Created By: RossN on December 1, 2010

Tis Only A Bullet In The Brain

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99% of the time shooting someone in the head is going to kill them. 1% of the the time it will just make them mad.

In fiction survivng a bullet to the head is nearly exclusively the domain of a Badass and shows just how much of a Determinator they are. Sometimes the injury will be Handwaved as a lot less serious than it looked, sometimes it will merely be implied that the character is just that tough.

In real life, in relatively rare cases people actually have survived a bullet in the brain.

Note: This trope only applies to people who have no powers other than the Rule of Cool. If they can regenerate or have some other bullet defying superpower it belongs elsewhere.


  • Machete has two examples; Machete himself surived a bullet in the brain some time prior to start of the film while Luz is shot through the eye and is back on her feet in no time (it isn't directly stated that the bullet went into her brain but given the range and the size of the gun it seems pretty likely it did.)
  • The Bride survives a Coup de Grāce in Kill Bill, though it does at least put her in a coma for a while.
  • Renard in The World Is Not Enough not only survived a bullet in the brain but actually gained a superpower: he can't feel pain. Admittedly it is slowly killing him but still, pretty cool.
Community Feedback Replies: 22
  • December 1, 2010
    • Fallout New Vegas has you getting shot in the head and buried in the first five minutes. A robot digs you up a few minutes later and takes you to a doctor, but then we're supposed to believe that said doctor can perform life saving brain surgery with 200 year-old medical supplies.
    • Bioshock 2 starts out with you shooting yourself in the head. Somewhat hilariously justified in that you wake up in front of a respawn point.
    • The anime Monster has a completely justified version of this. A young boy is shot in the head and it takes an extremely skilled brain surgeon to save his life. Turns out he probably shouldn't have bothered.
  • December 1, 2010
    Not quite a bullet, but there are several instances of people surviving steel bars impaled through the head (and in at least one case, had a drastic change of personality as a result).
  • December 1, 2010
    Woud this count?

    Anime/Manga: In Monster, Johan Liebert is shot in the head at the beginning of the series. He survives, but only because elite neurosurgeon Dr. Kenzo Tenma operates on him. The series does point out how hard it is to safely remove a bullet to the skull though, and points out that Dr. Tenma is the only one in the entire hospital (an enormous complex) who can do it.
  • December 1, 2010
  • December 2, 2010
    • Max Payne is shot in the head by Vladimir in the second game but survives. Also, Mona Sax takes a bullet to the head in the original game. Both cases are Lampshaded several times in MP2.
    • Lucy is shot in the head at the beginning of Elfen Lied, giving her a case of Easy Amnesia. The fact that she was shot with a high-power Sniper Rifle is alleviated by the circumstance that she was wearing a heavy helmet at the time.

    Double Tap is a way to prevent this trope.
  • December 2, 2010
    Comic book/real life: Vic Sage/Victor Szasz in The Question is shot in the head point blank with a .22 air gun and the slug comes out the other side. The attacker, Baby Gun, not unreasonably thinks that's job done. The authors made a point, in the original run of the comic, of referring to a real life case where someone was shot in just that manner, and the slug went ROUND their skull and came out the other side, and they lived.
  • December 2, 2010
    In Freak Angels, Luke gets shot in the head. His subsequent revival combines Squick and Crowning Moment Of Funny.
  • December 3, 2010
    Bump bump bump bump bump, bump bump!
  • December 3, 2010
    In Blazing Saddles, the Waco Kid warns Black Bart not to shoot Mongo. "It'll just make him mad." Played for laughs.
  • December 30, 2010
  • December 30, 2010
    • Wolverine survives after being shot in the head at least two times in the live-action X-Men movies. Justified in that he's Nigh Invulnerable. When this happens in X-Men Origins: Wolverine, though, he's shot with an Adamantium bullet, which is the same material his metal skeleton is made out of, and this means the shot is strong enough to at least cause Identity Amnesia.
  • December 30, 2010
    There are plenty of Real Life examples of people who got insanely lucky and survived being shot in the head.
  • December 30, 2010
    Subject Delta in BioShock 2 actually dies from the bullet. He only wakes up because Eleanor and her Little Sisters hacked the Vitachambers to revive him.
  • December 30, 2010
    For a Real Life example, though not a bullet, would Phineas Gage count?
  • December 31, 2010
    Another Real Life example: GRIGORI RASPUTIN.
  • December 31, 2010
    Zaeed Massani from Mass Effect 2 survived a bullet from the back of the head because "Rage is a helluva anesthetic."
  • December 31, 2010
    In 1978, a young woman named Leslie Worther, working as a cashier at an isolated 7-11 in one of the more rural areas of Orange County, Florida, was shot in the back of the head twice (and stabbed in the abdomen once) during a robbery. After the robbers left her store, she called the police for help. Then she sat down and waited for nearly ten minutes for help to arrive. She survived her wounds and is still alive today. Only In Florida.
  • December 31, 2010
    • Anders on Battlestar Galactica survives a bullet to the brain. Just one catch: It leaves him brain-dead.
  • December 31, 2010
    • Chumbawamba have a song about the Real Life "El Fusilado" who survived an entire firing squad's worth of bullets to the chest and a Coup De Grace to the head. In later life, he toured with the Ripley's Believe It or Not show.
  • December 31, 2010
    In Fight Club, the narrator uses a bullet in the head as a way to get rid of his alter-ego, Tyler. It works.
  • January 1, 2011
    If you're talking about simply being shot in the head and surviving, this happens in Young James Bond: By Royal Command, in which Bond is shot in the head, but the bullet simply grazes his skull, making him feel at most slightly woozy.
  • January 1, 2011
    In the Stephen King short story "The Flexible Bullet", the characters in the framing story mention a person who attempted suicide by shooting themself in the head. The bullet skimmed around the skull and exited the skin on the other side of the head, and the person survived.