Damsel in Distress

http://static.tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pub/images/Mario-DamselInDistress_2325.png

"Why is she always the one getting kidnapped? I'm the princess!"
Amalia Sheran Sharm, Wakfu

A character, usually female, is put into immediate danger in order to put the cast in motion. Her plight unites the cast, causing them to put aside their differences and work together to save her or provide the premise for The Quest.

The nature of the distress varies. The classic damsel has been kidnapped or captured and is locked away, awaiting rescue and afraid for her life and virtue. She may also be lost or stranded in a hostile area, trapped, desperately ill, or suffering any number of terrible fates where she needs help to survive.

This set-up is plausible if the damsel in distress is a beloved character, but can be very jarring if the audience fails to see what's so valuable about the damsel and why the rest of the cast should drop everything to go to her rescue. Some damsels are so annoying that the audience wouldn't mind seeing them dead; others end up in trouble in a way that just screams Character Derailment. This is particularly dangerous for the resident Action Girl who will seem suddenly weak and helpless if her stint as a damsel isn't properly justified — if the moment is bad enough, she can be demoted to Faux Action Girl. On the other hand, anyone can have a bad day; perhaps she just had a moment of Badass in Distress after being thrown a Distress Ball.

A possible way to shake things up a bit is to give the damsel something to do besides stand around uselessly. The Damsel out of Distress will put up a fight, which can either help or make things worse. The Defiant Captive damsel will snarl and rage where her meeker sister would scream. There are even subversions in the line of Play-Along Prisoner: the Decoy Damsel puts on all the appearance of this trope, but her helplessness is all for show.

Sometimes the character gets kidnapped for the sake of her good looks or royal blood, but in other works she's more likely doing something that is a threat to the party that kidnaps her (reporters are common), which allows her to look smart and independent before she needs to be saved. Alternatively, she can end up prisoner as a Heroic Sacrifice; situations where she puts herself in peril so that others can get away are popular, even if her plan ultimately fails.

Generally expected to give The Hero a Smooch of Victory when he rescues her. Assuming he does, of course...

This is a type of Living MacGuffin. Chained to a Rock is an ancient form; Girl in the Tower and Hypnotize the Princess came later. Damsels in distress are often Bound and Gagged, especially where Author Appeal is concerned.

If the kidnapper in question is particularly nasty, expect an I Have You Now, My Pretty situation to occur. If the character does not become a Damsel Scrappy but still is constantly captured, they are a Designated Victim. Compare with Disposable Woman.

For the Gender Flip, see Distressed Dude. See also Distress Ball, Standard Female Grab Area, Determined Widow, I Have Your Wife, Save the Princess, Hostage MacGuffin. If the girl is actually faking this for her own benefits, depending on her purposes she's either a Deliberately Distressed Damsel or a Decoy Damsel. A typical damsel that rescues herself is a Damsel out of Distress. If she has a strong spirit despite captivity then he/she is a Defiant Captive. If the hero leaves the damsel in distress, that's Delaying the Rescue. See also The Captivity Narrative for a plot based on this.

Not to be confused with the 2012 comedy film Damsels In Distress.

This item is available in the Trope Co. catalog.


Examples

    open/close all folders 

    Advertising 

    Anime And Manga 
  • In Daphne in the Brilliant Blue, Maia is kidnapped on numerous occasions, but it's justified on grounds that Rena doesn't give her any combat or weapons training before sending her into dangerous situations. This is because her role for most of the series is basically to be live bait to lure out the bad guys, and Rena simply trusts her team to be able to rescue Maia whenever it's necessary.
  • Shirayuki of Snow White with the Red Hair occasionally falls into this category, though as a Plucky Girl she doesn't take it lying down and tends to try to do something about it herself. Played completely straight during the Tanburn arc, where she is not only kidnapped, but then kidnapped from her kidnappers.
  • In Bleach
    • Rukia Kuchiki gets to be the Damsel in Distress in the Soul Society arc, despite the fact that she was a bit of an Action Girl in previous episodes.She agreed to go because she knew she'd be executed for giving her powers to a human... and Rukia wanted to die in the first place. Despite her Quickly Demoted Woman status, it could be argued that Rukia was actually just a Badass in Distress... for a really long time.
    • In the Arrancar and Hueco Mundo arcs, Orihime Inoue. She went with Sosuke Aizen willingly to protect her friends right after they got their asses kicked by the Arrancar (had she not gone, they would've been killed and Karakura would've been destroyed right on the spot)... The story arc is NOT shy about showing the tremendous emotional and physical strain it brings on her to the extreme of causing her a Heroic BSOD that almost made her cross the Despair Event Horizon; sure, Ichigo and Ishida manage to reach for her, but things go wrong immediately afterwards, and before that she was throughly abused by Loly, Menoly, Nnoitora and Ulquiorra, among others. It takes Orihime almost a year to fully get over the horrible effects of her imprisonment.
  • Both in Burst Angel's anime and manga, this is the official duty of Meg. And invariably Jo goes tilt every time the thing happens.
  • In the anime of Chrono Crusade, Rosette takes on this role towards the end in the series. In the manga, Azmaria tends to play this role the entire time.
  • In Code Geass R2, when Kallen is captured and becomes a hostage for 1/3 of the season, Lelouch is swearing to rescue her. She is then put in a plexi-glass cage and given a frilly, cleavage heavy dress. Kallen is by far the show's number one Action Girl, Lelouch's personal bodyguard and one of the deadliest pilots in the CG universe, thus she re-affirms all three facts within moments of being rescued.
    • Instead of a Rescue Arc, Kallen's time as a Prisoner Of War is used as Character Development. She not only interacts with Nunnally and sees a different side of Lelouch through her, but also gets to punch Suzaku while wearing said frilly, cleavage heavy dress, which makes Suzaku realize he is Jumping Off the Slippery Slope. She ends up in a mini-Trauma Conga Line version of this as not long after the battle over Tokyo comes to its disastrous conclusion, during which she was finally freed from her imprisonment, she ends up back in distress again, as she tries to defend Lelouch, who she has been used to bait into a betrayal from her fellow Black Knights. Her comrades accuse her of being under Lelouch's geass. When he realizes Schneizel is behind this, it takes Lelouch shooing her off with a fake admission to using them all in order to save her.
  • Aura's kidnapping is the drive behind most of volume 2 and 3 of Corsair, however, being a Plucky Girl she doesn't act overly distressed about it or her impending execution, and when Ayace finally shows up to rescue her, her reaction is: "You're late!"
  • Naruto: Sakura Haruno eight times.
The main female of the series and is mostly a Faux Action Girl but has still had to have her ass saved regularly by Naruto, Sasuke, Kakashi and Rock Lee. Sakura does decides at one point that she is saved too often and swears to look after herself (cutting her hair to prove this point) but it's sadly short lived as she loses her Designated Girl Fight with Ino Yamanaka. Things get better for Sakura as gets her Badass Teacher Tsunade and learns cool new jitsu that would qualify her for Action Girl if she didn't still be need to rescued, due to her Sakura chasing after the dangerous anithero Sasuke (who the most past of the series couldn't care less about her)in true Love Makes You Dumb fashion.

Rin Kakashi's deceased team mate had to be rescued by him in a flashback but at a tragic loss... Obito (Kakashi other team mate) was crushed by boulder that almost killed Kakashi Taking the Bullet and seemly died not before making Kakashi promise he care for her (which is extra tragic as he was in love Rin while she was in love Kakashi Love Triangle).The promise was broken for Rin died later when a "tailed beast" was put in her and she jumped in front of Kakashi's Chidori (lightning hand attack) technically committing suicide, Obito He'sBack from the dead witnessed this and decides to destroy the world, this flashback is considered a real Tear Jerker.
  • In Fullmetal Alchemist,
    • Winry is taken "hostage" by the military after Ed and Al discover the truth about the homunculi. Although Winry has no idea, if Ed and Al do something the government doesn't like, then the powers-that-be will kill her. To save her, they end up north, near Briggs, and enlist the unlikely help of Scar, the man who'd murdered her parents, by pretending to have him kidnap her. Granted, the fake kidnapping part of the plan was Winry's own idea, so she half rescued herself...
    • This dirty little trick was played off on Roy and Riza as well: the same situation was setup with Riza, to make sure Roy didn't act up. However, she's more of a Badass in Distress here because despite being a hostage, she knows it isn't fazed by it in the slightest. She remains courageous to the point where she can confront Selim Bradley about his secret identity as the homunculus Pride, and then use her position as a hostage to prevent him from killing her on the spot.
  • In the later Full Metal Panic! novels, Action Girl Kaname turns into an extreme Damsel in Distress. She may have more or less given up for a while after the events of Continuing On My Own, but it's only a temporary thing, and it's not that long before she starts to regain some of her old vigor and determination. After that she ends up being more or less mind controlled by Sophia aka the First Whispered Ever, but that's a bit of a different matter.
  • Miaka from Fushigi Yuugi. Despite being the main protaganist of the series, she ends up needing to be rescued from wild animals, bandits, the Big Bad, and just about anything else that a human being might concievably need rescuing from.
  • Future Diaries
  • Lampshaded in GUN×SWORD when Van asks Wendy "Why do you keep getting caught?" (As it happens, she keeps getting in trouble because she's not afraid to mouth off to the villain of the week . . . which usually pisses off said villain.)
  • Kagome from InuYasha has to deal with more then a fair share of kidnappings. This can be somewhat justified on grounds that she starts the series as a normal teenager with no combat training who is thrust in a world where she constantly faces life-threatening situations.
    • Rin probably personifies this trope more then any other character in the series, though this makes sense as a normal small child with no fighting skills who travels with a demon lord who has many powerful enemies.
  • Lyra/Kitty from Kimba the White Lion.
  • Nao from the Liar Game starts off as this, extremely naive and crying whenever someone who she put her trust in (even if she shouldn't) deceived her and always relying constantly on Akiyama to help her. But she matured and now, she's quite a force to be reckoned with, using her honest character to trick others, even deceiving Magnificent Bastards Yokoya and Akiyama on separate occasions without either of them realizing it until afterwards.
  • Lupin III: Clarisse, Murasaki, Fujiko (sometimes)... The character trope was used back in the Manga, and is expected to occur. There's one in pretty much every Lupin movie or TV special, in fact. See the Animated Films page.
  • Lyrical Nanoha: Let's see... a Mysterious Waif who's below the Competence Zone and happens to be the daughter of the main character? Yup, Vivio was destined for this role the moment she was introduced. With her now actively training on her powers, and another Time Skip putting her into the Competence Zone's minimum age, she likely won't end up as Damsel in Distress again.
  • Subverted in Magic Knight Rayearth, as a part of the Twist Ending of the first season. The girls thought that Princess Emeraude was the Damsel in Distress. She actually had the power to break through Zagato's prison all the time... but didn't do it because she was in love with him since they met. And because she was the real Big Bad. Who summoned the girls to KILL her, and Zagato kidnapped her to save her from them. The problem was solved in the end. Very dramatically.
  • Happens several times in Mahou Sensei Negima! First is Konoka during the Kyoto arc, but that's a Justified Trope since she had not waken up her own powers and she didn't have any similar to self-defense training. Then a demon captures Asuna. Lastly, Asuna and Anya are held captive by Fate. Unfortunately, the rest of the team is unaware of this, as Asuna is replaced by a doppelganger, and Anya is MIA to begin with.
  • Invoked in Mobile Fighter G Gundam. Maria Louise really wants to play the Damsel part so her Knight in Shining Armor George De Sand will come to her rescue, so she gets Domon to help her plan her own kidnapping so he can fight George, who refused to duel with Domon per Honor Before Reason motifs. It backfires spectacularly. Not only does the far more Genre Savvy George deduce their plan right from the start, but he also delivers a "What the Hell, Hero?" speech to Maria as he and Domon fight. Maria and Rain Mikamura barely escape with their lives from the battlefield and, as punishment, Maria is sent back to Neo France until the Neo Hong Kong arc.
  • Relena Peacecraft from Mobile Suit Gundam Wing is falsely accused by her detractors of being one. Since she's an Actual Pacifist she never fought her way out guns blazing, but she wasn't a Damsel Scrappy either, actually trying to talk down her captors in the three instances where she's in enemy hands throughout the anime (by Romefeller late in the TV show, White Fang near the end, and Mariemaia's in Mobile Suit Gundam Wing: Endless Waltz) even showing her Guile Hero chops by turning the first instance into a massive payoff. She once even dissuaded Heero from killing or harming her with words alone.
  • Monster
    • Realizing that Johan has plans to meet up with (and presumably do horrible, unspeakable things to) his estranged twin sister, Nina, Tenma rushes off to rescue her. The thing is, in the rush, the good doctor seems to have not accounted for two things — 1) Being mostly a Non-Action Guy, he is woefully unprepared for things like a crazed lackey stabbing him in the face with garden shears and 2) Nina is pretty damn awesome in the art of Aikido, which she immediately demonstrates by saving him. Looks like she didn't need your help after all, Tenma. Too bad the same couldn't be said for her parents...
    • Also played straight with Eva when she is rescued from The Baby by Martin
  • One Piece: Cat Burglar Nami ten times (eleven counting the movies) and Nico Robin twice.
    • Nami the resident Gold Digger and navigator of the "Strawhats Pirates" has been kiddnaped and rescued more times than anyone on board the crew (even more than Usopp and Chopper) she abducted usually because of her good looks and her superior navigation skills. Nami is normally rescued by the three strongest males on the crew Luffy, Zoro and Sanji (frequently) and only learned how to defend herself in the "Alabasta arc" where she given a weapon by Usopp a storm summoning lighting rod called "Clima tact" turning her into a Action Girl for a few fights, but then she continues to be kidnapped anyway, turning her into a Faux Action Girl at best.
    • Most of Enies Lobby is a Rescue Arc where the Straw Hats are fighting the CP 9 to save Robin. However, her status as a damsel in distress is justified by the fact that she willingly let herself get captured. She felt she had to die, so she surrendered to the World Government. Plus, although she was bound with Seastone by the time she regained the will to live, she still tried her best to escape, and the only reason she failed was because Spandam kept using Funkfreed to keep her in line. She started fighting back the moment she was freed from the Seastone.
    • The second time was when Bartholomew Kuma blasted her to Tequila Wolf, where she was forced to work as a slave. But in this case, she was saved by Revolutionaries more or less instantly and was not bound with Seastone anyway, making her status as "distressed" questionable at best.
  • In A Bride's Story, Mr. Smith's refusal to marry Talas out of pity meets bewilderment: Saving her is what a man does, right?
  • Panzer World Galient:
    • Queen Felia -The Hero's mother- gets captured and imprisoned by the Big Bad in first episode. Jordy spends a long while believing his mother was dead, but as soon as he finds out that she's alive, rescuing her becomes one of his priorities.
    • Hilmuka kidnaps Chururu in the third episode. Although in this instance Hilmuka only wanted to draw Jordy's attention, and she let Chururu go when he found them.
  • Pokémon:
    • Pikachu often gets himself caught in Team Rocket's traps. However, he often gets itself out, so this is an aversion.
    • Nearly every character, male of female, had a turn as this. Amusingly, the Team Rocket trio themselves might actually be one of the most recurring examples.
    • A Gardevoir actually serves as the damsel in the episode where Hunter J makes her first appearance.
  • In Pokémon Adventures Platinum initially seems to be the living embodiment of the trope, as she rarely goes ANYWHERE without getting herself into trouble. It was so obvious that Diamond was able to point out and lampshade this only after 4 chapters into the story; most anime and manga characters don't realise this sort of thing ever.
  • Generally played straight in Ranma ½ with Akane. Two plotlines in the 38-volume manga (and two of the movies) involve her Bound and Gagged and in need of rescue. A good number of the other girls fall prey to this throughout the series, and the entire female cast winds up like this in the second tie in movie. Ranma himself holds the Distress Ball (both in male and female forms) more than once and needs someone from his harem to rescue him.
  • Deconstructed in Revolutionary Girl Utena. Many shows have DID girls who go through Hell and back, but remain sweet and nice and without many psychological marks because many writers won't know what to do. Utena points out that in RL, people of both genders stuck in these roles will stop being "pure" and "sweet" and start acting more passive-aggressive and manipulative, if they're forced into situations where they can't seize direct power. This is very obvious in the cases of Shiori Takatsuki (looks sweet and gentle and demure, but is very malicious and has horrible self-esteem since her "best friend" Juri is a beautiful and strong Lady of War), Kozue Kaoru (repeatedly gets herself in trouble and flirts/sleeps with other guys to catch the attention of her twin older brother and "prince", Miki), and specially Anthy Himemiya (once performed a huge sacrifice, paid the price by both suffering immense physical pain and becoming a passive figure as the Rose Bride, ultimately became a mix of Broken Bird and puppet to her Manipulative Bastard brother Akio a.k.a. Dios aka End of the World) and Utena Tenjou (she's not one since the beginning, but her insecurities and naiveté more than once play quite a part into shoving her close to the "role") This is not to say that Being Tortured Makes You Evil, or that it's stupid to be remain nice after a tragedy. It's just pointing out a general trend: if weakness is imposed on people, it will bring consequences.
  • Done twice in Rosario + Vampire, once to Mizore through an Arranged Marriage, once to Moka for being a Living MacGuffin. In Moka's case, it's actually both this and Badass in Distress, depending on which of her personalities we're talking about.
  • Naru Osaka of Sailor Moon needs to be saved from a Monster of the Week attack fairly regularly, to the point where it gets frequently lampshaded in Fan Fiction.
  • Saori Kido in Saint Seiya. Often hir role in the story is be kidnapped or offers herself as a hostage to save her friends. Despite that she is the goddess Athena!
  • Cho Kanan, Lirin, and Yaone all hold their own separate moments in Saiyuki. Both Yaone and Lirin being saved successfully by Kougaiji. And Kanan becoming the traditional Disposable Woman.
  • Samurai Champloo: Given the number of times that Fuu ends up getting kidnapped, she made a good investment in saving the two male leads to be her bodyguards. Considering how most of the kidnappings were all just random encounters, you wonder why she wasn't more concerned with separating from them. This was lampshaded in an old "Anime Insider" magazine, which featured a match-up pitting Fuu against Excel and Hyatt in an eating contest. On her stats, Fuu's pet peeve is listed as "getting kidnapped."
  • Iwai from The Severing Crime Edge is doomed to this. She's small, weak, has little experience in the real world, and she's surrounded by serial killers with unbreakable super-weapons who can have any wish granted if they kill her. One could even argue that the organization that'd kept her for much of her life deliberately arranged her lifestyle to make her into a DID, since they love nothing more than gruesome crimes and moving stories like a hero rescuing a princess. That said, she does have some steel in her even if she can do little to fight back. One enemy who's obsessed with authority and power has Iwai nearly raped by several men, gets her beloved to attack her, then tries some mild torture when she finally reaches them. Despite everything, Iwai just stares at her enemy with defiant hate in her eyes, refusing to break under the torment.
  • Akiko in Shōnen Onmyōji gets her moment when a group of demons kidnap her in order to use her blood to heal their master, as well as lead Masahiro into a trap. Of course in the end either Masahiro or Akiko would have been enough to heal their master, but Masahiro has some pretty steller spiritual powers in terms of combat so is more of a threat.
    • She was pretty much asking for it really. She followed Masahiro out at night, despite the fact that Masahiro had specifically directed her to stay in her room so she could be protected by the spiritual barrier his grandfather had erected.
  • Subverted in Sonic the Hedgehog: The Movie, where it becomes clear over time that Sara is just pretending to be Robotnik's hostage.
  • Subverted regularly in Sonic X, most notably with the episode Young Girls Jungle Trap where the female characters are captured multiple times — and get out of it entirely by themselves multiple times, too.
  • Played with in Spice and Wolf. Holo isn't a Damsel in Distress - in fact her counterpart Lawrence usually takes the part of the Distressed Dude - but she's Genre Savvy enough to be well aware of the trope. She jokes around with Lawrence about him liking meek women he could comfort, and enthusiastically play-acts the part for him in jest. She even fools Amati into being her Knight in Shining Armor, largely for kicks. When she's genuinely crushed by the revelation that Yoitsu has been destroyed, she bitterly accuses Lawrence of hiding it from her because he liked seeing her helpless and ignorant.
  • In the second arc of Sword Art Online, Asuna is still trapped in cyberspace in a different game under control of a domineering Game Master. While said Game Master has had months to wear her down and use his admin privileges to stop any plot she devises, the contrast between her hardcore Action Girl persona in the first arc and the helpless damsel in the second was taken poorly by some fans.
  • Nia generally fits this role in the third and final arc of Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann. The third was justified because she was Brainwashed and Crazy. Once she snaps out of this with the help of Simon however, she fits this trope to a T.
  • In The Castle of Cagliostro, Clarisse is pursued by the Count and one of Lupin's priorities in this story is protecting/rescuing her.
  • Parodied in The Devil King Is Bored when the titular Devil King kidnaps a kingdom's princess because he's, well, bored, and thinks that fighting some heroes would be fun. He even places a portal to hell in the middle of a populated town. With a sign above it that says "Portal to Hell."
  • Rachel from Tower of God, at least twice. Pretty bad track record for a girl who wanted to climb the Tower by herself. Then again, she's learnt a few things or two.
  • Akiko Aoshika from Wolf Guy - Wolfen Crest. Haguro tries to invoke this trope with Ryuuko, but she points out that Inugami isn't interested in her.
  • In Yu-Gi-Oh!, Anzu falls into this role more than once and is kidnapped, brainwashed, possessed, or has her life endangered by nearly all of the villains in the series. This even carries over to spin-offs, such as Yu-Gi-Oh! R, where she's kidnapped by Yako to be the vessel for Pegasus's resurrection, and Yu-Gi-Oh! Forbidden Memories, where Seto kidnaps her pre-incarnation, Teana. However, in a bit of an out-of-character moment, she invokes the trope once to lure out Dark Yugi in one of the manga's early chapters, putting herself in danger with the Playing Card Bomber.
  • Yu-Gi-Oh!: Capsule Monsters has a maiden from a village who is chosen as a sacrifice to the Blue-Eyes White Dragon.
  • Maeda in Cromartie High School is a text book example despite being male. Very commonly plots are kicked off because he gets kidnapped by a rival high school prompting the students of Cromartie to go rescue him. Though, being a comedy show, it's played for laughs and he rarely gets rescued since the protagonists will usually get lost or caught up in something else.

    Ballads 
  • Child Ballad King Estmere. The king goes wooing on the recommendation of his brother, and arrives to find the lady is being forced to marry. He rescues her.
  • Child Ballad The Maid Freed from the Gallows has the heroine about to be hanged if she is not ransomed. Various relatives arrive and declare they are there to see her hanged. Finally, her true love arrives and ransoms her. (Most American versions of this ballad feature a Gender Flip version, of a man about to be hanged, but this is the older variant.)

    Comic Books 
  • Comic book heroes seem to spend about half their time rescuing some girl they've been dating on-and-off for about seventy years from something each issue, from Olive Oyl to Lois Lane. (Unsurprisingly, people who Love someones alter ego often suffer from this trope.) Batman? Well, until a few decades ago, the one he would be constantly saving was his oft kidnapped sidekick, Robin: The Boy Hostage (aren't we all glad they toughened him up).
    • See the infamous image of the JLA being told that they have doomed their love interests... except that Batman doesn't have a love interest. He has Robin. Ho Yay indeed.
      • At least he was smart enough not to think of Robin's real name.
    • Batman sometimes has a Distressed Damsel love interest. Julie Madison and Vicki Vale in The Golden Age of Comic Books; Silver St. Cloud in the Seventies, and Jezebel Jet in the modern age. No, wait, scratch that last one...
  • In the early days of Spider-Man, Betty Brant and Gwen Stacy would serve this role. Then it was notoriously subverted in the 1973 Amazing Spider-Man story The Night Gwen Stacy Died, in which archvillain the Green Goblin kidnaps Spidey's girlfriend, Spidey goes to rescue her... and she dies, turning from Gwen Stacy into * The* Gwen Stacy.
    • Also subverted, in a different way, by Mary Jane Watson after her marriage to Peter. Whenever she's confronted by obsessive stalkers, she (almost) always manages to escape on her own, without any help from her super-powered husband. Even more subverted by the fact that, more often than not, Mary Jane is the one who bails out Spider-Man whenever one of his opponents has the upper hand in a fight.
      • Even before their marriage, when Mary Jane was witness to a Spidey fight going poorly, she'd often brazenly distract or sabotage the bad guy, relying on her charm and wit to save her from the dangerous consequences.
    • Even Aunt flippin' May has taken out bad guys. When (fairly) recently the Chameleon had assembled a group of Spider-Bad guys to go after Peter Parker (This is just before Civil War, natch) the Chameleon himself disguised himself as Peter to go and kidnap Aunt May. Aunt May opens the door, and lets her nephew in, and gives him some tea and biscuits while she has to finish her knitting before revealing that she drugged the fucking tea cause she'd recognize her beloved nephew anywhere and Chameleon obviously was an impostor, holding up "GOTCHA" written across the sweater she just made in a knitted moment of awesome.
  • Role-reversal: Yorick in Y: The Last Man is the spoilt "damsel" who has to be saved by the tougher and more experienced women around him, Action Girl 355 in particular.
    • However, Yorick sometimes has his moments, even in the beginning when he's useless most of the time. In one Crowning Moment of Awesome, Yorick is the prisoner of an Israeli commander who is about to shoot down a space shuttle with two live men on board. He attacks her from behind and ruins her shot. And then he knocks her out. Despite him being locked in handcuffs which not even an escape artist like himself can get out of.
  • Heather Hudson attempted to invert this trope in Alpha Flight, even referencing it. When she finds out her two-hour wait for her husband (Guardian) is a set-up, she tries to storm out: "Other wives and girlfriends may be content to play bait for the good guys, but I'm not going to stand around waiting for you to use me to lure Mac into your lair." But by then, Mac's been captured; they want revenge against Heather, too. (The woman with her throws her across the room.)
  • The New Teen Titans: Raven, dear God in Heaven! Her being a pacifist, it kind of makes sense that she'd have trouble fighting with kidnappers.
  • The main character of Empowered almost always ends up captured by villains, as a parody of Faux Action Girls. Naturally this leads to her being the laughingstock of the superhero community. Nonetheless, despite all the ridicule she receives and her general lack of success as a superheroine, she proves to be a Determinator who refuses to quit.
  • Stephanie Brown, star of the current Batgirl series, is growing a relationship with Detective Nicholas Gage. She comes to his rescue relatively often, as befits a superhero, and points out that he is a damsel in distress in their relationship.
  • Most of the women in Sin City due to its Noir roots.
  • Subverted with Jadina from Les Légendaires; her typical Spoiled Sweet attitude, natural clumsyness and the fact she's a princess seems to make her designed for this role, and Danael even mentionned she has been this at least once; however, she never falls into that role, and actually is the one saving her friends most of the time, sometimes even doing so when weakened. This reaches its paroxysm in Book 14, where after she got temporary depowered and had her friends saving her, but still saves her friends from the new Big Bad Abyss, who none of her friend could even scratch. And all of this while still depowered. Wow.
  • April O'Neil from Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. In almost all of the TMNT continuities, she is a good friend of the Turtles, and is a love interest to Donatello in the 2012 cartoon. While it varies by incarnation, as the turtles' most prominent human friend she is often in need of rescue, particularly in the 1987 cartoon.
  • In Violine, Violine is regularly in need of saving, and occasionally tied up as well.

    Fairy Tales 

    Fan Fiction 

    Animated Films 
  • Lampshaded and averted in Shrek, especially in a scene where Robin Hood and his Merry Men try to "rescue" Fiona from the ogre they believe has kidnapped her, only to have her rebuff him and beat up all his men in a combination of styles from Xena: Warrior Princess and The Matrix.
    • And in Shrek Forever After, where in an alternate universe where Shrek was never born and never came for her, Fiona eventually decided to rescue herself.
    • Played straight at first but later subverted with Fiona in Shrek 4-D, who at first is helpless after Thelonius kidnaps her, but eventually gains the upper hand and beats him.
  • In Toy Story, Andy purposely has Bo Peep play this role, so Woody could save her. Not that she minds...
  • Disney is rather infamous for this in their movies.
    • Parodied in Disney's Hercules.
      Hercules: Aren't you a damsel in distress?
      Megara: I'm a damsel... I'm in distress... I can handle this. Have a nice day.
    • A more recent straight example would be Kida from 2001's Atlantis: The Lost Empire, who spends the last third of the film crystallized by the villain, and that her boyfriend and his teammates actually had to rescue her and change her back.
  • Subverted in Titan A.E., when Akima is jettisoned into space, captured, and held to be sold into slavery. The rest of the crew undergoes a makeshift rescue operation, only to find out that she successfully knocked out all of her captors and is patiently waiting to be picked up.
  • Played with in Happily Never After, in which The Prince (whose name is revealed to be Humperdink) is searching for one of these (or a lady in waiting or whatever else is a typical princess) and sounds excited that Ella could be one of those things. When he asks if she's a damsel in distress, her response is "I will be. Kind of. At midnight". To say the least, Ella does more ass-kicking than servant boy Rick or Humperdink.
  • Straight example in Hoodwinked, where Red Puckett is Bound and Gagged and loaded into a tramway cabin filled with dynamite, and it's up to Granny to rescue her.
  • Michelle, the little badger from Once Upon a Forest, inhales a poisonous gas and falls ill. Thus, it's up to her friends Edgar, Russel, and Abigail to find the herbs to heal her. Her damsel status stands in a bit of contrast to Abigail, an Action Girl who fights an owl while trying to save her.
  • Odette from The Swan Princess is under an enchantment by Rothbart that causes her to turn into a swan when moonlight leaves the lake by his castle in the morning and she needs Derek to break the enchantment, but she also turns down Rothbart's marriage proposals without a hint of remorse or fear even though she knows he's a powerful sorcerer and he killed her father. Also, she doesn't exactly wait for Derek to show up and does everything she can to try and let him know where she is and what he has to do.
  • The Fuma Conspiracy: Murasaki, who twice found herself the target of kidnapping and/or traps. The first was when she was captured by a Fuma Ninja during her wedding, and demanded the MacGuffin in exchange for her life. The demand motivated Goemon and company to steal the vase and deliver it to the Fuma.
  • Lupin III: The Columbus Files shows an example of Fujiko being a Damsel in Distress and a Badass, but without being a Badass in Distress. During the opening, she loses her memory, and her entire personality changes. She's terrified of nearly everything, and everyone is a stranger to her. When she contributed to part of her rescue via pure Muscle Memory, that also terrifies her.
  • Strange Magic: Dawn, being a Princess Classic is kidnapped by The Bog King as a hostage to exchange for a stolen love potion.

    Live Action Films 
  • King Kong:
    • The original 1933 film treated Fay Wray's Ann Darrow as nothing more than a prize for an evil gorilla.
    • The 1976 film starts this way, but Jessica Lange's Ann Darrow gets to know King Kong, sees that he's lonely and forms a bond with the big guy.
    • Naomi Watts' Darrow from the 2005 film takes the latter step further, and is more assertive in trying to stop a money hungry publicist from making Kong a circus attraction.
  • The Ur-Example of this in film would probably be the protagonist of the 1914 silent melodrama serial The Perils of Pauline. A "talkie" version of the series was made in the '30s; the title was later used for a 1947 biopic of original Pauline actress Pearl White, and a 1967 film that was a camp spoof of the genre.
    • Pearl White also starred in a nearly-identical series, The Exploits of Elaine, around the same time.
  • A large number of Bond Girls fit this trope.
    • For example, Honey Rider in Dr. No. Dr. No decides to execute her by cuffing her to the inclined side of a pool with water pouring in from a large pipe. Bond finds her and releases her. Originally she was supposed to be attacked by large crabs while chained.
    • Thunderball. Bond's fellow agent Paula is kidnapped by a couple of Largo's thugs and taken to be tortured for information. Bond goes to Largo's estate to rescue her but arrives too late. Paula has taken a Cyanide Pill and killed herself so she can't be made to betray Bond and the operation.
    • Spectre: In the climax, Oberhauser kidnaps Madeline and traps her in a locked room in the old MI6 building, which is set to be demolished and has already been rigged to blow. Bond has to race through the building to save her life.
  • A rare role-reversal is in the movie version of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, where Luke Perry is the Distressed Dude. (He had clearly Taken A Level In Badass by the end of the movie, though, electrocuting a vampire at the High School Dance.)
  • Live Free or Die Hard attempts to make this one more feminist-friendly by having Lucy McClane reject this role at every turn. She is still helpless to physically resist, being an unarmed college student, but when the villain puts her on the phone with her dad, she simply tells him how many bad guys are left. John kills the villain Gabriel by shooting his own shoulder to hit Gabriel's heart, which frees Lucy and now that she is traumatized by John shooting his own shoulder on purpose just to save her, she becomes caring to her dad just like in the original Die Hard and her rebellious personality towards John now faded to dust.
  • Ditto for Elizabeth Swann in the first Pirates of the Caribbean, except the feminist-friendly parts were added by the actress herself. Said actress gets a much more fitting role in the sequels.
    • Played straight and then subverted as said damsel takes a level in badass over the course of the movies. It gets lampshaded by Jack when he refers to her as "a certain damsel in distress... Or should I say distressing damsel." after her Shoot the Dog moment of leaving Jack to die.
    • If Elizabeth is this in the first movie, then Will must be as well, because he ends up having to be rescued from the exact same situation. She manages to instigate his rescue despite being marooned on a deserted island, and then actively fights alongside him in the final battle.
  • In the Spider-Man Trilogy, Mary Jane gets kidnapped by the villain in the climax of all three movies. She's also in distress twice before the climax of the first.
  • Done remarkably effectively in Superman (1978) - the famous helicopter rescue, but all of the climaxes in the movie involve this trope. Also used in the sequels.
  • Played fairly straight in 'Sync' episode 6, where computer prodigy Yoshi appears to have no sense of fighting or quick reasoning skill whatsoever. Ruthlessly exploited by our 'Genre Savvy' main character when he gets her to panic in his favor by suddenly yelling, "Oh god, look at all the bad guys coming to get you, get on the motocrcycle, quick, they're right behind us!'
  • Aversion: In The Proposition, this role is occupied by the retarded younger brother. Obviously, there is no Rescue Romance. At the end, however, Charlie still has to rescue the police captain's wife from being raped and killed, although the captain himself - despite being Ray Winstone - is also being threatened, though not with rape.
  • Subverted in Ever After: when Danielle is sold into slavery, Prince Henry shows up to rescue her. But, being the capable heroine she is, she has already threatened the bad guy and freed herself.
  • The Indiana Jones series
    • Marion Ravenwood in Raiders of the Lost Ark. She's captured by Todt and threatened with torture in her own bar and has to be rescued by Indy. Later in Cairo she's captured by the Germans' Arab allies and carried away in a basket. Then she's captured yet again by Nazi troops while she's aboard the ship. Somewhat averted because she isn't completely helpless, including knocking out one of her Arab pursuers with a frying pan and pulling a knife on Belloq in an attempt to escape.
    • Willie Scott in Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom.
    • Subverted at the end of Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade. Elsa became a distressed damsel when she found herself dangling over a crevasse after she tried taking the Holy Grail from its resting place. However, rather than letting Indiana pull her up to safety, she uses his hold to try and reach for the chalice, which had conveniently fallen just below her. In the final moment, she almost reaches the grail until her hand slips away from Indy's, causing her to suffer a Death by Materialism.
  • The female lead in Legend (1985), it doesn't help that she's innocent to the point of stupidity either.
    • Hey, she did manage to trick Darkness into believing her Face–Heel Turn long enough for her to free the unicorn. She got knocked out immediately afterwards.
  • Giselle starts out like this in Enchanted but reverses roles with Robert in the end.
  • Princess Leia from Star Wars manages to be this and simultaneously an Action Girl. However she is something of a subversion because her plea for help was not a plea for a rescue but rather a plea to get the plans to the Death Star to Bail Organa on Alderaan. She wasn't expecting a rescue at all (and the guys didn't plan to do it either).
    • And she wasn't exactly what one would call grateful when she did get the rescue, either.
      Princess Leia: I don't know who you are or where you've come from, but from now on you'll do as I say, okay?
    • Carrie Fisher herself said: "I was not a damsel in distress. I was a distressed damsel."
    • Rather funnily, Han Solo, of all people, plays this role in Return of the Jedi. He is rescued from a dragon... by a princess. And he is helpless and weak when she rescues him, seeing as he's blind at the time. This doesn't prevent him from (accidentally) knocking Boba Fett into the Sarlacc Pit - and then rescuing best friend Lando Calrissian after Lando had come to rescue him!
      • If Jabba has her as his slave girl, in the end she's the one who kills him.
  • Trillian in the film version of The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy.
  • In Hudson Hawk, a kidnapped Andie MacDowell pretends to suffer side effects from curare poisoning so she can annoy the typewriter symbols out of her captors and lampshade the trope: "I'm not a very good damsel in a dress, am I?"
  • Averted in Iron Man. Pepper Potts has to be rescued, but is enough of a threat that the villain feels compelled to shoot her instead of taking her hostage. She's also generally competent and helpful throughout the film.
    • Indeed, the one scene that seems obviously headed for her being captured and turned into a distressed damsel has her instead easily evading the villain's clutches, and then immediately alerting the authorities to his evil plans.
    • Done again in the sequel, when Happy Hogan insists on accompanying S.H.I.E.L.D Agent Romanov on her mission and fights a bad guy when they enter the building. By the time he has won the fight, he sees that she's taken down every other bad guy there is.
      • And shown again with Miss Romanov in the beginning of The Avengers. She's held captive by a group of Russian mobsters who are ready to kill her until Agent Coulson calls her, ready to bring her back in. She easily frees herself and drops everyone she was dealing with in no time flat. With Coulson listening in on the whole thing.
  • X-Men:
    • In X-Men, Rogue is kidnapped by Magneto for his machine.
    • In X-Men Origins: Wolverine, Emma Silverfox is captured by William Stryker and he used her to blackmail her sister, Kayla.
  • Cheryl in I'm Gonna Git You Sucka when she's kidnapped by Mr. Big's Mooks.
  • Double subverted in True Grit western: the main character is a 14-year old girl trying to prove her companions she doesn't need babysitting, and succeeding. However, eventually she does, in a perfectly classical way: first getting kidnapped by outlaws, than falling into a snake pit.
  • Subverted in The Avengers (1998). Emma Peel is captured by Sir August and brainwashed into a hallucinatory state. You'd expect Steed to break in and rescue her, but instead she escapes from Sir August, fights off her delusions and breaks out to freedom by herself.
  • In Perfume, the Villain Protagonist sets his murderous sights on Laura Richis, a beautiful, virginal young lady. Her father becomes wary of the danger and does everything in his power to protect his daughter.
  • Tank Girl. Sam (a 10-year-old girl) is captured several times, with Tank Girl spending the movie tracking her down in order to save her. Subverted at one point when Sam cleverly uses a deadly toy to puncture a child molester's hand.
    Sam: That's what you get for being a perv!
  • Tina (Cameron Diaz) in The Mask. Although she is able to get Dorian to take off the mask and then kick it to Stanley, which leads to the battle being won.
  • Cliffhanger. Jessie Deighan turns into one. She's a helicopter pilot. She does mountain rescues. Then she gets scared by bats in a cave, and cringes in a corner while the he-men fight.
  • Subverted hilariously in a scene of The Boondock Saints II: All Saints Day with Agent Eunice Bloom. She's snatched into an impenetrable panic room by a baddie (right in front of the cops, no less), and pandemonium breaks out. One of the cops even worries that she might be "touched and stuff", and it's played as high drama for a bit. He needn't have worried; in the next shot, Special Agent Bloom has the baddie pinned down and sputtering for relief.
  • Wild Wild West. Rita Escobar, whose husband was kidnapped by Dr. Loveless and who ends up getting imprisoned and kidnapped by Loveless herself.
  • Played straight in The Princess Bride. Princess Buttercup gets kidnapped by Vizzini, nearly eaten by the shrieking eels, is the oblivious target of a murder plot, gets set on fire, falls into a sand trap, and nearly gets maimed by a rodent of unusual size. At one point she even contemplates taking her own life.
  • Subverted with Kelly in Mystery Team. Yes, she DOES get kidnapped... but it's not like the Mystery Team were much help in saving her.
  • Reconstructed in the Scooby-Doo movie. They point out that while, yes, Daphne did get kidnapped a lot, she never let that discourage her from joining the gang in their latest mystery. She's also Genre Savvy enough to have studied martial arts so that she is eventually able to look after herself.
    Daphne: (after defeating a henchman who tried to kidnap her) Now who's the damsel in distress?
    Henchman: Me?
    Daphne: Straight up!
  • In The Dark Knight Rises, Selina Kyle (Anne Hathaway) plays this straight when she is cornered by Bane's henchmen on the rooftop while confronting John Daggett. She also fakes it in the bar shootout, where she guns down two of Bane's henchmen, then begins screaming hysterically when the SWAT team bursts in, only to sober up as soon as they have chased Bane's men out.
  • Played straight in Django Unchained with Broomhilda.
    • Kerry Washington said she took the part because African-American actresses aren't usually offered the "damsel in distress" role.
  • Played straight in Desert Heat with a pair of blondes. Complete with threesome Rescue Sex.
  • Pretty much the whole point of A Lonely Place to Die, which has a group of mountaineers getting killed off one by one trying to take a young Serbian child they found buried underground in the Scottish highlands to safety.
  • Isabelle getting captured by the giants is what sets the plot of Jack the Giant Slayer in motion.
  • In Showdown in Little Tokyo, after Yoshida recaptures Minako he takes her with him as a hostage. He eventually ties her up covered in gasoline and tries to burn her alive in front of Kenner.
  • Elle Brody’s role in Godzilla (2014) is basically to be in danger from the Kaiju and motivate Ford to risk his life to save her.
  • Fiona during the climax of The Giver, in which she's sentenced to Release for her role in helping Jonas escape.
  • In Annie (2014), Annie is kidnapped by her fake parents and sent on a car chase with them during the climax.
  • The Hateful 8 has Daisy Domergue. John Ruth captures her for the Dead or Alive bounty on her head, and believes that a Knight in Shining Armor of sorts is going to try to rescue her. Turns out four such knights mostly wiped out most of Minnie's Haberdashery of innocents to do just that.
  • Marian in Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves is a downplayed example - she directly helps Robin under the nose of the Sheriff and only went through with his scheme because Nottingham was holding the rebels hostage and would've killed them if she turned down his marriage proposal. During her wedding/rape scene she is defiant throughout by outright telling him "It may be my body but it will not be me!" And during the final fight between Robin and Nottingham she does not a bystander as she grabs what she can to help Robin, which isn't much since it's in a chapel.

    Literature 
  • At least as old as The Bible itself, as shown by the case of Sarah, daughter of Raguel, saved by Tobias with Raphael's help.
  • Played straight in numerous medieval tales from all over Europe, with Lyonesse, Guinevere and Iseult as model examples. In the Chivalric Romance, it was particularly noted as an element of the Matter of Britain, which was the supreme matter dealing with love.
  • Defied way back in 1495 in Matteo Boiardo's epic Orlando innamorato. Princess Angelica of Cathay (China) is distressed by the Muslim Tartars at the city of Albracca. Riding to her rescue are the French, the Indians, and several other Muslim armies including King Sacripante of Circassia. She thinks all this isn't good enough and escapes to find the missing Christian champion Orlando before returning to be rescued.
  • Constance Bonacieux in The Three Musketeers.
  • Wendy Darling, Tinker Bell and Tiger Lily (who is an interesting case, as she is also Badass Princess) to Peter Pan.
  • Aouda in Verne's Around the World in 80 Days. She then shows more than a glimpse of an Action Girl, though.
  • Dimity Plumleigh-Teinmort in The Finishing School Series often ends in this role due to being Afraid of Blood and Fainting tendencies. Despite being in training to become a spy.
  • Twilight: Bella Swan is ineffectual against a group of rapists and Edward must swoop in to save her. Prior to this, Edward had to save her from a careening truck. Later in the book, she is ineffectual against a vampire, and Edward and his family must swoop in to save her. Subsequent books have the same formula, right down to warring factions — werewolves and vampires — putting aside their differences to save Bella. Bella herself is absolutely useless in a fight until she herself gets cool powers.
    • Like Sookie Stackhouse Bella is actually the only human with enough bad luck to attract both werewolves and vampires (and various deadly situations) that are impossible to kill or harm unless by other supernatural creatures. One of the reasons of her insistence to become a vampire (aside from spending eternity with her beloved Edward) is to avert this trope. Like she says in the first book: "I can't always be Lois Lane. I want to be Superman, too."
    • In the movie at least, Bella attempts to fight back against the rapists and maces the vampire before running for it. While neither is winning a battle, it's at least some form of self-preservation.
    • Let's just say that it's realistic insofar as, a lot of the time, Bella could not realistically be expected to fight off vampires and so on. Everyone else's willingness to sacrifice themselves for her, on the other hand . . .
  • Though reasonably competent, actor Lee Nicholas (in Tanya Huff's Smoke and Shadows series) seems to have an attraction for evil forces that want to possess his body, hold him hostage, and otherwise put him in peril—perhaps because the series protagonist has a crush on him. At one point, Lee actually says that he's "getting tired of being the designated damsel in distress".
  • Buttercup in The Princess Bride spends almost the entire story waiting for her true love to come save her. She's in this mess because she gave herself up to save him — and he did promise he'd always come for her. Of course, The Princess Bride is an Affectionate Parody of swashbuckling adventure stories.
  • In House of Leaves, Pelafina writes in her letters that she is this character, and that her son has to save her from being locked up in the mental institution.
  • Esmeralda in The Hunchback of Notre Dame. Her mere presence is the catalyst for all the action in the book. Victor Hugo kind of rips into this trope by having Esmeralda pine for her knight in shining armor, who eventually does nothing to save her from execution. Had Esmeralda been a little more proactive about her own fate, maybe things would have worked out better for her.
  • Christine in Phantom of the Opera... sorta kinda.
  • In The Phantom Tollbooth, Milo's quest rapidly turns into one to rescue the princesses Rhyme and Reason from the Castle in the Air. Once Milo reached them, there was a huge group of very PO'd monsters racing towards them, so running was the only option any of them had.
  • In The Moomins, Snork Maiden, and being so pathetic has made her the least popular character.
    • She often does it on purpose, since she fancies herself as a romantic heroine. She can be quite undistressed when she wants to.
  • In John Barnes's One for the Morning Glory, Sylvie the goblin's prisoner.
  • Elayne, Egwene and Nynaeve from the earlier books of The Wheel of Time. They have a strange ability to get shielded, tied up and locked away only to be rescued by someone, though they did manage to get themselves away from the Seanchan in Book 2. Plus the time they actually berated Mat for saving them. They do get called on that later on by Birgitte however, who tore each of them a verbal new one and forced them to apologize. They'd also broken themselves out of there when Mat showed up.
  • In James Thurber's The 13 Clocks, the Princess Saralinda is kept in her Evil Uncle's castle. In fact, she is not his niece, and he intends to force her to marry him once he is free of a curse.
  • Although Terry Pratchett insists he's unable to write characters like this, Ginger in Moving Pictures spends her short-lived Holy Wood film career playing the role of one Distressed Damsel after another.
    • He's clearly forgotten Violet Botell in Hogfather. Susan does lampshade it by berating her in her mind for her intentionally helpless behaviour.
  • The Silmarillion:
    • Played straight with both Turin's loves in "The Children of Hurin", Finduilas, killed by the orcs, and Niënor Níniel (when Glaurung wipes her memories). Sadly things end badly for her, as she only realizes who she is after Turin has impregnated her, at which she kills herself.
    • Zigzagged by Lúthien: when imprisoned by her father, she frees herself. Although she is then captured a second time and needs some help to escape, she then proceeds to almost single-handedly free her lover Beren (and a number of other prisoners) from Sauron — yes, that Sauron. Later in Angband Morgoth possibly intends to rape her, but she sends him to sleep. When the forces of Angband come after her and Beren, they are saved by eagles.
    • Idril, during the Fall of Gondolin, as her treacherous cousin Maeglin, who is in love with her despite first-cousin marriages being illegal among Elves, tries to take her (it is implied he intends to basically rape her) and murder her son Earendil. However Idril's husband Tuor throws Maeglin off the walls of Gondolin.
    • Celebrían, the wife of Elrond, is captured and possibly raped by the orcs. She was rescued by her sons, but left Middle-Earth.
    • Played with by Eowyn in "The Lord of the Rings". She shows herself to be very capable, disguising herself as a man and avenging her uncle's death by defeating the Witch-King of Angmar, one of the main villains of the Legendarium. However his breath leaves her dying, and it takes Aragorn to heal her.
  • Edgar Rice Burroughs. To be just, he has a lot of Distressed Dude as well, and the damsels have high spirits, courage, and willingness to do what is in their powers, but:
    • Jane in Tarzan.
    • Meriem in Son of Tarzan.
    • Dejah Thoris in several John Carter of Mars books, most notably from the beginning of the second to the end of the third.
    • An anonymous group of women in The Gods of Mars, thrown to animals, inspires a Gladiator Revolt.
    • Thuvia in Warlord Of Mars and Thuvia Maid of Mars
    • Tara in Chessmen of Mars
    • Valla Dia in The Master Mind of Mars
    • Virginia Maxon in The Monster Men
    • Dian in At The Earths Core
    • Emma von der Tann in The Mad King meets Barney Custer when he sees that her horse ran away with her.
    • Both Sanoma Tora and Tavia in A Fighting Man of Mars. Sanoma loses her spirit entirely, which is evidence enough that she is not, after all the Love Interest.
  • Judge Dee's cases often include at least one of these young ladies; ranging from vagabond thieves, to reluctant prostitutes to innocent young ladies of gentle birth. However they are seldom quite helpless or useless.
  • Wilkie Collins' Victorian novel The Woman in White (1860) features the character Laura Glyde (nee Fairlie), who is the embodiment of this trope. She's got the emotional strength of a Kleenex.
    • The interesting part is that Marian Halcombe, her half sister, is an amazingly strong character for a Victorian novel, almost an Extraordinarily Empowered Girl by the standards of the time. While Laura is the epitome of blushing Victorian beauty and fragility, Marian is described as "ugly", even having a slight mustache on her upper lip. Maybe this is a case of an Ugly Tomboy and Girly Girl.
  • In Wen Spencer's Endless Blue, Paige is captured by Mary's Landing and Turk must come to her rescue. Also Eraphie did not flee of her own will but was captured by Hardin; Mikhail comes to her rescue as soon as that becomes clear.
  • Diana Mayo, heroine of The Sheik. She's kidnapped by a rival Sheik, forcing the titular character to rescue her, during which he realizes he's fallen in love with her.
  • In the Dragonlance series, Laurana becomes this after being captured by her Arch-Enemy Kitiara and having her love interest Tanis Half-Elven try to rescue her. Played with in that Laurana no longer trusts Tanis as he has been Dating Catwoman, refuses his help and ends up breaking free on her own. Though she does end up needing Tanis's help to complete her escape.
  • Esther Friesner loves to avert and parody this trope.
    • In her "Majyk" trilogy, we first have Mysti in Majyk by Accident whose only source of distress is her Welfin relatives and who bullies Kendar into marrying her so she can leave the "jolly greensward ho" and stop skipping around like an idiot and her only REAL distress is when the curse hits her after Kendar refuses to follow through with a promise he made during the wedding vows.
    • In the second book, Majyk by Hook or Crook, we have not only Mysti who has become the swashbuckler with a secret identity, A Blade for Justice (and prefers to be referred to by his/her full name), but we also have Anisella, who wears nothing but chain mail, has a black belt in helo kiti and a green barette in po kipsi, and crumples like a McDonalds napkin when even barely brushed by wool... or any other fabric.
    • The third book in the trilogy, Majyk by Design, gives us a male example in Prince Boffin who has been turned into a toad but also gives us great parody in Kendar's aunts (mercenary swordswomen)and his soon-to-be sister-in-law Dulcetta who, although she is generally the TYPE of girl who would fall into this category, actually kidnapped the man whom everyone thought kidnapped her and hatched a scheme with him to write romance novels. When the main characters find her she is heard screaming for help with the help of a metric ton of Purple Prose and while she is recounting to them the story of what happened runs off to write when the characters paraphrase her cries as "Help me". She thought it was perfect. It also comes to pass that her mother, who raised her to be a docile, dependent woman, was a barbarian swordswoman herself and only gave it up because she preferred regular bathing.
  • Jez is kidnapped at the beginning of the second Kingdom Keepers book, setting the plot in motion.
  • Inverted in Journey to the West where Sanzang, the only human of the group, and a man to boot, is often kidnapped by the newly introduced Big Bad of each chapter.
  • In Patricia A. McKillip's The Book of Atrix Wolfe, Saro is trapped in a spell, rendered The Speechless, and ends up a Scullery Maid in Cinderella Circumstances.
  • In Andy Hoare's White Scars novel Hunt for Voldorius, the Bloodtide tells the White Scars and Raven Guard that Malya is being subjected to being made a new Bloodtide, and begs them to rescue her.
  • Ginny Weasley in Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, although no one realizes it until near the end. And she did attempt to save herself by throwing the diary away first, stealing it back only because she was afraid of being outed.
    • "Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows" has Hermione being tortured by Bellatrix Lestrange and Fenrir Greyback. When Harry and Ron try to save her Bellatrix takes her hostage, however Dobby's intervention saves them.
  • Conan the Barbarian. Very often
  • In Black Beauty, Lady Anne.
  • Averted in Komarr, by Lois McMaster Bujold. Ekaterin Vorsoisson destroys the villains' secret weapon.
  • Tenar to Ged in Earthsea Trilogy. (It can be argued that Ged is also a Distressed Dude to her.)
  • In the first book of the Time Scout series, Margo ends up in a 16th century Portuguese prison. In the third, Birgitta is saved by Skeeter from a beating. In the fourth, Birgitta is saved from gang rape and murder. In the third and fourth, Ianira is in the hands of Jack the Ripper.
  • Lampshaded in Soon I Will Be Invincible, where it is noted the Corefire has the requisite "reporter girlfriend who always needed rescuing."
  • Averted most of the time by Jenna Heap in Septimus Heap, as she usually manages to get safe by herself.
  • In L. M. Montgomery's The Blue Castle, Valancy foolishly goes to a dance where drunken men start to harrass her. Barney Snaith arrives in time. The main character in Anne of Green Gables is saved by her future husband from a catastrophe resulting from her attempt at impersonating Elaine the Lily of Astolat from Tennyson's poem. Hilarity Ensues.
  • In Teresa Frohock's Miserere: An Autumn Tale, Lindsey is in Hell. Lucian realizes he must open a Gate, which has been forbidden to him, to rescue her.
  • Amy Goodenough in the Young Bond novel Blood Fever, who is kidnapped by pirates for ransom. She ends being taken from them by the novel's Big Bad, who plans to make her his wife.
  • Agnes and Antonia both get their chance to fill this roll in The Monk. One will live to be rescued, one will not.
  • In Poul Anderson's "A World Called Maanerek", Sonna is captured with Torrek. While Torrek is turned back to Wanen by removing his new memories and restoring his old ones, the ship decides to use Sonna as a "tension release" by lobomotizing her and letting the men rape her. Wanen, his memories not so gone as they thought, rescues her before his own escape.
  • Christine becomes one in Bride of the Rat God after she wears an Artifact of Death that is used as a prop in one of her films.
  • In Tinker, Tinker realizes why this is more common than Distressed Dude: there is no elegant way for a grown woman to lug about an injured man.
  • Also by Wen Spencer, the cover to A Brother's Price features a man carrying a limp woman. Said cover is misleading; that scene does happen, when Odelia passes out in a stream after being beaten by attackers and Jerin fishes her out, but the women of that universe, Odelia included, are anything but neutral, and that is really the only case in the book where a woman needs to be rescued. Unless you count the fact that Jerin helps Cira escape by picking the locks of her handcuffs. She is only in trouble because she tried to rescue him, so it is not a straight example of distressed damsel
  • In Sarah A. Hoyt's Darkship Thieves, Thena in the opening.
  • Parodied in The Good The Bad And The Mediochre, where dragons are noted to have a tendency to kidnap virgin princesses. Just because.
  • In Andre Norton's Ice Crown, Roane stumbles on the place where kidnappers bring Princess Ludorica.
  • In Andre Norton's Storm over Warlock, Shann leaps to the aid of a Wyvern when she loses control of the forktail.
    • In Ordeal In Otherwhere, Charis poses as this, driven mad by the contact with the Wyverns, to infiltrate the Company men.
  • Played with a few times in A Song of Ice and Fire.
    • The war to save Lyanna Stark was won, but Lyanna died in the process so victory was hollow for the people who wanted to save her. There's hints that the "Damsel" was far less in distress than people who started the war thought.
    • Sansa Stark never got rescued by her family and was eventually forced to flee with an amoral man who then groomed and molested her.
    • Lady Hornwood was already dead by the time her would-be rescuers arrived.
  • In Frostflower and Thorn Frostflower ends up needing rescue after being hung up for execution, though without fatal injury since the farmer-priest Maldron still hoped she would recant and be his Sex Slave.
  • A Mage's Power: Princess Kasile is kidnapped during a joust, but this does not (immediately) provoke a Rescue Arc. The main characters are mercenaries, and their leader insists that this event doesn't concern them unless they are hired to rescue her. Eric decides to go on his own time, along with his fellow mercenary, Culmus, who is also the princess' secret boyfriend.
  • Abby Badica when captured by Strigoi in Vampire Academy. She is a cute, helpless, royal Moroi who breaks down in the face of danger. Every one of her rescuers is tempted to leave the battle and comfort it.
  • Archvillain: Maira needs to be rescued at least once per book.
  • In the second Bourne novel, the people manipulating Bourne have kidnapped his wife to force him to do their bidding. Only she's not Suzie Homemaker, she's a high level government official in her own right, accustomed to traveling the world and fighting communism with the power of economics on behalf of the Canadian government. She sows confusion among the enemy, then walks out the front door into the night.
  • The Hunger Games: Annie Cresta. She's captured and held prisoner by the Capitol at the end of Catching Fire, but she is rescued in Mockingjay.
  • In The Flying Boy, Amy Simpson was kidnapped by Dr. Paigne as bait for Jeremy Floeter.

    Live Action TV 
  • Buffy the Vampire Slayer:
    • Everybody is Distressed sooner or later. There's even episodes where Buffy takes this role. In the first few seasons, Willow is the main Distressed Damsel. In second two, she and Xander share the role. As Willow grows in power in seasons three and four, Xander, Giles, and Spike end up in this position more often than the others. In seasons 5 and 6, it's Dawn. In season 7, it's the potentials.
    Buffy: Dawn's in trouble. Must be Tuesday.
    • Buffy was this in the Season 2 episode Halloween, when an enchanted costume causes her to become a very helpless 18th century noblewoman.
    • Subverted by the show itself, however, as Buffy appears to be the stereotypical petite, blonde girl who is constantly in need of rescue, which she almost never is and on the rare times that she is captured, she almost always gets herself out of trouble.
    • Also the Season Three episode "Choices" plays with this trope as Willow gets captured by The Mayor and does eventually need rescuing but only because her attempts to liberate herself fell through when she got distracted gathering intelligence about The Mayor's plan which was arguably good trade off since she knew Buffy would get her out anyway.
    • Cordelia was this when she was on the show. Not so much after she moved to Angel.
    • Anne was this twice. She appears again on Angel, a good deal tougher.
  • In Angel's "A Hole in the World", Fred tries to fight her status as Distressed Damsel:
    Wesley: You have to lie down.
    Fred: I am not — I am not the damsel in distress. I am not some case. I have to work this. I lived in a cave for 5 years in a world where they killed my kind like cattle. I am not going to be cut down by some monster flu. I am better than that!
    • The gang takes off to save her anyway.
  • Alex Cahill is kidnapped in almost every other episode of Walker, Texas Ranger.
  • LazyTown sometimes has Stephanie being kidnapped by the "evil dude".
  • In Firefly, it seems that every episode that centers on River has her in serious danger, needing some Big Damn Heroes to save the day...except for "Objects in Space," where she hits the villain with a plan.
    • The ironic part is that by Serenity, she's activated hidden Waif-Fu powers that would have let her handily deal with every one of the bad guys gunning for her in the series.
      • River in the series got so smart and powerful that Serenity's own crew starts to worry about whether she's safe to keep around.
      • It makes sense, given that Serenity was used to tie up loose ends in the story. Given how "Objects in Space" went, it seems that the next season would have had River slowly regain her former fierce intellect and use it far more often.
    • She showed some signs of her impending badassery earlier on in the episode "War Stories" when she gunned down three of Niska's men with her eyes closed in order to save Kaylee, who would have shared Distressed Damsel duty had the series actually continued. Joss Whedon has said something to the tune of, "Whenever we wanted to up the suspense, we just put the cute engineer in danger."
    • And it's been similarly commented that anytime a man infiltrates the ship he does so by befriending Kaylee, flirting with her and then threatening her at gunpoint. (This happens twice, with Simon in the pilot and then Tracy in "The Message", and probably would've been a continuing trend.)
  • Lana Lang in Smallville. The whole first season was one big Lana capture-fest. And most of the second. Usually by kryptonite mutants who ''loved'' her. And once they had her, they often tried to kill her, for no better reason than to give Clark a chance to arrive JUST IN TIME! One later-season character actually commented sardonically to his obsessed stalkermutant friend "Lana Lang? Gee, how original."
    • Subverted with Chloe Sullivan. While she needs to be rescued now and then, as Clark puts it himself, she saved him more times than he could have ever saved her.
    • Subverted with Lois Lane in more recent episodes; while she tends to need rescuing on a semi-regular basis, she often ends up saving her own skin, and will never be defined as "helpless". She also lampshaded this trope in the Season 10 episode "Harvest", when she ended up getting kidnapped by a rural community who wanted to sacrifice her in a harvest ritual, after wanting to prove to Clark that she didn't need protecting:
      "I promise to eat a heaping helping of crow when we get back home, but right now, do your super-speedy thing because this fair lady needs some rescuing big time."
  • Gossip Girl does it at least once per season, when characters put aside their problems to help Serena: in season 1, when the Nate/Blair/Chuck love triangle takes second place to Serena's confession that she (allegedly) killed somebody; in season 2, when again the aforementioned love triangle is paused when the three characters try to get her out of jail, and in season 3 when all pending matters (Chuck's grief over his father's death anniversary, Lily's postponed confession to Rufus about a night with her ex-husband, Eric's and Jenny's constant fighting, Dan's lingering feelings for Vanessa) are frozen (and then solved or exposed, one by one) when she's on a car accident and over half of the cast go to the hospital to be with her.
  • The game show version of The Perils Of Penelope Pitstop has Penelope in distress in the same manner as the cartoon where H.C. wants her dead, missing & never found, etc.
  • Often done in Scrubs about a patient's dying or miraculously recovering ending bickering about less important matters.
    • One episode turns the plot of that episode into a medieval fantasy. In it, the patient becomes a damsel in distress that everyone works together to save.
  • In Power Rangers in Space, just try to count how many times the Rangers themselves get tied up, to either figure a way out in time for the big fight, or be rescued by the one Ranger who wasn't there at the time.
    • How many other times did the Power Rangers have a damsel in distress?
  • Supernatural tends to apply this trope so much it gets annoying after a while. The Victim Of The Week (usually female) is either being threatened and can't help herself out or Sam is pinned to something and helpless against the MOTW or Dean is doing something stupid/going off on his own, getting nabbed and needing Sam to save his arse.
    • They've subverted it twice with Sam, though. In Bloodlust, the vampires capture him but let him go after they've given him a good talking to and in The Benders, he manages to get out of his cage without Dean's help and Dean ends up being the tied up one in need of saving.
  • Farscape put every character, male and female, hero and villain, into such a situation—notably John, who is captured and tortured at the end of the first season and is rescued by Aeryn (with help), and Aeryn, who is captured and tortured at the end of the final season and is rescued by John (with help). This makes sense, as she is the Action Girl at the start of the show, and while he's not quite an action hero by the end he has gotten badass enough to return the favor.
  • Subverted (a bit) in Doctor Who (notorious for women who needed rescuing from bug-eyed monsters at every cliffhanger) with Jo Grant (UNIT assistant to the Pertwee Doctor) who was a trained spy/escapologist, and thus was the one who freed the Doctor when they were captured. (Lampshaded also by Sarah Jane Smith when she rescues the Doctor from a cell in The Android Invasion and quips: "This time I'm saving you!" She'd also done it in the first episode she was in, The Time Warrior.) Jo Grant was originally conceived as an Emma Peel-type Action Girl but they cast Katy Manning after her somewhat ditzy audition, a classic example of the difference between what the producers say they want and what they actually want.
    • Barbara Wright alternately played this trope straight and subverted it. The most memorable straight example would be in the very first Who serial An Unearthly Child, where she spends most of the last two episodes screaming and crying. She seems to have gotten it out of her system by the next serial, where she's perfectly happy to go on a commando raid into the Dalek city. Her most memorable subversion is probably The Crusade, where she does get kidnapped, but rescues herself and is on her way back to rescue everyone else by the time Ian shows up to save her.
    • Mary Tamm was initially leery of taking a companion role in the series for this very reason, but she was assured that her character, Romana, would be an intellectual equal to the Doctor and a competent woman to boot. Supposedly, she left the role later on because she felt it had reverted to this trope (although possibly she left because she was having a baby — the internet is not very clear on the matter.)
    • Lampshaded in the new series episode "The Empty Child", when the Doctor learned that Rose was hanging from a barrage balloon during a Nazi Blitz attack. "I've travelled with a number of people, but you're setting new standards for being peril-friendly."
    • On a whole, the companions in the new series seem to swing between playing this trope straight and subverting it. In the event that the companions are captured and can't save themselves, they at least try to, or find information, or help the Doctor, or at least sass their captors.
      • It at least makes sense why this would happen. To create tension you need someone to be captured, and since the Doctor's companions are 90% female, it unfortunately becomes this trope.
    • In The Krotons, Vara — and later Zoe, when she too is chosen for a "companion".
    • Think what you will about Stephen Moffat but River Song almost never needs rescuing. The few times she does it's typically because she's flung herself off of a building or into the vacuum of space in an attempt to evade capture, specifically because she knows The Doctor will come show up in his handy time machine.
  • Parodied in the Captain Proton holoprogram in Star Trek: Voyager with secretary Constance Goodheart, whose only function is to be captured by the villainous Dr Chaotica so Captain Proton can rescue her, and whose only dialogue is an ear-splitting scream. When Seven of Nine is roped in to play Constance she asks what her function is. Tom Paris (playing Proton) replies awkwardly that her job is to "tag along on all the missions".
  • Topanga plays with this trope in the second season's Halloween episode of Boy Meets World:
    Cory: (seeing Topanga in a long gauzy dress) Why'd you have to wear that?
    Topanga: I'm a damsel. But not the distressed kind, one who's totally calm and in complete control of her own destiny.
  • The X-Files: Gillian Anderson may consider Scully to be a good feminine role model, but there's no getting away from the fact that the character spent a worrying amount of time (especially in seasons 1 to 4) being kidnapped, tied up and drooled over by freaks and fruitcakes. Mulder had a tendency to rush headlong into dangerous situations which usually lead to Scully having to save his ass, so maybe it doesn't count.
    • Yeah, Mulder seems to get captured/injured/drugged/whatever just as much as Scully does, often because he doesn't stop to actually think before he does something. It was one of the earliest shows to divvy up the proportion of Distressed Damsel and Distressed Dude pretty equally between the male and female protagonists.
    • Scully did seem to get Bound and Gagged more often than Mulder, Doggett, or any of the other main characters though, so there may still have been some Author Appeal at play.
  • Mrs. Peel from the original The Avengers series. Almost all of the episodes feature her in some kind of predicament, generally clad in tight fitting (not to say clinging...) apparel and bound in a weird situation. Examples are: tied in aluminium foil to act as an electric conductor to electrocute Steed when he touches her, tied to train tracks (classical but effective), bound to a Mad Scientist patented reclining table to act as guinea pig for his super strong laser, tied, scantily clad in a harem outfit...
    • The episode where she's locked in a gilded cage wearing a very skimpy feathered costume.
  • Possibly the only reason why Kate exists on Robin Hood. Partially justified in that she's just a simple peasant girl who has been thrown into a guerilla-style war, but which inevitably leads to Fridge Logic when one wonders why on earth the outlaws keep letting her tag along with them on dangerous missions that she's obviously not equipped to handle.
  • Jeremy Clarkson tried to take advantage of this on Top Gear when he drove his Toyota into a ditch and then called emergency services, claiming to be a pregnant woman about to be eaten by dogs (rather than a fat, old man who can't judge terrain).
    • This works if you're not Jeremy Clarkson — the AA prioritises "lone woman" calls, as well as some other categories like disabled drivers.
  • Frequently subverted on NCIS, where Team Gibbs often race to rescue the damsel in question (usually Abby), only to find she's overcome the villain by her own efforts. That's a testimonial to team spirit.
  • Used not infrequently with Gwen in Merlin. It hasn't started becoming annoying quite yet, but the jury is still out on how many more times a plot can revolve either around her putting herself in a situation (however morally justifiable) that requires Arthur to half-kill himself just to get her out of it (a la The Last Dragonlord), or around her being rescued successfully, only to fall over about seven seconds later and end up needing saving all over again (Lancelot and Guinevere, I'm looking at you.), before things start getting really tiresome. She's the only main character in the show to lack either magic powers, or having been trained to be a Knight In Shining Armour since childhood. And, like Smallville, every character that's not Merlin ends up with the role in at least one episode, including the future King Arthur.
    • As of Servant of Two Masters and Tears of Uther Pendragon Part One, Merlin has joined the roster. The show is a World of BadassIn Distress.
  • Elena in The Vampire Diaries, more often than not. Justified as she is the only main character who doesn't have any sort of magic ability. She is constantly being threatened and/or kidnapped to enrage Stefan or sometimes Damon.
    • Then again, the first time a vampire tried to kidnap her, she didn't just take it and wait for Stefan to save her, she fought back and tried to kill the vampire with a pencil.
    • Caroline also filled this role, especially in early Season 1, but since she Took a Level in Badass, not so much...
  • Though Veronica, Sarah, and Sofia all get this at one point or another in Prison Break, LJ is the epitome of this trope. Any time he's on screen he's either being used as a bargaining chip against his dad and uncle or being rescued by his dad and uncle; the kid spends most of the series tied to a chair. All of them though are justified, since they're average citizens stuck in a mass conspiracy against people trained to make them this.
  • As the one on the show who puts himself in situations he's not equipped for, Rick Castle is usually the one in distress, but in the fifth season episode "Target", his daughter gets kidnapped.
  • The Hardy Boys/Nancy Drew Mysteries: Nancy Drew was reduced to this in second season, once Janet Louise Johnson took over the character, in cross-over episodes with the Hardys. Nancy only existed to be placed in situations that required Frank Hardy to rescue her:
    • Arson & Old Lace: Nancy gets kidnapped and needs Frank to rescue her.
    • Voodoo Doll: Nancy wanders into the Big Bad's lair, gets caught, and needs Frank and Joe to rescue her.
    • Mystery on the Avalanche Express: Nancy gets cornered on a train by two men — a passenger train, in a hallway where there's plenty other passengers in compartments — and can't simply push past them until Frank comes to her rescue.
  • Masters of Horror:
    • "Incident On and Off a Mountain Road":
      • Subverted with Ellen. When the killer tries to hunt her down, she shows that she's a survival expert who lays several traps for him and outsmarts him several times.
      • Played straight with the Young Woman, who isn't able to defend herself and becomes easy prey for the psycho.
    • "Valerie on the Stairs": Justified with Valerie, who was created by the writers in the boarding house as a fictional character whose only reason for existing is to be saved from The Beast. She vanishes completely after she's rescued, having finished playing her role.
  • The 100 has almost every character need rescuing at one point or another, but the most notable example is when 48 of the delinquents are held captive inside Mount Weather. Clarke escapes on her own, but rescuing the other 47 is the main focus of Season 2.
  • The Suite Life of Zack and Cody had Maddie (and later Carey), tied up (and later kidnapped) by their captors, hoping that Zack (and later Cody) to rescue them both (because they are really twin brothers).
  • In Night and Day, Jane Harper's mysterious disappearance forms the backbone of the show, although the irony is that her dysfunctional friends and family need saving just as much as she does.

    Music 
  • It can be argued that Anhura from the musical-in-album-form Razia's Shadow fits this trope. She argues against her father and seems to have the same sense of a greater destiny as Adakias, but she doesn't do anything about it except sit around singing wistfully (Adakias has his share of wistful singing, but he's much more proactive). She's first a damsel when her father refuses to let her marry Adakias, but Adakias rescues her by eloping with her. This causes her to grow ill, and a third of the second act is therefore spent trying to cure her illness. Then once they do, Pallis bursts in, and Adakias sacrifices himself to save her when Pallis attempts to murder her. Depending what you think happened directly after the end of the song and before the narrator's epilogue, Anhura either ends up with Pallis, staying a damsel, just a rescued one, fixes everything herself while Pallis retreats, getting out of the trope, or everything fixes itself without her help, which keeps Anhura thoroughly useless and in this trope.
  • Mentioned in Will Smith's song Wild Wild West:
    Any damsel that's in distress
    Be out of that dress when she meet Jim West
  • Subverted in the video of Mean by Taylor Swift. Taylor is shown tied up on railroad tracks by a villain, who is all gloating over her predicament. Not long after, a friend of the villain's comes along, the two villains get drunk, fall asleep, after which Taylor simply gets out of her ropes and heads off.

    Music Videos 
  • Michael Jackson's "Thriller" video had this twice, in the movie the Michael and his date are watching at the start, then again the date's dream. It's implied that it happens a third time once she wakes up.
  • Tasha in LL Cool J's "I'm Bad" video.

    Myths and Religion 
  • This is Older Than Feudalism, dating back at least to the Greek myth of Perseus and Andromeda.
    • The story of Hesione and Heracles is very similar to that of Perseus and Andromeda. However, Deianeira, another woman in Heracles' adventurous life, subverts it by taking matters in her hands shortly after the rescue.
    • Eurydice is in a classic Damsel in Distress situation. Unfortunately, Orpheus does not come up to expectations.
    • Subverted with Helen of Troy, who is anything but innocent in what happens to her.
  • In Ramayana, Sita is a crown example.
  • In Celtic mythology (Mabinogion), Branwen finds herself in this position. Subverted with Deirdre, who voluntarily put herself in the situation which was considered as distress by her fiancé.
  • Downplayed in the legend of St. George and the Dragon (a tale that has otherwise many parallels with the myth of Perseus and Andromeda): The princess is delivered to the dragon and saved by St. George, but she is not physically constrained, does not ask for help, and there is no romance between the princess and George, nor does the king offer her up in marriage.

    Pinball 

    Professional Wrestling 

    Video Games 
  • Super Mario Bros.:
  • The Legend of Zelda: Peach's contemporary, Princess Zelda, fits the trope, but not in a way that plays the trope precisely straight. While finding/rescuing/protecting her is usually Link's ultimate or major goal in any game where she is present, she almost invariably cooks up some clever ideas whereby she can actively work against the Evil Plan of the Big Bad who captures her. The classic Distressed Damsel, by contrast, is tactically of no use whatever.
    • In the original game, she knows she's going to be captured as part of Ganon's plot, so she fragments the Triforce of Wisdom (which is what he's really after) and hides it in various parts of her kingdom, then enables her most loyal servant to escape to find help while she herself is taken prisoner.
    • In The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past, though she is in a prison cell at the beginning, she is quickly rescued by Link. She only gets kidnapped again about a third of the way into the game; she gets rescued in the second-to-last dungeon, after which she and the other Maidens (themselves Distressed Damsels) use their magic to break the barrier barring entry into Ganon's Tower.
    • In The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time, she also acts as the mentor by secretly being Sheik.
      • Played painfully straight when she reveals her identity near the end of the game and immediately gets kidnapped.
    • In The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker, Zelda starts out as leader of a gang of pirates, while Link's just some kid, which makes her more competent then the main character. She's also vital in the final boss fight.
      • In the sequel, The Legend of Zelda: Phantom Hourglass, she spends the first half of the game AWOL and the second half as a statue just to make sure she had a reason not to be kicking ass by Link's side.
    • In The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess, she isn't kidnapped - she surrenders to the Big Bad to save her people from genocide, although it amounts to roughly the same thing. While unable to actively participate in the fight for most of the game, she is extremely helpful to the point of appearing to give up her own life when she does appear, and is a vital participant in the endgame.
    • Taken to an extreme in The Legend of Zelda: Spirit Tracks, where Zelda manages to be kidnapped despite being a controllable character for almost the whole game. Her spirit actively teams up with Link and assists her own rescue. Zigzagged much?
      • And yet is still able to actively assist Link in combat, including the final boss fights.
    • Played straight, after all these years, in The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword, where Link gets involved in the plot in order to rescue his childhood friend Zelda. She actually barely avoids a proper kidnapping.
  • Pauline (aka "Lady") in the original Donkey Kong.
    • All of the playable Kongs (besides Donkey) are this to some extent in Donkey Kong 64.
    • The fact that Dixie Kong is very much not a damsel in distress is lampshaded by an outraged Cranky Kong.
  • Palutena in Kid Icarus. Apparently, being a goddess does not make one immune to this trope. Although it's more Mind Control than actual kidnapping.
  • Played with in an entertaining fashion in the Neverwinter Nights mod A Dance with Rogues. The Princess in the story is the player character and spends a lot more time rescuing people than not, and the character who most fits this archetype is Anden, a male character. Pia actually comments on this when you tell her the tale of rescuing Anden for the first time.
  • Aerith Gainsborough from Final Fantasy VII, when she is kidnapped and taken to Hojo's laboratory to be experimented on. Saving her makes up most of the Best Level Ever, so hooray!
    • Also worth noting that the in-game play at the Golden Saucer during the date scene plays with this trope, complete with an evil dragon.
  • Rinoa Heartilly from Final Fantasy VIII was this, with disturbing regularity. She's probably the second most Distressed Damsel out of the entire Final Fantasy franchise next to the example below, which is actually saying a lot (though it doesn't speak highly of her character). To her credit though, she does get much better once she becomes a sorceress, though she still gets taken captive by Seifer later to be held hostage by Adel, but he was holding her a weapon-point.
    • In reference to the spoiler point above, it's important to remember that Seifer inadvertently played right into the protagonists' hands by hooking Rinoa up to Adel, since the plan was for Rinoa to absorb her powers upon Adel's defeat.
  • In Final Fantasy IV, Rosa spends alot of time in the first half of the game incapacitated due to some reason or other (illness, kidnapping, etc.) She gets better in the second half though, even refusing to Stay in the Kitchen when told to by Cecil toward the end (a very dumb decision on Cecil's part.) Also, one could argue her distressed situations were nothing to be ashamed of, since one involved getting an illness with no real way to avoid it, and the other involved being captured by Kain and Golbez after they just massacred all her other party members, including Cecil, so she could hardly be expected her to beat them alone.
  • Averted in Final Fantasy X with Yuna. Who, while kidnapped three times, managed to escape on her own the first time and actually made a plan to defeat one of the Big Bad's the third time (which the heroes, while pulling off an impressive Big Damn Heroes, messed up) she still escaped on her own. And the second time, she was actually being "kidnapped" by Rikku, so there wasn't any real danger, though the other characters think there is at the time.
    • Nonetheless, The Spoony One held a running tally of how many times she gets kidnapped in the first place, and she beats Rinoa. Probably iconic is how she happens to get kidnapped by the Well-Intentioned Extremist, then gets kidnapped from there by the Big Bad before the party manages to free her.
  • In Star Fox Adventures, Krystal serves the role of the Distressed Damsel, being trapped in a crystal up until the end. Which is ironic, considering that she was originally intended to be a player character.
  • Subverted in The Secret of Monkey Island: Guybrush Threepwood goes through all kinds of peril to save Govenor Elaine Marley, who was captured by the Big Bad LeChuck. He gets to the church on Melee Island just in time to interrupt their wedding, only for Elaine to descend on a rope from the ceiling. Turns out she'd already made her escape, fooling LeChuck by putting a pair of trained monkeys in her wedding dress, and was actually planning to assassinate him while he was distracted by the wedding ceremony, but Guybrush inadvertently managed to mess up that last step by attempting to rescue her. At least Guybrush ends up getting the honor of finishing off LeChuck.
  • Inverted, then played straight and also lampshaded in Borderlands 2. The first "damsel" the players have to rescue is resistance leader Roland, and the second is his girlfriend Lilith - who comments on it in a radio message: "Better dead than a damsel". After this example was featured in Anita Sarkeesian's "Tropes vs. Women in Video Games" series, writer Anthony Burch commented that he regretted using this trope.
  • Maya Fey of Ace Attorney fame. First meeting? Save her in a court case. Reunited in game 2? Save her in a court case. End of game 2? Kidnapped, must save someone else in a court case in order to get her back. Final case third game? Nearly murdered and then trapped in an icy cave. Luckily, she also spends just as much time out of distress and she's even rescued Phoenix on a few occasions. And she never lets herself be defined by the trouble she gets into.
  • In House of the Dead 1, the thing that draws the heroes to the mansion in the first place is a distress call from Tom Rogan's girlfriend Sophie, who, despite apparently being a fellow AMS agent and the only survivor of her group, is mostly useless. Depending on how you fared, she may or may not survive. In the later games, you can rescue citizens or your partner from marauding zombies for extra lives.
  • Plucky Girl Yuri Sakazaki from the original Art of Fighting, although after the events of the game she took up Kyokugen Karate from her father to defend herself and became nearly as proficient as her brother, Ryo, and their friendnote , Robert. Though Ryo initially objected to her taking up martial arts, out of concern for her safety, he's come to acknowledge her talents.
  • Super Robot Wars:
    • Kusuha Mizuha — her face just screams that she is a perfect target to make a Distressed Damsel, and in every installment of Original Generation, starting from OG 1, OG 2, OG Gaiden, there is always a scenario where she is kidnapped, first by Ingram in OG 1, then by Lorenzo & Murata in OG 2 (only in the remake. The scenario was not featured in the GBA version), and finally by the Bartoll units in OG Gaiden. Not even saying 'I'm not just some damsel in distress waiting to be rescued!' in battles can rectify this...
    • In Alpha series, however, it's inverted. Once Alpha 2 kicks in and the stories get more proper, it's usually her boyfriend Bullet that needs to be rescued.
    • Though not entirely subverting to this trope, somewhat the Ridiculously Human Robot Lamia Loveless fell into this trope in OG Gaiden. After all her whole ass kicking and dramatic development back in OG 2, her story in OG Gaiden involves her getting kidnapped and needs to be rescued TWICE (even our resident damsel needs to be rescued once this time). First she's kidnapped by the Bartolls, all while just being in the wrong place in the wrong time, stripped naked and be somewhat brainwashed to fight her allies. She was almost saved... but suddenly, the villains managed to snatch her back after the player has to wait for 6 months to see if she's dead or alive, and brainwash her AGAIN. So much that it takes a former badass enemy turned good to save her completely. Once she's completely saved, she returns being a formidable girl in battlefield (and that even depends whether the player wants to use her or not), though her story arc was over at that point.
    • In Shin Super Robot Wars, Professor Eri Anzai gets kidnapped by Ze Balmarian Empire because her vast knowledge on the lost continent of Mu.
  • In Assassin's Creed I, Altair saves countless Distressed Damsels (and some Distressed Abbots and Islamic Scholars as well) from the city guards, and is rewarded by their family/students helping him escape from Mooks. Despite this happening in the middle of a city, nobody seems to react at all to the attempted abductions and rapes happening right in front of them.
    • They're in Medieval cities in the state of war, and the would-be rapists and murderers are exactly the people stationed to keep the peace, and are the only ones with decent weapons and armour around. Truth in Television, unfortunately.
  • Furiae in Drakengard doubles as this for family reasons (she's your sister, and technically a princess) and because she happens to be the linchpin Cosmic Keystone that prevents catastrophe. As the Downer Ending page points out, this isn't as idealistic as the other examples.
  • Bastila, a trained Jedi, is kept as a hostage during the first part of Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic. She'd just crawled out of a crashed escape pod's wreckage when she was captured, and her captors were intelligent enough to fasten a neural disruptor to her head (and she didn't have time to determine where her lightsaber was). She does manage to free herself the instant your rescue attempt manages to thin out the guards enough that she can finally get the disruptor off. However, she is quite offended if you comment that you "rescued the damsel in distress" later on, almost as badly as when Carth starts joking about losing her lightsaber being against the Jedi code.
  • Princess Cassima in King's Quest V and moreso in King's Quest VI is a damsel in distress. She is held captive by the wizard Mordak in V and in VI, is actually kept inside a tower by the Grand Vizier Alhazred for a plot to marry her.
    • Similarly, the entire objective of King's Quest II is to rescue Princess Valanice from a tower prison.
      • And in King's Quest III, the Llewdor Oracle lights a fire under Gwydion's rear by showing him the three-headed dragon that's laid waste to Daventry. The dragon demands a Human Sacrifice, and the one "chosen" this year is Princess Rosella his long-lost twin sister.
    • Her first appearance notwithstanding, Rosella tends to take this trope for a joyride. In King's Quest IV, she's the one doing the rescuing, finding a MacGuffin to bring back from Tamir to heal her stricken father. She's briefly relieved of her inventory and locked up, but is freed soon enough due to Mook–Face Turn. King's Quest VII has her impulsively putting herself in harm's way, finding a way to free herself from the fire she landed in, and then rescuing a captured king. Top it off with her breaking the More Than Mind Control Malicia pulled on Edgar - who seems to be an absolute sucker for this sort of thing.
  • Tales Series:
    • Symphonia's Colette Brunel. Even though, gameplay wise, she's a powerful and useful Glass Cannon.
    • Shirley from Tales of Legendia, who is constantly kidnapped during the main quest.
    • In Tales of the Abyss, Natalia and Fon Master Ion are held hostage, she could have gone peacefully to avoid any conflict.
      • Ion is always getting kidnapped.
    • In Tales of Vesperia, Estelle is held hostage and used by the villain at the time of the game. She did not use her powers to save an Entelexia because she would have driven him berserk, and the amount of guards could have prevented a feasible escape.
    • In Tales of Rebirth, the first half of the game is dedicated to save dozens of damsels in distress (captured by the Queen of the land. Go figure). But Veigue really cares more about rescuing his not-girlfriend Claire, because she is just so much more important than all those other simpletons.
  • Kairi and her Nobody Namine from the Kingdom Hearts series, though they get a few moments outside the role in Kingdom Hearts II, and really only fall into the role twice each.
    • The other Princesses of Heart don't fare much better but are sometimes useful. For example, Belle has a particularly memorable scene in which Xaldin has both her and the Rose and is forcing the Beast to choose between them. Belle preempts the choice by elbowing Xaldin in the gut, taking the rose from him, and escaping over to Sora right before the party fights him.
    • Naminé is an... unusual case. At first she's a Damsel in Distress that Sora has to rescue. The problem is that this is a complete and utter lie. She's a witch who can control the memories of people connected to Sora. However, she's only doing it because she's a hostage to Marluxia. After Sora rescues her, she's trying to restore his memories... only to be forced into hiding soon after when she betrays Di Z and the Organisation wants her dead. Doesn't stop her from rescuing Kairi, though.
  • Kyrie, Nero's Love Interest from Devil May Cry 4 is one of these, in contrast with Dante's demon hunting Action Girl partners.
  • The paramedics from Urban Chaos: Riot Response are usually in need of rescue, which makes sense since they're civilians trying to save injured cops and firefighters while under attack from insane gang members with ELECTRIC SAWS.
    • Also the firefighters, Officer Forrester, and your C.O. Adam Wolf are in need of rescue. The firefighters are excused because they too are unarmed and the Burners have guns. Officer Forrester when he is not being used as a human shield is rather competent at stealing your kills so he too is excused. Wolf is excused because they kidnapped him at his safe house. Both Forrester and Wolf tell you when to fire at the Burner and they mock their would-be kidnapper.
  • Lampshaded in Wizards And Warriors. Each stage (except the last) ends with rescuing a Damsel in Distress, conveniently labelled as "the distressed damsel". (In the last stage, you appear to have rescued a princess, which I guess means that the other stages are variations of the "Princess is in another castle" trope.)
    • Three princess sisters appear in the third game of the series. In order to finish the game, you must promise to marry them after freeing them. Yes, all three.
  • Fire Emblem has had several of these:
    • The original has princesses Maria and Elice, along with Midia, who all fight by your side once you rescue them. Also included is princess Nyna, although she's an NPC who mostly exists for story purposes.
    • Ellis in Mystery of the Emblem
    • 'In Genealogy of Holy War, Edain, Diadora, Yuria and Lynn start like this before they join you. It doesn't end well for all of them but Edin: Diadora eventually ends up brainwashed and dead; Yuria fares just as badly as her mother Diadora, but she survives, eventually coming into her own when she gets the holy spellbook Narga and bravely vows to keep fighting; and it's implied in a veiled way, through Ares vs Bramsel's pre-battle convo and Ares and Lynn's convo when she's freed, that she was raped by Bramsel after he took her captive.
    • In Sword of Seal, Princess Guinevere in the mental/emotional sense, Lilina before you free her and she becomes a Magic Knight. Also, Badass Bookworm Cecilia (in her defense, she was injured) and Mysterious Waif Sophia, who also join your group.
    • In Sword of Flame, Ninian and her Distressed Dude brother Nils, thanks to Nergal (though they later become A Spoony Bard and Spoony Dancer duo and join the team properly; Priscilla (she's even got the evil marquess trying to force her into marriage!), who also eventually becomes a Magic Knight after promotion.
    • In The Sacred Stones, Queen Ismaire of the White Dunes The worse thing? You do not get to save her, and she ultimately dies in the arm of her son, King Incognito Joshua. SNIFFFFF! .
    • Though Fire Emblem applies the imprisonment plot device to both genders pretty judiciously - probably thanks to the easy "recruit opportunity" of prisoners of war. For example, the afore-mentioned Midia is imprisoned with three other characters, all of whom are men. In Path of Radiance, Rolf is held hostage along with Mist, likewise the POWs Brom and Nephenee (plus Crimean Knight Kieran). In Radiant Dawn Illyana and Aimee are held prisoner, but so are the three male members of their caravan (and the incognito dragon prince, Kurthnaga). There are plenty of Distressed Dude examples littered throughout the games, too.
    • In Fire Emblem Awakening we have Emmeryn, who's captured and threatened with death unless Chrom gives King Gangrel Ylisse's treasure, Lissa's best friend Maribelle taken hostage by Gangrel for trying to call a cease and desist to the bandit attacks, Nowi the Manakete who was put on an auction block and treated like a circus animal, and Noire, Tharja's daughter who's captured by a slave trader and held prisoner until she finds a bow lying on the ground and her alternate self takes over.
  • Braid takes this trope and inverts it. In the final level (technically the first, chronologically), the princess is in distress because of you. Nice Job Breaking It, Hero.
  • Suikoden V has a subversion with Princess Lymsleia. While she is held hostage for most of the game, she chooses to use her authority to attempt an escape from the Godwins and in the war in the favor of La Résistance in a supposed assault on them rather than accept the state of affairs.
  • In City of Heroes there is a junior heroine, Fusionette, who is constantly getting in over her head, captured and needing rescuing. So much so that it's become a running joke among the community that she has to be the worst superhero in Paragon and the only reason that Vanguard even employ her is as an example of others of how NOT to do the missions.
  • Ashley Graham from Resident Evil 4 . Made all the more hilarious by how she was shown to want very much to give Leon a Smooch of Victory (and a lot more than just a smooch) for rescuing her at the end... only for Leon to reject her and make sure she knows that he is not interested.
  • In The Legend of Dragoon, Shana fits the bill perfectly. Even when she joins the party she is the light-elemental-healer.
  • Parodied in Reset Generation where EVERY player tries to 'rescue' a princess from every other player.
  • Mega Man:
    • Star Force's Luna Platz becomes one whenever the evil villains attack in the games. There are three occasions in the first game where this happens. When Taurus turns Bud into a monster, then when she (along with Bud and Zack Temple) are forced into doing the swan dance on a trip to AMAKEN. Finally when the kids teacher merges with an evil FM-Ian and goes berserk. Her role as the Distressed Damsel continues into the second game, as she is kidnapped by Hyde-Phantom, then almost trapped in a alternate dimension by Solo-Rogue (along with Bud, Sonia and Zack), then kidnapped by Hyde-Phantom, again and then finally kidnapped by a giant bird monster.
      • And it all comes to a head in the third game. The trip to Alohaha was supposed to be a relaxing affair, but then Jack and Tia corrupt Strong with a Noise Card, causing him to start an earthquake on the island and force him into a fight with Mega Man. Before you can say "it can't get any worse", JOKER shows up and erases Strong. Just as Jack and Tia transform to fight Geo, Luna picked the absolute worst time to show up - and Joker uses THAT opportunity to kill her! Strong, Luna, and Vogue (Luna's Wizard, the youngest of the lot) all get better, but Joker has established himself as a very serious threat - one that Luna fans absolutely despise.
  • When Zero first wakes up at the beginning of Mega Man Zero series, he has to protect the girl who revived him, Ciel, throughout the entire first level.
  • In the Mega Man Fighting Game The Power Fighters, one of the three selectable path objectives is to rescue Roll.
  • Mega Man must save Kalinka in Wily Stage 3 of ROM Hack Rockman 4 Minus Infinity.
  • At the end of Total Overdose, Ram has to save a Distressed Damsel in a sequence involving many tropes so dead they don't even have entries. The Damsel is tied to the front of a runaway locomotive by the Villain, and Ram must run along boxcars, jumping into and out of boxcars, fighting mooks, and dodging explosives. The subversions could be that the Villain wears a White Hat with an antique emblem of the US Cavalry on it, and that instead of a horse, Ram gets a motorcycle to ultimately ride to the rescue on.
  • Sue Sakamoto in Cave Story is continually kidnapped or imprisoned by various parties.
  • In Max Payne 2: The Fall of Max Payne, Mona Sax's first line is: "God! I turned out to be such a damsel in distress..."
    • She gets to invert the trope, running into a burning building to save Max.
    • The line is an Ironic Echo from the first game, when she denies being a damsel in distress like her twin sister was.
  • Spelunky, has a character known as the damsel, who can be rescued from most levels for an extra hitpoint. One extra hitpoint. She also makes for a good throwing weapon. If you rescue 8 of them in one playthrough, you can play as her and you rescue Spelunky instead.
  • Castlevania descended into this trope slowly. Early installments forwent hostages altogether (only the arcade rehash Castlevania Haunted Castle added Simon's wife Serena, as if fighting Dracula weren't motivation enough), and when they began coming, there was uncommon gender balance. The series' first canonical damsel was actually a a guy in distress, Christopher's son Soleiyu in Castlevania II: Belmont's Revenge; Richter in Castlevania Symphony Of The Night and Morris Baldwin in Circle of the Moon further balance out the captured maidens in Castlevania: Rondo of Blood (one of whom isn't such a damsel at that). After Castlevania: Circle of the Moon, however, this trope began to do its worst, e.g. Lydie in Castlevania: Harmony of Dissonance, Mina and later Yoko in Castlevania: Aria of Sorrow, Sara in Castlevania: Lament of Innocence...
  • Marian in the original Double Dragon, where the main objective was to rescue her from the Black Warriors.
    • Subverted in Double Dragon II: The Revenge. The arcade version starts off just like the first game, with Marian being surrounded by the Black Warriors, only instead of being knocked unconscious and taken into their hideout, she is gunned down to death by Machine Gun Willy. A similar thing happens in the NES version, only it shows Marian being attacked by a ninja (instead of Machine Gun Willy) and the game doesn't actually show the murder occur (the opening only says that it happened). Marian stays dead in the arcade version, but in the NES version she is brought back to life if the player completes the game on hardest difficulty level (playing this trope straight in a way).
    • She's a no-show in the arcade version of Double Dragon 3, but in the NES version the game's plot was rewritten (specifically for the localized version) so that the final boss turns out to be a possessed version of Marian named Queen Noiram ("Marion" spelled backwards).
    • Super Double Dragon was about saving Marian too, but you wouldn't know unless you read the manual (mainly because the game was released incomplete).
    • Averted in the Neo-Geo fighting game, where she's one of the playable fighters.
  • EarthBound has Paula in this role a total of three times - kidnapped by the Happy Happyists, kidnapped by zombies, kidnapped by Monotoli. The second time was Ness' fault, though.
    • Ness himself was captured the second time along with Paula.
  • Dana Mercer becomes one about midway through [PROTOTYPE]. Given that the one kidnapping her is a freaking Leader Hunter she is excused for screeching in panic.
  • Liara's establishing character moment in Mass Effect 1 involves rescuing her from a forcefield she got herself stuck inside, fighting off a krogan battlemaster while she hides in a corner, then saving her from a collapsing volcano. To avoid confusion, and confirm her love-interest status, she then proceeds to faint once she arrives on your ship, since she spent anywhere from hours to days without food or water in extremely stressful situation. Once she's had a proper rest she reveals herself for the Bad Ass she really is in the next mission you take her along. More so in the sequel.
    • Yeoman Kelly Chambers gets this treatment late in Mass Effect 2, complete with getting dragged away by monsters, screaming her head off. The non-specialist crew of the Normandy meets the same fate at the same time. And god help the poor girl if you don't go to her rescue right away. Considering her fate in the third game, God help her even if you do.
    • The Rachni Queen somewhat counts, insomuch as a giant bug can be considered a damsel! If set free on Noveria during the first game, she is captured by the Reapers during the third. Both times Shepard can decide to rescue her.
  • In Neverwinter Nights 2, after you rescue Neeshka from the Fort Locke guards, she says "Does that make me a damsel in distress? I hope not, I hate those women!"
    • She get snatched off-screen once you enter Merdelain.
  • Miyu in Red Steel is kidnapped on the first level, and the rest of the game revolves around bringing down the yakuza in order to save her.
  • Sonic the Hedgehog (2006) features Princess Elise taken hostage by Eggman, who pursues her relentlessly whenever Sonic gets her out of his clutches. Eventually, when she gets a few hints of what Eggman wants from her, she stands up to him by dropping herself to her supposed death to prevent him from acheiving his goal. After that scene, it's only after Eggman threatens to destroy her city/kingdom that Elise chooses to return as his prisoner.
    • Also occasionally played straight with Cream.
    • Amy Rose a few odd times, most prominantly in Sonic the Hedgehog CD.
    • Tails occasionally plays a girlish-boy-in-distress kind-of role.
    • In the spin-off cartoons and comics, Princess Sally takes the role on occasion too.
  • Annoyingly in the Evolution games for the Dreamcast, White Magician Girl Linear WILL get kidnapped/convinced to leave the party right before the The Very Definitely Final Dungeon and subsequent boss fights. And the two games have final bosses that are definitely That One Boss. And she has the best healing and buffing skills in the game. Good luck!
  • Wonderfully averted in BioShock 2. Eleanor Lamb is setup to be one, but stick her in a combat situation and she absolutely massacres every Mook in her way. It is also revealed that she basically engineered her own rescue by resurrecting her rescuer.
  • Raven inverts this a few times in Ultima IX, then lampshades it when she has to play it straight. She later puts the Avatar into Distressed Dude territory herself...and makes him like it.
  • The entire population of Boingburg (with the exception of Rocket) in Dragon Quest Heroes: Rocket Slime.
  • Subverted in World of Warcraft. For the Alliance, you get a quest to rescue the dwarven princess from Blackrock Depths. For the Horde, you're given the same quest in the hopes of improving relations with the dwarves. Not only she does not want to leave, but she is pregnant. And you just killed the father.
  • Flora Reinhold, Professor Layton's foster daughter, gets stuck in this role in his games. In the original game of the series, she's more of a Barrier Maiden than a Distressed Damsel, but in the other two games where she appears so far, she has great aptitude for being kidnapped. She also goes missing in Professor Layton's London Life, the bonus RPG packaged with some releases of Professor Layton and the Specter's Flute - but she hasn't been kidnapped. She's preparing to sacrifice herself to prevent The End of the World as We Know It. Poor kid.
  • Bandage Girl from Meat Boy who is constantly kidnapped by Dr. Fetus. In the last chapter in Super Meat Boy, she decides she had enough of it.
  • Deconstructed in Guilty Gear, where Dizzy is more powerful than her guardians, Testament, Johnny and Ky. The "rescuing" is more like calming her down when her power goes out of control. Dizzy herself is a Naïve Everygirl who hates violence with passion, so the experience of unintentionally attempting to kill people is traumatizing. If you listen to her in-game quotes, it seems that her enormous powers inflicts physical pain to her. And the few times she snaps? She SNAPS (like the Alternate Universe from the CD dramas in which she succeeds her mother Justice and destroys the world, or the Midnight Carnival ending in which she horribly kills I-No when she abuses her a bit too much.. In short, Dizzy needs no rescue from others... but from herself.
  • Kaori plays this role in Eien no Aselia despite theoretically having the same ass kicking potential as any stranger would. But she never even acquires a weapon and is instead held hostage for almost the entirety of the game by one person or another.
  • If you romance a Governor's Daughter enough in the 2004 version of Sid Meier’s Pirates!, then when you next visit the port the Governor will tearfully tell you that she has been kidnapped by the Evil Colonel Mendoza and beg you to hunt him down and rescue her. (Successfully doing so leads to the opportunity to propose marriage shortly after.)
  • Sylvia in the first Kung Fu Master, kidnapped if just to force his boyfriend Thomas to enter into a fight with the kidnapper and his group.
  • Haunting Ground uses this as a gameplay mechanic, by requiring Fiona to have rely on Hewie as her primary means of defense against the game's stalkers. This is especially the case, when she's in full panic mode and unable to move. In most cases, her only recourse is to run and hide 'til the danger's passed.
  • Breath of Fire:
  • Princess Mari in The King of Dragons exists to fulfil this role. Though she actually lead the offensive of her kingdom against the hordes of monsters, she just makes things get worse.
  • Princess Kiku in Tenchu gets kidnapped in every game she appears in. It's played with in Tenchu 4, where she orders Rikimaru to kill her as a way to defeat the Big Bad who was holding her hostage, and he eventually complies.
  • Three Wonders has the Princess of Asthar in Chariot.
  • The non-Capcom developed Strider sequel, Strider Returns, has this as its main plot, sending the game's protagonist to rescue his darling Lexia.
  • Tawna in the original Crash Bandicoot (1996). Coco, though more prominantly an Action Girl, takes the role a handful of occasions later on.
  • Every single female character in the Duke Nukem games.
  • In Rune Factory 3 your fiance is kidnapped near the end of the game. This doesn't make her look bad since the one kidnapping her is a super powerful dragon.
  • Lola Tigerbelly becomes one towards the end of the first game in The Spellcasting Series, having been placed in a swinging blade trap by the Big Bad.
  • Subverted in Dragon Age: Origins. In the "Paragon of Her Kind" quest, one of your goals is to rescue party member Oghren's wife, Branka, from the Deep Roads, where she is missing. It turns out that she deliberately led her entire clan there in search of an ancient Artifact of Doom. When it turned out the artifact was protected by lots of golems, ghosts, and deathtraps, she deliberately let Darkspawn kill all the men and attempt to turn all the women into Broodmothers, a process that involves force-feeding them the flesh of poisonous monsters and their own relatives, gang-rape by monsters, and lots of Body Horror, so that she'd have a vast supply of monsters to set off the traps and kill the guardians. She's raving insane as well as utterly evil by the time you find her. You can spare her life and take the artifact for yourself, but the better choice, both morally and gameplay-wise, involves fighting and killing her, then destroying it. Even if you spare her, she refuses to be rescued, and stays in the Deep Roads with her prize.
    • After the infiltration of Arl Howe's mansion, the Warden him/herself can be arrested along with Alistair, and have to be rescued from prison by your choice of party members. Choose carefully, some combinations have truly hilarious results.
  • There's also a subtle deconstruction in BlazBlue. While on the initial surface, Litchi Faye-Ling is trying to 'rescue' Arakune from his fate as an Eldritch Abomination (and later be captured by Relius), in truth she's been dying of the same corruption and Kokonoe flat out refused to help her, and without any other sources of help, she's Forced into Evil by joining NOL. In other words, Litchi has been in distress mentally and had to act on her own because nobody is willing to help her, compounded with the fact that she has been hiding her growing corruption from everyone else except Kokonoe, which makes possible helpers like Bang, Taokaka or Carl completely unaware of her distress.
  • Much of the plot of Asura's Wrath is this; about Asura's struggle to save his daughter Mithra. In the end, no one could stop him from saving her, not even the creator of life itself.
  • Dark Souls has several. Rhea is trapped in the Tomb of the Giants after her companions either all abandoned her or died. Dusk of Oolacile and Sieglinde are trapped in golden crystal golems. Anastacia of Astora is murdered and you have to retrieve her soul to revive her. Then again, most of the dudes you meet need rescuing you as well.
  • Princess Prin Prin from Ghosts 'n Goblins is kidnapped in every single game she appears in (four). It's a wonder why she never takes exception on it and evolves into Royals Who Actually Do Something territory.
  • Jade's distressed damsels in Beyond Good & Evil are quite original, in that she has to rescue her uncle, who is a humanoid pig, as well as all the orphans from the lighthouse.
  • Dragon's Dogma. The ending works on this premise, with whichever character you have the highest affinity with being kidnapped by the dragon and used as a hostage as your assumed love interest. Can lead to unintended hilarity if someone like Feste or Fournival is chosen. Aelinore also has this as her defining characteristic, and can potentially be rescued three times in the game.
  • In Little King's Story, all the princesses are held in jars by the kings you have to defeat to add them to your set. Near the end of the game, whoever you brought with you is swallowed by a rat king, which later gets chucked out the window by the boy whose room you're in.
  • The Lunar series rarely passes on an opportunity to incorporate a love interest rescue into one of its finales.
  • Dynamite Dux has Lucy, the owner of the two pet ducks you play as.
  • Elizabeth in Bioshock Infinite seems to be your average Damsel in Distress: she's trapped in a tower, guarded by a terrible ''monster' and must be rescued by the Player Character, Booker. But she's immensely helpful in combat to the point it could be said Elizabeth is escorting YOU, constantly fetching needed supplies and using her abilities to summon useful terrain and helpers from other dimensions. And by the end of the game, she reaches near godlike levels of power and effortlessly defeats her former guardian, a feat even Booker himself couldn't manage.
  • Princess Satera from Shining Wisdom. You have to save her twice, once from being turned into a swan.
  • Subverted with Demi and Kyra of Phantasy Star IV; they're both captured, but not to motivate anyone: Demi is immobilized by Zio when he takes over Nurvus, the system she works in, because she's the AI that runs it, but he has no use for her himself. Kyra has to be rescued from a forest of carnivorous trees; she got so pissed off at watching her friends suffering that she decided to go kill her way through the forest to put a stop to it. Turns out the party isn't any better at fighting them than she is, either.
  • Although mostly an Action Girl herself, there have been incidents in the Sly Cooper games where Carmelita Fox needed to be saved. This is lampshaded in the fourth game when Sir Galleth believes that a woman's role in combat is to be saved... and he was once rescued by Carmelita herself, much to his embarrassment.
  • Subverted in Chrono Trigger as Marle, Princess Nadia is NEVER in this position. In fact, the only time in the entire game when you have to save her is when she's been effectively erased from time and can't help herself. The rest of the game she's a gung-ho Action Girl who won't back down from anything and the only other time it's possible for her to get captured...is if she's in your party at a story moment when you can also have characters like the super strong Robot and the frog Swordsman; and she still won't just sit there waiting to be rescued.
  • Robopon has Lisa and Princess Darcy in the first game. While Lisa is a Defiant Captive, Darcy has the misfortune of being trapped in a mirror.
  • Smurf: Rescue In Gargamel's Castle, The Smurfs (1994), and The Smurfs 2 have Smurfette as the damsel in distress, though in The Smurfs (1994), a few Distressed Dudes also need to be rescued from Gargamel.
  • Watch_Dogs has its main character spend significant lengths of time trying to rescue his captured sister.
  • In Yu-Gi-Oh! Reshef of Destruction, Ishizu gets kidnapped near the end of the game to force the player to hand over the Millennium Items.
    • Serenity is this in the Kaibaman show. It's just a show act, but you have to duel against Leichter anyway.
  • Nosferatu The Wrath Of Malachi: Everyone who's not James or a monster. The most traditional example would be Rebecca, since the ultimate objective of the game is to rescue her from the Count before he can sacrifice her. Ironically, she's the only one you can't save.
  • In Yu Gi Oh BAM, at the same time Yugi's arrested, Akiza gets kidnapped by Devack. By the time you reach her, she's been brainwashed.
  • Lynn in Witches' Legacy. The premise of each game is usually Carrie having to save her from being kidnapped and possessed. It's very satisfying in have her be the player pov in the bonus chapter of the fifth game and have her save Edward.
  • One Way Heroics has Queen Frieda, who is locked inside a randomly-appearing heavily-guarded castle which you must fight through if you want to recruit her.
  • Persona 4 makes liberal use of this trope and Distressed Dude, with each kidnapped victim being one of the primary motivations for entering the TV world in the first place.
    • That said, this trope is subverted by each of the female party members in some capacity:
      • Despite being ambushed by her Shadow after running off on her own in Yukiko's dungeon, Chie plays a major role in rescuing Yukiko not long afterward. Further fleshed out in her Social Link arc, where she grapples with her burning desire to protect those around her. Also, she kicks tanks.
      • Yukiko's Shadow represents her desire to free herself from being forced to become the future manager of the Amagi Inn, and appears as a princess looking for her knight in shining armor. As her Social Link arc progresses, she toys with the notion of leaving the inn altogether, only to change her mind and take on the role of manager willingly and on her terms.
      • Rise Kujikawa, like Yukiko, appears to be the epitome of this trope at first; that is, until her Shadow is defeated by Teddie's Heroic Second Wind and she obtains her Persona. Moments later, Teddie's Shadow appears, and is ready to wipe the floor with the party until the exhausted and newly freed Rise steps up to provide analysis and support to the party (which was originally Teddie's job). Her S. Link revolves around her conflicted feelings about her career as an idol: she hates being the ditzy pop star, but she is reminded of just how inspirational she is to many of her fans (including her replacement, Kanami).
      • And then she becomes a playable character in Persona 4: Arena Ultimax.
      • Averted most prominently with Naoto, whose skills as an ace detective make her definite Action Girl material. Plus, there's the whole matter of her struggles with her gender identity.
  • The titular princess of Tsioque seems to be this as she's immediately captured and put in the castle dungeon. She averts this by breaking out of the cage herself.

    Web Comics 

    Web Original 
  • In The Gamer's Alliance, Amarawyn and Marya both get in trouble a few times, prompting heroes to save them from kidnappers.
  • This video is probaly the best Deconstruction of this trope in the history of anything ever.
  • Whateley Universe: Jinn Sinclair in "Bottle a Jinn", when she is "absorbed" by Rich Bitch Solange (Jinn is a protagonist, but is non-corporeal, and Solange has the power of being able to absorb spirits and steal their powers). Lampshaded when Team Kimba try to rescue her and end up in a huge brawl that gets them into serious trouble with the school administration. They realize afterward that Jinn isn't helpless, is manipulating Solange against her will, and needed a much smarter plan from her team. Ultimately, Jinn cons Solange into letting her go just seconds before Solange will most need her powers.
  • Tania in Wormtooth Nation starts off as one after being nixed.
  • The normally competent Lord of the Supreme Council of The Questport Chronicles, winds up as her sister's prisoner. She's not happy to be rescued.
  • The frequent abductions of Princesses Peach and Zelda are playfully deconstructed in this College Humor video.
    Zelda: Ganondorf has an entire army of loyal minions, and they do whatever I say! Link just has that stupid fairy...
  • In The Nostalgia Chick's Dark Nella Saga, the titular Big Bad tied the Makeover Fairy up the bathtub and tortured her by scraping her make-up off. She looked exactly the same afterwards.
  • Discussed by Worst Muse: "Your protagonist is just a little too perfect? Maybe consider making her adorably clumsy and in need of frequent rescue."
  • Miss Stockholm in Pop Quiz Hotshot, who is kept in the basement with a low cut dress and handcuffs. Notably she existed just for the pilot and got retconned out in episodes after, even Tamara (her actress) didn't enjoy being her.

    Western Animation 
  • Classic Disney Shorts, Looney Tunes, Popeye, and other vintage theatrical cartoons used this trope to death.
    • Popeye saves Olive from Bluto/Brutus...
      • Subverted at least once in an old cartoon - Bluto enters Olive's room, and a scuffle breaks out, Olive is crying for help - when Popeye enters, Olive is still yelling while clubbing an unconscious Bluto with a skillet.
    • Buddy saves Cookie from a Bluto-like character...
    • Mighty Mouse saves Pearl Pureheart from Oil Can Harry...
    • Bimbo or Koko saves Betty Boop from various baddies...
    • Bosko saves Honey from more various baddies...
    • The pre-Mighty Mouse Terrytoons mouse lead saves his girlfriend from more various baddies...
    • Toby the Pup saves Tessie from more various baddies...
    • Flip the Frog saves Flap, Kitty, and Fifi from even more various baddies...
    • Julius saves Alice from Pegleg Pete...
    • Oswald saves Sadie from Pegleg Pete....
    • Mickey Mouse saves Minnie from Pegleg Pete (Disney only had one recurring villain... pass it on).
      • Subverted in Pioneer Days and Building a Building, where Mickey tries to rescue Minnie but is captured himself, whereupon Minnie breaks free on her own and rescues Mickey.
      • But played straight as recently as Mickey, Donald, Goofy: The Three Musketeers
      • Even his dog, Pluto, gets in on the trope, saving love interests Dinah and Fifi a few odd times.
    • Subverted along with everything else in Chuck Jones' melodrama parody The Dover Boys as their fiancée, Dora Standpipe, is abducted by villain Dan Backslide - she doesn't break the pace of her cries for help even as she demolishes Dan.
  • Subverted in the Foster's Home for Imaginary Friends special, "Destination Imagination"; the plot was to save Frankie after she was kidnapped by an imaginary friend who controls a trippy world inside a toy box, but near the end it's revealed that she wasn't kidnapped at all, and that she willingly stayed with the imaginary friend to keep him company. But at the climax, when the imaginary friend has a Villainous Breakdown and becomes a monster (thanks to a verbal lashing by Mr. Herriman), the characters fight him to protect Frankie from being trapped in the imaginary world forever. However, the gang are roundly defeated by the monster, and ultimately it's Frankie who becomes the hero of the story: not only does she distract the monster so that the gang can escape the toybox — she briefly stays behind but soon escapes on her own, thus completing the subversion — but she chooses to free the lonely friend as well, having offered to bring him to Foster's, where he can have all the friends in the world.
  • Nell Fenwick on Dudley Do-Right is a parodic composite of the woman tied to train tracks in the gothic genre.
  • The Perils of Penelope Pitstop is a parody of this genre, since often Penny is more capable than the guys supposed to rescue her.
  • Ursula in no fewer than three episodes of the original George of the Jungle.
  • April O'Neil in Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, at least in the first animated series. To the point that they can recognize her "mumbles" when she's gagged, without seeing her.
    • Eventually lampshaded by Shredder:
      Shredder: And while we're at it, let's kidnap April O'Neil. Sure, we've done that 20 or 30 times already, but why mess with what works?
    • Also lampshaded in the Turtles Forever crossover movie. The 1980s turtles stop to save April in their home dimension and explain that they save April at least once a day.
    • In the Nick series April starts out as this, but as her fighting skills have been improving she's growing out of it.
  • Princess Aruzia for the first part of The Adventures of Teddy Ruxpin. She is an Action Girl for the rest of the series.
  • Elita One gets this with her love interest Optimus Prime in Transformers Generation 1. To lure Optimus to his doom, the Decepticons capture Elita. However, when Optimus arrives, he gets captured himself and Elita first has to save him before he can manage to save her. It's pretty 50/50 with them.
  • This is lampshaded in The Spectacular Spider-Man, when Spider-Man cheerily points out to the ungrateful buisnessman Norman Osborn that he is Spidey's very first rescue of this type. It's played straight in regards to booth Love Interest Liz Allan, an Innocent Bystander who gets used as part of a Hostage for MacGuffin scenario and Mary Jane Watson, who gets trapped by the Molten Man.
    • Also with Gwen when she is kidnapped by Venom in the season 1 finale.
  • The entire episode of "Beauty Marked" in Danny Phantom was made in order to subvert this as much as possible. While Danny and Tucker are under the mindset that the kidnapped Sam needs rescuing, she managed to figure a way out just fine. It is their meddling that gets her captured again/still.
  • Kim Possible: Every main character (and some of the villains) have been in this situation. Kim. Ron. The Cheerleaders. Bonnie. Kim's Dad. Kim's Grandmother. The Tweebs. Ron's Dad. Shego. Drakken. Shego's little brothers. It's a requirement of this show that you get captured at least once.
  • Daphne Blake from Scooby-Doo is often kidnapped by the villain of the week in most incarnations, and earned the In-Series Nickname "Danger-Prone Daphne". Later incarnations such as the live action movies have her saving herself or fighting off her attackers. Many of the later animated movies and series have followed suit in terms of upgrading Daphne's combat competency.
  • Subverted in the movie Batman & Mr. Freeze - Subzero. Yes, Plucky Girl Barbara a.k.a. Batgirl gets kidnapped, but she's so competent that she kicks the asses of her captors (Mr. Freeze being one of them) multiple times, and would have escaped on her own just fine if it wasn't for the fact that she was in the middle of the friggin' ocean. In fact, she is probably more useful in the movie than even Batman and Robin.
  • In Star Wars: The Clone Wars, Padme has been captured three times in the first season alone. She's usually well on her way to escaping on her own by the time the cavalry shows up.
  • In the shows Tom and Jerry Kids and Droopy Master Detective, Miss Vavoom is always getting kidnapped by McWolf or any other villain who lusts after her.
  • The Herculoids. Tarra, in many episodes.
  • Space Ghost. Jan, in most episodes. To be fair, Jace was a Distressed Dude.
  • Super Friends. Wonder Woman, oddly enough, in some episodes.
  • The Mighty Mightor. Sheera, in most episodes.
  • Jez on an episode of Jimmy Two-Shoes. She quickly develops Stockholm Syndrome, though.
  • Subverted on ReBoot. One game sets up this plot with Bob as the rescuing knight and implies Dot is the distressed damsel. The subversion is that Enzo is the distressed damsel and Dot is another rescuing knight.
    Enzo: "I don't want to be a damsel in this dress!"
  • When is Smurfette never in need of being rescued by somebody? Only in the live-action movie, where she is finally promoted to Action Girl status.
  • In the Indiana Jones parody episode of Phineas and Ferb, Isabella calls herself a "certified Damsel in Distress" (handing the boys her business card). Though this later appears to be part of the ploy to earn the boy's trust so she can save her mother from Doofinshmirtz's character.
  • In the Fantastic Four cartoon, poor Susan Richards, the Invisible Woman, would be hit with this trope, especially in the first season. An episode in the second season would have Sue admonish Doctor Doom for using this trope. He apologizes for doing so, but explains that this is the quickest, most effective way to get what he wants.
  • There were a few episodes of The Powerpuff Girls in which the girls themselves needed to be rescued (e.g., "Buttercrush," "Twisted Sister," "Stray Bullet").
  • Lois Lane from "Superman: The Animated Series" as usual.
  • In a episode of Sonic Boom called Fortress of Squallitude, Amy is captured by Eggman and Amy is forced to make Eggman's fortress beautiful. Sonic and co. have to save Amy.
    • In the episode Sleeping Giant, after Rocky takes a liking to Sticks' singing, Sticks is captured by Rocky and she is forced to sing for Rocky. Sonic and co. have to save Sticks.
    • In the episode Closed Door Policy, Sticks is captured by the frog warriors, leaving Sonic and co. to rescue Sticks.
  • Talking of the Sonic series, Sonic SatAM, Sally also becomes this in a few episodes, most notable in "Sonic and Sally" where she had a robot take her place and where she was almost turned into a robot herself, but was rescued by Sonic Just in Time. The second season tried harder to make her Sonic's equal so this didn't happen.
  • Xandir P Whifflebottom in Drawn Together is a video game character "on a neverending quest to save my girlfriend". When she discovers he's gay she refuses to be rescued by him. Shortly afterwards his boyfriend is kidnapped and he remarks "Dare I say it? I, Xandir, am on a never ending quest to save my boyfriend!".
  • Esmeralda sometimes plays this role in The Magical Adventures of Quasimodo.
  • The Cartoon Network Groovies short for Jabberjaw has Shelly being kidnapped by mutant eels and robots. She is rescued by Jabberjaw but, much to his disappointment, she isn't interested in a Rescue Romance because he's a shark who smells of bait.


Alternative Title(s): Jones The Cat, Damsels In Distress, Distressed Damsel

http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Main/DamselInDistress