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Criminal Doppelgänger

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Oh man, I can't tell which one is which!

A wanted criminal or escaped convict who just so happens to bear a striking resemblance to a main character and, through a number of Contrived Coincidences, invariably ends up getting confused with his counterpart.

In general, someone on the run from the police who has absolutely no ties to any of the main characters but looks like one of them is always bound to cross paths with his unwitting double, at which point the main character is often mistaken by the police for the criminal when they finally enter the picture. Occasionally, this leads to the completely innocent main character being thrown in jail in the criminal's place, without police ever looking at the main character's identification or giving him a trial to prove his innocence or even telling him what the Bewildering Punishment is for.

This regularly leads to Acting for Two, Emergency Impersonation, Swapped Roles and either Clear My Name or Clear Their Name. A Beard of Evil, irregular scar, or similar facial characteristic(s) may be employed so audiences can more easily differentiate between the original characters and their look-alikes, especially in comics and animation. When they enter the scene together, the innocent character's allies may have to resort to Spot the Imposter.

This is a subtrope of Identical Stranger and Guilt by Coincidence; is a Sister Trope to Evil Twin (evil identical twin), Evil Doppelgänger (evil Alternate Self/clone), Evil Counterpart (evil character with parallels to a non-evil character), and Evil Knockoff (intentionally created evil duplicate); and is also an Undead Horse Trope.

Compare: Costume Copycat for a variation found with costumed superheroes.


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    Anime & Manga 
  • In Faye's first appearance in Cowboy Bebop, she mistakes Spike for the guy who was supposed to help her smuggle a computer chip hidden in a gambling chip during a game of blackjack. The screen was fuzzy so she couldn't see the details but he had the same fluffy hair and snazzy blue suit and, by sheer power of coincidence, even performed half the code phrase before walking off with the completely normal chip.
  • In the Dirty Pair, Kei and Yuri get mistaken for notorious criminals Pete and Moira. Kei and Yuri end up finding the crooked pair in order to take them down and restore their reputation. As galaxy renowned WWWA consultants, they were naturally very insulted. They also didn't expect them to be a pair of old men.
    Kei: Hey, how are they supposed to look like us? You've got to be kidding me.
    Yuri: I second that!
    Kei: But she looks just like you, when you don't have all that makeup on.
    Yuri: What?! At least I have room for improvement!
  • One Piece inverts this. The crew is wanted by the authorities, and therefore all have wanted posters. Their pictures are all from photographs except for Sanji's, whose photo they could not take. They decide to draw his picture in instead, and the drawing is so bad that it ends up barely resembling Sanji. At one point, the crew get attacked by Duval, a guy who looks exactly like Sanji's terribly-drawn wanted poster, because he's fed up of being mistaken for Sanji.
    • Played with again later in the series when a bunch of impostor pirates dress up as the Straw Hats and try to use their infamy to their own advantage. The irony being that even though they look nothing like the originals in the first place, by this point in the story, two years have passed and the Straw Hats now look different to varying degrees. Also an inversion in that the main characters are the notorious criminals, while the doppelgangers are relative unknowns; only their captain even has a bounty, and his is comparatively low.
      • This turns into a Casting Gag in the anime, as the Straw Hats' voice actors are mixed around to voice the "Fake Hats", such as Sanji's actor voicing the fake Luffy.

    Asian Animation 
  • Season 2 episode 34 of Happy Heroes is about Doctor H. being mistaken for a criminal who bears an uncanny resemblance to him.

    Comic Books 
  • In the Crossover Archie Meets the Punisher, a criminal the Punisher has tracked to Riverdale looks very similar to Archie, and the series ends with Wolverine getting word of a dangerous mutant that looks like Jughead.
  • Batman: Bruce Wayne's childhood friend Thomas Elliot (a.k.a. Hush) got facial reconstruction surgery to look more like Bruce so that he can impersonate him and more easily get away with sapping from Bruce's wealth.
  • The titular hero of Cosmo Cat uses pills called Cosmic Catnip Capsules to keep his powers up. An unnamed lookalike finds some capsules that Cosmo misplaced and uses them to go on a crime spree dressed like Cosmo. Despite looking exactly like the hero, the doppelganger has a bandage on his right temple and a cigar in his teeth, so the readers can still easily tell who's who.
  • Disney Mouse and Duck Comics:
    • In a comic where Mickey and Goofy are Texas Rangers, the criminal they are chasing turns out to be an exact look-alike of Goofy. Both comment on how disappointed they are that "someone that handsome is acting so stupid."
    • Mickey has his own criminal double, Miklos the Grey Mouse. Due his cunning, he's fully capable of turning everyone against Mickey before trying to "expose" him as a doppelganger.
  • Super Duck:
    • One story had Super Duck and his nephew Fauntleroy holidaying in Mexico and baffled by the fact that the locals were inexplicably terrified of them (when Supe went to the bank to cash a $10 traveler's check, the bank manager opened the vault and told them to take whatever they wanted). Finally they spotted a wanted poster and realized that Supe happened to look just like a notorious criminal named El Produckto. When they returned to their hotel room, El Produckto was waiting for them and prepared to shoot Supe for impersonating him. Fauntleroy, thinking quickly, pretended to take El Produckto's side and suggested the bandito write out a confession to all his crimes and send Supe to the police with it, taking the rap for everything. El Produckto did so, and then Faunt caused a distraction, knocks El Produckto out cold, and switched him with Supe. El Produckto's henchmen unwittingly took their boss to the jail, all of them ended up locked up, and Faunt was hailed a hero.
    • Another story had Supe's deadbeat lookalike cousin Bunko drop by while Supe is out fishing and swipe all of his identification, taking over his house and life. Supe gets revenge by going on a rampage through town, causing all manner of destructive mischief and taunting the police to come and get him. The cops head to Supe's house, and Bunko, thinking Supe called the cops on him, smugly provides the stolen identification. The cops beat the tar out of him and toss him in jail. ("He sure was brazen about it!") The story ends with Bunko begging Supe to reveal the truth from his cell, and Supe joking that he prefers being Cousin Bunko now.
  • It was not uncommon for superheroes in the Silver Age, including Superman and Batman, to run across a criminal who was a dead ringer for their Secret Identity.
  • In Ultimate Spider-Man, some random crook dressed up as Spidey and committed a bunch of crimes culminating in murdering Captain Stacey (Gwen's father) during a robbery. Spidey was so enraged that he nearly killed the guy.

    Comic Strips 
  • Li'l Abner's look-alike was murderer/fugitive Gat Garson. Actually it went even further: Garson's parents were identical to Abner's Mammy and Pappy, right down to the fingerprints!
  • Nero:
    • In "De Rode Keizer" there's confusion between the real Emperor Nero and Nero himself.
    • A lookalike of Nero creates confusion and trouble in "De Driedubbelgestreepte".
  • One Ziggy panel had Ziggy seeing a news bulletin about a dangerous escaped convict identical to himself - and the police have shoot-on-sight orders.

    Film — Animated 
  • The Simpsons Movie sees Bart draw over a wanted poster so that it looks like a different family, who get caught instead of the Simpsons.
  • In A Tale of Two Toads, the weasels team up with a con artist named Isambard Beerbohm Toad, who happens to be a dead ringer for Mr. Toad.

    Film — Live-Action 
  • The plot of The Addams Family:
    • The first movie revolves around the Addams' lawyer trying to embezzle money from them in order to pay off the Loan Shark he owes money to. The loan shark's son happens to look a lot like Gomez Addams' long lost brother Fester. They all hatch a plan for the son to impersonate Fester, gain the Addams' trust and then take their money. It turns out that the man actually is Fester, who was found by the loan shark 25 years prior after a bout of amnesia.
    • Word of God invokedsays that the criminal originally wasn't an amnesiac Fester but would get adopted by the Addams at the end to replace Fester anyway. The cast teamed up to tell the writers that they hated this idea.
  • Bullseye features Michael Caine and Roger Moore playing a pair of Con Men who attempt to exploit their resemblance to a pair of nuclear physicists (also played by Caine and Moore) who believe they have invented a limitless supply of energy. At the end of the movie, they lose all their money investing in a movie about themselves starring John Cleese, who turned out to be a conman who just happened to look like Cleese (played of course, by John Cleese).
  • Jim Varney's signature character Ernest P. Worrell inadvertently switched places with a crime boss in Ernest Goes to Jail, thanks to the machinations of a corrupt attorney working with the crime boss.
  • The twist ending of Following is The Reveal that Cobb was deliberately grooming "Bill" to be his fall guy for the police to arrest—aside from deliberately planting evidence to falsely implicate him, he even surreptitiously convinced Bill to start dressing like him.
  • Inverted the classic Russian comedy Gentlemen of Fortune about kindergarten teacher who is recruited by the police to impersonate a big-shot criminal, stage a break-out in a prison with the criminal's buddies, and lead the police straight to the criminals' cache of stolen goods. Hilarity Ensues.
    • Played straight at the beginning, when a man sees the picture of the Docent (the criminal's nickname) and assumes that the teacher is him. The man decides to be the hero and attacks the teacher. This is how the teacher ends up coming to the attention of the cops.
  • The Roberto Benigni movie Johnny Stecchino is about a bus driver (Benigni) who gets mistaken for a look-alike gangster, the titular Johnny Stecchino (Benigni again). In this case, though, Dante (the bus driver) is deliberately lured to Johnny's hometown to take the fall for him.
  • In Muppets Most Wanted, there is an antagonist named Constantine. According to director James Bobin "he looks like Kermit". As the interview continues, both Bobin and Empire Magazine lampshade Acting for Two, and discuss tropes.
    Is Kermit playing both roles?
    So you had to find someone who looked just like Kermit?
    Must have been an extensive search.
    "Yes. (Laughs) The thing with Muppet films is we pay homage to clever tropes and genres, so if you can imagine a Doppelgänger movie, most of the things you can imagine you'll see in this."
  • This is the plot of the John Ford comedy The Whole Town's Talking, starring Edward G. Robinson as a meek man who looks like a vicious gangster.
    • The film was remade in Italy as Fracchia la belva umana ("Fracchia the Human Beast"), with Paolo Villaggio as both the unlucky and meek clerk Giandomenico Fracchia and his murderous look-alike, the "Human Beast".
  • Played With in Wrongfully Accused when Leslie Nielsen's character spots a "Wanted!" Poster for himself and doodles over his mugshot. After adding things like glasses, a funny hat, bushy eyebrows, and a long beard and mustache, a sheriff immediately arrests someone else who just so happens to reflect Nielsen's changes.
  • The Alfred Hitchcock film The Wrong Man is about a guy who just happens to look almost exactly like a robber who was robbing various stores. The guy gets arrested when he shows up at an insurance office the real robber has already robbed twice. The robber is caught when he commits a robbery while the protagonist is in police custody. And it was Based on a True Story.

  • Agaton Sax: Agaton Sax and the Criminal Doubles features two men who both resemble some famous criminal and enemy of Agaton Sax. One of them is a perfect copy of Julius Mosca, and the other resembles Octopus Scott exactly. Because of this, they get arrested every day, and have started to demand (and receive) compensation payments from the police, which they receive each time they get arrested.
  • In Around the World in Eighty Days, Phileas Fogg is wrongly pursued around the globe by Inspector Fix because, in addition to the suspicious circumstances surrounding his sudden departure, he answers to the description of the gentleman who robbed the Bank of England.
  • The Great Impersonation by E. Phillips Oppenheim features an identical English gentleman and German spy.
  • Exploited in The Hardy Boys' eleventh mystery, While the Clock Ticked, whose Big Bad takes advantage of his resemblance to an old mansion's caretaker to use a time-locked chamber in the mansion for his criminal exploits. It's taken to its logical point that, until the existence of the real one is discovered, the caretaker himself is suspected of being the Big Bad.
  • Les Misérables has Champmathieu gets arrested in Jean Valjean's place because he just happens to look exactly like him. Notable: Jean Valjean is a criminal, too— a convict who has broken his parole for years. Champmathieu (who is mentally disabled) has been caught for petty crime, but because he's mistaken for Valjean, he could be seeing prison for life. Jean Valjean comes forward, and not only demonstrates their resemblance, but recalls details of his fellow inmates that only the real Valjean could know.
  • Several times in the original Nancy Drew series as well as in The Nancy Drew Files series, Nancy was plagued by the criminal actions of a lookalike.
  • James Thurber's short story "The Remarkable Case of Mr. Bruhl" centers around this.
  • Suspicion by Friedrich Dürrenmatt has an interesting case: Dr. Emmenberger, a Swiss doctor of medicine and Dr. Nehle, a German Back-Alley Doctor do look a lot alike and Emmenberger decides to make use of that: He and Nehle switch identities during WWII, Emmenberger gets Nehle a license and works in a concentration camp while Nehle, posing as Emmenberger, works at a hospital in Chile. After the war, they switch back. Emmenberger kills Nehle (who now is considered a war criminal) and passes now undetected as a renowned head of a private clinic.
  • Doris Egan's Ivory trilogy has a different take on this. In Two-Bit Heroes, Ran and Theodora are mistaken for the local infamous criminal Stereth Tar'krim and his girlfriend Cantry. However, this is because Ivory is a planet where the natives all tend to be tall and have dark hair/eyes/skin. Theodora is a short pale redhead from another planet. Cantry is a pale blonde from a third planet. Photography doesn't seem to exist here and all anyone knows about Stereth is that he has a tymon (foreigner) girlfriend. So when Ran and Theodora show up, everyone assumes they're the criminals. And Theodora continues to be mistaken for Cantry through the rest of the book, even though she keeps pointing out they have different hair colors. But by Ivory standards, they don't really pay attention to hair colors, so...presumably their facial structure must be similar, at least.

    Live-Action TV 
  • The Adventures of Superman had an episode "Jimmy the Kid") featuring a criminal doppelganger for Jimmy Olsen, of all people. Even "Kid" Collins' wife and Jimmy's coworkers can't tell the difference going by appearance. However, their personalities could hardly be more different. "Kid" is belligerent, aggressive, and lecherous; Jimmy is patient, mild and gentlemanly. For some reason, it still takes Lois most of the episode to figure it out, and Superman/Clark doesn't make the connection until she tells him.
    • In another episode, crooks found a doppleganger for Superman, who they used to smear his name by robbing people dressed in the suit. The only difference is that when the crook spoke, his normal accent was a Brooklyn "deese, do'se, and d'ems," like the gangster he was, instead of Superman's perfect mid-Western American accent.
  • The A-Team episode "Showdown" has a drug lord terrorizing his enemies with his trio of goons. The goons were ordered by the same Big Bad to disguise themselves as the A-team (minus Murdock, who doesn't get a fake and is mad about it) so that everyone else will put the blame on the real ones. That is until the real A-team show up...
  • Bonanza: Late in the series' run, Lorene Greene doubles up as Bradley Meredith, a professional gambler and con man who fools Virginia City into believing he is Ben Cartwright. Both of his visits come when the real Ben is out of town on business, although Meredith always has a clever explanation as to "Ben's" quick return and to engage in his latest scheme — always which ultimately involves liquidating the Ponderosa at a hefty payoff. Ben always shows up in time, however, to set things straight and thwart his phony look-alike's plans. Two such installments (one in 1971, the other in 1972) were filmed, and rumor had it that Bradley Meredith was planning to return in the spring of 1973, had Bonanza not been cancelled.
  • An episode of The Brady Bunch had Peter being mistaken for a lookalike kissing bandit at his school.
  • The Brittas Empire: Not exactly a criminal, but a dubious doppelganger nonetheless - a dodgy Eastern European clown working for the Ruthenian State Circus, who looks just like Gordon Brittas, ends up in Whitbury as a result of an EU initiative. He sets out to chat up and seduce all of Whitbury's ladies, including Linda, Carole and Helen Brittas herself. Chaos ensues.
  • Happens in Dad's Army when Jones's photo gets mixed up at the printing shop with a photo of an escaped Italian POW, causing Jones to be on the Wanted posters instead of the POW.
  • A Diagnosis: Murder two-parter called "Gangland" centered on a recently-paroled mob boss who bore a striking resemblance to Dr. Mark Sloan (both roles played by Dick Van Dyke).
  • Doctor Who:
    • In "The Massacre of St Bartholomew's Eve", one of the villains just happens to look like the First Doctor (William Hartnell).
    • In "The Enemy of the World" there's a dictator named Salamander who just happens to look like the Second Doctor (Patrick Troughton).
    • In "Meglos", the villain deliberately invokes this trope by using alien technology to make himself look like the Fourth Doctor (Tom Baker).
    • In "Rise of the Cybermen"/"The Age of Steel", Mickey Smith has a double named Ricky, who claims to be London's most wanted. For parking tickets.
  • A real life one is portrayed in Dragnet. An undercover cop is accused of robbing a liquor store; the owner of the store even picked him out of a line up. However, in the end, another man who looks identical to the officer (even dressed similarly) is arrested and cops to the robbery.
  • An episode of Drake & Josh had Josh be repeatedly mistaken for a wanted criminal after playing one in a dramatization on TV, whose name was the "Theater Thug". This results in him getting beaten up and arrested repeatedly, to the point where he's in the same theater as the actual Theater Thug, who attacks Josh and makes off with the theater's money before the police come and arrest Josh.
  • The Dukes of Hazzard: A frequent trope in several episodes, and a particular favorite trick used by Boss Hogg and Rosco in their never-ending quest to frame the Duke boys:
    • "Double Dukes," where Boss hires two men to rob Hazzard Bank, and to make the heist convincing to the community and most importantly the authorities, has the men wear clothing, wigs and masks resembling Bo and Luke. Boss even has a Dodge Charger painted to resemble the General Lee. Bo and Luke are able to prove their innocence and expose their doubles.
    • "The $10 Million Sheriff," where a vicious bounty hunter paints a stolen Dodge Charger as the General Lee, fooling Bo and Luke.
    • "Too Many Roscos," where an experienced bank robber named Woody has a facelift so he can exactly resemble Rosco. He does this as he and his two associates run the patrol car driven by the real Rosco off the road and into a lake, kidnap him and allow the community to believe that the real Rosco to be presumed drowned. After the community begins mourning the presumably dead sheriff, "Rosco" reappears, much to the joy of the community. Although there are obvious clues that this man is an impostor—namely, by bungling simple facts while remembering in detail an expected armored car delivery to Hazzard Bank—the community is fooled, and this allows Woody and his friends to pull off a seemingly easy bank robbery.
    • "Twin Trouble," where twin jewel thieves use this to their advantage by having one of the sisters pull off the robberies and the other be somewhere else, claiming complete innocence and non-involvement in the crime. Bo is dating the "innocent" sister while Luke saw the other one pull off the robbery, naturally leading to conflict before the Duke cousins realize what is actually happening.
  • In Even Stevens, Louis gets Wrongfully Accused for the acts of another student from another school who looks exactly like him and has the same name as he does.
  • F Troop: Kid Vicious, the notorious bandit double of the goody-two shoes Captain Parmenter.
  • In Get Smart, Max and 99 just so happen to be exact doubles of the criminal couple Connie and Floyd in the episode "The Secret of San Vittorio." Oddly, though, it's Max and 99 who impersonate the couple to get information. This goes awry when the actual couple shows up and, mistaken for impersonators, are killed. No one feels the least bit guilty about this.
  • Happened not once, not twice, but three times on Gilligan's Island. Gilligan had a Russian Spy double, Mr. Howell had a freeloader double, and Ginger had a... well, OK, she wasn't a criminal, until she went back and started using Ginger's fame.
  • Green Acres had an episode revolving around this, with a criminal who looked just like Oliver.
  • Gunsmoke: The 1972 episode "Alias: Festus Hagen" sees the dumbfounded, loveable and dim-witted deputy sheriff arrested as a bloodthirsty outlaw named Frank Eaton. Eaton had been wanted for bank robbery, murder and numerous other crimes, and the impression on the community at first is that Festus had cleverly been concealing his identity. But Matt realizes quickly that something is amiss and seeks to clear his friend's name. Sure enough, Matt tracks down the real Frank Eaton... and sure enough, he exactly resembles Festus. Eventually, Festus escapes custody (just before he is to stand trial), meets Eaton and the two get into that episode's requisite brawl. When Eaton gets the upper hand and is clearly winning, it is the U.S. Marshall who arrested Festus in the first place who comes to the rescue.
  • Both Happy Ever After and Terry and June had an episode where the photofit of a crime suspect resembled Terry Scott.
  • In the Highlander episode "The Counterfeit", rogue Watcher Horton hired a female con to take down Duncan, having her get Magic Plastic Surgery to look just like Duncan's late girlfriend Tessa.
  • An episode of The Incredible Hulk (1977) had David Banner cross paths with a criminal who looked exactly like him (Bill Bixby with a moustache). Despite trying to frame Banner, the criminal was caught by police and attempted to weasel out of it by saying there's a guy who looked exactly like him. The police, who apparently don't watch TV, dismissed the idea as inane.
  • The self-explanatory It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia episode "Dennis Looks Like a Registered Sex Offender."
  • An episode of Kenan & Kel once had Kenan's father Roger mistaken by the title characters for a jewel thief nicknamed "The Diamond Bandit" that they heard about on an America's Most Wanted-type program.
    • There was also a clown that tied the duo up and robbed Chris's store who just happened to be exactly like the clown who was later hired to perform at Kyra's birthday party.
  • Lost in Space: One episode has Zeno, a space outlaw who looks exactly like Dr. Smith, whom he impersonates to escape the law. Of course, it's Played With in that Dr. Smith isn't exactly a good guy himself... The main differences are that he's not a Dirty Coward like Smith, and has less sophisticated speech.
  • Malcolm in the Middle: A variation is seen in the episode of "Forbidden Girlfriend." The B-plot revolves around Reese getting annoyed that a guy in the neighborhood has been racing around his muscle car, and confused that Dewey has "money day," in which people randomly give him money for no reason. As Reese ponders why he's never heard of "money day," a kid that looks similar to Dewey politely excuses himself while cleaning someone's yard, and Reese comes to a conclusion: Dewey is this other kid's Evil Twin, and convinces him to take advantage of the situation by committing acts of vandalism and blaming it on the other kid. When Dewey tries to back out of Reese's scheme, Reese threatens to tell their parents about how he took the credit, and money, for the other kid's good deeds. Their first act of vandalism has Dewey pour concrete into the guy's muscle car, and then Reese blames it on the other kid, getting him into a lot of trouble. When Reese goes into their bedroom with a list of more things they could blame the other kid for, while they get off scot free, Dewey reveals he told the other kid and the muscle car owner about the scheme, and the guy gets some payback on Reese.
  • Monk used this in an episode, in which Adrian happened to be a dead ringer for a mob hit-man. However it was inverted, in that the police didn't mix him up, but instead recruited him to make the other criminals think he was the hit-man, who'd been killed in a traffic accident several days earlier.
  • In The Monkees episode "Alias Micky Dolenz", Micky gets in a bit of trouble because he looks absolutely identical to a dangerous gangster wanted by the police.
  • The New Adventures of Robin Hood: In "Outlaw Express", Robin poses as his evil look-a-like in order to recapture other escaped prisoners.
  • Sam Hanna has to deal with this on NCIS: Los Angeles when his doppelganger frames him for murder. Lampshaded by Granger when Eric uncovers the truth.
  • Only Fools and Horses had a two-part special where Del and Rodney go to Miami, where a Mafia boss who looks identical to Del is facing life imprisonment. The guy's son hatches a plot to fake his death by getting the brothers to stay with them (not introducing them to his father) and have Del dress in his clothes (achieved by arranging for their camper van with all their possessions inside to be stolen), then having Del killed in public. After a few failed attempts, Del manages to work out what's happening, and they are able to escape.
  • Orphan Black has an example of the main character being one of these. The show starts with Sarah Manning, a former hustler with a criminal record, see a woman who looks exactly like her at the subway station. Moments later, the woman kills herself by running in front of a train. Sarah takes this as an opportunity to impersonate her. It's not just Identical Stranger, though. It's a lot more complicated than that.
    • This is later played straight with Helena, a mysterious serial killer who seems bent on killing all the clones.
  • Psych has a more realistic example: A man is falsely accused because the actual criminal isn't identical but looks enough like him that when people saw him, they thought they mistook him for the real criminal. What made it worse was that almost all of the "evidence" used to prosecute him was eyewitness testimony, which is highly subjective.
  • The Showtime short film Public Enemy #2 starred Dave Thomas as a struggling actor who happened to look exactly like a serial killer. This initially got him a recurring role on an America's Most Wanted-like show portraying the killer, only to end up in prison when the real killer found him and switched their places.
  • The Rifleman had a criminal who looked near identical to Luke (Even played by Chuck Connors). Unlike most examples though, since Luke is a pretty decent and well-liked guy and his doppleganger is such a Jerkass, people are pretty quick to realize that he isn't Luke.
  • The Rookie has the cops amazed the low-level drug dealer in a case is an exact match for cop Bradford (he, of course, refuses to see any resemblance to this idiot). Partner Chen has a grand time needling Bradford about it as they decide to have him go undercover as the dealer. At which point, they bring in the guy's own girlfriend/partner...who just happens to be a dead ringer for Chen.
  • In the Route 66 episode "I'm Here to Kill a King", Tod Stiles is plagued by an assassin who looks just like him.
  • Invoked in an episode of Supernatural with a shapeshifter that impersonates people close to the victims while committing his crimes so that they'll take the fall instead of him.
    • And again in season 7, when Leviathans carry out a series of high profile robberies/mass murders while impersonating Sam & Dean.
  • The Tracker episode "Double Down" involves Zin using the man Cole had taken his human morph from to get Cole arrested for murder. A subversion, since he wasn't actually the murderer either-Zin used some fancy video manipulation and footage from the suspected killer having been tricked into a fake movie shoot.
  • The premise of the short-lived syndicated show, 2. Gus McClain is convicted of murdering his wife, only he didn't do it. Booth Williams - a twin brother he never knew he had - did.
  • On an episode of V.I.P., a terrorist organization spent months searching for a Valerie Irons lookalike so that they could frame the real one for their rather far-reaching crime against humanity. Not only did they find one, they found one who was surprisingly willing to join up with them and do it; clearly the writers were depending on serious Willing Suspension of Disbelief by viewers.
  • On Welcome Freshmen, in one episode a criminal named "Shiny Top" escaped from prison - and he was a dead ringer for the balding, bumbling vice-principal Mr. Lippman. Hijinks ensued with Shiny Top taking the vice-principal's place and Lippman thrown in jail and trying to bluff the other inmates into fearing him. The day is saved when Shiny Top is taken out by Mr. Lippman's secretary, the one person not fooled by the switch. And then it turned out it was All Just a Dream, a result of Lippman taking a blow to the head in the opening scene.

  • Momus' song "Pervert Doppelganger" concerns a supposed look-alike of the narrator who goes around committing "sexual crimes" and pinning the blame on the (according to him) innocent narrator.

    Professional Wrestling 
  • Konnan used Super Fly to convince AAA that Cibernético had turned against the promotion and joined La Sociedad in the lead up to Héroes Inmortales IV.

    Video Games 
  • In Betrayal at Krondor, James gets accused of crimes he didn't commit on a few occasions, both by law-abiding citizens and rival criminal gangs, all due to Lysle Rigger and his work against the gang run by The Crawler.
  • Henry Stickmin Series: Subverted here. Henry apparently has a doppelgänger named Henry Stickman, with an 'a,' who's apparently regularly harassed due to being confused with Henry. In this instance, Stickmin, the main character, is the criminal, while Stickman is the innocent who's confused with him.
  • Octopath Traveler: One sidequest available after clearing Tressa and Therion's stories involves a criminal who's impersonating Leon Bastralle to rob people, unaware that the real Leon has already reformed himself.
  • In Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney, a defendant is found guilty after "Phoenix Wright" horribly screws up their defense. Since the actual Phoenix knows he wasn't involved in the case, he concludes that it must have been someone else that looked like him. It turns out that Furio Tigre, having murdered someone, impersonated Phoenix and purposely gave a crap defense complete with a fake attorney badge, to make sure that the person he had planted the crime onto got convicted. The doppelgänger having appearance characteristics that differ from the real Phoenix Wright gets a Lampshade Hanging from all the other characters.
  • One Dual Boss of the arcade Beat 'em Up game for The Simpsons is a pair of criminals that look like Homer and Bart.
  • In Skies of Arcadia Legends, if Vyse's Swashbuckler Rating is high enough, he'll eventually run into a group of criminals masquerading as him, Aika, and Fina, who eventually ruin the real Vyse's reputation by robbing civilians for money. After defeating them in an Optional Boss battle, Vyse's reputation and title are restored, and the imposters promise not to use their names in vain again.
  • In Sonic Adventure 2, Sonic is blamed by the government for breaking into a top secret facility and stealing a Chaos Emerald. This was actually done by Shadow and Sonic is able to put two and two together once they come face to face. In an interesting variant of this trope, all of this was completely unintentional on Shadow's part and Shadow initially assumes Sonic to be his fake when they meet up. A lot of characters continue to mistake Shadow for Sonic throughout the game, though one questions how people can confuse a black hedgehog and blue hedgehog that have two differently spiked hairstyles, especially in broad daylight.
  • In Super Mario Sunshine, Mario suffers from this during his vacation to Delfino Island. Bowser Jr. posing as Shadow Mario has polluted the island, and the player is charged with cleaning it up after being accused and found guilty in a Kangaroo Court.

    Western Animation 
  • In the Animated Adaptation of Around the World In 80 Days (See Literature above), Around the World with Willy Fog, the real bank robber is shown after the mix-up is resolved. He's also a lion, and generally looks like a thinner, more scraggly version of Fog.
  • Played With in Batman Beyond: Return of the Joker where Jordan Price is introduced as a Red Herring in determining The Joker's real identity. Price physically resembles The Joker in every way, except for possessing normal-colored hair and actual skin tone, and is voiced by Mark Hamill. However, while not actually the Joker, Price did work in connection with him and is turned in to Gotham PD by Terry.
  • Cow and Chicken:
    • Invoked in "Bad Chicken," in which Chicken makes a copy of himself with the school's copy machine; Red Guy (as the Copy Fairy) brings the copy to life, as it assumes Chicken's identity and begins wrecking havoc throughout school and even tries to kill Chicken with the paper shredder.
    • "Sow and Chicken" had Sow (Cow's cousin) use their resemblances to one another get Cow framed for her crimes. Cow later proves who was really responsible for what was going on and Sow is taken back to the Girls' Reform Sty.
  • Duck Dodgers episode has a criminal called Drake Darkstar, who looks just like Dodgers, switch places with him through a series of convenient incidents. The usual end of a 'criminal twin' plot is given a twist: the Space Cadet actually lets Dodgers get sent to jail instead of Darkstar after Dodgers confirms his identity by reminding the Cadet of eight or nine incredibly horrible things Dodgers had done to the Cadet, including 'Remember when I sold your sister to the sausage factory?', which even Darkstar thinks is cold.
  • The Fairly OddParents!: In the episode "Parent Hoods", Timmy Turner's real parents were arrested during a trip to Niagara Falls by cops who confused them with the Turnbaums, an Outlaw Couple known as "The Souvenir Bandits".
  • One episode of Goof Troop had Goofy being an exact lookalike for a member of a counterfeiting gang.
  • Near the end of the Hey Arnold! episode "Hookey". While Arnold and Gerald are Skipping School, narrowly avoiding being caught everywhere they go (their school janitor taking a vacation at DinoLand, getting Caught on the Jumbotron at a baseball game and Grandpa Phil and Oskar seeing the same movie they're watching), they attempt to disguise themselves to avoid drawing attention to everyone, except for the police, who mistake them for soda thieves that were at large and arrest them. Their disguises made them look as lifelike as the real thing. Arnold and Gerald decide to go back to school and turn themselves in after the police let them go upon capturing the real soda thieves.
  • In one short, this happens to The Inspector. He gets imprisoned, tries to break out (unsuccessfully) repeatedly, and has to smash rocks to bits.
  • In one episode of Invader Zim, Zim's disguise as a tiny, old, bearded man with a top hat happens to look a lot like another tiny, old, bearded man who robbed a bank—except for the green skin and lack of a nose, that is. Hilarity Ensues when Zim enters that same bank, not realizing that it was a crime scene.
  • An episode of The Little Lulu Show also had Tubby come in contact with his villainous lookalike, the aptly named Marty The Midget. The two then switch places, with Marty having to deal with Tubby's parents, friends, and the Westside Gang, while Tubby wound up in prison with a bunch of other escaped convicts. In the end, Marty gets arrested and everything is back to normal once more.
  • Looney Tunes:
    • One early Looney Tunes short had a criminal who looked just like Porky Pig, an outstanding citizen working as a bank clerk. So he takes Porky's place in order to rob the bank. Porky's girlfriend Petunia is able to tell them apart because the criminal is more receptive to her flirting, while Porky becomes bashful and awkward.
      • Another short, "Corn On The Cop", which is set on Halloween, has a criminal disguise himself as Granny and hold up a grocery store, prompting incompetent policemen Daffy and Porky to try to arrest either the robber or Granny, who, thinking they were kids in costumes, becomes aggravated with them.
    • Tiny Toon Adventures: The second segment of the episode "Here's Hamton", "America's Least Wanted", deals with a criminal by the name of Knuckles Cutlet, who looks just like Hamton, except for facial hair, a scar, and a missing tooth. Naturally, Plucky can't tell the difference, and in the end, the real Hamton ends up in prison while Knuckles tries to kill Plucky.
    • The Looney Tunes Show did a similar plot with Daffy and Porky. Apparently there are a lot of criminal pigs in that universe.
    • The Looney Tunes Cartoons short "Bounty Bunny" has Yosemite Sam as a bounty hunter trying to arrest Bugs Bunny. The wanted poster ($5,000 for jaywalking) just shows a head and while it looks just like Bugs, Bugs points out early on that he only has two whiskers on the sides of his face while the rabbit on the poster has three, but Sam doesn't buy it. In the end when Sam finally gets Bugs to the police station, the sheriff shows that the jaywalking rabbit already turned himself in and while he does have Bugs' exact head with an extra set of whiskers, he also has a much buffer body. So Sam gets no bounty and gets arrested for falsely kidnapping Bugs.
  • Metalocalypse: Dethklok's song "Bloodtrocuted" tells the story of an electrician who is mistaken by bounty hunters for a wanted criminal who looks just like him.
  • Mr. Bean (pictured) was mistaken for an escaped convict in the Animated Adaptation. The two ended up switching places for a short time, and the convict decided to break back into his jail cell after he couldn't stand Bean's landlady.
  • Pac-Man was once mistaken for a bank robber who escaped from prison. The fugitive even managed to fool Ms. Pac-Man... until she read the newspaper a day late, and mistook her husband for the crook.
  • Zig-zagged in The Powerpuff Girls (1998) episode "Powerpuff Bluff". Three hardened criminals apply horrible costumes of the girls and everyone in Townsville (except Ms. Bellum) buys them as the real Powerpuff Girls . Then, during the climactic fight, both the girls and the criminals get confused and accidentally attack their comrades, until Blossom decide they should face off with their evil counterparts only.
  • In the T.U.F.F. Puppy episode "The Doomies", Dudley and Kitty are able to sneak into a villain's award show by posing as two criminals named "Doctor Rabies" and "Madame Cat-astrophe". The criminals look just like them, albeit with a moustache and goatee.
  • Underdog had one, Tap-Tap the Chiseler, a gemcutter who worked for the underworld; in his first appearance he worked for the gangster Riff-Raff, but in a second appearance proved he was just as capable of causing trouble on his own. Despite some obvious flaws in his disguise - his voice was deeper, he didn't rhyme, and he always smoked cigars - the resemblance was enough to fool almost everyone, even Underdog's girlfriend Sweet Polly.
  • The TV movie Yogi's Great Escape has Yogi Bear and Boo Boo entering a Western town run by Quick Draw McGraw, who mistakes them for a couple of identical bear bandits and arrests them.

    Real Life 
  • Joseph Lesurques was famously executed in 18th century France for a crime he didn't commit, but the real culprit, Dubosq, who bore a striking resemblance to Lesurques, was discovered afterward. In fact, plays based on the case often feature the same actor playing both Lesurques and Dubosq.
  • Another notable example is the case of Adolf Beck. He was mistaken for a serial con artist named John Smith and convicted after a bungled investigation concluded that Beck was Smith living under a false name. He was then cleared partially (of being Smith) and released after the sentence was over, but was accused again. This time, the judge had some doubts and postponed sentencing. Ten days later they caught the real John Smith, who resembled Adolf but had a scar which proved that he was the actual criminal.
  • A Malaysian man inverted this trope to escape execution for trafficking drugs. The courts couldn't distinguish between him and an innocent doppelgänger, his identical twin brother, and so released both.
  • Another real-life case of a criminal using this to their advantage: An armored truck robber in Monroe, Washington hired several people to show up for a job dressed the same as him. When the police tried to chase him, they ran into his hired doppelgangers (while he attempted to escape down the river in an inner tube).
  • One American man saw a televised report of a dangerous criminal who just happened to look a lot like himself. Wanting to avoid this trope, he went to the police himself to explain that he was not the criminal at large. After confirming his identity, the police thanked him for clearing any potential confusion... then ran a background check on him on a whim, to find that he was wanted for other, unrelated crimes, and arrested him anyway.
  • A man named Michael McAlister happened to look just like a serial rapist named Rodney Derr who lived in the same apartment complex and went to jail. While Derr was eventually found and tried for other rape charges, McAlister wasn't exonerated and arrested again for a DUI charge before finally being pardoned in 2015. The officers remarked how unlikely it was for an innocent guy to look just like a criminal living in the same area.
  • In 1989 Carlos DeLuna was executed for murder, all the while claiming it was another man named Carlos Hernandez. Many years later investigators proved that not only did Carlos Hernandez exist, he looked just like DeLuna and in fact had boasted to his family members that he had been the one who committed the murder. While the prosecutor maintains that DeLuna is guilty, he admits that he should have looked into Hernandez, while the victim's brother has come to believe that Hernandez was the killer.
  • In 2014, independent circuit wrestler Brian Blaze was arrested because he looked like a man the police wanted for armed robbery and had borrowed a vehicle similar enough to the one criminal had been using.
  • In a slight variation, a woman in Germany had been almost financially ruined by getting incredibly expensive bills and overdue notices to the point where she was facing multiple charges. Only with a private detective and the help of a bill for a health insurance that used a different social security number than her own, she was able to track the woman down. She then found out that there was a woman with her exact name, birth day and birth place who was currently living in the same city.
  • In 2019 some CCTV footage of a man stealing beer from a Blackpool off licence became famous due to him looking like David Schwimmer.
  • Kirk Bloodsworth is the first death row inmate exonerated due to DNA evidence. His conviction in a rape and murder stemmed from a strong resemblance to the actual culprit, Kimberly Shay Ruffner. It gets weirder though-the pair were housed in the same prison, even commenting about how they appeared similar, with Ruffner also wishing him well alongside the other inmates when he was released. Ruffner was even housed in the cell directly below Bloodsworth's. He was later convicted and got a life sentence due to the same DNA evidence that cleared Bloodsworth.
  • Richard Jones was sentenced to 19 years in jail for armed robbery after being identified in a police lineup and supported by a witness overhearing the name of the attacker from an accomplice as "Rick". This is despite a lack of DNA evidence and having a solid alibi of being at his girlfriends house at the time. 16 years into his sentence Jones learned that there was another man incarcerated at the same prison who looked just like him. This man was Ricky Amos, both men were light-skinned African-American men who resided in Kansas City at the time of the crime, were close enough in age and wore their hairstyles in a similar manner. Jones was subsequently acquitted and released after a court found that neither the witnesses nor victim could tell the two men apart.


Video Example(s):

Alternative Title(s): Evil Identical Stranger


The Souvenir Bandits

The Turnbaums are an Outlaw Couple who happen to look like slovenly versions of Timmy's parents. The gross incompetence of the American legal system allows the Turnbaums to get away while Timmy's parents unwittingly take the fall for them.

How well does it match the trope?

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Example of:

Main / CriminalDoppelganger

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