Elizabeth in Little Sweetheart. She starts out the movie as a normal nine year old girl. By the end of the movie, she's been threatened with a gun, shot at, shot twice, involved in a blackmail scheme that included theft and breaking and entering, watched people have sex and everyone thinks she's dead.
This is the plot of Precious. Just when you think Precious has taken a single step out of the muck, life sends her crashing down three whole flights. It gets so bad that the character's otherwise minor victory at the end emancipating herself from her mother is downright triumphant.
It seems this trope happens to a fair number of women in action movies. A textbook example is Sarah Connor from The Terminator. Consider the hapless, adorable waitress she was in the first movie and compare her to the flat-out psychologically unhinged Action Mom of part two.
Alice from Last of the Mohicans goes through a movie like this. All her scenes exist to show the gradual breakdown of her innocence, so no dialogue is needed to explain why she jumps off a cliff in the end.
The backstory to The Ring. Sadako was born to a psychic mother, and probably a sea god, her mother was run out of town after going on TV and screwing up due to all the negative psychic energy of the people in the audience. Her mother then threw herself into a volcano. Her stepfather trained to gain psychic powers by meditating under a waterfall until he got sick. Oh, and while she was visiting him at the sanatorium, she was raped. When the guy found out she had feminine testicular syndrome (i.e. she's a man with the body of a woman and a set of testicles) he beat her and dumped her into a well. To top it all of, she got smallpox.
The movie... didn't go quite so far. The entire second half of the paragraph is left out, and Sadako was thrown into the well by her stepfather, who was convinced she was evil. He was right. Most consider this Adaptation Distillation.
In the Made-for-TV Movie, Intensity, Edgler Vess takes pleasure in specifically putting all of his efforts into "breaking" any victim whom he happens to kidnap.
Forget about survival horror. Dismiss any thoughts in your head of zombies, or teamwork, or social commentary. Watching Cillian Murphy snap in 28 Days Later is so much more entertaining. It's not so much a journey from innocence to adulthood as it is getting so far, far broke that you come out the other side.
The final sequence of Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street is a Break the Cutie for Toby and Johanna. The first gradually finds out just what Sweeney does and what Mrs. Lovett does with his victims, which is a complete shock to him, especially since he looks upon Mrs. Lovett as his mother. He has to hide in the sewers as Sweeney and Mrs. Lovett come looking for him, presumably to kill him too. After he witnessed Sweeney killing Mrs. Lovett by throwing her into the oven, he kills Sweeney himself. In the stage version, he is completely driven into insanity. The other is penned up in Fogg's Asylum by Judge Turpin, and God knows what he made her do before that. In the stage version, she is forced to kill Fogg after being rescued by Anthony. Afterwards (in both versions), she witnesses the murders of her mother and her adoptive father by her own father — though, granted, she didn't realise these were her parents. Then, Sweeney almost kills her, too.
The title character is the greatest Broken Cutie of all! Back when his name was Benjamin Barker, he is a simple barber with a beautiful wife and a bouncing baby girl, happy with his life, when the nasty Judge Turpin decides he wants the pretty woman and has Barker imprisoned for 15 YEARS far away from anyone he loves on completely trumped up charges. After all this, when he arrives in London as Mr. Todd, he has been completely broken down and twisted into an extremely (justifiably) bitter psychopathic killer.
Going on the concerts on YouTube: Anthony and Joahnna are caught by the police and probably sentenced to death for killing the asylum director, or if you're an optimist the pair of jail breakers is quickly eclipsed by a (very very) multiple homicide, which is initially pinned on Toby.Everyone remotely sympathetic is broken, tenderized, ground into tiny bits and burnt to ashes.
Repo! The Genetic Opera has Shilo. Given it's directed by the guy who did most of the Saw franchise, you just know she'll be broken by the end.
To wit: she started as an Ill Girl with a vaguely-defined blood disease. While visiting her mother Marni's tomb, she runs into Grave-Robber, who proceeds to call a whole platoon of heavily armed police down on them, then drags her into a cavern filled with the rotting corpses of repossessed victims. The stress makes her illness flare up and she collapses while surrounded by said cops, as well as the nightmarish Repo Man. When she wakes up, sick and weak in her bedroom, her father tells her it was all a bad dream, then yells at her for taking risks with her health. And that's just the beginning.
To whit more: Nathan, Shilo's father, has never allowed her to leave her room because of her blood disease. After she disoebeys him and has all those adventures the last troper mentioned, her idol-slash-godmother is brutally murdered. It's revealed that not only is Nathan responsible for Marni's death, but he's been poisoning Shilo to keep her from ever growing up and leaving him, and she's not sick after all. Then he dies. She walks away, throughly broken, covered in the blood of the only two people she's ever met. Aww... can I give you a hug, Shi?
In Police Story, we get to see what happens when Jackie Chan's typical happy-go-lucky character who is nevertheless a fearsome martial artist gets pushed too far. Chan has said it's his favorite of his action films.
All of the Ludlow family in Legends of the Fall but hoooooo boy, Tristan. (Played by Brad Pitt in the film. Brad Pitt counts as a cutie, right?) Early on Col. Ludlow, the father, moves his entire family to Montana to get as far from the government as possible, sickened by what he considers constant betrayal after betrayal of Native Americans, with whom he has developed respect and close personal relationships from his time in the military. Tristan adopts everything he is able about Native American culture, even given a tribal name for cutting a claw from a grizzly bear at the age of 12. It all starts to fall apart when younger brother Samuel decides to sign up for service in WWI. Tristan and older brother Alfred also decide to sign up to keep an eye on Samuel, all against their father's wishes. Tristan has already abandoned his unit to be by the side of an injured Alfred in a WWI field hospital when he hears word that Samuel is about to embark on a certain suicide mission. Tristan rushes to try to stop him, but fails and ends up holding his brother in the middle of the battlefield while Samuel dies from injuries sustained by machine gun and mustard gas. To the absolute horror of the other soldiers, Tristan arrives back at the field camp the next morning, decorated with tribal warpaint of mud and blood and with strings of fresh German scalps hung around his neck.Things go downhill from there.
Ellen Ripley might seem an unlikely candidate, because it's easy to forget that, at the beginning of the first film, she was not the Action Girl that she later becomes famous as — she was a bit uncertain and some other characters didn't entirely accept her as second-in-command. At the end of the 1st film, the alien has killed off all her crewmates; in the 2nd film, she wakes up half a century later, and the aliens lay waste to a colony; in the 3rd, aliens have killed Newt and all her crewmates from the previous film, and she discovers she is hosting an alien herself; finally, in the 4th, she wakes up as the scientific demon spawn of an alien, and it's no wonder she gets a little unhinged.
Newt. Before the colony was taken over by aliens, she was apparently a perfectly normal first grader. After spending a few weeks fighting for her life against a ravenous, chitinous swarm of parasites, however, she is too scared to even sleep on top of her bed ( which is probably a good thing, since the movie's Corrupt Corporate Executive decides it's a good idea to unleash a few face huggers in her room to get rid of Ripley).
Parodied in the Police Academy series. Sgt. Laverne Hooks is a small, shy woman, seemingly completely unsuitable for her job as a cop, where she's supposed to act as an authority figure. The antagonists attempt to take advantage of this by driving her to a breaking point. Unfortunately, they invariably succeed, causing her to shout everyone to submission. She's always fine afterwards, though.
In the film Quills, the Abbé du Coulmier represents this trope rather well.
Lawrence of Arabia is essentially three and a half hours of this trope. The man you see at the film's end is a somber, quiet facsimile of the man we see at the start of the film after all the crap he goes through.
The Machinist. The whole film is about Christian Bale's character Trevor coming to terms with the guilt of having killed a young boy in a car accident and just driving away. The guilt causes him to lose weight massively, never leave the house, hallucinate, become paranoid and not sleep properly for a year.
Rescue Dawn has this to some degree with Steve Zahn's character. Considering the fact that he's been a captive of the Viet Cong for years, his cutie has presumably already been broken, but seeing this largely loveable character descend into madness before beingsuddenly and brutally killed is heart-wrenching. The fact that it's Based on a True Story and it happened much the same way in real life doesn't make it any less of an Audience Sucker Punch.
Despite living with her stern grandmother and having an alcoholic father, Lewellen of Hounddog still has a relatively normal life. She adores Elvis Presley and finds enjoyment in the simplest of things. Then, her father's girlfriend (who is actually her biological aunt on her mother's side), who was like a mother to Lewellen, leaves, causing Lewellen to believe she herself needs to take over the "mother" role of sorts. THEN her father is in a horrible accident, leaving him brain damaged and retarded. You must be thinking by this point that her life can't get any worse than this, right? Wrong. Finally, she's talked into dancing nude for a much older male in exchange for Elvis tickets, in which she is horribly raped by said male, leaving her so traumatized she's sick to the point of being bedridden.
Anne Frank The Whole Story: Since this movie goes into the concentration camp, unlike the black and white Anne Frank movie, this trope is played big time. Anne's breaking point is very clearly shown: Anne tries to wake up her sister Margot, only to push her off the bed and kill her by accident. Anne looks up at the sky, defeated, and allows herself to die, since she thinks everyone in her family is dead. We learn later, however, that this was not the case.
The House of Yes does this with relish. Leslie visits her fiance's family for Thanksgiving, only to be bullied by his mother and twin sister. Then his younger brother tries to sleep with her and reveals that her fiance and twin sister have been romantically involved in the past. She goes downstairs to see for herself, only to witness the brother and sister reenacting the JFK assassination before having sex on the couch. She runs back upstairs and in a moment of weakness, has sex with her fiance's younger brother. And no, she wasn't broken then. She ends up breaking when the twins sister shoots and kills her fiance.
Private Leonard Lawrence, a.k.a. Gomer Pyle, in Full Metal Jacket is put through utter hell during the first half of the movie. Overweight and mentally slow, Pyle quickly draws the wrath of the original Drill Sergeant Nasty, who reserves the worst of his abuse and invective for him. Eventually Pyle gets paired up with Joker, with whose help he starts to show some improvement. But then Hartman finds a jelly doughnut in his foot locker and decides to punish the entire platoon, resulting in the other members getting pissed and deciding to take it out on Pyle in the infamous "blanket party" scene.note A "blanket party" is a form of military hazing involving pinning the victim to his bunk with a blanket and then beating him with improvised flails (in Pyle's case, a bar of soap with a bath towel wrapped around it). Pyle is never quite the same after this incident, and though he soon develops into a model Marine and an expert rifleman, he starts undergoing a psychotic breakdown in which he withdraws from the others and talks to his M-14. The first half ends with Pyle snapping out, murdering Hartman and then committing suicide in a nightmarish scene.
Tideland is an aversion. It features 8 year old Jeliza-Rose having horrible things happen to her. The difference from the norm is that, with a few rare exceptions, she remains a happy-go-lucky (although unquestionably not quite normal) kid. This was Terry Gilliam's reason for making the movie: Children Are Innocent, no matter what.
Michael of The Godfather goes from being the one person in his family that could possibly go legit into a cold-blooded Mafioso who can lie to his wife's face and feel no remorse.
Moulin Rouge!. The movie starts out as a romance with Christian, an innocent, naive, carefree poet, moving to Paris to write about love (except he's never been in love) and falling for a beautiful courtesan at the Moulin Rouge. From there the film gets progressively darker as Christian experiences love, loss, and betrayal. After his lover, Satine, denies that she loves him in favor of another man and then dies of consumption, he is a heart-broken wreck, and the mini-epilogue shows him as a much sadder and more worldly man.
No, no, it's worse than that. She does deny that she loves him, but when he comes back for her in the finale of the bohemian play he's written for her, she reaffirms her love. The rich guy who tries to take her from Christian is defeated and humiliated. All great and wonderful... But then, as the curtains fall, she has a fatal attack of consumption. He wins everything and loses everything within a few minutes. That's how you break the cutie.
The entire Mystery Team goes through this, but most notably Jason.
The Rape and Revenge genre is built on this, with the "rape" part playing this trope to the utter hilt and setting things up nicely for the "revenge" part that makes up the rest of the work.
Hick is this for Luli from beginning to almost the end which ends, if not a high note at least a hopeful one.
In Atonement Robbie Turner has the best evening of his life: He confessed his feelings to the woman he loves, she reciprocrates them, they have passionate sex in a library and when he finds the boys safe that were searched by a whole party, he feels like the hero of the day. So why's everyone looking so serious?.
In Star Trek Into Darkness Carol Marcus finds out her father is a backstabbing warmonger, gets betrayed by Harrison, gets her leg snapped in half, and then watches as Harrison crushes her father's head with his bare hands.
In X-Men: First Class we get to see that, as a young man, Charles Xavier was a bit of a Wide-Eyed Idealist and was downright Adorkable in his enthusiasm for bringing about a world where mutant and humans live as equals. However, over the course of the climax of the film he telepathically experiences the Big Bad having a coin pushed through his head, watches as his best friend and adopted sister set foot on a dark pathand gets crippled due to the actions of said best friend. By the end of the film, he is almost frighteningly subdued and, although he still retains his ideals, he is considerably more cautious in his attempts to bring them about.