As a trope, the damsel in distress is a plot device to provide the central protagonist motivation for the journey ahead. This is a commonly used cliché used in video games and movies, especially those originating from the 20th century. Fortunately, female representation in media has improved drastically of late and older films such as Alien and Terminator helped pave the way. However, cringe-worthy female representations still take place and the damsel in distress trope remains a go-to plot device. To the credit of some filmmakers and writers, males have been used in this role as well—just look at Robin or Jar Jar Binx—but that doesn’t change the fact that these irksome characters are brought to life to begin with.
Moving forward, the hope is that the use of damsels in distress subsides as strong female leads continue to dominate pop culture. It’s not that it’s a terrible plot device—after all, saving a loved one is a simple and effective motivation for a protagonist. But damsels in distress are often portrayed as useless, annoying and generally unlikeable characters, as we’ll soon find out. It’s a shame, too, because there’s no reason to have them diminish quality with such aggravating personalities.
So with that in mind, let’s take a look at 10 damsels in distress who deserve to, well, remain in distress and never be saved. Yes, they’re all that annoying. The worst of the bunch probably won’t surprise you, but we simply couldn’t justify not placing her as the most irritating damsel in distress in history.
10 Carol Ferris - Green Lantern
Green Lantern was a terrible movie. Ryan Reynolds did his best to do the iconic superhero justice, but it just wasn’t happening. Carol Ferris, played by Blake Lively, definitely didn’t help vault this tire fire to respectability. Every time she appeared on screen I cringed as Lively overacted in what was a heaping pile of disappointments across the board. True, Ferris isn’t your customary damsel in distress—she runs a major company and is a fighter pilot. She probably wouldn’t have made this list if the movie had been decently made, but alas… Ferris is unfortunately an annoying female lead in a forgettable film.
9 Pan - Dragon Ball GT
Pan isn’t your prototypical damsel in distress. In fact, the writers of Dragon Ball GT deserve credit for creating a female character within that universe that can hold her own in a fight. Pan, after all, is the granddaughter of Goku so there’s no reason she shouldn’t be a capable fighter with Saiyan blood coursing through her veins. Thing is, Pan is annoying. I can’t put it any simpler than that. She whines, cries, only thinks about herself, and generally annoys Trunks and Goku during their adventures. It’s a shame she managed to sneak on the shuttle leaving Earth with the two aforementioned heroes in the very first episode.
8 Princess Zelda - The Legend of Zelda
Man, Link is really chasing a purple dragon here. He has to save Princess Zelda like it’s his day job and he doesn’t even get rewarded for his efforts, really. Her alter ego as Sheik in the Ocarina of Time was pretty badass, but it’s the only video game in which the Sheikah appears. Otherwise, Zelda is presented as some sort of intangible trophy, which is a shame. Link risks his neck for her game after game after game and at this point he needs to move on. It wouldn’t be difficult to provide Link with different motivations—saving the world or revenge for the death of a close ally are both good choices—so let’s leave Princess Zelda in the past, yeah?
7 Olive Oyl - Popeye
God, you’re annoying. Not only does Olive Oyl whine incessantly but she basically eggs Bluto on to kidnap her and force Popeye to swoop in and save the day. Bluto is a behemoth, by the way, which prompts Popeye to ingest steroid-laced spinach that causes horrific deformities such as balloon forearms, one functioning eye and a complete loss of hair. But hey, that’s cool, just keep calling out Bluto like it ain’t no thing, Olive. Popeye has rendered himself a physical monstrosity and you just don’t give a hoot, do you? Well, that’s why you’re on this list…You’re the worst kind of person.
6 Willie Scott - Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom
Willie Scott literally never stops complaining. Not even once. She just whines, grumbles and wonders why she isn’t the perpetual center of attention. She is the worst. And it’s a shame because great female characters have been introduced in the Indiana Jones franchise. But Scott? She’s just… Ugh. Her catchphrase is “INNDDYYYYYY!” which, yes, has her complaining to Indiana Jones despite the fact he’s working his tail off trying to save her at every turn. She’s never grateful, though, oh hell no. Scott would rather whine about their predicament and contribute nothing. That’s just how she rolls in the face of danger.
5 Jubilee - X-Men
Jubilee isn’t exactly a premiere character in the comic books. And that’s okay. She makes a fine addition as a supplementary superheroine to the X-Men. But in the animated series back in the 1990s Jubilee was irksome beyond belief. She was repeatedly used as a damsel in distress and all she contributed was frequent whining and harmless sparkling powers that resemble a fireworks display. So yeah, she didn’t contribute much to the team. She stood in the shadows of Rogue and Storm and instead of maturing as a young member of the X-Men she kicked and screamed her way into trouble.
4 Mary Jane Watson - Spider-Man
Much like Jubilee, Mary Jane Watson isn’t a bad character in the comic books. Unfortunately, her film counterpart represents one of the most annoying damsels in distress in the history of media. I’m not sure if this was Kirsten Dunst or the writers’ doing, or maybe a mixture of both, but Mary Jane was simply a liability. Spider-Man had to save her six times in the original trilogy. Six. Times. And let’s remember that Peter Parker initially turns her down in fear that his enemies will track her down and exploit a weakness. The Amazing Spider-Man films weren’t perfect, but at least Gwen Stacey was likeable.
3 Buttercup - The Princess Bride
I don’t care how beloved The Princess Bride is among filmgoers, Buttercup makes me want to pull my hair out. She just sort of stands there and brushes her hair while danger ensues around her. Hey no problem, Buttercup, a hideous monster is trying to eat your true love Westley alive but that’s cool, you just stand there and wave that stick at it. The Princess Bride is part parody so it’s easy to give them a pass here, but that doesn’t change the fact that Buttercup is just the worst kind of person. Even her name makes me cringe.
2 Princess Peach - Super Mario
Mario is one dedicated guy. He has saved Princess Peach, what, a dozen or so times? And for what? Peach just prances back in danger and right into the hands of Bowser, a walking, talking, fire-breathing dinosaur. Yeah, no big deal. Peach is a special kind of awful because she doesn’t give a hoot about Mario’s well-being. She just sort of expects Mario to launch himself in front of danger and battle a half dinosaur, half dragon freak of nature. God, you are the worst, Peach. It’s not enough that you’re perpetually kidnapped, could you at least show a bit of gratitude to the Italian dude who hopped on, like, a thousand mushroom creatures to save your behind?
1 Bella Swan - Twilight
Bella Swan is an annoying, idiotic, self-absorbed, woe-is-me mess of a character. No, seriously, she is the absolute worst. Why Jacob and Edward put so much effort in capturing her love is beyond me because they should have realized what a needy, pain in the arse she is from the beginning. She literally puts herself in danger just to get their attention. Yeah, that’s a great message for impressionable young females reading or watching this tire fire. She’s not even 18 years old and she wants to become a vampire to live happily ever after with a cardboard cut-out character in Edward. All the while, by the way, she’s playing with Jacob’s emotions like it’s no big deal. I mean, how could anyone possibly like Bella?