When a beautiful woman comes face to face with a bad guy, you can bet your bottom dollar that something bad is going to happen, that the actress is going to end up in peril. Screen writers and directors often use such situations as opportunities to put in a dramatic damsel in distress scene, something that will get the heart racing as you watch your favorite heroin struggling in the clutches of her captor. These scenes are often the most dramatic, often the pinnacle of the movie or TV show, and only end when a guy strides in – the knight in shining armor – to rescue the woman and defeat the villain. It’s that hero vs. bad guy kind of scenario, and these scenes are always enhanced when the guy’s after something, when there’s a woman in the middle.
Over the years there have been some classic damsel in distress moments on TV and film, played by some amazing actresses who bring such scenes to life. Initially, such scenarios were common place in comic books; the evil genius kidnaps a beautiful, helpless woman and ties her to the railway tracks – or something along those lines – as bait, so that the do-gooder emerges and tries to save the day. These scenes evolved from comic books onto our screens. You can picture it: the beautiful princess locked away in a tower waiting for her prince charming to come to her aid. Nowadays, these damsel scenes encompass many variations – every other movie seems to have a damsel in peril.
Some actresses tend to find themselves in these situations a hell of a lot. Perhaps it’s the roles they play, or perhaps they just love being in distress – in a kinky kind of way! These are 15 actresses who frequently find themselves in the damsel and distress role, kidnapped on screen.
15. Gillian Anderson
There are few actresses out there as hot and as talented as Gillian Anderson. The X-Files star has been around for years, since 1986, but it’s her role as Agent Scully that saw her rise to fame and gain plenty of accolades.
Gillian’s encountered many strange goings on as FBI Agent Dana Scully. A sceptic of the supernatural, she soon became a believer of paranormal science, but it wasn’t the X-Files that caused this damsel to be in distress. Sure, they were her primary focus, and sure, they caused her many sleepless nights, but it was those working within secret governmental organizations that caused her the most grief.
Scully got kidnapped a hell of a lot in episodes of The X-Files. She’s been bundled into the trunk of a car, held hostage by a mad man, and has nearly been lobotomized – Gillian actually wrote that episode herself – before her partner came to the rescue.
14. Kirsten Dunst
The stunning Kirsten Dunst is a household name in the movie industry, due to a number of reasons, but mainly because of her portrayal of Mary Jane Watson in the Spider-Man movies.
But Kirsten’s actually been active as an actress for ages – she began as a child actress at the tender age of six. As she grew up, she started getting more prominent roles, and that’s when casting directors began using her differently. Being the main woman – or teenager as she was at that stage – Kirsten’s first experience of being the damsel in distress was in the movie Small Soldiers, where she was trussed up and held hostage by a load of rogue army soldiers. A couple of years later, she’d been kidnapped again, this time in a rather sinister manner in The Crow: Salvation, where her female captor sews her mouth shut. But her best damsel in distress moments by far are in the Spider-Man movies. Mary Jane gets kidnapped by the bad guys, the mutants, and it’s up to Spider-Man to come to the rescue, which he does time and time again, saving the damsel from the clutches of evil.
13. Rachael Blake
Rachael Blake might not be the most well-known actress on this list, but she’s still enjoyed a fairly successful career. The Australian actress has spent most of her life living in her homeland down under, but has also spent a significant amount of time in England. Her acting career’s been spent working on projects in those two countries, although due to her filmography, it’s difficult to believe that Hollywood directors haven’t come calling at some point.
Rachael rose to fame in the 1990s, as a main cast member of the Australian TV series, Wildside. She played the role of a doctor, and it was during this role that she was kidnapped for the first time – doctor in distress. The bad guy went a bit over the top with the restraints; the excessive use of duct tape bound her to a chair and sealed her mouth shut – there was no way she was getting out of that predicament without some help, which did eventually arrive.
But that’s not the only time Rachael Blake found herself held hostage and wrapped up excessively with duct tape. The same happened to her in the British film Cherry Tree Lane, where she was held as a prisoner in her own home by a gang of thugs.
12. Sarah Michelle Gellar
Sarah Michelle Gellar is one of the most stunning actresses of this generation. She’s another one who began life as a child star, but quickly rose to fame after getting her big break as the main character, Buffy, on the Buffy The Vampire Slayer TV series.
Buffy, being the vampire slayer, was in peril quite a bit, coming up against vampires and demonic forces and all that. But she was one tough high school cheerleader and also dished it out, including an episode during which she turned on her friends, Willow and Dawn, and held them captive in a basement.
Sarah’s also found herself in peril in the TV series Ringer, of which she was an executive producer of, and in the movie The Air I Breathe, in which she was part of an intense scene which saw her tied to a chair and sobbing, waiting to be let free.
But Sarah’s name is synonymous with the damsel in distress role, because of the Scooby- Doo movies. The popular cartoon franchise saw the pretty yet kind of ditsy Daphne kidnapped regularly, and this was a common theme in the movies too – in fact, the first scene of the first Scooby-Doo movie saw Sarah as Daphne being held hostage in the warehouse. The danger-prone member of the gang soon learned martial arts, so her days as being used as bait to lure out the bad guys were over.
11. Nicole Kidman
There are quite a few Australian actresses on this list – there must be something about them that makes the whole damsel in distress thing seem very believable.
Over the course of her staggeringly long 34-year career, Nicole’s been cast in a number of different roles, is a versatile actress, and due to her longevity and ability to pull off challenging roles, is certainly one of the best.
Her vast and varied filmography also includes plenty of instances where she’s been in peril. But there are a couple of scenes in particular from a couple of movies that stand out, where her captor made damn sure she wasn’t going anywhere anytime soon. Of course, in both movies she eventually got free – as is the case with 99% of such movies – both times rescued by the good guy.
In 1995, in the Batman Forever film, Nicole – Professor Chase Meridian – was taken captive by The Riddler. She was held hostage in this tube-like container, until Batman – as he tends to do – saved the day.
The second movie in which Nicole found herself in serious peril, was Birthday Girl. Nicole produced an infectious performance as a Russian mail-order bride, who found herself in peril when a group of Russians held her and forced the man she was with to rob from a bank. It was later discovered that it was a set-up, that Nicole was actually involved, and that the group go around different countries doing the same thing. Nicole must have been tied up and gagged for a hell of a lot if that was the case, because she spent the majority of the second half of that movie restrained and unable to speak.
10. Pamela Anderson
Pamela Anderson is just wow; even now as she’s approaching her fifties, she still looks stunning, but it was her work during her early years in the industry that captured a lot of imaginations – and left little to the imagination, too.
Pamela has played plenty of meaningful roles, but was primarily used as eye candy, as the stereotypical dumb blonde, which incidentally, she’s admitted is what she’s like in real life.
Being the dumb blonde, it’s therefore no surprise she found herself in peril quite a bit. From being kidnapped in Baywatch, to being held captive in the movie Snapdragon, casting directors loved putting Pamela in those damsel in distress roles. But no one did it more than those who were involved in the production of the TV series V.I.P. Pamela played the glamorous figurehead in the action/comedy-drama, and ended up being in peril, pretty much every other episode. The “dumb blonde” was constantly being taken advantage of and ending up in distress – that theme was synonymous with the series and nobody could have done it better than Pam.
9. Courteney Cox
The Friends star made her name as Monica Geller, whom she played for a decade. Therefore, when people think of Courteney, they think of Monica, that hardworking, lovable, yet kind of nutty and eccentric character. She was never in peril as Monica – it wasn’t that kind of sitcom. But while she was a part of Friends, she was also involved in a ton of other movies and the odd TV role.
Aside from Monica, people probably know Courteney as Gale Weathers from the Scream movies, the nosy reporter who’d do anything to get a story. Because it’s a horror movie and Courteney plays a snoopy reporter, it was inevitable that at some stage she’d take her snooping too far and end up in peril, and that’s exactly what happened in Scream 3, where she ends up kidnapped along with her real-life husband at the time, David Arquette. In the next movie she was in, 3000 Miles to Graceland, she also ended up in a bit of a predicament, tied up and gagged in the trunk of a car, helpless and waiting to be set free.
8. Isla Fisher
Here’s another Aussie actress, and someone whose career has really taken off over the past decade. Married to comedy sensation Sacha Baron Cohen, they’re one of the power couples of cinema and have continued their rise to stardom together since being married in 2010.
Isla’s an actress who’s been in peril quite a bit, but there’s been a couple of times where she’s actually been kidnapped.
The first time was when she was playing a character called Beans in the animation movie Rango. She played the voice of a desert iguana; you may be thinking, how does this constitute to being kidnapped? Because in order to make the animation as realistic as possible, the cast had to actually get hands on and act out the scenes in the studio. For this, Isla had to play the damsel in distress, act out and be the voice of the bound and gagged Beans character.
The next movie in which she found herself in peril, was the 2016 film, Visions. During the film, Isla finds herself tied to the bed while someone who she thought was her friend tried to cut out her unborn baby. Pretty sinister stuff.
7. Julie Benz
Julie Benz is one of the hottest actresses around; it’s amazing that she doesn’t get that same sort of recognition as some of the other stars in Hollywood – she’s certainly deserving of all the accolades that have come her way, and should have received plenty more.
Looking through her filmography, being kidnapped is a recurring theme for Julie. She tends to find herself as the hot blonde who ends up in peril quite often – her acting ability and the sheer helplessness she portrays makes her a brilliant actress in those damsel in distress roles.
In a couple of movies everyone’s probably heard of, Saw V and Rambo, Julie finds herself being taken captive. In the latter, she ended up being rescued by the tortured soul that is John Rambo, and in the other she ended up actually being tortured.
A year after those movies were released, she starred in the ten-minute movie, Kidnapping Caitlynn, in which, you guessed it, Julie was kidnapped, and in the same year she starred in the TV movie Held Hostage, where again Julie found herself in peril. She found herself kidnapped quite a bit during that two-year period, and has been in a few other similar situations as the damsel in distress at various other times during her career. Another noteworthy appearance was her role on the show Dexter, when she played Rita, the victim of domestic abuse who was often used as leverage against her serial killer boyfriend, Dexter. It didn’t end well for Rita.
6. Missy Peregrym
Missy’s a model-turned actress who’s probably best known for her portrayal of Andy McNally, a hardworking yet somewhat naïve rookie cop in Canadian police drama TV series, Rookie Blue. The whole damsel in distress thing is pretty prevalent throughout the five-year series; women find themselves in peril and it’s up to the young cops to rescue them, but the cops also find themselves as targets for the bad guys who want to exact some revenge on the force. As a cop, it also means you’ve got to go snooping around and carry out investigations, which means these rookies constantly came face to face with the bad guys, who on occasions, got the upper hand, meaning it was the rookies who found themselves in peril. It happened to Missy a couple of times during the series; on one occasion, she found herself bound and gagged with shiny black duct tape, on the other she was knocked out cold and awoke to find herself tied up in a garage at the hands of a mad man who was seconds away from ending her life.
5. Gemma Arterton
British actress, Gemma Arterton had already been around for quite some time before playing the role that gained her worldwide fame. It was her role as the kidnapped, helpless Alice, in The Disappearance of Alice Creed, that drew plenty of plaudits from the fans and from the critics. The film itself, if it hadn’t had been for Gemma’s portrayal of Alice, would have been pretty unimpressive, but luckily for the film’s production team, the casting directors made the right choice choosing their captive.
Gemma was chained to the bed and ball gagged for the majority of the movie. In interviews she’s done post the film, she’s said she actually asked for the restraints to be kept on in between scenes so that she could stay in character, a character which she pulled off brilliantly.
4. Margot Robbie
What can I say about Margot Robbie? Right about now she’s one of the most stunning and in-demand actresses on the planet.
The Aussie actress began her career back home, and rose to fame as a teenager in the soap opera, Neighbours. But around the same time, she began appearing as a regular cast member, she also began getting into the movie industry. In fact, it was only in her second film, I.C.U. that saw Margot Robbie get her first taste of the damsel in distress role. Her and her friends were targeted and held captive by a serial killer, who took a special liking to Margot’s character. A couple of years after that movie, Margot was all grown up and took the important step of moving to L.A. in search of superstardom, which she found when she was cast as The Duchess in the epic movie The Wolf of Wall Street. Fans saw plenty of Margot in that movie and it propelled her into the limelight and gave her a whole new fan base.
A couple of years later she found herself in peril for the second time in her career, this time in the movie, Focus, in which she starred in with Will Smith. There’s a scene in the movie where Margot finds herself bound and gagged in a garage and almost suffocated to death as the bad guys attempt to interrogate her partner.
3. Elisha Cuthbert
It tends to be the blondes that find themselves in the hands of bad guys, and it’s safe to say, no one’s experienced being a damsel in distress more than Elisha Cuthbert.
For a time, you could pretty much tune in to a TV series or movie that starred Elisha, and expect to see her in some kind of distress. 24, the action thriller TV series, saw Elisha’s character in the hands of the bad guys pretty regularly.
Then there are her movie roles, such as Guns, and Captivity which have seen her in peril. The 2005 film House of Wax is yet another role in which she found herself being held against her will. It’s a pretty sinister movie that involves Elisha strapped down to a chair and having her lips glued shut, but she manages to escape, with the help of a fella of course, and get away from the House of Wax before it gets burned to the ground.
2. Cameron Diaz
Yep, here’s yet another blonde who winds up being kidnapped pretty regularly.
Judging from her past, it could be highly likely that Cameron enjoys the whole idea of being in distress, enjoys the whole bondage thing. Before she became a prominent star, not a lot of people know this, but Cameron actually took part in bondage movies – softcore bondage movies, but bondage movies all the same. Perhaps that’s why she took to the roles she played as the damsel in distress in movies so well.
There have been plenty of occasions where she’s wound up captive and in the hands of the bad guys. The Mask is one such film – her debut film in fact – and Being John Malkovich is another, as is Head Above Water. She also kind of found herself in peril, all be it briefly, in the movie Vanilla Sky, and once again at the hands of Tom Cruise, her favorite captor, in Knight and Day.
1. Jessica Alba
Jessica Alba being number one on this list was a no-brainer! Jessica finds herself tied up and gagged so much, it’s even been rumored she writes those scenes in herself, that it’s a prerequisite for her to agree to a movie. She’s been in so many movies where she’s played the damsel in distress role: Into The Blue, Machete, Sin City, Idle Hands, and not to mention a ton of times on TV in the series Dark Angel, and a few times in Flipper – she must have a thing for it, either that or casting directors must think she plays the role of a damsel in distress so well they keep writing her in.
She’s even gotten herself in sticky situations off screen. For the 2008 U.S. presidential elections, the staunch democrat appeared on campaign posters, wrapped up in shiny black tape, sometimes muzzled, in an effort to get people to stop binding and muzzling themselves by not voting.
Plenty of people have picked up on the fact she always seems to be in this role and there’s been plenty of speculation as to why – not that anyone’s complaining! Perhaps she got a taste for the whole bondage things when she was younger; while filming for the Flipper TV series, Jessica Alba was actually kidnapped, bound, gagged and locked in a trunk. It must have been a terrifying ordeal, but she was found unharmed, and may have actually liked the danger of it all – I’m simply going by how frequently she found herself in a similar situation in Flipper, and over the years in various different movies and TV roles.