Couldn't help but make me feel ashamed to live in a land
Where justice is a game."
Framing someone means providing fake evidence in order to falsely prove someone guilty of a crime. "Frame" here means making someone innocent look guilty by "putting the person in a picture frame of suspicion".
Framing the Guilty Party is a subtrope where the party framed is actually guilty. It can be a Subversion or even a Double Subversion of the classic Frame-Up depending on the convolutions of apparent and actual guilt. In a similar vein, in Noir-themed crime dramas the frame can be rehung many times: a white-knuckle version of pass-the-parcel. If the framed party is an animal, This Bear Was Framed. If the framed party is dead, then it's a Deceased Fall-Guy Gambit. If the accuser turns out to be right by complete accident, it may overlap with Accidental Truth and Right for the Wrong Reasons.
As for WHY someone was framed, a common reason to frame someone is to ruin the reputation of a rival, someone whom they think is a bad influence, or someone with good publicity who has not been very good to them. However outright murdering them (even if it's meant to look like an accident) would make them a martyr in the eyes of the public and might make things worse for the culprit. But most of the time, it's to direct blame away from the real culprits, so someone else is framed out of convenience, usually a person who would also have a motive to commit this crime.
See also: Taking the Heat, where an innocent person attempts to put himself in the frame to save someone else, False Flag Operation, where it is an entire organization or nation that is being framed by another, False Rape Accusation, where an innocent person is accused of committing rape, Then Let Me Be Evil, when the framing eventually drives the innocent person into evil, especially what exactly they were framed for, and Mistaken for Murderer, where the misleading evidence arises out of unplanned circumstances. Compare and contrast Abomination Accusation Attack, where the accusation just mentions a type of crime, not any specific instance. Is often a part of an Insidious Rumor Mill. Certain forms of a Motivational Lie can be related in spirit. Often overlaps with Blackmail.
- Anime & Manga
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- Western Animation
- In Season 3 episode 22 of Happy Heroes, Big M. tries to make Smart S. look like he's causing trouble with the people of the city by dressing up as him and doing just that. It works, and Smart S.'s loyal group of fans become distraught at him committing the crimes.
- This is a fairly common occurrence in Pleasant Goat and Big Big Wolf: The Little Detective, with one of the goats being framed for a crime and Weslie having to prove them innocent.
- Modesty Blaise: As the title indicates, "The Murder Frame" involves a particularly expert frame job that puts Willie in the frame for murder. He goes on the run and he and Modesty have to employ all of their resourcefulness—plus the aid of some friends in high (and low) places—to prove his innocence and bring the true culprits to justice.
- In a Little Orphan Annie, Vader frames Oon Ai, the officer Tagge had assigned to be his minder, with having ties to the pirates to both embarrass Tagge and to get rid of his watch dog.
- Happens a lot with Dick Tracy.
- Stooge Viller nicely framed Tracy for robbery and corruption, leading to him being fired from the force before proving his innocence.
- A 1950s story had Tracy coming under suspicion for a nice lifestyle before revealing he was being set up by the real crook.
- Putty Puss began pulling off robberies disguised as Sam Catchem.
- Subverted in one story where Putty Puss looks like Tracy to kiss another woman. When Tracy denies it's him to wife Tess, she instantly accepts it, citing the numerous times Tracy has been framed (not to mention she knows first hand what it looks like when Tracy is kissing someone) and works to find out who's responsible.
- Used in some The Brothers Grimm stories:
- In Franz Xaver Von Schonwerth "The Three Flowers", Katie's babies are murdered by her mother-in-law, who then smears Katie's mouth with their blood to frame her as a baby-eater and filicide.
- Buster & Chauncey's Silent Night: The two thieves posing as the Duke of Roche and Lady Gretchen kidnap Christine and decide to have her take the blame for their theft of the church's treasures.
- In My Little Pony: Equestria Girls, Sunset Shimmer, Snips, and Snails doctor some photos to make it look like Twilight Sparkle trashed the Fall Formal decorations. Flash Sentry manages to find the original photos and clear her name.
- The Bob Dylan song "Hurricane" about the imprisonment of Rubin "Hurricane" Carter.
Here comes the story of the Hurricane,
The man the authorities came to blame
For somethin' that he never done.
- In mothy's vocaloid song The Escape of Salmhofer, the Witch, Meta Salmhofer is framed for the murder of Eve Moonlit's children.
- Death By Dying has two examples in the first episode. Bernard kills her husband and frames the Wild Man for the killing, then her lover Marion pretends to have been tortured by him in order to ruin his reputation so no one has an issue with Marion and Bernard marrying.
- Dice Funk: In Season 1, the party is framed for kidnapping the lord's son, despite spending the entire adventure trying to save him.
- In Dawn of a New Age: Oldport Blues, an anonymous letter is sent to the principal that blames a particular group of students for the damage done to the school. This in itself is revealed to be a set-up, with a government agent forcing the principal to blame them all for the specific purpose of drawing out Finn and getting him expelled, even though everyone is aware that he didn't cause the damage to the school.
- Fire Emblem On Forums:
- Whereabouts of Drink and Coin: The Wharf Street Warriors are the victims of this, being framed for supposedly killing Cassius, the leader of the Drake Park Chiefs. The ensuing target on their backs motivates the Warriors to run to safety at their headquarters, having to fight their way through the entire city.
- You Have Become Your Avatar: Josh comes up with the idea of framing Identical Strangers in order to get the money and get the cops off their back. Storm suggests that they use cosplayers for the frame-up.
- Paranoia specifically encourages this. Depending on play style, this can fall anywhere from "Traitor!" *ZAP ZAP ZAP* to planting and doctoring evidence in advance.
- In Can-Can, the owner of a scandalous but popular dance hall deals with a crusading judge who is trying to get her closed down by arranging for him to be photographed apparently engaging in the kind of wild living he publicly opposes, causing him to be suspended pending a judicial inquiry.
- In "Fall", Yang is framed for breaking Mercury's leg after she wins their tournament fight. Emerald uses her illusion semblance to make Yang believe that Mercury is attacking her, and she defends herself accordingly. However, all the stadium and television audience sees is her brutally attack an unsuspecting, passive combatant after the fight was already over and without provocation.
- In "A Night Off", at Robyn Hill's campaign party, Tyrian is hidden in the crowd. When Watts kills the lights, Tyrian massacres several people while Watts manipulates the security footage to make it look like Penny did it. Penny sees Tyrian and tries to stop him, but he slips away and when the lights come on, Tyrian is gone and Penny is standing on the stage with her blades drawn. Although Ruby sees Tyrian before the lights go out, and is able to tell Ren and Nora who really did it, everyone else present thinks Penny was the attacker. While it takes little time to prove that the footage was faked and Tyrian is the real culprit, by then Mantle has descended into riots, just as Watts planned.
- In "With Friends Like These", Tyrian frames Qrow for Clover's murder by stealing Qrow's weapon and killing Clover with it. Tyrian even yells that Qrow killed him before escaping. The authorities quickly descend and arrest Qrow.
- Season 2 of Meta Runner concludes with Dr. Sheridan framing Masa for the death of Lucks by hacking into his Meta Runner arm and forcing him to shoot Lucks point-blank in the head.
- El Goonish Shive: Ellen, shortly after being created, tries to get Elliot in trouble by pretending to be him but Can't Get in Trouble for Nuthin'.
- Girl Genius: Beausoleil murders the Master of Paris, doing the deed with a sword decorated by the Heterodyne symbol in order to frame Agatha.
- Mob Psycho 100: The Great Cleanup starts with Student Council members Shinji and Ritsu hiding girls' recorder mouthpieces in the desk and bags of local delinquent leader Tenga, getting him labeled as a pervert and driven out of school.
- New School Kids: Strip 92 reveals that Frank's arrest in the previous strip was a result of Trevor giving the police a fake tip-off so that they would lock Frank up and Trevor could play his Castlevania save files.
- Shadows Of Enchantment practically starts with Serris being framed for conspiracy to assassinate The Captain of the Aldrian Royal Guard. The real goal was to get Tyrus to come rescue her so that Aldria could find him to make a deal with him.
- The Most Stupid Deaths In Super Mario 64: Clone 2, in the 10,000 view celebration, is framed for messing up Hyrule Castle. Though, he may be partially guilty for it, seeing as Mario and the three clones had a battle on it. In the 20,000 view celebration, Link finds and attacks Clone 2 for this.
- 7-Second Riddles: A common plot in the riddles involves characters faking a crime. The riddle part is determining the evidence that proves the crime never happened- and that whoever was being framed for the crime is innocent.