open/close all folders
Anime and Manga
- Higurashi: When They Cry: Happens in Matsuribayashi-hen, when the True Companions decide to fake Rika's death so as to make Takano think that her research was wrong and give up on it, thereby saving Rika.
- At the end of Witch Hunter Robin, Robin and Amon are declared dead after an enemy base they were inside self-destructed. Doujima informs her superiors that No-One Could Survive That, even though both she, and the rest of the team, knows very well that the both of them almost certainly made it out unscathed. By declaring them dead, they'll be relatively safe from Solomon pursuit.
- Roy Mustang does this to Maria Ross in Fullmetal Alchemist after she is set up to take the fall for Hughes's murder. It was pretty convincing, too—he created a phony corpse with alchemy and burned it beyond all recognition, then faked the dental evidence to remove any doubt that the body was real. And, in case that didn't work, he asked the doctor in charge (an old friend of his) to overlook the possible mistakes.
- Happens in Rurouni Kenshin, where Enishi is forced to kidnap Kaoru and fake her death, because Enishi can't bring himself to harm or kill any young woman, due to being traumatized by his beloved sister Tomoe's death. Enishi was very Genre Savvy, though, so he hatched a plan in base to this... and it worked horrifyingly well on Kenshin. By making his Mad Artist henchman build a flesh mannequin looking exactly like Kaoru beforehand, kidnapping her, replacing her with said doll *and* impaling the mannequin to a wall with Enishi's sword before he leaves it for Kenshin to find, he pretty much destroys Kenshin's will to live for quite a while.
- In Claymore, After an attack on The Organization is defeated, several handlers find their warriors hacking the body of the renegade named Phantom Miria into a bloody mass of meat with their swords. Of course considering her Healing Factor this turned out to be the best way the warriors could protect from their superiors the woman that had taken such pains not to do them harm.
- Done by accident in Detective School Q. A businesswoman learns that the meeting she had hoped would save her company was a lost cause, so she didn't bother going on the flight to the meeting site, giving her ticket to someone on the reserve list. The plane crashed, and she the authorities assumed she died on the flight. Because her life insurance policy would yield enough to save the family business, she allowed the report of her death to stand. Unfortunately, her attempt to visit her family in disguise gets her killed by her own sons, who think that she is a con artist employed by greedy relatives hoping to seize the company.
- In Baccano!, during his Roaring Rampage of Revenge aboard the Flying Pussyfoot, Claire Stanfield kills a man with a similar build, hair color, and conductor's uniform by grinding his face off on the tracks. He is later amused to find that the FBI mistook the defaced victim for him — so amused that he allowed himself to be interviewed for his own obituary.
- In the Backstory of Mahou Sensei Negima!, Ala Rubra faked High Queen Arika's execution. It's unknown whether or not she's still alive when the main story begins, though.
- Chang Ge, the protagonist of Choukakou, had her family killed by the current emperor of China. Some high ranking officials sympathetic to her family, however, pretend she fell off a cliff and died. When she starts causing some trouble in the capital said officials burn down a whole building with all the people inside to erase the evidence and also to send her a warning.
- The third chapter of Ooku: the Inner Chambers ends with Mizuno Yunoshin, under sentence of death for being the first to sleep with the unmarried new Shogun; being escorted to a quiet corner of the palace grounds, made to kneel by an open grave, blindfolded, and getting his bonds cut off by the headsman. Shogun Yoshimune (who found the law ridiculous and would have rescinded it had she known before picking her bed-toy) showed up in person to give him a new identity and update him on his Unlucky Childhood Friend's situationnote before having him shown out a side door.
- In One Piece Usopp tries to escape from the Arlong Pirates with a smokebomb. Nami fears that Usopp would still be unable to escape and her loyalty to the Arlong Pirates was questioned earlier. To save Usopp's life, she fakes his death. From the smoke it looks like Nami stabbed Usopp and threw his bloody corpse into the pool. But in reality the blood came from Nami, as she stabbed her own hand to make Usopp look bloody.
- Conan's plan in the Mystery Train arc in Detective Conan is to fake Haibara's death so the Black Organization will no longer hunt her. Haibara herself is Locked Out of the Loop until the plan is well underway, partly due to Conan suspecting they were under observation and partly because the plan depended on Haibara behaving in a particular manner.
- The Ashford family did this for the banished and dishonored royal siblings Lelouch and Nunnally when they were children in Code Geass.
- Red Hulk faked his daughter's death and put her on ice until somebody found a cure for her condition.
- 2000 AD:
- A Strontium Dog story ended with Johnny discovering his target was innocent, but faced with the knowledge that if he didn't claim the bounty, someone else would. He shot the perp with a stun beam, thus recording him as dying and allowing him to live free from fear of other hunters.
- Judge Dredd: After Chief Judge Fargo's failed suicide, his aides Solomon and Goodman covered up the incident and instead convinced the public that Fargo had heroically died in the line of duty. He continues to advice his successors from behind the scenes after that.
- In The Mighty, Cole's wife, Janet, was thought of to be dead but was really kidnapped and experimented on by Alpha One.
- At the end of The Punisher books' Suicide Run event, the sheriff of Laastekist claims that Castle died in an explosion after letting him go.
- The two action survivors in the 1945 film version of And Then There Were None use this trope to dupe the villain.
- The Rock: By the end of the movie, Stanley Goodspeed has come to trust James Bond Expy John Mason, and Goodspeed knows Womack, his superior at the FBI, would throw Mason back in prison despite the promise of a pardon. So Goodspeed tells his superiors that Mason was "vaporized" in the explosions The Cavalry set off. Womack is convinced, but another FBI agent seems to sense the lie, and go along with it.
- The film Eraser has the main character go around faking deaths for witness protection.
- In My Name Is Nobody Nobody organizes Jack Beauregard's fake death.
- This happened in Pitch Black, with Riddick asking that the others say he died on the planet/moon/hell-forsaken rock. As we see at the beginning of The Chronicles of Riddick, that didn't discourage the mercenaries from hunting him down anyway. Of course, they were clued in by one of the people he rescued. In the novelization, it's made clear people were still looking for him anyway. They just couldn't find him without help.
- This happens in Assault on Precinct 13 (2005). The cop lets Bishop, a murderer and gangster, go because the man earned his trust and respect. He then implies to his fellow officers that Bishop was killed in the deadly raid on their precinct.
- Extreme Prejudice (1987). The movie opens with the Black Ops unit assembling, stating the fact that every one is listed as having been 'killed' while on military service, in order to aid plausible deniability — a Fridge Logic idea as it would be a lot more plausible to have them be thrown out of the military on fake charges. When the sheriff protagonist realises he's caught several people officially listed as dead, it's obvious that there's some official funny business going on.
- Miller's Crossing (1990). Bernie Bernbaum begs Tom Reagan to "Look into your heart" before pulling a classic dick move.
- This is how Edward Scissorhands got saved at the end of his movie.
- In the first Underworld movie, Kraven does this for Lucian.
- In Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides, Blackbeard needs to get Syrena to shed a tear. After torture doesn't work, he seemingly kills Philip, the only man who's been kind to her, in front of her. It doesn't work. He orders the body disposed of. Then Philip wakes up later, goes back to rescue her - and then she sheds tears of joy, which is what Blackbeard had planned for all along.
- In The Rescuers Down Under, McLeach fakes Cody's death when kidnapping him in order to both keep the authorities from tailing them should a child be reported missing, and at the same time also interrogate him in regards to where Marahute is.
- In The Dark Knight Rises, Bane fakes Dr. Pavel's death in a plane crash in order to retrieve him. However, Bane plans on killing him later on at a more advantageous time.
- Star Wars: Done for the infant Luke and Leia, to protect them from Palpatine.
- In Now You See Me, Jack Wilder's death is faked with the assistance of the other Horsemen.
- In Tell No One, Jacques fakes Margot's death after she kills the son of the Big Bad in self defense, to keep him from coming after her.
- Dumbledore offered to do this for Draco in Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, but didn't get the chance. Averted with Dumbledore himself, despite what many fans (and Harry) believed.
- Narcissa Malfoy with Harry at the end of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows. Voldemort sent her to check whether Harry had been killed. When she did, she realized he was alive and, without the others seeing, asked him if her son Draco was alive. Harry told her "yes", so she told Voldemort that Harry was dead, thereby keeping Harry alive and giving Narcissa a chance to return to the castle as part of the victory party and search for her son.
- Star Wars:
- In Isard's Revenge, Rogue Squadron is ambushed by an Imperial warlord's forces; the new Red Shirts get killed, everyone gets damaged to some extent, and two others eject. The damaged but still flying Rogues, fighting against numerically superior foes, get a dramatic rescue from another Imperial sect which politely tells them to go with them before more of the warlord's people show up. They do so. Very soon after the Errant Venture hyperjumps onto the scene, sees the mingled Imperial and New Republic debris, and assumes that the two forces annihilated each other. They recover the two survivors, allow one to pretend to still be dead, and retreat back out of Imperial territory with the horrible news. Meanwhile, the Rogues are in Isard's hands, and she wants them to kill her clone.
- Zak Arranda is 'killed' twice in Galaxy of Fear. The first time, a Mad Scientist puts him into a deep coma, and he actually sits immobile through his own funeral and is Buried Alive, the intent being to make a zombie, but he's dug out in time. The second time, his Life Energy gets siphoned away and stored, though his sister believes he's just been killed.
- Moist von Lipwig, in the Discworld novel Going Postal, had his execution faked for him, as the involuntary subtype: Become Vetinari's Boxed Crook, or... well, to everyone else you're already dead, aren't you?
- In Connie Willis's Winter's Tale, "William Shakespeare" is coming home, except that Anne knows he's not her husband. She learns that her husband was lured to a tavern and murdered to pass off the body as Christopher Marlowe, while Marlowe got to pass himself off as Shakespeare. Considering that prior to that, she had thought her self-centered husband had sold his identity, she is able to live with it.
- In one of the early Sword of Truth books, Zedd fakes Kahlan's execution in a way that requires her to think she's been executed. The way the magic works, everyone involved except the caster must think the execution is genuine when the spell is cast. The result is a reality warping spell that makes everyone think you're dead.
- A Song of Ice and Fire:
- In the fourth book Cersei gets news that Davos is dead. That is all we hear about it until the fifth book, when we see his side of the story. Davos is locked in one of Manderly's nicer cells until he finds out that Manderly has killed someone in his place. Manderly's goal was to gain the trust of the Lannisters while simultaneously forcing Davos to secretly go fetch the Stark heir in exchange for Manderly's allegiance to Stannis.
- May or may not be the case with Aegon VI Targaryen, son of Rhaegar and Elia Martell.
- In the first Warrior Cats book, Firepaw realizes that Tigerclaw is trying to kill Ravenpaw for witnessing something he shouldn't have. To protect his friend, he sends Ravenpaw to live far away on a farm at the distant edge of Clan territory, and returns to the camp telling everyone that Ravenpaw was killed by an enemy patrol.
- True Talents, Trash's death is faked to cover up his kidnapping. Because he'd already had a (wrongful) reputation as a vandal and minor felon, not even his best friends or parents disbelieved the lie that he'd stolen a car and crashed it while joyriding.
- In Richard Sharpe's second court-martial, he's falsely accused of murdering a Spanish aristocrat. He's convicted and sentenced to hang for political reasons, but another convict is hanged in his place, leaving him free to clear his name.
- In Maximum Ride Forever, multiple characters die, but it is eventually revealed to be a ploy by Dylan and Angel.
- As part of their escape plan in Room, Joy makes Old Nick believe that her son died from the untreated illness so he would take the body outside.
Live Action TV
- At the end of Rome, Titus does this with Caesar's son. This is because he was actually Titus's own son.
- In the Doctor Who episode "Day of the Moon", Canton Everett Delaware III hunts down and pretends to kill Amy and Rory, when in reality he was helping them get back to the Doctor.
- This was Agent Henricksen's plan in 'Jus in Bello, in Season 3 of Supernatural: to say that Sam and Dean were dead. Sadly, he was killed himself before he could carry this plan out. But everyone assumed Sam and Dean had died with him.
- Stargate SG-1: The cause of some of Daniel Jackson's "deaths". Just as often, it's a Left for Dead situation or All Just a Dream from the start, but there have been a few times, like the Season One episode "Fire and Water", where his death was deliberately faked by someone else because they needed a translator and couldn't wait around to ask politely.
- McCoy does this for Kirk in the Star Trek: The Original Series episode "Amok Time", during Kirk and Spock's Involuntary Battle to the Death.
- John Locke tells some mobsters that his father is dead in the Lost episode "Lockdown" (In return, the mobsters don't get either of them, but John's girlfriend leaves him).
- Babylon 5: when Vir Cotto becomes ambassador to the Minbari, fakes the deaths of thousands of Narn refugees in order to get them safely to other worlds. Unfortunately, this comes back to bite him in the ass, when a vengeful Narn arrives to Babylon 5 to kill Vir, thinking that his relatives are dead because of him. Except the Narn may not have been there for Vir, but for his bethrothed, Lyndisty. It's not completely clear.
- The X-Files, episode "Young at Heart": Doctor Ridley signed a false death certificate for Barnett, Serial Killer and Monster of the Week who enthusiastically returned to play Criminal Mind Games with Mulder.
- Criminal Minds: Emily, by JJ and Hotch. What's rough is that the two of them are forced to keep the truth from the rest of the team, and it's obvious that they hate it.
- Orphan Black: Sarah uses Beth's suicide to fake her own death to start a new life for herself. It doesn't go well.
- Mad Men: Dick Whitman assumes Don Draper's name to build a new life for himself when an accident in Korea kills Draper leaving only identifiable by his dog tags which Whitman swaps out for his own.
- Princess Mu Sha from Princess Returning Pearl fakes Er Kang's death on the battlefield by switching his body with another soldier's, because she fancies him and wants to marry him. (In her defense, he was also dying at the time and she wanted to save his life as well.) The army then goes on to really believe that he's dead, until The Reveal.
- On Person of Interest a flashback shows Reese during his days as a CIA assassin being ordered to kill a computer programmer accused of selling US government secrets to the Chinese. Reese realizes that the guy is no traitor and is targeted because he knows too much about a secret government project (the Machine). Instead of going through with the assassination Reese has the guy rip out some of his teeth and then uses them to convince his superiors that the target is dead and Reese has destroyed the body. The programmer then flees the country under a new identity. All of this is witnessed by Finch and leads to Finch recruiting Reese a year later.
- In the pilot episode of Gotham, Jim Gordon is ordered to take Oswald Cobblepot out to the end of the pier and execute him to show his loyalty to the part of the GCPD that's controlled by Carmine Falcone. He refuses to do so, instead whispering to Cobblepot to never come back to Gotham and then shooting just close enough to graze him (so there would be blood in the water) as he shoved Cobblepot into the river.
- On My Name Is Earl, Earl was in a relationship with a clingy Extreme Doormat girl and wanted to get out of it, but didn't want to hurt her feelings. He had Randy give her a soaking wet AC/DC T-shirt and tell her that he'd been lost at sea and that they Never Found the Body.
- Tyrant: Zig-Zagged. Jamal hesitates for months to execute Bassam for his attempted coup because he values family more than anything. There's eventually a public hanging for Bassam, but it's shown that Jamal had him replaced with another hooded prisoner with a death sentence. He instead resorts to leaving Bassam stranded in the middle of the desert.
- CSI: Cyber has a weaponized version of this trope with "digital murders". The hacker of the week files fake death certificates and related documentation for her targets, resulting in the government officially declaring them dead which is difficult to reverse. Aside from the financial and legal difficulties, it also discredits witnesses and police.
- The Coroner: In "The Salcombe Selkie", a girl turns up seven months after being declared dead and buried. In the end, it turns out that the person who felt guilty for her disappearance bribed the medical examiner to deliberately misidentify a body that washed on the beach as hers.
Religion and Mythology
- In the Book of Genesis, Joseph's ten older brothers attack him, sell him into slavery and then make it seem like he was killed by a lion. Their father, Jacob, spends the next sixteen years mourning before the brothers rediscover Joseph (as second-in-command of Egypt) and finally reveal the truth.
- In Oedipus Rex, the man ordered to kill the infant Oedipus instead secretly gave him to a shepherd, who gave him to the childless king and queen of another kingdom. This didn't end well — he'd have been better off dead.
- Subverted with in The Yeomen of the Guard: The plot's something of a Gambit Pileup, but, very briefly, Point claiming Fairfax was dead actually forced the disguised Fairfax to set up Point's Tear Jerker ending. A little less briefly *deep breath*:
- The play's set in the Tudor era. Fairfax's relative wants him dead so he can inherit some entailed property, so had him condemned. Fairfax realises that under the terms of the entail, if he marries, he can keep the relative from inheriting, so arranges with a friendly guard to marry... anyone willing. Point and Elsie work as entertainers, and have come to the Tower of London looking to get money to help Elsie's dying mother. Elsie agrees to the marriage. Then the plot to break Fairfax out of jail by some other characters happens, and Fairfax gets disguised as the son of one of the guards.
- This is set in the Tudor era, so marriage is pretty much unbreakable, morally and legally. Point decides the only way to rescue Elsie from the criminal is to fake Fairfax's death, and sets it up with the guard who took the blame for Fairfax's escape. The shot being fired interrupts Fairfax right at the brink of telling Elsie what's going on, and he's then forced to deal with Point trying to convince his wife that he's dead, and basically trying to trick her into committing bigamy. Fairfax is morally outraged about this, but it's been a few days, and Elsie likes "Leonard", so, when Point asks Fairfax to teach him how to woo Elsie, he agrees. The demonstration is completely successful, and Elsie agrees to marry him — that him being Fairfax.
- So, basically, Point's attempt to invoke this trope changes what would likely have been a gentle letdown into a series of horrible shocks for him, and, well, after one last, desperate attempt to win Elsie back, on her wedding day to Leonard, and just after it's revealed Leonard and Fairfax are the same person — well, he basically ruins what Elsie was calling one of the happiest days of her life. His fatal, selfish flaw of making everything about him pretty much ruins any chance he had to even be friends with her, though she is still sorry for him, and, as she and Fairfax leave, he either dies or is just left a completely broken man (depending on production).
- And that's the simplified version. What's so great about Yeomen is it manages to have a plot that complex, but keeps it all understandable, natural, manages to invoke tragedy without having any actual villains — everyone acts out of sensible, human motivations, and noone is all that unsympathetic (even if modern productions tend to play up Fairfax's flaws a bit more, thanks to the Values Dissonance of the Tudor attitudes about marriage). Oh, and it has all sorts of Crowning Music of Awesome — it's considered by many to be Gilbert and Sullivan's best work.
- A simpler version of the tragic type: Rigoletto, in which Rigoletto discovers too late that the body in the sack isn't the Duke he hired an assassin to kill to protect his daughter... but his daughter herself, having decided on the Heroic Sacrifice approach to love.
- Tragic example in Aida: When the Egyptian soldiers come looking for Aida, Nehebka sacrifices herself while the other Nubians restrain and hide Aida.
- At the end of Resident Evil 0 Rebecca says this of Billy, since he was sentenced to death for the murder of civilians while serving in the Marines (and almost certainly framed by the rest of his unit to protect his CO).
- In Knights of the Old Republic, when you are running around looking for bounties on Taris you may run into Matrix, a guy who ratted out on the interstellar crime syndicate because of a guilty conscience. There is, of course, a bounty on his head, but if you refrain from attacking him he may mention that he wouldn't be holed up hiding if he could fake his death. You can then go out and buy plot-exclusive explosives too complex for your party to use, allowing Matrix to rig his room with them. Believed dead, he disappears, and if you go to the bounty office the Hutt there tells you that his people saw you buy the explosives and next time he'd prefer you didn't do it like that. But you still get the bounty.
- Revan would have died had Bastila and the Jedi not saved him; they let the galaxy at large – including the amnesiac Revan himself – believe he did die.
- A heart-wrenching example occurs in Dragon Quest IV: when the forces of evil show up at the hero's Doomed Hometown, their best friend Elisa takes their form and is killed in their stead, fooling the invaders into thinking they just slew the Chosen One.
- In Mass Effect 2, after you recruit Archangel, the 3 mercenary groups, who teamed up just to kill him, all decide to spread the rumor that he's dead. The fact that the mercs managed to hit Archangel the face with a gunship rocket lends credibility to the story, and as nobody knows Archangel's real identity, no one questions it when they see him in your party.
- In Back to the Future: The Game, Marty needs to convince Trixie that Arthur has been killed by Kid Tannen... but, for fear of the Grandfather Paradox, can't actually let Arthur get killed. How convenient that Kid Tannen keeps caricatures of all the people he's killed on his wall.
- In Tekken Tag Tournament 2, it's strongly implied that Emma Kliesen, after being relocated by her superiors, arranged for the six-year-old Steve Fox's death to be faked, and for Steve himself to be relocated to an orphanage, so he could finally have a chance at a proper human life.
- One of the twists near the end of Professor Layton VS Phoenix Wright Ace Attorney revealed that magic doesn't actually exist, and all magic seem and/or discussed during the game was faked using elaborate methods. This in turn also meant that every death in game was fake (apart from a suicide and the legendary fire, but just counting the standard conventional murders), with every supposed victim actually having been turned into a "Shade", the group responsible for faking magic.
- Planescape: Torment has this as means of sneaking into a heavily-guarded mortuary, it happens so often that the protagonist has a deal going on with (at least) one undertaker to sneak him in whenever he wants (getting extra money for the extra "corpse").
- Jeanne d'Arc: Jeanne's friend Leanne takes over when Jeanne falls off a cliff. Unfortunately, this includes Leanne eventually getting herself captured and burned at the stake. The original Jeanne survives the rest of the game and saves Britain from a demonic invasion, but history only remembers Joan of Arc executed and burned at the stake.
- In Steins;Gate, after Suzuha/John Titor goes back in time with Okabe to the beginning of the VN when Kurisu was stabbed, Okabe does this after saving her life and still needs to fake her death so Past!Okabe thinks she's dead and continues on the same route Present!Okabe took.
- In Demon Fist, after the Ocean's Scar battle, Duncan's report to his superiors said that Rory, along with his subordinate Aki who had decided to quit the service, had been killed by the collapsing Moses Field and that the bodies were unrecoverable on the seafloor.
- In order to forward his plans, Yu Han-Sung, The Chessmaster of Tower of God, had to make Baam climb the Tower in secret so he had it seem as if he got killed during the test. It was so convincing that even the assailant thought he died. Unfortunately, Baam wasn't let in on this.
- Iroh of Avatar: The Last Airbender claims to have killed off the last dragon to his community that makes a sport of it, but this is a lie to protect the last two in existence from extinction.
- In the premiere episodes of Justice League, J'onn J'onnz masks Batman's thoughts and claims him to have been shot dead in the line of duty. This allows Batman the time needed to prepare a device to "reverse the ion charge" of the Big Bad's evil cloud-making machine.
- In Family Guy, Quagmire fakes his death to get out of a marriage. Joe covers for him.
Joe: Yep, he's dead. I can tell, I'm a cop.
- According to the Saturday Night Live TV Funhouse short "Journey To The Disney Vault", this was apparently what Disney did to Jim Henson after he refused to sell them his company in 1990.
- In the Donald Duck short "Soup's On", Donald's nephews eventually convince their uncle he died in a rock slide, as retaliation for sending them to bed without dinner.
- In the Looney Tunes cartoon "The Hypocondri-cat", Hubie and Bertie not only convince Claude the Cat that he's deathly ill, they eventually convince him he died, and use some helium balloons to send him on his way to "Cat Heaven".
- Portuguese poet and writer Fernando Pessoa assisted Aleister Crowley in faking his own suicide near Lisbon.
- Emperor Nero's mother was going to be killed, but a friend of hers pretended to be her. Since it was nighttime, it worked. Some versions state that she told said friend to pretend to be her in order to make sure she'd be rescued however. Not that it helped when she went to him for help, given he ordered the assassination...