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Grand Theft Me

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Get out of my body!
"No, I Robotboy! Protoboy take body, pretend be me!"
Robotboy, "The Old Switcharobot"

When one character forcibly and deliberately hijacks another's body, or swaps bodies with the latter against their will.

There are two main versions of this:

  • In the first case, the goal is to "upgrade" one's body; an ailing character (dying, elderly or disabled) possesses or swaps bodies with someone who is young and healthy, or a Muggle swaps bodies with a super-powered person, or both. If the switch has the side effect of causing Possession Burnout, then the thief may be doing this to become immortal.
  • In the second case, the goal is to deceive the rest of the world; a character who is imprisoned or wanted for heinous crimes possesses or swaps bodies with an upstanding member of the community, or at least someone without a rap sheet. This version does not necessarily require swapping bodies — all they really need to do is find a way to look like the person, research that person, then kill them and take their place in society (and if you manage to do this in a place where the person is new, you can even skip the first "look like" part) — but a body swap just makes that last step easier (and with fewer messy consequences).

Except when stealing a body for its super-powers, the perpetrator seldom cares much about the victim, choosing whoever seems young, strong, attractive, and convenient. Often this is The Hero, and it sets up an episode plot. Sometimes, the perpetrator holds a competition to find the strongest in the land, with this as its hidden grand-prize. Other times, the target is the perpetrator's own offspring, who may or may not willingly volunteer; this is especially heinous if the offspring was a sympathetic character.

Grand Theft Me almost always involves stealing the victim's identity as well; with the second type, in fact, that's the whole point. A common strategy is to name the patsy as one's heir, then do the swap and kill the old body off. If done this way you often have overlap with Familial Body Snatcher and Raised as a Host. Alternatively, the old body can be committed to a mental hospital, since no one will believe the ranting of an old man who thinks he's a twenty-year-old. If the replaced person is a main character, this often sets off a Spot the Imposter plot.

Oftentimes, this is conducted in secret, and the villain reveals his true identity after a whole story spent as someone else. Especially disconcerting if his new body is the Girl of the Week. (See Showing Off the New Body.)

A more modern version is the idea of raising a clone for the purpose of brain transplant (or, more realistically, replacement parts); whatever happens to the original body after the swap is irrelevant.

A subtrope of Body Snatcher, and the dark cousin of "Freaky Friday" Flip. Sometimes, a villain attempting this type of swap can start a "Freaky Friday" Flip plot, or both could occur in parallel, as the required phlebotinum is the same. If it's not a human doing the possessing, it's Demonic Possession. If it's done by multiple beings at the same time, it's Many Spirits Inside of One. If a character is capable of doing this several times in a row, it's Body Surf. Compare Heart Drive. Contrast Fusion Dance, where it's usually done willingly and/or having them have equal control of the one body they're in. Although Fusion Dance can turn into Grand Theft Me if one of the entities emotionally manipulates the other.

Certain characters can break this, partially or completely, if the thief tries to go against an Intrinsic Vow.

It was first featured in modern fiction in the H. G. Wells story "The Story of the Late Mr. Elvesham".

Major spoilers ahead!

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    Comic Books 
  • The DCU:
    • Golden Age supervillain known as the Ultra-Humanite had this as a constant modus operandi, swapping with, among others, a young fashion model and a white gorilla.
      • In the Elseworlds miniseries The Golden Age, the Ultra-Humanite is revealed to have joined the Nazis, transferred his brain into the body of a captured American hero, and returned to the US as America's favourite returning son. He runs for Congress and then holds a search for a truly exceptional young hero to become America's Greatest Ever Hero, Dynaman. Unbeknownst to the people, and especially to the new young hero, he's also saved Hitler's brain...
      • In Superman & Batman: Generations, another Elseworld, it's revealed that Ultra transferred his brain into the body of Lex Luthor after the pair were nearly killed in the very first story. This may well be a Lampshade Hanging on the fact that, in the very beginning, Ultra and Luthor were extremely similar (bald evil genius scientists who battled Superman).
      • Another character hires them later in the series to do the same for him, because he was born with so many crippling deformities that he's spent his entire life in a fluid-filled jar — even the air is poison to him. A bit closer to the original trope in that they clone someone else for him to transfer his mind into, but also a bit more different in that when the process is done, the clone kills the original, with his full consent.
    • Green Arrow is targeted for this in the "Quiver" storyline—but it actually works out in his favor; the villain had planned ahead and transferred his vast fortune to Green Arrow's ownership. When he winds up dying instead, GA gets to keep the money.
    • In Superman: The Doomsday Wars, Brainiac hijacks Doomsday's body when his frail body fails him. He notes that Doomsday's animalistic nature is fighting him, thus opting to steal the frail body of Lana Lang and Pete Ross' son, genetically modify him with Doomsday's DNA and use that as his new body. Pete comes to his son's rescue and Superman forces Brainiac out of Doomsday's body, forcing the psychic-powered maniac to hide in a new robotic body, his permanent home.
    • In the Red Daughter of Krypton storyline, Supergirl fought a body-snatcher enemy called Worldkiller-1. He stole the body of the leader of the Diasporan alien race and manipulated the Diasporans to wipe other races out. Then he met Supergirl, decided that a Kryptonian would be a much better host, and he tried to take over her body.
    • In Supergirl (1972) issue #8, the mythical Medusa curses the titular heroine and attempts to get her killed to take over her body.
    • Super-villain Insect Queen takes over Lana Lang's body in 2010 storyline Death & the Family.
    • In Two for the Death of One, Satanis takes Superman's body in order to fight his rival Syrene.
    • Wonder Woman:
      • In Wonder Woman (2006) Doctor Psycho uses his abilities to body swap with Sarge Steel, thereby taking over the D.M.A. while preserving a version of Steel's mind imprisoned in his own incarcerated form, mostly to gloat at him.
      • Wonder Woman (Rebirth): Urzkartaga turns out to be trapped in the jungle, but he plans to take over a human body in order to escape. That body just happens to belong to Steve Trevor.
  • Marvel Universe:
    • Captain America villain the Red Skull uses this as his form of immortality. At first he used a clone of Cap, pointing out that it was doubly suitable not only to tweak his nemesis but also because Cap is a "perfect Aryan". Since then, he's had to find other "hosts". In Captain America: Reborn, the Skull even attempts to do to this to a resurrected Cap, who had just been pulled out of time. It didn't stick.
    • In ClanDestine, Jasmine (now better known as Cuckoo), is the oldest of the Long-Lived Destine siblings. However, she lost her original body centuries ago and is now using her psychic powers to take a new human body (typically one that's dead or dying, but repairable) whenever her current one dies. Lacking some of the Required Secondary Powers, though, she‘s also dependent on her younger brother Albert's healing powers to stabilise her in the new body.
    • Immortal Hulk: A recurring theme.
      • Starting off, Brian Banner possesses the body of Sasquatch in order to get into the Hulk.
      • Much later on down the line, it turns out The Leader has been possessing Rick Jones' corpse since his apparent resurrection. A few issues later, he takes over the body of Del Frye, a teenager in Shadow Base's care. And then it turns out he's managed to take over the Green Scar Hulk personality. Exactly where Rick and the Green Scar's minds are during all this is unclear, but Frye's possession shows he's stuck reliving his own death over and over while the Leader steals his body.
      • When the Leader kills Doc Samson in such a way he can't restore his body, Samson ends up taking over the deceased body of Sasquach, becoming Doc Sasquach.
    • The Mighty Thor:
      • Loki does this at one point using Sif's body, while she is stuck in the body of a dying, elderly Midgardian.
      • Loki also does it to Thor himself for a couple issues, though the writers apparently forgot that this should have meant that Loki as Thor shouldn't have been able to wield Mjolnir while this was happening but he was able to.
    • This is the basis of the Superior Spider-Man comic series. Which narrates the story of Dr. Octopus after he had swapped bodies with Spider-Man, leaving the hero to die trapped in Ock's broken body and leaving the villain in a healthy, heroic body with no one realizing anything. A remnant of Peter remains in Otto's body and in the end, after realizing that he had failed to live up to Spider-Man's legacy, Ock erases his own memories and hands control back to Peter.
    • X-Men:
      • In one '80s story, the Hellfire Club attempts to take the X-Men down by having the White Queen switch bodies with Storm. Turns out that controlling the weather without causing a disaster is much, much harder than Storm makes it look.
      • On the other hand, when she inadvertently takes over Iceman's body after having spent a long time in a coma, she proceeded to use his powers in ways he never even imagined before, which gave him a some self-esteem problems for awhile.
      • A storyline where Xavier is revealed to have been born with an Eldritch Abomination twin sister, who he tried to kill in the womb right before his birth. The fight in the womb led to Xavier's mom going into premature labor and his sister Cassandra (who was born with adult intelligence and communication skills à la Stewie from Family Guy) being mortally wounded and declared still-born. Xavier's parents then kept him from ever knowing about his sister until she came back into his life and swapped bodies with him decades later.
      • Betsy Braddock, aka Psylocke was a British superheroine who - after a very convoluted series of events even by 90's X-Men storyline standards - thought she'd been changed to appear Asian, only to find out she'd actually had her mind swapped with a Japanese assassin named Kwannon (who happened to have identical powers to Betsy's ... and to have purple hair like Betsy). Eventually, Kwannon died while still in Betsy's original body, and Betsy stayed Asian (physically, at least) for 20 years before the swap was eventually undone.
      • X-23 is the target of an attempt by Miss Sinister, Claudine Renko. She wants Laura's Healing Factor due to a wound she received from Daken allowing Mr. Sinister to exert control over her as part of his attempt to return from a previous death. Unfortunately, the attempt by Claudine's personality fails when Sinister transfers his consciousness into Laura's body instead. Until she tells him to get out of her head and kicks him out again.
    • Wolverine villain Cyber did this to come back to life. He chose a powerful and dimwitted young mutant named Milo to be his new body and later had adamantium laced into his skin. This bit him in the ass because his new body also had a heart condition that caused Cyber to go into cardiac arrest. So Cyber needed heart surgery; something that was pretty much impossible thanks to his adamantium skin.
  • Anderson: Psi-Division: When the minds of Vernan D'Argue and Anderson both end up inside the body of a gorilla by accident, D'Arque (having lost both his original body and his intended clone-body) tries to absorb the gorilla's mind into himself and steal Anderson's body.
  • In Hack/Slash, the horribly-burned Laura does a "Freaky Friday" Flip with Vlad for this purpose.
  • An excellent story, "King's Crown", from the anthology Heavy Metal: in a certain land, a tournament is held every so often to choose the strongest man to be the new king. Entrants must be vital and free of diseases. Every winner becomes a cruel tyrant, but the hero of the story (called weak and frail all his life) wants to become ruler and end the reign of evil. He wins, and at his "coronation", he's drugged, bound, his skull is cut open by robot surgeons (after he wakes up), his brain is crudely removed over his screaming protests, and the brain of the previous king is transplanted from his freshly-dead, used up, obese corpse. In death, however, the hero is victorious. The stress of the surgery sets off his congenital heart defect, and the tyrant is slain.
  • In Locke & Key, using the Ghost Door will cause your spirit to leave your body, giving you a quite literal out-of-body experience. Unfortunately, this is a perfect opportunity for someone else to use the door, then reenter your body instead of their own. Eventually, Dodge possesses Bode's body in this way, then impersonates him to the rest of the family.
  • in Lori Lovecraft: The Dark Lady, a demon steals Sir Andrew's physical form. However, because Sir Andrew died at the moment of possession, the demon is in control of his body but trapped inside Voodoo Mansion. It lures Lori into the mansion in an attempt to steal her body.
  • In The Metabarons, Honorata transfers her consciousness into the body of Oda, her son Aghnar's wife. Aghnar isn't aware of this until after Oda-Honorata already bears him a son. Things get worse from there.
  • My Little Pony Generations: The revived Smooze is capable of this, as demonstrated in issue #3 when it possesses Twilight Sparkle. Zecora and Pinkie Pie work together to drive it out, and Twilight is able to recall its thoughts while it was controlling her. In issue 5, it possesses Violet Shiver.
  • In the sequel of Paperinik New Adventures, Pk 2, Cormack Trentor switches his body with Paperinik's and plans to use it to get revenge on Anymore Boring, Everett Ducklair's right hand man, since he caused him to lose his job and be arrested.
  • In Vertigo Pop: London, an aging British rock star, an amalgam of Mick Jagger and some others, picks up a young indie-rock protege, and attempts to use a magic hookah he picked up from a guru in the sixties to switch bodies with him. To set it up, he builds a career for the kid, while faking an increased dementia that he is the kid, so when the swap happens, they'll lock him up. He relents, and takes himself to find the guru. At this point, the guru is now a young woman.
  • Near the end of Revival Jordan Borchardt is able to invert this by imprisoning a body surfing Passenger inside herself by force of will.
  • Sonic the Hedgehog:
    • In the issues before the reboot in Sonic the Hedgehog (Archie Comics), Ixis Naugus' body is failing him, thus he tries to convince others to aid him so he can take over their bodies. After being rejected numerous times, he ends up taking over his apprentice Geoffery St. John, effectively Rewarded as a Traitor Deserves.
    • In the Sonic the Hedgehog (IDW) mini-series Scrapnik Island, Mecha Sonic Mk-II prepares to do this with Sonic in order to get revenge on Dr. Eggman for abandoning him after his defeat in Sonic 3 & Knuckles. Thankfully, the other Scrapniks save Sonic and stop the swap.
  • A witch body-swaps with a much younger housewife in "Judy, You're Not Yourself Today!", in Tales from the Crypt #25.
  • In the fourth arc of W.I.T.C.H. this is how Phobos escaped from his cell, by swapping body with the custodian of the Tower of Mists in which he had been imprisoned. This also ends up saving his life, as when he tries to Mind Rape Will into submission she comes this close to torture him to death before remembering she's supposed to reverse the exchange...

    Fairy Tales 
  • In The Goose Girl, the maidservant manages this by taking the heroine's identity en route to her wedding in a foreign country.

    Fan Works 
  • Brainstorm (dressing as Frankenstein) pretends to do this to Socrates in Calvin & Hobbes: The Series.
  • This is Feather Duster's final gambit in Cutie Mark Crusaders Dream Warriors, specifically taking Scootaloo's body and using it to murder Rainbow Dash.
  • A Diplomatic Visit: Towards the end of chapter 6 of the sequel A Diplomat at Large, Pinkie unwittingly channels another Power. Unlike most cases, they cooperate and speak together, delivering the same message that Pinkie was about to give: "Just cheer up and never ever give up hope!"
  • In the iCarly fanfic iFight Crime With Victorious, Missy Robinson does this to Sam and actually gets away with it because, as in the normal show, Missy was as much Carly's best friend as Sam is and knows enough about their group to interact with Carly daily.
  • In the Invader Zim fanfic The Karma Circle: Sister Dearest, a ghost steals Gaz's body, leaving Gaz's own spirit trapped in the ghost's former resting place. Dib figures this out, but since the ghost is a better sister than Gaz ever was, he leaves things as they are.
  • In the Hetalia: Axis Powers fanfiction Parasite, it's revealed that Nations that die in accidents are reborn by stealing a body from one of their citizens, with said body morphing to look like the Nation and the body's former inhabitant being erased from existence. They don't like this, but there's no choice in the matter.
  • Kingdom Hearts fan works:
    • Ever since Kingdom Hearts 3D [Dream Drop Distance], a lot of fanfics involving the premise of Sora being possessed by Xehanort have been written, to the point of Fandom-Specific Plot.
    • The AU fic Hurricane Heartbeat diverges from Kingdom Hearts: Birth by Sleep when Ventus accidentally takes over four-year-old Sora's body, with no way of knowing what happened to Sora's Heart.
    • Similarly, Two Hearts, One Beat, has Sora dying as a four-year-old from what can only be described as Heart failure, around the moment Ventus calls out to him. Sora gives Ventus his body, which immediately starts recovering from whatever was killing him, as well as his memories. Consequently, Ventus grows up in Sora's body and loses all of his own memories, and it's not until some time after Dream Drop Distance that anyone finds out what happened to Ventus, and that Vanitas was in there as well.
  • The Pieces Lie Where They Fell: When Page first meets Fluttershy, the spirit of Balance has temporarily taken over the pegasi’s body to speak to her, in part because Fluttershy herself is too shy to speak on her own behalf. Later on, during Wind Breaker's chat with Applejack's spirit, Balance suddenly takes control of her body before she can give away too much information, and says as much to Wind Breaker. When Night Blade and Rainbow Dash are talking, Balance tries to hijack Rainbow Dash's body so it can apologize to Night Blade for some of its earlier actions, but she No Sells the hijacking and tells Balance to come in and speak as itself, which it does.
  • The Powers of Harmony: Cetus was already guilty of possessing Rarity, but she upgrades to this when she steals Celestia's body and sealing away her Lifeforce in the Sun.
  • In Robb Returns, various characters have been possessed by the Old Gods or their ancestors, though with benevolent intentions.
    • One of the Stark's ancestors possesses Eddard in order to reestablish a pact with the Old Gods that secures the return of direwolves. He is also subsequently briefly possessed on several occasions by the Old Gods to give messages to people (and in one case enact a healing). Jon becomes similarly possessed so that Tyrion knows he must ride to the Nightfort.
    • Willas Tyrell, too, is possessed by the spirit of Mern IX, the last Gardener King who was killed by Aegon and his sisters at the Field of Fire.
    • Shireen is possessed by the Old Gods momentarily when she and Gendry find the hidden Godswood at Dragonstone.
  • In Buffy the Vampire Slayer/Supergirl crossover The Vampire of Steel Supergirl is getting beaten by a Kryptonian vampire. In order to fight him Buffy takes over Kara's body via Willow casting a spell.
    Buffy: <Kara?>
    Supergirl: <Yes, Buffy?>
    Buffy: <We’re finished.>
    Supergirl: <Good. I want my body back.>
    Buffy: <With pleasure. But I gotta tell you, you’ve got a really great setup here. Do you think, maybe, sometime...>
    Supergirl: <BUFFY.>
    Buffy: <All right, all right.>
  • Yu-Gi-Oh! The Abridged Series. Tea is mind-controlled by Crump, which doesn't happen in the original series. It is corrected when Marik Ishtar forcibly evicts Crump a few episodes later, especially since Crump was trying, and failing, at impersonating Tea.
  • There and Back Again: In this Peggy Sue, it's revealed early on that Brynden Rivers hijacked Bran Stark's body when the White Walkers attacked his cave so that he could return to Westeros in another's body and set in motion events from the Long Night to the destruction of King's Landing so that the Targaryens would be destroyed and he would rule for all time.
  • Becoming a True Invader:
    • The alternate Keef temporarily took over Gaz's body in order to covertly search for the Employer/Minimoose in the main universe. When the connection eventually failed, Gaz was left with no memory of what happened.
    • Minimoose pulls this on Zim during the Final Battle after his robot body is destroyed, latching his core onto Zim's PAK to control his body.
  • Re: My Hostage, Not Yours: Subverted, as the damage to Larb's PAK manages to keep it from overwriting Gaz's mind with his the way that PAKs are supposed to when they attach to non-Irken bodies. Double subverted in Chapter 7 when it finally overwhelms her, until Zim manages to overpower Larb and enable Gaz's mind to retake control.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • Big Bad Lord John Whorfin of The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai Across the 8th Dimension crosses into our dimension by possessing the body of Dr. Emilio Lizardo. Since no hints are given that he's still in there somewhere and the possibility of saving him never comes up, we're left to assume the good doctor's consciousness was unfortunately wiped out in the process.
  • All of Me: Edwina, an heiress who has been sick all her life, wishes to migrate into a younger, healthy body — that of a volunteer — upon her imminent death. The volunteer, Terry, believes all of this to be superstitious nonsense, and only wants to be named as the heir. Of course, it all goes to hell, and Edwina ends up sharing brain-space with her lawyer Roger.
  • In Art of the Dead, the spirit of Mad Artist Dorian Wilde can possess the body of anyone who been completely corrupted by one of his evil paintings. He possesses Gina after she has been completely corrupted by Lust.
  • This is the basic plot of The Atomic Brain; a bitter old, rich woman hires a Mad Scientist to develop the technology to move her brain into one of three beautiful, disposable housekeepers.
  • This is the villain's plot in Being John Malkovich; all of the major characters, including Malkovich himself, are more or less tricked into doing the work for him.
  • This is the central plot of The Brain That Wouldn't Die, although it involves a woman's head being transplanted onto a new body.
  • In Child's Play, Serial Killer Charles Lee Ray transfers his soul into a doll named Chucky and then spends much of the rest of the series trying to transfer into a human body... until he suddenly has the epiphany that he actually digs being a killer doll and that humanity is overrated.
  • Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness: While Strange and America Chavez are in the 838-universe version of the New York Sanctum, that universe's Mordo tells them of a dangerous spell in the Darkhold called Dreamwalking, which allows the wielder to take over the body of an alternate version of themselves in another universe. Sacred Timeline Wanda uses the spell to possess her 838 counterpart to both see her sons and to attack the Illuminati in order to get to America. Strange later uses the same spell while in Sinister Strange's universe to possess the corpse of Defender Strange buried in the Sacred Timeline so that he can rescue America from Wanda.
  • In Fallen, this is Edgar Reese's major ability. Specifically, his spirit can transfer to any person and take them over as long as they're within range. At the end of the movie, after Hobbes lures him out to a secluded cabin and poisons himself so that Reese won't be able to transfer to a new body, Reese reveals that he's able to possess animals as well. It's actually revealed earlier in the movie when he possesses a cat (otherwise, having him possess one at the end would have been the worst kind of Ass Pull). It's possible that Reese can only possess humans and cats, which would make more sense as to why he thought he'd be unable to find anything to possess in the woods.
  • This is the plot of Freejack, with the added bit of Time Travel; the host is kidnapped from the timestream moments before his historical death in a horrific car crash so that no one will miss him.
  • The Reveal of Get Out (2017) shows that the Armitage family has created and perfected the Coagula, a procedure that consists of putting the victim, a young black person, into "the Sunken Place" via hypnosis, surgically removing everything but the brain stem, and attaching the parts that contain the thoughts and emotions of an old white person's brain, so that said old white person can control his/her new young black body.
  • The Haunted Palace ditches the subversion in the source material and plays this trope straight.
  • The Hazing: After Doug stupidly performs the ritual to open the door to the afterlife for Professor Kapps, Kapps' spirit takes over his body and starts using it as a host to kill everyone else in the house. After Doug's body is killed, Kapps does a Body Surf into Marsha.
  • In The Hidden, an alien slug takes over the bodies of humans as unsuspecting prey and treats it like a joyride. It just wants to listen to death metal, drive expensive cars, rob banks, and blow things up for fun.
  • In The Last Leprechaun, the banshee steals Laura's body in order to have a body and be rich.
  • The Matrix:
    • Agents are able to do this to muggles any time they wish, which makes them nigh-impossible to escape and forces the Heroes into the ethical grey area of having to murder people before they are possessed.
    • In The Matrix Revolutions, Bane's mind gets overwritten by Agent Smith, who in the previous movie developed the ability to turn anyone into a clone of himself. Bane's body then becomes Smith's gateway to the real world, leading to a terrifying scene.
  • Nothing but the Night: The ultimate secret of Iver House is that Mrs Van Traylen has worked out how to transfer her personality into a new body and has placed herself into the body of Mary Valley. She has done the same to the other dead trustees, placing them in the bodies of other orphans.
  • As it turns out, this is the villain's plan in Pokémon Detective Pikachu. Using a specially created helmet rig, he wants to hijack the body of Mewtwo and Take Over the World. He actually pulls off the first one, too.
  • Possessor is about a woman who is paid to use technology to possess the bodies of targets and commit murder/suicides so that the deaths cannot be traced back to their real source.
  • In both the film and play Prelude to a Kiss, a dying old man switches bodies with a bride on her wedding day.
  • Scanner Cop: While Zena is dying, Staziak scans her to find out where Karl Glock is hiding, following her into a mental world which is heavily implied to be Hell. She then tries to pull this trope on Staziak by taking over his body and letting him die in hers. He prevents it by scanning her mental projection.
  • Scanners ends with Revok and Vale in a psychic duel, and Revok completely destroying Vale's body, but there's a hint that Vale may have psychically switched bodies at the last second. Either that, or Revok ate Vale's consciousness, just as he said he would — "Everything you are is gonna become me."
  • This is the twist midway through Self/Less. A rich, dying old man's mind is moved into a young body that was artificially grown for that purpose — except that it wasn't, so he commits Grand Theft Me unknowingly and has to deal with the consequences when he finds out the truth.
  • In Soulkeeper, an entire cult is made up of formerly damned souls now inhabiting the bodies of the living in order to experience earthly pleasures. Eventually one of the main characters is threatened with having his body stolen by the demonic leader, Simon Magus, who shoots himself in the head in order to die and allow his soul to possess another.
  • Ra in Stargate was an elderly, decrepit alien before taking over the body of a teenage Egyptian boy.
  • A unique variant appears in Surrogates; the remote-controlled body of Greer's partner Jennifer Peters is hijacked by not one, but two different characters. Lionel Canter kills and impersonates her via her Surrogate to use her as The Mole, and then Greer himself hijacks the surrogate, from the dead Canter's chair no less, to stop the surrogate-shutdown from killing billions.
  • A Maybe Magic, Maybe Mundane case in The Testament of Dr. Mabuse, in which it is left deliberately unclear whether the imprisoned and dying Diabolical Mastermind Dr. Mabuse managed to use evil psionic powers to take over the body of his psychiatrist Dr. Baum, or whether Baum went insane and developed the delusion of being his former patient.
  • The villain does this in Xchange. The protagonist also goes through several bodies and even steals one.
  • X-Men Film Series:
    • At the very end of the credits for X-Men: The Last Stand, there is an Easter Egg scene in which Professor Xavier, who was killed during the movie, is revealed to have implanted his mind into the body of a man who had been earlier revealed to have a functioning body, but no working mind. It is ironic because Xavier had lectured to a class earlier in the movie about the ethical dilemmas involved in such a transfusion of soul, so to speak.
    • In X-Men: Days of Future Past, Logan essentially steals the body of his counterpart from the new timeline when he snaps back after changing the future.
    • In X-Men: Apocalypse, the titular villain has kept himself alive for millennia by transferring his consciousness into host mutant bodies, accumulating powers from each mutant he transfers himself into; for example, the most recent host had a Healing Factor. In the present day, his plan is to transfer his consciousness into Professor Xavier so that he can "Be everywhere. Be everyone."

  • The Fighting Fantasy gamebook Magehunter has this happening several times, after you and your ally, Reinhardt, gets cursed by your arch-nemesis, Mencius the Wizard. In your quest to hunt down Mencius and reverse the curse, the book will randomly force you to swap bodies with Reinhardt until you found a way to control the spell, and while in Reinhardt's body you'll find out he's a rather mediocre fighter.

    Mythology and Religion 
  • Older Than Feudalism: Yayati, after the curse of his father-in-law that he should become old and infirm, asked his sons to exchange their youthful body with his. All refused except the youngest son, Puru, who was crowned after his reign. Puru was the ancestor of the Kauravas and the Pandavas in the Mahabharata. His brother Yadu was the ancestor of the Yadavas - thus the ancestor of Krishna.
  • In Buddhism, it's theoretically possible to use your spiritual power to hijack mindstream (the process that leads you through rebirth) to move your mind to a body that doesn't have one. The great master Kamalasila once gets out of his body to animate a rotting elephant corpse and make it walk away from the road. However, while he is busy doing it, another master, Dampa Sangye, appropriates his inert human body believing it to be a fresh corpse, as it was more beautiful than Sangye's own body. Kamalasila finds himself having to inhabit Sangye's body from that point.

  • In The Adventure Zone: Balance, the Animus Bell has this power, by forcibly removing a body's soul and allowing another to possess it. The liches who run Wonderland take advantage of this to send out their victims with claims of finding great treasure, thus luring in more adventurers for them to torment.

    Stand-Up Comedy 
  • Frankie Boyle leverages implied pop culture knowledge of this trope in a riotous bit wherein he postulates, without prior set-up, that Prince Phillip may be trying to use dark magic to eject Princess Charlotte's soul from her body and take it for his own.

    Tabletop Games 
  • New World of Darkness:
    • This is how immortality works for Body Thieves from Immortals.
    • The spell "Steal Body" (from the Free Council sourcebook) causes this, with a caveat: "The mage rips soul from body and possesses the target’s now-vacant form, leaving the victim and the mage’s former body dead." Any mage who is a Master of Death and a Disciple of Life is capable of casting the spell, including the protagonists. Out of all other spells that extend life, this is the only one that allows a mage to actually live forever without becoming a soul-eating Tremere Lich, and it neatly avoids the logistical problems of Undead Tax Exemption. The mage still has to commit murder every several decades, but that's still preferable to eating a soul every month.
  • Dungeons & Dragons:
    • In Second Edition, a couple of spells from the Complete Book of Necromancers allow body switching, and are favored by elderly necromancers wanting a younger body.
    • A high-level psionic power for telepaths in edition 3.5 known as True Mind Switch can be used for this.
  • Warhammer 40,000:
    • Lucius the Eternal, a Slaaneshi champion has this as his shtick (besides the usual Slaaneshi depravity, and excellent swordsmanship). Anyone who kills him finds a copy of his armour forming from them, then their body starts warping into a copy of his, and eventually he's back while they are reduced to one more screaming face on his armour. It only happens if whoever was lucky enough to kill him takes "any amount of satisfaction" from it. If they don't, fine. If they have even the smallest feeling of relief at killing him then hey, you're fucked! Unless he gets killed by a daemon from another god, Necrons, Tyranids, or stray shots in battle. One short story had him killed by stepping on a mine. He ended up possessing the body of the worker who armed the mine at the factory when the worker felt satisfaction at a job well done.
    • Trazyn the Infinite, a Necron Overlord obsessed with obtaining relics, uses a form of this for his safety on the battlefield. Rather than risk destruction, he has implanted coding into many of his underling's coding that allow him to possess them. This means that it if his current host body is destroyed, there's a very good chance he'll immediately possess another one of his Royal Court.
  • The Dark Eye has a (rare) body swap spell that can be used for both cases. Without further interference it's temporary, but in case one of the bodies is killed, the swapped soul stays in the other one permanently.
  • Pathfinder: The runelords of Thassilon habitually used occult rituals to enter the bodies of their rune giant servants, allowing them to fully control the giant's body and cast spells through it, in order to make use of their prodigious strength and ability to magically enslave other giants.
  • Shadowrun: Cognitive Fragmentation Disorder is the clinical term for infection by a nanovirus that overwrites the host's personality with its own. 100% infectious on contact and completely incurable.
  • The Splinter: When players enter the Splinter, they think that they're taking on a computer-simulated form in a virtual reality game. They're actually doing this to some poor denizen of the Realm.
  • Exchange of two minds from Ars Magica switches the mind of the caster and the mind of the target. It has a relatively short default duration, but can be extended to "permanent" with the expenditure of raw vis. The book tries to forestall players seeking to make themselves immortal via bodyjacking by noting mages who take over younger bodies find themselves heavily distracted by the sheer passion of having a younger, stronger body again.
  • In Nomine: The angelic Kyriotates can possess animals and humans (and have to, since they can't have their own vessels like other angels), and can even possess multiple hosts simultaneously. The host's consciousness is subsumed during the act so the angels have little compunction about getting them involved in serious affairs, but they are specifically prohibited from leaving the host in worse condition than they found them (wounded/dead, lost possessions, in prison, etc) and must fix up any such damage first or suffer Dissonance. Their demonic counterparts, the Shedim, have a nearly identical ability (minus the multiple hosts thing, which they envy), but no requirement to take care of a host; rather, they *must* corrupt their victims and leave them in horrible circumstances. In early editions, the host was also semi-aware of what was going on but manipulated into doing things rather than being taken over completely.

  • In Il Re Cervo, King Deramo knows a spell for enforcing the trope. He shares it with his chief minister, who, being an Evil Chancellor in love with the queen, quickly tricks Deramo into taking over the body of a stag and performs the spell himself to inhabit Deramo's body. It takes a Deus ex Machina magician to rectify the resulting mess.

  • In BIONICLE, Makuta Teridax Steals Mata Nui's Humongous Mecha body which contains the entire Matoran Universe. On a smaller scale, he also briefly possessed Matoro's body and an old robot, and Lewa once had his body stolen by an Eldritch Abomination.

    Web Animation 
  • Ducktalez: In episode 3, Vegeta switches bodies with Scrooge to get a taste of his power. This winds up backfiring when he discovers Scrooge's flatulence problem and can't bring himself to control it.
  • In DEATH BATTLE!, this happens near the conclusion of the Mega Man Battle Royale. Specifically, Star Force Mega Man turns the Mother Elf against Mega Man X and possesses his body, using it to attack MegaMan.EXE with Red Gaia Eraser. It doesn't stick, as EXE enters Hub Style and fires back, obliterating both X and Geo at the same time.
  • In the third episode of Death Race, Battle Cars!, K.I.T.T. escapes death by taking over Wiz's body through unploading himself into Wiz's cynbernetically-enhanced brain.
  • hololive: A rather meta example from a Takamori watch-along stream. When Calliope "leaves" for a moment, leaving her avatar's body unattended to, she tells Kiara not to say anything weird. Naturally, she obliges, not saying anything weird per-say, but rather, hijacking Mori's body briefly to move her around and such. Technicalities.

  • The Makeshift Miracle may have one of these, or it may be Demonic Possession.
  • In the "Old Money" arc in Bruno the Bandit, Bruno marries rich old Lady Decrepta, only to later find out she's Maledict's sister and through a certain spell, she and her original husband's souls could be transferred to new, younger bodies again and again.
  • Breakpoint City: Ben's rival Mizkit switches times and places with Ben in an attempt to tarnish Ben's reputation in one arc.
  • Girl Genius:
    • The main purpose of the Geisterdamen seems to be finding a new body for their Goddess, "The Other" aka Lucrezia Mongfish, former wife of Bill Heterodyne and Agatha's mother, and when they get their hands on Agatha... After a subsequent encounter:
      Agatha: [She] just visits.
      • There are clues that The Other may be far older than Lucrezia and that she may have been merely another host body. For example, the Geisters mention having worshiped their deity for far longer than any human's lifespan. After a period of absence she appears to them as Lucrezia.
    • The Other appears to be making a habit of this. Concerned about her inability to maintain control over Agatha, she plans to hijack Zola's body instead. The twist this time: Zola's perfectly willing to share. Except not.
    • A rather unique twist on this form of possession is that The Other can possess multiple people at once, each being, essentially, a carbon copy of The Other. However, these copies do not share a consciousness or have a hive mind. Thus, they need to converse with each other in order to share information, for example, that one of them has been tricked and is no longer in control of her host, Zola's, body. Zola plans to use this weakness to convince the other Others that she is one of them.
      • Some dialogue suggest there may be a "main repository" for The Other outside of space and/or time (from which its copies are drawn) which its copies can "upload" to, thereby updating the memories/knowledge of future "downloads".
  • In Drowtales, Queen Diva'ratrika uses this idea to transplant her aura inside a slave's body as part of an escape plan to get out of the trap built by her 3 traitor daughters. It's unclear if the goal was to take over another body entirely, in which case it would be a partial failure, but her knowledge and influence remains - that is until Liriel gets herself drunk to shut down the voices in her head. (The whole story starts here). Eventually in the main story Diva does manage to completely take over the body, in the process changing Liriel's hair color to Diva's own purple and darkening her skin.
  • Fans!' evil mad scientist Professor Fitz has made a career out of doing (or trying to do) just this.
  • In El Goonish Shive, Sirleck is a serial body-snatching vampire who does this to many people in order to maintain his own parasitic existence, up to and including Ellen.
  • In A Modest Destiny, this benefits the heroes when Maxim's soul possesses the just-vacated body of one of the villains. While treated as a happy ending at first, this is eventually Deconstructed when his wife eventually reveals how uncomfortable she is with the arrangement. Sure, it's her husband's soul inside, but it's still the villain's body, and she's worried that the evil will corrupt him.
  • The title character of Mulberry once tried to perform this on Sarah Palin, but she ended up switching bodies with Hillary Clinton instead.
  • In Erstwhile, the stepsister in "Brother and Sister" is disguised as the queen they had murdered, though her mother can't hide that she's missing an eye.
  • Karin-dou 4koma: Elza refuses to have sex with her maid Mifi due to Mifi's Virgin Power. One of Mifi's many attempts to change this is to use one of Seren's potions to swap bodies with Elza, with the intent of raping Elza with her own body.
  • In the chapter 4 finale of morphE features Asia Ellis having her body hijacked by a disembodied mage named Hizrim.
  • Sarilho: what the Foreigner does to Mikhail's body in chapter five, and to a lesser extent, to Fausta.
  • Metheos from Sidekicks is actually Dunkelheit inhabiting Guardian's body. Then, at the end of season 1, he jumps into Theo's body both to gain control over the Second Prana and because Guardian's body is perforated by Darkslug.
  • In Melonpool body-swapping is a fairly regular occurance, but one Grand Theft Me that stuck was Ralph Zinobopp swapping bodies with his evil clone Lord Fauntleroy. Doubled as Laser-Guided Karma for Fauntleroy as he had previously dropped Ralph in an active volcano, horribly scarring the body he wound up being stuck with.
  • One [NAME REMOVED] variation depicts Rabid getting trapped inside Rabish’s body after "a nasty ping-pong incident". Either the ping-pong ball ends up housing his soul, she ends up inside the ping-pong ball (which becomes a Magic 8-Ball), or he begins to act like how he perceives ladies on television.
  • Wychwood: Thanks to the restraining collar the titular organization put on him, the only way Felix's powers can be activated is when someone else is piloting his body. Technically Felix agreed to it, or at any rate he was raised to believe it's for the best.

    Web Original 

    Western Animation 
  • In the Aladdin: The Series episode "Two to Tangle", young sorcerer Mozenrath is slowly dying from the effects of his magical gauntlet, and attempts to drain Aladdin's life force; the plan goes wrong when Mozenrath's soul ends up trapped inside our street rat hero's body.
  • Batman Beyond:
    • In the episode "Out of the Past", former Rogues Gallery member Ra's al Ghul's daughter, Talia al Ghul, offers old Bruce Wayne access to the Lazarus Pit, and a shot at eternal youth, saying her father wished to pass on his secrets. Of course, Talia is later revealed to be Ra's, and plans to swap again to the newly-youthified Bruce. Talia, apparently, gave up her life willingly for her father. The setup's very reminiscent of H. P. Lovecraft's The Thing on the Doorstep (see).
    • Another episode featured the digital copy of the mind of a now-dead computer industrialist being brought back on line and trying to do this to the grandson of his original body. In the process he pulls a variation on Batman himself, taking over the cybernetic suit and forcing Terry to beat him on his own, without the aid of the super-suit.
  • In the Gargoyles world tour arc, the World Tourists meet up with a friend, Halcyon Renard, who has an advanced stage of multiple sclerosis bad enough that he is taking desperate measures to save his life. His solution is to transfer his consciousness into a magically-powered golem. However, Goliath convinces Renard that this is no way to live and he is eventually returned to his original body.
  • South Park:
    • Spoofed in the episode "Pip", which hijacks a retelling of Great Expectations by having Miss Havisham plot to transfer her soul into Estella's body.
    • Done more seriously when, halfway through a mystic Carib blood ritual to separate Kenny's soul from Cartman, Chef's parents suddenly realize he hasn't brought a "victim child" to transfer the soul into.
  • The Mickey Mouse short "Runaway Brain" features him being a volunteer in a scientific experiment to earn some money. But it involves exchanging his brain with a Frankenstein's Monster... after it's done, the Mad Scientist dies, and the monster in Mickey's body decides to go after Minnie.
  • In Spider-Man: The Animated Series, Mary Jane was kidnapped by Miranda Wilson, an actress-turned-cyborg, so the latter could replace Mary Jane's mind with hers. In a twist, her plan failed because she was tricked by Mysterio into believing that mind-transferring technology even existed.
  • In Ultimate Spider-Man, Arnim Zola attempts to cement his takeover of S.H.I.E.L.D. by stealing Spider-Man's body and leaving him imprisoned in Zola's computer body as a result. Spider-Man was able to stop the process with help from Agent Venom and Rhino.
  • In Jonny Quest: The Real Adventures episode "Cyberswitch", Jeremiah Surd, Lawnmower Man-strength power in cyberspace and mostly immobile in the real world, switches bodies with good guy Race Bannon. The switch is quickly discovered and reversed. Jeremiah's follow-up plan was to switch bodies with Jonny, leading to Surd creepily telling his Dark Action Girl assistant that he hoped she'd "wait for [him]". Fortunately, Jonny is able to stop that plan before it actually happens.
  • In an episode of Aladdin: The Series, Mozenrath tries to swap bodies with Aladdin since he (Mozenrath) is dying, but due to interference, both are stuck in Aladdin's body.
  • The Pirates of Dark Water features an episode in which Ren switches places with Bloth and Konk switches places with Niddler; Bloth orchestrated this with the assistance of his soothsayer Morpho as a way to get Ren's shipmates to trust him and get his hands on the treasures.
  • In Captain Planet and the Planeteers, Dr. Blight switches bodies with Gaia, but doesn't let MAL in on the secret, so he follows Gaia's orders when she convinces him it's part of her (Dr. Blight's) secret plan.
  • Queen La does this to Jane Porter in her final appearance in The Legend of Tarzan.
  • Regular Show, in which an overachieving bodybuilder('s consciousness) steals Rigby's body after it forces Rigby's consciousness out in protest of him eating only (and too much) junk food.
  • Thundarr the Barbarian: The witch Circe does this to Ariel in the episode "Island of the Body Snatchers".
  • Katrina Moldoff does this to Batman in the Batman: The Brave and the Bold episode "The Criss-Cross Conspiracy!".
  • The page quote comes from when Robotboy's Super/Psycho Prototype brother Protoboy switched their CPUs in an effort to get close to and kill their creator Professor Moshimo in retaliation for him abandoning the latter. Near the end, Protoboy in Robotboy's body was destroyed in an attack from another villain and Robotboy was returned to normal via Snap Back.
  • The Simpsons has an episode where Sideshow Bob escapes from prison by switching his face and hair with his near-identical cellmate Walt Warren, who was scheduled for early release.
  • (Anti-)heroic example in an episode of Futurama where Bender gets killed and haunts every machine Fry comes across eventually driving him to live on an Amish planet to cut himself off from all technology. When Fry is in danger of being crushed by a runaway spherical structure Bender jumps into the Robot Devil (the only living robot there) to push Fry out of the way. At the end he gets sent to Robot Heaven, where he jumps into Robot God and makes him beat himself up until he sends him back to Earth.
    • In another episode the Professor invents a mind-swapping machine and while the first two mind-swaps are simply Farnsworth swapping with Amy, when they find out each other's bodies aren't as great as they thought, Farnsworth trades Amy's body to Bender and runs off to join the robot circus to become a daredevil, to the horror of Bender, who needs his body to trade it with the Robo-Hungarian Emperor, and Amy trades Farnsworth's body with Leela to binge and for Leela to get a seniors discount, and ultimately all the characters end up trading minds and bodies like baseball cards, and not always on honest terms.
  • In The Angry Beavers, a mass of living pond scum was able to control Nobert by going inside his ear.
  • Hector does this to Santa in the Evil Con Carne Christmas special, as a plan to insert mind-control devices to all the toys as his new take over the world plot. He was, fortunately, stopped by the Rudolph parody Rupert, who convinces Santa to break free from the mind control.
  • In the American Dad! episode "Da Flippity Flop", Klaus is given the chance to get his human body back but Stan hesitates. When Stan finally takes Klaus to the CIA a week later they find his body decayed because it wasn't kept frozen, so Klaus angrily bludgeons Stan with a margarita pitcher and switches bodies with him while he's knocked out. Stan chases down Klaus in the latter's decaying old body while Klaus is trying to perform the titular skiing stunt and in the end they go back to normal, but now Stan has more respect for him.
  • In Justice League Action episode "The Goddess Must Be Crazy", Felix Faust takes over Supergirl's body to get around the spell which keeps males from setting foot in Themyscira.
  • Justice League Unlimited:
    • Flash and Lex Luthor in "The Great Brain Robbery."
    • Deadman does this in "Dead Reckoning."
  • In an episode of The Tick entitled "Tick vs. Science," Chairface Chippendale uses the mind transfer device created by J.J. Vatos to hijack The Tick's body.
  • Gravity Falls: In "Sock Opera", Dipper agrees to let Bill take a puppet, thinking that Bill meant one of the sock puppets nearby and that Bill would give Dipper the password for the laptop he'd found in a previous episode (or at the very least help him figure it out, since he'd promised "a hint"). This does not go particularly well - when Dipper agrees out of desperation, Bill reveals that Dipper was the puppet in question, and promptly possesses him. On top of that, the "hint" wasn't even for the laptop's password.
  • The Bounty Hamster episode "Trading Spaces" has a criminal stealing a body-swapping device and using it to do this.
  • In Nexo Knights's second season, Monstrox performs a ritual to attempt to transfer his spirit from his book to Clay's body but is fortunately stopped.

    Real Life 
  • Ophiocordyceps unilateralis is a parasitic fungus which grows on ants, and eventually forces the ant to head to the forest floor (where it's a more hospitable place for fungi to grow), then makes the zombie ant latch onto the underside of a leaf and stay there until it dies, while the fungus bursts out of the ant's head and releases its spores.


Video Example(s):


Olivia & Yunan

The Core, a mechanical Mind Hive which King Andrias serves, uploads itself into Marcy to turn her into its living host.

How well does it match the trope?

4.81 (21 votes)

Example of:

Main / GrandTheftMe

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