Skyscrapers are very tall and covered in windows
. This makes them a useful canvas for a creative person to turn into a message an entire city (or the world) can see.
Skyscraper Messages come from lighting specifically chosen windows in otherwise dark buildings to make recognizable images or words. The trope, of course, only occurs at night.
A poor man's version of Rushmore Refacement
or Deface of the Moon
if a villain is behind it.
This trope is easily doable in Real Life
, but limited to special occasions because it's otherwise disruptive to the people in the offices and apartments. In the movies, the trope is often assisted by computer animation; it's easier than getting the permits/paying the money to use the building, etc.
Anime & Manga
- In City Hunter at one point, the lights formed the katakana version of the woman's name and "daisuki" (I like you a lot/love you.)
- On Detective Conan, the Suspect Of the Week uses such a window lighting event to give himself an alibi to murder his victim.
- And in Magic Kaito, Kaitou arranged for a pair of skyscrapers to display a birthday message to Aoko once.
- Taken Up to Eleven in Gunbuster and DieBuster, where the entire planet is shut down then lit up to give our heroines a warm welcome back after ten thousand years.
- One chapter of Sayonara, Zetsubou-Sensei is about getting dragged into other people's drama. Itoshiki-sensei is staying at a hotel whose manager wants to write a message for some holiday or other and his room has to be dark.
- A 1970s Spider-Man story has the Shocker doing this with whole city blocks as part of an extortion scheme. Unsurprisingly, a later story has Electro doing the same thing.
- The cover of one (UK version) Dennis The Menace album has Dennis and Gnasher being chased out of a building after doing this.
- Spider-Island has a variation at the end where J. Jonah Jameson (now the mayor of New York City) has the windows of the Empire State Building lit up in red and blue as a "thank you" to Spider-Man for saving the city.
- A similar variant occurs in Green Lantern. The residents of Coast City tint all their lights green to show support to Green Lantern.
- One Chik-Fil-A ad has cows wandering through an office building, turning lights on and off (while late-working folk look up in wary confusion). At the end, the lights spell "Eat Mor Chikin" on the side of the building.
- In Hackers, the finale has Crash having rigged windows visible from their Rooftop Swimming Pool to read "Crash + Burn", which really impresses Burn that much more.
- The finale of Sleepless in Seattle puts a giant red heart shape on the four sides of the Empire State Building.
- Fight Club
- Now You See Me does a Seven of Diamonds on the John Hancock Center.
- At the end of Ghostbusters (2016), the entire New York skyline is lit up with "We ♥ GB" and similar messages, thanking the Ghostbusters for saving the city.
- An episode of CSI had a business do this to try and win back his former fiance. He rejected her in favour of his boss' daughter. Then changed his mind and invoked this trope. She turned him down (albeit quite gently) but his boss (who was watching from that very building) killed him for rejecting his daughter.
- In Furuhata Ninzaburou, such a window lighting event breaks the suspect's alibi—the hotel where he was staying was spelling out its name in lights, and if he was in the room with the drapes open, then it would have ruined the character.
- One episode of Barney Miller has a call about a man on a ledge. It's quickly followed by a report that the man is writing on the windows. Barney asks "It's not a jumper?" Wojo replies "Unless it's a suicide note."
- An episode of Art Attack had Neil do this with the skyscrapers in New York City for the "Big Art Attack."
- In the TV special Kamen Rider G, the eponymous hero's Transformation Sequence ends with an awesomely flashy example of this trope, where the windows of the skyscraper behind Goro explode to form a giant letter G.
- The music video for The Black Eyed Peas's "Where Is The Love?" has lights spell out a question mark.
- Batman: The Brave and the Bold ("Mayhem of the Music Meister!"), during the song "The World Is Mine", two skyscrapers behind The Music Meister spell out the name of the villain.
- Similarly, in The Batman the Riddler hijacks the skyscraper lighting in order to display his green question mark symbol across the city.
- In the episode of Danny Phantom where Danny is dating Valerie, the two of them see building lights writing out "D+V" while riding a Ferris wheel. This was all set up by Technus as part of a plan.
- The Critic did a parody of the Sleepless In Seattle thing, with Siskel And Ebert. They Lampshaded it.
- Actually done at MIT with the Green Building. They've played Tetris by altering its lights.
- Brown sees your Green Building, MIT, and raises you "La Bastille" (the aforementioned Tetris on the side of a building).
- Many office buildings light up windows to shape stars or Christmas trees during the holidays.
- Done for real in the city of Chicago for various events; most recently, as a countdown for the Olympic committee selecting who would be hosting the Summer Olympics in 2016. Regrettably, Chicago did not win.
- Taipei 101 does this for most holidays. e.g. A heart for Valentine's day, E=MC2 for Einstein's birthday, an upside down "Spring" character for Chinese New Yearnote , etc.
- An archive of some of the ones Chicago has done over the years is here.
- P.I.W.O. Light Show.
- Improv Everywhere did this for one of their mass pranks, found here.
- A broadly similar thing was done by comedian William Rushton. when filling in his football pools coupon, where crosses have to be made in a long, deep, narrow rectangular grid according to the possibility of various fixtures winning, losing or drawing, he filled in the form creatively. So that the permutation spelled out the vertical words OH SHIT!!!. Looking at the completed form afterwards, he was struck by the similarity of the grid to the windows of a tall skyscraper, and wondered if it might not be possible to achieve the same result at night using lit and darkened windows...
- The University of Texas at Austin displays a "1" in the windows of the Main Building Tower to celebrate national championships. Other numbers are displayed to honor graduation and other events. (The University's page describing various lighting configurations is here.)