Sometimes, the police simply are not going to stop investigating a crime until they find someone to arrest. In this case, even if you've pulled off The Perfect Crime, the only way to be certain of getting away with it is by setting up some other sap to take the fall for you.
Sometimes the Fall Guy is an accomplice who takes on this scapegoat role willingly. Other times, when you have drawn up plans with the brilliant clockwork evil of The Chessmaster, you might choose a Fall Guy — whether an accomplice of yours, or someone completely innocent — by tricking this Unwitting Pawn into taking the blame, or outright framing them up.
Maybe you choose the guy no one's going to believe. Better yet, you choose a well-meaning sap whose fears and goals you've been able to manipulate via Flaw Exploitation. Alternately, you could pull off a Deceased Fall-Guy Gambit, since a dead man can't defend himself. Another tactic is for a Villain with Good Publicity to try to paint someone who worked for them and committed a crime as an Overzealous Underling who acted alone and without the knowledge of the boss.
- In One Piece, this is how Captain Kuro faked his death. After almost wiping out a ship full of Marines, he had Django hypnotize one of his subordinates into thinking that he was Captain Kuro, while also hypnotizing the sole surviving Marine, Axe-Hand Morgan, into thinking that he'd captured Kuro. As a result, the fake Captain Kuro was executed, Axe-Hand Morgan received a promotion he didn't earn, and Kuro adopted the identity of Klahadore, as part of his plan to kill Kaya and inherit her fortune.
- Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex. The villains find a fall guy willing to go to prison as the Laughing Man, apparently motivated by the fame and notoriety of becoming the famous hacker. Unfortunately the villains think that having him dead will serve their plans even better. As his killer says before shooting him, "Don't worry, you'll be more famous this way."
- In The Man Who Collected Excitement, a thief frames Jimmy Olsen by slipping him anonymous tips, ensuring he'll always be one of the first at the scene of the crime. However, Jimmy turns the tables by finding the real crook.
- In Sin City, Marv, Dwight, and Hartigan take the fall for Goldie's murder, Damien Lord's murder, and Roark Junior's attempted molestation of Nancy respectively. Marv was an ideal fall guy because he was a well-known violent thug. Dwight actually did commit the murder, but was manipulated into doing it by Ava Lord, and Hartigan accepted his fate in order to protect the victim. Marv ended up successfully framed, tried, and executed while Dwight faked his own death to sidestep the issue entirely. Hartigan killed himself as a final sacrifice.
- In Persepolis, in order to avoid being arrested by the Guardians of the Revolution for wearing makeup in public, Marjane focuses their attention elsewhere by accusing a man who happened to be nearby of saying "something indecent" to her. (Later, Marjane's grandmother calls her out on this.)
- Drift from Transformers: More than Meets the Eye turns out to be a fall guy of the willing variety. The plan in this case isn't exactly a crime, but could have deadly consequences if it goes wrong. Long story short, it does, and it does, and Drift takes full responsibility because he feels one of the other people involved needs to stay in his current position to prevent a later disaster, and because he claims he was brought into the plan as a fall guy in the first place.
- The Transformers (IDW): Daniel Klonowski from the Bumblebee miniseries. The Autobots are controlled by a rogue group of Skywatch agents under Colonel Gordon Horiuchi. After the whole operation fails due to Autobot ingenuity and Decepticon interference, Klonowski steps in to save Bumblebee and one of their scientists. Afterwards, he mentions that he took the fall for all the staff who went rogue and was dishonorably discharged. He's perfectly happy with this, though, as Horiuchi and the other unidentified commanders were quite grateful and he was suitably compensated.
- Where Talent Goes To Die
- Miura becomes this in the first trial, when Kurogane is murdered. Since Miura had humiliated Kurogane, the Ultimate Shogi Player, by defeating him in a match, Kurogane had been constantly hostile toward Miura, which the killer hoped would be seen as her motive for killing him. The killer also wrote "Miura" in the victim's blood, and used a hammer for the murder, since Monokuma had given everyone murder weapons, and Miura had received a hammer.
- In the second chapter, Mizuhara is fatally poisoned at dinner, and Sugiura, the Ultimate Waitress and the person who cooked the dinner, is used as the fall guy, since the killer knows that Sugiura is also the Ultimate Poisoner, and so tried to frame her for killing Mizuhara, the only other person who knows that.
- An Apple Sleep Experiment ends with Applejack being jailed for murder. The reason she went on her murder spree was that Twilight gave her a faulty sleeping potion which made her unable to sleep. After a few days, she went insane and began acting violent. Twilight refuses to reveal the true reason behind Applejack's behavior as it would make her, a newly crowned princess, look bad. She's more important than Applejack, so she lets Applejack take all the blame.
- Following: Cobb knows he's the prime suspect in the murder of an elderly woman, so he sets up the unnamed protagonist to take the fall for it. Or does he?
- Gang Related: At the center of the film is a fall guy scheme that goes horribly wrong. Two crooked LA cops murder a criminal who turns out to be an undercover DEA officer, and to avoid their crimes being exposed, pin it on a random homeless guy they picked up off the streets and get a prostitute who was working with them to identify him in a line-up. At first, the subterfuge seems to work, as the man thinks he really did commit the murder and wants to take responsibility for his actions. However, he is later revealed to be the missing member of a very wealthy family who used to personally provide medical aid in Africa as part of Doctors Without Borders, but had fallen into alcoholism and depresssion after the untimely death of his wife and daughter. As Tupac's character put it, they picked a saint to pin a murder on. It all ends up blowing up in their face, with the prostitute cracking on the witness stand and identifying her two accomplices after she's charged with perjury, the fall guy being acquitted when the DA drops the charges, the instigators turning on each other, and both of the two corrupt cops ending up dead for different reasons of their own doing.
- In Hangmen Also Die!, Czaka, The Mole inside La Résistance, becomes their fall guy for the assassination of Reinhard Heydrich.
- In The Last Witch Hunter, Belial sets Ellic up to be arrested for 36th Dolan's murder to throw Kaulder off his tracks.
- In the finale of The Maltese Falcon, as Sam Spade is negotiating the terms for handing over the Falcon, one of his conditions is that someone needs to take the fall for the murder of his partner (since the police suspected Spade himself of having done the deed).
- In Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country, Kirk is framed for the assassination of Klingon Chancellor Gorkon.
- In The Strawberry Blonde, Hugo hires Biff for a well-paying but do-nothing job in which all Biff does is sign contracts he doesn't understand. It turns out that Biff is Hugo's fall guy in case the authorities ever catch on to Hugo's fraud and graft. They do, and Biff goes to jail.
- Soviet satirical novel The Little Golden Calf features "sitz-chairmannote Funt" — a professional figurehead for phony companies. He is 90 and claims to have been doing that all his life. He charges a clerk's wage for sitting in the office looking important and double that for the time he spends in jail "because of job hazards". The Villain Protagonist hires Funt to get blackmail material about one of his former employers.
- Hard Rain, by Barry Eisler. The CIA station chief in Tokyo is running an operation that's been shut down under orders from Washington, and using his subordinate Kanezaki as the fall guy by arranging to frame him as the Rogue Agent. Kanezaki only discovers this when he gets curious about some missing communication logs, which include the order cancelling the operation the chief has assigned to him.
- In Renegades, when Smug Super Frostbite and her team torture and murder a villain, they decide to pin the blame on the vigilante Sentinel, who was trying to stop them, as they know he can't turn himself in to prove his innocence.
- In Mario Puzo's original novel The Godfather, Felix Bocchicchio takes the heat for Michael's murders of "The Turk" and his pet NYPD Captain. Since Mr. Bocchicchio is already on Death Row for three premeditated and pretty much deserved murders, he's more than happy to admit guilt as long as Don Corleone provides financially for his soon-to-be widow and their three kids. (The movie omits this, leaving it wide open as to how the Don gets Michael off the hook.)
- During season two of Breaking Bad, Saul introduces Walt and Jesse to "Jimmy In-'N-Out", a professional fall guy who's spent so much time in prison he can't function outside it. He now gets paid to take the rap for other people.
- In Gotham, petty criminal Mario Pepper was framed for the murder of Bruce Wayne's parents since the case was too high-profile to be left unsolved. With Pepper taking the fall, the police look like heroes, the mayor is seen as having a handle on the rising crime, and the mob doesn't have to deal with the extra police attention. It helps that Pepper is someone that no one, perhaps not even his own family, would miss.
- In the last season of How I Met Your Mother, it's revealed that Barney's job is to be this for the company he works for: he signs his name to a bunch of documents so that, if legal charges are brought against the company, Barney will take all the blame. Subverted when it turns out Barney's been a government informant the entire time, and is one of the few people at the company not in legal trouble.
- Sidney Glass (formerly the Magic Mirror) does this for Regina in Once Upon a Time, admitting to kidnapping Katherine and going to jail. The town sheriff realizes it's total bull, but the true culprit is virtually untouchable.
- Burn Notice: A shadow government organization made a bunch of files on the handiwork of one of their own operatives look like Michael had done it. This prompted the CIA to burn him, whereupon the organization quickly stepped in to try and recruit him.
- Person of Interest. The introduction of Root involved her framing the Victim of the Week for a political assassination. Team Machine clears his name, but this only makes Root determined to find out not only who Team Machine are, but more importantly how they even knew a Frame-Up had occurred in the first place.
- Common's "Testify" is about a man who is on trial for killing two men. He gets sent to jail, but the ending reveals he didn't commit the crime. The actual murderer was his wife. She's a drug king pin who framed her own husband by giving an anonymous tip, while at the trial she played the role of a sobbing wife.
- Calvin and Hobbes: In one "Tracer Bullet" story, Calvin's mom drags Calvin into the living room and tells him to explain how the end table got knocked over. Calvin re-imagines the events as his private detective alter ego, Tracer Bullet, getting hired to unwittingly serve as the fall guy for this particular crime.
Tracer Bullet: The dame had set me up! She didn't want me to solve the case at all! She just wanted a patsy to pin the crime on!
- In The Adventure Zone: Dust, Sheriff Connors intends for Liam to take the fall for the murder of Jeremiah Blackwell. Because he was in the wrong place at the wrong time, Dylan almost becomes this.
- Played for Laughs in Alpha Protocol should you stay on good terms with Steven Heck (never Steve) in Taipei - he'll tip off authorities that his assistant, Wen, was the one to kill the Prime Minister.
- Ambition has Yale, who ends up in prison for the murder of a woman he didn't do (though he was a suspect, as he was cheating on his wife with the murdered lady) in episode 10. This was supposed to lead into a sequel series, but the game has become orphaned since then.
- In Fire Emblem: The Blazing Blade, when King Desmond of Bern contracts the Black Fang to kill his son Zephiel, Evil Matriarch Sonia orders her minion Jaffar to kill her daughter Nino afterwards so that Desmond has a fall guy to blame for it and prevent chaos from erupting. Nino ultimately refuses to go through with the assassination, Jaffar pulls a HeelFace Turn to save her, and all three are rescued by Eliwood and co.
- Ace Attorney has this happen quite often, to the point at which it's easier to list the cases in which the killer didn't intentionally try to frame the defendant.
- A multi-layered example happens in "Rise From The Ashes". Damon Gant kills Neil Marshall and makes it look like Ema Skye did it in order to blackmail her older sister Lana into doing his bidding, starting with framing the serial murder suspect Joe Darke for the crime. Two years later, Gant kills Bruce Goodman to prevent him from looking into Neil Marshall's killing, then tricks Edgeworth into driving Goodman's body to the prosecutor's office. Gant then calls Lana and has her stab Goodman's body with a knife, intending to frame Edgeworth, but Angel Starr catches Lana in the act, resulting in Lana being arrested(presumably not what Gant wanted, but it was preferable to him being caught).
- The killer of "Reunion, and Turnabout" works with Morgan Fey, who specifically wants to frame Maya for the murder so that Pearl Fey, Maya's cousin and Morgan's daughter, will become Master of the Fey Clan.
- In "Turnabout Academy", this becomes a plot point late in the trial. The killer claims that the defendant actually did the murder and convinced her to help get her off, but Athena points out that the killer was the one responsible for submitting evidence to the police, thus resulting in the defendant's arrest.
- Danganronpa: Trigger Happy Havoc:
- Makoto ends up as this during the first trial, unintentionally. Leon didn't know that his murder of Sayaka had happened in Makoto's room, and ended up just going along with it when this came to light and everyone began to suspect him. However, if she hadn't died by her intended victim's hand, Sayaka would have committed a murder and used the room swap to pin her crime on Makoto.
- During the third trial Celeste tries to set up a complicated series of events that let her get away with killing Yamada while pointing all the blame toward Yasuhiro, but the exacts of the case make it impossible for him to be the culpritnote .
- Toko is implicated in the fourth murder case by a message left in the victim's blood. Hiro left it after he had attacked Sakura, thinking he'd killed her but his attack — and Toko's attack immediately after — was non-fatal. Sakura committed suicide.
- The fifth murder case happens specifically to do this to Kyoko, who was coming too close to solving the mystery. The Mastermind takes a corpse they had murdered early in the game (Mukuro, who had been disguised as Junko), presents it as if it had just been murdered, uses a knife only Makoto had access to, and then destroys the face with a bomb to mask the body's identity. The entire thing is so convoluted that the fifth trial ends with either Kyoko or Makoto taking the blame (the former results in the bad ending), and it's not until the sixth trial that the whole thing is laid to rest.
- Danganronpa 2: Goodbye Despair: Hiyoko becomes this in the second trial. The killer tricks her into coming to the beach house before the victim, knocks her out and leaves her at the scene of the crime, while also planting a gummy to serve as proof she was there. Interestingly enough, the true killer, Peko, was actually planning on making herself the fall guy for the killer, believing that if she was convicted and Monokuma concluded she was acting on Fuyuhiko's orders, Fuyuhiko would graduate. Meanwhile, Fuyuhiko, the one who most vigorously argued in favor of Hiyoko's guilt, presumably did so hoping that Peko would graduate.
- Danganronpa V3: Killing Harmony
- Himiko becomes this in the second trial, when, during her magic show, Ryoma is seemingly eaten alive by the piranhas that were dropped into the tank after the timer for her to escape ran out. In reality, he'd been killed the previous night.
- Kaito serves as this in Chapter 4. Miu's original plan was to frame Kaito for killing Kokichi, so she programmed the cell phone in the Virtual World to log out Kaito if anyone said his name (other people could only log out themselves), to make it seem as though he'd logged out to murder the victim in the real world. While Miu ultimately ends up as the murder victim, Kaito is the initial suspect for her murder.
- Danganronpa: Trigger Happy Havoc:
- Higurashi: When They Cry: In two different arcs, Shion pretends to be her identical twin Mion and kills several people (her sister included).
- In Metro PD: Close to You, Hanai relates to the protagonist how, prior to the events of the VN, he arrested a man for a series of murders only to become convinced that he was innocent and had been set up to take the fall for someone else. He was not able to prove it or find the real culprit, and as of Hanai's epilogue the scapegoat is still in prison.
- Ivanhoe: The King's Knight: Prince John uses Front-de-Boeuf as one, to the latter's surprise, to prevent others from knowing he arranged his own kidnapping in "The Four Black Knights".
- The Legend of Korra sees Detective Mako arrested for crimes committed by Varrick, the Corrupt Corporate Executive he was investigating.
- Star Wars Resistance: In "Descent", although not actually the case, Commander Pyre insinuates to Tam when she's captured that her friends abandoned her to take the blame.