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Frame-Up
To see him obviously framed
Couldn't help but make me feel ashamed to live in a land
Where justice is a game.
Bob Dylan, "Hurricane"

Framing someone means providing fake evidence or false testimony in order to falsely prove someone guilty of a crime. "Frame" here means making someone innocent look guilty by "putting the person in a picture frame of suspicion".

Of course, it results in a need for the Hero to Clear My Name. If the hero has to clear someone else who has been wrongfully accused of a crime, it's Clear Their Name.

Framing the Guilty Party is a subtrope where the party framed is actually guilty. It can be a Subversion or even a Double Subversion of the classic Frameup depending on the convolutions of apparent and actual guilt. In a similar vein, in Noir-themed crime dramas the frame can be rehung many times: a white-knuckle version of pass-the-parcel. If the framed party is an animal, This Bear Was Framed. If the framed party is dead, then it's a Deceased Fall-Guy Gambit.

See also: Taking the Heat, where an innocent person attempts to put themselves in the frame to save someone else. False Flag Operation, where it is an entire organization or nation that is being framed by another. Compare and contrast Abomination Accusation Attack, where the accusation just mentions a type of crime, not any specific instance. Certain forms of a Motivational Lie can be related in spirit.

Examples:

    open/close all folders 

    Anime & Manga 
  • In the series Nanatsu No Taizai where the main group, Seven Deadly Sins were framed for killing the Great Holy Knight and Gilthunder's father, Zaratras, and trying to overthrow the kingdom. It's not yet known who framed them but it's either a Holy Knight or a traitor amongst the Sins.
  • Underdog: The Serial Killer Hiyuchi's first action in the tournament is to steal the protagonist Naoto's wallet so that he can plant it on the body of a high school girl Hiyuchi just murdered. He then breaks into Naoto's house to place her student ID on his desk.
  • In Hell Girl Two Mirrors, Takuma is suspected to killed his father, who was murdered by another man. Unfortunately, the murderer was Dragged Off to Hell just before the police could even see him. That event gives the poor Takuma the nickname "Devil Child". And because of his reputation, the other citizens frame him up whenever they send someone to hell with the Hell Correspondence.
  • This happens a lot in Detective Conan, the murderers make fake proofs to frame up innocent people.

    Comic Books 
  • Batman, or rather Bruce Wayne, had to deal with this in Bruce Wayne Murderer and Bruce Wayne: Fugitive after his ex-girlfriend Vesper Fairchild was found dead in Wayne Manor. Lex Luthor had hired the assassin David Cain to frame Bruce Wayne for a murder after Bruce ruined his scheme to acquire Gotham's real estate in the aftermath of No Man's Land. The frameup went even further than that though: since Cain had deduced that Bruce and Batman were one and the same, he also planted fake evidence suggesting that Vesper had discovered Bruce's secret and was about to expose him. This actually made some of Bruce's allies (except Dick and Alfred who remain convinced that Bruce is innocent) briefly suspect that Bruce had snapped and killed Vesper to hide his secret. The story arc went on for as long as it did because Bruce didn't even try to clear his name; rather, he used this as an opportunity to ditch his identity as Bruce Wayne and become Batman full time.
  • Sin City has two protagonists framed: Marv and John Hartigan. In a rare Gang War example, Dwight framed one crime family for attacking another in order to protect the Old Town girls.
  • In X-Men Noir, Anne-Marie Rankin framed Captain Logan for the murder of Jean Grey by killing her with Wolverine Claws. However, between this and the Orgy of Evidence she provided, Thomas Halloway had her figured for the killer almost immediately.
  • Manor de Sade starts out with the protagonist bragging to herself about how she managed to advance in her career by backstabbing his boss with a trumped-up accusation of sexual harassment. He had simply been friendly, but she had pretended to feel harassed. This resulted in him getting fired and her getting his job, just as she had planned. Only the audience (and her mirror) gets to know the truth. Or maybe not.
  • Done to Spider-Man on a disturbingly regular basis, and considering his own reputation as a Hero with Bad Publicity, it's not at all a surprise that villains would try and frame him as a bad guy so often.

    Fanfiction 
  • Clouded Sky protagonist Tobias Talltree is at one point framed for stealing and abusing another Guide's Pokémon.
  • The Tainted Grimoire has two separate instances.
    • Crockett was framed for poisoning Micaiah.
    • An innocent man named Hans was framed for poaching.
  • Dirty Sympathy have Klavier, disguised as Kristoph, helps Olga Orly kill Shadi Enigmar in self-defense and pin the blame on his brother. Apollo frames Daryan for the murder of Romein LeTouse after his Batman Gambit on Machi killed the wrong man.

    Film 
  • In The Hand That Rocks the Cradle, the villain Peyton consider it convenient to get rid of Solomon. So she steals the panties of their employer's five-year-old daughter and plants them in his room. With this "evidence" in place, she starts accusing him of pedophilia.
  • In Watchmen, Rorschach is framed for the murder of Moloch.
  • The Hurricane, 1999 American biographical film starring Denzel Washington as Rubin "Hurricane" Carter.
  • Who Framed Roger Rabbit: As the title indicates, Roger is framed for the murder of Marvin Acme.
  • Subverted in Framed, because the title would make you expect it to happen but it doesn't. (At least according to the review at Something Awful.)
  • The Crush: When Nick refuses her advances, Darien frames him for raping her, which results in his arrest and losing his job.
  • Minority Report starts as Anderton thinks he was set up when the Precogs see a vision of him commiting a murder 2 days laters. When he arrives, the victim himself has been framed up, with lots of pictures of Anderton's disappeared son to rope Anderton into killing him. He tries arresting the victim instead, but since the guy's family would be handsomely paid if he died, he commits Suicide by Cop. Danny Witwer names the trope Orgy of Evidence in response to the crime scene, but a little later, Anderton is framed for Witwer's murder when the Big Bad shoots him with Anderton's gun.
  • ...And Justice for All: Jeff had the knife which a guard was stabbed with planted in his cell, leading him to be sentenced to five years in prison.
  • Payback: Porter takes care of two corrupt police officers with this method. He shoots a man with a gun with Cop A's fingerprints (which he leaves at the scene), then plants Cop B's badge (which he had earlier stolen) on the corpse.
  • An Innocent Man has main character James Rainwood framed by two DirtyCops after they raid his house by mistake due to mixing it up with a drug dealer's, to cover themselves, and must then clear his name.

    Literature 
  • In At All Costs, the Republic of Haven is framed for several assassinations, this is so successful that it prevents the peace talks from happening, which leads to the biggest battle in the entire series of books, with the Manticore system itself under attack.
  • Dashiell Hammett's detective The Continental Op treats all investigations as a Frameup: he gathers evidence, discovers likely victims and then attempts to get one into the frame. If they are guilty, well that's nice but incidental to getting paid.
  • In Speaking with the Dead by Elaine Cunningham (Realms of Mystery) Elaith Craulnober (of all people) was accused of a murder but swore that he didn't do it. And Danilo Thann (of all people) had to defend him...
    Danilo: Consider my dilemma. Even under the best of circumstances, "innocent" is not the first word that comes to mind when your name is mentioned.
  • In the Transformers: TransTech story "Gone Too Far", Jackpot & Hubcap are framed by the actual killer for the murder of a popular revolutionary, putting them in danger from the victim's gangster friends. To make matters even more fun for the duo, the police know they're innocent but play along with pretending they're guilty anyway, because they hope the duo will come across the real killer while trying to escape/clear their name.
  • In The Machine Gunners, Chas McGill tries to place his school rival and fellow war souvenir collector, Boddser Brown, at the top of the police's list of suspects for having stolen a downed bomber's rear-turret gun by specifically mentioning Brown and the things Chas knows Brown got from the same downed bomber in an essay.
  • In Memory the criminal needs to frame someone, and initially tries the recently cashiered Lieutenant Vorkosigan. This backfires when the investigator who discovers the faked evidence is none other than the intended target.
  • In Pact, Duncan Behaim frames Blake Thorburn for the murder of an eight-year-old boy by the simple expedient of sending police to find him when he's trying to find the corpse of said boy while consulting the boy's ghost. The ghost isn't very happy about this, but as Duncan is an experienced wizard as well as a police officer he is unconcerned. Unfortunately for him, Blake is able to subsequently break out of his cell and frame Duncan for stealing evidence related to his case (Duncan had, in fact, taken the evidence so that Blake could not use it to arm himself), and when he tries to hit the Reset Button using his chronomancy to remove all memory of the incident from his fellow officers, he discovers that the ghost boy has stolen the charm that he needed to power such a potent effect.

    Live Action TV 
  • Babylon 5: Garibaldi is framed for sabotaging one of the station's hangar bays, and has to find who is responsible before he gets cornered by the Security staff... or the numerous enemies he's made amongst the criminal world of the station. The bad guys turn out to be members of a xenophobic "Pro Earth" organization, including the second in command of the security detail sent to capture him.
  • CSI: Crime Scene Investigation Warrick Brown in For Gedda. He cleared his name only to get shot just afterward by the real killer.
  • CSI: NY: Sheldon Hawkes in "Raising Shane". Serial killer Shane Casey paid a guy to dress like Hawkes and rob a bar, then the money was planted in Hawkes' own hoodie.
    • Probably also applies to Mac, when Clay Dobson jumped of a building and framed Mac for pushing him
  • Played distressingly straight in Dancing on the Edge when Louie, who was initially excluded as a suspect since he was across town when it happened, becomes the prime suspect in Jessie's murder.
  • A major plot point in Dong Yi - the innocent secret society Geom Gye are framed for murders they didn't commit, and are exterminated.
  • Forever Knight in one of the early season 2 eps, Nick is framed for murder by LaCroix, whom Nick still thought was dead. Things got worse when the DNA Natalie substituted for Nick's vampire blood turned out to belong to the real killer.
  • Renegade is about a cop framed for murdering his lover, and is constantly trying to confront the bad cops who framed him.
  • The title character of Hannibal is fond of this tactic. Early in season one, he implicates Nicholas Boyle (whose sister was killed by Garret Hobbs) in one of his copycat killings. He later pins the death of Dr Sutcliffe on Georgia. In the finale, he frames Will for several of his murders. When Will is exonerated partway through season two, he switches targets to Chilton. That last one involved a drugged FBI trainee he'd been holding prisoner for years in advance.
  • JAG: In "Ares", The Mole planted floppy discs with corrupted software code from the eponymous weapons system with an innocent colleague, to steer attention away from his own planned escape.
  • In two episodes of Law & Order: SVU, Stabler gets falsely accused of being sexually abusive.
    • In the episode "Doubt", the accusation is made by a emotionally disturbed woman who is either traumatized by a real case of abuse or simply an attention-whore who realized just how much attention a false accusation can give her. In either case, she recants her accusation against Stabler and the audience never gets to know if the guy she accused of rape got convicted or not - the episode ends as the jury is about to read the verdict.
    • In the episode "Delinquent", a young sex-offender makes up a nonsense accusation against Stabler, and then try to get his own charges dropped in return for dropping his own charges against stabler.
  • Merlin "Queen of Hearts": Morgana frames Gwen for using magic on Arthur
  • Double subverted in the fifth-season Modern Family episode "Spring-a-Ding Fling." Gloria accuses Lilly of having broken the glass on her phone. Lilly maintains to both Gloria and Jay that, contrary to what they believe, Joe (an infant at the time) can walk and reach high enough to have gotten to Gloria's purse. When they see Joe walk for the first time at Lilly's prompting, they believe her. Later she confesses to the camera that she actually did it and framed Joe, to the point of taking Joe's shoes off and making fake footprints in spilled baby powder.
    • But in the show's stinger one of her dads asks her why Joe's shoes are on the wrong feet.
  • Once Upon a Time: In the late first season, Regina frames Mary Margaret for killing Kathryn. The case is about to go to trial, and looks hopeless, when Kathryn is found alive.
  • Happens in Orange Is The New Black, when Daya frames the prison guard Mendez for rape. Daya is pregnant by Bennett, another prison guard, and since inmates cannot legally consent, Bennett would possibly be arrested for rape. She has sex with Mendez and then deliberately gets caught so that Mendez(who none of the inmates like) will be the one punished. It backfires somewhat when Mendez is simply suspended without pay. In Season 2, Bennett takes things into his own hands and reports Mendez himself, which leads to Mendez's arrest.
  • Every episode ever of Perry Mason and Matlock (since they're defense attorneys and all "good" defense attorneys have innocent clients...right?).
  • Happens in the Star Trek episode "Court Martial" - Ben Finney fakes his death and frames Captain Kirk for his murder. However, Finney did not count on a) Spock discovering the computer that held the damning evidence had been tampered with and b) Finney's daughter turning over the letters he had written blaming Kirk for denying him his own command.
    • Played with in the Star Trek: The Next Generation episode "A Matter Of Perspective" - Riker is accused of murdering a scientist working for the Federation in a fit of jealousy. It turns out the scientist was trying to murder Riker (via transporter accident) because he feared his plan to sell his research to another galactic power would be exposed. But the energy beam he used reflected off Riker's transporter beam and destroyed the station's power core, which made it look like Riker used his phaser to blow up the core. Attemped murder of the innocent party turned into a frame job of the same one!
  • Both the TV series The Fugitive and the movie start with a Doctor framed for murder.

    Music 
  • In mothy's vocaloid song The Escape of Salmhofer, the Witch, Meta Salmhofer is framed for the murder of Eve Moonlit's children.
  • The Bob Dylan song "Hurricane" about the imprisonment of Rubin "Hurricane" Carter.
    Here comes the story of the Hurricane,
    The man the authorities came to blame
    For somethin' that he never done.

    Tabletop Games 
  • Paranoia specifically encourages this. Depending on play style, this can fall anywhere from "Traitor!" *ZAP ZAP ZAP* to planting and doctoring evidence in advance.

    Video Games 
  • Ace Attorney has several cases where someone is framed: three of five cases in the first game ( Rise from the Ashes doesn't count, since the framed person was still complicit), two of four cases in the second game, and a whopping 4 of 5 cases in the third game.
  • Ghost Trick: Lynne is framed for the murder of Yomiel by Yomiel. He controls her to shoot his immortal shell, makes sure it's caught on tape, then leaves his body to be found by the police. Since few people see the corpse before Cabanela steals it, no one else notices that it's a person who supposedly died ten years earlier.
  • Happens to the player twice in GoldenEye Wii — first for the death of Valentin Zhukovsky, then later for Russian Defense Minister Mishkin.
  • Knights of the Old Republic: Subverted. Sunry is accused of murdering a Sith woman and he says that the case is a complete Frame Up. Evidence reveals that he did do it, and when you confront him with this, he will explain himself. It's up to you if you want to get him free or send him to his death. One interesting element is that the Sith did frame him, but only after the Republic covered up the crime.

    Webcomics 

    Web Original 
You Have Become Your Avatar: Josh came up with the idea of framing Identical Strangers in order to get the money and get the cops off their back. Storm suggested that they use cosplayers for the frameup.

    Western Animation 
  • The classic The Simpsons episode "Krusty Gets Busted".
  • On the Wallace & Gromit short A Close Shave Preston frames Gromit for sheep rustling. It even involves a literal frame-up, tricking Gromit into sticking his head through a picture of a butcher and taking an incriminating photo with one of the sheep.
  • John Stewart is framed for destroying an entire planet in season one of Justice League - and framed so thoroughly that even he thinks he's guilty. While the few other Green Lanterns who show up for his trial treat him with scorn (except Kilowogg), the Leaguers aren't in a hurry to give up on him.
    Superman: It was all an illusion - a frameup, as they say on my planet.
  • The events of Skysurfer Strike Force start out when the Big Bad blows up an artificial intelligence lab and pins the blame on the main character's father.
  • Parodied in Phineas and Ferb where Dr. Doofenshmirtz's plans an action series titled "Doof 'N' Puss", where the opening explains that Perry is framed for a crime he didn't commit, The 1865 assassination of Abraham Lincoln! It even shows a historical drawing of Lincoln at the Ford Theater with a cutout of Perry crudely taped to it.
  • This was how Danny Phantom became a Hero with Bad Publicity thanks to an old enemy of his creating a thorough version of one of these.
    • Ghostwriter also did it to Danny in the Christmas Episode. Fortunately, thanks to his continuous good deeds, everyone got over them except for Jack and Maddie who didn't think there was such a thing as good ghosts. At least until the Grand Finale.
  • ''Star Wars: The Clone Wars:
    • In the movie, Dooku framed the Jedi in front of Jabba for the kidnapping of his son, Rotta.
    • In "Duchess of Mandalore" Satine got framed for murder, when the Death Watch assasin hunting her, shot the informant she was having a meeting with.
    • In the final arc of season 5. Ahsoka is framed for the bombing of the Jedi temple and the murder of Letta, who was used as a proxy to deliver the bomb. She's then aided in escaping but further framed with the murder of several clones. On top of that, the real bomber then knocks out Ventress and borrows her helmet and lightsabers, in order to fool Ahsoka into thinking that Ventress is the bomber.


False Flag OperationBlame TropesTaking the Heat
Forensic AccountingCrime and Punishment TropesThis Bear Was Framed
False Rape AccusationDirty Social TricksThis Bear Was Framed
Framed ClueNarrative DevicesFraming the Guilty Party

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