The hero/es have been falsely accused of a crime they did not commit.
Maybe they were just in the wrong place at the wrong time — in line at the bank when it got robbed, or riding in the same subway car as a murder is committed and happens to look exactly like the one who did it
. Maybe they were the ones who found the body
and accidentally left their fingerprints on the murder weapon
. Maybe the series' Big Bad
has deliberately framed them
to get them out of the way. Maybe it's a Government Conspiracy
to silence them because They Know Too Much
. It might also involve an Evil Twin
or some other type of imposter.
Whatever the root cause, the phony evidence is so convincing, or the convergence of bad luck that makes them look guilty
is so unlikely, our hero struggles to convince anyone of their innocence. Even their own friends and loved ones seem ready to write them off guilty as charged. (With this belief sometimes persisting to the point of What an Idiot
The only way they can set this Miscarriage of Justice
straight is to find the real criminal and bring them to justice. This can take an episode or two, or it can be the premise behind an ongoing arc.
Sometimes this can be resolved while the hero is out on bail, or perhaps it has to wait until they complete their sentence. If they're supposed to be in jail, then it also becomes a Stern Chase
. If they're in jail and put in a Deadly Game
or Blood Sport
, they become a Condemned Contestant
If the protagonist actually commits some crimes
in the course of trying to clear their name, then they will likely benefit from Wrongful Accusation Insurance
— though most of them obey Would Not Shoot a Good Guy
. Selective Condemnation
is an extremely contrived Video Game
variant. If the injured party (or a relation of theirs) won't stop blaming the character despite the new evidence, they're usually clinging to an Irrational Hatred
If the hero has to clear someone else who has been wrongfully accused of a crime, it's Clear Their Name
. When the hero accuses the (innocent) villain of wrongdoing, it's Not Me This Time
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Anime & Manga
- Subverted in Fist of the North Star; Rei has been looking for "the man with the seven scars" who kidnapped his Ill Girl sister. The only person who fits that description that we've met so far is Kenshiro, but we know for a fact he didn't do it. His sister is eventually found and cured of her blindness by Ken, but when Rei finds out about Ken's seven scars, he laughs it off, saying that he knows Ken is too nice a guy to ever do something like that. Turns out the real culprit is Jagi, who has been trying to frame Ken the whole time.
- Spoofed early in Love Hina, when Keitaro resolves to "clear his name" with Shinobu. Naru immediately points out that there's nothing to clear up - he really did do the things that made Shinobu upset with him.
- Happens to the True Companions in Mahou Sensei Negima! when Arch-Enemy Fate Averruncus destroys the gate port from Magical Land to the Muggle side, finding a way to alter the video footage so that it appears the heroes did it. Odd in that the Magitek cameras probably should've been able to pick up on that, seeing as A Wizard Did It (while several figures who actually witnessed the event clearly saw the True Companions trying to defend against Fate and his minions). Needless to say, the entire group is on the lam (and on top of it, scattered around the magic world).
- Amusingly his father is in the nearly same situation in the flashback.
- Apparently he got this problem from his parents: His mother Arika has it worse than Nagi or Negi ever did; she was framed for attempted genocide and generally turned into a scapegoat for everything bad that happened as a result of the war. As of now (20 years later), she still hasn't been officially exonerated; however, she was saved from execution by Nagi and his True Companions, so it's almost a safe bet that She's Just Hiding.
- Averted in Glass Mask. Maya Kitajima is pretty much kicked out of entertainment industry when Suzuko Tashiro aka Norie Otobe frames her for a scandal, yet she presses forward and starts back in theater, regaining her spot in the industry in few time. Ayumi does punish Suzuko/Norie with an Humiliation Conga, though.
- Subverted in Death Note - Villain Protagonist Light gives up his memories of being the mass-murderer Kira and proceeds to spend the next few months attempting to clear his name by catching the 'real' Kira. On doing so, he reverts to his original personality and proceeds to spend the next five years on a killing spree.
- Happens to Jack Atlas in a multi-part episode of Yu-Gi-Oh! 5Ds when the Big Bad Duumvirate create an robotic Evil Twin of him that's so convincing that even Yusei, Crow, and Mikage (who has a major crush on him, no less), are convinced of his guilt. (Of course, the case against him is rather strong: The criminal is seen using Red Dragon Archfiend, a unique card that only Jack has access too, as far as anyone knows. As it turns out, the imposter has three copies of it, all of which are forgeries, and not very convincing ones when seen up close. Fortunately, the truth becomes clear when he challenges the imposter and defeats it.
- Subverted in Monster. Everyone assumes that Tenma is trying to clear his name, but he just has other things on his mind.
- Miki Hosokawa from Hell Teacher Nube is addicted to gossips, but makes a point about not spreading downright cruel ones. Well, at one point she was framed by a demon who impersonated her and made her friends believe she was spreading Malicious Slander, and all of them desert her. Miki has a tearful Heroic BSOD, but she decides to prove her innocence and find out who did this to her. She's succesful and the demon almost kills her, but her Badass Teacher Nube saves her.
- Happens in Cardcaptor Sakura, where the Mirror card frames Sakura by taking up her appearance and causing havoc around Tomoeda. When Sakura's brother Touya unmasks her and gets hurt, but still offers her his friendship, The Mirror has a Heel-Face Turn and lets Sakura seal her.
- In the Vampire Princess Miyu TV series, a Shinma with shapeshifting powers frames the titular Dark Magical Girl in an attempt to lure her out. She has to fight and seal him.
- The Soul Eater manga has Dr. Stein accused of the murder of Marie's boyfriend BJ, but his friends allow him to leave the city in order to clear his name. He succeeds, with the reveal of the true killer coming as a complete surprise. It was Justin Law, who had been The Mole until then.
- Horribly inverted in Getter Robo Armageddon: In the beginning of the series, Ryouma Nagare's been in prison for the death of Professor Saotome, a crime he never committed. When it turns out Saotome's alive and armed with an army of Getter Robo Gs, the Japanese Government frees him, gives him a Getter Robo and tells him to go kill him. At this point, Ryouma wants Saotome dead just so he can get revenge for ruining his life with the Getters.
- D.Gray-Man: After the entire arc involving Kanda and Alma, Allen still gets in a lot of trouble for turning into a Noah, and now he's stuck in a prison.
- In Mai-Otome, Arika leaves her uniform in the laundry room, and Miya, acting on Tomoe's orders steals it and sells it to frame her, as Arika had no source of paying tuition until her anonymous benefactor started paying it. She works to prove that she's not responsible for doing so, and while she and her friends incorrectly identify Mashiro's cat Mikoto as the culprit, the matter is solved and her punishment is lifted.
- In Detective Conan's "Ghost Ship" case, Kogoro goes give some lectures in an island. When the people who invited him appear dead, all the hints point to Kogoro, so Conan has to help him clear his name.
- More than one case involves someone going to Kogoro and asking him for help to invoke the trope. Whether they're actually innocent or not, it's something else.
- Lupin III often subverts this: whenever Lupin is framed for a theft he never committed, it usually leads to Lupin tricking the bastard who put the blame on him into getting arrested... and committing that theft for real. He's much less kind when he's framed for murder.
- The second series finale has Zenigata telling the Police Chief that the Lupin sending the broadcast about the robot is a fake, because it isn't Lupin's style. Zenigata is actually Lupin in disguise, and the gang films their efforts at revealing who really committed the thefts. Those guys were responsible for the deaths of innocents. Their corporation was burned to the ground when Lupin and his team left.
- In Lupin III Island Of Assassins, Lupin was framed for killing Zenigata. Lupin took their money, and the entire island suffered from orbital bombardment.
- Taken to extremes in the last few episodes of Tiger & Bunny: Wild Tiger, aka Kotetsu, is framed for the murder of Samantha, his partner Barnaby's housekeeper and mother figure, while having his Secret Identity wiped from his fellow Heroes and coworkers' minds and replaced with a fake android Wild Tiger. To make it worse, the man behind all of this is Mr. Maverick who owns Hero TV and practically the city of Sternbild itself and has almost direct control of Barnaby.
- The entire plot to the second half of Tenchi Universe: Kagato had somehow ascended to the throne and framed the princesses Ayeka and Sasami for treason. Ryoko, already a criminal, was tossed into the mix for just being there; Tenchi, his father, grandfather and Washu were dragged in for breaking the girls out; and Mihoshi and Kiyone were dragged in for trying to help them.
- Zigzagged into quite a fine paste in K. Shiro is presented to have murdered someone, with video footage of him doing it, and he seeks to clear his name until it turns out that he DID do it, but it wasn't really him. It was the Big Bad of the season in control of him, but was only able to take him over because he wasn't real to begin with? Yeah, it's a trip.
- In one episode of Pokémon XY The Series, Team Rocket disguises themselves as Ash, Serena, and Bonnie and frames them by causing havoc in a park and in a town. Ash and the others decide to take matters in their own hands and defeat Team Rocket.
- Happens regularly in Batman titles:
- A storyline was devoted to Bruce Wayne: Murderer? and its follow-up, Bruce Wayne: Fugitive. The Batfamily members were the ones doing the clearing up, while Batman considered that "Bruce Wayne" had just become a burden to be abandoned, even saying that "Bruce Wayne doesn't exist".
- Dick Grayson was once accused of murder and had to fight to prove he was innocent.
- Renee Montoya is accused of murder in a storyline of Gotham Central when a criminal she has history with and a private detective hired to follow her are both killed. She is being set up by her Stalker with a Crush Two-Face, who thinks that by completely ruining her life she will have nowhere to go except into his arms. On that occasion, her colleagues try to prove she is innocent, Batman investigates the case, and everybody in the cast is confused (but grateful) when Bruce Wayne pays for her lawyer. Two-Face eventually has to resort outright kidnapping once the lawyer manages to get her released on bail, since he knows that once she is free she inevitably will be able to find enough evidence to clear herself. The whole debacle would have been unnecessary if Two-Face understood their Incompatible Orientation; Renee was a Lesbian Cop in the first place.
- In a bizarre reversal, Batman races against time to clear the Joker's name in The Joker: Devil's Advocate, as his insanity defense finally fails and he's sentenced to death, but for a murder he didn't actually commit.
- For decades, this is how Spider-Man stayed a regular guy without a support network, all thanks to J. Jonah Jameson.
- And then Jameson became the mayor of New York, running the office just like he does the Bugle (what with the spider-slander, and sending Spider-slayers after Spidey).
- If you didn't figure out that he was never going to ease up on Spidey after Captain America basically told him "look dumbass, this man is out there every day helping people no matter how much shit you dump on him, ease off already and we'll give you an exclusivity deal with the New Avengers", and this didn't help... no-one here can help you.
- Jameson just makes sure everyone knows about it when there's the slightest possibility that Spidey may have committed a crime. Other cast members are the ones doing the framing, which they do with disturbing regularity. In the newspaper comics, Spider-man has averaged one frame job a year for decades. You'd think that by now the NYPD would get Genre Savvy about the whole thing and just ignore the reports of him allegedly committing another burglary.
- Sonic the Hedgehog had this happen to him twice in the span of a year! The first incident was the "Mecha Madness" epilogue: Sonic's arrested for becoming Mecha Sonic, disobeying a royal order from Sally. After outwitting an overzealous Antoine into realizing that the one who got him that way, Nack the Weasel, was missing and evidence was pointing towards him, Sally ordered Sonic to bring Nack back by sunrise or be exiled. Needless to say, Sonic did it.
- The big one, however, was "EndGame". Sonic's framed from the supposed death of Princess Sally, in a manner befitting of The Fugitive, Sonic breaks free and is able to prove his innocence through Dulcy the Dragon. In short order, the true suspect is captured, Robotnik is utterly defeated and Sonic's reunited happily with Sally.
- Recently, Batgirl (Stephanie Brown) was framed for murdering a fellow collegiate she'd actually tried to help before his death.
- Averted all over the place in Sin City. Both Marv and John Hartigan are accused of crimes they didn't commit, but both realize that the system is so corrupt that there would be no point in trying to fight the accusations.
- 2011's Magneto: Not a Hero miniseries revolves around the reformed (again) X-Men archvillain trying to clear himself after being framed for killing a group of anti-mutant protesters.
- The first appearance of Time Commander in The Brave and the Bold comic book has him claiming that he didn't do the crime that originally sent him to prison, and attempting to get his name cleared. It's never established one way or the other in the story if he's telling the truth, since he simultaneously starts a career as a supervillain with unrelated crimes.
- In WWE Superstars, John Cena is sent to prison when $10 million he was responsible for turns up missing. The only way for him to clear his name is to find the money.
- In Christian Humber Reloaded, Vash, the main character tends to go on killing sprees for little to no reason, but there are a few cases in which he really isn't responsible. In one case toward the end of Part 1, his "corrupted side" kills many people, and while the judge doesn't believe Vash was waiting for his next mission, he kills his corrupted self (again) and clears the charges. Later on, Kekanu frames him for destroying a few city blocks after transforming into him, but this plot never gets resolved.
- Calvin and Hobbes: The Series has a Lighter and Softer variation in "The Case of the Rogue Water Balloon"; for once, he actually didn't throw the titular balloon, and he sets out as Tracer Bullet to find the culprit. It turns out to have been Hobbes.
- Subverted in Clouded Sky. When the protagonist, Tobias Talltree, is framed for theft and Pokémon abuse and is forced to go on the run, he never makes any real effort to clear his name. By the end of the story, the public still believes him to be guilty.
- Valkyrie Nights has this plot in the second half of the story, when Roy Fokker is charged with murder. Anyone familiar with the source material would know how it ends.
- Brandon is set up for having committed base treason in Pokeumans, while the person who set him up goes about stealing the crucial Gemstone Files.
- In Graduate Meeting Of Mutual Killing, the protagonist Akane Ogata gets framed and accused for the Chapter 1 murder. She proceeded to fight for her innocence and catch the real culprit during the first trial.
- In Mega Man: Defender of the Human Race, Mega Man is framed for Kalinka's kidnapping in Episode 6, and at the end of Episode 13, Chief Toombs is falsely accused of being a mole for the Conduit.
- Happens twice in Despair's Last Resort. Kumiko Akamine is accused of the first murder due to being so close to the victim and claiming that they weren't in their room when she checked. Takara Tsukuda, the protagonist, knows that she didn't do it and spends the investigation gathering the evidence to back her up. Ryouta Hoshino is given this treatment during the second case, due in part to his shifty behavior and a string of unfortunate coincidences that suggests he did it. Takara sees through this ruse though, and discovers the real culprit.
Films — Live-Action
- Alfred Hitchcock's The 39 Steps. And The Wrong Man. And North By Northwest, Strangers on a Train, I Confess, Dial M for Murder and To Catch a Thief, Frenzy and The Lodger. Subverted in Stage Fright, where it turns out the man whose name the heroine has been trying to clear really WAS guilty.
- The Fugitive.
- Minority Report puts a cool twist to this as the main character tries to prove his innocence for a crime that he's supposedly going to commit. Spielberg amusingly described it as not a "Whodunnit", but a "Who'will'doit".
- High Crimes: subverted in that the accused is actually guilty.
- The Star Chamber starring Michael Douglas explores the theme of vigilante justice, with a group of judges re-examining cases and 'executing' those they find guilty by means of a contract killer. It later turns out that two petty crooks 'sentenced' in this manner didn't commit the crime they were accused of (a child killing). Michael Douglas is faced with the question of whether he should try and save two 'innocent' criminals, who he finds are PCP dealers.
- The Avengers (1998). Sir August frames Mrs. Peel for the destruction of the Prospero lab by having her Evil Twin clone do the job. Mother gives Mrs. Peel a chance to prove her innocence by finding out who was behind it.
- Inception: The reason that Cobb can't return to his children is that he is wanted as the primary suspect for the murder of his wife. Subverted by the fact that Saito will arrange for the arrest warrant being lifted and Cobb never mentioning that he wants to clear his name, as he actually did accidentally drive his wife into suicide.
- Eddie Brock's photoshopping of one of Peter's old Spidey pics in Spider-Man 3, which had a quick resolution (though it was meant as one of many catalysts for his transformation into Venom).
- Inverted in The Dark Knight. After Harvey Dent ends up killing up to five people, two of them cops (one of whom definitely deserved his demise) before being killed, Batman was the one who came up with the idea of pinning the blame on himself.
- The Parole Officer's plot is basically driven by this, as Simon Garden recruits a Caper Crew and breaks into a bank to steal the security tape that will clear his name (and indict the real killer).
- Call Northside 777, loosely based on a real case, stars Jimmy Stewart as a newspaper reporter trying to find evidence that a man in prison for killing a policeman is innocent. It was made in 1948, and showcased all sorts of post-WWII shiny new technology, like miniature cameras and photograph wire transfers. It was like CSI of its time. Now it's just amazing that Stewart managed to get the evidence he needed with such primitive stuff. Good movie all the same, and very suspenseful.
- In G.I. Joe: Retaliation with the U.S. President not exactly being rational, the Joes' mission consists of not only clearing their names, but driving Cobra out of the White House.
- An Innocent Man is about this, not surprisingly, with the titular innocent man having to clear his name after he's framed by two DirtyCops though he kills another inmate in prison.
- Welcome to the Punch (2013). The female detective who's the partner of the Cowboy Cop protagonist is choked to death by a Professional Killer after she uncovers crucial evidence. Her body is then stripped and planted in the protagonist's bedroom (they weren't lovers, but their relationship was close enough to appear otherwise). The cop gets his revenge on the killer, but the movie ends with him being arrested, so it's never revealed if he's cleared of the murder.
- Non-Stop: Air Marshal Bill Marks has to catch a killer to prove that he's not actually the one hijacking the plane.
- Happens to Dmitri in The Brothers Karamazov. He doesn't end up clearing his name, however, and the main characters are hatching a plan for an escape attempt out of prison as the novel ends.
- This happens to Finn and Uncle Stoppard in the fifth Finnegan Zwake novel.
- In Dan Abnett's Eisenhorn novel Malleus revolved about Eisenhorn's revealing that another inquisitor had really gone rogue, and framed him for it. (Cherubael, who set it up, was shocked that Eisenhorn was annoyed by it.)
- In the Matt Helm novel The Retaliators, $20,000 is deposited in Matt's bank account to frame him for treason.
- In Sophie Kinsella's book "Undomestic Goddess" the main character Samantha makes a mistake that causes her client to lose 50 million pounds. Actually,Arnold is trying to scam the company and put the article on Samantha's desk after the deadline to frame her and get her fired. Samantha then has to gain evidence that she didn't do anything wrong
- In the Spellman Files novel The Spellmans Strike Again, sisters Rae and Isabelle both try to clear wrongfully convicted prisoners. This results in many people wearing tee shirts reading "Free Schmidt".
- In the novel Primal Fear, Martin Vail is trying to clear the name of his client Aaron Stampler, and prove his innocence untill the twist ending.
- At the climax of Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, it's revealed Sirius Black, the "dangerous" fugitive, was actually following a clue to the whereabouts of Peter Pettigrew, who framed him.
- This forms the basis for the plot of the Agent Pendergast novels Dance of Death and Book of the Dead, as Aloysius Pendergast is set up by his brother for several killings as part of said brother's Roaring Rampage of Revenge.
- Gawan's plot in Parzival concerns him proving his innocence in order not to fight a duel.
- The entire purpose of Stephen King's Dolores Claiborne. While Dolores is responsible for her husband's death, Vera's death is a genuine accident.
- X-Wing Series: In The Krytos Trap, Tycho Celchu has been framed for being an Imperial sleeper agent and causing the death of a teammate (Corran). His friends have to track down the real evidence and defend him in court. The murder trial, of course, is called off in short order when the supposed victim arrives to provide testimony. Since Tycho's lawyer was absent at the time, there was no opportunity for "The defense calls Corran Horn," unfortunately. And the charges of treason and espionage are cleared away immediately afterwards with evidence provided by Corran, Wedge Antilles, and General Cracken.
- In Last Sacrifice, Rose is framed for the murder of Queen Tatiana and spends the brunt of the book as a fugitive on the road.
- Smallville, in the appropriately titled Infamous. Clark uses the Reset Button instead. A good thing he did too, actually, because he unknowingly saved Chloe from being ripped to shreds by Doomsday.
- In Disciple, Oliver is suspected of shooting Lois, but this time they quickly identified the culprit.
- The Adventures of Brisco County, Jr. ("Crystal Hawks"). Strangely, the plot was Brisco, a known bounty hunter, being accused of killing a man who had a bounty on his head. Since killing wanted criminals is basically the job description of a bounty hunter in the Old West, would he have actually been committing a crime even if he had done it?
- In "All Great Neptune's Ocean" Tyr Anasazi is found standing over the dead body with the smoking gun (well, force lance) in his hand. His friends find out that the weapon has been manipulated to fire on a signal tone. Only then did Tyr draw it to get it under control.
- Beka Valentine refers to this incidence, when in "Shards of Rimni" Dylan Hunt is found with the murder weapon in his hand standing next to the killer and arrested for murder. It turns out, Dylan has been set up.
- The premise of The A-Team has a variation; they actually did commit the crime they're wanted for, but it was part of a secret military operation that wasn't criminal in this context. Unfortunately, their commander died shortly thereafter without explaining this to anyone...
- The Battlestar Galactica episode "Murder On The Rising Star" has Starbuck accused of murder and Apollo struggling to find the evidence to clear him.
- The entire premise of Burn Notice (for the first few seasons) is Michael trying to clear his name and find out why he was burned.
- The protagonist of Day Break is framed for a murder and must use a "Groundhog Day" Loop to figure out who's doing it and why.
- Sgt. Doakes in Dexter comes under suspicion of being the Bay Harbor Butcher, while he is actually the only one in the department who sees the Devil in Plain Sight, and tries to clear his name while on the run. Subverted when the blood slides he took from Dexter's apartment are mistaken for his property, and when he tries to catch Dexter in the act, Dexter overpowers him, and frames him. Also, Lila kills Doakes by blowing up the cabin he's in, which wasn't in Dexter's plan; he doesn't kill innocents.
- This is the driving premise of Farscape. John Crichton spends most of the entire span of the show (including the miniseries finale) running from the current Big Bad, each one wanting his head on a platter for something he didn't do (or doesn't know he can do) until he gets sick and tired of it and decides to stop running.
- Also, D'Argo was wrongfully imprisoned for his wife's murder. He is never fully pardoned, but he does get Crais, a high-ranking officer, to admit that he knew D'Argo's wife was actually killed by her own brother.
- This happened to Will and Carlton one time in a Season 1 episode of The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air.
- The Fugitive
- Full House: A tamer example: A major case of "wrong place, wrong time" and "this isn't what it looks like" lands DJ in hot water for underage drinking (she is completely innocent; she caught a boy she liked and his friends drinking beer in the hallway at a school dance, one of the boys jokingly sprays her with beer, and her Uncle Jesse walks in on his apparently drunk niece with an open can and reeking of beer when she was actually just acting drunk to mock and chastise the boys for their behavior). Danny, Jesse and Joey are understandably pissed off, Jesse especially so (he angrily drags her out of the building without even listening to her side of the story), and they pretty much completely lose faith in her. Any attempt she makes at explaining the situation is quickly blown off as lies, with only her sister Stephanie believing her because DJ kept eye contact with her throughout the whole explanation, which she apparently doesn't do when she's lying. DJ draws even more ire from Jesse after she flees the house to go back to the school and force the boys to clear her name, and Steph ends up explaining her reasoning for her continued faith in her sister. Jesse only comes around after seeing DJ silently seething while the aforementioned (ex)crush tearfully turns himself in to the principal.
- The Incredible Hulk: Wrongly accused of murdering David Banner, who is actually the hulk, and Dr. Banner's assistant, Elena Marks. This is ironic because Jack McGee was actually the one who, accidentally, caused the explosion that killed Elena.
- This has happened at least once to Inspector Morse.
- In the Season 6 two-parter finale of Monk, Monk is framed for murder and escapes custody to try and look for the real murderer.
- Clear My Name tropes were also used for several episodes of Monk. In Mr. Monk Goes to the Carnival, where Monk, under secret orders from Stottlemeyer, has to covertly find evidence that Adam Kirk was actually framed for murder of a confidential informant, Gitomer. Another episode of Monk dealt with Monk having to prove that a Chimp was actually framed for shooting his owner. He also has to prove that a Rapper, Murderuss, was innocent of the murder of his rival in the Rapping Industry via car bombing. He also had to clear Willie Nelson's name. Monk also had to clear Sharona's sister Gail's name in murdering a fellow actor during a play. He also had to clear an entire union's involvement in a murder (and near murder of Stottlemeyer's wife). He also had to clear the names of the Mob when it became apparent that someone from the minting press was involved, and at least once had to clear a dead guy's name when evidence was pointing to him for the recent murder. He even once had to prove that Dale Biederbeck III was innocent of murdering or even arranging to murder a death-row inmate.
- Ned falls victim to this in one episode of Pushing Daisies.
- As does Ryan in The O.C., when he is wrongfully accused of the attempted murder of his brother Trey, which was in fact committed by Marissa. Luckily for him, his friends are on hand to clear his name.
- The title character of La Femme Nikita (the series only) spends very little time trying to clear her name, but the wrongful accusation is an important point in the series setup. She's an innocent accused of murder, forced into government service as a disposable killer.
- Apparently contractually obligated for members of the main NCIS team, given that aside from possibly Gibbs and Abby, each of them has had a Clear My Name episode: "Frame-Up" for Tony, "Probie" for McGee, and both "Jeopardy" and "Shalom" for Ziva,
- Played with in "Broken Bird" for Ducky. At first the team suspects he didn't do it but he confesses. He only killed the young man out of mercy because healing him would mean he goes right back to cold, blooded torture. The young man's surviving sister chooses to not press charges, clearing Ducky of legal guilt but morally Ducky finds no absolution in this action. He must bear the weight until he dies.
- Subverted for Gibbs, who actually did commit (no matter how justified) murder, and wasn't caught
- When Tony is briefly implicated for a murder in the episode "Bounce", his response is a dry "And to think I almost made it an entire year without being accused of murder."
- Poor Agent Langer; he gets his name cleared posthumously.
- A plot point in 24 has Jack Bauer on the run from the FBI, after a Starkwood assassin frames him for the murders of 2 government officials.
- And further complicating matters? Jack ends up killing the assassin (in self defense) before he can get himself cleared. With a bulldozer. And an armor-piercing screwdriver. And a 2 by 4.
- And since that still wasn't enough Jack-Bauer-level-badassness, he takes the screwdriver from the body, inserts said screwdriver into a pickup truck's ignition, starts it up, and drives away. Damn, Jack.
- The sad thing? The next episode after Jack is set up almost immediately drops this whole plot when the FBI discovers the Starkwood conspiracy and realizes that Jack is being framed, which makes you wonder, "why the hell did they even bother?"
- Another time this is used is in Day 5 when Jack is set up for the murders of David Palmer and Michelle Dessler and attempted murder of Tony Almeida by Charles Logan, among several others to make him a scapegoat for the real reason Palmer was killed (he discovered the plot of the true Big Bad for that season and had been planning on blowing the whistle on them).
- In the first season of Heroes, Peter Petrelli is arrested for the murder of Jackie Wilcox, when in fact it was Sylar.
- On Bones, Booth has to do this after a guy he was seen arguing with at a hockey game turns up dead.
- More recently, Brennan was framed by murderous computer hacker Pelant for killing a friend of hers, which included hacking into a security camera to make it look like she was lying about her alibi, breaking into her car to plant DNA evidence, and hacking into her and a prosecutor's bank accounts to make it look like Bones had paid her off. All of this forced Bones to take daughter Christine and become a fugitive before she could clear herself of murder charges.
- Quite popular in CSI and the spinoffs. In CSI:NY Danny has been accused of murder twice, once the victim was an undercover cop and once a gang victim, as well as a kid who had been dealing drugs to support his family. Later, he's accused of asking one of his rookies to lie for him during his stint as sergeant. Mac is accused of leaking sensitive information several times, and, on one occasion, of murdering a "helpless" serial killer, and Hawkes is framed for murdering a bartender as revenge for what the mastermind believes is a false guilty verdict. In the standard CSI, just offhand, Nick, Warrick, Ray, Greg and Jim are all accused of murder. Ray actually did it, but got away with it, quitting the job.
- Subverted with Greg, as everyone knew that he had killed the boy who died. The main question was whether or not he was justified in killing him, and whether or not the boy was part of a murderous mob.
- Harrison Ford has said that he spent much of the first decade of his acting career in small guest roles on police shows, playing a character he calls "the guy who didn't do it".
- The Season 7 finale of Law & Order: Criminal Intent has Det. Goren being framed for the murder of his brother by his Arch-Nemesis Nicole Wallace and mentor Declan Gage .
- In the first season finale of Profiler, Samantha is framed by her nemesis, Jack, for the murder of an unknown woman. Her colleagues manage to clear her in the second season premiere, though. Also, John has been suspected by being in cahoots with the Mafia, since his father's Family.
- In the Nip/Tuck episode "Granville Trapp," Christian was hauled into jail on suspicion of being the Carver — a hypothesis which would have demanded truly frightening devotion on his part, as both he and his partner had been Carver victims. The frame-up was, of course, perpetrated by the actual Carver team: Dr. Quentin Costa, aided by Det. Kit McGraw.
- Nowhere Man incorporated some of this in its core concept.
- Prison Break
- The whole plot of the TV series Renegade.
- In Stargate SG-1, Colonel O'Neill is framed for the murder of Senator Kinsey and the rest of his team must clear his name.
- So very subverted in an early episode. Teal'c is put on trial for a murder. Which he actually did commit prior to his Heel-Face Turn. And he is willing to be executed to atone for it. Daniel ends up defending him arguing that even though Teal'c DID it, he was following orders (with his own family's life at stake for disobedience) and chose a victim based on saving as many of the other prisoners' lives as possible.
- In another episode, Daniel is accused of sabotaging a bomb on an alien planet, because the government wanted to go ahead with producing it, even though the fact that it went off randomly made it way too dangerous to use. The rest of the team tried to clear his name, although it was implied that Daniel didn't really care one way or another. Jack eventually convinced Jonas Quinn to support them, Jonas got pretty much exiled for it, Daniel died anyway, then recovered after a season of having Ascended to a Higher Plane of Existence, and the whole debacle was never mentioned again.
- Occurs about once a series in the Star Trek franchise. Usually, a senior officer is accused of committing a crime under alien law, the evidence at the trial looks pretty damning, and then at the end the heroes present The Real Cause.
- In Star Trek: The Original Series:
- In the episode "Journey to Babel": Ambassador Sarek was suspected of murdering the Tellarite ambassador. In fact, an Orion posing as the Andorian ambassador had done so.
- In the episode "Wolf in the Fold": Jack the Ripper in energy-being form.
- In "Court Martial", Kirk is accused of causing the death of one of his crewmembers.
- In Star Trek: Deep Space Nine:
- "Dax": Dax's previous host is a suspect in a thirty-year-old murder case.
- Starsky & Hutch: In "Hutchinson for Murder One", Hutch is accused of murdering his ex-wife with his gun in his home. It was his ex-wife's associate Wheeler that did it, and Hutch would have been convicted if it wasn't for Huggy Bear hiding in a coffin while recording Wheeler's confession. Starsky, obviously, believes none of it, and spirits Hutch off to in the middle of his arrest in order to find the real murderer, blithely telling Dobey over the phone "if this doesn't work, you can visit Hutch and I in San Quentin."
- Also in "The Set-Up", where first Terry Nash is set up as the assassin of a mob leader, and then Starsky and Hutch are set up as his accomplices and a warrant for their arrest is issued when they start uncovering evidence that something fishy is going on. They spend half the episode on the run and, unusually, the episode ends right before their hearing, and although they likely have enough evidence to prove their innocence, it still ends on a never-resolved cliffhanger.
- Veronica Mars spends a lot of her time doing this. Usually it's either her or Eli being accused, but other people get their turns occasionally.
- Premise of The Cape.
- In The Rockford Files, Jim Rockford deals with this frequently. In one such episode, “Pastoria Prime Pick,” it turns out that the entire crime was set up by the county in an attempt to force him to plea bargain and pay a large fine
- In Angel Harmony's Day in the Limelight focuses on her attempt to find evidence that she didn't murder the ambassador to a pair of warring demon tribes. However no one actually accuses her, she just realizes it's going to happen and takes preemptive action as a result of him showing up dead in her bed with his blood drained. Though it should be noted that in the beginning she wasn't sure herself whether or not she was innocent and every attempt at clearing her name made her situation worse.
- Angela Dede in Tinsel Season 3, after being wrongfully accused of murdering Reginald Okoh.
- A M*A*S*H two-parter saw Klinger accused of stealing items around the encampment, and faced a court martial as a result.
- Family Matters had an episode where a school lab accident was blamed on Urkel. Through some convenient lawyer skills on Laura's part, she discovered the true culprit.
- Drake from Drake & Josh was accused of somehow fitting a teacher's car into the classroom as a prank.
- Happens in the Criminal Minds episode "Profiler, Profiled" to Morgan.
- And about half a season later, it happened to Gideon. Admittedly, he was seen running away from the murder scene with a gun. On the other hand, the murder was committed with a knife...
- A third case involves a recently paroled prisoner who claims to be innocent of his wife and child's murders.
- The ongoing plot of Just Cause, a short-lived legal drama about a woman framed for insurance fraud who is trying to gain a pardon so she can practice law.
- Jack has to do this in the second episode of Wild Boys after he is accused of murdering the Ryans and burning their farm to the ground. Jack may be a bushranger, but he is no murderer.
- A marine escapes prison to prove his innocence in the JAG episode "Secrets"
- And so does Harm too, in "People v. Rabb".
- Both Mark Sloan and Jesse Travis were framed for murder on separate episodes of Diagnosis: Murder. In Jesse's case it took Ben Matlock to clear his name.
- Dr. Sloan and his team also had to clear their good names when, after the execution of a serial bomber whom Sloan helped bring to justice, a string of copycat bombings prompted the DA's office to believe that, thanks to Sloan's testimony, they arrested the wrong man. The copycat turned out to be the son of the original bomber, getting revenge on the man who helped get his father convicted.
- Ellery Queen: Ellery must clear his own name in "The Adventure of the Comic Book Crusader".
- Averted in Dancing on the Edge. As soon as it becomes clear that Louie is being framed for Jesse's murder, the few people still on his side realize that their only choice is to smuggle him out of the country.
- Dragnet had an ep where Sgt. Friday had to prove he didn't make a mistake about a robber having a gun when he shot him.
- TheWholeTruth: Judd Hirsch's judge character wants Jimmy Brogan's help to clear his name. It works but in reality he's guilty. He gets busted on a related charge at the end, though.
- One episode of Quantum Leap has Sam leap into an already-convicted death row inmate, and he sets out to prove that "he" is innocent. In a subversion, Sam's efforts succeed only in confirming the convict's guilt. It's the convict's supposed accomplice, also sentenced to death, who ends up being exonerated.
- Castle: In "Probable Cause", Castle is framed for a murder and Beckett ends up breaking him out of lock-up to help find the real killer, Jerry Tyson, aka the Triple Killer or 3XK.
- In "Veritas", Beckett is the prime suspect in the murder of Vulcan Simmons, a criminal who had nearly killed Beckett in the previous episode "In the Belly of the Beast" and was also involved in the conspiracy behind her mother's murder. By the end of the episode, she manages to both clear her name and find the evidence needed to bring down the man who ordered her mother killed, Senator Bracken.
- In the second series of The Hour, Hector is falsely accused of beating up Kiki. Some characters are more ready to believe it's true than others, and not everyone is willing to come to his rescue and provide an alibi. When news of this gets out, his reputation is is destroyed, until the finale when Kiki herself agrees to go on the show and reveal why she accused Hector and who was actually responsible.
- The titular character of Tin Star gets blamed for shooting the baby bandit Kid Johnson, causing him to be driven out of town and stripped of the title of Sheriff. Tin Star eventually puts on a Paper-Thin Disguise and rides back into town to clear his name, which succeeds when Tin Star stops a Bar Brawl and finds Kid Johnson hiding inside of his hat.
- Batman: Vengeance would have this when the titular character is accused of hitting Commissioner Gordon with a batarang when in face it was Harley who did it.
- The story mode of WWE Day of Reckoning 2 sees the main character framed for stealing the WWE Championship belt, and thus banned from Monday Night Raw; he must then prove his innocence while rebuilding his wrestling career as a member of the Smackdown roster.
- Which is kind of odd since stealing the belt is a wrestling trope of its own. Usually the thief parades around with the belt and no officials ever order him to return it. The rightful champ usually has to steal it or win it back.
- Sonic is captured in Sonic Adventure 2 because everyone mistakes Shadow for him. You'd think people would have noticed the fact they're completely different colors. Then again, how many anthropomorphic hedgehogs with super-speed do you see running around?
- Also, the robbery was committed at night. When it's that dark out, you would need supernatural eyesight to be able to tell the difference between blue and black.
- Lynne has to do this in Ghost Trick after the police recover security footage of her shooting the man found in the junkyard.
- Happened to Link in The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past. After the evil wizard in residence does away with Princess Zelda, his minions get the word out (with surprising speed) that Link has kidnapped her. Signs are posted in his hometown and if they spot him, his neighbors will yell for the palace guards to come and kill him.
- The Gamecube remake of Skies of Arcadia features a Bonus Boss like this - the three main characters have impersonators they can go after for a bounty. This has no bearing on the plot, but does affect the player character's ingame title; he goes from his title marking him as a well-liked hero to "Vyse the Fallen Pirate" until the imposers are taken care of.
- The plot of Condemned: Criminal Origins is based on this. At the end of the first mission, the killer who has stolen main character Ethan's gun shoots two police officers. Ethan's goal for the rest of the game is catching him..
- This is part of the basis of the plots of both the Max Payne computer games. In the first He witnesses his partner's murder, which he is framed for. His motive for uncovering the V conspiracy is both to avenge his slain wife, and to find his partner's true murderer. In the second he is again framed for the murder of his partner, although in this case the partner turns out to be working for the Big Bad. After killing a legion of gangsters and junkies (admittedly in self defense), he benefits from Wrongful Accusation Insurance, as he gets off scot free and even ends up working back in the Police under the man who was hunting him in the first game!
- Mega Man 9 starts off with a variant of this trope - the robots that attack at the start of the game are designed by Dr. Light, and Wily further stains Light's reputation with a video recording and his Swiss Bank Account number for donations. The goal is, obviously, to clear Dr. Light. The truth is a bit more complicated. Anyone who's played a Mega Man game before has reason to believe Wily's behind it all, and they're absolutely right.
- Before that is in Mega Man 5, where Mega Man has to clear his brother Proto Man's name.
- The basis of Super Mario Sunshine has Mario having to clear his name after Shadow Mario/Bowser Jr. frames him for polluting the island.
- This is a plot point used in a late-game story arc in City of Heroes — in the course of your investigating the Corrupt Corporate Executive Countess Crey, she manages to fabricate charges against you, placing you on the top 10 wanted list and issuing an APB for your arrest. This being a memorpuger, of course, there's very little influence on your actual gameplay routine, aside from a couple of post-mission ambushes from villain groups looking to get the reward. The solution, of course, is to finally expose the Big Bad as the Villain with Good Publicity that she is, but again, successfully doing so won't change your gameplay routine for the better or anything.
- Used... in some form... in Modern Warfare 2. Shepherd frames Soap and Captain Price for crimes against the United States and manages to link them to a global terrorist group. Both Price and Soap realize that they're drastically outgunned, outmanned, etc., and decide to commit said crimes in their quest for revenge.
- Specifically, averted. Soap and Price both realize it's too late to stop Shepard's plan, and the best they can do is kill him so he doesn't go down in history as a hero. They succeed, but their names are most definitely NOT cleared: They are both still considered extremely dangerous terrorists and traitors.
- But finally in Modern Warfare 3, Price's name is finally cleared after he rescues the Russian President's daughter, an act that heroically ends the war.r
- In the PC game Secrets of da Vinci: The Forbidden Manuscript, protagonist Valdo goes overnight — almost literally — from undertaking a simple errand for an unknown employer to being suspected of treason. His only hope of avoiding execution is to solve da Vinci's mystery and throw himself on the King's mercy.
- In Tales of Symphonia the party is soon marked as traitors for trying to destroy Tethe'alla despite them only wanting to go back to Sylvarant to have a dwarf help get Collet's soul back. For the large part of the game, the party must use the sewer entrance to enter the capital city.
- Justified, as one of your team members is an ex-con having been in prison for murder.
- There are also a few places in Sylvarant where the party is accused of impersonating themselves because the people impersonating them got there first. In two places, this gets cleared up relatively quickly, but one guy never believes they are who they really are.
- In Tales of Vesperia, Rita Mordio is accused by Yuri Lowell (the game's protagonist) of being a blastia thief. She takes them to Shaikos Ruins stating that she'd "clear her name" — and use the the rest of the party for help in completing her formula, naturally, though this isn't stated (by Karol!) until after the battle with Goliath.
- In the very first Command & Conquer, this happens to GDI because of Nod's forged video footage about a village being burned to the ground.
- Another case in a more recent game is in Red Alert 3, where Soviet General Krukov is branded a traitor by Premier Cherdenko. Krukov then believes the commander (the player) is a traitor instead. Neither of them expects that Cherdenko himself is the traitor. The result is the death of both Cherdenko and Krukov with the commander going on to destroy New York.
- Averted in Dragon Age: Origins. While the Grey Wardens are wanted for betraying King Cailan at Ostagar, you have more important things to do than clear your name, such as gathering the army you need to fight the Darkspawn horde. It also helps that, thanks to the near mythic reputation of the Grey Wardens and the unpopularity of the current regent, almost nobody believes the accusation anyway. When people do try to bring you in it's not out of a genuine belief in your guilt but rather a desire for the bounty on your head.
- Meanwhile, if a Human Noble, Arl Rendon Howe does everything possible to smear the Warden and his/her family's name after having entire said family slaughtered. As with the above, the Warden's father was one of the most beloved men in the nation, whereas Howe is despised by almost every nobleman in the nation. Almost every nobleman the Warden meets passes their condolences and assures him/her that they don't believe a word Howe says.
- The Dwarven Noble Warden is either framed during their origin story for the murder of their elder brother Trian, or forced to kill him in self-defence, as they were both manipulated by their younger brother Bhelen to believe the other was plotting to kill them. Despite returning to Orzammar later in the game, the Dwarf Noble never actually clears their name.
- Metal Gear Solid: Portable Ops had this as pretty much the entire reason for the plotline, as Naked Snake has to quell the FOX revolt and capture the person who instigated the revolt dead or alive in order to prove his, Major Zero's, Paramedic, and Sigint's innocence.
- In Dead Rising 2, Chuck Greene is accused of releasing the zombies leading to the Fortune City outbreak, but in reality TK, the host of the zombie killing show Terror Is Reality did it so he could loot the casinos around the area.
- Roughly one-third of Breath of Fire II is spent clearing the good name of Bow, Ryu's childhood friend. Halfway through that quest, you've got to clear the good name of another character.
- Roughly the first half of Act II in Neverwinter Nights 2 is spent in an effort to prove the PC innocent of massacring a village.
- A significantly less serious version than most opens Kingdom Hearts II, as Roxas has to clear his name over stealing a few photographs.
- Fahrenheit is an interesting case. While Lucas, the main character actually killed the man at the beginning of the game, he was possessed while doing so and still have to clear his name.
- Silent Hill: Downpour: Early in development, protagonist Murphy Pendleton was originally a tragic hero — a man falsely incarcerated for a crime he didn't commit. However, after Vatra Games reevaluated what Silent Hill was, they decided that the location of Silent Hill was alive and that it could make your fears and sins manifest. Therefore, Murphy needed to be a little less innocent and was changed to a flawed but sympathetic protagonist. He's now a man on the run from his captors, his past, and himself — and that path has led him to Silent Hill.
- Subverted and played straight in Street Fighter Alpha III, when Arrogant Kung-Fu Guy Fei Long is accused of collaborating with drug trades directed by Shadaloo. In a subversion, this deal isn't necessarily the focus of his story-mode, though Fei Long's mid-boss battles have him fighting off Shadaloo attempts to recruit him. It's then played straight in fellow HK-native Yun's path, as he and his twin Yang take the the rumors at face value so they chase after Fei Long to capture him and protect Hong Kong. Fei Long is Yun's path's last mid-boss, and if Yun wins the fight there's a short talk in which he explains what happened and Yun realizes his mistake. Then Bison shows up, and he's not alone...
- Burakh is accused of killing his father from the beginning in Pathologic. He redeems himself by the end of Day One, with Dankovsky's help.
- In Dishonored, Corvo's main goal is to clear his name after being falsely accused of the assassination of the Empress, along with getting revenge on the people who caused this to happen.
- In Time Crisis: Project Titan, Richard Miller must clear his name after he is framed for the murder of the President of Caruba.
- The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim has a questline in which corrupt guards frame you for murder. You can go to jail and then assist the forsworn natives escape, creating a distraction so everybody will forget your name or just kill every guard in the city.
- Phoenix Wright had this happen to him in the second case of the first Ace Attorney game, forcing him to represent himself in court. Also, this was what he was doing throughout the entire fourth game (not representing himself, but clearing his name).
- And Edgeworth does this in Investigations when he's accused (amazingly randomly) of murder. The first half of the case is clearing his name, the rest is looking for the true killer and clearing Rhoda's name.
- To be fair on the accusation against Edgeworth, he WAS the only person in the place where the victim was found. He was also holding the victim's wallet, was the only person without an alibi, and was the person who was found standing over the dead victim's body holding an item which, to be fair, WAS dripping with a red substance that could VERY easily have been blood. It's not hard to see why he was accused.
- One case in Trials and Tribulations opens with the news that Phoenix not only lost a case, but did such a horrible job in the process that some speculate that he deliberately threw the trial. Not remembering this happening at all, he concludes that somebody must've impersonated him, and manages to get a re-trial in order to restore his reputation and find the imposter.
- Subverted in Dual Destinies. Athena Cykes's biggest goal is to clear the name of someone else — Simon Blackquill.
- In the Murder Mystery Visual Novel Jisei, the main character is found next to the victim's body and is automatically accused of committing the murder. The protagonist tries to convince the detective at the scene that he is not guilty by questioning other suspects to gather more information and clear his name.
- Most of the first case of Dangan Ronpa involves Naegi trying to do this after Sayaka is murdered in his room's bathroom. He succeeds, logically, or the game would stop there.
- Main point of second Energize adventures.
- Acrobat has to worry about this when Kid Laser frames him for Blackhawk's murder.
- In Kevin & Kell, Kevin's ex-wife Angelique goes on a date with R.L., head of the predator corporation Herd Thinners, and sells him secrets about the rabbit evasion techniques. Since Kevin is married to Kell, a wolf, the Rabbit Council assumes that he did it and takes away his rabbit license until Fenton, using sonar, identifies R.L. as Angelique's new husband. Later on, R.L. and Angelique are accused of falsifying Herd Thinners' earnings, and Kell manages to find out that Vin cloned previously caught prey species.
- In General Protection Fault, when Trent tries to frame Trudy for attempting to drop a safe on Dwayne, as she had on several of GPF's competitors, she enlists the help of Fooker and Nick to clear her name, and after obtaining the evidence that indicates Trent's responsibility, destroys the evidence that would have incriminated her in the other incidents. Later on, Fooker and Dwayne get convicted of going on a shooting spree and burning down GPF for insurance, (actually caused by the "Fookinator" and Trudy, respectively), and Fooker convinces Dwayne to flee after their prison bus crashes in order to clear their names.
- In The Gamers Alliance, Marcus is framed when Yamatians masquerading as him and his followers massacre various Remonian villagers. The Yamatians do this in order to make Marcus look like an omnicidal would-be-tyrant and turn the people of Remon against him, which would make Marcus's campaign for becoming the rightful king of the kingdom, uniting the bickering races under one banner and driving the Yamatian occupiers out of the country impossible. Marcus and his allies spend a lot of time and effort trying to undo the damage and convince Remoners that he is not responsible for the massacres.
- This is Veldron's primary motivation for finding the person abducting superheores in Super Stories.
- The main character of Where The Bears Are aren't formally charged in Season One, but they want to do this to clear up any suspicions. Subverted in Season Two, when it looks like Reggie will be charged with murder but is swiftly released.
- Even since the Wham Episode shared by all incarantions of the Noob franchise, this is a major part of Fantöm's character arc. After being Locked Out of the Loop about the illegal enhacements performed on his avatar by the game creators that eventually became publically known, he has to rebuild his Broken Pedestal.
- In We Are Our Adventuring Avatars, Lancelot was framed by Mordred and given a false bounty when he found out that Mordred was planning on creating an army of killer rabbits. The group decided to help him out after a misunderstanding.
- David Milgaard was convicted of raping and murdering a nursing student in 1969 in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan. He would spend almost 23 years in prison even escaping and turning himself back in so he could clear his name legally before being freed. A man named Larry Fisher would later be proven guilty of the crimes. The Tragically Hip's song "Wheat Kings" references Milgaard's story, and a TV movie was also made about his life.