Mistaken for Murderer
A major character is somehow convinced that another major character is trying to kill him/her, or has already killed someone else, regardless of how long they have known the character. In addition, a coincidental series of completely innocent accidents and happenings occur that seem to support that fear, often witnessed through a window in a direct homage/parody of the Hitchcock classic Rear Window. Often the result of Better Manhandle the Murder Weapon. If the police think that the character is guilty but their friends stand by them, then it's Clear My Name. See also Guilt by Coincidence. Expect a Mistaken Confession if it's a comedy. If the misunderstanding was deliberately engineered, it's a Frame-Up. Not to be confused with Mistaken for Own Murderer, in which a person who is disguised or shapeshifted is accused of killing their normal selves.
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Anime and Manga
- A variant occurs in an episode of the anime miniseries Rumic Theater, "Abberant Family F", where a girl is convinced the rest of her family plans to kill her and then commit group suicide during a family vacation.
- Happens in Higurashi no Naku Koro ni, with Satoko believing that Keiichi murdered Rika in the climax of Tatarigoroshi-hen, after Keiichi, while Satoko is absent, finds Rika's body, drops the hatchet he's carrying into her blood in shock, picks the hatchet back up...at which point Satoko returns. Also happens with Shion believing that the rest of the Sonozaki family is responsible for Satoshi's disappearance.
- Keiichi himself believes that Rena and Mion are out to kill him in the first arc. They make threatening remarks, reference another student's similar behaviour before "transferring", creepily show up at his house at night, and even try to inject him with a drug implied to be the same one used to murder Tomitake. What happens afterwards... Of course, this was all in Keiichi's head, exacerbated by an extreme case of Hate Plague. The things said by Rena and Mion were all either misunderstood or made up entirely by Keiichi's decaying sanity.
- In Deadman Wonderland, Ganta is framed for murder slaughtering his entire class and is sentenced to death in a kangaroo court his lawyer is actually head of the prison he goes to. Although Ganta can kill people the way his classmates were murdered, his powers weren't activated until just after the slaughter.
- In GUNNM, Gally notices that Ido goes out at night and turns up in the morning with inexplicable injuries, all while a series of unsolved cyborg murders take place. Believing that he's the killer, she follows him and - upon seeing him attack a seemingly harmless woman - directly confronts him. Little does she know that the supposedlly innocent woman in question is actually a rogue mutant, as well as the actual murderer...
- Though they are no major characters, Kogoro Mouri of Detective Conan frequently accuses the wrong persons for the murders that happen. To be fair, he isn't the only one: many cases feature clearing off someone's name before they're formally accused for stuff they didn't do.
- In G Gundam, Argo Gulski has Canada's Gundam Fighter Andrew Graham trying to kill him because he thinks Argo killed his wife Norma back during his Space Pirate days. In reality, Argo (who had never taken a life even in his darkest days) was trying to save Norma from getting sucked through a hull breach but couldn't get to her in time, and from where Andrew was standing at the time he couldn't see what was really happening.
- In Mai-HiME, when Sister Yukariko is first revealed as a HiME, she is standing over an injured Aoi with a bow-like Element. A flashback at the start of the next episode reveals that an Orphan attacked Aoi, and Yukariko tried to fight it off, but most people mistake her for Aoi's attacker, and Haruka has her interrogated.
- This happens to Jun in Bokurano. Everyone thinks Jun pushed Waku off into the sea but the truth is the kids die after they pilot the mecha. Waku just happened to die right when Jun playfully pushed him. He would have fallen anyway.
- This is a plot point in Death Parade. Decim must convince the people who arrive in purgatory to play his games so he can judge them. He happens to create a lot of mannequins and showing people them, hanged upside down, from a distance makes them look like corpses. This causes people to fear for their lives and play along.
- Happens to David Warrant from Quantum and Woody, whom Quantum believes engineered the accident that transformed himself and Woody and granted them super powers. In reality, David was trying to shut down the reactor and prevent the accident.
- The first Doc Ock arc of Ultimate Spider-Man. The amnesiac Otto, who traded Oscorp's corporate secrets to Justin Hammer, assumes the accident that fused his tentacles to his body was Hammer's way of trying to cover his tracks. Hammer is a Corrupt Corporate Executive "knee-deep in violations of the superhuman test ban treaty", but had nothing to do with the explosion.
Films — Live-Action
- The premise of the 1993 Mike Myers film So I Married an Axe Murderer.
- Drives a major portion of the plot of the Tom Selleck film Her Alibi.
- In Eight Days a Week, Peter's elderly neighbour is often seen pushing his chairbound wife around the neighbourhood. Then he suddenly stops, and at the same time, Peter notices that the neighbour is bringing shovels and other tools into his house and leaving with black garbage bags during the night. Naturally, Peter suspects that the neighbour has killed his wife and is getting rid of the body. As it turns out the wife has gotten too ill to leave the house, and her husband is secretly building an illegal pool in their living room, so that they will be able to relive their exotic honeymoon before she dies.
- Double subverted in The Burbs, in which nosy neighbors become convinced that the folks who just moved in are Ax-Crazy maniacs because they act creepy.
- In A.I.: Artificial Intelligence, Gigolo Joe is forced to go on the run because he was set up for murder by the scorned lover of one of his clients.
- Tucker & Dale Vs. Evil plays this comedically, with the titular protagonists finding themselves mistaken for slasher villains after a series of misunderstandings by a group of college kids.
- In the opening scene of Urban Legend, a woman mistakes a gas station attendant for this (or a rapist, it's not entirely clear), when he was really trying to warn her about the murderer hiding in the back seat of her car.
- Sam said to his mistress, Carol, that he was going to kill his wife in Ruthless People, but it doesn't end up happening. Yet since Carol was going to blackmail him, she ends up thinking he did it anyway.
- Fear City: Nicky mistakenly pegs a strip club patron as the knife-wielding killer because he happened to be carrying a personal razor blade inside his jacket, but only finds this out after they've already beaten the guy up. This comes back to bite them in the ass when Detective Wheeler arrests them for assault and battery.
- Elevated: Ben and Ellen initially think that Hank killed all the people on his floor, as his shirt is soaked with blood and he brandishes a knife in a threatening manner. He clarifies that he didn't, and that they were attacked by some sort of monster.
- Thanks to being a Friendly Neighborhood Vampire with a Not So Friendly Neighborhood Vampire Stalker, Jody from Bloodsucking Fiends has to deal with suspicion that she may be a serial killer — something that is not helped by the fact that she has a chest freezer with a dead man in it. The police eventually get a warrant to search her loft and implicate her boyfriend, Tommy, for both the serial murders and her own "murder". Naturally, Tommy can't explain the situation without sounding like a complete loon ("I didn't kill her! Okay, so I did put her in the freezer, which admittedly was pretty rude...")
- The Redwall novel Salamandastron had one of the protagonists, a squirrel named Samkim, get in trouble earlier in the book for nearly hitting a fellow Redwaller with a wayward arrow. The next morning a different Redwaller is killed by a pair of stoats that the Redwallers had taken in as they were fooling around with bow and arrows that were intended to be used in an archery contest. Samkim comes down the stairs and finds the guy, tripping over a bow as he did so. Another Redwaller then comes down the stairs and sees it, though luckily he isn't punished as the infirmary keeper vouches that Samkim had been in the infirmary the entire night and never left it.
- Lemony Snicket, author of A Series of Unfortunate Events, is attempting to clear his name of arson during the writing of the books.
- A series of unlikely events and coincidences causes Henry Wilt to be accused of murder in Tom Sharpe's comic novel Wilt.
- Not murder, but an episode of Drake & Josh has Josh playing a robber in a TV reenactment, and subsequently and repeatedly being mistaken for the robber.
- In the second season Series/Wings episode "Murder She Roast", Brian sees a woman who resembles Fay on an America's Most Wanted-like show.
Helen: Fay's the sweetest, kindest, gentlest person I've ever met.Brian: Oh, that's what every homicidal maniac's neighbor says about them. "He was the sweetest, kindest, gentlest man I have ever met. Was very quiet. Always said 'Hello.' Helped me build a dog pen." Just once I would like to hear them say: "He was a raving lunatic. I feared for my life. I WAS JUST WAITING FOR THE CHAIN-SAW TO COME RIPPING THROUGH THE WALL!!!"
- Lampshaded magnificently by Fay at the end of the episode:
Fay: If I was going to kill you, I'd never poison you. I'd just tamper with the fuel gauge on the plane and let you sink like a stone somewhere over Nantuckett Sound. I'm only kidding... but I do know how.
- Lampshaded magnificently by Fay at the end of the episode:
- Ted and Melody on Hey Dude came back to the ranch after being sent home sick and discovered what they thought was an elaborate plot to murder Mr. Ernst. They had missed his announcement that he had written the play, which the other employees were rehearsing.
- Another Rear Window knock-off was one of the subplots of That '70s Show Halloween episode.
- The first episode of I Love Lucy (1951) was titled "Lucy Thinks Ricky Is Trying to Murder Her".
- On Newhart, Dick is suspected of murdering Joanna after he writes a murder-mystery novel with characters based on himself and people he knows.
- Done in an episode of the short-lived Olsen twins vehicle Two of a Kind.
- In It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia, the gang suspects that Mac is a serial killer due to his suspicious behavior. In reality, he's just dating a transsexual.
- Kenan & Kel mistook Kenan's boss Chris as a mob hitman.
- It happened twice in Seinfeld. When Kramer moves to Los Angeles, there's a whole story arc based on the police there mistaking him for a serial killer. Also, there's one episode where a guy who owns Seinfeld money gets his toes broken by him (acidentally), ends up in the trunk of his car (accidentaly), and assumes from a conversation he hears between Jerry and Elaine that they're planning on killing a woman.
- In another episode, George thinks that the members of the Susan Ross Foundation think he killed Susan. He attempts to leave a tape recorder in the room to record the, unfortunately the plan backfires. In one scene after he leaves the room, it is revealed that George's theory was correct.
- In a reversal of the trope, Kramer spends an episode trying to emulate Da Vinci's sleep patterns only to fall deeply asleep while having sex with his girlfriend of the week who mistakes herself as his killer. He wakes up rolled in a carpet in the Hudson river after she tries to get rid of his corpse.
- P.J. and Gabe of Good Luck Charlie misinterpret their next door neighbor Mrs. Dabney's outburst at her soap operas, and her attempts to get rid of a bad smell and a large, heavy trunk as evidence that she murdered her husband. It was just her husbands old anatomy skeleton from his teaching job.
- An episode of The Wayans Bros. had Grandma Ellington dating a new beau, Fred, thanks to Shawn and Marlon playing matchmaker to get her out of their hair. Everything is fine until the gang gets together to watch their favorite crime show, "Unsolved Violent Crimes", an America's Most Wanted-esque program hosted by Adam West. It featured a serial killer who preyed on old women with a poison-filled Mexican dish. The police sketch of the killer looked exactly like Fred. Everyone is convinced that Grandma is in danger. Later, Fred and Grandma have a dinner date and guess what he's cooking? A big dish of Hilarity Ensues.
- When Nikki breaks her leg at Prof. Oglevee's apartment on The Parkers, she decides to convalesce there and becomes even more annoying. He gives her a pair of binoculars which she uses to spy on the neighbors. She sees a man strangling a woman and then sees him carrying a suspicious bundle out of his apartment. The killer sees her and decides to come after her. In the end, it was all a set-up by the Professor with an actor friend of his to teach Nikki a lesson about spying.
- In one episode of My Family, a patient of Ben's is under sedation in the dental chair and confesses to murdering his wife. Susan, who has recently developed an obsession with Inspector Morse, appoints herself as detective and breaks into the man's house to find evidence. When she discovers his wife is still alive, Susan admits she knew it wasn't true but wanted it to be because of her love for TV crime dramas. The man turns out to have made it up because he is a huge fan of A Touch of Frost.
- Kamen Rider Agito gives this a twist by having policeman Makoto Hikawa think Agito is a murderer while being friends with Shoichi Tsugami, Agito's civilian identity. This gets resolved when Hikawa learns Agito's identity and realizes that a nice guy like Shoichi could never be a cold-blooded killer. This plot was recycled in Kamen Rider Faiz and Kamen Rider Kivanote ; while Kiva handled it in near-identical fashion, Faiz labored the point for a bit too long, especially by having the resident Jerk Ass make Faiz look bad by periodically stealing the Faiz belt and wreaking havoc with it.
- The subplot of the Mitchell episode of Mystery Science Theater 3000. Gypsy accidentally intercepts a call from Deep 13 where Dr. Forrester and TV's Frank decide to kill Mike Nelson, who's just taking his job way too happily. However, Gypsy accidentally interprets it as them trying to kill Joel, thus trying to get him out of the Satellite of Love.
- The Outer Limits (1995): In the episode "Living Hell", the protagonist tries to warn the cops about a killer whose visions he has been receiving. As the detective in charge of the investigation points out, how is it that this particular person who called them up out of the blue knows so much detailed information about the crime scenes? It's no surprise that he quickly becomes suspect number one. The cops do believe him eventually, though.
- The Munsters Sequel Series The Munsters Today had an episode called "Drac the Ripper", where Herman Munster sees a news report featuring a police sketch of what Jack the Ripper may have looked like. He notices that the drawing looks just like Grandpa and becomes convinced that his own father-in-law is Jack the Ripper.
- At one point in Arrested Development, a series of misunderstandings leads to a woman being convinced Michael is about to murder her. His siblings' use of the car has left it with a (fossilized) skull and a shovel in the back seat, and blood-red nail polish splattered all over the dash. Then he insists on pulling Lucille's abused housekeeper into the car to give her a ride, first swinging by the wetlands to pick up his sister. The only problem? It's not actually the housekeeper, but a random woman off the street...
- In WHO dunnit, Tex thinks his wife Victoria tried to kill him by sabotaging the brakes on his car. In reality, it was her butler who did it, after he overheard Tex threatening her.
- Sam & Max: Season 2 re-opens Stinky's Diner, which was closed throughout the entirety of Season 1, and introduces its new owner: a thoroughly sketchy woman who claims to be Stinky's granddaughter, taking care of the diner while her grandfather is traveling (something Sam & Max point out would be incredibly unlikely for the cantankerous old man to even consider). Throughout the season, the implications pile up that this mystery woman murdered Stinky, but in What's New, Beelzebub?, it turns out that Stinky died in a mountain climbing accident (he gets better), and that Girl Stinky is not only very much not a murderer (despite near-quoting Lady MacBeth), but a bit of a Cloud Cuckoolander to boot. She's also a Cake of the Damned, created by Stinky in a culinary experiment gone wrong.
- In Dead or Alive 2, opera singer Helena is fully convinced that the ninja Ayane is responsible for the murder of her mother. While Ayane neither confirms nor denies her involvement, Christie, her real assassin, shows up in DOA 3, and has her sights set on Helena.
- In the Victorian London level in Waxworks, the protagonist is mistaken for Jack the Ripper after being seen next to a dead harlot.The fact that the body he's using is that of Jack's twin brother doesn't help him much.
- Justified in 5 Days A Stranger, in that the character mistaken for the murder did in fact commit the murder. Granted that it was actually due to a case of Demonic Possession.
- May or may not be justified in 7 Days a Skeptic. Taken as a standalone game, 7DAS appears to play this straight but 6 Days a Sacrifice implies that what we saw then might not have been what actually happened.
- Happens to your character in Light's Out, the sequel to Dark Fall: The Journal.
- In Tales of Monkey Island Chapter 4: The Trial and Execution of Guybrush Threepwood, as Guybrush starts his "Feast for the Senses" quest, he sees De Singe exit his "laboratorium" in distress, indicating that something is going on in the lab. On entering, he finds the lab in a total mess, and Morgan lying on the floor, stabbed by her own Blade of Dragotta. Before she dies, she whispers her last words as a warning, unheard by the player and misheard by Guybrush, leading him to believe that De Singe killed her. When he later confronts De Singe before tossing La Esponja Grande into the Wind Control Device while testing it, Guybrush can blame him for the atrocious act of murder, to which De Singe can imply that he didn't kill her by spouting out clues that can be helpful to the player but not to Guybrush ("Of course I ran out of my lab! There was blood all over the floor instead of being packed neatly in vials where it belongs!" and "Ooh, the Mighty Pirate™ thinks I murdered his friend! However will I live with the shame?"). It is not until both De Singe and Guybrush are killed (the former by the latter, the latter by LeChuck) or until Guybrush meets up with Morgan in the Crossroads that he realizes that the LeChuck who killed him is the same Big Bad who killed her during Guybrush's "criminal charge" trial as well. Oops.
- In Chapter 7 of Paper Mario, Mario drops in on Mayor Penguin to find his body on the ground. His wife comes in, freaks out, and comes to wild conclusions that pit Mario as the murderer, and he suddenly finds himself being grilled by the local police officer to the protests of whichever partner is currently active. Ironically, Watt (the youngest of the group) is the only one to consider pointing out the lack of incriminating evidence. It turns out that Mayor Penguin was only knocked out by a present he planned on giving to Herringway the whole time.
- In The Shivah, Rabbi Stone is the prime suspect in Jack Lauder's murder because Jack had made Stone a beneficiary in his will and Stone's synagogue is in need of money. If the player makes certain mistakes in the game Stone will actually be arrested.
- In Crisis Core, Zack discovers his mentor Angeal, who had just apparently deserted from Shinra, standing over the body of his own (Angeal's) mother. Angeal's mother Gillian actually committed suicide after she could no longer bear the guilt for the role she played in the experiment that created/mutated Angeal and Genesis.
- Five Nights at Freddy's 2: During two of the Atari-style mini games, you'll notice a purple guy (this one is light purple) that is heavily implied to be the murderer from the backstory and thus responsible for everything. However, during another mini game, you have a chance of running into another, possibly different purple guy (this one is a slightly darker shade of purple) that stops your progress. It's somewhat hard to tell due to the graphical limitations, but the rarer purple guy has a badge, glowing white eyesnote , and what appears to be a phone in his hand. The mini games, along with the animatronics being suspicious of adults, strongly implies many things, most prominently that the robots can't tell two adults apartnote . This means that the animatronics think that any security guard (even the most innocent ones) is a suspect... and causes them to suffer He Who Fights Monsters in the process, as they're trying to kill the murderer.
- Oh, and that's not the end of it. The third one revealed that the murderer was still alive well after the first game. And since the newspapers in the first game reveal a person was convicted, this most likely means either Jeremy or the Dayguard were blamed for the murders. On the upside, the Purple Man's survival strikes out Phone Guy as a suspect.
- Upon seeing Faust impaled through the head with his own scalpel during the Empress episode in Vaguely Recalling JoJo, Fanny thinks that Joseph murdered him, which gets Joseph in deep trouble with the police. Turns out Empress did it.
- In the Homestar Runner Halloween cartoon "I Killed Pom Pom", a deflated inflatable pumpkin leads Homestar to believe he somehow murdered Pom Pom. Strong Bad decides to egg Homestar on, and things spiral out of control until Homestar accidentally kills Pom Pom for real.
- Bart on The Simpsons believed Ned Flanders had killed his wife and becomes increasingly paranoid about it, a la Jimmy Stewart in Rear Window.
- Another episode had Otto's ex-wife-to-be living with the Simpsons, with Marge claiming that she's planning to murder her, leading to her being labeled insane. Turns out she was trying to kill Marge (for no reason, but it's that kind of show), but couldn't find a good shovel to bury the body with, so the whole plan fell apart.
- Rocko's Modern Life, "Ed's Dead": Rocko witnesses the apparent murder of his neighbor Ed Bighead by his wife Bev and starts swearing that he's next.
- Brendon mistakenly believes his neighbor is a murderer in Home Movies in another Rear Window knock-off.
- In one episode of The Flintstones, Fred suspects his Hitchcock-like new neighbor has bumped off his overbearing wife. Oddly enough, after the "harmless coincidence" explanation at the end, it was hinted not-so-subtly that the man actually had killed his wife.
- Tiny Toon Adventures: Plucky Duck thinks Elmer Fudd is growing clones of himself, in a Rear Window/Invasion of the Body Snatchers fusion. In another episode, Plucky confuses Hampton with a criminally inclined Identical Stranger he sees on an America's Most Wanted clone.
- In yet another episode, Elmyra's brother (who has been watching Rear Window) believes his neighbor is a murderer when he thinks he spots parallels between the movie and said neighbor.
- In "Spookyfish", a South Park Halloween episode, Stan is mistaken for a murderer by his mother, when in fact the murderer is his pet goldfish. Instead of being afraid of him, she attempts to protect him by burying the bodies and locking a police officer in the basement (without any pants, for some reason). Stan's father takes everything surprisingly well.
- In The Spectacular Spider-Man, Punch Clock Villain Otto Octavius is rightly terrified that someone will discover his involvement in developing Supervillains to pit against Spider-Man. When he survives a murder attempt by the Green Goblin, a drastically changed Octavius assumes that Spider-Man engineered it, and vows vengeance as Doctor Octopus.
- The Dethklok song "Bloodtrocuted" tells the story of an electrician who is Mistaken for Murderer by the bounty hunters chasing him, because he happens to look like the man that they're after. Of course, it's Dethklok, so he ends up killing the bounty hunters in an electrified puddle of his own blood in order to save himself, then bleeds to death from the cuts he gave himself in order to pull the stunt off.
- Terry has to clear his name of killing Mad Stan in the Batman Beyond episode "Eyewitness". He was framed by Spellbinder, the villain who specializes in technologically-induced hallucinations. Mad Stan wasn't even dead.
- In an episode of The Fairly Oddparents, Timmy and Cosmo believe that Big Daddy's men are going to murder Wanda. Turns out they were taking her out to dinner.
- In an episode of Goof Troop ("For Pete's Sake"), Pete reads a letter from Goofy and thinks that Goofy is out to kill him. It turns out that Goofy was getting him a new hedge clipper in place of the one that Pete had accidentally broken; and that Pete had torn open the envelope, and the letter, improperly.
- The Cleveland Show where he thought Holt had killed his mother. He was actually trying to bury his blowup sex doll.
- In "Lesson Zero" episode of My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic, Twilight Sparkle accidentally sees Fluttershy giving a bear a therapeutic massage, only from her perspective it looks like she was beating the crap out of him and snapping his neck. It doesn't help that another episode implied that bears in this world are more or less sentient species.
- The Looney Tunes Show: In "The Muh-Muh-Muh-Murder", Daffy becomes convinced that Porky is the Suburban Strangler and that he has been selected as the Strangler's next victim.
- "Minnie Takes Care of Pluto", which is notable for being one of the only two Mickey MouseWorks shorts to never be used in an episode of House of Mouse, involved Pluto being convinced by his shoulder devil that Minnie plans to kill him. After a dream sequence where he wrecks Minnie's house and goes to Hell, he wakes up and is assured by his angel that Minnie would never murder him.