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Hostage MacGuffin

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"I don't know where she is. But whatever it takes, wherever I have to go, I'm gonna find my daughter."
Nick Cassidy, Skin Trade

When a character, very often a young girl, is sought after by various factions due to her background. They may be a rich heir held for ransom, royalty held hostage, or the President's daughter.

Those interested in them will want them not for who they are or what they can do, but who they are connected to or what they represent. It's distressingly common even for the good guy factions to want to rescue them not for their own good but for what they represent.

Usually, only The Hero will see them as a person and ask them what they want, and even then, it takes bonding through the course of the story. For Anti-Hero otherwise, shooting the MacGuffin is the quickest way for them to ease the trouble.

For more general kidnapping, see Damsel in Distress, which also links to related tropes, and especially Save the Princess, which is simply a Sub-Trope of this trope even though it is much more of a Discredited Trope than this larger concept. See also MacGuffin Turned Human, if the girl originally was an inanimate MacGuffin. Expect them to be kept in a Gilded Cage.


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    Anime & Manga 
  • Platinum from Pokémon Adventures is the daughter of the Berlitz family, the richest family in Sinnoh, so at one point Saturn hopes to kidnap her and hold her for ransom.
  • In one episode of Gunslinger Girl, the Republican Faction plans to kidnap a Senator's daughter and hold her hostage in exchange for some of their members who are in prison. Instead, the government gets wind of this and replaces the girl with Claes, who happens to look similar to the girl in question. Hilarity Ensues.
  • When Hyuga Hinata from Naruto was a little girl she was kidnapped. She's the heir to the Hyuga clan, one of Konoha's most elite and illustrious families. The trope is subverted: it wasn't because she was Hyuga Clan's heir, but because of her Byakugan eyes. Of course, since the Main Head is always expected to be the strongest, Hinata being his daughter was only an add-up, plus the fact she wasn't marked with the Bird Cage Seal.
  • Mars Daybreak: Kenran Butohsai has this, very literally. Enora Taft is the daughter of the President of the Earth who plays a more than willing hostage and friend to the crew of Yoake-no Fune (Ship of Aurora).
  • Nunnally from Code Geass gets a role as a living MacGuffin. This is partially because she's the protagonist's little sister, partially because she's so sweet and seemingly helpless that most characters want to protect her, and partially because she's a princess.
  • The final arc of Yu-Gi-Oh! ARC-V reveals that Zuzu and her counterparts manage to cross this with Dismantled MacGuffin. Basically, they're living Soul Jars for Leo Akaba's daughter, and everyone else only targets them to either blackmail or hinder him.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • Escape from L.A. had Snake Plissken sent to rescue the president's daughter who voluntarily stole the codes to an EMP satellite to give to her terrorist paramour. Snake is sent to kill her, but can't bring himself to do it after she has a Heel–Face Turn, and brings her with him.
  • Rush Hour has the Chinese Consul's daughter, and a moment of Lampshade Hanging when Chris Tucker's character is on the phone discussing the ransom payment with the girl's kidnapper: "Fifty million dollars? Man, who do you think you kidnapped? Chelsea Clinton?"
  • The President's daughter in My Date with the President's Daughter. Very slight subversion in that the President himself ALSO legitimately cares about his daughter's well-being (while the protagonist didn't even know who she was when he asked her out), but the Secret Service is very much treating her like a MacGuffin.
  • Air Force One has the villain use the President's daughter to force the President to do his dirty work; later, he tries to use his wife. Unfortunately for him, the President is not willing to let this slide.
  • The James Bond movie The World Is Not Enough features Elektra King, the daughter of oil baron Sir Robert King, who was kidnapped five years earlier by the Big Bad, Renard. Let's just say that Stockholm Syndrome may have been involved somewhere.
  • Pirates of the Caribbean:
    • When Elizabeth Swann is chased after in Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl, she thinks it's because she's the governor's daughter... but it turns out the men were just being "called" by a magical amulet she was wearing. She tries to avert this trope by claiming to be her own maid (she was in her undistinguished nightclothes, and the place is full of maids), using the family name of her crush — this leads them to take her for Bill Turner's child, the person they were looking for.
    • In the sequels, she comes into her own and is no longer fought over... until being mistaken for a god in At World's End, when a bargaining session is held on who gets to kidnap her. She manages to negotiate her way into being declared Pirate King as a result.
  • The Searchers: John Wayne & Co. spend years searching for his niece, abducted by Injuns.

  • Redwall: Gabool the Wild intends to use Mariel as a hostage to force her father Joseph to design and build a belltower for him. Things do not go quite according to plan.
  • In Frederick Forsyth's novel The Negotiator, it's the President's son. Like a true MacGuffin, we find out that the evil plot really has nothing to do with him, he was just kidnapped to set up a False Flag Operation.
  • In Tom Clancy's novel Executive Orders, the President's daughter is kidnapped briefly by terrorists as part of a bid to demoralize him and draw the Secret Service closer around him so that the final Bodyguard Betrayal will be successful. It isn't.
  • In Richard Hoyt's Japanese Game, the Vice-President's young daughter and a friend are kidnapped during a trip abroad, with the intent to sell them off as sex slaves if the VP doesn't cooperate. Or maybe even if he does ...
  • Rare gender reversal in The Wee Free Men where the Baron's son has been kidnapped. Though it's not clear the Queen of the Elves knew who he was, but his riding out on a horse—which only a Baron's son would do—is implied to have led to his capture. It is fairly clear that that was why the vigilantes who hounded Mrs. Snappery to her death were never held to account (though they would have been if the area had had a real witch).

    Live-Action TV 
  • Zoey Bartlett of The West Wing being kidnapped was feared by characters since the beginning. Their fears were realized when she was kidnapped in the Season Four finale. She's rescued in the second episode of S5 with next to nothing revealed about who kidnapped her or why though.
  • In an episode of Merlin Lady Morgana is ambushed and captured, knowing that she is the beloved ward of King Uther.
  • JAG: In the second season episode "Washington Holiday", Harm escorts Princess Alexandra, the daughter of King Josif of Romania, while Josif is preparing to petition for admittance into NATO. A group of hard-line Communist extremists threaten Alexandra's life if he does so. During the climax, King Josif does not publically petition for NATO membership, but Alexandra, knowing that her father wanted this for the benefit of their country, makes the announcement herself, while Harm prevents an attempted assassination.