A subtrope of Magic Plastic Surgery, this is when a person, whether by accident or on purpose, ends up with the face of another through reconstructive surgery. Usually, some kind of big accident is involved (or staged) that leads to the fateful operation, or the person might just disappear for a while and come back with the new face. However, as mentioned, this is a subtrope of Magic Plastic Surgery: it is not enough that the person has a new face, it is a specific face, the face of someone else that is known to the other characters, perhaps even a character who's a participant in the story. Also, this isn't LITERALLY having the other person's face (usually...), just having surgery to look like the other person. Bottom line is this: the person's new face is not a random or unknown one, it is a face well known to the other characters. Also, this is not the same as Latex Perfection: while that might be another way of impersonating someone, it is not at all permanent like Surgical Impersonation is, nor does it have as many dramatic options. Many interesting phenomena can happen from a character changing his/her face like this, resulting in tropes that have good synergy with this one:
- Becoming the Mask: The character, in adopting someone else's face, actually starts living that person's life, and might even start to enjoy it and not want to go back to his previous life.
- Identity Amnesia: A very interesting combination: a character suffers amnesia and is given someone else's face. This can lead to a Tomato in the Mirror situation in which the character eventually finds, to his horror, that he's not the person everyone claims he is. A Mining Accident On Troy might also play a part here. If the author wants to hit the character with the full whammy, he might go for Amnesiac Dissonance, too.
- Dead Person Impersonation: One of the more common tropes associated with this one: the person is impersonating a deceased person for some motive or another, usually revenge. If the impersonator CAUSED the original's death, it's Kill and Replace. It can also be a case of My Sibling Will Live Through Me: the person receiving the surgery takes this trope to the extreme, becoming physically identical to the dead relative.
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Anime & Manga
- In Mobile Suit Gundam SEED Destiny, Meer Campbell, a Lacus Clyne fangirl who possessed a singing voice not unlike hers but was very different looks-wise, agrees to have surgery (and probable DNA manipulation) that turns her into an identical twin of Lacus. This is later revealed to be an attempt to abuse Lacus' political influence by Gilbert Durandal, since Lacus herself refused to work with him; Meer went along with it because she is desperately lonely.
- In one case in Detective Conan, the murderer received surgery in order to make his face look like that of the protagonist's, in order to pin the murder on him and get revenge on him. He faked his voice by claiming that he was sick with a cold - ironically, The Hero actually was.
- Black Jack has done this at least twice:
- Once to save the life of a guy who's been sentenced to death as a scapegoat for a car accident caused by a rich guy's asshole son (by making him look like the son in question).
- Once to help a nurse get revenge on the incompetent boss who ruined her career (by making her look like the singer the boss is obsessed with). In the latter case, Black Jack's ability to perfectly replicate the singer's face is justified by saying that he'd done plastic surgery on the singer too. Or, to be more precise, he "made her face" as well.
- In one Crying Freeman story, an organization trying to infiltrate the 108 Dragons takes two agents and reconstructs them as identical clones of Freeman, down to his body tattoos, mannerisms and even genitalia. Freeman returns the favor by managing to get one of them killed and impersonating him so he infiltrates the other organization in return.
- In Pretty Face, the protagonist is in an accident and the surgeon reconstructs his face with a picture of the protagonist's unrequited crush. His face ends up identical to the girl's long-lost twin sister.
- In Durarara!! Mika Harima was badly injured and had her face remade to look like Celty's original head, which she was trying to destroy at the time, so she could get closed to Seiji, who is obsessed with said head. Evidently Seiji eventually figured it out but remained in the relationship regardless.
- Thomas Elliot, AKA Hush, the newest big member of Batman's rogue gallery, uses surgery on himself to impersonate people. Taken to a HUGE extreme, since he performs the surgeries on himself.
- An old Superman comic had a story about a man who'd had reconstructive surgery after being trapped in a fire as a boy: he'd been saved from the fire by Superboy, and asked to have his new face made to look like Superboy's as a tribute. As an embittered adult, he started committing robberies disguised as Superman.
- XIII utilizes this trope in conjunction with Dead Person Impersonation to draw out members of a government conspiracy. After the titular conspirator kills the president, the rest of the group has him killed. His wife, another conspirator as well as The Mole, hires his rival from his old army unit to impersonate her late husband so the rest of the group will come out of hiding to try and finish him off.
- In Über, Josef Goebbels has plastic surgery to replace Adolf Hitler after he is murdered. This is achieved through a superhuman with extremely delicate and accurate disruption halo powers.
- Batman foe Killer Moth once decided to kidnap a millionaire and use plastic surgery to take over his identity. The millionaire her decided to kidnap? Bruce Wayne. At the end of the story, bullet wounds damaged his face and the new reconstructive surgery removes his resemblance to Wayne.
- Probably the most literal example is Face/Off, where agent Sean Archer undergoes a special operation in which he has his face literally taken off and replaced with terrorist Castor Troy's in order to infiltrate his organization... and later Castor wakes from a coma to return the favor to Archer.
- The amnesiac variant is seen in the movie Shattered: Tom Berenger's character wakes up after an accident with full amnesia, and later discovers he's not the person everyone thinks he is.
- In Ed Wood's Jail Bait, a crook blackmails a plastic surgeon to change his face so the police won't recognize him. The plastic surgeon responds by giving him the face of his (the surgeon's) own son, who's been falsely accused of murder.
- Diamonds Are Forever. Blofeld has two mooks undergo plastic surgery to make them look like him in order to distract James Bond.
- Our Man Flint. Flint kills several Z.O.W.I.E. guards and is arrested.
Flint: They're impostors.Cramden: Gridley? He's been with us...That's Gridley!Flint: Sir, if you look around the eyes, you'll see some scars. On the bridge of the nose. Plastic surgery.
- A subplot in L.A. Confidential involves a ring of prostitutes who received plastic surgery to make them look like famous actresses.
- In Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows, part of Moriarty's plot turns out to involve having one of his underlings undergo surgery to impersonate a diplomat at an important peace conference.
- One of the Sweet Valley University Thriller spin-offs was based around a girl obsessed with Jessica's current boyfriend. The girl had inherited a lot of money from her late parents, so after the guy took out a restraining order against her, she used this trope to assume the identity of a popular sorority girl from her university and continue stalking him.
- A Greg Egan story revolves around an insane artist whose attempts to reenact old paintings in real life include surgically altering models (against their wills if necessary) to match the characters in the paintings.
- In Book 1 of MARZENA, we have Dr. Lauren who is actually a Body Double of the real Dr. Lauren who is already long dead. Beware, you are what you think (or at least you will be soon).
- The Executioner. Mack Bolan visits a fellow Vietnam vet who now works as a plastic surgeon, and among a number of suggested faces picks one who looks like an Italian-American soldier, then infiltrates the local Mafia family under that name. When the mob boss hears a rumor that particular soldier died in the war, Bolan drops a hint that he was a substitute hired to take his place so he could dodge the draft.
Live Action TV
- Alias: One faction of bad guys can do this; they kill Sidney's best friend Francine and replace her with a duplicate.
- Get Smart: In one of the many Spot the Imposter episodes, master impersonator Alexi Sebastian has his face altered to look like Da Chief.
- The entire Knight Rider series starts off with the main character getting a new face, that just so happens look like the son of the man who paid for the operation.
- In the The Man from U.N.C.L.E. episode "The Double Affair," a THRUSH agent gets Magic Plastic Surgery and voice training to look and sound like Napoleon Solo so he can replace him and sabotage UNCLE affairs.
- An assassin in 24 does this by impersonating a photographer and stealing his identity to get through security.
- Employed by various villains in The Wild Wild West.
- The Incredible Hulk: "Broken Image" is a gangster example.
- In Lois and Clark, there was an attempt to use a double of Lois in order to convince her and others that she is insane... and then accuse her of murdering Superman.
- In Highlander, there was a double episode where a villain tried to get to Duncan by changing a woman into an exact double of his long dead love, Tessa (although the double never pretended to be her, it was a bit more complicated).
- In Medium, there was a plot where a man murders his female relative, but nobody realises that she is dead because his mistress has plastic surgery to make her look exactly like the dead woman. The makers of the show liked this plot so much they used it TWICE! (s3e12 and s5e9)
- Even telenovelas doesn't scape of this: a recent one was El rostro de Analía, whose plot could be described as Face/Off crossed with Pretty Face AS A LATIN SOAP AND WITH A FEMALE DOING THE FACE EXCHANGE
- With the advanced technology in Star Trek, this is used in place of Latex Perfection. Cmdr. Riker was turned into an alien for a recon mission, and Counselor Troi, Capt. Picard and Lt. Data were (willingly or not) changed into Romulans.
- In the sitcom The Piglet Files, a Chinese spy imitates the protagonist this way, despite obvious surgical scars and still retaining his Chinese accent. As usual the other MI5 agents are too incompetent to notice.
- This is done to create a double of Modesty in Modesty Blaise arc "The Double Agent".
- In Arsenic and Old Lace, one of the characters is a wanted criminal who had surgery to change his appearance; the surgeon, inspired by a horror movie he'd been watching, gave him the face of Boris Karloff. (This started out as an Actor Allusion: in the original production, the actor playing the character was Boris Karloff.)
- In Borderlands: The Pre-Sequel!, the Doppelganger DLC character was a former intern by the name of Timothy Lawrence who signed a contract to be Jack's body double in order to pay off his student loans, complete with surgery and a voice modulator (though it's hinted that he wasn't completely OK with those).
- In the second case of Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney: Justice For All: the murderer is revealed to be a woman who was believed to have died in a car accident, when it turned out that the one who died was actually her sister. She took her sister's identity by presenting the girl's picture while she was in surgery in order to impersonate her to take her revenge.
- Decoy Octopus, Foxhound's infiltration and espionage expert in Metal Gear Solid uses this method to impersonate people.
- Saints Row: The Third makes use of this in the mission, My name is Cyrus Temple. Interestingly enough, the mistakes the boss makes while under the disguise of Cyrus Temple are different for every voice of the boss.
- Batman: Arkham City - One of the sidequests involves a serial killer surgically removing his victims' faces. It turns out to be Hush, who (as in the comics) has reconstructed his own face to resemble Bruce Wayne.
- Jonny Quest episode "Double Danger". Dr. Zin uses plastic surgery on a man to make him look like Race Bannon so he can impersonate Race and steal a secret formula.
- On The Simpsons episode "The Bob Next Door", Sideshow Bob trades faces with his cellmate, who was to be released the next day, in order to enact his latest plan to kill Bart.
- An episode of The Adventures of T-Rex is centered around villains ordering their own doubles for the purpose of alibi.