"I speak without fear of contradiction..." is the opening sentence of the ideal debriefing.Uh-oh, you did something bad! Looks like someone will have to take the blame. But who? How about someone who can't defend themselves? Someone who has no active way to clear their name after you've framed them? Someone to whom nothing can happen if they are framed, and thus there is little to no guilt in doing so? Like a dead guy, maybe even one you killed yourself! How well this ploy works depends on a number of factors, like the interest the investigators have in the truth, the energy they're prepared to expend and what proof of guilt the local legal system requires. Good detectives may find a deceased fall guy to be a wee bit too convenient for serious crimes, but if they can't find evidence to the contrary quickly enough, they may still be pressured to call it a day by Da Chief or Da Chief's superiors - either because they're in on it or because there are other cases that need solving too. See also the Blame Game. A similar technique is used in a Conveniently Unverifiable Cover Story.
—Paranoia 2nd Edition rulebook
open/close all folders
Anime and Manga
- Used by Lelouch in Code Geass. Taken to its extreme at the end of R2, when he sets himself up as the ultimate fall guy, and has Suzaku assassinate him to bring world peace.
- Sword Art Online:
- Akihiko Kayaba is given all the blame for all of the deaths that occurred because of his death game, while the Player Killers, who knew or didn't believe that killing other players would kill them in real life, get off with counseling at worst (well, those that survived the game did—many PKers were PKed in turn). Kayaba, of course, died with the game. One man actually commissioned his wife's assassination while in the game, expecting that this would eventually happen. What happened to Grimlock, either in or out of game, once this was exposed, was not specified.
- During the Fairy Dance arc, upon his defeat and arrest, Sugou Nobuyuki insists to the police that Kayaba was the one who was really behind his mind control experiments on the SAO survivors. No one buys it, and Sugou eventually gives in and confesses when one of his own employees is brought in for questioning.
- In Mobile Suit Gundam 00, after the A-Laws are defeated, it is suggested by The Movie that the organization and their actions were blamed on Alejandro Corner, a season 1 villain who died five years prior. Why the actions and existence of Ribbons Almarck would need to be kept secret is a bit of a mystery, though it may have something to do with keeping the existence of Innovators/Innovades a secret.
- As a Great Detective series, Detective Conan had more than one case of this. In example, Yusuke Sakata was planning to do this to the people who killed his dad in a Deadly Prank, killing them all and setting up the last one as the apparent culprit. Which would be easy since the last guy was a Serial Killer that he had been chasing after before he ever came up with his plan.
- Suicide Squad, The New 52: Deadshot and the Suicide Squad kill an entire stadium of virus-infected zombie cyborgs. After Voltaic's electrical powers make short work of the monsters, Deadshot blasts him. Since Voltaic's unique energy is on the bodies, the government can cover up the whole op as a mass murder by an escaped convict.
- After the events of Ra Moon's attack in Mega Man, Dr. Wily uses the fact that he had been manipulated by him to get Ra Moon blamed for all his previous evil-doing by making it seem like he had been controlled from the beginning. He succeeds and is restricted to house-arrest with Dr. Light, setting up the Mega Man 3 adaptation.
- In Schindler's List, a Nazi officer is looking for a thief and shoots a man in cold blood to tell the Jews he isn't playing. The dead man promptly gets blamed for the theft.
- In Miller's Crossing, Tom suggests doing this to the Dane after Bernie kills Johnny Caspar, but then says they can't because the timelines wouldn't match up and instead kills Bernie. Played with in that Tom's primary motivation for killing Bernie is simply that he knows he'll betray him again if he doesn't.
- Minority Report: Used to fool the Precrime murder precognition. Normally, murders cannot be committed because they are predicted by pre-cogs and the police stop them before they happen; sometimes, a pre-cog sees images of a murder that's already happened, which is dismissed as a worthless "echo". The villain hires one of the Crazy Homeless People to try and (inevitably) get caught killing a woman he wants out of the way so he can do it himself later (reenacting the attempted murder exactly) and pretend that the prediction of this murder is an echo.
- Clear and Present Danger: The President threatens to do this to the recently deceased former boss and mentor of Jack Ryan in The Movie and blame him for the illegal actions the President ordered.
- In Saw VI, Detective Mark Hoffman names recently-deceased Agent Strahm as the latest Jigsaw killer. It doesn't work.
- Heavily zigzagged in the mid-90s Dolph Lundgren film The Shooter. (Hidden Assassin in the US.) Lundgren is an intelligence agent working for America. He and his partner start the film by being assigned to secretly capture an infamous female assassin who is suspected of being hired to attack an international treaty convention in Prague. Eventually, she convinces him that she's innocent—a conspiracy was going to use her as the fall guy for their plan. They work together to bring down the conspiracy, but she gets killed along the way, and it turns out that Dolph's partner is involved in the conspiracy and is the one who is really going to attack the convention. After Dolph saves the day, the good guys in his department decide to save his partner's reputation (and the partner's pension for his wife and children) by pinning the blame on the dead female assassin and pretending the partner died a hero. It's that kind of movie. Little wonder that Dolph's last action is to say, "Screw This, I'm Outta Here!".
- In Swimming with Sharks, young studio assistant Guy snaps when he realizes that his boss has been lying about passing word about Guy's good work up the chain of command, so he breaks into his boss' house to torment him and get revenge. Towards the end, Guy's Love Interest (who the boss had also had a relationship with) shows up and begs for him to leave the Hollywood studio scene behind and come with her. Instead, Guy and the boss kill her, blame her for the boss' injury and torture, and Guy's advancement up the ranks is now secure.
- The Usual Suspects: At least enough for the real Keyser Soze to get away.
- Suvberted in Tower of Terror. Emeline Partridge, nanny to child star Sally Shine, ended up as such, but as it turns out, she wasn't as malevolent as she seems, when she and the other ghosts proved her innocence, and it was Sally's sister Abigail who put the child star to her demise.
- Done for laughs in Mulholland Dr., where the killer has to kill several extra witnesses and make it look like a bizarre shootout.
- Inverted in The Dark Knight. Harvey Dent had become a symbol to Gotham, so Batman decided that he would take the blame for the murders committed in Dent's final hours. In the third movie, Gotham's new stellar law enforcement record was somehow enabled by a bill inspired by Dent's example, at least until Bane exposes the truth by reading Gordon's speech to the media.
- The Bourne Supremacy: Ward Abbott tries to pin the Berlin assassination and the money theft on Conklin, who died in The Bourne Identity, and Bourne, who was to be killed before the CIA could find him.
- Arlington Road: The reason this film needs to be counted as horror. Nobody wants Faraday's fate.
- A Song of Ice and Fire: Tywin Lannister tries to pin the blame for the murder of Elia Martell and two children Rhaenys and Aegon on the recently-deceased knight Amory Lorch. Oberyn Martell does not believe it. Tywin's lie has a small amount of credence due to the fact that Lorch actually did kill Rhaenys... but the one who killed Aegon, as well as raping and murdering Elia, was Gregor Clegane, and Clegane is so good at his job as Tywin Lannister's best killing machine he's loath to give him up to face justice.
- In Fyodor Dostoevsky's novel Demons, one of the villains convinces a character who is undergoing an existential crisis to commit suicide and write a note in which he claims to be guilty of crimes actually committed by the villains. Some Fauxlosophic Narration ensues as the characters ponders whether 'tis nobler to be or not to be the fall guy.
- The Mad Hatter Mystery: A variant occurs in this John Dickson Carr novel featuring Dr. Gideon Fell; the killer tries to frame the mad hatter, knowing that the dead man is the mad hatter.
- In Tony Hillerman's Hunting Badger, robbers murder a talk show host and fake a suicide note with a confession.
- In the Ciaphas Cain novel Cain's Last Stand, Cain defuses an argument between Inquisition and Mechanicus personnel over who had leaked the existence of the Shadowlight to Chaos forces by blaming it on the late renegade Inquisitor Killian. Based on the logic he used when designating the already-punished scapegoat, he might even have been right.
- The Thin Man: George Wynant, the eponymous thin man, is the main suspect because he is presumed to have run away. The discovery of his body reveals that it was actually his lawyer who killed both Wynant and his former lover.
- The background of Achimas Welde from The Death of Achilles includes him being promised a million if he manages to save a Spoiled Brat from the noose. The case is clear cut, with several bodies of little girls murdered in a Nightmare Fuel fashion found in the guys basement. Achimas manages to arrange for the blame to be shifted onto the guy who reported the bodies, who, suspiciously, is nowhere to be found (of course he isn't. Achimas is no Spoiled Brat, and therefore isn't sloppy with hiding corpses).
- In the first book of John Ringo's Black Tide Rising, the FBI heavy-handedly interferes in efforts to defeat a zombie virus; a college microbiology geek is able to figure out an esoteric element of the virus, only to be arrested by the FBI and aggressively interrogated. By the time actual doctors get to talk to the kid, he's such a mess he can't help them stop the virus. In this case, the "Deceased Fall Guy" is most of human civilization.
- The Executioner. Hal Brognola is Hauled Before A Senate Subcommittee and pressured to reveal the identity of his Deep Cover Agent in The Mafia. So Hal asks Vigilante Man Mack Bolan to provide a suitable candidate to protect the real agent Leo Turrin — preferably dead to avoid awkward questions being put to him.
- Boardwalk Empire
- Nucky Thompson attempts to aid Margaret Schroeder, a poor and pregnant immigrant who came to him for help, but is enraged that her husband Hans subsequently beat her into the hospital (and a miscarriage) and went gambling with the money Nucky gave her. Nucky has his brother/sheriff Eli and his men to kidnap Hans, take him out to sea, beat him to death, then throw his body overboard, and then has him framed posthumously for a massacre committed by Jimmy Darmody and Al Capone. At the end of the season Nucky's men wipe out the D'Alessio brothers, a group of hired thugs causing him problems, and then blames them both for their own crimes and ones committed by Nucky's administration.
- In season 2, Nucky is able to get the charges of election rigging and other violations of the Volstead Act dropped through tampering of witnesses, intimidating a few into changing their statements. One, James Neary, the Atlantic City treasurer, won't recant, so Jimmy and Richard Harrow force him to type a note at gunpoint implicating Eli in the election rigging, then shoot him in the mouth and stage his death as a suicide.
- On Burn Notice, a rival spy posing as Michael Westen steals a lot of money from a drug lord, then has to kill an assassin looking for him. Westen's plan to get the drug lord off his back is to make the dead assassin look like the real thief.
- In another episode, a Dirty Cop pulls this on his partner after stealing a stash of heroin...unfortunately for him, the deceased was a friend of Sam's.
- "Flowers For Your Grave": the real killer frames a mentally-challenged guy because he wouldn't be able to defend himself or afford a private attorney and is an easy-to-believe scapegoat.
- The serial killer in "Tick...Tick...Tick..."/"Boom!" has this as his recurring MO.
- The plot of the Columbo episode "Negative Reaction" has a photographer kill his wife then kill an ex-con on parole, pretending that he'd kidnapped his wife for ransom, murdered her and tried to kill him after he paid the ransom, only to be shot in 'self defense'.
- Ozark: Marty tries to pin his entire money-laundering operation on his partner (murdered by the cartel in the first episode for embezzlement); he says that he suspected him of doing something illegal, which also explains why he dissolved their company so quickly and left for the Ozarks. Unfortunately for him, the Feds aren't fooled.
- Dexter: Dexter had doubts about the success of framing Doakes as the Bay Harbor Butcher...until he got blown up and wouldn't be around to make a fuss.
- In Game of Thrones, Lannister soldiers are looking for Gendry, so his friend Arya claims that a Night's Watch recruit they had killed moments before was Gendry. Her gambit is aided by the fact that the recruit had stolen Gendry's distinctive helmet before he died.
- A minor example is when Davos reveals to Stannis that he can read. Davos claims he was taught by his deceased son Matthos, in reality he taught by Princess Shireen. Since that tutelage consisted of her sneaking into the prison to help him read, he has good reason to not mention her help.
- Used in Monk a lot:
- In "Mr. Monk and the Garbage Strike", union accountant Ron Neely has been embezzling money from the sanitation union's pension fund. But when the union goes on strike, he knows the pension fund's books will be audited, necessitating that he find a fast way to cover up the theft of the money. So he shoots and kills union boss Jimmy Cusack, makes his death look like a suicide, and blames him for the theft of the money.
- In "Mr. Monk and the Birds and the Bees", sports agent Rob Sherman lures a career burglar named Dewey Jordan to his house to ostensibly participate in an insurance scam, but once Dewey is inside, Sherman draws one gun and shoots him. His wife comes downstairs to investigate the noise, and Sherman shoots her with a different gun, which he plants in Dewey's hand, then fires to make it look like Sherman shot him in self-defense.
- In "Mr. Monk Goes to the Asylum", Dr. Morris Lancaster shoots and kills Dr. Conrad Gould, then steals drugs from the medical supply room to make it look like a patient did it. He then administers a lethal overdose of the drugs to a patient named Bill LaFrankie.
- On NCIS, Agent Michelle Lee shot and killed Agent Langer and framed him as the mole revealing secret military information in order to cover her own guilt.
- Used by Alex on Nikita. She knows Division's found out Nikita has a mole, and she's just been forced to kill Thom in self-defense, so she figures she might as well let them think it was him.
- On NYPD Blue, a stick-up man who snitched for Simone told him and Sipowicz that an old unsolved murder had been committed by a notorious killer who was recently deceased. Sipowicz scoffed, pointing out that snitches all over the city had been trying to pin murders on the killer since his death, but the stick-up man knew details of the crime that were consistent with the evidence. It comes full circle at the end of the episode, when the stick-up man has been shot and tells Simone, "I got no bodies unaccounted for, Robert. Don't let 'em clear no cases off me," before dying himself.
- Used in Sons of Anarchy. ATF agent Stahl finds herself wrongfully shooting an escaping prisoner in the back. Scared that it might torch her career (or worse), she initially frames Gemma Teller for the crime. However, through a series of deals going sour and rash moves, the frame job becomes impractical...so Stahl seizes an opportunity to shoot her own partner during a firefight, then frames her for the whole mess, including framing Gemma. She confessed all of it just before she died, too.
- Star Trek: The Next Generation. This sets off the plot of "Sins of the Father". On discovering that the colony on Khitomer was betrayed by a traitor, Worf's deceased father Mogh is blamed instead of the real culprit (who is also dead, but whose House is too powerful to risk antagonizing). The Klingon High Council wrongly assume that Worf, being raised in the Federation, would have little interest in Klingon affairs. Unfortunately for them Mogh had a second son (secretly raised by another House) who tracks down Worf in order to get his help in restoring his father's honor. Eventually, and very reluctantly, Worf is persuaded to go along with the ruse to prevent the Klingon Empire from falling into civil war.
- In Breaking Bad, this is defied by Walter White. After Gale Boetticher's death, DEA agent and Walt's brother-in-law, Hank Schraeder, gets all of Gale's lab notes and starts believing he's the elusive Heisenberg. Walter initially appears to go along with this, until Hank starts praising Gale as a chemistry genius responsible for the purest meth he's ever seen. Both drunk and consumed by pride, unwilling to let anyone take credit for his work, Walter turns Hank off of the idea, noting that his criminal mastermind is probably still out there somewhere.
- Used a few times in Hollyoaks: Paul Browning gets away with Lynsey's murder by pinning it on the deceased Riley, and Freddie Roscoe covers up his murder of Fraser Black by trying to make Sam Lomax's death look like suicide out of guilt over killing Fraser. Subverted when Justin Burton is blamed for the death of Macki: when he tries to tell the truth (that the real killer is Ali, who was killed by a car as he ran away from the scene) no one believes Justin because of this trope.
- The Bill. Chief Superintendent Brownlow is questioned about an old case where a criminal was framed by a famous detective who's now deceased. Brownlow discovers that a fellow officer knew about the Frame-Up and did nothing, but bitterly notes that the deceased will take all the blame to prevent a scandal involving currently-serving officers.
- Used frequently in Paranoia, where the main corebook notes (quoted above) that being the only one alive at the debriefing stops your (self-flattering) story from being contradicted. Even The Computer does eventually get suspicious about sole survivors, though, so one suggested alternative is to bribe/blackmail some of your surviving teammates into supporting your story. And, in a pinch, you can always just make up a culprit and ask for permission to go hunt them down.
- In Macbeth, the titular character frames his two guards for the murder of King Duncan, then kills them, while saying it was ordered by Duncan's sons, who flee for their lives and look even guiltier (although they get theirs in the end).
- In Accidental Death of an Anarchist, the police claim that the anarchist either fell out of the window while trying to escape, or threw himself out to commit suicide. Either way, it was most definitely not their fault.
- At the beginning of Skies of Arcadia, Alfonso attempts to avoid blame for losing to the heroes by killing his vice-captain and claiming that the latter betrayed him. Alfonso's superiors see through the ruse.
- In Tactics Ogre, at the end of the second Lawful chapter, Leonard is killed after assassinating the Duke. With his dying breath, he tells Denim to scapegoat him for all of the evil deeds of the Walsta Liberation Army, thus reuniting the Walstanian liberation forces under his command.
- In Fallout: New Vegas, the Legion version of the quest "I Put a Spell on You" has the Courier doing this to Private Davey Crenshaw.
- Loghain mac Tir in Dragon Age: Origins attempts to pin the death of King Cailan on the Grey Wardens, who he assumes all died at the catastrophic Battle of Ostagar (where Cailan also fell), making himself out to be a hero who saved his troops from the jaws of death, when in actuality he abandoned the king and the Wardens long before defeat at the hands of the Darkspawn was assured (he didn't even respond to the signal lit by the Wardens to summon his men to charge), then returned with his entire army intact and claimed the regency for himself. His motivation for doing this was a combination of wanting the throne for himself and his intense hatred of Orlais—Cailan was planning on having large numbers of Orlesian troops come to Ferelden to help defend against the Blight. Unfortunately for him, two Grey Wardens (the player character and Alistair) weren't quite as dead as he thought.
- Ace Attorney:
- In the second case of the second game, this trope is applied in a way that could only happen in this series. 14 patients at the Grey Surgical Clinic died, and Dr. Turner Grey blamed the deaths on a nurse, Mimi Miney, mixing up their medications. Miney confirms this. Two weeks later, Mimi Miney dies and her twin sister Ini is badly injured in a car accident. People blame Grey for this accident (perhaps thinking that Mimi's confession was coerced and that she was killed so that she wouldn't be able to recant it). Grey then uses the fact that spirit channeling is an accepted phenomenon in the Ace Attorney world to try to shift the blame to Mimi for her own death. It fails, of course, because Ini was actually the one who died, and Mimi tried to hide from her past by taking on her twin sister's identity. Grey's attempt to channel her to extract a confession would naturally fail, since she wasn't dead, and so Grey ended up being killed.
- Ace Attorney Investigations: Miles Edgeworth:
- In the fourth case, Mack Rell and Byrne Faraday are set up to make it look like they killed each other, but the real murderer decides to try to frame Gumshoe instead.
- Quercus Alba tries this twice in Case 5. First he tries to blame the smuggling ring solely on assistant-Bahbalese ambassador and co-conspirator Manny Coachen. Later, he pins Manny's murder on his dragon, Shih-na/Callisto Yew (who wasn't dead but already placed under arrest for another crime). Lang is especially outraged by his doing so.
- In Higurashi: When They Cry, it's strongly suggested that the drug addict alleged to have killed Satoko's aunt was a deceased fall guy for Satoshi.
- In Futurama this is Zap Brannigan's MO; he uses Bread and Circuses to ensure the loyalty of his crew, talks them into a Heroic Sacrifice and then escapes and takes all the glory.
- King of the Hill: In the episode "A Fire Fighting We Will Go," a dead elderly man is blamed for inadvertently burning down the firehouse that Dale burned down (which ironically enough was with something that originally belonged to him, making the story believable). Everybody in the group just agrees with the argument, except for Boomhauer, but nobody understands him. The fire ends up ruled as an accident to preserve the man's reputation, so he technically gets off the hook as well.
- The main crew of Metalocalypse uses this when they find out that they've been embezzling from themselves.
- Archer manages to use this on KGB mole Kremenski to hide his inappropriate expenses. After Kremenski outs himself as The Mole, he steals $50,000 from Archer's account while taking him prisoner. When Archer kills him, Cyril notices the theft and suggests Kremenski had been doing it all along, which Archer goes along with.
- A guy in Illinois murdered his wife and another man and tried to blame it on the dead man. He got away with it until his mistress came forward and helped convict him.
- After Henry Hudson's crew mutinied against him (after having to spend the winter in northern Canada, with Hudson still pressing his men to continue the expedition to find a route to Asia), when the crew returned to England, they blamed the mutiny on the men who died en route back so as to escape the charge of mutiny (which would have seen them executed).
- This is the core of the controversial argument by British historian AJP Taylor on the beginning of World War II. He argued that while Hitler may have been evil, the actual war was sparked off by incompetent and muddled diplomacy by Britain and France that created an opportunity for Hitler (or, potentially, any other German nationalist leader) to take advantage. After Hitler was defeated and the full extent of his evil was revealed, the argument went, the Allied leaders simply buried their own incompetent diplomacy while placing all the blame on now dead Hitler and his incontrovertible evil.
- Boston Marathon bomber Dzhokhar Tsarnaev's defense strategy conceded his participation in the crime, but argued that his brother Tamerlan (killed during the manhunt) was the primary perpetrator and that Dzhokhar should therefore be spared the death penalty. (It didn't work.)
- Jeremy Bamber, who was the sole survivor, tried to pin the White House farm murder on his adoptive sister Sheila, who was known for being schizophrenic, and was nearly successful until further investigations showed it was him who killed his adoptive parents, his sister and her sons.
- After the the 2001 anthrax attacks, agencies such as USAMRIID and the CDC sent the FBI some consultants on biological warfare to aid in the investigation. The FBI not only accused the consultants of performing the attacks, but when one of them committed suicide due to unending harassment, the FBI pointed their fingers at the corpse and declared the case closed. This resulted in the FBI becoming extremely unpopular with the intelligence community, because their own efforts revealed two damning facts: first; the anthrax strain had never before been seen in the Western hemisphere, and second; though they recognized an element of how the anthrax was prepared, it was a Soviet technique no Western scientist has been able to reproduce. To this day, American military biologists consider the attacks their equivalent of the Roswell landings.
- In the first Boer War in 1881, the battle of Majuba Hill was a shattering and humiliating defeat for the British note with 50% of their force being killed, wounded or captured and the rest sent into headlong rout. Fortunately for the aftermath, the British commander General Colley was among the dead and therefore the ideal man to take all the blame in the post-battle inquest. Nothing said about the complacent and fallacious British assumption that a bunch of poorly armed colonial irregulars, and Dutch, to boot, would be a pushover, only one step up from being black natives.