[[quoteright:350:[[WesternAnimation/ClassicDisneyShorts http://static.tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pub/images/de6ea40ce0e2f239a4e24ca2ff189a21.jpg]]]]
[[caption-width-right:350:[[Webcomic/BugMartini Dude, it's only]] [[http://www.bugmartini.com/comic/cartoon-generated-imagery/ a premise for a boob joke]].]]

->''Frito, who had been silently taking all this in, suddenly spoke up. "I think I have the answer," he said as a 25-watt light bulb appeared over his head.''
-->-- ''Literature/BoredOfTheRings'' fanfic [[http://junior.apk.net/~drushel/b_scour.html "This Is The Way We Scrub Our Stye"]]

A character thinks and thinks... then, suddenly, has a bright idea! A light bulb turns itself on directly above the character's head. Often with character pointing one index fingers upwards. Sometimes accompanied by an IdeaDing.

This trope has been subverted for decades -- [[DeadUnicornTrope it became a cliche almost as soon as it was invented]] (in the 1920s, for the black and white ''WesternAnimation/FelixTheCat'' cartoons).

Often parodied. Most common subversions are the appearances of a broken light bulb to signify someone is thinking of a bad idea; candles, torches, or other sources of light appearing over the heads of characters who pre-date the lightbulb; and a character getting the bulb, but turning it off, indicating they had second thoughts and decided it wasn't a good idea after all. In shows with a weak fourth wall, characters may even [[MetafictionalDevice grab the lightbulb off of their head and utilize it in their plan]], or may happen to be standing under an actual lightbulb that is turned on by another character. Characters GenreSavvy enough will sometimes put an actual lightbulb above their head or someone else's in an effort to give them an idea. A DeadHorseTrope, definitely. Nearly every example here is a parody or subversion. Often used as part of a RebusBubble.

Also, this trope may have been invented in reference to a Mr. UsefulNotes/ThomasEdison having a great idea about something... what was it again?[[labelnote:*]]Oh yes! [[AreYouPonderingWhatImPondering The phonograph.]] The lightbulb? No, he [[CommonKnowledge didn't actually invent that one.]][[/labelnote]] (Or it could just be the concept of [[{{Pun}} enlightenment. Or having a bright idea.]])



* A promotional spot for the animated version of ''WesternAnimation/MyFriendRabbit'' showed the author of the original book, Eric Rohmann, with an idea bulb over his head.
* A commercial for Red Bull energy drink has Thomas Edison attempting to invent the light bulb. One of his employees brings him a Red Bull, which he drinks; this trope results...and he takes the bulb and screws it into the socket.

[[folder:Anime & Manga]]
* In one episode of ''Manga/RozenMaiden: Traumend'', a cell phone signal icon with three bars appears over Suiseiseki's head.
* Not quite the same thing, but the first episode of ''Manga/OuranHighSchoolHostClub'' uses a set of light bulbs turning on to indicate the members of the Host Club realizing [[WholesomeCrossdresser Haruhi is really a girl]]. The first bulb to turn on is [[TheChessmaster Kyouya]], and the last is [[IdiotHero Tamaki]]. When Tamaki's bulb turns on, it then zooms out to show a whole wall of bulbs lighting up to form the ''kanji'' for "female".
* Parodied in ''Manga/TheWorldGodOnlyKnows'': when Elsee gets an idea, a different image pops up each time - firefly!Elsee, traveller!Elsee sighting a star, Elsee powering a lightbulb with a bicycle, etc.
* A little lightblub appears over [[Manga/MahouSenseiNegima Asuna]]'s head when she realizes that her anti magic fan (which is useless against all the non magic stuff in this arc) is the perfect weapon for enemies like Takane, who clothes herself with shadow magic and has numerous shadow constructs as her fighting style.
* In ''Anime/BenTo Zero The Road To The Witch'' they uses idea LCD light [[ItMakesSenseInContext in order to conserve electricity]]
* In the Nichijou episode, [[http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pWKRvUAuCH0&feature=related Button]], while Yukko and Mio were talking about the fire alarm button, Yukko gets a lightbulb over her head, then evily laughs and [[SchmuckBait tricks Mio into pushing the button.]]
** In the anime, the Professor also gets one when she comes up with the idea of giving Sakamoto the scarf that allows him to speak.
* ''Manga/{{Haruhichan}}''
** In one episode, Tsuruya gets this when she gets an idea about the leftover chocolate.
** This was used yet again in the Halloween episode, in which Haruhi gets this.
* Chapter 170 of ''Manga/MyHeroAcademia'' features a variation, in that while Izuku gets the idea to [[spoiler:brong Eri to the culture festival to make her smile]], it's Mirio who gets the idea bulb; it's notably broken, probably to acknowledge that while Mirio himself didn't come up with the idea, he still finds it excellent.

[[folder:Comic Books]]
* ComicBook/{{Asterix}} uses a burning torch or an oil lamp, since the series plays nearly two thousand years before the invention of the light bulb.
* ''ComicBook/{{Supergirl}}'' story arc ''ComicBook/{{Bizarrogirl}}'' has a light bulb appear above SelfDemonstrating/{{Bizarro}}'s head when he figures out an easy way to explain his predicament to Supergirl. Bizarro being Bizarro, the light bulb is broken.
* In ''WesternAnimation/TheWuzzles'' section of a ''Creator/WaltDisney Comics'' comic book, Croc had one appear in a thought balloon, but Flizzard swiped it out of curiosity. (Croc still had the idea.) Later in the same story, Flizzard got out the bulb and held it up, hoping it would turn on and trigger an idea. It did.
* In Larry Gonick's ''ComicBook/TheCartoonHistoryOfTheUniverse'', a caveman having a brilliant idea has a light bulb appear above his head. When he reveals the flint knife he's created, another caveman says "Oh, I thought it was going to be a light bulb."
* When ''ComicBook/LeonardLeGenie'' has a particularly bright idea, or a series of ideas, he lights up and makes sounds like a {{Pinball}} machine or VideoGame.
* ''ComicBook/TheSimpsons'':
** In one issue Homer gets an idea and a bulb appears above his head, but it actually belongs to a lamp Marge is cleaning.
** In another issue Krusty has one above his head, it turns out a stage technician dropped it and lands on his head.
* The short: "How Much Is That Pony in the Window?" from Issue 1 of ''ComicBook/MyLittlePonyFriendshipIsMagicIDW'' features an ''Idea Candle''.
* ''ComicBook/DeKiekeboes'': In ''Album 26'' the family is locked inside a darkened room and wonders how to get out of this situation. Then Fanny says: ''I have an idea! And when comic book characters have an idea a light bulb appears.'' And indeed, soon enough a light starts burning, making them able to see what is happening around them.
* The [[ComicBook/DisneyDucksComicUniverse Donald Duck comics]] "Archimede e la spedizione all'eurekannone" has the characters head to a realm inhabited by a tribe, responsible for creating brilliant ideas and spreading them all over the globe. The ideas, it turns out, all look like light bulbs when in physical form.

[[folder:Comic Strips]]
* A Creator/DonMartin cartoon in MAD had a brain surgeon cut open a patient's skull and find a lightbulb (in a socket attached to a cord) inside the head. When the surgeon turns the light on, the patient makes the Aha! reaction.
* ''ComicStrip/{{Garfield}}'':
** The candle variation with Odie, the explanation being that he wasn't too bright.
** Garfield himself ''had'' an idea once. Sadly, he "must have blown a fuse."
* ''ComicStrip/USAcres'':
** [[https://garfield.com/usacres/1986/06/02 Orson deciding to turn his lemonade stand into a shade stand]].
** [[http://garfield.com/us-acres/1991-05-07 Orson greeted Bo because Bo's greetings bring wind.]]
* ''ComicStrip/FoxTrot'':
** Parodied when, with Paige alternately struggling with her report on UsefulNotes/ThomasEdison and her father's attempts to help her, a lightbulb appears just over her head - held by her dad, who begins to reel off Edison's inventions. (The look on her face sells it.)
** Or [[http://www.gocomics.com/foxtrot/1997/04/18 another]] where Jason makes a mobile out of lightbulbs.
** In yet another Paige tries to {{invoke}} this trope by taking the bulb out of her lamp and holding it over her head; Peter says that he only does that with 100-watt bulbs.
* Parodied in ''ComicStrip/PearlsBeforeSwine'', when Pig comments that they don't have an extra lightbulb to replace a dead one, Rat says that he has an idea. He then uses the bulb that appears above his head as a replacement. [[RecursiveReality His idea was to have an idea?]]
* ''ComicStrip/MyCage'' also parodied it; when Jeff has an idea about making the office more green, [[http://www.gillcomic.com/wp-content/uploads/2009/04/my_cage.jpg he conjures up a compact-fluorescent bulb.]]
* ''ComicStrip/DykesToWatchOutFor'':
** Sydney has an idea depicted (and labelled) as a "PC compact fluorescent bulb."
** A fluorescent energy saving lamp appears above one of the protagonists' head. This is of course lampshaded in a caption that also points out that this is the politically correct way to signal an idea.
* In ''Drabble,'' Ralph gets an idea, complete with bulb. His wife glares at him, and in the next panel, the bulb is a more energy efficient compact fluorescent one. He looks annoyed, and his wife is now smiling.
* In ''ComicStrip/TheWizardOfId'', the title character is, in the first panel, straining hard to come up with an idea. Panel two, his face brightens, and a light bulb appears over his head. Panel three, the scene is drawn at a wider angle to show a huge pile of light bulbs next to him. Wizard grumbles, "I need ideas. I get light bulbs."

[[folder:Eastern Animation]]
* ''Animation/PomyslowyDobromir'' uses a characteristic variantóDobromir's idea is always depicted as a marble which bounces on his head until it finally settles down and pops with a bright flash.

[[folder:Films -- Animation]]
* Parodied in ''WesternAnimation/OverTheHedge'', with ideas appearing as lightning bugs (or fireflies, as some o' you may call 'em) slowing in flight and lighting up over the head of the character getting the idea.
* In ''WesternAnimation/TheCurseOfTheWereRabbit'', when Wallace gets the idea to use his brainwashing machine to make the rabbits he has captured hate vegetables, the light on his van turns on, though that was Gromit's doing.
* Parodied in ''WesternAnimation/SausageParty'', once Douche gets the idea to make himself stronger.
-->'''Douche:''' Oh, lightbulb!\\
'''Lightbulb:''' Yes?\\
'''Douche:''' No, not fucking you dummy!
* Darla Dimple in ''WesternAnimation/CatsDontDance'' actually has her butler hold a lightbulb over her head and say "Ding!" when she has an idea.
* Gru from ''WesternAnimation/DespicableMe'' also says "Lightbulb!" when getting an idea.
* In ''WesternAnimation/InsideOut'', the emotions insert lightbulbs into the Console to give Riley ideas.
* In ''Disney/OneHundredAndOneDalmatians 2: Patch's London Adventure'', when Thunderbolt gets an idea, he's conveniently under a sign shaped like a lightbulb.
* In TheLegoBatmanMovie, the Joker comes up with his plan just as a giant lightbulb (made of Lego) is being carried behind him. It lights up with a 'ting!'.

[[folder:Films -- Live-Action]]
* Played with in ''Film/HomeAlone 2''. The concierge (played by Creator/TimCurry) of the hotel where Kevin is staying gets suspicious and runs a check on Kevin's father's credit card; when he finds the card was reported stolen, a light in an alcove over his head suddenly turns on. Although given the devilish smile on Curry's face at this point, the modern, oval-shaped bulb could also (ironically) symbolise a [[HolyHalo halo]], given that the concierge is planning something dastardly.
* In ''Film/HotFuzz'', when Nicholas Angel gets an idea towards the end of the movie, he says 'Idea!' in a dramatic voice.
* Edgar Wright used this trope literally saying 'Idea!' in ''A Fistful of Fingers'' with lightbulbs on sticks.
* In ''Film/TheHitchhikersGuideToTheGalaxy'', the [[PlanetOfHats bureaucratic]] planet of the Vogons can detect when someone has an idea and... whacks them in the face with a spade. Originality is frowned upon.
* In ''Film/BioDome'', one character simply shouts "Lightbulb!" when he gets an idea.
* In ''Film/InspectorGadget'', when Gadget tries to [[JeopardyThinkingMusic think hard]], a lightbulb rises out of his hat. When he gets an idea ("Go go gadget oil slick!"), it turns on. Subverted in that it was a bad idea to actually say this out loud, thereby spraying his {{Love Interest|s}} with, inexplicably, not oil, but toothpaste.
* In ''Film/BedtimeStories'', Skeeter is fixing a lamp as his nephew talks about the bedtime story they told last night. When he notices that it was only the story elements contributed by the children that come to pass in the real world, the lightbulb comes on.
* In Creator/MelBrooks's ''Film/SilentMovie'', Mel Brooks plays a movie producer who's down on his luck. He's produced only flops in recent years, and the evil corporation "Engulf and Devour" is about to shut his little studio down. He sits down dejectedly in a chair against the wall, trying to think of ''some'' way to save his studio. Suddenly, he gets an "AHA!" look on his face ... and the light fixture on the wall directly over his head spontaneously lights up.
* Less of an idea than it is a revelation, but when Cher in ''Film/{{Clueless}}'' finally realises that she's in love with Josh, an ''entire fountain'' lights up behind her. Granted, it's not a lightbulb, but it's still the same basic idea of external light = inner illumination. (It's also a fountain, which has its ''own'' innuendo.)
* It even shows up in ''Film/TheBigSleep'', as Bogart is sitting on a couch with a lamp behind him, and someone turns it on just after making an off-hand comment that brings half the plot into focus (for Marlowe, anyway, if not the viewer).
* Spoofed in ''Film/AdeleHasntHadHerDinnerYet'' (1977, Czechoslovakian movie). Nick Carter is the Greatest America's Detective and he's friends with Thomas A. Edison. There is a signed photo with Edison with a picture of a bulb. The message in the photo reads: ''My dear Nick, thank you for your advice. It was a million dollar idea. Gratefully yours, Thomas A. Edison''

* Happens frequently in ''Literature/{{Xanth}}''.
* Literal example in Creator/RobertRankin's ''The Book Of Ultimate Truths''. We all have cartoon style thought bubbles (or [[CatchingSomeZs sleep Zzzzs]]) all the time. One certain monk has a terrible affliction whereby he can see them, and we can see his. We know that a character has an idea when the monk observes the flashing light bulb.
* In the ''Literature/ElephantAndPiggie'' book ''Can I Play Too?'', Piggie gets one when she and Gerald are trying to figure out how their new friend, a snake, wants to play catch. Naturally, since this is a hip, modern series, it's a [=CFL=].

[[folder:Live-Action TV]]
* ''Series/SavedByTheBell'': Zack hears that tomorrow is a Jewish holiday; a menorah appears over his head, and he decides to get excused so he can see a baseball game. (Yes, it's in live-action too.)
* Parodied by Dr. Cox in ''Series/{{Scrubs}}'': "[[LopsidedDichotomy Either]] this kid's [[DontTryThisAtHome got a light bulb up his butt]] or [[TooDumbToLive his colon has a great idea]]." Just to mention, this does happen in RealLife. It is ''extremely'' dangerous and often deadly, because if the bulb breaks you can die. [[AndKnowingIsHalfTheBattle So don't do it]]. [[FamilyUnfriendlyAesop Find a safe object to put up there]].
* One fairly unique live-action example involved no post-production effects at all: the set of the short-lived UK TV series ''Mr Don and Mr George'' had several unobtrusive lights on various points on the walls. Through careful positioning of the cameras and actors, whenever a character had an idea, a light would light up behind them, appearing to be just above their heads. This was done so smoothly and effectively that even though the gag was done several times, the audience never saw it coming.
** This exact same thing was done in ''Detroit Rock City'', when the main characters are trying to come up with a way to enable one of their number to get out of tech class to call a radio station for KISS tickets.
* ''Series/{{Frasier}}'': When the two brothers are writing a book, Frasier is struck by inspiration (nothing appears):
-->'''Frasier:''' Niles, do you see a light bulb over my head?
-->'''Niles:''' You have an idea?
-->'''Frasier:''' ''[heavy sarcasm]'' ... [[AskAStupidQuestion No, Niles. I'm asking if there's actually a light bulb over my head]].
* In ''Series/RedDwarf'': "Confidence and Paranoia", Lister's Confidence shows how great he thinks Lister's plan is by literally holding a bulb above Lister's head.
-->'''Confidence:''' Ding dong! Another great idea from the people who brought you "beer milkshakes"!
* Played with in an episode of ''Series/JustShootMe'': Dennis is changing a light bulb on a lamp behind Jack's desk, and it turns on just as Jack gets an idea.
* A variation of this occurs in ''Series/EngineSentaiGoOnger''. Villain Hiramechimedes has three lightbulbs on his head that light up in quick succession whenever he gets an idea.
* One early ''Series/KidsIncorporated'' episode has a clip where the gang gets an idea for something to get the word out about their band. [[http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Z6WJ7QOUZGY However Stacy, being the youngest at just 9, doesn't get her light to come on immediately...but eventually it does come on]] (not shown in clip).
* Used repeatedly in one episode of ''Series/That70sShow''. First during a school assembly regarding the President's visit to town, where the various teenagers have actual lightbulbs turn on when one aspect of the speech caught their interest (for instance, Hyde when the principal mentions that they shouldn't cause trouble to make a statement against the government), culminating when the principal says that they don't like it, they can just leave (at which point the "Exit" sign above Fez's head lights up and he walks out the door).
** It came back later that same episode when Red got an idea and the porch light behind him turned on. Played with when he turns around and tells Eric to turn the light off.
* ''Series/HannahMontana'' plays with the trope when Mamaw buys her a goofy hat with lightbulbs in it for an awards show. When she hatches up a ZanyScheme in mid-conversation in the wardrobe closet to convince Mamaw and Aunt Dolly to get along, the hat lights up, spooking out Lilly.
* In ''Series/{{Dinosaurs}}'' when Charlene comes up with the idea that the world is round a light bulb appears above her head, which is actually just Earl fixing the lamp in the background.
** Same joke happened in ''Series/KenanAndKel''.
* ''Series/KamenRiderFourze'' parodies this. The eponymous hero, Gentaro, has a EurekaMoment during a special test, and as a visual, an Astro Switch was shown when the realization hits. Instead of the [[LightEmUp Flash]] Switch as an appropriate VisualPun, we instead see the Hand Switch. Probably has something to do with Gentaro being an IdiotHero...
* On ''[[Series/{{Beetleborgs}} Big Bad Beetleborg]]s'', Flabber has ThinkingCap with a lightbulb on top. When he gets an idea it lights up.
* In an episode of ''Series/ParksAndRecreation'' in which Ben gets a job at a new office, after a particularly clever idea a colleague gets up, stands by the desk lamp behind Ben, and gets him to re-enact the moment he thought of it so his colleague can switch on the light at the right moment.
* In the ''Series/{{Supernatural}}'' episode [[Recap/SupernaturalS02E20WhatIsAndWhatShouldNeverBe "What Is And What Should Never Be"]], Dean sees the light bulb above his head in the warehouse, and he has a revelation. There is an electrical whine, and the light flickers before Dean sees himself bound and being drained of blood and realizes he is a victim of the djinn.
* [[PerkyGoth Abby]] from ''Series/{{NCIS}}'' might not be able to summon a lightbulb over her head, but when she comes up with an idea, she still says, "Lightbulb, over the head!"
* Parodied on ''Series/JaneTheVirgin'' when Michael has an idea just as Nadine turns the fluorescent overhead light on. Lampshaded (heh).
-->'''Narrator''': You know that feeling when a great idea comes to you? [ding, ding] OK, that was just a happy coincidence.


* Music/{{Starflyer 59}}'s "Lose My Mind":
-->Is there a lightbulb between my ears?\\
Could it be 'cause I had an idea?
* Inverted in "[[http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=inb8MMZ-QmA Song of the Caged Bird]]" by Music/LindseyStirling; the initial lightbulb she finds in a crate by accident gives her the idea of opening the others.

* At the Edinburgh Science Festival 2015 strand "The Idea Factory", the lecture theatres were decorated with large lightbulbs with unusually shaped filaments (a microphone, a tuba, a TV set, Vitruvian Man...)

[[folder:Video Games]]
* This is one of [[Franchise/AceAttorney Phoenix Wright's]] attacks in ''[[VideoGame/MarvelVsCapcom3 Ultimate Marvel vs. Capcom 3.]]''
* In ''VideoGame/ConkersBadFurDay'', a lightbulb will appear above Conker's head whenever he's in a context-sensitive area.
* In the ''[[Franchise/SaGaRPG SaGa]]'' series from the fifth game onward, this was used as a signal for whenever a new technique was learned in battle.
* This is an unlockable Emote in ''VideoGame/RuneScape''.
* In ''VideoGame/AnimalCrossing'', when a neighbour gets an idea, a cartoonish lightbulb appears over his/her head. By talking to psychologist Dr. Shrunk, you can learn to do this as well.
* Spoofed in ''VideoGame/{{Nintendogs}}''; when a puppy gets an idea, you can drag the lightbulb over to her/him, and [[BigEater (s)he'll eat it.]]
* In ''VideoGame/TheLegendaryStarfy'', at one point, just before she pulls off [[IllNeverTellYouWhatImTellingYou a trick]], [[ManipulativeBastard Snips]] gets one of these after being beaten up by [[LittleMissBadass Starly]].
* Played with twice in ''VideoGame/WallaceAndGromitsGrandAdventures: The Last Resort''. As Wallace gets an idea in the first act, a few sparks in the plug behind him go off above his head. In the second act, it's a sun lamp.
* ''VideoGame/GoldenSun'' has a lightbulb as an emotion bubble.
* In a ''VideoGame/PuyoPuyo'' spinoff game starring Seriri, in one part, [[note]]Which has ''Masked Satan'' in said part.[[/note]] [[http://media.photobucket.com/image/recent/HernanZh/DS/seriri3.png Seriri gets this.]]
* In the UpdatedRerelease of ''VideoGame/TalesOfGraces'', ''Tales of Graces f'', Pascal gets one in ''Lineage and Legacies'' in the Eleth Research Laboratory following the boss fight when the party realizes something is wrong with Fodra's core and she's asked if she has any ideas.
* In ''VideoGame/{{Touhou}} Hopeless Masquerade'', this is one of [[EmptyShell Koishi's]] attacks.
* ''VideoGame/LightningReturnsFinalFantasyXIII'': There is a side quest to find "adornments" for Candice the baton-twirler. When you give her some, a bulb lights up above her head as she has an idea about how to wear them.
* The 2011 ''VideoGame/BackToTheFuture'' game has a variation: Teenage Emmett Brown "invents"[[note]]In his own words, he just took an existing machine and dressed it up with attention-grabbing bells and whistles[[/note]] a device called the Mental Alignment Meter, which reads a person's mental responses to certain stimuli and is used to determine if they're an upstanding citizen or a hooligan. The test involves wearing a leather cap with red, yellow, and green lights which light up when the wearer has a negative, apathetic, or positive attitude respectively. The player (as Marty) has to run the M.A.M. test while Emmett isn't paying attention and use stimuli such as electric shocks, a song he likes, and smells both pleasant and foul in order to falsely portray Emmett as a bad person, using the lights on the helmet as a guide.
* One of these always presides the CatchPhrase of ''VideoGame/PaRappaTheRapper'': "Yeah, I know! I gotta believe!"
* In ''VideoGame/TheLegendOfHeroesTrailsOfColdSteel'', an anime-style idea bulb will sometimes appear over a character's head when they get an idea, such as in Chapter 4 when Emma excuses her talking with her cat, Celine, as talking with a friend on her [=ARCUS=] unit. It also sometimes shows up when Rean answers a question in class.

[[folder:Web Animation]]
* In ''[[http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SgagtBjfn_U Amy Rose VS Pinkie Pie]]'', [[WesternAnimation/MyLittlePonyFriendshipIsMagic Pinkie Pie]] does this when she gets the idea to [[HumanCannonball launch herself out of her Party Cannon]] at [[Franchise/SonicTheHedgehog Amy Rose.]] [[BreakingTheFourthWall She then grabs the lightbulb and throws it at Amy.]]

[[folder:Web Comics]]
* In [[http://www.giantitp.com/comics/oots0025.html this]] ''[[Webcomic/TheOrderOfTheStick Order of the Stick]]'' comic, Elan gets an idea and a lit candle appears over his head, and [[http://www.giantitp.com/comics/oots0387.html here]] a lantern.
* ''Webcomic/BobAndGeorge'' uses this when we are introduced to Bright Man (who has a huge light bulb built into the top of his head; it's his weapon) when it comes time to cover ''VideoGame/MegaMan4''. His first full sentence is [[http://bobandgeorge.com/archives/index.php?date=030214&commentary=on a bad pun in a slew of already bad puns.]]
** [[http://www.bobandgeorge.com/archives/031122c And the dog gets an idea]]
* Webcomic/TwoKinds plays with this by having one character's [[http://twokinds.keenspot.com/archive.php?p=471 hair]] [[http://twokinds.keenspot.com/archive.php?p=473 on fire]] and using that as a replacement lightbulb.
* An energy-efficient example appears in ''[[http://www.dandyandcompany.com/2008/09/23/dandys-smirk/ Dandy and Company]]'' via a compact fluorescent light.
** The same is done in [[http://www.dawnsdictionarydrama.com/2009/02/20/detested/ this]] ''Dawn's Dictionary Drama'' strip.
* Spoofed with unsettling implications in [[http://eddirt.frozenreality.co.uk/index.php?id=471 this]] ''Edible Dirt'' strip.
* Near the end of the original run of ''Webcomic/{{Narbonic}}'', [[http://www.webcomicsnation.com/shaenongarrity/narbonic/series.php?view=archive&chapter=14421#strip5 Dave gets an idea]] on how to get back together with Helen. Since he's just gone mad, he gets a ''cracked'' light bulb.
* Played straight in [[http://www.gunnerkrigg.com/?p=755 this]] page of ''Webcomic/GunnerkriggCourt''. (The weird shape of the filament turns out to be an ArcSymbol.)
* ''Webcomic/BugMartini'' points out the problems that would arise from this effect, [[http://www.bugmartini.com/comic/cartoon-generated-imagery/ among others]].
* ''Webcomic/{{Nodwick}}'':
** The lit candle is used in [[http://nodwick.humor.gamespy.com/gamespyarchive/index.php?date=2003-08-20 this strip]].
** And in, [[http://nodwick.humor.gamespy.com/gamespyarchive/index.php?date=2006-01-18 this one]], Piffany, being a cleric, has a burning bush.
* ''Webcomic/BrawlInTheFamily'':
** In the middle of [[http://www.brawlinthefamily.com/?p=1932 this]] comic, Table Etiquette, Kirby and Jigglypuff were thinking of another way to finish their food more quicker, until Jigglypuff gets an idea, and she has an Idea Bulb appear above her head.
** Meanwhile, in [[http://brawlinthefamily.keenspot.com/2011/03/25/321-cocoon-academy-part-9/ this]] part of Cocoon Academy, Mario gets an Idea Bulb.
** [[http://brawlinthefamily.keenspot.com/2011/04/28/329-overgrowth/ This]] comic also had Wart getting an idea bulb.
** In [[http://brawlinthefamily.keenspot.com/2012/05/26/411-brawl-from-the-family/ this]] comic, Sarah, creator of "Sarah Loves Matthew, gets this when she gets an idea after Matthew suggests that Sarah put Kirby in the comic eating something.
* ''Webcomic/WapsiSquare'': [[http://wapsisquare.com/comic/bright-idea/ Deitzel]] gets one of these when he comes up with a way to wake up Monica.
* ''Webcomic/SquidRow'' [[http://squidrowcomics.com/?p=1343 Looking for inspiration]]
* Played with in [[http://omaketheater.com/comic/39/ a strip]] from ''Webcomic/Friday4Koma'', where the idea warranting a lightbulb is to use the lit bulb to see in the dark.
* Played with in ''Webcomic/TheInexplicableAdventuresOfBob'' Bob is trapped by villains in a small room, and thinks about how he desperately needs an idea. Then he glances up and sees there's an actual mounted lightbulb directly above his head. He smashes it and escapes in the darkness.
* In ''Webcomic/{{Sinfest}}'',
** [[http://www.sinfest.net/view.php?date=2006-08-15 Slick has some brilliant ideas waking up.]]
** [[http://www.sinfest.net/view.php?date=2010-03-21 Satan is inspired]].
* In ''Webcomic/{{Roommates}}'' [[ThePhantomOfTheOpera Erik]] has a time-period appropriate [[http://asherhyder.deviantart.com/art/Wrong-Movie-48267877 idea]] [[http://asherhyder.deviantart.com/art/Roommates-102-Boy-Player-156480419 candle]] and [[Film/{{Labyrinth}} Jareth]] [[http://asherhyder.deviantart.com/art/Roommates-13-Flush-66111403 idea crystal]].
** In the SpinOff ''Webcomic/GirlsNextDoor'' [[Franchise/StarWars Leia]] gets an [[http://pika-la-cynique.deviantart.com/art/GND174-Kablooie-Part-II-282756436 idea lightsaber]].
* Webcomic/SandraAndWoo had this. In [[http://www.sandraandwoo.com/2009/03/12/0041-noise-pollution/ this]] comic, Woo ends up getting this.
** In [[http://www.sandraandwoo.com/2009/06/01/0064-some-people-just-want-to-see-the-world-burn/ this]] comic, Larisa, instead of a light bulb, gets a bonfire when she notices the principal's report. Then she proceeds to set the pricipal's report on fire, before dropping it in the trash bin, which sets off the fire alarm and the rain that appears puts out the bonfire she used.
** And to think that using a "devilishly idea bulb" in [[http://www.sandraandwoo.com/2009/07/23/0079-a-devilishly-good-idea/ this]] comic can't push it to the limit.
** Richard gets this when he gets an idea that goes horribly wrong. [[http://www.sandraandwoo.com/2012/10/18/0421-out-of-control/ See for yourself.]]
* Some ''Pokémon Mystery Dungeon'' comics tend to use this sometimes.
* ''Webcomics/GuildedAge'' takes place in a medieval setting, so when Frigg gets an idea it appears in the form of her glowing mace.
* ''Webcomic/StickyDillyBuns'': The trope is played straight (with added WingdingEyes), albeit in a rather small image, when Ruby's business sense (previously something of an InformedAbility) [[http://www.stickydillybuns.com/strips-sdb/grabbing_a_show finally kicks in.]]
* Played rather straight in ''Webcomic/QuestionableContent'' when Hannelore gets a [[http://questionablecontent.net/view.php?comic=2588 compact fluorescent lamp]].
* ''Webcomic/RustyAndCo'': [[http://rustyandco.com/comic/level-8-49/ A light bulb with Mimic's lips on it]] is used to illustrate the troll captain coming to the understanding that the ball he's holding, and that require alcohol to dissolve the mimic glue on it, might be the mimic in their opposing sport team. Yes, trolls are slow on the uptake.
* Kat Vance from ''Webcomic/SequentialArt'' has an incandescent bulb appear above her head in strip #649. Kat and Vanity are being menaced by four evil demons, and must destroy a cursed dagger to banish them forever. Kat's idea is also a TakeThat to the creator's favorite target.
* ''WebComic/{{Beeserker}}'' features a ''burning trash can'' for the Sciencemen's [[http://www.beeserker.com/comics/idea-get/ suitably bad ideas]]. The author even mentions that they stole the idea from Beavis and Butthead (see below).

[[folder:Web Original]]
* ''WebVideo/FiveSecondFilms'' presents [[http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=joO4W3T7bIA&feature=feedu "Resourcefulness"]]
* A Website/YouTube video, ''[[http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rewFE66eNCI Gardevoir Goes to the Convenience Store]]'', has Gardevoir getting this, and guess where it appears.

[[folder:Western Animation]]
* ''WesternAnimation/BettyBoop'': In 1935, Fleischer Studios introduced a new character, Grampy, in ''Betty Boop and Grampy'' (available for download at [[http://www.archive.org/details/bb_and_grampy archive.org]]). In this and subsequent episodes, when Grampy is called upon to solve a problem for Betty, he puts on his mortarboard ThinkingCap with light bulb mounted on top. The bulb lights up when he has the solution.
* ''WesternAnimation/FostersHomeForImaginaryFriends'', "Cookie Dough": Bloo tries to come up with an idea... and dismisses Bulby, who had snuck up behind him.
** "Seeing Red" also parodies this when Terrence is trying to think of a way to beat up Mac and Bloo:
-->'''Terrence:''' That's it! I need... PIZZA!\\
''(a flying slice of talking pizza promptly appears next to him)''\\
'''Pizza:''' Howdedoo, I love you!\\
''([[CrossesTheLineTwice Terrence promptly devours it as it screams]])''
* ''WesternAnimation/TheSimpsons''
** This is often parodied to reveal Homer's idiotic thought processes. A variation often has his ideas represented by the antics of a pair of chimps in his skull.
** ''WesternAnimation/TheItchyAndScratchyShow'' has had the psychotic mouse Itchy actually stab perennial victim cat Scratchy with a broken one.
** When Homer realizes he could from a bowling team with Moe and Apu in "Team Homer", pin lights go off over his head.
* ''WesternAnimation/EdEddNEddy''
** "High-Heeled Eds": While trying to think up a way to scam Sarah, Nazz and Jimmy, Eddy gets an Idea Bulb, though it flickers out briefly until he adjusts it.
** In the episode "It Came From Outer Ed," Ed gets an idea for a scam and holds up some turf over his head while saying, "Boing! It's a lightbulb!"
* A broken light bulb appears frequently over Billy's head in ''WesternAnimation/TheGrimAdventuresOfBillyAndMandy'', indicating he's thinking of a really ''bad'' idea.
* In an episode of ''WesternAnimation/TheFairlyOddParents'', things go back to [[UsefulNotes/TheThirteenAmericanColonies Colonial Times]], and candles are used in lieu of bulbs. So, Timmy gives people ideas by holding candles over their heads. Wax often falls on the characters' heads, after which they say something along the lines of "I have an idea! ...and wax burns!"
* Similarly, early on in the low-tech ''WesternAnimation/AvatarTheLastAirbender'', when Sokka comes up with an idea (one his first instances of later becoming the TheSmartGuy) for opening a sophisticated chamber door, he has his back to a wall and there is a lantern above his head.
* ''WesternAnimation/BeavisAndButtHead''
** Sometimes appeared in with the bulb replaced by matches being struck or a hand trying to light a lighter; this was eventually dropped along with Beavis' pyromania to appease {{Media Watchdog}}s.
** Whenever this appeared in later episodes, it was usually depicted as a small, noisy, flickering bulb (giving the viewers an idea of the soundness of the idea); it apparently had to shatter before the idea could be verbalized by the character who had come up with it. Another time a ''mushroom cloud'' was used as an equivalent.
* In ''WesternAnimation/DarkwingDuck'', the villain Megavolt has a literal lightbulb attached to his head, as an indication of his thought processes.
* ''WesternAnimation/{{Animaniacs}}''
** A light bulb appears over Yakko's head at least once. Wakko promptly ate it, which hilariously resulted in Yakko forgetting the idea he just had.
** The "Good Idea, Bad Idea" segments.
* In ''WesternAnimation/ThePinkPanther'' short, "Psychedelic Pink", the Pink Panther (the cartoon character, not the gem) is trying to read "The Love Life of a Panther (uncensored)". He finds a room with a chair and a lamp. As with most light bulbs he encounters when he's trying to do something, however, it has a habit of turning off when it's least convenient to turn it on again. He sees a vending machine for lights, and having the wrong kind dispenses three times, he gets the idea to use the bulb resulting from the idea as a regular light bulb. It is unknown whether or not it would have worked, though, because it gets a quarter-second of operation before the lampshade falls down, causing the rest of the lamp to disappear.
* In an episode of ''WesternAnimation/DuckDodgers'', a lightbulb appears over Dodgers' head when he gets an idea. So he stops explaining his idea to complain to the Cadet that the hologram projector is acting up again.
* In the episode "Rock TV" of ''WesternAnimation/SuperMarioWorld'', Bowser had three lit candles that played the NBC chimes (the show aired there).
* ''WesternAnimation/{{Histeria}}'' played with this in the sketch about the inventor of the lightbulb, UsefulNotes/ThomasEdison. Throughout the sketch, he tries to think of a good invention and a light bulb appears above his head with each thought. After quite a while, Loud Kiddington points it out to him, and he decides to call it "the thing that clicks on over my head when I get an idea." Toast tells him to "lighten up" and call it a light bulb.
* ''WesternAnimation/SecretSquirrel:'' The supervillain turned off every single light in the world and covered it in absolute darkness. Then Squirrel thinks of an idea to get a bulb on his head so he can have some light.
* In ''WesternAnimation/TheBeatles'' cartoon "You Really Got a Hold on Me", the four are lost in a jungle with a jeep that stopped working. After applying thought Ringo gets an idea with the cliche bulb over the head image. Catch here is a huge snake appears and swallows the bulb! Then on the reptile shines a beacon every time it opens its mouth!
* ''WesternAnimation/BackToTheFuture TheAnimatedSeries'': Doc gets an idea of how to test his new invention. A lightbulb is behind him - but then Doc walks away, revealing he is standing in front of a lamp, which Verne then switches off.
* ''WesternAnimation/TheAdventuresOfJimmyNeutronBoyGenius'': Jimmy gets an idea, and the bulb lights up. The bulb then goes off, as a worker at the school needs it because a light went out in the teacher's lounge (or something).
* Heloise on ''WesternAnimation/JimmyTwoShoes'' gets one. It turns into a flame as she puts on a SlasherSmile.
* ''WesternAnimation/PBAndJOtter''! Whenever a character, usually Jelly, got an idea at the end of a Noodle Dance, a lightbulb would appear. Curiously, though, it would generally appear off to the left, rather than directly above the character's head.
* In the animated series of ''WesternAnimation/{{Beetlejuice}}'', Beetlejuice gets one, but has ''no'' idea why it's there. He looks up at it and wonders if it means he's gotten an idea.
* In ''WesternAnimation/RockosModernLife'', Heffer gets an idea, but no bulb appears. He quickly asks Rocko what's the "idea symbol." When Rocko answers that it's a lightbulb appearing over your head, Heffer actually makes one pop out the top of his head.
* In one Disney cartoon, WesternAnimation/ChipAndDale are trying to think of a way to get even with WesternAnimation/DonaldDuck. Dale has and idea, a light bulb appears over his head, and he shows it to Chip, who rejects it. Trying again, Dale comes up with a bigger bulb, which Chip approves.
* In the ''WesternAnimation/VeggieTales'' episode, "The Star of Christmas," [[AnimatedActors Bob the Tomato's character]] is wearing a lightbulb on his head that Pa Grape's character is trying to get working (ItMakesSenseInContext). He then gets a CheshireCatGrin as he hits on a [[ZanyScheme brilliant idea]]. The next instant, the bulb lights up.
--> '''Pa Grape:''' Ha! Got it! ({{Beat}}) What's going on?
* In the ''WesternAnimation/WillAndDewitt'' story "You Bet," the frog Dewitt gets an idea, but an Idea Bulb appears over Will's head. Dewitt gripes, "Hey, I'm the one who got an idea," swipes the bulb and places it over his head. He then notes "Hey, we're trying to save energy" and the standard-style bulb changes into a CFL.
* On ''WesternAnimation/DextersLaboratory'' it was parodied with Dexter and Dee Dee getting simultaneous ideas. Dexter's was represented by two atoms undergoing fusion and producing light. Dee Dee's was represented by two rocks banging together and making fire. Of course, since the previous is a natural process, while the latter represents one of the first ideas from which all science descends...guess which plan turned out better?
* A student film called "Employee Of The Month" entirely centers around this conceit. The Boss is looking for ''big'' ideas -- there's even a chart for comparison, although most of the protagonist's ideas don't match up (not even the one he uses to steal his rival's idea, which is bigger than he is). [[spoiler:TheStinger reveals that The Boss is a ''giant moth'' in a business suit, who wants big ideas because he likes the pretty glowy things]].
* ''WesternAnimation/FanboyAndChumChum'': In one episode, Fanboy gets an idea bulb, but it burns out. However, Chumchum fixes it by walking up invisible steps with a new lightbulb, and replaces the burned out one with the new lightbulb.
* In ''WesternAnimation/DanVs'' "The Salvation Armed Forces'', Dan demands Chris come up with an idea. As Chris gazes across the street, a truck for Idea, Inc. drives by, complete with a smiling lightbulb mascot painted on the side.
* Used in an episode of ''WesternAnimation/RubyGloom'' when Iris and Misery try to think of ways to get Skullboy's attention (Love spell, long story) a couple of idea ''candles'' appear above their heads.
* {{Justified|Trope}} a couple times in ''WesternAnimation/MyLittlePonyFriendshipIsMagic.'' [[note]](Whether or not the examples are related in-universe [[AmbiguousSituation isn't specified]].)[[/note]]
** In the episode "Family Appreciation Day", Scootaloo excitedly jumps into the air when she gets an idea of how to get out of Apple Bloom bringing Granny Smith to Family Appreciation Day, and she just happens to jostle a lantern hanging over her and turn it on.
** In "One Bad Apple", we find the spot under the lamp is often where the [=CMCs=] go to think.
* ''WesternAnimation/FamilyGuy'': [[http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bDwQUkwxv-s Peter gets an idea, a light bulb shows up over his head]]. He jumps up, breaks the light bulb, and gets his face cut on the broken glass. He screams in pain and forgets his idea. Then he remembers it. Rinse and repeat.
* In the ''WesternAnimation/MikeLuAndOg'' episode "Sparks", Og gets the idea to invent the lightbulb. In this case, his "bulb" is represented by a thought bubble containing a candlestick.
* In the ''WesternAnimation/CatDog'' episode "Dogpower", the titular duo are unable to pay their electricity bill and thus are forced to go without power for awhile. When their housemate Winslow notes Dog being full of energy whenever he enthusiastically chases things, an inspirational light bulb springs up above Cat's head. However, it promptly goes out, forcing him to flick it with his finger to keep it on, suggesting that their present situation means even visual metaphors are low on power.
* ''WesternAnimation/SpongebobSquarepants'', episode "[=SpongeGuard on Duty=]": Spongebob gets a bright idea and momentarily assumes the shape of a light bulb.
** In "Krabs vs. Plankton", the bulb pops out of one of [=SpongeBob's=] pores.
** In "Plankton's Regular", Mr. Krabs' eyestalks turn into lightbulbs when he gets the idea to steal Plankton's chum recipe.
* Hildy from ''WesternAnimation/The7D'' will often have a candle appear over her head when she gets an idea.
* ''WesternAnimation/UltimateSpiderMan'' has one appearing next to Spidey as he hatches an idea on how to stop Venom with a symbiote sample. He changes it from an incandescent bulb to a [[http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Compact_fluorescent_lamp CFL bulb]] as it was "better for the environment".
* On ''WesternAnimation/StarVsTheForcesOfEvil'', the hearts on Star's cheeks turn into lightbulbs when she gets an idea on how to recharge her wand.
* In the ''WesternAnimation/{{Clarence}}'' episode "Goldfish Follies", which is a parody of early 1930s cartoons, uses this twice.
** First, when Clarence gets the idea to keep his goldfish alive in his mouth, a CFL bulb appears over his head.
** The second time, two Clarences get two bulbs, which when merge into one large bulb.
* ''WesternAnimation/SonicBoom''
** In ''Don't Judge Me,'' Knuckles distracts Eggman's Moth Bot with a lightbulb and pretends it is one.
** In ''No Robots Allowed,'' when Eggman is wondering what to do with the remaining solar energy, a lightbulb on one of the lair screens lights up as Eggman gets the idea to power up his robots with the solar energy.
* ''WesternAnimation/TinyPlanets'': One appears above Bong's head when Bong has a moment of inspiration in "Spring Cleaning".
* Played with in the ''WesternAnimation/ThreeTwoOnePenguins'' episode "Runaway Pride at Lightstation Kilowatt". When Kevin gets an idea on how to save the Emperor's Pride, a light bulb alien lights up next to his head.

[[folder:Real Life]]
* Oddly enough, the human brain uses about 100 Watts -- enough to light one of the largest standard lightbulbs (or several compact florescents). [[{{Pun}} "Luminous beings ]][[Film/TheEmpireStrikesBack are we"]] indeed.
** Then again, if the brainpower was being used to power a lightbulb there wouldn't be enough left to power the brain...