In the unpredictable and often unforgiving world of movies, a unique breed of characters seem destined to face one misfortune after another. Whether plagued by bad luck, relentless adversaries, or the cruel hand of fate, these protagonists are trapped in a never-ending cycle of adversity. This is a list of 24 individuals from the silver screen whose lives are a relentless series of challenges, making us question if they'll ever get the respite they so desperately need.
1. Daisy Randone – Girl, Interrupted (1999)
Daisy Randone, portrayed by Brittany Murphy, is a haunting portrayal of the tragic consequences of mental illness and self-sabotage. In Girl, Interrupted, her battle with obsessive-compulsive disorder drives her to seek control in the form of a severe eating disorder that takes the form of hiding chicken under her bed.
2. Precious – Precious (2009)
Precious, brought to life by Gabourey Sidibe, is a character whose existence is marred by an unending stream of hardships. In Precious, she endures the harrowing trauma of incestuous abuse from her father and the cruel psychological torment inflicted upon her by her abusive mother. Having experienced an unrelenting series of traumas, some have accused the film of exploiting and indulging in the character's suffering.
3. Sidney Prescott – Scream Franchise (1996-2022)
Neve Campbell's Sidney Prescott is the embodiment of survival in the face of relentless terror. When we're first introduced to Sydney, we learn that her mother has been assaulted and murdered. Then, she watches her friends and loved ones get slaughtered in front of her. Then, she finds out her boyfriend killed everyone, and it doesn't even stop there.
4. Laurie Strode – Halloween Franchise (1978-2022)
Jamie Lee Curtis' Laurie Strode is the enduring symbol of resilience against unyielding evil. In the Halloween franchise, she confronts the seemingly indestructible Michael Myers, enduring repeated confrontations marked by gruesome violence and unshakable fear.
Her life is a ceaseless battle against the trauma inflicted upon her by this relentless adversary. Across a remarkable 13-film journey spanning over forty years, Strode has cemented herself as the quintessential Final Girl because no matter how many times she thinks she's defeated him, Meyers always rises from the ashes.
5. Carrie White – Carrie (1976)
Carrie White, portrayed by Sissy Spacek, is a tragic figure plagued by relentless torment and supernatural abilities. In the 1976 adaptation of Stephen King's novel, Carrie, she endures relentless bullying and isolation from her peers, only to have her telekinetic powers unleashed in a cataclysmic act of vengeance that adds another layer of trauma to her already troubled existence.
6. Christine Collins – Changeling (2008)
Angelina Jolie's Christine Collins faces a nightmarish ordeal in Changeling that includes the traumatic disappearance of her son and her subsequent struggle for justice. Her traumatic journey includes being falsely labeled as insane and confined to a psychiatric ward, where she battles against a corrupt and unyielding system that compounds her emotional and psychological anguish.
7. Dani – Midsommar (2019)
Florence Pugh's character, Dani, embarks on a journey to a rural Swedish community in Midsommar, where she faces a series of nightmarish ordeals. As she grapples with the recent loss of her family and navigates the rituals of a pagan cult, her experiences of grief and horror intensify, plunging her deeper into an unending cycle of psychological and emotional trauma. As the film progresses, she encounters an unrelenting series of new traumas, betrayals, and sorrows, until she finally surrenders to a cult.
8. Beau Wassermann – Beau Is Afraid (2023)
In Ari Aster's psychological horror, Beau Is Afraid, the titular character, a timid man riddled with anxiety, confronts a relentless series of terrifying events. As he battles his deepest fears, viewers are taken on a harrowing ride through the mind of a young man whose trauma and hardships seem to escalate without respite. The conclusion to this three-hour kafkaesque nightmare as he confronts his troubling, toxic relationship with his mother is nothing short of brutal.
9. Nina Sayers – Black Swan (2010)
Portrayed by Natalie Portman, Nina Sayers in Black Swan embodies the agonizing pursuit of perfection in the cutthroat world of ballet. Her relentless quest to achieve the dual roles of the White and Black Swan in Swan Lake pushes her to the brink of sanity. We witness her descent into madness as she grapples with self-inflicted psychological and physical torment in her relentless pursuit of artistic excellence while her overbearing mother tries to keep her sheltered, innocent, and dependent.
10. Anakin Skywalker – Star Wars Franchise (1999-2005)
Anakin Skywalker, portrayed by Hayden Christensen, is a character plagued by an unending struggle with his inner demons. He had no father, was born a slave, was forced to leave his mother as a child, and even when he was told he was “The Chosen One,” he was used as a political gamepiece. Then, he is forced to hide his marriage and is told his wife will die if he doesn't save her.
11. Andrew Laeddis – Shutter Island (2010)
In Shutter Island, Leonardo DiCaprio's character, Andrew Laeddis, endures the torment of his fractured mind. As a detective investigating the mysterious happenings on the eponymous island, he becomes entangled in a web of psychological manipulation and trauma that blurs the lines between reality and delusion, making his quest for truth a relentless descent into madness. Ultimately, he has to choose between living with the awful truth of what's happened or choosing (at extreme lengths) to forget everything.
12. Harry Potter – Harry Potter Franchise (2001-2011)
The beloved wizard Harry Potter, portrayed by Daniel Radcliffe, faces a relentless onslaught of hardships and trauma throughout the Harry Potter film series, from infancy to adulthood. From the loss of his parents at a young age to his ongoing battle against the dark forces of Voldemort, Harry's life is a testament to the unyielding resilience required to overcome an endless series of life-threatening challenges. Not many can say they were beefing with the dark lord of the mystical world as a baby. Actually, it's kind of weird when you think about it.
13. Ellen Ripley – Alien Franchise (1979-1997)
Sigourney Weaver's Ellen Ripley is a symbol of unrelenting courage in the face of extraterrestrial terror. Across the Alien franchise, Ripley confronts nightmarish creatures and unscrupulous corporate interests. Her life is a never-ending battle against the relentless horrors of space, making her a true survivor in an unending cosmic nightmare.
14. Fantine – Les Misérables (2012)
Fantine, portrayed by Anne Hathaway, endures a litany of relentless hardships in Les Misérables. From the heartbreak of losing her daughter to the unforgiving streets of 19th-century France, her life is marked by poverty, despair, and unyielding sacrifice. Hathaway's heartbreaking rendition of I Dreamed a Dream, which she sings in anguish after being thrown back onto the street, embodies just how melancholy her life is. She sings about her past hopes and dreams, which have been shattered by a life filled with hardship and suffering.
15. Lisa Rowe – Girl, Interrupted (1999)
In Girl, Interrupted, Angelina Jolie's character, Lisa Rowe, embodies the relentless chaos of mental illness. Her tumultuous journey through a psychiatric facility is marked by impulsive and self-destructive behavior that leads to further isolation and anguish.
While she is initially portrayed as a manipulative sociopath, once her diagnosis of Antisocial Personality Disorder is revealed, we finally dig deeper into Lisa's emptiness. When Susanna tells her she's “dead already,” Lisa breaks down in an emotional display of vulnerability for the first time, suggesting that her desire to “push other people's buttons” is a result of her own despair.
16. Truman Burbank – The Truman Show (1998)
Jim Carrey's Truman Burbank is the unwitting star of a reality show. His life is an unending spectacle, trapped in a fabricated world where he faces manipulation, surveillance, and a relentless desire for control from the show's creators.
Truman's relentless pursuit of truth and freedom paints a poignant picture of his unending battle for authenticity in a manufactured existence. Imagine discovering one day that every human interaction you've ever had, every moment you believed to be an authentic, heartfelt moment, was just a facade, and you were a human experiment. Talk about trust issues!
17. Greg Focker – Meet The Parents Franchise (2000-2010)
Ben Stiller's character, Greg Focker, faces an unrelenting series of comedic mishaps in the Meet the Parents franchise. His life is a constant battle for approval and acceptance from his prospective in-laws, marked by a never-ending string of awkward and humiliating situations. Greg's relentless pursuit of love and family harmony is a testament to his unwavering determination amid perpetual humiliation.
18. Wanda Maximoff – Doctor Strange in The Multiverse of Madness (2022)
Elizabeth Olsen's Wanda Maximoff, also known as the Scarlet Witch, confronts a relentless multiverse of chaos and consequences in the film. Her attempts to reshape reality and reunite with her lost loved ones lead to unintended and traumatic consequences. As she grapples with the repercussions of her extraordinary powers, Wanda faces a seemingly unending cycle of suffering.
19. Katniss Everdeen – The Hunger Games Franchise (2012-2015)
Jennifer Lawrence's Katniss Everdeen endures a relentless battle for survival in the dystopian world of The Hunger Games. From the moment she volunteers as tribute to protect her sister, she faces the brutal and unending challenges of the Hunger Games arena.
Her resilience against a merciless government and her dedication to protecting her loved ones make her a symbol of unwavering strength. Forced to battle to the death, survive in harsh conditions, be used as a political tool, stage a fake romance for survival, and watch people she cares about die, Katniss learns at a far too young age what true sacrifice is.
20. Rose DeWitt – Titanic (1997)
Kate Winslet's Rose DeWitt faces the unforgiving tragedy of the Titanic‘s sinking in James Cameron‘s epic. Her life takes an unrelenting turn from a stifling upper-class existence to a fight for survival in the icy waters of the North Atlantic just after losing the love of her life. Her story is a timeless testament to the unyielding spirit required to persevere through one of the greatest maritime disasters in history.
21. Peter – Hereditary (2018)
In Hereditary, Alex Wolff's character, Peter, grapples with a relentless descent into madness and supernatural horror. His life is marked by the devastating loss of family members and the eerie presence of dark forces that seem determined to unravel his sanity.
Peter's journey is an unending nightmare of psychological torment and unimaginable trauma after he accidentally causes his sister's head to be decapitated and must live with the guilt and anguish his mistake causes his family. Little do they know, this is only the beginning of the suffering this family is about to endure.
22. Travis Bickle – Taxi Driver (1976)
Robert De Niro's Travis Bickle is a haunting portrayal of urban isolation and psychological unraveling in Taxi Driver. His life is a relentless exploration of the seedy underbelly of society, plagued by a growing sense of detachment and violence. Travis's descent into vigilantism becomes an unending spiral of moral ambiguity and self-destruction.
23. Nick Dunne – Gone Girl (2014)
In Gone Girl, Ben Affleck's character, Nick Dunne, faces the relentless nightmare of a media-fueled investigation into his wife's disappearance. As he becomes the prime suspect in her disappearance, Nick endures a relentless media circus, public scrutiny, and the unending uncertainty of his wife's fate.
24. Amy Dunne – Gone Girl (2014)
Rosamund Pike's Amy Dunne in Gone Girl is a master manipulator who weaves a web of relentless deception. Her calculated actions and deceitful schemes create a never-ending maze of psychological torment for those around her. Amy's character exemplifies the lengths one can go to in order to maintain control and exact revenge, making her a relentless force to be reckoned with.
Jaimee Marshall is a culture writer, avid movie buff, and political junkie. She spends the bulk of her time watching and critiquing films, writing political op-eds, and dabbling in philosophy. She has a Communication Studies degree from West Chester University of Pennsylvania, where she flirted with several different majors before deciding to pursue writing. As a result, she has a diverse educational background, having studied economics, political science, psychology, business admin, rhetoric, and debate.
At Wealth of Geeks, Jaimee places an emphasis on film and television analysis, ranking the best [and worst] in media so you can find more diamonds in the rough and waste less time on box-office duds. You can find her articles on politics and culture in Evie Magazine, Katie Couric Media, Lotus Eaters, and Her Campus. You can also find her find her episode of Popcorned Planet, where she analyzes the Johnny Depp & Amber Heard trial. She has written extensively about due process, free speech, and pop culture.