[[quoteright:299:[[ComicBook/TwoThousandAD http://static.tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pub/images/the_dead_man.png]]]]

->''"This story of the loss and regaining of identity is, I think, the framework of all literature."''
-->-- '''Northrop Frye''', ''The Educated Imagination''

A character wakes up stranded in the middle of nowhere, with no recollection of who he is. The plot involves, at least in part, his efforts to rediscover the identity he cannot remember.

AmnesiacDissonance may make this unwise.

This is a subtrope of OntologicalMystery. See also LossOfIdentity. The AmnesiacLover may want to do this to remember why he or she loved whom they've forgotten. The hero of this kind of story is the AmnesiacHero.


[[folder: Anime and Manga]]
* In ''Anime/KemonoFriends'', the main character is hoping to remember what kind of animal she is. [[spoiler: She's the last human...probably.]]
* In the ''Anime/YuGiOh'' second series, it's revealed that Yugi's dark side is the reincarnation of a Pharaoh who's lost his memories. The Pharaoh then enters the Battle City Finals to gain the three Egyptian God cards he needs to enter the Millennium World where he can find his identity.
* In ''Anime/{{Noir}}'', the subplot of who the hell Yuumura Kirika ''is'' drives the action for the begining of the series. A subversion, since near the end Kirika doesn't really seem to want to find out about her past, and would rather just make tea for her [[RomanticTwoGirlFriendship 'partner'.]]
* Half way through the first season of ''Anime/{{K}}'', [[spoiler:Shiro]] realizes that all of his memories are false, and he has no idea who he really is. The first thing he remembers is [[spoiler: being kicked out of an airship and crash landing in the school's gym.]] From then on, he not only has to [[spoiler: clear his name]], he also has to figure out who he truly is. [[spoiler: Of course, the two goals end up being connected...]]
* ''Anime/{{Kaiba}}'': One day a young man wakes up in an empty room, with no idea of who or where he is. His only clues are a strange marking on his stomach, a hole in his chest and a locket containing a blurry picture of a girl. Kaiba travels from planet to planet, seeking for who he is and who the girl in the locket is.
* ''LightNovel/{{Durarara}}'': This is at least part of the plot, in the case of Celty's motivations.
* ''Manga/BattleAngelAlita'': Alita (who was named Gally in the original manga).
* ''Anime/ErgoProxy'': Starting with episode four, the series takes an [[OntologicalMystery Ontological]] turn, changing from a story about a Goth girl detective trying to figure out the connection between the monsters and the corrupt Bureaucracy, to a story about what was apparently a minor character but not really trying to remember his past.
* ''Anime/EdenOfTheEast'' starts our amnesiac protagonist off in front of the White House with nothing more than a handgun and a cellphone (albeit one with eight billion yen on it) to go by. "Nothing," in this case, includes [[NakedOnArrival clothes]].
* ''Anime/AngelBeats'' begins with Otonashi waking up without any memories. He joins the SSS not because of any particular commitment to Yuri's mission, but in the hope that his memory will eventually return.
* ''Anime/{{Dangaioh}}'': The four ESP'ers ([[GirlNextDoor Mia]], [[TheBigGirl Pai]], [[TheBabyOfThebunch Lambda]] and [[TheOneGuy Roll]]) all suddenly find themselves in service to Dr. Tarsan without knowing who they are/were, or how they got there. Mia vaguely recalls that she's a normal girl from Earth, so they decide to fight their way there to live in peace. [[spoiler: As the story advances, the other three begin to remember their pasts. [[DarkAndTroubledPast And they're not pretty]].]]
* In ''[[Manga/AyashiNoCeres Celestial Legend Ceres]]'', Tooya's main motivation for working with the Mikages is to find out who he is.

[[folder:Comic Books]]
* ''ComicBook/{{XIII}}'' starts with the main character washing up on a shore with a bullet wound to the head. When he wakes up he has [[EasyAmnesia no idea who he is]] and no clue, except for "XIII" tattooed on his chest.
* ''ComicBook/WhoIsDonnaTroy'' is the end of Wonder Girl's quest for identity. Wonder Woman rescued her from a building on fire when she was a baby and took her to the Amazon Island, and grew up without knowing who were her real parents, which was her birth name or anything previous to the fire.
* In ''ComicBook/AstroCity'', Beautie has no memories of a time before she flew over a meadow. Periodically she tries to fix this - having difficulty because her LaserGuidedAmnesia keeps erasing what she learned.
* In the ''ComicBook/TwoThousandAD'' story ''The Dead Man'', a young boy finds the burned body of a stranger in the wilderness and takes him back to his village. He can't even remember his name, but he turns out to be [[TheGunslinger damn good with a gun]] and is being pursued by evil spirits from beyond. After healing sufficiently, the man goes on a journey to find out who he is. [[spoiler:He's Judge Dredd.]]

[[folder: Fan Fiction]]
* In the WWE fanfic, ''Miss Molly's Wild Ride'', Molly Holly gets amnesia after getting trampled by fans during a match that went into the crowd. The only thing she remembers is the face of the last person she saw before she lost consciousness, Jeff Hardy.
* In the ''[[WesternAnimation/MyLittlePonyFriendshipIsMagic FriendshipIsMagic]] fanfic ''FanFic/TheChangelingOfTheGuard'', this forms the crux of Idol Hooves's journey [[TheExile post-exile]], though it takes him a long time to realize it for himself.

* ''[[Franchise/TheBourneSeries The Bourne Identity]]'' (book & movie).
* The lead character of ''Film/CowboysAndAliens'' literally wakes up at the begining of the film stranded in the middle of nowhere, with no recollection of who he is or how he got to his current location.
* ''Film/{{Paycheck}}'' has a variant: The protagonist knows who he is, but the entire last two years of his life are a total blank. He apparently agreed to have this done by his employer, and would probably have left well enough alone if not for the government wanting to interrogate him about what he was doing during that time.
** This is actually what he does, except he only does it for a max of 3 months due to the original technology used to wipe his memory after every job.
* ''Film/DarkCity'': A man wakes up in a bathtub with no memories - he doesn't even recall that his name is John Murdoch until he checks his wallet. He finds a dead woman in the bedroom, and the phone is ringing. His burning need to know who he is is fundamental to the story.
* The plot of ''Film/{{Unknown 2006}}'', where a group of five men find themselves trapped in an AbandonedWarehouse with [[IdentityAmnesia no memory of who they are]]. The tricky thing is, they know that at least two of them are kidnap victims and the others are the kidnappers. The movie explores how they slowly regain their memory.
* ''The Constant Husband''
* ''Film/{{Memento}}'': This trope is deliberately inverted; the protagonist has anterograde amnesia.
* Jackie Chan in ''Who Am I?''
* ''Film/MulhollandDrive'': A woman has amnesia after what seems to be a car accident. Recovering herself is not ontologically safe.
* A non-action version is ''Regarding Henry'', starring Creator/HarrisonFord. In it, the title character [[TisOnlyABulletInTheBrain survives a gunshot wound to the head]], and the resulting pinched artery affects his memory. Cue the rest of the movie depicting him coming to terms with [[LossOfIdentity not remembering anything]] about [[MissingTime his life]] before the [[TraumaInducedAmnesia shot]]. Note that it's a rare ontological mystery for the character ''only'', not the audience, hence the reason that it's played for drama rather than excitement.
* ''Literature/{{Solaris}}'': All versions of this feature Hari/Rheya undergoing some sort of quest like this. It pretty much jumps from Hari spending most of the film completely amnesiatic, to her feeling a bit angsty over identity issues, to trying to kill herself in about 20 minutes. The 1972 film is 3 hours long.
* ''Film/TheDeadPit'''s FinalGirl arrives at the mental hospital setting amnesiac and a portion of the plot is donated to find out her identity and her connection to the BigBad.
* Much of the film ''Film/RoboCop1987'' revolves around Murphy trying to remember who he was in his past life and getting revenge on the criminals who killed him.
* ''Film/CaptainAmericaTheWinterSoldier'': [[spoiler:After Steve's IKnowYoureInThereSomewhereFight in the climax helped him to somewhat overcome his brainwashing, the Winter Soldier embarked on a quest to learn about his old self, ComicBook/BuckyBarnes.]]
* In-between the themes of race relations in TheNewTens, ''Film/DearWhitePeople'' is, at it's core, a story of how we see ourselves based on our morals, our opinions and how other people see ''us''.

* ''Literature/TheChroniclesOfAmber''. Corwin awakes in a mental hospital with zero knowledge of his identity. This is essential to the plot: a core of the first five books is a parallel journey of the reader and Corwin to discover who he is. Corwin's lack of memory is rich narrative fodder: old enemies are dangerously mistaken as friends, but some bitter enemies of old are met without prejudice, allowing for reconciliations, even friendships that would be impossible otherwise.
* The heroine of Creator/TanithLee's novel ''The Birthgrave''.
* In the ''Scavenger Trilogy'' by K.J. Parker, Poldarn awakes facedown in the mud, surrounded by dead soldiers. He has no idea who he is. The remainder of the series has Poldarn striving to reclaim his lost past, [[spoiler:yet running from the nightmare his past is revealed to be.]]
* ''Dragons Can Only Rust'' and ''Dragon Reforged'' by Chrys Cymri are about a [[OurDragonsAreDifferent robot dragon]] on a quest to learn [[DoAndroidsDream whether or not he has a soul.]]
* In ''Literature/MirrorDance'', Miles Vorkosigan goes through several chapters not knowing who he is, [[spoiler:due to amnesia induced by him being killed, frozen, and then revived. His doctors have some idea who he is, but since he has a clone, and they believe the rumor that says he has ''two'' clones, they're not sure ''which'' he is.]]
* The Nameless One from ''Prophecy Of The Gems'' by Flavia Bujor.
* Tzigone from ''Literature/CounselorsAndKings''. [[spoiler:She puts things together piecemeal throughout the trilogy, only learning the final bit - her real name - during the climax]].
* Subverted in ''[[ForgottenRealms Azure Bonds]]'', in which the heroine awakens in an [[YouAllMeetInAnInn inn]] with some, but not all, of her memories missing, only to discover over the course of the novel [[spoiler:that her memories are [[FakeMemories fake]], and that she is in fact a rogue magical construct that was only built a few weeks ago.]]
* This is partially what happens in ''[[Literature/TheHeroesOfOlympus The Lost Hero]]'', but in the second book it's not really mentioned since the readers already know what happened, even though the character himself does not remember.
* The Redfern Barrett novel ''Forget Yourself'' is set in a land where no-one has any clear memories of the outside, and society must be rebuilt from scratch.
* Brandy from the ''Literature/AstralCafe'' series goes on various quests for her identity throughout the series, [[spoiler: however to date they have all been unsuccessful]].
* This is the initial driving question for [[OurGryphonsAreDifferent Aglaciel]] in ''Literature/ImagineSomeday''.
* In ''Literature/ThoseThatWake'', Laura goes through one in the second book, and to a lesser extent the first.
* In ''Literature/TheGirlFromTheMiraclesDistrict'', Robin's side of the plot is the mystery of who and what he is.
* Played with in the ''Literature/VenusPrime'' series, where Sparta is aware that she used to be Linda Nagy, daughter of a pair of behavioral scientists, but can't remember anything about the three years prior to her waking up in a mental hospital.

[[folder: Live Action TV]]
%%* ''Series/SamanthaWho?''
%%* ''Series/KyleXY''
* ''Series/NowhereMan'': The main character thought he was a photographer whose life had been taken away. Granted, he ''starts the series'' thinking he knows who he is and what he does ... "and in one instant, it was all taken away", if I remember the dialogue right.
* ''Series/JohnDoe'' with a twist. The titular character is a walking encyclopedia of the combined knowledge of the human race. The only thing he can't remember is who he is.
* Chester Tate from ''Series/{{Soap}}'' goes on one of these after he loses his memories in season two after his surgery for [[spoiler:his brain defect that had been causing him blackouts and amnesia]].
* ''Series/DoctorWho'': The Eighth Doctor had amnesia when he woke up. In this case, the audience already knew everything about him, though.
* ''Series/RedDwarf'' Series 6 opening.
* ''Series/StarTrekTheNextGeneration'' episodes "Conundrum" and "Transfigurations".
* ''Coronet Blue''.
* ''{{Series/Sh15uya}}''.
* ''Series/KamenRiderDecade'': Tsukasa Kadoya sets out on the journey across the Another Rider worlds to find the one he belongs to and his identity.
* ''Series/KamenRiderBuild'': Sento Kiriyu became Build to protect people from [[MonsterOfTheWeek Smash]] and to find his memories (and the person who took them).
* ''Series/{{Dollhouse}}'': In one episode, Echo and three other Actives awaken in their sleep chambers with their functional but not declarative memories intact. In addition to the usual quest for identity, this also adds an OntologicalMystery into the plot, because the dollhouse would be a very unusual setting for a normal person to wake up in, what with the commercialized mind control and stuff. Naturally, they go hunting for who they are and the people who did this to them. [[spoiler: It's all a set-up by the Dollhouse to fix a glitch in the brainwiping process; they learn a little but none of them manage to have their memories restored, and as soon as they accomplish whatever minor goal they were after, they black out as they were preprogrammed to do and are wiped again.]]
* ''Series/TheOuterLimits1995'':
** In the episode "Blank Slate", a man is being chased by some people. He encounters a woman who agrees to help him. He can't remember who he is but has a strange case with him that periodically dispenses a shot of a blue liquid. With every shot, he regains some of his memories. In the end, he takes the last shot and remembers that those people chasing them are working for him. He is a MadScientist who created this method of erasing, storing, and restoring memories. The end of the episode shows him about to do this to the woman who helped him.
** In the episode "Birthright", a politician gets into a car accident and lose his memory. He is immediately told who he is but starts to see strange things. He suspects and alien conspiracy only to find out that he himself is an alien and, in fact, the aliens are already growing a replacement for him.
* ''Series/TheOuterLimits1963'': It was a major feature of the very famous 'Demon With A Glass Hand' episode by Harlan Ellison, featuring Robert Culp. See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Demon_with_a_Glass_Hand for a plot summary.
* The center of ''Series/{{Blindspot}}'': A woman is left in a duffel bag in Times Square with no memory of who she is or why her whole body is covered in mysterious tattoos. The tats help the FBI solve cases while the woman, with the temporary identity of Jane Doe, helps them in the hope of finding clues to her past.
* In the ''Series/BlackMirror'' episode "[[Recap/BlackMirrorWhiteBear White Bear]]", the protagonist wakes up in a house surrounded by pills with no memory of who she is and a crazed maniac trying to kill her.

* ''Toys/{{Bionicle}}'''s Takua. After already having had his memory and identity wiped ''twice'', Takua managed to land on his head and erased his identity ''again''. What followed was a long quest to try and piece together who he is, all the while learning of the Legend of Bionicle, and helping his people fight against darkness.

[[folder: Video Games]]
* ''VideoGame/CaveStory''
* ''VideoGame/GhostTrick'': This is the main character's primary motivation.
* ''VideoGame/PlanescapeTorment'': The protagonist can't stay dead, but keeps coming back to life with no memories of anything, even his name. He's called [[OnlyKnownByHisNickname The Nameless One]] throughout the story, during which he seeks out his lost identity and the reasons for his immortality.
* The adventure games ''VideoGame/DejaVu'' and ''Amnesia'' had the additional twist of the main character being wanted for murder.
* ''VideoGame/SecondSight'' with a twist. John Vattic is actually [[spoiler:not trying to remember the past but is foreseeing a possible future where the BigBad has captured and brain-wiped him. The past is actually the present]].
* Online game ''The Adventure of Dave'' gives Dave no recollection of his past. However, the boss uses this as key evidence for his chaotic good "HeelFaceTurn."
* The ''Series/{{Lost}}'' game ''Via Domus''.
* ''VideoGame/DissidiaFinalFantasy'' has an aversion, in which the Warrior of Light doesn't know who he is or where he comes from. It does seem to bother him from time to time, but he's never shown actively doing anything to try and get his memories back. While it's revealed to the player in ''Dissidia 012'' that [[spoiler: he has no past due to being born a Manikin infused with memories]], he never learns this himself.
* ''VideoGame/PokemonMysteryDungeon''. [[spoiler:The sequel has a much different answer than the first...]]
* [[http://ifwiki.org/index.php/Amnesia Too many]] InteractiveFiction [[http://ifwiki.org/index.php/Amnesia games to count.]]
* ''VideoGame/{{XIII}}''
* ''VideoGame/TheElderScrollsIIIMorrowind'' starts with you as an unknown stranger, born in a certain day from unknown parents. There is no recollection of the past, but that's fine, because the Dunmer believe this is one of the traits of The Nerevarine.
* ''VideoGame/{{Flashback}}'', which has the trope name in the subtitle. The whole identity plot ends at the beginning of level 2, though.
* ''VideoGame/TheNeverhood''. The protagonist's back story is revealed through the PlotCoupons scattered throughout the game. [[spoiler:Namely that ''he doesn't have one'': he was literally made in the room he woke up in.]]
* ''VisualNovel/PhoenixWrightAceAttorney'': Happens (temporarily) to Phoenix in the second game to [[JustifiedTutorial justify a tutorial level]].
* In the original video game adaption of ''{{VideoGame/Shadowrun}}'', the hero is shot and 'killed' by men working for his disgruntled boss, [[TheDreaded Drake]]. He's saved by a shaman and reawakens in the morgue, sans memory.
* [[Franchise/SonicTheHedgehog Shadow The Hedgehog]] has been doing this since ''VideoGame/SonicAdventure2''. In his first appearance, he had part of his memory, but by ''VideoGame/SonicHeroes'', he had lost all of his memory, taking him on a quest for his identity that would come to a head in this game.
* The Kid in ''VisualNovel/{{Ever17}}''.
* Many players on MU* s create characters of this sort, often because they save the player the trouble of having to do the real work of assembling a character, leading some MU* s forbid characters of this sort out right.
** Those that haven't forbidden it have put it on the "Overdone" list, which generally includes concepts that a player will have to be ''very'' convincing - and probably have to hand in essay-length bios - to justify them getting such a character. To quote (or at least paraphrase; it's been a while) a review of one such (incredibly terrible) app:
--> "Your character's past might be mysterious, but you and the staff should still damn well know what that "mysterious past" is."
* ''[[VideoGame/{{Geneforge}} Geneforge 5]]'': The player character suffered the backlash of WithGreatPowerComesGreatInsanity and for several years had mental functionality like that of a rather clever sheepdog. The game starts with you returning to sentience with almost no memories. Throughout the game you meet several people who seem to recognize you, and ultimately [[spoiler: you never find out and just decide to make a new life for yourself.]]
* ''VideoGame/{{Prototype}}'' involves the player character, Alex Mercer, attempting to remember who he is and who caused the Manhattan ZombieApocalypse. He does this by [[ImAHumanitarian eating people]]. [[spoiler:And y'know who caused the outbreak? ''Alex Mercer'', and the character we're playing isn't the real Alex, just a viral mutant who ate the original and thought it was him.]]
* ''VideoGame/TheWhiteChamber''. The main character awakens in a strange coffin in a small room, with no idea who she is and how she got there. She's on an abandoned space station -- abandoned because [[spoiler: ''[[AmnesiacDissonance she murdered everyone else on board]]''.]]
* ''VideoGame/TheWitcher''. There's even a quest called "Identity". Some thought it not yet witchy enough. Others found it somewhat witchier than they expected.
* ''VideoGame/AmnesiaTheDarkDescent'' has this as the overarching plotline.
* Both ''Knights of the Old Republic'' games twist this around in complicated ways.
** More simple is ''[[VideoGame/KnightsOfTheOldRepublicIITheSithLords Knights of the Old Republic II]]'': you wake up in an abandoned mining facility, and the first act is all about finding out how the hell you got there. So the first part revolves around finding out what happened, but it's because The Exile was unconscious, not because she forgot. The rest of the game actually averts this trope: The Exile knows and hints at who she is and it is the player who must figure it out.
** ''VideoGame/KnightsOfTheOldRepublic'' twists it around in a [[WalkingSpoiler spoilerriffic]] way. Basically, [[spoiler: this sort of applies to one character, but they don't ''know'' it. As in, they don't know that there are vital things about their past they don't remember and that are part of what they're trying to find out, until TheReveal.]]
* ''VideoGame/AgarestSenki2'' has this as an overarching plot line where the first generation protagonist must find out who he really is before his amnesia.
* Your motivation for most of the game in ''Videogame/{{Bioforge}}''. It doesn't eventually impact much when you find it out.
* Rion, main character of ''VideoGame/{{Galerians}}'', begins the game StrappedToAnOperatingTable with no idea who he is. But since he has PsychicPowers, he has the means and the will to figure it out.
* ''VideoGame/TheTalosPrinciple'' allows the player character, a robot dropped off in the middle of a mysterious island, to optionally go on a quest to find out its identity and purpose as it solves the various puzzles the world presents, or alternatively ignore this burning question and do as the AI calling itself Elohim tells it to.
* This is [[ProtagonistWithoutAPast Grey's]] entire reason for going through the events of ''VideoGame/MegaManZX Advent'', all in the name of trying to find the truth of his existence from the BigBad, Master Albert. [[SubvertedTrope However]], after fighting Maverick Mechaniloids, Pseudoroids, five other Mega Men, and both [[CoDragons Prometheus and Pandora]], he starts to [[CharacterDevelopment matures]] and decides that doesn't matter anymore, and when he finally learns that he's actually [[spoiler:Master Albert's [[FlawedPrototype failed]] [[TomatoInTheMirror backup body]] and Model A is a recording of Albert's powers and memories]], he essentially tells Albert [[ShutUpHannibal he doesn't give a damn about that]] and he'll make his own destiny. The fact that one of the Mega Men he fought beforehand was [[ScrewDestiny Ai]][[PreviousPlayerCharacterCameo le]] certainly helped him get over it better, and at the end of the game he goes off on another QuestForIdentity, this time WalkingTheEarth to find his own place alongside Model A.
* ''Franchise/KingdomHearts'': Roxas was sick of being in the dark, realizing just how little he really knew of himself. So he ditched Organization XIII to find out who he was before becoming a Nobody, or even if he WAS someone before that. At least, that was the idea; DiZ had other plans for him.

* This is ultimately why Red XIII {{Face Heel Turn}}ed in ''Webcomic/AnsemRetort''; to find out more about himself, his race (of which he's the LastOfHisKind), and how the fuck humans managed to get superior over them anyway.
* The inhabitants of ''Webcomic/TheEnds'' are reborn [[IdentityAmnesia without memories]] in an endless cycle. The protagonist, Jason, has managed to recover a portion of his identity and is now questing for the remainder.
* Subverted in ''Webcomic/HannaIsNotABoysName'' -- the narrator, a zombie, woke up ten years ago with [[IdentityAmnesia no memory of his past life]] [[NoNameGiven or even his name.]] Instead of going on a QuestForIdentity, however, he spent those years wandering and contemplating life, and has joined Hanna in his supernatural investigations for something to do rather than finding out why he's come back to life. He has shown relatively little interest in his past identity and has even stated in [[AllThereInTheManual the artist's Q&A]] that if he remembered the identities and address of his family, he probably wouldn't go see them - it would be too cruel to them.
* Iris Brockman in ''Webcomic/TalesOfGnosisCollege'' averts this trope. In spite a a bizarre sequence of events involving total physical discontinuity with her past self, she has no doubts as to who she is.

[[folder: Web Original]]
* Both the main characters of ''Roleplay/RubyQuest''. As well as just about everyone else, apparently.
* ''Literature/StoneBurners'', starts off like this. The protagonist ends up adopting "Olivia" as a name while she figures out who she is, or was.