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Sevarius: I was particularly proud of my death scene.
Xanatos: Frankly, Sevarius, I thought you overplayed the part.

A character's death is faked, for one or more of the following purposes:

Often the audience will think the character is genuinely dead. Extra points if a fake crime scene photo or Staged Shooting is used. Sometimes a John Doe's remains are substituted and destroyed beyond recognition, or everyone is simply told 'They Never Found the Body.' The person faking his death might attend his own funeral. Of course, when this happens to main characters in a series, the audience should not be fooled.

When the method of faking temporarily turns the character into a realistic-seeming corpse, this is Faux Death.

Death Faked for You, Playing Possum and Fake Kill Scare are subtropes. The inverse is Of Corpse He's Alive (a "live" person is actually dead) and El Cid Ploy (a faction pretending their leader is alive).

A play on the common turn of phrase "waking the dead". Contrast He's Just Hiding!. Not to be confused with Fake Weakness. See also Reports of My Death Were Greatly Exaggerated.

For what (usually) happens next, see Starting a New Life.

Remember that faking the dead may seem fun, but it is a criminal action in most countries and may cause legal trouble. Don't Try This at Home.

BEWARE OF UNMARKED SPOILERS. You Have Been Warned.


Examples:

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    Comic Books 
DC
  • Batman and the Outsiders: The Outsiders led by Nightwing fake their death to be able to work undercover. The stratagem is blown in the One Year Later storyline, and the team then has to deal with the various consequences for their actions.
  • Batgirl: In an issue of Batgirl (2000), Cassandra Cain once fakes the dead to get the villain to trust Robin, who's supposedly taken her down. That includes staying still when Robin shoots her on the villain's orders.
  • In Issue #17 of The Batman and Robin Adventures, the Mad Hatter fakes his death as part of a plan to abduct his love interest.
  • In one Birds of Prey arc, Cheshire tied up Lady Shiva and stuffed her in the trunk of a car that had been wired to explode, hoping that the police would find the charred body of an Asian woman and assume it was Cheshire that had been killed. Fortunately, the heroes were able to rescue Shiva before the bomb could go off.
  • In the New 52 version of Green Arrow, it turns out that Henry Queen faked his death, and then became the masked figure that tortured Ollie on the island, to force his son to become the Arrow. Ollie's reaction is that his dad is a lunatic, and the Henry Queen he remembers is still dead.
  • Green Lantern: The Corps believes that Kyle Rayner pulled a Heroic Sacrifice to stop Relic at the end of the Lights Out storyline. In fact, he survived, but what he saw at the Source Wall and what it means for his own White Lantern powers and those of the other Corps means he's not ready to return.
  • In Legends, Doctor Bedlam fakes his own death while posing as Magno-Man in order to disgrace Captain Marvel for killing him by using his magic lightning bolt to transform back into Billy Batson. It's still rather traumatic for him to go through, though.
  • During Battle for the Cowl Tim survived his the near fatal injuries Jason gave him by accidentally faking the dead when he slowed his heart rate to slow his blood loss, it meant Jason didn't have a reason to keep trying to kill him when he found his "body".
  • In Supergirl Pre-Flashpoint story arc "The Hunt for Reactron", villain Reactron is being trialed when a mob breaks into the court intending to lynch him. Alura takes advantage of the ensuing chaos to fake his death in order to throw him into a cell and interrogate him.
  • In The Supergirl from Krypton story arc, Superman, Batman and Wonder Woman stage Supergirl's death so Darkseid -who had previously kidnapped her and brainwashed- leaves her alone.
  • In her second series's final issue, Supergirl confronts a friend who has been taken over by his evil side. In order to get him snap out of his possession, Supergirl reminds him that he is no killer and then lets him believe he has killed her.
  • In the Whatever Happened to the Man of Tomorrow??, Superman fakes his death by exposure by gold kryptonite (removing his powers) and walking to his death into the frozen Antarctic. In reality, he became Jordan Elliot, a regular working class guy.

Marvel

  • Daredevil once faked his death after it seemed that someone knew his secret identity. He ended up using the dead body of his Evil Knockoff Hellspawn, created during Infinity War and was altered by a mutagenic virus.
  • In Fear Itself, Bucky Barnes, the current Captain America had apparently been killed off while fighting Sin, the Red Skull's daughter. However, as revealed in a post-series epilogue, Bucky did survive the brutal attack and his death was faked by both Black Widow and Nick Fury in order to convince Steve Rogers to become Captain America once more, as well as to allow Bucky to deal with remaining Winter Soldier-esque sleeper agents without any trouble. How? A well-placed Life Model Decoy and the Infinity Formula did the trick.
  • At the end of The Infinity Gauntlet Thanos does this when everyone believes that he died due to a thermonuclear bomb on his belt. He used the opportunity to... become a farmer.
  • Iron Man once faked his death when he was suffering from nerve disintegration. It was a ploy to get healed. Unfortunately, Rhodey didn't know about it and was pissed off.
    • The script was then flipped years later during Matt Fraction's run. The Mandarin's machinations had made it virtually impossible for Tony to be Iron Man without government interference, so Rhodey faked his own death as War Machine so that he could take over as the new Iron Man. Once the whole situation was sorted out, Rhodey went back to the War Machine armor.
  • This seems to be the MO to Spider-Man supervillain Hobgoblin, Roderick Kingsley - set up some poor schmuck as the Hobgoblin and let him run around as him for awhile; if he dies, no skin off Roderick's back.
    • Carnage can do this as well, slipping a piece of the symbiote over a dead body to make someone think that he's dead, just so he can slip away or get in and gut someone. Of course, it doesn't work all the time, as it didn't fool Batman when he did it then. Of course, he was aiming for The Joker.
  • X-Men:
    • Professor Xavier faked his death so as to counter an alien invasion. An already dying shape-shifter named Changeling replaced him as atonement. Only Jean, of all his students, knew the truth.
    • In X-Men Noir, Jean Grey fakes her death by killing Anne-Marie Rankin, cutting off/out any distinguishing facial features, and dyeing her hair. She them assumes her identity by dyeing her own hair. Why? She wanted out of the X-Men, essentially - and to collect her trust fund, of course.
    • In God Loves, Man Kills, Purifiers make it look as if they've killed the Professor, Scott, and Ororo in an explosion, when they have actually taken the three prisoner. Only Wolverine's enhanced senses reveal the deception.

Other

  • Black Moon Chronicles: After the Black Moon loses a massive battle against the Empire and both Haazheel and Greldinard are apparently killed off, it turns out that the whole thing was a diversionary tactic so that they could lay low for a while and rebuild their forces without the Emperor recognizing the urgency of nipping this threat in the bud.
  • Button Man: Convinced that the Voices will never stop following him unless they think he's already dead, Harry arranges his own "death" by cutting of his finger to a Button Man that is required to confirm a kill. He later kills the other for real just to be sure he wouldn't talk either.
  • Diabolik does it once in a while, starting with the third issue (Eva had a man executed while wearing a mask with his face). While they work with most people, Ginko tends to see through these schemes with ease (indeed, he saw through the very first a single instant before the victim died), and it takes a lot to fool him (such as fooling a DNA test).
  • Princeless: By having her tower burnt, Princess Adrienne misled everyone who'd be looking for her into think she was burned as well.
  • In a Radioactive Man story in which Madame Eczema reveals RM's secret identity, RM apparently dies (fooling even Fallout Boy), and then Claude Kane appears in public to counter the revelation. Upon learning the truth, Plasmo the Mystic points out that the whole deception will be rendered pointless when he has to reappear as Radioactive Man.
  • In Sonic the Comic, Amy, Tails, Johnny, and the Kintobor Computer use this to stop Super Sonic trying to kill them: Amy had the Kintobor Computer remotely fly their plane. Sonic doesn't realize this and goes into a Heroic B.S.O.D. thinking he killed his friends.
  • In Swordquest, Lady Wyla throws the Big Bad off the trail of her infant children by jumping into the ocean with two jars wrapped in swaddling cloths in full view of his guards.
  • Tintin does this a few times. Once, he goes into a nose-dive while flying so his pursuers think he's been hit.
  • In Wanted, Wesley's father faked his own death so he could set his son on the path to succeeding him and becoming one of the most powerful supervillains in the world.

    Comic Strips 
  • A The Far Side comic showed a couple feigning death to get some guests who'd overstayed their welcome to leave.
  • Garfield: When Jon asked Lisa if she already had plans for New Year's Eve she screamed and fell down. Jon told her she had faked her death "last year".
  • Dexter Sr. in The Knight Life faked his death in order to sell his rap albums.
  • Modesty Blaise: In "Fraser's Story", the Union Corse help Modesty and Willie to fake their deaths by staging an elaborate fake assassination. They even film the 'assassination' and the 'bodies' to convince the Big Bad that they are dead. This allows Modesty and Willie to travel to Panama without anyone watching for them.

    Fan Works 
  • Before Twilight and its sequel Seeing Ghosts which cross NCIS and Buffy the Vampire Slayer and combine this with Death Faked for You.
    • The first story is focused on Ari Haswari, a Mossad operative who was born and raised to infiltrate Hamas (and has moved on to al-Qaeda) on his father's orders, but wants out of the whole thing... so he goes to his cousin Willow Rosenberg in the Watcher's Council and asks for her help in faking the deaths of first Caitlin Todd (in order to convince his superiors in al-Qaeda that he really is loyal) and then himself (to get him out from their thumb, and his father's). Once both are "dead", the two join the Watcher's Council, who give them new identities to help them stay hidden.
    • The sequel picks up some years later when Team Gibbs discovers the deception and learns that not only are Ari and Kate still alive, they've gotten married and had a daughter in the intervening years.
  • In The Boy Behind The Mask, while Hiccup originally left a note claiming that he ventured off to find a dragon worthy enough to be his first kill, Astrid finds black scales and a spot of Hiccup's blood in the cove and everyone assumes this means he was massacred by a Night Fury.
  • The final Calvin and Hobbes: The Series story has Jack doing this to fool Thunderstorm and Shadow.
  • In Deadly Love Tracey uses fake blood and Draught of Living Death to get Harry's abusive relatives arrested for pedophilia, rape and murder.
  • Fire Emblem Fates: Aftermath: In Chapter 5, Izana shows up and reveals that he faked his death in Fire Emblem Fates by using magic. He did so to guilt-trip Takumi into helping Corrin.
  • In Flam Gush this is mixed with Mundane Made Awesome when Lucilla forces Lina and Gourry to retreat through use of a single hidden archer and faking her death to sic a mob of untrained peasants on them.
  • In Game Theory, Precia sets things up to appear as if she and her allies had fallen into Imaginary Space to throw the TSAB off their trail, when she had actually found a way to revive Alicia without traveling to Alhazred.
  • The God Empress of Ponykind: The Chaos Gods did this as part of a gambit to get rid of the Emperor.
  • The Law & Order: UK fanfic "Happy New Year" has it revealed that DS Matt Devlin did not die, but was spirited away to a rehab center to recover from his gunshot wounds while his clueless loved ones were left to mourn in order to keep them safe.
  • In Supergirl fic Hellsister Trilogy, Darkseid fakes his death after his defeat at the end of the war between Apokolips and the rest of the universe. He spends the next 1,000 years sleeping and recovering and resurfaces in the Legion of Super-Heroes time.
  • Higher Learning: Ritsuko, Maya and Rei devise a complicated plot involving one of the clones of Rei to trick Gendo into believing that someone who stood in the way is dead.
  • In the Worm fanfic, Intrepid, Kaiser fakes his death after appearing to kill two teenage heroes as part of a plot.
  • In the Death Note AU New World Without End Light Yagami does this after his victory so he can live out his life in peace and continue to act as Kira. Light and Mikami added an extra body to the pile at the Yellowbox warehouse (and with help from the notebook they could ensure that the victim’s faces wouldn't be identifiable through dental records) and torched the warehouse. Afterwards Light and Mikami released the name Light Yagami as among the police officers that opposed Kira who were eliminated.
  • The One I Love Is: Kaji faked his own death to throw SEELE off his trail while he worked on exposing them.
  • In The Parselmouth of Gryffindor, Hermione, Dumbledore and Maximilian help Sirius make the Ministry believe he committed suicide so as to get the Dementors off everyone's back.
  • The Second Try: Kaji, after being warned about his impending termination by the letter Shinji gave him. A bulletproof vest, some blood packs and a bit of Playing Possum allow him to live through his encounter with the hitman sent after him. He's even helped by the incompetence of his would-be killer who walks away without checking his body.
  • In A Song of Ice and Fires That Weren't All My fault, Harry does this for the Targaryens after assassins try to kill them.
  • In TRULY OUTRAGEOUS: A Jem Fan Film!, Emmett was Spared by the Adaptation by faking his death because he was being targeted by Cobra from GI Joe.
  • In The Witch of the Everfree, while Sunset doesn't actually intend for her escape from Celestia's guards to look like a death, after she realizes that it did look that way, she goes out of her way to avoid letting Celestia realize that she's actually still alive.
    • She's not quite as thorough as she hopes to be; Celestia realizes that she's alive as soon as she starts writing back to Twilight.

    Film — Animated 
  • In Cars 2, secret agent Finn McMissile uses a set of decoy tires to pretend that he's been torpedoed by the enemy.
  • Finding Nemo: Nemo pretends to be dead in order to get flushed down the toilet and back to sea. Not only does it almost not work, it happens just as Marlin arrives, leading him to think his son really is dead.
  • The Incredibles: Mr. Incredible hides behind the skeleton of Gazerbeam to escape Syndrome's seeker robot — the robot scans the skeleton, assumes it's him, and flies off to report his demise.
  • Inverted in Jinroh The Wolf Brigade where a witness to a government scandal is killed off to guarantee she'll never be found by the opposition. As long as they believe she's still out there somewhere, they can't move against the protagonist's unit.
  • Metroman's decides to do this in Megamind in order to switch from hero to musician. As he puts it: "No one said this had to be a lifetime gig."
  • Rio: Blu and Jewel play dead to trick the poachers.
  • Fiona briefly pretends that she's a ghost and that she's finally fallen in love with Lord Farquaad at the climax of Shrek 4-D, simply for the sake of mocking him.

    Film — Live-Action 
  • Happens twice in the 1945 film adaption of And Then There Were None. Quinncannon fakes his death by placing a dot on his head which somehow convinces the others he's been shot and Miss Claythorne pretends to shoot Morley by aiming the gun to his side which looks as if she's shot him from the distance of the true killer.
  • In Ariel, Mikkonen fakes suicide by hanging to lure the prison guard into his and Kasurinen's cell in order to facilitate their escape.
  • Subverted in The Art of War (2000). At the end of the movie, the protagonists fake their deaths and meet up in a French village. As they walk off arm in arm, an unknown man takes their photograph.
  • Body Heat: Matty/Mary Ann makes it seem like she died as a result of her own bomb, in order to frame Ned for her "death" and run off with the money they had stolen from her murdered husband.
  • It's part of the profession of the titular pair in The Brothers Bloom. They're con-men.
  • In Bullitt, the police investigation ultimately uncovers a mobster's plot to fake his own death and escape scot-free. Johnny Ross embezzles money from The Mafia, then cuts a deal with a senator to testify against the Mafia in exchange for a pardon and witness protection. Ross then tricks an innocent man into going to San Francisco in his place, where he's killed by the mob hitmen sent to silence Ross.
  • The death of Gloria is faked as part of an elaborate blackmail scheme, and to turn Moose against his employers, in Circus.
  • Averted by the Master Computer of Colossus: The Forbin Project. After learning of a plot to overload its system, Colossus demands the immediate execution of the conspirators by Firing Squad. The computer then orders that the bodies be left in the view of its CCTV cameras for 24 hours, then cremated on the spot, to prevent any chance of the executions being faked.
  • In the opening scenes of Commando, we see the members of Matrix's unit killed by Cooke. Turns out one of them, Bennett, faked his death (with the help of Arius' organization) so General Kirby would lead them to Matrix.
  • In Contamination we have Hamilton stage a wreck of his private plane several months before the film begins, so that he can focus on cultivating and distributing the evil alien's eggs.
  • The Dark Knight. A crime boss wants the Joker brought to him dead-or-alive, so is quite pleased when some gangbangers bring in the Joker in a bodybag. Until he jumps to his feet and puts a knife to his face. Later Jim Gordon is killed by the Joker, but is revealed to be faking his death when he suddenly appears to stop the Joker killing Batman. Also near the end when Two-Face was about to shoot Gordon's son, Batman convinces him to shoot him instead, which Two-Face does. And just when he was going to turn the gun back on Gordon's son, Batman tackles him.
  • The Dark Knight Rises. In his introductory scene, Bane fakes the death of a Russian scientist in a plane crash, so he can carry out his Evil Plan without his intentions being anticipated. He even orders one of his fanatical followers to stay behind and die to give the crash authenticity. Also Batman fakes his death during the climax in order to live a normal life, while giving Gotham a symbol of hope.
  • This is the setup for Double Jeopardy. A husband frames his wife for his murder so that he can run off with his wife's friend and the life insurance money while evading his creditors. When confronted, the husband has the audacity to claim that he intended to fake his suicide. That may have been believable, except for the blood, knife, and the radio message claiming his wife was trying to kill him.
  • A benevolent example in The Dragon Painter. Tatsu's love for Ume-ko and their happy marriage has ruined his ability to paint. So she fakes her suicide.
  • In Easy Money, Rodney Dangerfield's mother-in-law fakes her own death to trick him into changing his lifestyle in compliance with the terms of her will.
  • The Australian movie The Empty Beach (1985) has Private Eye Cliff Hardy hired by the wife of a businessman who's disappeared, apparently after some criminal associates gave him Cement Shoes. However Hardy's investigation makes the criminals believe this trope is in play, and they start to turn on each other, which was her intention all along. At the end of the movie she reveals that her husband really is alive and living overseas, and offers to hire Hardy to find him for real. Annoyed over how he's been manipulated, Hardy just walks off.
  • The movie Eraser is about a federal agent who fakes people's deaths for the Witness Protection Program.
  • Extreme Prejudice (1987). A govt. black ops team is made up of people who supposedly died in action or training accidents. Unfortunately they go up against a sheriff in the United States who can access military records — this is something of a Fridge Logic moment, as a more plausible means of establishing deniability would be to have the ex-soldiers fired under trumped-up disciplinary charges.
  • In FX, the protagonist is a Hollywood special effects expert, Rollie Tyler, hired by the FBI to fake the death of a mob informant. The whole thing seems to go horribly wrong and the hero is then wanted for really murdering the guy. It's eventually revealed as a double bluff by the government agents and mobster who want to make off with stolen mob money. Rollie subsequently uses his skills to fake his own death twice.
  • The villain's master plan in Bruceploitation film Game of Death 2.
  • In Gilda, Balin Mundson (Gilda's husband) takes off in his plane and leaves it to crash into the ocean while he secretly gets picked up by a boat.
  • Halloween H20: Twenty Years Later reveals that Laurie Strode faked her death after the events of Halloween II (1981) to escape her evil, murderous brother.
  • In Headhunters Roger survives a car collision, but convinces his attacker that he's dead to chase him more effectively.
  • The Illusionist does this with a very convincing temporary Faux Death.
  • James Bond does it to himself in You Only Live Twice, hence the title.
  • Jackie Chan playing the villain in Killer Meteors fakes his own death early on, and then later reveals to the hero (played by Jimmy Wang Yu) "You didn't see me die, you only saw me fall over". Makes perfect sense.
  • The Lady from Shanghai (1947) has a faked death that turns out to be real.
  • Marvel Cinematic Universe:
    • In Thor: The Dark World, Loki saves Thor from Kurse by impaling him, then is stabbed himself with the same weapon. Loki seemingly dies from his injuries. At the end, however, it is revealed that he survived (whether he was really injured at all is debatable - this is Loki we're talking about, after all), and sneaked into Asgard disguised as a soldier to tell Odin about his son's "death", then usurped the throne - at the end, Odin is revealed to be Loki in disguise.
    • During Captain America: The Winter Soldier, Nick Fury is the assassination target of Alexander Pierce, first by being assaulted on the streets of Washington DC and later sniped by the Winter Soldier while hiding out at Steve Rogers's apartment. The second attack seemingly fells Fury but it turns out to be a ploy by the loyal agents of SHIELD to make it seem like Fury had perished and the assailants' plot had succeeded.
  • In The Negotiator, Roman, the hostage negotiator-turned-taker, pretends to shoot one of the hostages in order to convince the police to take him seriously so that he can figure out who framed him via computer files. It's also used at the end, when Saban shoots Roman and he falls to the ground, motionless and with blood pooling on the floor. Saban convinces Frost he wants a cut of the money at stake in order to catch Frost in an Engineered Public Confession about how Frost set Roman up.
  • At the climax of Nerve, Vee and Ty stage an elaborate ruse where Ty shoots her (actually using blanks and fake blood), and Vee "dies", causing all the watchers to believe they're now accomplices to murder. They immediately log off of the app, crashing the servers and ending the titular game for good. Vee then reveals to Ian that she's okay, and that she and Ty were working together.
  • In Now You See Me, Jack Wilder's death is faked with the assistance of the other Horsemen.
  • At the climax of Oz: The Great and Powerful, Oscar fakes his death by tricking Theodora into destroying a hot air balloon she and the rest of Emerald City believed he was on, so that he can appear to come back as an incorporeal Person of Mass Destruction using fireworks and a video projector. The Wicked Witches, unfamiliar with the technology available in Oscar's world, believe it to be genuine magic and quickly flee the city.
  • In The Prestige, Angier pulls this with the help of a cloning machine: He arranges for the clone to die and frames Borden for 'his' murder.
  • In Puma Man our titular hero has this as his super power! He uses it to get Kobras off his back. Mystery Science Theater 3000 had a field day with this.
    Vadinho: You've succeeded! They think you're dead, and now they will leave you alone.
    Mike: To be left alone—the goal of every great hero!
  • In The Quick and the Dead, this is done by the Lady to gain an advantage on Herod, who cannot be beaten in a straight fight by anyone except for Cort, who is handcuffed most of the time and unwilling to kill except to save his own life.
  • Raw Deal (1986). Arnold Schwarzenegger (playing an ex-FBI agent turned sheriff) fakes his own death before going undercover as a mob hitman. He drives his squad car into an oil refinery, opens a few valves then blows it up with a flare pistol.
  • Early on in RED 2, Marvin stages his death in a car explosion, then plays his corpse at his own funeral. According to Frank, this isn't the first time he's done something like this.
  • In Red Dragon, Dolarhyde fakes his own death using the body of a man he shot to make his blind girlfriend think he shot himself.
  • In Revenge of the Pink Panther, Inspector Clouseau is targeted for assassination. After one of the (unsuccessful) attempts leads to the public mistakenly thinking he's been killed, Clouseau decides to maintain the ruse in order to find out who's behind the plot.
  • Saw
    • Jigsaw does this for the entirety of the bathroom trap in Saw.
    • Agent Perez in Saw VI faked her death two movies before.
    • Jigsaw goes through some lengths to imply the original Jigsaw might still be alive. Subverted by this film's status as a Stealth Prequel. Any scenes featuring John Kramer are flashbacks, and anything that implies he is still alive turns out to be a misdirect planned out by the new Jigsaw.
      • Logan appears to die despite "confessing."
  • The Soldier (1982). A hot Mossad chick shoots a terrorist after he's identified by an informer. She goes into the next room after the interrogation where it's revealed via Latex Perfection that the terrorist is actually a Mossad Double Agent.
  • Sorority Row: The prank the girls play on Garrett involves Megan pretending to die from a drug overdose, and the others convincing Garrett this is all his fault. Turns into a case of Gone Horribly Right.
  • In Species, Sil pulls off a complex one. It involves a car, lots of gasoline, a live victim and her cut-off fingertip for the autopsy.
  • Both Robert Redford and Paul Newman in The Sting.
  • Transformers: Dark of the Moon has the Autobots doing this when they realize that Sentinel's demand for them to leave Earth in exchange for peace was a trap. What they do is send up the ship with no one in it, so when Starscream destroys the ship, everyone including the Decepticons believe they are dead, allowing them to take on the Decepticons by surprise.
  • In The Usual Suspects, it's part of Dean Keaton's Backstory (and one of the reasons Agent Kujan has such a hard on for him). He was presumed dead long enough to dodge a murder rap. And while he was dead, every witness against him died under suspicious circumstances. The interesting part is that Keaton claims to have lived in the same city under the same name ever since, and that Internal Affairs just dropped the ball and had him declared dead for no good reason.
  • X-Men Film Series:
    • X-Men Origins: Wolverine: Kayla Silverfox conspires with William Stryker to win Logan's heart and then fake her death in exchange for her abducted sister's safety.
    • The Wolverine: Ichirō Yashida is carried away in the middle of the night after passing away shortly after Logan arrives in Japan. The climax of the film shows that he's still alive, although just barely, and he attempts to steal Logan's Healing Factor to prolong his own life.

    Music and Music Videos 
  • The music video for Rammstein's "Haifisch" takes place at singer Till Lindemann's funeral. It's only after the other band members start fighting each other and Flake crashes into the coffin that they find out the coffin's empty. Cut to Till mailing a postcard from Hawaii that says 'greetings from the arse of the world!'

    Other 
  • Lear Dunham in Broken Saints. Rare variation in that the faked death is part of backstory, not a depicted event.
  • Martin Gardner (renowned recreational mathematician - yes, it's a real job) did this to the character Dr. Matrix in his column in Scientific American. Dr. Matrix, an agent for the CIA, was disguised as an Arab named Abdul Abulbul Amir in order to assassinate a KGB agent named Ivan Skavinsky Skavar. They dueled on the shores of the Black Sea, and fired simultaneously; Ivan died instantly, but "Abdul" was only knocked out, and the CIA paid two natives to confirm his death.
  • Parodied in The Spider Cliff Mysteries. After surviving an explosion, Barlow suggests doing this. Crystal tells him it's a stupid idea.
  • Dumbledore and Voldemort in A Very Potter Musical, only one of whose fake deaths is actually explained.

    Podcasts 
  • The Magnus Archives: It turns out that Mary Keay, whom the narrator of one episode seemingly met, is on public record as having been murdered by her son Gerard. Whether the murder or the person is fake is not clear.
  • The Adventure Zone: Balance: in Murder on the Rockport Limited, Jenkins, does this, specifically by killing the Engineer and switching clothes with him.
    • In The Crystal Kingdom, the Tres Horny Boys help Lucas Miller do this so that the Bureau doesn't lock him up.
    • In Reunion Tour, Taako and Merle pretend that Magnus is dead, when in fact he's a mannequin.

    Radio 
  • Adventures in Odyssey:
    • In the Novacom arc, Connie's friend Robert Mitchel who is secretly trying to stop the bad guys from taking over the world, fakes his death to make sure the bad guys won't actually try to kill him like they did to another person who found out their plans.
    • Pulled with appropriate magnificence by Dr. Blackgaard in the episode "A Name, Not a Number". The scene where he reveals himself to his unwitting accomplice is priceless.
      Blackgaard: Actually, once I got out of the morgue, I'd never felt better in my life...

    Tabletop Games 
  • A major element of many plots in Spycraft, for obvious reasons.
    • In the same system, the "Zeroed" feat is essentially this, making the trail of clues to break your cover identity significantly longer.

    Theatre 
  • In Angels in America, Roy Cohn pulls this trick on the ghost/hallucination/whatever of Ethel Rosenberg, who happily pushes the nurse's call button — only to have Roy spring back to life and gloat at her about falling for it. Subverted almost immediately, when the monitors Roy's hooked up to flatlines, and he dies for real.
  • Older Than Feudalism: In Electra, Orestes' plot to murder his mother and step-father relies on lulling them into a false sense of security by sending a messenger stating Orestes died in a chariot race. Electra is devastated by the loss until the moment her brother reveals himself, and from then on she helps him keep the deception.
  • William Shakespeare:
  • Wicked the Musical, where Elphaba pretends to melt, but goes down a trapdoor instead to wait for Fiyero... who, by the way, is the Scarecrow. She sings a final refrain with Glinda and vanishes to another land with Fiyero, leaving Glinda to believe that she died for real. (Glinda did not realize she had back-up on the refrain.) As Fiyero says "She can't know. No-one must know." Oh, by the way, before she carries out this charade, she makes Glinda promise to never try and clear her (Elphaba's) name so that Oz will stay peaceful under Glinda's rule and the people won't turn against her. Whew. Note that this is not what happens in the book version of Wicked. In the book, Elphaba meets exactly the same end as in the original Wizard of Oz book — Dorothy flings a bucket of water at her, and she dies.

    Visual Novels 
  • Higurashi: When They Cry:
    • It's revealed in Minagoroshi-hen that Takano Miyo, the villain mastermind, has been faking her own death for every Hinamizawa to appear as a victim of the curse.
    • Rika pulls one back in the final arc to throw Takano for a loop.
  • New Danganronpa V 3 has this done by Kokichi Oma, the Ultimate Supreme Leader during one of the investigations. Why? Just to mess with everyone. Though his bloody state is crucial to finding out how the killer murdered Tenko.
    " It's a lie!"
    • The first Dangan Ronpa reveals that The Mastermind is actually Junko Enoshima, the second person in the game to die. Or rather, her twin sister posing as her was the second person in the game to die, while the real Junko was hiding behind the scenes the whole time. Another example is Alter Ego, an AI program created by Chihiro who has the laptop she's hiding in subject to an Execution, only to reveal later on that she's infected Hope's Peak's computer systems just in time to save Naegi from his own Execution, and returns later in Super Dangan Ronpa 2.
  • In Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney – Spirit of Justice, Manov Mistree, supposedly the magician Mr. Reus, plays dead in "The Magical Turnabout" as a part of a prank to Trucy. Unfortunately for him, Roger Retinz, the real Mr. Reus, takes advantage of the prank and kills him for real when he least expects it.

    Web Animation 
  • In If the Emperor Had a Text-to-Speech Device, it is revealed that Rogal Dorn actually faked his death (which is portrayed in Warhammer 40,000's canon, making this a plot twist), and spent the last 10,000 years protecting the Emperor while masquerading as a Centurion.
    Kittenstodes: How are you here? Didn't you die while trying to stop a Black Crusade?
    Rogal Dorn: No.
    Kittenstodes: Well, what happened then?
    Rogal Dorn: I survived.
    Kittenstodes: How?
    Rogal Dorn: By being dead. In pretend.

    Web Comics 
  • In Beyond the Canopy, Greliz and Jojo plan to do this as part of a confidence scheme. They organize a prize fight and serve as bookkeepers for the gambling. Their plan is to fake a fire before the fight ends, escape to the caves underground with all the gambled money, and then blow up the building after them—convincing all onlookers that they and the money went up in smoke.
  • In Bob and George Protoman planted items to make himself look dead.
  • Agatha in Girl Genius. The unusual part is that given both circumstances and the habits during lifetime, it may double as a bizarre form of the funeral honours to the unfortunate who became their substitute corpse. Scamming the overlord of Europe into thinking she's the Heterodyne heir would be really hard to top. In Zeetha's opinion, however, this "perfect plan" had a flaw.
  • Renard/Reynardine in Gunnerkrigg Court, as he phrased it himself, "had the perfect disguise". Whether this happened mostly by coincidence or was planned by the mythological trickster himself is perhaps the biggest point of disagreement in the fandom.
  • Veithel of Juathuur, before the beginning of the story.
  • In Spacetrawler, Dmitri uses holograms to make his attempted assassin (and the government that hired her) believe the assassination was successful.
  • In When She Was Bad, Max pretends to die after being shot in the chest by Jasper, both to hide his Healing Factor and to stop Gail's group of villains from trying to track him down. He has them fooled until he happens to bump into Gail on the bus.
  • Wapsi Square: Bia faked her death "to make her daughter stronger".

    Web Original 
  • In Worm, Coil successfully pulls this off, staging a public death in his masked identity to allow his plans to go forward with his civilian identity taking a position of power.

    Real Life 
  • Elvis Presley: Elvis' death has been denied by some of his more obsessive fans. Similar conspiracy theories abound around other dead celebrities and/or historical figures, such as Adolf Hitler, Bruce Lee, Jim Morrison, Lady Diana, ...
  • This is an actual crime, called "pseudocide" (literally 'pretend murder').
  • Reported by Talking Points Memo.
    • Also the John Darwin case. Found out after a Google search.
    • A woman in Des Moines faked her own death to avoid paying traffic tickets. Her scheme fell apart when she got pulled over for yet another traffic offense.
  • The police sometimes use this tactic to nab suspects. In one case, a woman hired a contract killer (actually an undercover cop) to kill her husband. The police then faked his death, providing photos and "evidence" in order to fool the wife into incriminating herself.
    • In Russia where political and business-related assassinations are unpleasantly common, this is a very common tactic for the local police.
  • In matters of national security, or if the person's life will be in ongoing danger because of their testimony, the FBI may go as far as staging a closed-casket funeral for someone who is going into the Witness Relocation Program.
  • Christopher Marlowe, sometimes theorized to be the "real" Shakespeare, is also sometimes theorized to have faked his own death. Even though a coroner confirmed the knife in his skull.
    • Indeed, his autopsy report, witness reports and court documentation make this one of the best recorded events of the Elizabethan era. And people still believe this man lived on to impersonate Shakespeare for decades.
  • People have been claiming since April 3, 1882, that Jesse James and Bob Ford faked James' murder. There was a two hour special on History International about this, albeit with very shaky reasoning on the "he didn't die" side. (At one point, a photo of a 20-something James is compared to the official post-mortem photo. The two photos have different hairlines, which "proves" they are of two different men. Because no male ever suffers from receding hairline.)
    • These theories were largely put to rest after after an exhumation proved that the man in Jesse James' grave was a descendant of Jesse James' mother.
    • Similar theories exist to claim that Pat Garrett and Billy the Kid faked the former's killing of the latter. The story (which has no real evidence to substantiate it) is that the lawman and the outlaw were actually childhood friends, and they created a win-win situation out of the Kid's fugitive status: Garrett got the bounty and the Kid got to start a new life in Mexico. Several people have even come forward many decades later to claim they were Billy the Kid. There's even been a DNA test done from the remains of one of the claimants against blood allegedly from Billy the Kid, but the test results have not been revealed. The location of the body that was buried as Billy the Kid, regardless of whether it was really him, is not known for sure, due to a flood that washed away all the tombstones in the cemetery. A marker currently designates where the grave is estimated to be, but the uncertainty means testing that body against the blood sample would be pointless.
  • Many kinds of animals fake their own death as a last resort to protect themselves from predators. For some reason, many hunters won't eat what is already dead.
    • If you find something dead, it may well have started rotting already. If it's suddenly dead but with no traces of injury, it can be assumed that it died from poison or some form of sickness that makes it undesirable to eat. While a human might stop to check the prey more thoroughly, many animal predators don't, and leave it alone due to instinct. Dead, but not eaten, and I didn't kill it? There must be something wrong with it.
    • Hognose snakes are really good at this; they even produce a smell to make sure any predator with a sense of smell thinks they're dead. (They also pretend to be venomous snakes; the weird thing is that they need a plan B.)
    • Play Possum: Possums don't only fake their own death when they feel threatened. They also mimick the smell of rotten meat thanks to a foul-smelling fluid that they secrete.
    • Horned toads (actually small spiky lizards) not only flip onto their backs and hold still and stiff to fool predatory snakes, they also flatten themselves and suck in their bellies to look like a dry, desiccated carcass whose innards have shriveled.
    • More a single animal example than anything: At the Tower of London, noticing how much attention the recently deceased raven James Crow got, another raven, by the name of Edgar Sopper played dead to such a degree that the ravenmaster seriously thought he had passed away. When the ravenmaster came and picked up his "corpse", he bit him and flew off, laughing his raven laugh.
  • There had been a myth saying that if cornered by a Brown Bear, a human should play dead to escape it, for bears would not eat corpses. Although it works in Real Life, as people with knowledge of the wild can tell, bears and other carnivores can and will scavenge corpses and can easily tell the difference between a still man on the ground and a dead one. The true reason behind the playing dead issue is to convince the bruin you're not a threat: if the beast sees the potential opponent stays down and does not move, will examine it for a little and then move away to more useful things like searching for food.
  • According to the historian Suetonius, when Nero held special musical recitals and refused to let anyone leave for hours no matter how pressing the reason, some members of the audience would pretend to die in order to be carried away for burial.
  • In The Big Con, Maurer expains how if the con didn't go quite as smoothly as it should have done, somebody would get mad at the con man and punch him, when he would release the cacklebladder he prepared earlier, leaking blood everywhere. Now the victim of the con would believe he was guilty of/an accessory to murder and would be happy to run away, no further questions asked.
  • Sometimes done by victims in school shootings, where everyone except the gunman is unarmed, and frequently trapped in classrooms with only one way out. Often it succeeds because most mass shooters don't double-check to make sure every single victim is actually dead, but fires off round after round into a loaded classroom and leaves everyone for dead. On especially heartbreaking example of this is of one of the first-grade students whose classroom was attacked by Adam Lanza in the Sandy Hook Elementary shooting. Lanza fired enough to shoot most of the people in the classroom multiple times; but missed her. She threw herself to the floor, in her classmates' blood, and waited for him to leave. Of course, he killed himself when he heard the police coming.


Alternative Title(s): Feign Death, Faking The Death

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