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Ill Girl / Film

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Female Examples:


  • Balto: Rosy is one of the children who falls ill from the epidemic in Nome, and acts as a catalyst for Balto to strive to get the medicine.
  • The latter half of Song of the Sea becomes this when Saoirse, due to being half-human half-Selkie, starts growing terminally ill because she does not have her white coat which all Selkies need to stay alive and talk verbally, thus Ben has to help her find it before she dies.


  • Assault on Wall Street: Jim's wife Rosie is recovering from a near-fatal brain tumor and requires expensive medication, forcing him to work around the clock to provide for her. This is also why he tries his darndest to keep their dire financial situation hidden from her. When she does find out, it drives her to kill herself.
  • In The Constant Nymph, Tessa suffers from severe stitches and fainting spells caused by running or too much emotional stress...and when you're 14 and in love with a family friend who's much older, you have lots of stress.
  • Grace in Excision. Her cystic fibrosis is the main reason why her sister Pauline wants to become a surgeon, which in turn gets Grace and another girl killed as Pauline tries to perform a lung transplant.
  • The Doctor's wife in The Fountain from 2006. She's dying from a brain tumor, which drives him to obsessively try to find a cure for not only her illness, but death itself (i.e. a Fountain of Youth, so to speak).
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  • The Hand That Rocks the Cradle: Claire (Annabella Sciorra) is an adult Ill Girl who suffers of chronic asthma. And Payton (Rebecca De Monray), the Cute and Psycho Villain Protagonist, uses said illness to her advantage... among other things. She still loses in the end.
  • The Killer That Stalked New York, a 1950 film Very Loosely Based on the 1947 New York City smallpox outbreak, has Walda, a six-year-old with pertussis who contracts smallpox from Patient Zero Sheila Bennet. Dr. Wood takes it upon himself to check in on her every night to calm her mother.
  • LoveHKFilm uses the term "terminal beauty" to refer to romance movies that feature one of these girls as the primary love interest, and features a good number of reviews of such Hong Kong movies in general.
  • Jennifer Cavelleri, in Love Story. Probably one of the Trope Codifiers in Western modern media, as her struggle with cancer and eventual death are still very iconic.
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  • Mercenaries from Hong Kong has the young daughter of Sergeant Lei who is suffering from cancer, and only have months to live unless she had a transplant surgery in the United States which Lei cannot afford (hence the reason why Lei is willing to accept a Suicide Mission for the money).
  • Satine from Moulin Rouge!, as mentioned above. An unusual example in that she remains ignorant of her condition until 2/3 of the way through the movie, and then tries to keep it a secret from everyone until the last possibly second. (Everyone but Christian, the Duke, the Duke's man Warner and possibly Toulouse and the Narcoleptic Argentinian know she's doomed.)
  • Kate from My Sister's Keeper. She has leukemia (blood cancer), and her illness drives almost everything in the plot since her sister Anna struggles not to become her forced donor.
  • Bastian's mother in a flashback in The Neverending Story II: The Next Chapter. And her death has driven a huge wedge between Bastian and his father.
  • October Sky features a kind and encouraging schoolteacher, Miss Riley, who is revealed to suffer from Hodgkin's Disease during the third act of the film, giving the Rocket Boys that extra emotional push to pull off their last, climactic, rocket launch. Seeing as how October Sky was based off of the autobiography Rocket Boys (complete with the actual aforementioned Ill Girl), that automatically makes this trope into Truth in Television.
  • Ondine: Annie needs a new kidney, and uses a wheelchair, though she can walk (presumably she's easily tired). She's a cute, very sweet young girl who doesn't seem affected by this much.
  • Repo! The Genetic Opera has two of these as various points - Marni, who died before the film started, and her daughter Shilo, who inherited the disease. Until it turns out that she's not really ill—her father was poisoning her so she would have to stay with him.
  • In Akira Kurosawa film Scandal, Ichiro is convinced to hire third-rate attorney Hiruta as his lawyer after meeting Hiruta's sweet, innocent daughter Masako, who is bedridden and dying of pneumonia. Hiruta for his part is driven to betray Ichiro so he can get money to take care of Masako.
  • The female lead in the Taiwanese movie Secret. This is not the titular secret.
  • Shadows of Forgotten Ancestors: Marichka is not very strong. She collapses during a festival from dancing too much, forcing Ivan to carry her away. She later loses her footing while trying to rescue a lamb and falls into a river.
  • In M. Night Shyamalan's film The Sixth Sense, Kyra, a chronically-ill girl that visits Cole after she dies, was this during her lifetime, for a reason: her sickness was being prolonged by her mother, who was implied to be suffering from Munchausen's Syndrome by Proxy, craving the attention that having a sick daughter gave her. She poisoned Kyra with a household cleaning agent, and was beginning to do the same to her little sister following her death.
  • Sympathy for Mr. Vengeance by Park Chan-Wook (of Oldboy fame) seems to follow this trope to the letter. The plot is driven by the fact that the deaf-mute main character cannot afford the kidney transplant that his sick sister needs to survive. Abject unrelenting horror ensues.
  • Alva in This Property Is Condemmed. This one is rather subtle, but apart from an occasional cough, you wouldn't know that there was anything much wrong with Alva, but when Owen finds out that Alva has died of TB in the final reel, it all makes sense. Alva was wild and headstrong because she knew she was likely to die! So the secondary meaning of the title is explained, Alva feels like everybody's property, but This Property Is Condemmed.
  • Jamie in A Walk to Remember. She has leukemia and found out when she was little. She doesn't want anyone to treat her differently, which is why she doesn't tell anyone at school. Or Landon, because she doesn't want him to be heartbroken if he falls in love with her.
    Jamie: (Before she tells him about her cancer) I told you not to fall in love with me.

Male Examples:


  • The plot of The Secret of NIMH revolves around Ms. Brisby trying to take care of her son Timmy, who has pneumonia.


  • In the short Cáca Milis, Paul proudly tells Catherine that when he was young, he was invited to a radio program specifically because he had a severe form of asthma, "the worst case they'd seen," in addition to being blind.
  • Steve Rogers has a Long List of afflictions from asthma to rheumatic fever, in addition to general physical weakness and small stature. Then he signs up for the super serum experiment, and the rest is history.
  • In Con Air, Poe's best friend Baby-O is diabetic. One of the reasons Poe refused to leave the plane was getting the poor guy's insulin.
  • Chopin in Impromptu, although during the period in which the movie's set he's only a bit delicate, not dying.
  • Eric Cruise, the main character from Mac and Me, is a little boy who's confined to a wheelchair. At the end of the movie not only he gets Back from the Dead by the titular Mac and his family, but he's healed and able to walk again.
  • Nux, the sickly War Boy in Mad Max: Fury Road, appears to be suffering from leukemia or lymphoma; he has tumors on his neck, gets fevers at night, and needs blood transfusions in order to even stand.
  • Tsarevich Alexei in Nicholas and Alexandra, afflicted with hemophilia, as was true in Real Life. He subverts the archetype since he thirsts for revenge against the Reds.
  • Doc Holliday and his friends were aware of his terminal condition (and the audience was reminded with his Incurable Cough of Death,) but it was less often cause for depression than morbid jokes and badassery. He also doubles as a Real Life example.
  • In X-Men Origins: Wolverine, Little Jimmy Logan, for the first two minutes of the movie until his mutation manifests.


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