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Mistaken Identity

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Sanji: Are you saying this is my fault!? If you don't want to look like my wanted picture then how about trying to change your hairstyle or your beard!? There are plenty of things you could just change, right!?
Duval: ... AH! So I could have done that!?

The ploy where one person is mistaken for another and Hilarity Ensues. Truth in Television to an alarming degree.

This was a big favorite of William Shakespeare, which means it has been riffed on by a large number of others. Shakespeare, of course, cribbed it from Greek plays, the Greek playwrights cribbed it from ... who knows? Pictures on a cave wall, maybe.


Not to be confused with Thoroughly Mistaken Identity. See also Stumbled Into the Plot.



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    Anime & Manga 
  • In Attack on Titan, because of Ilse Langnar's resemblance to Ymir, a Titan bows to her and calls her "Ymir-sama". When she tries talking to him and has a Freak Out when he won't answer her questions, he realizes she's not Ymir and kills her.
  • In Blade of the Immortal, Manji is introduced to the Rokki when, thanks to sharing similar Distinguishing Marks with their target, they mistake him for Itto-ryu member Sukezane Baro.
  • Cool-Kyou Shinsha once posted a crossover Yonkoma on his twitter account where Fafnir from Miss Kobayashi's Dragon Maid mistook Hajime from I Can't Understand What My Husband Is Saying for his roommate Takiya.
  • Deadman Wonderland: Ganta mistakes Kiyomasa "Crow" Senji for the Red Man, the person who killed his classmates, because they looked similar, and attacks him.
  • In Fairy Tail, Wendy is elated to be reunited with Jellal, who saved her as a child. However, the person who actually saved her was Mystogan, who just so happens to look exactly like Jellal, since he's Jellal's Edolas counterpart. It's actually a little sad, since when she meets Jellal he has amnesia, and has only been told about all the things he's done wrong in the past, so he's relieved to hear that he's been able to do good for at least one person.
  • Fullmetal Alchemist:
    • Al often being mistaken as the titular character due to him being a suit of armor and Ed's codename. This is even lampshaded in Fullmetal Alchemist (2003).
      Ed: No, you dolt! I'm Ed! Why does everyone think that?!
    • Upon meeting Father for the first time, both Ed and Al mistake him for their dad Van Hohenheim, though they realize it's not him.
  • In Hetalia: Axis Powers Canada is frequently mistaken for America. That is, when anyone even notices him to begin with.
  • A slight variation in Isekai Izakaya Nobu where Eva, a simple waitress for the titular izakaya gets mistaken for being a member of the royal family due to the fact that she has a handkerchief bearing the crest of the previous emperor which only he can use.
  • In Kamisama Kiss Tomoe ends up confusing Nanami and Yukiji.
  • In Monthly Girls' Nozaki-kun, Sakura's little brother Towa mistakes both Mikoshiba and Kashima as Nozaki due to his sister going on and on about Nozaki as if he were some kind of handsome celebrity. He also mistakes Nozaki for a male model (same as the other two), which is probably the most flattering accusation Nozaki has received from outside opinion.
  • In Natsume's Book of Friends, it's a recurring plot point that ayakashi - not being terribly keen on the passage of time or human sex differences - regularly mistake Takashi Natsume for his grandmother Reiko. This usually doesn't work out well for him, as most ayakashi are looking for Reiko to settle a score with her.
  • One Piece: Duval was originally a small-time crook until Sanji got his "Wanted!" Poster. Through a series of unlucky accidents, the Marines couldn't get a good picture of Sanji, so they instead resorted to using a crudely drawn picture instead, much to Sanji's dismay. Because Duval looks exactly like the wanted poster picture, Marines and bounty hunters alike mistook him for Sanji and started hunting him. This led Duval to hate Sanji's guts, believing he ruined his life (Though still, as quoted above, Duval isn't exactly the sharpest tool in the shed). The problem is eventually solved when Sanji kicks Duval's face hard and repeatedly, which permanently alters his facial structures and makes him look like a Bishōnen. This pleases Duval so much that he immediately forgets his grudge towards Sanji to the point of actually calling him "Young Master", and has a Heel–Face Turn.
  • Ramen Fighter Miki: Given her constant depression, her Face of a Thug and her physical appearance, everyone takes Kayahara Sensei for an Stringy-Haired Ghost Girl onryo bent on revenge on the living. Given her enormous Guilt Complex, Bitch in Sheep's Clothing Megumi will always take her for one.
  • Played for Drama in Tokyo Magnitude 8.0. When she returns to her hometown Mari finds out her home has been burned down and everyone in the area died. When she goes to the mortirary she learns there is the body of a senior woman and a roughly 4 year old girl with pigtails like her daughter. She is too tramatized and scared to identify the bodies. Mirai looks for Mari's family again, and it turns out both her mom and daughter survived and are fine.
  • Touch (1981): Partway through the story the baseball team's coach falls ill and hires a replacement. Rather than Eichiro Kashiwaba, a kind man with a deep love for baseball, he accidentally hires his twin brother Eijiro Kashiwaba. Hilarity Ensues.
  • Trigun has a pretty hilarious one in the first episode: notorious outlaw Vash the Stampede is cornered by a bounty hunter who wants the price on his head. Then a second bounty hunter shows up and mistakes the first one for Vash, followed by a coincidence making the first guy think the second is Vash - all the while the real Vash is watching the whole thing from the sidelines, still sitting where the first bounty hunter left him tied up and looking not the least bit amused.
    Vash: Uh, did I miss something...?
  • In You and Me Chizuru and Yuki played together one day as children. Chizuru only spoke German so the two couldn't communicate well. The next day Chizuru gave Yuki a toy of his, except in reality he had given it to his identical twin Yuuta. Years later this causes confusion because Yuuta remembers the toy but not Chizuru while Yuki doesn't remember Chizuru at all.
  • A Running Gag in Yu-Gi-Oh! ARC-V is for a main character to be mistaken for another due to them being dimensional counterparts of each other with similar faces and hairstyles. note 

    Comic Books 
  • The Adventures of Barry Ween, Boy Genius: When TIMM tries to capture Barry, they grab Jeremy, thinking that he is Barry.
  • In The Avengers, The Falcon ditched his 90's costume after Namor mistook him for a D-list hero named Stingray.
  • There was an old Legion of Super-Heroes story published in Adventure Comics #350 in which Superboy and Supergirl couldn't be in the Legion anymore because a "green kryptonite cloud" is about to envelop the Earth for a few years. So they nominated a couple of replacements to take their places, named "Miss Terious" and "Sir Prize". The two wore suits that completely concealed the people inside, and it's heavily implied (and the other Legionnaires clearly believe) they're Superboy and Supergirl wearing lead armor to protect themselves from the kryptonite. They weren't. They were Dream Girl and Star Boy, two former Legionnaires who were expelled from or left the Legion due to technical violations of the Legion Code; after their actual identities are revealed, the Legion turns out to be willing to forgive and forget, modify the Code, and accept them back again. They even explain how the two (who have considerably different powers from Superboy and Supergirl) managed to accomplish things like flying and knocking out a dinosaur with one punch.
  • Quasar: Meeting for the first time at the Project: PEGASUS facility, the Thing attacks Quasar after mistaking him for Crusader, Marvel Boy's evil duplicate. Eventually the two become good friends.
  • Flash Thompson has a tendency to dress up as Spider-Man, and end up mistaken for him by his enemies.
  • In Superman: American Alien, Clark Kent is mistaken for Bruce Wayne when he is rescued by a party yacht.
  • In Teen Titans:
    • The revived Osiris mistakes Killer Croc for Sobek.
    • Wonder Girl Donna Troy is confused for Wonder Woman by the general public, since she looks and dresses like the latter.
  • In the thirteenth issue of The Unbelievable Gwenpool, the tendency for non-fans to assume that the titular character is just another variant of Gwen Stacy ala Spider-Gwen, rather than a completely separate individual, is lampshaded in the midst of a larger "Reason You Suck" Speech.
    Deadpool: Your name is Gwen? I guarantee anyone who doesn't read this thinks you're Gwen Stacy.

    Comic Strips 
  • This Garfield strip has Garfield mistaking an actual bear cub for his stuffed bear.

    Fan Works 
  • Becoming Ponies has a weird twist on this. People are waking up as the characters of MLP:FIM... except they are sharing their minds with the characters, who never wake up in control. So, that's not Pinkie Pie, even though it is...
  • Bequeathed from Pale Estates: Lyarra has been mistaken as her aunt/mother Lyanna by several people, usually the drunk. Roose Bolton did it once, and Wyman Manderly was startled when he ran into her late at night at Winterfell in a white dress. However, King Robert Baratheon does it far more frequently and looks at her in a way that the other two never did, which deeply disturbs her.
  • The Boy Who Cried Idiot: In Lincoln's nightmare, he mistakes Martin for Clyde.
  • The Bridge:
    • When Mothra Lea arrives in Equestria, she's in the form a of Changeling Queen. Twilight Sparkle mistakes her for the evil Queen Chrysalis and nearly picks a fight before she's able to defuse the situation.
    • Kaizer Ghidorah stops his attack on Aria Blaze after he mistakes her for Controller 011, his wife from before he was turned into a Kaiju. While the two do not look alike, they have similar eyes. When he later finds out they are different people, he is very angry, as Controller 011 is the only person he cares about.
  • In Colors and Capes, Xander's hero identity, Flannel Man, is mistaken for a secondary secret identity of Batman by the police. After briefly trying to correct them, the villains decide to encourage the idea because the police cut Batman some slack and they're rather fond of Xander, who works as the bartender at the local Bad-Guy Bar.
  • Fate/Stay Night: Ultimate Master: Servant Avenger is Jeanne d'Arc, who in canon is an Identical Stranger to Saber. However, when they first meet and Avenger's helmet is knocked off, Saber at first thinks she is her other Identical Stranger, Mordred.
  • In Fear No Evil, a My Hero Academia fanfic, All for One, All Might, and Aizawa team up to rescue Izuku Midoriya from Humarise. None of them realize they’re all looking for the same boy. By the end of the fic, the identity confusions have grown increasingly complicated with All Might convinced that All for One is looking for his "long lost son" Rody Soul.
  • In Juxtapose, Toshinori hangs around Izuku so much that people start to assume they're related or that Toshinori is Izuku's stepdad. Hitoshi, despite being fully aware this isn't the case, doesn't bother to correct Ochako when she makes this mistake to get a rise out of Izuku, who blows a fuse at the implications and harangues his friends for not clearing up this misunderstanding.
  • In Keep On Running, Cave Echo!Clara is looking for the Doctor and runs across an attractive young man with bizarre manners and weird dress sense who immediately moves to protect her from danger and clearly has experience with strange events. She thinks it’s the Doctor (clearly based on Eleven) and kisses him. It’s actually Jamie McCrimmon.
  • In New Look Series: Kenshin's New Look Sano mistakes Kenshin for Kaoru because Kenshin is dressed up as Kaoru. (Despite the fact that Kaoru doesn't have red hair while Kenshin does.)
  • In The New Retcons John Patterson mistakes Claire Thompson as a lawyer hired either by his son's mother in law or the owners of the business he invested in to attempt to force him to give up his shares in said business. He takes it much worse when Anthony accidentally reveals that she's actually his wife's illegitimate daughter and attacks his wife in response.
  • The Cult of Bya no Kuei Arc in One Piece: Parallel Works is all about Wolfgang being mistaken for the royal prince of the island, who looks exactly like Wolfgang, save for his eye color. It gets Played for Drama when the Capricorns end up discovering the corpse of Wolfgang's doppleganger and mistake him for Wolfgang.
  • Sepia Tock: Adventures of the Ponyville Clockmaker is based around the premise that the titular character keeps getting mistaken for a certain fictional time-traveling hero. He is somewhat resentful of this.
  • In Future Shock Ray Palmer is mistaken for Clark Kent. Also funny because Brandon Routh played Superman on the big screen.
  • When Steve Rogers and Sam Wilson are sent on vacation in Europe during If They Haven't Learned Your Name, they meet a group of Korean grandmothers who mistake Steve for Channing Tatum and keep bringing up Magic Mike, much to his confusion. They keep shoving Tupperware full of Korean food into his arms, and suggesting various people they personally know back in South Korea who can give him a cheap nose job because his nose doesn't look like it did in the movie he wasn't in. (For the record, Steve broke his nose in a fight prior to the war, and getting the Super Serum didn't fix it.)
  • Fate Genesis: During the Heaven's Feel arc, the heroes are attacked by corrupted versions of 4th Grail War Servants that fell in battle. One of them, Sir Lancelot, is unable to distinguish between Saber and Sonic, because the latter once temporarily took the role of King Arthur.
  • It's mentioned in What You Wish For that Bobby Santiago was once nearly arrested after being mistaken for a guy who broke out of the psych ward.
  • Fate Grand Order: Kar en Tuk: Sir Gawain mistakes the Doom Slayer for Sir Bertilak the Green Knight simply because his armor is green and attacks him. The Lion King breaks up the fight and identifies him.
  • The Mountain and the Wolf: The Wolf can't be bothered to learn the names of various Westerosi characters, to the point where he talks about Bronn (who worked for and later turned against the Lannisters) to Jaime under the name of Bran (who was tossed out a window by Jaime), leading to a very confused Jaime.
  • In A Time for Changeling Harry visits Godric's Hollow while disguised and on the run and a senile Bathilda Bagshot mistakes him for her nephew Gellert Grindlewald.

    Film — Animation 
  • Toy Story 2: Buzz Lightyear is replaced with the new version of himself, and Andy's other toys mistake the new Buzz for Andy's Buzz.

    Film — Live-Action 
  • Bachelor Mother is a Screwball Comedy that revolves around a young woman being mistaken for the mother of a Doorstop Baby abandoned at a family home. As no one believes her story, the woman eventually begins saying that she abandoned the baby because she had nowhere to turn and the father was physically abusive. She takes in the baby, develops a bond with him, and eventually adopts him.
  • The Big Lebowski: A pair of thugs rough up The Dude. They do this because they're looking for one Jeff Lebowski, who The Dude has the same name as. A long stretch of strange events ensues.
  • In Captain Marvel (2019), Carol assumes Maria's neighbor Tom is Talos in disguise and speaks to him as such. After Maria asks her confused neighbor to come back tomorrow and closes the door, they find out that Talos is actually standing behind them in the living room, and he chides Carol for not being kinder to her neighbors.
  • Dumas (2010): Charlotte, a big fan of Alexandre Dumas, mistakes Maquet for the aformentioned writer. Maquet plays along, using Dumas' name to seduce her as he has fallen in love with her.
  • The plot of Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald revolves around everyone trying to prove that Credence Barebone is Newt’s friend Leta Lestrange’s younger half brother, Corvus V. Corvus had been sent to America via ship to be adopted under an assumed name to be hidden from Leta’s maternal family. Corvus Sr had put her mother under a curse in order to marry her and she died giving birth to her. He wanted to get revenge by taking away the one person Corvus Sr. loved, his son. However, the real Corvus died as a baby, unbeknownst to everyone but Leta. She’d swapped him with Credence because he wouldn’t stop crying. The ship sank and Corvus died along with Credence’s aunt. Credence is told his supposed real name, Aurelius Dumbledore, at the end of the movie but something is off and the information came from a known liar, casting doubt that it’s true.
  • A common theme in Alfred Hitchcock movies such as North By Northwest, in which Roger Thorndike is mistaken for a spy and gets dragged into a sinister plot as a result, in which he nearly dies.
  • The German movie Kleine Haie is about some guys who want to be accepted at an actors' school. One of them in fact starts out as a worker who just had to deliver a chair to the school, gets mistaken for another wannabe actor, but the teachers mistake his behavior "Hey, I just want to deliver this chair!" for improvised acting. He gets the hang of it.
  • The plot of Lucky Number Slevin is kicked off by Slevin being mistaken for his friend who he's staying with for a while by two separate mob bosses his friend owes a massive debt to and being forced to work for both.
  • The entire plot of the comedy The Man Who Knew Too Little is that Bill Murray's character picks up the wrong phone call and thus everyone involved in a massive spy adventure assumes he's a deadly agent. He, in turn, is under the impression that this is all a massive role playing game and his antics thus come off as the acts of an invincible super-spy. Amazingly, neither he nor the other real spies ever figure the mistake out.
  • Metropolis: Grot and the workers start out chasing the real Maria, but catch Robot!Maria instead ... though she's the one they were really mad at, so it works out. Meanwhile, the movie implies that Rotwang is trying to retrieve Robot!Maria (which started out as a robotic form of his late beloved Hel) when he captures Real!Maria.
  • In Le Million, Michel goes to find petty thief Grandpa Tulip because Tulip is in possession of a very important coat of Michel's. The cops wind up arresting Michel, thinking that he is Tulip. Hilarity Ensues.
  • In Mystery Date (1991), people keep confusing Tom for his older brother, Craig. That's because Craig engineered the situation to create an alibi.
  • In No Man of Her Own: Helen Ferguson meets a friendly couple, Patricia and Hugh Harkness, but the train that they are on derails in a horrible accident. Only Helen survives out of the three. Through a certain set of circumstances, Helen is mistaken for Patricia and is taken in by Hugh's family.
  • Re;member: Zev mistakes two of the Rudy Kurlanders as Otto Wallisch, the man he's hunting. The first only fought in North Africa with Rommel, while the second was himself a Holocaust survivor. Thankfully, in both cases he doesn't kill them before learning of this, even with his dementia.
  • In A Song Is Born, Frisbee mistakenly thinks gangster Tony Snow is Honey Swanson's father, because she calls him by the slang term, "daddy."
  • Star Trek (2009): When Spock runs into his future self, he mistakes him for his father, Sarek, due to their resemblance. Future Spock quickly corrects him.
  • Three Identical Strangers is a documentary with a young man, Bobby, arriving to college and everyone greeting him as though they know him and calling him Eddy. This leads to the discovery of his two long lost brothers.
  • The premise of Top Hat is that Dale Tremont mistakes Jerry Travis for Horace Hardwick, her friend's husband. They met when she was disturbed by his loud dancing, they hit it off and the next day she asks the hotel staff who was in the room above, they give Mr Hardwick's name (due to an error Jerry had to share his room) and point out Jerry when he comes to return the keys. Throughout the rest of the film, Dale is struggling with being wooed with her friend's husband, so she thinks... it gets even funnier since Mrs Hardwick was planning on introducing Dale to Jerry in hopes they would hit it off.
  • Trick or Treats: When Malcolm returns home and sees the back of Linda's head in the living room, he mistakes her for Joan, his ex-wife who had him wrongfully committed into a mental hospital some years ago. When Linda tries to speak up, Malcolm yells a Big "SHUT UP!".

  • Happens twice in Adventures of Huckleberry Finn:
    • Intentionally invoked by two con men who show up at the home of a recently deceased man, claiming to be his brothers who live in England. This fools the foolish townspeople for some time, until the real brothers show up.
    • Played straight when Huck unknowingly happens show up at the house of Tom Sawyer's Aunt Sally hundreds of miles from home, who just happens to be expecting Tom for a visit. When Tom shows up, he plays along and poses as Sid Sawyer, Tom's own younger cousinnote . Aunt Sally has never seen either of her nephews, so when a preteen boy shows up at her house she automatically assumes it's the one she's expecting. Tom, being Tom, thinks this is a great joke/adventure, and turns it into a game in which he makes up all the rules.
  • Caster, AKA Gilles de Rais/Bluebeard, of Fate/Zero thinks Saber is Joan Of Arc, and kinda flips out when she tells him otherwise. He assumes that she's lost her memory and decides to commit mass murders to 'restore' his beloved Jeanne d'Arc.
  • Ghosts of the Titanic: For the longest time, Angus Seaton thought that Michael, the person the ghost keeps asking him about, died when the Titanic sunk, and was buried in Halifax as Body #4. Then he eventually meets a man who reveals that HE is Michael. Angus then realizes he may have remembered some details off of Body #4 wrong.
  • In Cornell Woolrich's novel "I Married A Dead Man", two pregnant women (one happily married traveling with her rich husband and the other unmarried and running away in shame) visit a bathroom on the train. The married woman nearly drops her heirloom wedding ring down the sink so she puts it on the other woman's finger for safekeeping while she washes up. The train derails, the married couple are both killed and the single woman is mistaken for the other woman. She only finds this out in the hospital after giving birth and plans to tell the truth but finds herself in an increasingly complex web of lies, leading to blackmail and murder.
  • Lions & Liars: When Frederick is found in Camp Omigoshee, everyone mistakes him for a kid who hadn't arrived yet, Dashiell Blackwood. He rolls with it, seeing it as an opportunity for a fresh start. Then Dashiell is brought in the next day.
  • One chapter of Little House on the Prairie has Laura and her mother going out one winter night to milk their cow. They had a lantern but the light wasn't too strong. They saw a large figure by their gate and, mistaking it for their cow, Laura's mother told it to move and even slapped it on the shoulder. It turned out to be a bear, though it didn't act aggressively.
  • This is a major source of drama in Star Darlings. Around 50 percent of wish missions end in failure, usually due to misidentifying the wisher or misidentifying the wish. Sage mistook a Wishling who wanted her classmates to attend her party as the one she was supposed to help, when it was actually a person behind her. Libby has this happen with the wish itself. She mistook Ava's wish as wanting to win the class election when she actually wanted to stay friends with her campaign rival, Kristie.
  • Poor Nick Carter. In Year Zero, he is mistaken for both the Backstreet Boy and the founding partner of his law firm.

    Live-Action TV 
  • In The Adventures of Superman episode "Night of Terror" the crooks are expecting another called "Baby Face" to help them deal with Lois Lane and a female innkeeper. When Jimmy Olsen arrives, he gets mistaken for "Baby Face" and keeps up the charade as long as possible to help the women.
  • Doctor Who: In "Fugitive of the Judoon", Captain Jack Harkness is trying to teleport the Doctor to his (stolen) spaceship in order to pass on a message and a warning. However, his stolen and cheap equipment can't get a proper lock on her thanks to interference from a Judoon enforcement field, and he first gets companion Graham instead, assuming him to be the Doctor and not knowing about her Gender Bender regeneration. This gets Graham surprise-snogged by our favourite Extreme Omnisexual before he can clear things up. On his second try, Jack again fails by grabbing the Doctor's other two companions, Ryan and Yaz. Having heard Graham refer to the Doctor as "her", he mistakes Yaz for the Doctor since she's the only female present.
  • An interesting twist in "Secret Admirer"; Frasier mistakes himself for the object of Maris' affections when it is actually Niles who is supposed to receive the gifts.
  • An episode of House featured a sort of "torn from the headlines" mystery in which he spends the entire episode treating a woman who survived a building collapse but horribly maimed and unable to communicate. He keeps finding inconsistency after inconsistency with her condition, medical records, and patient history (as provided by her fiance and mother) but assume that his "everybody lies" motto explains things one way or another. In the end, House realizes the woman was misidentified, they figure out who she really is, and they save her life just in time using the correct medical history.
  • In Justice: The pilot shows the prisoner was convicted as a result of being mistaken for her half-sister in the dark, who she did not even know about. Both closely resembled the other, with the half-sister killing their father.
  • In the Leonardo episode "The Betrothal Ball", set at a Masquerade Ball, Lisa and Angelina, daughter of the Duke of Pisa, are wearing identical dresses and masks. Lorenzo has insisted he and Leo wear matching outfits, and at one point they swap masks. Every possible point of confusion is covered, first Played for Laughs (as Mac agonises to "Lorenzo" about how Lisa loves Leo, and Leo asks "Lisa" about it) and then Played for Drama (when Lisa gets kidnapped instead of Angelica.)
  • In an episode of The Munsters a group of thieves mistake Herman for their getaway driver, Big Louie (all they knew about Louie was that he was a big guy that looks like a monster). Meanwhile, Lily reports Herman missing to the police, and going by her description of him, they end up bringing home a drunken Big Louie mistaking him Herman. Hilarity Ensues.
  • In the Murder, She Wrote episode "The Mole", Jessica becomes involved when a harried airline clerk mixes her tickets up with those of the eponymous mole, and then loudly calls for "Miss Foster", leading to her being kidnapped by agents of a ruthless businessman in pursuit of the real Miss Foster.
  • Odd Squad: A Running Gag in "No Ifs, Ands, Or Robots" involves Oscar being mistaken for his Oscarbot 10, which has gone haywire and disobeyed its programming. Never mind the fact that it moves robotically and can only say its own number, whereas Oscar is quite obviously more fluid with his words and actions.
  • Our Miss Brooks: Several times. Naturally Hilarity Ensues:
    • In "Red River Valley", Mr. Conklin, Harriet, Walter, Miss Brooks and Mr. Boynton confuse state board official Mr. Jones with Deacon Jones, the "Hillbilly Heifetz" and leader of a square dance troupe.
    • In "Fargo Whiskers", Mr. Conklin believes school official Fargo is a disguised Walter Denton.
    • In "Head of the State Board of Education", thanks to Stretch Snodgrass' bungling, Miss Brooks and company accuse the man with the eponymous title of being an unemployed park bench loafer.
  • Outlander: Roger is mistaken by Jamie, who's never seen him, for Brianna's rapist (whom he actually has seen, but doesn't know it).
  • Happens a lot in Power Rangers, it seems. The plot goes like this: the current Big Bad wants the Monster of the Week to ambush and kidnap one of the heroes, but it just so happens that said hero has arranged for a friend or current love interest to meet with him or her somewhere, and when the monster shows up, guess what happens? (Of course, you could probably blame the Big Bad for this more, for simply not giving a better description.) The first time would probably have been when Madame Woe grabbed Billy's girlfriend Maude when Rita intended her to grab Billy, but it wouldn't be the last time.
  • The entire premise of Princess Returning Pearl. Xia Zi Wei is a long lost illegitimate daughter of the Emperor Qian Long who comes to Beijing to find her father. To get to her father, she must climb a cliff to get to where he is hunting outside the palace one day, but since she was too weak to climb the cliff, she entrusted her story and objects proving her identity to her sworn sister Xiao Yan Zi, asking her to relay the message on her behalf. Xiao Yan Zi manages to get into the hunting ground but before she could speak to the emperor, she was accidentally shot with an arrow by one of his sons...The emperor seeing the objects on her, immediately assumes she is his daughter instead and a whole lot of mixups ensues, leading to a whole complicated plot.
  • Princess Silver: Zhao Yun mistakes Ning Qian Yi for a fishmonger.
  • The Rise of Phoenixes: Zhan Bi mistakes Ning Sheng for Ning Yi. Ning Sheng goes along with it and claims to be Ning Yi. Naturally this briefly causes problems when Zhan Bi meets the real Ning Yi and assumes he's being tricked again.
  • A season 43 episode of Saturday Night Live hosted by Donald Glover had this in a skit parodying 80s R&B videos. Glover plays a man named Raz P. Berry who thinks his girlfriend Jade is cheating on him. He then does all kinds of ridiculous things as revenge including rubbing his own urine in his hair to annoy and disgust her and shoving all her jewelry up his ass. However, when he confronts "Jade", it turns out the woman he was stalking isn't his girlfriend - she's the wife of the man Berry saw her with and the reason he thought she was Jade was because he was dark sunglasses during a dark and foggy night.
  • The Pilot of Supernatural plays this for drama. Mary mistakes the man next to her son's crib for her husband, only to walk downstairs and find her husband asleep in front of the television.

    Professional Wrestling 
  • The attempted murder of Invader #3 by Manny Fernandez during a 1989 CSP match came about because the latter mistook 3 for Invader #1, who had killed Bruiser Brody.
  • In 2002, Eric Bischoff had 3-Minute Warning attack Jeff Hardy before his scheduled match because Bischoff got wind that someone was jumping ship to SmackDown for family-related reasons and assumed it was Jeff (whose brother Matt was undergoing his "Version 1" phase). The actual defector was Jeff's scheduled opponent Crash.

  • In Dawn of a New Age: Oldport Blues, Nadine mentions to Hyeon that one of her gang members, Luna, got the superpower to control electricity. Later on, he stumbles upon a girl who can create sparks, and brings her to Nadine under the mistaken impression that she's Luna. She's not, and Nadine angrily points out the big difference between them: the girl, Josephine, is white. Luna is not.

  • The Lieutenant of Inishmore reveals at the very end that that cat shown dead — definitely dead — on stage at the beginning was not Wee Thomas, but a random stray. The thought of Wee Thomas having been killed is what sparked off the plot.
  • In The Matchmaker, Cornelius and Barnaby are trying to avoid Vandergelder because he's their boss and they're skipping work, and Ermengarde and Ambrose are trying to avoid Vandergelder because he's her guardian and has forbidden their relationship. In the final scene, Cornelius and Barnaby (with the latter disguised in women's clothing) get mistaken for the eloping Ambrose and Ermengarde. Then the real Ambrose and Ermengarde show up, but Ambrose doesn't want trouble with Vandergelder so he claims to be Cornelius. Somewhere around this point, Miss Van Huysen gets so confused she starts wondering if she's really Miss Van Huysen.
  • In The Most Happy Fella, Tony mails Rosabella a photograph of his handsome young foreman Joe. Rosabella is shocked to discover on her wedding day that "Tony" is actually Joe and she's marrying an old man, but she goes through with the wedding anyway because she has nothing else to fall back on.
  • Shakespeare's plays:
    • The Merchant of Venice — Explores the differences between outer appearance and inner reality, putting almost every character in a disguise at one point or another.
    • As You Like It — Shakespeare had a lot of fun with utterly changing the meaning of the dialog by letting the audience in on who was really speaking, but leaving the characters unaware.
    • Twelfth Night — Malvolio, Orsino, and Olivia all find themselves doing things they wouldn't ordinarily, by trying to act as the person they are mistaken for.
    • Measure for Measure — The Duke uses disguise to reveal the truth about Angelo's character. This also provides comedy when Lucio speaks of the Duke to the Duke while unaware of the Duke's identity.
    • The Comedy of Errors — The entire play is built around the chaos two pairs of long-separated identical twins cause when they coincidentally end up in the same town.
    • Julius Caesar — Following Antony's effective speech, an Angry Mob forms up to find and kill Caesar's murderers. They run into a poet named Cinna, the same name as one of the conspirators, and beat him to death despite his loud and repeated protests that they have the wrong man.
    • Love's Labour's Lost — The king and his three lords disguise themselves as Russians to woo their beloved ladies in fun. The ladies get wind of the plot and disguise themselves as each other to turn the tables on the men, each of whom ends up wooing the wrong woman.

    Video Games 
  • Happens in Chrono Trigger near the start of the game when Marle goes to the past and is mistaken for her ancestor, Queen Leene.
  • Fate/Grand Order:
    • In the Orleans Singularity, Jeanne d'Arc Alter has been committing mass murders. Since she looks like the original Jeanne d'Arc, the French citizens can't tell them apart and attack the original Jeanne.
    • Brynhildr mistakes Siegfried for her lover who cheated on her, Sigurd, leading her to attack him.
    • The Valkyries thought Altera was one of them at first and tried to get her to "rejoin" their Hive Mind.
    • Anastasia Nikolaevna Romanova is able to manipulate Ivan the Terrible because he thinks she's his wife, Anastasia Romanovna.
  • An interesting variant in Final Fantasy X-2 in that the hero and villain both mistake each other for their romantic partner. Yuna and her friends initially mistake a recording of Shuyin for one of Tidus because they look so similar. Shuyin mistakes Yuna for his dead lover Lenne because she's wearing Lenne's old clothes that house her sleeping spirit. Later, Yuna tries to invoke this trope and pretend to be Lenne to get Shuyin to stand down, but he sees through the attempt and goes berserk.
  • When Seven first meets the Warrior of Light in Dissidia Final Fantasy: Opera Omnia, she asks if his name is Lightning because Caius told her to look for a knight named Lightning, who would be with her friends. Seven actually does meet Lightning later, and is confused because she isn't a knight, but says nothing because she isn't sure how much of her memories Lightning has.
  • God of War: Ghost of Sparta: This game reveals a prophecy that a "marked warrior" will bring about the downfall of Olympus; when Kratos was a child, Athena and Ares thought that Kratos' brother Deimos was the warrior in the prophecy because of his strange birthmarks. In reality, the marked warrior is Kratos himself, the mark in question being the ashes of his family that are permanently affixed to his skin.
  • In God of War (PS4), the Stranger had found the right man (Kratos) but had the wrong backstory. Specifically, Baldur was looking for a Frost Giant, not a Greek God with a troubled past. Baldur thought Kratos was a Giant like his wife and was hiding Faye but in actuality, Kratos was hiding Atreus, thinking Baldur was after him and his son due to his past and Faye had been dead for some time.
  • Forms a major plot point in the final battle in Hellsinker as Garland mistakes the protagonists as Amber's owner.
  • Kingdom Hearts II: Sora mistakes Riku for an Organization XIII member during the second visit to the Land of Dragons, leading to the two fighting.
  • Kirby: Triple Deluxe: Taranza mistakenly believes that King Dedede, not Kirby, is the hero of Dream Land simply because Dedede is the king. He only finds out his blunder after Kirby defeats him.
  • The plot of Napple Tale begins with a novice Grim Reaper accidentally collecting the heroine, Pōchi, when he was actually set for...a kitty named Pōshe. Pōchi then has to go on an adventure to get back home.
  • In NEO: The World Ends with You, the mysterious masked figure running around Shibuya who saves the Twisters from Susukichi is believed to be Neku, the protagonist of the previous game. It's actually Beat, who is one of Neku's closest friends and was a playable character in the first game. Beat was not intentionally impersonating Neku; people just assumed he was Neku because of how powerful he was.
  • In one optional pre-battle conversation in the Touhou Project fangame Sengoku Gensokyo, Mokou is initially antagonistic towards Ran due to mistaking her for a more malevolent kitsune that she'd crossed paths with centuries before. Eventually she decides that Ran has turned over a new leaf and cheerfully dismisses her, leaving Yukari's servant confused over the whole thing.
  • In Shovel Knight: Wandering traveler Reize mistakes Shovel Knight with Black Knight after hearing rumors of a knight with a shovel terrorizing villages, though it's only because Black Knight also uses a shovel.
  • From Sonic the Hedgehog series, Amy Rose mistook both Shadow and Silver for Sonic in their respective debut games. At least it served to make her an ally of both characters, prompting them to help in the final battles.
  • A funny meta example, fans of Yume Nikki stumble onto this Youtube channel, thinking it's the same Kikiyama who made this game.

    Web Animation 
  • In GEOWeasel, Jimbob, and later on, Nar, are mistaken for Weas and arrested, even when the cops are comparing their faces to Weas's wanted poster.

  • Occurs in this And That's How Equestria Was Made! strip, with Spike mistaking the sea serpent from The Elements Of Harmony for his crush, Rarity.
  • There were rumors on his campus that Yoon Sung from Welcome to Room #305 was a crossdresser. Those sightings were of his twin sister, Yoona.
  • Zack Weinersmith, the author of Saturday Morning Breakfast Cereal, has joked (eg.) in the comic about people accidentally admiring him because they mistake him for "the xkcd guy", presumably because their respective comics are similar in some ways.

    Western Animation 
  • In the Adventure Time episode "Mystery Dungeon", Ice King kidnaps four other characters and takes them to a dungeon so they can clear it for his own self-serving purposes. Each of them he grabs to serve a specific purpose, but he mistakes NEPTR (a pie-making robot) for BMO, who he wanted to hack a door mechanism. NEPTR still manages to fulfill BMO's purpose by throwing a pie that short-circuits the mechanism, opening the door.
  • An episode of ''Dan Vs. has Dan get mistaken for a homeless guy. In front of a Shakespeare dinner theater, no less.
  • In the Garfield and Friends episode "Mistakes Will Happen", Garfield and Odie are watching the intentionally mistake-filled episode of Garfield And Friends itself, Mistake Will Happen. At one point in it, Garfield and Odie overhear Jon planning to scare them using a ghost costume as punishment for walking in the woods alone. However, an escaped convict sees him after he bumps into a tree, and is worried that there might be people, so he uses the costume to scare away any people. Garfield and Odie spot him thinking he's Jon, and Hilarity Ensues.
  • Jem:
    • There is an episode where, while visiting a small European country, Kimber is mistaken for their princess and kidnapped. She is almost assassinated by the princess' evil cousin.
    • Ba Nee is a Vietnamese orphan. She is the only one who believes her father is still alive, but she only knows that he has red hair. In one episode she mistakes a man for her dad despite protests. It turns out he is too young to be her father however they stay friends nevertheless. Ba Nee is reunited with her dad in the finale.
  • My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic: In the episode "The Mean Six", the former Changeling queen Chrysalis creates mean clones of the Mane Six to seize control of the Elements of Harmony. Throughout the episode however, both the fake and real groups become separated and they end up meeting the real ponies in different areas, and cause several things which hinder their camping trip. Mistaking the clones for their actual friends, they are led to believe they have gone bad out of nowhere, and once they regroup, they are at each other's throats until Twilight resolves it all. Likewise, the clones mistake the real deal for members of their own group as well. To add it all up, the ponies never even find out the ponies they met were not their real friends, nor do they learn that Chrysalis was around and behind it all, instead thinking they themselves antagonized each other in random places throughout the episode.
  • The Powerpuff Girls mistake the Professor's brother with a sasquatch.
  • Randy Cunningham: Ninth Grade Ninja: In Bash Johnson: 11th Grade Ninja, Bash is mistaken for the ninja and gets all the adulation and is almost killed by McFist's robo-apes.
    • During Randy's first run-in with Catfish Booray, Randy introduced himself as "Ranginald Bagel", leading Booray to believe that to be the Ninja's true identity. It's revealed in a later episode there is a boy named Ranginald Bagel and the Ninja has to protect him from McFist.
  • The Simpsons:
    • Homer gets mistaken for a pilot after he was found drinking at a bar where that was required. He flips a switch on the plane and it smashes into the runway.
    Homer: But I keep telling you I'm not a pilot!
    Man: And I keep telling you you fly boys crack me up!
    • When waiting by his car in "The City of New York vs. Homer Simpson" a man drops off some change. Homer tells him he isn't a bum. More people give him change so Homer decides to just accept it. When he then asks a woman for spare change she ignores him, causing Homer to call her a cheapskate.
  • Spongebob Squarepants: In the Season 6 episode Professor Squidward, he is mistaken for his rich nemesis Squilliam Fancyson by the headmistress of a music academy. Despite his initial attempts to point out that he isn't Squilliam, he eventually caves in to temptation at teaching a class, and pretends to be his archrival. Unfortunately for him, Spongebob and Patrick are also at the class, causing him no shortage of pain and misery, before the headmistress shows up with the police and the real Squilliam to arrest him for identity theft.
  • Steven Universe: The fundamental part of a gem is their gemstone. Steven was born by Rose giving up her own life to create his, passing on her gemstone in the process. As this had never happened before, almost every gem that meets Steven thinks having Rose's gemstone means he is Rose. A flashback shows that even the Crystal Gems, who helped raise him, took some time to realize Steven was not Rose.

    Real Life 
  • People often don't realize how huge a problem eyewitness mistaken identification is. If there is one criminal in a population of 5000, and a witness is 99% reliable, that still results in 50 false positives. While people tend to think of eyewitness testamony as being one of the strongest forms of evidence, it's actually one of the weakest.
  • This problem is somewhat more recognized in medical practice. False positives from an apparently reliable test for a rare disease will swamp the actual afflicted ones, unless some kind of pre-screening removes most of the healthy. If the disease affects one in a thousand tested persons, and the test is 99% reliable in rejecting healthy persons, then the false positives will outnumber the diseased persons at least ten to one.
  • This happens every time you think you see an acquaintance who actually turns out to be a complete stranger. Can be embarrassing at parties.
    • Or if you mistake a stranger for a celebrity... That can be very awkward.
  • One particular example occurred in Beijing during the 2008 Olympics, when Steve Parry, a British former Olympic swimmer then reporting for the BBC, was mistaken for Michael Phelps, an American Olympic swimmer in Beijing who had beaten the record for most gold medals won in a single Olympics that year. Hilarity did indeed ensue.
  • Deliberately invoked during a 2021 practice for the NFL's Green Bay Packers, when newly-signed offensive tackle Dennis Kelly came onto the field wearing a jersey borrowed from teammate David Bakhtiari, who was not expected to participate in training camp as he was still in recovery for an ACL tear, as Kelly has more than a passing resemblance to Bakhtiari (especially given that players' faces are partially obscured by their helmets). At least one reporter fell for it, excitedly tweeting out the news of Bakhtiari's participation, before realizing his mistake.
  • Brazilian engineer Jean Charles de Menezes, resident in Britain at the time, was mistaken for a wanted terrorist on the 22nd of July 2005. The Metropolitan Police chased him through the Underground, dragged him off the train, pinned him down and shot him in the head execution-style. It was two weeks after the July 7th bombings, and the police had a "shoot to kill" mentality.
  • There is this Japanese musician who uses a very fancy hairstyle on stage ever since journalists had tried to interview an assistant after her concert instead of herself and she realized that journalists can make mistakes.
  • In a lighter example, Area 11 were once mistaken for Enter Shikari when they went to the after-party of a Japanese gig. They turned up to the party first, causing ecstatic fans to start buying them drinks for the first hour, although the group did not realise this had happened at first. Not long afterwards, Area 11 realised the mistake that had been made, making it even more confusing when Enter Shikari turned up for real.
  • Those who do an image search for the Reclusive Artist Hiromu Arakawa will get a lot of pictures of... several other women like Hello! Project's Haruka Kudou, the seiyuu Romi Park (the voice of the main character in Fullmetal Alchemist, Arakawa's best-known work), or one of Arakawa's representatives. This is due to some past misidentification that the internet won't forget.
  • Prosopagnosia. For those people virtually everybody looks the same. This may get extremely embarrassing since a normal person has no problems whatsoever with this task.
  • A downplayed fun version are "Separated at Birth" type webpages, showing celebs who look merely similar, maybe also due to the character makeup (say, Loki and Data - nobody could actually confuse Tom Hiddleston and Brent Spiner, unless suffering from prosopagnosia).
  • Mother Mary Angelica of the Annunciation (the founder of the Catholic television network EWTN) found herself at a party in Washington DC at one point, wearing her full Franciscan nun's habit. People were gawking at her and paying her a lot of admiring attention. At first she though they were viewers of the network and so took the attention in stride — until one partygoer asked her "How are things in India, Mother Theresa?"


Video Example(s):


Paige Is Now Bev

A woman at the park managers convention mistakes Paige for a manager named Bev. When the woman confronts Paige for lying to her, Paige tells her never lied to her because she told her she wasn't Bev multiple times and she didn't believe her.

How well does it match the trope?

3.67 (3 votes)

Example of:

Main / MistakenIdentity

Media sources: