The stereotypical Near-Death Experience includes seeing a bright light, experiencing love coming from it, and sensing somehow that if you were really dead - not Only Mostly Dead - then you should go into it. Death is just the beginning, after all, and you probably had a very similar experience when you were being born.
Now, a sparkly light after death is seen as the functional means by which ghosts move on, as well as the difference between Near-Death Experience and Deader Than Dead. Entire plots have been built around convincing ghosts to Go Into the Light. "Psychopomp" style versions of The Grim Reaper help guide you there with varying degrees of force.
- The series finale of Yu-Gi-Oh! ends with the Pharaoh's spirit walking through a heavenly doorway...which collapses moments later.
- Parodied in CLANNAD by Nagisa's very theatrical parents. The father steps on a knife, falls over, and gives a last speech while his head rests in his crying wife's lap. Music plays and a bright light shines down from the ceiling as he slumps in 'death'...both of which abruptly cut off when Nagisa announces that she's going to school.
- Parodied in Excel Saga. Excel gets hit by a car (in the very first episode) and wakes to a field of stars...but it's actually the Great Will of the Macrocosm, hovering over her to make sure that Excel, the nominal protagonist, doesn't die so early in the series.
- Parodied in Azumanga Daioh: as Chiyo-Chan has flashbacks of riding in Yukari's car, Kaorin yells "Chiyo-Chan! Don't go into the light!"
- Parodied in One Piece, albeit with a variation: when Vivi and Usopp get caught in an avalanche, the latter has a near-death experience and says he sees a beautiful world with beautiful trees and a beautiful river. A panicked Vivi tells him not to go into that world, and ends up slapping the ever-living crap out of him to wake him up. During the scene, Usopp notices Zoro swimming inside the beautiful river. After Vivi wakes him up, they immediately find Zoro afterward who was also caught in that avalance. Zoro saw the same beautiful world as Usopp did.
- In a Japanese Pokémon radio drama, Jessie and James' characters are stuck in space and low on oxygen. As Jessie dies, she notes a pretty light.
- Getting glimpses under Mimikyu's disguise leads to Meowth having several near death experiences; he's only prevented from going into the light by Jesse and James shaking him awake.
- Subverted in a Far Side comic, where a group of surgeons use a flashlight to make a woman on the table think this is happening as a practical joke.
- Parodied in The Simpsons Comics when Mr Burns has a near-death experience. After he's given CPR, we get to see that it was actually a spotlight being shone by...
- Dogbert dreams that he's dying once, but it turns out that Dilbert's just shining a flashlight at his face.
Dogbert: I'm coming toward the light... The light...it's so pure...so perfect...it could only be the light of God Himself!Dilber: No. Just new batteries.Dogbert: God has a sense of humor? Of course! It explains everything.Scott Adams Comment from Seven Years of Highly Defective People: It would explain everything.
- In "The Death Of Captain Marvel", the titular hero has one last battle of the mind with his nemesis Thanos, after which Death arrives to take him to the afterlife. This trope is evoked as they three head into the light, while in the world of the living Mar-vell's heart flatlines.
- The Swedish comic Herman Hedning had a storyline where Herman asks God to kill him, because he heard a story about the afterlife where you pass through a tunnel into a warm, embracing light. God agrees, but tells Herman that the warm embrace at the end of the tunnel isnt light, before dropping him into a giant toilet.
- At the end of Cerebus the Aardvark, after Cerebus dies, he tries to resist going into the light after realizing that it may be a trap by God's adversary, but it's too late and he's dragged into the light screaming for God to save him, to no avail.
- The Child of Love: In chapter 5 during a dream Asuka’s deceased mother asks her coming with her to the sky. Asuka starts flying upwards and at the light, but a vision of her daughter stops her.
- Evangelion 303: Asuka wanted to do it in chapter 11, but Jessika did not let her, stating that it was not her time yet.
- In the Empath: The Luckiest Smurf story "Smurfing In Heaven", Empath believes that he has died when Smurfette appears to him in an angelic form to tell him that not only have the Smurfs died, but also he has died. He and Smurfette both rise from the ground, drawn to a bright light in the sky which they enter, which turns out to be gateway to Elysium, the Smurf version of heaven. It is later revealed that Empath actually hasn't died and was experiencing a magical afterlife illusion created by Ares, the god of war.
- In the first Shrek film, Donkey thinks Shrek is dying from an arrow. As he goes off to get some plants that are supposed to help him, he says, "And if you see a long tunnel, stay away from the light!"
- The Cy-Bugs in Wreck-It Ralph are programed to be drawn towards a beacon whenever their game is reset, in a manner very reminiscent of bugs being drawn to a bug-zapper. The first time is Played for Laughs while the second time is Played for Drama.
- This trope was also King Candy's/Turbo's last words when he flies into a beacon made of volcanic Diet Cola.
- Plays a large part in the film The Frighteners. The protagonist has the ability to see ghosts, and when people die, their spirits are immediately pulled to the afterlife by a bright blue light. However, the spirits can actually refuse to go to the light and exist on earth as ghosts. They only way they can ascend to the afterlife then is to either wait for a certain period of time for the light to return, or be "killed" by another ghost. The light plays a large role in defeating the malevolent spirit of a serial killer.
- In Poltergeist, the medium's explanation for events was that one spirit was using the light of the little girl to trick other spirits into sticking around.
- At the end of The Sixth Sense, the screen fades to white around Bruce Willis's character after he realizes that he is dead and has said goodbye to his wife.
- Subverted in Constantine, in which Satan pulls the titular character from the light, cures his lung cancer and extends his lifetime in the hopes that he'll screw up again and be sent down the next time. The scene is based of a comic book arc where Hellblazer manipulates Satan into curing him.
- Toyed with in the first Casper film: Ghosts cross over as soon as they've completed their "unfinished business." However, the title character's unfinished business is resurrecting himself; he'll never cross over unless he succeeds, then dies again. The Big Bad, however, makes the mistake of declaring her unfinished business to be just obtaining the resurrection formula, not using it, so she goes into the light as soon as she gets the bottle, leaving it behind.
- In The Fountain, all three lives / versions of Tom experience looking upward into a tunnel of bright light: Tommy the doctor looks up into a skylight filled with snow right before the lights go out, whereupon it cuts to Tom the astronaut looking up into the exploding nebula, whereupon it cuts to Tomas the conquistador looking up into the literal tunnel of light after ingesting the sap of the Tree of Life, whereupon he dies and becomes one with the tree. What Do You Mean It's Not Symbolic?
- The protagonist's soul in Enter the Void tries this as soon as he dies. It ends up being the light in the bathroom stall where he was shot. He realizes this shortly thereafter.
- Played for laughs in Scary Movie 3, where Charlie Sheen's character urges his dying wife to go into the light as he doesn't want to answer to her dying wish for celibacy.
- In What Dreams May Come, the hero goes through a tunnel with a light at the end, symbolizing his passing over into the afterlife.
- Is given a major overhaul in Bill Meyers' novel, Soul Tracker. Turns out that the departed are traveling through the tunnel fast enough to blur out all the things living on the walls. And then the story gets weird.
- At the end of Changes, Harry has been shot, and he sees a light...and hears a train.
- Merrick from The Vampire Chronicles gets a bridge dropped on her after she decides to end her life in order to help a spirit "Go Into The Light".
- In Arrow's Fall when Herald Kris dies, his last words are "So bright!" When Herald Talia attempts suicide, however, her last thought before losing consciousness is to wonder why she sees only darkness. (She gets better.)
- There was a Christopher Pike book where a ghost is told to go into the light. When the ghost asks why, she's told that it says so in the National Enquirer.
- In Jennifer Crusie's Maybe This Time, Andie urges ghosts to do this, assuring them that Light Is Good.
- In The Girl From The Well, when Callie sees other dead souls ascending into the light, she pleads for Okiku to go with them and achieve the peace she deserves. But having followed a path of vengeance and murder, Okiku cannot accompany them.
Callie: Go into the light, Okiku! Go with them! Okiku! Please!Okiku: Where they go, I cannot follow.
- His Family: Roger's death in the last paragraph of the novel is described this way. He has a Dying Dream in which "The sun rose strangely dazzling. It filled the heavens with blinding light. He felt himself drawn up and up."
- The premise of the series Ghost Whisperer is Once per Episode, Jennifer Love Hewitt helps a ghost get over its issues so that it can Go Into The Light.
- Spoofed in the episode of Dinosaurs where Ethyl has a Near-Death Experience: the Light turns out to be a desk lamp on the Afterlife's reception desk, and the receptionist apologizes for letting it shine in her eyes.
- Subverted and toyed with in the TV show Dead Like Me where the dead each get their own special send-off to the afterlife, different for each person. It (whether it's a place, a ledge, a person beckoning) looks to the audience and reapers as being made up of lights. Once the dead person enters/joins the lights, the form they took flashes out and the lights scatter and speed off (usually UP).
- At one point in Angel, Cordelia tells a ghost annoying her to see a light.
Cordelia: "You know what? I get it. You’re a ghost. You’re dead. Big accomplishment! Move on! You see a light anywhere? Go towards it, okay?"
- An episode of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine has Bashir and O'Brien trapped in Sloane's Mental World. At one point, thinking they're dying, they see The Light.
- Averted in the Star Trek: Voyager episode "Coda". After apparently dying in a shuttle crash, a Psychopomp encourages to give up on death and go into the light. Janeway is suspicious and doesn't go which is just as well, as he's an alien that feeds on Life Energy (Janeway being Not Quite Dead). The whole thing was later compared to the Earth parable of "the spider and the fly".
Janeway: Go back to Hell, you coward.
- Mentioned by David Liebe Hart's aliens on an episode of Tim & Eric Awesome Show, Great Job!.
- When the protagonists of Supernatural dispatch hostile ghosts (usually with fire) the spirits appear to be in pain before they disappear; however, in the episode "Road Kill," a woman who didn't realize she was dead decides to move on once she is told the truth and performs a classic fade into the light.
- Then in the season finale, their father, having dragged himself out of hell to save his sons also gets a Go Into The Light moment.
- Subverted, of all places, by Touched by an Angel. A man has a near death experience...except the light keeps getting further and further away from him. Just before he's revived he turns around to see something so awful behind him that, once he's recovered, he dedicates himself to doing good deeds in an attempt to turn his life around.
- In Ashes to Ashes all the characters do this sort of when they step into the brightly shining Railway Arms, there proceeds to be a flash of white light and you can no longer see their silhouettes from outside. The pub is strongly implied to be the entrance to heaven.
- Subverted in Lindsey's backstory in Freaks and Geeks. She asks her dying grandmother if she sees a light, to which her grandmother replies, "No." This event is the catalyst for Lindsey becoming an atheist and a rebel against society.
- Played completely straight on One Life to Live when Luna died, and during Lucy's Near-Death Experience on General Hospital.
- In Twin Peaks, the character Leland has this moment after he realized that he killed Laura Palmer. The character is actually told to go into the light to find peace before death.
- Frequently on Being Human. Except the light is always on the other side of a door. And sometimes, instead of the light, there's just an ominous-looking corridor.
- Fast Forward did a skit of the supernatural investigation show The Extraordinary, with the host believing supernatural explanations are responsible for every mundane event in his house, including the fridge light shining in his face.
Wife: What do you want to eat?Host: A strange light appears before me. I can hear someone calling my name! Is this a voice from beyond the veil of the dead? ARE YOU TRYING TO CONTACT ME? SEND ME A SIGN! (wife hits him with Frying Pan of Doom)
- Subverted and discussed on Criminal Minds. Morgan dismisses the typical "bright light and shadowy figures" fantasy by saying that the light is that of an ER operating room, and the figures are doctors, but then Reid points out that he saw the same thing when he "died" and Tobias Hankel resuscitated him, despite not being in a hospital. Prentiss, on the other hand, coded in an ambulance and experienced darkness and coldness instead of light and warmth.
- Inverted in the "Dream Busters" episode of Henry Danger when, as Henry is slowly waking up, Ray and Schwoz yell at him "Don't Go into the light!"
- In the The Sopranos episode "Mayham", Tony Soprano—comatose after a shooting—dreams that he's going to a family reunion. He's greeted at the door by his dead cousin, who urges him to hand over his briefcase (despite his protest that "my whole life's in here") and go into the party, in a white building behind him. As he approaches the door, the inside of the house becomes a white blur—but he hears his family calling him to come back, refuses to hand over the briefcase, and wakes up on the hospital bed.
- Wiseguy. Happens to Frank McPike after he gets shot. He sees a dog leading him towards the Tunnel of Light, only to be called back by the sounds of the long-silent churchbell his friends start ringing.
- Bruce Cockburn's song "Closer To The Light," written after the death of songwriter Mark Heard, includes the words, "Gone from mystery into mystery, gone from daylight into night, another step deeper into darkness, closer to the light."
- "Go Back" by Chalee Tennison. The song is a story of a truck driver and waitress who meet and marry. In the third verse, the trucker is in an accident and "slips into the light" until the angels tell him "Go back, you got somebody waiting."
- In PVRIS' music video for “White Noise”, Lynn, a ghost, ends up going through a door with a bright light behind it, implying she's moving on. Unfortunately, Brian and Alex, two living guys, happen to be investigating her ghostly-ness as this was happening and end up going through it, too.
- Parodied in the video podcast Tiki Bar TV, during the Missionary episode.
Dr. Tiki: That's good, go towards the light!
Preacher: Go towards the light?
Johnny Johnny: You'll want to take a left at the light.
Dr. Tiki: At the first light, take a left.
Lala: No, it's your first right.
Dr. Tiki: At this time of day? It'll take forever.
- Subverted in Mass Effect. The last words of Matriarch Benezia are:
No light? They always said there would be a — Ah...
- Parodied/Subverted in Paper Mario: The Thousand-Year Door; a ghost is surrounded by a column of light after you solve the business binding him to this plane, but then he decides to stick around for a while.
- After you beat Twinrova in The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time, the sisters get halos over their heads and float up into a column of light.
- At the end of Sonic Adventure, Tikal and Chaos rise from the ground disappear and into a light. Exactly what this meant is never made explicit, and confused more than a few gamers. Chaos is still shown to exist in the normal world, as seen in Sonic Battle.
- This trope is invoked in Silent Hill 4, where Henry has to crawl a long tunnel (and we do mean long) towards the light to escape his apartment...except the "light" leads to the Dark World. When he enters the hole to return to the (relative) safety of his apartment, you see the tunnel-crawling sequence in reverse.
- Not that the game ever tells you this, but during the Dark World chase sequences in Silent Hill: Shattered Memories there will be sources of light such as one still-functioning street lamp over a door, stars in the distance, etc, that will lead you toward the exit. Of course it makes much more sense when you're hit with the big reveal.
- Both invoked and averted (as becomes clear in Modern Warfare 2) in Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare, with the death of Paul Jackson (one of the player characters). His death is shown while the screen whites out.
- And invoked again with Roach's death in Modern Warfare 2.
- Invoked in Borderlands with General Knoxx-trap's second death in the final Borderlands DLC, where he says "I've heard your entire life flashes before your eyes when you die...that's a load of crap...no wait...okay, there it goes." to be followed up and averted, sadly, with "No, that's just the sun. Shit."
- In The Curse of Monkey Island, after you've successfully been entombed by Faking the Dead (the first time), you'll spy another coffin with a live occupant. One of your dialogue options is "Go into the light!"
- In The Blackwell Series, Rosangela often says this line to the ghosts who are ready to move on the next plane of existence. Some ghosts can't help but snark a bit at the fact she actually tells them this.
- In Batman: Arkham City . Batman experiences one when he reaches Wonder City.Slowly dying from the effects of the poison, he hallucinates his parents calling to join him. .
- Parodied in Jak and Daxter when you lose all your health.
Daxter: Don't step into the light, Jak, DON'T STEP INTO THE LIGHT!
- Also parodied in one of The Joker's Game Over sequences in Batman: Arkham Knight.
"Don't head toward the light, Bruce! It's not fair! They'll never let me in!"
- In Breakfast of the Gods, The Quaker Oats mascot is cast in the role of God welcoming Cap'n Crunch to the afterlife.
- In Elf Only Inn, the light is the place dead characters go for a rez. Imagine the embarrassment of poor Megan when she misunderstood Duke's comment.
- In Gunnerkrigg Court, dying people are normally guided into light by different spirits. Some people need help to resolve their problems before they can move on. Nobody came for Antimony's mom and she had to do it herself, which makes her resent them slightly.
- When Mortimer the ghost is ready to move on, he asks Antimony to help him.
- PvP had a storyarc where Rick "Turtle" Tuttle, a nerdy classmate of Francis who had died in a bungee jump accident while trying to impress him, returns from the grave as a ghost to hang out with Francis again. Turns out he CAN see the light, but doesnt want to move on because he's just as clingy and needy as ever. Eventually Francis tells Tuttle to pass on and leave him alone already.
- Stand Still, Stay Silent has at least three characters with a Psychopomp duty and lots of ghosts running around, resulting in this trope eventually showing up.
- Invoked in Dragon Ball Z Abridged Episode 47. Android 16 grabs Imperfect Cell and throws him into the ground so hard it leaves him in a rather deep crater, then begins charging his Hell's Flash attack.
Cell: Wait, what's that noise? Hold on...now I see a light.
Android 16: Walk towards it! (fires)
- Eriko Watanabe of Saga of Soul adamantly refused to go into the light during her Near-Death Experience and instead decided to run experiments on it. The result? She awakens from her coma with superpowers.
- Bunny: The moth being attracted to a light eventually becomes symbolic of death. The bunny winds up going into the light just as the moth does.
- Parodied in a Family Guy episode, where when Chris is near death Peter idiotically tells him to head straight for the light while Lois quickly tells him to do the opposite.
- Spoofed in God, the Devil and Bob when Bob asks God to bring back his deceased father by not telling him to go into the light. God then rants about how he's sick of the "light thing" since it was his porch light. "You leave it on once and suddenly it's part of the whole death ritual!"
- Played with in a Halloween episode of The Simpsons, the one where Homer ends up in the 3D space. Lovejoy tells him to go into the light, and we hear the sound of Homer being electrocuted and screaming in pain.
Voice: Come, my child. Come into the light. Come on. Come on now! That's a good boy! Come on!
- In an earlier episode, the Simpson's dog "Santa's Little Helper" is injured and hears a far off voice. It get's...slightly silly after a bit.
- In the episode Porno For Pyro of Mission Hill, Kevin has one of these experiences when he almost dies in the store fire he accidentally started while trying to dispose of some pornography. The angelic woman he meets on the other side says that in the light its "like Yale University". She is seen reading from a book first, and Yale is Kevins dream college, so its most likely meant to be an optimal experience for the departed. However, Kevin is resuscitated in the hospital before he has passed into the light.
- Downplayed in Pinky, Elmyra & the Brain. A Running Gag on the show is Brain using a combination of a lamp and a mirror to create a light on the wall. He tells Elmyra it's a portal and tempts her to go into it, and when she does, she hits the wall so hard it knocks her unconscious.
- When Beavis dies in an episode of Beavis And Butthead, he ascends into Heaven in a tunnel of light amidsts an angelic choir. His reaction?
Beavis: This music sucks!
- Of course, it turns out to be a dream he's having after smashing himself unconscious against a wall.
- Jimmy from Ed, Edd n Eddy delivered this gem once:
"There's a bright light, Sarah...someone's calling me...ooh, cookies!"
- The origin of the trope comes from some very badly injured people seeing a bright light, which is sometimes perceived as a being of some sort. It is presently believed this is primarily due to lack of oxygen, excess carbon dioxide, drugs, or temporal lobe seizures in the dying brain. Some experimental subjects have reported similar experiences when their brains were stimulated by electromagnetic fields, and it is known that hypoxia can cause tunnel vision. Centrifuges are another way to achieve this, with the same effect of seeing a white light just before passing out.
- In some cases, the "bright light" seen in a near-death experience may be perception of a doctor using a pen light to test a person's pupillary reflex or the extremely bright lights of an operating room. Since it's not uncommon for the eyes to remain open when rendered unconscious, any light stimulus could be perceived by the unconscious brain in this manner.