The Illuminati

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Many of the examples on this page are not about an "Illuminati" - these need to be moved to Ancient Conspiracy, The Omniscient Council of Vagueness, or One World Order, as appropriate for the specific example.


You can't hide.[1]
"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 white thugs 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, "the Eye of Providence"[2]; both have percolated their way into semi-general use, come across as refined and ancient, and (mostly) aren't under copyright.

"Illuminati" means "the enlightened ones" in Gratuitous Latin. There was a Masonic-like organization of intellectuals which took this name in Real Life Bavaria in the 1770s, but it was eventually disbanded by the Bavarian government. 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, but... this really isn't the place to discuss it; go check out Wikipedia's article.

This name is bandied about a lot over in the Wild Mass Guess department. See also The Knights Templar.

For similar groups that are not named Illumaniti, see Ancient Conspiracy, The Omniscient Council of Vagueness, or One World Order.

Examples in popular culture:

Anime and Manga[edit | hide | hide all]

Comics[edit | hide]

  • In Marvel Comics, this was the name of a secret alliance between influential superheroes - Iron Man, Reed Richards, Professor X, Sub-Mariner, Doctor Strange, and Black Bolt (they tried to recruit the Black Panther, but well, he was able to read the next sentence in this paragraph). 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).
    • And 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.
    • Also notable to say that Black Panther refused the invitation to join because he knew that the group's extremely secretive nature left them doomed to fail if they ever disagreed on anything.
  • In DC Comics, 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.
  • Mentioned in From Hell, along with a number of other secret societies, though the Masons take center stage.

Literature[edit | hide]

  • Duumvirate is written from the point of view of the Illuminati themselves.
  • Robert Shea and Robert Anton Wilson's 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. Also there is a gigantic pyramid-squid.
  • Dan Brown uses the name in his various books, most prominently, in Angels & Demons. Here, the Illuminati are a secret society of scientists founded by Galileo Galilei to spread the Enlightenment (hence the name) and to oppose the reactionary 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, 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.

Live Action TV[edit | hide]

  • The Millennium Group became something of an Expy for this in the last season of Millennium, but was some distance from the original concept.

Music[edit | hide]

Professional Wrestling[edit | hide]

  • TNA's latest 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.

Tabletop Games[edit | hide]

  • Steve Jackson Games sells various conspiracy-themed card-games (collectable and otherwise) under the blanket name Illuminati, while their line of GURPS role-playing materials has included a couple of Illuminati-related source-books. 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.
  • D20 Modern[context?]
  • One of the secret societies in Paranoia. May or may not be a front for Ultraviolets, spies from another Alpha Complex, bots, aliens... [3]

Video Games[edit | hide]

  • Deus Ex. And they're debatably the good guys. Their rogue spin-off organization, the Majestic 12, on the other hand, are decidedly not.
    • Also featured 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.
    • They also have a more direct role in Deus Ex: Mankind Divided.
  • The Illuminati will be one of the three playable factions in the upcoming conspiracy-themed MMORPG The Secret World, along with the Templars (who are not, but have ties to, the historical Knights Templar) and an Asian-themed "Dragon" society.
  • The resident Conspiracy Theorist Gomez in Vampire: The Masquerade Bloodlines has a particularly convoluted theory about the Illuminati (read it here). Of course, this being the Old World of Darkness, that theory has a good chance to be true...
  • 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 Nietzsche Wannabe dark savior 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...
  • Dominions has the secretive Illuminated Order, operating in local Überwald.
  • Los Illuminados in Resident Evil 4. Subverted hard by Albert Wesker being a more successful infiltrator behind the scenes than their entire organization.

Web Comics[edit | hide]

Western Animation[edit | hide]

  • Gargoyles featured a group by this name. Xanatos himself is merely a junior member.
  • Minoriteam had The White Shadow, who is a living Eye in a Pyramid.
  • Freaknik: The Musical
  • Metalocalypse
  • As quoted above, in an episode of Justice League Unlimited, one of the facts The Question reveals while under torture concerns the Illuminati.
  • One episode of American Dad features a group called the Illuminuti, which guards the secret history of peanut butter.
  • In Young Justice, 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.
  • Bill Cipher from Gravity Falls is basically a living manifestation of the usual Illuminati symbol, being a walking Eye in a Pyramid. Fittingly, he's the Big Bad.
  1. Image courtesy of troper Geoduck... who may or may not be one of Them.
  2. Not just theirs, of course; it's also a registered trademark of Steve Jackson Games. Also, there are some versions of the Eye of Providence that don't have the triangle; the important part is actually the eye and the rays of light around it.
  3. and may or may not actually exist.