Some people view most insect types as Big Creepy-Crawlies that are scary at best, or dangerous and scary at worst. Butterflies, however, have always gained positive interest from humanity, given their beautiful colors, their graceful flying, and the fact they look like they would rather drink nectar from flowers than star in the next B horror film. They became symbols of the wind, reincarnation, transformation, the soul, and magic throughout the ages. As a result, butterflies have appeared numerous times in many media. That said, don't let your guard down around their petite and attractive forms. Butterflies in fiction have an occasional history of being paired with some darker trait like poison; which has made them popular with various Vamps and Honey Traps as well as any villain that chooses the butterfly motif to represent subtle allure and deceptive deadliness. Contrast Macabre Moth Motif (although if someone is invoking this trope to hide how deadly the butterfly is, the difference between the two is only skin deep).
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Anime & Manga
- The first episode of Kimba the White Lion has the titular character lost at sea, so he followed a swarm of migrating butterflies to get to land.
- Golden Butterflies show up a lot in Umineko: When They Cry. Seeing them usually means you're very big trouble.
- Though they don't get a lot of screen time, one must not forget the black Hell Butterflies that escort the Soul Reapers in Bleach
- Averted with Szayel Aporro Granz though. His normal, human-like form is actually rather handsome but when he goes One Winged Angel butterflies will no longer be beautiful to you. They will be hideous, blood-like monstrosities with very pleasing voices and the ability to use you as their next cocoon.
- Mikage from Kamisama Kiss is a Shinto God that specializes in matchmaking and is heavily associated with butterflies. He even has a tendency to shapeshift into a butterfly.
- In the Oniisama e... manga, the beautiful and moody Mariko is compared to a butterfly by Nanako at some point.
- In Sailor Moon, Usagi as Super Sailor Moon has butterfly-related motifs.
Films — Animated
- Taken advantage of in Anastasia — When Anya is on the ship to France, Rasputin's demonic minions masquerade as butterflies to draw her into a sleepwalking, Tastes Like Diabetes dream that will end when she leaps to her doom in the ocean.
- Horton Hears a Who!: "In my world, Everyone's a pony, and they all eat rainbows, and poop butterflies".
- Alice in Wonderland featured Bread-and-butterflies. And later on, we see the Caterpillar turn into a um, guess. "THE MUSHROOM, OF COURSE!!!"
- Gypsy Moth from A Bug's Life is technically a moth, but she is colorful like a butterfly (although in real life there are indeed numerous colorful moth species). At the end of the film, Heimlich (an overweight caterpillar who speaks in a German accent) actually emerges out of his cocoon as an overweight butterfly with teeny-tiny wings. Because his wings are too small for him to get off the ground, Manny (Gypsy's husband, who is a praying mantis) and Francis (a disgruntled male ladybug who has being referred as a female) had to help him up as the circus bugs fly away.
Films — Live-Action
- Mothra is a giant moth goddess and is also one of the more peaceful (And one of the few purely good) Kaiju out there.
- Then there's her more violent counterpart Battra from Godzilla and Mothra: The Battle for Earth. He's just trying to protect the environment, but thinks destroying all of humanity is the best way of doing so.
- In The Patchwork Girl of Oz, a boy named Ojo had to get the left wing of a butterfly for use in a potion, but the Tin Woodman wouldn't let him harm the butterfly.
- The Doctor Who books have a room in the TARDIS that is simply filled with butterflies.
- Discworld has the Quantum Weather Butterfly which looks spectacular flying en masse, but the ensuing super-storm caused by the flapping of the wings less so.
- The novel Interesting Times also has a character named Pretty Butterfly; as per standard Pratchett subversions she is downright manipulative and violent. This may be the result of growing up with a name like 'Pretty Butterfly'.
- The Quantum Weather Butterfly is also extremely poisonous, as Vetinari (in a flashback to a lecture at the Assassins' Guild school) points out in Feet of Clay.
- Subverted in A Fire Upon the Deep by Vernor Vinge, where there is an alien race who resemble beautiful butterflies — and they're a bunch of genocidal fascists.
- Not strictly butterflies, but China Miéville's Perdido Street Station has a race of giant mind-eating (psychophagic?) moths. They're not strictly pretty either.
- The contagious serial-killer curse from Red Iron Nights causes its host to belch clouds of green carnivorous butterflies.
- Animorphs had The Departure, where Cassie got a butterfly morph.
- One of the TV series eps used butterfly morphs as well.
- In Nathaniel Hawthorne's short story Dr. Heidegger's Experiment, four aged people are revitalized by water from the Fountain of Youth, as is a dying butterfly drenched in the liquid. The butterfly's sudden relapse signals that this happy reprieve - and, by implication, life itself- is only temporary. Butterfly = Brevity of Existence is the probable symbolism.
- Chester Anderson's Hugo-nominated novel, The Butterfly Kid opens with Chester meeting a stoned kid on the streets of New York's Greenwich Village, who is sitting there, making butterflies appear from his hand.
- In J. R. R. Tolkien's The Hobbit, when Bilbo climbs a tree in Mirkwood, the treetop has lovely butterflies.
- In Jennifer Crusie's Maybe This Time, Alice's nightmares are all the more horrific because they include horrible butterflies — which she loves, awake.
- In Ruth Frances Long's The Treachery of Beautiful Things, Jenny's first thought of the Foletti is that they are as beautiful as butterflies.
- In Julie Kagawa's The Iron Daughter, Puck tells Meghan that if necessary, she can have a dress of diamond and butterflies
Live Action TV
- In Prickly City, Carmen and Winslow are admiring a pretty butterfly when Kevin interrupts to demand they stop lallygagging.
- In Rose Is Rose, many times. Distracting Jimbo and Rose from a discussion of taxes, causing Pasquale to compare the pretty colors to his guardian angel's wings, driving Peekabo crazy trying to catch it. . . .
- In Mutts, Mooch follows one. Then he gets a close-up look at its face. . . .
- Frazz features a viceroy. (Frazz gets to explain why it looks like a monarch.)
- Zaccaria's Farfalla is all about a flower garden full of butterflies.
- Princesa Sugehit has a butterfly motif and a cape which when spread out looks like a pair of their wings. However, she's spent most of her career as a nasty ruda out to rid lucha libre of Canadians. One of her more famous tecnica runs was, appropriately, against La Amapola.
- Ayako Hamada's most famous sets of ring gear each have butterfly designs on her torso, or a cross.
- The first act of The Insect Play by Josef and Karel Čapek is a satirical look at the love lives of vain butterflies.
- The Pokémon series includes several butterfly-like Mons, including Butterfree, Venomoth, and Beautifly.
- Although subverted with Beautifly: it's an aggressive predator that feeds by sucking out the prey's bodily fluids.
- Which is Truth in Television, but mostly on the freshly dead.
- Most of them are Crutch Characters, but Gen V introduced Volcarona, an extremely powerful one that is based on Mothra.
- Gen VI introduced Vivillion, a butterfly whose gimmick is a different wing pattern for every climate zone- the pattern a player gets depends on what location their 3DS is set to. It is indeed quite pretty.
- The first Persona game has Pandora, whose final form is a giant, bipedal butterfly.
- The series as a whole loves its butterfly motif; Philemon, a major character in the first three games (counting both halves of the second game), has Butterfly of Death and Rebirth as his his major gimmick, and is never seen without a butterfly mask. The save points in the fourth game even are butterflies (which according to Word of God are Philemon's current manifestation).
- Odin Sphere has Phozon Butterflies which your character can absorb to power themselves up.
- Yuyuko of the Touhou series employs butterfly danmaku in your final showdown with her in Perfect Cherry Blossom.
- Let's Go Jungle!. After fending off swarms of Giant Spiders (including a gigantic one), as well as other carnivorous creepy crawlies, and a Man-Eating Plant, your Final Boss is a giant butterfly. Who then proceeds to smack you around with swarms of butterflies, cut you with its wings and blow you off the helicopter you're on...
- EarthBound features magic butterflies that will restore your HP and PP along with some soothing music.
- Bubbles, a butterfly-like air elemental Crew from the defunct Korean online gameT-Crew.
- Dark Souls features a boss called Moonlight Butterfly. It is a nice departure from all the brutally dangerous looking bosses you have been fighting! During the fight, the typically epic music of the boss fights is replaced with calm, soothing music. It is a dangerous creature if one is careless, and doesn't carry a shield with good magic defense, as it uses magic attacks such as lasers, magical spears, Homing Soul Arrows, and explosive bursts.
- Dahlia Hawthorne in Phoenix Wright Trials and Tribulations is accompanied by butterflies to emphasize her sweet, delicate demeanor. They spontaneously combust the moment she reveals her true colors.
- The mysterious swordsman "Marth" in Fire Emblem Awakening wears a mask shaped like a butterfly. Remember the bit below about girls having dresses/decorations/jewelry/etc. with buttefly motifs? Well, this "Marth" is a gorgeous Bifauxnen under said mask: her name is Lucina, and there's at least one piece of official art◊ that also gives her butterfly motifs.
- The titular protagonist of Bayonetta signed her pact with a demon known as Madama Butterfly; both the Madama and Bayonetta herself thus have a significant swallowtail butterfly motif. These include butterfly wings (constantly on Madam Butterfly and Bayonetta's shadow, briefly for Bayonetta when she does a Double Jump) and butterfly jewelery.
- There is a minigame in Bejeweled 3 called "Butterflies" where you have to match gems to liberate the butterflies and prevent the butterflies from getting to the top of the screen, where an evil spider awaits...
- Butterflies in The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time appear in areas free of enemies and plesantly flutter about. Poking them with a Deku stick reveals them to be fairies in disguise.
- Bioshock 2: The Rapture Family's main symbol is the Blue Morpho Butterfly, which represent's the believer's rebirth into the group or "Imago" as they call it.
- A little known Match-Three Game called Butterflight allows you to collect butterflies while soothing ambient music plays in the background. Even though the premise is that the player is a Lord (regardless of gender) of the Butterflies who needs to regain their wings by collecting their winged friends, it's quite obvious through gameplay that Butterflight is a ploy to just stare at the butterflies and kill time.
- Inverted with Mistress Butterfly from Collar 6, who sticks butterfly symbolism all over the place but is actually a Manipulative Bitch In Sheep's Clothing.
- Roza conjured them.
- In Sinfest, butterflies are usually symbols of transformation, but sometimes they are just pretty.
- In Tales of the Questor, the Cool Sword Wildcard produced an array of them — causing Quentyn's foes to laugh — for the crucial seconds before the rooster crows, meaning they can no longer attack him.
- In Ava's Demon, the crash landing at night is in a scene with glowing butterflies.
- In Gaia, the opening page for the third chapter, The Tower in the Sky, does an establishing shot by having a butterfly fly through it.
- The Inexplicable Adventures of Bob! has the Nemesites, an alien race of semi-humanoid butterflies. Hibachi the dragon (who is in love with the Nemesite princess, Voluptua) describes her with, "You fly on wings like unto the stained glass of a cathedral."
- Swallowtail from the Global Guardians PBEM Universe is a powerful and effective Powered Armor-wearing superhero whose suit is yellow and black and has rather glorious-looking gold-foil butterfly wings (they act as stabilizers when she flies).
- SCP-408, a sentient Hive Mind flock of butterflies whose wings can change colors as both an effective illusion and way of communicating.
- An Easter Egg on one of the Potter Puppet Pals has Ron frolicking with butterflies while singing "Follow the butterflies, follow the butterflies...."
- Taken from a sarcastic comment Ron made in Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, after finding out that he and Harry would have to "follow the spiders", assumedly making him wish for a less scary and more harmless insect to follow.
- In Megami 33's Sailor Moon Abridged, the ridiculousness of having the characters attacked by butterflies in one episode is underscored by the "sound effect" of people saying "flutter, flutter, flutter...." very peacefully.
- In Worm, Skitter, whose superpower allows her to control insects of all kinds, invokes this trope when she sends a single butterfly to contact her father one last time before she runs.
- Then, in the chapter Drone 23.1, a PR guy in charge of the Wards and Crusaders requests that she use nothing but butterflies and similarly 'pretty' insects. Taylor is not amused.
- SpongeBob SquarePants has Wormy, Sandy's pet caterpillar who transforms into a butterfly. But since there are no butterflies underwater, everyone thinks it's an eldritch abomination.
- In a discussion of reincarnation, Bart Simpson said he wanted to come back as a butterfly, "because no one suspects the butterfly!"
- The Venture Bros.: The Monarch.
- In the Toot & Puddle episode Bye Bye Butterfly, Toot visits a park where the Monarch butterflies migrate to. It's easily one of the more spectacular scenes in the show.
- Jimmy Two-Shoes: Heloise creates butterflies...that explode on contact.
- Fluttershy out of My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic has these as her 'cutie mark'; she's also saved by a lot of them when she ends up falling as a filly. She's one of the kindest characters in the series as well.
- In My Little Pony G3, Star Catcher, de-facto leader of the pegasi with the ability to grant wishes, has a flock of multicolored butterflies that she commands.
- Chuckie of Rugrats and Loopy in KaBlam!'s "Life With Loopy" both tried to become beautiful by turning into butterflies.
- The Butterfly House in Aberystwyth, Wales.
- Down here in California is where the Monarchs migrate on their way down to Mexico. Some places are literally covered with them.
- What fraction of little girls have at least one dress/pendant/decoration of some form with a butterfly on it? Aside from areas of abject poverty and areas too cold to have butterflies naturally, I'm pretty sure the fraction is essentially 100%.