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Anime and Manga
- Inverted in Hayate the Combat Butler. Hayate starts off trying to kidnap someone and ends up rescuing her instead.
- In Axis Powers Hetalia, (North) Italy and Romano (South Italy) once kidnapped England, but only because he happened to fall into a hole that some kids dug in their yard. They weren't too happy about the situation, and even less happy when Germany dragged England back after he managed to escape.
- In the Cowboy Bebop episode "Mushroom Samba", Ed randomly crawls into a bounty hunter's car trunk without the driver knowing. The bounty hunter gets pulled over by the police, who are looking for the same person that she is, and check the trunk. When they find Ed, who fell asleep during the car ride, they assume the bounty hunter is a kidnapper. When both the bounty hunter and police look away, Ed wanders off none the wiser without providing any explanation.
- In The 'Burbs, after the neighbors discover Walter is missing (and Rumsfield has broken one of Walter's windows to investigate his house), Ray takes Walter's dog home and starts to write a note: "Walter, your dog is my house, your window is broken because we all thought..." then he crumples up the note and writes "Walter: I have your dog." instead. near the end, "kidnapping a neighbor's dog" is added to the list of crimes he is temporarily charged with.
- Alicia Silverstone's character in Excess Baggage. She wants to make her father think she's been kidnapped, so she ties herself up and locks herself in the trunk of a car. Then a real car thief steals the car with her inside...
- Graeme and Clive in Paul realise they have to kidnap Ruth to prevent her telling anyone about Paul.
- Happens with a Traffic Warden in Lock, Stock & Two Smoking Barrels.
- In The Hangover when the main characters get their car back, they discover that at some point in their "drunken" antics they locked a naked Asian man in their trunk.
- Turkish film Varyemez has a rich industrialist getting car-bumped by a bunch of cash-strapped actors. The industrialist, already edgy from the death threats he's been receiving, believes the actors to be kidnappers. The actors just shrug and go with it, hoping they may get some ransom money.
- In Memento, Leonard wakes up in a hotel room and finds a gun in the desk drawer and a man gagged and bound in the closet. He knew what he was doing when he kidnapped him, but because of his condition he's constantly wondering What Did I Do Last Night?.
- In A Life Less Ordinary, Ewan McGregor's character blunders into kidnapping Cameron Diaz's character. Turns out this was a stroke of luck, as she's a far better criminal than he is (and hated her dad).
- This was combined with a Frame-Up in Dick Tracy, where No-Face kidnapped Tess and left her Bound and Gagged in Big Boy Caprice's headquarters without him knowing it, leading Tracy to believe, at first, that Big Boy had kidnapped her. Of course, the crime boss had done no such thing, and when he realized he had been set up with planted evidence of committing a capital offense, he panicked, and he kidnapped Tess for real, leading to a chase, which led to the climax of the movie.
- Not to mention the Adam Sandler movie Big Daddy, where Sonny takes a little boy sent to HIS place, not his neighbor's.
- In Return to Neverland, Captain Hook kidnaps Wendy's daughter Jane thinking she was Wendy herself in an attempt to use her as bait for Peter Pan.
- In Home, Captain Smek took a rock from the Gorg, which turns out to contain the next generation of his race.
- In Akira Kurosawa's film Highand Low, the kidnappers snatch not the son of the industrialist they were after, but the child of his chauffeur.
- In The Man with the Golden Gun, Goodnight really has nobody's fault but her own when she gets caught by Scaramanga; she actually hides in the trunk of his car while trying to plant a tracking device on it. (Fortunately, it still functions.)
- In Diana Wynne Jones' short story Warlock at the Wheel, the eponymous Warlock steals a car, not realizing there's a girl and her dog in the backseat.
- In Timeless, Alexandria's vampire hive kidnaps Alexia's daughter Prudence. Well, they thought they kidnapped Prudence; they got Ivy's daughter by mistake. To be fair, it was two dark-haired toddlers, and Prudence hid under the bed when she heard them break in.
- In an interesting case, Cabot Searcy plans on kidnapping Cullen Witter in Where Things Come Back upon hearing that he had a date with Cabot's ex-wife, but ends up kidnapping his younger brother Gabriel. Upon realizing he got the wrong person, Cabot starts freaking out and saying he's a kidnapper now, so it's likely Cabot was just going to beat Cullen up and drop him back on his front porch or something along those lines.
- Subverted in Michael Kardos's The Three Day Affair. The narrator believes he has accidentally kidnapped a convenience store clerk, but the kidnapping has been arranged as part of another character's more complicated plan.
- Robin in Sherwood Forest doesn't intend to kidnap Shaima; he's essentially forced into it by his fellow soldiers, who want her summarily executed for sneaking into their camp. Shaima doesn't really care either way about his motivations, and just wants to go home.
Live Action TV
- Happens in various fashions at multiple points in It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia:
- The straightest example of this trope would be, after a critic writes a bad review of Paddy's calling it "Paddy's Pub: The Worst Bar In Philadelphia" (the episode's title), Charlie gets drunk and kidnaps him, leaving the rest of the episode has an exercise on how to release him without legal repercussions.
- In "The Gang Gets Extreme: Home Makeover Edition", the gang kidnaps a family in a misguided attempt to remodel their house. After destroying their house instead, they have to give Dee's newly-acquired house to the family in compensation.
- In "The Gang Exploits the Mortgage Crisis", Frank forces the kids of the family resident in the house he just bought to do work in the basement when their parents are at work. Same ending as the last one.
- In season 1 of Arrested Development, Michael gives a Mexican woman a ride thinking that she's his mother's housekeeper, Lupe. She was not. This woman is then disturbed to see red splatter all over the front seat (actually nail polish spilled by Michael's sister), and shovels and a human skeleton in the back (actually taken from an excavation site by Michael's brother). Michael wants to prove that he's a good person by giving this woman a ride, refusing to let her out "too soon" when she becomes distressed by the shovels and "blood spray". She eventually runs away when he stops in the Wetlands, and the episode ends with Michael being arrested.
- In the MacGyver episode "Hearts of Steel", kidnappers accidentally kidnap the housekeeper's daughter rather than the daughter of a business magnate because the two girls have swapped jackets.
- Happened in The Bill: A guy carjacked a car and didn't realise there was a baby in the back. The baby was found injured and It turned out that she'd been hit by her dad just beforehand.
- Happens in The Office, when Michael holds the pizza boy hostage and demands a better deal, and his coworkers inform him he is committing a felony by holding a minor against his will.
- It happens on The Nanny, when Fran takes a baby from an ethnic woman who had her hands full on a subway. Fran and Maxwell considered caring for it until they see a criminal sketch for Fran on TV.
- In Titus (sit back, cause this is complicated), Tommy's ex-girlfriend came back to town and he wanted to talk with her, only he was limited by a past restraining order. He ran into her car and then in a note claimed that Titus would repair her car for free (owning his own car shop). When she came in Tommy tried to hide, but she ended up seeing him. Panicking, she barricaded herself in Titus' office and tried to call the police, but Dave yanked out the phone line. Titus does a Face Palm and declares that they now have a hostage.
- Played straight in the finale of Dark Angel. Max and the gang are surrounded by their foes while at work, forcing them to take their collegues hostage.
- Better Off Ted:
- In one episode, Linda is inadvertently drugged and, in a misguided fit of appreciation, steals a baby so she can claim it as her own by writing her name on it.
- In another episode, Ted regales the demographic he's unpopular with with a tale of how, in his youth, he once accidentally kidnapped a random pig rather than another school's mascot.
- Happens in Pushing Daisies during a flashback to Olive Snook's childhood. When a pair of men burglarize her home, she stows away in their getaway car to escape her neglectful parents, and she and her kidnappers have a wonderful time together. (Her parents are so neglectful that they don't notice her absence until the accidental kidnappers berate them for failing to look out for their daughter.)
- In the My Name Is Earl episode Very Bad Things Joy steals a delivery truck without realizing that there was a delivery boy still inside. Earl and Joy then have to figure out how to release him without getting caught. In the end of season 2, Joy goes to trial and Earl ends up taking the rap for her and going to jail.
- Early in Burn Notice, Mike gets kidnapped during a bank heist. So a few seasons later when he calls to say he's involved in a hostage situation, everyone assumed he got kidnapped again.
Mike: Actually...we're the hostage takers. It's a long story
- Almost happens in Angel: Gwen enlists Gunn's help to rescue a girl named Lisa. It turns out she meant to steal a piece of technology, with the acronym LISA, to use it to control her powers. Gunn only finds out after the little girl he tried to rescue told him that she was in her own home.
- In The Daily Show 2012 election special, Samantha Bee kidnapped the girlfriend of a focus group member she was interviewing, and threatened to kill her if the man didn't choose a candidate to vote for. The man then confusedly stated that the Bound and Gagged woman was not his girlfriend, leading Sam to realize she'd kidnapped some random person. Cue I Need to Go Iron My Dog remark...
- Happens in a mid-2000s episode of Casualty, when a man being threatened over his debts steals an unlocked car from in front of a house in order to pay them off, not realising that there's a man hiding in the boot waiting to surprise his girlfriend who's just passed her driving test.
- Flashpoint: In "Unconditional Love", a crook on the run from a gun deal gone bad hijacks a car from a woman, not realising her baby is in the back seat.
- Murdoch Mysteries: In "Rich Boy, Poor Boy", the kidnappers grab Bobby Brackenried after mistaking him for the boy he is playing with, who is also named Bobby.
- Community: One episode has Chang try to prove he could be a good father by picking up Shirley's kids from school. Except they weren't her kids; he just grabbed the first two black kids he saw and took them into his car.
- There is an urban legend involving a bunch of teenagers who took some kind of hallucinogenic drug (usually LSD or 'shrooms), and mistake a child (usually a boy, though occasionally a girl, between the ages of 4 and 7, and sometimes described as a Down syndrome child, Depending on the Writer) for an elf, gnome, goblin, or other fantasy creature, or sometimes a statue thereof, which they keep overnight in a closet. When they wake up the next day and find out they have a frightened child on their hands, they turn the child in to the local police. Sometimes, they face criminal charges, other times they receive a cash reward for returning the missing child.
- The entire plot of Tales of the Abyss kicks off when due to various reasons, a hyperresonance sends The Hero and the erstwhile "kidnapper" halfway across the world, setting in motion the first part of the game: getting one Sheltered Aristocrat and Chosen One back home before things go from bad to worse.
- When Andre the Black Nerd showed up for The Nostalgia Critic's Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (2014) review with The Angry Video Game Nerd, the Critic was distracted on the phone, and absentmindedly directed him to a closet and locked the door. When the Critic discovered him months later, Andre rather cheerfully demanded compensation by forcing the Critic to review The Smurfs with him.
- The King of the Hill episode "Lupe's Revenge", where on a field trip to Mexico, Peggy accidentally brings along a local girl, and is arrested for kidnapping when trying to bring her back (and the only way to get her out of it was to prove to the judge that she brought the girl to America by mistake because her Spanish comprehension is bad).
- On The Flintstones, Dino goes missing and Fred brings back what he thinks is Dino, but he was really taking someone else's
dogsnorkasaur from its own yard.
- In another episode some criminals try to abduct a seal named Dripper that followed the Flintstones home, the guy assigned to the kidnapping can't see well without his glasses and can't tell the difference between the seal and Barney who was wearing scuba gear, he catches Barney by mistake.
- Done in Avatar: The Last Airbender, in "Return to Omashu". The gang lead some freedom fighters out of the city, and accidentally get the Fire Nation Govenor's son as well. He was just following the Team Pet.
- One episode of Rugrats revolves around Tommy being kidnapped by two goons who mistake the Pickles' house for the house of their actual target (due to confusion over the sixes and nines in the street address). They promptly return him to his very confused parents when he makes a mess out of their hideout doing what he usually does in an episode.
- Another accidental kidnapping on Rugrats happened when Grampa Lou puts Tommy in a luxury car while talking to a man standing next to it. Turns out the luxury car didn't belong to the man and actually belonged to two ugly spinsters.
- My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic Gives us the episode "Over A Barrel" where early on a tribe of Buffalos takes a train car containing an apple tree Applejack was delivering to Appleloosa.... only the Buffalos didn't know until it was too late that the train car also contained a sleeping Spike.
- In one episode of Wally Gator two crooks come to the zoo to steal a platypus and wind up taking Wally instead because they read the name plate on his cage wrong.
- Walt Disney once technically kidnapped then-Vice President Richard Nixon by taking him for a ride on the Disneyland Monorail before Nixon's Secret Service entourage had a chance to board the vehicle.
- This makes the news at least a half-dozen times a year when someone steals a car from an unsuspecting person... and doesn't realize they've just stolen a car with a baby in the backseat.