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By the Lights of Their Eyes

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We can see in the dark!... Oh, Crap!, it's Batman!

"A blackout? Oh, Perry the Platypus, isn't this wonderful? Now people can't see anything but my pitiful eyes!"
Dr. Heinz Doofenshmirtz, Phineas and Ferb

Whenever it is pitch dark, characters' open eyes are always visible.

The same applies, eventually, to any great big teeth which something lurking in the darkness may possess. A common shot is to have a nervous character scared in the dark as a variety of seemingly glowing teeth gather around them. In some cartoons, a character's eyes can just wander around independently from each other for maximum meta-humor.

In live action, it is usually used to spooky effect.

By the Lights of Their Eyes seems like it should always go with Glowing Eyes, but it really doesn't.

This is generally a form of Hollywood Darkness, and may immediately precede a Nuclear Candle as part of The Reveal.

Depending on how it is drawn, can be Lazy Artist. While drawing the scene in the page image takes as long as normal, when a cartoon simply shows the character's eyes in pitch black it saves a lot of animation time. Then again, the eyes are very good at reflecting light in dim environments, as anybody who's been around a black cat in the dark can tell you note , and eyes can easily convey a lot of emotion quickly.


A Sister Trope of The Darkness Gazes Back and Super-Trope to Fade Around the Eyes. Not to Be Confused with See the Whites of Their Eyes, which is a figurative expression for getting close to your enemy. Nor Eye Lights Out, which is a death trope.

Here is a compilation with a lot of examples.


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    Anime & Manga 

  • Fruits Basket does it in season 2 episode 20 of the remake series, when Yuki is locked in a closet. The door shuts behind him leaving him in pitch darkness for a moment complete with him blinking before shifting to Hollywood Darkness for the rest of the scene.
  • Kinnikuman: In Episode 2, when the eponymous character trips on a car while giant and flies face-first into a subway entrance.
  • Konohana Kitan: In episode 6, as soon as Satsuki mentions she's afraid of the dark, a ghost leaves her and Natsume in complete darkness with only Satsuki eyes visable for a moment.
  • In the Ninja Hattori episode "A Day Without Electricity", both times that the electricity goes out in Hattori's house, everything goes completely dark for a couple of seconds, leaving only characters' eyes visible.
  • This is a pretty common occurrence in One Piece and is the go-to way to show to the reader or viewer that a pitch-dark place has someone there. Though some instances are The Darkness Gazes Back, characters don't necessarily have to look into the darkness for these eyes to appear, nor are they necessarily adversarial.

    Asian Animation 
  • In episode 8 of Happy Heroes, Big M. and Little M. are trapped in a big pipe by a robotic guard dog. The dog nails some planks of wood onto the open end of the pipe to keep them from getting out; when the inside of the pipe gets dark from this, Big M. and Little M.'s eyes are visible, but nothing else.
  • Motu Patlu: In "Scooter Race", Dr. Jhatka turns off the lights in his workshop, leaving Motu and Patlu's eyes as the only visible objects.
  • In episode 3 of Pleasant Goat and Big Big Wolf: Marching to the New Wonderland, the lights are turned off completely, leaving only the Spider of Justice's eyes and Mr. Slowy's glasses visible.
  • In the Simple Samosa episode "Sollid Survival", Sollid starts the competition on an episode of the Show Within a Show Sollid Survival by snapping his fingers. When he does this, all of the lights go out, leaving Samosa's eyes as the only visible object on-screen for a few seconds.

    Comic Books 
  • In the first book of the Angel Catbird series, Count Catula spends the night in Cate's closet. When he's in there, only his eyes are visible.
  • Buck Godot: Zap Gun for Hire has mysterious creatures that talk to the hero in the dark. Given what those critters turned out to be, may be but a minor side effect of their physiology.
  • Laura at the end of Issue #5 in The Wicked + The Divine. Because Luci gave her her powers, and her eyes glow faintly red with her cigarette.
  • The Simpsons: Just like the show (see Western Animation), character's eyes tend to be the only thing visible in the darkness. Like in the show, this is frequently mocked, for example in issue #100, Bart asking Lisa how that's even possible.
    Lisa: That's what you get when you're exposed to radiation for years.
  • In the Marsupilami book "The temple of Boavista", a pair of kids notice a pair of eyes under a bush. The marsupilami punches, only for the eyes to spread apart: A few seconds later, the two eyepatch-wearing henchmen jump out of the bush and run away.
  • Saga uses glowing red eyes to foreshadow the Horrors behind Marko and Alana at the end of the first issue.
  • The alien Natives of Copperhead are revealed by their eyes seconds before they attack Zeke and Annie. Possibly justified by the Natives' alien biology.
  • Ultimate FF: There is a pair of such eyes in the cover of the first issue, for the mistery 5th member of the team.

    Comic Strips 
  • SnarfQuest in Dragon magazine #105. When Telerie, Snarf and Aveeare are exploring a cave in the dark, you can see their eyes in the darkness. Then another pair of eyes appears and a growling noise comes from them. Snarf starts stabbing at them, and when Telerie lights a torch they see that he has killed a monster.
  • Calvin and Hobbes:
    • The monsters under Calvin's bed usually are only heard and not seen, but in a few strips their eyes were visible this way.
    • Hobbes occasionally has his eyes glow in the dark when hunting Calvin, crossing this over with Glowing Eyes of Doom. (Vaguely justified in Hobbes's case, as feline eyes actually have a layer of shiny reflective cells to help them see in the dark — see Real Life below.)
  • An entire week of Garfield strips took place during a blackout once, with only Jon's and Garfield's eyes visible.
  • Fred Basset. In the strip for February 19, 2015, Fred is in the dark with his eyes showing, looking for his friend Yorky. Another pair of eyes appears and Fred says worriedly "That isn't you, is it Yorky?" (He knows it isn't Yorky because Yorky is shorter than he is but the other eyes are above his).
    Fan Works 
    Films — Animation 
  • Although common enough in Disney short cartoons, this trope is rarely used in the feature films, perhaps because they generally try for a more realistic tone. A few exceptions:
    • The Emperor's New Groove, when Yzma and Kronk are locked in a closet.
    • Treasure Planet, when B.E.N. accidentally cuts off the power on the ship. This is Justified in that his eyes are actually light displays.
    • Alice in Wonderland (1951). When Alice is looking at the Tulgey Wood sign, a number of eyes appear in the dark above it. One pair is revealed to be a "glasses bird", which hops onto Alice's head.
    • Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs has a rather scary example. When the title princess runs in panic in the forest, some yellow glowing eyes seems to stare at her. They actually belong to friendly cute animals but Snow White's imagination makes them look like evil and demonic.
  • In the CGI feature Robots the characters have actual headlights for eyes — possibly a Reconstruction, although it may not have been intentional.
  • The Thief and the Cobbler: The end scene where Zig-Zag is eaten by crocodiles is a wonderful example of playing with this trope, especially the final scene, where Zig-Zag's eyes are first encircled then blacked-out by white teeth.
  • In An American Tail: Fievel Goes West, Fievel is chased into a hole by a hawk, and we only see his eyes... accompanied by evil glowing eyes that belong to a scorpion.
  • The Catbus from My Neighbor Totoro, whose eyes serve as headlights, and has small mice on its roof and lower body whose eyes serve as the destination sign backlights and taillights, respectively.
  • Justified in WALL•E, as the robots' eyes are actual lights.
  • Donald Duck does this in Mickey, Donald, Goofy: The Three Musketeers.
  • As does Ratigan in The Great Mouse Detective.
  • The Boxtrolls eyes glow in the dark.
  • In The Twelve Tasks of Asterix, Asterix and Obelix spend some time as eyes in the Beast's lair. At some point another pair of eyes appears, only to pop when they look at it.
  • Happens in Madagascar when the animals wake up in crates being shipped to Africa.
  • My Little Pony: Equestria Girls – Rainbow Rocks: During "Under Your Spell", the Crusaders are shortly back-lighted as dark silhouettes, but their eyes stay visible.
  • My Little Pony: The Movie (2017):
    • During his song, Capper cuts a rope that close several shutters above the narrow street they are in, putting the whole place into darkness until only Capper's green cat eyes stay visible.
    • The alternate opening scene would have introduced Tempest this way, her eyes (including the scar over her right eye) and sparking horn being the only things visible among an otherwise dark screen.
  • Finding Nemo: In the fish tank, Nemo hides in an old-fashioned diver's helmet, where Jacques greets him, startling him.
  • In Scary Godmother, Jimmy and his friends hide in a closet after being scared inside the haunted house.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • When in the sewers in the Doom movie, Goat approached a set of eyes in a dark corner after his flashlight dies, while looking for a scientist. When he asks "Doctor Willets?" several other eyes appear around the main set, revealing not that there are more of them, but that the transformed Dr. Willets has grown several more eyes all over his head. The creature then leaps and attack Goat.
  • Also done in Pitch Black, where it was a character point.
  • When Pee-Wee Herman ends up abandoned in the desert in Pee-wee's Big Adventure, after Micky drives off, leaving him in pitch black with only his eyes visible. When he gets his flashlight on, he's not met with the happiest sight.
  • In 300, the emissary of Xerxes bribes the priests of the oracle, then fades to a silhouette with only his eyes remaining.
  • Emperor Palpatine from Star Wars usually keeps his hood pulled forward enough to cast a dark shadow on the upper half of his face, but occasionally the light glints off his eyes creating a very spooky effect.
  • In For a Few Dollars More, when Manco is creeping around the room where El Indio hid the cabinet, this effect is achieved by painting Eastwood's face dark brown, so his eyes glow out.
  • The second Asterix movie has a sequence with the main characters stuck in one of the Pyramids of Gizah. When their torches go out, they suddenly turn into cartoon eyes floating in the dark (and stay that way until the dog leads them out).
  • In the 1974 Black Christmas, the "Prowler" is never truly seen out of shadow. The only scene in which you view him, is where he is peering from behind a door. Ominously, all you see is an eye, the rest hidden in shadow.
  • In Oz the Great and Powerful, Oscar, Finley and China Girl are spied on by a whole lot of pairs of gleaming eyes when they enter the Dark Forest. Several times they turn around suspiciously, but are an instant too late to spot the eyes until the snappy animated plants they belong to are ready to attack.
  • The Incredible Mr. Limpet, in the animated portion of the film. After Henry Limpet goes into a cave, his eyes can be seen in the dark. The hermit crab Crusty is introduced when his eyes appear.
  • In Nightlight (2015), the dog's eyes reflect as twin circles of light whenever the flashlight glints off them in the dark. That's all we see of it - points of light being violently yanked off-camera in the blackness - when it dies.

    Game Shows 


  • Alice's Adventures in Wonderland describes the Cheshire Cat appearing first as a pair of eyes and a gigantic grin, which disappear last when he leaves.
  • The alien atevi of the Foreigner series have reflective retinas (just like real-life cats), causing their pupils to shine in dim light; this unnerves a lot of humans. Conversely, the fact that the eyes of humans don't shine in dim light unnerves a lot of atevi.
  • In the Warrior Cats manga "Shattered Peace", Ravenpaw and Barley go underground into the Moonstone cave. All that is visible is their silhouettes in the tunnel and their eyes glowing white.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Done rather creepily in the (live-action) Dune miniseries: all the Fremen have glowing blue eyes. In the sequel miniseries the brightness is pulled back a little. (In the books, the eyes of spice addicts are so dark-blue they appear nearly black.)
  • The South-African episode of The Goodies.
    Tim: Look at those stars. They look like hundreds of tiny little eyes.
    Graham: They are hundreds of tiny little eyes...
  • Battlestar Galactica. A Cylon Heavy Raider crashes into Galactica. We see the glowing red eye of a Centurion in its dark interior, then it and several other Centurions step out onto the hanger deck.
  • Meet The Browns, in the episode "Meet the Deception." When Mr. Brown is harassed by an overzealous bill collector for the power company that provides the house's electricity, he ultimately fails to pay the bill and the electricity gets turned off at the end of the episode. Mr. Brown and Cora then shine dimly lit flashlights in their faces in the dark, and only the top half of their faces are illuminated.
  • Done rather creepily on The X-Files with Eugene Victor Tooms, the liver-eating mutant whose eyes glow a dull yellow.
  • The Goa'uld of Stargate SG-1 do Glowing Eyes of Doom. It is done in the dark on occasion, and once by a villain as he stepped into the dark, so his eyes are the last thing to go into the shadows.
  • Pee-wee's Playhouse: The host and gang with their animated eyes in the dark, followed by the Glowing Eyes of Doom.


    Puppet Shows 
  • When night falls on Muppet Treasure Island, the characters' eyes glow. As do the eyes of the wild boar tribesmen sneaking up behind them...
  • Sesame Street
    • When Maria has to go into Oscar's trash can, in order to hide what the actual interior looked like. Oscar's glowing eyes were identical to his normal ones, though Maria's were clearly Muppet approximations. Done in another episode when Abby Caddaby magics herself into the trash can.
    • In one classic sketch, Ernie and Bert run so many appliances in their apartment that it blows a fuse, and the blackout is presented with their eyes floating around in complete darkness.
    • In one sketch, Forgetful Jones and Clementine arrive home to find their cabin dark because Forgetful needs to be reminded to turn something on. After Forgetful turns on the faucet, fan, and radio to no avail he remembers that the right thing to turn on is the light. Until he turns on the lights his eyes, Clementine's eyes, and Buster's eyes and teeth are all floating around in the darkness.
    • In the Elmo's World segment on farms Elmo goes inside Oscar's trash can to film him feeding his farm animals. Oscar's glowing yellow eyes and Elmo's glowing eyes are the only things that are visible on screen.
    • In an animated sketch we see two characters talking about how it's dark and that even though one of them knows there is a light switch, it is too high to reach. Naturally, we only see their cartoon eyes. After the two cooperate and turn on the light we see that the two characters are a man and a monster. Surprised that the man has been lifted by a monster he turns off the light again, this time ending the sketch on a black screen.
    • In another sketch, Kermit tries to demonstrate "light" and "dark" by showing that the single source of light in his room is a lamp. Right as he turns it off Grover opens the door and comes in causing light to come in through the door. When Grover closes the door at Kermit's direction the entire room becomes pitch black and we only see their eyes floating around as they scramble to fill the room with light. Grover eventually finds the door and opens it only to find that, in their scramble, they've trashed the whole room. Kermit ends the sketch by having the lamp shade stuck on his head when he tells Grover to leave since he's "helped enough today".
    • In The Adventures of Elmo in Grouchland, Elmo enters a dark cave and all the viewer can see are his eyes.

  • The "Nocturnes" screensaver included on some editions of After Dark depicted many pairs of eyes popping up on a black background.

    Theme Parks 
  • During one of the animated sequences in the show Fantasmic!, a late night performance at one of the Disney Theme Parks, the character Mickey, during a voiced version of the sequence from "The Sorcerer's Apprentice", goes down a whirlpool, after which you see his eyes appear in a dark place for a couple seconds as he tries to figure out where he is. (Reused from Brave Little Tailor.)
  • In Men in Black: Alien Attack at Universal Studios, there are a few aliens in the ride that can be seen hiding in the bushes, where only their glowing eyes are visible.

  • One of the early BIONICLE animations showed this when a bunch of Onu-Matoran were trapped by a cave-in. Possibly a Justified Trope, since most incarnations show the characters' eyes having some sort of glow, even in daylight.
  • Mixels has the Glowkies. As they are nocturnal and themed around bioluminescence, their eyes have glow-in-the-dark abilities, both in-show and in toy form.

    Video Games 
  • The Legend of Zelda:
  • Occurs a few times in the King's Quest series.
    • In King's Quest IV, Rosella at one point must navigate a pitch-black cave with a resident troll and a chasm opening into a Bottomless Pit ... all without any light for the player to see by.
    • In the large labyrinth of King's Quest VI, one room is so dark that all the player can see of Alexander is his white eyes against the black surroundings. If the player doesn't have a source of light, rumbling noises and a growl are heard as the Minotaur enters the room, while Alexander's eyes are lifted up, shaken, and... well, that's gotta be painful.
  • Rayman:
    • In Rayman 2: The Great Escape, there are several instances in which there are inaccessible pitch-black rooms, holes in the walls and half-closed coffins where if you look into them, you're sure to see a pair of eyes looking back at you.
    • Rayman Origins and Rayman Legends also use this trope: The former in the introduction to the game, and the latter on the silhouetted loading screens.
  • Warcraft II uses this in the Tomb of Sargeras scene.
  • In the World of Warcraft: The Burning Crusade trailer, the first thing you see of Vindicator Maraad is his eyes. However, that's justified because he's a draenei.
  • This is utilized during the final battle of Ōkamiden in that one of the attacks of the Big Bad is to cloak the battlefield in darkness, and his glowing eyes are the only way to find him, attack him until he's stunned, and then bring the light back.
  • In STALKER: Shadow of Chernobyl, ALL of the mutant's eyes glow. No matter what. Even AFTER they're dead.
  • Earthworm Jim. The secret level Who Turned Out the Lights?
  • Taokaka from BlazBlue has her face concealed in a hood, showing only nondescript red eyes and a crescent grin with dagger teeth.
  • In Tales of Monkey Island Chapter 4: The Trial and Execution of Guybrush Threepwood, one of the buttons on De Singe's Auto-Trepanation Helmet causes the entire "laboratorium" to go dark temporarily, with only Guybrush's eyes visible when he says, "Ack! I'm blind!" Thankfully the lights turn back on.
  • The Legend of Kyrandia:
    • Stepping into an unlit room in the caves will cause Brandon's death by a horde of glowy-eyed monsters.
    • Parodied in Malcolm's Revenge. Leaving Darm's Hut at nighttime will cause red eyes to appear behind Malcolm... and step out of the shadow to reveal squat imp-like creatures holding signboards depicting glowing red eyes. They smack Malcolm in the head with a signboard.
  • LittleBigPlanet and its sequel have a few eye choices that do this.
  • The player in the 1982 Atari 2600 game Haunted House is only visible by his eyes and a lit match.
  • Zork is infamous for Grues — creatures that will kill you in the darkness, yet you never ever see or hear a description of what they look like as they seem to only exist within darkness. In Zork Zero, though the game is still all text like previous games, you get snippets of images now and then. Such as you can play a card game with The Jester, one of the cards is "Grue" which shows nothing more than a pair of eyes in the darkness).
  • Dark Souls has this in the Tomb of the Giants, in which there is a supernatural darkness that severely limits your sight range. If you look, though, you can see the skeleton enemies' Glowing Eyelights of Undeath in the darkness. There is also Manus in the Artorias of the Abyss DLC, whose (many) eyes can be seen in the distant dark from outside the boss room if you look in just the right place.
  • In the first Five Nights at Freddy's game, if Freddy isn't on stage or at your door, he's only visible by this on camera.
  • In both Left 4 Dead games, the regular zombies' eyes glow in the dark. It's generally not noticeable because the environments as reasonably well lit up and any idle ones that can be observed are at a distance away, but it gets very noticeable when you're swarmed in a dark area and you can see the eyes of those in your field of view that aren't being lit by your flashlight. It helps a lot since it tells you where to shoot to break free.
  • Doom 3 does this a lot. Zombies and melee-oriented demons who tend to appear in especially dark areas have glowing eyes, both for Rule of Scary and as a gameplay trait that, as in the Left 4 Dead example above, marks the thing that you want to unload on without forcing you to illuminate it with your torch.
  • In Jimmy and the Pulsating Mass, monsters in dark areas are obscured on the first turn of battle — except for their eyes.
  • At one point in the third trial of the third Ace Attorney game, there is a power outage, and you can see Phoenix's and Godot's eyes (though, given the fact that Godot's "eyes" are an illuminated visor, it's probably justified). In fact, this is foreshadowing of the fifth case, in which Godot's illuminated visor becomes vital testimony for a murder which took place in pitch darkness. Phoenix's eyes, not so much.
  • Downplayed example in Skullgirls: Though the game rarely actually reaches complete darkness, there are some places where the characters are in shaded or low-light conditions. In these cases, the sprites are darkened or shaded accordingly, but their eyes will always remain a bright white (or red, in the case of Painwheel). One of Valentine's cinematic moves has one shot from the perspective of an operating table, however, in which the only visible things are the lights on the ceiling and Valentine's eyes.
  • It's subtle, but Mr. X's pupils have white glow in Resident Evil 2 (Remake).
  • Sonic Adventure has this in a more realistic manner for E-102 (a robot) and in a more cartoonish manner for Big (a cat); their eyes are unaffected by lighting and so appear to "glow" in dark rooms. Only in the Dreamcast version, though.
  • This Cartoon Cat SNPC mod for Garry's Mod does this, seen here
  • In Puyo Pop Fever, Popoi appears in a dark room with only the glow of his eyes to indicate where he is. This might make sense since he's a black cat... but then Amitie is in the same room while the lights are out and the player can see her just fine - she's not even darkened to match the dim room.

    Web Animation 
  • Shows up on Homestar Runner in the Strong Bad Email "your edge", providing an unusually detailed look at Strong Bad and The Cheat's eyes.
    Strong Bad: Whoa, where are we? I suddenly feel so... easy to animate.
  • In the Barbie: Life in the Dreamhouse episode "Closet Princess", when Teresa and Nikki slide through a dark passageway, they look like eyeballs floating against a dark backdrop.
  • When Vivi, Arthur and Mystery first enter the dark haunted mansion in Mystery Skulls Animated their eyes are visible in the otherwise black darkness watching as a single magenta flame floats by and starts lighting the candles.


    Web Original 
  • Discussed and played straight as an example by the Angry Video Game Nerd during his Halloween review when discussing Boo! Haunted House.
  • Dr. Rex during the Final Battle of Dino Attack RPG, as a homage to Ganon.
  • Fen Quest: all kobolds have eyes that glow in the dark, and Fen makes note of the repercussions on stealth while stalking through an underground battlefield.

    Western Animation 
  • This happens all the time in Batman: The Animated Series, though 90% of the time it is Batman himself doing it. He was often drawn so that the only thing visible in his silhouette is his eyes. The current trope picture is from the opening sequence, where a couple of mooks see Batman arrive.
  • Virtually every Looney Tunes cartoon that includes a dark scene; the odds of them striking a match inside a dynamite shack are quite high.
    • A particularly notable example is the Bugs Bunny cartoon Hyde and Hare (1955), where Bugs locks himself in a dark closet with Dr. Jekyll to protect them from "the maniac". Jekyll, naturally, transforms into Hyde — and it's only seen by the animation of his eyes turning huge, red, and monstrous.
  • Likewise virtually every episode of Scooby-Doo.
  • Spoofed in the Tiny Toon Adventures episode "Gang Busters", where Buster and Plucky get put in "The Hole" while in prison. They pass the time by using their illuminated eyeballs to play Pong and Pac-Man. Then one of them lights a match, and when the room was lit all that remained were their eyeballs, prompting them to escape before they get any more stir-crazy... and save more animation money.
  • Whenever Danger Mouse was in the dark you could see his single, yellow eye (a bit creepy for a good character).
  • The Simpsons:
    • Lampshaded in "A Fish Called Selma" when Homer asks, "Marge, could you close your eyes? I'm trying to sleep."
    • Spoofed in the final scene of "The Last Temptation of Homer". Homer and Marge are in a hotel room, and after he turns off the lamp for some happy time, a third set of eyes appears, those of the creepy bellman from earlier who starts cat-calling. Homer's eyes become angry and he punches the bellman, and one of his eyes disappears.
    • In the Treehouse of Horror XIII segment "The Island of Dr. Hibbert": Two pairs of eyes peer out from under some bushes. One pair turns into a set of fangs and devours the other pair.
    • In "Mother Simpson", after the power is cut from the house, Marge scolds Homer for faking his death, in pitch blackness. Her emotions and body language are wonderfully portrayed through only her eyes.
    • There's another episode where not only Homer's eyes are visible in the dark but also his teeth.
    • One Couch Gag shows the family's eyes rushing to the couch in darkness, and then the lights turn on, revealing that they're all just eyes, and then the (eyeless) family joins in, at which their eyes immediately place themselves onto their faces.
    • "A Test Before Trying" has one of the rare (or maybe not — see pic above) examples where the scene isn't completely pitch dark.
    • Lampshaded in "The Man Who Grew Too Much," when Marge tells Homer that the brightness of his eyes is keeping her up.
    • The episode "The Springfield Connection" Marge tells Bart and Lisa to go to bed. The light from the bedroom turns off and as Marge resumes climbing the tree, Bart and Lisa's eyes become visible.
  • Classic Disney Shorts: Mickey Mouse himself in his pie-eyed days. While at face value his eyes seem to be the two black inkblots on his face, in the dark (and in the way these inkblots move around his head and in some colorations of the comics) it's revealed that they're actually two pupils in a merged set of giant eyeballs that take up half his face. His design from Plane Crazy without the eyes outlined. That, or maybe they just couldn't think of any other way to make those black eyes to show up in the dark.
  • Parodied in the Roger Rabbit cartoon Roller Coaster Rabbit, where at one point the eyes are running around on little legs.
  • Used in Metalocalypse when the members of Dethklok sneak into a closet to eat food because they are supposed to be on diets.
  • The eyes at the very end of the last Sonic the Hedgehog (SatAM) episode. True, they are only part of a cliffhanger that was never expanded upon outside of Word of God because the show was Screwed by the Network, but still...
  • Seen also in the Super Mario World cartoon after Yoshi swallows Mario in the "Mama Luigi" episode. "Ugh, now I know how a meatball feels."
  • Ruby Gloom has fun with the characters' distinctive eyes. They cheat a little with Misery's inverted eyes (white pupils, black sclera) by turning them gray.
  • The Herculoids episode "The Lost Dorgyte": the eyes of the monsters of the Stone Forest.
  • Parodied in Drawn Together, when Captain Hero and Unusually Flexible Girl have sex. The lights go off leaving just their eyes visible as they go through various positions. The positions start off reasonably enough, getting more and more unusual until their eyes are going through a Newton's Cradle type motion.
  • Codename: Kids Next Door:
  • Super Friends (1973/74) episodes.
    • "The Power Pirate". When Wendy and Marvin are trapped in a dark room, initially all the audience can see is their eyes.
    • "The Planet Splitter". When Doctor LeBon's assistant closes the observatory's door and shuts off the outside light, we see Wendy's eyes floating in the darkness.
    • "The Shamon U". While Wendy, Marvin and Wonder Dog are hiking up Mystery Mountain in the dark they see two pairs of glowing eyes approaching them. The eyes turn out to belong to Batman and Robin, who were following them.
  • It happens in The Adventures of Jimmy Neutron: Boy Genius when Jimmy and Co. are stuck in a tomb. You could tell which pair of eyes belonged to which character because they all looked different.
  • Used in an animated Sesame Street sketch in which two people work together to turn on a light in a dark room. When the light is turned on, the first person sees that the second person is a repulsive-looking creature, and turns the light back off.
  • The opening of The Trap Door.
  • The lions in the VeggieTales version of "Daniel and the Lions' Den."
  • Stōked. Finn inside the sack being kidnapped by Reef, Broseph and Emma is depicted as her eyes.
  • Parodied in Johnny Bravo, where his SUNGLASSES glow white in the pitch dark.
  • In The Real Ghostbusters episode "Knock Knock", the Ghostbusters enter the lightless Place of Lost Souls. First we see the Ghostbusters' eyes...then we see the eyes of the dozens of beings surrounding them. We never do find out what any of them look like.
    • Cleverly subverted in a sequence where they board a possessed underground train. The inside is pitch black, so only four pair of eyes can be seen. However, when the lights come back, we see that they were actually surrounded by a group of skeletal passengers with no eyes in their skulls.
  • Done rather nicely on Teen Titans when the Titans fight a bunch of machines in a dark sewer-like area. Starfire's green energy bolt is the only source of light. Beast Boy, in human form, is cornered by a machine. When the light goes away, his pupiless eyes remain. When the light comes back, it's revealed he turned into a gorilla and crushed the machine.
  • The Fairly OddParents uses this a few times. In fact, the episode "Lights Out" is based around this trope. Granted, that the episode takes place in complete darkness for a good chunk of the episode, with no filters whatsoever.
  • Phineas and Ferb:
    • Lampshaded and Exploited in the episode "Blackout", where Doofenshmirtz makes himself have sad puppy-dog eyes so as to make everyone give him give him whatever he wants.
      Phineas: Hey Ferb, isn't it cool how you can still see people's eyes in — Ferb? Where'd you go?
      (Ferb opens eyes)
      Phineas: Oh-hoh, you prankster!
    • Also appears during another episode, "One Good Scare Ought to Do It!"
    • Played straight in "The Klimpaloon Ultimatum".
  • Parodied in Who Killed Who? when the eyes visible beyond a door peephole are left shut out when the peephole closes abruptly, forcing them to knock on the door to be let back in.
  • Done in The Mr. Men Show.
  • Johnny Test used it twice, with the family hiding in the closet in "Johnny Zombie Tea Party" and in "Johnny Trick or Treat" when Johnny, Dukey and Jillian fall into a pitch-dark basement, with their eyes visible.
  • Ugly Americans has an example in "Better Off Undead".
  • West and Soda by Italian animator Bruno Bozzetto uses it a few times... but just when the big shootout in the dark cave happens and one expects this trope, no eyes at all.
  • Futurama: In episode "The Six Million Dollar Mon", Hermes' new robo-eyes are glowing. (And not only them... Insert "third eye" pun here...)
    • This also happened in A Clockwork Origin and the Jimmy Neutron example above you can easily identify each character based on their eyes (or in Leela's case eye)
  • My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic:
    • "Mare in the Moon": Downplayed; Twilight and Spike, when they're standing in the near-total-dark library, have clearly visible eyes, although the rest of their bodies can still be seen in the obscurity.
    • In "Boast Busters", when Snips and Snails enter the cave, only their eyes are visible until Snails lights up his horn.
    • "One Bad Apple": In the beginning of the "Bad Seed" song, when the CMC try to sneak around.
    • "Castle Mane-ia": Rarity's eyes are briefly visible when she's stranded in the dark.
    • "Party Pooped":
      • When Pinkie stumbles upon a cave in the mountains by Yakyakistan, the first sign she gets of the yeti living in it are its eyes, standing out clearly and alone in the pitch darkness of its lair.
      • Twilight, Fluttershy and Rainbow's eyes are seen in the dark before they discover Pinkie's secret room. "I can't tell if my eyes are open or closed," says Fluttershy. Oh, they're open, all right.
    • "Scare Master": When Rarity and Spike venture into a very dark part of the corn maze, only their eyes stay visible in the darkness until Rarity lights her horn.
  • The Amazing World of Gumball:
    • In "The Nobody", Gumball and Darwin stumble into a darkened basement they didn't know they had while looking for an intruder. At first, Gumball apparently has a third eye but then the torchlight shows that it's just a reading lamp. Nevertheless, the apparent extra eye turns out to be a bit of Foreshadowing once they discover that Rob, a Cyclops, is the intruder.
    • There is also a minor character which owns a van, and only his eyes can be seen from there. He has sold things like an evil turtle, a cursed console, and Darwin.
    • A shadow person steals Gumball’s wallet in the episode "The Comic", and tries to steal the Wattersons' car tire, but Nicole punches him. However, it’s unclear if he is really a shadow person, or his real appearance is obscured. His eyes are different than the van owner’s, so it is known they are not the same person.
  • This happens in the ChalkZone episode "French Fry Falls" when Rudy, Penny, and Snap end up inside Biclops' mouth.
  • Happens in 101 Dalmatians: The Series episode "Coup De Vil" when the main puppies and Spot are hiding in Rolly's "fritter hole".
  • In the KaBlam! episode "Why June Refuses To Turn The Page", this happens with June when Henry leaves her alone on the set at the end of the episode as the lights get shut off.
  • At the end of the Doug episode "Doug Out In Left Field", Doug is practicing batting in his room when he accidentally breaks his lamp, causing him to be surrounded by darkness except for his eyes. Interestingly, his typical Black Bead Eyes are swapped out for cartoony white eyes with a pupil for this one scene.
  • Dr. Viper is introduced this way in the SWAT Kats episode "The Giant Bacteria," with his glowing yellow eyes peering out of a drain pipe at Morbulus.
  • Seeking shelter on a coral reef, Chris and Martin on Wild Kratts are joined in a pitch-black rock crevice by a huge pair of eyes. This is all the more alarming in that they're miniaturized at the time, hence very vulnerable to predators. Fortunately, it's just a harmless blowfish.
  • Ed, Edd n Eddy
    • In "One + One = Ed", following a transition to black, the Eds' eyes and teeth appear on the dark screen. The blackness then zooms out to reveal they're inside Kevin's pupil.
    • Throughout "A Case of Ed", Ed and Eddy taunt Kevin from outside his house when he gets grounded. One moment involves a scene fading to black, followed by Kevin's eyes appearing in the dark; the scene then cuts to reveal that Ed and Eddy had built a brick wall around his house.
    Kevin: Okay, now I'm mad.
  • This happens in a Season 2 episode of Voltron: Legendary Defender. Keith and Lance get stuck in an elevator when the power goes out, and their eyes are still visible for a few seconds before the scene cuts away from them.
  • Moonbird: The boys are shown this way, with only their eyes discernible, when they are huddled in their hole waiting to catch the moonbird.
  • Kaeloo: Whenever it gets dark, the only things that can be seen are a character's eyes and teeth.
  • Ready Jet Go!: In "Jet Can't Sleep", there's a brief black out and only the Propulsions' eyes are visible in the dark.
  • Bounty Hamster: Spoofed in "Gone Fishin", where Cassie and Marion are Swallowed Whole along with the Villain of the Week who is trying to kill our heroes with a Laser Blade, the only thing visible except for their eyes. At one point the villain appears to have cut Cassie in half, but then two pairs of eyes appear in place of the two detached eyes. Turns out it was just two people standing together with one eye shut.
  • In the Gravity Falls episode 'The Time Traveler's Pig', when Dipper and Mabel are going through a rapid sequence of time jumps, the time machine starts to spark and overheat, eventually stranding them in an empty black void with this trope. Dipper speculates that they've been vaulted forward to the end of the universe, but it turns out they're just inside a porta-potty not far from the time and place they originally left.
  • Occurs in the Craig of the Creek episode "Camper on the Run", but J.P.'s Skintone Sclerae leave him completely nonvisible, making Kelsey wonder where he is.
    J.P.: I'm right here. Sorry, I don't have eye whites.
  • Journey Through the Jungle of Words: We see this happen to Groucho Barx and Olivia Ostrich when they, along with Dualot and Seealot, get shut into the cave of King Solomon's Mind.

    Real Life 
  • This can happen when using a webcam in a dark room, when the only light sufficient enough for the webcam to pick up is bounced off the person's eyes and teeth.
  • Nightvision makes people's eyes seem to glow in the dark in an otherwise murky green haze.
  • Many animals, especially deep sea and nocturnal animals (including felines and possums), have what is called the tapetum lucidum, a layer of tissue at the back of the eyeball that reflects light, improving the animal's vision in dim conditions. This can make the eye appear to glow if a light shines directly at it. The reflector "eyes" of a bike work and the "Cat's eye" for roads function about the same way.
  • Possibly inspired by this is that it used to be believed that light came from someone's eyes and that was how they saw but this an old (500 BCE old) theory, discarded in Early Modern Age except as a poetic conceit.


Video Example(s):

Alternative Title(s): Eyeshine


Cheap Show - In the dark

Bill cuts the power to save money -- this was put in because of the episode's low production budget.

How well does it match the trope?

5 (3 votes)

Example of:

Main / ByTheLightsOfTheirEyes

Media sources:

Main / ByTheLightsOfTheirEyes