The Faceless meets Chekhov's Gunman. It comes in several different flavors, with a common theme. It is an abstract (i.e. not an actual scene) shot of one or more characters, who will eventually be revealed, with said character(s) shown as silhouettes. The background can be anything from bland to suitably ominous, but either way, the Sinister Silhouettes will typically be just standing there in a badass manner. The background music will most likely be ominous. This shot is frequently used to either show that the hidden characters are the kind that you wouldn't want to mess with unless you were The Hero or Too Dumb to Live, or to depict them as Shrouded in Myth. May be subverted in that the silhouetted person turns out to be not as badass as had been implied. Typically a trope associated with villainous characters, though it being of The Rival is not uncommon. May have rare heroic cases. The delivery can go about in a few ways, but most frequently, Alice could just casually mention the name of the Quirky Miniboss Squad. Bob, however, has never heard of them before, and so Alice goes through the trouble of quickly summarizing what she knows about them. As she does, it cuts to a Team Shot of them as Sinister Silhouettes. Said silhouettes being in intimidating poses is optional. Other methods of presentation include it being shown as part of the Title Sequence or ending credits (often removing the shadows in episodes after the character's appearance is known). Maybe even in an On the Next or Pastel-Chalked Freeze Frame. The Silhouette can also be used by a character already introduced. A common visual gag for an angry character is to have them in the background with a Sinister Silhouette and Glowing Eyes of Doom, with another character's horrified expression in the foreground. Compare The Omniscient Council of Vagueness, which is a group of Sinister Silhouettes in an actual, non-abstract scene.
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Anime & Manga
- JoJo's Bizarre Adventure introduces many of its villains this way.
- The Ginyu Force from Dragon Ball Z.
- Silhouettes of Vegeta and Nappa in the first opening sequence are shown doing a Power Walk with fire and lightning in the background.
- Hellsing: Millennium gets a shot like this in the manga and the OVA.
- Naruto: The Five Kages, as one would expect from the name
- The Akatsuki also make their first appearance at the end of part 1 as Silhouettes. Pain's appearance, in particular, isn't shown until well after the first 100 chapters of Part 2.
- Sailor Moon: Sailor Venus got one in her first appearance, as did the two Outer Senshi Uranus and Neptune.
- The legendary Digidestined from Digimon Adventure is another heroic case, although they don't show up later on.
- The GUN×SWORD Evolving Credits shows Sinister Silhouettes of major characters of both antagonists and protagonists, before they are introduced.
- Many characters in One Piece, at least in the manga (Zoro, Arlong, the Seven Warlords of the Sea, the Four Emperors, just to name a few).
- The Warlords in their silhouettes look nothing like they really do. Except for Mihawk maybe. They were also shown to be sword wielders, which doesn't help.
- Those figures were meant to be Yosaku's idealized mental image of the Warlords. Since Yosaku had never seen any of them except Mihawk, it makes sense that he wouldn't know their appearances. While it's unclear if Oda had designed all of them yet, at that point he had designed at least two (Mihawk and Crocodile) and he knew they wouldn't all be sword users.
- More than one of the anime openings show characters who have yet to appear in silhouette, and then in later openings with the picture filled in.
- Really it's done so many times that it might as well be a Running Gag.
- The Warlords in their silhouettes look nothing like they really do. Except for Mihawk maybe. They were also shown to be sword wielders, which doesn't help.
- Revolutionary Girl Utena frequently uses faceless blacked out figures during flashbacks (including the one that opens the narration of every other episode) although their hair and clothes are usually still coloured. This is used for both chilly atmosphere and for presenting it as a fairy tale.
- The manga of YuYu Hakusho does this with Hiei and Kurama (and Gouki, who was unimporant) before we get to know them.
- Best Student Council's OP sequence has a part where each special division of the eponymous Absurdly Powerful Student Council are shown together. While Assault Division has its members performing their signature attacks one after the other, the Vice President for Covert and the Covert commander are shown standing between two silhouettes, the other members of Covert Division. Their faces are revealed after the episodes where they are introduced.
- Parodied in episode 2 of Haruhi-chan. After being defeated by Nagato, Asakura proclaims that though she has been defeated, it's not over yet. She goes on to add that above the Radical Big Four are three leaders, also shown as silhouettes. The silhouettes don't look all too sinister, though, being in the shape of Faceless Masses. Kyon proceeds to call her story cheesy.
- Every suspect gets one of these in Detective Conan if the Cold Open decides to show the crime in progress.
- Samurai Deeper Kyo is the embodiment of Sinister Silhouettes.
- The Four Kings from Get Backers
- The Suzaku Seishi in Fushigi Yuugi (with the exception of Tamahome and Hotohori) are first depicted as silhouettes with their body symbols when Hotohori explains the legend of Suzaku.
- Parodied in episode 38 of Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood, with Yoki imagining himself to be the leader of the Scar gang on a quest for revenge against the Elric brothers.
- Various openings of Pokémon do this for Gym Leaders or Frontier Brains. Because, you know, the gym leader is totally the one you fight...
- Fist of the North Star does this with the introduction of Kenshiro's adoptive brothers and then with the six Nanto Stars. The latter is a bit more egregious, since it depicts Shin and Rei alongside four male silhouettes, but one of them later turns out to be a woman.
- One of the Angels in Neon Genesis Evangelion appears like a large floating sphere covered in irregular black and white patterns. It turns out that the sphere is actually the three-dimensional silhouette of a multi-dimensional creature. To aim at the actual creature in three-dimensional space, one has to aim at the apparently two-dimensional circle of pure blackness on the ground below it.
- The preview of the third installment of the Rebuild of Evangelion features four shadows that are implied to belong to new Evangelion pilots. Two of them are presumably, but not necessarily Mari and Kaworu, while the other two still remain to be seen.
- The Netherlands of Axis Powers Hetalia was first depicted as one, until his design was revealed.
- Flame of Recca had the tendency to introduce the next team of opponents this way.
- THE iDOLM@STER - Subverted. Kuroi's face is never shown, but the first few times he appears is only his silhouette.
- The ending credits for Iron Man showed all of the enemies as sinister silhouettes with glowy red eyes, up to and including the Big Bad.
- Kirby: Right Back at Ya! did this with Nightmare all the way up to near the end of the second-to-last episode.
- Pretty Cure franchise is full of this, usually to conceal the bad guys that have not make their debut yet in the Spoiler Opening, but the queen of this trope might be from the ''DX3'' movie. The franchise's movies' Big Bads (at the time) surround themselves with a black Battle Aura, creating this effect pictured above. Before that, just about every completed series' and previous All Stars movies Big Bads are shown in this manner, their faces twisted in Nightmare Face, as a visual presentation of their evil gathered and formed the DX3 Big Bad, Black Hole.
- Batman does this a lot, on purpose.
- Since Sin City loves to utilize every noir trope in the book, we get this a lot. Marv is often shown in silhouette with his bandages still visible.
- Played for drama in The Pulse; When Lucia attacks Luke, all Jessica sees is her standing in front of the setting sun.
- In The Lord of the Rings our heroes run into a Sinister Silhouette in the forest. It turns out to be Gandalf, though.
- The three Greeks from Flying Down to Rio are only seen as three shadows on the fall except in one quick scene. They're referred to as "the three shadows" by a minor character.
- Played with in "Amateur Night" in the horror anthology film V/H/S. Two college students have an Oh, Crap moment when a Face-Revealing Turn shows the woman their friend is having sex with has suddenly grown fangs. They flee into the bathroom, but since there's only one door in the hotel room have to go out and confront her. In the dimly lit room she appears in silhouette as a shadowy Eldritch Abomination, but it turns out she's just holding her hands over her head. Then she morphs into a One-Winged Angel and kills them all.
- King of the Rocket Men (1949). The sinister Dr Vulcan is only shown as a shadow on the wall taunting his victims and instructing his mooks via radio, before his real identity is unmasked by the Jet Pack-wearing hero.
- Kung Fu Panda 2.
- Lord Shen's armada is first shown as the silhouettes of their dragon-shaped cannon sliding across the screen of a shadow puppet play as the audience turn to the window to stare in horror.
- But Played for Laughs when Shen first meets Po, the legendary panda warrior prophesied to defeat him. Lord Shen is practicing the speech he'll give to Po, who has just been captured. Then a huge shadow appears on the staircase, accompanied by growls and panting. Shen nervously reaches for one of his knives and...it turns out to be one of his gorilla Mooks carrying Po, exhausted from the endless stairs leading up to Shen's throne room.
Live Action TV
- The 'Final Five' in the re-imagined Battlestar Galactica.
- Buffy the Vampire Slayer
- Kakistos in his limousine.
- Played for maximum creepiness in "Forever" - all we ever see of the briefly "resurrected" Joyce is their silhouette.
- The 'Ring' in Chuck.
- In the Supernatural episode "What Is And What Should Never Be" (S02, Ep20), the silhouette of the djinn is shown on the red screen behind the woman in white before he approaches her and reveals himself.
- The X-Hunters are introduced in Mega Man X2 as silhouettes observing a hologram recording of X.
- Also, arguably invoked in Mega Man X4 by Dr. Wily appearing to his "son" Zero. Invoked as in it's a nightmare the latter was having, yet Dr. Wily looked like he was standing behind a spotlight. And then the "mysterious man" does it again in Mega Man X5, in a montage of Zero's previously unknown past life, just as he was dying.
- The original Super Smash Bros. plays with this for the opening cinematic. It shows off all the normal playable characters, but the four Secret Characters (Luigi, Jigglypuff, Captain Falcon, and Ness) are only shown as silhouettes until you actually unlock them. Despite the silhouettes and number though, they definitely aren't evil characters by any means.
- In "Shounen Kininden Tsumuji" the Dark Ninjas first appear as silhouettes on a tall tree before attacking Tsumuji's village and turning everyone into stone.
- In "No More Heroes" Entering a new ranking area shows the boss's name and their silhouette.
- Ishijima Kaigen from the Nitro+ Visual Novel Hanachirasu is only mostly silhouetted, but she makes up for it with Glowing Eyes of Doom. See here◊
- Even though it doesn't happen in the context of the game itself, in the manga for The World Ends with You, Kariya and Yoshiro say "Since we appeared in silhouette earlier, you probably thought we were up to something dastardly. We're totally not."
- Although early in the game, the Reapers do appear, with some slight dark shading over them, so...
- Although they aren't silhouettes, Organization XIII from Kingdom Hearts invoke this by wearing a hood that obscures their face, revealing their appearance only when Sora meets the individual members properly.
- In Ace Attorney, the profiles of unknown/unintroduced characters are shown as dark silhouettes, with question marks for their age and profession. A larger version is seen in the first case of Ace Attorney Investigations when a mysterious figure catches Edgeworth at gunpoint in his darkened office—and since the dialogue is completely text we don't even know what gender the person is. It turns out to be Detective Badd.
- In Rama (1996) the intro shows the silhouettes of menacing aliens and a human astronaut running away.
- Touhou: Starting from the sixth installment, Touhou games have an important (typically last boss) character appear silhouetted in the cover of the game. These typically provides speculation fodder about who is the woman and what the game is about.
- Embodiment of Scarlet Devil: Flandre Scarlet.
- Perfect Cherry Blossom: Yukari Yakumo. Her silhouette is split between lighter shade and darker shade.
- Immaterial and Missing Power: Suika Ibuki.
- Imperishable Night: Kaguya Houraisan. Her rival, Fujiwara no Mokou, appears as a smaller silhouette in a moon under Kaguya's feet.
- Phantasmagoria of Flower View: Eiki Shiki, Yamaxanadu.
- Shoot the Bullet: Aya Syameimaru, the main character.
- Mountain of Faith: Kanako Yasaka.
- Scarlet Weather Rhapsody: Tenshi Hinanawi.
- Subterranean Animism: Utsuho Reiuzi.
- Undefined Fantastic Object: Byakuren Hijiri.
- Hisoutensoku: Cirno. Unlike the others, this one is a giveaway and complete Moment Killer.
- Double Spoiler: Hatate Himekaidou, the main character.
- Fairy Wars: Cirno again, to no one's speculation.
- Ten Desires: Toyosatomimi-no-Miko.
- Hopeless Masquerade: Hata no Kokoro.
- Double Dealing Character: Shinmyoumaru Sukuna
- Impossible Spell Card: Seija Kijin, the main character and Villain Protagonist
- The Guyzoch Space Pirates are introduced this way in The Wonderful 101, with their leaders, Prince Vorkken and Chewgi, shown as silhouettes illuminated only by the red Tron Lines and Glowing Eyes of Doom on their suits. The GEATHJERK Federation's commanders later get the same treatment in the flashback detailing Vorkken's tragic backstory.
- About half the cast of El Goonish Shive were introduced with silhouettes. The comic seems to have retired the practice, however, in recent years, likely to make room for other tropes.
- The Creature Counsil in DMFA meet as a cabal of Sinister Silhouettes... except the Phoenix representive who has an open flame on her head, and cannot lurk in shadows.
- Loki in The KA Mics likes to appear as a shadowy figure.
- The Speaker in Harkovast spent the first part of the comic appearing only as a silhouette, while making ominous statements.
- The Feline Emperor in the Blade of Toshubi has only been seen in silhouette.
- Bob and George: "What do you expect? I'm just a mysterious shadowy villain"
- In this SmackJeeves comic and it's the first comic.
- Jack Noir often does this in Homestuck. Granted, it's not hard to do, since he has a shiny black carapace. But then he leaps over the Moral Event Horizon. After that, the sight of his shadow flying overhead is enough to elicit a mass Oh, Crap.
- This is the most we ever see of the troll Famous Ancestors, the only colored facial features being mouth, face paint, glasses, and occasionally eyes.
- This is how Williams's face is kept hidden in Remus once he pulls off his mask. We see eyes, teeth, and knives - that's it.
- Early in Ears for Elves, a black elf shape is seen (by readers only) sitting in a tree, watching Tanna after Rolan crashes into her. This conceals his identity until much later, after he's become a major and frequent character, when he confesses to chaperoning Rolan at that time.
- In Precocious, Ivy Pingo pulls this off rather formidably at the end of Kaitlyn's birthday party...or so we were led to believe.
- Mysterious beings are often introduced this way in Autumn Bay.
- In Worm, Cauldron attempts to invoke this when they assemble a coalition of the most powerful and influential parahumans in the world, hero and villain alike, to combat the threat of the Endbringers, with each group standing in front of a light-producing panel in a circular pattern. The reasoning behind this is unclear, as everyone at the meeting clearly knows who the others are, and no attempt is made to conceal identities. The protagonist speculates that it's meant to send a message about secrecy.
- Avatar: The Last Airbender: Fire Lord Ozai for the first two seasons.
- On Codename: Kids Next Door, the first time Father, the Big Bad, appears, he shows up as a silhouette. However, it's quickly revealed that this is because he wears a suit of shadows. For a good deal of the series, even if he appears in broad daylight, he's a silhouette. It's finally ripped off in The Movie...and it turns out we've seen what he looks like in previous episodes.
- The Venture Bros. has the Guild of Calamitous Intent's Council of 13.
- Young Justice features "The Light", an The Omniscient Council of Vagueness who are nothing but Sinister Silhouettes on a set of screens till The Reveal of their identities near the end of season 1. For an added touch, the sihouettes are white, running with the team's name.