Powerful Performances From Horror Films' Female Leads

Witches and demons and cults, oh my!

In recent years, representation for women in horror movies has been better than ever. Moving on from two dimensional eye candy characters and the stereotypical “final girl” trope, there are now more nuanced roles for this generation’s best actresses.

The horror genre still has so much to explore and offer, allowing these fantastic actresses to unleash their talent. These female leads in the following films are quickly becoming fan favorites, partly thanks to the powerful performances behind them.

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Anya Taylor-Joy in The Witch

Released in 2015, The Witch marks Anya Taylor-Joy’s film debut. The story takes place in 1630s New England and focuses on an English settler family. Banished after a dispute with their community, the family must now live on the outskirts of the woods.

Anya Taylor-Joy in The Witch
Image via Instagram @thewitchmovie

Taylor-Joy’s character, Thomasin, begins to suspect that an evil force is playing with her family. The slow-burn horror follows bizarre incidents, like the sudden disappearance of her baby sibling (as seen in the trailer). Watch as Thomasin wrestles with the religious traditions she grew up with and the Satanic forces that lurk deep in the forest.

Florence Pugh in Midsommar

Ari Aster’s Midsommar was a smash hit in 2019, featuring one of Florence Pugh’s breakthrough roles. In the film, Pugh plays a deeply traumatized Dani Ardor who reluctantly joins her boyfriend and his friends on a trip to Sweden.

Florence Pugh in Midsommar
Image via Instagram @midsommarmovie

Finding themselves in the clutches of a pagan cult, each character is put through the wringer all while Pugh delivers an award-worthy performance. “Pugh is amazingly vivid. Her face is so wide and open that she seems to have nowhere to hide her emotions. Everything about her is insistent,” film critic David Edelstein wrote.

Mia Goth in Pearl

British actress Mia Goth has the potential to become the new face of modern horror films. With several titles under her belt, she’s a certified scream queen with her memorable and raw performances. In Pearl, the sequel to X, Goth reprises her role as the title character, exploring her origins as a young farm girl.

Mia Goth in Pearl
Image via A24 Films’ official website

Pearl dreams of becoming a star and grows obsessed, stopping at nothing to get rid of those who stand in her way. The horrific turn of events takes a toll on Pearl’s mental state, which Goth delivers with a performance for the ages. Receiving unanimous praise, film critics have said that the actress deserved recognition from the Academy Awards.

Samara Weaving in Ready or Not

The black comedy horror film Ready or Not follows Samara Weaving’s character, Grace, on her wedding day. As festivities come to an end, her husband introduces her to his family’s strange traditions. Apparently bound by a demonic curse, they must play a deadly game of hide-and-seek, with Grace as the only one hiding.

Samara Weaving in Ready or Not
Image via Instagram @readyornotfilm

While her new extended family chases her around the lavish mansion and its surroundings, Weaving’s character is determined to get through the night alive, even if it means fighting off her in-laws. Ready or Not was the Australian actress’ first lead role in a theatrical American film and her performance established her as a scream queen.

The cast of Bodies Bodies Bodies

Bodies Bodies Bodies features praise-worthy performances from its young actresses. The comedy horror film stars Amandla Stenberg, Maria Bakalova, Myha’la Herrold, Chase Sui Wonders, and Rachel Sennott. The ensemble cast plays a group of rich friends stuck in a remote mansion during a “hurricane party.”

The cast of Bodies Bodies Bodies
Image via Instagram @bodiesbodiesbodies

When a party game goes awry, paranoia, backstabbing, and a series of unfortunate events fill the long night. Critics have praised the film’s cast, with one saying “Each actor [has] their own style that brings a varied flavor to the film, which makes the cast … a joy to watch, even if their characters are insufferable.”

Banner image via Instagram @anyataylorjoy.

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