"Whoa! I could have missed it, but I'm pretty sure a giant beam of energy shooting up into the sky wasn't in the mission briefing..."
When an event of great celestial, magical or ultratech power occurs, it is often heralded by a beam of light—usually blue or white—that shoots straight up into the sky from ground zero, often evaporating whatever clouds are unfortunate enough to be in its path. Sometimes it starts out narrow and expands in diameter as it climbs.
In the case of more disastrous events, the Pillar of Light is just an extension of the Pre-Explosion Glow; in other cases, it can be part of a truly cosmic Battle Aura. The rest of the time it is relatively benign, if exciting to watch.
It should be noted that a Pillar of Light usually travels upwards. A Pillar of Light that comes down, more often than not, is a Kill Sat, which tends to be far less benign. See also Sphere of Destruction for the globular variant.
Anime and Manga
- When Belldandy grants Keiichi's wish in Ah! My Goddess, a beam of light blasts from her forehead up to heaven (coincidentally blowing a hole through all the intervening floors of the building they're in at the time). Fortunately nobody was standing in the way—the whole reason why she was able to grant the wish is that Keiichi was dorm-sitting while everyone else went out and had fun.
- The Vision of Escaflowne TV series uses this as the special effect for Hitomi's teleportation power—which, besides being central to the plot, came up pretty frequently.
- In Futari wa Pretty Cure, the protagonists' Transformation Sequence is performed within a Pillar of Light, and is one of the most pyrotechnically impressive transformation sequences known.
- A cross-shaped version is often seen as the results of Angel attacks in Neon Genesis Evangelion.
- In The Big O, a pillar of light effectively triggers the end of the world... maybe.
- Gasaraki has an inversion—when Yushiro performs the ritual that is at the center of much of the Gowa family's attention, the pillar comes down out of the sky to him.
- Haibane Renmei has one for the Day of Flight.
- In Trigun, Vash The Stampede gets Puppeteer Parasite into firing his weapon at full power against an enemy. He manages to redirect the aim to the sky, and when the weapon fires a huge Pillar of Light rises up to the planet's moon and bores a large crater in it.
- The Combined Energy Attack in Tokyo Mew Mew uses five pillars of light, color-coded to each girl. Ichigo's, of course, is the biggest, and right in the middle.
- The anime did this in the first episode: Pikachu's final attack on the Spearow caused a pillar of electrical light to appear.
- Mewtwo's destruction of the laboratory he was born in, and how he blew up Viridian's gym.
- Then later in the sequel when he sent the lake underground.
- Used as a sign that Latios was dying in Pokémon Heroes.
- Magical Girl Lyrical Nanoha
- In the anime version of Sailor Moon, Chibi-Usa frequently emits one of these from the moon mark on her forehead when she's frightened or upset due to the Silver Crystal being inside her body.
- In an episode of Beyblade, Ray beats his rival with a move which is accompanied by his beyblade emmitting a green beam of light that smashes through the roof of the arena, causing one of the Combat Commentators to quip "That's probably going to take down a couple of satellites!"
- Mahou Sensei Negima
- Especially large-scale magic tends to do stuff like this. Especially the time the bad guys used Konoka's latent magical powers to summon a giant demon.
- Of particular note is Chachamaru's Kill Sat Artifact, Al-Iskandaria.
- In the anime Nabari no Ou, a pillar of light accompanies the Shinrabansho's activation.
- Many of the events of the anime Boogiepop Phantom appear to be precipitated by a mysterious pillar of light that shot into the sky. As revealed in Boogiepop and Others, this was the result of Echoes' transmitting himself as information back to the higher plane he came from.
- In One Piece, the first hint of God Eneru's presence and power is a column of light that vaporizes people who make "blasphemous" statements. After Eneru actually appears on-screen, it is used as a particularly devastating attack.
- Digimon Adventure: After beating VenomVamdemon and his demon crotch, the heroes use one of these to return to the Digital World. Also, if the exaggerated Stock Footage Transformation Sequences are to be believed, Digivices blast one through the crests and into the sky every time evolution to the Perfect level happens.
- Bad stuff happens when this shows up in Saikano. Really bad stuff.
- The perfected form of the Shishi Hokodan, in Ranma ½, looks a lot like this. The user launches a bolt of depression-generated ki straight up into the air, forming a brief pillar of blazing energy that then colaesces into a pulsing fireball, then goes emotionally limp and lets it fall back down, smashing everything around the user. The biggest problem with this move is that, if the user gets snapped out of being emotionally hollow at the wrong time, the move will crush them, too.
- Fushigi Yuugi has one of these at each summoning ceremony—and yes, the pillars are Color Coded for Your Convenience.
- In the Saint Seiya arc set in Asgard, Hilda's God Warriors are awakened when their Cloths emit great pillars of light to match the stars of Ursa Major.
- Any sufficiently powerful attack on Dragon Ball or Dragonball Z; especially when it's a deflected beam attack.
- The Tower of Babel superweapon in Nadia: The Secret of Blue Water shoots a column of light upwards towards an Atlantean satelite (basicly a mirror orbiting the earth) and redirecting it in the specified target.
- In a Naruto Shippuden filler Arc, a young boy named Yûkimaru has the power to partially control the Three-tailed Beast. Whenever he uses this power, his chakra would shoot up into the air, which looked like a pillar of light.
- All jinchuuriki do this when entering the Version 2 state, but with a pillar of burning blood and dark chakra.
- In Fairy Tail, when the huge demon Lullaby is destroyed, a pillar of light rise in the atmosphere. It also leaves a huge crater behind.
- Fairy Glitter... nuff said.
- In Undocumented Features, Yggdrasil in Asgard emits one to continually show it hasn't been compromised. This was added as a safety feature after it was nearly destroyed (and with it, the world).
- This happens in Neon Exodus Evangelion: The Motion Picture when five Evas and Lucifer use their AT fields to contain the explosion of the Big Bad.
- Avatar: The Abridged Series: See "Western Animation" below for the original context.
Zuko: That light, it could only be someone opening an iceberg piñata... AND NOT SHARING IT WITH ME!!!
Films -- Animation
- At the conclusion of Final Fantasy the Spirits Within, the Phantom Gaia, having been countered by the Spirit Wave, leaves Earth in the form of a pillar of light that stretches from the Leonid Crater and into outer space, taking its Phantoms with it.
- In the Over the Hedge movie, the De-Pelter Turbo unleashes a Pillar of Light that obliterates a passing satellite, roasts marshmallows and pops popcorn a few feet away, and can be seen from outside the galaxy.
Films -- Live-Action
- The "God" in Star Trek V: The Final Frontier.
- Leeloo in The Fifth Element, at the end where she releases the title element.
- Minas Morgul produces one of these in the Return of the King movie, shooting a gigantic, green pillar of light into the sky moments before disgorging a horde of orcs led by the Nazgul.
- The book tells us that this particular pillar is produced in response to one from Barad-dûr. The exchange is essentially Sauron (at Barad-dûr) asking "Are you ready?" and the Witch-King at Minas Morgul replying "Yes!"
- In Iron Man, overloading the large Arc Reactor results in this.
- In Ghostbusters, when the ecto containment unit explodes.
- One comes out of the book when the witches are utterly inexplicably resurrected in Hocus Pocus.
- I/O Towers in Tron have a beam that shoots into the sky at an angle and enables communication between living programs and their Users. In addition, the Master Control Program essentially is a Pillar of Light with a face.
- Tron: Legacy also has a Pillar of Light, when the Portal to the real world is activated by Kevin Flynn's disc.
- Raiders of the Lost Ark has one created by The Ark of the Covenant.
- In Superman (1977), on Krypton, the three criminals Zod, Non and Ursa are kept arrested within an independent, seemingly emittor-less Pillar of Light.
- In Chronicles Of Riddick, New Mecca has many large constructions which emit Pillars Of Light. These shut down as the Necromongers attack.
- On Lost, the characters, having travelled back in time, see a pillar of light shoot up into the sky. Subverted in that it is later revealed by Locke that it was perfectly ordinary lightbulb light from the hatch, and he comments that at the time he thought the light was somehow significant, when in reality it was actually completely meaningless.
- In the fourth, self-titled Quatermass serial the Planet People are a sect who believe they are being transported to a wonderful new planet by beams of light that descend to the Earth. Professor Quatermass discovers that the beams have a much deadlier purpose.
- In the Torchwood miniseries Children of Earth, a pillar of light coming down from the sky was how the 456 emissary arrived on Earth.
- An episode of Stargate Atlantis shows a Pillar of Light coming down to a village from the Wraith hiveship in orbit. Sheppard goes to check it out but never reveals what he found, and no-one bothers to ask him. No such beam has been seen on the show before or since.
- In Supernatural one of these was produced when Lucifer was freed.
- The DVD edition of the Doctor Who serial Day of the Daleks includes a version with new special effects. One of these is a narrow column of light shining upward from the Daleks' headquarters when they switch on the Time Vortex Magnetron.
- In Exalted, there is a Solar-Circle Sorcery called Total Annihilation, which results in a pillar of light that is five miles high. And a Solar Exalted's Battle Aura essentially becomes a non-destructive Pillar of Light plus other special effects when it's at full power. Ironically it's a drawback to using maximum power, since it advertises the Solar's presence to the setting's "Shaolin death squads".
- Mega Man
- Copy X from the Mega Man Zero games uses a big blue pillar of light to heal himself, if the player's rank is high enough to warrant it.
- Mega Man X's Zero makes use of the Pillar of Light to hurt enemies and stay temporarily invincible. Two variations: a colossal, screen-wide vertical shower of beams in X6 or a more benign Pillar Of Light in X8.
- Frog earns one of these in Chrono Trigger (complete with Theme Music Power-Up) by attuning himself to the Masamune blade, just before the party's assault on Magus's castle. Watch!
- Occurs in the opening animation of Jedah Dohma, the Big Bad of the third Darkstalkers game Vampire Saviour, except the pillar is made of blood instead of light. He appears from the top of the screen, slowly hovering down into place, before the pillar dissipates.
- Terry Bogard's Power Stream from The King of Fighters is one of these, though it was probably inspired by Geese Howard's Raging Storm, which is a cage (or claw) of light.
- Scorched Earth has it as one of the random death effects - the tank melts a well in the ground, and a rotating beam of blue and white light shoots upward from there.
- Command & Conquer
- The American superweapon from Command & Conquer: Generals fires one of these... which is then reflected off of the Kill Sat in orbit and back onto the battlefield, where it acts like a huge cutting laser.
- In the Tiberium series, the GDI's Kill Sat Ion Cannon. It fits the Pillar Of Light idea a bit more; Kane himself was shown to have treated it like a beam of light from God himself.
- Final Fantasy
- The finishing move "Blasting Zone" of Squall's Limit Break in Final Fantasy VIII involves a Pillar of Light that's visible from orbit, which is impressive since it's generated by his gunblade.
- An optional boss uses this as one of its attacks. Granted, it doesn't go straight up but straight through the target, but since it's named "Light Pillar", this trope still applies.
- The Guardian Force Eden, when summoned, turns the entire planet into a magical cannon that shoots the enemy into outer space using a continent-wide Pillar of Light. Overkill? Naaah.
- In Final Fantasy VII, after Sephiroth obtains the Black Materia and begins casting Meteor, the Planet's WEAPONs are awakened in an enormous column of Lifestream that shoots straight up from the Northern Crater.
- And, in the ending, the ultimate White Magic, Holy, rises from the same place in the same manner.
- Final Fantasy IX's ultimate Eidolon, Ark, smashes the enemy down with a magical explosion so potent that it's briefly seen from outer space as a brief pillar bursting from the ground.
- Metroid Prime: When Samus finally places all the artifacts, a beam of light shoots up from the central structure. What does it do? I don't know, Meta Ridley comes along and breaks it. Presumably, it would have done what the pulse afterward does, which is teleport Samus into the Impact Crater.
- In the sequel, restoring the energy to all four temples and gaining the Light Suit allows Samus to teleport between the temples by riding their Pillars of Light. You also use one to enter the final level.
- The World Ends With You
- When Neku levels up.
- Also, Pillars of Light of varying magnitudes are Joshua's secondary attack method after a certain plot point. It's more this than Beam Spam, because they come out of the ground instead of from Joshua.
- Half-Life 2 Episode 2's superportal beam might count, other than that it is not in the straight line.
- In Halo 3, a giant Forerunner artifact left buried in Africa emits one of these when it's uncovered and activated.
- Nowel of Magical Battle Arena calls down four of these for her super move, which is then followed by four massive, highly-damaging explosions. If you see her preparing these, for goodness sake, run!
- In Magic and Mayhem: The Art of Magic, the "Judgement" spell appears as a column of light.
- Super Robot Wars
- Subverted in Super Robot Wars Original Generations. Wodam Ymir's final attack summons a sword made of Pure Energy to destroy his surroundings in a Sphere of Destruction preceded by a Pillar of Light. The aftermath of the explosion shows the pillar still shooting into the sky... then pans down to show that it's just his enormous energy sword being held vertically in a post-Asskicking Pose.
- Similarly, Ganleon/Gunleon's final attack in Super Robot Wars Z ends with a "victory" pose in which the robot itself cries Manly Tears for its fallen opponent. It then roars and fires those tears into the stratosphere.
- Mother 3: The Seven Needles briefly turn into beams of light when pulled.
- A textbook Pillar of Light can be seen in the third Thief game when Garrett activates the Final Glyph. The streets around it also briefly flood with light, creating an intricate symbol from the City itself.
- Several offensive Druid spells in World of Warcraft cause downward-traveling Pillars of Light. Most frequently seen (and also most awesome-looking, especially with the latest graphic change) is Moonfire.
- In Warcraft 3, this is a pretty common effect for spells. Off the top of my head, this happens during Hero level ups, resurrections, Holy Light, Mass Teleport, and more.
- God of War
- This happens twice in the series; once when you kill Ares and then again when you kill Athena.
- And then again when you finally kill Zeus and AGAIN when Kratos commit suicide.
- In Star Ocean: Till the End of Time, following Fayt destroying the Vendeeni battleship, talking to NPCs will have them wondering what that pillar of light was.
- The "Alpha Strike" in Iji is of the downward variety. And there are a lot of pillars (one from each of an entire space armada), since it is meant to raze the entire planet simultaneously.
- Shin Megami Tensei III: Nocturne
- The Smiting Prayers elite skill Ray of Judgment in Guild Wars calls forth a pillar of glowing white light that heavily damages (and sets on fire) anyone foolish enough (or knocked-down enough) to remain within its radius.
- Done beautifully in Valkyrie Profile: Covenant of the Plume by Garm /Ailyth.
- In Dragon Age when the Archedemon is slain. The whole of the Fereldin army sees it from a distance.
- In Dragon Age II the bomb Anders planted in the Chantry creates a pillar of red light during the explosion.
- Done in the Soul Series with the Evil Seed. When Siegdfried becomes Nightmare, an evil Pillar of Light occurs that causes widespread madness and bloodlust.
- As of Pokémon Diamond and Pearl, the attack SolarBeam has this as its animation.
- In Golden Sun, the Gaia spell is a blasts the enemy with light and levitating rocks from undergound.
- Certain summons also have this effect.
- The Demichev Reactor in Singularity. Provides the page quote.
- Armored Core
- Armored Core 4 provides a classic instance of this trope with the tower-like Ehrenburg Anti-Satellite cannon. If the player fails to destroy it, it will fire a huge pillar of light into the air, destroying the GA surveillence satellite. The mission which it appears in is also (amusingly) called... "Pillar of Light".
- And then they come back in Armored Core: For Answer, except they appear significantly smaller this time and there are three of them around a huge lake (although like the AC4 version, they are in Antarctica). However, the player only sees them fire in the final cutscene of the ORCA Ending, where they are used to destroy the Assault Cells that keep the human race bound to the Earth, the goal that ORCA was working towards; however, it is a Bittersweet Ending, because the player is the last surviving member of the ORCA Brigade, and millions suffocated due to pollution when the Cradles crash to earth as a consequence of the player's actions.
- In Knights of the Old Republic, a very high "Light Side" alignment cause your character portrait to be backlit by one of these.
- The Legend of Zelda Skyward Sword uses these as beacons, with colour-coded beams showing the way to each of the main overworld areas. You can place additional ones on the map as reminders.
- Happens when Crocodile Isle explodes and sinks into the sea in Donkey Kong Country 2 after K Rool gets thrown into the island's core.
- Minor variant: Slain colossi in Shadow of the Colossus leave pillars of light as beacons to their areas, if the player wanted to rebattle them in Reminiscence Mode.
- Kingdom Hearts: This serves as one of the strongest light attacks available to certain Keybearers - Roxas's Limit Breaks Magic Hour and Event Horizon, Sora and Mickey's ability Faith, and one of the limit breaks for Xion's final form.
- Bionicle: In the Bohrok Online Animations, 6 of them occur when the Bohrok are defeated.
- In Erfworld, after Jillian attempts to persuade her to switch sides and promises to find and croak Stanley, Wanda responds by unleashing a massive attack spell, complete with a Pillar of Light as wide as Efdup Tower.
- In The Inexplicable Adventures of Bob, Fructose Riboflavin's escape pod appears to Galatea in a pillar of light. [dead link]
- In Twokinds, shattering the mana crystal in a Templar tower leads to one of these, as demonstrated by the page image.
- In Slightly Damned this is the form that portals leading out of Hell take.
- In The Order of the Stick, when Miko Miyazaki crosses the Moral Event Horizon, her gods hit her with one, taking away her paladin powers.
- Whisper Song of Magical Misfits caused one, and since this was during a crossover it appeared/was referenced in several other comics as well.
- In Our Little Adventure, when Julie activates the Magicant Pendant, a Pillar of Light shows up. It also unfortunately attracts the attention of the bad guys.
- Two appear in V6E3 or RWBY, in the tale of Salem and Ozpin's origins: one manifests at the center of the expanding wave of destruction when the god of Darkness wipes out Humanity Version 1; the second is caused by the departure of the gods, and it is powerful enough to shatter the moon.
- The title character of She-Ra: Princess of Power drew her power from a living Pillar of Light.
- Avatar: The Last Airbender
- In the series premiere, Prince Zuko guesses that the random Pillar of Light that suddenly appears in the South Pole signals something of great, powerful significance, like the return of the Avatar. Lampshaded by Iroh, who thinks it might just be the natural polar lights. "We've been down this road before, Prince Zuko."
- Way later in the Grand Finale when Aang takes away Ozai's bending, a similar-looking one occurs.
- In Code Lyoko, whenever a monster or hero falls into the Digital Sea, a white Pillar of Light rises from the spot into the sky of Lyoko (with the notable exception of William in Season 4, since a dive into the Digital Sea doesn't harm him).
- The signal in Beast Wars season one, "The Trigger, Part 2". Not a good thing, but a significant thing.
- Wakfu—Let's just say Ankama loves this trope:
- Willow in episode 14, after getting Moon's hammer.
- Another one in episode 17, when Grougaloragran is defeated by Nox and he explodes, his wakfu soaring in the sky. This pillar could be seen all over the world.
- And again in episode 25, when the huge teleportation portal is activated. And when Amalia is possessed by the Tree of Life. And when Razortime's Energy Ball hits Sadlygrove.
- Still another one in season 2 episode 6, when Yugo and Adamaï activate the Eliacube.
- Rocko's Modern Life: During a flashback to their High School days, Heifer eats the potato that he, Rocko and Filburt were using for a potato battery experiment. When they realize that putting the lightbulb in Heifer's mouth causes it to light up, they stuff him with potato products, resulting in this trope.
- Highly magnetised neutron stars called pulsars do this in real life, producing electromagnetic radiation focused into two beams by the star's magnetic field.
- Black holes with accretion disks produce jets of matter like this as well.
- The Tribute in Light memorial to the September 11 attacks.
- The searchlight on top of the Luxor pyramid in Las Vegas can allegedly be seen for hundreds of miles at night. Lights on the pyramid's edges sometimes even do a streaming-upward effect to give the beam Sucking-In Lines.
- Re-entry vehicles, although the effect doesn't last very long.
- The Nazis also liked Pillars of Light and had one of their massive rally grounds in Nuremberg surrounded by 130 huge flak lights, called the "Cathedral of Light". It required so much power the area had its own electric power plant.