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Reasons and methods can of course vary. One way is if two people are alone, and one is hunted. The other person befriends the hunted person, and then claims that person is dead when other people finally arrive. Another way is a service for this (think extreme Witness Protection). Yet another way could be involuntary (give these people what they want, or it won't be fake anymore).
Doesn't always work, though.
Compare Merciful Minion.
Anime and Manga
- At the end of Witch Hunter Robin, Robin and Amon are declared dead after an enemy base they were inside self-destructed. Doujima informs her superiors that No One Could Survive That, even though both she, and the rest of the team, knows very well that the both of them almost certainly made it out unscathed. By declaring them dead, they'll be relatively safe from Solomon pursuit.
- Roy Mustang does this to Maria Ross in the Fullmetal Alchemist manga and the Brotherhood TV series after she is set up to take the fall for Hughes's murder
- Happens to Kaoru in Rurouni Kenshin as part of Enishi's revenge. The only reason Enishi didn't go all the way was because he was so traumatized by witnessing his sister's death that he gets physically ill at the very idea of harming a young woman. So, he decided to invoke the trope via making his Mad Artist henchman build a flesh mannequin looking exactly like Kaoru beforehand, kidnapping Kaoru, replacing her with said doll * and* impaling the mannequin to a wall with Enishi's sword before he leaves it for Kenshin to find, he pretty much destroys Kenshin's will to live for quite a while. It takes the arrival of Misao and Aoshi for everyone to realize that Kaoru was still alive.
- In Claymore, After an attack on The Organization is defeated, several handlers find their warriors hacking the body of the renegade named Phantom Miria into a bloody mass of meat with thier swords. Of course considering her Healing Factor this turned out to be the best way the warriors could protect the woman that had taken such pains not to do them harm from their superiors.
- Done by accident in Tantei Gakuen Q. A businesswoman learns that the meeting she had hoped would save her company was a lost cause, so she didn't bother going on the flight to the meeting site, giving her ticket to someone on the reserve list. The plane crashed, and the authorities assumed she died on the flight. Because her life insurance policy would yield enough to save the family business, she allowed the report of her death to stand and then laid low, hoping to start rebuilding her company in secret. Unfortunately... her attempt to visit her family in the disguise of a Phony Psychic gets her killed by her own sons, two Knight Templar Big Brothers who believe that she is a con artist employed by their greedy aunt hoping to take a hold of their sweet and innocent younger sister (the heiress to what remains of the company) so the evil aunt can use the poor girl for their own benefit..
- In Baccano, during his Roaring Rampage of Revenge aboard the Flying Pussyfoot, Claire Stanfield kills a man with a similar build, hair color, and conductor's uniform by grinding his face off on the tracks. He is later amused to find that the FBI mistook the defaced victim for him—so amused that he allowed himself to be interviewed for his own obituary.
- Used in GoLion's chapter 30, when Princess Fala is apparently struck dead with a poisoned blade - in reality she's in a poison-induced coma, as a part of her Stalker with a Crush Sincline's plan to abduct her without the GL team's opposition so he can force her marry him. Even more, it almost works.
- A Strontium Dog story ended with Johnny discovering his target was innocent, but faced with the knowledge that if he didn't claim the bounty, someone else would. He shot the perp with a stun beam, thus recording him as dying and allowing him to live free from fear of other hunters.
- In The Mighty, Cole's wife, Janet, was thought of to be dead but was really kidnappped and experimented on by Alpha One.
- Seen as early as "Snow White and The Seven Dwarfs", along with other Fairy Tales.
- The Rock
- The film Eraser has the main character go around faking deaths for witness protection.
- La Femme Nikita was an involuntary version.
- This happened in Pitch Black, with Riddick asking that the others say he died on the planet/moon/hell-forsaken rock. As we see at the beginning of The Chronicles of Riddick, that didn't discourage the mercenaries from hunting him down anyway. Of course, they were clued in by one of the people he rescued. In the novelization, it's made clear people were still looking for him anyway. They just couldn't find him without help.
- This happens in Assault on Precinct 13. The cop lets Bishop—a murderer and gangster—go because the man earned his trust and respect. He then implies to his fellow officers that Bishop was killed in the deadly raid on their precinct.
- Extreme Prejudice (1987). The movie opens with the Black Ops unit assembling, stating the fact that every one is listed as having been 'killed' while on military service, in order to aid plausible deniability—a Fridge Logic idea as it would be a lot more plausible to have them be thrown out of the military on fake charges. When the sheriff protagonist realises he's caught several people officially listed as dead, it's obvious that there's some official funny business going on.
- Miller's Crossing (1990). Bernie Bernbaum begs Tom Reagan to "Look into your heart" before pulling a classic dick move.
- This is how Edward Scissorhands got saved at the end of the movie.
- In the first Underworld movie, Kraven does this for Lucian.
- In Pirates of the Caribbean On Stranger Tides, Blackbeard needs to get Syrena to shed a tear. After torture doesn't work, he seemingly kills Philip, the only man who's been kind to her, in front of her. It doesn't work. He orders the body disposed of. Then Philip wakes up later, goes back to rescue her - and then she sheds tears of joy, which is what Blackbeard had planned for all along.
- In The Rescuers The Rescuers Down Under, McLeach fakes Cody's death when kidnapping him in order to both keep the authorities from tailing them should a child be reported missing, and at the same time also interrogate him in regards to where Marahute is.
- In The Dark Knight Rises, Bane fakes Dr. Peval's death in a plane crash in order to retrieve him. However, its strongly implied that he intends to do worse things to him after retrieving him.
- Narcissa Malfoy with Harry at the end of Harry Potter and The Deathly Hallows.
- Dr. Yueh, for Jessica and Paul in Dune.
- In Isard's Revenge, Rogue Squadron is ambushed by an Imperial warlord's forces; the new Red Shirts get killed, everyone gets damaged to some extent, and two others eject. The damaged but still flying Rogues, fighting against numerically superior foes, get a dramatic rescue from another Imperial sect which politely tells them to go with them before more of the warlord's people show up. They do so. Very soon after the Errant Venture hyperjumps onto the scene, sees the mingled Imperial and New Republic debris, and assumes that the two forces annihilated each other. They recover the two survivors, allow one to pretend to still be dead, and retreat back out of Imperial territory with the horrible news. Meanwhile, the Rogues are in Isard's hands, and she wants them to kill her clone.
- Moist von Lipwig, in the Discworld novel Going Postal, had his execution faked for him, as the involuntary subtype: Become Vetinari's Boxed Crook, or... well, to everyone else you're already dead, aren't you?
- In Connie Wilis's "Winter's Tale", "William Shakespeare" is coming home, except that Anne knows he's not her husband. She learns that her husband was lured to a tavern and murdered to pass off the body as Christopher Marlowe, while Marlowe got to pass himself off as Shakespeare. Considering that prior to that, she had thought her self-centered husband had sold his identity, she is able to live with it.
- In one of the early Sword of Truth books, Zedd fakes Kahlan's execution in a way that requires her to think she's been executed. The way the magic works, everyone involved except the caster must think the execution is genuine when the spell is cast. The result is a reality warping spell that makes everyone think you're dead.
- In the fourth book of A Song of Ice and Fire, Cersei gets news that Davos is dead. That is all we hear about it until the fifth book, when we see his side of the story. Davos is locked in one of Manderly's nicer cells until he finds out that Manderly has killed someone in his place. Manderly's goal was to gain the trust of the Lannisters while simultaneously forcing Davos to secretly go fetch the Stark heir in exchange for Manderly's allegiance to Stannis.
- Nikita : The whole plot is based on Nikita's death being faked by division .
- At the end of Rome, Titus does this with Caesar's son (who was actually Titus's).
- This was Agent Henricksen's plan in 'Jus in Bello, in Season 3 of Supernatural: to say that Sam and Dean were dead. Sadly, he was killed himself before he could carry this plan out. But everyone assumed Sam and Dean had died with him.
- The cause of some of Daniel Jackson's "deaths". Just as often, it's a Left for Dead situation or All Just a Dream from the start, but there have been a few times, like the Season One episode "Fire and Water", where his death was deliberately faked by someone else because they needed a translator and couldn't wait around to ask politely.
- McCoy does this for Kirk in the Star Trek the Original Series episode "Amok Time", during Kirk and Spock's Involuntary Battle to the Death.
- John Locke tells some mobsters that his father is dead in the Lost episode "Lockdown" (In return, the mobsters don't get either of them, but John's girlfriend leaves him).
- Babylon 5: when Vir Cotto becomes ambassador to the Minbari, fakes the deaths of thousands of Narn refugees in order to get them safely to other worlds.
- Oedipus Rex. It didn't end well.
- Subverted with in The Yeomen of the Guard: The plot's something of a Gambit Pileup, but, very briefly, Point claiming Fairfax was dead actually forced the disguised Fairfax to set up Point's Tear Jerker ending. A little less briefly *deep breath*:
- The play's set in the Tudor era. Fairfax's relative wants him dead so he can inherit some entailed property, so had him condemned. Fairfax realises that under the terms of the entailment, if he marries, he can keep the relative from inheriting, so arranges with a friendly guard to marry... anyone willing. Point and Elsie work as entertainers, and have come to the Tower of London looking to get money to help Elsie's dying mother. Elsie agrees to the marriage. Then the plot to break Fairfax out of jail by some other characters happens, and Fairfax gets disguised as the son of one of the guards.
- This is set in the Tudor era, so marriage is pretty much unbreakable, morally and legally. Point decides the only way to rescue Elsie from the criminal is to fake Fairfax's death, and sets it up with the guard who took the blame for Fairfax's escape. The shot being fired interrupts Fairfax right at the brink of telling Elsie what's going on, and he's then forced to deal with Point trying to convince his wife that he's dead, and basically trying to trick her into committing bigamy. Fairfax is morally outraged about this, but it's been a few days, and Elsie likes "Leonard", so, when Point asks Fairfax to teach him how to woo Elsie, he agrees. The demonstration is completely successful, and Elsie agrees to marry him - that him being Fairfax.
- So, basically, Point's attempt to invoke this trope changes what would likely have been a gentle let down into a series of horrible shocks for him, and, well, after one last, desperate attempt to win Elsie back, on her wedding day to Leonard, and just after it's revealed Leonard and Fairfax are the same person - well, he basically ruins what Elsie was calling one of the happiest days of her life. His fatal, selfish flaw of making everything about him pretty much ruins any chance he had to even be friends with her, though she is still sorry for him, and, as she and Fairfax leave, he either dies or is just left a completely broken man (depending on production).
- And that's the simplified version. What's so great about Yeomen is it manages to have a plot that complex, but keeps it all understandable, natural, manages to invoke tragedy without having any actual villains - everyone acts out of sensible, human motivations, and noone is all that unsympathetic (even if modern productions tend to play up Fairfax's flaws a bit more, thanks to the Values Dissonance of the Tudor attitudes about marriage. Oh, and it has all sorts of Crowning Music of Awesome - it's considered by many to be Gilbert and Sullivan's best work.
- A simpler version of the tragic type: Rigoletto, in which Rigoletto discovers too late that the body in the sack isn't the Duke he hired an assassin to kill to protect his daughter... but his daughter herself, having decided on the Heroic Sacrifice approach to love.
- Tragic example in Aida: When the Egyptian soldiers come looking for Aida, Nehebka sacrifices herself while the other Nubians restrain and hide Aida.
- At the end of Resident Evil 0 Rebecca says this of Billy, since he was sentanced to death for the murder of civilians while serving in the marines (and almost certainly framed by the rest of his unit to protect his CO).
- In Knights of the Old Republic, when you are running around looking for bounties on Taris you may run into Matrix, a guy who ratted out on the interstellar crime syndicate because of a guilty conscience. There is, of course, a bounty on his head, but if you refrain from attacking him he may mention that he wouldn't be holed up hiding if he could fake his death. You can then go out and buy plot-exclusive explosives too complex for your party to use, allowing Matrix to rig his room with them. Believed dead, he disappears, and if you go to the bounty office the Hutt there tells you that his people saw you buy the explosives and next time he'd prefer you didn't do it like that. But you still get the bounty.
- Revan would have died had Bastila and the Jedi not saved him; they let the galaxy at large – including the amnesiac Revan himself – believe he did die.
- A heart-wrenching example occurs in Dragon Quest IV: when the forces of evil show up at the hero's Doomed Hometown, their best friend Eliza takes their form and is killed in their stead, fooling the invaders into thinking they just slew the Chosen One.
- In Mass Effect 2, after you recruit Archangel, the 3 mercenary groups, who teamed up just to kill him, all decide to spread the rumor that he's dead. The fact that the mercs managed to hit Archangel the face with a gunship rocket lends credibility to the story, and as nobody knows Archangel's real identity, no one questions it when they see him in your party.
- In Back to The Future: The Game, Marty needs to convince Trixie that Arthur has been killed by Kid Tannen... but, for fear of the Grandfather Paradox, can't actually let Arthur get killed. How convenient that Kid Tannen keeps caricatures of all the people he's killed on his wall.
- In Tekken Tag Team Tournament 2, it's revealed that Dr. Emma Kliesen felt sympathy for a tiny boy that was the Sole Survivor from a bunch of kids bred, raised and used in genetic experiments by the Mishima Zaibatsu, thus she declared him dead and then secretly took him to an Orphanage of Love so he'd have a normal life. The boy would eventually grow up into the boxer Steve Fox. Noticeably, this is 100% canon -- uncommon for a Tag Tournament game.
- Iroh of Avatar: The Last Airbender claims to have killed off the last dragon to his community that makes a sport of it, but this is a lie to protect the last two in existence from extinction.
- In the premiere episodes of Justice League, J'onn J'onnz masks Batman's thoughts and claims him to have been shot dead in the line of duty. This allows Batman the time needed to prepare a device to "reverse the ion charge" of the Big Bad's evil cloud-making machine.
- In Family Guy, Quagmire fakes his death to get out of a marriage. Joe covers for him.
Joe: Yep, he's dead. I can tell, I'm a cop.
- According to the Saturday Night Live TV Funhouse short "Journey To The Disney Vault", this was apparently what Disney did to Jim Henson after he refused to sell them his company in 1990.
- In Real Life poet and writer Fernando Pessoa assisted famous Aleister Crowely in faking his own suicide.
- Emperor Nero's mother was going to be killed, but a friend of hers pretended to be her. Since it was nighttime, it worked. Some versions state that she told said friend to pretend to be her in order to make sure she'd be rescued however. Not that it helped when she went to him for help, given he ordered the assassination...