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Hollywood Torches

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Made in 1776, burning brightly over 200 years later in 2004.

"A guy like you should think about going electric. Seriously."
Buffy in "Buffy vs. Dracula"

A Hollywood Torch is a piece of wood about a foot and a half long, the end of which burns brightly. It emits no significant smoke and never burns out. It tends to produce just enough light to fully illuminate a room, no matter the size, unless of course there's something horrible in a corner that we're not meant to see just yet. In some cases they can provide enough light to cast their own shadow, despite this being physically impossible. For the horror movie variant, use the arm or leg ripped off a dried-out skeleton, wrapped with a scrap of cloth (or, worse, cobwebs). Naturally, this is just as bright and long-lasting as any other Hollywood Torch; never mind that dry bone isn't flammable at sub-crematorium temperatures.

Even if they've been abandoned in a dilapidated temple for a thousand years, these burst into cheery flame at the slightest spark, without ever spreading this flame to their surroundings — unless intended to do so. Don't expect them to consume all the oxygen in the air, either, unless the plot demands it. In other words, they're ordinary torches suffused with improbable traits of convenience.

Some elements of this trope have their origins in simple filmmaking limitations: the audience (and the film crew) have to be able to see some of what is going on or else things are just going to be messy. If there's no plausible reason for someone to have a flashlight, or if firelight makes for better ambiance, this is practically your only other recourse.

This trope is nearly omnipresent in film and television, such that lampshades are still rare (and who puts a lampshade on a torch anyway?). However, it may or may not be present in any particular video game, depending on whether the torches serve as part of a puzzle or other challenge. If averted, expect them to burn far quicker than their Real Life counterparts.

Peasants are uncannily skilled at acquiring them in massive numbers on short notice.

Transatlantic translation note: If a British/Commonwealth person says 'torch' they might mean the flaming kind or they might mean what an American or Canadian would call a 'flashlight' (if clarification is ever needed, the latter is an electric torch).


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    Anime and Manga 
  • Played straight in the lairs of Orochimaru in Naruto. His massive bunkers are lit with regularly-spaced torches which apparently never burn out. This can be deduced by the fact that the only people in one base were Orochimaru, Sasuke, and Kabuto, none of whom you would expect to spend all day switching out the hundreds of torches.

    Fan Works 
  • Vow of Nudity: When Kay'la enters the centuries-old Cenotaph of Alator, the narration mentions the wall torches are using the spell continual flame to remain lit after all this time.

    Film — Animated 
  • Frozen II: Anna creates a torch that burns brightly, merrily, and far too long without any sign of being consumed out of a simple piece of damp driftwood and nothing more. She even lights it instantly with a shower of sparks by striking two (likely equally-damp) rocks together over it.

    Film — Live-Action 
  • Appear a couple of times in The Golden Voyage of Sinbad, including when the Vizier and Sinbad are in the map room and while Sinbad's sailors are fighting the animated figurehead on the ship.
  • Mysterious Doctor Satan is a Mad Scientist with a fondness for electricity including Big Electric Switches, High Voltage Deaths and yes, electric lighting in his Secret Underground Passage. However there's a story arc halfway through the Film Serial that takes place in the countryside that seems to be channeling The Western. As a result we have a fight in an unobtanium mine lit by Hollywood Torches, inevitably leading to a spilled barrel of blasting powder and a Powder Trail next to a fallen torch—cue Stuff Blowing Up for the obligatory end-of-chapter Cliffhanger!
  • National Treasure is pretty blatant about this. The final scene of the first movie serves as a slight variation, where several troughs full of gunpowder or something with similar effect are able to light up an entire cave, illuminating everything evenly, not producing smoke, and continuing to burn for far longer than chemically possible.
  • Both the original 1968 and the 1990 remake of Night of the Living Dead have Ben constructing a hasty torch from a table leg, cloth, and lighter fluid. Unlike most examples they produce copious amounts of smoke as they burn. Rather than being used for illumination, they're used to keep the zombies at bay as they fear fire.
  • Indiana Jones:
    • Happens twice in Raiders of the Lost Ark. Near the beginning, Indy's companion in the underground area carries a torch. Later, while Indy and Marion are in the Well of Souls they have a bunch of torches. A minor aversion occurs when Indy's and Marion's torches burn out.
    • Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade uses the "long bone plus rag" version in the scene where Indy and Dr. Schneider are exploring the flooded Venice catacomb. At least in this case, the quick and easy lighting of the torch is justified by the fact that the water was covered with a film of petroleum for Indy to dip the cloth into. Conveniently, this film of petroleum does not burst into flames as he walks near it with his glowing torch. Or when bits of flaming petroleum fall from the torch, directly into the canal (of course when the antagonists show up, they're able to easily ignite the film of petroleum with a single match dropped into the water). But then, they're underground in Venice, so how much realism do you want?
  • Legend (1985). Both the goblins and Jack have one at some point.
  • Labyrinth. Several appear in the Goblin City.
  • Young Frankenstein. Several appear on the outside of Castle Frankenstein when the protagonists first arrive.
  • Clash of the Titans (1981). Some appear in Calibos' encampment and in Medusa's lair.
  • Westworld. When the Gunslinger follows the protagonist to Medieval World, the heat of the torches in the throne room where the man is hiding masks his body heat from the robot's infrared vision.
  • The Syfy Channel Original Movie Thor Hammer Of The Gods makes frequent use of what may be a subtrope. Carrying a torch (or standing next to someone who does) helps you see in the dark, but apparently not by illuminating what you're looking at, because the protagonists can keep their torches burning while spying on the antagonists! In real life, having the torch close enough to hold it would mostly turn off your night vision, and since it emits light it would be immediately seen by your opponents; even if they're too far away to see who's holding the torch, they would see the torch itself. Nor would a torch be good when hiding behind a corner, since the one you're hiding from could still see how it illuminates the other walls near where you're standing.
  • The Princess Bride. In the underground chamber where Count Rugen tortures Westley, there are several torches burning on the walls.
  • Omnipresent in The Mummy Trilogy. Director Stephen Sommers complains in the commentary for both the first and second movies that the torches needed to be constantly lit over and over.
  • Dungeons & Dragons (2000). There are a number of torches burning on the walls of the den of thieves and even inside the maze of booby traps.
  • The Monster (2016): Kathy starts to fashion a torch out of some spare fabric, a rod and some rubbing alcohol. In the next scene, it's a classic, professional-looking Hollywood torch.
  • Zack Snyder's Justice League. Wonder Woman fashions one out of a wooden picket, shadecloth and motor oil before entering the catacombs under the temple of the Amazons. There may be a pragmatic reason, as the fire appears to magically reveal the entrance to a secret chamber.
  • In Zoltan, Hound of Dracula, Michael and Branco improvise flaming torches by dipping their Wooden stakes in kerosene and lighting them: using them to hold the pack of vampire dogs at bay.

  • The Chronicles of Narnia: Averted in Prince Caspian where the Pevensie children try to make torches to explore the ruins of Cair Paravel. Held in the normal way, the torches get too hot to hold, and held upside-down the flame goes out, so they end up using Edmund's flashlight instead.
  • Averted in one The Legend of Drizzt novel where Cattie-brie is told that there's no way she could carry enough torches or lamp oil to light her way in the Underdark long enough for her to reach Menzoberranzan, so she is provided with a magical artifact that lets her see in the dark instead.
  • Given a sort of in-universe Shout-Out in Ready Player One. Much of the action takes place in a full-immersion world where one would not be surprised to find torches in various places. However, when the heroes go to one of the creators' houses IRL, dude has actual torches in his house. Heroes are impressed. One wonders what his insurance premiums must be.

    Live-Action TV 
  • 1960s Batman (1966) series:
    • In "The Bloody Tower", Lord Fogg has some of these in his dungeon.
    • "Marsha's Scheme With Diamonds". Marsha's Aunt Hilda has some on the walls of her underground cave.
  • Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Buffy lampshades the fact that Dracula has the traditional burning torches in his castle, which given a vampire's vulnerability to fire doesn't make much sense. But it's made obvious that Dracula is a traditionalist in every sense.
  • Subverted in Castle: When about to explore a secret passage way, his first thought is to jury-rig one of these out of a plunger, toilet paper and lighter fluid. Beckett gives him the Dope Slap and tells him they're going to need breathable air and hands him an electric lantern after pulling out her own flashlight.
  • Doctor Who:
    • The production team for "The Curse of Peladon" got in trouble for bringing burning torches into the studio. The cameras had to be stripped down and all the soot removed.
    • "The Pandorica Opens": The Underhenge is stocked with these, although the characters have to light them themselves, which the Doctor does by lighting the first one with his sonic screwdriver.
    • In "The Name of the Doctor", the catacombs under the Doctor's tomb have burning torches made from Dalek eye stalks.
  • Get Smart. A Mad Scientist and The Igor have these lighting their hidden cave, and keep burning themselves as a result.
  • The torches on Lost will stay lit through just about anything, including torrential rain, and generally burn as brightly as the plot needs.
  • Star Trek: The Original Series:
    • In "Errand of Mercy" they can be seen in the Organian prison where Kirk and Spock are locked up and in Kor's headquarters.
    • "Catspaw". They provided light in Sylvia and Korob's underground dungeon.
    • "The Squire Of Gothos". There are a number of them burning at various places on the walls of Trelane's mansion. This is Justified In-Universe because Trelane is a Reality Warper who created his mansion using his powers.
  • Tales of the Gold Monkey. In "Black Pearl", when a Nazi officer complains about the use of torches for light when electric generators are readily available, the other says that it appeals to his sense of drama.

    Tabletop Games 
  • Averted in The Dark Eye: torches are used as a measure of light intensity, in the sequence firefly, candle, torch, camp fire and so on.
  • Dungeons & Dragons
    • The game actually has rules for torches and they give a pretty small amount of light, which is why most people get Everburning Torches, or just cast Continual Flame. For those who cannot afford either, there is the low-level adventurer's two best friends: the bullseye lantern and the 1st-level spell Light.
    • Averted in Tomb of Annihilation: Acererak left behind a bunch of undead dwarves to maintain the tomb, so the torches are presumably being replaced regularly.
  • Call of Cthulhu. In Worlds of Cthulhu magazine #3, the adventure "The Golden Scorpion" has some ever-burning torches in the underground temple area.
  • Dawg the RPG. In Knights of the Dinner Table #169 the adventure "The Terrifying Tomb of Ankhatton" had some ever-burning torches in the Pharaoh's Play Room.

    Video Games 
  • FromSoftware:
    • Averted in Dark Souls II, your torch can run out of fuel, get extinguished by water, or set you on fire if you get drenched by oil. The only way you can get more fuel is to loot torches from corpses or enemies. Although you can light up your torch as many times as you want with a bonfire or lit fireplace, or simply squeeze a Flame Butterfly.
    • Played Straight in Dark Souls III, your torch never runs out of fuel, not even water can extinguish them, it also gets rid of maggots from your body should your foes spilled them onto you. The Follower Torch takes one step further for being a torch made of sword, and you can even breath fire with it as many times as you want without running out of fuel. Even if you run out of Focus Point, you can still breath fire with it, and the torch simply lasts forever. One wonders why the First Flame can run out of fuels while your torches can't.
    • Played Straight in Bloodborne, your torch can light up an entire room, never runs out of fuel, and it can even scare off the beast patients in Old Yharnam. Justified as the whole game takes place within the dream of an Eldritch Abomination.
    • Played Straight in Elden Ring, where torches function identically to Dark Souls III, with the Steel-Wire Torch and St. Trina's Torch having the same fire-breathing attack as the Follower Torch. St. Trina's Torch is likely magical in nature given it has sleep-inducing purple fire, but other torches have no such excuse. There's also the Torchpole, a particularly long but otherwise perfectly mundane torch wielded as a spear that never goes out no matter where you thrust it.
  • Averted with torches used for puzzles in Ape Escape 2, but they burnt out quickly; thus making the challenge.
  • Averted in the NES Dragon Quest: the torch only illuminates a 3x3 square area and burns out. Eventually you learn much better illumination spells that render the torches obsolete.
  • Played straight in The Legend of Zelda games...except when the player tries to light a hand-held stick, and it burns right through after a few seconds. Many other games also have torches you light will go out after a short amount of time if the quest is to light many torches very quickly. However, the minute they are all lit, the torches will never go out.
  • In Quest for Glory IV, you obtain a torch near the beginning, and keep it, still lit, for the game's entirety. Justified in that the torch is almost certainly magic, given that you obtain it in an eldritch cave and burns green.
  • Played mostly straight in the Thief series - torches do not go out on their own, and do not emit significant smoke. Using your water arrows to extinguish them so you can hide in the shadows is a major gameplay element.
  • In Neverwinter Nights, torches give off smoke and provide a rather limited amount of light, but never burn out. Their limitations are quickly rendered obsolete either by light spells or, if you're not a caster, various rings and other items that emit more light and don't require you to hold them in your hand.
  • In the Zork spoof in Kingdom of Loathing, picking a stick up off the ground and lighting it on fire turns it into a standard torch.
  • Zork:
    • In the first game, the torch item is basically a superior lantern that will never go out on you. Although it does become somewhat less desirable when you come across rooms filled with highly flammable gas. It's also made of ivory, so the Thief might steal it at any moment.
    • Zork Zero uses and averts it; there are several torches kept near the kitchen that burn forever, but go out soon after you remove them from their holders. The only way to do any underground exploring is with a magic candle.
    • Zork: Grand Inquisitor references the torches from Zork Zero with a pair of standard torches that talk with distinct personalities and quirks: the Bickering Torch is argumentative and uncooperative, while the Flickering Torch is nervous and tends to go out at random times.
  • Played straight and averted in British Legends. Torches tend to light swamp gas and kill any character who carries them into a swamp, but they aren't extinguished when it starts raining, you can carry them into cramped, poorly-ventilated spaces with no major problems (in fact, you have to in at least one puzzle), and they burn forever. Also, while they ignite swamp gas, setting one down in the middle of a forest for any amount of time does nothing.
  • Averted in Shadowgate. The torches eventually burn out and you have to light another one before that happens. In some versions, the background music changes slightly right before it's too late. If you're not quick enough, you will end up in the dark, trip over something, and die.
  • Partially averted in The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion where torches burn out over time, but are still far too bright.
  • Almost averted in The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim, where torches last a reasonable time before going out, and are extinguished if you carry them underwater. Somewhat spoiled by being able to take them underwater with no issues as long as you have them in your inventory and not equipped - not only can you pull out a still-burning torch once you've left the water, you can actually view the lit torch in your inventory while you are still underwater.
  • Aside from lighting a limited range, Minecraft torches play this straight. They burn indefinitely, and the smoke is purely cosmetic, posing no risk of fire, suffocation, or smoke discoloration. Torchlight can even be used to help crops grow. You can find torches in abandoned flooded mineshafts that still burn nicely.

    It was originally planned for torches to go out and for lasting light fixtures to be more complicated, with all existing torches planned on being converted to the new item on patch. The joke Version 2.0 previews created for April Fools' Day 2013 implemented that idea as one of the many "features". Each torch would go out after a random, short amount of time and could be relighted with Flint and Steel or taken down and replaced.
  • Terraria torches never go out, even when exposed to rain or a blizzard. If completely flooded with water, the torch merely stops emitting light, being lit again the moment it's back in dry air. They do use gel instead of any real fuel source, but they nonetheless blatantly defy conservation of energy. The Cursed/Ichor torches take it even further by working underwater, though in that case it's justified by using explicitly supernatural fuel. Update finally reveals the reason behind the eternally burning torches—it's the work of the mysterious Torch God, whose powers allow the torches to be lit forever; however, he gets pissed whenever someone abuses his powers by placing too many torches together underground.
  • Lampshaded in the video game adaptation of Callahan's Crosstime Saloon. The butler to the aristocratic vampire family reveals the family's fortune is founded on supplying torches to angry peasant mobs. As the butler points out, the angry mobbing goes on for hours and hours, but the torches only last fifteen minutes.
  • Several Tomb Raider games use a modern twist on the trope, with magnesium flares that burn for about fifteen seconds. Played straight in Tomb Raider (2013), where Lara only needs two torches over the course of a multi-day adventure, and only needs to replace the first one because she dropped it. Both burn indefinitely unless passed through water or deliberately extinguished (And apparently dry fast enough that they can be relit the moment she gets them out of the water if she has access to flame or a flint).
  • Used in Eternal Darkness. Torches never run out, and aside from two breeds of zombie which ignite, they're horribly weak weapons, barely better than your fists.
  • Craftable in Cataclysm, where they're handled relatively realistically. They last a couple hours and need to be lit like any other tool involving fire. They still give out a lot of light without smoke, though less than a flashlight. Unless you're abandoning the zombie-infested cities to live as a nomad, flashlights are generally more practical.
  • Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater has a torch in it, in the cave Snake falls into following the duel with Ocelot at Bolshaya Past. It never runs out, can be turned off and on like a flashlight, and lights up immediately even after being underwater. It can also be used as an offensive weapon, clubbing Mooks or even setting them on fire.
  • The Dead Mines: The abandoned mine is filled with open-flame lamps that are still burning strong.
  • Hand Waved with magic in Quest for Glory IV: as the game has you explore a lot of barely-lit places, a torch is one of the first items you pick up, and its description immediately lampshades how it seems to never smoke or run out of fuel and concludes that it must be magic. The fact that its flame is greenish in tint and that you find it inside the body of a slumbering Eldritch Abomination on an abandoned altar of a dark cult that worshipped said abomination, it is not an unreasonable conclusion.
  • Fire is important in A Plague Tale: Innocence as it keeps back the rat hordes which otherwise will devour people to red bones in seconds. From time to time instead of a steady torch retrieved from a wall sconce the protagonists have to resort to lighting a stick, which throws out the same amount of light but rapidly burns down. All of the places the protagonists go which have flaming torches or braziers have had people there who would've lit them within the past few hours. It's probably a gameplay-only element that anything the protagonists can light always has dull glowing embers in it, no matter if they've been abandoned for years.


    Web Original 
  • Lampshaded by SF Debris in "The Andorian Incident" citing it as impossible to enter a dark cavern without one, even though a propane lamp would be more efficient.

    Web Video 
  • The Lamp acts as one in episode six of Don't Hug Me I'm Scared. The room goes completely dark blue when he's switched off, and the whole room gets illuminated when he comes back on to continue his horrible torture song.
  • Lindybeige has a whole video series called Lindybeige about Torches nitpicking apart the inaccurate ways that movies use fire and torches. They randomly stick torches and braziers on walls and depict them burning even during the daytime, despite the fact that real torches burn out within several minutes, produce a lot of smoke, are expensive, and by no means a good way of lighting an interior. He even notices a scene in The Last Kingdom where they failed to conceal the gas pipe that was feeding a wall torch.
    • This gets Reconstruction by Shadiversity, who points out that braziers are designed to keep unlit torches handy in case they're needed, much in the same way someone may hang their keys or a flashlight near their front door. Furthermore, keeping a lit torch indoors could (at the least) cover your ceiling with soot, or (at the worst) set your roof on fire. Indoor lighting was mostly done by small oil-burning lamps or lanterns note . He points out that there were also very large, staff-like torches designed in the middle ages that solve many of the problems that Lindybeige brings up.

    Western Animation 
  • The Arabian Knights segment on The Banana Splits show, episode "The Royal Visitor". Used by several characters inside a pyramid.
  • Jonny Quest TOS episode "The House of Seven Gargoyles". There are a number of torches on the walls of Professor Ericson's castle. No one is ever seen tending them and they never go out.
  • Scooby-Doo, Where Are You!. Shaggy finds and uses one in episode "Spooky Space Kook".

Alternative Title(s): Hollywood Torch