This trope originated on stage, where the stage's lights would fade out to mark transitions.
It's also a musical technique whereby a song fades to silence. Most of the time this is done to save the songwriter the hassle of having to write an ending — the chorus will repeat, sometimes with a Truck Driver's Gear Change, and the song will fade out.
Opposite Trope of Fade In. Compare Fade to Black, when the screen going black marks important moments, not the end of a scene. Contrast with Smash to Black, when the screen suddenly goes black. Don't confuse with Fade Forward.
Films — Animation
- Turning Red: There is a fade-out that takes place after candles are blown out by the wind.
Films — Live-Action
- A Corner in Wheat from 1909, by cinema pioneer D. W. Griffith, offers one of the earliest known examples of this trope. In this case, it reinforces the Downer Ending where everything is terrible for everyone (the wheat farmer has been reduced to poverty, the people in the cities are going hungry, and even the wheat speculator dies when he's buried in a grain elevator).
- White Shadows in the South Seas: A unique spin on this that ties into the title, as several shadows pass in front of the camera at the end, gradually darkening the image of Fayaway in mourning on a hilltop.
- Pacificators: J.A. managed to get one to work quite nicely on paper by drawing panels progressively darker until the last one on the page is all black.
- Star Wars: The Clone Wars: "The Wrong Jedi" and "Sacrifice" both end with the screen slowly fading into black. These are the only two episodes of The Clone Wars to end this way, being the finales of seasons five and six.