[[quoteright:250:[[Webcomic/TheMeek http://static.tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pub/images/MeekHalo_197_8712.jpg]]]]
[[caption-width-right:250:[[FauxSymbolism It's just a frond]]. Lots of those in a jungle.]]

A HolyHalo has a lot of symbolic value attached to it, chief among them being saintliness, purity, and status as TheChosenOne. Sometimes however, it just isn't appropriate to the {{genre}} for a character to sport an ''actual'' HolyHalo, even if it's very appropriate for them as a character at a given moment in a story. What's more, it's also very obvious, which is not always a good thing.

Enter the Background Halo, a stylistic visual technique where a character's head will be put in front of something shiny or below a circle or oval. It benefits from being fairly subliminal and subtle. Well, provided directors don't turn on the HolyBacklight UpToEleven. Then it's just silly, and [[LensFlare possibly blinding.]]

Of course, that this can be done with clever object placement and positioning or elaborate costuming means that a character may [[InvokedTrope invoke this trope]] to give themselves an imposing and [[MessianicArchetype messianic aura]].

An opposite and similar version, involving background horns, is also fairly common.

Related to CrucifiedHeroShot, SymbolicWings and PietaPlagiarism.


* A 15th-century Netherlandish painting, [[http://www.nationalgallery.org.uk/paintings/follower-of-robert-campin-the-virgin-and-child-before-a-firescreen The Virgin and Child Before a Firescreen]], uses the woven wicker firescreen as a halo for the Virgin Mary.
* A famous print of [[https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chujo-hime Chujo-hime]] shows her with a large lotus leaf framing her head. This was later imitated by Catholic artist Daniel Mitsui in his Japanese-style drawing of [[http://www.danielmitsui.com/00_pages/maruya.html Our Lady of Perpetual Help]].
* Christ initially seems to lack a halo in ''Art/TheLastSupper'', but if one completes the pediment above Jesus, it creates a circle around Jesus's head that acts as a substitute for a halo.

[[folder:Comic Books]]
* In issue 27 of ''Series/BuffyTheVampireSlayer'' Season 8 a flashback shows Oz meditating with Bayarmaa. Oz sits inside a cage, and his head is framed by darkness. Opposite him and outside the cage is Bayarmaa, her head framed by artwork on the walls of the monastery in the shape of the sun, with beams radiating out from it. This trope occurs again one issue later: Oz hugs Willow and both their heads are framed by a painting on the wall.
* Issue 5 of ''ComicBook/{{Shutter}}'' gives Kate both these and wings.

[[folder:Films -- Animation]]
* Many of the backgrounds in ''WesternAnimation/TheSecretOfKells'', especially the drawings and diagrams on the walls of Abbot Cellach's study, form these for several different characters throughout the movie.
* In the church meeting scene in ''WesternAnimation/TheCurseOfTheWereRabbit'', Lady Tottingham has one as she advocates a non-violent approach to dealing with the Were-Rabbit. And Victor, who'd rather just shoot it, has Background Devil Horns.
* ''Disney/{{Cinderella}}'': When Cinderella is transformed into her iconic ballroom gown by the Fairy Godmother's magic, some of the magic dust used to make that gown actually gets thrown into the air and forms a halo around Cinderella's head.
* When Esmeralda comforts Quasimodo after he's been ridiculed at the Feast of Fools in ''Disney/TheHunchbackofNotreDame'', as she is walking up to the torture wheel the villagers strapped Quasimodo on to make fun of him, the Sun can be seen shining from behind her head, giving her the appearance of wearing a halo.
* Inverted in ''WesternAnimation/AnExtremelyGoofyMovie'' when the villainous Bradley gets background horns from the decorative shield on the wall behind him while talking to his team about his plan to cheat.

[[folder:Films -- Live-Action]]
* Done multiple times for Jesus in ''Film/TheKingOfKings''.
* In ''Film/HistoryOfTheWorldPartI'' when Jesus has The Last Supper (with Creator/MelBrooks as a waiter), Creator/LeonardoDaVinci comes in to paint a commemorative portrait -- Brooks [[http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VA1sx-vyWVk#t=1m47s holds his silver platter up behind Jesus to look like a halo.]]
* This technique was inverted in ''Film/TheShining'', with Jack shown with a black chandelier over his head, an "anti Halo", after he went crazy.
* [[http://www.zianet.com/jsager/Ra1.jpg Ra's outfit]] in ''Film/{{Stargate}}'' invokes a halo behind him. It's a Sun Disk to be exact, and it's probable that at least some Pharaohs actually wore them. It's also a candidate for the origin of the halo in the first place.
* Deliberate style choice in ''Franchise/StarWars: Film/ThePhantomMenace''. Most of Queen Amidala's costumes and background settings create a circular halo around her head.
* At least once in ''Film/{{Metropolis}}'', Frieder gets a HolyBacklight Halo (the light shining/diffused through his hair).
* Happens very often in ''Film/TheFifthElement''.
* Glenn Close's Iris character pulls this off with the sun shining through her hat in ''Film/TheNatural''.
* In ''Film/MissCongeniality'', Cathy Morningside gets a Background Crown.
* Used in ''Film/StarshipTroopers3Marauder'', where the devoutly religious assistant of now traitor Omar Anoke Holly begs Johnny Rico's no-nonsense atheist ActionGirlfriend Lola Beck to [[PrayerIsALastResort pray in their hopeless situation]]. As Behemecoatl, a planet-sized "[[AGodAmI God of bugs]]", prepares to devour them and assimilate their knowledge, Lola sees seven lights of light appears in the night sky as a halo around Holly's head, which are in fact a [[TheCavalry unit of advanced]] [[MiniMecha Marauder mechs]] [[ItsRainingMen dropping from orbit]] who bomb the God Bug and hundreds of Warrior Bugs. This convinces Lola to convert to Christianity, which the Federation then use to better control the masses.
* In the 1993 movie ''Naked'', Johnny takes a step back in such a way that a gold-colored clock frames his head.
* In Creator/DannyBoyle's ''Film/{{Millions}}'', the bad guy is never seen without a black woolly hat on -- possibly a balaclava partly rolled up - which forms a dark halo around his head. Entirely deliberate per the [[WordOfGod commentary track]] on the DVD.
* In ''Film/TronLegacy'', when Flynn meditates on the Solar-Sailer, the light eminating from the engine forms a background halo around him. Rather appropriate considering that in the Grid, he quite literally ''is'' God.
* In the ''Theatre/RichardII'' installment of ''Series/TheHollowCrown'', this is very much an InvokedTrope to go with Richard's carefully fostered messianic persona.
* A production photo for ''Film/TheDarkKnightRises'' shows Gordon standing in front of a neon church sign so that Jesus's Halo is directly over his head. Presumably, they filmmakers felt it would be too blatant to put in the movie, but it's worth remembering that in Film/TheDarkKnight he [[spoiler: faked his own death and "came back" to save Batman.]]
* ''Film/{{W}}'': While praying after giving the order to invade Iraq, [[HitlerCam a low-angle shot]] makes a light in the ceiling look like a halo around Bush's head, and then the light goes off.
* In ''Film/{{Twilight}}'', when Edward is in the science lab, he's positioned with the outstretched wings of an owl on a shelf behind coming out of his shoulders.
* ''Film/ScannerCop'': When Sam Staziak is officially inducted into the LAPD, the police logo behind him is framed to look like a halo.
* In ''File/BigTrouble'', Nina has been knocked out and rescued by Puggy. When she opens her eyes, he is back-lit with a halo around his head, making her think she has died and gone to heaven. Puggy gently lets her know this isn't true.

* There is a literary political satire in which a US politician with an approval rating lower than Hitler attempts to improve his image by getting visual FX artists to add subliminal haloes to his TV appearances. It backfires when one of the haloes slips and looks like a noose round his neck.

[[folder:Live-Action TV]]
* In ''Series/TheColbertReport'', when the camera is facing Colbert and his desk straight-on, there's a circle of stars around Colbert's head, definitely making a halo. Kind of.
* A promotional photograph for ''Series/{{Supernatural}}'' depicts Dean with a full moon shining right behind hishead, creating a halo-like effect. Interestingly, in that same photograph, Sam is shown as having a snake, well... Snaking up his arm.
* An unusual variant occurs in an episode of ''Series/{{Spaced}}'', where Daisy momentarily feels guilty for lying to their landlady, and the camera frames her head in front of a fruit bowl with two bananas poking out, giving her devil-like horns.
* The establishing shot of the "You win, or you die" scene in ''Series/GameOfThrones'' shows Cersei in a DutchAngle with her head obscuring the sun, which appears to be a deliberate invocation of this trope. Of course, Cersei is anything but a saintly person.
* ''Series/StargateSG1'':
** The Stargate is sometimes used to this effect. Notably, in the first episode of season 2, "The Serpent's Lair", where General Hammond is shown framed by the gate during his speech, with a timely activation concluding it.
** In the Ori arc, the Doci (the spiritual leader of the Origins religion) has his head framed by an elaborate Ori symbol.
* A subtle example in a classic ''Series/TwilightZone'' episode, "A Passage for Trumpet", where a mysterious figure pulls a suicidal trumpet player(Jack Klugman) back from the DespairEventHorizon and gives him a second chance at life. Just before he leaves, Jack says, "I didn't get your name." He turns around and answers, "Call me Gabe. Short for [[OurAngelsAreDifferent Gabriel]]." As he says this, he is standing directly under an overhead lamp, the light from which resembles a halo over his head. The shot was framed intentionally for that effect.
* In the ''Series/StarTrekVoyager'' episode "The Chute", there's a close-up shot of one of the prisoners who's figured out the secret of the aggression implants, where the force field ring surrounding the bottom end of the Chute frames the top of his head, appearing as a halo. However when he moves his head slightly it also appears as a [[BigRedDevil pair of red horns]], leading to a [[DarkMessiah more ambiguous interpretation of his character]].
* ''Series/DoctorWho'':
** In "The Daemons", during several of the Master's devil-summoning scenes, a circle of candles on the ceiling is shot to frame him like a halo.
** The opposite version -- in "City of Death", there's a scene where the Fourth Doctor is forced to his knees by a man with a rapier who has taken him prisoner. The whole scene is shot so that the horns on an ibex skull mounted on the wall [[http://i.imgur.com/pnQjJrF.jpg appear to be coming out of the Doctor's head]] as he [[DefiantCaptive looks on defiantly]].
** In the first episode of the ''Series/DoctorWho'' 2005 revival, [[Recap/DoctorWhoS27E1Rose "Rose"]], [[TheNthDoctor the 9th Doctor]] is shown with his head framed by the London Eye (a huge ferris wheel).
** In "The Parting of the Ways", the Ninth Doctor says to the Emperor Dalek "and I'm one of your angels?" while an illuminated pattern of lines on the door behind him spreads out of his side like wings.
* Jesse gets two in ''Series/BreakingBad''. The first is a dark halo caused by the woofer of an enormous speaker he slouches in front of as he dwells on his complicity in a death. The second is caused by the inset of a playground carousel.
* ''Series/{{Lucifer}}''. In "God Johnson", Lucifer confronts an inmate in a mental hospital who believes that he is God. Although Lucifer's powers don't work on him for some reason, Lucifer is not impressed by this apparent nutcase and goes to leave -- until Johnson addresses him by his true name. When Lucifer turns to look at Johnson in shock, the sunlight shining through the blinds behind Johnson provide a subtle version of this trope.
* ''Series/BuffyTheVampireSlayer''. When Buffy is resurrected from the dead at the start of Season Six, she's walking through a graveyard and due to the camera angle appears to have the wings of an angel statue growing from her back. [[spoiler:This foreshadows TheReveal that she was brought back from Heaven, not from some terrible hell dimension as her friends supposed.]]

* In the video clip of Music/{{Rammstein}}'s "Ich Will", Flake's head is framed by a large clock as he sits on a counter with a bomb strapped to his chest.
* A group of black lights behind Music/JayZ in the video for "On to the Next One" gives him a weird pseudo-Satanic background halo. It fits the creepy vibe of the video, which also features gooey skulls, Baphomet, and {{Monster Clown}}s.

[[folder:New Media]]
* [[http://static.tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pub/images/barack-obama-halo_1762.jpg Taking various photos of Obama with a halo around his head had become a meme]].

[[folder:Tabletop Games]]
* Space Marines of ''TabletopGame/Warhammer40000'' especially love this trope. Leaders like Chapter Masters and Captains often wear an "Iron Halo", a halo made of a metallic material and placed behind the head of the Marine, on their helmet or around the head. When active, the Halo glows with a sun-like aura and protects the wearer from almost any attack.
** This trope is likely adopted by the [[GalacticConquerer Emperor of Mankind]], the creator of the Space Marine, who had an actual halo of light around his head at all times. A few of his gene-wrought sons, the Primarchs, are often depicted with one as well in paintings, and a few also had an Iron Halo as a part of their armour, most notably [[TheMessiah Sanguinius]], who had a pair of wings to go with his glowing halo of light.
** Another faction of the Imperium of Man, the Sisters of Battle, often wear Iron Haloes as well, but even their Saints get actual halos upon ascending.
** Hell, after skulls and wings, haloes are one of the main symbols of the Imperium of Man.
** The Space Marines' evil cousins, the Chaos Space Marines, sometimes wear cursed haloes, especially the [[DarkMessiah Dark Apostles]], who administer the chaotic faith for their warband.

* Franchise/{{Barbie}}'s [[WinterRoyalLady "Goddess of the Arctic"]] doll has a [[PrettyInMink fur-trimmed cape]] with a [[http://freephotooftheday.clientk.com/wp02/wp-content/uploads/2007/06/fantasy-goddess-of-the-arctic-barbie-bob-macki.jpg huge collar]] shaped like this.

[[folder:Video Games]]
* In the poster for "The Sacrifice" for ''VideoGame/Left4Dead'', Bill's head has the rising sun behind it as a halo of sorts. [[spoiler: This is because canonically, he sacrifices himself for his friends in the campaign]]

[[folder:Web Comics]]
* The page image is taken from the first chapter of ''Webcomic/TheMeek''.

[[folder:Western Animation]]
* Occurs in ''WesternAnimation/{{Dilbert}}'', episode "The Shroud of Wally", with a disc in a Last Supper parody.
* Shows up in the ''WesternAnimation/MyLittlePonyFriendshipIsMagic'' episode "The Ticket Master". When a rainstorm pours heavily on everyone but Twilight Sparkle thanks to Rainbow Dash screwing with the weather, Twilight accuses Dash of trying to butter her up for her extra ticket to the Grand Galloping Gala. As Dash plays innocent, the sun behind her head gives her the appearance of a halo.
* BackAlleyDoctor Nick Riviera gets a ceiling light halo after he successfully completes Homer's bypass operation in ''WesternAnimation/TheSimpsons'' episode "Homer's Triple Bypass".
[[folder:Real Life]]
* A common practice among some late Roman emperors (including pre-Christian ones, e.g. Diocletian) was to create an appearance of a nimbus by sprinkling gold dust in their hair. The association between nimbus/halo with sanctity precedes Christianity and Roman emperor did encourage an imperial cult where they were treated as divine beings in order to prop up their authority.
* Some news photographers seem to enjoy the opportunity of taking pictures of the President of the United States with the Presidential seal behind his head like a halo. [[http://2.bp.blogspot.com/-Tqb_qVg0mVA/UlVEDR_pdKI/AAAAAAAAAqQ/L3OoPKIvJ4w/s1600/o-OBAMA-GOVERNMENT-SHUTDOWN-facebook.jpg Here's]] an Obama example, and [[https://excusemylogic.files.wordpress.com/2012/07/mdf145235.jpg one]] of George W. Bush.
** Ditto in the UsefulNotes/EuropeanUnion for the president of the European Comission with the stars of the EU flag, for example [[http://xchange.org/wp-content/uploads/Junker-State-of-the-Union.jpg this one]] of Jean-Claude Juncker[[/folder]]