Of course, since this is a series with a recurring Big Bad, our heroes may feel perfectly justified in going after the usual suspects. This trope refers to such scenes, in which our regular villain is forced to inform the heroes that this installment's Evil Plan is not his or her doing. This may or may not be believed at first, but after the villain's innocence is established, expect him to curtly dismiss the heroes.
Traditional Truce Zone requirements mandate that regardless of all the crimes they committed yesterday, if caught for the wrong thing today; the heroes have to let them go. Either that or the Big Bad got Off on a Technicality for yesterday's crimes.
This trope can be chalked up to The Law of Conservation of Detail: if you're going to have your villain appear, it might as well be relevant to the plot at hand.
An occasional subversion is for the usual suspect to claim innocence, convince the hero that somebody else did it... and then have it turn out that the original suspect is guilty after all. In some cases, the Frame-Up inspired the villain to actually do it afterward.
This trope may also occur with any character who has a recurring habit. It may or may not lead to Evil vs. Evil or Enemy Mine, depending on the story. (A villain might be upset that he was blamed for something he didn't do, or that he's being pounded on by the hero for something he didn't do, or that he was accused of a crime he considers beneath him, or that somebody else claimed a triumph he would have liked to score for himself. Any of these reasons is enough for him to be pissed at the guy who really did it.)
Also see Villains Out Shopping, which might explain the villain's innocence. Compare Guilty Until Someone Else Is Guilty. Compare Motive Misidentification, where the Big Bad is responsible, but for different reasons than the heroes initially suspect. Contrast Hijacked by Ganon, where it seems like a new villain is at fault but the Big Bad is revealed to be pulling the strings. May overlap with Card-Carrying Villain and/or Villains Never Lie if the heroes believe the story because it would be out of character for the villain to deny his crimes rather than boast about them.
- Anime & Manga
- Comic Books
- Fan Works
- Live-Action TV
- Video Games
- Western Animation
- The first three episodes of Black Cat Detective revolves around the reoccurring villain, the One-Eared mice, committing murders and theft while evading Black Cat and the authorities. So when the fourth episode had a praying mantis character discovered horribly maimed and ripped to pieces on his wedding night, a day after One-Ear is spotted lurking through the fields where the mantis community lives, everyone is quick to assume One-Ear is the killer. He's not, turns out the mantis groom is killed by his bride and One-Ear just happens to be passing through.
- In a 2018 commercial for Blue Bunny ice cream, a couple notices that all their pants are missing. The Talking Animal mascot admits that he took their pants as a stunt promoting loaded sundaes. Then, an elderly woman enters also without pants, announces that she's meeting friends to play mahjong, and leaves the house.
Blue Bunny: I did not take Grandma's pants.
Jon: GARFIELD!!!Garfield: I'm innocent! I swear it!
- The July 10,1980 strip has Odie crash into a pedestal and knock over a flowerpot. Jon assumes Garfield is to blame for the destruction when Garfield was only sitting their minding his own business.
- In the February 2, 1999 strip, somebody threw away all of Jon's shirts except one that reads "I (heart) cats". Believing Garfield is responsible, Jon throws him outside; Odie then appears in the doorway wearing one of Jon's shirts and a malicious smile.
- An arc in Foxtrot had Walking Techbane Roger be blamed for rendering the family computer nonfunctional when he tried turning it on. While not implausible given his record, it'd actually been broken beforehand when Paige spilled soda on it.
- Spoken word for word by John Spartan in Demolition Man, when his first attempt to capture Simon Phoenix results in a building in flames (blown up by Phoenix) and a heap of charred hostages (killed by Phoenix before Spartan dropped in, specifically to hide them from infrared scan until their unrecognizable remains could be found in the wreckage).
Captain Healy: Yeah right, like you had nothing to do with it.
- Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides: Jack Sparrow is believed to be trying to locate a ship to find the Fountain of Youth, as well as recruiting a crew. Turns out, for once, he was not the one who is actually doing it. It was Angelica, a former flame of Sparrow, who was doing it, while disguised as him.
- Pitch Black: When Zeke is killed by the Bioraptors, everyone at first thinks that it was Riddick, who everyone knew to be an escaped convict and killer, who did it. However, while he admits that he has killed "a few people," Zeke wasn't one of them; the Bioraptors got to him.
- In Apollo 13, Fred Haise has been using the cabin repress valve, which causes a sharp banging sound, to mess with the other astronauts. When the oxygen tank explodes and the entire ship starts shaking, he rushes in saying, "That's no repress valve!"
- La Folie des grandeurs (Delusions of Grandeur) with Louis de Funès as Don Salluste: "Non, Sire! Pour une fois c'était pas moi !" Translation: "No, Sire! For once it wasn't me!"
- In Se7en, as Somerset is looking at an object in the road:
Mills: What you got?
Somerset: Dead dog.
John Doe: I didn't do that.
- Marvel Cinematic Universe:
- In Thor: The Dark World, Thor's first thought when he hears about a prison riot is "Loki". Loki is the only one not rioting and is in fact calmly reading in the corner of his cell.
- A far less humorous example comes in the followup, Thor: Ragnarok. When Thor and Loki find Odin to take him home, he serenely tells them that he hears his late wife calling to him. Thor angrily tells Loki to lift his enchantment but Loki's look of concern and subtle head shake confirms he's not to blame this time. Then Odin reveals that he had already broken free from Loki's spell.
- Lampshaded when Doctor Strange starts to open a portal beneath Loki's feet and he exclaims "This isn't me".
- In The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 2, When Snow is confronted by Katniss about the bombing that killed Prim, he tells her that he wasn't responsible, citing the fact that he would not do something so petty unless it benefited him. It was actually Coin, as a gambit to destroy his support and end the war.
- Alan from The Hangover series has been responsible for drugging the Wolfpack in the first two films. But in the third film, during The Stinger, the gang and Alan's new wife Cassie has been drugged again. When a bare-breasted Stu asks Alan what he has done, Alan responds that the wedding cake was from Chow.
- The during the rivalry between "Stone Cold" Steve Austin and The Rock for top superstar status during the Attitude Era, both wrestlers did a lot of ambush attacks to each other. The most brutal happened during one night on Monday Night Raw when Stone Cold was ran over by a car. The Rock, himself, didn't confirm nor deny he was responsible, so the battles continued. Weeks later it was revealed that The Rock wasn't behind the attack, it was his friend and sometimes wrestling partner, Rikishi, who claims he did it to help him out as appreciation for breaking barriers as a person of color in the wrestling business, and didn't want Steven Austin or anyone to stop his momentum(Rikishi was actually blackmailed by Triple H)
- While in Ring of Honor, Raven wooed and recruited Trinity to humiliate and beat down CM Punk, who responded by calling on his girlfriend Lucy to do the same to Raven before fulfilling his obligations to Pro Wrestling ZERO1. When Punk returned from Japan, he found Lucy had been attacked and a calling card eerily similar to that used by Raven's Nest, but Raven was proven innocent, as it was actually the mark of the Prophecy, which lead to Punk leading the Second City Saints after the group's leader Christopher Daniels, who still wasn't the culprit. It was new recruit BJ Whitmer.
- A third example occurred during the holiday season of 2008-2009, when Jeff Hardy was WWE Champion and Edge was Number One Contender. Hardy was repeatedly wronged by a mysterious assailant who ambushed him backstage at Survivor Series, ran his car off the highway...and nearly burned him alive by sabotaging his in-ring entrance pyrotechnics when Hardy was coming down to the ring to be interviewed on The Cutting Edge. Hardy himself and all the commentators were convinced that Edge was behind all the mischief, but Edge kept insisting he was innocent. And he was: the person who'd been stalking Jeff Hardy for two whole months, and who finally cost him his championship at the Royal Rumble, was Jeff's envious older brother Matt, who admitted that, for good measure, he'd also burned down Jeff's house nearly a year before and killed his dog. Of course, Edge wasn't too sorry about this anyway, since Matt's interference enabled him to win the title.
- In WWE Smackdown:
- A storyline in 2010 involved Kane looking for the one who put The Undertaker in a coma. When he accused CM Punk of doing the deed, Punk replied that while he wanted to do it, it wasn't him this time. Kane proceeds to identify Rey Mysterio as the attacker. Subverted; it was Kane himself who was responsible for it all.
- An early storyline in 2011 had Smackdown General Manager Teddy Long getting taken out. Since Wade Barrett had just formed The Corre on that episode, had done something similar to the previous Raw GM during his time as The Nexus leader, and Teddy had just tempted fate by telling them that he would not allow himself to be cowed by their beatdown antics like the current Raw GM was, they were naturally the first suspects. However, they denied having anything to do with it. It eventually turns out that they were telling the truth. It was Vickie Guerrero and Dolph Ziggler that did it.
- Since arriving in NXT, Kevin Owens laid waste to numerous wrestlers and even tried to end the career of his former friend Sami Zayn. However, when Hideo Itami was found injured in the parking lot and Owens was nearby, he responded with this, and has continued to respond as such every time he's questioned about it. He even asked commissioner William Regal why he'd deny attacking Itami when he's bragged about every other atrocity he's committed.
- In The Wubbulous World of Dr. Seuss episode "The Snoozer", Yertle the Turtle announces his intent to build a huge statue of himself at the site of the Snoozer, an existing and popular statue. When the statue disappears, Jane Kangaroo assumes Yertle is responsible, and when Horton insists "We shouldn't jump to conclusions, We should walk slowly and carefully to conclusions" decides that anyone who defends him must be an accomplice. It turns out the statue wasn't stolen at all. It woke up. Even Yertle is surprised at the idea of being innocent of something, and says it feels weird.
- In the Midship Detective Agency attraction for Disney Cruise Line, one of the cases the guests have to solve is who kidnapped the Dalmatian Puppies from 101 Dalmatians on the ship. One of the suspects is Cruella De Vil, who despite her threats against the dogs in continuity, has an alibi, as she wasn't even on the ship at the time they were kidnapped. The culprit tends to be randomized, for the cases.note
- Ace Attorney:
- In the fourth case of Ace Attorney Investigations, Edgeworth suspects that Manny Coachen was responsible for killing Byrne Faraday, as Byrne had prosecuted him for killing Cece Yew (and he was almost certainly guilty, but got off because the decisive evidence was missing), but Detective Badd says that while Coachen attended the day's trial, he was being watched by the police the entire time, giving him an alibi.
- The first case of Investigations 2 involves an assassination attempt on a foreign president. A witness is involved who is very clearly the assassin Shelly De Killer. He denies he had anything to do with it. He's telling the truth, though he had planned to kill the president before things went out of hand. The president's assassination was actually staged, and De Killer was the only witness in the case who wasn't in on it.
- Case 4 of Investigations 2 reveals that one of Manfred Von Karma's evidence forgeries was actually orchestrated by someone else behind his back. Specifically, the one in the case where he received his first penalty.
- In the first case of Dual Destinies, Ted Tonate, a police bomb technician, is exposed as the killer of a detective, as well as the one who blew up the courtroom in the opening. But in the game's final case, he admits that while he did kill the detective, he didn't blow up the courtroom, someone else stole a remote that detonated said bomb. He even warned everyone to evacuate when the bomb was about to go off.
- In the fan-made case The Empty Turnabout, Athena Cykes murdered Simon Blackquill six months ago, and only Apollo knows it. The game presents Apollo in such a way that it appears he only took this case because he suspects she also killed Ian Arts and wants to finally bring her to justice. But she didn't do it, as it turns out.
- In Danganronpa: Trigger Happy Havoc, Genocide Jack is both a Serial Killer and Toko Fukawa's Split Personality. However she did not murder Chihiro Fujisaki and then creepily crucify their lifeless body, despite how the evidence does point at her. In fact, throughout the entire story, the known serial killer kills a grand total of zero people. It ultimately turns out that Byakuya Togami was the one who staged the body like that in order to frame her, but he isn't the killer either, only doing so to "keep things interesting" and test the perceptiveness of his classmates. It gets lamsphaded by Ishimaru.
Ishimaru: "I have no idea what's going on anymore...! Could such a heinous villain really be innocent!?"
- Higurashi: When They Cry: In Maekashi-hen (and Watanagashi-hen to an extend), Shion blames her grandmother Oryou and many others connected to the Sonozaki family to be responsible for Satoshi's disappearance. By the end of Maekashi-hen, Mion reveals (too late) that their grandmother kept her word of leaving Satoshi alone, since Shion took responsibility for that, but Shion doesn't believe her sister. Later in Matsuribayashi-hen, we learn what really happened to Satoshi. After killing his aunt and buying the big stuffed animal for his sister Satoko, he met Dr. Irie who noticed that Satoshi was about to enter the final stage of the Hinamizawa Syndrome and he immediately took him to the hostipal where the boy would get his treatment in secret and hidden to the public, while the murder on the aunt is covered up by the Yamainu due to Dr. Irie's request.
- Zero Escape Trilogy:
- K's route in Virtue's Last Reward has Dio, who claims that while he killed the old woman they discovered at the beginning of the game, he wasn't responsible for Luna and Alice's deaths. Turns out, he was telling the truth.
- Series-wide example. The Nonary Game in Nine Hours, Nine Persons, Nine Doors is orchestrated by a person called Zero. In Virtue's Last Reward there is another Zero masterminding another Nonary Game, but the original Zero is working behind the scenes with the new one. In Zero Time Dilemma there is yet another Zero with new Deadly Game... and for once the original Zero has nothing to do with it.
- DSBT InsaniT:
- In "The Camping Webisode", Koden tells Alex and Seth not to beat up Andy for Frets, Martha asks "why", and Koden, knowing Alex is the one to say stuff like that, does a Double Take when he realizes it didn't come from him for once.
- In "Untamed and Uncut", Evil Balloon is the one to die in an instant rather than Balloon. Balloon is, of course, delighted about surviving the episode.
- In 'Carneelval', Bill is the one lamenting about craziness ruining a fun outing rather than Koden.
Bill: I thought we could just have a fun time without another bad guy showing up! Now I know how Koden feels.
- During Cornerstone, the group (mainly Rythian) assume that Smiffy and someone else are posing as creepers to try and scare the others, after Smiffy has tried it before and died for his trouble. It turns out that no, those are actual creepers. Sjin also kills the wrong person for stealing his jetpack.
- In mashed's Omnileaks animated short, Winston, Mercy, Lucio, Tracer, Zarya, Genji, and Reaper capture Sombre, convinced that she leaked embarrassing secrets about them (the titular Omnileaks). Sombre is thoroughly confused by the accusations, but admits that she wished she had leaked the info after hearing the hilarious Leaks.note
- In Red vs. Blue, when Caboose claims that the crash that stranded them on Chorus was not his fault, no one takes him seriously. But in this case, he really was innocent- it was everyone else's fault. And the crash was actually caused by a tractor beam. The team's antics just ripped the ship in half instead.
- SF Debris: "Next week, we return to Star Trek: Voyager, where someone is experimenting on the crew... and it's not Captain Janeway this time."
- The SCP Foundation's SCP-682 is an Omnicidal Maniac. There is one point in the test log (mostly a list of spectacularly failed attempts to kill it) where somebody shoved Dr. Clef into its enclosure and locked the door. The document goes to great lengths to point out that the subsequent death by neck-snap of the person who pushed him in there was definitely due to 682 somehow managing to break containment without visibly disappearing from its enclosure, and not in any way caused by Dr. Clef.
- There Will Be Brawl:
- Who's the butcher and/or Peach's kidnapper? Bowser? Ganondorf? Mario assumes Bowser, but Luigi is the main character and has no idea, so we have no idea.
- Played with in that it was Ganondorf, using the butchers, as well as Olimar and others. Ganondorf was then hijacked by the biggest evil in the series, Kirby.
- The That Guy with the Glasses team review of The Last Airbender has a group of reviewers forced to watch the movie; the group initially thinks The Nostalgia Critic is behind it, since last year he did exactly that with Dragonball Evolution. When they contact him, he's horrified at the idea of anyone sitting through it. It was JewWario, he accidentally left the disc there after borrowing Y: Ruler of Time's Avatar: The Last Airbender DVD.
- The Hitler Rants videos on YouTube normally sees either Fegelein or Himmler (or often both) pulling antics on Hitler. Once the spin-off series based around Josef Stalin and the cast of Das Boot got their own antic masters, Fegelein frequently had to explain to Hitler's staff that he wasn't involved in whatever embarassment had just befallen Hitler, often with little success.
- Noob had this happen twice:
- Gaea, a known Manipulative Bastard, has a video that is very copromising for her faction's top player end up on her blog. It took a solid alibi to convince her own Guild Master that she had gotten framed.
- The actual poster of the video later got this, mostly due to happening to be in the same faction as the female player that had just broken one of the male protagonist's heart. On a side note, part of the audience was suspecting said female player to be working for him all along up to that point.
- In Atop the Fourth Wall, both Linkara and the audience assume it was Mechakara who broke the Continuity Alarm. However, when he's finally confronted, he admits he didn't do it. As it turns out, it was Linksano who broke it.
- Despite being the Token Evil Teammate for Hat Films, there are occasions when Smiffy's Pyromaniac tendencies get him blamed for fires he didn't actually start. One example is in Minecraft 1.8.2 XBLA #5, when Ross accidentally places lava inside their (partially wooden) house, setting it on fire. Trott immediately shifts the blame to Smith, due to his habit of burning down their houses. He was similarly accused of stealing items, causing them to actually kill him... only to be stunned to not find them in his dropped inventory. Turns out they just missed them among all the junk in the chest.
- During Sips' Garry's Mod Murder! series, Ross of Hat Films becomes The Dreaded as the murderer due to his shouting "EAT SHIT" at the top of his lungs. In at least one case, however, he's mistaken for the murderer as his efforts to shout "EAT SHIT" and put them off fail, resulting in him dying and everyone else assuming it's him.
- You yourself may or have already said this once in your life if you've been blamed for something you didn't do, especially if you're known for making trouble on occasions.
- 2011, the infamous Play Station Network hack. Anonymous, known for their acts of internet activism/vandalism, came out with a statement titled "For Once We Didn't Do It".
- Interestingly enough, splinter faction LulzSec once had a hack attributed to them which was actually committed by someone else. They ended up (somewhat reluctantly) taking responsibility anyway.
- During World War II, an infamous event called the Katyn Massacre occurred. The Soviets and the Allies claimed that Nazi Germany committed the Massacre, while Germany said that the Soviet Union was responsible for the atrocity. The Soviet Union even tried to condemn Germany for the Katyn Massacre during the Nuremberg Trials in 1945. It didn't work because evidence was mounting from German records and witnesses that they had, legitimately, stumbled on the crime site instead of having caused it, and in the years after the war most Western historians took it as a fact the Soviets did it. Records released after the Soviet Union collapsed finally confirmed that, for once, Nazi Germany was innocent of that war crime, and it was in fact the Soviets who did it.
- It was often assumed by the general populace that the victims of the mysterious Dyatlov Pass incident were killed by a Soviet government experiment and a fairly standard coverup had happened. There was even a popular book written in 1990 called The Price of State Secrets Is Nine Lives, arguing that premise. After the Soviet Union fell, analysis of their archives revealed that the government was as confused and disturbed by the events at Dyatlov pass as everybody else.
- LaDondrell Montgomery had his life sentence for armed robbery cancelled when it emerged he was in prison when the stick-up happened.
- Following the Sony Hack of '14, North Korea vehemently denied all responsibility for the attack, and indeed, top security experts believe it could only have been an inside job at work here. Not that the U.S. government is ready to listen to them, of course.
- Shortly before the trial of James "Whitey" Bulger was set to start a potential witness named Stephen Rakes, whose liquor store was essentially stolen from him by Whitey and the Winter Hill Gang to use as their base of operations, was found dead in the woods near his home. Due to the timing it was initially theorized it had something to do with his testimony, but when asked about it Whitey pointedly said he had nothing to do with it (with a reaction bordering on But for Me, It Was Tuesday when he had to be reminded who Rakes even was), and it turns out he was telling the truth: Rakes was killed by a business associate for reasons completely unrelated to the trial.
- Five Nights at Freddy's creator, Scott Cawthon, is well known amongst his fans for inverting the Schedule Slip trope. But when the tie-in novel Five Nights at Freddy's: The Silver Eyes was to be released on the 22nd of December, by sheer coincidence, the novel was released early anyway. Word of God says that Amazon's publishing of the novel took a far shorter time than expected, and for once, he had nothing to do with this early release.
- Amid a series of ISIS sponsered Jihadist terrorist attacks in Europe in the 2015-2016 years, a shooting occurred in Munich, Germany. The attacker was Iranian who was alleged to have yelled "God is Great" or "Allahu Ackbar", a sort of battle cry Jihadists utilize, prompting people to declare it another ISIS attack. It was soon discovered however, that this claim was unfounded as the shooter had no links to ISIS and his particular brand of far-right politics were in fact a twisted form of European ultra nationalism rather than Islamic fundamentalism. The shooter had looked up to Norwegian right wing terrorist and mass shooter Anders Brevik for inspiration, his victims were mostly foreigners (many of whom were Muslim), and he was yelling to onlookers that he was German. The fact that Iranians are mostly Shia who oppose Sunni ISIS was a bit of a give away to this trope. However, since ISIS had been committing so many attacks as of late and the fact that the Sunni/Shia divide is not particularly well known in the west, it took a while for people to figure out it wasn't an ISIS terrorist attack.
- ISIS usually evokes this trope when it doesn't take responsibility for an attack, especially since they have a tendency to take responsibility for attacks that they weren't involved with to begin with. Unsurprisingly, people usually attribute these attacks to them anyways.
- On extremely rare occasions - usually after attacks that target their core supporter demographic - they have issued denials. Most people usually still attribute these attacks to ISIS anyways.
- While searching for the killer of Adam Walsh (the son of John Walsh whose death led directly to the creation of America's Most Wanted), recently-incarcerated serial killer Jeffrey Dahmer was questioned on it. When he denied it and the questioning intensified, Dahmer pointed out that he had eagerly confessed to all of his other killings, describing in horrific detail not only who he killed, but how he killed them and what he did to them afterwards. And now that he was in prison for life one way or another, why would he lie about committing murder now? Dahmer was indeed telling the truth, and he had nothing to do with Walsh's death.
- Mob hitman (and later informant) Donald Frankos claims that he was convicted of a murder he didn't really commit on the basis of perjured eyewitness testimony. According to him, he always wore a disguise when committing contract killings. In his memoir, he dryly notes that "if I had done it, he wouldn't have been able to identify me" would not have made a good defense in court.
- From 2003 to 2005, 3 teenaged girls went missing from the same neighborhood in Cleveland — Amanda Berry, Gina DeJesus, and Ashley Summers. It was assumed that all 3 girls were victims of the same perp. In 2013, Amanda and Gina were found alive, having been held prisoner for 10 years as Sex Slaves by Ariel Castro. Although a third woman was found with them, it wasn't Ashley Summers but Michelle Knight. Castro denied he had any other victims, and the three survivors had never seen any others. While an ominous inscription saying RIP was found scrawled in the basement where the women had often been held, it was already there when Michelle was first captured, over 8 years before Ashley went missing. Ultimately, nothing was ever found to suggest that Ashley Summers was a victim of Castro's.
- Usually, when the Basque separatist group ETA assassinated someone, be it by shooting or car bombing, the pro-ETA political party Batasuna would make some statement saying that they "lamented" the "event", but did not condemn it. This was not the case when a non-targeted toy car bomb exploded during Donostia/San Sebastián's "Big Week" holidays in 2001, killing a grandmother and severely injuring a baby. Batasuna resoundly condemned and called it a terrorist attack, and even sent representatives to a demonstration clamoring for justice that stood side by side with politicians contrary to Basque independence. Said politicians made some sarcastic remarks about how they hoped to see them again next time, when ETA actually murdered someone. The case remains unsolved.
- Scottish-Canadian Serial Killer Thomas Neill Cream is widely rumored to have been Jack the Ripper. Most experts reject him as a possible suspect, since he was imprisoned in Illinois at the time the murders took place.
- When Aldrich Ames, a KGB mole in the CIA, was arrested for espionage in 1994, the CIA realized that there were still at least two security leaks he couldn't have been responsible for: the sabotage of an investigation into another espionage suspect (Ames was in Rome at the time) and the leak of the existence of a tunnel under the Soviet embassy that was to be used for spying (it was an FBI project and Ames couldn't have known about it). These were the work of FBI mole Robert Hanssen, who was caught in 2001.
- Notorious Serial Killer Richard Ramirez had his trial interrupted when one of the jurors was murdered. The other jurors were terrified, believing that Ramirez had somehow arranged for it to happen; however, it was later determined that the juror had been shot by her boyfriend for reasons unrelated to the trial.