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Mistaken from Behind

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A subtrope of Mistaken Identity, this trope begins with Alice spotting Bob facing away from her. She approaches him. Either he turns around as she gets close, or she physically grabs him and spins him around...and surprise! It's not Bob, but some confused stranger who happens to look exactly like Bob, but only from Alice's angle. The audience usually sees the impostor from the same angle as Alice, so they are just as surprised as her when he spins around; in rare cases, the audience may instead see the impostor's face before Alice does, making it an instance of Dramatic Irony.

This flexible trope can be Played for Drama or Played for Laughs. In dramatic cases, the impostor can send Alice into a panic when she suddenly realizes Bob is nowhere to be found, or provide a cruel Hope Spot if Alice is searching for Bob already. In comedy, the humor may come from how completely different the impostor looks from Bob from the front; there could also be Cringe Comedy elements, if Alice says or does something embarrassing to the impostor (for instance, The Glomp) just before she realizes it's not Bob. The oblivious look-alike may also happen to wear Bob's exact Iconic Outfit by coincidence, if Bob has one, to make him a more convincing double.

Due to the often contrived nature of this trope, it can become prone to Trope Telegraphing. If a particular character Alice is looking for is only viewed from behind, and there's noticeable suspense as Alice approaches him/her, it's almost guaranteed to result in this trope, especially if said character is a plot-important one such as the Big Bad being (seemingly) encountered early on. The plot would end too quickly if Alice really did approach none other than Bob himself, and it needs to have drama, damnit!

Can overlap with Chair Reveal. Related to Identical Stranger. May also overlap with Mistaken for Object of Affection. Compare Face-Revealing Turn, which includes the spin but not the mistaken identity portion, and aims specifically at horror. May include a Butter Face character.


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    Anime & Manga 
  • Seigi does this to Richard/Not Richard two different times in The Case Files of Jeweler Richard
    • In volume 4/episode nine, when Richard is in London and Seigi misses him desperately, he tries calls for Richard and finds a random blond stranger
    • In volume 8, he thinks he's spotted Richard and instead finds Richard's mother.
  • Darker than Black has Kirihara "mistaking" from behind Kun (with whom she already was "accidentally acquainted") for The Black Reaper.
  • Happens in the Durarara!! anime when Anri runs after who she thinks is her missing friend Mika and then calls out to her by taking her by the shoulder, before apologizing and running off in embarrassment after thinking she was mistaken at seeing the person who turned to face her. We find out later that Anri wasn't mistaken, but Mika simply had plastic surgery to look like Celty's head.
  • Fairy Tail: When the girls enter a bathhouse, they see what appears to be Erza Scarlet already there and bathing. When they approach her, she turns out to be the similar looking redhead, Flare Corona.
  • In episode 52b of Kamisama Minarai: Himitsu no Cocotama, Luckytama mistakes a bespectacled girl for Kokoro because she looks like her when viewed from the back.
  • One Nichijou chapter has Mio approach what looks like a sulky Yuuko and try to cheer her up with a drink. The girl turns around and reveals the dour, abnormally realistic-looking face of Doublecheeseburgirl, Yuuko's Oddball Doppelgänger.
  • In Sayonara, Zetsubou-Sensei, Chiri accidentally stabs Nozumo from behind because of this, and that she was trying to act like The Ditz.
  • In episode 65b of Tamagotchi, Doremitchi follows a girl from behind who looks exactly like Melodytchi save for her mouth, convinced it's the real Melodytchi.

    Asian Animation 
  • In Season 8 episode 12 of Happy Heroes, Careful S. is still forlorn over Kalo, his buddy from Planet Adeli, performing a Heroic Sacrifice to save Planet Xing from invaders. He then sees someone who looks an awful lot like the person he's thinking of from behind, and follows him before realizing he's actually just a merchant who was wearing a suit of armor.
  • Pleasant Goat and Big Big Wolf: In Flying Island: The Sky Adventure episode 14, Weslie and Paddi hear someone calling for help from within a building, go in to check it out, and recognize the back of the woolly, pink-ribboned head of Tibbie. Except it's actually not Tibbie, it's just a bird girl who has the same head of wool and ribbons somehow.

    Comic Strips 
  • In one Calvin and Hobbes strip, Calvin is following his mom around the zoo. When he tugs on her skirt to ask her a question, she turns around... and it's not his mom. In fact, the woman isn't even wearing the same blouse as his mom, only the same skirt.
    Strange woman: Are you lost? What does your mom look like?
    Calvin: From the knees down, she looks just like you.
  • In Tintin: Cigars of the Pharaoh, the Thompson twins attempt to arrest someone who from behind looks like Tintin in the bedouin outfit they last saw him wear. Turns out it's a completely unrelated guy, and what they mistook for Snowy's behind was a goat's. The incident sparks a war that causes Tintin to be drafted into the local military.

    Fan Works 
  • Played for Drama in Ghost in the Shell from the Eleutherophobia series. The serial killer shoots the wrong target because of a case of mistaken identity; she wanted to kill Tom, but mistook Jake for him from behind while he was with Eva, who spends more time with Tom than Jake.
  • Riastrad starts with Nanashi waking up in the afterlife, unable to remember how he died. Turns out that his boyfriend Flynn wears a set of armor modeled on Cu Chulainn's, and since they're both men with long, dark hair, Nanashi mistook the real Cu Chulainn for his boyfriend and greeted him with a groping and a kiss. Nanashi gets better.

    Films — Animation 
  • In Bolt, when the titular character is lost in New York, he sees what he thinks is his arch nemesis the Green Eyed Man from behind. He tries to knock him out with a karate chop, but not only is the man not the Green Eyed Man, but the chop has no effect on him, which confuses Bolt, who has spent his life believing he has super powers.
  • In Cars, Lightning McQueen gets separated from his truck Mack and looks for him. He thinks he sees him getting off the interstate, but after he catches up to him, it turns out to be someone else.
    Lightning: You're not Mack!
    Peterbilt: Mack? I ain't no Mack! I'm a Peterbilt, for dang sake! Turn on your lights, ya moron!
  • In The Princess and the Frog, Tiana, in the vision created by Facilier in The Final Temptation scene, has a Hope Spot when she sees in her restaurant, from behind, a man that resembles Naveen, and plays the ukulele like him. But the musician turn around, and we see that his face looks nothing like Naveen. Tiana's disappointment make it clear she now does not enjoy her dream without Naveen.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • In the Swedish classic comedy Äppelkriget, one of the Lindberg brothers tries to pick up a nice, tall, blonde woman at a night club. When she turns around she is revealed as a man, who is very much not amused.
  • The Batman (2022): Bruce Wayne mistakes Carmine Falcone's date for Selina Kyle from behind.
  • In The Big Easy, Anne sees Bobby McSwain rummaging through the fridge, mistakes him for his brother Remy, and playfully pinches his ass.
  • In Conversations With Other Women, the Man during most of his twenties keeps running up to women from behind him that resemble his Love Interest.
  • In "Crocodile" Dundee, Mick runs after what he thinks is his friend Sue, but as the person turns it's really just a man with long blonde hair and rather feminine clothing.
  • Don't Look Now ends with a horrific instance of this trope as the bereft parent thinks he can see his daughter and she turns out to be a female dwarf in a red coat carrying a hunting knife, with which she attacks him.
  • In Elf, Buddy is walking down a street in New York City and mistakes an old man who is wearing a red hat and shirt for Santa Claus.
  • In Enchanted, Nathaniel deliberately points out a woman in a crowd who has similar hair to Giselle so that Prince Edward chases her while he goes after the real Giselle. The audience never sees the other woman's face, as Edward apparently caught up to her off-screen before moving on.
  • In Ferris Bueller's Day Off, while Principal Rooney is searching for Ferris Bueller (who has ditched school yet again), he mistakes a woman at a pizza parlor for Bueller from behind and yells "Your ass is mine!". She reacts by spitting her soda at him.
  • In Home Alone 2: Lost in New York, Kevin loses track of his father in the airport and follows someone wearing the same coat, which lands him in the plane for New York. An unusual example because Kevin never does see the other guy's face, only the audience does.
  • In I Now Pronounce You Chuck & Larry, Adam Sandler's character sees a hot blonde dressed as a Playboy bunny but when he calls out she turns out to be David Spade.
  • In Midnight, Tibor spots a girl in the streets wearing a shiny dress like Eve's. He pulls over and runs after her shouting Eve's name, but when he pulls her around, the girl turns out to be someone else.
  • In Midway to Heaven, Ned Stevens becomes paranoid over his daughter Liz dating her boyfriend David. Ned thinks he's caught them drinking at a bar, but it turns out to be two people who just look like them from behind.
  • In Scott Pilgrim vs. The World, Scott calls out to Lucas Lee but is ignored. When he goes up and turns him around, it's not Lee but his Body Double.
  • SHAZAM! (2019): In a flashback to when Billy Batson was separated from his mother, he sees a woman wearing the same jacket she was wearing and confronts her, only to learn it's not her.
  • Star Trek (2009): Spock disembarks the Enterprise and sees a tall Vulcan man from behind. He calls out, assuming it is his father, Sarek. But the man turns around and responds "I am not our father", revealing himself to actually be Spock Prime, played by original series actor Leonard Nimoy, putting the two iterations of Spock face to face for the first time in the entire movie.
  • Happens in Spaceballs, specifically the scene where Dark Helmet captures the stunt doubles of Lone Starr's group.
  • In Species, Preston believes he spotted Sil at a bar but when he approaches the blonde girl and she turns around, it is somebody else completely. Watch the scene here.
  • A gag that was scripted for Superman: The Movie had Superman on a reconnaissance flight over Metropolis when he spots a bald figure among a crowd of people. Assuming it's Lex Luthor, Superman flies up from behind and grabs him by the shoulder, only for the man to turn out to be Telly Savalas, who greets him with a "Who loves ya, baby!" Superman, doing his best to hide his disappointment, acts as if he just came by to say hi.
  • Trick or Treats: When Malcolm comes into the living room of the house and sees the back of Linda's head, he mistakes her for his ex-wife, Joan, who he came to kill as revenge for having him wrongfully committed to an insane asylum. Every time Linda tries to speak, Malcolm just lets out a Big "SHUT UP!".
  • This happens to Eddie when he is chasing Jessica Rabbit in Who Framed Roger Rabbit, and he ends up being chased himself.

    Live-Action TV 
  • The 4400: In "Pilot", after being released from quarantine, Lily sees a man whom she thinks is her husband Brian. When she runs over to him and he turns around, she sees that it is someone else.
  • In Angel, when Fred is on the run from her brainwashed friends, she loses them by taking off her jacket and giving it to a stranger with similar hair. In the time in takes her pursuers to see the stranger from the front, Fred manages to hide.
  • The Barrier:
    • In one episode, Hugo and Julia being asked to watch their employer's nephew Sergio during what is technically time off results in Sergio visiting the part of town that isn't the enclave for the elites. When Sergio gets taken away by a member of the family from which he was abducted several years ago, there happens to be another child who looks like Sergio from behind in the area, resulting in Julia briefly mistaking the other child for Sergio.
    • This is defied by a woman who saw her officially-dead son from behind for a few seconds, and is dead sure it was him despite only having seen the child from behind. Since her son turns out to indeed still be alive and the building in which he was seen has people involved in an secret child abduction operation working in it, chances are that it really was him.
  • An episode of Bones has a terrorist with a dioxin bomb about to blow up a peace conference. At one point Booth nabs who he thinks is the guy, but he turns around and it's someone else.
  • Fawlty Towers: In "The Psychiatrist", Basil seizes a young woman from behind, believing her to be a non-paying guest. It is in fact Raylene, with a different outfit and hairstyle from when he saw her previously.
    Basil: I'm sorry, I thought you were somebody else.
  • Friends: In "The One with Unagi", Ross is trying to show up Rachel and Phoebe, who are taking self-defense classes, by trying to attack them. In The Stinger, He sees what he thinks are Rachel and Phoebe and tries to surprise them. Meanwhile, the real Rachel and Phoebe watch from the window of Central Perk as Ross attacks two random strangers... who then chase after him.
  • In an episode of Game of Thrones, Arya is shown looking for her friend Jaqen among the Lannister soldiers at Harrenhal, so that she can request that he assassinate someone for her. Jaqen has red hair with some black and white streaks in front, and Arya initially grabs the wrong person, a random Lannister with red hair that he wore at the same length as Jaqen.
  • In How I Met Your Mother, Barney spends some time trying to figure out who's been mysteriously cockblocking him, and chases a mysterious blond out of a bar. The first blond he grabs and asks if he ever slept with her and then seriously screwed her over. He realizes it wasn't her, leaves, asks for her number, then leaves again and grabs the right blond.
  • When Bambang is away from the city for a while in Mimpi Metropolitan, Melani sees someone who wears the same shirt as Bambang and looks a bit like him from behind. Melani enthusiastically greets and approaches the lookalike before she sees his face and realizes her mistake.
  • The Outer Limits (1995): In "The Beholder", Patrick Tarloff is still getting used to regaining his sight and continually sees a mysterious, beautiful redhead everywhere he goes. At one point, he sees a redhead walking by and confronts her, but she turns out to be some ordinary woman.
  • Parodied on an episode of Scrubs when Cox grabs Turk's shoulder from behind, only instead of Turk (bald black man), it's a petite, bald black woman. Later, JD goes to get Carla, only it's a mustachioed hispanic man with long hair and a mustache.
  • The Twilight Zone (1959): In "A World of Difference", Arthur Curtis mistakes a little girl for his daughter Tina from behind.

  • The music video for Smash Mouth's "I'm a Believer" has this happen repeatedly; he chases after someone with long blonde hair like his beloved's, but when the person turns around, it's some random dude.

    Video Games 
  • Heavy Rain: During the infamous JAAAAAAASONNNN?!? search at the mall, Ethan spots a kid with a red balloon who looks like Jason from afar. He rushes to him, relieved that he's okay, before realizing that it's a completely different boy and Jason is still lost.
  • Minecraft: Story Mode: When the player character, Jesse, is looking for Ivor at EnderCon, they end up trailing and confronting a woman who looks exactly like Ivor from the back (same hairstyle, same outfit, but wrong gender). The woman takes offense to the sudden confrontation and Jesse quickly apologizes, although the woman is not so quick to forgive Jesse.
  • In Sonic Adventure 2, Amy mistakes Shadow for Sonic and glomps him, much to his annoyance. While this particular incident is just the latest in a series (Sonic himself has already been falsely imprisoned because of getting mistaken for Shadow), no one really has an excuse even when viewing them from behind, since the colors of their fur are wildly different, and even their quills are styled differently

    Web Animation 
  • Helluva Boss: In "Seeing Stars", while searching for Octavia in Los Angeles, Loona sees someone from behind who has a hairstyle and choice of clothing very similar to Octavia. When she walks up to the person, she sees it's actually a dorky looking human girl with big glasses and an overbite. Humorously, the girl is even named "Nottavia" according to a behind the scenes page featuring her character model.
  • My Little Pony: Equestria Girls Digital Series: In "Best Trends Forever", Rarity confuses first Trixie, and then Derpy, for Rainbow Dash from behind since both of them are wearing rainbow-colored wigs.


    Western Animation 
  • Avatar: The Last Airbender:
    • A variation occurs in the season 2 episode "The Swamp". While lost in the swamp, Katara has a vision of her dead mother facing away from her. Thinking the vision is real, Katara runs up, puts a hand on her mother's shoulder to spin her around... and suddenly it is not her mother at all, only a tall stump sticking out of the water.
    • Deliberately invoked in "The Headband", when the police are searching for Aang at a secret dance party he hosted for a bunch of fire nation students. Their description is "a boy with a headband". When Aang escapes, the other kids put on headbands to confuse them.
  • Ed, Edd n Eddy: Done twice in "In Like Ed". Eddy tries to hit on Nazz at a party, only for it to turn out to be Edd in disguise. A minute later, Eddy tries to talk to Edd and tries to stuff a piece of cake down his pants, only to find it was Nazz, who decks him in response.
  • Family Guy:
    • In "The Most Interesting Man in the World", Peter, in a haste to bring Stewie home after leaving him alone at a playground, accidentally takes home a toddler that looks and dresses similar to him (except he has a normal-sized head), not noticing until he gets to the house.
    • In "The New Adventures of Old Tom", Peter goes to look for Lois when she leaves him behind at the mall, but just finds Mort who's trying out a different look and got a new hairstyle and shirt similar to Lois.
    • Exaggerated in one instance where Peter turns around what he thinks is Cleveland, but onscreen it morphs into a standing lamp with a similar color scheme.
  • The Flintstones: In the dream sequence from "Rip Van Flintstone", an elderly Fred walks to his house and decides to surprise Wilma. From behind, it looks like Wilma, but when Fred grabs her to face him, it turns out to be a different woman, who accuses him of being a masher and sics her pet dinosaur on him.
  • Seven Little Monsters: "The Big Store" has Six mistake two men in an alligator costume for her brother Four after seeing them from the back.
  • SpongeBob SquarePants: In the episode "Squidville", Spongebob and Patrick are trying to find Squidward in a crowd of look-alikes. Spongebob (and the audience) sees an octopus who looks like Squidward from behind, since he's wearing the same brown shirt. But when SpongeBob embraces him we see his face and he has heavy eyebrows and a big black mustache.