30 Photos of the Most Famous Women in Horror Movies
If you love horror movies, you’re not alone. From the suspenseful to the utterly gruesome, there are certain horror films that have become totally iconic to moviegoers everywhere. And when it comes to the best ones, the cast typically becomes just as infamous as the creepy storyline.
There are plenty of terrifically terrifying men in horror, but there are equally as many women who have left their mark on the genre. Here are the most famous scream queens we all know and love.
1. Carolyn Jones
Famous year: 1953
Famous movie: House of Wax
Before the 2005 remake of House of Wax starring a less-than-stellar cast, there was the 1953 version that truly scared audiences. The story revolves around a wax sculptor who’s sculptures aren’t just made from wax — they’re made from real people.
Carolyn Jones played Cathy Gray in the film, which helped set the stage for other spooky roles later on. You probably know Jones best for her role as Morticia in the ’60s Addams Family series, and she was also in the ’50s cult classic, Invasion of the Body Snatchers.
Next: This infamous ’60s shower scene is one of the most famous in horror history.
2. Janet Leigh
Famous year: 1960
Famous movie: Psycho
Psycho may be one of the most iconic horror movies of all time. And even those who haven’t seen the film are familiar with one scene in particular that features a knife and a woman in the shower. Janet Leigh screaming in her bathroom as her character, Marion Crane, was stabbed to death will forever remain in horror-lovers’ hearts.
Psycho defined Leigh’s career, but she was in plenty of films after that. And you’re probably familiar with her very famous daughter, Jamie Lee Curtis.
Next: Another scream queen from a Hitchcock film
3. Tippi Hedren
Famous year: 1963
Famous movie: The Birds
Hitchcock’s The Birds made audiences fearful of an animal they see every day, which is no easy feat. The movie was Tippi Hedren’s debut as socialite Melanie Daniels, and the iconic role landed her in Marnie the year after.
Unfortunately, Hedren came forward years later and exposed Hitchcock’s predatory nature during her formative years. Variety explains she said he threatened her career when she refused his sexual advances. But her legacy as Melanie Daniels is forever cemented in horror-lovers’ minds.
Next: This psychological horror film was made even better from its female lead.
4. Mia Farrow
Famous year: 1968
Famous movie: Rosemary’s Baby
It may have been made in the ’60s, but Rosemary’s Baby continues to scare modern audiences with its satanic and cult themes. In the film, Mia Farrow’s pregnant character, Rosemary, suspects a cult wants to take her baby after its born. Later, it’s revealed that her baby is actually the son of the devil.
Mental Floss explains Farrow was never the director’s first choice to play Rosemary, as she didn’t have the right all-American look. But after the auditions, she was clearly the right choice. And we can’t imagine anyone else playing the role.
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5. Linda Blair
Famous year: 1973
Famous movie: The Exorcist
When it comes to infamous horror films, every moviegoer alive knows something about The Exorcist. The movie features a 13-year-old Linda Blair as Regan who happens to be possessed by the devil. While the special effects were certainly good at the time, it was Blair’s powerful performance as the head-turning possessed little girl that audiences are still talking about. Today, Blair is still best known for her iconic performance, as The Exorcist is considered one of the best horror movies ever to be created.
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6. Marilyn Burns
Famous year: 1974
Famous movie: The Texas Chain Saw Massacre
Marilyn Burns had played small roles through the early ’70s, but it was her role in the independent film, The Texas Chain Saw Massacre, that cemented her legacy as an iconic scream queen forever. Burns played Sally Hardesty, the young heroine of the story who encounters a cannibal family (and, of course, Leatherface) while traveling with her brother and friends.
Most of the films characters don’t get out alive — but Sally Hardesty does. She then faces Leatherface once again in the sequel 20 years later. And today, her character is known as one of the first “final girls” in horror, which is a trope that refers to the last woman standing left to face off against the evil in the film.
Next: Movies about high school were never the same after this performance.
7. Sissy Spacek
Famous year: 1976
Famous movie: Carrie
There are plenty of Stephen King adaptations from the ’70s to today that could be discussed, but when it comes to powerful performances, no one could forget Sissy Spacek as Carrie White. In Carrie, Spacek’s character is bullied by her classmates and abused by her overtly-religious mother until she finally snaps on prom night.
The story is classic, but it’s Spacek who brings the thin, awkward, and terrifying portrayal of Carrie to life. Spacek continues to act today — and you can see her in another Stephen King-inspired series, Castle Rock, in 2018.
Next: She may be even more famous than her scream queen mother.
8. Jamie Lee Curtis
Famous year: 1978
Famous movie: Halloween
When it comes to horror movies we all know and love, Halloween is typically top of mind. The film features the story of Michael Meyers, a killer on the loose who was first committed for the murder of his older sister. Jamie Lee Curtis played Laurie Strode in the first Halloween movie and also made appearances in a few of the sequels. Curtis has also returned as Laurie Strode in the 2018 Halloween, which excited fans of the original that came out nearly 40 years ago.
It seems being a prominent horror movie figure runs in the family, too. Let’s not forget that her mother was Janet Leigh from Psycho.
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9. Sigourney Weaver
Famous year: 1979
Famous movie: Alien
If you weren’t scared of space before seeing Alien, you were certainly wary of it after this classic Ridley Scott film. And one of the reasons this movie is so well-known is because of its cast. Sigourney Weaver plays Ellen Ripley, a tough warrant officer aboard a spaceship who soon finds herself in a leadership position when it comes to taking down the alien beasts that have invaded.
IndieWire notes the original script dictated that the character would be a male, but thanks to Scott’s direction, Weaver was offered the role. Today, Ellen Ripley is still known as one of the strongest female characters in horror.
Next: This actress committed to the role, but it took a toll on her psyche.
10. Shelley Duvall
Famous year: 1980
Famous movie: The Shining
Her wide-eyed looks of horror throughout The Shining showcased Shelley Duvall’s amazing talent — and it also helped the film become one of the greatest Stephen King adaptations ever. Duvall played the wife of Jack Torrence, a writer who agreed to take care of the Overlook Hotel and slowly descends into utter insanity.
Unfortunately, it seems Stanley Kubrick’s infamous film may have taken a serious toll on the young actress. Rolling Stone reports Duvall called the role “unbearable” when it came to the emotions and physical energy she had to put into the role. And more recent interviews show Duvall’s mental state has further deteriorated over the years.
Next: This actress was incredible as a famous horror villain’s mother.
11. Betsy Palmer
Famous year: 1980
Famous movie: Friday the 13th
The ’80s were a great decade for horror slasher flicks, and Friday the 13th certainly didn’t disappoint. Jason Voorhees, the main villain in the franchise, is best known for murdering kids at Camp Crystal Lake after drowning there as a kid due to negligence of the staff. In the films, he takes his revenge — as does his mother, Pamela Voorhees.
Betsy Palmer plays the iconic role of Jason’s angry, vengeful mother in the original film. Her killing sprees are just as scary as Jason’s.
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12. Felissa Rose
Famous year: 1983
Famous movie: Sleepaway Camp
This ’80s film isn’t as famous as other slashers at the time, but it does have one of the most famous plot twists in horror history. Felissa Rose’s awkward and androgynous portrayal of young summer camper Angela Baker is perfect. And it’s later revealed that Angela is actually her brother, Peter. It was thought that Peter died in an accident and Angela survived, but in reality, the opposite was true. Her guardian then groomed Peter to grow up as the actually-deceased Angela because she wanted a little girl rather than a little boy.
Rose made her film debut in this film and went on to star in plenty of other horror flicks thanks to her frightening performance.
Next: This famous ’80s horror franchise features another strong female lead.
13. Heather Langenkamp
Famous year: 1984
Famous movie: A Nightmare on Elm Street
Everyone loved Heather Langenkamp in Nightmare on Elm Street, as she played the beloved and innocent Nancy Thompson. The film chronicles the antics of Freddy Krueger, the horrifying monster who kills people in their dreams. And Langenkamp goes from scared teen to heroine in a short amount of time as her friends are picked off one by one.
In more recent years, Langenkamp created a documentary about life as the famous heroine, Vice reports. She explains that Nancy’s “rite of passage” in the film “was taking control of her nightmares and assuming the role of the parent — which is visualized by that gray streak in her hair that she wakes up with. She was a very modern character.”
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14. Ashley Laurence
Famous year: 1987
Famous movie: Hellraiser
Clive Barker’s bizarre film, Hellraiser, was different than anything horror films had seen at the time — and that’s exactly why it worked. The film centers around Frank, a man who somehow opened the portal hell and is then partially resurrected back into the present when his brother, Larry, and his family move in to Frank’s old home. Ashley Laurence plays Larry’s daughter and faces off against the demons from hell itself.
It’s an abstract concept, but thanks to the strong female role of Kirsty Cotton (played by Laurence), fans got a strong heroine in the original film and in the sequels.
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15. Catherine Hicks
Famous year: 1988
Famous movie: Child’s Play
Who knew a children’s toy could be so terrifying? In Child’s Play, we’re introduced to Chucky, a doll that’s possessed by the soul of a murderous madman. Catherine Hicks’ character, Karen Barclay, brings Chucky home to her son as a gift, though she spends most of the movie fighting the evil doll and saving her son from Chucky’s clutches.
In regards to the role, Hicks told Roger Ebert that she “liked the woman” after reading the script. ” … [S]he’s not doing that well; she works at a department store; she’s got a little boy to raise, and when bad things happen, she rises to the occasion. She becomes heroic, fighting for her family.”
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16. Kathy Bates
Famous year: 1990
Famous movie: Misery
Stephen King’s novel, Misery, is much more gruesome than the movie — though no one will ever forget when Kathy Bates’ character bludgeons James Caan’s character and breaks his legs in the film adaptation. In case you’re unfamiliar with the story, Kathy Bates plays Annie Wilkes, an obsessive nurse who “rescues” novelist Paul Sheldon after a car accident. It turns out Annie is obsessed with Paul’s stories, and she refuses to let him go.
Bates plays crazed Annie perfectly, as she goes from pleasant one minute to threatening the next. Yahoo reports she had a particularly tough time filming the hobbling scene because how anti-violence she was in real life, but she could have fooled us.
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17. Neve Campbell
Famous year: 1996
Famous movie: Scream
There are plenty of great slasher flicks to choose from, but Wes Craven’s Scream had enough twists and turns to make it a fan favorite. The film centered around a knife-wielding killer who took to murdering high schoolers. Sidney Prescott, played by Neve Campbell, is the heroine of the story, as she ultimately realizes it’s her boyfriend and friend who are the killers.
The film managed to not take itself too seriously while still delivering genuine scares, and Campbell’s sympathetic portrayal of Sidney Prescott is certainly one we’ll remember for years to come.
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18. Drew Barrymore
Famous year: 1996
Famous movie: Scream
The only woman more famous in Scream than Neve Campbell was, of course Drew Barrymore. Barrymore appears in the very first scene of the film — and after being chased by the killer, she’s stabbed to death before the story even unfolds. Killing off a famous face within the first five minutes was unheard of at the time, and it totally shocked and delighted horror fans who never saw it coming.
Let’s not forget how great Barrymore’s performance was here, too. She cemented herself as a horror icon thanks to her small role.
Next: She’s blowing up the big screen in 2018, but let’s not forget where she started.
19. Toni Collette
Famous year: 1999
Famous movie: The Sixth Sense
She’s become somewhat of a horror veteran over the years, and her role as Lynn Sear earned her a Best Actress nomination in 2000. The Sixth Sense follows Cole Sear, a young boy who can see ghosts, and his relationship with his child psychologist Malcolm Crowe. While the performances all-around in this supernatural story are spectacular, Toni Collette brings Lynn to life as a worried and skeptical mother.
Want to see Collette in another stunning horror performance? Hereditary features her as a mother on the brink of insanity.
Next: This franchise about the undead features a seriously strong heroine.
20. Milla Jovovich
Famous year: 2002
Famous movie: Resident Evil
This movie franchise based off of a popular video game has come a long way since its original 2002 release. And Milla Jovovich played Alice for 15 years, the no-nonsense action hero who fights off the undead.
In regards to playing a strong female lead, Variety reports it was tough for Jovovich to find the powerful roles she was looking for in the beginning of her career. “Now it’s so normal for women to be in action films but for me, Sigourney Weaver was pretty much the only female action hero of the 1980s,” she said. Today, however, things are changing for women — and Jovovich couldn’t be more excited.
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21. Charlize Theron
Famous year: 2003
Famous movie: Monster
Charlize Theron isn’t scared to get her hands dirty when it comes to taking on a role. And when it came to Monster in 2003, Theron totally transformed herself into Aileen Wuornos, a prostitute-turned-serial killer who falls in love with Selby Wall, a young woman played by Christina Ricci. The film plays out like a crime drama more so than a horror film, but Theron’s portrayal and commitment to the role is scary enough to rival the best scream queens out there.
Want to see Theron in other scary roles? Prometheus and The Devil’s Advocate are worth taking a look at.
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22. Sheri Moon Zombie
Famous year: 2003
Famous movie: House of 1000 Corpses
Rob Zombie has made some pretty terrifying (and gruesome) horror flicks over the years, and House of 1000 Corpses was one of them. The film has a simple slasher premise: Two couples find themselves at Firefly family’s home. The Firefly’s gleefully torture and mutilate those who come into their path.
Zombie’s movies are very polarizing with horror audiences, but those who love his films really appreciate Sheri Moon Zombie’s performance as Baby Firefly. Her deranged laughter and games she plays with her victims are absolutely terrifying.
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23. Shawnee Smith
Famous year: 2004
Famous movie: Saw
The Saw franchise is one horror fans are certainly familiar with — and when it comes to interesting female characters, Shawnee Smith plays one perfectly. The series started off with the premise of a killer who doesn’t actually kill his victims. Instead, Jigsaw takes those are ungrateful for their lives through a series of brutal tests. If they live, they ideally have a greater appreciation for life.
Smith plays Amanda, a woman who completed one of Jigsaw’s games and aimed to continue his horrifying legacy. Her ability to go from sympathetic victim to eventual villain was spot-on.
Next: This woman played one seriously creepy character.
24. Takako Fuji
Famous year: 2004
Famous movie: The Grudge
Horror fans are quite familiar with The Grudge, a Japanese remake of the popular hit Ju-on. The story’s about an American family who’ve moved to Japan — but their home is haunted by the powerful supernatural spirit. Takako Fuji plays the ghost, Kayako, perfectly. And fans loved The Grudge so much that she’s since played the same character at least six times.
Why do fans love the character of Kayako and the story of the film so much? “People’s feelings are into it. I think that’s something new to America. I think that’s maybe what makes it scary,” Fuji told IGN.
Next: This female-led horror movie has an ultra-talented cast.
25. Shauna Macdonald
Famous year: 2005
Famous movie: The Descent
Horror movies with an all-female cast aren’t super common, and that’s what made The Descent a serious hit. Shauna Macdonald plays Sarah, a woman dealing with the death of her husband and child who, one weekend, decides to go spelunking with old friends. Unfortunately, the women find they’re not alone in the caves. And Sarah has to fight to the death to get out alive.
“The girls were allowed to be physically strong, which I really like,” Macdonald told Dazed. “I hate seeing pathetic women running away from scary men with knives. I just think that’s wrong for so many reasons.”
Next: This young actress has made a name for herself in a few horror movies now.
26. Chloe Grace Moretz
Famous year: 2010
Famous movie: Let Me In
It’s always exciting to see young, talented actresses take center stage. And Chloe Grace Moretz is excellent as a young vampire in Let Me In. In this scary coming-of-age tale, she makes friends with a fellow 12-year-old boy (whom she ends up saving in the end).
Considering this film was a remake of the indie hit Let the Right One In, horror fans wondered if Moretz would do the source material justice. It seems she has — and when she appeared in the remake of Carrie three years later, fans were excited to see what she could do.
Next: We loved this scream queen when she first came on to the horror scene in 2013.
27. Jane Levy
Famous year: 2013
Famous movie: Evil Dead
The Evil Dead is one of the most iconic horror films of the ’80s — and fans were excited when they heard they were getting a remake in 2013. Jane Levy plays Mia, a young drug addict who brings her friends to a remote cabin in the woods to help her kick the habit. A hidden, flesh-possessing monster is unleashed, however, wreaking havoc on Mia and her friends.
Levy’s portrayal of the iconic character is spot-on, and fans were happy to see her in Don’t Breathe and Hulu’s Castle Rock years later.
Next: This series is ultra successful thanks to its fantastic cast and female lead.
28. Vera Farmiga
Famous year: 2013
Famous movie: The Conjuring
Horror fans were itching for a great new series of films in recent years, and The Conjuring did not disappoint. Vera Farmiga plays demonologist Lorraine Warren who’s called to an old farmhouse due to supernatural happenings. The character of Lorraine Warren is inspired by the real-life tales of the paranormal investigator with the same name.
Farmiga plays a strong woman in the series not easily spooked by the horrifying events that take place — and that’s what fans love about her. We hope to continue seeing her in the series for years to come.
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29. Anya Taylor-Joy
Famous year: 2015
Famous movie: The Witch
The Witch was the sleepy 2015 hit no one expected — and it completely relied on impressive acting chops to bring the story to life. It’s a simple tale of a New England family in the 1630s who believe witchery is among them. In the end, Anya Taylor-Joy’s character, Thomasin, is blamed for the horrors that occur to the family — and she proves them right by joining a clan of witches in the final act.
Taylor-Joy brings innocence, curiosity, and creepiness to Thomasin’s character, making the story totally believable. In terms of why she loves working in horror, she told CinemaBlend, “I have way too many feelings, and it’s really nice to go somewhere, scream, break stuff, run around, cry.”
Next: We’re excited to see what else this teen is going to do in the future.
30. Sophia Lillis
Famous year: 2017
Famous movie: It
Stephen King fans loved everything about the It remake, including the remarkable acting by the kids. The story centers around the shape-shifting clown, Pennywise, and the evil he brings to Derry, Maine, every 27 years. And Sophia Lillis, who was just 15 at the time, plays the only female member of the young friend group who attempt to destroy Pennywise.
“I was definitely drawn to her as a strong character. I could see she had a not-good childhood and because of that, she kind of locks everyone out,” Lillis told Variety. We’re sure this isn’t Lillis’ last go-round with horror, so we can’t wait to see what this budding superstar does in the future.
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