A static scene. That is, the actors do not move around or speak. They are blocked (positioned) in ways meant to communicate the relationships between the characters at that moment. The entire scene need not necessarily be a tableau; scenes can open or close with one, often held as the curtain rises or falls. Although usually scripted, a tableau might appear due to a director's decision. The original French word "tableau" is usually used to mean "painting", which the trope is partially about.
Not to be confused with what you put playing cards on in most solitaire games.
- Neon Genesis Evangelion used tableaus almost to excess, in part because it saved money and effort not to have the characters move around. They seem to pop up a lot in Hideaki Anno's work.
- Cromartie High School used tableaus with Running Gag frequency, both in the manga version, but also in the anime adaption — where it was completely lampshaded.
- The anime version of Thermae Romae uses this throughout the entire show. The vast majority of the characters have one 3/4 shot that is used repeatedly (with small changes, like eyes open, etc.) but often have animation that's used once and very rarely. When somebody walks across the screen the figure jumps across.
- Steve Martin's "Death of Socrates" sketch opens with the characters posed to resemble the painting of the same name (also an example of Art Imitates Art).
- The film musical 1776 ends with a tableau that reproduces the famous painting of the signing of the Declaration of Independence.
- The Star Wars films all end with a dialogue-free tableau:
- A New Hope and The Phantom Menace both end with the main characters standing on a raised platform in front of an audience, during a victory celebration;
- The Empire Strikes Back ends with the main characters gathered around a large window, looking out into space;
- Return of the Jedi features the main cast gathered around an Ewok campfire;
- Attack of the Clones closes with Padme and Anakin (along with R2D2 and C3PO) on a Naboo balcony being married;
- Revenge of the Sith closes with Uncle Owen and Aunt Beru, with baby Luke in their arms, Watching The Twin Sunset in a direct Shout-Out to an iconic tableau from the original film.
- The Force Awakens ends with Rey finding Luke atop a mountain island and holding his old lightsaber out toward him as he looks back at her.
- A Field in England begins several scenes with the characters standing in a stylised tableau pose.
- A unique use of this trope in early silent film A Corner in Wheat (1909), to establish mood. Twice—once when the poor people are lining up for bread, and once when the financier's body is discovered—the actors remain motionless while the camera rows. The poor people in the breadline are presented frozen at the beginning, while the actors in the latter scene freeze upon discovering the body. The first scene is presented in contrast with the rich people having a fancy dinner.
- The Iron Mask (1929) opens with Douglas Fairbanks (D'Artagnan) and The Three Musketeers posed in a tableau. Then Fairbanks steps down, whips his sword around, and delivers a little speech inviting the audience to join him on an adventure. Except for one similar scene halfway through, the rest of the film is silent.
- The stage directions in The Importance of Being Earnest call for tableaus at the end of many scenes.
- The Inspector General ends with a tableau, described in detail in the script, showing the characters' Mass "Oh, Crap!" reaction to the news of the real Inspector General's arrival.
- Tom Stoppard's play After Magritte opens with a surreal tableau, the meaning of which is explained in the opening dialogue, and ends on another.
- The characters in Sunday in the Park with George are based on figures who appear in the paintings of Georges Seurat. At the end of the first act, they assume their respective positions in Seurat's "Sunday on the Grande Jatte."
- Paul Fleischman's parodic one-act "ZAP" has over fifty blackouts in ninety minutes. Due to the nature of stage lights (even the fastest ones will still quickly fade rather than an immediate cut-to-black) and the progressive nature of insanity, the front-end of the play can be rife with tableaus.
- A few episodes of Star Wars: The Clone Wars end with the characters dramatically posed, usually watching ships take off or land.