The stereotypical Near Death Experience
includes seeing a bright light, experiencing love coming from it, and sensing somehow that if you were really
dead - not Only Mostly Dead
- then you should go into it. Death is just the beginning, after all, and you probably had a very similar experience when you were being born.
Now, a sparkly light after death is seen as the functional means by which ghosts move on, as well as the difference between Near Death Experience
and Deader Than Dead
. Entire plots have been built around convincing
ghosts to Go Into the Light. "Psychopomp" style versions of The Grim Reaper
help guide you there with varying degrees of force.
Part of The Lowest Cosmic Denominator
. See also Disappears into Light
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Anime and Manga
- The series finale of Yu-Gi-Oh! ends with the Pharaoh's spirit walking through a heavenly doorway...which collapses moments later.
- Parodied in CLANNAD by Nagisa's very theatrical parents. The father steps on a knife, falls over, and gives a last speech while his head rests in his crying wife's lap. Music plays and a bright light shines down from the ceiling as he slumps in 'death'...both of which abruptly cut off when Nagisa announces that she's going to school.
- Parodied in Excel Saga. Excel gets hit by a car (in the very first episode) and wakes to a field of stars...but it's actually the Great Will of the Macrocosm, hovering over her to make sure that Excel, the nominal protagonist, doesn't die so early in the series.
- Parodied in Azumanga Daioh: as Chiyo-Chan has flashbacks of riding in Yukari's car, Kaorin yells "Chiyo-Chan! Don't go into the light!"
- Subverted in a Far Side comic, where a group of surgeons use a flashlight to make a woman on the table think this is happening as a practical joke.
- Parodied in The Simpsons Comics when Mr Burns has a near-death experience. After he's given CPR, we get to see that it was actually a spotlight being shone by...
- Dogbert dreams that he's dying once, but it turns out that Dilbert's just shining a flashlight at his face.
Dogbert: I'm coming toward the light... The light...it's so pure...so perfect...it could only be the light of God Himself!
Dilber: No. Just new batteries.
Dogbert: God has a sense of humor? Of course! It explains everything.
Scott Adams Comment from Seven Years of Highly Defective People: It would explain everything.
- In "The Death Of Captain Marvel", the titular hero has one last battle of the mind with his nemesis Thanos, after which Death arrives to take him to the afterlife. This trope is evoked as they three head into the light, while in the world of the living Mar-vell's heart flatlines.
- Evangelion 303: Asuka wanted to do it in chapter 11, but Jessika did not let her, stating that it was not her time yet.
Film - Animated
- In the first Shrek film, Donkey thinks Shrek is dying from an arrow. As he goes off to get some plants that are supposed to help him, he says, "And if you see a long tunnel, stay away from the light!"
- The Cy-Bugs in Wreck-It Ralph are programed to be drawn towards a beacon whenever their game is reset, in a manner very reminiscent of bugs being drawn to a bug-zapper. The first time is Played for Laughs while the second time is Played for Drama.
- This trope was also King Candy's/Turbo's last words when he flies into a beacon made of volcanic Diet Cola.
Film - Live Action
- Plays a large part in the film The Frighteners. The protagonist has the ability to see ghosts, and when people die, their spirits are immediately pulled to the afterlife by a bright blue light. However, the spirits can actually refuse to go to the light and exist on earth as ghosts. They only way they can ascend to the afterlife then is to either wait for a certain period of time for the light to return, or be "killed" by another ghost. The light plays a large role in defeating the malevolent spirit of a serial killer.
- In Poltergeist, the medium's explanation for events was that one spirit was using the light of the little girl to trick other spirits into sticking around.
- At the end of The Sixth Sense, the screen fades to white around Bruce Willis's character after he realizes that he is dead and has said goodbye to his wife.
- Subverted in Constantine, in which Satan pulls the titular character from the light, cures his lung cancer and extends his lifetime in the hopes that he'll screw up again and be sent down the next time. The scene is based of a comic book arc where Hellblazer manipulates Satan into curing him.
- Toyed with in the first Casper film: Ghosts cross over as soon as they've completed their "unfinished business." However, the title character's unfinished business is resurrecting himself; he'll never cross over unless he succeeds, then dies again. The Big Bad, however, makes the mistake of declaring her unfinished business to be just obtaining the resurrection formula, not using it, so she goes into the light as soon as she gets the bottle, leaving it behind.
- In The Fountain, all three lives / versions of Tom experience looking upward into a tunnel of bright light: Tommy the doctor looks up into a skylight filled with snow right before the lights go out, whereupon it cuts to Tom the astronaut looking up into the exploding nebula, whereupon it cuts to Tomas the conquistador looking up into the literal tunnel of light after ingesting the sap of the Tree of Life, whereupon he dies and becomes one with the tree. What Do You Mean, It's Not Symbolic??
- The protagonist's soul in Enter the Void tries this as soon as he dies. It ends up being the light in the bathroom stall where he was shot. He realizes this shortly thereafter.
- Played for laughs in Scary Movie 3, where Charlee Sheen's character urges his dying wife to go into the light as he doesn't want to answer to her dying wish for celibacy.
- Is given a major overhaul in Bill Meyers' novel, Soul Tracker. Turns out that the departed are traveling through the tunnel fast enough to blur out all the things living on the walls. And then the story gets weird.
- At the end of Changes, Harry has been shot, and he sees a light...and hears a train.
- Merrick from The Vampire Chronicles gets a bridge dropped on her after she decides to end her life in order to help a spirit "Go Into The Light".
- In Arrow's Fall when Herald Kris dies, his last words are "So bright!" When Herald Talia attempts suicide, however, her last thought before losing consciousness is to wonder why she sees only darkness. (She gets better.)
- There was a Christopher Pike book where a ghost is told to go into the light. When the ghost asks why, she's told that it says so in the National Enquirer.
- In Jennifer Crusie's Maybe This Time, Andie urges ghosts to do this, assuring them that Light Is Good.
Live Action TV
- Bruce Cockburn's song "Closer To The Light," written after the death of songwriter Mark Heard, includes the words, "Gone from mystery into mystery, gone from daylight into night, another step deeper into darkness, closer to the light."
- "Go Back" by Chalee Tennison. The song is a story of a truck driver and waitress who meet and marry. In the third verse, the trucker is in an accident and "slips into the light" until the angels tell him "Go back, you got somebody waiting."
- In RENT, Mimi describes her Near Death Experience as seeing "a warm, bright light/ and I swear, Angel was there".
- Parodied in the video podcast Tiki Bar TV, during the Missionary episode.
Dr. Tiki: That's good, go towards the light!
Preacher: Go towards the light?
Johnny Johnny: You'll want to take a left at the light.
Dr. Tiki: At the first light, take a left.
Lala: No, it's your first right.
Dr. Tiki: At this time of day? It'll take forever.
- Subverted in Mass Effect 1. The last words of Matriarch Benezia are:
No light? They always said there would be a — Ah...
- Parodied/Subverted in Paper Mario: The Thousand-Year Door; a ghost is surrounded by a column of light after you solve the business binding him to this plane, but then he decides to stick around for a while.
- After you beat Twinrova in The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time, the sisters get halos over their heads and float up into a column of light.
- At the end of Sonic Adventure, Tikal and Chaos rise from the ground disappear and into a light. Exactly what this meant is never made explicit, and confused more than a few gamers. Chaos is still shown to exist in the normal world, as seen in Sonic Battle.
- This trope is invoked in Silent Hill 4, where Henry has to crawl a long tunnel (and we do mean long) towards the light to escape his apartment...except the "light" leads to the Dark World. When he enters the hole to return to the (relative) safety of his apartment, you see the tunnel-crawling sequence in reverse.
- Both invoked and averted (as becomes clear in Modern Warfare 2) in Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare, with the death of Paul Jackson (one of the player characters). His death is shown while the screen whites out.
- Invoked in Borderlands with General Knoxx-trap's second death in the final Borderlands DLC, where he says "I've heard your entire life flashes before your eyes when you die…that’s a load of crap…no wait…okay, there it goes." to be followed up and averted, sadly with "No, that's just the sun. Shit."
- In The Curse of Monkey Island, after you've successfully been entombed by Faking the Dead (the first time), you'll spy another coffin with a live occupant. One of your dialogue options is "Go into the light!"
- In The Blackwell Series, Rosangela often says this line to the ghosts who are ready to move on the next plane of existence. Some ghosts can't help but snark a bit at the fact she actually tells them this.
- Parodied in Jak and Daxter when you lose all your health.
Daxter: Don't step into the light, Jak, DON'T STEP INTO THE LIGHT!
- In Breakfast of the Gods, The Quaker Oats mascot is cast in the role of God welcoming Cap'n Crunch to the afterlife.
- In Elf Only Inn, the light is the place dead characters go for a rez. Imagine the embarrassment of poor Megan when she misunderstood Duke's comment.
- In Gunnerkrigg Court, dying people are normally guided into light by different spirits. Some people need help to resolve their problems before they can move on. Nobody came for Antimony's mom and she had to do it herself, which makes her resent them slightly.
- When Mortimer the ghost is ready to move on, he asks Antimony to help him.
- People having experienced near-death experiences have actually reported seeing a bright light, which is sometimes perceived as a being of some sort.
- Scientists used to think that this was caused by either lack of oxygen, excess carbon dioxide, drugs, or temporal lobe seizures in the dying brain, but these hypotheses have been rendered doubtful by more recent research.