Horror movies are full of gendered tropes, with none more well-known than that of the final girl. The final girl is a chaste and resourceful young woman who survives in a slasher film while her friends die around her. Recently, Jordan Peele’s directorial debut, Get Out, subverted the trope by making the “final girl” character male and African American—something that hadn’t been done in a major release since George Romero’s 1968 zombie opus, The Night of the Living Dead. That doesn’t mean there haven’t been some final guys throughout horror history, however. The final guys of horror are held to different standards than their female counterparts. The need for virginity or chastity is gone, but final guys are resourceful, sometimes a little nerdy or awkward, and they manage to survive using their wits. Here are ten of film’s finest final guys from across a wide range of horror.
Also, check out our previous ranking of the 20 best Final Girls in horror movie history.
Alongside Hostel, the other mid-2000s horror that shook audiences was James Wan’s Saw. The movie featured two unnamed men in a grungy bathroom, each chained to a pipe. Their only offered solution is a hand saw, which the villain intends for them to use on their own legs. Saw was a huge shock when it hit theaters in 2004, and many fans were surprised to see The Princess Bride’s Cary Elwes as one of Jigsaw’s bathroom victims. Unlike the other final guys on the list, however, the Saw victims don’t survive. Jigsaw’s games are simply too much for them.
The 1981 sleepaway camp slasher The Burning was a cash-in on the slasher rage of the early ’80s, but it has a special charm all of its own. Gore maestro Tom Savini turned down the chance to work on Nightmare on Elm Street 2 to do the effects on The Burning instead, and they are masterful. At the center of this summer camp horror is Brian Matthews’ Todd, a regular-guy camper who is forced to fight for his life against the horrifically burned former janitor Cropsy. Cropsy’s choice of weapon is garden shears, and they get plenty of use in The Burning. In the end, Todd saves a few of his friends and survives despite Cropsy’s best efforts, earning him a spot on the list.
Few people remember The Faculty, a 1998 sci-fi horror directed by Desperado’s Robert Rodriguez and starring just about every actor you can think of. Seriously. Elijah Wood stars as Casey, a nerdy high schooler who thinks that aliens have taken over the faculty at his school. It’s very Invasion of the Body Snatchers, but with loads more gore and a good dose of dark humor. Casey starts the movie as a dweeby boy, but by the end of the film has become a strong, worthy hero. Wood would go on to star in a number of other horror movies, but The Faculty gave him his first taste of the genre.
Sometimes, final person status is inherited. That’s the case in Halloween H20’s John, whose mother is ultimate final girl, Laurie Strode (Jamie Lee Curtis). While Laurie survived the horrors of the first Halloween, Michael Meyers returns to torment her again 20 years later. She has since become a dean at a private school under an assumed name, and her son, played by Josh Hartnett, becomes Meyers’ chief new target. Fortunately, Laurie has passed on her survivability to her son, and both manage to make it out of the movie alive, if only barely.
The only thing scarier than death, Michael Meyers or Freddy Krueger is an unhinged Rutger Hauer. Four years after portraying pondering android Roy Batty in Blade Runner, Hauer played a serial killer stalking the highways in The Hitcher. The only thing that can stop him is Jim, a young man transporting a car to San Diego whom the hitcher tries to frame for his crimes. Jim’s only ally is a truck stop waitress, and given everything he’s up against, it’s a miracle he survives. The Hitcher had a 2007 remake with Sean Bean, but nothing can quite come close to Hauer’s brutality in the original.
A Nightmare on Elm Street 2: Freddy’s Revenge is one of the most vaguely homoerotic horror films ever made. The entire premise of the film is that Freddy wants to get into a young man’s body to unleash his terror on the world. Freddy’s Revenge is the Top Gun of horror, with a much higher body count. The young man Freddy plans on inhabiting is Jesse, played by then-closeted actor Mark Patton. Jesse eventually learns to control his dreams to turn the tables on Freddy.
There’s something inherently likable about most final guys, but Hostel’s Paxton must earn his appeal. As one of a group of hedonistic dude-bros trying to misbehave in Eastern Europe, Paxton isn’t a traditional hero. When the owners of a sadistic hostel begin torturing and killing his friends one by one, however, Paxton reveals his good nature by refusing to just walk away. He has the chance to escape the untold horrors within Eli Roth’s Hostel, but he chooses to fight for the lives of his friends.
While Hostel isn’t a slasher flick in the conventional sense, it helped kickstart a new horror genre based around torture and gore. Paxton is one of the first final guys to survive in “torture porn” cinema, though Hostel 2 isn’t nearly as kind to him.
In the year 2000, Devon Sawa’s visage was plastered on the Trapper Keepers and walls of pre-teen girls around the U.S. After a starring role in the horror-comedy Idle Hands (in which he was the killer, not a victim), Sawa starred in the first Final Destination film. The series would become known for its gruesome and Rube Goldberg-esque death sequences, but at the time it was a fresh new take on horror. What if there was no killer, but rather Death itself hunting down the movie’s protagonists?
Sawa portrays Alex, a high school student who is boarding his plane for a school trip to France when he suddenly gets a premonition that the plane will explode. He flips out, and he and his friends are thrown off the plane. The plane does end up exploding, and Alex and the other survivors spend the rest of the movie trying to evade the machinations of Death. Alex makes it through Final Destination by outwitting fate, and his resourcefulness and quick-thinking make him a stand-out final guy.
Whatever Lola wants, Lola gets, and in the twisted Aussie horror The Loved Ones, young Lola wants a perfect date for the perfect dance. Lola fixates on Brent, a tortured, drug-binging senior who accidentally killed his father in a car accident on the road near Lola’s house. On prom night, Brent ends up on the road near Lola’s once more, and she pulls him into a nightmarish prom of her own.
The Loved Ones is gruesome, and Brent endures torture at Lola’s hands that would make most grown men give up hope. Despite being depressed and nearly suicidal before Lola kidnapped him, he finds an incredible will to live once he’s trapped. Brent is a true survivor, played with nuance by rising Australian star Xavier Samuel. The film’s twist cements Brent’s place as one of the great final guys of horror, and one who endured some of the nastiest punishment on this list.
One of the greatest final guys in all of horror, Ashley “Ash” Williams is the boomstick-wielding, chainsaw-handed hero of Sam Raimi’s Evil Dead franchise. While Ashley is more traditionally a girl’s name, Bruce Campbell’s Ash is a real man’s-man, at least by the second film in the franchise. In the first movie, 1981’s The Evil Dead, Ash initially doesn’t know how to respond to the demonic invasion that ruins his scenic cabin vacation. By the end of the film, however, all his friends are dead and only Ash is left standing to save the world from the Kandarian demons summoned through the Book of the Dead.
Ash won’t win any nice-guy awards, but he was voted by Empire as the greatest horror movie character ever in 2013. Over the years, he’s battled demons, evil versions of himself, and even horror titans Freddy Krueger and Jason Voorhees. If there’s one final guy titan, it’s Ash. Hail to the king, baby.