Lightning flashes and a scene is illuminated, it flashes again, and again, each moment a new frame in a story played out in silhouette. It may be a grisly murder, it may be a fight scene, but whatever it is we only see it in stills as a light flicks on and off.
Usually involves strobes or lightning but can be slower. Can be an artistic form of censorship, for example if a murder is taking place we might only see tiny fragments of it.
When the "flash" in question is a camera, the freeze effect might actually be photos.
Not to be confused with Stop Motion animation, although this trope could certainly be used in stop motion.
- One of the more famous scenes in Macross: Do You Remember Love? is the duel between Max and Miria, which eventually takes them inside the airlock of a Meltrandi warship. They shoot out all the interior lights through stray bullets, and the rest of the battle is only illuminated by brief flashes from Bullet Sparks or sparks caused by the two Mecha crashing into each other.
- 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.
- In An Extremely Goofy Movie, Silvia has a dance solo in front of a strobe light.
- In Clownhouse, one of the antagonists is shown passing by one of the protagonists while a lightbulb flickers.
- The Dark Knight Rises features Batman jumping a Mook as gunshots illuminate his approach.
- Equilibrium. First fight scene is illuminated entirely by muzzle flashes from the protagonist's pistols.
- Father Malius' awakening from two decades of non-action in Happy Hell Night is show via continues flashes from a polaroid camera.
- Revenge of the Pink Panther has an attempted murder in a night club while the strobe light is on.
- In Coils by Roger Zelazny and Fred Saberhagen, in one scene an assassin is approaching a telepath while Donald, the protagonist, ends up observing the scene through the telepath's eyes. Donald tries to delay the assassin by making the household electronics run amok and flickering the lights, the telepath gives the assassin a heartache, but the flashes still show him staggering toward his victim.
- Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.: The episode "Uprising" features a climactic shootout in a blacked out room lit by a flickering generator. Cue a delightful montage of Mooks getting their asses kicked.
- Doctor Who:
- Due South featured a gunfight in a dark hallway during the series finale. The only time the characters could be seen was when they were illuminated by one of the (many) gunshots.
- The Mandalorian: In the episode "The Prisoner", Mando sneaks up behind Mayfeld down a long corridor with flickering lights, and with each flicker he gets closer... and closer...
- In Smallville, Checkmate, there is an epic one when Clark breaks down the doors of a chamber where Chloe is Bound and Gagged, beat up the agents and catch a bullet in front of Chloe's face while the scene flashes due to a power breach.
- Dungeons & Dragons module I10 Ravenloft II The House on Gryphon Hill. At the conclusion of the adventure the PCs are desperately trying to stop the Creature from achieving his goal. They are forced to follow it through a thunderstorm, where the only illumination is from strokes of lightning. Each flash reveals a specific scene.
- Inverted with the "Flash Black Galaxy" level from Super Mario Galaxy 2 where all of the enemies are completely visible, but the backgrounds constantly flash for a few seconds to the music.
- Double-subverted in the NES version of Ninja Gaiden 2 in stage 3-1; you can see the characters, and some of the background, continuously, but the level itself and the enemies are only visible during lightning strikes.
- In the fifth case of Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney, Ema Skye witnesses a fight scene between Prosecutor Neil Marshall and serial killer Joe Darke during the SL-9 Incident. With the power out and the room pitch black, a particular flash of lightning illuminates a scene that is burned into Ema's mind. After the fight (and the prosecutor's subsequent murder), she draws a picture of the scene, which turns out to be instrumental in finding the true culprit two years later.
- Used on Day 2 of Five Nights at Freddy's: Sister Location. You have to restart the power in a tiny, cramped room with the Funtime Freddy animatronic, who will try and get close enough to give you a surprise. You have to periodically stop working and play a recorded message that will pacify Freddy, and the only source of light flickers constantly to add to the Uncanny Valley factor of Freddy's movements.
- One of the trailers for Resident Evil: Operation Raccoon City has the operatives chasing a heavily bleeding survivor. They track him into a poorly lit building... and run into the horde of zombies feasting on dead bodies (presumably including the erstwhile survivor). Their confrontation is shown with close-ups of each operative being illuminated by flashes of gunfire as they pull a fighting retreat.
- On one Looney Tunes short, Sylvester makes a formula for making a Personal Raincloud to use on the dog guarding Tweety. But then he spills it and the room is darkened by the resulting cloud. Outside, the windows are dark, but the flashes of lightning occasionally show a fleeing Sylvester.
- Several episodes of The Simpsons, including "Homerpalooza", where (in a flashback) we see teenagers installing a strobe into the back of their car. They turn it on and dance to music - the rest of the scene is shown as a series of stills as the light comes on and off, spoofing a similar scene in Dazed and Confused.
- One episode of The Tick had The Deadly Bulb attack in darkness, where we only saw several freeze-framed images when his lightbulb-head flashed in the darkness.
- In the Family Guy eposode "Ready, Willing And Disabled": while fighting during the night over the money, Meg, Chris and Stewie are occasionally seen only while there's lightning. And while most of the flashes show them fighting, one reveals them dressed and posing for an "old timey" photo.
- A strobe light easily demonstrates this. If you can't get one, blinking your eyes really fast while watching someone move is a reasonable simulation, but you shouldn't do it too long.
- This is how zoetropes work. They're basically rotating models of lines of subtly different figurines standing in for frames of animation. When spun and synced with the proper strobe frequency, the figures look like rows of animated objects, since the sporadic lighting "freezes" the spinning zoetrope at the right pattern to make it look like the objects are in motion, while constant lighting would just make it look like a rotating blur.