Follow TV Tropes


Not What It Looks Like / Live-Action Films
aka: Film

Go To

  • One sequence in The Adventures of Baron Munchausen features the King and Queen of the Moon, who have detachable heads. At one point, the Queen's disembodied head begins making suggestive noises and expressions, prompting the Baron to awkwardly tell his Kid Sidekick that the King is tickling her feet in bed. Amazingly, that isn't an example of Lies to Children: the King is literally tickling the Queen's feet in bed.
  • Advertisement:
  • In American Dreamer, after Alan brings a wet and drunk "Rebecca" to his room, his date sees them together and then storms off.
  • In American Pie, Jim says exactly this during the famous pie scene.
  • American Wedding:
    • Stifler and Jim are in the room with the cake that was made to celebrate Jim's engagement to Michelle. Jim catches Stifler rearranging the letters to read "Congratulation Jism!", and the two get in an argument that ends with both of them getting cake all over their pants. Jim starts to take off his pants to clean them, while Stifler gets knocked to the floor by a dog, who starts licking the cake off his crotch. Jim, with his pants around his ankles, gets behind the dog and tries to pull it off of Stifler. Jim and Michelle's families then walk into the room and catch what looks like Jim and Stifler raping a dog. Stifler even blurts out the line "It's not what it looks like!"
    • Advertisement:
    • This happens again with Stifler in the same movie. Jim's grandmother had been locked in the closet by some of his friends so that she wouldn't cause a fuss at the wedding (she objected to the fact that her Jewish grandson Jim was marrying Michelle, a gentile). Meanwhile, Cadence, Michelle's hot sister, had arranged with Stifler for the two to meet in that same closet to have sex. Cut to Stifler getting busted having sex with a granny.
  • Austin Powers: International Man of Mystery: Austin Powers disables a bunch of "fembots" by doing a striptease. Immediately afterwards, his girlfriend walks in and sees him in his underwear with what appear to be scantily dressed beautiful women. He tells her it's Not What It Looks Like and starts babbling; she cuts him off, laughs, and says "I believe you."
  • The 1939 film Bachelor Mother starts with Polly seeing a woman abandoning a baby at the steps of an orphanage. When she tries to help the baby she is mistaken for the mother and is reprimanded for trying to abandon him. No one believes Polly when she says she isn't the childs mother.
  • Advertisement:
  • In Bad Boys II, Mike and Marcus head into a side room at an electronics store to have a private talk about the fact that Mike had accidentally shot Marcus in the ass earlier in the film. Unfortunately, there is an active camcorder in the room, which transmits their talk to the entire store. Without context, everybody in the store thinks that Mike and Marcus are gay. As they step out of the room, they get accosted by a Madea-esque woman telling them that they "need Jesus".
  • Bend It Like Beckham:
    • When Jess and her friend Jules are walking along overwhelmed with laughter, they have to hold onto each other to keep from falling. The parents of Jess's sister's boyfriend think they're making out. They also mistake Jules for a boy due to her short hair.
    • In another scene, Jules' mother thinks her daughter and Jess are in a lesbian relationship when she hears them arguing in Jules' room (they were actually arguing about their coach Joe, who they have a crush on). Made even worse when they kiss during their excitement over being recruited for a college team.
  • Creep Van: By the time the police showed up, Campbell had already killed the real killer. Plus, he'd accidentally killed Amy, and Swami Ted is also dead, so there's no one to correct the police on what happened. As a result, Campbell ends up taking the blame for committing the murders.
  • In DOA: Dead or Alive, Bass Armstrong walks in on his daughter Tina sleeping in the same bed with Christie, and mistakenly believes they are lovers. He constantly insists he is supportive of their relationship, despite Tina's protests that there is nothing going on. He later makes a similar assumption upon seeing Tina and Kasumi together.
  • In Double Wedding, Charles and Irene are practicing a torrid love scene from his The Sheik-esque film, when Margit walks in and thinks that Charles is seducing Irene.
  • In Enchanted, Giselle in only a Modesty Towel falls out of the bathroom and on top of Robert just as Robert's girlfriend walks into the apartment. What makes it worse is that Giselle innocently doesn't help Robert clear up the misunderstanding because she herself doesn't understand the implications.
  • In Fierce Creatures, its a Running Gag that John Cleese's character is constantly being caught with women (or animals!) in compromising positions with implausible explanations.
  • Frantic:
    • Played for Drama when a concierge tells Walker he saw his missing wife leave with another man who was holding his arm around her. Walker fails to convince the US embassy staff that the man was doing this because he has a gun in her ribs.
    • Walker runs into some friends at the airport when he goes with Michelle to recover the suitcase. It's obvious what they think he's up to with a young trashy-looking French girl.
  • In Hellfighters, Tish, who is about 20, is on the phone at an oil fire in Venezuela when she hears that her estranged parents are going to remarry after having divorced when she was 5. She hangs up the phone, and sits down, excited, and tells the oilworkers there, "My father is finally going to marry my mother, isn't that great?" One of the men, who has no idea that she means they're getting remarried, says, "That must be very nice." and everyone else there, realizing the guy has completely misunderstood what she meant, break up in laughter.
  • The Illusionist: Invoked and inverted in-story not by The Protagonist, but by the man investigating him, of all things; who tells the protagonist that "while others may assume that a discreet carriage ride (with the Duchess and future empress) was what it looked like (a sexual encounter), I am willing to find out what it actually was." (As it turns out, a conversation between childhood friends.) It's also possibly subverted as the man is clearly skeptical of his explanation and warns him others will be even moreso.
  • In Independence Day, Will Smith's wingman is down on one knee to demonstrate proper ass-kissing technique when Smith drops a box. The wingman dismisses Smith's assertion that it's nothing by remarking "This is a wedding ring." At which point another pilot walks by, holds up his hands in a "Don't mind me" pose, and quickly backtracks.
  • In The Last Jedi, this is the final straw in an already volatile Poor Communication Kills situation. When Poe makes yet another attempt to find out if Admiral Holdo even has a plan to survive the situation they're in, he finds that she is fueling up a small fleet of transports. The transports are equipped with cloaking devices so that they can slip by the First Order unnoticed while the Resistance's capital ship is used as bait, but Holdo is refusing to share this detail with anyone. Combined with her refusal to give any response to Poe's point about the transports' complete lack of defenses, this leads Poe to conclude that Holdo is going to use everyone else as bait so she can save herself and her command crew. Holdo does not make any effort to dissuade Poe from this accusation or otherwise prevent him from spreading it to the rest of the already badly demoralized crew. At that point The Mutiny was inevitable.
  • In Lucky Number Slevin, Slevin walks into his bedroom to find a strange man having sex with his girlfriend doggy style.
    Girlfriend: This isn't what it looks like!
    Slevin: Oh right, so, he tripped and then you fell?
  • When Shondra gets caught in a compromising position with kidnapee B-Rad in Malibu's Most Wanted, her boyfriend makes it quite clear that: "I use that line all the time, and you know it's always what it looks like!!!" (Though in fact, it wasn't what it looked like. She was merely trying to extract a bullet from his foot, and her face ended up on his crotch. Easy enough to explain.)
  • Marvel Cinematic Universe:
    • In Iron Man, this, along with the following "I can explain," is subverted when Tony Stark is discovered, in his battlesuit, apparently being molested by robots. His response? "Let's face it, this is not the worst thing you've caught me doing." The bullet holes, however, are a bit bad.
    • In Captain America: The First Avenger, Peggy Carter walked in on Steve kissing a blond secretary and assumed he had become a womanizer. What she didn't see before was Steve trying to turn down the secretary's aggressive advances and being pulled into the kiss. Initially turning her down, at least. By the time Peggy showed up, Cap didn't look to be resisting that much...
    • Spider-Man: Far From Home: While on a stop in Switzerland, Brad Davis antagonizes Peter by threatening to reveal a photo of him taking off his clothes in front of what appears to be a dominatrix. In reality, said "dominatrix" was a S.H.I.E.L.D. agent, who was ordering Peter to disrobe so he could try on his new stealth suit.
  • In Molly (1999), Buck has to remove Molly's pants after she wets herself. His girlfriend walks in on him as he's holding her down on the bed while she shrieks and giggles. She believes him after he shows her the letter telling him Molly is in his custody, but she still dumps him because she wants a more reliable partner to have kids with.
  • In Monster-in-Law, the title character sends the ex-girlfriend up to the room where her son is getting dressed in order to try to break up his engagement to a girl she thinks is not good enough for him. So his fiancée walks in on him, half dressed, with his ex-girlfriend practically pasted on him.
  • Inverted the third The Naked Gun movie, Frank secretly does some undercover work for the police, even though he's promised his wife he's out of the force for good. When his wife discovers scratches on his back, she immediately figures out what's going on, and he says "No, it's another woman, I swear!"
  • One Night at McCool's: Late in the film, Jewel arranges a "date" with both Carl and Dehling at the same time without their knowledge. At Jewel's request Carl gets into a submissive S&M outfit, while Dehling goes to meet her in his police uniform. When Dehling later finds Carl in the house he restrains the apparent stranger on the kitchen table. At this point Carl's cousin Randy walks in and asks them what the heck is going on.
  • In Steve Martin's The Pink Panther (2006), this trope occurs twice. The second time is a particularly funny scene where Detective Ponton walks into Clouseau's apartment and it appears that he is having sex with his secretary, Nicole. In reality, she was choking on an egg and he rushed to perform the Heimlich. What makes the scene particularly amusing is that the two of them don't think that Ponton took it the wrong way and have the following conversation, which piques Ponton's interest:
    Nicole: You are so good! Where did you learn that?
    Clouseau: You know... I practiced on mannequins...
  • In Pretty Cool, Howard's sister walks in on him, Chuck and Miss Parker in a rather suggestive position.
  • In Red Eye, the flight attendants are under the impression that the heroine Lisa and the antagonist Rippner were in the Mile-High Club when they both exit a lavatory together, unaware that Rippner was really choking Lisa for lying to him following one of her attempts to thwart his assassination plot.
    Older Flight Attendant: Excuse me, this isn't a motel.
    Rippner: Sure.
  • In Shanghai Knights, we get one of these when Roy O'cannon (Owen Wilson) walks in on Chon Wang (Jackie Chan) adjusting a prostitute's back.
    Roy: Chon, you decadent philistine!
  • Averted in State and Main. At first Joe goes to some length to keep Ann from finding out that a nude Claire is in his room (against his will), thinking that the trope will play out. Then when she suddenly walks back in and catches Claire, Joe immediately explains what's going on, and Ann believes him.
    Joe: Wait, you believe that? But it's insane!
    Ann: So's our electoral system but we still vote.
  • Stroker Ace: The morning following a romantic evening, Lugs finds Pembrook crying at the hotel. The only word she gets out is Stroker's name, so Lugs tracks down Stroker and busts him in the face, believing that Stroker had sex with her. Neither one of them gets the chance to explain that Pembrook passed out from the champagne and Stroker didn't have the heart to take advantage of her like that.
  • Played with in The Sweetest Thing. Christina Walters (Cameron Diaz) and Courtney Rockcliffe (Christina Applegate), in underwear, on a car. The latter (who's driving) drops her lipstick, the former decides to search for it. A biker sees the thing, thinks it's something else... and Courtney decides to play along and pretend it is what it looked like! Then the biker crashes.
  • In Tango & Cash when Tango goes to hide out in his sister Katherine's house he sees her apparently having sex with Cash, (he sees her on top of the couch thrusting back and forth), she's actually giving him a massage to fix a slipped disc, it doesn't help with their dialogue, their moaning and grunting, and the fact that both are wearing very little clothing. However in an aversion of this trope, Katherine refuses to explain what she was doing to troll her brother.
  • In Titanic, Jack saves Rose from falling off the back of the ship and pulls her to safety, accidentally falling on top of her in the process. Her clothes are torn and she's visibly terrified from the ordeal. At that moment, the crewmembers walk in and see them.
  • Tucker & Dale vs. Evil: The entire premise of the film. Tucker and Dale are two Good Ol' Boys whose well-meaning actions unintentionally make them look a bunch of psycho hillbillies to the students camping in the area, who proceed to treat them as such. A particular highlight is Tucker and Dale trying to explain to the local Sheriff how the college kids ended up killing themselves on their property, only to end up Digging Themselves Deeper when Dale mentions that he (accidentally!) knocked out Allison with a shovel and put her unconscious body in his bedroom.
  • Played for Drama in Welcome to the Punch (2013). Cowboy Cop Max Lewinsky is forced to take London crook Jacob Sternwood to the hospital to see his son; Sternwood is holding a gun in his pocket. As they're leaving the hospital they encounter another detective helping wheel a sheet-covered body into the morgue. Lewsinsky starts to explain that his being with a wanted criminal isn't what it looks like, but unknown to him the body is that of his female partner and Lewsinsky has been framed for her murder, so the detective isn't interested in his explanation.
  • We're the Millers: Said by Kenny when David catches him kissing Casey. And then Melissa catches them, too.
    David: It looks like Casey is teaching you how to kiss out of pity.
    Kenny: Then it is what it looks like.
  • In Who Framed Roger Rabbit, Jessica (a toon) barges in to Eddie's office/apartment while he's getting dressed. A few minutes later, Eddie's love interest walks in on them, producing one of the more original gotcha lines ever: "Dabbling in watercolors, Eddie?"
  • Every encounter between the bike cop and the heroes of Wild Hogs is exactly that. It doesn't help that whenever he spots or overhears them, they tend to be discussing such matters as "being ridden so hard by Woody" or taking naked baths together, as seen here.
  • In Working Girl, the main character walks in on her boyfriend stark naked and having sex with another woman (also stark naked). "This is not what it looks like! (beat) Okay, this is what it looks like. But I can explain! Well, not exactly explain... Come on, Tess! I'm sorry! I really am! I love you!"

Alternative Title(s): Film


How well does it match the trope?

Example of:


Media sources: