It might be worth pointing out that the term "Woobie" perhaps was first used in the 1980's Michael Keaton movie Mr. Mom. And incidentally, Kenny, the boy who owned the blanket he called "Woobie", was played by Taliesin Jaffe, who eventually grew up to write and direct numerous Superlative Anime Dubs, including both TV and OVA versions of Hellsing. Which means, yes, the boy with the Woobie wrote Jan Valentine's dialogue.
As for movies with a character who is a woobie ... well, see the examples below.
Even for an epic action-superhero film, this saga is not inmune to the woobies.
The people of Gotham in general, who have had to put up with a police force under the mob's influence, and a high crime rate partially causing and partially resulting from the above. Then Ra's al-Ghul, the Joker, and Bane come along...
Bruce Wayne/Batman. Imagine seeing your parents murdered in front of you at what is clearly a single-digit age.
James Gordon Jr. (James Gordon's son) from The Dark Knight, is not really the Ax-CrazySerial Killer maniac that we know in the Comic Books. On the contrary, he is one of the biggest Woobies in the film. At his young age, he is living very traumatic events such as the attempted murder of his father, the kidnapping of his family and the attempted murder on his life by Two-Face.
Harvey Dent/Two-Face. The novelization of The Dark Knight goes into his tragic backstory (Harry Dent was a crooked cop who also beat Mrs. Dent until she divorced him—then one day Harry came back and all anyone knows is that one of them killed the other and then committed suicide). Then, after what the Joker puts him through...
His predecessor, Carl Finch. Just when he's finally able to do something about the corruption in Gotham, he's shot dead.
85% of Charlie Chaplin 's movies feature a lonely tramp, who doesn't only looks pathetic, but is also a very kind and polite man who commits petty crimes (such as stealing food) only out of hunger and despair, as you see him doing his best to be accepted by society. Apart from The Gold Rush, he rarely gets out of his misery, but shows so much determination that you would love to give him a bowl of soup.
Goody from Vamps Watching her stare at ancient pictures of her children is heartbreaking, watching her dance with her lost love while seeing him as he was when he was young is heartbreaking, watching her bittersweet joy at finally tasting a pretzel and seeing one last sunrise before she crumbles to dust would make a rock cry.
Little Shop of Horrors has two Woobies living in a Crapsack World called Skid Row: Seymour Krelborn and Audrey. Seymour was an orphan, raised by his boss, Mr. Mushnik, who treats him like dirt and forces him to sweep the floor. Seymour was in love with Audrey and would do anything to win her heart, and that's where Audrey II came in. Meanwhile, Audrey was in an abusive relationship with Orin Scrivello D.D.S., a crazy and sadistic dentist, but she actually has feelings for Seymour.
Michael from The Blind Side is so much the Woobie that the Tuohys take him in and eventually adopt him.
Ben X is a Flemish film about an autistic teenager who is mercilessly bullied at school because he does not know how to stand up for himself. The film is pretty much all about his misery and self-pity and does not explore anything else about his personality.
Eduardo Saverin in "The Social Network", especially when you realize that this is all based on a true story...
Harry Osborn from the Spider-Man films, son of Norman Osborn, the Green Goblin. Harry's in the comics, too, but woobification seems to have eluded him there: not only is he portrayed, prior to his death, as an abusive husband and father, occasional drug addict, and all-around nasty piece of work (albeit not entirely unsympathetically), he's also drawn to look significantly less attractive than James Franco.
Sandman from Spider-Man 3. He just wants to cure his daughter from some mysterious illness but since he doesn't has the money for medical care, he was in desperation forced to do crime in order to get them. In one of his robberings, he accidentally killed Uncle Ben, a mistake that would hunt him with much remorse and guilt. When he got his super powers, he decided to use them in order to get the money, but not before visting his daughter, giving her the post cards he had written for her but wasn't allowed to send. After the final battle with Spider-Man, in which both Harry and Eddie died, he's obviously in deep regret of the situation he played part off that went out of hand and the last scene has him asking Spider-Man for forgiveness for the pain he had caused him.
Donnie Darko from Donnie Darko. One one hand he has a loving family, but on the other hand he experiences mental illness, unrelenting paranormal apparitions, a moronic and restrictive education system, puberty (and its associated existential angst), assault at knifepoint (twice), and the tragic death of his girlfriend (which drives him to second degree murder). And after all that he elects to be fatally crushed by a rogue jet engine in order to protect his family, girlfriend, Frank and possibly the rest of Earth's population, according to which hypothesis you subscribe to. And after all of that his sacrifice remains ultimately unsuspected. On top of that, he is portrayed by (a teenage) Jake Gyllenhaal, whose cuddly face and baby-blue eyes render him an Extreme Hardcore woobie, aesthetically if nothing else.
To say nothing of his sister. Seeing her at the end, you just want to hug her brains out.
Very true. Both the Gyllensibs are adorable.
Laura Palmer, from the Twin Peaks television series and especially in the Twin Peaks prequel film (which is the only time she's seen alive). Given how the entire town mourns her death, and all the horrors and torment she went through, she's the ultimate Woobie. Death was an improvement over her life.
Norman Bates, from Psycho. His mother isolated him from the outside world, making him totally dependent on her, and then mentally abused him. No wonder poor Norman goes a little mad sometimes. He practically exudes neediness and awkward sweetness. Plus, he's played with boyish charm by the handsome Anthony Perkins. He's in even more need of a hug in the sequel, where the vulnerable Norman has to tolerate gaslighting.
Milton Dammers, from The Frighteners. He is a mass of phobias and nerves, highly-strung to the point where he seems on the verge of pain. We find out that his early FBI assignments all involved going undercover in satanic cults, where he had to tolerate intensely mentally-damaging experiences, as well as physical and sexual trauma. When we see his bare chest, it is covered in ritual scars and his nipples seem to have been burnt off. It's hard to watch the movie without wanting to wrap him a blanket and massage his temples.
Charlie Baileygates in Me, Myself & Irene. He gets taken advantage by everyone, even his own wife, Layla, who remarries to a black dwarf limo driver. All that sadness Charlie has and being taken advantage by everyone years later lead to Split Personality Hank to appear.
Private Jones, of 28 Days Later. Endeared to the viewer by wide-eyed hopefulness, youth and — most importantly of all — the ability to play scullery maid to a base full of soldiers, on less than quality rations whilst wearing a frilly pink apron. Talked out of suicide by officer-and-a-gentleman Major West, he goes on to cook, clean and generally be utterly endearing. He narrowly escapes a mauling by the zombie in the yard, by hiding in a cabinet — also looking like he's about to cry — and when he ventures out of his hiding place, he's impaled with a bayonet by the very human Jim. Soft-hearted women and slashers in the audience go into spasms of grief. The final straw that sends Major West straight through 'irritated' into 'Roaring Rampage of Revenge'. Rare instance of a survival horror woobie.
Of course, the woobie factor of Private Jones is pretty much evaporated just before he dies, as he didn't seem to have a problem with the soldiers executing Jim, and he also wasn't trying to stop the other soldiers from trying to rape the women.
Jim, if anything, is an even bigger woobie. He wakes up all alone and naked in an Abandoned Hospital and things continue to go downhill for him from there. He finds his home city is completely wiped out, gets chased by the raging infected loons, is mistreated by Selena, finds that his parents committed suicide, gets attacked and chased by the infected some more, is forced to kill an infected child and almost forced to do the same to Frank, and then almost killed by West's depraved soldiers who are about to rape Hannah and Selena. After all of this abuse, it's not suprising to see Jim snap the way he did.
2 of the 3 leads in My Blue Heaven qualify for this trope. While FBI agent Barney Coopersmith was keeping an eye out on troublemaker Vincent "Vinnie" Antonelli so that he doesn't get in trouble, Barney's wife leaves him for a younger man, one of the reasons being how Barney eats his pancakes. Woobie #2 is policewoman Hannah Stubbs, who appears to be having a worse life than Barney. She and her husband are divorced, but he still visits her and their kids. At some point in the movie, it proves that being a Woobie is what Barney and Hannah have in common, and they have a romantic attraction to each other despite how they first met.
The film version of 1408 consists almost entirely of John Cusack's character suffering woobiliciously. Poor thing. And his daughter dies (several times) of Old Movie Disease.
Michelle from Elephant. It's hard to not draw parallels between her, Eric, and Alex, but for choosing to persevere through the bullying she endures, she's simply the first to die. Not that anyone expects Eric or Alex to survive the day.
The Breakfast Club is about five Woobies locked in a room together for a day. They share. They commiserate. They cry. And it's still funny.
Another John Hughes example is Sam from Sixteen Candles. Her entire family forgets about her 16th birthday because they're focused on her older sister's wedding, and she's in love with Jake Ryan, who doesn't even know she exists.
King Kong may well be the tropesetter in film. In production, they literally cut out less flattering footage of the monster's monstrosity when preview audiences cheered Kong's swatting a plane down on the Empire State pinnacle. It's rare to see attention to public opinion that strong, so not only is the mythic megagorilla possibly film's first Woobie, he's likely the first official Woobie.
In the 2005 film, we can also add Ann Darrow onto the list. To paraphrase Carl Denham, she's the saddest girl ever.
And there's Frodo, who in the book was less woobieish than Sam, but when combined with Elijah Wood's enormous blue eyes becomes angst incarnate.
Balian from Kingdom of Heaven. his son was stillborn, his wife committed suicide (which meant that, according to Catholic dogma, her soul was damned to Hell), he kills his brother which forces him to flee his home and his father dies mere days after they met for the first time. As the movie progresses he becomes de-woobiefied, though.
An evolutionary predecessor to WOOB-E was Johnny Five from Short Circuit. Similar-looking, he gets the crap beat out of him by a gang of thugs in Short Circuit 2, which evokes a great deal of Woobie reaction from the audience (it made me cry as a kid). Cathartically, though, Johnny rebuilds himself into a robo-punk (complete with a leather "jacket" + mohawk) and gets his revenge with Bonnie Tyler blaring in the background... God, the 80s were awesome.
Monty from Daddy's Little Girls. His ex gets custody of the kids simply because they've never been able to prove her boyfriend is a drug dealer. Her boyfriend beats the youngest one because she has Age-Appropriate Angst. Not only that, but he was falsely imprisoned for rape when he was 18 because the girl lied about her age and cried "rape" her dad caught them. All he wants is to take care of his daughters and protect them from their mother and her boyfriend! Poor guy.
Seymour from Ghost World. Unusual in that he has an aggressive trait (road rage), but his self-loathing and romance woes easily makes up for it in Woobifying him. They filmed two separate versions of the fight scene in the convenience store — one in which he wins, and one in which he ends up in the hospital. Guess which one made it to the finished version?
Of course, when it comes to Johnny Depp characters, Sparrow can't hold a candle to poor Edward Scissorhands in terms of Woobie-ness. He loses his "father" and his only hope for a normal life all in one moment, his attempt to please Kim (who won't return his affection) turns the town against him, and although she comes to see how sweet he is, her Jerk Jock ex-boyfriend Jim makes matters worse out of jealousy and spite. Edward's eventually forced to retreat to his castle, and while she follows him, so does Jim. Edward kills him in the ensuing fight, sealing his own fate — only if the lovers part can he survive. And he accepts this without question.
Even worse, you want to hold poor afflicted Edward ... but he can't.
Speaking of Depp, the Mad Hatter in Tim Burton's Alice in Wonderland. The trauma of the Red Queen's takeover has turned him from delightfully mad into being somewhat traumatized and broken underneath his cheery demeanor.
The look on his face when he realizes that Alice is going to leave him just makes you want to cuddle him.
John (Nicholas Cage) in Knowing spends the entire film drinking to dull the pain of his wife's death, and witnessing gradually more horrific disasters. He is clearly traumatised by this, and by the end of the film he just curls up in the rain and cries himself to sleep.
Diane Selwyn from Mulholland Drive definitely qualifies. Naomi Watts' performance really makes you feel for her.
George Bailey, George Bailey, George Bailey! It's a Wonderful Life is entirely devoted to destroying the man's life, hopes, and dreams, and when he manages to scrape together a happy family anyway, Uncle Billy accidentally hands eight grand over to Potter, putting the Building and Loan and George personally at risk. When you need Divine Intervention to show you what you're worth, you are a textbook Woobie.
Rogue of the X-Men films counts as one, especially in the first movie.
Carrie (1976). Okay, so she killed about a hundred people, but it wasn't her fault, she was abused 'til she went crazy. And then her own mother stabbed her. Look at her cringing in the corner trying not to look at her mother, don't you just want to give her a hug?
Sam from The Descent. It wasn't enough for Neil Marshall to traumatiseThe Cutie, he went ahead and killed her brutally. In front of her loving, maternal, protective older sister, too. Although individual cases could be made for each of the other women too. Anyone want a go?
Sadako (Samara in the remake) is such a Woobie that she even wins the sympathy of protagonist Reiko (resp. Rachel)... until the full extent of her curse becomes clear.
Even worse in the prequel, Ringu 0, where you see Sadako before being cursed, as a shy introverted girl with uncontrollable powers that terrify her. And she's bullied by people in her theater crew. You just want to hug her the whole movie, and all the sequels that came before it.
The actor who portrays him, Tony Leung Chiu-Wai, pretty much specializes in playing this type of character. See Infernal Affairs, Hard Boiled, or pretty much any of his films directed by Wong Kar-Wai. He probably qualifies as one in Real Life, too, since the reason he gives for being so good at emotional scenes is that his gambler father left his family when Leung was eight and after that he bottled up his emotions... and now uses acting as an outlet for them.
Tracey Berkowitz from The Tracey Fragments. The entire film is about Ellen Page in a shower curtain having a mental breakdown.
Nicolas Cage as David Spritz from The Weather Man. The poor guy constantly tries to make things right for people other than himself, and rarely gets thrown a bone.
Hell, half of the characters that Cage has ever played probably fall into the category. He's made a career out of playing the decent guy who just doesn't deserve the way that the entire universe is dumping on him (making him borderline Chew Toy).
Dr. Neville from I Am Legend certainly qualifies for this, having witnessed his wife and daughter killed, then later having to strangle his diseased dog which was his only companion for three years in an apocalyptic world.
Cameron Frye of Ferris Buellers Day Off. He might qualify as the Chew Toy or the Butt Monkey were it not for the fact that most—if not all—of his woes are either within his ability to change or exist wholly inside of his own head, and it is this inability or unwillingness to recognize his own self worth that results in his uptight, paranoid hypochondriac persona (resulting in his also being The Eeyore of the film). He doesn't fit perfectly into the Loser Archetype because he doesn't really make any attempt to rise above his current situation, but you still get the impression that he could benefit from a good hug.
Then again, Cameron's home life is notoriously terrible—his parents don't love each other and his father cares more about restoring a car than he cares about his wife and son. Part of the reason Ferris takes him along for the ride is that he feels sorry for him and wants to show him a good time.
Quite a couple of Paul Dano's characters fit this trope - the depressed, sweet but eventually embittered homeless man/bartender of The Good Heart, the chronically lonely, confused would-be transvestite of The Extra Man, wilfully-mute teenager Dwayne with his crushed dream in Little Miss Sunshine. Even the repulsive Eli Sunday of There Will Be Blood eventually elicits sympathy. Despite his range, his innocent awkwardness, faltering voice and ugly-cute appearance seem to see him easily cast in such roles.
Lars von Trier has used this trope a number of times.
Selma in Dancer in the Dark. One of the most archetypal examples of this trope ever.
Jeff: "Why did you have him? You knew he would have the same disease as you." Selma: "I just wanted to hold a little baby."
Even moreso in the book, where he's more or less woobie from the very beginning and also seems to take advantage of it when deceiving guillible fools like, well, Joe Buck.
Nathan f*cking Wallace. Yes, he's been poisoning his daughter to keep her from leaving him and he moonlights as an organ repo man, but he's also spent the past seventeen years having the guilt for his wife's death constantly beaten into him by the guy who's really responsible. He's just so horribly broken that it's hard not to feel at least a little sympathetic.
Despite him not really having major problems, lots of people want to hug Chekov every time he's on screen in the latest 2009 Star Trek movie. It's probably the facial expressions, especially when he fails to save Spock's mom. And the big, sad eyes... the accent tips him over right into Moe Moe territory, though.
Spock also qualifies as the Woobie. Losing his captain, witnessing the destruction of his home planet and death of his mother, being accused of not having loved her ...
Also Spock Prime, who blames himself for not being able to save Romulus, and was forced to watch a past version of his home planet be destroyed because Nero thought he didn't even try.
Billions of lives lost, because of me, Jim. Because I failed.
Steve Wiebe of the documentary King of Kong. He blows the big game in high school, gets laid off on the day his family signs the contract on their house, and plays his heart out at Donkey Kong only to be repeatedly denied the recognition he deserves. He even weeps on camera.
E.T. Who would not be willing to shelter the poor alien from the government? And who doesn't cry at the end?
Celie from The Color Purple. Let's see... she was raped by her father twice, had children both times and had both promptly taken away, her mother died yelling at her, she was forced to marry a man she didn't even know, let alone like, who abused, raped, and forced her to do all the work around the house, including taking care of his bratty kids, who literally made her bleed the very first day she came. When her sister, who was the only person who actually cared about her came to stay, Celie's husband made his move on her, and when she refused, made her leave and kept her letters from Celie, making her think she was dead! And this is the first half hour, people...
The scene where Minister of Armaments Albert Speer chillingly infers the fate of the Goebbel children leaves Traudl in tears and denial. Made all the worse by Speer's refusal to show emotion. In real life, Speer was quite close to the Goebbel's,as Speer and Joseph allied themselves against Goering.
Kat falls in there too, after she finds out that the only guy who was not afraid of her and appreciated her for who she was only went out with her because he was paid. This led up to her reading the titular poem and crying as she did so. Oh, and she wasn't supposed to cry, the actress just teared up as she read.
Bub from the original Day of the Dead. An undead creature hungry for human flesh has never been more sympathetic. The masterpiece of Dr. Logan's experiment of mental conditioning of zombies, his affection to his "trainer" is both genuine and touching. You really just want to hug him when he screams and cries after realizing that the good doctor is dead and is not coming back.
Huge Woobie played by Tobey Maguire in "The Wonder Boys". A decent writer who is first shown getting dumped on by fellow pretentious writers in one of the college classes he's taking, and is then shown to be obsessed with celebrity deaths or death in general, and possibly suicidal.
About a Boy. 'Nuff said.
If poor William from "Almost Famous" doesn't constitute a woobie, no one does. Based on Cameron Crowe's childhood, the movie shows a brilliant 15-year-old kid getting dumped on by everybody he encounters, many of whom are, of course, plenty nice to him at first.
What's worse is that this movie was based on the true story of one of the most notorious hate crimes of the 90s.
Harry's character descends even further into the depths of woobiedom in the film version of Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, even more so than the book. Any of his scenes with Sirius (especially being comforted by Sirius), or having painful visions, or writhing on the damn ground possessed...
Lars of Lars and the Real Girl is this trope personified. Mother died giving birth to him, father pretty much blamed him for it and became emotionally distant, older brother (probably the only stable person in his life) skipped town for several years and left him behind. He's so traumatized from his past that he feels physical pain when touched by others. He cannot have a normal relationship with the opposite sex (despite a co-worker practically throwing herself at him) and is so self conscious that the only one he can bring himself to connect with is a rubber sex toy. Yet, despite all that, he's still the sweetest, most innocuous guy ever.
Somehow, JCVD manages to turn Jean-Claude Van Damme into a Woobie.
Trainee Obara in the Japanese war film Ningen no Joken (The Human Condition)
The hunchback Ephialtes in 300 starts out like this.
Poor, poor Larry Gopnik from upcoming movie, A Serious Man. An everyday, average Jewish man in 1967 suburban Minneapolis who suffers one moment of despair after another. He tries the be the best person he can, despite: (1) his wife leaving the marriage for the whale like Sy Abelman, (2) getting dunning phone calls from a record club he's never heard of, (3)a brother, who is more of a wreck than he is, (4) living with an anti-Semitic neighbor who frequently encroaches on his property, (5) living with two children who are too self-involved to think beyond their own needs, and (6) getting anonymous letters assailing his moral turpitude as a physics teacher in school." His only dubious relaxation is listening to bass Sidor Belarsky's rendition of Yiddish song "The Miller's Tears".
Bill the malt shop owner in Pleasantville. If you don't want to hug him and tell him it's gonna be all right when the B&W mob destroys his diner and his art, you ain't human.
Arguably almost all of the characters who first turn to color. They've basically achieved a form of enlightenment and now are thrilled by the discovery of new knowledge and sensations. And because of this, they are hated and persecuted by the other people in the community.
Is Jeff Daniels almost another Bill Macy in this respect? (e.g. "The Squid and the Whale", "Chasing Sleep", "Dumb and Dumber" even?)
Janet Colgate from the late '80s film Dirty Rotten Scoundrels is, in all appearances, the ultimate Woobie- having won a chance sweepstakes for $50,000, she selflessly spends almost all of it on Lawrence Jamieson and Freddy Benson's scam to get Freddy to "walk again" after a "tragic accident". In the film she's giving, kind, naive, and trusting... until it is revealed at the end of the film that she knew what Lawrence and Freddy were up to all along and had been scamming them.
Peter Lorre's characters. It doesn't matter what they do, up to and including killing children; Peter is always the woobie. This, along with the actor's troubled personal life (including exile, failure, divorce, and addiction) has led many a fangirl to just want to give him a hug and a bowl of soup.
Truman Burbank from The Truman Show. He was abandoned as a child and everything in his life including his family and friends, is fake.
David from AI: Artificial Intelligence.
And what about Teddy...
Kirill from Eastern Promises — by turns twisted, pathetic, in denial, and sick, yet by the end you really just want to hug him.
Crawford Tillenghast in From Beyond. My God. The poor guy gets attacked by inter-dimensional monsters, his mentor's head gets bitten off, he gets framed for the murder and is sent to a mental institution, he gets sent BACK to the house, he gets attacked AGAIN, his mentor returns and tries to kill him and his new friends, his love interest brings the monsters back, he almost gets eaten, he ends up bald and slimy, a tentacle pops out of his forehead, he eats his psychiatrists' brain, his love interest bites the tentacle off, and he gets eaten by his mentor, who is now a giant slimy monster. You feel like you should be squicked, but instead you just want to wrap him in a fleece blanket and give him a juice box. Maybe it's because he wears a giant fluffy sweater.
Rosemary from Rosemary's Baby. Pretty much everyone around her is manipulating her into giving birth to the fucking Antichrist. This includes her very self-absorbed husband Guy, who agrees to help them arrange it so that she's raped by Satan in exchange for a boost to his acting career. Then the pregnancy is terribly painful and makes her very sick and malnourished, and her neighbors, her husband, and her doctor all assure her that it's perfectly normal and will stop soon... And do their very best to cut her off from anyone who might tell her otherwise. Adding to both the Woobiedom (and the frustration) is the fact that Rosemary actually does know that something's wrong for most of her pregnancy, but is too meek and unsure of herself to outright stand up to Guy or the others. And she's so teeny and sweet and nice...
Specialist Eldridge from The Hurt Locker. First, he has to watch his mentor get blown up, and live with the knowledge that if he'd acted more quickly, he could have saved him. Then, he has to watch as the therapist who's helping him get over the the above trauma gets blown up as well. And then his mentor's Jerk AssBlood Knight replacement gets him kidnapped by insurgents, and accidentally shoots him whole trying to rescue him.
In the movie version of The Plague Dogs, Snitter is such a Woobie. He had a happy home with a good Master, but then one day his Master gets hit by a car and poor Snitter is blamed and given to the White Coats, who then perform nasty surgery on his brain to separate the subjective from the objective. So he has to suffer through madness, physical and emotional pain from the operation, starving in the wild upon escaping the White Coats, and the trauma of his old Master's death as well as accidentally killing another man that could have been a new Master. "Everything bad comes out of my head," he believes. All the poor puppy wants is a home and peace of mind.
And even worse, unlike in the book, his Master isn't still alive to rescue him. Instead, the movie ends with it looking like Snitter will drown, searching for an island.
Tom Bardo from Stuck. The poor guy has lost his job, become homeless, and spends most of the film either stuck in the broken window of the car that hit him, or crawling around in agony. And no, none of these are spoilers - it's all in the trailer.
The fact that he's played by Stephen Rea, with his hangdog face and big sad eyes, also helps.
From The Godfather: Fredo. Goddamn. Corleone. How could you not pity the guy?
Hiccup from How to Train Your Dragon. An outcast in his village, even his dad thinks he's a failure, he thinks the only way anyone will respect him is if he kills a dragon, and at the end, even after he's gotten all the respect, love, and friendship he'd wanted for the whole movie. He loses his left leg saving pretty much his entire tribe and a whole lot of dragons from a massive Green Death dragon.
Mike Waters from My Own Private Idaho is a gay narcoleptic prostitute whose father is also his brother looking for his mother. He doesn't find her. He goes all the way to Italy and finds out she's just left. For much of the movie the only person looking out for him is his friend Scott (a rich guy who's just being a prostitute for fun) who he is also in love with, possibly in an unrequited sense . His narcolepsy means that often he collapses just about anywhere, and falls asleep; Scott is there to pick him up until Scott decides to go back to his respectable family and get married, essentially abandoning Mike to his fate, literally leaving him by the side of the road even though he KNOWS Mike loves him. The film ends with Mike falling asleep on a road in the middle of nowhere, all alone. Some people come along and steal his bag and shoes. Also he's played by the incredibly woobietastic River Phoenix. Seeing him cry will KILL you.
George Falconer from A Single Man - whose partner of 16 years dies and he can't openly show his grief cause it's the 60s and all.
Maurice and Clive, from E.M Forster's Maurice. At least in the book version, which detailed how confused and alone they felt in regards to being gay. However, Clive turns into a bit of a Jerkass so you don't feel too sorry for him forever.
Some of Gerard Butler's character from the more recent films are this to SOME extent, even if just a little. ie: Gamer, P.S. I love you, The Ugly Truth, Law Abiding Citizen, heck even Stoick from How to Train Your Dragon was slightly woobie-ish when you try to see it from HIS point of view
Not forgetting the Phantom of the Opera, whose murderous and possessive streak can be explained in that he was paraded as a freak show when he was a kid, and almost everyone has denied him genuine love. He even had a woobie song (which was ironically cut from the film) called "No One Would Listen". Awww.
Winslow Leach in Phantom of the Paradise. Sweet and woefully na´ve, not only is his precious cantata stolen, but he's also beaten up, framed and sent to life imprisonment, has his teeth extracted, his face mangled by a record press, signs away his soul unwittingly, endures his cantata being mangled by a mediocre pop band, is rejected by his love and loses her to his nemesis, and unsuccessfully tries to kill himself. Then he dies, sacrificing himself for his love.
Amazingly, Jason Voorhees from Friday the 13th is often seen as one. The kid was born disfigured, drowned by bullies, watched his mother killed, and just wants to be left alone. True, he does this by killing anybody who disturbs him, but 90% of Friday the 13th fanfiction involves him being reformed by somebody's Mary Sue.
Played up intentionally in Freddy vs. Jason. Amazingly, it works. You just want to give the big guy a huge when you see what Freddy does to him.
Marky from Harry Brown is pretty close to being The Woobie. While he is admittedly a bit of a dick, it seems to be mostly an attempt to blend in with the other chavs, who are far more inclined to savagery than he seems to be. Considering that he gets sexually abused by his uncle, kidnapped and tortured by Harry and then used as bait by Harry before getting shot in the head by one of his own mates, it's hard not to feel at least a little bit sorry for him.
Cillian Murphy's character from Inception, big time. You will cry when you see him crying over his dying father's accepting last words in Dream Level Three, which is all he ever really wanted. However, since it's quite literally All Just a Dream, he may or may not have gotten that acceptance after all and it may have only been a projection of what he wished his father's final words have been. Poor guy...
Dom Cobb. I mean, holy crap look at what that poor guy went through. His wife committed suicide because he incepted her into believing the world wasn't real and they needed to wake up, only she was so insane she ended up framing him for murder so he would die with her so they could be together, and thus he has to flee the country and leave his kids behind. Plus the fact that the closest thing the movie has to a real villain is his projection of his own guilt in the form of his wife constantly sabotaging his missions makes it even worse.
The two leads from Billy Wilder's The Apartment, but most especially C.C. Baxter. He's the sweetest, most good-natured guy you've ever seen (played by Jack Lemmon, natch), and he spends 120 minutes getting kicked around by nearly everyone, but is always there to clean up, put things in order, and even cover up for them when the neighbors complain. The last five minutes or so might make this a case of Earn Your Happy Ending, but for the previous 120 minutes it's a Crapsack World and you mostly just want to give the poor guy a hug. Also sorely in need of a hug is Fran Kubelik, the heroine, who spends half the film wandering around with tears in her eyes and even attempts suicide.
Terri, who comes across as both cute and sad in her desperation for what essentially amounts to friendship and/or love, from Hellraiser III: Hell On Earth.
Rosencrantz from Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead. He goes throughout the movie totally confused as to what the heck is going on. He is being manipulated by forces he cannot understand and keeps having his inventions and scientific breakthroughs torn down by the only person who cares for him. He doesn't do anything wrong and yet his fate is already sealed. This troper couldn't watch the scene where Guildenstern makes him cry without wanting to give Rosencrantz a big hug. Yes, ladies and gentleman, Gary Oldman, is playing a woobie, and oh so well.
Heck, Kevin Flynn too. All he wanted to do was help improve/make a better world, but ends up trapped in it for what was essentially thousands of years, while his old partner-program Clu took over and majestically buggered up Flynn's work. To make it even worse, he thought TRON died helping him escape, and was stuck with the knowledge that he'd probably never see his son again.
Mr. Tumnus in the movie of The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe. He was plenty of one in the book, but the movie really ramps it up with James McAvoy's performance. There's also the matter of an added scene in which he meets Edmund in the White Witch's prison and it's made rather clear that he's being starved and beaten. Even then, his only concern is that Lucy is safe. Oh, and when the Witch gleefully tells him he's only there because Edmund ratted him out, the look on his face is heartbreaking.
Even more so considering the Witch technically lies; Edmund had no idea he was turning Tumnus in, only mentioning his name as a side comment when exlpaining how he arrived in Narnia.
George VI in The King's Speech. As he tells Lionel after the death of George V; the reason he stammers is because of an abusive nanny, an teasing older brother who was egged on by his father, the brother that he was closest to died young, and was forced to wear painful splints to treat his knock knees.
Micky in The Fighter. He's the family's unfavorite, his mother mismanages his boxing career (even nearly getting him killed so his family can get paid), his crackhead brother is usually getting him into trouble, his ex-wife treats him like a failure and when he becomes happy by finding a new girlfriend, his family tries to take that away from him. This guy seriously needs a hug.
Alex Russo, in the first half of the Wizards of Waverly Place movie. Though she's usually a Jerk Ass throughout most of the series, it's easy to relate to her situation-she just wanted to go to a party, and just when it looks like she's about to finally make her mother change her mind, Theresa discovers Alex's plan, and fed up with her refusal to give up, grounds her for two months, which leads Alex to cast a spell that accidentally threatens her family's existence. The fact that Alex wanted to go to that party so badly but couldn't make amends does make you feel sorry for her. At the end of the movie after everything is resolved, she finally agrees to let Alex go for a little while, but Alex, having realized how important her family is, decides to stick with them, and the movie ends with the five family members together.
Seita and his little sister Setsuko, in the animated film Grave of the Fireflies. The two young children, living in WWII Japan, lose their father to battle and their mother to the Kobe firebombings. Their aunt takes them in until, unable to scrounge enough food to feed them and her own children, she turns them out, and their problems really begin. Nothing good befalls those poor kids until after they both starve to death. Perhaps the worst aspect is that it's based on real events; the movie is an adaptation of a semi-autobiographical novel by Akiyuki Nosaka.
Dr. Loomis from the Halloween series. Never mind that he is one of the few characters who doesn't get horribly murdered, does anything good ever happen to him? The final scene in Halloween 4: The Return of Michael Myers cements his woobie status, making everyone watching the film want to wrap him in a big hug and tell him everything's going to be ok.
"Heroin" Bob from SLC Punk!. Although he doesn't get as much attention in the movie as Stevo, his story unfolds piece by piece until the end. When he and Stevo were kids, they were both geeks, getting picked on. However, while Stevo was from a fairly normal family, Bob had no mom and was living with his alchoholic, insane father. Later, he tries to visit his father for his birthday and brings him a present, but the old man chases him out with a gun, after not recognising his own son. After Bob falls in love with Trish, he admits to Stevo that he actually feels happy with her and he's willing to give the city they both hated for so long another chance. Finally, in the end he spills his guts to Stevo, saying he wants to marry Trish and revealing that all this time he's had doubts whether he's ever been a good son and if he hadn't let his father down. And to top it all, he dies the next morning. If that doesn't make you tear up and want to hug the guy, nothing will.
In the first Christopher ReeveSuperman film, Reeve manages to create a moving Woobie moment. It's when Clark Kent is at the Daily Planet elevators, having just been brushed off by Lois Lane, ignored by nearly everyone and treated rudely by the one person who does notice him. At that moment, Clark is a lonely nerd who can't seem to get a break. All the more powerful when you know that Lois' helicopter is about to crash and Clark's awesome moment as the Man of Steel is about to begin.
Hank McCoy from X-Men: First Class, he not only gets "outed" as being a mutant in the most awkward way possible in front of his dad, he loses said dad in a raid on the CIA (something that mind you never gets brought up, ever!), gets teased and disrespected by his fellow mutants even when his scientific inventions help them improve their powers, loses his potential love interest when he can't accept her for her true appearance, and then accidentally advances his mutation and makes it impossible to hide while trying to cure it!
Todd in Dead Poets Society could count — his parents prefer his older brother to him, he doesn't have the same confidence or self-assuredness that most of his friends seem to, and his best friend kills himself toward the end of the movie.. It helps that he's perpetually cute and vulnerable-looking. The scene when he's showing Neil the desk set that his parents gave him for his birthday two years in a row, probably because they just didn't care enough to give it more thought, cements both Todd's woobie status and Neil's as the best friend he could possibly have. Fortunately, he gets a good deal more confident and sure of himself by the end.
Flipside of this being that as Todd becomes less of a woobie, Niel becomes more of one due to his relationship with his dad until the aformentioned suicide.
Requiem for a Dream. Seriously, try to watch the final scene without wanting to give every character a big squishy hug.
Lawrence Talbot, aka Universal Studios' The Wolf Man (1941), is an early example. Poor guy gets bitten by a monster, catches The Virus, involuntarily kills a bunch of people, and gets beaten to death by his own father. And in the sequels, he escapes from the grave, learns he can't stay dead, kills his own Love Interest in a moon-mad rage, and spends most of the rest of the series as a fugitive from the law and/or the insane asylum, vainly seeking the means to commit suicide and/or destroy the wolf within. Definitely a guy in need of a hug.
Loki from Thor. Sure, he's the villain and we're supposed to be rooting against him, but the fact that he constantly looks like he's about to cry and has spent his whole life trying to get out of the shadow of his big ( adoptive) brother and please his father doesn't help things.
Alistair the llama from Open Season 3 is totally one of these.
Tennessee from the live-action version of The Country Bears really seems to fit this trope, considering how depressed he is in the movie.
Agatha from Minority Report. She was born to a heroin addict, and had the gift of precognition- specifically, she had visions of murders before they happened. Pretty bad, right? Well, then the government get wind of this, do all sorts of unmentioned -but implied to be nasty- experiments to her, and the precrime system is set up- meaning that she is forced to stay in a drugged stupor, wired to a machine having endless visions of murders so that the cops can use her premonitions to prevent crime. And when her mother tries to save Agatha from this? The head of precrime has her murdered to ensure Agatha stays a Forsaken Child, which thanks to her gift, means that she has to witness her mother's death and watch as everyone ignores it. When she's kidnapped/rescued from the facility, she's been left so unstable that she can barely tell the difference between the present and her precognitions.
Who doesn't want to hug Kirk when he is forced to blow up the Enterprise in The Search for Spock? Or thought he was going to die in The Final Frontier?
Or, for that matter, when he sees the Enterprise for the first time in The Motion Picture. The man's face just lights up.
Why didn't you hug him when you could, Scotty?
Both of the villains in The World Is Not Enough qualify to an extent. Renard the Anarchist is a brutal terrorist, yes, but he's also in the process of dying a horrible death (a bullet slowly migrating through his brain; he's already lost all sensation of both pleasure and pain), and he's completely an utterly in love. His scenes with his significant other are among the closest this series gets to being totally heartwarming. His partner in crime, and the aforementioned significant other, Elektra King, meanwhile, was kidnapped by terrorists as a teenager (with there almost certainly being a sexual aspect to her captivity) to extort money from her oil-baron father. You know what he does? He leaves her there. You know who told him to leave her there? The frigging Big Good. Fortunately for her, Renard was one of the terrorists, they fell in love, and he helped her escape. It's thus easy to see why they plan tonuke Istanbul, cutting off the main center of the petroleum trade between East and West, allowing Renard to go out with a bang and Elektra to corner the oil market as a final post-mortem (Renard saw to that earlier) one-finger salute to Daddy Dearest. Unfortunately, they still have to die; they are plotting to kill millions, after all.
Jim Prideaux, in the eyes of the Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy fandom. Being shot in the back, captured, and tortured would be quite bad enough, but the true extent of his woobiness falls into place at the end of the movie. The Mole turns out to be Jim's best friend, former partner, and possible ex-boyfriend. And Jim kills him.
And Peter Guillam, at least in the movie. When Smiley tells him to clean up any loose end of his own that might get him in trouble, Guillam goes home and breaks up with his boyfriend - because that was still illegal in mid-70's Britain. Watching Guillam break down in tears as the man leaves is just heartbreaking. The whole scene serves little purpose beyond reinforcing a theme: be a secret agent, and your life will be depressing as hell.
Poor Dolores Guerrero from So Young, So Bad. Laughed at by other kids because her family couldn't speak English, history of running away and now mentally unstable. On top of that she gets sent to a reform school that's little more than a prison. Just when you think the girl is going to be okay thanks to the kind hearted psychologists, the cruel matron cuts off her hair which prompts her to hang herself in the dormitory.
Pan's Labyrinth: Ofelia epitomizes this trope while her mother and Mercedes aren't far behind, to say nothing of the various unnamed extras. And the worst part is that, unlike many of the examples on this page, these things actually happened. Maybe these specific people didn't technically exist, but Ofelia represents any number of children living through the Spanish Civil War.
"It's Paul's grandfather. I can tell he doesn't like me. It's because I'm little."
Andrew Detmer from Chronicle. No, really, no matter how vile he was. Let it be said that Andrew's entire existence in this movie is just sad. In addition, there is a shocking Fridge Horror in himself. So much what if about what he could have been if only he had even a snowball's chance in hell for a good life before the events of the movie.
Oblivion (2013): Victoria comes over as this, especially when Jack realises Julia is actually his wife. It is implied that she also retained some of her original self's memories and knew who Julia was, but lied to Jack because she had a crush on him. She also seems to have genuinely believed the Tet's lie about their mission, right up until she realises the Drone was aiming it's weapons at her.
Victoria even more so considering that this potentially means there are dozens of versions of her in a relationship with Jack, who all while was pining for another woman! Which is incredibly damn depressing, when you stop and think about it?!
Clark in Man of Steel. Traumatized by his emerging powers and regarded as a freak by his peers, frightens his classmates when he saves their lives, learns that he's not just adopted, he's an alien, has a You'reNotMyRealDad argument with his adoptive father Jonathan Kent and then minutes later watches Jonathan Kent die because he insisted that Clark not expose himself to save him. That's all before he turns eighteen. As an adult, he discovers that he is the last survivor of his home planet, only to soon learn that there are other survivors - and they're a bunch of bad guys who want to rebuild Krypton by wiping out humanity. He is able to stop their plan but only after half a city is destroyed, Zod forces Clark to kill him. He needs every hug he gets in this movie.
Martha: She had to raise a child with unique needs and issues, watched her husband die minutes after said son, in a fit of anger, called them both out on 'not being his real parents', before then said son disappeared for years. When he returns and happily tells her about how he found his birth-culture, she looks like her heart broke but wants to keep a brave face since he's so happy.
Jack Mercer from Four Brothers is much more of this trope than his brothers. He is not impulsive nor malicious, just seems to follow the steps to his brothers and is likely to have been a good person if it were not for his childhood or his life in the street. In addition, he is more calm and sensitive than his brothers, and it is implied that Jack had experienced a very traumatic childhood before the adoption of Evelyn. Worse, the discussions between his brothers seem to feel him uncomfortable. He even is constantly mocked in some deleted scenes.
Not to mention that he is the only character in the main cast dying in a tragic way.
Peter from The World's End. Was once beaten up so bad his eye popped out of the socket, was so bullied he'd hide for hours in the toilets, and even today he seems pretty easily intimidated.
Before the main story even starts, Jack Frost from Rise of the Guardians spends over 300 years alone with no memories and no human being able to hear or see him since no one believes in him. The Guardians are too busy and the Man in Moon only tells him his name and nothing else for the next 300 years.
Barbra from Night of the Living Dead remake. Especially in the scene when zombies eat a corpse, she is pretty disgusted, horrified, and with a realization of Squick, enough to feel sorry for her.
Noel from Byzantium. A man so desperate for some semblance of affection in his life after the death of his only family that he goes to a prostitute. And promptly breaks down crying in front of her. Then takes said prostitute and her "little sister" off the streets out of kindness. He doesn't really seem to care if he's being used, he just wants some companionship. And then he dies accidentally.
Amos Hart. His wife cheats on him, expects him to take the fall for her when she murders her lover, calls him unfaithful for finding out she was cheating, makes him look bad in her testimony, and in general is awful to him. Even so, he forgives her time and time again, paying for her defense lawyer and even wanting her to come home when he thinks she's pregnant (even though he's fairly sure the baby isn't his). How much of a Woobie is Amos? His lone musical number is about how he feels completely invisible, and seems to think he deserves it.
Katalin "Hunyak" Halinski. Arrested for a murder she didn't commit, she is unable to take advantage of the flawed system the same way the guilty girls do because she only speaks Hungarian and no one gets her a translator. Then she becomes the first woman ever hanged in the district.
All what Adam wants is to go back home to his wife, but is sadly under attack from a nasty parasite and the Deadly Doctor who is trying to kill him
Rufus Sixsmith. In the 1936 story, not only is he an active participant in a same-sex relationship (no doubt very much taboo at the time) with Frobisher, but he has to deal with his lover somewhat stringing him along at various times. And yet he stays very much loyal to Frobisher up through the point where he arrives to visit him, only to find he has just committed suicide. Then in the 1973 story, still very much haunted by his old love, he provides Luisa Rey with an expose on the corruption at the nuclear power plant where he works. He then promptly is assassinated by a hit man hired by the plant.
Timothy Cavendish get abused by gangsters, his older brother and a sadistic nursing home but because his tale is Played for Laughs, he falls between this and a Butt Monkey.
Sonmi 451 was birthed right from the get go to be a simple servant and nothing more. She witnesses multiple deaths of friends, is on the receiving end of sexual abuse during her previous life at Papa Song's, is imprisoned and interrogated by the Government and by the end, gets executed for her troubles. However, due to her perseverance through her tale, she evolves from this to an Iron Woobie.
Zachry is constantly haunted by the death of his brother-in-law, his visions of Old Georgie and the ruthless Kona Tribe. And when he sees the devastation of his tribe at the hands of the Kona, especially Rose, all he can do is fall to his knees and weep.