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The Illuminati

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"There was a magic bullet! It was forged by Illuminati mystics to prevent us from learning the truth!"

The Ancient Conspiracy. The Omniscient Council of Vagueness. The One World Order. Founded at the dawn of human history, if not earlier, they gather influence and wealth, spinning their webs of lies and deceit in the shadowy heights of society. Or maybe they're just a bunch of rich old men with pretensions of grandeur. Either way, when a creator of popular culture needs a name for this group, they often turn to "The Illuminati" and their "Eye in the Pyramid" symbol; both have percolated their way into semi-general use, come across as refined and ancient, and (mostly) aren't under copyright. If there's a Shadow Government in fiction, expect it either to be The Illuminati, or it would be confused for The Illuminati.

"Illuminati" means "the enlightened ones" in Gratuitous Latin. There was a Masonic-like organization of intellectuals which was given this name in Real Life Bavaria in the 1770s, but it was eventually disbanded by the Bavarian government.note  There are people who fervently believe the Illuminati survived this purge, orchestrated The French Revolution (as part of their One World Order efforts), and still exist, very much as described above; find more details at Wikipedia's article.

This name is bandied about a lot over in the Wild Mass Guess department. See also The Knights Templar. If you're looking for the Marvel Comics group by this name, see here.

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    Anime & Manga 
  • The Illuminati have appeared in Blue Exorcist and look to becoming recurring villains... if not up there with Gehenna and Satan.
  • Symphogear: The Illuminati appear in the fourth season, AXZ, as the bad guys. Far from being a secretive German nerd, this version of Adam Weishaupt is an android manufactured by the ancient aliens who created the human race, and is hellbent on acquiring the powers of a god to show his creators up.

    Comic Books 
  • In Black Dynamite, the Illuminati are the overarching villains seeking world domination, led by a man who literally calls himself The Man.
  • In the graphic novel Cryptocracy, it's explained that the Illuminati are a myth created by the real Ancient Conspiracy, the Nine Families, who count on it being so outlandish that only the most fringe of groups will believe it, thus allowing them to keep working in the shadows. Also, it makes a good means of recruiting pawns — young rich people, the kind who'll one day be political and corporate elites, are convinced that they're being recruited for the Illuminati, and undergo humiliating "initiation rituals", footage of which is then used as blackmail material to ensure that they do what the Families want, without ever being allowed into the actual tiers of power.
  • In The DCU, the Illuminati hails from as far back as the days of Atlantis, has a covert hand in government affairs worldwide, and has been led by Vandal Savage from its birth to the modern day.
  • The Illuminati is featured in From Hell along with a number of other secret societies, though the Masons take center stage.
  • Alan Moore uses a lot of Illuminati symbology in The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen.
  • Marvel Universe:
    • This was the name of a secret alliance between influential superheroes — Iron Man, Reed Richards, Professor X, Namor the Sub-Mariner, Doctor Strange, and Black Bolt. They're actually a subversion, however, as their goals were to protect the world, not rule it, and their secretiveness eventually came back to bite them repeatedly (see World War Hulk, Secret Invasion, and even Civil War, all in which the ideological differences between the members end up highlighted by measures taken on by at least the more prominent players). Notably, Black Panther was invited to join but declined, because he knew that the group's extremely secretive nature left them doomed to fail if they ever disagreed on anything.
    • During the Dark Reign Story Arc, Norman Osborn forms an evil version of the Illuminati called the Cabal, composed of himself, Doctor Doom, Emma Frost, Loki, The Hood, and the Sub-Mariner — who, as mentioned above, is also a member of the good Illuminati. At the same time. He doesn't see the difference.
    • It's important to note that the Marvel guys have given subtle nods that they know about the connotations of the name. Actions have been taken by some members, most often chiefly Iron Man, in certain storylines such as the three listed above, which were not only disagreed with by at least one fellow member on principle, but also would call into question for readers whether they were playing this trope straight. Also, Iron Man says once to Maria Hill when remarking on this group and referring to it by name that "at least that's what I self-deprecatingly call our little world-saving group," giving clear hint that only he uses the name. Put this in perspective. The only member of the "good guy Illuminati" that ever used the name was the snarky/humorous member of the team who's led questionable acts in the plots that developed after each of its meetings, and even he readily admits it's self-deprecating humor.
    • In The Avengers (Jonathan Hickman), Black Panther of all people reconvenes the group in order to deal with an omniversal destruction situation. It wraps up the same way it always does with this group: utter failure, and the rest of the superhero community calling them out on how their secrecy made things worse.
    • In that same story, Namor founds a new Cabal, consisting of himself, Thanos, Corvus Glaive, Proxima Midnight, Maximus the Mad, Black Swan and an alternate universe's Terrax. They assembled to deal with the omniversal destruction problem, and were actually doing better than the Illuminati, though only because nobody on the team was bothered by murdering billions of people on a regular basis (in fact, most of the group liked it).
  • Mentioned in Sonic the Hedgehog/Mega Man: Worlds Unite when Conspiracy Theorist Sticks gets talking with Xander Payne. He's convinced the Illuminati are just a front created by the Freemasons and the Knights Templar to throw people off their trail.
  • There's a bit of Illuminati symbolism in Watchmen — Ozymandias, anyone?

    Films — Live-Action 

  • Dan Brown uses the name in his various books, most prominently in Angels & Demons, in which the Illuminati are a secret society of scientists founded by Galileo Galilei to spread the Enlightenment (hence the name) and to oppose the reactionist Roman Catholic Church. Although they are thought to have been destroyed long ago, Langdon is drawn into a plot aiming to blow up the Vatican City, which he believes is the Illuminati's revenge. It turns out that the Illuminati really ceased to exist and the whole crisis was orchestrated by a traitorous Church official (who had access to the seized Illuminati artifacts) to bring himself into power, and restore faith in Christianity to the world.
  • Duumvirate is written from the point of view of the Illuminati themselves.
  • The Illuminatus! trilogy helped spread the name. The books are a Mind Screw told by Unreliable Narrators and infamous for giving complex explanations for the origins of the Illuminati, and then subverting them later on, sometimes with information that is equally wrong. It doesn't help that there have been several groups throughout history under that name. The original Illuminati, according to the book, are Atlanteans who have been hiding under the Himalayas. There is also a gigantic pyramid-squid.
  • In Rainbow, the World Hegemony began as one of these in the form of the "Atheistic State", which easily defeated the rest of the world's military forces when they declared war against everyone else. However, unlike most examples of this trope, the Atheistic State made no effort to hide themselves when they were founded, and they were created partially because atheists had been demonized by doomsday prophets and painted as secretly conspiring to destroy religion, making the World Hegemony a Self-Fulfilling Prophecy.
  • The Red Room series has the House being a clear Expy for the organization, which Derek lampshades a couple of times. Word of God confirms that in-universe, the House is the source of the Illuminati "myth".
  • The Sister Verse and the Talons of Ruin has Jin and the Ring cult in act 1, who are implied to be this, and serve the interests of the Lord in White. They acquired their status by being the scouting party of a far more advanced civilization from a parallel universe.

    Live-Action TV 
  • American Horror Story: Apocalypse eventually reveals that the Nebulous Evil Organisation known as the Cooperative is actually the Illuminati operating under a rebranded name. They've managed to gain so much wealth and power by selling their souls to Satan.
  • Father Brown: In "The Owl of Minerva", Father Brown discovers that the murderer is a member of the Illuminati, which controls, among other things, much of the police, which gives them the leverage to frame Inspector Sullivan for the murders. That said, they're not as all-powerful as they'd like to think, as Father Brown is able to clear Sullivan's name, and Sullivan is then Put on a Bus to hunt the Illuminati and the cops on their payroll all across England.
  • Millennium (1996): The Millennium Group became something of an expy for this in the last season, which was some distance from the original concept.
  • Elliot from Mr. Robot has a theory that the 1% of the 1% secretly control all of humanity rather than governments. He's proven to be at least partially right when season 1 ends with an informal gathering of these individuals doing exactly what he thinks they do.


    Other Sites 
  • The Sway is presented as the Neopets version. They're upper-class nobles and are said to have influenced almost every major event in Neopian history, though it didn't get any more specific than that. However, they seem to have blown their cover once and for all during the War of the Obelisk (which they ultimately won), and continue to war against the other five factions over the Obelisk's magical power in a user-driven Multi-Mook Melee to this day. Despite their being exposed, however, it's still unknown exactly what they're behind, or even whether or not they're still in power...
  • SCP Foundation: The Illuminati is one of the 108 member organization of the Global Occult Coalition, an anti-anomalous organization under the United Nations and main rivals for the eponymous SCP Foundation.

    Professional Wrestling 
  • The Ascension's Titantron entrance video is Illuminati-associated symbolism, though it's not directly related to their characters. Ricardo Rodriguez, who was initially their manager in FCW before they gained their dark image, has stated that the "talent agency" gimmick was meant to be Illuminati.
  • And of course the nWo who ran WCW for the better part of four years both in storyline and behind the scenes.
  • TNA's 2010-11 Power Stable Immortal played this mostly straight at first, from the mass of foreshadowing to the ominous date of their takeover to the things they said to the quality of their regime's first show. The one subverting element was their "Ancient Conspiracy" is only ancient compared to the lifetime of most plots in wrestling. But then Fortune rebelled and Jeff Hardy tanked a pay-per-view. Immortal still remained, but their illusion of ominous power plummeted and would only continue to fade since.
  • WWE has The Wyatt Family, whose patriarch Bray Wyatt, implied to be a demon or otherwise malevolent spirit possessing former New Nexus member Husky Harris, has taken rare occasions on Twitter to play off some mysterious connection to Illuminati lore.

    Tabletop Games 
  • Steve Jackson Games sells various conspiracy-themed card-games (collectable and otherwise) under the blanket name Illuminati, while their line of GURPS role-playing material have published a couple of Illuminati-related sourcebooks. Some of it is obviously inspired by the Illuminatus! book trilogy. The company has a trademark on a least one version of the "Eye in the Pyramid" design, and the other companies in this section often get official permission to use it. Particularly WMG-worthy is the fact that several world-changing events in recent history seem to have been depicted on these cards in these games years before they happened.
  • Old World of Darkness/Chronicles of Darkness:
    • The hierarchical and secretive Tremere clan from Vampire: The Masquerade can function as a stand-in for the Illuminati.
    • In Mage: The Awakening, this is jumped to eleven by the Seers of the Throne.
    • In Mage: The Ascension, the Technocracy is revealed to be almost identical to this. They incorporate a number of other conspiracy theories about business, UFOs, and the government too.
  • The Illuminati is one of the secret societies in Paranoia. They may or may not be a front for Ultraviolets, spies from another Alpha Complex, bots, aliens... and may or may not actually exist.
  • Warhammer 40,000: The Imperium has been seeded with a society of exorcists who call themselves Illuminati. Unlike most examples, these guys are actually good. They are also effectively subservient to the Imperium, even trying to buddy up with the Imperium's Inquisition, which is normally a good way to get yourself killed.

    Video Games 
  • The Knights Templar in Assassin's Creed function identically to the nominal description of the Illuminati: operating from the shadows as the Ancient Conspiracy, rewriting history, trying to Take Over the World in an effort to end The Evils of Free Will, and include a cadre of famous historical figures to claim membership amongst their ranks.
  • The Closer: Game of the Year Edition: The Bavarian Illuminati serve as a Greater-Scope Villain hoping to exploit a baseball-related prophecy in order to remake the world, having created the game's Big Bad for this purpose.
  • The Contra series has this with the Triumvirate, whom are revealed in Shattered Soldier to have been the ones responsible for the Alien invasion of Earth, which is the core plot of the series. They were behind the invasion of an alien planet and stole a powerful artifact.
  • The Illuminati features heavily in the Deus Ex Universe, and they're debatably the good guys. Their rogue spin-off organization, the Majestic 12, on the other hand, are decidedly not. The original Deus Ex game actually subverts the idea of the Illuminati being an Ancient Conspiracy, as one of their members notes that its current iteration essentially started from scratch — albeit by adopting older ideals — in the 18th century. In the prequel Human Revolution, Taggart describes the Illuminati as "just a name used to get rich people to invest more money," and he's not far off; the organization's every attempt to assert more control over the world goes completely off the rails, often due to internal sabotage. It's no wonder the first game's Big Bad was able to usurp nearly all of their resources for Majestic 12. Of course, Taggart is a lying liar who lies, and the organization was able to transform Zhao and Taggart from small fry to global power brokers.
  • Dominions has the secretive Illuminated Order, operating in local Überwald.
  • In Eiyuu Senki: The World Conquest, the Illuminati are the main antagonist faction, creating strife and discord in nations all over the world to keep everyone in a state of perpetual war.
  • Mobius from The Evil Within and The Evil Within 2 is an influential organization that controls every system of government, having controlled everything behind the scenes for a very long time. Their Administrator funded Ruvik's STEM research as a means of bringing everyone into a single Hive Mind under their One World Order. Every operative, from janitorial to the Administrator himself, has a chip implanted in their skull, making sure that any sign of disloyalty meant instant death (something that takes them down in the end).
  • In Grand Theft Auto V, both Nervous Ron and Lester believe the Illuminati's busy working behind the scenes. Outside Ron's radio show, though, they aren't really mentioned.
  • Hitman has Providence, a secret society founded by three old money families in the wake of World War 2 that controls the world from the shadows, and are the main antagonists of the franchise's World of Assassination Trilogy. They're the ones behind the Sapienza virus (to make the ICA obsolete), the Moroccan coup (to make the Moroccan government look inept while stealing money from the people via Strandberg), and are also responsible for the super-soldier experiment that led to the creation of 47 and the Shadow Client. Their name originates from the Eye of Providence, the symbol typically associated with the Illuminati.
  • inFAMOUS features a group called the "First Sons", who are implied, if not outright stated, to have manipulated history quite a fair bit (particularly in the lives of Cole, Zeke, and Trish). Their insignia also, of course, contains the iconic eye used in most Illuminati pictures.
  • The story in the iOS Match-Three Game Mystery Match follows Emma, Julian and their allies in the conflict between the Illuminati and the SIS.
  • One of the endings in Please, Don't Touch Anything results in an all-seeing eye appearing. This and the accompanying achievement strongly hint at their existence in the game's universe.
  • Pony Island: As you browse upon the profiles in the devil's computer, a strange eye starts to follow you around. Log into the Guest account, and move an image file of a triangle over it, and the eye is finally content. The message "Illuminati Confirmed" displays, earning you a free ticket.
  • Resident Evil:
    • Resident Evil 4 has Los Iluminados, whose name in Spanish actually translates into this; their leader (Osmund Saddler) aims to take the world by infecting the world's most powerful leaders, beginning with the US President by infecting his daughter so she can infect him and have him serve as a new vector. Subverted by Albert Wesker being a more successful infiltrator behind the scenes than their entire organization.
    • Resident Evil 6 introduces The Family, a conglomerate of old ruling families who have secretly influenced the United States from its first colonies up to nuking Raccoon City. They're basically the reason Umbrella chose to be so stupidly overt in erasing witnesses just to be sure nobody survived — the moment one of the family's high-level agents gains access to the C-Virus, he tests it out on two cities and nukes one.
  • The Illuminati is one of the three playable factions in The Secret World, along with the Templars (who are not, but have ties to, the historical The Knights Templar) and an Asian-themed "Dragon" society. Their defining trait is the Card-Carrying Villain MegaCorp power structure, where employees will frequently backstab each other when they're not busy exploiting the masses, and constantly boast about it.
  • In The Sims 3: World Adventures, some of the Egyptian locals are worried about the Illsiminati.
  • Street Fighter:
    • Street Fighter III's antagonist leads an interesting take on this. The Illuminati in these games have a lot of religious symbolism and are more akin to a psychotic cult than an oppressive secret society. Gill himself is a Dark Messiah with obscene doses of A God Am I. Oh, and then there's the fact that he's red and blue skinned and clad in a thong... Although, they do have the whole Ancient Conspiracy thing going on.
    • The Illuminati play a vital part in the plot of Street Fighter V, which is set few before III. i.e., they're behind Charlie Nash being Back from the Dead (with Gill's Sexy Secretary Kolin as a sort-of monitor) and also have Juri Han as their ally in exchange for a new eye that replaces her Feng Shui Engine.
  • Gomez, the resident Conspiracy Theorist in Vampire: The Masquerade - Bloodlines, has a particularly convoluted theory about the Illuminati. Of course, this being the Old World of Darkness, that theory has a good chance to be true...
  • In the XCOM: Enemy Unknown expansion Enemy Within, EXALT is essentially the Illuminati, being an Ancient Conspiracy of shadowy agents working behind the scenes to dominate the world, taking advantage of the alien invasion to gather advanced alien technology and spread their influence. Their agents are generally white-collar businessmen and office workers, wearing dress shirts and ties, and their headquarters is a massive penthouse command center atop a skyscraper, filled with precious artwork and opulent furniture. However, being a shadowy conspiracy, they do not openly fight the aliens and thus never acquire higher-end technology, meaning that they never advance beyond carapace armor and lasers and thus will be crushed utterly by XCOM in the late game, if XCOM survives that long.

    Visual Novels 
  • Science Adventure Series:
    • The Committee of 300 is the Big Bad controlling various enemy factions that the protagonists fight. They have many, many front groups they work through, having hands in research into psychic powers and time travel, basically control much of the world from the shadows, and have the Evil Plan of depopulating most of the world so they can more easily control the rest.
    • In Steins;Gate, Chuunibyou protagonist Okabe Rintarou believes that an Illuminati-style group he refers to as "The Organization" exists and controls all of human society. Everyone dismisses this as part of his delusional ramblings. As it turns out, there actually is a secret organization, the aforementioned "Committee of 300", that is aiming to control the world through the research institution/front group SERN, though they aren't quite there yet and Okabe likely was not thinking of them when he made up his ramblings — he admits he thought it was nonsense.

    Web Videos 
  • Avatar: The Abridged Series: "And then he beat the crap out of him, yelling about magic arrows and Illuminati or whatever. I'm telling you guys, he's batshit insane."
  • Backwards Songs With Luke: Musicians are not only being controlled or threatened by The Illuminati, but they had also kidnapped Luke on at least two occasions due to his research.

    Western Animation 
  • The American Dad! episode "Black Mystery Month" features a group called the Illuminuti, which guards the secret history of peanut butter... which is actually much more meaningful than it sounds. Specifically, it was an accidental invention of Mary Todd Lincoln, and Abraham Lincoln plotted to credit it to an African-American man in order to ease post-Civil War race relations. When he was murdered, the plot stalled until it fell into the hands of Grover Cleveland, who completed it by passing credit onto George Washington Carver.note  Not only do the Illuminuti guard this secret, they're also searching for a legendary "jar of proof" — the sole remaining evidence that proved it was not a black man's invention — in order to destroy it, as they fear the truth getting out will send America into racial chaos and hatred not seen since the Civil War.
  • The Cleveland Show has the hip-hop Illuminati made up of hip-hop stars who control the world through the trends they start.
  • Gargoyles featured a group by this name. Xanatos, despite being the Big Bad of the series, is merely a junior member. While not explored much in the actual show (it is a secret conspiracy, after all), the comic book sequel and Word of God go into more detail: it was founded by knights of Camelot after the kingdom fell, some of those knights are immortal and still running the organization, and they seem to be preparing for the return of King Arthur. There are also only 666 members at any one time, though that may only be a side-effect of their ranking system (one guy at the top, two second-in-commands, three below them, all the way down to rank 36 members at the bottom).
  • Bill Cipher from Gravity Falls is a reference to this, being a one-eyed triangle bent on world domination.
  • In Inside Job (2021), the world is controlled by a council of shadowy inhuman figures. However, since they don't want to deal with any of the managerial business, they outsourced the heavy lifting of keeping the conspiracies under wraps. The show focuses on Cognito Inc., which is only one of the businesses that keep the ignorant masses ignorant. Their rival company is the actual Illuminati, which is led by Oprah. The Illuminati get a bit more focus on season 2 and are more developed, explaining that their ranks are filled with celebrities (their top brass is composed of Beyoncé, Jay-Z, Lin-Manuel Miranda, and Oprah, and they are connected with multiple actors) and specialize much more in controlling pop culture than Cognito, being considered the coolest and most hip among the secret groups that run the world. They also differ from Cognito in their preference for using magic and the occult in their plans when compared to the other company's preference for science-based exploits.
  • As quoted above, in the Justice League Unlimited episode "Question Authority", one of the facts that the Question "reveals" while under torture concerns the Illuminati.
  • Metalocalypse has the Church of the Black Klok, an ancient religious group that has foreseen all of the events surrounding Dethklok, brought Ofdensen back to life, and guarded the prophecy that details how Dethklok will save the world from the apocalypse brought on by Salacia/The Half Man.
  • Minoriteam has the White Shadow, who is a living eye in a pyramid.
  • In the Rick and Morty episode "The Ricklantis Mix-up", we find out that the Council of Ricks who Rick C-137 (the show's "main Rick") killed off in "The Rickshank Redemption" were actually controlled from behind the scenes by the Shadow Council of Ricks, who plan to control the newly elected President Morty in the same way. Unfortunately for them, this is subverted when President Morty turns out to actually be Evil Morty, and he promptly subjects the Shadow Council to the Board to Death trope by having all but two of them killed, with the remaining two forced to be subservient to him.
  • The Venture Bros.: Dr. Venture is invited to join the Illuminati in "The Unicorn in Captivity". He spends the whole episode hemming and hawing about whether to join their ranks and play by their rules. It turns out that the Illuminati are fake, and Venture has been hooked up to a VR simulator the whole time.
  • In Young Justice (2010), the Light seems to have a lot of Illuminati characteristics, down to the name ("the Light" being very similar to "the enlightened ones"). In addition, the first member of the Light is Vandal Savage, who formed the Illuminati in the comics.


Video Example(s):


Triangle of Light

Lara Croft finds a letter from her fathering telling her the story of the time-manipulating Triangle of Light, whose power caused the destruction of an entire city. leading it to be split into two pieces which were hidden at opposite ends of the world. Unfortunately, the Illuminati sought to reunite the two halves, and it was up to Lara to stop them.

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Example of:

Main / NoManShouldHaveThisPower

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