February is Women of Horror month! These ladies screamed their way into our hearts on the big and little screens and charmed us by their performance that stood the test of time (or will). Many people have their opinions on the best and memorable women of horror, well this is my list and my opinion, I hope you agree for my reasons so without further ado, here’s my list of the 25 best women of horror in no particular order!
She has earned the title of ‘Queen of Sci-fi’ due to most of her outstanding performances can be seen in many sci-fi movies but she’s also started in many legendary horror movies. She’s best known for her character Ellen Ripley in the Alien franchise. She’s also known for her role a Bill Murray’s squeeze in the Ghostbusters films. She’s on the list because even though she’s a woman in a horror movie, she takes charge of situations and kicking some major alien ass (presuming that aliens have them)
Before becoming well known and earning better parts in movies, Elsa just got bit parts and was not even a 3rd banana. That all changed when she had the title role that launched her career and made her a legend in the Universal monster world, The Bride of Frankenstein where she not only played Mary Shelly in the beginning but the infamous reanimated bride with her iconic eraser-head hair with a white stripe running up the side along with wearing body wrappings that made a dress giving the character a glamorous look that can be copied by fans young and old alike.
Her real name was Charlotte Lucie Marie Adèle Stephanie Adrienne Faës, but I’ll call her by her stage name instead. You may not be familiar with this French actress but she was the first actress to star in a horror movie ever! She appeared in the first horror movie called Le Manoir du diable (The house of the Devil) in 1896. The movie is only 3 minutes long and is also considered to be the first vampire film as well, speaking of vampires…
Greta, a German film actress who’s not known to many due to the fact that her movie carrier was big in the 1920’s in Germany, even there she was not well known. What is she known for? Being the first victim of a vampire in the famous silent movie masterpiece, Nosferatu, this was not the only horror film she was involved in, she wrote the script for the 1916 film Das Phantom der Oper (The Phantom of the Opera).
Mary Elizabeth Winstead
The doe-eyed actress first made her horror appearance on the TV series Wolf Lake in 2001 before appearing on the horror stage in The Ring Two and making her appearance known in Final Destination 3 where afterwards she’s made appearances in notable films but when it came to horror films, she may look sweet and gentle but when she wants to survive, get out of her way!
She hacked and slashed her way into our hearts as the machete-wielding apocalyptic badass girlfriend anyone would want in 28 Days Later. The English actress since then appeared in many dramatic roles and is the current Moneypenny in the James Bond films and will be appearing in the upcoming film Rampage. She may not have been in many horror films but her role in 28 Days Later will always be my favorite!
You may not know Takako by name but you know this Japanese actress when you see her crawling on the floor as Kayako Sakei in The Grudge. She played the role of Kayako for a total of 6 times, her last appearance as the character was in The Grudge 2 in 2006. Takako is still around but doing voice acting, mainly doing Japanese dubbing of movies and tv shows, for example, she voiced over the character Rose (Kate Winslet) in the Titanic.
Maila started the whole “television horror host” genre on TV as her alter ego, Vampira. Her biggest fan who subsequently launched her into fame was James Dean who even appeared on her show once. She appeared in many of Ed Wood’s films (notably Planet 9 from Outer Space). If you don’t know who Vampira is, you most likely have seen pictures of her. Her distinctive sultry vampire looks copied by goths and alternative models such as suicide girls. Vampira is no longer just a character but a lifestyle.
It’s not a Women of Horror list without Janet Leigh and her iconic role as Marion Crane in Alfred Hitchcock’s Psycho. The iconic shower scene where she screamed her way into film history. She appeared in two more iconic horror films towards the end of her life, The Fog and Halloween H20: 20 years later acting alongside her daughter who’s the next horror queen on the list…
Jamie Lee Curtis
Considered being the “scream queen”, Jamie is known best for her recurring roles in the Halloween movies playing the serial killer Michael Myer’s little sister. She appeared in other slasher films at the beginning of her acting career in the late 70’s and early 80’s acouple of wich she acted alongside her mother (see above) and will soon return to face Michal Myers for the 6th time in another installment of Halloween.
Judith is known more for her role as Barbra in the zombie classic Night of the Living Dead, a low budget film that became a cult classic and the launch pad for future zombie films. Judith since then has appeared mainly in a few more low budget indie-horror films and even returned in 2017 reprising her role as Barbra in Night of the Living Dead: Genesis!
Yvonne De Carlo
The Canadian-American actress made waves in Hollywood since 1941 playing mostly uncredited roles till 1945 she landed the main lead in Salome, Where She Danced and became more known on screen before making her mark in Hollywood as Sephora in The 10 Commandments but she’s more known to many as the vampire mother we all wanted as a neighbor, Lilly Munster from the TV show The Munsters.
Susan’s best known today for her role in The Wasp Woman. The 1959 b-movie monster flick was her last appearance on the big screen. Her personal life was an emotional roller coaster eventually leading to her diagnosis of severe depression that led to hoarding in her later life and possibly led to her tragic death in 1989 at the hands of her only son.
Mercedes’ career started off in radio in the 1930’s till she began acting on screen in 1949 appearing mostly in westerns. In 1973, it was her voice that became iconic as the demon Pazuzu in The Exorcist, to get the sounds of the demon struggling during the exorcism, Mercedes was tied to a chair, and at this point also she gave up sobriety knowing that drinking alcohol would alter her voice along with chain smoking. Her performance in the sound booth terrified director William Friedkin.
Carolyn appeared in the 1953 hammer horror film House of Wax that was turned into that retched remake in 2005. She may not have been known for that classic rather she’s more famous for her role as the ghoulish wife and mother Morticia in the 60’s TV series The Addams Family. After the series ended in 1966 after 64 episodes, Carolyn’s career dwindled but she will always be everyone’s “cara mia”
She’s best known for her iconic role as Tangina, the medium who tries to help the Freeling family with their ghost problem. With her distinct voice she eventually did voiceover work for cartoons and appeared in many films but her performance and iconic voice will always remind people to not “go into the light!”
Spacek appeared on many tv shows and films, but she will always be remembered for getting covered in blood and killing her classmates in Carrie, the movie based on the book by Stephen King. The blood-soaked prom queen even got her own Funko POP and that famous scene has been parodied so many times we know the real scene by heart.
Starting her acting career in the early 1950’s, Betsy acted in a handful of films as well as appear quite often on TV but she’s most known for being the legendary vengeful mother (and the voice in his head) of Jason Vorhees in Friday The 13th, even though she appeared only twice in the film series, Betsy is forever the mother of one of the most beloved and feared slasher characters we’ve become accustomed to seeing.
Not much can be said about this Japanese actress, she only has three movies to her name and two of them changed the way western filmmakers make horror movies. Rie played the terrifying manifestation of Sadako from Ringu (Ring) she returned to play the same role in the sequel and after that, she made a thriller movie and sadly has not been in any other movies since.
Cassandra has been in many films and surprisingly not many know who she is if you tell them her name but when you tell them the name of her famous persona, Elvira Mistress of the Dark, then they know. Like Vampira, she’s a horror movie hostess but what set her apart regardless of her vampiric sex appeal appearance she was witty and comedic and talked with a “valley girl” voice when she could act moody, sultry, and mysterious given what she does but she doesn’t, making her a tough act to follow.
From 1968 to present, Linda has been acting and appearing on all sorts of TV shows but what she’s most remembered for is her iconic role of playing poor 12-year-old Regan in The Exorcist. Even though it was not really her crab walking down those stairs, many people remember that scene. Her performance earned her a Golden Globe for best-supporting actress, it was well earned because it’s said that while filming the exorcism scene and she would shout out a bunch of profanities it disturbed Max Von Sydow (Father Merrin) to the point he forgot his lines.
The model and actress had a promising career in acting till that fateful night in 1969 when she and others were massacred by members of the Manson Family cult. Sharon appeared in a couple timeless films that weren’t horror but the first film I saw of hers was The Fearless Vampire Killers, like vampires Sharon will be forever beautiful.
The Iranian-Swedish actress to date only appeared in three films and her first one was the one that put her on this list. She played the androgynous vampire child Eli in Let the Right One In. Even though her spoken dialogue in the film was dubbed over by an adult actor, her performance was beyond that of a kid. She filmed many of her scenes in -22F temperatures in a nightgown and never complained!
Bonnie started her film career in 1994 and played either background or bit parts till in 2016 she terrified audience members with her appearance as the demon nun Valak from The Conjuring 2. She played the part again in Annabelle: Creation and the spinoff film The Nun. Hidden under makeup that gives the demon nun a terrifying look is an actress with a striking beauty who’s not afraid to scare people!
From 1920 to 1945, Madge’s breakout role was in Lorna Doone in 1922 where critics seemed to focus on her looks forcing her to decline more demanding roles in Hollywood and go for light comedy films that would allow her to dress the flapper style and showcase her looks. She’s on this list because she appeared in the first zombie movie made in Hollywood, White Zombie where her character is turned into a zombie, making her the first zombie in cinema.