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Adult Fear / Live-Action Films

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  • The Amazing Spider-Man:
    • Aunt May stays up night after night, waiting for her nephew, who is possibly the last of her family, to come home from his nighttime activities (and left wondering what kind of activities they are), always with bruises and claw marks.
    • Peter invokes Adult Fear when he convinces Captain Stacy to let him leave after being captured the police. He tells him that his daughter Gwen is alone in Oscorp Tower and the Lizard is on his way there.
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  • An American Crime is the worst fear of every parent who has had to leave their child with another person, especially if that person is just an acquaintance. It doesn't help that the story actually happened.
  • April Showers is about a school shooting, so it kind of goes with the territory.
  • The beginning of Aquaman (2018) has Atlantian soldiers attacking Atlanna and Thomas's home with a young Arthur inside. Atlanna has no choice but to return home, fearing that if she doesn't, the soldiers will continue to hunt her down and either hurt or kill Thomas and Arthur in the process.
  • The opening scene of Avengers: Endgame is a picnic with Hawkeye and his family. He’s teaching his daughter how to shoot her bow and turns his back to her for a second, when he turns back to talk to her she’s dusting away. He starts screaming his wife and boys' names to no avail while not understanding what happened. Scott Lang has a similar reaction when he comes out of the Quantum Realm five years later without understanding what happened. His first thought is about whether or not his daughter Cassie survived (she did) and he frantically begins to look for her name, even checking a monument to the fallen for her name.
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  • Baby's Day Out: Despite the film's slapstick nature, some reviewers (including Roger Ebert) said they were disturbed by the realistic-looking perils baby Bink finds himself facing, such as crawling under a taxi and into traffic. And of course, the whole plot of the film is that a baby gets kidnapped from under his parents' noses, then gets lost and encounters several life-threatening predicaments, including wandering into a construction site and a gorilla cage. All Played for Laughs of course, but take it even remotely seriously and it's very unsettling. It even gets lampshaded in the middle of the film when the police follow a tip and search a single mother's apartment for Bink; they apologize on realizing it was a false alarm, and she tells Bink's parents she understands their fear because she doesn't know what she would do if one of her children had been kidnapped.
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  • Batman Returns: The Penguin is made on this. His masterplan consists of taking Gotham's children into the sewers and killing them. He gleefully gloats about it, claiming that it's the parents' fault for having left them unprotected at home in order to attend to Max Schreck's ball.
  • The 1969 war film Battle of Britain has a scene of major Adult Fear where London is being bombed by the Germans. A young pilot's wife and two young boys are all killed when the church they were sheltering in takes a direct hit from an incendiary bomb while he is away helping other survivors. The look on his face when he returns to find the church a burning ruin is just a knife in the heart.
  • A Beautiful Mind: The main character is a genius whose mind is the most important possession he has. He goes crazy... His wife sees him succumb to his own inner demons against which she is powerless to help him.
  • Being Two Isn't Easy:
    • As an infant, Taro almost fell down the stairs when he got out of his apartment.
    • A child in the neighborhood plunges off an old second-story porch when it gives in. Luckily, she is saved by a milkman.
  • Berlin Syndrome: Meeting a charming, handsome, seemingly nice guy, having great sex with him... and then finding out that he's locked you inside his house. With the intention of keeping you inside forever.
  • Black Cloud:
    • Ten guys are waiting for The Hero to be at his most vulnerable (alone in a public bathroom) to beat him up. NO ONE would have noticed it either as it was happening.
    • Cloud's great grandmother was raped by three men when she was picking flowers for her wedding.
    • Mr. Tipping's methods for helping speed up a housing application apparently involve molesting young women.
  • Brightburn:
    • It's scary enough to imagine your child being killed by a psychotic murderer, but how about the thought of your child turning INTO a psychotic murderer despite your best efforts to raise them right.
    • To the bullying girl's mother, it's the thought that your child is attending school with a psychotic murderer.
  • Bubba Ho Tep: Growing old and weak and finding yourself left to die in a care home, with your children "too busy" to come and see you.
  • The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas: Bruno's poor mother seems to experience all sorts of terrible fears parents might have. Living next to a concentration camp and knowing there is nothing she can do to stop the horrors going on in there, seeing her eldest daughter being brainwashed into a hate spewing little monster by Those Wacky Nazis, and finding out that her son snuck into the camp and was killed in the gas chamber.
  • Brooklyn: Jim, who was having lunch with Eilis, talks about travelling across Europe with her, and admits that although he will be moving into his father's house be running his father's bar, and plays rugby at the local club, he has never travelled outside of Ireland, not even to England, and that the chance that he will pass away without ever leaving Ireland frightens and scares him at the same time.
  • Changeling is all about a woman leaving for work, coming home to find that her child is gone, and then receiving no help at all from the authorities about it. And then comes Act 2, and we find out that there's been a serial killer kidnapping children, and that Christine's son isn't the first cover-up the police have done. Also, her son is never found.
  • Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, the Child Catcher does exactly what his name suggests and does this by luring children to him via sweets and candy. When the two main children characters run towards him fooled by his deception, two adults call to them, warning them to come back. Any parent watching the movie would likely do the same thing and feel the same fear.
  • When Mitch and his friends play a "what's the worst and best days of the your life" game while riding down the trail in City Slickers, Mitch's worst day is one: when his wife had a cancer scare.
  • A Clockwork Orange: The "Singing in the Rain" scene is designed to send chills down the spine of any adult. The themes of absolute evil and of a manipulative government attempting to rob people of free will and using the cover of mental health to silence dissidents are pretty chilling on a more subtle level as well, and were surely even more so during the Cold War era in which the film (and novel) were made.
  • Criminal: A stranger coming in your bedroom, restraining you, and then going into your daughter's room, with of course the fear that he'll rape you both. Luckily it turns out he just wants money.
  • Danika is the story of a genuinely desperate housewife, whose main fear is to lose one of her children or the three of them. This obsession of overprotecting her kids, turns out to be the result of a traumatic childhood experience, in which poor little Danika loses her brother in a road accident.
  • Examples from The Dark Knight Trilogy:
    • Batman Begins shows the obvious example of Bruce seeing his parents die, but also includes seeing your home burned to the ground, what it is like to live in a fairly realistic city so filled with crime that even the police belong to the mob and murder is a common occurence and what it is like to be betrayed by a Parental Substitute that helped you overcome your flaws twice, actually.
    • The Dark Knight: Two-Face and the Joker were frightening enough on their own, but the part that was also creepy was the fact that, even after faking his own death, Commissioner Gordon still can't protect his own children—and Mrs. Gordon's response to the ploy!.
    • Aside from the business of a child having to grow up in a Hellhole Prison and Gotham City being held hostage and thrown into anarchy, The Dark Knight Rises also deals with the topic of a loved one turning out to be a Bitch in Sheep's Clothing and plotting against you the entire time. To be more specific, Miranda Tate is revealed to be the actual Big Bad Talia al Ghul, who proceeds to backstab Bruce in more ways than one.
      • A major metropolis is seized by a terrorist organization and held hostage for five months. The poor citizens are forced to eke it out, with the very possibility of being gunned down by terrorist goons at any minute. The police are trapped udnerground, cut off from the citizens that need their protection, and outside intervention, especially by military forces, and leaving the area is impossible due to the terrorist leader threatening to blow up the entire city if any of those things happen. Oh, and some of the people trapped? They were fans of a visiting football team, forced away from their loved ones with no way to contact them and inform them that they're at least alive.
  • In the first three films in the Die Hard franchise, this is the drive behind most of our hero's actions. The first film sees our hero getting caught in the middle of a terrorist take-over of a high-rise building, with no way out, holding dozens of hostages with his wife among them and the police offers arriving to save the day being no help at all. The second is much of the same, except with entire plane-loads of people coming in for the holidays. The third film has a major subplot about a terrorist bomb in an elementary school.
  • The Duchess: Your husband can take your children away from you, and there's nothing you can do about it because you're a woman and he has law on his side. The same fear is brought about by Iron Jawed Angels.
  • In Dear Zachary: Your children could be taken away from you and given to their abuser by the court, which finds it OK because she's their mother.
  • In Seduction in a Small Town: some Manipulative Bitch can perfectly convince others that both you and your husband are horrible child abusers and not only have your kids taken away, but send you guys to jail for that. Twice.
  • Chinatown: Got evidence of corruption in the government? The rich and powerful will just cover it up. Not fair? Too bad; you're a nobody.
  • L Eclisse made in 1962 refers to the fear of nuclear war, a widespread adult fear at the time.
  • Elysium: Frey's daughter is dying of cancer, and there's nothing she can do to save her.
  • Eraserhead: If giving birth to a creature so horrible that no sentient being would want to touch it with a 10-foot pole isn't every soon-to-be parent's worst nightmare, then the fact that it makes your spouse leave you and force you to raise it by yourself certainly is. Loathing one's own baby to the point that stabbing it through the lung (if you can even define it as a "lung") with scissors becomes a viable option is something no adult wishes to experience. Oh, and the fact that everything else in this movie is filled to the brim with the regular kinds of fears doesn't exactly help.
  • Eye for an Eye: This 1996 drama starts with Karen McCann talking with her home alone teenage daughter over the phone when the slime bucket Robert Doob breaks into the house and all Karen can do is listen as Doob (non-graphically) rapes her daughter before killing her. Oh yeah, and a minor technicality prevents him from being prosecuted and thus punished for what he's done.
  • Fast Color: Ruth's uncontrolled abilities nearly resulted in her baby drowning when they inadvertently flooded the house. It was this that prompted her to leave again.
  • Fatal Attraction: Alex kidnapping ex-fling Dan's daughter Ellen. It's not just every parent's worst nightmare, but all the elements surrounding it—that your child could go off with a stranger just because he/she seemed nice, that other adults who should have protected your child would instead let them go, that someone could have been watching and stalking your child, just waiting for the right moment to snatch them. Though Ellen is returned safely, the cold hard fact is that Alex could have harmed her if she wanted to. Dan's demeanor in the police station afterwards demonstrates how really and truly terrified he now is.
  • It has been said that the real horror of David Cronenberg's The Fly (1986) isn't the big gross Half-Human Hybrid that Seth Brundle becomes at the end, but rather the all-too close-to-home feeling of watching a loved one slowly waste away and die. Seth's transformation is a drawn out, humiliating and painful process where he loses his good looks, several of his body parts (hell, his penis rots and drops off) and eventually his ability to speak or think rationally, while his beautiful girlfriend can do nothing but try to be there for him. A lot of comparisons from critics and fans have been made to cancer, AIDS, dementia and generally growing old (the latter being Cronenberg's intention, ''because'' it inevitably leads to decay and death).
    • In the late going Veronica learns that she's pregnant by Seth. She has no idea if the conception took place before or after his Tragic Mistake, and having seen the Slow Transformation he's undergoing she realizes that no prenatal testing can prove that the child won't turn out to be a mutant. Her anxiety over what's in her body is spectacularly manifested in a Nightmare Sequence in which she believes she's suffering a miscarriage only to deliver a twitching, three-foot-long maggot in the operating room. To make matters worse, while she subsequently decides not to tell Seth about this and to seek an abortion, he finds out anyway — at which point he fully snaps and kidnaps her, insisting that she bring the child to term in hopes it will turn out to be fully human (and thus Someone to Remember Him By). When she refuses, he decides to use his telepods to merge half-man, woman and fetus into one entity "More human than I am alone". The situation taps into the distinctly feminine fear of not knowing what she might bring into the world and the more general fear (but one especially felt by women) of having no choice/control over their own body and its fate.
  • Full Circle: The movie begins with the main character trying to save her daughter from choking by performing a tracheotomy - and accidentally killing her.
  • The plot of Ghostbusters II hinges on the kidnapping of Dana's young son Oscar. In the course of the film, Oscar's baby carriage careens into the middle of a busy street, and Oscar's actual kidnapping takes place after he crawls out onto a ledge over a hundred feet high.
  • Godzilla: King of the Monsters (2019):
    • In the opening, Mark is desperately calling for and trying to find his son amidst all the wreckage in San Francisco in the aftermath of the MUTO and Godzilla fight. Andrew is later confirmed dead. Both him and his wife ended up outliving one of their children.
      • Years later, they experience the same fear when they lose track of Madison in a city that is another battleground for several kaiju.
    • During Rodan's awakening at Isla de Mara, a terrified mother and her son are trying to evacuate the city while being shoved on all sides by equally terrified citizens. The boy is almost torn away by the strength of the winds of Rodan taking flight with a soldier and his mother trying futilely to hold onto him.
    • It's later revealed that the Oxygen Destroyer has killed all life surrounding Isla de Mara, effectively destroying the livelihood of the fishermen who live there. Small-scale industries often suffer from the crossfire of the military.
  • In Guardians of the Galaxy:
    • In the second film, Yondu spends the entirety of the film dealing with people who are threatening to kill his adopted son. He is visibly alarmed when he finds out that Ego has Peter, something he has been trying to avoid for 25 years.
  • In The Guilty:
    • Iben is abducted by her ex-husband who has a previous conviction for assault.
    • Michael finds his infant son murdered by his ex-wife during one of her psychotic episodes.
  • The Hand That Rocks the Cradle: How about unwittingly hiring a Nanny that is bent on taking revenge on you for inadvertently causing her sleazebag husband's suicide and subsequent miscarriage as a result of the stress it brounght on.
    • One of the nanny's methods for taking said revenge involves breastfeeding the baby!
    • The thought that your doctor, someone you're supposed to be able to have the utmost trust in, could instead take advantage of that trust and assault you. Though Claire and other women come forward, leading to the doctor's downfall, this happens far too often in Real Life—often with no one coming forward, thus enabling these perverts to continue their behavior.
  • Hereditary: imagine that your little sister or child is having a life-threatening allergic reaction and you are driving as fast as you can to get her to a hospital, only to have her decapitated by sticking her head out the car window just as it passes too close to a telephone pole!
    • And imagine being her mother and finding her headless corpse in the blood-soaked back seat of your car the next morning!
  • Hocus Pocus: While you're doing the morning chores, your two children go missing. Then the neighbor boy comes saying that the three strange women in the woods are doing "conjuring" and you raise a mob because you fear the worst. Then you arrive too late, finding your daughter's body in the witches' cottage but no trace of your son. All you can do is interrogate them, execute them on the charges of murder, and bury your daughter in the graveyard. This is what happens to Mr. Binx in the first ten minutes of the film.
  • Discussed in Home Alone, where Kevin talks with Mr. Marley about how being an adult doesn't mean that you're not afraid of anything.
    • And of course that what kind of parent do you have to be to leave one of your children behind when going on vacation. Not just once but multiple times.
    • Discussed again in Home Alone 2: Lost in New York where Kevin's mother talks with a police officer while looking for Kevin in the city.
    Kate: Do you have kids?
    Officer: Yes, ma'am.
    Kate: And what would you do if one of them was missing?
    Officer: (beat) I'd probably be doing the same thing you're doing.
  • In Homeward Bound: The Incredible Journey, the pets encounter a scared, crying, little girl who is lost in the woods. Later, we see her parents searching for her. In the sequel, a woman screams as she watches her house burn, knowing her son is inside. Shadow saves him, but it's a close thing.
    • The entire series is about your pets getting lost, when they were supposed to be safe, and left to die. The parents are as distraught as the children.
  • In Hook not only does Captain Hook kidnap Peter's children and threaten to do the same to his descendants, he tries to brainwash them into loving him instead. It almost works with Jack (who was already distressed), but utterly fails with Maggie.
  • In The Host, Gang-du spectacularly fails at dragging his daughter to safety from a giant monster rampaging along the bank of the Han river and gets to watch her taken away by it.
    • In one scene, Hee-bong admits to his two younger children, Nam-il and Nam-joo, that he was working late, so young Gang-du, who had a Missing Mom, had to fend for himself by committing seo-ri (the right of a child to take food), and got beaten if he got caught. And Hee-bong was helpless to protect his own son all the while.
  • Inception. The protagonist is forced to flee his home and his country, leaving his very young children behind, possibly forever. There's also the horrific situation when he has to watch his beloved spouse succumb to mental illness and suicide - and realize it was his mistake and that he was responsible.
  • It's a Wonderful Life: The film is full of it, showing how much the Guardian Angel was needed.
    • Uncle Billy losing the $8000: Losing your money and fearing arrest.
    • George's entire life: Grown up having never achieved your dreams or feeling you lived out your potential.
    • Mr. Gower accidentally putting poison in a child's medicine. The man you trust with your child's life feeds the child something harmful.
      • Also from Gower's point of view, a split-second lapse in concentration came within a hair's breadth of turning into a tragedy.
    • George's breakdown in front of his family: Watching a relative act out-of-sorts or hostile for reasons that are unapparent.
  • In The Jungle Book (2016), Raksha is woken up one night to find Shere Khan playing with her young cubs, not too long after Shere Khan made it clear that he will stop at nothing at killing her adopted son Mowgli and had already killed her husband, Akela. Not only is he subtly trying to turn the cubs against her (implying that their mother loves Mowgli more than them), he also makes it clear to Raksha that he would and could kill all of them if she tried to intervene.
    • In a more silent but equally chilling moment, when Raksha calls her children to come into the den, Shere Khan places a paw right in front of a cub's path to keep it from escaping. He never takes his eyes off Raksha, letting her know of his subtle threat, before releasing the cub.
  • Kids: This film is pretty much every parents' worst nightmare about what their sons and daughters (might) do behind their backs: having unprotected sex and getting deadly venereal diseases as a result, drinking, smoking, taking drugs bought right on the street (which is always dangerous because you don't know what you're being sold), stealing, hanging out with people who are a bad influence on them, showing no respect to other people, even downright murdering somebody, breaking in and entering buildings, raping someone or getting raped,... At a certain point it does get a bit over the top, especially since the characters all do this in the timespan of only one day...!
  • Kill Bill: The scene in which the Bride fights Vernita Green and Vernita's little daughter Nikki steps in perfectly shows the terror that a mother can feel when she realizes that not only has her Dark and Troubled Past has caught up with her, but that her child is about to be utterly traumatised.
    • The Bride was pregnant on her wedding day. When she wakes up, she's not pregnant any more, and she has no idea what happened to her child.
  • Kingsman: The Secret Service: Michelle under the effects of Valentine's Hate Plague going at the bathroom door with a cleaver, trying to kill her daughter.
  • The French film L'Argent de Poche gives us a comedic, though not tasteless example when the mother of the infant Grégory leaves him alone in the apartment on one of the higher floor with the windows open while she searches for her wallet. Grégory inevitably ends up hanging from the sill above a crowd of terrified onlookers before falling and landing in a hedge, unharmed. Suffice to say, the mother, upon seeing her child in the hedge, promptly passes out. As this film is more or less a social commentary about the world children inhabit that adults often fail to see, the Adult Fear is played completely straight.
  • Law Abiding Citizen. Having your home being invaded is bad, and crippling you is worse, but the ultimate nightmare is when he rapes and murders your wife and daughter in front of you. Then, a killer gets off with a light sentence just to make sure that the justice department can get the other guy.
  • Les Misérables. Fantine sings a song about her childhood dreams and then goes into detail about how life has shattered every single one of them. She sings this right before she leaves her daughter an orphan.
  • Little Sweetheart: The protagonist's daughter has been associating with strangers, who turn out to be criminals. Now she's missing, her clothing is on the beach and a gun is wrapped in it. That's for Elizabeth. For Thelma, you have the fear that your child will become a criminal, and at age 9, Thelma is easily an Enfant Terrible.
  • The Lord of the Rings:
    • The beginning of Return of the King has Sméagol kill Déagol over the Ring. Well, what if the friend you trusted most easily turned on you over one little trinket?
  • M: Mrs. Beckmann's increasingly desperate cries as she calls for her daughter, who was kidnapped and murdered while walking home from school, is enough to strike terror into the heart of any parent. And that's just how the film starts.
  • Maleficent:
    • A vein example similar to Frozen, the feeling that comes from being abandoned/betrayed by someone you love.
    • The idea of two best friends growing apart from each other.
    • Also the feeling about a child being threatened.
    • Regarding Aurora, the fact that the person you thought was your friend had been conceling the truth from you your whole life (including the fact that you are doomed to die).
  • Mean Girls: Regina's mother watches her daughter get hit by a school bus.
  • Megan Is Missing manage to turn the fear many parents of teens with an internet connection have about sexual predators online Up to Eleven.
  • Minority Report:
    • Our protagonist, Anderton grieves the loss of his son. When we get to see how it happens, it's horrifying. They are at a public pool, playing a game of who can hold their breath the longest. Anderton dives under the surface and more and more notices how something is off. He gets up, sees his sons cyclops floating in the water and gets up screaming his name, but he is nowhere to be found. The scary part is that the pool and area around is full of people, who all must have seen it, but not noticing. Part of the premise is that Anderton is himself implicated as an upcoming murderer, whose victim is someone he's never yet heard of. Anderton tracks him down to prove his own innocence, and walks into a Room Full of Crazy. Upon seeing photos of his dead son among piles of others, Anderton quietly accepts that he is going to kill the man after all. Made worse because it's an obvious frame-up.
    • Anderton's intended victim willingly agrees to be murdered and poses as a child molester and killer. He did it for unexplained reasons, implied to be trying to provide for his family through allowing his own death at Anderton's hands — a whole other kind of Adult Fear.
  • The Monster Squad:
  • From a comedy film of all things: in the 3rd The Naked Gun movie, Jane is at a bar when she's harassed by a sleazy truck driver, who repeatedly ignores her attempts at rebuffing him, telling her "I know when a woman says "no", she really means "yes". Fed up, she finally tells him "yes", at which he actually grabs her and angrily demands, "What do you mean, telling me "no"?", ultimately forcing her to defend herself. Played for Laughs, of course, but no doubt every woman who has had to deal with the unwanted advances of a would-be suitor cringed at that.
  • The very premise of A Nightmare on Elm Street is a nightmare to any parent — the possibility of your own child being horribly assaulted and murdered by a psychopath in a manner that you have absolutely no way of protecting them from. And worse, this psychopath is supposed to be dead, because you and other parents took the law into your own hands after his string of child murders went unpunished due to a technicality.
    • Wes Craven's New Nightmare may even have more adult fear to it than the other entries, as a major focus is Heather trying to protect her son Dylan, who is significantly younger than Freddy's usual teenage victims.
    • Freddy's Dead: The Final Nightmare has one of the protagonists recovering some suppressed memories ... namely, the memory that Freddy was the character's father. Most Real Life serial killers genuinely do have relatives, who have to live with the knowledge of that connection once their murderous kin are identified as such.
  • The Canadian film Obsessed/Hitting Home has two examples of this going on. The first involves a single mother losing her only child in a bloody hit and run. The second involves that single mother menacing the children of the driver responsible for the hit and run - including kidnapping his young son.
  • Ocean Heaven concerns dying and leaving your offspring defenseless in an uncaring world. Not only that, what happens if your child is autistic to boot? The thought was so scary that Jet Li's character thought of mercy killing his own child in a double suicide. How scared would a person be if he decided doing that to his own child?
  • Once I Was a Beehive: When everyone see that camp was destroyed, then come realization that Phoebe, youngest member of camp and daughter of one of counselors, is no around here... You can see this fear on faces of her mother, other adults and Lane, her older step-cousin.
  • Orphan: Having your children in danger, your spouse turn against you, and being thought insane when in reality you are the only one who knows what is really happening. Then the terror of having it be even worse than you already thought.
  • Paddington: Your home is destroyed in a natural disaster that also kills your husband. You can no longer care for your orphaned nephew so you have to send him away and hope for the best.
  • Another Guillermo del Toro film: Pan's Labyrinth. The Fair Folk? They're creepy as hell, but the darkest and most horrific scenes of the film are based not on the ancient magical beings, but on the very real evils of fascism, the sociopathic monsters the ideology attracts, and the atrocities these people commit in its name. Moreover, the eleven-year-old Ofelia's mother Carmen is having a difficult pregnancy from the start of the film, suffers a hemorrhage when Ofelia is the only one there to get help, and eventually dies in childbirth after a hard labor. This would be devastating on its own, but now Ofelia's left with only Captain Vidal as a parent.
  • Discussed in Parenthood. Kevin suffers severe anxiety issues as a gradeschooler, in part, because he "was first" and his parents frantically over-protected him as a child.
  • Patriot Games: Ryan saves the Royal Family from being killed in a terrorist attack, and now, one of the terrorists wants revenge on Ryan for killing his brother. He has broken out of prison with the help of his comrades, and will stop at nothing until Ryan and his family are dead.
    Cathy: It was him, wasn't it? He's never gonna leave us alone.
  • Pihu: Is this trope turned into a full length Bollywood film. A recently two-year old girl finds herself alone at home for the whole day, with her mother having committed suicide last night and her father having left early for a conference, leaving herself vulnerable to hazards around the apartment and no supervision. She's very lucky to have survived to the end of the movie.
  • Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl: A toddler is shown wandering alone, screaming for his mother during the ransacking of Port Royale. He's just barely saved by a passing woman before being crushed by a burning building. Thinking of one's own child alone, terrified, and screaming for you during a disaster can certainly send a stab of fear through any parent. Not to mention that the kid actually looks terrified about the Hollywood destruction going on around him. Makes one wonder how old he was and if he understood if it was just a movie or not...
  • The Presidents Barber: Amid a Marxus Disease epidemic, Han-mo's son Nak-an gets diarrhoea, and leaves him at the police station, for him to be put under temporary care. Nak-an is then taken away by the government on suspicion of being a North Korean spy, and is tortured for information, very lightly, because he's a child. Ham-mo and his wife Min-ja are without their son for weeks on end. Finally, Nak-an is sent back to them but he can't walk.
  • The Prestige: You also have a little daughter, seven years old at the most. Imagine, years before, that you made a colossal mistake and kill the wife of your good friend, and now that friend is growing steadily more and more obsessed with getting revenge on you. Then your former friend is murdered, with you present. You are tried and sentenced to death, meaning your daughter is going to the workhouse. Until you get a lifeline - give up your most valuable secret to a rich benefactor, and he will take in your daughter and raise her. You do so...and it turns out the benefactor is the murdered man, who faked his death. That's right - your former friend has murdered you and kidnapped your daughter, where she will be in close proximity to a man who is clearly very unstable, and he's made sure you are absolutely helpless.
  • Prisoners: The two families experience this when both of their young daughters are kidnapped.
  • The Purge: The Sandin parents have a lot to be worried about, because they're trying to set a good example for their kids by doing nothing bad during The Purge. That doesn't even touch on the fact that one of their kids lets in a stranger because he looked like he needed help or that a psychopathic gang is quite willing to launch a home invasion and kill everyone in it....
  • The Pursuit of Happyness depicts a father trying really, really hard to provide for his kid, and failing. There's no zombie apocalypse, no external mustache-twirling villain, just the inexorable facts of the matter and a string of bad luck. He ends up with his son in a subway-station closet, hiding from the elements and hoping they'll be able to stay there overnight. If you've ever been responsible for providing for another human being, this is terrifying. And it's based on a true story.
  • Almost everything involving Gabrielle in Rambo: Last Blood. She heads to Mexico without telling anybody, only to be abducted and forced into a horrendous new life she has no hope from escaping from. When Rambo fails to rescue her, Hugo tells him that he'll make an example of her and certainly delivers on that end. When John does manage to pull her out, she's already been abused, beaten, drugged up, and likely raped to the point where she reacts to Rambo's presence with pure terror. And sadly, she doesn't last the ride back home.
  • Red Dawn (1984)'s entire concept is built around this, especially for Americans whom the idea of being invaded by a foreign power seems distant. Summary executions of family members, neighbors turning into The Quisling for the occupation forces, being forced into fighting against an overwhelmingly powerful hostile military by hiding out in the woods, hunted like animals. Or worse; it's not you fighting. It's your kids.
  • Ricochet: Blake goes into Nick's house disguised as a power company technician, drugs the babysitter, takes Nick's sleepy daughters to bed, then shoots video of himself threatening the little girls. When Nick sees the video, he goes paranoid quick. Of course, that's just the reaction Blake wanted.
  • Robot and Frank deals with the issues of growing old on your own, and your memory failing; or, similarly, having a parent or loved one who is doing so.
  • Rosemary's Baby: The supernatural themes are not what provides the horror, it's Rosemary's predicament: Being manipulated and conspired against by your husband, your neighbours and everyone around you, and even when you figure out what, how and why they are doing it, your attempts to break free are utterly futile.
  • Santoalla: For Margo Pool, who had moved to the Spanish village with her husband Martin Verfondern, it was the idea of your significant other vanishing under mysterious circumstances.
  • Sarah's Key: You are being persecuted by your own Nazi-friendly government, your husband has been arrested, and the police has come to arrest you and your kids too. Your daughter locks her younger brother in the closet to protect him, and you are rounded up and deported after a few days. Then you get separated from your daughter and taken to Auschwitz, and all the while you know that your young son is still locked up and likely starving in the empty house.
  • In Searching, the film is all about Adult Fear. David Kim's loving wife dies of cancer, leaving him alone to raise his daughter in an estranged relationship. His daughter calls him in the middle of the night while he is sleeping and he wasn't able to pick up. He soon realizes she has gone missing. As he investigates, fears of abduction, bullying, running away, doing illegal activities and accusations of being a bad parent all come up. At one point, David is led to believe that his own brother is having an incestuous relationship with Margot and then Margot's supposed murderer admits he had raped and killed her. To make matters worse, David finds out that he couldn't trust the police as he discovers Detective Vick was lying to him the whole time and orchestrating the whole case because her son was actually the one responsible for Margot's disappearance.
  • SHAZAM! (2019):
    • Billy runs away from his foster home at one point, causing panic, worry and insecurities of inadequate parenting from his foster mother Rosa.
    • In the case of Billy's biological mother, there were fears of being a teenage parent, being kicked out of home and having no support in raising the child. All of this leads to Billy's mother abandoning her son.
  • Sophie's Choice. Having to choose which of your children to send to an inevitable death.
  • Spotlight, is the Based on a True Story group of how a group of the Boston Globe's Intrepid Reporters broke the story of the widespread sexual abuse of children by Catholic priests. One of the reporters is a father of two, and he's the most visibly affected by the research throughout the film - even more so after the chilling scene where he discovers that a pedophile priest probably lives down the block from his house.
  • Star Trek Into Darkness:
    • Early in the film, a father in London will do anything to save his child from a terminal illness. Even suicide-bomb a Starfleet records office when John Harrison offers to save his daughter in exchange.
    • Spock finds Pike dying in obvious pain and fear. He tries to help ease the man's passing but his efforts are in vain.
    • Kirk's death. Spock watches helplessly as his best friend slowly dies, unable to do anything to save him or even comfort him in his last moments.
  • Star Wars: Anakin falls to the Dark Side because of the fear of losing Padmé after already witnessing his mother die.
    • Obi-Wan and Padmé watching as the man they know and love is consumed by evil.
    • Everything that happens to Leia in Star Wars: A New Hope would be this for her father, especially after Rogue One reveals that he was the one who put her on the Tantive IV for that mission. First of all, it's no doubt a wrenching decision: the best hope for the Rebellion depends on him sending his only child into harm's way. Then he loses contact with her ship, so he knows that something bad has most likely happened, but he has no idea what's happened, where Leia is, or even if she's still alive. The worst part is, he dies never knowing the answer.
  • Blumhouse Productions's Stephanie, the titular character is a little girl abandoned by her parents, and lives alone at home with the corpse of her dead brother and a monster terrorizing her. It's then revealed that she was the monster all this time, along with several other children, and directly responsible for her brother's death. She then kills both of her parents after they return.
  • Stoker runs on some standard middle-tier adult and coming-of-age fears: losing a spouse or a parent in a car accident and finding out that they were keeping things from you, realizing you're getting older and being afraid no man will ever love you again, realizing you're getting older and you're not a kid any more, worrying your child might prefer their other parent to you and that it's too late to win their love again, seeing a parent descend into depression and alcoholism, anxieties about what family means and what it means to have a house to come home to. But what takes the cake is something completely horrifying. The plot hinges on the death of a four-year-old boy by being buried alive while playing, by an only slightly older sibling. Jonathan's toys and the decorations for the sandcastle he was making are strewn around him, and the perpetrator lies there numbly, unbothered. The kid responsible is taken away to be institutionalized, noncomprehending, but becoming frightened and resistant when he's pulled out of the back seat of the car. This is juxtaposed with the same child, now an adult man, sitting in the front seat of a car terrified and furious that he's going to be abandoned again while his big brother is faced with the impossible choice of forgiving his clearly disturbed little brother for what he did (on purpose? on accident?) and for the way it tore the family apart, or keeping him far, far away from his own wife and child.
    • You get shunned for your race and culture, make a horrible mistake at your job and have to pay for said mistake for the rest of your life.
  • In Suffragette, Maud is imprisoned for participating in a demonstration, leaving her unable to pick her son up from the kindergarten-equivalent. The child has a father, but as was normal at this time, the man is utterly useless at caring for a child, or even himself. It only gets worse when Maud's husband throws her out of the house because he dislikes her involvement in the suffrage movement, leaving the husband to care for their son on his own, which he is incapable of, and when he realizes this, his solution is to give the boy up for adoption, without even asking Maud. Oh, and then there's the daughter of Maud's coworker, who herself works in the same laundry business - the girl is of course much too young to work in such a dangerous environment, but that's something they accept as fact of life ... the fact that their boss rapes the girl, however, is something even women of that time period probably weren't conditioned to consider quite normal. As they all have no education at all, having worked in the laundry since they themselves were children, there's nothing they can do ... ... except just taking the girl to the house of a wealthier suffragette and telling the woman that she now has a new maid, whether she needs one or not. Which is what Maud does at the end of the film.
  • Taken features this as a driving point in the plot, where two teenaged girls are kidnapped and sold into an underground prostitution ring. Unfortunately for the criminals, the father of one of these girls is an ex-CIA Papa Wolf, who has a very special set of skills. Though he manages to rescue only one of them, his daughter. Her best friend dies.
  • Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (1990) has the fear of losing your loved ones. The Turtles nearly lose their father Splinter, and Splinter nearly loses his sons.
    • The first scene following the reveal of Splinter's abduction? The Turtles retreating to April's apartment. They're only 15 and they're going through this trauma - Donnie and Raph are crying and Mikey and Leo are about to burst into tears.
    • Splinter is imprisoned at the Foot Headquarters for most of the movie and can't do much to help his sons, whom the Foot are trying to hunt down and kill.
    • The majority of the Foot Clan is revealed to be young, misguided teenage boys who have run away from their families.
    • Charles is worried sick when his son Danny runs away.
  • In The Ultimate Gift, two parents are predeceased by their children.
  • In Unbreakable, there is a scene where the protagonist's son steals his gun and tries to get his father to admit to being invincible, by threatening to shoot him. It is genuinely terrifying to watch him try to talk his son down from doing it.
    • The opening scene has a new mother with her newly born child Elijah, beaming with joy but confused over how long he has been crying. After an examination, the doctor's voice shakes as he reveals the baby's arms and legs were broken in childbirth. It is later clarified to be due to a brittle bone genetic disorder, something Elijah struggled with his entire life.
  • Unfriended: You've made a mistake or three. You've fucked up hard. And now somebody's got your number and is twiddling their thumbs about punching it. Ignoring the paranormal aspects of the movie; it's a frontal display of how powerful blackmail is depending on how serious a person regrets the action. In real life; substitute (or not) revenge with money, power, hacktivism, etc. and you'd be surprised how easy it can be to get manipulated into doing another's beck and call just because of a mistake you really regret.
  • In United 93, which is based on the September 11 attacks, multiple passengers are shown calling their parents before the plane is crashed by al-Qaeda terrorists in Shanksville, Pennsylvania. It's particularly heartbreaking because all of the exchanges are word-for-word what the victims said to their families and friends in Real Life, and since the whole film is a Foregone Conclusion, we as the audience know that these are the last words they'll ever have with them.
  • Unstoppable is all about a train, with hazardous chemicals, speeding uncontrolled towards a large residential area due to various fail-safes not responding and multiple efforts to stop it showing how little control anyone has over a speeding locomotive. Worse so, it's based on an actual event that has happened.
  • The Untouchables opens up with a couple of Al Capone's bootleggers trying to persuade a guy to sell their booze at his store. He refuses because it's terrible booze. They seem to accept his answer and "accidentally" drop a bag when they leave the store. A little girl who was in the store at the time picks it up and tries to return it to them. Said bag is a bomb which promptly explodes. Later in the movie, the mother of the dead girl visits Elliot Ness and reassures him that he is doing the right thing in opposing people like her daughter's killers.
  • Utøya: July 22, by Erik Poppe, which is a reenactment of the Breivik Massacre (which happened on the island Utøya on 22. July 2011) from the perspective of the victims. The film shows exactly what your children can suffer if they are caught in a shooting. In particular it shows that no matter how clever and levelheaded they are, they can still die, and in a horrible way - all it takes is a single mistake.
  • Where the Heart Is has Ashley Judd as a single mom who comes early home from work and finds her current boyfriend molesting two of her children.
    • And Novalee coming home from picking out a Christmas tree after realizing that her baby is five months old note  to find out that her baby's been kidnapped by two religious fanatics from Midnight, Mississippi. In the beginning of the movie, she was abandoned by her boyfriend with no money and forced to raise her unborn child by herself.
  • X-Men Film Series
    • X-Men: First Class:
      • The Holocaust. The death of a parent, and the medicalized torture of an innocent child. All within the first 20 minutes. Then, for Erik, knowing that the people that killed your family and millions of others will go free unless you personally devote your life to hunting them down.
      • A bit of a foregone conclusion, but Charles and Erik's "beach divorce," even though it's only a metaphorical divorce, (figurative) children having to decide which parent they're siding with in said metaphorical divorce, having a loved one be permanently disabled because of something you did.
      • The fear that no one will love you as you really are... or even that your entire race/ethnic group will be systematically hunted to extinction again.
      • For both Charles and Erik, seeing the friend that you loved like a brother become your enemy.
    • X-Men: Apocalypse:
      • A large explosion which can decimate an entire school when class is in session is any parent's nightmare. It's only because of Quicksilver's intervention that the death toll is nowhere near as high as it could've been.
      • In Erik's case, it's the death of his wife and daughter by police officers.

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