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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.

Examples of Lightning Reveal include:

Anime And Manga

  • 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.
  • Oda Nobunaga in Sengoku Basara's anime adaptation is so evil that, wherever he goes, evil red-glowing thunderstorms follow. Naturally, he gets an introduction through Lightning Reveal.
  • 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.

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.


  • In the 2nd 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
  • In the opening scene of Van Helsing, Dracula's demonic visage is briefly visible when lightning strikes.
  • Happens during the climax of The Lion King when Simba reveals himself to Scar before the final confrontation.
  • Tarzan: When Clayton hangs himself.


  • 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 40000 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 JRR Tolkien's 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 26th Century cyborg. 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 H. P. Lovecraft short story 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.

Live Action TV

  • 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.


  • 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

  • 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.
  • 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.

Web Comics

Western Animation

 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.

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.
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