"There was a magic bullet! It was forged by Illuminati mystics to prevent us from learning the truth!"The Ancient Conspiracy. The Omniscient Council of Vagueness. The One World Order. Founded at the dawn of human history, if not earlier, they gather influence and wealth, spinning their webs of lies and deceit in the shadowy heights of society. Or maybe they're just a bunch of rich old men with pretensions of grandeur. Either way, when a creator of popular culture needs a name for this group, they often turn to "The Illuminati" and their "Eye in the Pyramid" symbol; both have percolated their way into semi-general use, come across as refined and ancient, and (mostly) aren't under copyright. "Illuminati" means "the enlightened ones" in Gratuitous Latin. There was a Masonic-like organization of intellectuals which was given this name in Real Life Bavaria in the 1770s, but it was eventually disbanded by the Bavarian government.note There are people who fervently believe the Illuminati survived this purge, orchestrated The French Revolution (as part of their One World Order efforts), and still exist, very much as described above; find more details under Real Life below, or go check out Wikipedia's article. This name is bandied about a lot over in the Wild Mass Guess department. See also The Knights Templar. If you're looking for the Marvel Comics group by this name, see here. For best effect, listen to this song while reading the article.
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Anime And Manga
- They have appeared in Blue Exorcist and look to becoming recurring villains...if not up there with Gehenna and Satan.
- In Marvel Comics, this was the name of a secret alliance between influential superheroes - Iron Man, Reed Richards, Professor X, Namor the Sub-Mariner, Doctor Strange, and Black Bolt. They're actually a subversion, however, as their goals were to protect the world, not rule it, and their secretiveness eventually came back to bite them repeatedly (see World War Hulk, Secret Invasion, and even Civil War, all in which the ideological differences between the members end up highlighted by measures taken on by at least the more prominent players). Notably, Black Panther was invited to join but declined, because he knew that the group's extremely secretive nature left them doomed to fail if they ever disagreed on anything.
- And during the Dark Reign Story Arc, Norman Osborn forms an evil version of the Illuminati called the Cabal, composed of himself, Doctor Doom, Emma Frost, Loki, The Hood, and the Sub-Mariner - who, as mentioned above, is also a member of the good Illuminati. At the same time. He doesn't see the difference.
- It's important to note that the Marvel guys have given subtle nods that they know about the connotations of the name. Actions have been taken by some members, most often chiefly Iron Man, in certain storylines such as the three listed above, which were not only disagreed with by at least one fellow member on principle, but also would call into question for readers whether they were playing this trope straight. Also, Iron Man says once to Maria Hill when remarking on this group and referring to it by name that "at least that's what I self-deprecatingly call our little world-saving group," giving clear hint that only he uses the name. Put this in perspective. The only member of the "good guy Illuminati" that ever used the name was the snarky/humorous member of the team who's led questionable acts in the plots that developed after each of its meetings, and even he readily admits it's self-deprecating humor.
- In Jonathan Hickman's Avengers storyline, Black Panther of all people reconvenes the group in order to deal with an omniversal destruction situation. It wraps up the same way it always does with this group: utter failure, and the rest of the superhero community calling them out on how their secrecy made things worse.
- In DC Comics, the Illuminati hails from as far back as the days of Atlantis, has a covert hand in government affairs worldwide, and has been led by Vandal Savage from its birth to the modern day.
- Mentioned in From Hell, along with a number of other secret societies, though the Masons take center stage.
- Mentioned in Sonic The Hedgehog Mega Man Worlds Unite when Conspiracy Theorist Sticks gets talking with Xander Payne. He's convinced the Illuminati are just a front created by the Freemasons and the Knights Templar to throw people off their trail.
- In the graphic novel Cryptocracy, it's explained that the Illuminati are a myth created by the real Ancient Conspiracy, the Nine Families, who count on it being so outlandish that only the most fringe of groups will believe it, thus allowing them to keep working in the shadows. Also, it makes a good means of recruiting pawns — young rich people, the kind who'll one day be political and corporate elites, are convinced that they're being recruited for the Illuminati, and undergo humiliating "initiation rituals", footage of which is then used as blackmail material to ensure that they do what the Families want, without ever being allowed into the actual tiers of power.
- Someone is behind that weird sex club from Eyes Wide Shut.
- G Saviour features the Illuminati In-Name-Only; instead of a secret society here they're the La Résistance opposing CONSENT.
- Lara Croft: Tomb Raider: They've been around for about five thousand years searching for pieces of a magical triangle that will give them mastery over time. Lara's father was their #2 before his death.
- Duumvirate is written from the point of view of the Illuminati themselves.
- Robert Shea and Robert Anton Wilson's Illuminatus! trilogy helped spread the name. The books are a Mind Screw told by Unreliable Narrators and infamous for giving complex explanations for the origins of the Illuminati, and then subverting them later on, sometimes with information that is equally wrong. It doesn't help that there have been several groups throughout history under that name. The original Illuminati, according to the book, are Atlanteans who have been hiding under the Himalayas. Also there is a gigantic pyramid-squid.
- Dan Brown uses the name in his various books, most prominently, in Angels & Demons. Here, the Illuminati are a secret society of scientists founded by Galileo Galilei to spread the Enlightenment (hence the name) and to oppose the reactionist Roman Catholic Church. Although they are thought to have been destroyed long ago, Langdon is drawn into a plot aiming to blow up the Vatican City, which he believes is the Illuminati's revenge. It turns out, the Illuminati really ceased to exist and the whole crisis was orchestrated by a traitorous Church official (who had access to the seized Illuminati artifacts) to bring himself into power, and restore faith in Christianity to the world.
- The urban fantasy Red Room series has the House being a clear Expy for the organization, which Derek Lampshades a couple of times. Word of God confirms, in-universe, the House is the source of the Illuminati "myth."
Live Action TV
- The Millennium Group became something of an expy for this in the last season, which was some distance from the original concept.
- Elliot from Mr. Robot has a theory the 1% of the 1% secretly control all of humanity rather than governments. He's proven to be, at least partially, right when season 1 ends with an informal gathering of these individuals doing exactly what he thinks they do.
- Conspiracy Theorists will have you believe that basically, any mainstream performer is either an Illuminati puppet or puppeteer.
- Gamma Ray's No World Order, particularly "Induction," "Dethrone Tyranny," and especially "New World Order."
- A major theme of The KLF's work, especially "Justified And Ancient."
- That Poppy is supposedly an Illuminati creation.
- TNA's latest Power Stable Immortal played this mostly straight at first, from the mass of foreshadowing to the ominous date of their takeover to the things they said to the quality of their regime's first show. The one subverting element was their "Ancient Conspiracy" is only ancient compared to the lifetime of most plots in wrestling. But then Fortune rebelled and Jeff Hardy tanked a pay-per-view. Immortal still remained, but their illusion of ominous power plummeted and would only continue to fade since.
- And of course the nWo who ran WCW for the better part of four years both in storyline and behind the scenes.
- WWE has The Wyatt Family, whose patriarch Bray Wyatt, implied to be a demon or otherwise malevolent spirit possessing former New Nexus member Husky Harris, has taken rare occasions on Twitter to play off some mysterious connection to Illuminati lore.
- The Ascension use it in their Titantron entrance video, though it's not directly related to their characters.
- Warhammer 40,000: the Imperium has been seeded with a society of exorcists who call themselves Illuminati. Unlike most examples, these guys are actually good. They are also effectively subservient to the Imperium, even trying to buddy up with the Imperium's "holy Inquisition", which is normally a good way to get yourself killed.
- Steve Jackson Games sells various conspiracy-themed card-games (collectable and otherwise) under the blanket name Illuminati, while their line of GURPS role-playing material have published a couple of Illuminati-related source-books. Some of it is obviously inspired by the Illuminatus! book trilogy. The company has a trademark on a least one version of the "Eye in the Pyramid" design, and the other companies in this section often get official permission to use it. Particularly WMG-worthy is the fact that several world-changing events in recent history seem to have been depicted on these cards in these games years before they happened.
- One of the secret societies in Paranoia. May or may not be a front for Ultraviolets, spies from another Alpha Complex, bots, aliens...note
- The hierarchical and secretive Tremere clan from Vampire: The Masquerade can function as a stand-in for the Illuminati.
- Deus Ex. And they're debatably the good guys. Their rogue spin-off organization, the Majestic 12, on the other hand, are decidedly not.
- Also featured in the prequel Human Revolution. Taggart describes the Illuminati as "just a name used to get rich people to invest more money," and he's not far off; the organization's every attempt to assert more control over the world goes completely off the rails, often due to internal sabotage. It's no wonder the first game's Big Bad was able to usurp nearly all of their resources for Majestic 12. Of course, Taggart is a lying liar who lies, and the organization was able to transform Zhao and Taggart from small fry to global power brokers.
- The Illuminati is one of the three playable factions in the Conspiracy Kitchen Sink MMORPG The Secret World, along with the Templars (who are not, but have ties to, the historical The Knights Templar) and an Asian-themed "Dragon" society.
- The resident Conspiracy Theorist Gomez in Vampire: The Masquerade – Bloodlines has a particularly convoluted theory about the Illuminati (read it here). Of course, this being the Old World of Darkness, that theory has a good chance to be true...
- Street Fighter:
- Street Fighter III's antagonist leads an interesting take on this. The Illuminati in these games have a lot of religious symbolism and are more akin to a psychotic cult than an oppressive secret society. Gill himself is a Nietzsche Wannabe dark savior with obscene doses of A God Am I. Oh, and then there's the fact that he's red and blue skinned and clad in a thong... Although, they do have the whole Ancient Conspiracy thing going on.
- The Illuminati play a vital part in the plot of Street Fighter V, which is set few before III. i.e., they're behind Charlie Nash being Back from the Dead (with Gill's Sexy Secretary Kolin as a sort-of monitor) and also have Juri Han as their ally in exchange for a new eye that replaces her Feng Shui Engine.
- One of the endings in Please, Don't Touch Anything results in an all-seeing eye appearing. This and the accompanying achievement strongly hints at their existence in the game's universe.
- Dominions has the secretive Illuminated Order, operating in local Überwald.
- Los Illuminados in Resident Evil 4. Subverted by Albert Wesker being a more successful infiltrator behind the scenes than their entire organization.
- In The Sims 3: World Adventures, some of the Egyptian locals are worried about the Illsiminati.
- The Templars in Assassin's Creed function identically to the nominal description of the Illuminati: operating from the shadows as the Ancient Conspiracy, rewriting history, trying to Take Over the World in an effort to end The Evils of Free Will, and include a cadre of famous historical figures to claim membership amongst their ranks.
- The first inFAMOUS game features a group called the "First Sons", who are implied, if not outright stated, to have manipulated history quite a fair bit (particularly in the lives of Cole, Zeke, and Trish). Their insignia also, of course, contains the iconic eye used in most Illuminati pictures.
- Pony Island: As you browse upon the profiles in the devil's computer, a strange eye starts to follow you around. Log into the Guest account, and move an image file of a triangle over it, and the eye is finally content. The message "Illuminati Confirmed" displays, earning you a free ticket.
- In Eiyuu Senki: The World Conquest they are the main antagonist, creating strife and discord in nations all over the world to keep everyone in a state of perpetual war.
- In Grand Theft Auto V, both Nervous Ron and Lester believe the Illuminati's busy working behind the scenes. Outside of Ron's radio show, though, they aren't really mentioned.
- In Steins;Gate, protagonist Okabe Rintarou believes that an Illuminati group he only refers to as "The Organization" exists and controls all of human society. Everyone dismisses this as part of his delusional ramblings. As it turns out, there actually is a secret organization known as "The Council of 300" that is aiming to control the world, though they aren't quite there yet.
- The Cleveland Show has the hip-hop Illuminati made up of hip-hop stars who control the world through the trends they start.
- Gargoyles featured a group by this name. Xanatos himself is merely a junior member.
- In Gravity Falls, Bill Cipher is considered to be this, who is a one-eyed triangle bent on world domination.
- Minoriteam had The White Shadow, who is a living Eye in a Pyramid.
- Metalocalypse has the Church of the Black Klok, an ancient religious group that has foreseen all of the events surrounding Dethklok, brought Ofdensen back to life, and guarded the prophecy that details how Dethklok will save the world from the apocalypse brought on by Salacia/The Half Man.
- As quoted above, in an episode of Justice League Unlimited, one of the facts The Question reveals while under torture concerns the Illuminati.
- One episode of American Dad! features a group called the Illuminuti, which guards the secret history of peanut butter.
- In Young Justice, The Light seems to have a lot of Illuminati-characteristics, down to the name ("The Light" being very similar to "the enlightened ones"). In addition, the first member of The Light is Vandal Savage, who formed the Illuminati in the comics.
- As noted above, there is some historical basis for the Illuminati. During 1776, a group of Bavarian Germans formed a secret society and used "Illuminati" as their name. The self-imposed mission of the Illuminati was to fight against abuses of state power, superstition, religion, and prejudice. (That's right, folks: the actual Illuminati were secular classical liberals.) The organization did get pretty popular, having members from many other parts of Germany, and earning the hatred of the Catholic Church. However, it was banned by the Bavarian government and disbanded in 1785. According to the conspiracy theories, this was just the beginning: The Illuminati actually left Bavaria for Scotland, infiltrated the Masons, founded America, and now control the entire world from a smoke-filled room. This includes TV Tropes.
- If you're wondering how the historical Illuminati achieved such a prominent place in conspiracy lore, it's largely because the Illuminati's disbandment was followed shortly by The French Revolution. The Trope Codifier is the book Memoirs Illustrating the History of Jacobinism by right-wing Catholic priest Abbé Augustin Barruel. Barruel blamed The Enlightenment as a malign and foreign influence on France, stating that the French people were content being subjects of their King and that evil secret socities under their Illuminati, Freemason and Jacobin front introduced foreign ideas like democracy and liberty. This book was supremely popular and was even picked up by English statesman Edmund Burke who also attributed the Revolution to the malign influence of "jew brokers" which sowed the seeds for the far more deadly anti-semitic conspiracy theory. Make no mistake, the Illuminati conspiracy theory was started by religious and constitutional monarchists who thought secular democracy was the most evil thing ever.
- Throughout the nineteenth century, politically reactionary circles blamed every leftist movement and revolution on Illuminati subversion. The Illuminati theory was taken up by fascists in the early twentieth century and by the far-right John Birch Society during the Cold War. At this point, the theory had clearly lost touch with its roots. Whatever else can be said about the John Birch Society, they're definitely not monarchists. Indeed, the John Birch Society changed the Illuminati from proponents of secular democracy to proponents of Soviet-style communism. Perhaps it's not surprising that subsequent mutation would change it from being an exclusively right-wing conspiracy theory to the apolitical one it seems to be now. In the current version of the conspiracy theory, the Illuminati is apparently in favor of some kind of generic totalitarian state, the opposite of what the real Illuminati wanted.
- Nazi Germany's ambassador to the UK, Joachim von Ribbentrop, was convinced that Britain was ruled by a secret society of hereditary nobles, and spent much of his time wooing members of the House of Lords and the alleged Nazi sympathiser King Edward VIII, hoping to be inducted into the cabal. Of course, it wasn't, and he more or less ignored the Cabinet and Commons, who held the vast majority of political power even by the 1930's.