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Strong Female Leads in the Horror Genre

In honor of Women’s History Month, I want to recognize some of the strong female leads in my favorite movie genre – Horror. Characters in horror movies are put through the wringer, and in many cases the female characters are put into the role of the “damsel in distress.” However in these five films, the women are strong and empowered, breaking the “woman as victim” stereotype. According to recent data, nearly 2000 females are murdered by males annually in the United States alone. Given these staggering numbers, it is worth contemplating how women are depicted in horror films, not because Horror is to blame for this femicide epidemic, but because media can and do influence social perceptions and behaviors. As such, the question, “How does the presence of a strong female lead alter the tone of a horror film?” is a compelling one. All of these films are available through IU Libraries’ Media Services: click the linked film title to learn more!

The Babadook (2014)

film poster for the movie The Babadook
The Babadook. Digital Image. 11 Mar 2022,

The Babadook follows single mother Amelia Vanek, played by Essie Davis, as she cares for her son, Sam, whose behavior becomes more and more concerning. One night, Sam asks his mother to read him a book titled Mister Babadook, which features the titular monster within its pages. Not long after, strange events begin to occur, and when Amelia questions Sam about them, he claims that the Babadook is the cause. In addition to navigating these disconcerting occurrences, Amelia Vanek is battling grief from the death of her husband throughout the film, and her perseverance throughout makes her a strong female lead.

The Others (2001)

film poster for the movie The Others
The Others. Digital Image. 11 Mar

The Others is a film about a young woman, Grace Stewart, played by Nicole Kidman. The film is set in 1945, and Grace lives in a house with her two photosensitive children and three servants. When she begins to hear voices and footsteps, Grace starts to believe that the house may be haunted. As more and more strange occurrences unfold, Stewart struggles to understand what is happening in her house and who “the others” are that she keeps seeing. Grace Stewart is adamant about protecting her children and their home, doing whatever is necessary to stay safe from the “others.”

Us (2019)

Film poster for the move Us
Us. Digital Image. 11 Mar 2022,

Us tells the story of Adelaide (played by Lupita Nyong’o) and her family as they go on vacation. When Adelaide was a child, she encountered her doppelganger on the same beach where they are headed for vacation, causing her to withdraw and stop speaking. The family’s vacation is turned upside down when a group of people dressed completely in red break into their home and corner them. The people are revealed to be the family’s doppelgangers and explain that they want to “untether” themselves from their counterparts. Adelaide’s bravery and strength are vital to her survival, and she is absolutely determined to stop the doppelgangers.

Jennifer’s Body (2009)

Film poster for the movie Jennifer's Body
Jennifer’s Body. Digital Image. 11 Mar 2022,

Jennifer’s Body is about two high school girls, Jennifer Check (Megan Fox) and Anita “Needy” Lesnicki (Amanda Seyfried) who one night go to a dive bar to see a band. The bar suddenly is engulfed in flames, and Jennifer leaves with the band. Later that night, Jennifer appears in Needy’s kitchen, covered in blood and eating everything in sight before vomiting a black liquid everywhere. The next day at school, much to Needy’s surprise, Jennifer seems completely fine. After the football captain is found disemboweled, Needy begins to suspect that something is very wrong with Jennifer.

The Silence of the Lambs (1991)

Film poster for the movie The Silence of the Lambs
The Silence of the Lambs. Digital Image.
11 Mar 2022,

The Silence of the Lambs depicts Clarice Starling, played by Jodie Foster, who is training in the Behavioral Science Unit of the FBI. She is asked to interview Hannibal Lecter, an incarcerated cannibalistic serial killer and former psychiatrist, in order to get information about a new serial killer that they are trying to find. Lecter agrees to help on the condition that he is transferred to a different facility. Lecter then demands a quid pro quo with Starling in exchange for information on the serial killer. Things take a turn when the serial killer kidnaps the daughter of a United States senator, and Starling dives even further into the investigation. Starling is determined and intelligent in getting the information that she needs to find the serial killer and deal with Lecter and proves herself to be crucial in solving the case. CR

Do you have a favorite strong female lead from the Horror genre? If so, let us know in the comments!

Media Services staff member Corinne Regan is a freshman at IU pursuing a Political Science Degree. She is also involved in the Civic Leaders Center and in her free time she enjoys spending time with her friends and listening to music.

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