Uchiha Itachi from Naruto. Probably the most intense example available, since it involved him killing his family, made him a wanted mass murderer in the eyes of the whole world and made his brother hate him so intensely that Sasuke chased him for years just to kill him, all so that the world could know peace. Also because he had to adopt the mask of an Akatsuki member for years, something he hated, just to keep up the act and continue to be of use to Konoha by keeping the Akatsuki away from the village. The gambit worked in that another major war didn't occur for about eight years. As for how it affected Sasuke...
In a lighter example (though tragic as well), under the Fourth Kazekage's orders Yashamaru told Gaara that he'd never loved him, hated him, that Gaara was and never would be loved, because he blamed Gaara for his sister's death; that his sister had also never loved Gaara and was using him to exact revenge on Suna. In reality, Yashamaru did legitimately love him, and the person he truly hated was the Fourth Kazekage, Gaara's father and his brother-in-law. Karura, Gaara's mother, also loved him: her love is truly is what drives the sand to protect her son. If anyone was to blame for this, it was the Fourth Kazekage, who after being revived by the Edo Tensei admitted he did not deserve to be called Father by his youngest son.
Taiga's run for Student Council President in Toradora! was essentially this. Declaring that if elected she'd essentially be an Evil High School Overlord was part of a plan to get the reluctant Kitamura to step up to the plate.
Jintetsu of Kurogane does this almost compulsively, since he thinks so little of himself. The most prominent example is when he doesn't tell Makoto who really ruined her family (her adopted "father", Renji). This leads her to continue to believe he (Jintetsu) had done it, thus allowing her to maintain her fond memories of Renji.
Fullmetal Alchemist: Roy Mustang did this when he enacted a plan to make it appear that he burned Maria Ross to death (it was actually a fake cadaver, and Ross was being sneaked out of the country). Ross was under arrest for the murder of Maes Hughes and was to be executed, so Mustang saved her life while making it appear to the higher ups that his desire for vengeance was quenched. All the while, Ross's friends and family continue to think she's dead, making Mustang a bloodthirsty murderer in their eyes (at least until they learn the truth).
Anthy from Revolutionary Girl Utena combines this trope with The Woman Wearing the Queenly Mask. It turns out she's an ancient Goddess-Princess who watched her brother, the God-Prince, being blamed for all the evil on earth. As a child, she decided to take the blame and let herself be punished by the world for all eternity. She subsequently spends the entire series serene and calm, while suffering the anguish and hatred of the entire world... because her brother coped by becoming evil instead. Eventually subverted when it turns out that none of it was necessary, and all it took for her to change her situation is to overcome her fear of change and simply walk away.
In the Edolas arc of Fairy Tail, Mystogan wants to paint himself as the villain who made the magic go away (it actually was his fault) so that Pantherlily can kill him and be the hero who will unite Edolas in their time of panic. Pantherlily wants to do it the other way around. In the end, however, it is resolved when Natsu steps up as the Great Demon King Dragneel so no one has to die.
The Record Of A Fallen Vampire. The humans and the vampire distrust each other. They distrust each other so much that there's a war just waiting to be launched, which would very likely destroy the world. Strauss' solution? Take on everyone's hate; both human, vampire, and dhampire, so that they will always have a common enemy to unite against, despite them STILL not liking each other. If that's not a Zero Approval Gambit, nothing is.
Especially since it only works while he's alive; He's literally borne the hatred of all three races on his back for thousands of years, all while trying to revive his Queen who he didn't truly love, and having to kill the reincarnation/soul of his slain children in the form of the curse of the Black Swan.
In Special A we discover that antagonist Yahiro Saiga pulled one of these years ago. Having discovered that one of Akira's friends was a Gold Digger who was only interested in using her for her money, Yahiro used his family's wealth and his own skill as a Manipulative Illegitimate child to force the girl to transfer. Akira discovered this, and rather than telling her why he did it, Yahiro let's her think of him as a monster and maintain her happy memories of her friendship. Flashforward a few years to the series, and Akira still hates him for what he did, as does Yahiro's ex-friend Kei, and most of the Special A class. He doesn't try to correct their image of him, and instead plays the villain until well into the series.
Gundam Wing has a two-person variation, where Zechs Merquise and Treize Khushrenada put themselves in charge of the militaries of the space colonies and Earth respectively and then start the biggest, most terrible war they can so the common man will finally realize War Is Hell and actually do something to prevent it. This is apparently somewhat subtle in the anime; the manga and novelization have Zechs come right out and admit to this trope.
Partially averted in Inazuma Eleven where in the fourth season, Inazuma Eleven GO, Gouenji Shuuya of all people turned heel and took on the name Ishido Shuuji in order to save soccer from Big Bad Senguuji Daigo. It is partially averted since quite a few people in-universe know he's actually Gouenji and vice-versa such that it doesn't hurt his reputation that much to anyone inside the Fourth Wall. In the end his gambit paid off and his position transitioned to the leadership of La Résistance leader and Big Good Hibiki Seigou, thereby ensuring the safety of soccer for everyone. Funnily, it was played straight with the fandom.
In an early arc of Berserk, Guts taunts Theresa after he just killed her monstrous Apostle father the Count. Theresa furiously swears that she'll kill Guts someday, somehow. Guts sneers at this, but the moment he turns his head away he looks like he's on the brink of tears. After his own painful daddy issues are revealed, it's clear in hindsight that Guts was just trying to give Theresa something to help her deal with her grief.
Guts does this a lot. Since he's constantly under attack from demons and evil spirits, anyone who follows him is at risk of hideous death. Thus he makes a complete jackass of himself whenever possible, driving them off and saving their lives. This has faded now that he has friends who can handle themselves in battle.
One story in Black Jack has Jack look after a patient who plays the bad guy on a children's show. The patient's little brother is constantly picked on by his peers, who think that because the patient plays the villain, he is a villain. At the end of the chapter, Black Jack takes advantage of his naturally creepy appearance to pretend to be a bad guy attacking the little brother. The patient plays along and "defeats" him, causing the little brother to have his pride in the patient restored.
In the second episode of the anime adaptation of Sword Art Online, there is an established mistrust between the players and the beta testers, due to the latter gaining the upperhand early in the game. This nearly leads to disaster when a troublemaker begins to raise the tension between beta testers and players after and the man who organized the raid dies. In response Kirito takes all the scorn on himself, so that the other beta testers are not ostracized.
Saitama invokes this in One Punch Man by claiming that the only reason he defeated a powerful monster was because all the other heroes risked their lives to weaken it. This ensures that the superhero agency continues to get support and funding, at the cost of everyone hating him instead.
In Kannazuki no Miko, this is Chikane's gambit. The ritual requires a priestess to kill the other. In order to save Himiko, she does this and that (you know what are these) which includes apparently siding with Orochi, so that Himiko will hate her enough to kill her. The gambit is not about saving the world, it's about saving her girlfriend.
Booster Gold, who dooms himself to being seen as a fame-obsessed fool while he's saving the universe through time travel. Since his foes are also time travelers, hiding his true importance reduces the risk of being targeted for a Grandfather Paradox. For the same reasons, his mentor and son Rip Hunter carefully hides his entire identity from everyone.
On the inside, Batman is one of the most compassionate, good-hearted, and moral individuals on the face of the Earth. But hardly anyone has ever seen this side of him because he spends almost all his time cultivating a fearsome image and a gruff persona so that criminals will be afraid of him. The downside is that law-abiding members of society end up afraid of him too and other heroes think he's a jerk (if they aren't also afraid of him).
This is a reoccuring theme in Marvel Comics. Most heroes have gone through this at one point or another.
During a crossover issue with the X Men, Deadpool started acting like a homicidal maniac. Much more so than usual, that is. It turns out it was a ruse to make the X Men look like heroes in public and he never actually intended to kill his target.
The Achille Talon story Le roi des zotres depends on this. The only other choice for ruler being a peace-loving beatnik, Achille sets out to look like a bloodthirsty madman channeling the worst dictators of history. Successfully pissing off every single age branch, social class and profession, he barely escapes with his life but the country is restored.
During the Spider-Man storyline "The Other", following Peter's supposed death, Wolverine hits on the grieving Mary Jane, who slaps him. His fellow heroes are disgusted, until Wolverine tells them that he did it to make her angry, so she wouldn't become consumed by grief, and if she spent the rest of her life hating him for it, then so be it.
On Irredeemable, Qubit endangers the entirety of the human race by letting the murderous Plutonian live and he gets his ass handed repeatedly for such an act. His refusal to kill him stems from his belief that he can put the Plutonian's power into good use without sacrificing Tony if given the chance, even when having the opportunity to kill Tony at all times.
Gilgamos' plan to save humanity from the Plutonian involved making them immortal forever, which could have led to a stagnation of epic proportions. Good thing he was offered an alternative.
Explicitly stated in Fallout: Equestria: Littlepip, having become the Wasteland's face of good, acknowledges the need to secure its safety and recovery, despite what the world - and her friends - might think of her.
Applies to Scootaloo as well.
This is, essentially, what the dwarven noble protagonist does in the opening chapters of Dragon Age The Crown Of Thorns, an elaborate Dragon AgeAlternate Universe fanfiction which has six wardens, plus Alistair, as main cast, among other things. How does he do this? He actually, unlike the original game, figures out in advance that Bhelen is planning to kill Trian and frame the protagonist for it. But if the protagonist foils the plan, then since the protagonist is popular the Assembly will name him King. But he wants Trian on the throne, so to foil Bhelen, the protagonist deliberately frames himself for Trian's murder, and then has Trian secretly taken somewhere else to recover.
In the Pony POV Series, Princess Celestia is more than willing to use an alias to write unflattering tabloid articles about herself if it benefits the greater good in some way. The tabloids would demonize her anyway, at least this way they're doing it in a way that benefits somepony. In the finale of the Princess Gaia Arc, she writes such an article, painting herself as the real Big Bad of the Nightmare Whisper incident to spare Fluttershy from being demonized by the tabloids for something she will not and cannot ever repeat so the poor girl can move on. She even has her Day Guard make it seem like she's attempting to suppress the article so the conspiracy theorists will assume it's true and leave Fluttershy alone.
Sharpe, of XSGCOM, uses this all the time. His ultimate goal is to make X-COM and earth so terrifying that no one will ever think to look at them harshly again. He also uses this to force the Free Jaffa and the Tok'Ra to work together to find a cloaked assassin, claiming that "if they hate me enough, they won't go pointing guns at each other."
Harvey Dent manages a rare short-term version in The Dark Knight when he turns himself in as Batman, so that the Joker will come out of hiding and attack him, allowing the real Batman to do the same to the Joker. This works, and proves that Harvey's not Batman in the process, so that his reputation is restored.
In the movie version of Watchmen, Dr. Manhattan lets the world think he's gone on a murderous rampage, so they'd unite against him instead of killing each other. Not that it was his idea...
In both the film and the original source material, this the basic idea behind the titular Green Hornet. Disguising the hero as a villain allows him to operate with impunity, understand the inner workings of his various foes at the same level, and ideally keeps innocent bystanders and his personal allies out of the fray.
John Hartigan in Sin City takes the fall for the rape of a child, losing his wife and spending eight years in prison, because he thinks she'll be killed if he denies it.
Sang-hyun from Thirst survives a fatal disease and makes a miraculous recovery because, unknown to the world, he is given a blood transfusion from a vampire and becomes one. A small group of fanatics begin revering him as a saint and spend weeks or months camped outside of the hospital where he had been treated. At the end of the movie, he convinces all of them that he isn't a saint and that they should move on with their lives by letting himself be caught about to sexually assault a woman (he doesn't actually do anything to her).
In the 1990 movie "Stella", Stella lets her daughter think she's abandoned her to get married to give her daughter a chance at a good life.
Jaime "The Kingslayer" Lannister in G. R. R. Martin`s A Song of Ice and Fire broke his vows as a member of the Kingsguard and killed King Aerys the Mad, to prevent the total destruction of King`s Landing, which Aerys planned to burn down to spite his enemies as they breached the gates. For the entire series he is reviled and distrusted by nearly everyone he meets as a result, none of whom (except for Brienne, the only person he tells the story to,) know why he did it. In the end it seems he was too occupied with the political turmoil after the murder and hunting down Aerys' other alchemists to make a big deal out of it, and by the time things had calmed down it would have looked like he was just making excuses for the murder, which his pride would not allow.
Robert kept him around firstly because he was just such a dang good fighter, and because it meant he could keep Tywin Lannister's best commander where he could see him.
Jaime was also put in a position of genuine conflicted loyalty - between his father and head of his family and his king. The realm considers what he did to be dishonorable, certainly, but it's still distinct from someone who turned traitor for money or to simply save himself.
In Stephen Donaldson's Mordant's Need, King Joyce exemplifies this trope. After spending the majority of his life building his kingdom from scratch (Including collecting every magician in the world into one place), he faces new threats in his old age. In response, he pretends to descend into senility, making everyone hate him and his regime. Because his enemies think that he's weak, they attack his kingdom at the same time (to get at the magicians.) His senility flushes out all opposition to his regime at the same time.
Explored from various angles in the original Ender’s Game series, most explicitly with Admiral Lands of the Lusitania Fleet.
And Corran Horn before him, who took the blame for the destruction of the garden paradise world of Ithor to spare the rest of Jedi Order.
The Dresden Files: In Turn Coat Warden Donald Morgan allows himself to be considered a traitor to A) prevent any blowback on the actual (mind-controlled) murderer, who he's in love with and B) prevent a civil war from breaking out in the White Council.
In Five Hundred Years After (part of the Khaavren Romances series), Adron's last words are: "Don't tell them that I meant well."
In Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, Severus Snape kills Albus Dumbledore. For the next year, he is reviled by all of his former friends and just about everybody in the wizarding world. At the end of the seventh book, it is revealed that he had arranged this with Dumbledore almost a year before, as a plot to save a student from the act and to let Dumbledore die with dignity, as well as to cement Voldemort's trust in him.
In the chronologically last of the Hornblower series, "Admiral Hornblower", Hornblower comes across a boat full of well-armed French revolutionaries out to spring Napoleon from St Helina. The only way he can foil it is to lie to them, and pledge his honor that Napoleon had died. Inverted, though, in that, as Hornblower is returning to port to hand in his resignation, he is met by another ship and informed that Napoleon had actually died.
In No More Dead Dogs, by Gordon Korman, Wallace does this at the end when he takes the blame for sabotaging the school play in order to protect the real culprit, Rachel's little brother.
The plot of John Moore's Bad Prince Charlie centers around a scheme to have the throne of Damask taken by an unpopular ruler so that the neighboring kingdom of Noile can be seen as saviors when they conquer it, at which point the people who engineered the scheme get paid off and the 'tyrant' (Who doesn't care for his home country anyway) gets banished. The strange thing is that Charlie manages to make himself unpopular by being competent.
God Emperor Leto II of Dune sets up such a gambit. To preserve humanity, he becomes, well, a tyrant for three and a half millennia. His absolute oppression will instill a racial memory based hatred in humanity so profound that it will impel them to scatter farthest reaches of existence preventing the possibility that they will ever become extinct. But his plan also necessitates his demise. Now, a god can't simply die or commit suicide, because that would not stop the worship of him; so he arranges things so that his own people would revolt and topple him by force.
As can be imagined, there's a bit of a balancing act involved in foiling the premature assassination attempts while not actually eliminating everyone capable of successfully pulling it off when the time does come.
Successfully done, kinda, in The Carpet Makers by Andreas Eschbach: The Emperor, being immortal, spends several centuries making himself unpleasant while mounting an effective rebellion against himself in a disguise. All because he wants to die, and knows that if he just committed suicide without utterly destroying his image as a god-like being, his empire, that he ruled for over 200,000 years, would never be free of him. He even arranges for his unwilling killer never to reveal the truth, and for his desecrated corpse to be exhibited as an object of shame.
Invoked by Perry Rhodan, where the hostile Cold War power blocs' common enmity against the Third Power marks the beginning of the process towards establishing One World Order.
Live Action TV
In Sherlock, the season two finale is entirely about how Moriarty's plan revolves around the titular hero being subjected to this trope. It works: Sherlock's reputation is ruined, and he's forced to stage his own suicide and leave off re-establishing his credibility - at least as of season's end - so that his friends' lives may be spared.
In My Name Is Earl, Earl takes the blame for his ex-wife Joy so that she could take care of her children and husband.
Doctor Kelso has done this a number of times on Scrubs. He's not a hero, but he uses the staff's hatred for him to make them more efficient.
Cox once said he was wrong about a drug addict (he said the addict wasn't still taking drugs when he was) so Elliot wouldn't have her optimism crushed.
Captain Sobel in Band of Brothers is characterized as a petty tyrant and an incompetent battlefield leader, but he does know that making his soldiers hate him will get them better motivated to train harder and become better soldiers.
In the episode "Sins of the Father", Worf takes dis-commendation and shame on his family name for the good of the Empire, even though he knows the real villain was the father of the politically powerful Duras.
And in the episode "The Defector", a Romulan Admiral defects to the Federation to prevent a Romulan-Federation war.
Admiral Jarok: My daughter will grow up believing that her father is a traitor. But she will grow up.
Deep Space Nine: A Cardassian clerk poses as an infamous war criminal so that he can be executed and provide some closure for the Bejorans.
Wesley's reasoning for kidnapping Connor in Angel is that, though he's betraying his friends and they'll hate him forever, he's saving Connor and sparing them the burden of knowing that Angel's prophesied to kill his son. Unfortunately, this decision's made after several sleepless weeks, which is perhaps the only justification for the mixture of Idiot Ball and Could Have Avoided This Plot misunderstandings that follow.
"No, of course, what really matters is the blame. Somebody to blame. Fine! If that's the thing you enjoy, placing the blame, if that's the aim, give me the blame!"
Mrs Erlynne does one on the spur of the moment in Lady Windermere's Fan: while hiding with Lady Windermere in another gentleman's house, Mrs Erlynne reveals herself, and thus exposes herself to scandal and contempt, in order to explain the presence of Lady Windermere's fan on the table, and allow her to slip away unseen.
The Joy/Boss from Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater is an example, although you don't find out until three-quarters of the way through the ending cutscene, long after you've won.
Particularly tragic since not only is there still a sacrifice but Snake (and by extension the player) needs to be the one to do it.
Yakuza has The Hero, Kazuma Kiryu, take the fall for his friend Akira at the beginning of the game.
One probably happens in the end of Metroid Fusion, when at the end of the game, Samus redirects the space station's orbit to impact SR-388, to ensure that the X parasites do not take over the galaxy. It's implied that the Federation does not like this, but by now you've seen that the Federation's been breeding Metroids (even Omega Metroids) for "various purposes", which means that they're starting to do the same kinds of things as the evil Space Pirates. And what makes it worse, Samus has the DNA of the Metroids and pretty much all of the (now extinct) SR-388 ecosystem, which means the Federation will probably want to get her for many reasons now.
In Final Fantasy III, the Dark Warriors are this trope combined with True Neutral. They've destroyed the overflow of light in the world to keep the balance, after which the world slowly started edging towards darkness instead. If they hadn't, the lack of balance would have caused the world to be destroyed - but in the meantime, they're known as the ones who ended the happiest era known on the planet.
Luckily, the majority of the people you talk to during the game actually seem to understand this.
No, the happiest era known on the planet was ended by the Flood of Light, which was rapidly destroying the world when the Dark Warriors showed up and saved the day. The Flood of Light was actually burning everything.
In Suikoden II, Riou, Jowy and Nanami's old master, Genkaku, had to duel with his best friend from another country in a final match between champions to end the war. He finds out his own king poisoned his sword, and once the duel begins he refuses to attack, after which he is banned from his country as a traitor to go live in the other country he was previously at war with, where he is known as a coward.
In Mass Effect 2 Tali can pull one of these to exile herself from the fleet (and destroy her reputation) to save her father's.
Admiral Hackett basically tells Shepard that they're going to have to pull one to prevent a human-batarian war after you slowed the Reaper invasion by destroying a colony of 300,000 batarians. If you give a Renegade response at the end, he blatantly tells you that you're a convenient scapegoat.
This, combined with Gambit Pileup, aptly describe the (Anti-)Villains of Ar Tonelico 2. Your party even get to try to make people agree to your madman's scheme to drop a significant part of the Floating Continent to power-up a literal stairway to heavens in order to make real an ancient miracle that's proven to not work before. Oh, and there is a nice song playing when you drop the thing, too!
Subverted by Jakuri/Myuru, she never bothers with painting herself in good light. And she does Kick the Son of a Bitch several times in the story.
Touhou 8: Imperishable Night. Basically, your party casts a spell that makes the night never end in order to find the source of a potentially world-threatening magic that only appear at night. If they don't find the culprit at the time the sun is supposed to rise, the entire Gensokyo will gang-up on them. You Cant Get Away With Nothing either; the Barrier Maiden Reimu Hakurei and the guardian of humans Keine Kamishirasawa (oh, and Marisa) is out for your characters' head.
The Slime King in Blasphemous Saga Fantasy declares himself to be a bad guy so that Seb can have the motivation to train and get stronger, as well as being able to watch over the village in case of Grrg's return
The Question makes an assassination attempt against Lex Luthor in Justice League Unlimited, in order to prevent a seemingly unavoidable future in which Superman kills Luthor, leading to the Justice League Jumping Off the Slippery Slope. He reasons that, since he's already considered a nutty Conspiracy Theorist by the public, his arrest and fall from grace will leave the rest of the Justice League relatively untarnished. (Of course, the show never allows heroic characters to kill human beings unless it's a Bad Future or a parallel universe, so Luthor kicks his ass.) It helped that Luthor was unknowingly the host of Brainiac, who was secretly giving Luthor enhanced strength, speed, stamina, etc. to keep him alive until Brainiac could find a better host.
In The Simpsons episode "Separate Vocations", some bad guidance counseling causes Bart and Lisa to end up swapping roles, with Bart becoming the goodie-two-shoes and Lisa the surly rebel. Lisa ends up stealing all the Teachers' Edition textbooks (crippling the school, since they don't know the material otherwise), and Bart is the one to find the books in her locker. In order to keep Lisa from destroying her future by getting expelled, Bart takes the blame. His recent good relationship with Principal Skinner softens the punishment to 600 days' worth of detention.
In the TaleSpin episode "Plunder And Lightning", Kit pretends to betray Baloo, Rebecca, and Molly to gain Don Karnage's trust and allow them to escape the air pirates.
Fluttershy tries to pull one with Twilight's help in the My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic episode "Green Isn't Your Color" when she becomes sick of being a supermodel by sabotaging her own fashion show. It nearly works, but unfortunately for her, Rarity (thinking Fluttershy loves her new career) sticks up for her and makes everyone love her even more.
This has always been part of The Green Hornet; he uses his position as a supposed "bad guy" to get villains to trust him when he offers his services and to intimidate friends and foes alike (sometimes intending them to betray him!). This has remained consistent from the radio serials through the TV show and the 2011 movie.
In the Japanese children's story Naita Aka Oni ("The Red Oni Who Cried"), the blue Oni lets the townspeople believe he is evil so that his friend, the red Oni, can come to their "rescue" and befriend them.
The Far Sight Enclave army book of Warhammer 40,000 heavily implies that the motive of everything Farsight is doing is to protect the Tau from the Eye of Terror.
Often a strategy employed by coaches or trainers of sports teams: the goal is to force teammates to put aside whatever personal differences they might have by subjecting them to a Training from Hell, thus bonding over their mutual hatred for the guy putting them through it. Famously employed by Olympic Hockey Coach Herb Brooks for the 1980 US team. His use of the Gambit enabled him to overcome bitter inter-collegiate rivalries among individual team members (particularly the U-Mass/Minnesota rivalry) and get them all working together as a team, united in their hatred of him. Thanks to this training, the team took the gold medal against very long odds, and to this day members of that team still speak of Brooks as the most brutal coach they've ever had.
This is also used in the military, except in the military going through hell continues as they do their job.
The 2012 Washington Nationals decision to shut down ace pitcher Stephen Strasburg after reaching an innings limit. It was said to be good for Strasburg's arm note Strasburg tore his ulnar collateral ligament in 2010, forcing him to undergo Tommy John surgery and miss the entire 2011 season, but hated by the national media and the fans of the team, especially since the team was in a pennant race.
Similar to the Strasburg example, Chicago Bulls player Derrick Rose was medically cleared to play after injuring his knee the previous season, but refused to out of not wanting to risk another injury and not being mentally ready.