It’s a tale as old as time: A lady we barely know suddenly joins the Dead Wives Club. Her husband is accused of her murder. Then he spends the next two hours protesting his innocence. Gone Girl’s Nick Dunne is only the latest in a long line of guilty-until-proven-innocent spouses. Here are some of the best wrongfully accused husbands in cinematic history.
Note: Some of these contain spoilers, so if you’ve not seen these yet, caveat emptor, friends.
1. Harrison Ford, The Fugitive
Defense: “I didn’t kill my wife!”
There’s a very important rule when it comes to Harrison Ford movies: If it looks like he killed an innocent person (especially his wife), he did not kill that innocent person (especially his wife). The Fugitive, the suspenseful masterpiece adapted from the 1963 TV show, is the best example of that rule. Ford stars as Richard Kimble, a physician who has been framed for the brutal murder of his wife. She actually dies at the hand(s) of a one-armed man, killed as part of a pharmaceutical-company conspiracy. Kimble has to prove all of this while being aggressively hunted down by Tommy Lee Jones and the FBI. (They, for the record, don’t care.)
2. Tim Robbins, The Shawshank Redemption
Defense: “I didn’t pull the trigger, but I pushed her away. And that’s why she died, because of me.”
We’ll be able to debate this forever, but let’s just assume Andy Dufresne’s claims that he didn’t kill his wife and her lover are true. They seem pretty believable when delivered so convincingly to the patient, Oscar-nominated ears of Morgan Freeman, who plays fellow Shawshank State Prison inmate Red. Dufresne’s innocence, even if it’s all pretense, fuels his determination to escape prison via an elaborate, multi-decade plan. Let’s just … overlook his seeming willingness to accept that no one would ever find his wife’s true murderer.
3. Humphrey Bogart, Dark Passage
Defense: “You know, it’s wonderful when guys like you lose out. Makes guys like me think maybe we got a chance in the world.”
For a late-1940s thriller, Dark Passage was surprisingly futuristic: Wrongfully convicted killer Vincent Parry (Humphrey Bogart) escapes San Quentin in hopes of finding the true identity of his wife’s murderer — but instead of just hiding out in basement apartments à la Dr. Kimble, he gets a new face so as to search incognito. The disguise doesn’t work, and neither do his attempts to prove his innocence. But he and his new face end up in Paris with Lauren Bacall, so it’s all good anyway.
4. Robert Taylor, High Wall (1947)
Defense: “Something’s missing. What was that about a carousel?”
In this movie, released the same year as Dark Passage, Steven Kenet arrives home to find out his wife has been unfaithful, so he strangles her to death. Or so he remembers doing. He has a mental breakdown and lands in a psychiatric hospital with no clear memory of the attack. However, instead of resigning himself to a life behind the high wall (eh?), Kenet teams up with Dr. Ann Lorrison (Audrey Totter) to learn the truth. They do, but not before we’re sufficiently traumatized by the realities of the mental-health system in 1947.
5. Harrison Ford, Presumed Innocent (1990)
Defense: “You think I killed her.” “The lady was bad news.” “So that makes it okay that I killed her.” “Did ya?” “Oh, pal.”
Harrison Ford, you poor soul. Three years before The Fugitive, he had a warm-up: fighting to prove he didn’t kill his colleague and mistress (not his wife, but it’s too good to leave out) in Presumed Innocent. After his DNA is found on the body, Rusty — a married man — must prove he’s not behind the attack. He’s successful, kind of: After being exonerated, Rusty finds out his wife (Parenthood’s Bonnie Bedelia) was behind the murder.
6. Bryan Mills, Tak3n (Taken 3) (2015)
Defense: “I didn’t do this.”
True, no one has seen this 2015 threequel of the original Neeson deathfest, but if its predecessors (and pretty much every other Liam Neeson film of the past few years) have taught us anything, it’s that even if he’s innocent of the crime in question, he will absolutely be guilty of killing a lot of other people (and wolves) who stand in the way of the truth. Did wolves kill his wife? Stay tuned.
7. Harrison Ford as Dr. Richard Walker, Frantic (1988)
Defense: “He had his arm around her here, like this. He could have had a gun, like this. Pointed right at her. Shut up! Smile! Walk! Out the lobby! Like this.” “Yes, it could mean that, or they could have just been having a good time.” “Mr. Shaap, you’re talking about my wife. You must be thinking about yours.”
Alternate defense: “I want you to find my wife!”
Ford once again find himself unlucky as another Dr. Richard (Walker this time) who loses his wife in Paris when she’s taken by terrorists while the pair are on vacation there. He’s condemned to spend the next 119 minutes alongside a career smuggler named Michelle (Emmanuelle Seigner) who leads him to her. The bad news: Michelle dies. The good news: Despite the police’s refusal to take Walker’s wife’s disappearance seriously, they find her, and the two leave Paris together, bonded forever by having been on the worst trip ever.
8. Leonardo DiCaprio as Dominick Cobb, Inception (2010)
Defense: “They think I killed her. [Pause.] Thank you.” “For what?” “For not asking if I did.”
Did Cobb kill his wife, Mal (Marion Cotillard)? Here’s what we know for sure: Mal kills herself (according to Cobb’s testimony, at least) because she believes she’s still dreaming and wanted to wake up. Then, because Mal is a criminal mastermind like her husband, she stages her suicide to make it seem like Cobb had pushed her out of a window. Because of this, Cobb is (understandably) wanted for murder and unable to return to the States. Is the top still spinning?