Our hero walks into town. There's a big statue of a monster in the middle of town. There's an excellent chance that the statue is not just a statue, but actually contains the monster itself! Furthermore, the monster will animate by the end of the story. Whether it's a living monster or a robot or a spirit sealed in stone depends on the specifics of the setting, as does whether the monster turns out good or evil. Double points if the bad guys were looking for it all along. The exact mechanics of how a statue would move its limbs without breaking along the joints is almost never raised beyond some tiny cracks.
If some townsfolk tell the hero that the monster is the protector of the village who will keep them safe as long as the statue stands, this trope is now guaranteed.
For whatever reason, the Abraham Lincoln statue in the Lincoln Memorial being brought to life also seems to be a popular use of this trope.
This is a specific version of Chekhov's Gun
. See also Taken for Granite
and Rock Monster
Spoilers may be ahead.
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Anime & Manga
- In the Library Island arc of Mahou Sensei Negima!, one of the giant statues standing before the Book of Melusedek naturally turned out to be one of these. Although after the fact it's implied that it's the principal in disguise.
- The statue of the Godor, the Guardian God of Boazan in Voltes V, turned out to be a powerful ancient Humongous Mecha that could be piloted by a soul who's brave enough to jump into its blue flame.
- School Rumble. Hanai awoke a statue of kuta panda in chapter 166.
- One mission in Gantz has lizard creatures coming out of statues.
- And who could forget the Black Lion from Go Lion, aka Voltron?
- An episode of Keroro Gunso has the Keroro gang and the Hinata siblings investigating a mysterious statue said to get up and walk around at night around the school. It actually turns out to be an old invasion tool Keroro used to observe the school, and simply forgot about.
- Kakurenbo has kids playing hide and seek in a seemingly abandoned town, who are being hunted down by mechanical demonic-looking Asian statues.
- In the Pokémon Best Wishes episode "An Epic Defense Force", Ash and company make a movie where the statue of a Golurk comes to life to protect the inhabitants of an island from an alien invader.
- Naruto has the greatest attacks created by the First Hokage's Wood Style as immense wooden statues of famous Buddhist imagery that come to life to do battle.
- In the XXXenophile story "Now Museum, Now You Don't", statues of four goddesses come to life to help a museum guard deal with her man troubles in a rather "hands-on" fashion.
- In Captain Carrot and His Amazing Zoo Crew!, the villain Brother Hood brings to life the statue of Abraham Linkidd (Earth-C's Abraham Lincoln, a goat) from the Linkidd Memorial in Waspington DC and uses it to attack the heroes. In the 2007 miniseries, we also see the monster Frogzilla mistakenly believe the Statue of Ribbity (Earth-C's Statue of Liberty) to be alive, and tries to hit it up for a date.
- A one off issue of Iron Man had a villain called Rasputin who worshiped Tiva or some dark god or whatnot, and had him bring a statue called FANGOR to life. It got frozen then shattered. Cause it's Iron Man.
- In the Godzilla Color Special from Dark Horse Comics, Godzilla faces an ancient demon known as Gekido-jin, whose spirit was contained within a statue on a remote island in the Pacific. The two clash violently until they fall off a cliff into the sea. Godzilla destroys Gekido-jin with his atomic ray, and with Godzilla off the island, Gekido-jin's spirit returns to its stone prison.
- Obscure Marvel Universe hero It, the Living Colossus was Exactly What It Says on the Tin.
Films — Live-Action
- Zuul in the first film.
- Followed by the Statue of Liberty being animated in order to break Vigo's slime barrier around the museum in the sequel.
- The plot of the film The Forbidden Kingdom involves freeing The Monkey King, who was turned to stone nearly 500 years ago.
- The giant bronze statue "Talos" in Jason and the Argonauts, and before that the Greek myth it's based on. Although in the myth, Talos is technically a machine and was merely in an inactive state instead of being an actual statue.
- Another Harryhausen example: Evil Sorcerer Koura animates a statue of "Kali" (though it looks more like Shiva with breasts) to impress some natives and do battle with the heroes in The Golden Voyage of Sinbad. In a twist the statue turns out to contain a MacGuffin once broken.
- The plot of Conan the Destroyer was to resurrect one of these. It didn't go so well.
- Hot Fuzz had an actual Living Statue — that is, a street performer in gold makeup — that was "terrorizing" the town (at least the Neighbourhood Watch thought so).
- The Night at the Museum has the mannequins of museum exhibits coming to life at night. The second film, Battle of the Smithsonian, includes animate versions of Rodin's The Thinker, a Jeff Koons balloon animal, and, yes, the Lincoln Memorial.
- A life-sized crucifix statue becomes temporarily alive in Happy Hell Night in a vision, signifying that Father Malus has been released from his imprisonment.
- The Djinn brings statues of various warriors to life at the end of Wishmaster.
- Old Chief Wood'nhead from Creepshow 2, a wooden indian statue, comes alive to punish the youths that killed its owners.
- Eli in Children of the Corn III: Urban Harvest causes Father Nolan to see a statue of Virgin Mary to come alive and attack him (offscreen).
- After Father Jonas Prom Night IV Deliver Us From Evil finishes his prayer at the church and leaves to commit his first murders, a statue of Jesus turns its head to stare at him.
- A literal example in The World's End, in which the "modern art" statue is revealed to have been brought to life by the Blanks and assists them in chasing Gary, Andy and Steven.
- Lone Wolf
- In Book 3, The Caverns of Kalte, Lone Wolf may encounter a strange crystal statue that may or may not come to life depending on the player's choices. Unless you have a certain special item by that point (either the Sommerswerd or the Kalte Firesphere), attacking it is actually a very bad idea. Doing so releases the powerful Ice Demon that was imprisoned inside it. It will repay Lone Wolf by attempting a Grand Theft Me, which spells instant death for him. This attempt may very well succeed if the player did not find one of the aforementioned Special Items.
- In Book 20, you have the demonic beast "Ghazoul". Although it is not specifically stated that the statue of it encountered earlier was in fact the monster waiting in ambush, it is strongly implied. The power of turning itself into stone is certainly a good way to trick even a Kai Grandmaster's mystical senses.
- There's an old joke involving this trope. There's a pair of statues in a park who for decades have been frozen in a position of looking longingly toward each other. One day, an angel descends and grants them life for an hour. They rush off into the bushes and there's much rustling and giggling. When they emerge after a half hour, the angel reminds them they have more time whereupon the male statue turns to the female one and says, "OK, this time I hold down the pigeon and you shit on it."
- "The Venus of Ille" by Prosper Mérimée: A man puts a ring on the finger of an ancient statue; she becomes possessive of him and takes revenge when he gets married.
- The Stress of Her Regard by Tim Powers features another ring-on-finger example, possibly based on "The Venus of Ille", although in this case, the statue turns out to be a silicon-based lifeform: a female nephil/gorgon/vampire/whatever.
- Hastur of the Cthulhu Mythos often did this.
- The Spirit Ring by Lois McMaster Bujold: A bronze statue is temporarily inhabited by the spirit of the dead man who was its model, in order to lead an army to save the city while molten-hot!
- The guardian type is parodied in Pyramids; the Brass Bridge has eight wooden hippopotami of which it is said that "if danger ever threatens the city, they will run away."
- In Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, Dumbledore magically animates the statues located in the Ministry of Magic.
- That is nothing compared to the defenses of Hogwarts, which include Minerva McGonagall activating every statue in the castle to defend the castle.
- Near the end of So You Want To Be A Wizard, Kit animates basically every statue in New York City (including Liberty) to take on the Lone Power. Since It is an eternal Power That Is, and the creator of entropy, they only slow It down, but it's a impressive show.
- In The Enchanted Forest Chronicles Cimorene meets a prince who's stuck like this. He went on a quest to free people who'd been turned to stone, and had to fetch water from an enchanted spring to fix them. He was offered the choice of using a plain or a gem-encrusted ladle to fetch the water, and realized that the second one was almost definitely a trap. However, he figured it couldn't hurt to just look at the fancy ladle, which started turning him to stone before he even tried to use it. So he stuck his other hand in the magical spring, which stopped him being Taken for Granite.
- In Robert E. Howard's Conan the Barbarian story "The Tower of the Elephant" the idol comes to life while Conan is in the room. Conan is actually surprised enough not to move for moments.
- In the last Percy Jackson and the Olympians book, The Last Olympian, a good example is almost every statue in Manhatten, who are actually mechanical automatons that can be activated to defend the island.
- Doctor Who
- The episode "Blink" has the now-notorious Weeping Angels, who freeze whenever anyone — including the audience — is looking at them, but can move with great speed between blinks. We get to "see" them move between frames in series 5, though YMMV if it breaks the effect or not. It was implied that every humanoid statue in the series to date has been an Angel patiently waiting for a chance to strike. As of "The Angels Take Manhattan", this is confirmed — including the Statue of Liberty being an Angel.
- In the Who Classic episode "The Keeper of Traken", a statue in a garden turns out to be the Master's TARDIS, with the Master stuck inside.
- In Juken Sentai Gekiranger, a statue at a villain's Hong Kong digs is shown prominently early on in The Movie. You just know it's going to come to life and go stompy. It does. Actually, it hides a Humongous Mecha belonging to said villain.
- CSI NY had an episode with a living statue performer. The guy was revealed to have grabbed himself a day off by dressing up a dead guy as the statue, with some kind of supportive brace. However, despite Danny's refusal to let the case go, he did not actually kill the guy, just tampered with the body, a misdemeanor.
- The Beethoven Dudes in Crüe Ball are moving marble busts.
- Pseudo-Egyptian statues had some fun creeping out Ernie and Bert in one Sesame Street sketch.
- If mannequins count as statues, then Jeff from Today's Special is an example, coming to life when certain conditions are met. Fortunately, he's benevolent.
- Older Than Steam: "El Comendador" or "el convidado de piedra" ("Il Commandatore" in Italian), from the Don Juan legend, who takes revenge on the Handsome Lech title character.
This one's arguable for 19th-century Don Juan versions, though. Though still a Handsome Lech, in those Don Juan falls in love, and the father of the woman is instead portrayed as the Big Bad, unable to understand this. The Power of Love is required to pull poor little Juan's ass out of the fire.
- In the musical One Touch of Venus, a 3000-year-old statue of the goddess Venus came to life because some barber decided to slip his fiancée's engagement ring onto its finger.
- Friendly statues standing outside the gates of Neverland Ranch come to life early on in Michael Jackson The IMMORTAL World Tour.
- BioShock: In Poseidon's Plaza, there are Plastered Splicers. As their name suggests, they are covered in plaster, and they disguised themselves as Sander Cohen's statues, often attacking in silence unlike other splicers.
- Condemned: Criminal Origins: In the mannequin shop, at the very beginning you can see the mannequins each with their Slederman-like appearance. You turn and start walking. LIGHTNING FLASH. They've teleported out of the display case and have now formed a semi circle around the exit. You have no choice but to walk further. LIGHTNING FLASH. They've gotten even closer now. LIGHTNING FLASH. The closer you get to the hole, the more they push you backwards. Finally, once you reach the hole, if you look up you will see the mannequins in a ritual like stance in a circle around the hole. And they're never mentioned again. *Cough* Big Lipped Alligator Moment *Cough*
- One creepy room in Fatal Frame IV has no enemies or ghosts. Unless you take a good long look at one of the eyeless mannequins in the center. The head will TURN TO YOU and open its eyes, revealing yellow demon eyes. If you try to look at it again, it won't do it anymore.
- In Guild Wars Factions, stone guardians are statues guarding an area, that come to life when the player passes.
- The dwarves have to become this and face extinction in order to defeat the Great Destroyer in Eye of the North. Some have survived by the time of Guild Wars 2, like Ogden Stonehealer.
- In The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past, Link obtains a magic flute that awakens a bird stored inside a weather vane. It will then carry him to certain spots on the map.
- A modified version exists in The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess, in which you obtain an item that lets you bring certain statues to life and control them.
- And don't forget the command melody in The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker, which would let you control statues as well.
- Throughout the games, the Armos enemy are statues that come to life when Link touches them.
- At the end of Escape from Monkey Island, LeChuck possesses a giant statue of his alter-ego Charles L. Charles, turning it into a giant statue of himself so he can squash the heroes (and his former partner-in-crime Ozzie Mandrill).
- One example of the "Protective statue turned evil" is found in Golden Sun, where a town's "guardian" statues come to life and attempt to flood it.
- The first boss battle in Lunar: Eternal Blue is of this type. Also, the Big Bad's colossal Eldritch Abomination initial form. Fortunately he converts to travel-size before you have to fight him.
- Two boss battles in Skies of Arcadia are with giant monsters that you thought were statues until they stood up and came at you. Naturally the villains were looking for said statues the whole time to try and control them.
- In The World Ends with You, one of Shiki and Neku's first missions is to "free the statue of its curse". The duo head over to Hachiko and, deciding it's filthy, proceed to polish it. As they continue to polish, the statue gradually turns silver, gains blue streaks, and growls menacingly. Turns out the curse was a pack of canine Noise possessing the statue.
- The original Tomb Raider had the city of Atlantis guarded by a lot of these. One of the last levels in Tomb Raider 2 has several Living Statue enemies. Tomb Raider 3's second level has Multi-Armed and Dangerous Living Statues, The Movie also has a similar foe at one point.
- MOTHER 3 features a giant statue of Porky as a Bonus Boss. It also appeared in one of the segments in the Subspace Emissary on Super Smash Bros. Brawl.
- Compulsory Pokémon examples:
- Regigigas was originally a Pokémon that (somehow) was locked away in Snowpoint Temple. However people eventually forgot about it and it was thought to be a statue. When the player gathers Regirock, Regice and Registeel, Regigigas awakens and attacks. Its long time spent as a statue is shown in its ability, Slow Start.
- It later appears in Clay Tunnel in Pokémon Black 2 and White 2. It's the same deal as before.
- Also noteworthy is the boss battle in Pokemon Mystery Dungeon: Explorers of Time/Darkness/Sky's Aegis Cave. Regigigas plus a slew of Bronzong and Hitmonlee that appear to be statues come to life and attack the player's party.
- It was also shown to have become statue-like in the 11th Pokémon movie before awakening to hold back a glacier.
- Claydol, according to the Diamond/Pearl/Platinum Pokédex, is "An ancient clay figurine that came to life as a Pokémon from exposure to a mysterious ray of light." By extension, this also applies to its unevolved form, Baltoy. Also Nosepass, a Maoi Statue.
- Black and White were kind enough to give a better example in Golett and Golurk, genderless man-made Pokémon of the Ground/Ghost type that look like animated guardian statues. They were built to protect the ancient civilizations of both people and Pokemon, and can even learn to Fly.
- Undying has a weird bit where to get to the upper floor of a room in magical alternate dimension, the player must use the scrying spell on the statue in the center of the room. This shows it's heart exposed, which the player must then shoot with his gun. This causes blood to pour out and allow the player to swim to the upper level.
- In Chrono Cross, one of the playable characters is a statue (or more precisely, a voodoo doll) that comes into life if the player shows its owner an item acquired from the owner's counterpart in a parallel reality.
- Grandia II had statues of Gargoyles at the start that broke open and turned into moving stone Gargoyles. In fact, it has a couple of times when statues or things in the walls come to life and attempt to kill you. Then it's subverted by having a suspiciously large statue in one of the towns that the characters comment on; when all hell breaks loose nothing happens apart from the main character shouting at it.
- Amaterasu from Ōkami was turned into a statue after her death fighting Orochi; at the start of the game she's reanimated to save the world.
- In Legacy of Kain: Defiance, many of the reaver forges contain statue guardians that spend the first half of the level as inanimate decorations. Kain's narration shows that he knows damn well that they'll come alive before he leaves.
- Played with in Dark Sun: Shattered Lands. An evil defiler who's controlling one of the villages you're trying to help asks you to bring him several pieces missing from a statue. Once the statue is complete the defiler lets you kill him; this allows him to become the now-living statue. You can attack the statue then and doing so is a good idea, otherwise it shows up in the final battle and adds to the latter's already considerable difficulty.
- The "sealed in stone" aspect is played up greatly in Dragon Quest VIII, in which the game's final Big Bad is sealed in a 100-foot tall statue of the main religion's goddess at the center of the world.
- The Dragon Quest series also has enemies actually named Living Statues. Sure enough, they look just like big stone statues, and attack with stiff, robotic movements as if they were animated from a hunk of rock.
- In the Sam & Max Season 1 videogame episode "Abe Lincoln Must Die", the statue of Abraham Lincoln in the Lincoln memorial is alive and ambulatory. And seeking re-election. Well, that will not stand! He makes several more appearances after that episode as just a head and no longer evil, and ends up marrying another recurring character.
- Titan is trapped in a statue in the town of Chocobo's Dungeon 2
- Lost Odyssey makes frequent mention of a large monster that one of the characters turned to stone to save her kingdom. Sure enough, someone wakes it up again.
- Final Fantasy VI:
- This happened to Odin and The Queen. Odin comes back to fight; The Queen just gives you tears from a stone.
- More noticeably, the Warring Triad (often referred to as "The Statues") which caused worldwide devastation in the War of the Magi 1000 years ago. They sealed themselves in stone voluntarily and set themselves in balance; breaking the balance breaks the world again. At the end of the game, the deities of the Triad are enslaved and robbed of their power by Kefka, allowing the party to finally destroy them.
- The Miriam Guardians in Final Fantasy XII. There are two types: tall, Egyptian looking statues and giant heads which seem to shout "Damn!" when you destroy them. The Clan Primer says that the heads are all that are left of massive ancient statues. In addition to those, there are the Demon Wall bosses in Raithwall's Tomb earlier on in the game.
- Actraiser: the Master (i.e. God, i.e. you) animates a statue to serve as an earthly avatar, and as the warrior with which to defeat the evil roaming the world.
- The second boss in La-Mulana is a reanimated statue of an extinct race of giants.
- Both the good and the evil variety appears in Legend of Kay. In keeping with the game's vaguely Chinese feel, the dungeon contains clay warriors that animate and attack when Kay gets too close. In the city above, Kay must reanimate two ancestor statues to solve a puzzle.
- Nethack has statues which come to life as a regular trap in the lower levels. In fact, any statue that depicts a fleshy monster can be brought to life with the spell "stone to flesh".
- In World of Warcraft gargoyles occasionally appear as still statues. There are also a series of statues lining a path in Halls of Lightning, some of which come to life when you pass them.
- In Dragon Age: Origins, the mages encounter the immobile but speaking statue of Eleni Zinovia, an ancient Tevinter lady who has been turned to stone for delivering Cassandra Truth prophecies, in their Origin story. She is then revisited in the Witch Hunt DLC to provide vital information.
- Shale from another DLC, The Stone Prisoner, from is technically a Golem, but when introduced she's spent the past thirty years as an immobile statue in a town. Incidentally, she really hates pigeons.
- In Dragon Age II during the final battle Meredith brings the statues in the Gallows to life to fight you.
- In The Hunt has a giant statue that chases you up the seabed ruins. Once you manage to damage it enough using the stone blocks at the top of the screen, part of its face gets ripped off and you see flesh beneath, complete with dangling eye sockets...
- These often guard the homes of wizards in the Avernum games. A few of them talk to you, but most just hurl lightning bolts at you. Oddly, although they're on plinths and are usually still in combat they prove perfectly capable of sliding around.
- As seen in the picture, the entire first level of God of War 2 is an epic battle against the Colossus of Rhodes come to life.
- Tak, the Mighty Glacier from War Gods, is a statue brought to life. Since he's not human and lacks blood or internal organs, many of the finishing moves work differently on him. For example, Pagan's "Medusa's Head" fatality initially doesn't work on him for obvious reasons. He'll laugh and taunt her until the head shoots it with Eye Beams.
- At the end of the Age of Mythology campaign, Arkantos has to fight an evil statue of Poseidon. There's also the metal Colossus unit, and Leto's Automatons in the Titans expansion pack.
- In Rockman 4 Minus Infinity, statues of Fire Man, Heat Man and Flame Man near the entrance to the Boss Battle of Pharaoh Man's stage come to life and only use their signature attacks.
- Dark Souls has several. Most dangerous are the Titanite Demons, which the game uses as MiniBosses. They are extremely strong and surprisingly quick with lots of jump attacks despite only having one leg. There are also the Stone Guardians, likely protectors of the lost nation of Oolacile. Then there are the demon statues which are the most insignificant of the bunch.
- Nitemare 3D had two varieties of stone statues that come to life and attack the player.
- Resident Evil 4 has Leon chased by a giant statue of Salazar at one point.
- At one point in Shining Soul you have to walk down a long corridor with statues of playable characters on one side, and statues of enemies on the other. Naturally the statues of enemies come alive and attack you.
- The Bronze Colossus is the straightest example from Dwarf Fortress, but there's a couple of other creatures that are at least somewhat similar.
- In Brain Dead 13, there is a giant statue at the end of the maze, and it will come up with nifty ways to kill Lance if he doesn't stop it.
- Smashmuck Champions has Rook.
- In A Beginner's Guide to the End of the Universe Chairman Jack, a Cyborg sparrow, runs out of power and ends up resting upon a city's marketplace as a statue of himself for hundreds of years, having become a legendary mythical character in the meantime. When the protagonist shows up, he figures it out quickly and restores Jack to life by connecting him to an outlet.
- The SCP Foundation has a few:
- SCP-173, the original anomalous item, is a statue that can only move and attack when it's not being watched.
- SCP-650 is similar, but only moves to scare people, not kill them.
- SCP-689 is another statue that moves and kills when not being watched, except that it must be constantly observed or else anyone who has ever viewed it directly will die.
- SCP-011 is more benign, though, typically only moving to defend itself from birds (key word: "typically").
- SCP-014 is an inversion, a man who essentially willed himself into becoming a statue.
- The Statue of Liberty winks at the end of An American Tail...so it might count.
- In Dexter's Laboratory, Mandark animates the head of George Washington from Mount Rushmore and gives him a giant robot body. Dexter's response is to do the same to Abraham Lincoln and fight back.
- This is the setup for Disney's Gargoyles.
- In the G.I. Joe miniseries "The Revenge of Cobra", one of the pieces of the Weather Dominator ends up in some ancient ruins. Said ruins have a giant statue that, of course, comes to life when the heroes (and villains) go in to retrieve the Plot Coupon.
- The William Shakespeare statue from Gnomeo and Juliet.
- Animating metal statues was how Metlar from Inhumanoids acquired his Mook armies.
- The evil Warlords of King Arthur & the Knights of Justice were made of stone, with the possible exception of Viper (you could see some of his fleshy-looking human face).
- In the Pinky and the Brain episode "Ambulatory Abe", Brain rigs the Lincoln Memorial statute with a hidden microphone and speakers, plus movable wheels, to trick the public into believing Abraham Lincoln had come back to life (and was ready to resume being president again).
- The statue of Grouchy Smurf that comes to life in The Smurfs episode "The Monumental Grouch".
- An episode of South Park features the episode's villain, magician David Blaine, using superpowers to bring the Lincoln Memorial statue to life. The heroes' solution: build a giant John Wilkes Booth statute to stop the Lincoln statute.
- Parodying Talos in Jason and the Argonauts (see Film), in The Venture Bros., Dean reads an inscription that wakes a giant statue guardian of a sacred crafts box (at least he says he did).
- Batman: The Brave and the Bold: A giant statute is brought to life an used in an attempt to kill Batmanicus in ancient Rome in "Time Out for Vengeance!"
- The figures from the wax museum in Gravity Falls.
- The stone guardians in Atlantis The Lost Empire, which come to life to protect the city from flowing lava.
- Living Statues in Real Life refer to street performers who wear special makeup and stand still for hours at a time in public places, only coming to life to freak people out.
- Amanda Palmer worked as one of these in Boston under the name "The Living Bride", a fact she refers to on the Dresden Dolls song "Perfect Fit."
- Standing perfectly still for prolonged periods is not good for the circulation. Combined with heat and dehydration from a long day's performance, there's a very high risk of passing out.
- A variant on the act — the statue doesn't move "to freak people out", but when someone chucks money into their jar. It's ideal to have an interesting act so that people keep giving them money, so they can keep moving and avoid the aforementioned health risks.
- In Detroit Michigan, there's a bronze statue called "Spirit of Detroit". Nearby, there's a statue of similar scale of a nude female. One night, a local prankster painted footprints in a tint of green matching Spirit of Detroit's patina, leading to the nude female statue.