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Lightning Reveal

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It's a dark and stormy night. The main character(s) are surrounded by darkness. A sense of foreboding wavers in the air, and the tension is so thick, a knife isn't fit to cut it, and you would instead require a heavy-duty chainsaw.

This is the perfect concoction for the Empathic Environment to whip up a good old Lightning Reveal. There's something sinister lurking in the shadows that the character(s) and perhaps audience is unaware of until lightning strikes. In that flash of lightning something is revealed hence, well, the Lightning Reveal.

Bonus points if the flash is so quick, the audience/characters are unsure if they saw anything at all.

Compare Dramatic Thunder, Stop Motion Lighting, Emerging from the Shadows, Natural Spotlight.


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    Anime and Manga 
  • In Black Butler: Book of Circus when Joker informs their patron about the circus newcomers (Ciel and Sebastian), Baron Kelvin is revealed to be "Father" in this manner.
  • Used in the anime version of Hellsing while half of Alucard's face is in shadow. The lightning flash reveals the other half to look like Vlad the Impaler when his opponent asks him who he really is.
  • In Death Note, Light first sees Ryuk in this way.
  • In Naruto, The Reveal of Tobi's (not really) true identity, Madara Uchiha, as the real Big Bad of the series is done this way.
    • Also, in Shippuden chapter 167, thunderclouds envelop the sky, and a large mass of the Kyuubi's chakra rains from the heavens as Naruto begins his transformation from a 4-tailed to a never-before-seen 6-tailed fox form.
  • Oda Nobunaga in Sengoku Basara's anime adaptation is so evil that, wherever he goes, glowing red thunderstorms follow. Naturally, he gets an introduction through Lightning Reveal, accompanied by Ominous Latin Chanting.
  • In Yu-Gi-Oh!, when Bakura appears wearing a black trench coat in front of Rex and Weevil, we get our first glimpse of his face (well, the first in a while) when lightning flashes.
  • Used for erotic effect in chapter 25 of Mysterious Girlfriend X, when Tsubaki sees Urabe naked for the first time.
  • Unique usage of the trope in Fairy Tail: in the Tenrou Island arc, as Master Hades has wiped the floor with our heroes and is about to finish Natsu off with his Bullet Magic, a bolt of lightning strikes in front of Hades and coalesces into the shape of Laxus Dreyar, much to the unpleasant shock of Hades, and to the joyous relief of The Strongest Team.
  • Near the beginning of the Lost Children chapter of Berserk, while a group of thugs are tormenting a girl that they've captured named Jill, lightning flashes and reveals Guts was resting right next to them the whole time without any of them realizing it. Jill initially thinks he's a ghost.

    Comic Books 
  • Done beautifully in book three of Bone when Fone Bone, Thorn and Gran'ma Ben are on the run from the rat creatures in the middle of a storm. Lighting flashes light up the otherwise pitch black backgrounds, giving brief glimpses of the rat creature horde closing in, as well as when the Red Dragon appears and chases them away.
  • Wonder Woman (1987): When Diana is being visited by her Justice League colleagues while in the hospital after Neron's attack Batman's arrival is shown when her dark room is light up by lightning in the night.
  • Wonder Girl: While Cassie is arguing with Tim in front of a bunch of hydra eggs her anger causes a thunderstorm to build and the lightning flash reveals that the hydras have hatched and are preparing to attack them.

    Fan Works 

    Film — Animated 
  • In 101 Dalmatians, after Roger saves the fifteenth puppy from death, lighting crashes and everyone turns to the door to see Cruella standing in the doorframe.
  • BoBoiBoy Movie 2: When Kaizo and Fang arrive at Planet Gur'latan, it is just as dark and rainy as it was during the battle between the Guruhan army and Retak'ka. Much to their shock, the whole army has been vanquished, and the scene zooms out for lightning flashes to reveal the several bodies left behind.
  • In The Book of Life, Manolo's skeleton form is first revealed this way, just before he asks Xibalba to kill him.
  • In Kubo and the Two Strings, during the battle between the Sister and Monkey on the boat, the former has suddenly disappeared but a lightning reveals her shadow behind the sail.
  • Doesn't even involve darkness in Kung Fu Panda. Master Shifu waits for Tai Lung on the stairs to the Jade Palace. Dramatic Thunder sounds and Shifu closes his eyes for a moment against the lightning. When he opens them, Tai Lung is standing before him having run up the thousand-odd steps without even appearing out of breath.
  • Happens during the climax of The Lion King (1994) when Simba reveals himself to Scar before the final confrontation. In the brief glimpse he gets, Scar mistakes Simba for his father at first.
    Scar: Mufasa? No! You're dead!
  • In My Little Pony: The Movie (2017), the moment where the Storm King reveals to Tempest Shadow that he had no intention of restoring her horn and was only using her is emphasized by lightning flashing in the storm, highlighting his towering figure and Tempest's horrified expression.
  • The Super Mario Bros. Movie: When Luigi ends up in the Dark Lands, he is chased by a horde of Dry Bones until he finds refuge in an abandoned fortress. As Luigi sighs and thinks he's finally safe, a lightning flash reveals a band of Shy Guys right behind him.
  • Used in Tarzan to show Clayton's hanging corpse, in the form of a Shadow Discretion Shot. After Tarzan and Clayton fall down from great height, there's a lightning flash and the audience gets to see, rendered in shadow, that Clayton accidentally hanged himself on the vines.

    Film — Live-Action 
  • In the final moments of 10 Cloverfield Lane, when Michelle begins to drive towards Houston, a lightning flash reveals another, larger alien craft, patrolling the farmland near the road.
  • In Cold in July (2014), a lightning flash reveals the villain in the child's bedroom.
  • At the beginning of Free Willy, this is how Jesse first encounters Willy. After hiding away from the police in a nearby building, it's revealed that he had inadvertently slipped into the viewing room of Willy's tank, with a lightning flash revealing Willy and scaring Jesse.
  • Friday the 13th
  • Godzilla: King of the Monsters (2019): When the Argo flies through Ghidorah's storm towards him with Rodan in pursuit, Rodan has an Oh, Crap! reaction and pulls back before Ghidorah is directly seen. Then lightning flashes reveal Ghidorah's huge silhouette flying directly in front of the Argo amid the darkness.
  • Mixed with Stealth Hi/Bye in Halloween: The Curse of Michael Myers when Michael is stalking Jamie as she tries to hide from him in a barn.
  • In Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom during the Action Prologue a mercenary is about to close the Mosasaurus gate, the all too familiar head of the Tyrannosaurus is revealed by the flashes of lightning and he doesn't notice until she's right behind him.
  • In the second adaption of Lord of the Flies, a lightning strike gives the viewer a better glimpse of Simon's bloody corpse in the water after Jack's tribe stabs him to death
  • When Brad and Janet are on the castle's doorstep in The Rocky Horror Picture Show, a flash of lightning reveals a row of parked motorcycles. Implied to be the ones they saw emerge from a dead end a few minutes before.
  • Seen with Casey's Gutted Like a Fish corpse in Scream (1996).
  • In the climactic scene of Suspiria, the Big Bad makes herself invisible, but her position is revealed by lightning flashes...
  • In the opening scene of Van Helsing, Dracula's demonic visage is briefly visible when lightning strikes.

  • In The Dresden Files: Storm Front, Morgan's appearance at the bar is revealed by lightning.
  • In Terry Pratchett's Discworld novel Reaper Man, Death knows that his replacement is not going to arrive until midnight because he stood on a hill while lightning flashed. He reasons that someone who does that would not arrive at 11:55 if he could make a dramatic entrance at the stroke of midnight.
  • In Lee Lightner's Warhammer 40,000 Space Wolf novel Wolf' Honour, when Ragnor and his company meet up with strange, wolf-like creatures, lightning flashes let them see the faces. (Much to Ragnor's horror. These creatures had haunted his dreams.)
  • Found in J. R. R. Tolkien's The Silmarillion. After being captured by Orcs, the hero Túrin accidentally kills his friend Beleg whom he mistakes for an Orc coming to torture him (in reality, he was trying to free him). Túrin realizes his mistake immediately when a flash of lightning illuminates the scene.
  • In David Weber's Safehold series, at one point the Royal Guard is desperately fighting assassins in the rain. One moment, there is one Guardsman standing. The next, there is a flash of lightning, a roll of thunder (from the wrong direction) and there are two... One of them is a 24th Century Ridiculously Human Robot. Guess what happens next.
  • Done in Queste, where Tertius Fume's ghost reveals itself to the crowd in the Wizard Tower in a flash of lightning.
  • In "The Lurking Fear", the first chapter ends with the narrator realizing that something other than one of his human companions was snuggled up to him on a cot in a reputedly haunted house when it gets up suddenly and a flash of lightning casts its shadow on the wall he's facing.
  • After fumbling in a dark for a while, the unnamed protagonist in Bram Stoker's short story "Dracula's Guest" catches a glimpse on a vampire countess sleeping in her tomb due to it being momentarily illuminated by a lightning strike.
  • Harry Potter;
    • Sirius in his dog form is illuminated this way to Harry when he's playing a Quidditch match in Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban. Needless to say he's gone in the next lightning flash.
    • Mad-Eye Moody's introduction in Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire - not quite a reveal, since, from the perspective of the onlookers, the lightning silhouettes Moody rather than illuminating him, but still extremely dramatic.
  • In Darkness Weaves it is a dark and stormy night, as Arbas the Killer and young aristocrat Imel are waiting for Kane in his hiding place, an old crypt. The first glimpse that Imel gets of Kane is through lightning. And it is not a confidence-inspiring sight. extended burst of chain lightning split the midnight skies and threw a flickering bluish light on the figure just entering the crypt. Startled, Imel was unable to suppress a gasp at the sight of the looming cloaked figure silhouetted darkly against the lightning-blasted torrent.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Arrow. In "Home Invasion", hitman Mr. Blank knocks out the lights in the Queen mansion while there's a storm outside. Oliver Queen is creeping down the corridor when a lightning reveal shows Mr. Blank standing behind him about to fire. Oliver senses him and dodges just in time, his Stealth Hi/Bye so fast he avoids the resultant gunshots in another lightning strike.
  • In Smallville, Escape, the silver banshee reveals its true form whenever lightning strikes.
  • Used brilliantly during the opening of an episode of CSI, showcasing the killer lurking in his victim's bedroom.
  • Parodied in an episode of Friends where Phoebe, suffering from chickenpox, is revealed to her long distance relationship boyfriend by a flash of lightning, causing him to jump. When she asks if she really looks that bad, he replies that he was just surprised by the lightning.
  • Happens in an episode of Only Fools and Horses where the trio are staying in Boycie's cottage. Of course, the escaped serial killer only gets shown when Del turns around, so the whole thing also ends up being a case of a Cassandra Truth.
  • Supernatural. When Castiel first meets our heroes, his claim to be an Angel of the Lord is disbelieved. A flash of lightning then throws the shadow of spreading angel wings on the wall behind him.

  • According to William Goldman's book The Season, there was a Broadway play in 1967 called A Day in the Death of Joe Egg. The show centers around the toll that taking care of a severely disabled daughter - a girl with cerebral palsy so bad she cannot even communicate - is taking on her parents. In one scene, the mother gives a despairing monologue, and at the end, there's a flash of lightning to show, just for an instant, her daughter skipping rope like any normal child. (You can imagine it being both scary and heartbreaking.)

    Video Games 
  • Very common in horror games for a quick jump scare; like in Alone in the Dark: The New Nightmare, where a lightning flash in one of the outside areas shows a massive horde of ghoulish humans surrounding you for an instant.
  • Occurs in the bonus case of Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney. Phoenix's current case revolves around a case two years prior that may have been subject to evidence tampering. The primary witness of the previous case recalls two men fighting during a blackout, but remembers one instant, during a lightning strike, where she saw one man about to stab the other.
  • In Jagged Alliance 2 troops may be revealed by lightning.
  • Not natural lightning, but in The Lost Crown, crackling energies from a mystic energy rift provide a similar Reveal of Ganwulf's skeleton in his sarcophagus.
  • Seen in the ending stinger of Portal: Prelude, where lightning shows the G-Man adjusting his tie inside a tollbooth in the Aperture Science parking lot. just as Abby collapses in front of it.
  • Done with "Flying-Neo," one of the Mini Bosses in Alien Soldier. Your character fights this alien dragon zombie helicopter on the top of an airplane. Once you get it to about a quarter of its health, it turns invisible... only the background lightning will reveal its silhouette.
  • The Attract Mode for Marvel Super Heroes vs. Street Fighter shows off the fighters, ending with the final boss Apocalypse. The True Final Boss (Cyber Akuma) appears for a frame thanks to a lightning reveal.
  • Super Street Fighter II's intro initially has Ryu shrouded in the shadows, then several lightning strikes gradually illuminate him right before he launches a Hadoken towards the screen.
  • The Resident Evil remake does this well near the beginning. You're walking down a dark hallway when lightning crashes outside and illuminates the window at the end, making the silhouette of the zombie you didn't know was there finally visible.
  • In Mark of the Ninja, this is flipped around. You always risk being seen by guards in the flash. However, to prevent nervous breakdowns, the game takes an Acceptable Break from Reality and makes the thunder sound before the lightning flash, so you can predict when it's coming and take action.
  • A gameplay mechanic in the Luigi's Mansion segment of Nintendo Land where the ghost is invisible to the other players, they can only sense the ghost through vibrations and can only see him if they shine a light on him, dealing damage. Every once in a while lightning will strike and illuminate some of the map, if the ghost is in that area they're perfectly visible. Skilled ghost players can make it seem like they're going another way then they are when the lightning strikes, or with a little luck, hide from the illuminated areas so when lightning strikes, the ghost hunters don't see anything. Impossible on the rooftop level which has no walls so the entire thing is illuminated when lightning strikes. Needless to say, winning as a ghost in this level takes a lot of skill.
  • Monster Hunter (PC) does this with the titular character's intro in the opening FMV: approaching the Warlock's castle, his face shrouded in shadows, suddenly a bout of Dramatic Thunder reveals the character before he barges in.
  • Downplayed in Starcraft II Heart Of The Swarm at the end of Kerrigan's transformation cinematic, which suddenly transitions to Arcturus' reflection in the window as he looks out on a storm on Korhal. The camera pans out, the cineatic ending just as a flash of lightning illuminates part of the Xel'Naga artifact.
  • If you happen to play Driveclub set at night with heavy weather and stormy clouds, you will barely see anything beyond you (or your rival's) headlights. However, thunders may appear from time to time to help you see for a split-second the track's layout... for the next few seconds.
  • In the opening cutscene for Super Ghouls 'N' Ghosts three lightning strike illuminate three demons as they prepare for the attack on the princess' castle.
  • Super Mario 3D World: The Bowser's Fury addon for the Switch re-release does this rather well. As Mario climbs onto the crashed airship on Fur-Step Island at Lake Lapcat, a bolt of lightning reveals Fury Bowser, who then takes that moment to attack Mario!
  • The main menu for Project Zomboid seems to show a man caring for his sick wife. When the lighting flashes, however,it is shown that the man is actually a zombie feasting on the woman.

    Web Comics 

    Web Videos 
  • The Funniest Minecraft Videos Ever: A textbook example in the "Black Hole mod" video. At one point, Tommy tries to get a look at the black hole, but it's night and raining and he can't see it until lightning cracks, turning the sky bright white for a minute... but not the gigantic black hole. Cue the Oh, Crap! of a lifetime.

    Western Animation 
  • The opening theme to Batman: The Animated Series. Batman fights crooks in darkness, and the police wonder who it could be. The theme ends with the crooks tied up and a silhouette of Batman, standing on the roof of a building. A flash of lightning confirms his presence, before he disappears. Take a look at the opening, it's pretty awesome.
    • In the first part of "Two-Face," Harvey Dent is sitting in the psychiatrist's office, discussing his mental problems, with his Face Framed in Shadow. Suddenly, lightning strikes, and the dark half of his face lights up... as Two Face.
  • Batman: Under the Red Hood. When the Red Hood does a Dramatic Unmask, a flash of lighting appears to make him change from his current cocky self, to the bruised and battered Jason Todd we saw being murdered by the Joker at the start of the movie.
  • Beast Wars: When Waspinator was possessed by Starscream, there was a lightning storm. When the lightning flashed, it showed Starscream instead of Waspinator.
  • BoJack Horseman: Done to stylistic effect in "Time's Arrow", when Beatrice Horseman remembers her father implicitly threatening to have her lobotomized like he had her mother, resulting in a flash briefly revealing a black silhouette of her mother with a white head scar.
  • Family Guy plays with this in the episode where the kids find the money clip, showing them in different fighting positions and at one point, suddenly dressed in prim period clothing.
  • Subverted in one scene from Gary Larson's Tales from the Far Side. In a dark, candlelit room a woman walks up to a man with his arms out; they embrace and start slow waltzing to Patsy Cline's "Crazy." As they spin throughout the room, lightning keeps flashing, revealing all sorts of large dangerous predators surrounding them ready to tear them to pieces... Suddenly the lights come on and policemen pour into the room whereupon they grab and handcuff the woman then pull her away from the man who is revealed to be frozen in the arms out position and standing on a little board with wheels. As the woman is led out of the building, we see the sign 'Bob's Taxidermy' over the door.
  • In the TV special Mr. Magoo's Christmas Carol, this is how Ebenezer Scrooge, played by Mr. Magoo, sees his name on the gravestone in the cemetery scene.
  • Occurred in The Simpsons "Treehouse of Horror V":
    Marge: What he's typed will be a window into his madness. [reads it] "Feelin' fine." Woah! That's a relief.
    [lightning strikes, revealing "No TV and no beer make Homer go crazy" scribbled all over the walls]
    Marge: Mmm... this is less encouraging.
  • At the end of the episode of Spider-Man: The Animated Series in which Spider-Man gets the alien suit, he starts noticing his mood changes and that he's becoming more aggressive. He starts questioning the reason in the middle of a storm, and when he catches his reflection on a puddle, lightning strikes and the reflection of his face momentarily changes into Venom, which startles him.
  • Total Drama:
    • While DJ is making sandwiches in "The Sand Witch Project", Chef's standing behind him in the dark. Lightning strikes and reveals his position, whereupon he yells out to DJ to defend himself as a test of Chef's lessons to him. DJ passes by throwing a spoon in Chef's face.
    • In "Food Fright", Mal appears out of nowhere in the girls' room in the flash of a lightning strike. He proceeds to destroy Sierra's smartphone.
    • The blimp carrying the new campers enters a storm in "So, Uh, This Is My Team?". As the first strike of lightning flashes up the passenger compartment, Chris dramatically appears out of nowhere and instructs the campers as to what to do for their first challenge: grab a parachute and jump, because the blimp is going down. When only Topher and Chef are left, the oddly calm Chris reveals that they're talking to a hologram, hence why he could pop up out of nothing.

    Real Life 
  • Tornadoes at nighttime can sometimes fall under this trope. A flash of lightning can sometimes illuminate an otherwise invisible funnel cloud or debris circulation, and storm spotters are trained to look on the horizon and under cloud bases for something that is not lightning but might be confused for it and that is far more indicative of tornado danger — power flashes from the tornado itself snapping power lines and blowing transformers.


Video Example(s):



The symbiote is covered in black skin and it is undeniably dangerous, both in how it can brainwash its hosts and its apocalyptic potential.

How well does it match the trope?

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Example of:

Main / DarkIsEvil

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