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Dramatic Unmask

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Harley Quinn: Ain'tcha gonna take his mask off and find out who he is?
The Joker: And reduce my primal enemy to a mere man? Harley my dear, I'm so disappointed in you. Where's the fun in that?
Batman: The Brave and the Bold, "Emperor Joker"

Now let's see who this "ghost" really is. (takes mask off, gasps) It's Old Man Describe Dramatic Unmask Reveal Here!

When a masked character takes off his mask, revealing his identity to a shocked character and audience.

When The Hero decides to invoke the Dramatic Unmask it can be the moment they finally chose to reveal their secret identity to an ally or love interest. A gesture of trust that understandably means a lot within crimefighting circles. Their enemies will often attempt to unmask them in the hopes of making them more vulnerable by endangering not only their life but that of the hero's loved ones. Exposing a hero can also have the added benefit of having the authorities attempting to incarcerate them. After all, they are vigilantes.

In the case of the villain the big reveal may be the final part of their plan. An old face come to haunt the hero from the past or worse someone they trusted. Expect villainous characters to be especially smug if this is a complete surprise to their opponent. When the villain desires to hide behind anonymity, expect the protagonist to be the one to go about unmasking him, sometimes at any cost, so that justice is served.

Across media there is a tendency to conveniently overlook why an individual isn't unmasked when he or she's at the mercy of their foe earlier in the story. This is more commonly seen with villains, who despite having the time to put their unconscious victim into an elaborate Death Trap, don't take a moment to remove a mask. Justified in that it's done for the sake of preserving drama and most audiences will let it slide to prolong the guessing game. In some cases the rivals will even lampshade their desire not to learn the others identity as it would reduce their Arch-Enemy to being a normal person rather than their larger than life alter-ego. Although in some stories this is precisely why they want to unmask their nemesis.

Often occurs along with Luke, I Am Your Father or Samus Is a Girl. Can include Bandaged Face or Latex Perfection. Relative of Dramatic Curtain Toss, a subtrope of The Reveal. Contrast with Anti-Climactic Unmasking, where the unmasked party isn't recognized by the other characters, and Stranger Behind the Mask, where they aren't recognized by the audience. Secret Identity Apathy is the aversion. Or it might turn out to be Not a Mask. For an extra terrifying twist, there may be No Face Under the Mask!

As this is a form of The Reveal, unmarked spoilers abound. Beware.


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Individuals Unmasking Themselves

    Anime & Manga 
  • Bakugan: One of these happens at the end of the 38th episode of the first season. To be more specific, it’s a massive plot twist that reveals that Masquerade, one of the story’s main villains, was actually Alice all along, not that she would remember any of it.
  • Beyblade: Vladimir Volkov/Boris Balkov inverts this trope. He puts his mask on, so Kai can finally recognize him.
  • Case Closed: This is a common occurrence in the more plot-involved arcs due to characters existing on both good and bad sides who are masters of disguise. Often the disguises are used to protect the identities of the main characters when facing off against the Black Organization, and usually the masks will come off once they're no longer necessary. One of the more notable instances is in episode 345, where Heiji had disguised himself as Shinichi, Conan was disguised as Haibara, and Vermouth had been Dr. Araide for multiple appearances. All three of them end up dramatically unmasking during the events of that night.
  • Code Geass:
    • Lelouch reveals his identity to Kirihara in Episode 11 to get his support, and later unmasks himself to Euphemia when she tells him she already knows who he is.
    • He does it again in the second season finale when the Black Knights turn against him due to Schneizel's Quote Mine and accuse him of deception.
    • Kallen, in the first part of the season 1 finale, removes the mask covering half of her face, revealing her identity to Rivalz, Shirley, Milly, and Nunnally.
  • Cromartie High School: Subverted when a new guy comes to Cromartie and claims to have changed in his personality, re-igniting certain principles of badness once lost in the students. They don't know who the heck he is, though, because they've never seen his face before - because Masked Takenouchi realizes that he forgot to put on his mask.
  • Death Note: Inverted when Near dons a dramatic mask for Light's benefit.
  • Eyeshield 21: Sena reveals that he is the titular Eyeshield 21 to his childhood friend Mamori, just before the match against the Bando Spiders.
  • JoJo's Bizarre Adventure:
    • Golden Wind: Vinegar Doppio walks behind a pillar when approaching Polnareff and emerges from the other side as Diavolo, The Don. Even though the audience is in on this at this point it comes as a huge shock to Polnareff.
    • The JoJoLands: When advised by Paco to abandon the lava rock, Jodio refuses to throw it away and affirms on keeping it. However, Jodio finds out the Paco that was with him is the Villain of the Week disguised as him and exposes himself by cracking off his facial disguise.
  • Kinnikuman: After Kinnikuman defeats Warsman with the Kinniku Buster, Warsman struggles to his feet, relates his tragic backstory (Especially dramatic as he had been The Voiceless until then), and removes his own mask, revealing his circuit board face. As this was a mask-removal death match, it's a signal of surrender.
  • Lupin III: A Master of Disguise and expert in Latex Perfection, Lupin loves to take off his disguises as he escapes his crimes, usually to taunt the target of his thefts and/or Inspector Zenigata.
  • Moriarty the Patriot: When Sherlock reappears in The Adventure of the Empty Hearts, he does so in disguise until finding a convenient moment to pull off his mask and wig to reveal himself, shocking Bond nearly speechless, and delighting the audience with his long-awaited return.
  • My Monster Secret actually does this twice, with the mysterious Box Girl:
    • The first time this trope is subverted: Akane confronts the Box Girl on the school roof with a claim that she's discovered her identity. The Box Girl reveals her face (offscreen), and Akane does an epic Face Palm as she realizes that her guess was totally wrong.
    • The second time is played straight, with the Box Girl removing her mask to reveal to Aizawa and Asahi that she's Aizawa from ten years in the future.
  • Naruto: Subverted in a filler episode, where Naruto, Sakura and Sasuke spend an entire episode debating what secret Kakashi might possibly be hiding under his mask: abnormally thick lips, buck teeth or some other facial anomaly. They try and trick him to take it off but have all of their plans fail, until he finally offers to remove it. Under is mask is... another mask.
  • One Piece:
    • The CP9 reveal their true identities during the Water 7 arc: Blueno, Kalifa, Kaku, and Lucci, who were the kind bartender, the charming secretary, and two of Galley-La's foremen respectively.
    • Parodied in one light novel with a pirate named Skull who is Never Bareheaded, constantly wearing a mask in public. His allies eventually deduce that he was planning to dramatically unmask at some point to reveal his true identity, but he could never find an appropriate time and kept putting it off. He's therefore been wearing the mask for years on end and can't bring himself to take it off in front of others because it's been too long and now it would just be awkward to suddenly remove it.
  • Pokémon: The Series: At the end of the "Here Comes the Squirtle Squad" episode of Pokémon: The Original Series, the leader of the eponymous delinquents shows up trailing the heroes. After Ash offers him to join his team, Squirtle removes his Triangle Shades, showing off his huge eyes, before running up to embrace Ash.
  • Rebuild of Evangelion: Not that we can't guess who it is earlier, but Asuka yanking off her fullface helmet in the Action Prologue of 3.0 reveals her Eyepatch of Power for those who weren't spoiled by the trailers.
  • Touhou Project: Spoofed in the manga Touhou Suzunaan ~ Forbidden Scrollery, when Aya reveals herself as a Tengu to Kosuzu. Since her "disguise" in the Human Village is just an early 20th Century newsboy outfit (not even bothering to hide her Pointy Ears), this "unmasking" involves swapping out her newsboy cap for her usual hat. Kosuzu is still shocked by this.
  • Yu-Gi-Oh!: Bandit Keith, even though he's obviously Keith. Made more absurd in Yu-Gi-Oh! The Abridged Series, where he still has his Verbal Tic.

    Comic Books 
  • Batman:
    • Batman himself, being Crazy-Prepared, is seldom dramatically unmasked. The plot contrives to stop those who would unmask him before it happens. Or he's wearing another mask under the first one so he remains masked even if he removes the cowl. This makes it much more dramatic on the rare occasions when the mask does come off — most memorably when he pulled it off himself to show Joe Chill, his parents' killer, who he really was.
    • Him not figuring the finer details about it this how Hugo Strange figured out his Secret Identity, by... pulling his mask off.
    • He's sometimes Crazy-Prepared enough to cover his upper face with paint or another mask in anticipation of being unmasked, so as to still conceal his identity. One time when Batman was trapped at gunpoint by Gotham Police and they ordered him to unmask himself. He did it... only to reveal a blond guy who is nothing like Bruce Wayne.
    • Sometimes in the animated series, he wears a mask over his cowl, so he can take the former off dramatically before kicking the bad guys' asses.
    • Once, Batman fought the Red Hood to a standstill; during which RH managed to strip Bats of one glove and his utility belt before ripping his mask off. Stoically, Bruce made no attempt to cover his face. His secret was safe, however: The street they're fighting on was empty and the Red Hood, a.k.a. Jason Todd, already knew... and who himself has just performed his own Dramatic Unmask, with a twist: he's wearing a Domino Mask under his helmet, which of course doesn't hinder Batman recognizing him in the least. Later, a villain asks him why he wears a mask under his helmet, to which he answers:
      Red Hood: I did it once for dramatic effect and then it just got to be a habit.
    • Batman and Robin (2009) spends twelve issues building up speculation around who mysterious masked man Oberon Sexton was, with many readers speculating that it might be Bruce Wayne himself. In a dramatic unmasking, he is revealed to be the Joker.
    • During Batman: No Man's Land, when the people left in Gotham after the earthquake were left to form communities and territories and fend for themselves, Commissioner Gordon feels betrayed by Batman, thinking that he had abandoned them for a while. They meet in Gordon's yard for a confrontation that lasts an entire issue, laying bare what each means to the other, culminating in Batman trying to earn his friend's trust by removing his mask. Gordon refuses to look, but appreciates the gesture, and they make up, though it is also implied that Gordon might already know:
      "If I wanted to know who you were, I could have discovered it ten years ago. And for all you know, maybe I did."
    • In Batman: Hush, Batman finally unmasks to Catwoman thereby progressing their relationship.
    • In one issue, Batman forgets who his secret identity is due to a Tap on the Head. When he looks under the mask, he doesn't recognize the face, but finds out through police records that he's actually a low-life snitch. As soon as he suspects that something isn't right, he has a closer look, removes the makeup and finds his own familiar face. The world's greatest detective, staring intensely in the mirror, is unable to realize that his face and balding head is a disguise.
  • Buffy the Vampire Slayer: Subverted/lampshaded in the Season 8 comics: Twilight starts to unmask himself, but only because his neck itches. He never lifts it past his chin. Played straight in the penultimate story arc when he unmasks himself as Angel.
  • Diabolik:
    • Happens often due the title character's use of Latex Perfection, to the point that it's rarely dramatic anymore.
    • One famous subversion comes from the flashback of the first battle between Diabolik and Ginko: at the end of a long chase Ginko did manage to arrest Diabolik and promptly took away the mask of his suit, but Diabolik, anticipating the possibility, was wearing one of his masks. As at the time the masks weren't known to the police Ginko didn't even suspect, and wouldn't until much later, when he raided one of Diabolik's hideouts and found that very mask along a few others.
  • The Flash: In the story arc "The Trial of the Flash", the Flash is forced to unmask when he was on the witness stand. Fortunately, he has just been in a horrific battle with a baddie, destroying his face, and has taken the opportunity to get plastic surgery, so he reveals a face that looks nothing like Barry Allen's.
  • Justice League of America:
    • This is the emotional climax of JLA Year One. The newly-formed League is struggling with confusion and mistrust; disheartened, they start to turn away from each other... and Flash pulls off his cowl and announces his name. After a beat, the others follow suit.
    • Also used in JLA: Tower of Babel, in what is essentially Mark Waid riffing on his own earlier storyline a generation later. In Year One, the breakdown in trust is caused by Martian Manhunter making contingency plans against every super on the planet and an enemy making use of them; in Tower of Babel, the same thing happens with Batman's countermeasures. Batman leaves the League in the aftermath, but later rejoins after allowing everyone into the Batcave with all the computer files unlocked, and revealing himself as Bruce Wayne. While everyone is pretty gobsmacked at that, it's nothing to the reactions when Clark Kent introduces himself — most of the younger League didn't realize that Superman even had a secret identity.
  • Paperinik New Adventures: Defied, as Paperinik once admitted he's tempted to do it and reveal his identity to his girlfriend Daisy or even retire, but as he's extremely protective of his loved ones he'll never do it for fear of endangering them.
  • Spider-Man:
  • Thunderbolts: A unique version is the famous ending of the first issue as Citizen V enters with his face unmasked to reveal a horribly scarred visage. Seeing the discomfort of his team, V decides to put on another mask...the mask of Baron Helmut Zemo, revealing the Thunderbolts are the Masters of Evil in disguise.
  • Ultimate Marvel:
    • Ultimate Daredevil & Elektra: Matt unmasks himself to Elektra during the discussion about Trey's fate. As usual for him, it's taken as a Cassandra Truth, because it's tough to believe that a blind man can fight so well.
    • Ultimate Spider-Man: Spider-Man unmasked, is unmasked or loses his mask so many times that it almost turned into a running gag. The first time is when he attacked the Kingpin. They defeat him, and remove his mask and find he's just a kid that none of them know. So they just threw him out of the window, without mask. That was in issue #8.
    • The Ultimates:
      • The Maker, the villain who destroyed Berlin, unmasks himself to Thor. He is Reed Richards. Less of a dramatic reveal for the readers, especially if they'd read Ultimate Fallout.
      • Kang the Conqueror reveals that she's a Sue Storm from the future.
  • X-Men: Early in House and Powers of X, especially in House of X and the Year X1 sequences of Powers of X, Professor X's face is hidden from the readers' view, as everything above his nose is hidden behind his Cerebro helmet. This lasts until issue #4 of Hickman's main X-Men (2019) series, in which Xavier takes Cerebro off in front of an economic assembly, and the panels gradually focus on his eyes, showing that, while the Year X0 scenes in Powers of X (depicting scenes set in the past) showed him with brown eyes, he now has blue eyes.note 
  • Young Justice: One issue has the group of young heroes on a camping trip playing Truth or Dare. Robin is challenged to remove his mask. Turns out he's as Crazy-Prepared as Batman himself and has decided to wear an inner mask for the occasion to preserve his identity.

    Fan Works 
  • The Spectacular Spider-Man: Lost in Gotham: This fic has two of them in the first ten chapters:
    • In Chapter 1, right before pulling his Heroic Sacrifice, Spider-Man unmasks in front of Gwen, revealing his identity to her before he disappears.
    • In Chapter 7, after Batman reveals that they know Spider-Man's real name, tells Peter that he can trust them. To show it, the entire family unmasks, encouraging Spider-Man to do the same. Considering how closely Spidey and the Bats guard their identities, this is a massive show of trust on both sides.

    Films — Animation 
  • BIONICLE: In Bionicle 2: Legends of Metru Nui, the fake Turaga Dume removes his mask to confirm what the audience already knew and what Vakama suspected, that he's actually the Makuta, wearing his own Mask of Shadows under Dume's Mask of Regeneration. This leads to another reveal: the characters already knew who Makuta was, they just didn't expect that he was actually evil.
  • The Great Mouse Detective: During part of the beginning, when Basil is disguised, full-body, as a fat white Chinese rat.
  • Meet the Robinsons: Parodied when Bowler Hat Guy dramatically rips his clothes in front of Lewis to reveal he is still wearing the same baseball uniform that he used when he was Goob, Lewis’s roommate at the orphanage.
  • Megamind: Tighten actually does this near the end during the scene where he decides that he's better off as a villain and starts destroying the city.
  • South Park: Bigger, Longer & Uncut: At the end of the film, Kenny's face is shown for the first time, when he sacrifices himself to save the rest of the Earth at the cost of going back to the afterlife.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • Batman Returns: Bruce rips the plastic mask off dramatically.
  • In the Action Prologue of The Dark Knight, the final remaining robber removes his clown mask to reveal the Joker, a very different criminal from what Gotham has been used to up till now.
    Bank Manager: Think you're smart, huh? The guy that hired youze, he'll just do the same to you. Oh, criminals in this town used to believe in things. Honor. Respect. Look at you! What do you believe in, huh? WHAT DO YOU BELIEVE IN?!
    The Joker: [sticks a gas grenade in the manager's mouth] I believe whatever doesn't kill you simply makes you... [unmasks himself] ...stranger.
  • Deadpool. At the start of the film, Deadpool takes off his mask for a cab driver while delivering How We Got Here exposition and shouts, "BOO!" At the end of the movie (during which he'd rather make his ex-girlfriend believe he was dead than reveal what he's turned into) Deadpool finally allows her to take off the mask only to reveal a cut-out photograph of Hugh Jackman's face underneath.
  • Used frequently throughout the Mission: Impossible Film Series by both the heroes and the villains.
  • Halo 4: Forward Unto Dawn. After Master Chief does a Big Damn Heroes, the cadets he saves speculate that the giant SPARTAN Super-Soldier who never removes his helmet is some kind of robot. As they're evacuated in the Drop Ship, two of the SPARTANs (but not Master Chief) remove their helmets to reveal that they are Child Soldiers who look younger than the cadets.
  • Undercover Brother. The title character, while masquerading as an elderly janitor and James Brown.
  • Khan's removal of his mask in Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan. For a reveal where it's doubtful that anyone didn't realize who it was going to be, Ricardo Montalban still does it masterfully.
  • Inquisitor Makkabeus from Damnatus, twice, as he rips it off again during his battle of wills with Nira.
  • Parodied in The Strange Case Of The End Of Civilization As We Know It (a bad Sherlock Holmes spoof, featuring Holmes's incompetent great-grandson and Watson's incompetent grandson). At the end, Watson strips off his Latex Perfection disguise—he's really Mrs. Hudson, the housekeeper, and she's really an American villain out to destroy the world.
  • Played for Laughs in Looney Tunes: Back in Action, where (after getting DJ to hold his hat, as he can't reach over it) the ACME Chairman dramatically unzips a full-body disguise to reveal that he's actually DJ's father Damien. When DJ insists it can't be true, "Damien" exclaims, "You're right, it isn't!" and unzips again to reveal Michael Jordan. Then unzips again to reveal the Chairman.
  • One classic example is more a classic unhooding in The Adventures of Robin Hood, when the King reveals himself to the Merry Men. The shedding of a stark plain black cloak for the bright red and gold tunic and armor makes for a powerful impression.
  • Happens multiple times in works featuring the Predator; where the creature removes its mask to reveal its face. Many times accompanied by "You are one ugly motherfucker."
  • At the end of the original Halloween (1978), Michael Myers is finally unmasked to reveal...a surprisingly attractive man (minus an eye wound inflicted by Laurie earlier).
  • In A Woman's Face, after Anna's plastic surgery, there's the dramatic unmasking to see if the surgery was successful.
  • In the climax of The Suite Life of Zack & Cody The Movie, Dr. Olsen finally captured Zack and Cody and is just about to merge them. However, before he does, he violently tears off his face revealing that he is really Dr. Spaulding's twin brother.
  • Scream: Played with in regards to the Ghostface reveals.
  • Our introduction to the villain of The Evil That Men Do, which opens with a masked Torture Technician lecturing a group of army officers.
    "Now the hood which serves to separate the interrogator and subject psychologically is not always necessary. There are times when one does without it."
    (removes his hood to show the face of a white-haired, dignified-looking man)
  • The Phantom in The Phantom of the Opera (1962) dramatically removes his mask before swooping in to rescue Christine from a Falling Chandelier of Doom.
  • In The Phantom of the Opera (1925), Christine does the unmasking. In WatchMojo's ''Top 10 Face Reveal Scenes in Movies, this scene came in at #1.
  • Played for Laughs in Spaceballs. Our introduction to the villainous Dark Helmet (a spoof of Darth Vader) starts with Helmet walking past his terrified bridge crew, with cuts to their freaked-out faces. Through it all, we hear the heavy sound of him breathing. Once Helmet gets close enough to the camera, his breath becomes raspy, and he flips up his scary visor, showing the geeky face of comedian Rick Moranis. Mood Whiplash at its finest.
    Dark Helmet: I can't breathe in this thing!
  • Star Wars:
    • Return of the Jedi: Princess Leia reveals herself to Han Solo and to the audience early in the movie, as she'd been masquerading as a mysterious bounty hunter until then.
    • The Force Awakens: Kylo Ren. Paralleling Darth Vader, his maternal grandfather, Ren covers his face with a mask for much of the film. Rey deriding him as a "creature in a mask" leads him to take it off, and the reveal is an effective contrast to the elderly, disfigured Vader. Physically, Ren is an unremarkable, handsome young man.
  • In Gladiator, the title character is forced by his arch-enemy to reveal his identity in the Colosseum. Epic Badass Boast follows. A porn parody Gladiator Eroticus spoofs this scene by having the title character hide behind a series of masks, false beards and a large axe before being exposed.
  • James Bond. The Big Bad of Live and Let Die is Dr. Kananga, a Caribbean dictator who's working in league with an African American gangster called Mr. Big. When Mr. Big captures Bond and tries to interrogate him, Bond stalls for time by saying he'll only talk to Kananga himself. Mr. Big then rips off a Latex Perfection mask to reveal they're the same person.
  • Marvel Cinematic Universe:
    • Midway through Captain America: The First Avenger, Johann Schmidt dramatically peels off his face to reveal his true appearance as the Red Skull.
      Bucky Barnes: [to Steve] You don't have one of those, do you?
      Red Skull: You are deluded, Captain. You pretend to be a simple soldier, but in reality you are just afraid to admit that we have left humanity behind. Unlike you, I embrace it proudly. Without fear!
    • Captain America: The Winter Soldier: HYDRA agents working for Brock Rumlow capture Steve, Natasha and Sam after a shootout, and put them in a van to transport them to a remote location where they're to be shot. Natasha is bleeding out from a gunshot wound she took to her left shoulder during the fight, and Sam tells the guards with them that she needs to be taken to a doctor. One of the guards draws a stun baton as if to threaten Sam... then suddenly tases her partner, and then kicks him in the head, knocking him out. She then takes off her helmet to reveal that she's Maria Hill, someone the heroes can trust to be on their side.
      Maria Hill: Ow... that thing was squeezing my brain! [stares at Sam] Who's this guy?
    • Black Widow (2021) has this happen with Taskmaster. And the 'dramatic' is enhanced, as Natasha mentioning to Dreykov how she caused his daughter Antonia's death during her attempt to assassinate him years ago, is what prompts him to order Taskmaster to remove the mask and reveal that Taskmaster is Antonia, heavily scarred and an Empty Shell of herself.
    • Avengers: Endgame features one when Black Widow makes her presence known to a mysterious hooded figure dispatching someone with a katana. The man removes his hood and turns around to reveal himself as Clint Barton, aka Hawkeye.
    • Spider-Man: No Way Home has one during the Darkest Hour when Ned tries to locate Peter and finds who he thinks is his friend due to his Spider-Man costume. The man removes his mask to reveal the Andrew Garfield incarnation of the character.
  • The Strangers pull this trope off in a different way. When they have the two lead characters tied to chairs, the Serial Killer trio take off their masks. Their faces are never clearly shown to the viewer. This is because they know that the couple won't be alive to tell anyone.
  • Time of the Apes had an example near the end where the humans find themselves in a strange facility with beings wearing surgeon's masks all around. After a chase, one of the beings removes his surgeon's mask to reveal he's human and the main characters are back in their own time.
  • This trope also showed up in one of the actual Planet of the Apes movies: Escape from the Planet of the Apes. In the opening scene, a US military base scrambles to respond when a space shuttle unexpectedly plummets into the Pacific Ocean, along the California coast. At the scene, the soldiers find three figures in space suits emerging from the capsule. They remove their helmets and reveal themselves as... chimpanzees. Specifically, Doctors Zira and Cornelius, major chimp characters from the previous films, along with a new character, Doctor Milo.
  • The Invisible Man (2020) puts a spin on this. For most of the movie, we're lead to believe that the Invisible Man tormenting Cecilia is her abusive ex, Adrian. After she shoots her attacker dead in a climactic moment, however, she removes his Invisibility Cloak to reveal that it was actually Tom, Adrian's brother. Despite this, she insists - and is ultimately proven correct - that it was both of them, working together, as it's already been established that there was more than one invisibility suit. Tom was just a Fall Guy.
  • Spider-Man 2: During the train fight, Peter Parker takes his Spider-Man mask off to see better after Ock destroys the train's brakes and sends it careening out of control. Even with the train being crowded, Peter knows protecting his identity takes a backseat to saving their lives.
  • All three intruders get one by the end of Masquerade (2021):
    • Rose is arguably the least dramatic, since the viewer already knows who she is. Or at least they think they do. However, it's Daniel's reaction that sets the final act reveal in motion.
      Daniel: It's you.
    • The female intruder unmasks herself to gain Casey's trust. More of an emotional impact example as she's not someone we've seen unmasked previously. The woman — played by Skyler Samuels — is never named in the movie itself or the credits.
    • Most dramatic of all is the male intruder, revealed to be a younger Daniel from an art heist that occurred many years previously.

  • Chris Wooding's Broken Sky series has one of these at the end of Act One, where Ryushi learns that the Spirit-Mask Warrior; the one responsible for killing his father is, in fact, his elder brother Takami.
  • A variation in the climax of Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone — Professor Quirrell removes his turban to reveal that Voldemort is hitching a ride.
  • Ivanhoe: Richard the Lionheart has returned to England from the Crusades and reveals himself rather dramatically to his brother John and the noblemen who betrayed him.
  • The Saga of Arrow-Odd: As king of Greece, Odd vows that he will find out the true identity of the mysterious King Quillanus of Novgorod, a great conqueror who always wears a mask. Odd lands an army in Russia and challenges Quillanus to a tournament. After three days of indecisive jousting, both agree that they are equally strong, and Quillanus suggests they make peace with each other. Odd wants to accept on the condition that Quillanus reveals his true identity to him. Quillanus takes off his mask, revealing the scarred face of Odd's arch-enemy Ogmund Eythjofslayer.
  • Deconstructed along with many other tropes in Soon I Will Be Invincible. Supervillain Dr. Impossible dreams of the day he will do this on finally defeating his Arch-Nemesis ColdFire, revealing himself as the nerdy college kid who created ColdFire in a Disastrous Demonstration. When he does so, ColdFire doesn't recognise him at all.
  • Star Wars Legends: While on Adumar, Wedge Antilles wears a lavender half-mask when he doesn't want to be recognized and swarmed by a crowd that half-worships him for his Improbable Piloting Skills. Twice he takes it off to reveal himself to other offworlders, once to Admiral Rogriss, later to Iella Wessiri.
  • The King in Yellow: One of the few quotes from the actual play given appears to have the titular King unmasking himself at the insistence of Cassilda and Camilla.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Arrow
    • In Season One Malcolm Merlyn has two of them. First, when Tommy Merlyn goes to confront his father about cutting off his allowance his father is fencing, and removes his mask to reveal himself as the man who's been involved in a mysterious conspiracy with Moira Queen. In the mid-season finale, Malcolm calls in the Dark Archer to deal with the Hood, but at the end of the episode the Dark Archer removes his own hood to reveal it's actually Malcolm himself.
    • In Season Two, the Canary unmasks for Oliver Queen to reveal herself as Sara Lance, his former lover whom he assumed had died several years before.
    • In Crisis on Earth-X Overgirl and Dark Arrow have Collapsible Helmets they lower to reveal they are the Evil Counterparts of Supergirl and the Green Arrow—first to the audience for a cliffhanger reveal, then to our heroes for an Oh, Crap! reveal.
  • The Mexican talk show Contrapunto ended up playing host to one of these in 1984 when longtime lucha libre icon El Santo publicly unmasked for the first time in his 50-year career. This is widely considered to have been Santo's way of saying goodbye to his fans as he died a week later from a heart attack.
  • Doctor Who:
    • Happens several times in "The Masque of Mandragora", most dramatically when Count Federico tears off Hieronymous's cult mask only to find he's become The Blank.
    • Sharaz Jek does this to himself in "The Caves of Androzani". It is not pretty.
    • For a more pretty result, look at the Pangol clone unmasking itself to Romana at the end of "The Leisure Hive", revealing a flatteringly made-up Fourth Doctor with nude lipstick on (a very lovely sight after he'd spent half the story accidentally aged to the point where his body was going to regenerate of old age).
    • "World Enough and Time": Mr. Razor, the hospital's creepy orderly, confronts Missy while she's checking the colony ship's computers. After a conversation, he pulls off a Latex Perfection mask to reveal himself as her previous incarnation, the Harold Saxon Master.
  • A particularly chilling version of this happens at the end of season four of Gotham. Throughout most of the series, the writers seem to be setting up Jerome Valeska to become the future Joker, while setting up his identical twin brother, Jeremiah (who was introduced later) as his good counterpart. After dying for a second time, it appears that Jerome either left a lot of posthumous recorded messages for both his enemies and his followers, or he has actually come back from the dead again, and is just messing with people. However, then he begins to peel off prosthetic scars during one of the recordings, revealing that the Jerome in the recordings is actually Jeremiah wearing make-up, that he is the one sending the supposedly posthumous messages, that he has been using them to manipulate Jerome's former followers and enemies, and that Jerome has actually been Killed Off for Real this time. Jerome just made sure to drive his brother insane with his insanity toxin before he died, turning Jeremiah into the show's true take on the Joker.
  • Halo (2022). Master Chief doesn't remove his helmet until the climax of the pilot episode. When Kwan Ha holds him at gunpoint, Master Chief points out the rounds would never penetrate his armor. He then unmasks himself and tells her to aim for his head to gain her trust.
  • Parodied in the Grand Finale of Hannah Montana when Miley takes off her wig in front of the audience at The Tonight Show finally revealing her Secret Identity to the entire world.
  • Kamen Rider Build: In the ending of episode 42, the second Build untransformed himself to reveal that he is Shinobu Katsuragi, Sento/the first Build's father.
  • Marvel Cinematic Universe:
    • Daredevil:
      • In the final seconds of season 2, Matt Murdock meets with Karen Page and reveals his secret identity as Daredevil to regain her trust, after the secrecy and lies of his double life had driven her and Foggy Nelson away.
      • At the end of "Reunion," Matt rescues Ray Nadeem and his family as their house is attacked by Wilson Fisk's men in response to Nadeem helping Karen escape from Dex (by deciding that the NYPD gets first dibs with Karen). After they take down the assassins, Nadeem, having realized his other FBI colleagues are also in Fisk's pocket, is uncertain whether he should trust Matt or not. So Matt slowly takes off his mask both as a means of assuring Nadeem he can be trusted, and also as a token of gratitude for Nadeem's help keeping Karen alive.
        Matt Murdock: You saved Karen Page's life tonight. [takes off his mask] So I owe you.
    • Luke Cage: After Cottonmouth tries to kill Luke by blowing up Genghis Connie's with a rocket launcher, Luke manages to free himself from the rubble unscathed. As he's walking away, with his hoodie up, he's accosted by a bunch of reporters who ask him for his name. After a few seconds, Luke turns around, takes off his hood, and says "My name is Luke Cage". This ends up driving Cottonmouth to more desperate measures to recuperate his losses, and Luke to end up in the crosshairs of his half-brother Diamondback.
      • As touched on by Method Man after Luke encounters him in a convenience store, Luke’s willingness to reveal his private identity breaks the superhero sacrament of keeping one’s private identity hidden. This reveal is particularly important as Luke is the premier black superhero.
    • The Defenders: When Matt Murdock and Jessica Jones enter Midland Circle, Matt steals Jessica's scarf to improvise a mask before fighting a bunch of Hand soldiers. He's still wearing the scarf when the two of them, plus Luke Cage and Danny Rand, flee to the Royal Dragon restaurant. Matt spends the first few minutes refusing to unmask himself or introduce himself to the other thinking that doing so will put them in danger. This prompts an exasperated Jessica to take him aside and persuade him to remove the scarf. After a few moments, Matt sighs, removes the scarf, and walks over to rejoin the others.
      Matt Murdock: My name is Matthew.
  • Power Rangers does this for a lot of Sixth Rangers. A particularly memorable one is the White Ranger from the second season, who turns out to be Tommy. It's also quite dramatic when a Ranger is forced to unmask (or re-mask) and reveal his or her identity to a friend or family member who has been outside the loop thus far. Particularly memorable is Wes's cracked helmet revealing his identity to his father and Eric.
  • The Masked Singer concludes every episode with the eliminated contestant being forced to remove their mask.
  • Mystery Science Theater 3000 poked fun at the Time of the Apes example above.
    Being goes to remove his surgeon's mask.
    Crow: And the mystery guest is...
    The mask comes off.
    Crow: Who's that?
  • One Saturday Night Live episode opened with Bill and Hillary Clinton hosting a Halloween costume party for Democrats. One of the attendees is wearing a Barack Obama mask (Obama was running against Hillary in the Democratic primaries). At the end of the sketch, the attendees all start revealing their real identities, although they're all rather obvious anyway. Finally, man in the Obama mask takes it off to reveal that he actually is Barack Obama. note 
  • The Thin Blue Line: In the episode "Rag Week", students are going around town wearing gorilla masks. Later, there is a bank robbery, and the gunmen are wearing gorilla masks. Inspector Fowler believes them to be students having a laugh, and in the manner of a strict teacher, breezily talks them into handing over their guns. He then rips off their "silly masks" to reveal not beardless, spotty-faced students, but sour-looking bearded men.
  • On Top Gear (UK), The Stig's identity is a carefully guarded secret. But on one occasion, the tame racing driver followed up a power lap of the Ferrari FXX with an appearance in the studio and an "interview" with Jeremy. After much encouragement from Jeremy and the studio audience, The Stig finally removed his helmet to reveal his secret identity. It's Michael Schumacher! However, at the end of the episode, Schumacher Stig does a lap in the reasonably priced car and does terribly, leaving Jeremy to comment "You know, I don't think Michael Schumacher is The Stig after all."
  • The Twilight Zone (1959): In "The Masks", the Harpers — Emily, Wilfred, Sr., Wilfred, Jr. and Paula — remove their masks to find that their faces now match the grotesque features of said masks. Later, Dr. Sam Thorne removes Jason Foster's mask. He has retained his normal face but it has an expression of contentment in death.
  • The Untamed:
    • In Episode 34, this occurs in Wei Wuxian and Jiang Cheng's second encounter in the present time, with Wei Wuxian being threatened into revealing his face.
    • Happens again in Episode 42 when Wei Wuxian's true identity is exposed to the rest of the cultivators and he's cornered with nowhere to run.

  • The cover of KISS Unmasked is done comic book style, where the members of KISS take off their masks to reveal their true faces...which look just like their masks.
  • Kilroy Was Here: During the tours, Styx showed a ten-minute movie showcasing Kilroy's escape from jail and meeting up with Jonathan Chance. At the climax, Jonathan learns that a Roboto has found him. He lifts his guitar to strike, and the Roboto lifts his mask in kind, revealing Kilroy...and transitioning to the concert.

  • Inverted in Nan Quest; the Pilgrim's identity is revealed by Henry dramatically donning a mask.

  • The Mrs. Hawking play series: In part IV: Gilded Cages, when Mrs. Chaudhary finally removes her hijab to reveal herself as Malaika Shah, former friend and servant of young Victoria Stanton.
  • In Phantom, Erik removes his mask at Christine's request, showing his deformed face.

    Video Games 
  • ANNO: Mutationem: After Ann manages to prevent Amok's release, the Masked Woman removes her mask, revealing her face and explains her actual identity to Ann before making her leave.
  • Mega Man Battle Network:
    • Mega Man Battle Network 2: An unintentional variation occurs when Lan and Mega Man defeats Bass against Gospel. The energy surge from the battle causes Gospel to be revealed as a disguise for his true self, Sean Obihiro.
    • Mega Man Battle Network 3: White and Blue: At the N1 Grand Prix, a masked Net Battler called Q takes part in the competition. After hit Navi, Desert Man, reveals they're a member of WWW, Q reveals himself to the audience as Sunayama, the host of the event.
  • In Xenosaga episode III, the Red Testament takes off his mask and reveals himself to be Kevin, Shion's dead lover. Also, the White Testement removes his mask, revealing himself to be Albedo, the Big Bad of the second game.
  • Darth Revan takes off the mask in a scene of Knights of the Old Republic. It turns out Revan is the main character!
  • Happens early in Golden Sun with Felix, who'd been presumed dead three years prior.
  • Kingdom Hearts:
  • Master Chief takes off his helmet at the end of Halo: Combat Evolved but his head is conveniently off-screen. And if someone somehow looks at him anyway... he's got another helmet under the first one.
  • Super Mario Bros.:
    • Played for Laughs in Paper Mario: The Thousand-Year Door when "Four-Eyes" reveals himself as Lord Crump after he ambushed them with a X-Naut ship, even though his disguise was paper thin from the get-go.
    • The Shyguy victory animation from Mario Power Tennis actually shows him walking up to the podium where Luigi will give him his trophy, but he trips on the last step before the top, causing his mask to fall off. Luigi sees the Shyguy's face (but the player doesn't) and is freaked out before the Shyguy puts his mask back on and takes his trophy. This was also reused in Mario Strikers Charged Football.
  • An inverted variation happens in Overlord II, where Florian confirms his identity as the Emperor by putting the mask on.
  • Mother 3: The Masked Man removed his mask. The face underneath looked just like Lucas. It was Claus.
  • Persona:
    • Persona 4 has Teddie removing his head to show he's human. In his first try, Yosuke stops him because there's kids watching and they'll be scarred for life when they see an empty mascot.
    • In Persona 5, after the first phase of the fight with Shadow Shido, the Protagonist dramatically removes his Phantom Thief mask to reveal that he is the high school student whom Shido earlier framed for assault after he stopped him from sexually assaulting a woman.
  • Virtue's Last Reward:
    • In Phi's ending, K takes off his mask and armor to reveal that he is the old woman. This is surprising because in K's own ending, which is required in order to unlock the Phi ending, Sigma took off K's mask and saw his own face.
    • The epilogue has a downplayed example. Sigma is approached by Zero I, who removes their signature gas mask and hood to reveal 22-year-old Akane Kurashiki, but the player has long known whose face is behind that particular mask.
  • In Dishonored, the player has the option to do this if they confront Hiram Burrows directly in his safehouse.
  • In Mass Effect 2, Archangel's recruitment mission sees him remove his helmet and reveal his identity to Commander Shepard. It's Garrus Vakarian, squadmate from the first game and a good friend of Shepard's.
  • Final Fantasy:
    • In Final Fantasy VII, during the final flashback to the Nibelheim Incident, one of the Shinra mooks dramatically removes his helmet to reveal Cloud Strife.
    • In Final Fantasy XIV A Realm Reborn, the Ascian Lahabrea removes his mask and hood after the Player Character's rescue mission in a Garlean base, to reveal Thancred underneath.
  • Creepily subverted in Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney – Dual Destinies with the Phantom, who pulls off his mask to reveal... another mask. And another. And another. His breakdown has him tearing off dozens of masks, desperately trying to actually unmask his true face. We never see it.
  • With the game being based around masks, you'd expect this trope to come up in The Legend of Zelda: Majora's Mask. While Kafei does unmask himself in his sidequest, the major example is an inversion. The Skull Kid doesn't take off his masknote , the mask takes off the Skull Kid.
  • Done in Another Century's Episode 3, with Berkt, revealing that he looks exactly the same as the protagonist, Barel Orland.
  • In Until Dawn, the Psycho takes off his mask and it's revealed to be Josh. He also reveals that almost everything that the main cast experienced was a prank, trying to get even on them for inadvertently leading Beth and Hannah to their deaths.
  • In Five Nights at Freddy's 3, rare startup screens show Springtrap partially unmasking himself to reveal a mummified human skull. At the end of the game, an inversion occurs revealing why: the Purple Man, cornered by the spirits, hides inside the only costume he can find — the Springtrap suit. And then the springlocks break...
  • Fire Emblem:
    • Actually inverted in Fire Emblem: Path of Radiance, where a maskless Volke reveals his true identity as an assassin-for-hire in the employ of Ike's late father Greil before putting on a mask as his class changes.
    • Played with in Fire Emblem: Radiant Dawn. The Black Knight removes his helmet at the beginning of "Rebirth Part 2", but Ranulf had already rather anti-climatically revealed him to be Zelgius several chapters beforehand.
  • Darkest Dungeon: The Leper can take off his mask to be more comfortable, but this stresses out his comrades.
  • Super Smash Bros. Ultimate:
    • In the "Vampire Killer" trailer, right after Luigi gets his soul taken out of his body by The Grim Reaper, said Reaper gets slammed in the jaw by a chain whip wielded by a hooded figure seen earlier entering the Haunted Castle where this all took place. The figure dramatically pulls off the hood to reveal Simon Belmont as a new Guest Fighter.
    • In the "Clash of Flames" trailer, Ken Masters is portrayed in a boxing match against Little Mac as the eyes of a mysterious onlooker are seen from the shadows of the entrance hall. Once Ken revels in his victory against Mac, the onlooker suddenly jumps into the ring wearing a hooded boxer's robe. The new challenger burns away the robe to reveal Incineroar as the final new fighter of the base game.
  • In Metroid, it's traditional for Samus to remove her helmet to reveal her face at the end of each game.
  • In Love Live! School Idol Festival ALL STARS:
    • During Rina Tennoji's individual Chapter 12, she eventually takes off her trademark face-painted board, revealing her face. This reveal is done a bit differently from others - this is a reveal to series' fans rather than ingame characters (as she had done it occasionally before that).
    • In addition, the reveal happens a few days before the real counterpart's live concert, which catches many fans off guard as they believe that the reveal won't happen in a foreseeable timeframe.
  • Played for Laughs in Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of the Patriots when the series' Butt-Monkey Johnny Sasaki finally removes his mask to give CPR to Meryl and, after four games of getting his ass whupped, having diarrhea, and making a complete fool of himself, he's revealed to be a total adonis under that mask.
  • Just before you fight Leibniz in Blaster Master Zero III, Leibniz removes (or rather, breaks) his mask and reveals himself to the player, but only the player. The reveal is that the asshole who's been snarking at you for the past two games is actually a woman.
  • Spider-Man (Insomniac):
    • Played with in Spider-Man (PS4), as the one person that Spider-Man takes off his mask for, his Aunt May, already knows his secret identity and simply wants to see his face one last time before dying.
    • In Spider-Man: Miles Morales, Miles unmasks himself before the Tinkerer, aka. his best friend Phin Mason, in a bid to dissuade her from fighting him and continuing her crusade against Roxxon. It doesn't work as well as he hopes.
  • Xenoblade Chronicles 3 features several members of the perpetually masked Moebius doing this, most notably J (to reveal himself as the Kevesi team's dead childhood friend Joran) and N and M (revealing themselves as having identical appearances to Noah and Mio).

    Web Animation 
  • Helluva Boss: Downplayed in that it's not really a mask and he's not covering his face, but in "Mammon's Magnificent Musical", in the middle of an argument with Asmodeus (who already knows who he is), Fizzarolli removes his Happy Harlequin Hat to reveal his broken horns, which were destroyed in the circus fire that left him covered in scars years ago. Fizz uses the hat to cover up what he sees as his "imperfections", and he shows them to Asmodeus to make a point about what he believes he is without his boss Mammon. It's also the first time the viewers get to see his broken horns and scarred head clearly.
  • One Strong Bad Email from Homestar Runner is actually about Strong Bad finally taking off his mask. Unfortunately, we never get to see him without his mask on as his head is actually blocked by his new armchair in which he bought from Bubs in the same Email. Given his repeated statements that the mask is his face, plus the horrific screams when he pulls it off, this was probably for the best.
  • Second season of If the Emperor Had a Text-to-Speech Device ends with Centurion taking his mask off, revealing himself to be Lord Rogal Dorn.
  • RWBY:
    • At the end of the Volume 2 episode "Breach", the mysterious samurai who saved Yang the previous episode takes off her mask to reveal herself as Raven Branwen, who greatly resembles her daughter Yang Xiao Long.
    • Throughout the series, Adam Taurus has always worn a Grimm-like visor over his eyes. The few times he hasn't worn the visor, his eyes were always off-camera. In Volume 6 Chapter 11, he finally shows that while he has normal blue eyes, the left has been damaged by a brand shaped like "SDC" and is clearly not functioning.

    Web Comics 
  • In Astray 3, Emily does this in the most dramatic way she can in order to stop a Powder Keg Crowd from hurting her friends. Ends up being chased for several chapters, but hey.
  • Heroes of Inkopolis has Angelo finally take off his mask in front of Team Vitamin INK, to reveal that he's part Octoling. He had worn the mask for the longest time because he was afraid that others wouldn't accept him as he is besides his Understanding Girlfriend Orca, so the reveal was a very big deal to him. Once they accepted him, he never wore it again.
  • Tarquin from The Order of the Stick invokes this when he reveals that he is Elan's father, and inadvertently plays it straight in front of Roy and Belkar, who see the family resemblance. Downplayed in the latter instance when they cover for their surprise by pretending to be stunned by his good looks.
  • A flashback in Strong Female Protagonist centers on a variant that happened during a live television interview when (after fielding a series of public policy questions despite admitting repeatedly how out of her depth she was) a frustrated Mega-Girl rips off her Domino Mask,note  announces her real name, age, and birthplace,note  tells everyone she has no idea what the fuck she is doing; and storms off the set.

    Web Original 
  • How to Hero has an entire entry on how to do this for maximum dramatic effect.

    Web Videos 

    Western Animation 
  • Spoofed in an episode of American Dad!, where Roger poses as a teacher and his Dead Poets Society teaching backfires and leads a student to murder his own father. Roger confesses that he's not really a professor and pulls the patches off the elbows of his jacket, to which the student reacts as if he had just unmasked.
  • The Avengers: Earth's Mightiest Heroes follows up a fight between the Avengers and Black Panther with the latter removing his mask to reveal himself as not just any intruder, but Wakandan prince T'Challa.
  • The last episode of Batman Beyond had Terry pull off his mask during a rescue attempt in order to convince a kid that it was okay to trust him. Bruce is understandably livid, explaining that because: a) the kid knows what Terry looks like and b) he said he saw Batman's face when he was interviewed afterwards, every villain in the city will be after him for that information. It gets subverted when, subjected to a mental probe, the kid has already replaced Terry's face with the face of his favorite cartoon hero.
  • Ben 10: Ultimate Alien features the return of villainous Time Master Eon. He's going from timeline to timeline, trying to wipe out every Ben Tennyson, not just the one who foiled him (who turns out not to be ours; Race Against Time was an AU.) His Mooks get unwillingly unmasked first; for the full impact, read the "someone else unmasks him" section first. No, really. We'll wait. Okay, after that, Eon gives us his Motive Rant, and finally takes off his own helmet: he is in fact also an alternate Ben, who feels There Can Be Only One. Of course, this clashes with the portrayal of Eon in Race Against Time, but this could always be a different Eon.
  • In the Grand Finale of Danny Phantom, after Danny saves the world, he reveals his half ghost status to his parents, as well as a dozen other people. Fanon likes to exaggerate whether or not the whole world knows the truth.
  • In Big Hero 6: The Series, the aforementioned superhero team unmask themselves when Professor Granville reveals that she knows their identities, and won't reveal them.
  • Virtually every woman with a speaking part who isn't a regular on the old G.I. Joe cartoon was, in fact, either the Baroness or Zaranna in disguise, complete with a scene in which she pulled off a Mission: Impossible-style face mask to reveal her true identity to the always astounded Joes. Especially hilarious in one episode where a woman wearing glasses turned out to be the Baroness wearing her usual glasses under a mask which had its own pair of glasses.
  • Hot Wheels: AcceleRacers has the ending of the fourth movie, where The Hero Vert Wheeler is being held captive by the mysterious Silencerz. When he asks them who exactly they are and what they are trying to hide, none of their members answer. Instead, their leader decides to approach him and remove his helmet. He's revealed to be none other than Major Wheeler, his own father.
  • Justice League and Justice League Unlimited: While neither character's Secret Identity is ever a plot point, both Hawkgirl's and The Question's unmaskings are presented as dramatic, romantic scenes.
    • Invoked but averted during the "Freaky Friday" Flip episode "The Great Brain Robbery" — Lex Luthor, while in the Flash's body, decides to take off his mask and check a mirror. However, he has no idea who he's looking at. Makes sense, as the Flash's identity, Wally West, is just a white collar worker in the DCAU, a forensics expert in Keystone City, not somebody Luthor would have any reason to even know exists.
      • This is also an inside joke aimed at the actor who voices Flash in the JLA animated series, Michael Rosenbaum, who also plays Lex Luthor on Smallville.
      • Same thing once happened in the comics. Heat Wave, one of Barry Allen's Rogues, finally got his old enemy's mask off but didn't recognize him. (This can trigger a little Fridge Logic: why do bad guys think they'll recognize the hero with his mask off, anyway?) Barry then had to worry that the villain might someday put a name to the face he'd seen, but Heat Wave's eventual Heel–Face Turn removed that danger.
      • This trope backfired a little differently on Manfred Mota, a one-shot villain. Mota had fought the first two Flashes and thought they were the same man in different costumes. When he powered himself up to fight the third, he won easily, and triumphantly unmasked his foe to the public — who already knew. Wally West had recently made his identity public. Oops.
    • End of season 2: To avoid detection from an occupying army, Martian Manhunter suggests hiding in plain sight in civilian clothes. Not a problem for MM, Wonder Woman, and Green Lantern, who don't have secret identities to begin with, leaving just Flash, Superman, and Batman. Flash expresses doubt, saying that while he trusts everybody, he's not sure if he's ready to reveal his identity. Batman, completely living up to his legacy, proceeds to list off their identities, ending with himself as he pulls off his cowl. As Flash puts it "...Showoff."
  • The Legend of Korra: Amon's face is revealed twice. When Korra confronts him in the auditorium, she asks him to take it off and he does, but he has put suitable makeup on that makes it look like he got burned. However, the next time (and last time) his mask comes off is in the water in Yue Bay when he is thrown out the window of the pro-bending arena; his mask then floats to the surface.
  • Regular Show: In one episode, Muscle Man's trailer is confiscated by a corrupt health inspector, who reveals himself to be the runner-up from the hot dog eating contest Muscle Man had won the trailer in years ago. Played for laughs as his "disguise" is literally just a pair of glasses, and the viewer didnt know he had existed 10 minutes ago when he was briefly seen in a flashback and no animosity of any sort was implied. What makes it even funnier is the dramatic music and Muscle Man's realization when the inspector reveals himself.
  • Samurai Jack: A Villain Episode introduces a mysterious Darth Vader-esque bounty hunter who sits in the dark while the other bounty hunters are discussing their respective plans to kill Jack and points out the flaws in each of them. The mysterious bounty hunter unmasks herself as Princess Mira from a land enslaved by Aku.
  • South Park: Subverted. Cartman convinces fourth-grade superhero Mysterion to take off his mask and reveal his identity in order to prevent threats to public safety (à la The Dark Knight); Mysterion complies, only to reveal that because the face of just about every fourth-grader on the show looks exactly the same, it is impossible for the viewers to know his true identity. Cartman and the rest of the characters, however, recognize him immediately. In a later episode, it is revealed that Mysterion is Kenny.
  • The Spectacular Spider-Man: In the episode "The Uncertainty Princliple", Spider-Man (while on the phone with Gwen as Peter Parker) lands at the Halloween carnival right behind Gwen. He quickly unmasks, passing off his suit as a Halloween costume, and remains unmasked the whole time he's at the carnival. Downplayed in that Peter unmasked casually and nothing super dramatic resulted from it (other than some of the girls at the carnival flirting with him).
  • Spider-Man and His Amazing Friends: Spidey unmasks himself because he wants to show trust to Angelica and Bobby, who he's figured out are Firestar and Iceman, respectively. And they're both shocked to discover he is Peter. Particularly Bobby.
  • Star Trek: Lower Decks: In "No Small Parts", the captain of the attacking warship takes off his face-concealing helmet to reveal that he's a Pakled and that his people went from being a joke to a serious threat.
  • Teen Titans (2003): Twice in one episode by Robin, appropriately named Masks. He turns out to be Red X, wearing his Robin mask under the Red X mask. Unfortunately, it was insanely obvious since Scott Menville sounds the same in every role he plays.

    Real Life 
  • This news story about a would-be real-life superhero on trial:
    Jones put his mask back on after the hearing to speak with reporters — then dramatically removed it again to reveal his true identity.
  • On January 26, 1984, legendary luchador wrestler and folk hero El Santo unexpectedly lifted his mask to show his face in public for the first and only time during a TV interview as a way of bidding goodbye to his many fans. He died of a heart attack a week and a half later.

Unmasked by Other Characters

    Anime & Manga 
  • In Magical Girl Lyrical Nanoha A's, Chrono captures and forcibly removes the disguise of the Mysterious Protector, sending the mask spinning, revealing them to be the Cat Girl familiars of Gil Graham.
  • During the Fourth Shinobi World War (Ten-Tail Revival Arc) of Naruto, the Masked Man of the Akatsuki is finally unmasked by Naruto! The revelation of the man behind the mask is quite a shock for both the protagonists and the audience; the man is the long thought-dead Obito Uchiha.
  • An interesting aversion occurs in Jubei-chan season 2, Ninja Mikage manages to unmask Freesia in a fight....but Freesia is in her adult form, and has never used it for anything but fighting the main characters; so it's meaningless.
  • Yuri Killian does this in Kaleido Star to confirm his suspicion that the mysterious "masked performer" showing up his newly-bought Kaleido Stage is really Layla Hamilton, who allegedly quit performing.
  • At the climax of the first season of Code Geass, Suzaku shoots Zero's mask, splitting it in half and revealing Lelouch's face under it. This act is pretty much entirely symbolic, since it's all but said that Suzaku had already figured things out but didn't want to admit that Lelouch, his best friend since they were children, could be Zero.
  • In Sailor Moon, while Tuxedo Mask's identity is known rather early to the audience, some versions still do this scene.
    • The first anime has Zoisite knock off his mask - but in a subversion, nobody except Beryl and Zoisite see his face.
    • The manga actually does this out of order - after rescuing an unconscious Sailor Moon in battle, Tuxedo Mask takes her back to his apartment. When she wakes up, she sees Mamoru, still wearing some of his uniform but otherwise already unmasked. He lets her put his mask on his face as she puts two and two together.
    • In Pretty Guardian Sailor Moon, Moon realizes who he is when they unknowingly replay an argument they've had earlier on in their civilian guises. She slowly reaches to unmask him and Mamoru realizing the jig is up, doesn't resist.
  • Astro Boy, 1980 series: In the episode "The Time Machine", a detective pursuing an escaped criminal gets tangled in a situation involving a kingdom being threatened with invasion. With Astro's help, the invasion is defeated and the leader of the invading army is unmasked as the same criminal he was looking for in the first place.
  • Bleach: Sajin Komamura blocks an attack on his friend using his helmet, breaking it apart and revealing that he is an anthropomorphic wolf. While the scene is played up a bit for drama, no one present actually cares what he looks like.
  • One Piece: This trope is toyed with in one point where it's strongly implied that the other characters have met Iron Mask Duval before. (Luffy even claims that the crew should know his face.) When Duval's helmet is finally kicked off, it turns out that Duval is a total stranger. The crew only knew his face because it was identical to the poorly done sketch used by the Marines for Sanji's wanted poster.
  • Schwarz Bruder from Mobile Fighter G Gundam is eventually seen without his mask near the end of the series (although one character had already seen his face before that point) and at this point it is revealed that Schwarz Bruder is actually Kyoji Kasshu.
  • In Kinnikuman's Dream Tag Arc, the Hell Missionaries tag team, Neptuneman and Big the Budo do this as a finishing move; their Cross Bomber (A two-man lariat from front and back) forces a mask off from the sheer impact. They also have Mask The End, a move where they spin around their target and peel their mask off like an apple. During the arc, the Hell Missionaries successfully unmask Robin Mask, Warsman, Mongolman (Revealing that he's Ramenman), Ashuraman (Revealing that his normal-angry-cold faces are masks hiding his starry-eyed faces) and the second Kinnikuman Great, revealing Terryman took the role after the original Great, Prince Kamehame, died mid-tournament. Their reason for doing so is that according to them, being a masked choujin was once a symbol of power, but now any "inferior" (IE, anyone who isn't a Perfect Choujin like them) can put one on. During the match, Kinnikuman and Terryman break Big the Budo's mask, revealing that he's actually Neptune King, the true Don of the Perfect Choujin.
    • ** Ultimate Muscle: Kevin Mask attempts to do this in the Chōjin Grand Prix to Kid Muscle, but Kid Muscle is able to keep his mask on by biting onto it. If Kevin Mask had succeeded, this would have meant Kid Muscle would have had to commit ritual suicide (original Japanese source), or would be banned from ever wrestling again (4Kids Dub). Even Doc Nakano (the announcer Mac Metaphor's side-commentator) comments on the oddity that what little we see of Kid Muscle's face is actually of relatively normal human-like appearance.

    Comic Books 
  • Captain America: Subverted when Captain America fights the Scourge of the Underworld, and takes his mask off to find... it's some random guy he's never met before! The Scourge even points out the absurdity of expecting it to be someone he knew.
  • Darkwing Duck: A comic in Disney Adventures had Mondo the Mad Mask Misappropriator, who unmasks heroes. He almost gets Darkwing but he had several masks on under his Domino Mask.
  • The Flash: In the Story Arc The Trial of the Flash, Barry Allen's lawyer, having guessed who he is, decides this would be a huge mitigating factor; no jury will convict a man for saving his bride-to-be from his first wife's murderer. So she unmasks him in open court — to reveal a face we've never seen before. The explanation? Barry recently took severe facial damage in a fight and was fixed up by his friend Solovar in Gorilla City. At that time he asked for a favour, and now we know what it was: instead of repairing his old face, he had Solovar make him a new one, right down to the hair color. (Barry's life was a mess at this point, and he intended to start a new one after the trial.) This wrecks his lawyer's plan, but Barry is ultimately acquitted anyway, and he gets his old face back in time for his big Heroic Sacrifice in the Crisis.
  • Spider-Man:
    • Roger Stern's original run on The Amazing Spider-Man (1963) in the 1980s introduced the Hobgoblin, the fourth replacement of the then-deceased original Green Goblin. Unfortunately, the mystery of the Hobgoblin's true identity was dragged out for literally years on end and as various writers and editors took the place of Stern and Danny Fingeroth, it was forgotten whom Roger Stern had intended the Hobgoblin to be. The way Tom DeFalco continued the saga made many people think that it was Ned Leeds, only Christopher Priest (then Jim Owsley) sabotaged that by summarily killing off Ned Leeds in Spider Man Vs Wolverine #1. In the end the matter was dropped into Peter David's lap to resolve at short notice in one issue, and he decided that Leeds had been the Hobgoblin all along. It wasn't until Stern returned for a few issues to the Spider-titles years later that he had the real Hobgoblin returned and Spider-Man unmasked him as fashion mogul Roderick Kingsley. Many fans cheered, but many others reacted with: "Who???" The "real Hobgoblin" subsequently had his ass handed to him by the original Green Goblin (returning from the dead) and wasn't used in the mainstream Spider-books for several years, not returning until a brief appearance during "Big Time".
    • Subverted even more in the original Amazing Spider-Man series where Doctor Octopus unmasks him in front of the other students who immediately recognize Peter but refuse to believe a geek like him could possibly be Spider-Man. They even convince Doc Ock himself that he caught not the real Spidey but just some kid in a Cheap Costume, preserving Peter's secret.
  • Ultimate Marvel:
    • Ultimate Galactus Trilogy: Inverted. The audience has already seen that the scientist Phil Lawson is actually an alien with an armor. When he was captured and took it off (something that SHIELD couldn't figure out how to do themselves, being alien tech), Carol Danvers was taken by surprise. But then, she realized it's not that Phil Lawson is an alien, it's that there is no "Phil Lawson". Phil Lawson is the mask, it has always been an alien infiltrating them as a scientist.
    • Subverting this is a Running Gag in Ultimate Spider-Man. Peter Parker gets dramatically unmasked frequently, but no one ever has any idea who he is, since he's just some high school student.
  • Watchmen: Both the comic and the movie shows the police finally apprehending and forcefully unmasking Rorschach. To the surprise of the audience, he turns out to be a previously introduced background character.
  • Wonder Woman: In Sensation Comics, Wonder Woman unmasks the villain the Blue Snowman, whose been terrorizing a small town, by removing her helmet in front of everyone and showing that the local respected school teacher Byrna Brilyant's real personality is quite a bit more vicious and greedy than anyone imagined.

    Fan Works 
  • Fire Emblem: Three Houses fanfics:
    • In The Ghost of Ochs, Byleth unmasks the Death Knight as Jeritza during their battle in the caverns near Abyss. Yuri, Balthus, and Monica are all surprised by the revelation, with Monica also getting angry at Jeritza and considering turning him over to Rhea for punishment, a proposal that Byleth rejects because she doesn't want to provoke the Flame Emperor until she's fully prepared to fight them.
    • In You'll Get No Answers from the Blue Sea Star, a mysterious group of riders is seen riding away from the monastery after an attack; they try to hide their faces, but Jo catches up and manages to unmask the one who appears to be leading them - Princess Edelgard. War with the Empire begins soon afterwards.
  • Vow of Nudity: Comically inverted, thanks to the series focus on nudity. Kay'la is a nudist paladin who goes around claiming to be "the world's first naked knight," until the day a mysterious adversary challenges her to a duel in the local gladiatorial arena. Mid-fight, he reveals his true intentions by casting dispel glamour on her to reveal she's secretly been wearing full plate mail the whole time!

    Films — Animation 
  • In The Adventures of Tintin, Sir Haddock has a very intense sword fight with Red Racham, which he manages to win (while also blowing up the ship and avenging his slain men). After bringing Recham to his knees, Haddock uses his sword to take off the pirate's mask, revealing to the audience that he's the ancestor of Saccharine.
  • Aladdin: Happens to Aladdin with his Prince Ali disguise (first by Jasmine, then by Jafar), although without an actual mask.
  • Batman: Under the Red Hood. During a Rooftop Confrontation struggle, the Red Hood tears off Batman's mask. So just to play fair Red Hood removes his mask to reveal his own Secret Identity (though in this case each person already knows or suspects who the other is). He then kicks the red hood mask over to Batman, where it explodes.
  • In Big Hero 6, after Baymax knocks off Yokai's mask with Hiro thinking that Krei is actually Yokai, he finds out instead that Yokai was actually his treacherous teacher Professor Callaghan, who seemingly died in a fire alongside his older brother Tadashi. Hiro does not take this very well.
  • The Makuta's defeat in BIONICLE: Mask of Light involves Takanuva unmasking him after Makuta brags that his evil actions had no ill intent, he was under the Mask of Shadows' influence. In something of a twist, we don't get to know Makuta's supposed "true" self once his mask is removed, as the two immediately stumble into a liquid that merges them into the titan Takutanuva who is dominated by Takanuva's good personality.
  • Cars 2 features a variation of this: At the end of the film, Mater actually lifts up Miles Axlerod's hood to confirm the fact that he is really the evil mastermind behind the Lemons.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • Humorously subverted in Austin Powers: International Man of Mystery. When Basil Exposition introduces Austin to his rather butch mother, Austin punches her out, tells him "That's not your mother! It's a man, baby!", and tries to pull off her hair, believing it to be a mask.
  • In Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, during Bruce's "Knightmare" vision, he's unmasked by the evil future Superman before being executed.
  • The Black Hole: Dr Durant removes the shiny metal faceshield of one of Dr. Reinhardt's androids to reveal a lobotomised human face underneath. Things rapidly go From Bad to Worse for Durant and everyone else.
  • In the made-for-HBO film Blackout (1985), Chris knocks her leather-mask-wearing attacker unconscious, and takes the opportunity to remove his mask. The film shows us her horrified reaction before it shows us his face, because it’s the most terrible possible outcome. It’s not Steiner, or Mike Patterson, or any unknown assailant: it’s her own husband Allen Devlin; her (and our) worst fears have come true after all.
  • William Wallace in Braveheart unmasks one of his opponents in the Battle of Falkirk, revealing him to be Robert the Bruce, who William thought was an ally.
  • In Captain America: The Winter Soldier, Steve rips off the Winter Soldier's mask during their fight and is shocked to discover that the Soldier is actually his presumed-dead best friend Bucky Barnes.
    Steve Rogers: ...Bucky?
    Bucky Barnes: Who the hell is Bucky?
  • Daredevil (2003)
    • Elektra wrongly believes that Daredevil killed her father, and refuses to believe otherwise until after she stabs him with a sai and then rips off his mask to discover he's her boyfriend.
    • Kingpin unmasks Matt Murdock during the final battle and is rather amused to find he's the "blind lawyer" he met earlier. After Matt gets the better of Kingpin but refuses to kill him, Kingpin threatens to reveal his Secret Identity to the world, only for Matt to point out that it would seriously harm his Villain Cred to admit that he had been "beaten by a blind man."
  • The Dark Knight Rises:
    • Bane's Red Right Hand is his mask, so this trope is fulfilled by having him introduced as a bound and hooded prisoner. When the CIA agent realizes his prisoner is a lot more important than some faceless goon, he takes off the hood to reveal Bane, breathing mask and all.
    • Bane unmasking Batman as Bruce Wayne in their first fight. Unlike normal variants, he does this verbally by saying, "Let's not stand on ceremony here.... Mr. Wayne."
  • Ever After: when the Wicked Stepmother unmasks Danielle at the Masquerade Ball, it wouldn't really matter - except she then proceeds to tear Danielle's false identity to shreds.
  • Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3: At the end of the movie, after the Guardians curbstomp the High Evolutionary, Gamora grabs him by the neck, and tears off the rubber mask he wears over his face to conceal the horrific injuries that Rocket inflicted on him many years ago.
    Drax: His face came off!
    Rocket Raccoon: It's a mask.
    The High Evolutionary: LOOK WHAT YOU DID TO ME! For what?! All I wanted to do... was to make things... PERFECT!
  • Halloween (1978): The film's opening scene ends with the figure who murdered Judith Myers having their mask removed to reveal... a six-year-old boy.
  • The Legend of Zorro has the eponymous hero being captured and unmasked by the bad guys, who also have his wife and child in tow. Elena already knows his identity as do the audience; the only important character it's a reveal for is his son.
  • In the 1977 version of The Man in the Iron Mask, King Louis sees someone dressed like himself at a Masquerade Ball. He gets a nasty shock when he removes this man's mask to find his identical twin looking back at him.
  • Momentum features one during the opening heist sequence. During a struggle with a psychotic crew member, the lead robber's mask comes off to reveal the female protagonist Alex.
  • Mystery of the Wax Museum: Igor's wax mask is shattered by Charlotte when he captures her in the workroom; revealing his hideously disfigured face underneath.
  • Lord d'Arcy unmasks the Phantom in The Phantom of the Opera (1962) when he confronts him, and promptly runs away at the sight of his face, never to be seen again.
  • Prom Night (1980): The killer's identity is revealed when Kim removes their mask as they lie dying on the ground.
  • In the beginning of Scream (1996), Casey manages to unmask Ghostface, but this is subverted in that only Casey gets to see the face underneath the mask whereas the audience is still left in the dark, at least until the climax of the film.
  • Parodied in Shriek If You Know What I Did Last Friday the 13th, wherein the villain has so many masks that the characters unmasking him eventually grow bored and the unmasking itself stops being dramatic.
  • Both subverted and played straight in Spider-Man 2. While saving a train full of people, the lenses on Peter's mask are damaged and he rips the whole thing off to see better. Later, when he's recovering with the help of the people he saved, it's not dramatic because no one recognizes him, and they give him his mask back in gratitude. He's got it back on by the time Ock shows up to recapture Peter, and then the straight variant happens as Ock delivers Peter to Harry Osborn, who rips the mask off and does recognize him.
  • The extended cut of Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country reveals that the Klingon sniper at the peace conference is Colonel West, the Starfleet officer who proposed rescuing Kirk and McCoy and risking war with the Klingon Empire.
  • Star Wars: The ending of Return of the Jedi has Luke remove Darth Vader's mask as his Last Request following his Heroic Sacrifice and return to the light side. After three full films of build up as The Dreaded and a Fallen Hero, it's revealed that underneath all that was a sad and heartbroken crippled old man who gets one final moment with his son before his death.
  • At the climax of Trick 'r Treat, Mr. Kreeg pulls the burlap sack off of Sam's head to reveal he is a Pumpkin Person! Sam laughs evilly as Kreeg gasps in horror.

  • Black Amazon of Mars, by Leigh Brackett. Lord Ciaran, a Sweet Polly Oliver who's always clothed in black armor and full helmet, is unmasked during battle with the hero Eric John Stark, to the shock of everyone (well, except the reader) including her own soldiers. Given the morals of the time, her men have a choice between killing her on the spot or following her into battle. Fortunately the enemy see this as an opportunity to attack given that The Dreaded Lord Ciaran has been exposed as a 'mere' woman, so everyone has to rally behind her or be killed. She thanks Stark afterwards as the secret was bound to come out sometime, so best it occurs when no-one has a chance to think things through.
  • At the end of the third book of Guardians of Ga'Hoole, the antagonist - who is only known under the nickname "Metal Beak" because of his mask - is revealed to be Kludd, the big brother of the main protagonist.
  • Isaac Asimov and Janet Asimov: Norby, the Mixed-Up Robot: The Wells brothers launch a two-pronged attack, with Jeff in Admiral Yobo's private scout ship through the window and Fargo leading a mob through the doors, catching Ing in between. Norby lands himself on top of Ing, knocking off his mask in the process, revealing him to be Gridlow, the agent who tried to expel Jeff in the first chapter.
  • Ivanhoe: The title character hides his identity behind the visor of his helmet in a tournament. After the second day of fighting, he is unmasked by two zealous attendants. Also a Secret Stab Wound reveal.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Arrow. In Season One, the Dark Archer Malcolm Merlyn defeats the Hood and goes to unmask him, but Oliver Queen is able to get free before this happens. Malcolm learns from this and in their next confrontation makes sure Oliver has been knocked out first—he's shocked to find, on removing the Hood's hood, the son of his co-conspirator Moira Queen.
  • Doctor Who: In "The Talons of Weng-Chiang", Leela unmasks the villain, Magnus Greel, to reveal his horrific-looking face.
  • Heroes: In "A Clear And Present Danger", Claire is unmasked to Nathan revealing her as one of the black-hooded and drugged prisoners at the airport. She's eventually let go at Nathan's request. Later in the final scene of the next episode, "Trust And Blood", a recaptured Tracy is black-hooded again, kept in a van before Nathan unmasks her. Unfortunately for Tracy, she is re-drugged and is black-bagged again as Nathan walks away in the final shot.
  • On Jack of All Trades, Captain Brogard once had the opportunity to rip off the mask of "the Daring Dragoon" and reveal his secret identity... except that Jack was wearing a second mask underneath the one Brogard ripped off!
  • The Mandalorian: the first-season finale, when the droid IG-11 exploits the loophole of droids not technically being living things to remove the title character's helmet to treat a head injury. This is the first time in the entire series that the audience sees his face.
  • Marvel Cinematic Universe:
    • Daredevil: At the end of "Speak of the Devil", Foggy learns that Matt is the Devil of Hell's Kitchen when he discovers him bleeding out in his apartment from being attacked by Wilson Fisk and Nobu. Matt learns not to make the same mistake with Karen, which is why he willingly tells her the secret.
    • The Defenders: In "Mean Right Hook", Danny and Colleen catch a cleanup crew preparing to break down the bodies of some fallen Chaste soldiers with acid. Danny manages to corner one of them outside, and rips off the guy's mask, revealing it to be Cole Miller, a street kid from Harlem that Misty Knight has tasked Luke with keeping an eye on. Moments later, Luke shows up, having followed Cole's crew after seeing them getting into a work van elsewhere in Harlem, and gets into a fight with Danny.
    • The Punisher:
      • In "Two Dead Men", Frank Castle, acting on information from Karen Page about Micro, dons a ski mask and breaks into Carson Wolf's house to accost him. After a drawn-out fight, he ties Wolf to a chair and tortures him for info. But he's deliberately left the restraints loose enough for Wolf to free himself, get the gun away from Frank and rip off his mask.
        Carson Wolf: Holy shit! You don't know how to die, do you? This is rich. [laughs bitterly]
      • In "Cold Steel", Billy Russo and some PMC contractors loaned to him by Rawlins ambush Dinah Madani, Sam Stein and a bunch of DHS SWAT officers accompanying them when they are tricked (by Madani feeding false information into Rawlins' bug) into going to a warehouse where they think they will capture Frank meeting with a gun dealer. Stein manages to corner a masked Russo outside as he's trying to flee and draws his pistol on him. He advances on Russo and pulls his mask off. Stein freezes up in shock, and Russo swiftly disarms him of his gun and stabs him to death with a concealed knife.
        Billy Russo: Who's pretty now?
    • Hawkeye:
      • In "Never Meet Your Heroes", Kate Bishop is eavesdropping on an auction where various items recovered from the Avengers Compound are being sold off, including her childhood idol Clint Barton's old Ronin costume and sword. When the auction is attacked by members of the Tracksuit Mafia, Kate dons the costume to take them on. She's caught on camera fleeing the scene afterwards, which gets Clint's attention when he hears about it on the news (as he's in New York with his kids for Christmas). He goes out to confront this person, and ends up saving Kate as she's being ambushed by the Tracksuits. He drags her into a nearby alley, and roughly rips the mask off. Clint is in disbelief over the fact that his costume ended up in the hands of a young woman, while Kate can't believe that her idol of all people came to her rescue.
        Clint Barton: Come on!
        Kate Bishop: [awestruck] You're... You're Hawkeye!
        Clint Barton: And who the hell are you?
      • In "Partners, Am I Right?", as Kate is searching Maya's apartment and comes under attack from her, Clint finds himself under attack from a masked assailant on the roof of the building across the street. Kate and Maya eventually join him in the fight, and Maya is briefly taken out when the masked assailant uses Widow's Bites to shock her. This leads Clint to realize that they're fighting a Black Widow. Eventually, he's able to rip her mask off, revealing her to be Yelena Belova. Realizing her identity has been compromised, Yelena chooses to cut her losses and flee.
  • The Prisoner (1967):
    • Done in the finale with Number One. Turns out that Number One is a monkey. Only that happens to be a mask as well, so there's another Dramatic Unmask. This time, it reveals Number Six.
    • In an earlier episode, A, B, and C, Number Six's dreams are being tapped into and viewed by Number Two. In his dream, No. 6 makes a big show of unmasking the mystery man behind his resignation... Number Two! It turns out 6 got wise to the dream tapping technique and fixed it so he could consciously alter his dream and mess with his captors' heads.
  • Police Squad!: Played for Rule of Funny in the climax of the first episode. Drebin confronts the clerk who committed the murder, and reveals that he knows that before she was a clerk, she had another identity, and then rips off her wig to reveal her true hair color. Then he reveals that she had another identity before that, and rips off another wig. And it keeps going through roughly half a dozen prior identities, all of which she was still wearing the disguises for one over the other, and some of which could not possibly have been concealed under the wigs that were layered on top.
  • The Professionals. In "Klansman", CI5 are investigating a white supremacy group that's adopted the hooded outfits of the KKK. Turns out a crooked real estate dealer is using them as a front to force poor black residents from their homes so he can sell them at a higher price. Doyle discovers this when he shoots a couple of Klansmen, then removes their hoods to find a couple of black henchmen.
  • The Adventures of Slim Goodbody: Agent B-12 has removed the Paper Thin Disguise of the villains called The Gobbler and Stuffin' dramatically on camera, revealing who they really are. And she's done it twice, no less!
  • Star Trek: Picard. Jean Luc Picard, posing as a black market organ trader, pretends to have caught Seven of Nine and twice hams up the Dramatic Unmask when he pulls the black hood off her head. It's a dramatic unmask In-Universe as well, as it turns out the organ trader he's selling her to is a prior acquaintance of Seven.

  • In Cirqus Voltaire, completing "Unmask Voltaire" reveals that the Ringmaster is actually Madame Voltaire, who was also the Announcer throughout the game.
  • Done by the player in The Phantom of the Opera. The glass is decorated on both sides, with the hat and mask on the front, and the Phantom's true face on the back. At certain times during the game, the flashers behind the glass light up, allowing spectators to see his disfigured face through the mask.

  • Averted in Red Panda Adventures since the Red Panda and the Flying Squirrel have booby-trapped their masks to give a nasty electric shock to any bad guys to might try to remove them. Being that getting captured by the bad guys (to encourage Evil Gloating) is one of their stock techniques, a way to prevent the dramatic unmask is essential.

  • The Phantom of the Opera, especially the silent film.
    • Although, in the 2004 adaptation, many people found the unmasking during "The Point of No Return" more Narm than drama thanks to the Phantom looking like he has a slightly bloated face instead of the horrific disfigurement he acts like he has.
    • The Musical has Christine unmasking him twice, but only once can the audience see.
    • In the UK tour celebrating the show's 25th anniversary, she only does it once. The first time she sees him unmasked, he's removed it himself with his back to her and she pulls him to face her.

    Video Games 
  • Whenever Kirby defeats Meta Knight, his mask breaks apart and you see...Meta Knight is basically a blue-colored Kirby. How cute! He promptly wraps his cloak over his face and retreats.
  • Balrog / Vega of Street Fighter has scenes like this. Though his identity is known anyway and the mask is only to protect his face, several adaptations of the games still make a big deal out of him being unmasked by other people and thus having to show his face. Some of the games let the player knock off the mask themselves. He also has a taunt where he takes off his mask himself, and his Time Over defeat pose has him remove the mask and crush it in his hand.
  • In Medabots, Space Medafighter X gets badly injured, and his golden mask begins to crack. When it is broken it reveals... a second, white mask! Space Medafighter X is really the Phantom Renegade.
  • The Knights of the Old Republic example above is, of course, inspired by the scene in The Empire Strikes Back with Luke and the hallucinatory Darth Vader.
  • In the Water Path to Frozen Essence, Mina accidentally pulls off the Oracle's hood enough to see his face. The player doesn't recognize the character (whose face isn't shown in any other path), but Mina does and the shock is enough to break her out of her Trauma-Induced Amnesia.
  • In Persona 4, Yosuke tries to remove Teddie's mask, only to see it's empty inside.
  • Virtue's Last Reward: In K's ending, Sigma takes off K's mask only to find his own face behind it.
  • Upon defeating Dark Knight Alternis Dim in Bravely Default, his helmet splits apart to reveal his face is identical to Ringabel's.
  • In the final level of Splinter Cell: Blacklist, Sadiq rips off the player character's mask to reveal it's not Sam Fisher, but his teammate Briggs who's been infiltrating Site F. Sharp-eyed players will have picked up on this already, and the point of who is behind the mask is equally important to why it's them.
  • When Midna confronts Cia in Hyrule Warriors, she ends up punching the witch square in the face with her Prehensile Hair, knocking her mask away and revealing that her face looks exactly the same as Lana's.
  • Batman himself is unmasked to the world during the climax of Batman: Arkham Knight.
  • Can potentially happen in Saints Row: The Third. At the climax of the boss-fight against Killbane, The Boss has the option to rip his mask off and reveal his face to the world. Killbane isn't secretly someone who'd be recognized, but he is a Masked Luchador who regards having his mask removed in public as the ultimate shame. Under it, he's just a middle-aged white guy.
  • In Fire Emblem: Three Houses:
    • At the end of Chapter 11 on two of the game's routes, the Flame Emperor's mask comes off to reveal Edelgard. Averted on the Black Eagles route, where they bluntly admit their true identity before the big fight.
    • On the Blue Lions route, the Flame Emperor's unmasking also metaphorically unmasks Dimitri's princely facade as he completely loses his sanity from the reveal and brutally massacres Edelgard's soldiers.
    • After defeating the Death Knight, if you completed the Mercedes/Caspar paralogue, you are treated to a CG where their helmet comes off. You can see the resemblance to both Jeritza and Mercedes, but the angle prevents you from getting a good look at their face.
  • During a Dueling Player Characters fight halfway through The Legend of Heroes: Trails into Reverie, Jusis destroys C's mask, leading to a massive Wham Shot: C is actually Rufus, who, as far as Class VII knew until this point, had taken over Crossbell just a few days ago. Everyone is naturally bewildered, and the whole mess alerts the RMP and Class VII to the Rufus Albarea who overthrew the Crossbellan government being an impostor.
    Rean: How is this possible? How did—what is Crossbell's new supreme leader doing here?!

    Web Comics 

    Web Original 
  • Played with in this two-part cartoon, showing a typical Scooby-Doo scene where Fred unmasks a supposed "alien" to reveal "old Mr. Jenkins", followed by a scene where a supposed "old Mr. Jenkins" is unmasked by the Doctor to reveal an alien.

    Web Video 
  • Actually a dramatic re-masking in Italian Spiderman, where Italian Spiderman rips off the face of his enemy to reveal it to be his enemy Captain Maximum who wears a luchador's mask.

    Western Animation 
  • American Dad!:
    • Spoofed in an episode. Roger poses as a college professor, but things go horribly wrong when his "seize the day" philosophy causes a student to murder his father. Near the end, Roger admits that he isn't even a professor, and demonstrates by ripping the patches off his jacket's elbows, causing the student to gasp in shock.
    • In another episode:
    Stan: Give it up, Roger!
    Roger: I'm not Roger, I'm the Phantom!
    (Stan pulls off "The Phantom"'s mask)
    Stan: (gasps) Roger!
    Roger: Well, yeah, I...what?
  • Avatar:
    • In Avatar: The Last Airbender episode "The Blue Spirit", Aang does this to the mysterious rescuer Blue Spirit, revealing Prince Zuko.
    • In the third season of A:TLA, Katara pulls down the mask she'd been wearing for most of the episode to confront Yon Rha, the man who killed her mother.
    • In The Legend of Korra, Amon unmasks himself in order to reveal his scar in front of a shocked audience. The mask is knocked off a second time when Korra sends him out of a window and into the ocean. At this point, the scar is revealed to have been fabricated, and his true identity as Noatak is revealed.
  • The Avengers: Earth's Mightiest Heroes has The Wasp unmask Yellowjacket to reveal that her suspicions of Yellowjacket actually being Hank Pym were true.
  • Batman: The Animated Series:
    • In the episode "The Clock King", it's clear Mayor Hill has no clue who the crazy guy that just put him into a Death Trap is. Until he takes off his glasses, at which point Hill does recognize him. Even though he's dressed the exact same way he was the last time Hill ever saw him... 7 years ago.
    • After defeating Bane, Batman drags him back to Thorne as a warning that Thorne had better not target him like that again, and he definitely shouldn't try to use Robin to get to him. He then unmasks Bane note 
    • In the much-maligned episode "The Terrible Trio", Batman defeats the three rich buttholes who've gone on a crime spree. The ringleader, Fox, is unmasked while he begs Batman to let him go scot-free. Shockingly, it doesn't work.
    • In the same episode where the vigilante "The Judge" is introduced, Batman has to fight him to protect the the corrupt politician that the Judge was targeting. After he wins said fight, he takes off the Judge's mask to show everyone his identity: Two-Face.
  • In Batman: The Brave and the Bold, Bruce Wayne is always shown in full costume... until he confronts Joe Chill, the man who murdered his parents, and takes the cowl off to show Chill exactly what he's dealing with.
  • Subverted many times in the Belphegor series. Each time the protagonists corner Belphegor to unmask him or come close to uncovering his identity, it turns out either that the unmasked man isn't really him or he manages to destroy the evidence of his identity before they get to it.
  • Ben 10: Ultimate Alien features the return of villainous Time Master Eon, as mentioned before, and he's on a mission to take down every Ben Tennyson in The Multiverse. His Mooks aren't the monkey guys from The Movie, but ninja-like warriors with lightsabers who never speak; Gwen and Kevin fight them. Finally, Gwen casts a spell that freezes them all, and de-helmets one of them. Well, now we know what he does with the alternate Bens he defeats. They're his brainwashed goons.
  • Futurama:
    • A very emotional example when Leela corners two hooded mutants who she believes killed her alien parents. Fry, having figured out the truth, unmasks them, and reveals that they are her parents, having given her up to an orphanage under the guise of an alien child to give her a normal life, as aliens on Earth have the same rights as normal humans but mutants are forced to live underground in the sewers.
    • A Scooby-Doo parody episode has Leela unmask the person she believes to be the culprit. Unfortunately, she just accidentally pulls off Zoidberg's head. Of course it's played for laughs. They then capture the villain and subvert this by wiping off the mask as if it were makeup.
  • The Grand Finale of Iron Man: The Animated Series has The Mandarin literally melting Iron Man's helmet off to reveal Tony Stark... and he promptly dismisses this ("How obvious.")
  • Parodied (like everything else) in the Johnny Bravo/Scooby-Doo Crossover, which had them pulling off numerous masks off of one person, including this one exchange in the middle:
    Everyone: Joe Barbera?!
    Johnny: (looking at the camera) Who's that?
  • Justice League:
    • At the end of "Wild Cards", an injured John wakes up to Hawkgirl tending him in the Watchtower medbay. As of this episode, it's become pretty apparent to everyone including themselves that they have some sexual tension, leading to Hawkgirl letting John remove her helmet, revealing that she's hot, and the episode closes with them making out.
    • In "Starcrossed", the League has to disguise themselves as regular citizens. Flash is reluctant to reveal his secret identity but is cut off by Batman.
    Batman: Wally West, Clark Kent... [removes his cowl] Bruce Wayne.
    Flash: [surprised, then impressed] ...Showoff. [removes his cowl]
    • Also from "Starcrossed", Hro Talak removes his helmet during an argument with Hawkgirl about sacrificing the Earth to defeat the Gordanians, revealing a nasty scar he got from the war.
    • Question lets Huntress do this to him in the climax of the Cadmus arc and he refers back to the time she guessed he was ugly back when they first met. We've seen him unmasked before, so this is an Internal Reveal, and he's also not bad-looking for guy who just got tortured.
    Question: You were right. I am the ugliest guy of all time.
    Huntress: Not in my eyes.
  • In The Legend of Zelda (1989) episode "Sing For A Unicorn" Sing attacks Link and Zelda, and they presume she's a monster for a short while. When they work out she's human they grab her and unmask her in such a style that it's a Shout-Out to Scooby-Doo.
  • Parodied in The Mask, where Pretorius tries pulling off the hero's mask only to find another thing below (a skull, another mask). At one point, alter-ego Stanley Ipkiss's face is seen... but the hero removes that, as it is another mask.
  • Subverted in ReBoot when Bob removes Hexadecimal's mask. There's nothing underneath it and energy erupts out of the hole where the mask was. Bob has to put the mask back on her to stop her from exploding.
  • This is mandatory in nearly every episode of Scooby-Doo ever made. "Now let's see who you really are!" It's pretty much the Trope Codifier for most people.
    • The franchise does occasionally manage to provide enough of a twist to the unmasking to still surprise viewers, as in Scooby-Doo in Where’s My Mummy?, in which Velma was the (well-intentioned) masked culprit.
  • Spider-Man: The Animated Series had something similar to the comics situation, where Doc Ock unmasks Peter. However, this was during the Neogenic Nightmare arc and his powers were on the fritz. As such, when Ock saw his former student's face, that was the thing that confirmed for him this person couldn't really be Spider-Man: It's just Peter, no wonder he was so easy to capture instead of leaping around and running on walls while quipping!
  • Stretch Armstrong and the Flex Fighters reveals Riya Dashti as Blindstrike in "Endgame", when Stretch Monster extracts some prolitite from Blindstrike's armor, cracking the suit apart. Only the Flex Fighters see Blindstrike's real face in that episode; it gets covered up again before Stretch Monster can also see it.
  • Slade is forcibly unmasked twice in Teen Titans (2003), but both times are somehow twisted around into The Un-Reveal. In the first season, the shadows conveniently blocked his face from view, and in the fourth season, he was conveniently dead, and thus his face was nothing more than a skull.
  • Robin in Teen Titans Go! is unmasked by his teammates ... to reveal another identical mask beneath it. And another beneath that, and so on. In this case it's not that just that he doesn't want them to know who he is, but that he's "too handsome", which he proves by finally removing the mask himself. In actuality, the "handsome" face is yet another mask, and under it ... and under still another domino mask ... is Robin's true face, which has a parasitic twin in place of one of his eyes.
  • Though he's already aware of her identity, Sentinel knocks off Blackarachnia's face-concealing helmet in Transformers: Animated and reveals her mutated face to the audience for the first time. It's noteworthy in that Blackarachnia had spent the entire series lamenting how hideous she had become as a techno-organic, when in reality the only people who'd commented on her form thought she was smokin'. Under the helmet? It's pretty damn scary.


Video Example(s):


"The Mission is Over"

"Aloha Hoek" ends with Stimpy mourning his seemingly-deceased friend Ren, until his wristwatch suddenly buzzes. He drops Ren, and then they suddenly appear bulgy with visible zippers, mask lines on their necks, and empty eye sockets. A Dramatic Unmask follows, revealing they are actually Soviet communist spies vaguely resembling "Russian" caricatures of Fred Flintstone and Barney Rubble.

How well does it match the trope?

4.7 (10 votes)

Example of:

Main / GainaxEnding

Media sources: