Women in horror are special to me. Between being stripped of bodily autonomy to being seen as nothing more than an object for male pleasure, being a woman is one of the scariest things in the world. Horror has been an avenue for exploring these issues. Some films portray women as monsters, delving into the terror surrounding, or rather the terror placed upon, sexuality, motherhood, and puberty. Other films have the “Final Girl”, a complicated role where the woman often survives because she is morally superior compared to her peers.
Horror is also, like, super gay. Recent meditations on this subject, such as It Came From the Closet: Queer Reflections on Horror, Queer For Fear: The History of Queer Horror, and Autostraddle’s very own series, Horror Is So Gay, prove it. So, of course, I simply had to rank female protagonists in horror by how dyke-ish they are (or seem to be). This list contains a mix of horror classics and modern films. A few of them are TV shows worthy of consideration. The characters presented here are played by legendary scream queens, are monsters, final girls, or rebels that don’t fit neatly into any category.
40. Max Cartwright, The Final Girls
The film is, disappointingly, straight. You’d think a horror parody with many satirical elements would at least be a little gay, but nope.
39. Sarah Bailey, The Craft
Witchcraft is gay. The Craft itself feels like a queer movie. But even after kissing her gal pal in order to perform a ritual, Sarah’s still, unfortunately, very straight.
38. Amelia Vanek, The Babadook
Representation for homophobic straight women who eventually go on to shop Target’s Pride collection for their gay child.
37. Marion Crane, Psycho
I don’t know why, but I get the vibe that she would be one of those straight girls who love gay men but hate lesbians.
36. Sue Ann, Ma
Octavia Spencer is compelling no matter what character she plays. Even straight ones.
35. Bee, The Babysitter
Let’s just keep moving and ignore the fact that her making out with Bella Thorn’s character — playful at best and objectifying at worst — was the result of a Spin the Bottle game in front of a group of dudes.
34. Theresa “Tree” Gelbman, Happy Death Day
Tree is the name of the President at your local GSA or a popular Tumblr user. But that’s as far as queerness goes for this character.
33. Jamie “Jay” Height, It Follows
Yet another very queer name for a very not-queer character.
32. Dawn, Teeth
Not quite gay, but where’s the “supporting women’s wrongs” Twitter meme when you need it?
31. Jennifer, Sweetheart
Jenn slays a sea monster with a makeshift weapon from branches and the bones of dead people. She’s resourceful, just like a lesbian.
30. Clarice Starling, The Silence of the Lambs
Played by lesbian icon Jodie Foster, Clarice must be a little gay.
29. Sadie Blake, Rise: Blood Hunter
Mommy? Sorry. Mommy? Sorry. Mommy? Sorry.
28. Miranda Grey, Gothika
Miranda has the potential of a woman who would use their supernatural powers to open a private practice with her girlfriend, who would handle all the business operations.
27. Thomasin, The VVitch
Remember when Willow went “dark” in that one season of Buffy the Vampire Slayer? That’s Thomasin. Actually, Thomasin and Dark Willow would probably be besties, engaging in morally ambiguous behavior and chaotically queer festivities.
26. Dani, Midsommar
I firmly believe that Dani would fall in love with a sensitive, sexy butch after the ritualistic sacrifice of her piece-of-shit boyfriend.
25. Mitsuko, Tag
A solid 70% of her problems in the movie would be solved if she had a girlfriend.
24. Laurie Strode, Halloween
Laurie’s been trying to run from Michael Myers for over 40 years and still finds herself caught in the crossfire, just like lesbians who swear they’re over their ex but can’t seem to completely move on. (After the recent The L Word: Generation Q teasers, I’m specifically looking at you, Bette Porter.)
23. Madison, “Maddie” Young, Hush
Having a man in your home is definitely a horror story.
22. Sidney Prescott, Scream
I’m well aware that Sidney has only ever been with men in the films and never expressed attraction to women. But Scream writer Kevin Williamson himself has said that the character is an allegory for queer survival. Also, Neve Campbell is hot and I may or may not have had a crush on her growing up.
21. Adelaide “Addy” Wilson, Us
She’s that enigmatic, mysterious girl you matched with on Hinge and had a couple of dates with. You can’t figure out what her deal is no matter how hard you try.
20. Brigitte Fitzgerald, Ginger Snaps
In the sequel of this film, Brigitte’s doctor writes “Lesbian?” in her notes after Brigitte describes the symptoms of her lycanthropy, echoing what me and other viewers have thought all along.
19. Cordelia Foxx, American Horror Story: Coven
Between being a Stevie Nicks fan and her “friendship” with Misty Day, she’s not fooling anybody.
18. Carrie White, Carrie
When Carrie says “no” after her mother tells her to go inside the closet? Iconic. Also, many queers can relate to hating everyone in school.
17. Justine, Raw
I bet Justine eats pussy with the same vigor and buoyancy she displays when eating human flesh.
16. The Girl, A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night
Major top energy. After a successful night of terrorizing men, The Girl probably blows off steam by having endless rounds of lesbian sex.
15. Katrina, Vamp
This video does more than any words I could possibly say.
14. Buffy Summers, Buffy the Vampire Slayer
Hear me out. First, I do want to stress that, if our beloved lesbian witch Willow Rosenberg were the main character of this show, she’d be at the top of this list without a second thought. Second, I know at first glance Buffy comes across as Heterosexual™, given the show’s focus on her relationships with vampires Angel and Spike. But many show fans recognize her relationship with the slayer Faith as a complicated one with a shit-ton of queer undertones. Also, Faith’s line, “Let’s have another go at it. See who lands on top”, to Buffy has been living in my head rent-free since I was 14 years old.
Those who read the comics know that Buffy briefly enters a sexual relationship with Satsu, a fellow slayer. According to them, the first night they fucked was one of the best nights of their lives. Buffy is bisexual, and I will defend this until my very last breath.
13. Min-ah, Memento Mori
No one can be as deeply invested in a queer relationship as Min-ah is and not be queer.
12. Ellen Ripley, Alien
Full disclosure: I’ve never seen any of the alien movies. While doing research for this piece, Ellen came up in many articles. Her name is gay. She looks like many of the dykes I’ve passed by on my Lower East Side Manhattan adventures. She just screams gay.
11. Ally Mayfair-Richards, American Horror Story: Cult
The most lesbian thing about Ally isn’t that she’s a lesbian or is played by Sarah Paulson. The most lesbian thing about her is that she’s constantly crying or on the verge of tears. She also ends up being in a cult that wants to kill all men, if that’s worth anything.
10. Ramona Royale, American Horror Story: Hotel
I don’t know whether I want Ramona’s badass energy, be Ramona because she gets to have sex with Lady Gaga’s character, or be Lady Gaga’s character because she gets to have sex with Ramona.
9. Miriam Blaylock, The Hunger
Judge me all you want, but if I were to turn into a vampire, I’d want it to be done by Miriam.
8. Maddy Killian, All Cheerleaders Die
Maddy follows in Santana Lopez’s and Brittany S. Pierce’s footsteps in showing how gay cheerleading can be.
7. Lana Winters, American Horror Story: Asylum
Sarah Paulson, who has now made an appearance for the third time on this list, really is her best when playing a lesbian. Lana Winters is far from positive representation (we can’t expect much from Ryan Murphy). She ends up in a mental hospital for her sexuality and other horrific acts are done against her. Much of her trauma feels pornographic, used for adding to the “edgy and dark” tone American Horror Story delivers. But, she’s a queer person that survives.
6. Laurel, Bit
Trans characters in horror are rare and have often been villainized by the genre. But Laurel is a heroine in Bit and in control of her narrative. She’s also unapologetically lesbian, kissing and flirting with Izzy, a fellow member of an all-girl vampire gang. An important rule for the gang is that they should never turn a man into a vampire, because, historically, they can’t handle power. It’s camp, queer, fun, and refreshing.
5. Thelma, Thelma
The link between supernatural powers and sexuality is nothing new in horror. But Thelma, the film’s titular character, adds nuance to the trope with her queer identity. The more she represses who she is, as well as her feelings for another girl, the less control she has over her psychokinetic powers. Thelma’s eventual control of her abilities and realization that her powers aren’t inherently evil only happens when she comes to terms with her queerness.
4. Juliette Fairmont and Calliope “Cal” Burns, First Kill
OUR LOVE IS DEEPER THAN EDWARD’S AND BELLAAAAAAAAAAA’S!!!
IF I WERE A ZOMBIE, I’D NEVER EAT YOUR BRAAAAIIINN!
3. The Yellowjackets Soccer Team, Yellowjackets
Yellowjackets has such a strong ensemble, how could I not include the whole team? First of all, soccer is gay, so there’s that. Second, lesbianism is as rampant as whatever supernatural shit is going on in this show. Shauna and Jackie are an example of the confusing, homoerotic friendships many young queers find themselves in. Taissa and Van are your typical soft butch and power femme couple. Nat is also the spitting image of the angry dyke teen aesthetic (she absolutely listened to riot grrrl too, even though it’s not confirmed).
2. Jennifer Check and Anita “Needy” Lesnicki, Jennifer’s Body
Y’all knew this was coming. What can I say about these two that hasn’t already been said? Jennifer and Needy, from sandbox besties to high school friends with an undeniably deep connection, never come close to actually crossing the threshold of being a couple. There’s something more than friendship, even if it’s not concrete. Jennifer and Needy are devoted to each other, and one is often seen prolongedly gazing at the other. All Needy can think about is Jennifer as she loses her virginity to her boyfriend. The truest horror of the film, paired with male violence against women and girls, is existing in a heteronormative world where a young girl’s value is tied to how desirable she is to men. That is, tragically, at least partially, why Jennifer and Needy never cross that threshold.
If you haven’t already, please read this amazing essay by the Carmen Maria Machado on Jennifer’s Body, bisexuality, and the dangers of quickly branding something as “queerbaiting”.
1. Deena Johnson, The Fear Street Trilogy
Young sapphic love is at the heart of this film trilogy. Deena is a Black, queer, and sexually active girl who’s a “fuck you” to the Final Girl and Bury Your Gays trope. She, and her girlfriend Sam, make it out alive against all odds after metaphorical battles against homophobia and toxic masculinity. Their love being a powerful force above all evil may come across as a cliche, but their story proves to be groundbreaking in the horror genre as a whole.
Horror Is So Gay is a series on queer and trans horror edited by Autostraddle Managing Editor Kayla Kumari Upadhyaya running throughout October.