Fall Guy

Sometimes, the police simply are not going to stop investigating a crime until they find someone to arrest. In this case, even if you've pulled off The Perfect Crime, the only way to be certain of getting away with it is by setting up some other sap to take the fall for you.

Sometimes the Fall Guy is an accomplice who takes on this scapegoat role willingly. Other times, when you have drawn up plans with the brilliant clockwork evil of The Chessmaster, you might choose a Fall Guy—whether an accomplice of yours, or someone completely innocent—by tricking this Unwitting Pawn into taking the blame.

Maybe you choose the guy no one's going to believe. Better yet, you choose a well-meaning sap whose fears and goals you've been able to manipulate via Flaw Exploitation. Alternately, you could pull off a Deceased Fall-Guy Gambit, since a dead man can't defend himself.

Closely related to The Scapegoat.

Not to be confused with a television series.

Spoilers abound!


  • In The Man Who Collected Excitement, a thief frames Jimmy Olsen by slipping him anonymous tips, ensuring he'll always be one of the first at the scene of the crime. However, Jimmy turns the tables by finding the real crook.
  • In Sin City Marv, Dwight and Hartigan take the fall for Goldie's murder, Damien Lord's murder, and Roark Junior's attempted molestation of Nancy respectively. Marv was an ideal fall guy because he was a well-known violent thug. Dwight actually did commit the murder but was manipulated into doing it by Ava Lord, and Hartigan accepted his fate in order to protect the victim. Marv ended up successfully framed, tried and executed while Dwight faked his own death to sidestep the issue entirely. Hartigan killed himself as a final sacrifice.
  • In Persepolis, in order to avoid being arrested by the Guardians of the Revolution for wearing makeup in public, Marjane focuses their attention elsewhere by accusing a man who happened to be nearby of saying "something indecent" to her. (Later, Marjane's grandmother calls her out on this.)
  • Drift from Transformers: More than Meets the Eye turns out to be a fall guy of the willing variety. The plan in this case isn't exactly a crime, but could have deadly consequences if it goes wrong. Long story short, it does, and it does, and Drift takes full responsibility because he feels one of the other people involved needs to stay in his current position to prevent a later disaster, and because he claims he was brought into the plan as a fall guy in the first place.
  • The Transformers IDW: Daniel Klonowski from the Bumblebee miniseries. The Autobots are controlled by a rogue group of Skywatch agents under Colonel Gordon Horiuchi. After the whole operation fails due to Autobot ingenuity and Decepticon interference, Klonowski steps in to save Bumblebee and one of their scientists. Afterwards he mentions that he took the fall for all the staff who went rogue and was dishonorably discharged. He's perfectly happy with this, though, as Horiuchi and the other unidentified commanders were quite grateful and he was suitably compensated.

  • Following: Cobb knows he's the prime suspect in the murder of an elderly woman, so he sets up the unnamed protagonist to take the fall for it. Or does he?
  • In the finale of The Maltese Falcon, as Sam Spade is negotiating the terms for handing over the Falcon, one of his conditions is that someone needs to take the fall for the murder of his partner (since the police suspected Spade himself of having done the deed).
  • In The Strawberry Blonde, Hugo hires Biff for a well-paying but do-nothing job in which all Biff does is sign contracts he doesn't understand. It turns out that Biff is Hugo's fall guy in case the authorities ever catch on to Hugo's fraud and graft. They do, and Biff goes to jail.
  • In The Last Witch Hunter, Belial sets Ellic up to be arrested for 36th Dolan's murder to throw Kaulder off his tracks.

  • Soviet satirical novel The Little Golden Calf features "sitz-chairmannote  Funt" — a professional figurehead for phony companies. He is 90 and claims to have been doing that all his life. He charges a clerk's wage for sitting in the office looking important and double that for the time he spends in jail "because of job hazards". The Villain Protagonist hires Funt to get blackmail material about one of his former employers.

Live-Action TV
  • During season two of Breaking Bad, Saul introduces Walt and Jesse to "Jimmy In-'N-Out", a professional fall guy who's spent so much time in prison he can't function outside it. He now gets paid to take the rap for other people.
  • In Gotham, petty criminal Mario Pepper was framed for the murder of Bruce Wayne's parents since the case was too high profile to be left unsolved. With Pepper taking the fall, the police look like heroes, the mayor is seen as having a handle on the rising crime, and the mob doesn't have to deal with the extra police attention. It helps that Pepper is someone that no one, perhaps not even his own family, would miss.
  • In the last season of How I Met Your Mother, it's revealed that Barney's job is to be this for the company he works for: he signs his name to a bunch of documents so that, if legal charges are brought against the company, Barney will take all the blame. Subverted when it turns out Barney's been a government informant the entire time, and is one of the few people at the company not in legal trouble.
  • Sidney Glass (formerly the Magic Mirror) does this for Regina in Once Upon a Time, admitting to kidnapping Katherine and going to jail. The town sheriff realizes it's total bull, but the true culprit is virtually untouchable.

Newspaper Comics
  • Calvin and Hobbes: In one "Tracer Bullet" story, Calvin's mom drags Calvin into the living room and tells him to explain how the end table got knocked over. Calvin re-imagines the events as his private detective alter ego, Tracer Bullet, getting hired to unwittingly serve as the fall guy for this particular crime.
    Tracer Bullet: The dame had set me up! She didn't want me to solve the case at all! She just wanted a patsy to pin the crime on!

Video Games
  • Ambition has Yale, who ends up in prison for the murder of a woman he didn't do (though he was a suspect, as he was cheating on his wife with the murdered lady) in episode 10. This was supposed to lead into a sequel series, but the game has become orphaned since then.
  • In the third trial of DanganRonpa, Celestia tries to set up a complicated series of events that let her get away with killing Yamada while pointing all the blame toward Yasuhiro, but the exacts of the case make it impossible for him to be the culpritnote .

Visual Novels
  • In Metro PD: Close to You, Hanai relates to the protagonist how, prior to the events of the VN, he arrested a man for a series of murders only to become convinced that he was innocent and had been set up to take the fall for someone else. He was not able to prove it or find the real culprit, and as of Hanai's epilogue the scapegoat is still in prison.

Western Animation
  • Ivanhoe The Kings Knight: Prince John uses Front-de-Boeuf as one, to the latter's surprise, to prevent others from knowing he arranged his own kidnapping in "The four Black Knights."