Leave A Light On: Lighthouses In Pop Culture

Posted by Rose Moore

Image by Evgeni Tcherkasski from Pixabay

Lighthouses have long captured the romantic imaginations of writers and creators: the symbolism of a single bright light guiding a lost soul home, of the lonely and windswept lighthouse keeper, gazing out to sea, of the call of the sea itself, and, of course, a stone tower that would fit in in a fairytale world. It’s no wonder that lighthouses are so popular in pop culture—even if the real-life lighthouse keepers are becoming increasingly rare to find.

In honor of all the ways that lighthouses have captured our attention, whether in romance, horror, or something in between, we’re rounding up some of the biggest and best lighthouses in pop culture. 




Annihilation (2018)

While this 2018 film definitely sees a lone being in a lighthouse at the end, it is far from a gnarled old sea captain keeping others safe. Instead, this surreal sci-fi sees the lighthouse as the center of a strange area known as "The Shimmer," created after the lighthouse was hit by a meteor. Annihilation follows Lena (Natalie Portman) as she enters the Shimmer herself, trying to reach the lighthouse and understand what has happened there.



The Books of Abarat by Clive Barker

This series of fantasy novels starts in a way that many seem to, with a mystical doorway into another world. In the most famous gateway fiction, The Chronicles of Narnia, this doorway is a wardrobe (and later, a painting), but these doors can be anything…and in Abarat, it is a ruined lighthouse that allows Candy to travel to a new world made up of twenty five islands (one for each hour of the day). The lighthouse may only be the start, but that doesn’t make it any less important. 



Miss Peregrine’s Home For Peculiar Children by Ransom Riggs

In this beautifully strange series, Jacob Portman travels to an island in Wales after his grandfather leaves him a puzzling message before his death… and there, he discovers something far stranger than he could have imagined. A time loop, held by the unforgettable Miss Peregrine, to protect children with fantastical abilities in an old house – and the people who are out to get them. While the lighthouse isn’t the focus for much of the book, it comes into play in the final scenes, as Jacob must confront his enemies and save his new friends while the sea rages below…



Anne's House of Dreams by L.M. Montgomery

While there is not a lighthouse in the original Anne of Green Gables, one is introduced later in the series, when Anne and Gilbert move to Glen St. Mary to start their family. Here, they meet Captain Jim, the epitome of a storybook lighthouse keeper. With his lovely cat (named, aptly enough, First Mate), the Captain invites Anne and Gilbert to the shore and his lighthouse home to regale them with stories of his adventures at sea.




The Lighthouse (2019)

Initially conceived as a new take on the Edgar Allen Poe story, The Lighthouse evolved into something very different: a psychological period horror about two lighthouse keepers on a remote island, and the toll that isolation takes on their sanity. Starring Robert Pattinson and Willem DaFoe, The Lighthouse is dark and eerie, and shot in black and white, amplifying the more terrifying aspects of the lighthouse keepers.




The Light Between Oceans (2016)

Based on the book of the same name by M. L. Stedman, The Light Between Oceans charts the story of a childless couple tending a lighthouse after the First World War. When a newborn baby washes up in a boat on their shore, the two consider it providence, and decide to keep her rather than risk her spending life in orphanages. But of course, nothing is ever that simple, and eventually her birth mother discovers her there. A story about love, family, forgiveness, and loss, The Light Between Oceans is the definition of a tearjerker, with the lighthouse front and center.


What are some of your favorite pop culture lighthouses that we missed? Tweet @quirkbooks and let us know!