For a better experience on MUBI, update your browser.

Scream Queens!

by Tom JF
Almost by accident rather than design, the horror movie has always been relatively progressive in its portrayal of women. The genre’s misogynistic desire to heap torment upon nubile young women (usually at the hands of a demented male’s sexual anxiety) often sees them rise to occasion, turning the tables and finding empowerment amongst the lashings of blood. This is a list dedicated to my favourite horror movie actresses – the iconic, those that survived and the ones that heaped out some torment of their own. 1930s It was Fay Wray’s beauty that killed the beast in 1933s King Kong Gloria Holden – Dracula’s Daughter (1936) Zita Johann – The… Read more

Almost by accident rather than design, the horror movie has always been relatively progressive in its portrayal of women. The genre’s misogynistic desire to heap torment upon nubile young women (usually at the hands of a demented male’s sexual anxiety) often sees them rise to occasion, turning the tables and finding empowerment amongst the lashings of blood.

This is a list dedicated to my favourite horror movie actresses – the iconic, those that survived and the ones that heaped out some torment of their own.

1930s

It was Fay Wray’s beauty that killed the beast in 1933s King Kong

Gloria Holden – Dracula’s Daughter (1936)
Zita Johann – The Mummy (1932)
Elsa Lanchester – The Bride of Frankenstein (1935)
Gloria Stuart – The Old Dark House (1932), The Invisible Man (1933)
Fay Wray – King Kong (1933), Mystery of the Wax Museum (1933)

1940s

Simone Simon in Val Lewton’s groundbreaking portrayal of repression and madness Cat People (1942)

Jean Brooks – The Leopard Man (1943), The Seventh Victim (1943)
Simone Simon – Cat People (1942), The Curse of the Cat People (1944)
Maria Ouspenskaya – The Wolf Man (1940), Frankenstein Meets the Wolf Man (1943)

1950s

Julie Adams shows why it was never safe to go back into the water in The Creature from the Black Lagoon (1954)

Julie Adams – The Creature from the Black Lagoon (1954)
Momoko Kochi – Gojira (1954), Half-Beast-Half-Man Snowman (1955)
Carol Ohmart – House of Haunted Hill (1959), Spider Baby (60)
Margaret Sheridan – The Thing from Another World (1951)
Isuzu Yamada – Throne of Blood (1957)

1960s

Edith Scob’s blank face becomes the unwitting catalyst for Murder in 1960s Eyes Without a Face

Jill Banner – Spider Baby (1968)
Janet Leigh – Psycho (1960)
Edith Scob – Eyes Without a Face (1960)
Barbara Shelley – Village of the Damned (1960), Dracula Prince of Darkness (1966)
Barbara Steele – Black Sunday (1960), The Pit and the Pendulum (1961)

1970s

Jamie Leigh Curtis in Halloween (1978), the role that turned her into a stalk-and-slash heroine in the late 70s/early 80s

Marilyn Burns – The Texas Chain Saw Massacre (1974), Eaten Alive (1977)
Susan George – Straw Dogs (1971), Fright (1971)
Jessica Harper – Suspiria (1977)
Jamie Leigh Curtis – Halloween (1978), The Fog (1980)
Ingrid Pitt – The Vampire Lovers (1970), The Wicker Man (1973)

1980s

Isablle Adjani in Possession (1981). Anyone who starred in Ishtar knows a thing or two about horror

Isabelle Adjani – Nosferatu the Vampyr (1979), Possession (1981)
Adrienne Barbeau – The Fog (1980), Creepshow (1982)
Lori Cardille – Day of the Dead (1985)
Linnea Quigley – Return of the Living Dead (1985), A Nightmare on Elm Street 4 – The Dream Master (1988)
Dee Wallace Stone – The Howling (1981), Cujo (1983)

1990s

Eihi Shiina became the poster girl for Japanese horror in Takashi Miike’s Audition (1999)

Asia Argento – Trauma (1993), The Stendhal Syndrome (1996)
Kathy Bates – Misery (1990)
Neve Campbell – The Craft (1996), Scream (1996)
Julie Carmen – Fright Night Part 2 (1989), In the Mouth of Madness (1994)
Wendy Robie – The People Under the Stairs (1991), The Dentist 2 (1998)

2000s

Amber Heard takes the scream queen in the 21st century in John Carpenter’s underrated The Ward (2010)

Amber Heard – All the Boys Love Mandy Lane (2006), The Ward (2010)
Katharine Isabelle – Ginger Snaps (2000), Freddy vs Jason (2003)
Tiffany Shepis – The Hazing (2004), Bonnie & Clyde vs Dracula (2008)
Eihi Shiina – Audition (1999), Tokyo Gore Police (2008)
Mary Elizabeth Winstead – Final Destination 3 (2006), Deaht Proof (2007)

Read less