had been picked as "The Whore", was the smarter and more wholesome of the two before she was drugged.
You're Next: Erin could be considered a Deconstructive Parody of one. While at first she appears to be a normal variety, it quickly turns out that she is not only an Action Survivor, but also came from a Crazy Survivalist background. It reaches the point where the remaining masked killers are scared of her. It's also heavily implied that she gets arrested after the events of the movie for the people she killed.
In From Hell, Mary Kelly is played pretty straight as a Final Girl as she escapes Jack the Ripper and survives after all her friends have been picked off and despite the fact that the real life Mary Kelly didn't. However, she's also a subversion in that she doesn't kill the Ripper, just manages to avoid him and, what with being a prostitute, isn't the traditionally wholesome girl either.
Death Proof: Quentin Tarantino himself noted during interviews about this film that he is a major fan of Carol Clover's writings on slasher films. As such, part of the thrill of the first half involves how he consciously plays with this trope in particular: Arlene/Butterfly is set up from the beginning to be a played-straight Final Girl in a standard slasher—especially how she's portrayed as rather "apart" from her friends, and not as open in her sexuality. Alas, she ends up dying with the others—which, as Quentin anticipated, is a big shock to a Genre Savvy audience....
Used as a theme in Jane Mendelsohn's Mind Screw novel Innocence, with the main character seeing herself as the Final Girl in her own horror story. She does kill the villain - that is, her stepmother.
In Agatha Christie'sAnd Then There Were None, Vera Claythorne is the last survivor on the island, only to hang herself. Furthermore, she wasn't exactly the last person left, she (and the reader) only thinks she is.
Also subverted in that Vera, unlike the traditional goody-goody Final Girl, is guilty of murder herself.
Played straighter in a number of theatrical and film adaptations, although there's usually another survivor too.
Buffy the Vampire Slayer, both the movie and TV show were created specifically as a subversion of the trope — the "final girl" (who isn't particularly final, all things considered) is sexually active, conventionally attractive, and generally a lot more girly than the norm. Admittedly she does have superpowers (often explicitly superior to her foes) which makes it a bit debatable as to whether she belongs as a Final Girl proper, or is simply a straight up superheroine who borrows a fair bit of slasher flick imagery.
According to the Word of God, Buffy was actually a subversion of the girls who get killed in monster movies, not those who survive slashers (if memory serves).
Buffy only became "sexually active" halfway into the second season - prior to that she was a virgin. She also doesn't smoke or do drugs or drink that much, and as for girlishness she is a cheerleader for all of one episode. In fact, whether by accident or design, Buffy resembles the classic Final Girl a lot more than the characters she is supposedly subverting.
The movie paints pre-slayer Buffy as a promiscuous, popular, superficial cheerleader who refuses to fit entirely into the Slayer/Final-Girl mold. Whether you saw the movie before watching the series probably makes a big difference in your perception of her during season 1.
A paper written on the subject of final girls points out that, early on, Willow fit the stereotypical final girl mold to a T.
The Final Girls is a series proposed to ABC Family in 2013 in which Jamie Lee Curtis will be the Charley to a team of Angels consisting of girls who were Final Girls and use that experience to become monster hunters.
the white chamber seems to play with this... And it seems quite ironic. Sarah may be the last survivor, but she was the killer.
Averted in Dino Crisis, no matter what ending you get, Regina and Rick will always survive, but Gail and Doctor Kirk may or may not. But played with but probably played straight in the sequel. Dylan and Paula make it to the gate room, but Regina is the only character that definitely survives the entire ordeal. Dylan and Paula might have if Regina did perfect a time gate and save them at the last moment.
Subverted in Shivers. When Beth and Merrick released the Ixupi 15 years in the past, Beth was the last survivor. She figured out how to solve all the museum's puzzles, but she died before she could finish the job.
In the Survival Horror mech game Space Griffon VF 9 the final girl is the useless Damsel in Distress scientist the hero picks up who is trapped in a locked room on the station. It appears the awesomely classy punk rocker chick will survive, but then she sacrifices herself to kill her brother that Came Back Wrong when he shows up out of nowhere in the final sequence. The crazy/idiot thing about it? Both you and her have battlemechs. He's in a hybrid recon/maintenance mecha. Even if he had gotten the drop on you in an ambush (and he didn't) either one of you could mop the floor with him without much trouble, so her completely random sacrifice was a waste, especially as the real Big Bad is still alive and waiting for you at the hangar. He's a mad scientist who turned himself into an Eldritch Abomination kaiju, so if anyone needed a mech blowing up in their face it definitely would have been then. It's a pretty difficult fight, so you'll find yourself wishing she'd have saved herself for this instead.
Velma: The virgins are always the last to die. God my life sucks.
In the episode "Failsafe" of Young Justice, M'gann is the last of all the heroes in their battle against the invading aliens. Turns out she had to be the last one, as she was the one subconsciously controlling the Your Mind Makes It Real simulation that Went Horribly Wrong. Once she is 'killed', everyone awakens.
The Teen Titans episode "Fear Itself" had a similar premise, with a monster stalking Titan Tower and picking off the Titans one by one, using a method similar to killers used in slasher movies. Raven was the last one left because the "monster" was her own powers acting on her repressed fear - after the team had watched a scary movie, no less. Ironically, this would not only make her the Final Girl in this scenario, but technically, the antagonist as well.