Characters in horror films don't have an excellent reputation for doing the right thing or the smart thing when they are frequently in danger. In the original Scream, Sidney Prescott has contempt for the actions of women in scary movies who always seem to run upstairs rather than out the front door to safety.
Members of a cinematically hip Internet forum faced this question. Who are the most competent horror movie characters? The ones who fight the monster or the killer successfully.
The ones who have a plan or can fearlessly fight in the face of horrific odds despite overwhelming fear or grief? It's a tall order and much more complex than sitting on a couch cheering characters on.
Here are some of the genre's most ingenious, stouthearted, and adept survivors in the horror film canon.
1. Erin in You're Next (2011)
On the surface, Erin seems like your average happy, well-adjusted, and sweet girlfriend who would usually be killed early on.
However, she springs into action when the Animals attack the family home, giving orders and fighting them successfully with improvised hand-held weapons.
The people who set the family up don't realize that Erin grew up in a survivalist compound, where, as a girl, she learned everything someone would need to know to survive a home invasion or horror film.
She is also admirably principled and moral. Because of these sterling qualities, Erin is one of the most popular answers to this question.
2. Ellen Ripley in Alien (1979)
Ellen Ripley is one of the prototypes of competent characters in the horror canon. She is the stealth leader of the group, quiet and observant at first but more than able to step up to take charge when needed.
Some have accused Ripley of being weak or foolhardy for wanting to find the ship's cat, Jones. She cares about everyone's lives, including that of the pet, and she is not responsible for the deaths of Lambert and Parker.
Again, it is easy to observe that the most competent characters in horror are moral and concerned with the good of the group rather than being scared, greedy, or concerned only with saving their skins.
3. Sidney Prescott in the Scream Series (1996 to 2022)
Sidney is also a classic horror heroine and a more than competent character. She isn't trained, but her strength comes from her character and heart.
Despite her trauma, Sidney is intelligent and caring and has a strong sense of self. You see in later films in the series when she becomes a trauma counselor that she wants to use her experience to help others.
But when menaced by Ghostface, she will fight and run when necessary. Many have criticized her mother, Maureen, but Sidney got her good self-esteem from her parents, and Maureen, a victim of sexual violence, and her strong and caring father gave her the nurturing that made her strength possible.
4. R.J. Macready in The Thing (1982)
RJ Macready (Kurt Russell) is a quintessential loner in John Carpenter's remake of The Thing From Another World. He is right up until the moment he must take charge to fight the strange creature from another world.
Macready investigates what is happening, devises the blood test to determine who has been taken over by the monster, and incinerates any of The Thing's alternate selves whenever they are discovered.
Realistic about his chances, he tries to save as many people as possible and doesn't hesitate to take action. He's not a scientist but a helicopter pilot who spends his time drinking but immediately steps up when necessary.
5. Marty Mikalski from The Cabin in the Woods (2011)
Marty Mikalski is another stealth candidate as the most competent. He seems like his brain is gone for the movie's first half and is seen as an ineffectual but amusing character.
However, after a fake-out where it looks like he's died, Marty proves to be the smartest and most capable of all of the characters, despite being designated as "The Fool" in the Ritual.
He manages to overcome one of the Buckner zombies, finds a way into the secret underground complex, and saves Dana, the only other surviving character. He is intelligent, resists attempts to manipulate him, and is moral.
6. Finney and Gwen Blake from The Black Phone (2021)
Two of the most competent horror characters are children, brother, and sister, Finney (Mason Thames) and Gwen (Madeleine McGraw).
Both children are already dealing with an abusive father who drinks too much, so they have coping skills and emotional reserves of strength available.
The children have one advantage that none of the other characters do: they are both psychic. Gwen gets psychic visions about Finney's disappearance, and Finney gets psychic communications from the ghosts of The Grabbers' other victims.
He is smart, so he figures out their instructions and uses their advice to outwit The Grabber. Gwen is determined to find her brother and forthrightly goes to the police.
Both are strong-willed enough to defy adults and bullies. Finney is taught by the spirit of his friend Robin how to fight and defeats The Grabber, a serial killer and full-grown adult. They are extraordinarily competent.
7. Nancy Thompson in A Nightmare On Elm Street (1984)
Nancy Thompson (Heather Langenkamp), A Nightmare On Elm Street's brave heroine, started as a brilliant high school student who quickly figured out what was wrong and then developed a plan to unmask the killer. Nancy is capable, independent, and a planner. Nancy keeps herself awake by drinking coffee and planning to have her boyfriend watch her while she sleeps.
Soon Nancy recognizes that the only way to fight Freddy is to confront him first in the dream world and set up a series of anti-personnel traps in her house for when this survivor brings him into the real world.
The library was her source of information, and she could accomplish this by reading a book on the subject.
8. Kirsty Cotton in Hellraiser (1987)
Kirsty Cotton (Ashley Laurence) is another teenager who has to find a way to survive against all odds. Not only does she have to contend with a group of sadomasochistic demons, but she's also got her murderous uncle and stepmother menacing her.
She is driven on by her love of her father and her drive to survive. Her weapons are her bargaining skills, astute observations, and courage. Kirsty will walk into Hell to save her loved ones and has no problem confronting Pinhead and the rest of the Cenobites.
9. Laurie in Halloween Franchise (1987 to 2021)
Laurie Strode (Jamie Lee Curtis) goes from a teenage babysitter to a haunted mother who still has to fight The Shape her whole life. Her character is another prototype for competent survivors, particularly in slasher films.
Many people heedlessly walk through life without paying attention to who is watching them. Still, Laurie immediately notices the stare of The Shape/Michael Myers before the attacks on her and her friends start.
She is alert, bright, and ready to fight to survive. Her first thought in the original movie is to send the kids running to a neighbor's house when Laurie knows Myers is coming after her. She wants to protect them and make sure help is on the way.
10. Naru from Prey (2022)
Naru (Amber Midthunder), a Comanche healer and tracker, longs to become a hunter and protect her people like her older brother.
She gets the chance to save her tribe when they are attacked by a Predator and French trappers who are there to slaughter buffalo and take over their lands. Naru is another very observant character who learns how to fight the Predator by watching others fight and lose. She quickly gets up to speed and thinks of innovative ways to defeat a much more technically advanced creature than anyone on Earth.
Fearless, highly intelligent, and concerned for the welfare of her people above all, Naru is exceptionally efficient at defeating villains from Earth and outer space.
11. Jules in Watcher(2022)
Jules (Maika Monroe) is a newer kind of competent horror film character. While she is sensitive and intelligent, she is also shown to be hyperaware of danger in a way that many women find themselves in modern life.
But the most vital attributes that make her one of the best survivors of horror are her self-confidence, steadfast determination, and talent as an actress. Despite her husband's attempts to gaslight her, she refuses to believe she is wrong about feeling watched.
With her throat cut, she refuses to give up trying to reach her goal: crawling towards the gun she knows is in a drawer. Realizing that she doesn't have the strength to fight the killer, she pretends to die so he will let down his guard. With that goal accomplished, she kills the watcher.
12. Needy from Jennifer's Body (2009)
Anita "Needy" Lesnicki (Amanda Seyfried) is another new-style survivor in horror. Constantly ridiculed for having feelings, she wins the friendship of the most popular girl at school and the sincere love of a decent guy for that reason, her ability to trust and share her real feelings.
However, once she learns what has happened to her friend and who is responsible, she stops at nothing to free Jennifer from the demon that inhabits her body and punishes the rock band responsible for her death despite being locked in a psychiatric hospital.
13. Jen in Revenge (2017)
Jen (Matilda Lutz) is a beautiful woman and seemingly the perfect prey for rich evil men. Still, she is a formidable opponent after being sexually assaulted and left for dead by her rich married boyfriend and his two friends.
The characteristics that make her so powerful are her indomitable spirit and her ability to improvise solutions. After she is assaulted, she demands justice. When denied, she runs because she understands that she is not safe.
She does her best to repair her body with whatever material is on hand when gravely injured. She painfully cauterizes her wounds with the aid of hallucinogenic drugs.
She outthinks each man and takes each one out methodically. The very idea that a woman could be this successful made men on the Internet so angry that they spewed insults that a woman could never be that tough, and the studio wisely made those insults part of the film's marketing.
This thread inspired this post.