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Damsel out of Distress

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Lois Lane: Rescuing herself before Superman arrives since 1938.
"Harkye, miscreant, you have secured me, and I am your poor prisoner; but if you think I cannot take care of myself, you are very much mistaken. Now then, it's one to one, and let the best man win!"
Dame Hannah, Ruddigore

Rejecting the traditional Damsel in Distress routine, this damsel doesn't wait for a hero to rescue her. She can take care of herself, thank you very much. This trope occurs when the damsel escapes on her own or at least makes significant progress towards it before the hero can find her. Extra points if she manages to do it still bound; even more if she then helps the hero escape the danger he's putting himself into.

Almost Always Female, and usually a Plucky Girl.

Compare with Play-Along Prisoner, Lady of War for a skillful and graceful fighter, Silk Hiding Steel is this trope's prim and proper relative, Xenafication for inexplicable badass leveling up, Deliberately Distressed Damsel who enjoys the damsel aspect, and Decoy Damsel who pretends to be a Damsel in Distress for her own benefit.

Contrast Damsel Scrappy and Too Dumb to Live. Should not be confused with Badass in Distress, but can overlap with it. Compare Defiant Captive, where the damsel might or might not be able to free herself but nevertheless makes it clear she's not cowed.


    open/close all folders 

  • This Star Wars-themed Duracell commercial. Boy rushes out to rescue his sister from being kidnapped by Stormtroopers. His sister says, "What took you so long?" and Force-pushes the Stormtroopers away before grabbing the lightsaber he throws her.
  • "Victory by Computer": Supergirl becomes trapped in a complex which nullifies her powers. but she manages to relay her location to Superman. When Superman arrives, though, Supergirl is waiting for him outside after having found an unguarded escape tunnel.

    Anime & Manga 
  • As of chapter 57 of Black Butler, Elizabeth Middleford proved how much she deserves the Middleford title by initially trying to hide her badass side because she didn't want Ciel to see her "uncute" side, but when he is injured and unable to save her, Elizabeth leaps into the air and stabs down the zombies with swords in both hands. "This time, I will protect you!" Indeed.
  • MARRIAGETOXIN: Downplayed with Gero's clients/Love Interests. In sheer fighting power, they're outmatched by Gero, and depend on him to defeat whoever the super-powered assassin Arc Villain is, but they also refuse to be pure damsels needing to be saved.
    • Himekawa jumps into the middle of the fight between Gero and Ushio and straight up claims she does not want to be a damsel that Gero gets to save and insists on helping him wherever she can. In her case, delivering a power-up medicine to him in the middle of a fight.
    • Ureshino is pretty damseled with her shy demeanor and no fighting skills, but her magic tricks and knowledge of her company's products (in party goods) allow her to put up a fight against Naruko's trump card, the massive golem Grand Actor, by mixing a magic trick of hers to cause a massive explosion, and in the process breaking the hypnosis her classmates were under.
  • Mobile Suit Gundam Wing: Relena Peacecraft. Sure, she can't fight as well as other girls, but she can talk her way out wonderfully and pulls more than one Go Through Me to defend her friends, her Kingdom, or her beliefs. Again in The Movie where she steals the villain's communications in order to encourage the Muggles to stop Holding Out for a Hero and do something themselves.
  • Yu-Gi-Oh!: Kisara, the girl that Kaiba's preincarnation has evident feelings for, is a good example of this trope. Seto may have saved her first, but she repays the favor in spades; her soul is the Blue-Eyes White Dragon. note 
  • Berserk:
    • After the horrors she suffered from the Eclipse that robbed her of her sanity, poor Casca's mind was regressed to that of a small child, making her vulnerable to predation from monsters and humans alike and is in constant need of care and supervision. However, sometimes she finds herself on her own, and in such dire moments, we see that Casca's former self isn't completely gone. The most prominent example to date was when she ran away from Guts out of fear and ran into some bandits, who then tried to gang-rape her... but by the time Guts found her, Casca was naked and covered in her would-be rapists' blood after she slashed all of their throats. She also shows glimpses of her pre-Eclipse agility and acrobatics.
    • Charlotte pulverizes her father's face with her feet after he tries to rape her. Pretty impressive for someone who's a distressed damsel most of the time.
  • At the climax of Tiger & Bunny's second cour, the Big Bad decides it's a good idea to take Kotetsu's daughter, Kaede, hostage. She doesn't just rescue herself — she rescues every other hero. Superpowerful Genetics come in handy.
  • Baccano!'s Eve Genoard. A sweet and polite young lady living in America, who escapes her kidnappers and doesn't hesitate to grab someone else's gun to avenge her father. She may not know about the family business, but she has the same iron will.
  • Sonohara Anri of Durarara!! seems very distressed all the time, what with perverts hitting on her, ganguro girls bullying her, and the Slasher coming after her. Then she stops a knife with her arm, tells Niekawa Haruna that her knife is nothing but a child, pulls out the real Saika, and takes over the army of Slashers.
  • Ranma ½:
    • Ranma, the resident Gender Bender of the series, is kidnapped a lot in the manga by men who want to marry his girl side. This guy punched out a man with the power of a demigod and has destroyed mountains. Damn straight he'll kick your weakling ass if he's unhappy about you kidnapping him.
    • Akane tends to play the damsel note  until she either sees her advantage or someone (usually Ranma) pisses her off. Then it's clobberin' time, and often even her would-be rescuers don't survive unscathed.
  • One Piece Film: Strong World: When Nami is kidnapped by Shiki, she defiantly turns down Shiki's offers to join him, and when his guard was down, she escaped.
  • Outlaw Star: Melfina is assaulted in cyberspace by Harry's hacking and she force-feedbacks the attempt so damn hard that it blows his arm, then escapes him when he tries to kidnap her.
  • Wolf Guy - Wolfen Crest: Akiko Aoshika. When Aoshika is holding an unconscious Inugami when Haguro's men come in to find him dead, demanding an explanation. Aoshika tries to persuade her way through and they threaten to rape her to death in front of Inugami. Instead of being frightened, Aoshika gets pissed. Wow lady.
  • Yukari Sahashi, from Sekirei. While most Ashikabi are Non-Action Guys, she regularly kicks guys in the balls and beats them up so badly they end up in the hospital. She spends a few chapters holding the Distress Ball after Higa kidnaps her as part of an And Now You Must Marry Me plot and forces Shiina to work for him. However, she eventually realizes that she's been holding the Distress Ball and decides to drop it. With a Slasher Smile, she sets fire to his penthouse, tells his secretary to pass on a very insulting message, and then jumps out a 50-story window because she knows Shiina will catch her. This proves to be the cherry on top of his Humiliation Conga.
  • Dance in the Vampire Bund: Mina Tepes' default setting when imprisoned is that of a Defiant Captive, but when an unexpected explosion occurs in Duke Rozenmann's New York base, her two (probably superhuman and definitely armed adult male) guards are distracted for three seconds... and she (a sleep-deprived and at least somewhat underfed Undead Child) for two. After dropping themnote  and unshackling herself in that order, she makes her way to a breach and leaps into the Manhattan night sky, only surrendering about a week later when she, the woman that took her in, and her child were held at gunpoint.
  • Lupin III: Any villain who takes Fujiko hostage and is foolish enough to either leave her unattended or fall for her feminine wiles will usually find out just how helpless she isn't:
    • The first OVA The Fuma Conspiracy had two captured females, Murasaki and Fujiko. Murasaki is your typical Damsel in Distress, but Fujiko, who also gets a vase on her head, escapes by breaking the vase on the head of the guard and stealing the key of her handcuffs, and rejoins Lupin.
    • Near the end of the special Voyage to Danger, Todd and his men hold Lupin and co. at gunpoint. Just as they're about to fire, Fujiko pretends to panic and shamelessly begs Todd to spare her by cozying up to him... just long enough to steal his gun and single-handedly turn the table on him.
    • Near the beginning of the episode "Albatross: Wings of Death", Prof. Lumbach kidnaps Fujiko and holds her hostage. Lupin and the others attempt to rescue her, but she saves them the trouble by freeing herself and winds up saving them when she single-handedly takes over the plane!
  • In Case Closed, there are several instances where criminals think it'll be easy to make an attempt on Ran's life or kidnap her. Since Ran is a karate champion, this rarely works out. In one notable instance, when Kogoro and Conan uncover the two criminals, one of them grabs Ran and points a gun to her head to try to secure a clear escape. There's a brief instance as Kogoro and Conan both shout warnings to the criminal before Ran knocks the guy out.
  • Sapphire, of Princess Knight, is constantly pursued, locked up, and nearly killed at several points in her series, but never gives up on fighting back. When Nylon comes after her during a siege, she single-handedly takes him down in a swordfight. Later, when she's escaping prison with the help of Friebe, she helps Friebe fight off that castle's entire guard. In Twin Knight, we see Sapphire pass this on to her daughter Violetta, telling her when the two are being held hostage, "You can't give in to bad people, no matter how tough things get". In keeping with this trope, she then proceeds to give Violetta extra sword-fighting lessons, so her daughter would be better able to handle the upcoming dangers. For the rest of the series, Violetta and her friend Emerald find themselves in various dangers and always set about rescuing each other and themselves.
  • In Red River (1995), Yuri gets kidnapped quite often but always sets about untying herself, making a break for it, fighting her captors, etc. It doesn't always work out, but she still always gives it a try. In one instance, she's Genre Savvy enough to stay in captivity after winning a bet and being told by her kidnapper that he'd grant any one desire for her, even letting her go. Yuri instead asks him to treat the poor and the captured soldiers in his town humanely. Afterwards, she tells him she was tempted to ask for her freedom but knew that if she did so, he'd just send soldiers to quietly kill her as soon as she left.
  • Fairy Tail:
    • During the Phantom Lord Arc, Lucy escapes her capture by the titular guild by tricking their guild master, nailing him in the crotch, and then jumping out a window. Granted, she was counting on Natsu to catch her for that last bit.
    • During the Tartaros Arc, Erza and Mirajane find themselves drugged and captured by the titular guild, with the former strung up for Cold-Blooded Torture and the latter getting hooked up to be forcibly turned into a demon. Erza manages to get out of shackles and beat up one of the demons torturing her before locking up the other one with Natsu and Lisanna's help, while Mirajane reveals the "Demon Factor" they use to transform people into demons is the very substance her body absorbs to use her Satan Soul, so it just rejuvenates her and she breaks loose to raise hell.
  • Kingdom Hearts II: Kairi is able to break herself out of her cell in The World That Never Was kidnapped by squeezing through the bars and tricking the Dusks guarding her into thinking that she was one of them.
  • There are four Living MacGuffin girls in Yu-Gi-Oh! ARC-V who are frequently targeted for kidnapping because of this status. However, these girls Will Not Be a Victim and frequently fight back, escape, or completely derail their captors' plans.
  • In Street Fighter II: The Animated Movie, Chun-Li is attacked by Vega as she walks out of the shower, and though he has the upper hand at first, she eventually turns the tide and utterly dominates him. However, this trope is downplayed to an extent. While Chun-Li defeated Vega, she sustained serious injuries during the fight and might have died had she not been immediately discovered by Guile (who burst into the room right after the fight ended) and hospitalized.
  • In Sword Art Online's Fairy Dance arc Asuna doesn't quite manage to rescue herself, but does make a spirited effort that contributes to Kirito eventually getting to her.

  • "Lady Isabel and the Elf Knight" (Child #4) is (as the other wiki puts it) "the English common name representative of a very large class of European ballads". Among them are:
    • The Dutch ballad of 'Heer Halewijn' is about a girl that asks her whole family to go to Heer (Sir) Halewijn, a man who lures women (and men probably as well) by singing. Her whole family refuses; no one returns from Halewijn. Until she asks her brother who says something akin to 'as long as you are virtuous, you can go'. So she goes, ends up killing Halewijn, rides back with his (still bleeding!) head in her lap, which is coloured red by his blood and puts his head on the table when her father organises a feast because she has returned.
    • Steeleye Span performs a variant called "The Elf Knight". Lady Isabel may be in distress, but she doesn't need anyone's help to get herself out of it.
      Seven king's daughters here have ye slain
      So lie ye here, a husband to them all
    • The unnamed "maiden fair" in the ballad The Outlandish Knight, as well as the title character in the alternative version May Colvin. The knight convinces her to run away with him, then tells her he's going to drown her in the ocean, as he's done to six other maidens. Then, she convinces him to turn his back on her. "Six pretty maidens have you drowned here/And the seventh has drowned thee."
  • "Eppie Morrie": The title character spends an entire night fighting off her would-be rapist before being rescued in the morning.

    Comic Books 
  • Batman: Gordon of Gotham: A kidnapped Montoya pulls her wrist out of handcuffs despite how much it cuts her wrist, then takes out her kidnappers single-handedly once she grabs one of their guns. When one of the thugs tries to pin her arms from behind, she manages to shoot his foot.
  • Superman:
    • Lois Lane has quite the nerve. This is a woman who is caught by villains all the time, but only because she's Genre Savvy enough to know that if she does so she'll not only get the scoop on the front-page story but also survive to write it. Not just by getting rescued either; if Superman doesn't know/is depowered/is busy, she'll pretend to fall in love with the drug lord who captured her, then blast herself out of their wedding, veil, gown, and all, with a Mook's stolen machine gun. She even gave Ursa a well-deserved punch in Superman II.
    • Supergirl and Batgirl seldom need to be rescued. In World's Finest #169: The Supergirl-Batgirl Plot they've been kidnapped by Catwoman and Black Flame (a Silver Age Supergirl enemy). By the time Superman and Batman arrive at the cave where they're being held, both girls have already escaped. In fact, they save them from a Death Trap.
    • In The Plague of the Antibiotic Man, Amalak has captured Supergirl and is about to shoot her brains off when he realizes his ray gun has been disabled. Supergirl then easily snaps her chains and punches his jaw, smirking the whole time.
  • Spider-Man: Mary Jane Watson. She's not kidnapped very often (even if some adaptations might make you think otherwise), but when she is, she never stays put. There are even more than a few examples where she saves herself with no help from Spidey whatsoever. Or even better, she ends up saving him instead.
  • Warlord of Mars: Dejah Thoris, Thuvia and Phaidor, when they are added to Salensus Oll's Royal Harem. In a moment of distraction, they steal knives from his belt and stab him to death while they were chained to him.
  • Requiem Vampire Knight: Rebecca gets into trouble often because she is not as powerful as other denizens of Résurrection, being a lamia and all that. With that said, she is not helpless, such as one time a lecherous ogre tried to pimp her out to some vampires, she answered by kicking him in the nuts and beheading him with a bladed fan. Also when she is kidnapped by the vampire responsible for her presence in this world, her love interest seemingly perishes while trying to save her, so she saves herself by throwing every possible weapon at her disposal against her enemy.
  • Ultimate Marvel:
    • Deconstructed in Ultimate Spider-Man: when Venom attacks Rio at her workplace to try and find Spider-Man, Miles arrives to fight him only to start losing badly. Rio immediately grabs a fallen security guard’s gun and opens fire on Venom to get him away from her son... but it does absolutely nothing. Then Venom, still dominating the battle, gets annoyed with her shooting and stabs her with his Combat Tentacles. Miles turns the fight around and defeats him just in time for his mother to die in his arms. Badass Damsel or not, Rio was still a normal human caught in the middle of a battle between superhuman beings.
    • All-New Ultimates: Spider-Man is trying to defeat the villains before the building collapses, and Bombshell helps to dispatch one of them. He told her not to stay behind, that she has to run, and she replies that she was saving his lame Spider-butt.
  • Wonder Woman:
    • Wonder Woman (1942):
      • Diana gets captured quite frequently, but on the occasions where it turns out not to have been part of her plan in the first place she still usually gets out without any aid. If she's captured with Steve Trevor they tend to escape even faster given his lock-picking abilities bypassing anything that might weaken her super-strength enough that she can't just snap their bonds.
      • Etta Candy, the most "normal" of the main cast, was once taken hostage by mobsters. She's knocked them all out and delivered them to the cops before anyone even knew she'd been in danger.
    • Wonder Woman (1987): When Cassie and Artemis are captured by Morgan la Fey and a mind-controlled Etrigan they find that the magic users have seriously underestimated their strength and free Etrigan on their way to fighting their way free.
  • X-Men The Hidden Years: Zigzagged after Angel's girlfriend Candy is captured by the villains. She feigns unconsciousness before resourcefully overpowering several Mooks… only for it to be revealed that this was all an illusion brought on by her captor Mastermind to keep her from trying to escape for real. Then, during the final battle of that arc, Angel tries to place her outside of the zone of combat, only for Candy to use a rope ladder like a trapeze to catch a villain off guard and knock him out with a kick.
  • In The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past (1992), Zelda assists Link in the battle with Ganon, firing the Silver Arrow to kill him. In some later games, Zelda fires Light Arrows to help Link in the same manner. When Zelda deals the final blow in the comic, she does so by aiming at a glowing wound Link carves across Ganon's chest to paralyze him.
  • In Issue 14 of Sonic the Hedgehog (Archie Comics), Robotnik lures Princess Sally and Bunnie Rabbot into a trap, planning to use them as bait for Sonic the Hedgehog. The girls proceed to throw down with his Swatbots, leaving the doctor tied up in a bundle.
    Robotnik: All you can do now is just sit around and wait to be rescued!
    Bunnie:: Well, ah declah! Y'all ain't nothin' but a male chauvinist pig, doc! 100% pure oinker!
    Sally: We're more than capable of taking care of ourselves, thank you very much! Shall we, Bunnie?
    Bunnie: (Punches a swatbot) You bet, Princess! Time to raise some consciousness...
    Sally: ...And lower the boom!!
  • Street Fighter Legends: Ibuki sees a whole evil ninja clan attempt to kidnap the titular Ninja Action Girl heroine Ibuki. The first time she escapes the grasp of the evil Geki ninja attempting to come home with her in tow to said clan and after she saves herself a male ninja she doesn't recognize comes to deliver the final blow to the enemy and claims she is in danger and needs to come with him (she doesn't).

    Fairy Tales 
  • In The Brothers Grimm's tale "Maid Maleen", when the titular princess refuses an arranged marriage, she gets locked in a tower together with her chambermaid. After a while, Maleen notices their food supplies are running dangerously low and realizes nobody is going to release them; so she and her maid dig a hole in the wall and get themselves out of the tower.

    Fan Works 
  • All Assorted Animorphs AUs: "What if Tom and Melissa escaped together?" diverges from canon when Tom is able to half-morph to escape from his cage in the Yeerk Pool and takes Melissa on the run with him.
  • In The Apprentice, the Student, and the Charlatan, Twilight Sparkle seemingly gets captured by Envy in the penultimate chapter, but it turns out to be a ruse so that she and Nova could dismantle her trap from within.
  • DC Nation: Fauna was captured by some thugs employed by Lex Luthor (the guy who experimented on her in the first place). Once she is able to undo the collar, she's in mid-escape when Black Canary (her boss) shows up to spring her. Thinking Canary is in trouble, Fauna's bestial side kicks in...
  • A Far Green Country:
    • In his backstory, Elden was a prisoner in Edoras, Rohan (from The Lord of the Rings), but he escaped.
    • After villains capture the whole party of Elden, Nellas, Surad, and Durus, they attempt to escape.
  • In Fear No Evil, a My Hero Academia fanfic, Izuku is kidnapped by Humarise in middle school. He escapes and defeats Flect Turn before any of his rescuers arrive.
  • In "Quest for the Northwest", the first part of Gravity Falls: Deep Woods, Pacifica is kidnapped by Jeff and his gnomes, who are still looking for a new queen. About a few minutes after being captured, Pacifica manages to break free and beats up the five gnomes offscreen. After they tied her up and put her in their Bag of Kidnapping. She mentions that the self-defense lessons she had to take finally paid off.
  • In the Rise of the Guardians fic Guardian of Light, the main character, Helen, is kidnapped by Pitch, her biological father. When she wakes up, she tries to attack him, and when he tries to attack her, she defends herself with ease. She sings to annoy him, gives him a "The Reason You Suck" Speech for his trouble, and is later able to escape by making him think she's crying.
  • In the Doctor Who fanfic Murder on Rand 2, Norine is captured by the Largdens as a hostage against the Doctor and left Bound and Gagged in a cave. However, she is able to free herself and helps defeat the Largdens.
  • Discussed in Incarnation of Legends. Haruhime tells Hachiman and Amaterasu that she no longer wants to be a defenseless princess, especially when the boy who fought to protect her didn't even have a falna. She implores Hachiman to train her so she may one day stand by his side.
  • In a sidestory of Pokémon Reset Bloodlines, Yellow is taken hostage by a Team Rocket cell based on Five Island, to use as bait for Red so they can steal his Pokémon. She refuses to let her captors scare her, and by befriending a captured Rattata, she breaks out and even manages to come to Red's rescue later when he's cornered by the Rocket Admin.
  • In A Protector's Pride, instead of waiting for Ichigo to save her when she's kidnapped and taken to Hueco Mundo, Orihime uses her powers to slice a hole in the wall and escape, meeting Ichigo halfway.
  • After spending so much time playing the part of the Damsel in Distress, Roxanne shows exactly how much her experience has left her prepared for kidnappings in the Megamind fanfiction, Rain on the Just. She tries to pry out details of her kidnapper's plan, manages to have the presence of mind to activate a tracking device, attempts to escape on her own by smashing open a window, warns Megamind that Owen has a gun as soon as her boyfriend arrives, nearly wrestles a weapon out of Owen's hands when he gets too close, and spends her entire captivity trying to keep things under control.
  • In Sword Art Online Abridged's second season, Asuna spends her captivity repeatedly breaking out of her birdcage and brutalizing Sugou's mooks, to the point that Sugou starts complaining about the cost of his minions' therapy bills, and said minions develop specific training in a futile effort to stop her - or rather, "it." Episode 16 reveals that these aren't even serious escape attempts, she's just trying to terrorize Sugou's minions until they're unable to function, and only after they begin avoiding her entirely does she switch to Plan B: Actually Escape.
  • In Buffy the Vampire Slayer/Supergirl crossover The Vampire of Steel, some vampires capture and tie Buffy and Kara up. Both girls manage to cut the metallic ropes binding their hands and fight the vampires off.
  • In With This Ring, Nylor Truggs tries to hold Artemis hostage when the Team foil his ambush. Artemis takes none of this and stabs him in the eye for his trouble. It helps that she had been dosed with a Super-Strength formula and he didn't know that.
  • In Worlds Apart, some orcs kidnap Nymeria, but they make some stupid mistakes, like not tying her hands. Nymeria finds her chance and makes her own escape.
  • In two DeviantArt works, two unseen (and pretty stupid) villains think She-Hulk is helpless seeing as she's bound in adamantium shackles, but forget that the floor said shackles are bolted to is not.
  • Final Fantasy VII: Machinabridged: Cait Sith reveals to the party a video showing the Turks are holding Marlene hostage. However, in the middle of the video, Marlene reveals she smuggled a gun into her cell and shoots her way out.
  • In the Kingdom Hearts fanfic series, Instinctively Family, Lea took the time to teach Kairi some self-defense to avoid being kidnapped as easily. This prevents Xemnas from grabbing her like he did in canon and almost gets Lea in trouble when he accidentally startles her in the second fic.
  • Naru-Hina Chronicles: In Chapter 75, Sakura gets stabbed by Karin, who then leaves her in some place where she'll be bleeding to death. In the next chapter, Karin tells Naruto and Sasuke to let Evil Sasuke go if they want to be able to save Sakura. However, the latter is able to heal her injury thanks to the Souzou Saisei. And before Evil Sasuke and Karin could leave, they're interrupted by the sudden arrival of Sakura, who proceeds to beat the crap out of Karin.
  • Vow of Nudity: Princess Gloria has already made good on her escape by the time Hiyeth sends Spectra to "rescue" her from the Horned Queen, and in general does more to actively keep herself free than Spectra, who can barely keep up with her as their adventure gets increasingly more dangerous.

    Films — Animation 
  • Aladdin has Princess Jasmine distracting Jafar while Aladdin went for the lamp.
  • Barbie as the Princess and the Pauper has a two-fold example in Anneliese and Erika:
    • Anneliese does this twice: when kidnapped by Nick and Nack on Preminger's orders, she escapes them by dressing up her cat in a blanket to look like a Bedsheet Ghost, pretending to be afraid of it, and then letting the blanket drop on them and fleeing on their horse while they panic about the "ghost". Later, when she and Julian are trapped in the mines, she gets the idea of using flooding water from the rocks and a barrel to float them up to the top of the mine shaft.
    • Erika, when imprisoned for pretending to be Anneliese so her engagement to King Dominick could continue, uses her singing to lull the guard of her cell into sleep so she can steal his keys and break herself out. She encounters another guard on her way out; fortunately for her, it turns out to be Dominick.
  • Batman & Mr. Freeze: SubZero. Barbara Gordon talks back to Mr. Freeze when he kidnaps her, attacks him with the same chains she's shackled with, tries to reason with him once she learns about his ill wife Nora (so she'll be able to help him save her without losing her organs and later it turns out her blood is enough), saves his Kid Sidekick, tries to save him too...
  • In Beauty and the Beast, when the Beast truly frightens Belle in the West Wing and seems to be an actual threat to her safety, she runs from the castle. When cornered by a pack of wolves, Belle tries to outride them on Phillipe, smashes several against a tree, and, when knocked off her horse, starts beating them back with a stick. And near the end of the movie, when Gaston tries to have her father imprisoned in an asylum unless she marries him, she uses the magic mirror to prove her father's sanity. Even after she's locked in the basement as a result, she still can be seen trying to poke a window open with a stick.
  • From Big Hero 6, the heroes get captured in a massive swarm of Yokai's microbot. Honey Lemon frees herself with her weapons, and Gogo frees herself by spinning herself out of the swarm.
  • The Book of Life: Maria doesn't take kindly to being taken captive by bandit king Chakal. She ends up breaking free of his clutches and joining the fight alongside her childhood friends Manolo and Joaquin.
  • Cinderella:
    • Even after she's locked in her room by Lady Tremaine and when the mice failed to fend away Lucifer, Cinderella orders the birds to fetch Bruno, who is the only one who can stop Lucifer and save everyone, so they can work together to free herself from her room and stop the Grand Duke from leaving.
    • In Cinderella A Twist In Time, Cinderella gets into physical action in order to save Prince Charming, Anastasia, and everyone in the kingdom from Lady Tremaine and Drisella's time-traveling spell crimes.
  • Fire and Ice (1983): Princess Teegra. Don't let the thong bikini fool you... With her getting captured isn't a matter of waiting for the hero, but a matter of seeing what clever scheme she concocts to escape this time.
  • Frozen (2013): Elsa gets imprisoned and shackled with specially-made manacles meant to serve as Power Limiters near the end of the movie. However, as hinted at several points earlier in the movie, covering her hands only helps her control her powers and doesn't totally stop them, so she proceeds to freeze both her shackles and the entire room until she could shatter them and break out.
  • Raggedy Ann & Andy: A Musical Adventure: Babette spends the early bits of the movie as a typical Damsel in Distress, captured by the pirate captain. Near the end, however, she's revealed to have overthrown him and taken command of his ship, much to the shock of her would-be rescuers.
  • Rock and Rule: Angel is so effectively resistant to Mok's will that she escapes his clutches, has to be forcibly recaptured and dragged back, and finally shackled on stage and hooked up to Mok's keyboard to make her sing at all.
  • Shrek has Princess Fiona. She seems to be every cliché about a Princess in need of rescue, until she meets somebody REALLY ANNOYING. She goes downright Trinity when she's in a situation that's at all reasonable to handle herself. She didn't stay because she was an unarmoured woman; she stayed because she wanted to. She could only find true love by being rescued. Shrek Forever After gives us an Alternate Timeline where Shrek never came. Fiona saved herself and became a resistance fighter.
  • In The Super Mario Bros. Movie, Peach’s role of a damsel was actually taken by Luigi, as he’s the one that ended up being abducted by Bowser and that is how Princess Peach would help Mario, Toad, Donkey Kong and the other Kongs would work together to rescue Luigi (and the other prisoners) from Bowser and his cronies.
  • In the second film of The Swan Princess franchise, Princess Odette’s role of a damsel was actually taken by Queen Uberta, as she’s the one that ended up being captured by Clavius and that is how Odette help Prince Derek and three animals films to rescue Uberta from Clavius.
  • Titan A.E.: Akima gets captured by slavers and threatened by the other prisoners. She beats up all the prisoners by the time the rest of the team comes to get her.
    Akima: Well, if it isn't the Captain. What kept you?

    Films — Live-Action 
  • All About E: E quickly frees herself when attacked and held down by Johnny.
  • In the American Pie spinoff The Book of Love, Lube and his crush Ashley get stranded in a gondola during a ski trip, and he tries to impress her by jumping down to get help and trusting the snow to break his fall (or rather, he intends to before thinking better of it but then falling out the door anyway). Lube hurts his leg in the fall, and Ashley ends up shimmying down the cable to a nearby tower with a ladder and going to rescue him.
  • The Avengers (2012) has Natasha Romanov (Black Widow) seemingly captured by three gun-wielding goons. Seconds later, one of the goons receives a phone call from Agent Phil Coulson of S.H.I.E.L.D., saying to give the phone to Natasha. As she talks, she says, "Hang on." She then proceeds to knock out all three of her kidnappers - while still tied up. Then, to crown it off, she reveals that she was only gathering intel from them.
  • In Buffy the Vampire Slayer (1992), we have Oliver Pike (Luke Perry) as a Spear Counterpart. Pike isn't a fighter or very athletic, so he has to be rescued more often than not. He eventually becomes competent enough to take care of himself when Buffy's not around to protect him, kills two vampires along the way (one of them is In the Back), and even saves Buffy's life at one point (albeit unintentionally). He's given his due when Buffy has been shirking her duties as the Slayer due to the death of her mentor on the night of Buffy's final confrontation with the Big Bad; he uses his knife to whittle an entire sackful of stakes for her so she'll be ready to take on the vampires - and she grudgingly remarks that she's glad somebody has come prepared.
  • The Call: Toward the finale, Casey does a lot of the work rescuing herself, after her would-be rescuer Jordan needs to be rescued too.
  • The plot of Cellular gets started when Jessica manages to cobble together a broken phone into barely-working condition and make a call for help. Later, she kills one of the mooks holding her captive by slicing open his brachial artery and making him bleed to death in seconds, breaks her son out of a locked barn by smashing the walls down with a truck, and would've successfully escaped if Ethan hadn't threatened to kill her husband. In the climax, she strangles a mook with her handcuffs and steals his key so she and her family can escape.
  • Chuck E. Cheese in the Galaxy 5000: Helen Henny is locked up by Dr. Zoom to be "juicified" into becoming Zoom Gas for the cheating X-Pilots; just before the third act begins, Helen uses one of her feathers to pick the lock of her cell door to unlock her cage so she can get out, and she frees all the other captive chickens in return.
  • Modern versions of Cinderella often turn the heroine into this and thus inverting her original Princess Classic / Purity Sue characterization.
  • While the entire plot of Commando revolves around John Matrix rescuing his kidnapped young daughter, Jenny, as it turns out she must have picked up something from her dad. The second her dad storms the compound and she's not tied up, she's popped a doorknob off the door to her room and rescued herself. She's almost to her dad before the villainous Bennett shows up, but had she not tried to escape earlier, she'd definitely be dead as Bennett had gone looking for her precisely to kill her.
  • Maid Jean's capture in The Court Jester ended very poorly for the bad guys when she used her situation to extract the castle key the good guys needed to carry out their plans.
  • The would-be victim of Dial M for Murder, Margot, invokes this trope and neatly turns the villain's entire script on its head. When the hired killer pins her down and begins strangling her to death, she manages to desperately grab at a pair of scissors.... which she rams as hard as she can into his back. Made especially impressive by the fact that Margot is not a badass, but manages to survive anyway.
  • Dredd: When Anderson's captured by the bad guys, Dredd sets out on what looks like a Roaring Rampage of Rescue, only to run out of ammo, get shot in the stomach, and find himself helpless under the gun of a corrupt Judge. Meanwhile, Anderson frees herself, kills her way out of the enemy stronghold, and turns up just in time to save Dredd.
  • Fire with Fire: When she's captured right before the finale, Talia frees herself and then helps take down the villains.
  • Flareup: Michele spends the film running away and hiding from Alan, a psycho who wants to murder her. Near the end, she comes home to her boyfriend Joe's apartment, only to be ambushed by Alan. He says they'll wait until Joe arrives so he can kill him in front of her. After some time and a couple of failed attempts at escape and retaliation, Michele manages to save herself by dousing Alan with gasoline and setting him on fire just before Joe or the cops arrive.
  • Freshman Year: Marcella, while on a date alone with a guy, fights him off with a punch to the nose after he tries to force himself on her. The guy relents, taking her home.
  • Gleahan and the Knaves of Industry: After being locked away in her room by her father, Penelope escapes out the window to seek revenge on him.
  • Godzilla: King of the Monsters (2019): The teenaged Madison Russell who's been kidnapped by the human Big Bad Wannabe alongside her mother (actually Madison's mother was in cahoots with him the whole time) naturally appears to be a damsel. However, after Madison has her Heel Realization and decries her mother as a monster, it becomes apparent that loyalty to her mother and not knowing what she could do to help save the world were the only things holding Madison back. In the lead-up to the Final Battle, Madison sneaks around the human bad guys, steals the ORCA, escapes the bad guys' hidden base and heads out on foot (implicitly helped by her mother's survivalist training), using the ORCA to draw King Ghidorah to Boston at great personal risk to herself.
  • Gone (2012): Jill managed to escape her abductor the first time. When she's lured back into his clutches, she does it again (this time she brings a gun, making doing so easier).
  • A Good Woman Is Hard To Find: Sarah manages to save herself from rape and murder by Tito by stabbing him with a nearby knife.
  • After spending much of Highway to Hell as a prisoner of hell, Rachel is the one to kill the Hellcop, saving herself and Charlie..
  • Hobbs & Shaw: Hattie is captured by villains multiple times but can usually escape her restraints and take out her attackers on her own (although she sometimes needs the distractions her brother and Hobbs provide).
  • Indiana Jones:
    • Raiders of the Lost Ark: If you look closely as they disembark from the submarine you'll notice that the Nazi soldier guarding Marion is heavily bandaged and he has an arm in a sling.
    • Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom. While on the mine cart chase, a mook manages to down Indiana for a few seconds. Sick to death of being chased, Willie slugs him so hard he goes flying off the cart.
  • In the Cut: Frannie manages to kill the murderer when she's alone. He tries to murder her before Frannie shoots him dead and thus saves herself.
  • It's a Wonderful Knife (2023): Winnie and then Bernie as well manages to escape the Angel Killer on multiple occasions through bravery, quick thinking or simply fast reactions. Both are just seemingly ordinary teenage girls.
  • Kimi: In the end, Angela manages to kill all three assassins who have kidnapped her.
  • Last Action Hero: Whitney easily beats up the goon Benedict orders to beat her up when they're alone in her room, frees herself and comes to help her dad with his gun.
  • Man of Steel: Lois Lane makes a return to this trope, given her Action Survivor status. She gets into danger a lot, but usually she tries to fight her way out of it and does rather well considering the people she's up against are nigh-invulnerable superpowered aliens. She's even able to fight her way out of Zod's spacecraft using a Kryptonian gun, with some help from the AI Jor-El.
  • Matinee: When Stan goes to rescue Sherry from her kidnapper Harvey, she is constantly struggling against him and eventually manages to knock Harvey's knife out of his hand and later break free from Harvey's grip with little help from Stan.
  • Men in Black: In the first movie, Dr. Laurel Weaver is kidnapped by Edgar the bug, who attempts to take her with him so he can eat her and feed her to his family as well while climbing to his flying saucer to flee Earth. Laurel has none of it, breaks free from Edgar's grip, and jumps into a nearby tree, fiercely clinging to one of its branches to avoid falling. She eventually does fall, but is unharmed, and manages to get a hold of Jay's MIB gun which she quickly uses to blast the surviving half of the bug into oblivion.
  • Mirror Mirror (2012): Due to her dislike of the Damsel in Distress trope, Snow White refuses to be one, mentioning she has read many stories in which the damsel has to be saved by her prince, but she doesn't want that to happen. So she deliberately locks Alcott inside the dwarfs' house, then goes off to save herself from the Beast.
  • Miss Meadows: In the very first scene, Miss Meadows kills a man who'd tried to kidnap her at gunpoint. He just never thought that such a prim and proper young lady would have a gun in her purse — and be more than ready to use it too.
  • Muppets Most Wanted: During the climax, Constantine takes Miss Piggy hostage and drags her into a helicopter to make a getaway with her. As the other Muppets scramble to catch up, she takes advantage of Constantine's lack of attention and breaks through the ropes around her wrists. With her hands free, it takes her all of a few seconds to KO him. "You may be the world's most dangerous frog, but you're still a frog!"
  • The Muppet Movie: Doc Hopper has his men kidnap Piggy at one point, and she actively fights back while captured- evidently, none of them were expecting that.
  • Ophelia: When her fiancé forces himself on her, Ophelia rescues herself by kneeing him in the groin, then hitting him on the head with a torch. She then proceeds to feign madness and pretend to drown herself to free herself from Claudius, before travelling alone over miles of countryside to find refuge in a convent.
  • Elizabeth Swann from Pirates of the Caribbean is like this in the first movie where she uses the Pirate Code to get out of her first instance of distress and later arranging for her own rescue by smoke signal, as well as helping Will fight off some undead pirates. In the second and third installments, she graduates to Pirate King.
  • Prey: Naru rescues herself from many sticky situations, including escaping the Predator multiple times and ultimately killing it.
  • The Princess: The princess frees herself from captivity quickly in the beginning, killing many mooks that threaten her and escapes several situations where she's in great danger.
  • Red Rock West: Suzanne's hands are tied behind her back in the final act, but she spends a while trying to work them loose and does so without any help from The Hero. In a twist, she's an antagonistic Femme Fatale, just one who's not loyal to the other villains.
  • The Retreat (2021): Renee manages to free herself upon being tied up and rescue Val.
  • In Robin Hood: The Rebellion, Robin and his men infiltrate the Sheriff's castle to rescue Lady Marian, but she and Much have already escaped from the dungeon by the time they do so.
  • In Scooby-Doo (2002), Daphne has a moment where she's being held and fights her way out by beating up the one guard that's supposed to keep her distressed.
    Daphne: Who's the damsel in distress now?
    Guard: (whimper) Me.
    Daphne: Straight up. (knocks guard through a vent)
  • Spaceballs: What happens when Princess Vespa's hair is caught in enemy crossfire? She grabs a laser gun and mows those suckers down!
    Barf: Not bad...for a girl.
    Dot: Hey, that was pretty good for Rambo!
  • While they still end these sequences rescued in some way, Mary Jane in Spider-Man 3 and Gwen Stacy in The Amazing Spider-Man manage to protect themselves from danger during the climax beforehand.
  • Star Wars:
    • Princess Leia in A New Hope. Luke and Han come to rescue her but the rescue doesn't quite work out, so she blasts a hole in the wall, proclaiming "Somebody has to save our skins!"
      • Leia's first appearance may result in her being captured to eventually be rescued, but in between giving the Death Star plans to some droids, she's a much better shot than the stormtroopers who died trying to capture her.
    • In Return of the Jedi, Jabba the Hutt takes Leia as a slave. Goodbye, Jabba; Leia strangles him with her own chains.
      • In discussions about the film and his own book's part in inspiring it, Joseph Campbell points out that Leia is a rather unique twist on this, where the damsel is saving the dashing hero (Han) from the dragon, as played by Jabba. Of course, the initial breakout goes up in smoke, but Leia is the one who scores the kill on the dragon while the guys never make it to his lair. As mentioned above, earlier, Leia was the one who rescued her rather incompetent rescuers.
      • Reportedly, Carrie Fisher was confronted by an angry father who wanted to try and get her to side with him in stopping production of action figures of Leia in the Gold Jabba's Palace Bikini. He demanded how he was going to explain a respected leader dressing like that to his daughter. Carrie told him, "Tell her that someone forced me to wear it. I didn't like it. So I killed him."
    • This trope is in full force in any of Barbara Hambly's expanded universe novels. Two things you can absolutely be sure of: 1. Leia will be kidnapped by the Villains of the Book, and 2. She will make their lives pure hell before skewering them with a lightsaber near the climax.
    • Attack of the Clones: When Padme faces execution alongside Anakin and Obi-Wan, she gets out of her handcuffs before the two Jedi and begins fighting back!
      • Earlier in the film, she balks at the thought of going into hiding, refusing to hide in the face of two assassination attempts. Her justification for getting captured in the first place was, while her protector was told to stay out of the matter, he was also told to stay with her... and she's going. Later, when she gets out of her handcuffs, she uses her chains to beat the monster to near death, something neither guy ever did.
    • She also led the charge against her home planet's invasion and demanding (and succeeding) in getting the Chancellor of the Republic to step down over his fecklessness in the whole situation. While being only 14 years old!
    • The Force Awakens: The first time Finn sees Rey, she's being attacked by two men who are trying to steal the droid BB-8 from her. Finn runs over prepared to save her...only to discover that she quickly dispatches her attackers on her own. Later, Rey uses the Jedi Mind Trick on a stormtrooper in order to free herself from Kylo Ren's clutches. Her rescuers are suitably surprised to see her running around free.
    • The Last Jedi: Played with. Rey gets herself captured and tortured by Snoke, but, at the end of the day, it's her own fault for throwing herself into a situation that she didn't fully understand. And she puts up an impressive fight that earns her some Villain Respect, but pretty quickly learns that she is in VERY deep over her head. She does get rescued by a male character, specifically Kylo Ren, but as soon as Snoke is out of the picture, Rey works with Kylo to fight their way out, until she refuses to join him, and escapes the rest of the way on her own.
  • Played for Laughs in The Suicide Squad when our heroes are all set for Storming the Castle to rescue Harley Quinn who has been captured and tortured, only for Harley to casually walk up to them on the street and ask what they're doing, having freed herself and killed every soldier in the building. She's quite touched that they came for her, and even offers to go back in so they can do their plan if it would make the team feel better.
    Bloodsport: That's patronizing.
  • Sweetheart: Jennifer needs no help in rescuing herself. Despite difficulties, the only other characters in the story (including her boyfriend) prove useless and Jennifer shows great skills in taking down the monster that was threatening her all alone. In fact, the others prove more of a hindrance than anything.
  • Tale of Tales: Princess Violet grows into this role eventually. She's married off to an ogre because he manages to solve her father the king's Impossible Task, and he carries her off to his cave. A friendly family saves her and takes her away, but the ogre catches up to them and kills all her saviors. She's forced to act affectionately to soothe him, and he prepares to carry her away again on his back... at which point she slits his throat with the knife she was hiding. She returns to her remorseful father covered in blood and carrying the ogre's head, and the film ends with her Awesome Moment of Crowning as queen.
  • Tamara: Alison manages to save herself when a brainwashed Shawn and Patrick attack her, killing them both defending herself.
  • Vicious Fun: Bob and his merry band of serial killers murder an entire police station minutes before Sarah, his would-be victim, wanders in looking for Joel. Sounds bad, right? Luckily she knows self-defense — Fritz the Clown is laid out in seconds when he tries to attack her.
  • In The Wolverine, when Mariko is snagged by thugs at her grandfather's funeral, she was well on her way toward escaping from them when Logan reached her and finished them off. Also she saves Logan a few times and helps take down Silver Samurai with her knife-throwing skills.
  • The World Is Not Enough: The Back Story of Elektra King is that she ended her kidnapping by seducing her guard, stealing his gun, and shooting three men to escape. Turns out she also seduced her main kidnapper into suffering Lima Syndrome and going so far as to die for her Evil Plan.
  • You Were Never Really Here: When Joe arrives at the Governor's mansion to rescue Nina, he kills his way past various security guards into a bedroom to find that Nina has already killed the Governor with a straight razor.

  • All the Wrong Questions: Cleo is kidnapped before the start of Where Did You See Her Last, but when Lemony finally finds her, she's taken her captor prisoner and is looking for a way to open her cell.
  • The Animorphs Prequel book The Andalite Chronicles kicks off as the Andalites Elfangor and Arbron board a Skrit Na ship that just left Earth. There they meet Loren, a teenage abductee who was in the process of threatening her captors with a Dracon beam. (The other prisoner, Chapman, was cowering.)
  • Creel in Dragon Slippers does this. After her aunt tries to send her to be kidnapped by the local dragon to get the local lord's son to marry her, Creel persuades the dragon to not only let her go but also give her a piece of his hoard. Then she reassures the lord's son (who arrives just as Creel is walking out of the cave) that she doesn't need rescuing, and sets off for the capital to pursue her dreams of becoming a dressmaker.
  • Edgar Rice Burroughs's heroines often have their moments, being brave and able to endure hardship, and sometimes even wading into the fray.
    • In John Carter of Mars Dejah Thoris is a Living MacGuffin textbook Damsel in Distress in most of the stories she's featured in, but she's always portrayed as brave, intelligent, and willing to make sacrifices for the benefit of others. It's mentioned occasionally that when she's in a situation where fighting would actually do some good (i.e. when she's not hopelessly outnumbered) she can fight pretty well, it's just that that sort of thing never seems to come up in the books, so the smart thing is to bide her time and wait.
    • Tara in The Chessmen of Mars fights off a rapist.
    • Virginia in The Monster Men turns the machine on the attacking pirates; she and the elderly Chinese cook fight them off alone.
  • In the Discworld novel Feet of Clay, a gang of thugs new to the city make the mistake of raiding the Watch's pub, and then compound their error by taking Angua hostage. They realise that subsequent negotiations aren't going as expected, but don't grasp why until it's too late.
    Carrot: I hope you're not going to kill anyone.
    Thug: That's up to us!
    Carrot: Sorry, was I talking to you?
  • The Dresden Files: In Even Hand, Justine Took a Level in Badass when she freed the prisoners, including a young child, from a powerful Fomor Wizard then swam to safety with the child, all on her own.
  • The Elder Empire: Of Shadow and Sea ends with Meia getting captured, and a ransom note being sent to her friends. Shera doesn't even bother reading it.
    Scout: Well? Will we negotiate?
    Shera: Negotiate? They let Meia onto their ship. They're already dead.
  • In the Firefly novel Carnival, Zoe doesn’t wait around to be rescued when she and Book are captured. By the time Wash and the crew get the ransom money and Mal attempts a rescue, she and Book have freed themselves.
  • In Frostflower and Thorn Frostflower saves herself and her friends with an awesome display of her rediscovered powers in the book's climactic scene.
  • Calynn, and Aurora in Gathering the Enchanted. Sure, they look and act like damsels but they both nearly kill someone in both of their first appearances.
  • Karyn gets a few of these moments in The Howling (1977):
    • Subverted when Max rapes her at the start; she makes a valiant effort to fight him off, hitting, kicking and scratching him, but he overpowers her easily and she can't fight anymore after he slugs her in the stomach, winding her and causing her to miscarry.
    • When a werewolf gets too close to her house, Karyn shoots at it with a shotgun and manages to drive it off after wounding its ear, though she notes the werewolf isn't as severely hurt as it should've been and she's left feeling more unnerved than ever by the encounter.
    • Played straight in the novel's climax. After realising how much danger she's in, Karyn calls Chris and begs him to pick her up from Drago, also urging him to bring a gun and silver bullets. When she's attacked by a werewolf at her house, Karyn takes Roy's truck and tries to flee in it, though as she doesn't know how to drive she ends up crashing the car and has to run for help. Upon learning everyone in Drago is a werewolf, she ends up back the house and does her best to barricade herself inside, armed with a shotgun, buying time for Chris to arrive. She helps him hold off the werewolves with a flaming torch and silver bullets until they can make it to his car and manages to shoot Marcia in the head when she attacks her.
  • In The Invisible Library and its sequels, Irene, a young agent of The Library, is often underestimated by both friend and foe, but is quite capable in both spycraft and The Language, and takes full advantage of her apparent helplessness to get the better of her captors. In later books, she is forced to get much more creative, or get rescued by her teammates when she becomes more highly-regarded and well-known, leading to enemies taking extra precautions with her.
  • Multiple from Danielle L. Jensen:
    • Malediction Trilogy: Cecile de Troyes. She's seventeen and slight of build, but she is also intelligent, clever, has an older brother who taught her how to pick locks with a hairpin - not to mention a powerful witch, which means that more often than not she can get out of trouble on her own.
    • The Bridge Kingdom Archives: Lara is assumed by everyone to be a typical woman from her own nation of Maridrina, that is meek, timid, and good only for bedding and raising children. However, she is a trained fighter and spy and even comes to her husband Aren's rescue more than once.
  • Joe Pickett: In Endangered, Liv is captured and held captive by the Cates clan. When Joe finds out where she is being held and comes to rescue her, he finds she has already escaped and he arrives just in time to prevent her from murdering her former captors.
  • Journey to Chaos:
    • A Mage's Power: Zigzagged this trope with Kasile. She easily handles the mooks that have come to abduct her, but their leader subdues her just as easily. Eric comes to rescue her but by the time he arrives, she's loose and on the verge of escape. In the end, she follows the outlaw force that composes her official rescue party. Two books later in Mana Mutation Menace, she falls victim to both a Hypnotize the Captive plot and a demonically possessed dragon golem. She needed aid in the form of an Armor-Piercing Question to overcome the first and beat the second on her own.
    • In both Looming Shadow and Mana Mutation Menace, baddies think that Tiza will be easy to capture and use as a hostage because she's not a mage. Both situations end with them being the ones Bound and Gagged while she gloats.
  • Ella Brown from Just Ella (a Cinderella retelling), who realizes being engaged to Prince Charming isn't all it's cracked up to be and breaks herself out of a dungeon.
  • Kindling Ashes: Giselle is captured by raiders and bound hand and foot, yet she rescues herself by spooking them into thinking that Baltair possessed one of them and then sticks her hands against a campfire to burn away the ropes. By the time she's done, she notes that rescuers have arrived.
  • Kidnapped: Meg repeatedly escapes from her abductors (although they keep recapturing her) or leaves behind clues that help people find her, and plays a major role in her own eventual rescue.
  • Ekaterin Vorsoisson in Komarr. She's a demure, ladylike young mom kidnapped by terrorists, who hijacks a crane and smashes their superweapon to bits with it.
  • Anne McCaffrey:
    • Anne McCaffrey's Restoree was apparently written in response to all those early SF Damsels desperate for the hero to rescue them. Sara, The Heroine, is no Action Heroine but she is able to talk and think her own way out of trouble and on one memorable occasion takes a heavy metal hairbrush to a drunken thug who has kidnapped her.
    • In McCaffrey's Dragonriders of Pern, Lessa is this in spades. The sole survivor when her family is massacred by the tyrant Fax, she dresses in rags and ashes and pretends to be an elderly servant. With her psychic powers, she controls the other servants to commit little errors and lapses that, over the next ten years, ruin the castle and its environs, and ultimately the entire Hold; the idea being that Fax will renounce it, then she can reveal herself and take over. She is a literal Cinderella who needs no prince to rescue her. And she starts doing this when she is ten years old.
  • In The Mistborn Adventures, Marasi is an unassuming, cerebral young woman who surprises even herself when she starts dealing with people who underestimate her as a hostage.
    "This is, what, the third time someone has tried to use me as a hostage? Do I exude indefensibility or something?"
  • Night World:
    • Secret Vampire: When she realises Ash intends to hand her over to Thierry as an illegally made vampire, Poppy begins fighting back despite him being physically stronger, tries to jump over the balcony they're standing on and also instinctively lashes out at him with her psychic abilities. This attracts the attention of James and Phil, who come to her assistance.
    • In the climax of Daughters of Darkness (1996), Mary-Lynnette manages to distract the killer long enough to untie herself, lures them away from an unconscious Ash and is ultimately the who kills them.
    • Daphne from The Chosen (1997), combined with Offscreen Moment of Awesome. After being kidnapped from a club used by vampires to abduct humans, she pretended to be under mind control despite being scared out of her wits to avoid alerting the vampires. When she and the other girls were put into the back of a van, she watched to see how her captors locked the door, then got it open and jumped out once the van started moving, with Rashel witnessing her escape and helping her get away.
    • Zig-zagged with Hannah in Soulmate. After being attacked by Thierry actually Maya in disguise, she manages to fend him off by stabbing him with a pencil. She also does a decent job fending off a werewolf that attacked her in her therapist's office (using a silver picture frame), though she had help from an outside party in this case. In the climax she is [kidnapped by Maya and actually succeeds in untying herself and getting a weapon, but ultimately has to be rescued by Thierry - in fairness, she probably didn't stand much of a chance against Maya She does end up being the one to kill Maya, catching her off guard and letting her impale herself on a stake she's holding.
    • When she's captured by slavers and stuffed into a horse-drawn cart in Black Dawn, Maggie manages to tip the cart over with some help from the other slaves and makes a run for it.
  • The Princess Wei Yang: Wei Yang uses her wits to foil almost all the plots against her. And if that doesn't work, she won't hesitate to fight back against anyone stupid enough to attack her.
  • In Sandokan novels:
    • Marianna. She can be kidnapped, as her physical strength is that of a young and very short woman, but she knows how to use guns (normally a muzzle-loader hunting carbine, but she even manned a cannon, in the tv movies), and has no qualms at using them. Heck, her first reaction at Sandokan announcing his intention to kill a tiger with a knife to gift her the skin was to grab a gun to try and hunt down the tiger to prevent Sandokan from risking his life. Part of why she fell for Sandokan was that he was the first man other than her uncle (who taught her how to shoot) who accepted that side of her.
    • In The King of the Sea Darma, Tremal Naik's daughter, proves she has grown into this when her reaction to attacking Dayaks is to use them to prove herself a crack shot. She still got kidnapped by overwhelming numbers, but she made them pay for that in blood.
  • Strongly implied in the case of Sophy Kratides in the Sherlock Holmes short story "The Adventure of the Greek Interpreter" - the official story is that her kidnappers got into an argument and killed each other, but Holmes suspects otherwise.
  • The Silmarillion/Beren and Lúthien: Lúthien Tinúviel, an Elven princess who falls in love with the mortal Beren. When her father finds out, he sends Beren on an impossible quest and imprisons her. Time for her lover to rescue her? Not quite! She escapes by her own means (twice), then rescues Beren, who has also been imprisoned in the meantime... by none other than Sauron, who Lúthien defeats almost single-handedly. Then she helps Beren fulfill his quest (and does most of the work, really, confronting the legendarium's equivalent of Satan by herself). It's interesting to note that Lúthien was an homage to Tolkien's wife, Edith Tolkien, while Beren was basically an Author Avatar.
  • Anne Neville in The Sunne in Splendour manages to be both a damsel in and out of distress. When her brother-in-law George keeps her captive with the intent of stealing her fortune, Anne knows she has very little power and needs the aid and protection of her beloved, George's brother Richard. However, with Richard off at war, Anne gets word that George intends to lock her in a nunnery or worse. So she and her ladies maid escape and hide out at an inn disguised as servants until Richard rides in on a white horse and rescues her. But had Anne not run away, it would have been too late for Richard to help her.
  • Sweet & Bitter Magic: Tamsin saves Wren and herself after the two are confronted by armed men intent on harming them. She casts a spell which traps both of them inside a pit.
  • The Sword Of Saint Ferdinand: When Elvira becomes imprisoned in the tower of a castle, she quickly makes a rope using her room's sheets and curtains, slides out of the window, climbs down the tower despite the strong wind and the low night-time visibility, and flees.
  • In Poul Anderson's "Time Lag", Elva's position as prisoner does not prevent her weaseling concessions out of Bors, and at the end, she casually orders them to take Bors into the corridors and shoot him.
  • In the third Wheel of Time book, Egwene, Nynaeve, and Elayne are held captive in the Stone of Tear by the Black Ajah. Though shielded from the One Power, by entering Tel'aran'rhiod they manage to find a way to put their abductors out of commission and weaken their hold over them. Just when they're about to find a way to escape their cell, Mat and Juilin open their cell door from the outside, having come to rescue them. The girls are befuddled to see them here, given that they had no idea Mat was even in Tear – let alone in the legendary impregnable fortress of the Stone – and that Juilin was the one who had sold them out to the Black Ajah in the first place. Nynaeve punches the terrified Black Ajah sister, who had been guarding them, in the face and knocks her out in order to get her powers back, and then holds Mat in a lock of Air to tell him off for his reckless behavior. Mat, of course, and perhaps understandably so, grumbles about the ungrateful reception of his rescue.
  • Young Sherlock Holmes: In Death Cloud, Holmes finishes dealing with Big Bad Baron Maupertuis and goes to rescue Virginia who is being attacked by The Dragon Mr Surd. However, when he gets to her, he finds that Virginia has already knocked Mr Surd out and was the point of coming to rescue him.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Early in The 100's second season, Finn goes on a rampage trying to rescue Clarke from her abductors, not realizing Clarke had already escaped on her own and was busy looking for him.
  • In one episode of Adam-12, a convenience store robber is using a woman as a hostage, only to have her stomp his foot with her heel spike—a trick she learned from cop shows.
  • Even The Adventures of Superman version of Lois Lane had her moments. For example, in "Jimmy Olsen, Boy Editor", she sweet-talks one of the mooks holding her hostage into handing over his machine gun, then sprays the room until it's out of bullets. She and Jimmy would have gotten away with no other help needed if not for a Diabolus ex Machina.
  • Arrow:
    • Laurel Lance would've avoided being kidnapped - she fought off two goons - if Cyrus Vance hadn't had a taser. Later in the series, she pulls a shotgun on the assassin who comes after her and the little boy she's protecting.
    • Shado is a much more straight example. She's Yao Fei's daughter who was kidnapped to blackmail him. Turns out she was trained in martial arts by her father.
  • Batman (1966): Girly Girl Pinky Pinkston gets her pet dog to chew through the ropes binding her and escapes from captivity without Batman's help.
  • Charmed (1998) has three Action Girls as its protagonists, but a notable example is an episode with Fairy Tale Motifs. Piper gets eaten by the wolf from Red Riding Hood but is able to save herself by using her powers to simply blow him up from the inside.
  • Clarice: Clarice manages to save herself twice from great danger, first in the clinic and later when Nils Hagen is holding her (by persuading his son to turn against him).
  • Class of '09: Vivienne, when attacked by an armed gunman, kills him by ramming him with her car (as Tayo had replaced the normal windshield with bulletproof glass, she's unharmed).
  • Doctor Who: Several companions fit this to varying degrees due to the fact that juggling the Distress Ball is in the job description. Jo Grant, for instance, has received spy training so is very good at escaping from her bonds. Vicki has a brilliant moment in "The Chase" when even though the Doctor has abandoned her in a Dalek-infested theme park by accident, she manages to sneak onboard the Daleks' time machine and meet up with the crew with knowledge of the Daleks' plan to boot.
  • Dragnet: A bank robber has an MO of thumbing rides with women and then forcing them at gunpoint to help him. Then he unwittingly picks a karate instructor and lets his guard down...
  • Father Brown: In "The Daughter of Autolycus", Flambeau's daughter Marianne is kidnapped. By the time Flambeau and Father Brown arrive with the ransom, Marianne has already escaped, overpowered her abductors, and tied them up.
  • Firefly: River Tam spends a significant amount of time in serious danger, between the villagers threatening to burn her alive, Feds putting guns to her head, and the Hands of Blue. Then she remembers she can fight back.
  • In The Flash (2014) Iris West has been captured many times, yes, but she usually is able to get herself out and even saves Barry's ass on occasion.
  • If you are a villain in Fringe, do not kidnap Olivia Dunham. The best case scenario is that she'll escape. Worst case, she'll kill everyone involved on her way out the door. Specifically, do not attempt to use:
    • Restraints. They don't work. Ever. Even her Alternate Universe version was able to escape while tied to a gurney. Also while having her pregnancy accelerated.
    • Captured family and friends. That will only activate her superpowers. Then people die.
    • Locking her in an alternate universe and rewrite her brain to believe that she's her alternate universe self. No, she'll just reconstruct her true mind, then teleport herself back to her universe, thus leaving herself with both Olivia's abilities.
  • Frontier (2016): Sokanon finds out that Native girls are being captured by a Christian cult for conversion, then sold off to hunters and brothels. She's captured herself and taken to one of these convents after she tries to convince the ringleader's wife to leave him. Michael Smyth tries to help her when he discovers what happened, but Sokanon already manages to kill her captors and free all the girls before Michael can even get there.
  • In Grimm, Juliette is captured by a Damonfeuer who wants to set up the classic "knight saves a Damsel in Distress from a dragon" trope so that the "knight's" sacrifice can save her father's life. Unfortunately for the dragons, Juliette headbutts the woman and tries to run even before Nick shows up.
  • Haven: Audrey holds the Distress Ball with some regularity, but she rarely needs someone to come to her rescue. In season one, she's held hostage with Duke and Julia on his boat by two criminals, one a psychic, looking to steal Duke's contraband. By the time Nathan knows she's in trouble, she has already come up with a Psychic Static plan that allows her and Duke to overpower them and steal their weapons. In season two, she and others are trapped by a Trouble that wraps the building in vines. By the time Nathan has broken in to rescue her, she's already figured out how to get the vines to retreat by talking down the Troubled couple creating them. In season three, she's kidnapped by that season's Big Bad and tied up in a basement of a hotel closed for the off season. She manages to tip over a glass lamp, grab a broken shard, cut through her restraints, and meets Nathan and Duke in the entryway as they're arriving to rescue her.
  • Hawaii Five-0: An early episode has a witness in a murder trial marked for death. She initially escapes off-screen by attacking one of her assailants with a hairspray/cigarette lighter combo before running into the woods and making it pretty far for an untrained civilian before Chin is able to find her.
  • Hell on Wheels: Lily Bell kills the Cheyenne warrior who killed her husband by stabbing him with the arrow that was stuck in her shoulder, then is able to trek over several miles and sew up her wound before getting rescued by Joseph Black Moon and Cullen Bohannon.
  • The I-Land: Brody tries to rape Chase, who fights him off (she's shown as adept in martial arts).
  • Into the Dark: In All That We Destroy the latest Ashley clone manages to break free and kill Spencer, rather than be murdered like her predecessors.
  • The King Loves: San threatens Wang Jeon with a hairpin, ties him up, and leaves him in the carriage while she escapes.
  • L.A.'s Finest: Nancy goes undercover to catch a veteran and therapist who is recruiting other veterans for hit jobs. After he finds out and tries to kill her, Nancy takes him down (although not without her getting beat up), since she's a trained Navy veteran herself.
  • The Law According to Lidia Poët: Lidia deftly knees a drunken man in the groin then slams his head into a wall to knock him out after he corners her.
  • Law & Order: Special Victims Unit: In season 21's "Must Be Held Accountable," Rollins is kidnapped by a father unhappy with the way his case ended. She ends her own hostage situation by gaining the upper hand when he's distracted. She steals his own gun, handcuffs him, and hauls him into the precinct herself while her squad is frantically looking for her.
  • Merlin: Guinevere has the highest amount of kidnappings and captures on the show, but (as actress Angel Coulby has said in interviews) is also the strongest emotionally. The writers admitted that she's got the most common sense. Her ability to keep her wits around her, whether by bluffing her captors or keeping track of what's happening on a battlefield, has kept her and others alive more than once. One episode has Morgana and Gwen apprehended by bandits. Within seconds, the two manage to fight off their captors and run away. Although Gwen gets recaptured, Morgana makes it to safety.
  • Midnight Sun (2016): Kahina is put in danger multiple times, yet always manages to escape without great difficulty, needing no rescue and often overpowering her (male) attackers as well.
  • The Murders: "In My Feelings" has Kate's mother taken hostage, then Kate joining her at the hostage taker's demand. They manage to take him down together (Kate's at least a police detective).
  • The end-of-season cliffhanger in Season 10 of Murdoch Mysteries includes Murdoch being told I Have Your Wife. In the first episode of the next season, one of the criminals goes to take a photo of Dr. Ogden to prove she's still alive and finds the guard tied up and no sign of her.
  • My Country: The New Age: Hui-jae's taken hostage by the man who killed her mother. While he's distracted she stabs him and shoves him away, giving Hwi the chance to shoot him.
  • A Running Gag on NCIS, in which our heroes realize a female character is Alone with the Psycho, and rush to the rescue only to find she's already knocked him unconscious. When Abby was being stalked the team found out that she was in the same vehicle as the perp; they open the door as Abby is dishing out comeuppance to the jerk. Additionally, when someone reveals villainous intentions (in the forensics lab no less), the team arrives to find Abby sitting there with the villain tied up with duct tape.
  • Belle in Once Upon a Time. Notably, when Captain Hook has a gun pointed at her, she's able to distract him long enough to run away. A later episode has her and Ariel tied up on a chair. Belle pulls off the bracelet Ariel was wearing to give herself human legs - and her mermaid tail helps them break out of their bonds.
  • Our Miss Brooks:
    • Miss Brooks, when trapped in an industrial freezer with Walter Denton, Philip Boynton, and Osgood Conklin in "Male Superiority". The three males panic while Miss Brooks stays calm. An example of Laser-Guided Karma and Hypocritical Humor, as all three had lectured Miss Brooks on a man's ability to stay calm during an emergency.
    • In its Spiritual Successor, "The Big Jump", Boynton and Conklin similarly panic when a prank by Walter makes it appear the school is on fire. Again, Mr. Boynton had been claiming men were calmer in the event of an emergency.
  • Picnic at Hanging Rock: Miranda suffers an attempted rape in the stables by a young soldier. She stabs him in the foot with a pitchfork, incapacitating her attacker.
  • Preacher (2016): Tulip gets half-strangled by one of Victor's goons, but she nonetheless manages to overpower and kill him despite being about half his size.
  • The Professionals. In "The Purging of CI5", a terrorist bomber is killing off CI5 agents. One of the few female CI5 agents gets a lead and rushes off by herself to confront the man, and there's a shot of him reaching for a gun in a drawer. Then Bodie and Doyle arrive on the scene to find the office looking like a bomb exploded and the female agent lying with her feet up...on the desk, with the bomber beaten up and subdued in the corner.
  • Robin Hood: Djaq and Marian. Everyone on this show is captured at least once; in their case, they are rescued by friends and/or love interests, but not before making several nearly successful attempts to escape on their own.
  • The Rookie (2018): When Grey's wife Lola is cornered by a criminal getting into the elevator, she unhesitatingly sprays him in the eyes with mace and then kicks him in the balls. He says "That's my girl" afterward, impressed.
  • Sadakatsiz: Volkan recruits Selçuk as a grunt in his crusade to scare doctor Asya out of town. While at first is just vandalism —breaking her windows and sending death threats—, Asya's refusal to budge frustrates the pair and they escalate. Volkan then instructs Selçuk to break into her house and threaten her directly. Unfortunately for Volkan, Selçuk does have a bone to pick and dismisses Volkan's warnings about harming Asya. After he notices she's called for help, he starts choking her. She manages to grab a vase and smack him in the head. This alerts Asya's friends to come back, which stops Selçuk in his tracks and prompts him to flee.
  • Sleepy Hollow: Abbie is a true Action Heroine, but this trope is played with when she travels back in time and has to convince past!Crane to trust her. After believing she is mentally ill and leaving her alone in a prison cell, Crane sees evidence that Abbie's supernatural claims are correct and the two of them are friends in the future. He hurries back to her cell to rescue her...only to find that she has picked the lock on her cuffs and knocked out a man who tried to attack her.
    Crane: I'm here to save you...though it appears Sutton is in greater need.
    Abbie: Better late than never.
  • Jadzia Dax in Star Trek: Deep Space Nine. In "Things Past" she's captured by Dukat and uses it as an opportunity to gather intel. In "Past Tense Part I, she's mistaken for a mugging victim by a good Samaritan. She goes along with his story so she can find a way to help Bashir and Sisko.
  • Supernatural: In the Season 4 episode "Monster Movie" a comely barmaid named Jamie gets kidnapped by a shapeshifter acting out classic horror films, including Dracula. Dean gets captured, so Jamie rescues herself and Dean, kills the monster, and gets rewarded with a night of no-strings passion with Dean. Not a bad day's work for a Girl of the Week.
  • Super Sentai:
    • In Dai Sentai Goggle Five: The enemy loves targeting Miki Momozono/Goggle Pink to be attacked or sorts, causing her allies to knock the attacker for her but on the other hand, she can take care of herself and proves her smarts in outwitting the enemies culminating in getting off from a Death Trap of a burning book... alone.
    • In Uchu Sentai Kyuranger, Raptor-273 has a rather introverted personality prior to getting the ability to become a ranger. Her ranger debut episode had her nearly getting eaten by a dream-eating monster until the team saved her. Of course, said dream that attracted the monster in the first place was jumping at the call. In the franchise that made Sixth Rangers and thus knows a thing or two about badass debut episodes, cue one of the most badass fights in franchise history.
  • Juanita in the Tales Of Wells Fargo episode "Rio Grande" frees herself from Sebastian's captivity offscreen.
  • The Twilight Zone (2002): In "Fair Warning" Tina is attacked by George in her apartment. He overpowers her and duct tapes Tina's mouth, but she manages to grab some scissors to stab him with, rescuing herself.
  • The Twilight Zone (2019): In "Try Try" before the security guards even arrive, Claudia fends Mark off and knocks him down herself. She threatens to do this any other time Mark tries in another loop. It deters him enough that in the next loop, he leaves Claudia alone.
  • Two Sentence Horror Stories: In "Instinct" Anika's forced to rescue herself when the police (who proved no help) leave and Patrick attacks her. She kills him with a hidden weapon.
  • The Vampire Diaries: Elena started off as a Damsel in Distress most of the time, but became highly competent, tough, and capable of defending herself against the supernatural beings around her.
  • A sequence in the Walt Disney Presents episode "Mars and Beyond" parodies pulp Space Opera, introducing The Hero (a pipe-smoking egghead) and his Sexy Secretary who gets kidnapped by a robot because Mars Needs Women. She endures numerous perils while fleeing an assortment of hideous aliens and Donald Duck, all while the supposed "hero" of the story is obliviously puffing away on his pipe, pondering arcane equations. Finally, she dons a superheroine costume, outwits the Martians with her cunning, then jetpacks back to Earth and the office just in time to take a letter from her egghead boss stating that in his opinion there is no life on Mars. Whereupon the robot reappears and abducts him instead.
  • White Collar: Elizabeth Burke, as of the season three midseason premiere. She concocts a brilliant escape plan with nothing but a dog bite, thermostat, diamond ring, and some crazy chair swinging skills.
  • Winter Begonia: Referenced by Shang Xirui in a conversation with Cheng Fengtai.
    Shang Xirui: You're a hero, you're used to playing hero to save beauties. But I'm not a beauty. I'm a hero too.
  • Wonder Woman: Many times. For example, in "Baroness Von Gunther" Wonder Woman is bound by chains that are "unbreakable...even by elephants". The chains don't last long against the Amazon Princess, much to the bad guy's dismay. In "The Last of the Two Dollar Bills", Wonder Woman's bracelets are taken and she's locked in a cell. She breaks the lock in two with her bare hands then disarms and overpowers the guard. Bonus points in the same episode to Steve Trevor, the series' designated Distressed Dude, for disarming the bomb that the Nazi spy left behind to kill him.

  • Aqua's "My Oh My" video starts with Lene being kidnapped by a gang of pirates, but later fights back and takes over the pirate ship from her kidnappers.
  • The music video of t.A.T.u.'s "All About Us" features one of the duo escaping an Attempted Rape by shooting her would-be rapist in the head.
  • Jonathan Coulton: The princess in "The Princess Who Saved Herself". She overpowers a dragon who attacks, then makes friends with him and they end up in a band together.
  • The music video for "Judgement Day" by Lovebites begins with a woman running away from a strange shadow that is menacing her. She falls over before spotting a sword planted in the ground conveniently near where she fell, at which point she stands up, grabs the sword and uses it to dispatch the shadow.

  • Keri from the Cool Kids Table game Bloody Mooney is secretly a good fighter, and also a high-school gossip.

    Professional Wrestling 
  • For reasons known only to herself, Hana Kimura consistently directed her mother's Power Stable Oedo~tai to kidnap and or execute Mayu Iwatani after joining her mother in World Wonder Ring STARDOM. Oedo~tai tends to harass anyone facey, including Hana when she's on her best behavior, but it was clear something unusual was up when she and Kris Wolf attempted to bind and gag Iwatani. Iwatani always manages to get out of whatever they try. Once the entrance arc of the STARDOM stage was collapsed on Iwatani but she managed to avert a broken skull\neck by using the guard rail for leverage long enough to slow its fall.

    Puppet Shows 
  • Lampshaded in Fraggle Rock. When Mokey is putting on a play with Red in the Damsel in Distress role and Gobo, who's supposed to rescue her, doesn't show up Red proposes a rewrite:
    Red: Who needs a Prince? I can rescue me!

  • In Jasper in Deadland, after Loki brings her to Mr. Lethe's factory as punishment, Agnes is able to escape on her own by sabotaging the assembly lines.

    Video Games 
  • In Chrono Trigger, Crono is thrown in jail for allegedly kidnapping Marle (aka Princess Nadia). Should the player choose, he can perform a jailbreak and bust out. When reaching the last area, Lucca shows up, ostensibly having come to save Crono, but she remarks that he clearly didn't need her help. Should the player fail to escape or choose to do nothing, this is averted as Lucca performs a rescue before Crono gets his head cut off.
  • Madison Paige in Heavy Rain has a knack for getting herself into situations where she faces a high probability of being raped, killed, or both. But in each case, she has the ability to escape from them on her own as well as get the would-be killer killed if the player makes the right moves.
  • Elaine Marley of the Monkey Island series. She frequently needs rescuing from LeChuck, but most other times, she can perfectly take care of herself. In the first game, Guybrush inadvertently messes up her plan to destroy LeChuck by attempting to rescue her.
  • Final Fantasy:
    • Final Fantasy VII:
      • Tifa Lockhart is thought to be in distress early in the game but is instead undercover and investigating. Later in the game, she's shackled to a chair in a gas chamber and escapes on her own.
      • Aerith Gainsborough is separated from Cloud at one point in the game and pursued by SHINRA soldiers. The player has the option to fight them with only her.
      • Played for Laughs when Cloud goes on a date with one of the female party members and has to take part in a play, with Cloud as The Hero and Aerith/Tifa/Yuffie as the Damsel in Distress. If the player messes up too many lines, the date will angrily slap Cloud so hard he passes out and then kick her dragon captor off the stage herself. The narrator hastily wraps up the story while the other actors just awkwardly stand there.
    • Final Fantasy X:
      • Yuna, the sweet, shy, innocent summoner is kidnapped a couple of times but pulls this trope off. Escaping on her own just as her rescuers arrive and then attempting to send Seymour at the forced marriage; when that fails she jumps off a roof and escapes on an aeon.
      • During the Blitzball tournament in Luca, Yuna is abducted by the Al Bhed, who intend to use her as a hostage and force the Besaid Aurochs to throw the game against them in the elimination round. Tidus, Lulu, and Kimahri mount a rescue mission, fighting their way through waves of guard machina to the ship where Yuna is being held captive. Upon defeating the Oblitzerator, they rush to open the door to belowdecks ... only for the door to open and an unconscious guard to slump out onto the ground as Yuna walks out.
        Lulu: [tenderly] I hope you hurt them.
        Yuna: A little.
  • Fire Emblem:
    • Nanna of Nodion from Fire Emblem: Thracia 776 keeps her cool when she and her friend Mareeta are kidnapped and openly telling Leif to not give himself up to the Empire when in a Hostage Situation. When freed, she joins the group to be their mounted White Magician Girl and can upgrade to a Lady of War.
    • Fire Emblem: Awakening: Anna first appears alone, protecting a village from a bandit troupe. Only a token assist from the Shepherds is required for Anna to singlehandedly mow down the entire attacking force.
  • Mass Effect: Liara's introduction in the third game sets her up for needing another rescue, scrambling through air vents being pursued by two Cerberus troopers. Then she exits the vents, traps the troopers with a Singularity, and double-taps both of them.
  • Knights of the Old Republic: There's Bastila, who takes a while to lose the Distress Ball, but when she does? Overrides a neural disruptor, kills her guard, uses telekinesis to break her way out of the cage and helps mop up whatever Vulkars are dumb enough to hang around after that using the dead mook's double-bladed sword. This is made especially hilarious if the Player Character does not level up because the player is saving their points for later, in which you are reduced to running in circles away from enemies while she kills literally all of them.
  • Kingdom Hearts II:
    • Belle of Beauty and the Beast pulls this trope off again when Xaldin kidnaps her and the rose, and forces Beast to choose. She elbows Xaldin in the gut and grabs the rose before running back inside the castle.
    • Kairi sees herself in danger often, but every time she's escaped (or in the process of it) before Sora arrives. For instance, when she's captured by Axel escapes from him but is later captured by Saïx and escapes him (with help from Namine, who, in an ironic doubling of this trope, actually IS her) and is confronted by nobodies and about to fight them when help from Riku arrives. Then she and Riku save Sora from a buttload of Heartless that Saix calls on him. Taken further in Kingdom Hearts III: Re𝄌Mind in which Kairi is Promoted to Playable and becomes a devastating Glass Cannon.
  • Persona: Multiple, who both take over as Mission Control:
    • Persona 3: Fuuka Yamagishi, before getting her Persona, survives several days stuck in Tartarus avoiding Shadows and then awakens to her Persona (Lucia).
    • Persona 4: Rise Kujikawa is the one who needs less time to rest and recover after the battle against her Shadow, and immediately takes Teddie's Mission Control spot with her Persona, Himiko.
  • The early Sega arcade game Sega Ninja have the villains attempting to kidnap the player's character, a ninja princess. But being, well, a ninja, the player easily escapes her captors and slays her way back to the capital city.
  • The Super Mario Bros.:
    • In the first two Paper Mario games, Princess Peach averts her usual Damsel in Distress shtick by breaking out of her cell once per chapter and sneaking around to find useful information (and sometimes items) she can send to Mario; in the first one, she can also feed her captors false information on Mario's weakness.
    • Zig-zagged in Super Mario 3D Land where the postcards between scenes show her making a pretty good attempt at escape, including taking out a Goomba Tower, until the last one shows that she's simply been recaptured, and it's all still down to Mario.
  • Super Smash Bros. for Nintendo 3DS and Wii U has an event match called "Enough With The Kidnapping" that is essentially the player doing this. It sees Peach battle against Bowser and Bowser Jr while a Boss Galaga that can only pick her up and take her away alongside Nabbit who can also kidnap Peach. Beating Bowser and his son implies Peach does this while losing (or being taken away by a hazard) implies she was kidnapped.
  • Vagrant Story: Callo Merlose is kidnapped just before the first boss, and remains captive for the entire game; since she's there to investigate the antagonists anyway, she takes advantage of this situation to learn as much as she can. On one occasion she almost reverses the power balance between herself and her captor. Heck, when she's first kidnapped, she straight up tells Ashley to stay on task and not bother about rescuing her!
  • Cassima from King's Quest VI: Heir Today, Gone Tomorrow spends most of the game locked up in the tower, but give her a dagger…
  • In Dragon Age: Origins, the player will be one if they choose the female city-elf origin. Seriously, those corpses weren't there last night were they? Any other female character gets a chance to play at the trope if they get captured near the end. Sure, you can get rescued, but it's totally plausible to rescue yourself.
  • World of Warcraft:
    • A dwarf named Fanny Thundermar is captured by ogres during an Alliance-side quest chain in the Twilight Highlands. When you go to rescue her, you find her surrounded by dead ogres who had tried to cop a feel. Her prospective husband is very impressed.
    • Jaina Proudmoore has one of these moments in the Fall of Theramore scenario. Your objective is to rescue her in the crater made by the mana bomb dropped by the Horde. When you find her she's surrounded by the dead, frozen corpses of numerous Horde soldiers and attempting to disarm the bomb so it can't be used again. Actually, this is more or less Jaina's default state: as players of Warcraft III know. She's an insanely powerful mage who is something of a Trouble Magnet, and also happens to be the daughter of Kul Tiras' Lord Admiral (who is treated like a King by the rest of the Alliance dignitaries). It's no wonder that when blue dragon aspect Kalecgos shows up (chasing the artifact that was used to make the mana bomb) he not only finds that Jaina needs rescuing from her own mind rather than the Horde, but also falls head over heels in love with her.
  • Hatoful Boyfriend: Hiyoko Tousaka, who is capable of throwing two Love Interests out of a window at once, becomes the "Plucky Girl catches a Distress Ball" version in the "Bad Boys Love" route. How distressed? The route is triggered by her dying horribly. Does this stop her from saving the day? Nah.
  • In the second Ace Attorney game, when Maya is kidnapped by Shelly de Killer, she participates in her own rescue by channeling Mia, who investigates the area for landmarks and clues. Mia then is channeled by Pearl, who relays the information to the police searching for Maya. There's also a part where Maya manages to escape from the cellar she's kept in, though she can't get much farther than that. Maya's channeling of Mia for advice is later used in the final case of the third game, where Maya is chased by a bloodthirsty and dead Dahlia Hawthorne and is advised by Mia to lock herself up and channel Dahlia herself, thus forcing Dahlia into confinement. Also, in just about every case where Maya's the defendant, she'll channel Mia at least once, so Phoenix can have her help.
  • Far Cry 3: Daisy. Not only does she manage to escape pirate custody and survive a friggin' leopard attack while unarmed, but she also comes up with the plan to get off the island, she also fixes up the boat (a World War II-vintage torpedo boat) needed to do it. The only time she needs help is when she is poisoned after the leopard attack, by running through a field of plants she didn't know were poisonous.
  • In Guenevere, Guen and Morgana get kidnapped in the second book. Rather than wait for rescue, they formulate their own plan for either Guen or Morgana to get away. If Guen chooses for Morgana to be the escapee, she'll have the option to make a break for it herself again later.
  • In River City Ransom: Underground, Chris spends the majority of the game imprisoned in the deepest depths of the River City High School by Slick's forces, but not only does she eventually manage to bust out all by herself, she even goes on to become playable and is just as badass as the rest of the heroes.
    • In the River City Girls continuity, Marian from Double Dragon got sick of getting kidnapped all the time, so she spends her time training while she can even during her kidnappings to break out of that mold. Even though she was a shopkeeper in the first game, the sequel led her to be Promoted to Playable as a result of her training which led her to become an Action Girl as a result.
  • In Tekken, after Lili was kidnapped by mafia who wanted some ransom, she broke herself out by kicking the crap out of her kidnappers, developing a taste for battle in the process.
  • The trope serves as the premise for Götzendiener. When a beautiful princess is kidnapped by demons, a brave Knight in Shining Armor comes to her rescue. When he dies from his wounds right after slaying the demon king, the princess has no other choice but to take her rescuer's sword and break herself out.
  • Clementine has direct agency in her own rescue in Episode 4 of The Walking Dead: Season One, up to and including killing her captor while he is distracted.
  • The Wizard Sniffer: You have been brought to the keep of an evil wizard to rescue a kidnapped princess, but as you explore the keep, you discover that the princess has already fled.
  • While a helpless damsel in the original Crash Bandicoot (1996), Tawna doesn't go down without a fight in the game's remake in the Crash Bandicoot N. Sane Trilogy. She can be seen attempting to fight off the Lab Assistants sent to detain her in the intro cutscene, and frequently escapes the castle to meet Crash in the Tawna Bonus Rounds... only to be quickly snatched back up by Cortex just before Crash can reach her.

    Web Animation 
  • Early in the fifth season of RWBY, Weiss gets captured by Raven's bandit clan. Though she is disarmed, she formulates a plan to sneak out with the use of her glyphs. She only throws subtlety out the window when Yang arrives and immediately has her glyph knight destroy her cage.
    • Later, when the Belladonnas and their guards are cornered by White Fang assassins led by Yuma, Kali picks up a fallen guard's pistol and starts shooting at her attackers herself. She even knocks out Yuma with a tea tray and comes out of the fight without so much as a scratch on her.

  • Princess Peach is depicted as one in this Brawl in the Family strip. She even manages to escape Bowser's castle on her own, only going back because she feels Mario is owed some recognition for the efforts to which he went saving her.
  • In Erstwhile, when Maid Maleen realizes that they will not be let out, she determines that they must get out on their own.
  • Girl Genius:
    • DefiedTrope; nobody else was stupid enough to try and kidnap a professional hero's angry sister.
    • Agatha earlier in the comics before she Took a Level in Badass. While she wasn't too capable in a fight, given some time and parts to work with, she could cobble together all sorts of contraptions to help herself escape with. Some idiots still try to kidnap her afterward and this results in a lot of pain and misery for anyone stupid enough to try. Case in Point: Tweedle. Poor Tweedle. Oh God, Tweedle. He thought kidnapping and subduing the Heterodyne Girl for his plot would be easy; he thought wrong.
  • Nearly all of the female characters in Homestuck are at least as dangerous as the males; occasionally they need to be rescued, but no more often than the boys do. Rose, Kanaya, Terezi, and Vriska in particular are more likely to be the ones doing the saving than the ones getting saved, and Dog!Jade has the powers of a god-tier Witch of Space plus the powers of a First Guardian, so she can usually handle herself (though the "dog" part does make her particularly susceptible to a certain kind of attack).
  • In Insecticomics, Lazorbeak gets kidnapped in an attempt to manipulate Kickback. As he explains when she shows up carrying pieces of her guard, Predacon women can liberate themselves.
  • In Magience, when Rune is kidnapped by the Plague Hunters, she escapes before the rescue effort gets anywhere.
  • In Nightmare Factory, Emai is taken transported to Phirre alone, and it looks like she’ll need to be rescued when it’s shown she’s way out of her depth. However, she ends up killing him, although he's Not Quite Dead, and rescues herself.
  • The Order of the Stick:
    • Celia is caught by Hank and other members of the Thieves Guild in Greysky City. She breaks out by using her negotiating skills to reinstate Haley with the Thieves Guild — though a quick display of Shock and Awe helps jump-start the bargaining.
    • Only an old-school chauvinist like Tarquin could mistake Haley for a Damsel in Distress, but by the time he calls for his Mooks to accept her surrender, none of them are alive to surrender to.

    Web Original 
  • Shamus Young wrote this in the article "Lara's Damsel in Distress", speaking about the Damsel in Distress trope and how to correct it, using Sam as an example.
    Yes, far too many times the inept doormat character that we have to rescue ends up being a woman. But making Samantha into Samuel and having Lara rescue a spineless whiny dude wouldn't fix the problem that the person we're trying to save is the least interesting person in the game. Let's not argue over how sexist this character is. Let's get rid of it and replace it with something better.
    To fix Samantha, just give her some strength, skill, and determination. It's okay if our rescue buddy can't liberate themselves. I don't begrudge a character not being able to free himself or herself from an army of cultists. Just show that they're trying. Make them good at something besides fighting. Make them a character with thoughts of their own. If nothing else, give them some witty things to say. We don't need to enact some kind of perverse affirmative action quota where we make sure both genders are properly represented among terrible sidekicks. Let's stop having terrible sidekicks.

    Western Animation 
  • DuckTales (1987): In "Scroogerello", "Princess" Goldie beats on the Beagle Boys while they're abducting her in their carriage. She doesn't initially escape, but she brings a lot of pain on them. When Glomgold and the Beagles lock Goldie in a tower, she rescues herself by karate-chopping down the door. Realizing her "golden stranger" (Scrooge) is in the castle to rescue her, she locks herself back up so she can play the part of damsel-in-distress. Unfortunately, Scrooge and the nephews run past, being chased by Glomgold and the Beagle Boys.
  • In the Looney Tunes short The Dover Boys, Dora Standpipe beats up the villainous Dan Backslide, coward-bully-cad-and-thief, as she calls for help. By the end, it's Backslide who calls for help.
  • My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic: Rarity in the episode "A Dog and Pony Show", where she's captured by a group of dogs who want her to dig up gems for them by hoof. She spends the rest of the episode driving her ponynappers insane in a calculated manner with constant nit-picking, complaining, and the worst whining sound you will ever hear. When our heroes finally reach the ponynappers, they are so happy to let her go that they are first seen running away.
  • Princess Zelda from The Legend of Zelda (1989) animated series preceded all the game installments in this department. There were more episodes featuring her battling alongside Link wielding a bow and arrow than there were of Link rescuing her and oftentimes she rescued herself before he showed up.
  • One appears in the obscure Disney feature Mars & Beyond as part of an outline of how Mars is depicted in pop culture. After being kidnapped because Mars Needs Women, her reaction upon meeting the Martian behind her abduction is to kick him in the mouth. After enduring a series of nightmarish tests (and being threatened by a number of bizarre aliens), she escapes on her own, hijacks a saucer, and flies back home — all without her egghead boss noticing she was missing in the first place!
  • Roll from the Mega Man cartoon gets captured a couple times but usually manages to make trouble for her captors.
  • Batman Beyond has Dana Tan; the few times she's a Damsel in Distress for more than a minute, she fights back. When kidnapped by a Stalker with a Crush, she tricks him into leaving her alone and tries to escape through the sewers. When Batman is overcome by giant rats while rescuing her, she creates a torch out of flotsam lying around and successfully drives the rats off of him. In The Movie, she almost gets away from the Joker who grabs her; unfortunately, she gives him so much trouble that instead of kidnapping her, he tries to kill her by throwing her off the balcony.
  • Arcee from Transformers: Prime is one. Of all the Autobots on Team Prime, she gets captured or trapped the most often. In the majority of cases, she's able to get away on her own and tear a small path of destruction through the enemy forces. She even, a few times, had to rescue someone else in addition to herself.
  • The title character of The Perils of Penelope Pitstop often falls into elaborate Death Traps but can break out of them without another person's help.
  • There are a handful of Popeye shorts where Olive Oyl ends up eating the spinach and fending for herself.
  • Most of the female characters of Archer, particularly Pam, Lana, and Mallory, can easily escape danger without the need for assistance from any of the other characters. It helps that the latter two of them are trained spies and Pam has extensive combat experience.
    • For example with Malory Archer, In "Motherless Child" she's kidnapped and left tied up in an underground bunker with only 12 hours of oxygen. Once she calms down from her initial shock she sets about freeing herself from her bindings and working out where the hell she is. After climbing out of the bunker and back to the surface she's picked up by a truck driver who tries to proposition her, so she kicks him out and steals his truck.
  • The Codename: Kids Next Door episode "Operation F.A.S.T.F.O.O.D." has a plot that seems to set Numbuh 3 up as a Damsel in Distress. Not the case at all. While the rest of the heroes are chasing after who they think has her, she's kicking the villain's butt herself.
  • Star Wars: The Clone Wars:
    • "Bombad Jedi": Padmé rescues herself after being locked in a prison tower because she has a lockpicking device in her boot and proceeds to fool the battle droids into thinking the "Jedi" running around has broken in to release her. This causes them to open the door to her cell, allowing her to attack them and steal one of their blasters on her way out.
    • "Voyage of Temptation": Duchess Satine is being kidnapped, and vents her feelings to Obi-Wan Kenobi, afraid she'll never see him again. When the kidnapper starts snarking at their moment, Satine gets so offended she stomps on his foot, then quickly snatches the blaster out of his hand and turns it on him.
  • Wander over Yonder: Near the end of "The Hero", when they go to rescue Princess Demurra after Brad Starlight takes her, they find that Demurra has already taken care of him, saying "this isn't a fairy tale".
  • Kipo and the Age of Wonderbeasts: In "Beyond the Valley of the Dogs", Scarlemagne's flamingos capture Kipo Oak and start to fly off with her, seemingly setting up for the group having to rescue her in the following season... only for her to fight her way free and return minutes later.
  • Superman: The Animated Series: Lois is no slouch here either, no matter the canon. When confronting a man who has been trying to assassinate her, Lois shows off some self-defense moves. Then she snarks, "Daddy was a black belt."
  • Wild Kratts: Chris is a Rare Male Example. He gets captured by villains and gets into other kinds of danger often but he is perfectly capable of saving himself or at least making significant progress until the team finds him.
  • Arcane: After spending much of Act 3 being kidnapped or knocked out, usually to motivate Vi, Caitlyn is kidnapped by Jinx and tied to a wheelchair, so Jinx can get Vi to kill her. Caitlyn gets out of her restraints shortly after and points Jinx's gatling gun at her.


Video Example(s):

Alternative Title(s): Badass Damsel


Helen Henny's Breakout

Trapped by Dr. Zoom, Helen manages to break out of her cage just before he could reduce her to juice, in addition to knocking him out.

How well does it match the trope?

5 (2 votes)

Example of:

Main / DamselOutOfDistress

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