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Damsel in Distress

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"Why is she always the one getting kidnapped? I'm the princess!"
Amalia Sheran Sharm, Wakfu

A female character is put into immediate danger in order to put the cast in motion. Her plight unites the cast, causing them to put aside their differences and work together to save her or provide the premise for The Quest and is considered Older Than Dirt.

The nature of the distress varies. The classic damsel has been kidnapped or captured and is locked away, awaiting rescue and afraid for her life and virtue. She may also be lost or stranded in a hostile area, trapped, desperately ill, or suffering any number of terrible fates where she needs help to survive.

This set-up is plausible if the damsel in distress is a beloved character, but can be very jarring if the audience fails to see what's so valuable about the damsel and why the rest of the cast should drop everything to go to her rescue. Some damsels are so annoying that the audience wouldn't mind seeing them dead; others end up in trouble in a way that just screams Character Derailment. This is particularly dangerous for the resident Action Heroine who will seem suddenly weak and helpless if her stint as a damsel isn't properly justified — if the moment is bad enough, she can be demoted to Faux Action Girl. On the other hand, anyone can have a bad day; perhaps she just had a moment of Badass in Distress after being thrown a Distress Ball.

A possible way to shake things up a bit is to give the damsel something to do besides stand around uselessly. The Damsel out of Distress will put up a fight, which can either help or make things worse. The Defiant Captive damsel will snarl and rage where her meeker sister would scream. There are even subversions in the line of Play-Along Prisoner: the Decoy Damsel puts on all the appearance of this trope, but her helplessness is all for show.

Sometimes the character gets kidnapped for the sake of her good looks or royal blood, but in other works she's more likely doing something that is a threat to the party that kidnaps her (reporters are common), which allows her to look smart and independent before she needs to be saved. Alternatively, she can end up prisoner as a Heroic Sacrifice; situations where she puts herself in peril so that others can get away are popular, even if her plan ultimately fails.

Generally expected to give The Hero a Smooch of Victory when he rescues her. Assuming he does, of course...

This is a type of Living MacGuffin. Chained to a Rock is an ancient form; Girl in the Tower and Hypnotize the Princess came later. Damsels may also be Bound and Gagged or put into Unwilling Suspension, especially when it satisfies Author Appeal.

If the kidnapper in question is particularly nasty, expect an I Have You Now, My Pretty situation to occur. If the character does not become a Damsel Scrappy but still is constantly captured, they are a Designated Victim. Compare with Disposable Woman.

For the Gender Flip, see Distressed Dude. See also Distress Ball, Standard Female Grab Area, Determined Widow, I Have Your Wife, Save the Princess, Hostage MacGuffin. If the girl is actually faking this for her own benefits, depending on her purposes she's either a Deliberately Distressed Damsel or a Decoy Damsel. A damsel who rescues herself is a Damsel out of Distress who probably used an Improvised Weapon. If she has a strong spirit despite captivity then he/she is a Defiant Captive. If the hero leaves the damsel in distress (for the moment), that's Delaying the Rescue. See also The Captivity Narrative for a plot based on this.

Not to be confused with the 2012 comedy film Damsels in Distress.

This item is available in the Trope Co. catalog.


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    Anime And Manga 
  • In Bleach
    • Rukia Kuchiki gets to be the Damsel in Distress in the Soul Society arc, despite the fact that she could fight in previous episodes (and after her rescue).She agreed to go because she knew she'd be executed for giving her powers to a human... and Rukia wanted to die in the first place. Despite her Quickly-Demoted Woman status, it could be argued that Rukia was actually just a Badass in Distress... for a really long time.
    • In the Arrancar and Hueco Mundo arcs, Orihime Inoue. She went with Sosuke Aizen (kinda) willingly to protect her friends right after they got their asses kicked by the Arrancar (had she not gone, they would've been killed and Karakura would've been destroyed right on the spot)... The story arc is NOT shy about showing the tremendous emotional and physical strain it brings on her to the extreme of causing her a Heroic B.S.O.D. that almost made her cross the Despair Event Horizon; sure, Ichigo and Ishida manage to reach for her, but things go wrong immediately afterwards, and before that she was throughly abused by Loly, Menoly, Nnoitora and Ulquiorra, among others. It takes Orihime almost a year to fully get over the horrible effects of her imprisonment.
  • In Brave10, Isanami is continuously being pursued and kidnapped. Get her distressed at your own peril, though.
  • In A Bride's Story, Mr. Smith's refusal to marry Talas out of pity meets bewilderment: Saving her is what a man does, right?
  • Both in Burst Angel's anime and manga, this is the official duty of Meg. And invariably Jo goes tilt every time the thing happens.
  • Berserk
    • Casca plays all three tropes: Damsel in Distress, Action Heroine and then sadly Faux Actiongirl. It also doesn't help the majority of villains who capture her also want to get in her pants (even in her childhood Egh). Guts is the man who saves the most often and his first rescue of her is the reason why she fell in love with him since no man had ever shed so much blood for her before. Casca is still given plenty of badass moments and even brings down Adon but after the Eclipse where all her friends are killed and she is raped by the man she once loved and her baby with Guts is corrupted. Casca becomes completely helpless and needs to be protected by Guts constantly, hell the whole Conviction arc was nothing but a Rescue Arc, and even the Beast of Darkness in Guts tries to get him to kill Casca or let her die. But Guts simply cannot forgo his love and will throw himself after her, Casca is not completely gone as her old self still lives in subconscious and will activate when she is sexually attacked. Casca is on the mend now as the elf king (queen) Hanafubuku explores Casca's mind along with Farnese and Schierke.
    • Farnese is a frequent one, justified in her introduction as while she leads the Holy Chain Knights she no training and was never expected to fight. Though it still embarrassing how helpless she is even needing to be saved by Guts (the man who held her hostage) and her half bother Serpico. She later gets some magical witch power ups from Schierke and would seem to be elevated to Action Girl status but still gets into danger anyway and while she's protecting Casca and is actually disappointed when Guts is more focused on protecting Casca than her.
    • Little girls like Jill and Schierke, saved by Guts in Papa Wolf fashion.
    • Most women in general in Berserk have to be rescued from the men & Monsters who usually have less than pure intentions for them. Casca in youth was saved from a rapey nobleman by Griffith (horribly ironic later). Village girl Jill and little witch Schierke were protected by Guts and both of them became Daddy's Girl(s) towards him. Griffith's medium Sonia was saved by in almost the same way as Casca (but with more slavery) and is also in danger from the monster warriors that make up Griffith's army. Though Sonia is unbearably cheerful, worshiping Griffith as the messiah (when he is anything but) so her actually dying would be no big loss.
  • In the anime of Chrono Crusade, Rosette takes on this role towards the end in the series. In the manga, Azmaria tends to play this role the entire time.
  • In Code Geass R2, when Kallen is captured and becomes a hostage for 1/3 of the season, Lelouch is swearing to rescue her. She is then put in a plexi-glass cage and given a frilly, cleavage heavy dress. Kallen is by far the show's number one female warrior, Lelouch's personal bodyguard and one of the deadliest pilots in the CG universe, thus she re-affirms all three facts within moments of being rescued. ** Instead of a Rescue Arc, Kallen's time as a Prisoner Of War is used as Character Development. She not only interacts with Nunnally and sees a different side of Lelouch through her, but also gets to punch Suzaku while wearing said frilly, cleavage heavy dress, which makes Suzaku realize he is Jumping Off the Slippery Slope. She ends up in a mini-Trauma Conga Line version of this as not long after the battle over Tokyo comes to its disastrous conclusion, during which she was finally freed from her imprisonment, she ends up back in distress again, as she tries to defend Lelouch, who she has been used to bait into a betrayal from her fellow Black Knights. Her comrades accuse her of being under Lelouch's geass. When he realizes Schneizel is behind this, it takes Lelouch shooing her off with a fake admission to using them all in order to save her.
  • Aura's kidnapping is the drive behind most of volume 2 and 3 of Corsair, however, being a Plucky Girl she doesn't act overly distressed about it or her impending execution, and when Ayace finally shows up to rescue her, her reaction is: "You're late!"
  • Maeda in Cromartie High School is a text book example despite being male. Very commonly plots are kicked off because he gets kidnapped by a rival high school prompting the students of Cromartie to go rescue him. Though, being a comedy show, it's played for laughs and he rarely gets rescued since the protagonists will usually get lost or caught up in something else.
  • In Daphne in the Brilliant Blue, Maia is kidnapped on numerous occasions, but it's justified on grounds that Rena doesn't give her any combat or weapons training before sending her into dangerous situations. This is because her role for most of the series is basically to be live bait to lure out the bad guys, and Rena simply trusts her team to be able to rescue Maia whenever it's necessary.
  • Deltora Quest
    • Jasmine though she started off as a subversion saving Lief and Barda from the Wennbar and annoyingly bragging about how they'd helpless without her afterwards. Jasmine still gets in plenty of trouble and needs the Lief, Barda or Doom her dad to pull her out of trouble. She gets plenty of kick ass moments and even wins the Rithmere games (though her opponent let her win) is competent for the most part. But this winning streak does not hold up for most of the series as she is quickly overpowered by the stronger monsters and is even used a Human Shield by a Ol against Lief.
      • It's fair to point out in the books she is captured far less.
    • Neridah often act helpless to fool lovesick boys (like Lief) into her trap but then actually gets captured for real later on and angry screams that the heroes aren't so eager to help her. Many fans wish she had died like in the books.
  • Dragon Ball:
    • Bulma despite knowing how to use a gun is needs to have her ass saved frequently. Mostly by Goku, Yamcha, Master Roshi (and later Vegeta and Trunks her husband and son)
    • Launch in her good blue form but her badass blonde form is big subversion easily able to handle herself (though she gets flustered when Tien is around).
    • Chi-Chi in her first appearance as a kid is funny subversion as she is attacked by a T-Rex and falls about crying but her helmet shoots lasers beams out and fries everything around her, but upon opening her eyes and looking around at the devastation only causes her to cry more. Goku later shows up and helps her out and promises to marry her (thinking marriage is some kind of food). Later in the last Dragonball filler before Z, Goku and Chi-Chi work together to save the Ox King from his burning castle and despite being a trained fighter at this point Chi-Chi still screams her fiance Goku to help her out. Chi-Chi doesn't need much saving as a house wife in Dragonball Z though it gets played around with in Dragon Ball Z: Lord Slug as when Gohan is fighting the solider henchman Chi-Chi bursts in and takes two of them out, Gohan is amazed and Chi-Chi brags just long enough before she is knocked out by a third solider.
  • Later in Dragonball Z
    • Videl despite being trained fighter is frequently putting herself in danger as the city protector and needs to get pulled out of it by her boyfriend/future husband Gohan in his Great Saiyanman disguise. A funny subversion in the second Broly movie where Videl tires to fight the mad Saiyan but is immediately beaten aside and Gohan only comes later to save Goten and Trunks. Videl angrily confronts Gohan yelling at him that he didn't show up sooner to save her, Goten and Trunks look on confused saying "that's love I guess..".
    • Android 18 thankfully is badass for the most part, though when Semi-Perfect shows up and seeks to absorb her (egh) she is fairly helpless and has to be unsuccessfully protected by Krillin and a reluctant Trunks (although to be fair, Cell devoured her brother first). Also in the Third Broly movie she is over powered and needs to be rescued by her now husband Krillin (though it's sweet moment). These cases are rare though, as she's stronger than her husband.
  • In Beyblade V Force, Hilary Tachibana lands in many sticky situations and gets in serious trouble, needing to be saved by Tyson Granger (and of course, Kai Hiwatari).
  • In Fullmetal Alchemist,
    • Winry is taken "hostage" by the military after Ed and Al discover the truth about the homunculi. Although Winry has no idea, if Ed and Al do something the government doesn't like, then the powers-that-be will kill her. To save her, they end up north, near Briggs, and enlist the unlikely help of Scar, the man who'd murdered her parents, by pretending to have him kidnap her. Granted, the fake kidnapping part of the plan was Winry's own idea, so she half rescued herself...
    • This dirty little trick was played off on Roy and Riza as well: the same situation was setup with Riza, to make sure Roy didn't act up. However, she's more of a Badass in Distress here because despite being a hostage, she knows it isn't fazed by it in the slightest. She remains courageous to the point where she can confront Selim Bradley about his secret identity as the homunculus Pride, and then use her position as a hostage to prevent him from killing her on the spot.
  • In the later Full Metal Panic! novels, Kaname turns into an extreme Damsel in Distress. She may have more or less given up for a while after the events of Continuing On My Own, but it's only a temporary thing, and it's not that long before she starts to regain some of her old vigor and determination. After that she ends up being more or less mind controlled by Sophia aka the First Whispered Ever, but that's a bit of a different matter.
  • Miaka from Fushigi Yuugi. Despite being the main protaganist of the series, she ends up needing to be rescued from wild animals, bandits, the Big Bad, and just about anything else that a human being might concievably need rescuing from.
  • Future Diary:
  • Lampshaded in GUN×SWORD when Van asks Wendy "Why do you keep getting caught?" (As it happens, she keeps getting in trouble because she's not afraid to mouth off to the villain of the week . . . which usually pisses off said villain.)
  • Kagome from InuYasha has to deal with more then a fair share of kidnappings. This can be somewhat justified on grounds that she starts the series as a normal teenager with no combat training who is thrust in a world where she constantly faces life-threatening situations.
    • Rin probably personifies this trope more then any other character in the series, though this makes sense as a normal small child with no fighting skills who travels with a demon lord who has many powerful enemies.
  • Nao from the Liar Game starts off as this, extremely naive and crying whenever someone who she put her trust in (even if she shouldn't) deceived her and always relying constantly on Akiyama to help her. But she matured and now, she's quite a force to be reckoned with, using her honest character to trick others, even deceiving Magnificent Bastards Yokoya and Akiyama on separate occasions without either of them realizing it until afterwards.
  • Lupin III: Clarisse, Murasaki, Fujiko (sometimes)... The character trope was used back in the Manga, and is expected to occur. There's one in pretty much every Lupin movie or TV special, in fact. See the Animated Films page.
  • Lyrical Nanoha: Let's see... a Mysterious Waif who's below the Competence Zone and happens to be the daughter of the main character? Yup, Vivio was destined for this role the moment she was introduced. With her now actively training on her powers, and another Time Skip putting her into the Competence Zone's minimum age, she likely won't end up as Damsel in Distress again.
  • Subverted in Magic Knight Rayearth, as a part of the Twist Ending of the first season. The girls thought that Princess Emeraude was the Damsel in Distress. She actually had the power to break through Zagato's prison all the time... but didn't do it because she was in love with him since they met. And because she was the real Big Bad. Who summoned the girls to KILL her, and Zagato kidnapped her to save her from them. The problem was solved in the end. Very dramatically.
  • Happens several times in Mahou Sensei Negima! First is Konoka during the Kyoto arc, but that's a Justified Trope since she had not waken up her own powers and she didn't have any similar to self-defense training. Then a demon captures Asuna. Lastly, Asuna and Anya are held captive by Fate. Unfortunately, the rest of the team is unaware of this, as Asuna is replaced by a doppelganger, and Anya is MIA to begin with.
  • Invoked in Mobile Fighter G Gundam. Maria Louise really wants to play the Damsel part so her Knight in Shining Armor George De Sand will come to her rescue, so she gets Domon to help her plan her own kidnapping so he can fight George, who refused to duel with Domon per Honor Before Reason motifs. It backfires spectacularly. Not only does the far more Genre Savvy George deduce their plan right from the start, but he also delivers a "What the Hell, Hero?" speech to Maria as he and Domon fight. Maria and Rain Mikamura barely escape with their lives from the battlefield and, as punishment, Maria is sent back to Neo France until the Neo Hong Kong arc.
  • Relena Peacecraft from Mobile Suit Gundam Wing is falsely accused by her detractors of being one. Since she's an Actual Pacifist she never fought her way out guns blazing, but she wasn't a Damsel Scrappy either, actually trying to talk down her captors in the three instances where she's in enemy hands throughout the anime (by Romefeller late in the TV show, White Fang near the end, and Mariemaia's in Mobile Suit Gundam Wing: Endless Waltz) even showing her Guile Hero chops by turning the first instance into a massive payoff. She once even dissuaded Heero from killing or harming her with words alone.
  • Monster:
    • Realizing that Johan has plans to meet up with (and presumably do horrible, unspeakable things to) his estranged twin sister, Nina, Tenma rushes off to rescue her. The thing is, in the rush, the good doctor seems to have not accounted for two things — 1) Being mostly a Non-Action Guy, he is woefully unprepared for things like a crazed lackey stabbing him in the face with garden shears and 2) Nina is pretty damn awesome in the art of Aikido, which she immediately demonstrates by saving him. Looks like she didn't need your help after all, Tenma. Too bad the same couldn't be said for her parents...
    • Also played straight with Eva when she is rescued from The Baby by Martin
  • Naruto:
    • Sakura is remembered for this, specially during Part I. The one time when rescuing her was an actual plot point was during Sasuke and Naruto's fight with Gaara, who was slowly choking her to death.
    • Naruto's parents fell in love when he rescued her from kidnappers of the Hidden Cloud village.
    • Rin Nohara, Kakashi's former teammate, was a tragic aversion. By the time Kakashi made it to where she was, rescuing her would only have made things worse and, as such, she chose to die instead.
  • One Piece:
    • Nami the resident Gold Digger and navigator of the "Strawhats Pirates" has been kidnapped and rescued more times than anyone on board the crew (even more than Usopp and Chopper) she is abducted usually because of her good looks and her superior navigation skills. Nami is normally rescued by the three strongest males on the crew Luffy, Zoro and Sanji (frequently) and only learned how to defend herself in the Alabasta arc where she given a weapon by Usopp a storm summoning lighting rod called "Clima tact" turning her into a fighter, but she continues to be kidnapped anyway, turning her into a Faux Action Girl at best.
    • Enies Lobby is a Rescue Arc where the Straw Hats are fighting the CP9 to save Robin. However, her status as a damsel in distress is justified by the fact that she willingly let herself get captured. She felt she had to die, so she surrendered to the World Government. Plus, although she was bound with Seastone by the time she regained the will to live, she still tried her best to escape, and the only reason she failed was because Spandam kept using Funkfreed to keep her in line. She started fighting back the moment she was freed from the Seastone.
    • The second time was when Bartholomew Kuma blasted her to Tequila Wolf, where she was forced to work as a slave. But in this case, she was saved by Revolutionaries more or less instantly and was not bound with Seastone anyway, making her status as "distressed" questionable at best.
    • Captain Tashigi of the Marines is unfortunately this for most of her appearances. Though in her introduction she was a subversion as Zoro witnessed her getting attacked by a couple of mooks and was gonna jump to her rescue but then was amazed when she cut both of them down in seconds. Tashigi also resembles Zoro's dead childhood friend Kuina and has to be saved by him despite their warring factions. Even in a Freaky Friday situation when Tashigi is swapped in the body of her superior Smoker (who can turn into smoke) Tashigi is immediately overpowered by Luffy who expresses surprised at the fact Smoker has seemly grown weaker. Though after Sanji saves her from Vergo and Zoro rescues her again from Monet the snow harpy, Tashigi manages to bring Monet down in Designated Girl Fight fashion making her less of a damsel (though Zoro had to help her).
    • Most Princesses in One Piece are kidnapped or are frequently in danger. Vivi acknowledges that she isn't strong but still tries her best to save her county, Rebecca due to a promise she made to her mother and her father Kyros making sure she doesn't bloody her hands ever teaches her Deadly Dodging but this doesn't hold up when Domflamingo comes in to ruin Rebecca's day. And Mermaid Shirahosh gets captured throughout the Fishman island arc but in end gets a ability to control sea kings and is apparently one of the ancient weapons so she's not quite helpless but still acts like it for the majority of the time. Even Reiju, Sanji's older sister seemed like the only princess who was gonna avert this trope gets shot by Pudding half way though the arc and then held at gunpoint during the climax, Reiju does get a kick-moment before getting overpowered by Big Mom and needed to be saved by Luffy and Sanji.
  • Panzer World Galient:
    • Queen Felia -The Hero's mother- gets captured and imprisoned by the Big Bad in first episode. Jordy spends a long while believing his mother was dead, but as soon as he finds out that she's alive, rescuing her becomes one of his priorities.
    • Hilmuka kidnaps Chururu in the third episode. Although in this instance Hilmuka only wanted to draw Jordy's attention, and she let Chururu go when he found them.
  • Pokémon:
    • Pikachu often gets himself caught in Team Rocket's traps. However, he often gets himself out, so this is an aversion.
    • Nearly every character, male or female, had a turn as this (Misty being a common one). Amusingly, the Team Rocket trio themselves might actually be one of the most recurring examples.
    • A Gardevoir actually serves as the damsel in the episode where Hunter J makes her first appearance.
  • In Pokémon Adventures Platinum initially seems to be the living embodiment of the trope, as she rarely goes ANYWHERE without getting herself into trouble. It was so obvious that Diamond was able to point out and lampshade this only after 4 chapters into the story; most anime and manga characters don't realise this sort of thing ever.
  • Generally played straight in Ranma ½ with Akane. Two plotlines in the 38-volume manga (and two of the movies) involve her Bound and Gagged and in need of rescue. A good number of the other girls fall prey to this throughout the series, and the entire female cast winds up like this in the second tie in movie. Ranma himself holds the Distress Ball (both in male and female forms) more than once and needs someone from his harem to rescue him.
  • Deconstructed in Revolutionary Girl Utena. Many shows have DID girls who go through Hell and back, but remain sweet and nice and without many psychological marks because many writers won't know what to do. Utena points out that in RL, people of both genders stuck in these roles will stop being "pure" and "sweet" and start acting more passive-aggressive and manipulative, if they're forced into situations where they can't seize direct power. This is very obvious in the cases of Shiori Takatsuki (looks sweet and gentle and demure, but is very malicious and has horrible self-esteem since her "best friend" Juri is a beautiful and strong Lady of War), Kozue Kaoru (repeatedly gets herself in trouble and flirts/sleeps with other guys to catch the attention of her twin older brother and "prince", Miki), and specially Anthy Himemiya (once performed a huge sacrifice, paid the price by both suffering immense physical pain and becoming a passive figure as the Rose Bride, ultimately became a mix of Broken Bird and puppet to her Manipulative Bastard brother Akio a.k.a. Dios aka End of the World) and Utena Tenjou (she's not one since the beginning, but her insecurities and naiveté more than once play quite a part into shoving her close to the "role") This is not to say that Being Tortured Makes You Evil, or that it's stupid to be remain nice after a tragedy. It's just pointing out a general trend: if weakness is imposed on people, it will bring consequences.
  • Done twice in Rosario + Vampire, once to Mizore through an Arranged Marriage, once to Moka for being a Living MacGuffin. In Moka's case, it's actually both this and Badass in Distress, depending on which of her personalities we're talking about.
  • Naru Osaka of Sailor Moon needs to be saved from a Monster of the Week attack fairly regularly, to the point where it gets frequently lampshaded in Fan Fiction.
  • Saori Kido in Saint Seiya. Often her role in the story is be kidnapped or offers herself as a hostage to save her friends. Despite that she is the goddess Athena!
  • Cho Kanan, Lirin, and Yaone all hold their own separate moments in Saiyuki. Both Yaone and Lirin being saved successfully by Kougaiji. And Kanan becoming the traditional Disposable Woman.
  • Samurai Champloo: Given the number of times that Fuu ends up getting kidnapped, she made a good investment in saving the two male leads to be her bodyguards. Considering how most of the kidnappings were all just random encounters, you wonder why she wasn't more concerned with separating from them. This was lampshaded in an old "Anime Insider" magazine, which featured a match-up pitting Fuu against Excel and Hyatt in an eating contest. On her stats, Fuu's pet peeve is listed as "getting kidnapped."
  • Iwai from The Severing Crime Edge is doomed to this. She's small, weak, has little experience in the real world, and she's surrounded by serial killers with unbreakable super-weapons who can have any wish granted if they kill her. One could even argue that the organization that'd kept her for much of her life deliberately arranged her lifestyle to make her into a DID, since they love nothing more than gruesome crimes and moving stories like a hero rescuing a princess. That said, she does have some steel in her even if she can do little to fight back. One enemy who's obsessed with authority and power has Iwai nearly raped by several men, gets her beloved to attack her, then tries some mild torture when she finally reaches them. Despite everything, Iwai just stares at her enemy with defiant hate in her eyes, refusing to break under the torment.
  • Akiko in Shōnen Onmyōji gets her moment when a group of demons kidnap her in order to use her blood to heal their master, as well as lead Masahiro into a trap. Of course in the end either Masahiro or Akiko would have been enough to heal their master, but Masahiro has some pretty steller spiritual powers in terms of combat so is more of a threat.
    • She was pretty much asking for it really. She followed Masahiro out at night, despite the fact that Masahiro had specifically directed her to stay in her room so she could be protected by the spiritual barrier his grandfather had erected.
  • Shirayuki of Snow White with the Red Hair occasionally falls into this category, though as a Plucky Girl she doesn't take it lying down and tends to try to do something about it herself. Played completely straight during the Tanburn arc, where she is not only kidnapped, but then kidnapped from her kidnappers.
  • Subverted in Sonic the Hedgehog: The Movie, where it becomes clear over time that Sara is just pretending to be Robotnik's hostage.
  • Subverted regularly in Sonic X, most notably with the episode Young Girls Jungle Trap where the female characters are captured multiple times — and get out of it entirely by themselves multiple times, too.
  • Played with in Spice and Wolf. Holo isn't a Damsel in Distress - in fact her counterpart Lawrence usually takes the part of the Distressed Dude - but she's Genre Savvy enough to be well aware of the trope. She jokes around with Lawrence about him liking meek women he could comfort, and enthusiastically play-acts the part for him in jest. She even fools Amati into being her Knight in Shining Armor, largely for kicks. When she's genuinely crushed by the revelation that Yoitsu has been destroyed, she bitterly accuses Lawrence of hiding it from her because he liked seeing her helpless and ignorant.
  • In the second arc of Sword Art Online, Asuna is still trapped in cyberspace in a different game under control of a domineering Game Master. While said Game Master has had months to wear her down and use his admin privileges to stop any plot she devises, the contrast between her hardcore persona in the first arc and the helpless damsel in the second was taken poorly by some fans.
  • Nia generally fits this role in the third and final arc of Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann. The third was justified because she was Brainwashed and Crazy. Once she snaps out of this with the help of Simon however, she fits this trope to a T.
  • Parodied in The Devil King Is Bored when the titular Devil King kidnaps a kingdom's princess because he's, well, bored, and thinks that fighting some heroes would be fun. He even places a portal to hell in the middle of a populated town. With a sign above it that says "Portal to Hell."
    • Yoko more than once.
  • Rachel from Tower of God, at least twice. Pretty bad track record for a girl who wanted to climb the Tower by herself. Then again, she's learnt a few things or two.
  • Akiko Aoshika from Wolf Guy - Wolfen Crest. Haguro tries to invoke this trope with Ryuuko, but she points out that Inugami isn't interested in her.
  • In Yu-Gi-Oh!, Anzu falls into this role more than once and is kidnapped, brainwashed, possessed, or has her life endangered by nearly all of the villains in the series. This even carries over to spin-offs, such as Yu-Gi-Oh! R, where she's kidnapped by Yako to be the vessel for Pegasus's resurrection, and Yu-Gi-Oh! Forbidden Memories, where Seto kidnaps her pre-incarnation, Teana. However, in a bit of an out-of-character moment, she invokes the trope once to lure out Dark Yugi in one of the manga's early chapters, putting herself in danger with the Playing Card Bomber.
  • Yu-Gi-Oh!: Capsule Monsters has a maiden from a village who is chosen as a sacrifice to the Blue-Eyes White Dragon.
  • Invoked by the Help Us Company in My Hero Academia who are professional Damsels in Distress. This is not as ridiculous as it sounds, as they act as judges for aspiring heroes trying to get their license, specifically by assessing their capability on crisis control and lifesaving techniques. They're also very good at their job, and the complains they make is never without reason.
  • YuYu Hakusho Yukina is introduced as a such. She's imprisoned and tortured because her tears, which turn to stone, are valuable. The main characters do rescue her and she becomes a recurring character in the show and even is in one of the movies.

  • Child Ballad King Estmere. The king goes wooing on the recommendation of his brother, and arrives to find the lady is being forced to marry. He rescues her.
  • Child Ballad The Maid Freed from the Gallows has the heroine about to be hanged if she is not ransomed. Various relatives arrive and declare they are there to see her hanged. Finally, her true love arrives and ransoms her. (Most American versions of this ballad feature a Gender Flip version, of a man about to be hanged, but this is the older variant.)

    Comic Books 
  • Comic book heroes seem to spend about half their time rescuing some girl they've been dating on-and-off for about seventy years from something each issue, from Olive Oyl to Lois Lane. (Unsurprisingly, people who Love someones alter ego often suffer from this trope.)
  • Lois Lane is probably the most famous damsel in distress, and in almost all versions (comics, cartoon, films) needs to be saved frequently by Superman.
  • Supergirl. It very rarely happens to Kara, though, and when it does, it is because she has been overpowered by someone like Darkseid or she is playing along, and she hardly ever needs to be saved.
  • Batman sometimes has a Distressed Damsel love interest. Julie Madison and Vicki Vale in The Golden Age of Comic Books; Silver St. Cloud in the Seventies, and Jezebel Jet in the modern age. No, wait, scratch that last one...
  • Spider-Man:
    • In the early days Betty Brant and Gwen Stacy would serve this role. Then it was notoriously subverted in the 1973 Amazing Spider-Man story The Night Gwen Stacy Died, in which archvillain the Green Goblin kidnaps Spidey's girlfriend, Spidey goes to rescue her... and she dies, turning from Gwen Stacy into * The* Gwen Stacy.
    • Also subverted, in a different way, by Mary Jane Watson after her marriage to Peter. Whenever she's confronted by obsessive stalkers, she (almost) always manages to escape on her own, without any help from her super-powered husband. Even more subverted by the fact that, more often than not, Mary Jane is the one who bails out Spider-Man whenever one of his opponents has the upper hand in a fight.
      • Even before their marriage, when Mary Jane was witness to a Spidey fight going poorly, she'd often brazenly distract or sabotage the bad guy, relying on her charm and wit to save her from the dangerous consequences.
    • Even Aunt flippin' May has taken out bad guys. When (fairly) recently the Chameleon had assembled a group of Spider-Bad guys to go after Peter Parker (This is just before Civil War, natch) the Chameleon himself disguised himself as Peter to go and kidnap Aunt May. Aunt May opens the door, and lets her nephew in, and gives him some tea and biscuits while she has to finish her knitting before revealing that she drugged the fucking tea cause she'd recognize her beloved nephew anywhere and Chameleon obviously was an impostor, holding up "GOTCHA" written across the sweater she just made in a knitted moment of awesome.
  • In Superman vs. the Amazing Spider-Man, Lex Luthor and Doctor Octopus kidnap Lois Lane and Mary Jane Watson and admit openly that they are bait to lure the heroes into their trap. Both women are understandably pissed off about it.
  • Wonder Woman in her defense It rarely happens and is usually because of some stronger magic de-powering her or cosmic asshole pulling some tricks. In the early days Diana is often seen bound and gagged in her comics (thanks to her creator being a bondage fetish) but this subverted as she's the one who breaks herself free which, which was incidentally at the time an allegory for the slavery of Africans.
    • One time in Superman: Red Son Russian Batman was able to capture Diana by using her lasso against her but after Russian Superman pleaded with her to save him, Wonder Woman broke her lasso and knocked down Batman easily. But this was a bad thing as breaking her lasso cut her powers in half and permanently damaged her... Whoops.
  • Role-reversal: Yorick in Y: The Last Man is the spoilt "damsel" who has to be saved by the tougher and more experienced women around him, 355 in particular.
    • However, Yorick sometimes has his moments, even in the beginning when he's useless most of the time. In one Crowning Moment of Awesome, Yorick is the prisoner of an Israeli commander who is about to shoot down a space shuttle with two live men on board. He attacks her from behind and ruins her shot. And then he knocks her out. Despite him being locked in handcuffs which not even an escape artist like himself can get out of.
  • Fables Snow White, Rose Red, Cinderella, Beauty, Brair Rose (sleeping beauty) and Red (Red Riding Hood) all get their fair share of "damseling" (mostly when they were in in the Homeland fighting the armies of the Adversary) but usually can look after themselves the rest of the time.
    • Brair Rose's curse of falling asleep every time she pricks her finger would seem like a major disadvantage until it's revealed she can make everybody around her sleep as well.
  • Heather Hudson attempted to invert this trope in Alpha Flight, even referencing it. When she finds out her two-hour wait for her husband (Guardian) is a set-up, she tries to storm out: "Other wives and girlfriends may be content to play bait for the good guys, but I'm not going to stand around waiting for you to use me to lure Mac into your lair." But by then, Mac's been captured; they want revenge against Heather, too. (The woman with her throws her across the room.)
  • The New Teen Titans: Raven, dear God in Heaven! Her being a pacifist, it kind of makes sense that she'd have trouble fighting with kidnappers.
  • The main character of Empowered almost always ends up captured by villains, as a parody of Faux Action Girls. Naturally this leads to her being the laughingstock of the superhero community. Nonetheless, despite all the ridicule she receives and her general lack of success as a superheroine, she proves to be a Determinator who refuses to quit.
  • Stephanie Brown, star of the current Batgirl series, is growing a relationship with Detective Nicholas Gage. She comes to his rescue relatively often, as befits a superhero, and points out that he is a damsel in distress in their relationship.
  • Most of the women in Sin City due to its Noir roots.
  • Subverted with Jadina from Les Légendaires; her typical Spoiled Sweet attitude, natural clumsyness and the fact she's a princess seems to make her designed for this role, and Danael even mentionned she has been this at least once; however, she never falls into that role, and actually is the one saving her friends most of the time, sometimes even doing so when weakened. This reaches its paroxysm in Book 14, where after she got temporary depowered and had her friends saving her, but still saves her friends from the new Big Bad Abyss, who none of her friend could even scratch. And all of this while still depowered. Wow.
  • April O'Neil from Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. In almost all of the TMNT continuities, she is a good friend of the Turtles, and is a love interest to Donatello in the 2012 cartoon. While it varies by incarnation, as the turtles' most prominent human friend she is often in need of rescue, particularly in the 1987 cartoon.
  • In Violine, Violine is regularly in need of saving, and occasionally tied up as well.
  • A minor character example in Copperhead when Martineau is kidnapped by Clay to aid his escape from prison.

    Fairy Tales 

    Fan Fiction 

    Film — Animated 
  • Lampshaded and averted in Shrek, especially in a scene where Robin Hood and his Merry Men try to "rescue" Fiona from the ogre they believe has kidnapped her, only to have her rebuff him and beat up all his men in a combination of styles from Xena: Warrior Princess and The Matrix.
    • And in Shrek Forever After, where in an alternate universe where Shrek was never born and never came for her, Fiona eventually decided to rescue herself.
    • Played straight at first but later subverted with Fiona in Shrek 4-D, who at first is helpless after Thelonius kidnaps her, but eventually gains the upper hand and beats him.
  • In Toy Story, Andy purposely has Bo Peep play this role, so Woody could save her. Not that she minds...
  • Shows up often in Disney Animated Canon:
    • Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs: Snow White falls into an enchanted sleep after taking a bite from an apple given by the disguised Queen and is awoken with True Love's Kiss.
    • Cinderella: Cinderella is locked in her room by Lady Tremaine in the third act and the mice bring up the key needed to unlock the door.
    • Sleeping Beauty: Aurora falls into an enchanted sleep after pricking her finger on the spinning wheel while hypnotized by Maleficent, and Phillip's final battle (with assistance from the Three Good Fairies) against Maleficent is to save her.
    • The Little Mermaid: Ariel is trapped by Ursula at the bottom of a vortex in the climax before Eric plows into Ursula with a ship.
      • Ariel's own daughter Melody becomes this in The Little Mermaid II: Return to the Sea when she's transformed back into a human and Morgana locks her up in unmeltable ice. Melody's friends Tip & Dash have to save her.
    • Beauty and the Beast: Belle is rescued by the Beast from a pack of wolves after leaving his castle, which is what convinces her to return to said castle in order to patch up his injuries.
    • Aladdin: Jasmine is trapped in an hourglass slowly filling with sand during the final battle and nearly drowns in it until Aladdin breaks her out.
    • Parodied in Disney's Hercules.
      Hercules: Aren't you a damsel in distress?
      Megara: I'm a damsel... I'm in distress... I can handle this. Have a nice day.
    • Tarzan: Jane is attacked by baboons and rescued from them by Tarzan, due to being an unprepared Fish out of Water in a wild environment.
    • Kida from 2001's Atlantis: The Lost Empire, who spends the last third of the film crystallized by the villain and her boyfriend and his teammates actually have to rescue her and change her back.
  • Subverted in Titan A.E., when Akima is jettisoned into space, captured, and held to be sold into slavery. The rest of the crew undergoes a makeshift rescue operation, only to find out that she successfully knocked out all of her captors and is patiently waiting to be picked up.
  • Played with in Happily Never After, in which The Prince (whose name is revealed to be Humperdink) is searching for one of these (or a lady in waiting or whatever else is a typical princess) and sounds excited that Ella could be one of those things. When he asks if she's a damsel in distress, her response is "I will be. Kind of. At midnight". To say the least, Ella does more ass-kicking than servant boy Rick or Humperdink.
  • Straight example in Hoodwinked, where Red Puckett is Bound and Gagged and loaded into a tramway cabin filled with dynamite, and it's up to Granny to rescue her.
  • Michelle, the little badger from Once Upon a Forest, inhales a poisonous gas and falls ill. Thus, it's up to her friends Edgar, Russel, and Abigail to find the herbs to heal her. Her damsel status stands in a bit of contrast to Abigail, who fights an owl while trying to save her.
  • Odette from The Swan Princess is under an enchantment by Rothbart that causes her to turn into a swan when moonlight leaves the lake by his castle in the morning and she needs Derek to break the enchantment, but she also turns down Rothbart's marriage proposals without a hint of remorse or fear even though she knows he's a powerful sorcerer and he killed her father. Also, she doesn't exactly wait for Derek to show up and does everything she can to try and let him know where she is and what he has to do.
  • Studio Ghibli, happens quite a lot. Though it was subverted in the first Ghibli production Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind as the titular Heroine can completely look after herself to the point where the male Love Interest is the one who gets the Rescue Romance. However the following females leads aren't as lucky.
    • Sheeta in Castle in the Sky needs her secretly royal butt saved frequently by everyone from Pazu to Sky Pirates and killer robots. She only subverts this twice, once while escaping on a train where she saves Pazu from Dola's boys with a shovel inciting the line "That's one strong girl" and when she makes a deal with the Big Bad so that Pazu is freed while she remains the Damsel. Should be noted her rescues do make some of the most exciting points in the movie.
    • My Neighbor Totoro: Mei at the end of the movie when she runs off alone, it gets so dire the neighboring farmers believe she drowned in the river. Satsuki, Mei's older sister, retrieves her with the help of Totoro.
    • Porco Rosso, Porco has to win the dog-fight against his old rival Curtis otherwise the main female character Gina will have to marry Curtis.
    • In Princess Mononoke, San is introduced as an infamous figure and powerful threat to Iron Town and it's leader Eboshi who she will stop at nothing to assassinate, but then she's knocked out by Ashitaka the hero and rescued from the town. Subverted later when San saves Ashitaka from bleeding to death despite initially being ready to kill him, only stopping when Ashitaka reveals he had saved het since she's "so beatiful". But sadly then it's played straight again as San is swallowed up by the demon boar and Ashitaka has to pull her out, for the titular character San is ironically the one who is most frequently in need of rescue.
    • In Spirited Away Chihiro at the start of the movie needs to be saved and protected by Haku it turns out Haku saved her even earlier than that as a river spirit during a flood when she was a toddler. The rest of the movie inverts this since she learns to be independant and save her parents. Hell Hayao Miyazaki got the idea for the movie when he witnessed his grand daughter being a "lazy bum".
    • For Howl's Moving Castle, at the start of the film Sophie is saved from being harassed by soldiers by Howl despite him also being pursued himself by the Witch of the Waste causing Sophie to promptly fall in love with him. This trope is played with through most of the movie, with Howl continuing to protect Sophie as necessary and Sophie looking after Howl throughout and ultimately giving him his heart back saving him from dying.
  • Lupin III:
    • In The Castle of Cagliostro, Clarisse is pursued by the Count and one of Lupin's priorities in this story is protecting/rescuing her.
    • The Fuma Conspiracy: Murasaki, who twice found herself the target of kidnapping and/or traps. The first was when she was captured by a Fuma Ninja during her wedding, and demanded the MacGuffin in exchange for her life. The demand motivated Goemon and company to steal the vase and deliver it to the Fuma.
    • Lupin III: The Columbus Files shows an example of Fujiko being a Damsel in Distress and a Action Heroine, but without being a Badass in Distress. During the opening, she loses her memory, and her entire personality changes. She's terrified of nearly everything, and everyone is a stranger to her. When she contributed to part of her rescue via pure Muscle Memory, that also terrifies her.
  • Strange Magic: Dawn, being a Princess Classic is kidnapped by The Bog King as a hostage to exchange for a stolen love potion.
  • In Megamind, Roxanne Ritchi routinely gets kidnapped by the titular supervillain, to the point where basically no deathtrap can scare her anymore.
  • One of the major complainants fans had about Final Fantasy VII: Advent Children is that Tifa doesn't get any massive kick ass moments like in the games, she does get one cool moment when she fights Loz but then is overpowered by his Super Speed and has to be helped by Cloud again. She is however the last ally to help Cloud in the climax.
  • In Kingsglaive: Final Fantasy XV, Luna is kidnapped by Glauca, though to her credit she doesn't stand by and let her rescuer do all the work.
  • Parodied in Quest for Camelot when Kayley tells her mother Julianna she wants to be a knight and rescue damsels in distress... then immediately asks what is a "damsel, anyway?" Ironic because both Julianna and Kayley play the roles of the DID in the movie, Julianna throughout the plot after being captured by Ruber and Kayley initially when she escapes into the Forbidden Forest and having to be rescued/babysat by Garrett before she takes a level in badass to recover Excalibur and save Camelot.

    Film — Live-Action 
  • King Kong:
    • The original 1933 film treated Fay Wray's Ann Darrow as nothing more than a prize for an evil gorilla.
    • The 1976 film starts this way, but Jessica Lange's Ann Darrow gets to know King Kong, sees that he's lonely and forms a bond with the big guy.
    • Naomi Watts' Darrow from the 2005 film takes the latter step further, and is more assertive in trying to stop a money hungry publicist from making Kong a circus attraction.
  • The Ur-Example of this in film would probably be the protagonist of the 1914 silent melodrama serial The Perils of Pauline. A "talkie" version of the series was made in the '30s; the title was later used for a 1947 biopic of original Pauline actress Pearl White, and a 1967 film that was a camp spoof of the genre.
  • A large number of Bond Girls fit this trope.
    • For example, Honey Rider in Dr. No. Dr. No decides to execute her by cuffing her to the inclined side of a pool with water pouring in from a large pipe. Bond finds her and releases her. Originally she was supposed to be attacked by large crabs while chained.
    • Thunderball. Bond's fellow agent Paula is kidnapped by a couple of Largo's thugs and taken to be tortured for information. Bond goes to Largo's estate to rescue her but arrives too late. Paula has taken a Cyanide Pill and killed herself so she can't be made to betray Bond and the operation.
    • Spectre: In the climax, Oberhauser kidnaps Madeline and traps her in a locked room in the old MI-6 building, which is set to be demolished and has already been rigged to blow. Bond has to race through the building to save her life.
  • A rare role-reversal is in the movie version of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, where Luke Perry is the Distressed Dude. (He had clearly Taken A Level In Badass by the end of the movie, though, electrocuting a vampire at the High-School Dance.)
  • Live Free or Die Hard attempts to make this one more feminist-friendly by having Lucy McClane reject this role at every turn. She is still helpless to physically resist, being an unarmed college student, but when the villain puts her on the phone with her dad, she simply tells him how many bad guys are left. John kills the villain Gabriel by shooting his own shoulder to hit Gabriel's heart, which frees Lucy and now that she is traumatized by John shooting his own shoulder on purpose just to save her, she becomes caring to her dad just like in the original Die Hard and her rebellious personality towards John now faded to dust.
  • Pirates of the Caribbean
    • Ditto for Elizabeth Swann in the first film, except the feminist-friendly parts were added by the actress herself. Said actress gets a much more fitting role in the sequels.
      • If Elizabeth is this in the first movie, then Will must be as well, because he ends up having to be rescued from the exact same situation. She manages to instigate his rescue despite being marooned on a deserted island, and then actively fights alongside him in the final battle.
    • Played straight and then subverted as said damsel takes a level in badass over the course of the movies. It gets lampshaded by Jack when he refers to her as "a certain damsel in distress... Or should I say distressing damsel." after her Shoot the Dog moment of leaving Jack to die. By the climax of the third film, the same young woman who had previously been kidnapped and held prisoner by Captain Barbossa's crew has become The Pirate King, thanks in no small part to Jack's gaming the system of pirate politics.
    • Syrena the mermaid from On Stranger Tides is saved more times than cartoon Little Mermaid.
  • In the Spider-Man Trilogy, Mary Jane gets kidnapped by the villain in the climax of all three movies. She's also in distress twice before the climax of the first.
  • Done remarkably effectively in Superman: The Movie (1978) - the famous helicopter rescue, but all of the climaxes in the movie involve this trope. Also used in the sequels.
  • Played fairly straight in 'Sync' episode 6, where computer prodigy Yoshi appears to have no sense of fighting or quick reasoning skill whatsoever. Ruthlessly exploited by our 'Genre Savvy' main character when he gets her to panic in his favor by suddenly yelling, "Oh god, look at all the bad guys coming to get you, get on the motocrcycle, quick, they're right behind us!'
  • IT 1990 Bill's wife Audra is captured by the titular monster and is put in a comatose state, even after the surviving Losers's Club save her she remains motionless and shocked due to seeing It's true form. Bill returns his wife to normal by using the the power of his bike Sliver.
    • IT 2017 Beverly just after knocking her awful father is captured by Pennywise and is taken to the sewer ensuring the rest of the boys to chase to come to her rescue. Some fans were pissed Beverly is seemly relegated to damsel in distress, when in the books and the original TV Miniseries she never is put in that position. But this opinion false as it's revealed to be a subversion in the 2017 version, as Pennywise only takes Beverly as bait to lure Bill and the others. Plus he can't even eat her since she's not afraid of him really Bev is far more physically competent than her book and 1990 counterpart since she is the first one to actually damage Pennywise.
  • Aversion: In The Proposition, this role is occupied by the retarded younger brother. Obviously, there is no Rescue Romance. At the end, however, Charlie still has to rescue the police captain's wife from being raped and killed, although the captain himself - despite being Ray Winstone - is also being threatened, though not with rape.
  • Subverted in Ever After: when Danielle is sold into slavery, Prince Henry shows up to rescue her. But, being the capable heroine she is, she has already threatened the bad guy and freed herself.
  • The Indiana Jones series
    • Marion Ravenwood in Raiders of the Lost Ark. She's captured by Todt and threatened with torture in her own bar and has to be rescued by Indy. Later in Cairo she's captured by the Germans' Arab allies and carried away in a basket. Then she's captured yet again by Nazi troops while she's aboard the ship. Somewhat averted because she isn't completely helpless, including knocking out one of her Arab pursuers with a frying pan and pulling a knife on Belloq in an attempt to escape.
    • Willie Scott in Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom.
    • Subverted at the end of Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade. Elsa became a distressed damsel when she found herself dangling over a crevasse after she tried taking the Holy Grail from its resting place. However, rather than letting Indiana pull her up to safety, she uses his hold to try and reach for the chalice, which had conveniently fallen just below her. In the final moment, she almost reaches the grail until her hand slips away from Indy's, causing her to suffer a Death by Materialism.
  • The female lead in Legend (1985), it doesn't help that she's innocent to the point of stupidity either.
    • Hey, she did manage to trick Darkness into believing her Face–Heel Turn long enough for her to free the unicorn. She got knocked out immediately afterwards.
  • Giselle starts out like this in Enchanted but reverses roles with Robert in the end.
  • Princess Leia from Star Wars manages to be this and simultaneously an Action Heroine. However she is something of a subversion because her plea for help was not a plea for a rescue but rather a plea to get the plans to the Death Star to Bail Organa on Alderaan. She wasn't expecting a rescue at all (and the guys didn't plan to do it either).
    • And she wasn't exactly what one would call grateful when she did get the rescue, either.
      Princess Leia: I don't know who you are or where you've come from, but from now on you'll do as I say, okay?
    • Carrie Fisher herself said: "I was not a damsel in distress. I was a distressed damsel."
    • Rather funnily, Han Solo, of all people, plays this role in Return of the Jedi. He is rescued from a dragon... by a princess. And he is helpless and weak when she rescues him, seeing as he's blind at the time. This doesn't prevent him from (accidentally) knocking Boba Fett into the Sarlacc Pit - and then rescuing best friend Lando Calrissian after Lando had come to rescue him!
      • If Jabba has her as his slave girl, in the end she's the one who kills him.
  • Trillian in the film version of The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy.
  • In Hudson Hawk, a kidnapped Andie MacDowell pretends to suffer side effects from curare poisoning so she can annoy the typewriter symbols out of her captors and lampshade the trope: "I'm not a very good damsel in a dress, am I?"
  • Averted in Iron Man. Pepper Potts has to be rescued, but is enough of a threat that the villain feels compelled to shoot her instead of taking her hostage. She's also generally competent and helpful throughout the film.
    • Indeed, the one scene that seems obviously headed for her being captured and turned into a distressed damsel has her instead easily evading the villain's clutches, and then immediately alerting the authorities to his evil plans.
    • Done again in the sequel, when Happy Hogan insists on accompanying S.H.I.E.L.D Agent Romanov on her mission and fights a bad guy when they enter the building. By the time he has won the fight, he sees that she's taken down every other bad guy there is.
      • And shown again with Miss Romanov in the beginning of The Avengers. She's held captive by a group of Russian mobsters who are ready to kill her until Agent Coulson calls her, ready to bring her back in. She easily frees herself and drops everyone she was dealing with in no time flat. With Coulson listening in on the whole thing, showing all the concern warranted by being put on hold.
    • Iron Man 3 has Pepper taken prisoner again, but ultimately saves Tony using part of one of his armors while under the influence of Extremis. Worth noting, the same film also had Rhodie and the President of the United States needing rescue at various points.
  • X-Men Film Series
    • In X-Men, Rogue is kidnapped by Magneto for his machine.
    • In X-Men Origins: Wolverine, Emma Silverfox is captured by William Stryker and he used her to blackmail her sister, Kayla.
  • Cheryl in I'm Gonna Git You Sucka when she's kidnapped by Mr. Big's Mooks.
  • Double subverted in True Grit western: the main character is a 14-year old girl trying to prove her companions she doesn't need babysitting, and succeeding. However, eventually she does, in a perfectly classical way: first getting kidnapped by outlaws, than falling into a snake pit.
  • Subverted in The Avengers (1998). Emma Peel is captured by Sir August and brainwashed into a hallucinatory state. You'd expect Steed to break in and rescue her, but instead she escapes from Sir August, fights off her delusions and breaks out to freedom by herself.
  • In Perfume, the Villain Protagonist sets his murderous sights on Laura Richis, a beautiful, virginal young lady. Her father becomes wary of the danger and does everything in his power to protect his daughter.
  • Tank Girl. Sam (a 10-year-old girl) is captured several times, with Tank Girl spending the movie tracking her down in order to save her. Subverted at one point when Sam cleverly uses a deadly toy to puncture a child molester's hand.
    Sam: That's what you get for being a perv!
  • Tina (Cameron Diaz) in The Mask. Although she is able to get Dorian to take off the mask and then kick it to Stanley, which leads to the battle being won.
  • Cliffhanger. Jessie Deighan turns into one. She's a helicopter pilot. She does mountain rescues. Then she gets scared by bats in a cave, and cringes in a corner while the he-men fight.
  • Subverted hilariously in a scene of The Boondock Saints II: All Saints Day with Agent Eunice Bloom. She's snatched into an impenetrable panic room by a baddie (right in front of the cops, no less), and pandemonium breaks out. One of the cops even worries that she might be "touched and stuff", and it's played as high drama for a bit. He needn't have worried; in the next shot, Special Agent Bloom has the baddie pinned down and sputtering for relief.
  • Wild Wild West. Rita Escobar, whose husband was kidnapped by Dr. Loveless and who ends up getting imprisoned and kidnapped by Loveless herself.
  • Played straight in The Princess Bride. Princess Buttercup gets kidnapped by Vizzini, nearly eaten by the shrieking eels, is the oblivious target of a murder plot, gets set on fire, falls into a sand trap, and nearly gets maimed by a rodent of unusual size. At one point she even contemplates taking her own life.
  • Subverted with Kelly in Mystery Team. Yes, she DOES get kidnapped... but it's not like the Mystery Team were much help in saving her.
  • Reconstructed in the Scooby-Doo movie. They point out that while, yes, Daphne did get kidnapped a lot, she never let that discourage her from joining the gang in their latest mystery. She's also Genre Savvy enough to have studied martial arts so that she is eventually able to look after herself.
    Daphne: (after defeating a henchman who tried to kidnap her) Now who's the damsel in distress?
    Henchman: Me?
    Daphne: Straight up!
  • In The Dark Knight Rises, Selina Kyle (Anne Hathaway) plays this straight when she is cornered by Bane's henchmen on the rooftop while confronting John Daggett. She also fakes it in the bar shootout, where she guns down two of Bane's henchmen, then begins screaming hysterically when the SWAT team bursts in, only to sober up as soon as they have chased Bane's men out.
  • Played straight in Django Unchained with Broomhilda.
    • Kerry Washington said she took the part because African-American actresses aren't usually offered the "damsel in distress" role.
  • Played straight in Desert Heat with a pair of blondes. Complete with threesome Rescue Sex.
  • Pretty much the whole point of A Lonely Place to Die, which has a group of mountaineers getting killed off one by one trying to take a young Serbian child they found buried underground in the Scottish highlands to safety.
  • Isabelle getting captured by the giants is what sets the plot of Jack the Giant Slayer in motion.
  • In Showdown in Little Tokyo, after Yoshida recaptures Minako he takes her with him as a hostage. He eventually ties her up covered in gasoline and tries to burn her alive in front of Kenner.
  • Elle Brody’s role in Godzilla (2014) is basically to be in danger from the Kaiju and motivate Ford to risk his life to save her.
  • Fiona during the climax of The Giver, in which she's sentenced to Release for her role in helping Jonas escape.
  • In Annie (2014), Annie is kidnapped by her fake parents and sent on a car chase with them during the climax.
  • The Hateful 8 has Daisy Domergue. John Ruth captures her for the Dead or Alive bounty on her head, and believes that a Knight in Shining Armor of sorts is going to try to rescue her. Turns out four such knights mostly wiped out most of Minnie's Haberdashery of innocents to do just that.
  • Marian in Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves is a downplayed example - she directly helps Robin under the nose of the Sheriff and only went through with his scheme because Nottingham was holding the rebels hostage and would've killed them if she turned down his marriage proposal. During her wedding/rape scene she is defiant throughout by outright telling him "It may be my body but it will not be me!" And during the final fight between Robin and Nottingham she does not a bystander as she grabs what she can to help Robin, which isn't much since it's in a chapel.
  • Lois Lane (surprise, eh?) from DC Extended Universe. In just Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice alone, Lois has to be rescued by Superman three separate times. The first was Lex, by proxy, testing if Superman would come for her if she were in danger. The second time was Lex using her to summon Superman.
    • Lex also kidnaps Martha Kent to blackmail Superman into fighting Batman.
  • In the original script of Game of Death, Hai Tien's wife and child are kidnapped by Korean mafia to force him to undertake the titular game of death.
  • In Batman, Vicki Vale, due to the Joker's obsession with her. First, Batman has to save her from a Captive Date with the Joker at the Museum, and then the Joker kidnaps her at the climax of the film.
  • In the first Men in Black movie, Edgar the Bug storms the morgue where Dr. Laurel Weaver works after learning Orion, the cat with the galaxy he's looking for is there. Here, he holds her hostage with a gun for a while to avoid getting stopped by agents Kay and Jay and promptly kidnaps her so she can take him to the flying saucers found at the towers of the New World Pavillion, which he plans to use to escape from Earth. He takes Laurel with him with the intent of eating her and feeding her to his family. Thankfully, Laurel quickly becomes a Damsel out of Distress shortly afterwards.
  • Charlotte in the climax of Mystery of the Wax Museum, as she is under threat of becoming a waxed corpse.

  • It can be argued that Anhura from the musical-in-album-form Razia's Shadow fits this trope. She argues against her father and seems to have the same sense of a greater destiny as Adakias, but she doesn't do anything about it except sit around singing wistfully (Adakias has his share of wistful singing, but he's much more proactive). She's first a damsel when her father refuses to let her marry Adakias, but Adakias rescues her by eloping with her. This causes her to grow ill, and a third of the second act is therefore spent trying to cure her illness. Then once they do, Pallis bursts in, and Adakias sacrifices himself to save her when Pallis attempts to murder her. Depending what you think happened directly after the end of the song and before the narrator's epilogue, Anhura either ends up with Pallis, staying a damsel, just a rescued one, fixes everything herself while Pallis retreats, getting out of the trope, or everything fixes itself without her help, which keeps Anhura thoroughly useless and in this trope.
  • Mentioned in Will Smith's song Wild Wild West:
    Any damsel that's in distress
    Be out of that dress when she meet Jim West
  • Subverted in the video of Mean by Taylor Swift. Taylor is shown tied up on railroad tracks by a villain, who is all gloating over her predicament. Not long after, a friend of the villain's comes along, the two villains get drunk, fall asleep, after which Taylor simply gets out of her ropes and heads off.

    Music Videos 
  • Michael Jackson's "Thriller" video had this twice, in the movie the Michael and his date are watching at the start, then again the date's dream. It's implied that it happens a third time once she wakes up.
  • Tasha in LL Cool J's "I'm Bad" video.

    Myths and Religion 
  • This is Older Than Feudalism, dating back at least to the Greek myth of Perseus and Andromeda.
    • The story of Hesione and Heracles is very similar to that of Perseus and Andromeda. However, Deianeira, another woman in Heracles' adventurous life, subverts it by taking matters in her hands shortly after the rescue.
    • Eurydice is in a classic Damsel in Distress situation. Unfortunately, Orpheus does not come up to expectations.
    • Subverted with Helen of Troy, who is anything but innocent in what happens to her.
  • In Ramayana, Sita is a crown example.
  • In Celtic mythology (Mabinogion), Branwen finds herself in this position. Subverted with Deirdre, who voluntarily put herself in the situation which was considered as distress by her fiancé.
  • Downplayed in the legend of St. George and the Dragon (a tale that has otherwise many parallels with the myth of Perseus and Andromeda): The princess is delivered to the dragon and saved by St. George, but she is not physically constrained, does not ask for help, and there is no romance between the princess and George, nor does the king offer her up in marriage.
  • Circassian Mythology: In one of the Nart Sagas, Setenaya's "sister" Psatina is abducted by the giant Arkhon Arkhozh, and must be rescued by Warzameg. She isn't entirely helpless, however, and provides her hero with information that helps her escape.
  • At least as old as The Bible itself, as shown by the case of Sarah, daughter of Raguel, saved by Tobias with Raphael's help.


    Professional Wrestling 
  • Randy Savage has twice seen his valet, Miss Elizabeth, kidnapped by George "The Animal" Steele and King Kong Bundy. Hulk Hogan in the nWo even forced her to say she no longer loved Savage on camera.
  • Mountain Fiji was practically invincible, so her enemies in GLOW frequently resorted to attacking and or kidnapping her little sister, often resulting in Mt Fiji losing matches by forfeit or count out as she left the arena to go save her.
  • Later in WCW, the nWo would try to send a message to David Flair by kidnapping his Loony Fan Daffney Unger. Scott Steiner actually acknowledged that it might not have been the best idea.
  • Smackdown did an angle revolving around Kurt Angle admitting that he wanted to have sex with Booker T's wife Sharmell, leading to many scenes of her failing to fight off or out run Angle before Booker came to the rescue, although he usually got beaten up too, until the very end.
  • Stacy Keibler had several instances where someone would attack her. Sometimes it was to provoke the guy she was managing, other times it WAS the guy she was managing, sick of her getting all the attention.
  • Trish Stratus was once abducted by MNM on an episode of Monday Night Raw, causing Jerry Lawler to abandon his commentary duties to go find her.
  • TNA would later revisit the assault someone else's wife I want to have sex with angle with Scott Steiner going after Kristal Lashley until her husband Bobby made the save.
  • At SHINE 15, Valkyrie used a beaten up Solo Darling to lure Amazing Kong away from their leader, The Radiant Rain.

    Web Comics 

    Web Original 
  • In The Gamer's Alliance, Amarawyn and Marya both get in trouble a few times, prompting heroes to save them from kidnappers.
  • This video is probably the best Deconstruction of this trope in the history of anything ever.
  • Whateley Universe: Jinn Sinclair in "Bottle a Jinn", when she is "absorbed" by Rich Bitch Solange (Jinn is a protagonist, but is non-corporeal, and Solange has the power of being able to absorb spirits and steal their powers). Lampshaded when Team Kimba try to rescue her and end up in a huge brawl that gets them into serious trouble with the school administration. They realize afterward that Jinn isn't helpless, is manipulating Solange against her will, and needed a much smarter plan from her team. Ultimately, Jinn cons Solange into letting her go just seconds before Solange will most need her powers.
  • Tania in Wormtooth Nation starts off as one after being nixed.
  • The normally competent Lord of the Supreme Council of The Questport Chronicles, winds up as her sister's prisoner. She's not happy to be rescued.
  • The frequent abductions of Princesses Peach and Zelda are playfully deconstructed in this CollegeHumor video.
    Zelda: Ganondorf has an entire army of loyal minions, and they do whatever I say! Link just has that stupid fairy...
  • In The Nostalgia Chick's Dark Nella Saga, the titular Big Bad tied the Makeover Fairy up the bathtub and tortured her by scraping her make-up off. She looked exactly the same afterwards.
  • Miss Stockholm in Pop Quiz Hotshot, who is kept in the basement with a low cut dress and handcuffs. Notably she existed just for the pilot and got retconned out in episodes after, even Tamara (her actress) didn't enjoy being her.
  • Played for Laughs in Episode 87 of Critical Role, when Keyleth notes that she technically counts as one in order to get Taryon to help her during a fight with some pirates.
    Keyleth: In this moment, I am a damsel and I am in distress. So cross it off, bitch! Come on!

Alternative Title(s): Jones The Cat, Damsels In Distress, Distressed Damsel