In Persona 4, Rise falls in love with Yu after he saves her life. While the rest of the team helped to rescue her, she developed an intense attraction towards him alone. This might possibly be due to the fact that during Rise's first appearance in the mall scene, she believes someone is chasing her, until she's trapped and learns that Yu simply wanted to return her phone to her, then leaving, without making any indication that he knows who she is. This may have led her to believe there was a Recognition Failure.
Averted in Ranma ½: Ranma Saotome saves Kodachi Kuno from falling off of a roof — but caused her to fall in the first place because he accidentally hit her in the head while she was running away from an attempt to ambush Akane Tendo. Kodachi fixates him on a romantic figure after she comes to, but Ranma does not reciprocate her feelings, due to a combination of having two existing Arranged Marriages (though he's only aware of one at the moment) and an Accidental Marriage (though neither he nor the girl in question are aware of it at this precise moment), and Kodachi's... unusual... ideas about romance. Her first action after regaining consciousness — well, second, her first is to cuddle to him and ask for his name — is to paralyze him with a bouquet of poison-laced roses so she can kiss him.
Fumi from Rising X Rydeen goes from trying to make Takara her servant to falling in love with him after he buys time for her and her underlings to escape some really powerful enemies.
Done in B.O.D.Y, when Ryoko is saved from creepy guys on the street by Jin.
The normally strong-willed Haruhi from Ouran High School Host Club is unapproachable to the host club's cliched attempts at romantic talk. However, she's terrified to the point of cowering in the fetal position at the sound of thunder. Two of the male cast get closer to her by saving her from this.
Done twice in the end of the anime when Haruhi chases down Tamaki in a horse drawn carriage to stop him from leaving the Host Club and his happiness. Then when she holds out her hand to reach for him, the carriage tumbles and the poor girl goes flying off the bridge... leading Tamaki to jump out of the car and rescue her.
Mermaid Melody Pichi Pichi Pitch, based on the original "The Little Mermaid" story, has two Rescue Romances, both involving the same person and causing a rivalry that lasts the entire second season. Interestingly, Lucia saved Kaito from drowning when they were six, and Kaito does the "chase away perverts" variant multiple times in the story, but the former is more important to their relationship than the latter.
In Hayate the Combat Butler, Hayate and Nagi meet in a similar 'saved from thugs' fashion; unknown to Nagi, Hayate's original intention was to kidnap her - he was protecting his prey...Hayate is almost instantly regretful of his intentions, though.
Hayate ends up saving a lot of the series' girls this way, and even a guy at one point—though that one didn't create any romantic undertones.
Tamahome rescues Miaka from some pervy thugs at the beginning of Fushigi Yuugi. Nakago, bastard that he is, does the same with Yui after the fact, and only encourages the resulting emotional vulnerability.
Seiji Sawamura saves Takako Ayase in Midori no Hibi from a band of delinquents that were dragging her away. She falls in love shortly afterward when she sees him letting himself get beaten up without resorting to violence (fighting back) in order to save a friend and defuse the gang's grudge.
Also played with in an episode of Full Metal Panic? Fumoffu: the karate club's strategy for a "flirting contest" involves dressing up three of its members as thugs and having them accost young women so that Tsubaki can come to their rescue. It backfires spectacularly when the crowd of girls he's "rescued" in this fashion find out it was for a contest.
Used slightly in Ai Yori Aoshi, when Kaoru kicks Aoi out of his apartment, then goes to rescue her. No fight occurs though... Basically sums up as: "Come on, that innocent girl is part of some big conspiracy? What am I, a freakin' moron? Uh oh, creeps 3 o'clock..."
In their defense, the creeps were remarkably good-natured about the whole thing: at no point did they offer to rearrange Kaoru's features over the incident, and even reprimanded him for his poor treatment of the girl.
Parodied in El-Hazard: The Magnificent World, when Fujisawa "saves" Miz from her monstrous looking manservant (she was screaming because the servant poured cold water on her instead of hot). Miz falls in love with him anyway and doesn't bother correcting him.
Subverted in Slayers - in the first episode, Gourry steps in to save Lina from Bandits, but she really didn't need the help. Also, while she does admit he's handsome and lets him continue traveling with her, the development of their relationship has more to do with their adventures together than their initial meeting (despite him having a Bodyguard Crush on her for quite a while).
Parodied in The Prince of Tennis: Sakuno has a crush on Ryoma from the first time she saw him, when he stopped a show-off who was about to hit her on the face with his racket - but it turns out Ryoma had not even acknowledged Sakuno's presence back then, and only stopped the moron because he was too loud and didn't let him nap in the train.
Arguably played a bit more straight with An and Momoshiro: he saved her and Sakuno from bullies first, later he teamed up with Kamio to have Atobe give up on forcing her on a date. Arguably, because neither Momo nor An make moves towards a Relationship Upgrade when given the chance (despite the relationship chart hinting at her having a crush on him), whereas Kamio is firmly put in the role of the Unlucky Childhood Friend.
Somewhat inverted in the anime Blood+. Though Haji does end up saving Saya during their "first" meeting (at least long enough to get her to save herself), she initially mistakes him for a serial killer and runs scared.
Arguably, Project A-Ko. B-Ko even cites A-Ko rescuing C-Ko from a wolf as part of her grudge.
This shows up mildly in the various Tenchi Muyo! continuities. In the manga, this ends up turned on its ear when Aeka waits for her saviour after being captured, hoping for a little Rescue Romance with Tenchi ... and finds Ryoko coming to the rescue (she knocked Tenchi out and took the only available spaceship so that he wouldn't be able to put himself at risk). Aeka's disappointed in the choice of rescuer, and Ryoko isn't very fond of the lack of gratitude. Resulting in Ryoko Dope Slaping Aeka so hard she feels it even through the force field that confines her.
Subverted at the beginning of A Certain Magical Index: Touma tries to get a delinquent hitting on Mikoto in a diner to leave her alone—saying that he's troubling her—and winds up getting chased off when the delinquent's friends return from the bathroom. When he finally seems to lose them and stops to rest, Mikoto walks up and admits to frying them to save trouble. Turns out Touma had known she was a powerful lightning esper the entire time, and had been trying to protect the delinquents. She then tries to blast him, and her determination as the Unknown Rival is increased.
Played with in their first chronological meeting depicted in Railgun. Touma saves her from a group of delinquents and chastises them for hitting on a little girl. Predictably, Misaka doesn't take it well and fries the lot of them. However, due to Touma's right hand he is completely unharmed. It was only because of this immunity that she became interested in him, declaring him her rival.
And played straight in the Sister arc. When Misaka is at the edge of despair and literally willing to die in the pathetic hope that it will save her clones...Touma shows up and saves all 9939 of her clones. That's where he went from (in Misaka's eyes) The Rival to an actual love interest. And at least one (likely far more) of those clones is also attracted to him, for similar reasons.
Several other girls in Touma's Unwanted Harem fell for him after he rescued them.
The first meeting of Subaru and Ixpellia in StrikerS Sound Stage X of Magical Girl Lyrical Nanoha began with Subaru shielding Ix from falling debris, followed by Subaru fighting off the Mariages that came for Ix (with an accompanying image of a very battered Subaru cradling Ix as they gaze into each others eyes), and ended with Subaru symbolically and literally bringing Ix out of the darkness and into the light of the current era. When all of that was done, Ix saw Subaru as one of the only people she felt calm with because she rescued her. Unsurprisingly, there's a small but noticeable amount of supporters for this ship which would have been bigger, had Ix not entered her 1000 years of sleep.
And for a straighter example in both senses of the phrase, we have Tohma and Lily, the main pairing for Force who first meet when Tohma finds Lily bound in an abandoned lab, releases her, and takes her with him.
And, of course, more or less the basis for Fate/Nanoha. Nanoha is the one who helps her through her ordeals, after all.
The Nanoha and Fate Rescue Romance gets reversed in Magical Girl Lyrical Nanoha INNOCENT, with Nanoha meeting Fate for the first time when the latter saves the former from getting hammered by Vita. This was given a Lampshade Hanging by Arisa as she teased Nanoha about her obvious developing crush on Fate.
Satoshi Hojou saves Shion Sonozaki from a group of thugs in a flashback in Higurashi no Naku Koro ni (the same thugs who have also tried to attack Keiichi Maehara, Rika Furude, and Satoshi's sister Satoko in different timelines). This leads to Shion immediately falling in love with Satoshi. However, as this is Higurashi, her love isa bitdifferent. (Only in two worlds, to be fair.)
Given Setsuna's obvious Bodyguard Crush on Konoka and Konoka's reaction every time "Secchan" saves her, this forms much of the basis behind the casual observer's view of them. When they finally pactio (and Konoka seems to be hinting broadly that it's a gone from subtext to text) in Chapter 252, it happens immediately after Setsuna saved Konoka without even realizing it.
Lampshaded early on when the girls think Negi is going to confess to Ku Fei as a result of her saving him that morning.
Negi's father Nagi and Negi's Tsundere mother Arika finally kiss right after he rescues her in Ch 269. Both HELL YEAH! and Awww..
Roy Mustang and Riza Hawkeye spend the entirety of Fullmetal Alchemist saving each other. In chronological order, she gunned down an Ishvalan who was about to stab him during the war, and saved him from Scar by tripping him (It Makes Sense in Context), then he risked blowing their cover to save her from Gluttony, and later rescued both her and Al from Lust when she was in the middle of a suicidal breakdown, believing him dead. In later chapters, he went completely Ax-Crazy againt Envy, when he/she/it admitted to killing Hughes. He only snapped out of it when she assured him she would keep her promise of shooting him if he ever became corrupted, but she would kill herself afterwards. And just when they got all that cleared up, they found themselves in a situation where she was dying from a jugular wound...and he couldn't save her. Luckily, someone who could showed up; the emotional scene which followed is easily one of the single most romantic things in the entire series.
This trope is played with in this case, since they went that way simply because they love each other, even before they enter military.
Doumeki saves Watanuki too many times to count in Xxx HO Li C. Ho Yay ensues, at least for the fans.
In the first episode, Princess Tutu saves Mytho after he jumps out a window to save a baby bird from a raven attack. She then starts to save him about Once an Episode until he starts to fall for her.
Also, it's revealed in the second season that Rue met Mytho when he saved her from a crow attack, and she in turn saved his life by giving him water through a kiss.Fakir might count for Mytho, as well. Also Ahiru and Fakir's most romantic scenes come when they are rescuing each other.
And by the end, Rue and Mytho fully seal the trope when they rescue each other. On one hand Rue's Anguished Declaration of Love breaks the spell that has turned Mytho evil (which she mistakenly helped cause one might add), and when Tutu arrives next to a now-normal Mytho she tells him that Rue saved him. On the other hand, Rue is immediately captured by her Archnemesis Dad the Raven, and Mytho rescues her from a slow and agonizing death.
Recent chapters of D.N.Angel have hinted at a romance between Satoshi and Risa after he saves her from a deadly fall.
Vision of Escaflowne has something of a mutual Rescue Romance: Van starts falling in love with Hitomi after she pulls a Diving Save on him in episode 6, saving him from being impaled by Dilandau. Meanwhile, Hitomi begins seeing Van as something beyond "that guy I'm tagging along with until I can get back home" after he saves her from a kidnapping attempt (rather than the expected Knight in Shining Armor, Allen) in the subsequent episode.
Played with repeatedly in Monster: Tenma's first meeting with adult Nina when she's waiting by Heidelberg castle seems like it's going this way, except for the aversion they never unambiguously get beyond Will They or Won't They?, the inversion she ends up rescuing him that time, and by being there, they both fail to save her foster parents, and the disturbing subversion that her Meet Cute-ish Lampshade Hanging response to Tenma's appearance ("Are you my prince?") is primed by a series of anonymous romantic emails which are actually from her twin brother..
In a more straightforward(!) subversion, both the Big Bad and The Dragon frequently pose as rescuers and unexpected friends and allies, romantically or otherwise, in order to further their plans. Karl's quasi-idolatrous friendship with Johan also just keeps on giving on the Dramatic Irony and Fridge Horror fronts, the more you find out about Karl's family and Johan's connections with them.
Johan's own Mind Game Ship fixation on Tenma could also be seen as a very warped one-sided version of this, for all Johan's questionable reassurance that he sees Tenma as a father figure since Tenma saved his life when he was a very young boy.
Also by way of subversion, Tenma's repeated rescues of his Stalker with a Crush ex Eva who eventually gets the nearest to straight version of this trope with her bodyguard Martin, and Nina's response to Tenma saving her brother.
Surprisingly averted when Nina is rescued and nursed back to health by Lipsky. He develops feelings for her, but she doesn't seem to view him as anything more than a close friend
Doubly-subverted when Hinata jumps in to try to save Naruto from Pain. She tells Naruto that she can't stay back while he's in danger because she loves him, then attacks Pain - who simply smacks her down, stabs her, and insinuates to Naruto that she's dead. Naruto promptly loses it worse than he ever has before. The anime turns it into a Meaningful Echo with both characters in the opposite positions when they were younger, against bullies.
Played straight with Karin, who's implied to have fallen for Sasuke after he saved her from a bear in a Chuunin exam she was taking.
Also spoofed in filler Episode 101. In a flashback Kakashi easily defeats the pathetic Moya Triad who had been pestering a random woman, and afterwards she's completely smitten with Kakashi.
Played straight with Naruto's parents, Minato and Kushina. She fell in love with him when he saved her from the Kumo ninjas that kidnapped her when she was a kid, then complimented on the red hair that other children used as a reason to bully her.
Subverted in School Rumble - the entire reason Harima grew facial hair, wears sunglasses, and became a delinquent was so that he could be close to Tenma without her recognizing him. He fell in love with her after saving her from hoodlums, and took her back to his place because she was unconscious. When he leaned in for the traditional kiss, she woke up and thought he was about to molest her (or already had).
Played for Laughs in the anime. Yoruichi rescues Soifon causing her to completely melt and turn all goggly-eyed and gushy.
This is how Isshin and Masaki met and got together. When Isshin interferes with Aizen's latest hollowfication experiment, Aizen sabotages Isshin's chances of killing the hollow. Masaki kills the hollow, saving Isshin's life but inadvertently suffering a fatal hollow infection in the process. Isshin's decision to save her right back meant he had to sacrifice his shinigami power to do so.
Also Haru fell for Tsuna after he saved her from drowning.
Might as well tack Enma on.
Subverted in Gundam Wing's Episode Zero manga, where Middie Une falls in love with No-name aka the future Trowa Barton, but she still betrays the mercenary group they belong to.
Specifically invoked and then harshly deconstructed in Detective Conan, where a guy who hopelessly crushes on Ran, Sonoko and Shinichi's sempai Asami drugs her when they go karaoke singing and then secretly sets her place in fire, hoping she'd finally fall for him when he rescued her. In the end, not only Ran is the one who really rescues Asami, but Conan (through Sonoko in the manga, and Kogoro in the anime) reveals his gambit to everyone, harshly calling him out on his selfishness.
Both played straight and played with in GUN×SWORD. Van and Wendy meet when he rescues her, but he wasn't trying to rescue her; apparently, he thought she was already dead. Later in the same episode, he deliberately chooses to rescue her, despite having turned down her offer of marriage.
Gunslinger Girl. Cyborg girl Triela has her Love Epiphany when she discovers that not only did her handler Victor Hilshire save her from a Snuff Film, but he became her handler solely to continue protecting her. Then it's subverted, because she doesn't pursue him. Triela is Genre Savvy enough to realize that a good part of her feelings may come from from her conditioning, and that a man like Hilshire is not interested in romance with his 14 year-old Protectorate.
Played with in the BL manga Cool/Uncool by Kai Asou. The story is about how main characters Yukihisa (uke) and Takashi (seme), now best friends, get together, but Yukihisa gives backstory to their relationship by remembering their first meeting in elementary school, where Yukihisa is a bullied transfer student whose tormentors are Takashi's group of friends. When Yukihisa is eventually called out in a schoolyard fight, the manga seems to set up this trope when Yukihisa is put in a two-on-situation. When the reader turns the page, it ends up with Yukihisa kicking the asses of his bullies, and when Takashi arrives, supposedly to rescue him and thereby invoke this trope, Yukihisa ends up tacking him to the ground as if he were another bully.
In Wild Rock, the first time Yuuen and Emba meet Yuuen is about to be killed by a giant sabre-toothed animal he had been trying to hunt. Emba flies in out of nowhere and stabs it in the neck, and promptly tells Yuuen he's incapable of wielding a weapon. The others get riled up over this but Yuuen is just grateful to have been saved. Emba also gets injured rescuing him from a giant alligator later on. The trope is not quite played straight with their fathers, where it was Selim's own hunting trap that he had to save Yuni from.
Gloriously subverted in Fujimura-kun Mates. The titular character, Fujimura, once saved a girl from a group of delinquents. Then a very cute and grateful imouto character shows up at his school, initially assumed to be the girl he saved. Turns out, she's the leader of the deliquents!
In Flame of Recca, Recca and Yanagi meet in a 'saved from forceful advances' scenario.
Played slightly-more-straight in the anime when Recca pushes her out of the way of a bunch of falling girders.
Invoked twice in Canaan. Maria Oosawa wants to replay her first meeting with the titual Action Girl, so she intentionally gets in trouble. Also, Liang Qi had set up a trap for Alphard to get captured in the beginning so that Liang Qi would get to rescue her. Alphard was very aware of this; and went along merely because she was curious where Liang Qi was going with it.
In Tiger & Bunny, Kotetsu Kaburagi and Tomoe Amamiya's relationship was kick-started when Kotetsu rescued her from a factory explosion. Of course, the fact that he was an aspiring superhero and she was a raging superhero fangirl might have had something to do with it.
Invoked intentionally in Mawaru-Penguindrum, when Ringo tries to stage an incident where she's drowning so her crush Tabuki will rescue her. Subverted since it fails, so Shoma has to save her. And then it's played straight because, after settling her thoughts on Tabuki, Ringo falls for Shouma instead.
Discussed and deconstructed in an episode of Magical Pokaan, where the girls are discussing how they would like to meet their future boyfriends. Liru suggests this as her preferred scenario, but Aiko criticizes her, saying that such relationships tend to be based on heat-of-the-moment attraction and don't tend to last.
In InuYasha, this is how Jinenji's parents met decades ago. Jinenji's mother was a villager girl who once hurt her leg when collecting herbs, and was rescued by a kind horse yokai.
And we also have all the instances in which Inuyasha and Kagome rescue each other through the whole story, starting with Kagome unsealing Inuyasha from the tree that Kikyou pinned him against so he can fight off the Centipede Woman. It even got lampshaded at the start, when Kagome talked her way out of the Thunder Brothers killing her via making them believe that Inuyasha was her boyfriend and would come for her later so it was not in their best interests to murder her.
Combined with Bodyguard Crush in the Dressrosa arc of One Piece. In a flashback showing the past of the Thunder Soldier shows he was the bodyguard of Rebecca's mother, who disliked him because of his criminal past, until he rescued her from a kidnapping attempt.
In the Child Ballad "The Lord of Lorn and the False Steward", the young lord saves his life by promising to never to tell that his servant robbed him; the servant turns him into a servant, until the daughter of a local lord figures out how to get the story out of him. Whereupon they promptly marry.
In their original Golden Age meeting (at least when he was in costume), Superman saves Lois from some gangsters who aren't happy about Lois', erm, professional dedication.
The Marvel Universe also has a Les Yay/Friendship variation of this. After Rogue drained her powers, Ms. Marvel was rescued by the first Spider-Woman and was counseled to get over her trauma/pain of power-loss, which is the beginning of their friendship... or Les Yay.
Speaking of Jessica Drew, her close friendship with Lindsey McCabe began after Lindsey stood up for her during a humiliating group therapy session.
The comic continuations of Gargoyles featured Lexington and Staghart rescuing each other. The Bad Guys series also featured Dingo rescuing Hunter and her him. Word of God says Hunter and Dingo will be together. Jury still out on Staghart and Lexington. (But Slash Fic writers can dream....)
In the Dungeon Universe, princess Isis exploits this trope, getting into the dungeon with her boyfriend, hoping she could pretend he rescued her, so the king will allow them to marry. Unluckily, said boyfriend dies less than a page after he appears.
In Blacksad, this is the nature of Blacksad's past relationship with the deceased Natalia Wilford, as he helped her get rid of a stalker. They started a relationship afterwards but it wore off after some time, and they broke up before her untimely death.
In Justice League Elite, Kasumi grows infatuated with Coldcast after he keeps saving her when their missions keep going horribly wrong.
Fairy Tales and Folklore
"Kate Crackernuts" saves an ill prince from The Fair Folk, after getting the promise that she can marry him if she stays with him for three nights. He is instantly agreeable even though he had been too ill to speak with her before.
The fairy tale type "The Girl Helps the Hero Flee": A hero falls under the villain's power. The heroine, often the villain's daughter, tells him how to escape the impossible tasks, or performs the magic to allow his escape, and usually both. They invariably intend to marry immediately and do marry in the end.
In "Soria Moria Castle", the three princesses are held prisoner by three trolls and the hero must kill the trolls to rescue them. He gets his pick.
In some versions of the King Arthur legend this is the start of Lancelot's and Guinevere's affair. More commonly Lancelot rescues her because of his love for her, but their love isn't consummated till after the rescue.
Back in Chrétien de Troyes it's done one better, with implications that Guinevere is playing Maleagant with full knowledge Lancelot will save her, knowing that this gives him a right to her (in a narrative sense, if not a legal one).
The prince from "Snow White", who never even has a conversation with Snow White before kissing her apparently dead body, then carrying her off into the sunset. Likewise the Prince in "Sleeping Beauty".
A male example of a rescuee is the prince in "The Little Mermaid". But the trope is subverted in the original Hans Christian Andersen version, the prince never knew that the mermaid had saved him and wasn't in love with her — he fell in love with the girl from the temple who found him on the beach (who he thought rescued him), and the real heroine ends up heartbroken. Disney's animated Little Mermaid however, doubly subverts it, thus playing the trope straight and giving the story a Happy Ending.
Deliberately averted in the Firefly fanfic Forward, where Jayne and River end up saving each other while they are being held prisoner by Niska. While the aftermath of those events resulted in the two of them developing into a more platonic relationship, it didn't directly result in romance. There are hints that there might be a River/Jayne romance developing later on, however.
In The New Retcons, this is how John viewed his marriage to Elly, saving her from life as a poor destitute woman and a single mother. It didn't end well. He repeats this reasoning, minus the spoilered part, with Kortney, viewing himself as her savior from a life of prostitution
In a more horrifying example, Elly tried to invoke this on Elizabeth and Anthony by arranging the Attempted Rape of Elizabeth just so Anthony can rescue her and they could rekindle their romance.
Earth and Sky: Apparently, the unlikely couple of Silver Spoon and Snails first fell in love when he saved her from drowning herself on prom night (a result of Diamond Tiara's cruel prank).
Hinted at in the Pony POV Series in Shining Armor's side story — Sunset, one of Cadence's hoofmaidens, is mistaken for a Hooviet spy and harassed by some overeager Royal troops, only to be saved by Private Ranger, one of Shining's Royal Guards. While they haven't hooked up yet, she seems to have developed a thing for him.
Sophistication And Betrayal plays with this a little. While Rarity and the protagonist do end up in a relationship after she saves his life - which does get lampshaded - it takes significant time for their relationship to develop and initially only leads to friendship.
The Horseshoes and Hand Grenades sidestory SplitxEnd has Yayoi saved by Haruto at the hands of Foundation Xnote They want to use her and other kidnapped Zodiarts Switchers to bring back their old powers. Yayoi notes that she shouldn't mistake his act as chivalry as a sign of love. Later in Month of Sundays, when confronted with a doll transformed Haruto, she uses this as a basis of their blooming relationship.
Inverted in Seeing The Pattern. Although Lickity Split was already attracted to Pinkie Pie, Pinkamina doesn't begin returning his feelings until after she saves his life a couple of times.
The Thor fanfic Wanted, and AU set during the second film, plays with this. Loki ends up saving Darcy with the car instead of Ian, which makes Darcy realize that there's a good person inside him. On top of the earlier attraction she felt towards him, this gets her to kiss him. To which he doesn't protest.
Mega Man Reawakened hints at this when Bass saves Roll from a mugging, but it's soured when he learns she's Robert's sister.
Discussed and deconstructed in Fire Emblem Awakening fanfic Pretender, when Lissa is tells Chrom she believes that Frederick and Robin are a couple. Chrom tries to be happy for them but he knows that they got closer because Frederick rescued Robin from commiting suicide. He is squicked by the possibly that Frederick may have pressured Robin into a relationship while the latter was emotionally vulnerable.
Lady and the Tramp: Tramp saves Lady from nasty dogs and the annoying muzzle. Then she and the other dogs save him from the dog catcher.
Notice that in Disney's Beauty and the Beast, Belle and the Beast's Relationship Upgrade immediately follows the Beast rescuing her from wolves. She returns the favor by not leaving him to die in the snow after he collapses from the effort of said rescue.
The Little Mermaid: Ariel saves Eric from drowning, who falls in love with her voice. Then he saves her.
Hercules: Hercules tries this with Meg, but she's less than impressed. Then, she saves him after a big blowup.
In the Studio Ghibli version of Howl's Moving Castle, Howl and Sophie meet when two soldiers hit on Sophie. Howl uses his magic to send them away. It gets better when Howl takes to the air in order to save both of them from the blob-men of the Witch of the Waste.
Shrek, being an Affectionate Parody of fairy tales, goes to town with this one: Princess Fiona and Shrek meet when he rescues her from a tower and a dragon. She thinks he's supposed to be her Knight in Shining Armor with whom she will share True Love's Kiss, until he explains that he's actually an ogre who was just sent there to do the rescuing so Lord Farquaad wouldn't have to. Of course, "Rescue By Proxy Romance" isn't nearly as romantic, and ultimately Fiona and Shrek end up falling in love anyway.
A main plot device in all three movie versions of King Kong, although the sexuality of the relationship between Anne and Kong was toned down to platonic love in the 2005 version.
Densha Otoko (Train Guy) is the apparently-true story of a shy nerd who scares off a chikan from harassing a young woman on a train. When she unexpectedly sends him a note and an expensive present, he has to draw on the collective wisdom of an otaku message board to navigate the greatest crisis of his life.
Lampshaded in Speed in which Sandra Bullock's character tells Keanu Reeves' character "Relationships based on extreme circumstances rarely work." Sure enough, by the sequel, she's got a new guy.
It also features one of the best bond one liners when the line is echoed back later by Keanu's character and she responds 'Then we'll have to base it on sex.' Judging by her new beau in the sequel, though, it seems the sex must not have been all that great. Wah-wah-wah-waaaaaaaaahhhhhh...
In Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl, a child Will was rescued from a wrecked ship by the crew of a nearby boat that a just-as-young Elizabeth and her dad were travelling in. In fact, little Elizabeth was the one who saw Will lying unconscious between what was left of the other ship and alerted the sailors.
Titanic: Jack rescues Rose when she attempts suicide. She falls for him, and upon telling her story 84 years later, says that he saved her in every way a person could be saved.
Woody Allen's Scoop has the heroine deliberately attract the attention of a guy she wants to investigate for possible murder by pretending to drown so he can rescue her, and striking up a romance afterwards. Later he tries to drown her for real. Good thing she was actually captain of her high school swim team.
The Star Wars Original trilogy went all over the board with this trope. Han & Luke rescue Leia. Shortly thereafter, Leia saves Han & Luke (and Chewie). Luke and Leia then seem to be playing the trope as straight as an arrow (the "for luck" kiss, the scene before Luke boards his X-Wing, Leia's clear distress at Luke's communications, etc) Then Han returns and saves Luke, and by extension everybody on Yavin 4. In The Empire Strikes Back, Han and Leia are constantly helping each other during their Relationship Upgrade. Finally in Return of the Jedi, it's Leia who saves Han twice.
After being rescued in Small Soldiers, Christy apparently forgets about her boyfriend in favor of The Protagonist. This probably has something to do with said boyfriend fleeing by himself, while the protagonist sticks around to help her.
In the German film The Princess And The Warrior psychiatric nurse Sissi is knocked down by a truck and has her life saved with a tracheotomy done by ex-soldier turned criminal Bobo Reimer. She becomes obsessed with tracking him down, convinced that they are destined to be together.
Wild Wild West. This appears to be happening after Artemus and Jim West rescue Rita Escobar (Rita flirts with both of them and Jim West thinks they'll "end up in the saddle"). It turns out to be a subversion: Rita is actually playing both men to get them to take her along so she can help rescue Professor Escobar...her husband.
The Terminator: Kyle saves Sarah from being killed by the Terminator, and while it doesn't last due to Sex Equals Death they do develop a relationship over the course of the film.
In Showdown in Little Tokyo, after Kenner saves Minako from captivity and sexual abuse by the villain, she becomes attracted to him and cuddles up to him in his home for safety before they have sex.
Highwaymen: It's implied in the ending that Cray and Molly ultimately get together after he rescued her from the serial killer Fargo a second time. Fargo had already murdered Molly's best friend and her male suitor previously in the film, so it's not surprising that she'd look to Cray for comfort.
Played with in The Enchanted Forest Chronicles. Many princes attempt to rescue Cimorene, who doesn't want to be rescued. Cimorene says that if a princess wanted to make a good match, a good way would be to get kidnapped by a dragon. The other princesses kidnapped by dragons compete for who has the most princes attempting to rescue them.
A lesbian variant occurs in Beauty Queens, Jennifer rescue Sosie from a giant snake. Later they become a couple.
We meet Serwe for the first time when she is rescued by Cnaiür, who then proceeds to rape her. Cnaiür then proceeds to develop a strictly one-sided, insane obsession with her while not treating her any better because of it.
Esmenet is rescued by a seeming Knight in Shining Armor and they engage in a romance, but the man turns out to be a sadistic, inhuman monster disguised as a man who is keeping track of Esmenet for his evil masters' benefit. No hearts are broken, though, as she was staying with him only for the free food and protection.
In the Incarnations of Immortality novel With a Tangled Skein, Niobe has an Arranged Marriage to Cedric, a handsome, highly intelligent man. He loves her for her beauty, but she views him as a young boy (he was a few years younger than she). Only when he rescues her from rape at the hands of some drunk college students, does she truly love him.
Lampshaded and played with, along with most other fairy tale tropes, in Mercedes Lackey's The Fairy Godmother, in which the titular heroine is obliged to rescue an imprisoned princess herself because if a man did it, the Tradition would force the princess to fall in love with him... and she's already married.
And her husband is someone who she intentionally let herself be rescued by precisely to invoke this trope. (And no, she didn't know who would be the rescuer. Her father and her worked up the plan, and sent out a message to all nearby eligible princes, knowing she would fall in love with whomever succeeded.)
The following book in the series features a chapter in which the princess thinks over the basic rules of the Tradition in search of a way to avoid falling in love with the Champion who saved her from the dragon (who isn't looking for a bride at the moment for a variety of reason, the most significant being that Sir George's real name is Georgina - circumstances required her order to send in a female Champion).
Subverted in Book 1: The Red Cross Knight kind of fails at the whole "rescue" thing, leaving his charge at the mercy of church robbers, rapists, and Loony Fan forest critters. Those Masters of Illusion are just so great at the whole "illusions" thing...
Gender inverted in Book 3: Arthur's squire, Timias, falls in love with the huntress Belphoebe after she finds him injured in the woods and nurses him back to health.
Played straight in Book 6 with Calidore saving Pastorella from a tiger.
In Jennifer Fallon's Second Sons trilogy: Sort of when Dirk rescues Tia from a drunken sailor who thinks she is a prostitute (though her original plan was to get him into a more private place so she could beat him up, it doesn't quite work out that way). The resulting affair is very temporary, however.
Tia and Mischa, when the former aids the latter in breaking the opium addiction he didn't know he had (it's complicated), may be a better example. Though an attraction did exist earlier.
Readers are teased somewhat with an averted Rescue Romance in The Sarantine Mosaic duology: early in the first book, Crispin rescues a woman from her life as an inn prostitute slated to be sacrificed to an ancient god. She falls in love with him, but he's quickly drawn away from her by the intrigues of the emperor's court, and she ends up marrying someone else entirely. She spends a little time picking apart the Rescue Romance in her head, deciding that she's been rescued from "being rescued" by marrying someone else.
Examined with some care in the Lord Peter Wimsey series; Lord Peter falls in Love at First Sight with Harriet Vane, rescues her from wrongful imprisonment and hanging...and she bluntly declines his proposal. It takes four years before she's ready to have a relationship with him.
Subverted in Have His Carcase there's this gem of an ugly scene: "I know I'm being horribly ungrateful—-" "Hell!" All endurance has its limits and Wimsey had reached his. "Grateful! Good God, am I never to get away from the bleat of that filthy adjective? I don't want gratitude. I don't want kindness. I don't want sentimentality. I don't even want love— I could make you give me that— of a sort. I want common honesty."
Also, Harry assumes that their daughter Molly's crush on him is due to a combination of this and Like Parent, Like Spouse.
"Your dad fights monsters. I fight monsters. Your dad rescued your mom from a dragon. I rescued you from Arctis Tor. Seeing the pattern here?"
Jane Eyre's romance with Mr. Rochester begins with her rescuing him after he's injured himself in a fall from his horse.
In Right Ho, Jeeves, Jeeves suggests this as a plan, if Bertie sets off the fire alarm then the disentangled couples will rush to each others' aid and reentangle, dis-entangling Bertie and saving Aunt Dahlia's magazine. His actual plan is somewhat more complex however, involving making an ass of Bertie as a key step.
Warrior Cats: Silverstream rescues Graystripe from drowning, and he's barely out of the water before he's flirting with her. Bonus points for being Star-Crossed Lovers.
An Firestar stopped Sandstorm from falling off a gorge, and Crowfeather managed to save Leafpool from falling off a cliff, and... Never mind. If one character saves another, they're probably going to end up in a relationship at some point.
Lampshaded, mocked, sent up and played straight with Trevor and Juliet in the Discworld novel Unseen Academicals. Although Juliet was already a bit partial to Trev before he saved her life, he reflects that having done so is "solid gold in the romance bank". Juliet's friend Glenda sees it differently:
Juliet: He saved my life!
Glenda: That's no basis for a relationship! A polite thank you would have sufficed!"
Used in the backstory of A Study in Scarlet, where it already seems like a cliche being pulled off the shelf, if a fairly well-executed one. A hunter and miner named Jefferson Hope finds a Mormon farm girl named Lucy Terrier, who is trying to control her horse and avert causing a stampede; with kind words and a firm touch, he calms her down and they're soon safe.Doesn't end well.
The House of Night: Rephaim and Stevie Rae's relationship is entirely built on this. First Stevie Rae finds Rephaim almost dying from being shot out of the sky, hides him in a garden shed, patches him up, then lets him go. A I Owe You My Life moment is exchanged between them, which comes in handy when Stevie Rae is then later trapped on the roof a building. Rephaim rescues her and an Imprint is formed between them. Then when Stevie Rae summons Darkness, it's none other then Rephaim who rescues her from Darkness. When Stevie Rae sees Darkness hurting Rephaim, she summons Light to help rescue Rephaim. When Dallas finds out that Stevie Rae's been lying about knowing Rephaim, and plans to "knock some sense" into Stevie Rae, Rephaim's the one that steps up and protects Stevie Rae. Then Stevie Rae protects them both when Dallas embraces Darkness and tries to kill them both.
In The Ballad of Dinadan everyone who knows Dinadan and Brangienne and how they met thinks that they should be this. Instead they are each others Not Love Interests, fully admitting that they would probably make each other miserable.
Granted their Relationship Upgrade doesn't happen for another four books, but it should be noted that the first major interaction Harry Potter has with Ginny Weasley is to basically spend an entire book rescuing her from the Big Bad and his giant snake.
The Laundry Series. The protagonist saves Mo from a blood sacrifice in "The Atrocity Archives". She's seeing someone else at the time so he doesn't follow it up, but he saves her life two more times during the course of the novel, so at the end she decides to move in with him of her own accord.
In the second book she ends up saving the protagonist from a horrific death trap. This leads to him proposing to her.
In Around the World in 80 Days, Phileas Fogg rescues the Indian noblewoman Aouda from death by suttee. She falls in love with him almost immediately, despite their differences and how he's hinted to be quite older than her. Because Phileas Fogg has such an unemotional exterior, we don't find out that he loves her until the end of the novel.
Invoked in Emma. Emma is sure that Harriet and Frank Churchill will fall in love after Frank rescues Harriet from the gypsies. Instead, Harriet falls for Knightly, who "rescues" her by dancing with her after she was snubbed by another man.
Subverted in Encyclopedia Brown and the Case of the Two Fisted Poet - Sally's already interested in Percy to begin with, but he knows she's a Cute Bruiser and pre-arranges a mock battle with an older boy so he can show off when he takes her on a date. Sally's dizzy with delight until Encyclopedia whispers the give-away clue into her ear: Percy's glasses, which he'd put in his shirt pocket, are intact despite multiple body blows.
Sally: W... why Percy! That wasn't a real fight at all! It was a fake! You fixed it!
Percy: Upon my honour, if you were a boy I'd bash you good and proper!
Sally: Forget I'm a girl.
(He goes down three times and gets up twice.)
The trope is subverted a second time in the same story: despite the fact that he's rescued her from having a misguided crush on a lying jerk, Encyclopedia and Sally never seem to be anything other than close friends.
Twilight: Bella and Edward were already secretly interested in each other. But it took Edward saving her from Tyler's out of control van to get their relationship going.
Played with in A Song of Ice and Fire with Tyrion's first wife, Tysha. It's first played straight with a slight twist: she falls in love, not with the dashing knight who most directly and physically rescued her from a group of bandits and implied would-be rapists (older brother Jaime), but the malformed midget who comforted her afterward (younger brother Tyrion). Then it's subverted when it turns out that Tysha was a prostitute and the whole thing was staged for Tyrion's benefit by Jaime, who thought it was about time his little brother had a woman. then it's reinsubverted, or something, when it turns out that their father Twyin, incensed at his son's marriage to a commoner, forced Jaime to tell Tyrion she was a prostitute when she actually wasn't. (Or at least, she wasn't hired by Jaime; Twyin considered her a whore because he believed that her only motivation for marrying Tyrion was his family's money. How pure her motives actually were is unknown.)
Played straight, lampshaded, invoked, and all-around played with in Stephanie Laurens' Cynster Sisters trilogynote Viscount Breckenridge to the Rescue, In Pursuit of Eliza Cynster, and The Capture of the Earl of Glencrae. It fits, since they're set in the late 1820s.
In A Princess of Mars, Dejah Thoris doesn't admit to her attraction until John Carter rescues her.
In The Chessman of Mars, Gahan finds and rescues Tara when her shipwreck had ended with her prisoner.
In A Fighting Man of Mars, Tan Handron stumbles across Tavia and rescues her. It takes him a while to figure out the romance part, though.
In The Monster Men, Bulan and Virginia met when he rescues her from the title monsters.
Teased, but ultimately subverted in Mort. "We talked about it. Then we thought, just because you happen to rescue a princess, you shouldn't rush into things." Death specifically refers to the Snow White/Sleeping Beauty version as a bad idea.
Zig-zagged a bit in King's Quest: The Floating Castle. Princess Lydia, who has been held captive to marry someone she doesn't want to, originally thinks that Prince Alexander is invoking this trope when he rescues her, and likes the thought because she both thinks it's fairy-tale romantic and that Alexander is rather attractive. But it turns out that Alexander really just needs her help for his real quest, and isn't actually interested in her that way, which disappoints her. But then she ends up bonding with Alexander's sidekick wizard Cyril, who was also helping with the quest.
In A Brother's PriceJerin does carry the wounded Princess Odelia home, since their mothers and oldest sisters aren't home, the middle sister who found her can't carry her back and defend against possible attackers at the same time, and to have the other middle sisters go fetch her would leave the little sisters and the boys without much defense. Odelia finds Jerin handsome and plays up her injuries in the hopes of stealing a kiss, but it's her sister Ren, come to find her, who Jerin falls for first.
In G. K. Chesterton's The Return of Don Quixote, Monkey is in fact reluctant to press his suit because he rescued the father of a very loyal daughter, and feels it's taking advantage of it. (They do end up married.)
In the fifth and sixth books of Safehold, Hektor Aplyn-Ahrmahk plays a critical role in rescuing Corisande's princess and Crown Prince and delivering them to safety. On the trip back to Charis, Hektor and Princess Irys begin to get close. Close enough that, when Sharleyan insists on an arranged marriage between the two as part of an alliance, neither of them particularly mind. Sharleyan took this into account in making her decision.
The Bronze Horseman by Paullina Simons. Tatiana and Alexander fall in Love at First Sight, but she breaks off the relationship before it goes anywhere because Alexander is dating her sister Dasha at the time. Furious, Alexander breaks up with Dasha as well. Tatiana then runs off to the front line to find her twin brother, and Dasha pleads with Alexander to bring her back. Alexander eventually finds Tatiana in the rubble of a bombed train station, digs her out and treats her injuries, and they First Kiss not long after.
The central relationship in The Sharing Knife starts out as a mutual example of this. Unarmed, sawed-off muggle Fawn was at the feet of the Malice; while experienced monster hunter Dag was well out of reach and moments from being torn apart by the Malice's creatures. Dag managed to get his hand free and toss his enchanted blades to Fawn, who caught them and slew the Malice causing it's guards to scatter.
The Honor Harrington short story "Beauty and the Beast" (from the anthology Beginnings) reveals that Honor Harrington's parents, Alfred Harrington and Allison Chou, got together this way. Both were attending medical school on Beowulf, met, and instantly became desperately infatuated with each other. Then Allison got kidnapped by enemies of her very prominent family, and thanks to the empathic link they turned out to share, Alfred was able to track her down and rescue her. Their romance progressed rather rapidly after that.
In Island in the Sea of Time, Swindapa falls for Marian Alston after the latter liberates her from slavery and teaches her how to fight. Luckily for her, Alston is a closeted lesbian, though it does take them a while to admit their feelings for each other.
This turns out to be what the Leptoceratops admirers who abduct Candacye in Dinoverse were trying for. They thought she was addled and being kept for food, and also she was hot. She thought at first they were trying for A Match Made in Stockholm.
Live Action TV
Invoked in Battlestar Galactica when the Cylons on Caprica are trying to get Helo to fall in love with Sharon so she'll get pregnant with a hybrid. They stage a Centurion attack wherein Sharon gets "captured" and lead him to track her down and "rescue" her. This gives their already developing relationship a significant push.
In an episode of CSI: Miami, the team encounter an agency that does mock kidnappings with this sort of thing (although the participants are further down the path) in mind. Girl gets "kidnapped", boyfriend "pays ransom" and/or "rescues her", they have sex (because "rescue sex is the best kind of sex"). This being the CSI Verse, it doesn't quite work out like that...
An episode of CSI: New York also takes a spin on the trope with a woman who, it initially appears, gets back together with her ex after he saves her from being kidnapped and assaulted. It turns out that the "abduction" was a fetish game she and her current partner had knowingly staged, and her ex killed her lover in a fit of jealousy - she just found it hot that he would go that far for her.
Subverted in Downton Abbey. Matthew Crawley rescues Lady Sybil from a political brawl and her family expect this trope to occur. (Convenient as he's the future Earl). She's actually interested in the chauffeur Tom, who everyone blames for getting her into trouble originally.
Similarly, there was a Law & Order: Special Victims Unit where a couple had this as a major fetish. The problem was that the husband was doing increasingly horrible things to the male escorts hired as "attackers."
Subverted in The 10th Kingdom. Wolf makes his way to the Troll Palace to rescue Virginia, cleverly tricking the idiot Troll children into knocking each other out, then swings in on a vine to free her. Her response when he notes she doesn't seem to trust him? "Of course I don't trust you, you tried to eat my grandmother!" (Yes, they went there. And it was actually rather well done and hilarious.) This was not an auspicious start to the relationship.
In the Beauty and the Beast TV show, Vincent and Catherine first met when he brought her home after she was attacked and left to die in Central Park; given the constraints that Vincent's nonhuman appearance puts on him, it's fair to say they would never otherwise have met.
In Pushing Daisies, although they'd known each other as kids, Ned and Chuck met again when he brought her back to life.
Used as a plot detail in Monk; a nebbish millionare got his best friend to fake a mugging in college so he could look heroic to his girlfriend (it worked, although he ultimately married someone else, the girl still said she should have married him). It didn't turn out so well later down the road, when the friend pulled a gun and shot the millionare when they did the same thing, for supposedly the same reason, which turned out to be an attempt to hide the friend stealing company money and killing the only guy in the way.
On Red Dwarf, Ace Rimmer introduces himself after saving a princess and states his intentions to her: "There'll be time for answers later - and hopefully, some sex." And because he's Ace, she doesn't disagree. What a guy!
In Smallville, in the episode "Relic", Lana's great-aunt falls in love with Jor-El when he saves her from Lex's grandfather.
Deconstructed on iCarly, when Carly and Freddie start dating after Freddie pushed Carly out of the way of a truck, getting severely injured himself in the process. Eventually Freddie realizes (due in part to Sam's advice, for what that maybe worth) that Carly might not like really like him for anything other than the rescue, and explains to her that while he hopes they will get back together after some time passes, for the time being they should end their relationship.
In Ashes to Ashes Gene saves Alex's life no less than seven times, not to mention her soul
Parodied in "Beer Bad" when Buffy keeps having a Daydream Surprise in which she saves Parker from vampires and earns his eternal gratitude and apologies for dumping her to chase other women. After Buffy drinks some cursed beer and turns into a Nubile Savage she saves Parker from a burning building and gets this, accompanied by the requisite orchestral music...only for Cavewoman!Buffy to club him over the head and walk off.
Averted in "When She Was Bad" — Xander saved Buffy's life in last season's finale, but when Buffy returns to school next year she's still traumatized and acting outagainst all her friends, dancing intimately with Xander purely to make Angel jealous. After several minutes of getting Xander worked up...
Buffy: Xander, did I ever thank you for saving my life?
Buffy: Don't you wish I would? (walks off)
Played straight with Devon saving Billy from a Zompire in Season 9.
Subverted in Merlin in which both Arthur and Lancelot (separately) go to great lengths to rescue Guinevere from a warlord, only for extreme awkwardness to ensue when they realize why the other one is there. Neither one ends up with her (at least, at the end of that particular episode).
Played straight with Merlin and Freya, with tragic consequences.
In Being Human between Annie and Mitchell, where the former seems quite keen to romanticise the latter's rescuing of her, and a relationship that had previously been purely platonic is transformed into romance post-rescue.
Ghost Whisperer: It happened before the show started, but Jim and Melinda met when he (a firefighter at the time) rescued her from her burning apartment complex.
In an episode of Cold Case, a woman is involved in a car accident and is rescued from the wreckage by a firefighter. She is rendered paraplegic but goes on to marry said firefighter. However the woman's ex boyfriend (who was driving the car yet got away with minor injuries) noticed something amiss with the whole accident. After doing some research and recalling that the woman complained about her legs hurting before being taken out of the wreck, he comes to the conclusion that the firefighter used the jaws of life incorrectly and crippled her. He confronts him about this in hopes of getting back together with her only for the firefighter to murder him.
Lampshaded in C-drama Holy Pearl. "Ohh, I get it. Weak woman is saved by strong, handsome man and falls in love with him. There's only one problem—you don't look weak." For added irony points, the speaker is later saved by the man in question...and falls in love with him.
Played with on Veronica Mars in the episode "Silence of the Lamb"; Leo, a rookie deputy at the police department, actually rescues Keith, Veronica's father, from the Killer Of The Week, but Veronica becomes smitten nonetheless.
On The Vampire Diaries, Elena falls deeply in love with Stefan before later on discovering that Stefan was the one who miraculously saved her life from the tragic car accident that had claimed both of her parents lives.
In Doctor Who, this is shown to be how the parents of companion Clara Oswald met. A large leaf blew into her father's face and caused him to stumble into traffic, which Clara's mother pulled him out of. Her father even kept the leaf as a memento.
Happens in Arrow with Thea and Roy, when he saves her from Attempted Rape by gang members and gets stabbed while doing it. She understandably freaks out over him being hurt and what could have happened to her had he not saved her, and takes him to get stitched up. He denies that he's her friend and they kiss in the hospital room.
Subverted in the pilot of Royal Pains. Hank saves the life of a beautiful model and she falls in love with him. Hank identifies it as the Florence Nightingale Effect and tells her to go back to New York and come back in a few weeks if she still feels this way. She is never seen again so she presumably got over her feelings.
Exception: Despite fanon, a Zelda game designer once admitted it's mainly Link's job as a heroic figure to rescue the princess; Link has usually been either too young or the game's mood too light to do any sort of serious romantic subplot. To say nothing of Mario, who doesn't even take his ''villains'' seriously...
This is actually portrayed very well in the various games: even in the few situations where Link is old enough to conceivably pursue a romance with Zelda, he's also far too intently focused on his duty instead of her. He never ignores her, or through ignorance or malice puts her in danger, but he's never shown even the slightest interest in a romantic relationship. In Twilight Princess, however, the initial reason you start your adventure is to go rescue the mayor's daughterwho pretty clearly likes Link. Link does meet the Twilight Princess, Zelda, and the Twilight Princess Midna, but he has almost no interaction with Zelda at all, nor do either he or Midna ever show romantic feelings for each other.
In the cartoon and early games it was played as romance. Later however they avert this, from A Link to the Past onwards, except for that kiss at the end of The Legend of Zelda Oracle games linked game.
Played for laughs in Oracle of Ages. At one point, Link goes back in time to rescue the female Maku Tree sprout from a pair of Veran's moblins who went back in time to kill it. The tree sprout falls in love with Link and vows to marry him when she grows up. When Link returns to the present, the restored Maku Tree (previously quite professional) is still in love with him, is miffed that he made her wait for centuries, and declares that they are married.
Played rather straight in Spirit Tracks. The Link of the time period meets the Zelda of the time period after the plot's started rolling, and the two grow affectionate during Link's quest to restore her to mortality. It's not done completely straight, though, as they spend more time working together as partners than they do as hero and distressed damsel.
Would be played straight in Skyward Sword if it wasn't for the fact that the two have known each other for years and are pretty clearly crushing on each other before the game starts. Neither of them has declared their feelings by the time the plot starts, though.
In Fire Emblem: Genealogy of the Holy War (Seisen no Keifu), Sigurd helps a girl named Deirdre who's harassed by a thug. She thanks him profusely, but flees and Sigurd can't take her out of his mind, even when people say she's from a hidden village and can't be with him. The next time they see each other, Deirdre asks to join his troupe since she's a magicuser and confesses she's been crushing on him ever since he helped her, Sigurd says he feels the same and lets her come with the group.
Another possibility in the same game (this one's optional, whereas Sigurd and Diadora automatically become hitched) is the hook-up between Prince Jamuka and Lady Edain. She was kidnapped by Jamuka's evil older brother who wanted to marry her, but Jamuka let her go along with teenage thief Dew. When he returns, it's as an enemy, and Edin recruit him for the good guys *and*, through conversations, make him fall in love with her.
Eliwood of Pherae and Ninian the Dancer in Fire Emblem: Blazing Sword (pictured above) fall into this trope too. In "Lyn's tale", Eliwood helps Lyn and Nils save a kidnapped Ninian, but she's unconscious that time and doesn't know Eliwood played a part in her rescue, until their C support brings that up and she's able to say thanks. Something similar happens with Rebecca the Archer and Lowen the Cavalier; their C support is about Rebecca glamourizing the time they met, when Lowen rescued her from the bandits ransacking her village and recruited her for Eliwood's troupe.
In The Sacred Stones, it is possible to form a strong Support bond between the Paladin Seth and Princess Eirika, where he confesses that he has feelings for her that were fanned when he had to evacuate her from Renais Castle. This changes the epilogue such that Seth eventually gets married to her.
In Fire Emblem Awakening, if you get Chrom and Sumia hitched via Supports, they're a genderflipped example since she once saved him from the enemy in her Pegasus.
They're not the only ones, though: Maribelle can get hitched with Ricken (who helps her flee from Plegian soldiers), Libra (whom she rescues from a bunch of drunkards), and Gaius (who once was forced to frame her father to save her from a corrupt nobleman who held her hostage, and still feels horrible because of that... despite also him having sent a letter that ultimately saved Maribelle's father from being unfairly executed.)
Subverted by Kellam and Sully. He does help her once during battle, but he's wounded and not only does she call him out on his lack of self-care, but returns the favor immediately via bandaging his injuries.
Also, for such a so called coward, Yarne can score this with Nah as well. Lon'qu can have this with Lissa after saving her from an assassin, and a variation with Miriel after he keeps her from falling to her death while she's completely absorbed in her studies.
More downplayed examples like the Female Avatar and Walhart can have this when he helps her from reorganizing her books. Laurent will save Cynthia from being run over by a ballista during training (and he lampshades the trope itself), and Gerome helping Noire when she's carrying a too-heavy crate and almost falls.
Chrom and a female Avatar can have something like this as well: He's one of the two persons who find her in the field at the beginning and take her into the Shepherds (the other being Chrom's sister Lissa), and when she's trapped by Grima in the final chapter, it's the sound of his voice that brings her back. In the case of a male Avatar and Lissa, the tie-in comics explain that while she can't bring the Avatar back when trapped by Grima... she is the one who actually found the passed out Avatar in the fields (via tripping on them), then called Chrom over for help.
Aveline and Donnic's first on-screen meeting consists of Hawke & Co. showing up to rescue Donnic from thugs.
Merrill's Rivalry path consists of trying to "rescue" her from her own self-destructive demon-summoning. Can be romantic or platonic, however, and there's plenty of debate on whether it comes off as controlling.
While it's never explicitly stated, Tales of Phantasia certainly does suggest that Mint develops romantic feelings for Cless after he rescues her from Mars' dungeon. At the end of the Tower of the 12 Zodiac Signs, the guardian Artemis, for his own amusement, tells Arche to kiss Cless. Just before Arche does kiss Cless, Mint pushes Arche out of the way. In the only romantic scene between the two, in a town with constant snowfall, Mint tells Cless that, shortly after they escaped from the dungeon, she saw him holding onto a unicorn earring that belonged to Meryl, Mint's mother. She thanks Cless for not telling her then what happened because, had she known, she would have lost all hope, and then Mint starts crying.
Arguably used in Half-Life 2, where Alyx rescues Gordon from Civil Protection. "Arguably" because Gordon never confirms his feelings - in fact, Gordon isn't really supposed to have feelings separate from the player. But judging by the reaction of the majority of players to Alyx, it worked. This is also an example of a male rescuee.
Played straight later on, as Gordon gets to rescue Alyx from a stalker that's trying to chew her face off after the train crashes.
And at the end of the first game Gordon invades the Citadel to rescue Alyx, after which we get the first overt sign of romantic affection from her.
The player's relationship with Aribeth in Neverwinter Nights Hordes of the Underdark is at least partially based on this trope.
The player's first meeting with Tiera in the fan module Shadowlords arc has him getting her out of some trouble with the local police.
If Obsidian had kept Neeshka's romance arc in Neverwinter Nights 2, her relationship with the hero would count. Safiya's first meeting with the player in Mask of the Betrayer might also qualify.
The player's introduction to Dawn Star in Jade Empire is the player sending Gao packing when he tries to hit on her. Though this might not count, as it is definitely not the first time the characters meet and Dawn Star was infatuated with a male character long before the incident.
In Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic. Bastila Shan initially resents the player for rescuing her. If you want to finish the game still in a romance you have to do it again though this time it's more psychological.
Used, even if one is a Gay Option, with the female paths. Carth did pull the unconscious Player Character off the escape pod and nurse him/her back to health in the Taris apartment. Later, if you choose to rescue Juhani, she reveals that the Player Character rescued her twice. The second time was in the grove. The first time was when Revan's forces marched on Taris and chased out the slavers.
This is how Cornet's infatuation with Prince Ferdinand gets kick-started in Rhapsody: A Musical Adventure. She dreams of him saving her from a scary, nondescript monster, and then it happens for real when she goes off to the forest to retrieve some red Inotium and gets attacked by Myao and her hench-cats. And then she has to play it straight for him, as the Big Bad gets Ferdinand Taken Into Granite and Cornet has to undo the spell...
Final Fantasy VII: Tifa actually wants to invoke this with Cloud, because she thinks it'd be cool. When they were younger, he told her he was planning to join SOLDIER, so she made him promise to save her if she was ever in a pinch. Which becomes a recurring theme with them throughout "The Compilation".
Just before their battle against Bahamut SIN, however, Cloud arrives in the nick of time to save her from being crushed by falling debris. When he apologizes for being late last time, she smiles and says it's fine (seen at 3:05-3:29).
It should also be noted that the romance between them only really begins to show through after Zidane (and Co.) save Garnet from the Alexandria Dungeon during Disc 2.
Turned in weird directions in Final Fantasy VIII; Rinoa's interest in Squall is visible well before any rescue scenarios, but it takes Squall saving her several times before he really starts to warm up to her.
When meeting two of the three possible female romantic interests in Baldur's Gate 2, you end up rescuing them (twice, in the case of one of them...) the third? She was sent to help you.
Ashley is rescued by Shepard (and Kaidan) on Eden Prime from overwhelming geth forces.
Liara is saved from a trap in the Prothean ruins as part of the main plot.
Although Tali first becomes romanceable in the sequel, she is recruited in the first game (and in the second one, for that matter) in a situation of much distress and will actually invoke this trope if you pursue her Romance Sidequest:
Tali: What could I possibly be suggesting? I mean, a young woman gets saved by a dashing commander who lets her join his crew and then goes off to save the galaxy? How could she possibly develop any kind of interest in him?
Garrus, while introduced in the first game, is first romanceable in the second, where he first has to be rescued from an entire horde of mercenaries after his head.
Jacob probably would have survived the assault on the Project Lazarus lab without Shepard, but Shep still proved a lot of help.
Jack's recruitment mission in Mass Effect 2 effectively boils down to you rescuing her from the PurgatoryPrison Ship (which she got put into in the first place by being a ridiculously dangerous criminal). And, of course, she's romanceable.
The usual pattern is actually inverted with Miranda, who rescued Shepard rather than the other way around, and put a ton more effort into it than Shepard usually does - Shepard's rescues typically take at most an hour including any boss fight, maybe half a day if you factor in transportation, while Miranda spent two years and a ton of the Illusive Man's money putting Shepard back together.
For a pairing that doesn't involve Shepard, the Shadow Broker DLC is built around Liara's attempt to rescue her friend Feron. If she was romanced, she confirms they're Just Friends. If not, she's ambiguous about her own feelings but states it wouldn't be ethical so soon after Feron's imprisonment (and torture).
In Princess Maker, one of the main ways that your daughter can end up developing feelings for Cube is if she is often defeated by monsters and/or bandits while out on trips, since Cube is the one who rescues her and brings her home.
Cave Story: It's open to interpretation whether there's any romance between the player character and Curly Brace, but if so, then Rescue Romance definitely applies. Aside from a brief fight upon first meeting, all their interactions involve rescuing each other (with the player doing the bulk of the rescuing) or fighting side-by-side.
Mitsumete Knight likes this trope. No less than three conquerable girls can be saved from pinches, and will kickstart or considerably strengthen bonds with them: Sophia, Laury, and Priscilla. The first two are even saved twice; the last one's Rescue Romance is doubled up with Save the Princess.
Tokimeki Memorial 1, very surprisingly, has a case of this, but it's a really bizarre one: if you repeatedly phone to Rei Ijuin, the game's Bifauxnen, it will activate various events revolving around her, and in one of them, she'll be kidnapped. You can decide to go to her rescue (and is required if you want to get her Ending), but in a subversion, when you'll arrive to the supposed place where's she captive, the Ijuin Family Army will already have saved her. As usual, she'll give the protagonist some badmouthing for his stupid recklessness, but will still thank him, and apparently starts to like him from this point. Oh, did I forgot to mention that the protagonist, at this point, doesn't know that she's actually a girl, and won't discover this until the end of the game, when she'll confess to him on Graduation Day under the Legendary Tree?
When Junichi defends Ai from an aggressive dog in her route in Amagami.
Hilariously played in the Battle for Wesnoth campaign Elvish Dynasty RPG, in which the human empire has a law on the books that if a dragon who holds a princess captive is slain the princess and the dragonslayer are considered married. Even if the dragonslayer happens to be the queen of the elves.
Assassin's Creed III: Kaniehtí:io defies this trope; while Haytham Kenway does indeed rescue her and a number of her people from enslavement (or worse) at the hands of a British thug, she refuses to trust him until he accepts her as an equal and fights on her side.
Possibly played with in "Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain": In Ground Zeroes Chico goes to Camp Omega with the intention of rescuing Paz, who he has feelings for, but ends up getting himself caught. Nevertheless, Paz is extremely happy that he came to her rescue, and gives him a kiss at one point.
According to Desiree in Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney: Trials and Tribulations, she fell in love with Ron Delite when he saved her from a pair of thugs. And then he passed out.
In the Fate route and anime Saber saves Shirou from Lancer, Shirou saves Saber from Berserker, Saber saves Shirou from Rider twice, Saber attempts to save Shirou from Ilya, Shirou saves Saber from Berserker again, Shirou saves Saber from Gilgamesh, Lancer saves the both of them(!?), and by that point Shirou and Saber are hopelessly infatuated with each other. Apparently, winning the affections of Saber will only cost you about 18 gallons of blood.
A much more straight example would be Caster and Kuzuki Souichirou. She was suffering from lacking access to a mana source and was about to die when she met the former; he took her in, agreed to form a contract with her, and even introduced her to others as his fiancée. As a result, Caster (who once was Medea, a woman who completely snapped when her lover Jason left her... and that's an Understatement) becomes hopelessly devoted to and starts a strange romance with him.
This is also how Sakura first met Shirou. He saved her from bullies when they were children, and then were properly introduced to each other later by Shinji.
Kind of a theme in True Love Junai Monogatari, where The Protagonist has to rescue several of the girls he can romance from one or another danger. I.e he meets Arisa when he saves her from drowining, then can either save Remi from her Stalker with a Crush or rescue Mayumi from a Near-Rape Experience (the last one leads to him also winning affection points with his and Mayumi's Hot Teacher Yumi-sensei. And then it's inverted if you make him romance either Chiemi or Yumi: the first saves him from drowning during their swimming competition, the second saves him from a thugh... and one that he was trying to protect her from.
Played with in Dr. Horrible's Sing-Along Blog. Captain Hammer "saves" Penny from a runaway van and they become an item. Even though he saved her by throwing her into a pile of trash. And it was really Dr. Horrible who stopped the van.
In the Whateley Universe, Dogged Nice Guy Stalwart pursued Fey until she got angry enough to throw him across the Quad with magic. But when he saved her from mutant ninja assassin Nex she decided she owed him at least a date. And then she decided he really was a nice guy. They are still dating.
In Freefall, Florence and the veterinarian, Winston, develop an attraction to each other ...awkward, since they're different species. Anyway, Florence acknowledges to herself that having been rescued by Winston plays no small part in her attraction to him.
In El Goonish Shive, Justin falls in love with Elliot after being saved from bullies (slightly late, but that's besides the point). Unfortunately for Justin, who is pretty much a Woobie, Elliot doesn't swing that way.
In Gunnerkrigg Court, Jack Hyland develops a crush on Antimony Carver after she helps free his mind from the grip of an ethereal spider.
Which is later subverted. He doesn't love Antimony - he loves Zimmy, the girl whose mind the ethereal spider came from.
Which is still played straight: Zimmy was the one who directly confronted the spider, before killing it.
Also occurs in both directions between Sollux and Feferi: He rescues her from the Vast Glub, dying in the process, and she rescues him by kissing him back to life. Eridan tries to invoke this trope by rescuing Nepeta in a similar manner, but as usual, he's unsuccessful.
In Dumbing of Age, Danny meets campus vigilante Amazi-Girl when she saves him from getting beaten up by jocks.
Invoked in an episode of Adventures of Sonic the Hedgehog, where a Fangirl of Sonic's falls off a tall building. Sonic, being the hero that he is, zooms over and saves her. When Tails asks her about how she fell off the roof, she says, "Oh, that? I jumped. I wanted you to save me! How else was I going to meet you, silly?"
In an episode of Kim Possible, Ron dreams of saving Kim, and then actually does.
Not to mention Kim saves Ron numerous times throughout the show.
Another male rescuee example comes from My Life as a Teenage Robot. In "Attack of the 5 1/2 Foot Geek", Sheldon meets (and falls hard for) Jenny after she saves him from some bullies in shop class.
Paulina in Danny Phantom. The first time she's rescued, she acknowledges that Danny is a good ghost (in a town then on Untrusting Community level), but it was his second rescue that Paulina had fallen madly in love with Danny Phantom. (Although this turns into a case of Loves My Alter Ego, and they actually never get together.)
A Robot Chicken sketch featured a nerd winning a date with Scarlett Johanson in a contest. When she arrives, she hardly masks her frustration with the situation. Suddenly, a bunch of goons hired by the nerd "attack" the two during the date, causing the nerd to "chase" them off. She instantly falls in love with him, and we get a Happily Ever After montage of them marrying, having kids, etc. Then we see the nerd at his death bed confessing the ruse to Scarlett who, instead of being outraged, suddenly starts speaking in a man's voice and claiming she's not the real Scarlett Johanson but a (male) impersonator. The revelation causes the nerd to flatline right then and there and "Scarlett" to break down in tears.
The show later subverts the trope when Link rescues Princess Zelda. He expects a kiss, but the princess rejects him because they only just met; apparently she gets kidnapped and saved all the time, and after sexing up the first hero to save her she stopped.
In Phineas and Ferb, "The Beak" and the ending of "Vanessassary Roughness" have Phineas and Ferb rescuing their love interest from danger.