Badass in Distress
A genuine badass looking genuinely distressed...

"This is my entire career in one scene: Look, she's helpless! No, she's kicking their asses!"

So, your Badass Action Hero is becoming just a bit too powerful and invincible. Sure, it's really cool, but nobody likes a God-Mode Sue. What can you do to make him seem more human?

Why not do an episode where your badass finds himself in the role usually reserved for the Damsel in Distress? Kidnap him, make him desperately ill or injured, or otherwise put him in a situation where he cannot single-handedly resolve the plot and your audience can enjoy watching him wait for the kind of rescue he usually provides for the rest of the cast. See? Your other characters can get A Day in the Limelight and fans of your hero will recognize that he's Not So Invincible After All...

There is one drawback in using this trope. When your badass looks... bad, the audience may worry that their hero is losing his touch or their Action Girl is undergoing her long-dreaded descent from ass-kicking heroine to Faux Action Girl. Fortunately, most viewers will agree to forgive a brief lapse in badassery — anyone can have an off-day, and no one wins all the time. Beyond that, a Badass in Distress isn't your average helpless victim. If he hasn't been quietly planting the seeds for his own escape this whole time, he is certainly waiting at the door, ready to leap out and kick some ass the instant it opens.

In most cases the badass genuinely does need the help of others, but occasionally his allies fail to save him despite their best efforts. When that happens, expect the badass to summon some heroic resolve, break free on his own, and save his would-be saviors. Perhaps he wasn't all that helpless — he just needed the surge of adrenaline that he felt when he saw his friends in trouble. If the badass is a villain or even debatable antihero, there's generally no rescue attempt at all; instead of escaping, the character simply survives the execution and immediately murders everyone.

In other words, Tropes Are Tools, and this is a good one for adding depth and humanity to a potential Boring Invincible Hero. Done well, it makes viewers appreciate the hero's customary badassery all the more. Done badly, it may leave the audience wondering if he just caught the Distress Ball today. Done too often, the hero will start to lose the audience's sympathy, and his reputation as a mighty hero will seem exaggerated and undeserved. One way to avoid this is using the Worf Had the Flu trope, in which the plot provides a specific valid reason for why the hero was captured. Perhaps he was injured, ill, emotionally traumatized, or was defeated as a result of taking on overwhelming odds in an attempt to protect others.

The Ineffectual Loner is often subject to this as a way of teaching An Aesop about working as a team and trusting The Power of Friendship. Having butted heads with their allies once too often and stormed off to work on their own, they usually fail spectacularly and have to be rescued, after which the Aesop has been taught and they can resume kicking ass. Compare Defiant Captive, for captives that may or may not be badass but still have the spirit to fight back.

"Badass In Distress" is a major genre of Fan Fiction, even—or perhaps especially—when the Badass is so Bad that it requires a lot of Applied Phlebotinum to keep him or her under wraps.


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  • Quaker Oats turned this into a sweepstakes called "Save the Cap'n" by putting Cap'n Crunch in trouble during a series of commercials, where he was captured by the Soggies. Over the course of the advertising campaign, viewers had to use clues provided by a hotline to identify which door and which key was needed, then send in an entry form with the correct answers to be eligible to win prizes. And meanwhile, the storyline was being shown in the commercials themselves, concluding with the Cap'n escaping in an epic battle. (Well, epic cartoonish battle.)

    Anime & Manga 
  • In Ninja Scroll, Jubei is pinned down by Benisato's legion of poisonous snakes and is rescued by Kagero.
  • Kouji Kabuto from Mazinger Z undoubtedly is a Hotblooded Badass, an excellent Humongous Mecha pilot, a great sharpshooter and a competent fighter can take care of himself even when he is outside of his giant robot. However he often needed being rescued either because he had fallen into a trap or because the odds were brutally against him. It happened several times in Great Mazinger, UFO Robo Grendizer and Mazinkaiser, but it was specially glaring in UFO Robo Grendizer, where he was demoted from The Leader to The Lancer, and instead of a Humongous Mecha he piloted a support unit. However usually he was saved by a Big Damn Heroes moment from Sayaka, Boss, Tetsuya or Duke, so even when he was in danger, usually it ended up in a Crowning Moment of Awesome.
    • His adoptive brother, Tetsuya Tsurugi also found in that position at least once and he had to be saved by his father's Heroic Sacrifice. Duke Fleed also was captured sometimes.
  • Flame of Recca's Mikagami Tokiya is at first noted as not only the smartest of the Hokage, he's also the cruelest and most ruthless. However, he suffers two cases of being captured, first being defeated by Aoi and is used as a hostage to lower Recca's morale and stays unconscious until rescued, but he later makes it up by forcing Hiruko, who was on the same level of Aoi, into a draw. Then he gets hit AGAIN when Big Bad Wannabe Marie managed to drug him by luck and strap him into a contrapment, waiting for Domon and Recca to rescue him and rained with taunts and ridicule. Just so they make sure they didn't think of him decayed, he is pitted against his master Meguri Kyouza, who even on deathbed instills fear on both Aoi and Hiruko and could've beaten Kurei if it wasn't for the deathbed tidbits... and Mikagami outsmarts and comes out victorious against him.
  • Genjo Sanzo from Saiyuki. Being the counterpart of Distressed Dude extraordinary from the original source, it is expected that he'll be kidnapped a lot. But instead of wailing for help or just being silent, he stays vigilant and badmouths his captors without even mentioning, "My followers will rescue me." When help does arrive, his response is... "I don't need your help anyway." And it's quite often that once he's freed, he'll either shoot or exorcise his captors dead, and his faith (as rude as it may be) unshaken.
  • Kamina from Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann is The Ace, a big-ass Determinator, and Leeroy Jenkins in a mech. Problem is he can never win a fight on his own, and is constantly getting saved by Simon.
    • He'd have died in episode 1 if Simon hadn't dug up from below to save him. He's not The Ace at anything but talking big. Which ultimately makes him come off as MORE BADASS than The Ace ever does. He is, at least, competent in hand to hand fighting. The one time he goes into battle solo against anything tougher than basic Mooks he dies. And he STILL manages to cure the Heroic BSOD that his death inflicts on Simon with a story he conveniently told Yoko mere hours before his death.
      • Actually, Word of God says he would have won that fight.
      • He was also taken by surprise by Thymilphof after snapping Simon out of his Heroic BSOD. Thymilphof burst out from under him and mortally wounded him. He still manages to be badass even when dying.
      • Word of God also says that he actually did die there for a second and essentially WILLED himself back to life.
  • This happens to Kyoya Hibari from Katekyo Hitman Reborn!. He's pretty much one of the most Badass characters in the entire series, and remained largely undefeated. Until the first serious arc with Rokudo Mukuro began. He goes over to fight Mukuro, only to be defeated (due to his weakness being exploited), and held captive. With some help from Tsuna and Gokudera, he manages to break out and wreak havoc. His Badassness didn't decay any from it at all.
  • Death The Kid from Soul Eater is this for a while, although now he is out of the Book of Eibon and is ready to start kicking ass again.
    • Also Maka Albarn, during the Envy and Sloth chapters of the same book.
  • Kallen Stadtfeld from Code Geass was captured at one point in the second season and her time in captivity was used for some Character Development. But once she got out of captivity... she killed Luciano Bradley and made it clear who the motherfucking Action Girl of the series is. Even when she was a prisoner she punched the fuck outta Suzaku while wearing a Pimped-Out Dress.
  • Mewtwo in Pokémon: Mewtwo Returns. He spends the first movie being a total badass villain, and never being defeated. He has a few badass moments in the sequel, where he fends off Team Rocket. Even when he's captured due to some Pokémon being held hostage, he never gives in, resisting the pain of the device being used at him nearly at the expense of his life. Naturally, Ash and co. are there to save him using the Phlebotinum of the week. What does he do after being rescued? He wipes the memory of at least 50 people simultaneously and moves part of a mountain, evacuates his Pokemon telekinetically to various places, and then produces hot air balloons to get the Rocket Trio and Ash and his friends to their destinations. He handles the whole thing with a fair amount of angst as per his character, but no pleading, no crying, and no caving in.
  • Meow from Kazemakase Tsukikage Ran may be a skilled fighter but she does get hit with the Distress Ball more than a few times, requiring Ran to come to her aid. Once Meow gets free, though, she joins Ran with beating up the bad guys.
  • This happens a fair number of times in Yu-Gi-Oh! and its sequel series, usually as part of The Worf Effect.
    • If Kaiba counts (an Anti-Hero, probably, but still Badass) it happens to him in the first season of Yu-Gi-Oh! when his attempt to rescue Mokuba fails, requiring Yugi to bail him out.
      • And again during Legendary Heroes Arc, and again during the Virtual Nightmare Arc. (Clearly, Kaiba's constant refusal to accept help attributed to him getting in trouble each times. Fortunately, Mokuba had more sense in that regard.)
  • In Black Lagoon, Badass Revy spends the greater part of an episode knocked out (I think it took a large grenade) by the series' Implacable Ninja Maid. When she regained consciousness, a Moment of Awesome ensued.
  • Manji from Blade of the Immortal becomes one of these during the Prison Arc. It is up to Rin, probably the weakest character in the entire manga, to save him. (Though she did get help from others.)
  • Bleach: In the Fullbring Arc, the Badass in Distress was Ichigo. Yamamoto even says it's time for Soul Society to repay its debt to Ichigo and band together to save him.
  • One Piece. Portgas D. Ace, during the Impel Down and Whitebeard War arcs. It ends in tragedy, since he dies several minutes after being liberated by his brother Luffy. Can be seen as a Deconstructed Trope, as being a badass released from captivity is not a guarantee that you'll survive the experience in the end.
    • Nico Robin during Enies Lobby also qualifies; having previously established her badass credentials several times over. Her inner darkness catches up with her, and becomes a Deliberately Distressed Damsel until she regains the will to live.
      • Lampshaded after Fukurou reveals that Robin has Sea Prism Stone handcuffs on and is thus unable to use her powers, despite having resolved the personal issues that led her to surrender to CP9 for the Straw Hats' safety.
    Chopper: So that's why Robin has let you push her around, even though she's so strong! She must feel awful!
    • Trafalgar Law goes through this during the Dressrosa arc where he gets forced into a fight with a Warlord and an Admiral, then captured, interrogated, and chained with sea prism stone. Luffy manages to rescue him...but doesn't get the key for the sea prism handcuffs, which coupled with exhaustion means Law essentially gets carried all over the island until they finally get the key and he can participate again.
  • Asuna and Negi get hit more than once with this in Mahou Sensei Negima!.
  • Fairy Tail:
    • Erza in the Tower of Heaven arc.
    • The entire guild including such powerful guys as Makarov, Mirajane, and Gildarts, when they're sucked into Edolas and turned into an immobile magic source. Only the three Dragon Slayers (who were immune to the teleportation spell) and Lucy (who was protected by her spirits) managed to stay free. Gray and Erza were later freed halfway through the arc, but the rest of the guild spent the entire arc helpless.
    • During the same arc, Natsu and Wendy were captured by the king of Edolas and drained of their magic; having been unable to use it in Edolas, they couldn't use their powers to escape and had to be rescued by Lucy, Erza and Gray.
    • And now again during the Tartaros Arc. The entire guild minus Lucy is trapped as the Cube transforms into some kind of creature and starts digesting them
  • Ran, Kazuha, Heiji and Kogoro (though in his case it's more like Crouching Moron, Hidden Badass) have caught quite the Distress Balls in Detective Conan.
  • InuYasha:
    • Sesshoumaru is one of the most powerful characters in the series, but he has been in mortal situations a few times requiring to be saved by his sword's barrier a couple of times and by his younger brother Inuyasha in others. One of the worst happens towards the end when Naraku sends Magatsuhi, the dark will of the Shikon no Tama, for the last shard of the Shikon Jewel, that is being protected by Sesshoumaru, taking advantage of his "weaponless" state. Magatsuhi immediately exploits Sesshoumaru's one-armed status and succeeds. Inuyasha rescues him but not before his remaining arm is ripped to shreds. That doesn't stop Magatsuhi, rendering Inuyasha's sword useless, stabbing Sesshoumaru through the chest, and capturing both. Not only does Sesshoumaru not die, but he comes back even stronger than before.
    • Inuyasha himself needs to rely on friends sometimes for help. It's part of his learning curve that, for him, he does need to have friends he can trust. It's also part of Sesshoumaru's learning curve that he has to learn his father's plan for him all along was to understand that it doesn't matter how powerful Inuyasha is, he's still a halfbreed and therefore needs his big brother's help from time to time. This lesson culminates in a Die or Fly test of character where Sesshoumaru promises Inuyasha he'll abandon both Tessaiga and Tenseiga if Inuyasha proves once and for all that Tessaiga belongs to him. Sesshoumaru finally gets the proof he needs causing Naraku to interfere and use his poison to ensure Inuyasha gets trapped unconscious in Sesshoumaru's meidou. Sesshoumaru dives into the meidou to save Inuyasha, voluntarily sacrifices his meidou power and entire sword so it can become Inuyasha's power, and then has to rely on Inuyasha to save them both in return.
    • Also in the Inuyasha series, Sango, a professional demon slayer, is rescued by Miroku on a few occasions. The most notable involves a fight between the two of them in which Miroku is nearly killed by her while freeing her from demon control. Later in the series, she returns the favor by destroying her own weapon to rescue him from demon attackers, resulting in a story arc to get it fixed.
  • Moka recently got hit with this in Rosario + Vampire. That only applies to Inner Moka, whereas Outer Moka is a Distressed Damsel.
  • In Kenichi: The Mightiest Disciple, Silcardo decides to take Miu as HIS new Disciple and as a result she got hit with the Distress Ball HARD. Not only that, but then she was Brainwashed and Crazy and pit against fighting Kenichi: Silcardo hoped to have Miu mentally broken via killing Kenichi, and thus complete a Face–Heel Turn. How does this end? In failure: Kenichi gets to Miu in the end, she returns to her senses, and they take on their enemies together. It wasn't a complete failure though as Silcardo brought up successful traces of a Blood Knight on her.
  • Shakugan no Shana: After Shana was defeated by Yuuji/Snake of the Festival, she has joined this trope too.
  • Kimba the White Lion had some cases where Kimba needed to be rescued by either Roger Ranger or one of his subjects that he helped before.
  • Happens to all of the Children in Neon Genesis Evangelion, with the most glaring example being Rei in Rebuild.
  • Tenchi Muyo! has both Ryoko and Ayeka in the OAVs. When Kagato arrived, his first action was to make Ryoko go Brainwashed and Crazy and then take her hostage; Tenchi, Mihoshi, Ryo-ohki and Ayeka go to rescue her. Then, after he almost kills Tenchi and Ryoko gets free as a result, Kagato captures Ayeka and tries to brainwash her into revealing the Jurai Family secrets, but is refused at the last moment. Meanwhile, Mihoshi finds and releases another Badass in Distress... Washu, whom Kagato has kept prisioner in a Pocket Dimension.
  • Casca of Berserk is normally a pretty competent Action Girl. However she's made to be this during the Eclipse when she's captured and raped to insanity by Femto, AKA Griffith, her former commander while Guts is Forced to Watch.
    • Guts himself has already been in these situations more than once. But noticeably against the Baron of Koka and when Farnese has him captured, jailed and standing helpless in front of him. Both times, he gets rescued by Puck. Yes.
  • ''Naruto:
    • A couple times Naruto, while undeniably Bad Ass as the series wore on, would get himself in trouble and need the help of his friends to break him out and let him go Kyuubi.
    • The very first arc of Part II features Gaara, now the Kazekage in a spectacular fight against Deidara which he arguably loses due to protecting Sunagakure. The rest of the arc, named the "Kazekage Rescue Arc" is about Naruto and his team rescuing him.
  • Jotaro winds up in this position in Part 6 of JoJo's Bizarre Adventure after White Snake steals both his Stand and memories.
  • Dragon Ball Z
    • Done three times to Goku. The first time, Gohan and Krillin had to saved him when he was being crushed to death by Great Ape Vegeta. The second time, Goku had falling ill to the heart virus and lost his Super Saiyan form. Android 19 pinned him and began to suck his energy, slowly killing him. All of Goku's friends rushed to save him, with Vegeta being the one to do it. Finally near the end of the Cell Games, Goku was getting his butt beat by a Cell Jr, he was exhausted from his battle with Cell and was doing worst than the human fighters. Yamcha and Tien had to protect him.
    • Vegeta gets this a few times himself. He was saved by Krillin and Gohan when Recoome was ready to kill him with his Eraser Gun. He wasn't happy for the rescue. Later in the Cell Games, Gohan lost the used of his arm protecting Vegeta from a fatal blast from Cell. And at the tail end of the Kid Buu fight, he was pinned down by Buu to keep Goku from throwing the Spirit Bomb. It was the combine effects of Fat Buu and Mr. Satan that saved him.
    • In the Buu Saga, Vegeta and Goku fought their way through Buu's body to rescue Gohan, Goten, Trunks, and Piccolo.
  • In Yu-Gi-Oh! GX, Kaiser Ryo, one of the few opponents Judai could never truly defeat, was held hostage by Camilla and hos soul trapped in a doll for two episodes; he only lost because he surrendered to save Sho, but it still counts.

  • Happens in The Authority a few times. for instance, to the entire Authority.
  • The end of Empowered vol. 3 puts Ninjette firmly in this category. Six ninja ambush her in a park and tag her with a "sleeping poison"-laced blade. Four of them were dead or mortally wounded before she was blindsided with some Instant Sedation, and the only reason the last two were on their feet was a secret clan technique rendering them immune to pain (she thought they were solidly out of the fight, or at least too hurt to sneak up on her).
  • Any heroes in Marvel Comics who got captured in the Skrull Invasion during the Secret Invasion storyline, including Elektra, Spider-Woman, or even the highly-dangerous Black Bolt. After rescue, they resume their life as superheroes, some of them are also bitter against any remaining Skrulls and should they cross their path again, they will kick butt.
    • During Dark Reign, Hawkeye (in costume as Ronin) did The Lancer's version of this, storming off on his own to assault the Dark Avengers and assassinate Norman Osborn. He failed and was held prisoner for a while until rescued.
  • Wolverine and Jubilee's mentor-sidekick relationship started when she rescued him from the Reavers (a bunch of heavily armed killer cyborgs). He'd been tortured to within an inch of his life. (It was clearly Bond Villain Stupidity on the part of the Reavers, who were keeping him alive just to make him suffer.)
  • Happens to Nightwing in his own title among other places. (Plus when he was Robin it bordered on Never Live It Down) One time his girlfriend’s girlfriend, Black Canary came to his rescue. Though he then had to rescue her.
  • In Death of the Family, Batman gets captured by Joker and tied up. He manages to free himself.
  • In Underworld Unleashed, the collective heroes believe Superman had been captured by Neron so he could obtain his soul. Turns out Supes wasn't even on the planet — he was completely off-world in a different storyline.
  • Venom was held hostage by Carnage during the Maximum Carnage storyline, in what was likely the stupidest case of Bond Villain Stupidity exhibited for a Spider-Man villain; Carnage specifically expressed a desire to keep him alive for months if he had to, just to torture him; Venom actually managed to escape on his own, but he spent quite a lot of his energy to do so, and was recovering for the rest of the story... until the finale.
  • Star Wars: The Clone Wars has Anakin, Obi-Wan, Ahsoka and Captain Rex trying to infiltrate a slave ring and find a captured group of Togruta, Ahsoka's people. Anakin ends up forced into submission with five electro-whips and told by the queen that he'll be her servant. Obi-Wan and Rex are captured and sold to work in the mines. Ahsoka ends up in a cage in the palace, and the whole group is pretty banged up by the time they manage to escape.

    Fan Works 
  • Crunch accidentally finds himself being chased by Dr. Neo Cortex in Outcast Bandicoot. He and his friend Tani destroy numerous lab assistants and defeat the Potoroo Gang, but are eventually taken hostage. Tani escapes, but the lab assistants electrocute Crunch, knocking him out. He is then taken to Cortex's space station, where he remains for several years.
  • Rin gets hit with this twice in the Fate/Stay Night fanfic Path of the King. It's subverted both times:
    • The first is during an encounter with a pack of thugs in a dark alley. Rin isn't even vaguely intimidated by them but she's with several muggle friends who might get hurt unless she breaks The Masquerade and uses her magecraft in front of them. Shirou makes a Dynamic Entry before her hand is forced.
    • The second time comes at the end of the first arc when Rin is kidnapped by the original master of Caster for a brainwashing ritual. While the villain is distracted fighting Shirou, Rin coughs up a handful of gems she swallowed earlier (having anticipated the trap that caught her) and blasts her way out on her own.
  • Batman in the fan film The Death of Batman is kidnapped by a junkie who fakes an overdose and uses a stun gun on Batman's balls.
  • Riza has to go through this in the Fullmetal Alchemist fanfic "Brilliancy," when she's kidnapped. She gives her abductors plenty of trouble; she breaks loose from her bonds at one point and later kills the one who was supposed to shoot her, but she's still kidnapped and stuck in the desert with no way to get home.
  • Gaz is without a doubt the biggest badass in the My Hostage Not Yours trilogy, yet at least once in each story she ends up being held prisoner and needing to be saved:
    • My Hostage Not Yours: She lets the Valkians capture her, both in order to get rid of the LEECHY, and to protect Dib and Zim. It's shown that she was fully capable of escaping her cell on her own, but that still would have left her on her own on a ship full of dangerous warriors, and it seems highly unlikely she would have been able to fight them all. So it's probably for the best that Zim concocted a plan to save her.
    • The Revenge of Player 2: Iggins captures her with a Mind-Control Device, so Zim and Dib have to save her again. This time, though, she breaks free through force of will, save's Zim's life, and then proceeds to give Iggins a Fate Worse Than Death.
    • The Inevitable Takeover: During the early days of Zim's conquest of the planet, she gets kidnapped by a group of hired thugs. However, this is a subversion, as Zim himself had her kidnapped, to keep her away from the government officials who were going to use her as leverage against him, so she was never really in any danger.
  • In Prince Of The Dark Kingdom Harry plays this part at least once a schoolyear. Most of the time it's either Snape or Voldemort that has to safe the day.
  • Valvatorez gets this in The Curse of Blood.
  • In Tales of the Emperasque Vulkan, Corvus and Leman all find themselves in various distresses before Emperor rescues them: Vulkan is stuck on a planet full of Everything Trying to Kill You, Corvus is trapped in ever-changing, sanity-breaking maze and Leman is about to be overrun by Chaos armies.
  • In the climax of With Strings Attached, both Paul and John have been kidnapped and rendered helpless (Paul via mind control, John via sleep spell). George, himself depowered, figures out how to rescue John, who then proceeds to kick ass. However, with Paul, the mind control didn't take; he was just faking it so he could both make sure the others were okay and delay the Big Bad's plans.
    “Wasn't much else I could do at that point, since I didn't know where you lads were, and I didn't wanna go off sort of half cocked.”
  • In Through A Diamond Sky, The Baron is smart enough to realize that the only chance he had to strong-arm Flynn was to make sure both Tron and Clu were in no shape to fight. He just hadn't factored in the pair of Iso scouts and Jordan.
  • During the climax of the first story arc of Jewel Of Darkness, Robin is captured by Midnight, who intends to torture him into insanity. He's eventually rescued by the other Titans and, despite the pain, proceeds to join them in taking her down.
  • In The Tainted Grimoire, there is Cid, who got captured by Khamja.
  • Queen of All Oni: Viper gets kidnapped by the Shadow Hand in chapter 12 and gets taken hostage again after being beaten by Right in the fight that breaks out during the exchange.
  • The main story of book two of A Growing Affection is about how Naruto gets captured by the Akatsuki, and what happens to him and his friends as they try to rescue him.
  • In Mega Man Reawakened, Mega Man has been captured twice so far. Once is by Glyde and his Birdbots, and he breaks free on his own after being locked up. The other is by the Neo Emerald Spears, and Rush and Bon Bonne save him.
  • In Skippers Log, poor Kowalski gets trapped when a tunnel caves in while he's digging it in one chapter; Rico managed to save him only just in time.
  • Dungeon Keeper Ami: Ami might not be invincible- she needs her minions to break her out of the Dark God's realm- but the second time, it was because three had teamed up on her. She regularly leads her troops from the front, and fights on par with the worst deamons of the Dungeon Keeper world. The hero Guile Hero approach to problemsolveing means even things she can't handle head-on can be overcome.... even if it means she needs a little help from her hordes of minions.
  • Nightingale is about a powerful elite ninja being captured and psychologically, mentally and emotionally tortured.
  • Sesshoumaru is captured and helplessly imprisoned in the InuYasha fic Darkness (ankh-ascendant), only eventually rescued by Inuyasha.
  • Children of an Elder God: Misato is a very competent soldier and an excellent strategist and leader, but in chapter 21 she was captured by terrorists and had to be rescued by Rei.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • Raphael in the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles movies, especially the second movie thanks to his stint working alone had him getting captured by Shredder, Tokka and Rahzar and had to be saved by his brothers before he can kick ass again. He's The Lancer, so that explains. TMNT, however, subverts it; even though Raphael is still The Lancer, his stint caused Leonardo to get caught instead.
    • After spending most of the first film in captivity by Shredder, Splinter is able to eliminate him with a flick of the wrist.
  • Star Trek. In the 2009 movie, Captain Pike is captured by Romulans, heinously tortured, and, when rescued, still manages to kill a few of his tormentors — one literally seconds after being rescued.
  • Star Wars. At the end of Episode V, Han Solo is imprisoned/embedded in a chunk of carbonite. And what does he do mere hours after getting out? Kills Boba Fett. While he's still blind (Fett got better).
  • Basically the premise of Rambo III. Rambo gets Trautmann out of a Soviet prison in Afghanistan, and the two of them proceed to destroy half the Red Army.
  • Morphius had one moment of this in the first Matrix movie
  • Iron Man. Tony Stark is ambushed by Obidiah Stane, which literally leaves him crawling around with a hole in his chest. Cue his buddy Col. Rhodes coming to his aid (with a removed assist from Pepper). After he pops in a spare reactor, he promptly leaves to kick Stane's ass.
    • Both Tony and Rhodes are captured at different parts of Iron Man 3.
  • In a German movie Stahlnetz: PSI there are two girls who are best friends: Plucky Girl Micha, who also has supernatural powers (titular "PSI") and sweet girl Sandra. Micha get kidnapped, and even though she does try, she just cannot escape on her own - even her psychic powers backfire at first. Then Sandra, thanks to the connection they share, gets a clue on where Micha is held, and with this hint, police finds and rescues Micha.
  • In Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows, Holmes is captured and brutally tortured by Moriarty, and has to be rescued by Watson. Afterwards, it seems that a combination of adrenaline and sheer willpower are the only things keeping him standing and conscious, but he still manages to help fight their way out. Later, it turns out that he allowed himself to be captured, knowing that he would probably be tortured, in order to get close enough to pickpocket the notebook containing all the financial details of Moriarty's criminal empire.
  • James Bond spends a good chunk of Goldfinger as this, held prisoner by the title villain. He still manages to keep his wits and succeeds in getting Pussy Galore to betray Goldfinger.
  • Gretel in Hansel & Gretel: Witch Hunters, briefly, as part of Muriel's ceremony.
  • Happens to both of the leading men in The Man from U.N.C.L.E. (2015) at different points. Illya nearly drowns so Napoleon goes back to save him. Illya later returns the favor when Napoleon is captured and saves him from Electric Torture.

  • Dragon Blood begins with a character who has been established as badass in Dragon Bones in severe distress. It doesn't last long. Unless you count the fact that, after escaping the torturer, walking miles in ill-fitting shoes, and fighting some bandits while she's at it, Tisala breaks down and needs some healing.
  • Happens quite often in the Max Gladstone's Craft Sequence. In the first book Three Parts Dead, Elayne Kevarian was robbed of her free will. In the second book Two Serpents Rise, it happens to the Lich King CEO.
  • In Sarah Monette's Doctrine of Labyrinths, particularly in the first book Melusine, Mildmay is the resident badass, but at one point he gets locked in a farm cellar and has to get rescued by the guy he's rescuing. His brother, Felix, is usually a pretty badass wizard himself, but when his skills are counteracted in Melusine and later in Corambis, he variously gets mind-raped, really raped, magic-robbed, driven temporarily insane, half-drowned by vigilantes, dragged through a gauntlet, charged with treason, locked in prison and later a madhouse, threatened with death by burning, and, to top it all off, given a Traumatic Haircut. Some more than once.
  • DuQuesne in E. E. “Doc” Smith's Skylark Series. Twice he gets into serious trouble and calls on the hero, Dick Seaton, to team up to handle the situation.
  • In Outlander, Jamie is taken prisoner by the villain, and his wife Claire has to rescue him from being tortured and hung. He does not suffer Badass Decay in this, mostly because Claire's first attempt to save him is botched, and he has to save HER by offering himself to the villain to torture and rape as he pleases without crying out.
  • The Dresden Files. Harry Dresden gets tied up/manacled/whatever on a regular basis and often needs to be rescued, but gets himself out of the situation just as often and kicks so much ass that no one really holds it against him.
    • Likewise, woe betide anybody who tries to put Karrin Murphy in distress. You will suffer horribly. The few times that she is held in distress successfully, it's never a result of her being weak or feminine, just being a Muggle in a world where Muggles and even supernatural humans are Made of Plasticine.
  • The Heroes of Olympus: Percy in The Lost Hero. Nico takes up the position from him by the end of Son of Neptune. Flips back to Percy and adds Annabeth by the end of The Mark of Athena.
  • Beren in The Silmarillion is captured by Sauron; his extraordinary empowered lover frees him, and he resumes kicking ass with her help.
    • Heck, that whole story mainly consists of a long series of "Beren gets himself in a mess and Lúthien gets him out of it."
    • And then there is the story where Lúthien, who can be considered a badass at this point, gets into a mess and needs the help of a dog to escape.
  • Inverted by the title character in The Chronicles of Thomas Covenant. He possesses magic that can literally break time itself, but can't consciously control it (and spends most of his travels being saved by the powerful characters he travels with until his moments of uber-distress when his Badass kicks in).
  • In Robert E. Howard's The Hour of the Dragon and Shadows In The Moonlight, Conan the Barbarian needs to be rescued. Then he kicks butt.
  • In The Wheel of Time series, almost every major hero gets captured at some point by Seanchan, Shaido, Darkfriends, Forsaken, or even Rand by the Red Ajah.
  • In the Dragonlance novel Dragons of Spring Dawning, the Golden General, Laurana, is captured by her Arch-Enemy, the Dragon Highlord Kitiara, and put on display at the Council of Highlords as Kitiara's gift to the evil goddess, Tahkisis. But even after being manhandled by Kitiara and with Takhisis, in her five headed dragon form, towering over her, Laurana stays defiant and, when the chance presents itself, breaks free, steals Kitiara's weapon, and single handedly fights her way out of the chamber, setting off an Enemy Civil War in the process.
  • Michael, who does most of the fighting in the Knight and Rogue Series is, as a result, the one who's most likely to get captured, leaving Fisk to try and rescue him.
  • Toward the end of the Time Scout series, Malcolm Moore gets shot by a bad guy and sent on his way in a hansom cab. He barely survives.
  • In Death series: Eve Dallas has gotten into trouble a few times. Sometimes Roarke saves her life. Sometimes she just saves herself.
  • In Warrior Cats, Action Girl Leafstar gets captured by a Crazy Cat Lady and has to be rescued by her Clanmates.
  • Beachwalker's highly dangerous costar makes his debut tied up, half dead, and with his latest victim lifeless at his feet.
  • Mistborn has Vin get captured twice: Once by Steel Inquisitors, and once by Yomen, when he slams the door to what is more-or-less a bomb shelter behind her
  • In Septimus Heap it happens once a book.
    • In Magyk Marcia is captured by DomDaniel's supporters and rescued by Jenna, Nicko, and Septimus .
    • In Flyte Jenna is taken to DomDaniel's Observatory by Simon in order to kill her but escapes on her own before Septimus and Nicko can rescue her:
    • In Physik Septimus is taken to Etheldredda's and Marcellus's time and rescued by Jenna, Nicko, and Snorri.
    • In Queste Nicko and Snorri, who didn't make it back in the last book, have escaped to the House of Foryx and are rescued from there by Septimus, Jenna, and Beetle.
  • Cira's captured along with Jerin near the end of A Brother's Price. He, being a properly Spirited Young Gentleman, picked locks and undid gags to free them, but the more violent parts of the escape mostly fell to her.
  • Trapped on Draconica: It happens to Daniar and Kalak occasionally but the true example is the former's father, Alister. He's captured early on defending his capital and spends a long time imprisoned. Immediately after Daniar busts him out in the final act he goes back to kicking ass.
  • In Sukhinov's Emerald City decalogy, Corine, who was a powerful player in the first half, is depowerde and turned into a mouse , until she is rescued in the final book.
  • Adventure Hunters: Regina is a veteran adventurer but, due to the plot, her badass moments are after she is kidnapped and coerced into aiding the bad guys. After which point, she escapes on her own and kills her captor.
  • Paul Kidd's trilogy White Plume Mountain, Descent into the Depths of the Earth, and Queen of the Demonweb Pits. Sure, Escalla is captured a couple of times in the first book (once by the HERO), and gets her ass handed to her at one point in the last book, but she's still somebody you don't want to mess with. She's the one who kills Lolth, the goddess of the Drow, permanently. That's right kiddies, she's a GODSLAYER. She finishes the last book by running The Plan against a GOD to get her best girlfriend back from the afterlife.
    Just because something's short doesn't mean it can't splay your lungs all over the grass.
  • Happens a couple of times in The Stormlight Archive, usually as a result of a Shardbearer getting swamped by shear weight of numbers.
  • Happens to Aileana a couple of times in The Falconer. In most cases she manages to save herself.
  • The Riddle Master Trilogy Morgon spends a year being subjected to Mind Rape in the darkness of Erlenstar Mountain before breaking out, and then is later driven back to the mountain and imprisoned there again.

    Live Action TV 
  • In Smallville, because Kryptonite Is Everywhere and it has an even stronger effect on young Clark (in the early seasons he couldn't even crawl away from it), he ends up needing to be rescued, by his parents, Pete, Lana, Lois, but mostly Chloe. In a particularly heartwarming/tear jerking scene, Clark admits this to an unconscious Chloe.
    Clark: You're the best friend and ally I could have had, Chloe. The truth is, you saved me more than I could have ever saved you.
  • Mal, poster man of Big Damn Heroes, has to get rescued from Niska in Firefly. He was cracking jokes while getting metal pushed under his skin (not to mention all the dying and resuscitation).
  • Basically every character in Stargate SG-1 has this happen to them at some point or another:
    • Samantha Carter is kidnapped by a dying millionaire, who found out about her time as host to an alien symbiote and hopes to dissect her in order to learn how it affected her physiology. She spends much of the episode trying to rescue herself (with escalating badassery), but is eventually saved by the rest of the team. This, however, doesn't diminish her badassness one bit.
    • Jack O'Neill gets his turn at this when he's captured by Ba'al and repeatedly tortured to death over the course of the episode. He continues to wisecrack at Ba'al during the process, though he was clearly starting to run out of endurance near the end. The rest of the team manages to persuade a mutual enemy to assist in attacking Ba'al's base, allowing Jack to escape.
    • Teal'c gets captured by Heru'ur's forces and is continuously tortured by one of his underlings. Despite this, Teal'c refuses to acknowledge the Goa'uld as gods. This causes the man who betrayed him in the first place to make a Heel–Face Turn and assist him in escape. (The same character shows up later as a determined La Résistance fighter, clearly inspired by Teal'c's defiance.)
    • Daniel Jackson is captured and tortured by Honduran rebels while on a mission to find an important alien device that, as it turns out, had been left on Earth. Because Daniel has gone through a lot and and Taken A Level In Badass by this time, he handles the treatment spectacularly and manages to make an escape, but not before his more sheltered colleague breaks down and tells everything. Fortunately Jack had already been sent to rescue them and gets there as they are running from the crazed rebels (and a zombie).
    • Moving on to Stargate Atlantis, John Sheppard, as badass as O'Neill, seems to be the go-to guy for getting into distress. On one notable occassion he gets captured by his arch-nemesis Acastus Kolya and tortured by having a captive Wraith continuously drain his life force. Eventually, Sheppard makes a deal with the Wraith, and they break out. The Wraith shows himself to be honorable by returning Sheppard's life force (and more). Also, this Wraith? It's Todd, himself a badass, so this trope works for him too. Other episodes have John crippled by alien bugs, trapped in a time-locked planet, held prisoner by space travellers and held hostage and/or tortured by the Genii a few more times, while his co-leader Elizabeth makes several sadistic choices with his life on the line. To his credit he suffers through all of them with snark and escape attempts aplenty.
  • One of the latter episodes of Dai Sentai Goggle Five puts Miki Momozono/Goggle Pink into this situation when she's trapped inside a book, tied up and the book containing her is about to be burned. She broke from her bonds on her own, then gets put into a cage, but finally destroyed the source of the book's illusion source, destroying the book and getting out on her own. To some, that episode became quite the fan favorite (for a show at the age) and her Crowning Moment of Awesome.
  • Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Willow toward the end of season 3, when she's starting to get her witchiness on. She's captured by the Mayor's people. She lures a vampire into attacking her so she can kill him. With a pencil. She risks her life further when she goes after the Mayor's dark books and learns what the gang needs to know about the Ascension. She faces down Faith. When she gets rescued, it turns out she has crucial pages about the Ascension hidden in her boot.
    • Other lesser examples include "Helpless" and "Halloween," although the circumstances are extenuating: in "Helpless", Buffy is de-powered by the Watcher's Council and is forced to play the helpless victim; she's rescued from a vampire mook by Giles in the end. Of course Buffy is still Buffy and holds her own against the deadlier foe. In "Halloween", Buffy is transformed into an 18th century damsel and needs constant rescuing and reassurance, but it's not really Buffy who's helpless.
    • There was also the time Faith and "Angelus" captured her. Had Angel actually been Angelus, she would have been five kinds of fucked. Quite literally.
    • In "Crush," Spike and Drusilla taser Buffy, who is then chained up along with Drusilla as part of Spike's plan to choose a love interest (and which one gets to live). It goes wrong and Buffy fights off Drusilla while in chains, until Spike helps.
  • Doctor Who. The Doctor in "The Last of the Time Lords". Released from bondage and within five minutes has completely owned the Master and undone the events of the previous year.
    • This happens again in "The End Of Time":
    "Worst. Rescue. Ever."
  • JAG: Happens to Harm in the climax of "Déjà Vu" when he's attacked in his apartment.
  • From Robin Hood: the titular character has been captured and is dangling over a snake pit, getting beaten around the abdomen by Guy of Gisborne, who is alternatively mocking him and demanding to know who the mysterious Night Watchman is. Robin just smiles, knowing full well what's going to happen, and answers Guy's question by saying: "I don't know who the Night Watchman is. But when I see him, I'll give him a kiss." Two seconds later, the Night Watchman turns up to save his ass. And yeah, in case you haven't guessed the obvious, the Night Watchman is Maid Marian.
  • Aeryn gets kidnapped in the last season of Farscape. She's tied up, tortured, and almost has her baby forcibly transplanted into another woman (Chiana, actually.) The team finally pulls a Big Damn Heroes rescue and next episode she's back to kicking butt and taking names.
    • Happens to all of Moya's Bad Ass Crew at some point. Everyone gets a turn to be kidnapped and tortured, and everyone gets the chance to be Big Damn Heroes.
  • This is the only trope that can explain why Lady Emily Merchant of Primeval can kick all kinds of dinosaur and terror bird ass yet can also get kidnapped/put in mortal danger about four times within seven episodes.
    • Happens to Abby in 2x04, when she is taken by the mers. After Cutter gets her out of her "cell" she proceeds to kick a mer in the face.
  • In the Mighty Morphin' Power Rangers episode "Foul Play in the Sky", Kimberly is going for a flight with her uncle Steve. Rita sees this as an opportunity to kill Kimberly, and has Squatt and Baboo spike Steve's soda with a delayed-effect sleeping potion. Kimberly spends several minutes stuck on the plane, but with Alpha's help makes a Crash Course Landing and then saves her friends and single-handedly kills the Monster of the Week. In "Power Ranger Punks" she and Billy are confined to cages for most of the episode after Baboo spiked their fruit juice with a personality-deforming potion. Eventually they're cured, but Billy gets swallowed by the Terror Toad just like the others. Kimberly proceeds to free them and then kill the monster.
    • Come to think of it, this tends to happen in the Power Rangers franchise a lot. Usually it's the Sixth Ranger who ends up saving the others when this happens, but not always. Every Ranger gets A Day in the Limelight (usually several) and this sort of situation is usually how it occurs.
  • Arthur from Merlin is constantly needing to be saved by Merlin, despite being one of the greatest swordsmen in the series and capable of holding off two lesser swordsmen blindfolded. It's pretty well justified by the fact that most of the threats are magical but the way Merlin got his job as Arthur's manservant was by saving his life, and after 52 episodes of this, Merlin's extremely jaded by it.
    Merlin: Oh, I saved Arthur's life, someone else got the credit, just the usual.
    • As this show is a World of Badass and everyone has been in distress and needed to be saved at least once, you could call Merlin a World of Badass In Distress. Even Merlin had to be rescued in Tears of Uther Pendragon and Servant of Two Masters.
  • House of Anubis- when Patricia gets kidnapped by the villian, she still manages to keep being the strong character she is and does everything she can to escape, from leaving a clue behind when she was taken to trying to knockout the villian. Despite this, it is her friends who end up rescuing her. (After two of them have to be saved themselves after a first failed rescue attempt). Immediately following her rescue Patricia goes on to furiously blackmail one of the teachers into telling the secret about her missing friend.
  • Batman often had the titular hero and Robin get captured in the first part of episodes, just so in the next week we'd see how they escape at the beginning of the next part.
  • Criminal Minds:
    • At the end of "The Longest Night", Derek Morgan is blindsided by the UnSub and bound with duct tape, allowing the UnSub to kidnap Ellie Spicer. The team, thus, must rescue Morgan from the Spicer house before they can continue with the investigation.
    • It may not be the conventional way to do it, but "Profiler, Profiled" saw Morgan being sent to jail on a tip by the episode's UnSub, forcing the team to investigate in order to secure his release.
    • Hotch was also beaten in a fight by Foyet in "Nameless, Faceless" and tortured with multiple non-fatal stabbings.
  • Pops up frequently on Chuck. Chuck, Casey and Sarah all take turns in distress throughout the series, needing to be rescued by one or more or the others. In the season 3 finale, all three are taken by Shaw, leaving Ellie, Morgan and Devon to save them.
    • Frequently happens with guest stars as well, since many play other spies working with the team and manage to get in trouble either on their own, or with another member of the team.
  • The entire cast of White Collar, really. Especially with their propensity for being kidnapped (as El and Peter thoughtfully lampshade in Shoot the Moon.
    Really, they all take turns being in distress and being badass about it. Neal and Peter both in too many episodes to count {Neal alone is kidnapped in Bottlenecked, Under the Radar, and Checkmate while Peter is kidnapped in Payback, Under the Radar, and Shoot the Moon. Then there's El being kidnapped in Checkmate and Shoot the Moon, Sara being taken hostage in Pulling Strings, Jones being taken hostage in On Guard...} And all of them play a large role in their own escape. Not to mention Diana, who doesn't even get to the point of distress in her hero shots.
  • It's a rare episode of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's The Lost World when one of the explorers isn't kidnapped or held hostage or horribly injured in some fashion.
  • In The X-Files, Mulder and Scully tended to pass the Distress Ball between them. They occasionally managed to get themselves out of it, but far more often had to save each other.
  • On The 100, almost all the Main Characters are taken prisoner or trapped in a dangerous situation at some point, no matter how badass they are, and they usually need at least a little outside help in order to escape.

    Video Games 
  • Matilda is an example of this in Fire Emblem Gaiden. Due to everyone in that game automatically having a weapon regardless of what's in their inventory, the battle starts off with her killing the archers who are supposed to execute her, as the player begins advancing towards the fort she's captured in.
  • Bullet Storm : Trishka. In her first appearance, she viciously beats her much larger, monstrous captor to death, all while spouting venomous profanities.
  • Donkey Kong in Donkey Kong Junior, Donkey Kong Country 2, and Donkey Kong Country 3. After defeating Kaptain K Rool in DKC2, he stands up again, seemingly Nigh Invulnerable. Donkey Kong decides he's had enough, bursts from his ropes and uppercuts K Rool out of the air ship, bouncing him off of each stage of Crocodile Isle before getting chomped by a school of sharks.
  • Gunther Hermann in Deus Ex, although this is closer to the whole Badass getting the Distress Ball.
  • Lamia Loveless in Super Robot Wars at first is well known for her serious and analytical personality. The fact that she has some of the better Super Robot, has a high position and is the most senior of the new Aggressors (only Kai is more senior than her) all points out that she is one of the more Badass characters. Yet, in OG Gaiden, she is captured by the ODE while having no way to enter her mech, spurred the rest of the EFA to rescue her, ends up getting shot down near dead by an Big Bad Wannabe, Came Back Wrong by another enemy and even spurring an ex-enemy of hers to rescue her, making it look like she got hit by Chickification. Fortunately for her, once she recovered, it doesn't take another game for her to be active in battlefield again and her skills did not deteriorate, she's still the same effective soldier she was in the previous titles.
  • Richter Belmont from Castlevania: Rondo of Blood/The Dracula X Chronicles was a Knight in Shining Armor in his debut, rescuing a grand total of 4 girls from Dracula's captivity. However, Castlevania: Symphony of the Night had him being captured and Brainwashed, motivating Maria Renard (whom he rescued previously) and Alucard to rescue him. After rescued, even though he didn't come back into action again, he is later marked as the strongest Belmont, so much that even memories of him from the whip could give Jonathan Morris a good dose of schooling.
  • Sonic the Hedgehog:
    • The 8-bit version of Sonic the Hedgehog 2 involves Tails getting kidnapped by Dr. Eggman. The game's about Sonic trying to rescue him. Whether or not he succeeds depends on whether or not he managed to collect all of the Chaos Emeralds.
    • In Sonic Adventure 2, Sonic escapes from GUN once, but is captured again partly due to Shadow. He gets rescued by Tails and Amy, and proceeds to kick ass. The game culminates in Shadow calling him the Ultimate Lifeform, a title Shadow once claimed for himself, if you take long enough against the final boss. Guess which one of three characters survives that final battle with their memory intact? It sure isn't Shadow, and we know it wasn't the FinalHazard.
    • In Sonic Chronicles: The Dark Brotherhood, the first part of the game revolves around the kidnapping of Knuckles. Subverted in that when the party reach where he was being held hostage, he has just finished escaping by himself.
    • In Sonic Lost World, Tails gets captured by the Deadly Six about halfway through the game. Like Knuckles, he saved himself, but also managed to fool his captors into thinking they'd won.
    • In Sonic the Hedgehog (2006), Rouge was captured early on in Shadow's story. Subverted as she managed to get out before Shadow could rescue her, (though she sounds as if she wanted to be rescued when Shadow does find her.). In the same game, one of the trials for Silver involve him rescuing Blaze from some enemies within a time frame.
  • In Valkyria Chronicles, the DLC mission featuring Selvaria puts her into this situation, though she's not captured, just on the very verge of being captured. Considering that she's pretty much the only one capable in her squad, she struck on an advance force... only to fall into Damon's trap whereas she's gassed and her body becomes numb. Rescuing her becomes the mission objective whereas the only one who can rescue her is the meeky engineer Johann. Once he got near her, Selvaria can resume kicking ass.
  • Toon Link has a history of this. He may be very badass, but if he acts without thinking or gets hit by a surprise-attack, he's quite easy to take down. Ganondorf gets him almost killed twice in the game Tetra saved him both times. and later, in The Legend of Zelda: Phantom Hourglass, he loses his sword and gets caught by Bellum's tentacles. Surprisingly, Linebeck saves him.
  • Mortal Kombat examples:
    • In Mortal Kombat II, Sonya and Kano are chained up in Kahn's arena and Forced to Watch as the tournament takes place, the biggest reason, in Sonya's case, Jax is there. (One comic book adaptation claims that Shao Kahn plans to brainwash Sonya into becoming his queen; in any case, she's rescued between this game and the next.
    • Three important parts of the Story Mode of Mortal Kombat 9 involve the hero who's the focus of the chapter rescuing one of the other heroes from Shao Kahn's forces. The first time is in Sonya's chapter, where she has to rescue Jax from Shang-Tsung's dungeons. Later, in Jax's chapter, the roles are reversed, and he has to rescue her after she is taken prisoner after the conclusion of the first tournament. The third occasion spans two chapters: After Kitana is sentenced to death after Mileena is "born", Jade's chapter involves Jade trying to rescue her; she is unable to so, resulting in the crisis continuing into Kung Lao's chapter, where the Earthrealm warriors interrupt her execution, and she is rescued by Liu Kang.
    • In Mortal Kombat X, Johnny Cage is captured by D'Vora about halfway through the game and spends the rest of it wrapped up in a cocoon (with her grubs chewing on his face) before being rescued by his daughter at the climax.
  • Played straight AND subverted in the storyline for Super Smash Bros. Brawl: Multiple times, characters are defeated and captured, ( including more than two dozen of them at one point) and proceed to kick ass after being freed. Subverted in that the Master Hand was Tabuu's prisoner, but when it attacks Tabuu after being freed, Tabuu defeats and possibly kills the Master Hand effortlessly.
  • Fate/stay night. Saber in the Unlimited Blade Works route got her contract removed by Caster and was caught, and was given a sexy outfit while being restrained by magic and is being coaxed to be Caster's servant, with only her high magic resistance to avoid being completely dominated, and it takes Rin's plan and Lancer's sudden offer for help (stalling Archer who turned coat) for Shiro to eventually save Saber... and Rin formed a new contract on Saber, amping her skills Up to Eleven, technically making her even more Badass than she was in Shiro's contract.
  • Super Princess Peach is this trope turned into a game. The premise is after all is for the local, daily Distressed Damsel Princess Peach to save the day, saving the local, daily hero Mario, now turned Distressed Dude. It only lasts for one game.
  • In The Last of Us, Joel, the game's main protagonist, is severely injured and must rely on his 14-year old companion Ellie to protect and take care of him until he recovers. Later on, Ellie is incapacitated at the Firefly hospital and Joel must rescue her.
  • In Uncharted: Drake's Fortune, Nathan Drake is captured by pirates and is only able to escape when his companion, Elena Fisher, breaks him out of prison by using a truck to rip out the bars on a cell window. In his defense, he was captured in the process of protecting Elena.
  • Super Joe in the NES version of Bionic Commando and its XBLA remake.
  • Adam, one of the playable characters in Streets of Rage, is captured by Mr. X in Streets of Rage 2. He's not playable in the third game, but shows up in a Big Damn Heroes cutscene near the beginning of the final stage. The fangame Streets of Rage Remake puts him back into full throttle action.
  • In the Dragon Age series:
    • Can happen to the player character in Dragon Age: Origins. You don't have to wait around to be rescued, but some of the funniest cutscenes in the game occur if you do. Of course, the more stubborn, proud or simply skilled players will likely never go to that point unless they intentionally lose to That One Boss.
    • In Dragon Age II, this happens to Hawke and Tallis, both powerful fighters in their own right, during one of the DLC missions. They get captured by Duke Prosper and decide to wait for Hawke's companions to rescue them. Tallis finally gets fed up with waiting and opens the doors herself.
  • In Splinter Cell: Conviction, Victor "Vic" Coste is captured by Black Arrow and is interrogated and he recounts the tale of how Sam kicked their asses. In the final cutscene he tells them that Sam is taking care of his family and that he said that he loved him like a brother when the alarms sound signaling Sam breaching the premises. And we have a cut of Vic trough a camera saying "Thought so" in the most badass way possible.
  • Zero from Mega Man X is captured by Vile in the first of the fortress levels, and X has to fight the latter to set him free. It's still a Hopeless Boss Fight, and Zero had to break out of his electric cage to pull a Heroic Sacrifice to save X again.
  • Bastila starts off Knights of the Old Republic captured by a street gang on Taris. She ends up saving the Player Character when he tries to rescue her. The fact that said rescue goes badly is a major point of contention for her.
  • In Knights of the Old Republic II the player character at one point gets captured and put on Goto's yacht, requiring the rest of the team to go and save him/her.
  • At the beginning of Mass Effect, two of the teammates you have to recruit Tali, and Liara are in trouble and you have to save them from some attackers: In Tali's case, it's a few thugs, and in Liara's case it's a Krogan Battlemaster and several Geth troopers. After they get on your squad however, they start pulling their own weight and generally kicking ass. In the sequel, to recruit Garrus and Tali again, you have to save them again, this time from much bigger threats. With Tali, it's several hundred Geth Troopers and a Colossus (basically a giant sentient robotic spider tank), and with Garrus it's wave after wave of mercenaries from three different criminal groups. Similar to the last game, they go back to being badass after the rescue. Indeed, Garrus never stopped being badass, popping off headshot after headshot, killing dozens of mercenaries over the course of three days. He was simply in danger of being overrun. While not anywhere near to the same extent as Garrus, Tali didn't appear to be going down without a fight either, as in the room you find her in, she's alone with several dead geth troopers on the floor and a shotgun on her desk.
  • Meta Knight, twice, in Kirby & the Amazing Mirror and Kirby's Epic Yarn. In the former he was trapped in a mirror world while his evil doppelganger ran around causing trouble, and in the latter he was possessed by Yin-Yarn.
  • Jin and Makoto of BlazBlue take turns in this trope - the badass doing the saving is the other one.
    • In Slight Hope, Jin is in far too bad a shape to fight back against Hazama, who had come along with the intention of killing him. Rather than sit back and watch it happen, Makoto parries the hit and fights Hazama in Jin's place. Hazama "wins" (then again, Hazama), but Jin bails her out, having recovered enough strength to freeze Hazama in his tracks.
    • In Decision, Hazama catches Jin and Makoto chatting - oddly enough, he came down to deal with Jin personally (having commented that Phantom buggered up, as Jin "smells like cat"), but he changes his mind and tries to kill Makoto, only for Jin to block the hit instead. Again, Hazama "wins", but Jin freezes him again and both bail shortly thereafter. Makoto was the "damsel" as she was playing under radar and knew Jin was not fond of Intel due to events in Slight Hope; thus she had to lower her guard to prevent a reprisal.
  • In Marvel: Avengers Alliance, Nick Fury and Maria Hill go missing in Chapter 7, and rescuing Mockingbird was the plot of the first Special Operations mission.
  • Subverted in Suikoden Tierkreis. Chrodechild gets captured by the Mage Lord, and Asad rushes in to Save the Princess... only to discover that she knocked her captor out once he dismissed his guards, then ran for it.
  • In the early parts of Borderlands 2, Roland is captured by bandits. According to him, they knocked him out while he was taking a piss. Near the end of the game, Lilith ends up captured by Jack and used to power the Vault Key.
  • Nero in Devil May Cry 4 ends up in distress along with Kyrie, prompting the switch to Dante as the playable protagonist until he is rescued.
  • Sora of the Kingdom Hearts series may have slain a lot of Heartless and rescued a lot of women, but even he's been captured at some points: once by Hook, once by Barbossa, twice by Sark, once by Flotsam and Jetsam, and once by Master Xehanort.
  • Chun-Li has had to be rescued a lot in the history of the Street Fighter franchise, usually by Guile.
  • Saints Row: Gat Out of Hell: The Third Street Saints leader, now God Emperor of the Universe, is kidnapped by Satan. Now it's up to Johnny Gat and Kinzie Kensington to save them.
  • In Yu-Gi-Oh! Reshef of Destruction, because the Millennium Puzzle is taken, Yami Yugi ends up captured, and the plot centers on getting it back to call him out. He drops the Distress Ball fast when he's rescued.
  • At the end of Shantae and the Pirate's Curse, Risky Boots gets captured by the Pirate Master and put in chains. Although it's implied to have been part of her Batman Gambit to trick him into a situation where he's forced to fight a Shantae that had regained her Genie powers.
  • In Dirge of Cerberus Vincent spends much of the game grappling with his literal inner demon, Chaos, because the protomateria, the thing used to control Chaos, gets ripped out of him by Rosso. Several cutscenes depict him falling to his knees and clutching his chest in pain as he fights for control of his body. Twice he winds up being rescued as well, once when he accidentally turns into Chaos and collapses from the exertion and has to be rescued by Shalua, and another time when Rosso rips the protomateria out of his chest and he has to be rescued by Yuffie.
  • In Batman: Arkham City the entire game revolves around this as Batman is injected with a sample of blood from a Titan-poisoned Joker in the beginning of the game and over time gets sicker and sicker, even coming close to death, and only surviving because of his determination.
  • Minecraft: Story Mode: In the first episode, both Petra and Gabriel get caught in a tractor beam and you are given the option to save one of them. Whoever you saved will later rejoin the group with an Incurable Cough of Death.
  • In Warframe, one of the mission types is "rescue", where you have to rescue a captive from an enemy prison complex and escort them to the evac point. Sounds like your typical hair pulling Escort Mission right? Nope! Give the captive your pistol, and they use it with very good accuracy on anything that comes close. Despite presumably getting tortured, they still are able to tank a few bullets, and if they lose all their HP? They still hang on for 20 seconds during which you can apply first aid to get them back to their feet.

     Web Animation 
  • Agent Tex from Red vs. Blue, easily the most Badass character in the series (especially in Revelation), regularly gets captured and requires the assistance of the far less competent Reds and Blues.
  • Ruby from RWBY got herself captured by White Fang near the end of vol.2. To her credit she tried to fight of the attackers, and made a few attempts of escape, and when her kidnappers were distracted by her backup she used opportunity to become badass out of distress

  • In Ronin Galaxy, Leona Gallant is Arrested for Heroism and attempts to escape by using her sex appeal on Cecil.
  • MS Paint Masterpieces: Small and temporary example when Flash Man tries to kidnap Dr. Light. Being a squishy human, Dr. Light still needs help, but is still able to contribute to his escape.
  • Deconstructed in River Passage, as Irish dies while in distress.
  • The most Badass character of Marooned is easily Lian. There is an entire story arc devoted to her captivity and rescue.

    Web Original 
  • I Love Bees: Action Girl Jan James becomes one when gangster Thin Kinkle kidnaps her.
  • In Dead West The Porcelain Doctor was kidnapped once, by a Scottish ex-soldier, in Porcelain. He lost his glasses in the process, and got hit several times. He was otherwise assaulted, too, and judging from a few words, the soldier molested him. So by the time Gervas and the Merry Company arrives, the good doctor has already burned through his binds, ignited a few idiots with an offered brandy, scared off most of them, but not before he made one to hand him his cane, then put a sword through his kidnapper's stomach.
  • Whateley Universe example: In "Ayla and the Great Shoulder Angel Conspiracy", the team is trapped in a Lotus-Eater Machine and every one of them has to be rescued, except the one generally regarded as the weakest member of the team. Since they take turns rescuing each other, there's a lot of Badassery to go around. The only one who doesn't get a turn is Tennyo (she was otherwise occupied having a Heroic BSOD).

    Western Animation 
  • In one Batman: The Animated Series episode Harley Quinn had kidnapped Batman, with the intent to kill him in a vat of piranhas, to woo the Joker. Batman convinces Harley to show the Joker just how well she's done, because the piranhas would leave no evidence. She does so, but much to her surprise, he flies into a tizzy about Batman being HIS to defeat, and, after punishing Harley for her insubordination (by tossing her out a window), frees Batman to finish the job himself. Batman planned for this exact reaction - he explains on the page image for Batman Gambit.
  • In an episode of Static Shock, Static is sent forty years into the future, where he helps Batman's successor rescue another superhero his future self.
  • Justice League
    • Batman is captured by Lex Luthor's Injustice Gang, and held captive for the majority of the episode while the rest of the league tries to find Luthor. He spends the whole time playing the gang's members against each other and undermining their trust. When the League does show up and everything's going to hell, Joker tries to take the opportunity to finally off Batman... who is no longer restrained, and reveals he could've gotten out whenever he wanted, but stuck around to keep an eye on things.
    • It happens to the entire League in "Secret Society" - apparently - courtesy of Grood's team of villains. Their escape (leading to the epic battle at the end) was the result of J'onn J'onzz disguising himself as Clayface during the initial fight; the villains had actually grabbed the real Clayface, and didn't realize that the one they were dealing with was an imposter until it was too late.
  • Recess: TJ is prone to this. Notably in 'Prince Randall' when he is 'arrested' and beaten until he collapses. (Offscreen). The moment he's released, the guy is leading the gang and putting the rightful king on the throne...while covered in bruises and unable to walk. And this is a nine year old kid!
  • From Avatar: The Last Airbender, the Boiling Rock rescue is a big example of this. It started off when Sokka wanted to rescue Hakoda, who is indisputably a badass. He rescues not only Hakoda but Suki as well, who is also a badass. It takes the combined badassitude of Sokka, Zuko, Hakoda, Suki, Chit Sang, and Mai and Ty Lee for the rescue to be successful.
    • Avatar Korra gets kidnapped by Tarrlok and locked up in a metal box. Long story short, Amon and his minions showed up, Amon took care of Tarrlok, and sent Lieutenant to electrocute the box to knock her out so they could take her with them. What did she do? Used her wrist wraps to hang on to the bars on the top of the box to avoid electrocution, pretended that he knocked her out, and utterly kicked their arses in the moment they opened the box, then escaped Amon himself. This is after she spent roughly a night and a day in that box, without anything to eat or drink.
    • She also gets kidnapped by Zaheer and his gang in "The Terror Within" after she and Naga were tranqulized with shirshu darts. If it weren't for Pabu, they would have gotten away. And for the rest of the fight scene, Korra stays mostly unconscious until she gets rescued.
  • Many of the more recent animated Scooby-Doo features have upgraded Daphne from the standard Distressed Damsel of the original and earlier works, following the first live-action movie's portrayal by Sarah Michelle Gellar of Buffy the Vampire Slayer fame.
    • Believe it or not, in one of the original episodes of that show where Batman and Robin guest stared, they had to be rescued, after being tricked into falling into a deep pit with glass-like smooth walls that were impossible to climb on their own. (Of course, given that two real villains, the Joker and the Penguin were the culprits this time, rather than some crook in a monster suit, it's understandable.)
  • In Jonny Quest: The Real Adventures, Memetic Badass Race Bannon does wind up captured or otherwise in trouble quite a few times. This is because the creative team meant to empower the kids a bit more than they were in classic Jonny Quest.
  • Twilight Sparkle from My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic is the main cast's Badass Bookworm who is also one of the most powerful magic users in the show, but in The Stare Master, she was turned to stone by a cockatrice which left Fluttershy to protect the kids she was babysitting and save Twilight.
    • Princess Celestia is this in both the series pilot and the Season 2 finale. She's generally acknowledged to be the Big Good of the series, but is missing during Nightmare Moon's attack and the queen of the changelings (shown on screen), respectively, leaving it to Twilight and friends to deal with the threat. (Not counting Discord here as he's less a personal threat and more a global disaster with a sick sense of humor; everypony is equally helpless against him until the plot coupons finally come together at the end of "The Return of Harmony".)
  • Code Lyoko episode "Image Problem", Yumi - likely the most badass of the heroes at the time - is held captive by a Guardian while XANA sends a duplicate of her to cause trouble. (Possible the first time he used what would later be called a polymophic clone.) Eventually, Aelita and the others managed to find her, at which point she went back to the real world to deal with the impostor. (As she herself said, "This is between me and myself.")
    • Happens again in "Ultimatum", with Odd along for the ride this time. The two of them are kidnapped by their XANA-possessed principal, who is literally able to manhandle them into submission, and end up Locked in a Freezer long enough that they can't fight back.
  • In the first episode of Young Justice, all three of the main heroes at the time (Kid Flash, Aqualad and Robin) get captured by Cadmus; it takes Robin approximately two minutes to break them out, while getting shocked the entire time.
    "Luckily Batman isn't here - he'd have my head for taking so long."
  • Ardeth Bay in The Mummy: The Animated Series episode 'The Dark Medjai'.
  • The Avengers: Earth's Mightiest Heroes! has Captain America get captured by Skrulls so they could replace him with a duplicate. Cap refuses to let the Skrulls' treatment of him in prison break his spirit, and he eventually leads the other prisoners in a riot and escape.
  • Mike Chilton in the two-part finale of Motorcity. Particularly when he beats up Red to free himself.
  • Super Friends. Wonder Woman tended to be kidnapped, brainwashed etc. more frequently than the rest of the Super Friends.
    • 1973/74 season.
      • In "The Baffles Puzzle" she was trapped at the bottom of a pit by a Surprise Slide Staircase and had to be rescued by Superman.
      • In "The Menace of the White Dwarf" she was pursuing Raven in her invisible jet when he used the extreme gravity of the white dwarf fragment to render her unconscious. When she plummeted out of control, Superman caught her jet and saved her.
    • In later seasons she was often subject to the Legion of Doom's machinations.
  • One Cartoon Network promotional commercial has The Powerpuff Girls break into the Legion of Doom's headquarters to rescue Wonder Woman and Aquaman.
  • Happens to Duke in both of the first two Five Episode Miniseries of G.I. Joe. The second time, Snake Eyes is captured along with him.
  • This happens surprisingly often to Flash Gordon, although he always escapes before too much time has elapsed, usually inspiring a Slave Revolt against the bad guys on the way out.
  • In one episode of American Dragon: Jake Long, Jake is jealous of Haley getting an interview with a prominent magical TV show and so spikes her water with a powder that makes her powers go mildly haywire, meant to culminate with her powers failing completely. However during filming, she ends up attacked and because of the power failure, is unable to fight off her attacker, resulting in her kidnapping. A guilt-stricken Jake goes after the kidnapper. After she's rescued, Haley reveals that the prank powder wore off around the time of her kidnapping and it was her own fear that locked up her powers. She's sincerely grateful that Jake came after her.