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Parental Abandonment / Film

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    Films — Animation 
  • Snow White: The titular was raised by a wicked stepmother. Some versions of the fairy-tale have her father still alive, but in the Disney film he's nowhere in sight.
  • Cinderella:
    • Cinderella, like Snow White and as per the classic fairy-tale, is at the mercy of a wicked stepmother. Her biological mother died before the film begins and her father dies during the prologue.
    • The prince's mother is presumably deceased. His father is around, but it's indicated that there's some distance between them. (The king seems to think his son is a rebellious boy who just needs to settle down and produce some heirs already.)
  • Bambi: The eponymous character's mother is shot by a hunter. His father, who is distant and mysterious, subsequently begins to take care of Bambi. (This somewhat matches the life-cycle of real deer and was part of the original book.)
  • Peter Pan is a subversion, as Peter is technically a runaway, but he still tries to make Wendy fill the void of a Missing Mom. And other stuff.
    • The entire plot is about the Lost Boys, who are obviously orphans. Ironically, this is one of the few Disney movies in which the main characters' parents ARE both seen and live!
  • Mowgli's birth-parents are deceased. On top of this, the wolves that raised him appear very little. They were quite major in The Jungle Book book, according to which his biological parents were killed by the tiger Shere Khan.
  • In the first The Rescuers movie, Penny (the child in distress) was explicitly an orphan (though it gets better for her in the end); in the second, Cody's dad was "gone", and his mother's voice was heard twice, from offscreen. (As a matter of fact, a few fans have theorized that Cody is adopted by Marahute, the golden eagle he saves, as she's a far more interesting mother figure in the boy's life.)
  • Played with in The Fox and the Hound. A hunter kills a fox cub's mother at the very begining, making a woman adopt him. However it's not for long because she has to abandon him on a wildlife reserve to save his life.
  • Oliver & Company was the Disneyfication of one of the most famous orphans of all time. This time he was an orphaned talking kitten. Also, the parents of the girl who adopts him are always out on business.
  • Aladdin: The title lead is an orphan and homeless, and Princess Jasmine's mother is dead. We see Al's parents in one comic, and meet his dad in King of Thieves. Aladdin had a mother in early drafts, and Aladdin even sung a song called "Proud of Your Boy" about trying to make her proud, but the idea was ultimately scrapped, and Aladdin mentions in King of Thieves that she died when he was a kid.
  • Mulan averts this with Mulan herself, but plays this straight with another character, whose mother is implied to have died prior to the events of the film, and whose father is killed offscreen.
  • Tarzan is an orphan; his parents were killed by a leopard.
    • He gets a loving mom in Kala. Though his adoptive dad Kerchak doesn't accept Tarzan as his son until he (Kerchak) is on his death bed.
  • Aladar from Dinosaur gets separated from his parents while he's still in his egg, and then gets taken in by a family of lemurs. They likely died in the meteor shower years later, if not sooner.
  • Kuzco in The Emperor's New Groove is a spoiled eighteen-year-old Emperor with no parents anywhere in sight. The only mention of this comes in this exchange between Kuzco's incredibly ancient (and recently fired) adviser Yzma and her lackey Kronk:
    Yzma: Who does that ungrateful little worm think he is? Does he... have any idea of who he's dealing with? How could he do this to me? Why, I practically raised him!
    Kronk: Yeah, you'd think he would have turned out better.
    Yzma: Yeah, go figure...
    • Well, If Yzma's statement and implied personality meant anything, it seems we know why Kuzco was a jerk.
  • Atlantis: The Lost Empire: Milo's parents, according to disc 2 of the two-disc DVD of the film, were both killed in a railway accident when he was still a baby, and was raised by his grandfather, who was Preston Whitmore's best friend, who apparently died much later (and according to Whitmore, as a broken man); while Kida's mother the Queen was killed trying to save the titular Atlantis from the tidal wave which then submerges her kingdom, and her father King Nedakh is killed by internal bleeding thanks to an injury he received from Rourke as an attempt to steal the Crystal and kidnap the princess, and in the case of the latter, it also caused her to become a Queen herself at the end of the film.
  • In Lilo & Stitch, Lilo is raised by her sister Nani after their parents were killed in a car accident. Stitch is also somewhat traumatized when he learns that he has no conventional family, as he was artificially created in a lab. The Mad Scientist responsible eventually becomes a father figure, though.
  • The Princess and the Frog: While Naveen's parents are alive, they refuse to financially support him because of his partying and womanizing, so he's functionally this.
  • The Hunchback of Notre Dame: The protagonist's mother was kicked down a flight of stone stairs and cracked her head open while trying to save her baby from the Big Bad, and his father was arrested.
  • Boo's parents are asleep and thus unavailable in Monsters, Inc..
  • Ratatouille: Linguini's mother is recently deceased and his Disappeared Dad is actually the famous Chef.
  • Don Bluth is similarly in love with this trope. Fievel spends An American Tail trying to locate his parents, and there is a deeply depressing scene with some orphans in an alley toward the end.
    • Edmond from Rock-A-Doodle also has both parents but they only appear in the live-action segments in the beginning and end. He asks where they are a couple of times during the animated section but never gets a response. (They're fine though.)
  • In The Land Before Time, Littlefoot has no apparent father, although one of the later movies introduces him. His mother, however, passes away less than halfway into the film. Cera has a father, but her mother disapears early on. Petrie only has his mother, and except in the original movie, neither does Ducky.
    • Spike, however, is a true case of this trope, seeing as he was apparently abandoned as an egg.
    • Their T. rex friend Chomper actually does have both parents, though he is separated from them for awhile at the beginning of his life due in part by Littlefoot and his friends (they were attempting to rescue an egg that the egg-eaters were trying to eat, but a mixup caused by a landslide resulted in Littlefoot and his friends unknowingly bringing a Sharptooth egg into the Great Valley).
  • Anne Marie from All Dogs Go to Heaven is an orphan, although it is never revealed how her parents died.
  • Anastasia (or Anya) is raised in an orphanage until she's 18 years old. Here, the Parental Abandonment is fairly central to the plot and feels a lot less tacked on than usual.
  • And certainly, it's worth bringing up Titan A.E. in this context: the destruction of Earth effectively orphans her handful of surviving species. Humans are explicitly described as an "orphaned race". The main character is also an orphan; his mission is not only to find the Titan, but to find his father, whom he finds out about halfway through the film is dead.
  • Sean, accidentally, in The First Snow of Winter.
  • The Ice Age films:
    • Both played straight and inverted. Manfred is an abandoned parent - (his family was killed by hunters); Sid's family abandoned him because he was annoying; Diego abandoned his pack; the human baby was simply "misplaced". His mom is killed by a smilodon, and he is reunited with his dad at the end.
    • 2: Ellie was separated from her herd, and her adopted opossum mother is presumed to be deceased.
  • Surf's Up: Cody and Chicken Joe's fathers were eaten by a whale and fried for dinner, respectively, and Lani was apparently raised by her uncle, the Geek/ Big Z.
  • Meet the Robinsons — Lewis' Missing Mom is the story's catalyst, sort of, as he wants to find her.
  • In The Swan Princess, Prince Derek has a mother but no father, and Princess Odette has a father but no mother. This is a particularly mind-boggling example, as Odette has just been born at the start of the movie, but there's not even a single mention of her mother — just "happily, a daughter was born," as if the stork paid an unexpected housecall.
    • It's probably safe to assume that she died in childbirth. But then it's odd that the moment is entirely treated as the happiest of days, when it reality there would also be sorrow over the death of the queen. Of course, death by childbirth isn't always immediate – she could have died a few days or weeks later.
    • And then later in the movie, Odette's dad is killed, leaving the poor girl with no parents
  • Shrek:
    • Shrek's parents were written out of the script (originally he wanted to become a knight and they disapproved). According to the musical, his parents threw him out and, in Shrek The Third, his father tried eat him.
    • Fiona's parents placed her in a lonely tower "for her own good"
    • Arthur's parents are presumed dead if he's Fiona's only other relative. As we find out later in Shrek the Third, his father abandoned him, through we don't know what happened to his mother.
    • Donkey is sold by his "grandmotherly" owner and we never find out what happened to his parents.
  • Inverted in Tangled where Rapunzel was kidnapped as a baby and raised by Gothel, thinking that she was her mother. Her real parents never gave up hope trying to find their missing daughter and they were happily reunited with her at the end of the movie. However, it was played straight with Flynn/Eugene, who is an orphan.
  • Kung Fu Panda 2 has this as Po finally seriously tries to learn about his past. In doing so, Lord Shen sadistically claims Po's parents abandoned him out of hate, but Po eventually remembers that they did it out of desperation to help him survive, because they loved him more than their own lives.
    • The final scene reveals his birth father is alive in a hidden panda village.
  • Frozen: Anna and Elsa's parents die in a shipwreck early on, leaving them orphans by the time the film's main events happen. There is also no mention of what happened to Kristoff's human parents.
  • In Jack and the Cuckoo-Clock Heart, Jack's birth mother decides that the midwife Madeleine would be able to take better care of Jack than she ever could, so she leaves the night after she gives birth to him. There is no mention of his father at any point in the film.
  • How to Train Your Dragon 2 reveals that Hiccup's Missing Mom Valka is not dead like assumed (though being carried off by a dragon made it a very good assumption), and she'd been living in the wild with dragons for the past twenty years. It was entirely possible for her to return to Berk, but she had developed a "dragons are better than people" mentality and refused to go back to a place that would fight them.
  • In Rise of the Guardians, Jack's creator, the Man in the Moon, simply made him into the spirit of winter and gave him his name before leaving him to his own devices for centuries. Jack is shown trying to get his attention by speaking to the full moon, and it's entirely possible that Manny can hear him, but he never responds. Obviously, this doesn't help Jack's development, especially when Manny suddenly decides that he needs him to join the Guardians of Childhood.
  • In Moana, Maui's situation is a doozy. He was born human. He was tossed in the ocean shortly after birth and left to die, only surviving (and eventually gaining demigod status) because he was 'chosen' by the ocean.
  • In the third Pleasant Goat and Big Big Wolf movie, it's shown that Weslie's parents abandoned him to go conduct research in space.
  • A Goofy Movie and its sequel An Extremely Goofy Movie gave Max Goof and PJ from Goof Troop a friend named Bobby. While Max's father Goofy was the only parent of his who was ever seen with no acknowledgement of his mother and PJ's mother was present in Goof Troop and inexplicably absent from the movies, neither Bobby's mother nor his father is so much as mentioned in either of the movies.
  • Elsa and Anna from Frozen lose both their parents in a storm.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • The Blind Side: Michael's biological father.
  • One particularly loathesome father in Blossoms in the Dust drops off his newborn son at Edna's orphanage (the mother died in childbirth) because he just doesn't want to be bothered with taking care of the baby. When said father finds out the baby was adopted by a rich family, he comes back, looking for a payoff.
  • Lilya 4-ever:
    • Volodya's abusive dad threw him out of the house when he was 11 and we get no mention of his parents
    • Lilya's mother just ups and leaves her, later on terminates her parentage of her
  • In the Disney Affectionate Parody Enchanted:
    • Prince Edward has no mentioned father, just Queen Nerissa, his Wicked Stepmother, although she's initially not too wicked towards him.
    • Robert McDreamy (sorry) and his daughter were abandoned by their wife/mother, respectively, and to top that off he's a divorce lawyer.
    • Giselle has no parents to speak of, and it's not made clear why she's living alone in a cottage in the woods, if one could call having a forest full of friends "alone".
  • Ever After: Danielle is an orphan. Being based off of "Cinderella", this is pretty expected.
  • In Blade Runner, Rachel is a Replicant: a biological android without parents who has false memories of having a family implanted to give her emotional stability.
    • Another one of Ridley Scott's works, Prometheus, has this as its Central Theme. The "Engineers" left the human race to fend for itself, and then attempts to exterminate it. Peter Weyland built the most powerful corporation on Earth, and his daughter Vickers worked hard to be worthy of inheriting it, only for Weyland to seek immortality via the Engineers instead. Shaw discovers that she's pregnant with an alien fetus, and immediately has the autodoc cut it out of her and attempts to kill it.
    Shaw: Why do you hate us?
    • Well, the "Engineers" are genetically identical to humans, and humanity's answer to that question seems to be; Because you're not what we wanted.
    • Invoked by David. "Don't we all wish for our parents to be dead?" Weyland programs him, serving as sort of adoptive father, and without him, David would consider himself to be free.
  • The Burns Gang of The Proposition. Arthur, Charlie, and Mikey are brothers, but there is no reference to their parents and Arthur is implied to have raised the younger two. According to an interview on the DVD, Sam Stoat, another gang member, killed his parents.
  • Star Wars: Luke goddamn Skywalker. He and his sister Leia both actually end up experiencing this twice. Their mother died minutes after they were born, their father spent twenty years thinking his child was dead and was completely unaware that there was a second baby, Luke finds his aunt and uncle slaughtered by stormtroopers, and Leia is Forced to Watch her homeworld get blown up while her adoptive parents were on it.
    • Jedi in the Old Republic were generally separated from their families at a young age to avoid attachments. Attack of the Clones makes it pretty obvious why.
    • According to the Star Wars Expanded Universe, Han Solo is an orphan raised in a group by a thief and con man. He has an uncle that shows up from time to time though.
    • Solo reveals that Han apparently ended up on the streets by the age of ten. It's not stated exactly what happened with his parents (only his father is mentioned) but they seemingly died somehow and left him an orphan.
    • Rey in The Force Awakens was left on the desert planet of Jakku by her parents when she was five, and is waiting for their return. For most of the film her motivation is to get back to Jakku so they don't end up missing her if they return to look for her. She eventually comes to accept that whoever left her there were actually never coming back.
  • The live-action Japanese film Nobody Knows is a heart-breakingly realistic treatment of this trope: 4 children are abandoned by their feckless mother and do their best to cope in her absence.
  • Likewise, the French film La Fracture du Myocarde (known in English-speaking countries as Cross My Heart) deals with a boy's attempts to keep the authorities from learning that his mother has died and he's living on his own.
  • In MirrorMask, Valentine briefly mentions that his mother abandoned him, although "She wasn't really me mother, anyway. She bought me from a man..."
  • Repo! The Genetic Opera has Shilo, whose mother Marni died just after she was born. This is only a borderline case, as her father is still present and taking care of her — unfortunately Marni's death affected him too, making him desperate to hold onto Shilo and thus ridiculously overprotective.
    • And then there are the Largo siblings. All three of them were bailed on by their mothers (whether Rotti had them killed or they simply left is unclear) and, combined with their distant father, they're all rather screwed up. The Expanded Universe canon material found on Myspace implies that Pavi and Amber would have been okay if their mums had survived their childhoods, but Luigi was born the way he is.
  • Pirates of the Caribbean:
    • As a child, Will Turner is found floating on a piece of wood. He told Jack his mother raised him, but she's dead now; his father spent a considerable amount of time tied to a cannon at the bottom of the ocean before making a deal with Davy Jones.
    • Elizabeth's mother apparently passed away when she was quite young as well.
  • Kick-Ass: The hero's mother dies of a brain aneurysm at the breakfast table.
  • This is a recurring subject in the A Nightmare on Elm Street series from part three onwards.
  • Delayed version: In Away We Go the lead characters are forced to find another place to live when the man's "heroically self-absorbed" parents leave the country and rent their (the parents') house to strangers. Apparently their son's girlfriend being pregnant and effectively homeless wasn't a good enough reason to delay a refreshing move.
  • Cher in Clueless is a half orphan; her mom died due to a freak accident during a routine liposuction, although she still likes to pretend she's watching over her. Josh even ribs her about her desire to makeover Tai being a manifestation of her having no mother and treating her as a Barbie doll. Later (in one of the few played straight scenes), when she is insecure that she isn't enough of a 'do-gooder', her father tells her that he hasn't seen such good-doing since her mother.
    • Subverted with Josh, however; despite having divorced his mother and having no blood-relation to Josh, Cher's father makes a point of being a devoted father figure to him. ("You divorce wives, not children.")
  • All 3 main characters in Darkness Falls. The lead's mother was killed by the Tooth Fairy when he was ten, and since he became a ward of the state, Parental Abandonment must apply to his father too. Then later the other little kid is in the hospital, and his twenty-two-year-old sister Emma Caulfield is making the medical decisions. The parents are simply never mentioned, although under the circumstances they're probably dead.
  • In Doomsday, Eden's mother managed to get an army helicopter to take her out of a plague-infected Scotland when she was four years old. She had an envelope with her mother's address, so she would know where to go when she's older. A grown up Eden does eventually get to go to that address, and her mother's dead. The Disappeared Dad is never mentioned.
  • Two of each in Okuribito (Departures): Daigo's father had been a Disappeared Dad for so long Daigo can't remember his face, while the encoffiner's secretary reveals she abandoned her young son over a fling. Both parents were from small towns; it's implied that they still care(d) about their children but shame prevents them from returning.
  • Played straight in David Lynch's The Elephant Man, and, indeed, in Mr. Merrick's real life.
  • Empire Records: Lucas' mother turned him over to the state when he was twelve "for being a bad seed", Berko appears to be living alone in a cabin behind the store, Gina, AJ, Eddie and Mark's parents are never mentioned, nor is Corey's mother, and when Deb is asked about her mother, she says something along the lines of "If you find her, let me know - I'd like to talk to her too".
  • In An Officer and a Gentleman, Zack moves in with his father after his mother commits suicide. Dad ignores his upbringing and leaves Zack to be raised above a Philippine brothel.
  • Patrick "Kitten" Braden from Breakfast on Pluto is the product of an illicit affair between the local Catholic Priest and his beautiful young housekeeper. As such, he is promptly given up for adoption and raised by an uncaring foster mother. The film revolves around Patrick's search for the mother who abandoned him.
  • The version of The Penguin in Batman Returns suffers this trope in the worst way possible. Born horribly disfigured, his parents, the rich and ritzy Cobblepots saw him as a shame to their family. As such, they took him to the park and actually threw his stroller into the river which took him into the sewer where he was found and raised by the zoo penguins. It's no wonder he hated surface-dwellers and attempted to destroy Gotham.
  • The Japanese film The Homeless Student delivers a one-two punch: first the mother dies, then the children come home from school to find all their belongings outside the apartment. The shiftless, frigid father rides up on his bicycle to explain he has gambled away all the family's money and hasn't paid the rent. Then he rides off again, leaving his three children to fend for themselves. What.
  • Dom's children in Inception. Their mother, Mal, is dead, and Dom has been framed for her death and can't enter the U.S. or any country that has an extradition treaty with it. He agrees to get involved in the film's plot because it will let him see his kids again.
  • Sam Flynn in TRON Legacy. His mother was killed in a car accident shortly after he was born. His father disappeared without a trace. Fortunately, he did have a Parental Substitute in his father's friend Alan.
  • Jordy's parents MOVED without telling him in Mystery Team.
  • In Winter's Bone teenage girl Ree has to find her father, whose disappearence left the family in danger of losing their house to foreclosure and Ree's mother in severe depression and unable to take care of the family, a task that Ree has to take over.
  • Star Trek (2009)
    • Amanda Grayson is a Disposable Woman who dies on Vulcan just seconds before everyone is beamed to safety, and Spock is standing two feet away and is just too late from grabbing her. Because Spock's day wasn't going horribly enough.
    • George Kirk dies just seconds after the birth of his son, James T. Kirk. Oh, and Winona Kirk is 'off-planet' when her young son decides to save George Kirk's old car from being sold by his creep of a step-father by driving it (and nearly himself) over a cliff into a huge deep valley - in Iowa.
  • This is a major theme in Wes Anderson movies. Fathers are usually out of the picture or distant.
  • The titular character in Norbit was abandoned at the orphanage when he was just a baby, by means of tossing him out of a moving car, that they didn't even bother to slow down, and laughing as they did so.
  • Johnny Case in Holiday lost both his parents in childhood, and was forced to make his own way in the world.
  • In Godzilla (2014), it's implied that Joe Brody was less than a stellar parent after his wife's death. He's still in relatively good terms with his son despite this.
  • In The Wolfman (2010), Lawrence witnessed his mother's "suicide" as a child, and if that's not traumatic enough, his father throws him into an asylum and then ships him off to live with his aunt in America afterwards.
  • X-Men Film Series
  • In Georgy Girl the protagonist deals with her roommate's Shotgun Wedding to a handsome rake, roommate's pregnancy, all before the roommate leaves her husband, Georgy, and the baby for a wealthy man; By the time the rake (who was Georgy's lover for a while) leaves them, Georgy has been caring for their baby like she was her own.
  • How Annie ended up a foster kid. And the other foster kids as well.
  • In Cinderella (2015), Ella's mother dies while her daughter is a young girl. Her father later leaves for a long trip, and dies shortly after.
  • Ben in Who Am I grew up with his grandma because his father left when he was born and his mother committed suicide when he was eight. Discussed early on:
    Ben: Every superhero needs a tragic family story: Spiderman's parents... Dead. Batman's parents... Murdered. Superman's parents... Exploded. I actually had the best requirements.
  • Angel and the Badman: Quirt Evans was adopted and named by a rancher named Walt Ennis after his birth parents were killed in an Indian attack. Ennis himself was later murdered.
  • In The Hunger Games teenage girl Katniss has to take care of the family because her mother fell into a severe depression after the father died. Later, a second stroke of fate forces the mother to assume motherly obligations.
  • In To the Bone, this is the reason Ellen is living with her stepmother and father. Her mothers lost hope of her ever recovering from her eating disorder and left her shortly after she turned eighteen.
  • In SHAZAM!, Billy Batson escaped from over a dozen foster homes because he had been trying to find his mother that he lost in a county fair when he was four years old. When he finally tracks her down, she reveals that her parents kicked her out of the house when she got pregnant at 17, and her husband, likely a kid like her, ran out soon after. When she lost him at the fair, she realized that she could barely take care of herself, much less her young son, so she walked away when she saw how well he was being tended by the cops that found him, and decided he was better off in foster care.
  • Stealing Heaven:
    • There's no mention of what happened to Héloïse's parents. Apparently her uncle is the closest living male relative of hers though, as she's put into his guardianship. In real life no one knows, as most information is scant on her life.
    • Abelard and Héloïse put their son into the care of his sister after they enter monastic lives. They only see him again later when he's grown up.


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