"He was dark, too. I don't mean dark-skinned. No, this was different. It was as if he was always walking in a shadow. I mean every step he took towards the light, just when you thought his face was about to be revealed, it wasn't. It was as if the lights... dimmed... just for him."A face half-covered by shadow, very often through a partial Lightning Reveal. Good way to emphasize a character's sinister side. This can overlap with Hidden Eyes. Sometimes accompanied by having the eye on the obscured side of the face glow ominously. Not to be confused with The Faceless, who requires full coverage of shadow all of the time. Often called Chiaroscuro, because it uses the more general chiaroscuro effect. May be called Rembrandt lighting, because Rembrandt used it, a lot. Stark chiaroscuro such as this is technically known as Tenebrism. Compare Emerging from the Shadows.
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- The "Who Is Richard Drucker?" ad that keeps popping up on this wiki.
- Saul Bass's two-tone redesign of the Quaker logo covered up the right half of the Quaker Man's face with the background blue color.
Anime and Manga
- The Death Note anime has both varieties.
- Used with the chairman of Nergal in Martian Successor Nadesico, emphasizing his role as what amounted to the show's Big Bad... before we even knew what he was guilty of.
- Dio looks like this through Part Three of JoJo's Bizarre Adventure... for no real reason, because we know who it is. This was done to add mystery to Dio's newly acquired Stand, whose time-stopping powers were kept secret from both the characters AND the readers for 99% of the story.
- Vexen does this in the Kingdom Hearts: Chain of Memories manga.
- Most of the time the Mad Scientist Professor Tomoe◊ of Sailor Moon is seen with his faced obscured by a black shadow, Scary Shiny Glasses and a strange red smile.
- Higurashi: When They Cry does this at times.
- After a tense battle in Code Geass, Lelouch slumps exhausted against the side of a building, and talks to his second-in-command Kallen, brazenly not wearing the helmet of his Zero disguise, only from the chin up is his head bathed in shadow. It's at this point the bond of trust between him and Kallen fully crystalizes, with nothing but a few paces between Kallen and Zero's true identity.
- Before his introduction Jack of Pandora Hearts uses this. More like, Face Framed in Shadow and Fancy Curtain, though.
- Sgt. Frog has Kululu/Kururu, who always has a shadow over the center of his face.
- Until his actual introduction, Father from Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood is always shown like this.
- In Act 2 of Sailor Moon Crystal, this is twice used to communicate emotional agitation
- Evil Queen Beryl's eyes and left side of her face are shadowed during her testy scolding of her minion Jadeite in her throne room
- Afterwards, a troubled Jadeite has the right side of his face in shadow after sending off his second youma.
- In My Hero Academia, All Might's Heroic Build form is perpetually drawn in heavy shadows with half his face obscured and Hidden Eyes (this part also persists with his more sickly civilian form.)
- Symbolic example in Magi – Labyrinth of Magic: when Alibaba meets his father, the King of Balbadd, his face (and hands) are shown as blank darkness. Later, on his deathbed, Alibaba finally asks the King if he ever really loved Alibaba's mother; when he confirms that he did, his face is suddenly revealed.
- The technique has been used by many 16th and 17th century painters, including Rembrandt van Rijn and Caravaggio.
- In the early decades of Batman comics, his cowl was always drawn as if his face was in shadow (i.e., the front was black, fading into blue at the back). (Some artists (and the 60s TV show) interpret this as his cowl actually being two different colors.)
- Harvey Dent, both before and after his transformation into Two-Face, often has his face framed in shadow, either as Foreshadowing (before), mysterious effect (after), or symbolism of some sort (both)
- Also used in The Dark Knight.
- Hilariously subverted in one The Far Side comic which shows a reporter saying 'Our next guest is an organized crime informant. To protect his identity, we've placed him in a darkened studio. Let's go to him now.' while in the background we see the janitor entering the darkened studio and flicking on the light...
- DC's The Phantom Stranger doesn't wear a mask, but no matter what type of hat he's wearing it always casts a shadow over the top half of his face to achieve the same effect. Even when he's not wearing a hat at all.
- Due to its Film Noir roots, Sin City indulges in this quite a bit. This is mostly seen in Yellow Bastard with almost every shot of John Hartigan invoking this trope.
- In The Life and Times of Scrooge McDuck, the Beagle Boys have their faces in shadow before they get their trademark Domino Masks, ensuring we never actually see their faces without them.
- In The Boys the comics showing Sociopathic Hero/Villain Protagonist Butcher's Start of Darkness has several of these, most notably the absolutely terrifying one where a teenage Butcher's face is half covered in shadow (complete with the eye covered in shadow glowing ominously) when he decides to kill his father as he listens to his dad beating his mother.
- X-Men: Dark Phoenix is often drawn this way; ironic, since she gives off a lot of fire.
- In Violine, Francois' face is covered in shadow to indicate that he is being mind controlled.
Films — Animated
Films — Live-Action
- In Cries and Whispers, Maria's and Karin's disturbing flashbacks are introduced with shots of their faces in dim red light, half in shadow. Anna's maybe-maybe-not dream sequence is also introduced this way.
- Reversal of Fortune:
Dershowitz: You're a very strange man.von Bulow: (face half hidden in limo) You have no idea.
- Almost every introduction of Harmonica into a scene in Once Upon a Time in the West is like this, especially the scene where he's revealed by a lantern being thrown into the corner of the bar where he's sitting.
- Star Wars:
- Luke Skywalker, in Return of the Jedi gets this while hiding during the duel with Vader, while Vader is taunting him about his sister. Presumably intended to demonstrate Luke being conflicted and tempted to give in to his anger.
- Anakin Skywalker in Revenge of the Sith when he pledges allegiance to Palpatine.
- For a slightly different version, Palpatine's face is shadowed by his deep hood, but only the top half—you can still see his mouth and chin just fine, and sometimes his nose. Occasionally light glints off his eyes for an overall creepy effect. At the opera scene, it is played the normal way, where half his face is framed in light and half is framed in shadow while he regales Anakin with the Tragedy of Darth Plagueis the Wise.
- Apocalypse Now:
- Kurtz throughout his appearances. Necessary because Marlon Brando showed up for the last week of filming about a dozen pounds overweight, despite Coppola paying him $1 million in advance specifically to play an Authority Equals Asskicking warlord. And despite that, Brando was worth every penny, ad-libbing the most iconic five minutes of film ever shot in the history of movies.
- There's also a shot of Martin Sheen with his face half-covered in shadow and half in light while another character is talking about how every man has both good and evil in them.
- Darkman has a shot of this right near the end.
- Clint Eastwood's face is often framed in shadow in The Outlaw Josey Wales, usually when someone recognizes him or says his name.
- Citizen Kane has a few shots of Kane's face framed in shadow and stepping into light, or the other way around.
- Dr. Gogol gets one of these in Mad Love, when he's watching one of Yvonne's shows.
- Used by Don Diego in The Mask of Zorro to protect his secret identity when dressed in a padre's cowled robe… with the Zorro costume on underneath that.
- In Captain America: The First Avenger, Red Skull, when telling Dr. Zola about having located Dr. Erskine, is covered in shadow within a window shining light behind him. Presumably, this was intended in order to hide his true face.
- However, he is having his portrait painted at the time, and you can see the artist's palette has only red paint
- In Pulp Fiction, Butch Coolidge first appears with half of his face in shadow (albeit as much shadow as you can get in a strip club) as he's being offered a large sum of money to throw his upcoming boxing match.
- The documentary U.N. Me had a former peacekeeper official at the UN supply everything he knew about his experiences as a UN peacekeeper (particularly the negative ones) in exchange for his identity to remain hidden. As such, he always is framed in shadow with a voice modifier that sounds similar to a System Lord.
- In The Bishop's Wife, Dudley the angel is shot this way when he first meets the person he's been sent to help, Rev. Brougham. Dudley's a good and benevolent angel, but the effect is still spooky.
- Many times throughout Juliet of the Spirits, as Juliet's mansion isn't very well lit at night. Jose the bullfighter, whom Juliet is obviously attracted to, is framed this way when he first appears. When Juliet goes to bed while contemplating her husband's infidelity, her face is in shadow except for one strategic beam of light illuminating her eyes. Suzy is framed this way◊ when attempting to get Juliet to have sex at her house.
- Billy is framed this way in Days of Heaven, when he's peering into Abby and the farmer's bedroom, before he sneaks in and lures Abby out.
- O.J.: Made in America: A portrait of O.J. Simpson with the left side of his face hidden in shadow is shown for dramatic effect when Part 2 of the series starts to go into how Simpson beat his wife.
- Madame Curie: A lot of this in the dramatic scene in the lab, where Pierre and Marie go over her findings and realize, through logical deduction, that there is a third, unknown element in the pitchblende emitting radiation.
- Decision Before Dawn: Rennick, an American officer behind the lines in Nazi Germany, is framed this way when he's hiding behind a pillar, silently pleading with the German child looking straight at him to not give him away. The boy runs off without telling the nearby Nazi patrol.
- Dolores Umbridge of Harry Potter was introduced with her face framed in such a way as a member of the tribunal trying Harry for use of underage magic in Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix.
- Raistlin Majere, the mastermind wizard from the Dragonlance chronicles. His face was often hidden in the shadows of his hood, with only his golden eyes glowing from the darkness.
- Discworld does this with secret societies. A lot. They try for The Faceless, but generally have a hard time with it.
- Isabella is drawn like this in Dear Dumb Diary, while Jamie describes her as probably having herself under sinister lighting when on the phone asking about when she'd get her puppies.
- When The Mysterious Mr Quin appears on the scene, there is often a shadow falling on his face in a way that suggests a harlequin mask.
- The Night's Dawn Trilogy. Quinn Dexter uses his powers to do this deliberately to freak people out. Whenever he loses his temper however, his face rapidly reappears.
- In the Star Trek: The Next Generation episode "Redemption Pt. 1", Sela, daughter of a Tasha Yar from an alternate timeline, first appears with her face half in shadow, after having appeared with her face completely covered (to conceal her identity from the audience) in a handful of previous episodes involving Romulan plots she masterminded.
- Star Trek: Voyager.
- In "Persistence of Vision" the crew encounters an alien who greets them this way, which Captain Janeway puts down to psychological warfare. When he does step into the light, Janeway is shocked to see her fiance Mark whom she left back on Earth, as the alien is a telepathic Enthralling Siren.
- In "Living Witness", a future historian creates a holoprogram in which Voyager has a Historical Villain Upgrade. The episode opens with Evil Janeway standing in her darkened ready room, back to the audience, monologuing on how Might Makes Right.
- In the Lost episode "The Shape of Things to Come," Ben Linus and Charles Widmore have a conversation in which each face is only half-visible due to the darkness of the room. This underscores the audience's uncertainty as to which character is the true villain of the piece.
- In Horatio Hornblower, main villain Simpson is introduced with this and dramatic music.
- In the season 3 finale of The West Wing, while President Bartlet is struggling with the decision to order an assassination, he and Leo meet in a dark corner of a brightly-lit theatre where both have half of their faces obscured by shadows. They have a brief conversation about right and wrong before Bartlet gives the order and walks out of the shadows.
- In Rome, during the entirety of the scene where Octavian confronts a defeated Cleopatra after the death of Marc Antony, half of Octavian's face is covered in shadow. This underlies his two faced nature in the conversation, and how his polite invitation for Cleopatra to come to Rome and his assurances that her children will not be harmed are bald faced lies, despite the utter sincerity with which he says them.
- In the Supernatural episode "What Is And What Should Never Be" (S02, Ep20), Sam and Dean get this treatment while in the Impala on a rainy night.
- Breaking Bad uses this extremely often. This fits with the show's themes of double lives, and the subject matter of Protagonist Journey to Villain.
- Wolf Hall uses natural and period lighting, meaning that at night, sets are lit by candles and lanterns as they would have been in Tudor times. This is used to excellent effect when Thomas Cromwell interrogates Anne Boleyn's accused lovers, the ones who had mocked Cardinal Wolsey's death, in the final episode—Mark Rylance may not look as naturally evil as Cromwell is said to in the novels, but the sight of his face half-hidden in the shadows is quite menacing.
- Used to chilling effect in the Doctor Who episode "A Good Man Goes to War", where the Doctor threatens◊ to become The Unfettered.
Kovarian: The anger of a good man is not a problem. Good men have too many rules.The Doctor: Good men don't need rules. Today is not the day to find out why I have so many.
- Tom Waits and a woman are covered in shadows on the album cover of Foreign Affairs.
- The album cover of The Score by The Fugees shows the band members framed in shadows.
- The cover of After Hours shows a full length portrait of Sarah Vaughan, but her face is partly shadowed.
- Throughout the full video for Poets of the Fall's "Drama for Life" figures in both the real and Mental World have heavily shadowed faces, particularly the Ghost in the Machine "madman" who lunges from, and retreats into the various sharply defined shadows while alternately Kubrick Staring and pulling faces to spook the viewer.
- BIONICLE loved this trope. Almost every single promo image featured a character's face, usually the antagonist's, in the background either half-covered in shadow (sometimes dust or fog), or blended with an image of the current location.
- The teaser trailer for Myst III: Exile does this - the game's Tragic Villain Saavedro leans out of the shadows with a pained look on his face, sheds a single tear, then says "Hello, Atrus" and grins like a maniac. He later disappears back into the shadows, implying that he's hiding there... just waiting for you... Needless to say, the overall effect is quite chilling.
- There are a couple times in Mass Effect 2 where this happens to Shepard. It becomes especially effective if your Shepard is a renegade, as then all you'll be able to see of the shadowed side of their face is the glowing, red scars.
- Giovanni, the leader of Team Rocket, is shown with a partially-shadowed face in his Pokémon Stadium mugshot as well as the mugshot supplied in his character artwork as seeni in the manuals and official strategy guides of Red, Blue, and Yellow.
- Due to its cel-shaded nature and somewhat noir style, Killer7 has its share of shots like this.
- In Blood, a variation of this occurs: The upper half of Caleb's face is shrouded in shadow from his hat. This is the case in the in-game sprite and in some cutscenes. For the in-game sprite, this was accomplished by painting the upper part of the model's face black (the model would later get photographed and converted to a sprite).
- The cover for Metal Gear Solid: Peace Walker presents Big Boss like this. Considering this is the game where he embraces his Heel–Face Turn, it's quite appropriate.
- In Vice Project Doom, one half of the villain's looming face isn't even drawn in the opening cutscene.
- The Real Is Brown aesthetics of Akatsuki Blitzkampf use this trope LOTS of times. In example we have Akatsuki's intro◊ and portrait◊, Murakumo's intro◊ and ending◊, Fritz's ending◊...
- Tarion in Telepath Tactics, whenever he appears through a telepathic message. Only his eyes and a bit of his hands are visible. It's not until the final battle that you get to see his Character Portrait in proper lighting.
- Undertale has an unusual variant with Asgore, the king of monsters. When you fight him, his face isn't visible because he's looking at the ground. It makes him look vicious, but it's really because he can't bear to look the player character, a child, in the eye as he tries to kill them.
- Persona 5: Your party members' faces become covered in stark black shadows right before they pop a Slasher Smile and their Guardian Entity unleashes a damaging Critical Hit on an enemy.
- Used on Mr. Raven in this El Goonish Shive strip to illustrate a mysterious nature rather than a sinister one.
- Sandra on the Rocks: Used in the introduction of Sandra's possibly-mysterious enemy here.
- Used on Ahem in this early The Inexplicable Adventures of Bob! strip, when he admits he lied about why he came to Earth; an interesting example because as a nonhumanoid, he kind of doesn't have a face.
- In Life, when Lex calls Felicia, his face is wreathed in shadows ... because he's shielding himself from the lightbulb with an umbrella.
- Parodied in Exterminatus Now. Marley calls a mysterious contact, hidden in shadow, to let him know he has the artifact...only for said contact to turn on the light, revealing he's been woken up from bed and has no idea what his friend is talking about. It was a wrong number. When he calls the actual contact, he's cooking while wearing an apron that says "Kiss the Cult Leader."
- Todd in the Shadows is always backlit, so he projects a silhouette to the camera. In crossovers and live appearances, he wears a black mask that obscures all of his face except his mouth.
- The Nostalgia Critic has this a lot in Kickassia, highlighting how his darker Drunk with Power side is consuming him.
- During "My Eyes", Doctor Horrible sings about the darkness within him growing with his face half lit by a nearby lamplight. When he sings that soon darkness will be all that remains, he steps back allowing the darkness to cover the rest of his face, so that only a few specks of light (coming from a hobo's burning trash can) hit him.
- Agents of Cracked's "Chief" purposefully puts a lamp behind him to create this effect in his office, which works in tandem with a voice distorter.
- In TIE Fighter Short Film, the Imperial Commander gets this at one point, coupled with a very sinister grin.
- Slade from Teen Titans is shown this way in his earliest appearances.
- The end of "Almost Got 'im" from Batman: The Animated Series has a variant. When it's revealed that Killer Croc is really Batman, a swinging ceiling light casts a shadow over Croc's face and you see Batman's face framed in shadows. Paul Dini even admits on the dvd commentary that it made no sense, but it was just so cool they had to do it.
- In The Simpsons episode "Sideshow Bob Roberts," Smithers, a'la Deepthroat, is in shadow while telling Bart and Lisa to "follow the names," trying to offer as little information as possible about who his identity is other than that he was one of the people in Sideshow Bob's campaign. Unfortunately for him, Homer chose that moment to drive up and activate the front lights of his car.
- Von Reichter's face is always like this in Cyber Six, save for his glowing monocle and bright yellow eye.
- Fire Lord Ozai's face is seen like this for the first two seasons of Avatar: The Last Airbender. He drops it in the third season premiere, though.