Silhouettes are a great way to make someone look menacing or mysterious. Simply position your actor in front of your key light to create an outline around their form.

Director Bryan Singer uses this style of lighting to great effect in X2 (2003), to make William Stryker (Bryan Cox) appear sinister and menacing. Stryker stands in front of a grimy concrete wall with menacing tools hanging from the ceiling, silhouetted by light spilling into the room behind him as he interrogates Charles Xavier (Patrick Stewart).

In Skyfall (2012), director Sam Mendes and cinematographer Roger Deakins use silhouettes throughout the film as a visual metaphor for the shadowy world of espionage, starting with the opening shot of James Bond (Daniel Craig) standing backlit in a hallway and reaching its pinnacle during a silhouetted fight sequence in a Shanghai high-rise.

In The Bourne Supremacy (2004), Paul Greengrass uses this technique to great effect during Bourne’s confession to the daughter of one of the men he killed when he worked for the CIA.

Think about using this simple lighting technique next time you want to create a sense of mystery, menace or darkness!