And The Ultimate Final Girl Is…

final girl winner

Each March celebrates Women’s History Month, a time to honor the contributions made by women in society. The month also marks the start of March Madness, a tournament pitting 60-plus leading men’s and women’s basketball teams together in a single elimination battle to determine the season’s top teams. 

While the men’s game brought the action this year, the ratings and media buzz show that the public demand for the women’s game is heavily in demand. Much like how Kamilla Cardoso, Angel Reese, Caitlin Clark, and many other women showcased their skills on the hardwood this season, countless female characters have consistently stepped up over the years to combat some of horror’s worst forces, even when everyone around them has succumbed to the evil. These badasses are known as The Final Girls. 

This year, Dread Central put respect on those names like they long deserved. To do so, we pitted horror’s OG heroines alongside emerging formidable forces to determine the ultimate Final Girl in a 1v1 battle determined by the readers and fans. 

The Selection Process

We here at Dread Central quickly realized that choosing a field of 32 competitors isn’t as easy as it may initially seem. 

When it comes down to it, a criteria is needed to determine the entrants. The NCAA claims to have a sophisticated system in place, and it makes errors every season. This season was no different, especially in the men’s game, as Providence, Seton Hall, and St. John’s all missed out on invites. 

Unlike the billion-dollar organization that is the NCAA, Dread Central didn’t have sophisticated data tracking systems, algorithms, and a legion of employees to crunch the numbers. Instead, we turned to a few trusted writers and editors to whittle down the list. Most of the criteria came down to: 

  1. Who survived?
  2. How did they survive?
  3. Did they survive at least one film? 

The third criteria proved the toughest of the bunch, leaving a few fan favorites on the cutting room floor. But since March Madness is all about surviving, we went with featuring women who made it through at least one round of hell–though some, like Sarah Carter from The Descent, can be debated depending on the ending of the film you saw. 

In short, the process wasn’t an exact science. Still, through the combined efforts of several horror heads, we felt this inaugural 64 represents an equal dose of classic and newer-era Final Girls. 

Now, let’s get down to the action.

Round One

Round one of the NCAA Tournaments is often where things get shaken up. Each March, at least a few top and middle-ranked schools are bested by lower-ranked squads, often led by teams looking to prove their low rank was unjustified. At the same time, the competition is designed to see major players rough up early-stage opponents, setting up for mega clashes in the rounds ahead. Some years, the top-ranked teams run roughshod on their lower-ranked matchups. This is called chalk, or the expected result.

The opening round of the Final Girl competition was about as chalk as you imagine. Entrants like Meg Penny (The Blob), Kyle (Child’s Play 2), and Tory Reading (Leprechaun) had absolutely zero shot of beating their respective first-round opponents in Ellen Ripley (Alien franchise), Sidney Prescott (Scream franchise), and even Julie James (I Know What You Did Last Summer x2). The Newcomer’s side also saw many runaway victories early on. Grace Le Domas (Ready or Not), Naru (Prey), Erin Harson (You’re Next), and Sarah Carter (The Descent) all won by vote margins of 60% or higher against their competition. 

However, there were tight competitions, including Jamie Lloyd (Halloween 4 & 5) edging out Jeryline (Tales from the Crypt: Demon Knight) in a relatively close battle. Tree Gelbman (Happy Death Day 1 & 2) eeked out a similar victory, picking up under 60% of the vote. However, the closest round-one victory went to Sam Carpenter (Scream 5 & 6), who edged out Jay Heights (It Follows) by just a few percentage points. If we’re talking basketball here, Sam hit the buzzer-beater three to send Jay home…or back on the run from that STD monster. 

Round Two: The Not-So-Sweet 16

Round Two brought some classic battles to the forefront, including Laurie Strode’s blowout victory over her daughter, Jamie. In fact, blowouts were on tap in the OG field, as Ripley and Nancy Thompson (A Nightmare on Elm Street franchise) decimated their respective competition in Kristy Cotton (Hellraiser) and Ginny Field (Friday the 13th Part 2). In another must-see battle, Sidney Prescott laid waste Julie James to take home the unofficial title of top 90s Final Girl. 

The Newcomer’s side was much more competitive. Sam Carpenter and Naru faced stiff second-round battles. Still, they ultimately beat Sienna Shaw and Needy Lesnicki (Jennifer’s Body) with relative ease. 

But, in proper March Madness form, a couple of matches came down to the final seconds, or votes in our case. Tree Gelbman beat Sarah Carter by just a few points, showing that length of stay in your series was critical to voters, at least some of the time. In what might be a look at two of the new era’s most formidable heroines, Grace Le Domas put everything she had to work, beating Erin Harson and her superior primitive hunting and survival skills by just a few points.

Round Three: The Elite 8

Round Three on the OG side continued to showcase the sheer dominance of Ellen Ripley, as she dispatched Laurie Strode with an ease that’d make Michael Meyers cry into Corey Cunningham’s shoulder. The path to the second spot in the OG final battle was much more difficult, pitting Wes Craven’s multi-film Final Girls Sidney Prescott against Nancy Thompson. While the battle wasn’t as clear-cut as Ripley’s victory, Nancy ultimately put Sid down, potentially due to fans recognizing that Nancy and actress Heather Langenkamp have survived Freddy Kreuger throughout several films. 

The Elite 8 also saw Sam Carpenter’s demise, ending any hope for Scream making the final. While Naru has only survived one film compared to Sam’s two, the former’s win came against a Predator while being an Indigenous woman in early 18th-century America, which may have swayed some voters her way. In a similar convincing victory, Grace Le Domas continued showing her survival ability, besting another two-time Final Girl, Tree Gelbman.

The Final Four

Nancy Thompson tried valiantly, but even a multi-time Final Girl fell to the prowess and power of Ellen Ripley, putting Nancy away with roughly 75% of the vote. The Newcomer side marked an exciting battle that pitted Grace De Lomas’s modern-era survival and fighting skills against old-era methods utilized by Naru. Ultimately, Naru’s Comanche skillset bested Grace.

The Final Final Girl Battle: Ripley vs. Naru

It was unsurprising that the final battle came down to one of horror’s most classic battles: Alien vs. Predator. 

Any pairing between the two often elicits intense debate over who’d win, despite two films detailing their battles. However, the fight between the franchises’ Final Girls was not as heavily debated. In the end, Ellen Ripley tore through Naru easier than the Chestburst did to Kane all those years ago. With a victory of more than 80% of the vote, Ripley proved she is the Ultimate Final Girl, doing so in a convincing fashion akin to the perfect season of the NCAA Women’s tournament winners, the 2023-2024 South Carolina Gamecocks. Much like the annual NCAA tournaments, we horror fans love a good upset and surprise occasionally. But at the end of the day, the major players step up when it comes to survival, and Ripley once again shows why she is not to be messed with. 



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