Buffy: Everyone gets horribly killed except the blonde girl in the nightie who finally kills the monster with a machete but it's not really dead.
Jennifer: Oh my God. Is that true?
Buffy: Probably. What movie is this?
The simplest definition of this is "the last character left 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 sex (because Sex Signals Death), 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.
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.
The character is ultimately the last one left to tell the story. 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.
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". 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.
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 Monster Threat Expiration.
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. A villainous (and usually male) variant might show up as part of a Mook Horror Show.
As both a Death and Ending Trope, all spoilers will be unmarked ahead. Beware.
- Live-Action Films
- Live-Action TV
- Video Games
- Kaori Tanaka, though not inherently a main character, ends up the most prominent female survivor of Shiki. She survives her final confrontation and subsequently safe from any danger, as she's shown to escape in the end.
- 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 story arc as the All-Final Girl Team.
- Little Red Riding Hood, who (at least in versions where she isn't rescued by a conveniently placed male) either ends up the killer's final victim or fights him off herself.
- Gretel from Hansel and Gretel (which is likely the template for The Texas Chain Saw Massacre), who not only survives but saves her brother from the killer as well.
- Played out in Anastasia (1997), in which the evil Rasputin curses the Romanov family whom he feels betrayed him and aids in a revolt that ultimately kills the entire family except Anastasia, who manages to escape with her life but is now an amnesiac who calls herself 'Anya'. Once he finds out that Anastasia is alive, Rasputin vows to kill the last Romanov to fulfill his dark purpose.
- Clown in a Cornfield: Downplayed; Quinn is the main character and has all of the hallmarks including Gender-Blender Name. After she takes a level in badass, she manages to survive and kill multiple Frendos, but her father and both of the leading men surive. Though, Cole only survives because of her efforts.
- Devolution: The protagonist Kate Holland is one of only two survivors in the community of Greenloop, the other being the little girl Palomino. While she is initially naïve and conflict-averse, she takes a level in badass and is the most virtuous member of her group. She and Palomino may have died shortly afterwards, but it's left ambiguous.
- The song “Low Budget Horror” by RedHook has the singer compare herself to a Final Girl and an online bully to the villain of a bad horror movie. And "Cure 4 Psycho" namedrops a famous Final Girl:
Sidney Prescott, bitch, I'm in this for the sequel!
- CHVRCHES has the song “Final Girl,” in which singer Lauren Mayberry assumes the titular role.
- The video for Demi Lovato's "Still Alive", released as part of the soundtrack to Scream VI, has her and her friends attending a film screening that gets attacked by Ghostface, who kills them one by one until Demi defeats him as the lone survivor. It ends with the reveal that the whole thing was actually the movie they were watching.
- A Journal Roleplay called Battle Experiment Program N threw characters from various series into a Battle Royale-style program. The first group included characters like Lelouch, Peter Parker, House, Johnny the Homicidal Maniac, Akuma, Dexter and Verbal Kint. The last one standing from the main group at the end of the plot? Ichigo from Katamari Damacy.
- Fully embraced by Final Girl, a horror-themed card game for one where the player take the role of the, um... final girl. She tries to survive by destroying the killer responsible for all of the mayhem while rescuing as many potential victims as possible. Each individual set is a tribute to classic slasher and horror films, with titles like Happy Trails Horror, Frightmare on Maple Lane, The Haunting of Creech Manor and others, and runs heavy with other Horror Tropes to boot.
Subversions, aversions, and parodies
- Danganronpa 3: The End of Hope's Peak High School: Chronologically, Soshun Murasame is a subversion. We see that he's the most plain-looking of the Student Council, the one who believes in his friends' ability to not cave in to murder, and he never kills anyone during the Tragedy, nor is he targeted. Perfect example of a Final Boy... until he gets extreme PTSD, fakes catatonia, and gets choked out by one of the Tragedy's perpetrators once they find out he still remembers in the very book he debuts in.
- Exploited, subverted, and averted by the oneshot manga Final Girl, where the protagonist (who had just read a list of common horror movie tropes) wakes up inside the body of Summer, the "slutty blonde girl" who usually dies first. Summer is Genre Savvy, and sticks close by Lucy, the designated final girl, avoiding common tropes like going to the Creepy Basement alone, Sex Signals Death, showering alone, and being Impaled with Extreme Prejudice on exposed nails. In the end, both she and Lucy survive (and possibly the guys in the group too).
- As of the final page of Gyo, both the protagonist's girlfriend and his uncle's assistant both died (girlfriend) and are likely to die later on if not already dead (assistant).
- Parodied in an episode of Strike Witches. An ancient fertility idol is found that creates a Zombie Apocalypse that results in its victims' boobs growing to enormous size. Nice Girl Lynette Bishop ends up being the final girl and destroys the idol with her Anti-Tank Rifle.
- In one Survival Geeks arc, the Geeks end up in a slasher universe. Sam and Clive are rescued by a group of Final Girls, who call themselves the Final Girls... but they want to cast Sam and Clive as the slut and the nerd to lure out the killers. The heroes turn their traps back on them, and Sam explains at length how the slut-shaming inherent in the standard Final Girl formula really isn't feminist.
- In Agatha Christie's And 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.
- Discussed and deconstructed in the novel Final Girls by Riley Sager. The main character, Quincy, and two other girls — the sole survivors of three separate slasher-film-style massacres — are dubbed "the Final Girls" by the media, and much of the book deals with Quincy struggling to cope with the physical and mental scars of being a sole survivor.
- The Final Girls of the Friday the 13th spin-off books Church of the Divine Psychopath and Carnival of Maniacs are also The Lad-ette.
- 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.
- "Final Girl" by Graveyard Guy is an Intercourse with You song about a killer and Final Girl, with the twist being that the Final Girl is just as dangerous and sadistic as the killer.
- Stacey from the Cool Kids Table game Creepy Town fits almost all of the usual Final Girl requirements: she's a pretty blonde, and while she does have a history of sleeping with a lot of people she doesn't get any action in the game itself. However, she ends up being the penultimate victim, which leaves spoiled rich kid Will as the last named character. And then Will dies at the end as well, leaving no cast members alive.
- "The Fallen Flower" Kikyo thought she would be the one to end Zack Monstar's reign as RPW Top Crown Champion because "the female always beats the monster in the movie" and she had challenged him for the belt on the final REAL Pro Wrestling show of 2017. Unfortunately for her, in RPW the towering Monstar was the baby face, Kikyo had not learned much from her loss to Women's Champion Roxy Rouge three months earlier and Chico Adams had all but ensured he would be Monstar's last challenger.
- The Angry Video Game Nerd ended up being the last one to confront Freddy in his A Nightmare on Elm Street (NES) review after his clones died in various ways. Instead of having the usual Final Girl traits, the one thing he had that his clones didn't was a Power Glove!
- A non-fatal example in the Codename: Kids Next Door episode "Operation: L.O.C.K.D.O.W.N.". During a lockdown of the Sector V Treehouse, Numbuh Five is the only operative left when her teammates are transformed into Spank-Happy Vampires. She is about to be spanked by her vampirified teammates when she is caught using the Quadruple Emergency Bypass Code, but the sun comes out in time and stops the vampires.
- A parody in Robot Chicken where Scooby-Doo meets Jason Voorhees. Velma complains that she is the final girl due to the stereotype that the virgin is always the last to die.
Velma: The virgins are always the last to die. God my life sucks.
- The Teen Titans (2003) 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.
- In the episode "Failsafe" of Young Justice (2010), 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.