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Anime and Manga
- Claymore: Limt, the leader of the Organization, is beheaded by Miria and his severed head is displayed on top of a cliff before the other Claymores who rose in rebellion against the Organization. It's worthy of note that the character who does this is not an Anti-Hero but rather one with a strong sense of duty, Miria does this so that the other Claymores do not break their rule that prohibit them from harming Humans and only she will have Human blood on her hands.
- In Death Note, Mello is stated to have brought Rod and his gang the head of another Mafia leader, at only 15 years old. Also, Mello is seen with skulls in his living space a few times in the manga, and one manga cover actually has him holding one. (It's unknown if those skulls are those of Mafia rivals that Mello is keeping as trophies, or if they are fake, decorative skulls meant to emphasize that he's something of a Goth.)
- Happened to both Miki and her little brother in the original Devilman manga.
- One of the manga adaptations of Fire Emblem: Seisen no Keifu has King Chagall sending Eldigan's severed head to his friends Siglud and Cuan to mock them. This not only horrifies them and their entourage, but also throws Eldigan's younger sister (and star-crossed lover of sorts) Raquesis towards the Despair Event Horizon.
- Subverted in the manga The King of Fighters: G by Ryo Takamisaki. Goenitz hasn't decapitated Chizuru but has beaten her to almost death, and when he shows up in the battlefield he does so while lifting her by the head and gloating about his evil deeds.
- Just to make extra sure everyone knew Hidan had in fact been beheaded in Naruto, Kakuzu picked up his still-cursing head and toted it around until they could reattach it.
- In the manga for Rurouni Kenshin, Souzou Sagara, Sano's old commander, was executed and his head displayed after being betrayed by the government.
- Seraph of the End: Chapter 46 reveals that Ferid has Akane's decapitated head which he tries to goad Yuu and Mika with. It works.
- A common tactic in Shoukoku No Altair, since it's set in a medieval time of war. Severed heads are brought back to prove victory in battle, stuck on pikes to intimidate enemies, and handed over to secure a truce.
- When Governor Gekkei confronts Queen Kekai, Princess Shoukei and Hourin the kirin in The Twelve Kingdoms, he shows them the head of King Chuutatsu, whom he decapitated as punishment for his Knight Templar misdeeds.
- Violence Jack: One scene in the beginning of the "Hell's Wind" arc has this scene after Jun's boyfriend, Tetsuya, gets dismembered.
- Tokyo Ghoul employs this on several occasions, to establish particularly brutal Ghouls.
- In the Prequel Jack, Lantern is introduced holding up the severed heads of two recent victims.
- In :Re, Takizawa's changed state is established by him casually decapitating a high-ranking Investigator. After drinking blood from the severed head and making a bit of casual conversation, he proceeds to massacre all but one member of the squad.
- Many artistic depictions of David following his battle with Goliath have him holding the latter's head.
- Likewise, there are many paintings of Salome being presented the head of John the Baptist.
- Perseus is often depicted holding◊ Medusa's head◊.
- A painting called Return of Judith to Bethulia by Saandro Botticelli. Judith's maid is carrying Holofernes' head. See the painting here◊.
- In Batman title "Under The Red Hood", Jason Todd arrives at a meeting of various mob bosses with a duffle bag containing the heads of their lieutenants. This is somewhat toned down with a Gory Discretion Shot in the animated film.
- EC Comics:
- The infamous cover of Crime SuspenStories #22.
- "Halloween!" (Shock SuspenStories #2) ends with a presentation of the villain's head converted into a jack-o'-lantern.
- In one Predator comic, one of the characters held the titular Predator's head as a trophy at the end.
- Sin City:
- Happens to Jackie's head in "The Big, Fat Kill."
- As well as the head of Kevin from "The Hard Goodbye," as seen in the page pic.
- ElfQuest: After Kahvi decapitates Guttlekraw his head gets displayed on a spear.
- In Dark Avengers, issue 2: after failing to talk Morgana La Fey out of killing Dr Doom, Osborn orders Sentry to take her out. He fatalities her like this.
- In The Walking Dead, the Governor does this with the head of Martinez to show the Woodbury people how "evil" Rick's group is prior to attacking them at the prison.
- The Punisher
Punisher: Ma Gnucci! Is that all you got?
- In "Welcome Back, Frank" story arc, mob boss Ma Gnucci orders The Russian to bring her the Punisher's head. Frank kills The Russian, cuts off his head and brings it to Ma.
- In Empowered, after Ninjette lost her virginity, her father decapitated her boyfriend and presented his head to her.
- In the Secret Wars (2015) title Planet Hulk, Steve Rogers holds up the Red King's head to show it to the people of the Mud Kingdom, then throws it down to them.
- In "The Two Brothers", the marshal presents the dragon's heads. Alas for him, the actual killer had gotten their tongues.
- In Ripples, when Cedric first presents himself to Phobos in order to offer an alliance, he gifts Phobos with the heads of several leading members of the rival Council of Restoration. This impresses Phobos enough that he decides to hear the Changeling out.
- Thousand Shinji:
- Asuka is a Khornate berserker. She constantly holds an enemy's head up after hacking it off (or ripping it off).
- Invoked by Shinji when he found out about what Gendo and SEELE had done to his mother and his family's ones. He swore that he'd stab Gendo's head on a pike and then he'd show it everyone.
- The Vow: When Lady Lianne tells Lord Shen that he's becoming like her father, he becomes enraged at being compared to the old noble he hates vehemently and threatens to begin his conquest of China with Lianne's father's lands and bring her his head on a silver platter. Fortunately neither of those threats get a chance to be carried out.
Films — Animated
- In the Star Wars: The Clone Wars film, the heads of Jabba's bounty hunters are brought back to him after their failure to retrieve his son. Jabba is not pleased about that.
Films — Live-Action
- Near the end of Conan the Barbarian (1982), Conan holds Thulsa Doom's head aloft before the crowd. The reboot movie of the same name also features multiple decapitations on Conan's part.
- In Kill Bill Vol. 1, O-Ren Ishii does this with the head of Boss Tanaka, who she had just beheaded for disrespecting her mixed heritage, during her Badass Boast speech to the Yakuza.
O-Ren Ishii: The price you pay for bringing up either my Chinese or my American heritage as a negative is: I collect your fucking head. [holds up Tanaka's head] Just like this fucker here.
- In Bowfinger, Daisy shows the (fake) head of the woman she just decapitated.
- Marv from Sin City does this with Kevin's head after he has disemboweled, dismembered and fed him to a wolf. He does it to show Cardinal Rourke that he killed him before killing him, too, as part of his Roaring Rampage of Revenge.
- In Tropic Thunder, Ben Stiller goes back to his Captain Oblivious roots and holds up what he thinks is a prop made to look like the director's head to explain that it's all a ruse to get the actors to feel like they're really in the Vietnam war. He even sticks the head on the tip of his rifle and eats the things dangling from the severed neck. This kind of plays with the trope not only in that the presenter didn't kill the head's owner, but that it wasn't a traditional decapitation, since the director died by stepping on a land mine.
- A Nightmare on Elm Street
- In A Nightmare on Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors, Freddy does this in one of Kristen Parker's nightmares, decapitating her mother and presenting the head to Kristen... so it can bitch at Kristen for ruining her date.
- At the very end of Freddy vs. Jason, Jason Voorhees emerges from Crystal Lake holding Freddy Krueger's severed head... which smiles and winks to the audience! In an earlier dream scene, Freddy produces the decapitated head of Jason's mother to inflict psychological damage to Jason's child-like psyche.
- The Messenger in 300 has an entire string of them: the "crowns and heads of conquered kings" that he hoists at the gates of Sparta indicate what kind of message he brings. The Spartans are unimpressed.
- The opening battle of Gladiator is preceded by the chieftan of a Germanic tribe the Romans are fighting holding up the head of a Roman messenger sent to give him terms and then contemptuously throwing it towards the Roman army.
Germanic Chieftan: [Bellows something in his own language then flings the messenger's head toward the Romans]
Maximus: They say no.
- Near the end of Apocalypse Now Colonel Kurtz walks up to Willard and drops Chef's severed head in his lap.
- In The Return of the King, one particular Orc soldier goes through the whole battle of Minas Tirith with a human's head attached to the top of his helmet. Whether it was functional in battle or not is not addressed in the film.
- Also the fact that Gothmog orders the decapitated heads of defeated Gondorian soldiers catapulted back into Minas Tirith.
- And in The Two Towers an Uruk-Hai from the party that capture Merry and Pippin has his head stuck on a spear after Éomer takes them out.
- In The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey, Azog cuts off the head of Thorin's grandfather Thrór and holds it up for all to see before throwing it at Thorin's feet.
- Pacific Rim: One photo◊ shows the massive skull of one Kaiju on public display.
- In the 1991 action B-Movie Stone Cold, the outlaw biker leader gives a gift of a fullface motorbike helmet to a couple of mafiosi at a restaurant. One says, "I don't ride", but then lifts up the visor to find the head of a colleague is inside.
- Se7en: In the climactic desert scene, John Doe presents David Mills the head of his wife Tracy in a box to invoke the final two sins: his own envy of the Mills' life, and the wrath that David will embody by killing him.
- Year of the Dragon (1985). Up-and-coming Triad gangster Joey Tai travels to Burma to buy drugs from the guerrillas there. They're reluctant to do business with him, preferring their established contact, White Powder Ma. Joey responds by placing Ma's head on the table.
Joey Tai: Let no motherless fuck ever raise his head again between us.
- Nightbreed: The homicidal Dr. Decker seems to be fond of this. He cuts off a motel clerk's head and places it on the front desk for his wife to find before killing her too. Later, he decapitates one of the Nightbreed and puts the head on a stick before showing it to his friends.
- In the original Clash of the Titans, Perseus presents the head of Medusa to the gods just before collapsing in exhaustion.
- Happens to Gunther on the orders of his sister Kriemhild after Hagen tells her he won't tell her the location of Siegfried's hoard as long as his liege is still alive. Dramatically shown towards the end of Kriemhilds Rache, the second part of Fritz Lang's Die Nibelungen (1924).
- In The Grey, Diaz cuts off the head of the wolf the survivors killed and cooked and brandishes it in defiance of the wolf pack that surround them and howl in the night.
- Happens several times in The Scarlet Pimpernel 1982 (and likely all other version of the tale).
- In the Land of the Head Hunters: Maybe not surprising, given that title. Motana's father Kenada displays the heads of the sorceror, and a few of the sorceror's buddies, after killing them and rescuing Naida (Motana's intended) from the evil sorceror's clutches.
- In Galaxy Quest, the Big Bad presents the head of his former lieutenant on a stick who had failed him in an earlier scene.
- In Braveheart, after the Scottish forces sack York, William has the head of the Duke of York cut off and sent back to the king in a basket.
- The female protagonist in Trauma is unable to see the killer's features because he is holding her parents' decapitated heads on front of his face. Halfway subverted, since her mother is actually the killer; she is holding her own head in such way that it seems that she has also been decapitated.
- In The Expendables 2, after defeating Vilain, Barney Ross asks Maggie if she knows how to carve a turkey. He later presents Vilain's decapitated head in a bag to Trench and Church to prove he won.
- Used several times in The Scarlet Pimpernel 1982, which is fitting as it's about the Reign of Terror. Played for laughs in one scene when the Pimpernel is smuggling aristocrats out in coffins, but also has coffins with beheaded aristocrats too. When he gets stopped by a guard who asks him to open the coffins, he throws the severed head to the guard, who promptly lets him go without checking the other two coffins with the live people inside.
- Return of the Living Dead 3: After one of the Mexican hoodlums tries to rape zombie Julie offscreen, she comes back and throws his decapitated head at his buddies.
- At the end of Hardcore Henry, after Henry has cut Akan's head in half, he tosses the top half at Estelle.
- The 47 Ronin: A symbolic one, since the recipient is dead—but the 47 ronin bring the severed head of Lord Kira wrapped up in a cloth to the grave of Lord Asano, and Kuranosuke tells their story to the gravestone.
- Shiri. In their Training from Hell montage, the North Korean cadets being trained as assassins kill a roomful of prisoners in hand-to-hand combat, then assemble in ranks before their instructor, each holding a severed head.
- The Green Knight holds up his own head by the hair after Sir Gawain chops it off in Sir Gawain and the Green Knight.
- From the Deryni works:
- Duke Jared McLain orders the execution of his architect Rimmell for his part in the deaths of his son Kevin and his future daughter-in-law Lady Bronwyn Morgan, and he tells his executioner, "I would see evidence of your work before you leave the garden, Fergus." Fergus shortly returns from the terrace holding Rimmell's head by the hair.
- Loris' messenger does this with Bishop Henry Istelyn's head at Kelson's court in The Bishop's Heir.
- In Arcia Chronicles, after Charles Tagere and his followers are ambushed and killed, the commanders' heads are nailed to the gates of a nearby castle. This (like the rest of the second duology) mirrors the actual historical event from the Wars of the Roses, when Richard Plantagenet's head was stuck on a pole on the York city walls after the Battle of Wakefield.
- There's a variation of this in the novel Barrayar. Instead of holding would-be usurper Lord Vordarian's severed head up, Cordelia rolls it out of the shopping bag she has been transporting it in. The possibility of leaving it on the table while conducting ceasefire talks with the elements of the military who have backed Vordarian's coup is briefly discussed, but Aral isn't that sort of regent.
- Also shows up in Lewis Carroll's poem "Jabberwocky" (from Through the Looking-Glass): "He left it dead, and with its head, he went galumphing back."
- In the ditch of the Sowers of Discord in Dante's Inferno, Bertran de Born holds 'his own head' up, "in the manner of a lantern."
- At the end of the first Sword of Truth book, Richard does this to his stepbrother Michael, who turned out to be The Mole earlier in the book.
- In A Game of Thrones, King Joffrey takes Sansa Stark to the battlements to show her the heads displayed on spikes: the one of her father Ned, whom he had executed despite promising not to, the head of her tutor and the heads of other members of her household.
How they loved to promise heads, these men who would be king.
- In the following novel, her mother notes the trope with irony when various pretenders offer her 'justice' for this act by delivering Joffrey's head.
- In Robert E. Howard's Conan the Barbarian story "A Witch Shall Be Born", Salome brings the head of Krallides.
- Conan does the same thing with the head of King Bajujah, as promised... sort of, in "The Vale of Lost Women". Unfortunately, Livia, the captive who he was going to rescue, has already bolted in terror from the general slaughter.
- The Sano Ichiro mystery Bundori, which revolves around the Samurai tradition of turning the heads of conquered enemies into war trophies.
- Pushed up a notch by Leo Bonhart in Tower of the Swallow, who forces Ciri to watch as he saws off her True Companions' (whom he previously slaughtered) heads off, leaving her First Love (a girl, to boot) for last, and then presents them proudly to her. Ciri doesn't take it very well, to say the least.
- The Second Variety: Decades before Ahnuld played an unstoppable assassin robot, Philip K. Dick showed him how it's done. The cover art shows a man holding up the severed head of a destroyed assassin android that looks like a 13 year old boy, not a giant thug
- Happens all the time in Romance of the Three Kingdoms, with both heroes and villains using the trope. Late in the story the sons of Guan Yu and Zhang Fei would casually announce that they've defeated an enemy general and "here is his head." This was even mocked in a parody webcomic: "Next time, don't leave a head on my desk."
- In The General series, Raj Whitehall's army happens to kill the brother of the Squadron's leader in a skirmish. He takes the opportunity to attempt to provoke their (large, but disorganized) army into a Zerg Rush at his prepared position, and sends one of his men to present the head to the Admiral during the pre-battle truce. The result is shock and horror amongst the Squadron nobles, enough that they actually open fire on the officer and kill him despite the white truce flag. Raj has every single noble responsible crucified, after a battle in which his army takes effectively no other casualties.
- In the last book of The Wheel of Time, Lan Mandragoran does this with Demandred, to show the result of their duel, and to dishearten his army.
- The Lord of the Rings:
- The Rohirrim slaughter a party of Orcs and burn their bodies. We're told that "Upon a stake in the middle was set a great goblin head".
- When the Orcs catapult into Minas Tirith "all the heads of those who had fallen fighting at Osgiliath" it's depicted as an atrocity.
- In the Highlander tie-in novel, "The Path", after Duncan kills the Big Bad Immortal and tosses his head to his army, asking who will be next to face him.
- In Destiny's Forge, after usurping the kzinti Patriarch's throne, Kchula-Tzaatz showed the Pride Circle the severed heads of Patriarch Meerz-Rrit, his heirs (excluding Second-Son, whom Kchula kept around as a Puppet King) and their strongest servants. However, "First-Son's" head was actually that of a middle-ranked medical officer, since the Tzaatz could hardly admit that First-Son's real head was far away and still firmly on his shoulders.
- The Ballad of Boh Da Thone by Rudyard Kipling. A British officer promises a hundred rupees to anyone who delivers the head of a notorious bandit chief. After he's retired, a package arrives in the mail with a polite request for said payment, and a head which rolls out in front of his wife. Unsurprisingly, she faints.
- In Memory, Sorrow and Thorn, the Sithi come to liberate the occupied nation of Hernystir, and announce that the job is complete by dropping the head of Skali Sharp-Nose at the feet of Count Eolair, the acting leader of Hernystir. When Eolair acts disturbed the Sithi are confused, since a prior prince of Hernystir had done the same with his enemies five hundred years ago.
- The Executioner. Happens on several occasions with The Mafia; when the Boss says, "I want his head" he usually means it literally.
- In "Tennessee Smash", Bolan is posing as a Black Ace, and delivers the head of an underling who betrayed a mob boss to him in a sack, which is promptly kicked into the boss's swimming pool.
- In "Monday's Mob", Mack Bolan is pounding a mob commission meeting place with wire-guided missiles, so The Dragon tries to negotiate a ceasefire. Bolan points out that he's not after him or his mooks, but the mob bosses he's guarding. The book ends with The Dragon floating over a canoe with the bosses to Bolan's side of the lake. Not the complete bosses, just their heads.
- In "Paradine's Gauntlet", a terrorist wanting revenge for a previous encounter demands that Bolan be the courier for a ransom exchange. "This is non-negotiable. If he is unavailable, evidence of death must be presented with the repatriations payment. His head will be acceptable." This ends up being Paradine's downfall; he shoots Bolan and then puts aside his rifle for a knife, intending to collect Bolan's head. However Bolan is Not Quite Dead, and Paradine discovers you should Never Bring A Knife To A Gunfight.
- Light Thickens, by Ngaio Marsh, is built around a production of Macbeth. Superintendent Alleyn is in the audience when the prop head brought in on the end of a claymore is replaced with a real one.
- In The Zombie Knight, Desmond drafts a group of Atreyan soldiers to use for a False Flag Operation by holding up the severed head of their CO (whom he refers to as Teddy because he didn't bother to learn his name]], saying that Teddy was brave and refused to do what he and his fellow Abolishers asked, and advising the soldiers not to be brave like Teddy.
- In the McAuslan short story The Gordon Woman, a tale is told of a legendary woman of that clan who, upon being presented with the head of her husband, kept up her Dissonant Serenity to the confusion of his killers, delaying their departure until her own men turned up to slit their throats.
- In The Mighty Boosh Live, the Hitcher does this with Vince and Howard. He doesn't just hold them up.
- In Blackadder: The Cavalier Years, Baldrick's cunning plan to substitute a pumpkin instead of a head sort of fell apart when this moment came.
Edmund Blackadder: You see, when you've cut it off you have to hold it before the crowd and say "This is the head of a traitor," at which point they will all shout "No, it isn't. It's a large pumpkin with a pathetic mustache drawn on it."
- In Carnivāle, Justin does this with Scutter's head after he kills him.
- Turned into a Running Gag in an episode of Rome, where multiple severed heads are displayed on spikes above the door of the Egyptian royal palace because the owners of the heads kept pissing the wrong people off.
- Doctor Who
- In "The Wedding of River Song", the Doctor shows who told him of the whereabouts of Gideon Vandeleur by displaying the detached eyestalk of the Dalek whose data core he raided.
- In "Death In Heaven", the Cybermen boast to UNIT that Earth lacks the technology to beat them. Kate Lethbridge-Stewart responds by dropping the head of a Mondasian Cyberman at their feet, just to show them what happened to the last batch of Cybermen who thought messing with humanity was a good idea.
- Babylon 5, when Morden asks Vir what he wants:
"I'd like to live just long enough to be there when they cut off your head and stick it on a pike as a warning to the next ten generations that some favors come with too high a price. I would look up into your lifeless eyes and wave... like this. Can you and your associates arrange that for me, Mr. Morden?"
- Funny thing is, Londo who was one of Morden's associates wasn't present during this conversation and yet he orders this fate for Morden.
- Breaking Bad has a particularly gruesome and also hilarious example with the informant Tortuga. While planning to spy on some gangsters, the police spots him moving behind a hill with nobody else in sight. As they get in the car and drive down to see what's going on they find his severed head stuck on the shell of a turtle slowly crawling through the desert. And then it explodes.
- Stargate Atlantis, episode "The Last Man": Michael does this with the head of a Wraith queen.
- Farscape: After decapitating his Arch-Enemy Durka, Rygel wanders around waving it on a stick as a means of demonstrating how badass he can be. And yes, he's one of the technically good guys. He even uses it as a prop while negotiating with a group of mercenaries.
You need to start acting like professionals. (drops Durka's head on the ground) That is what we do to people who don't.
- Done several times in Game of Thrones:
- One of the White Walkers tosses the severed head of a ranger at the Sole Survivor of their patrol.
- Ned Stark's head is held up for the mob to see after his execution. In a typical Kick the Dog moment, King Joffrey shows Sansa Stark the rotting head impaled on a spike, along with other members of her household. He attempts to follow through on his threat to present her brother's as well, when his house kills said brother, but is refused. When Catelyn Stark hears the news of her husband's death, she goes to an imprisoned Jaime Lannister and threatens to cut off his head, pack it in a box and send it to his sister.
- One of Dany's Dothraki men was sent to seek help. His horse returned, with his head in a bag.
- In "Second Sons", Daario presents Dany with the heads of his former bosses as proof of his loyalty.
- Karl Tanner likes gloating over Jeor Mormont's skull while using it as a drinking cup.
- In the 2000 Sci-Fi Channel Dune miniseries, after the Beast Rabban is killed by a Fremen mob, a boy holds up his severed head.
- In the Masters of Horror episode "Cigarette Burns", Dalibor creates a Snuff Film by filming himself decapitating Kirby's taxi driver right in front of Kirby, and presenting the severed head to him.
- 24 season 2 episode 2. Jack gains a terrorist gang's trust by doing this.
- Prison Break: As punishment for trying to find Sarah and his son, Lincoln receives a package. He opens it to find Sarah's head. This is later Ret Conned into being another woman, and Sarah had actually escaped (the actress playing Sarah originally left the show but came back the following season). Apparently, Linc can't tell women apart.
- 666 Park Avenue: Gavin does this with Sam's head when sending Shaw a message.
- Grimm: Variant on the trope - two Reapers are sent to kill Nick. He sends their heads back in a box with a note: "Next time, send your best."
- In The Tudors, Catherine Howard is shown the heads of Francis Dereham and Thomas Culpeper on her way to the Tower.
Markallo: "Kaldar, remove the traitor's filthy head from our lady's august presence."
- Used for Black Comedy when a vampire is shown holding up a human head in apparent version of this trope, only to toss it down a bowling alley.
- The Cliffhanger ending for "Through the Looking Glass" has Cordelia being presented with the head of her demon friend Lorne on a platter (complete with greenery). Thankfully due to his Bizarre Alien Biology Lorne can survive with his head cut off, so Cordelia has to think up an excuse not to dispose of his remains before they can be reassembled.
Cordelia: "No, no, no, no! I...like the filthy head. That is, ah, I want to defile it more! (Turns and spits on Lorne, who is playing dead) I just keep it...to spit upon, and-and-and when I grow tired of that, I-I-I will make it into ah, a planter. A traitor planter...for all to see. Or maybe a candy dish."
- In Galavant, King Richard threatens Isabella by showing her the heads of her parents on the dinner table... except they're not actually dead, and went along with it willingly.
King Richard: [laughing] You should have seen your face! You were all "oh no" and—
Isabella: [to her parents] How could you go along with this!?
Isabella's Father: He convinced us it would be funny.
Isabella's Mother: We've been in prison a long time. We've lost all sense of perspective.
King Richard: [serious] Bring me Galavant, or I will kill your parents. For realsies.
- In The 100 Commander Lexa reveals that the Queen of the Ice Nation kidnapped her lover, Costia, tortured her for information, and when this failed, beheaded her and delivered her severed head to Lexa.
- Barbarians Rising: Arminius brings the head of a German chief who wouldn't ally with him to Varus, which serves two purposes: it silences a potential leak of information about Arminius's planned uprising, and assures Varus that Arminius is doing his job of punishing tribes who won't pay Rome's taxes. After killing Varus in turn at the Battle of the Teutoburg Forest, Arminius ships his head to Emperor Augustus. (This is Rule of Drama, though only partially: in real life, Arminius actually sent Varus' head to another German chief in hopes of getting his allegiance.)
- In Spartacus: Blood and Sand, after his guard Hector screws up, Batiatus later holds up his severed head and warns all his slaves and employees that failure and incompetence will no longer be tolerated.
- Hawkwind's "Days of the Underground":
We believed in GuevaraWe saw that head held upAnd our anger welled upBut we kept it cool
- Eddie, the mascot of Iron Maiden, has done this pose with the heads of Paul Di'Anno (on the original, rejected cover for Maiden Japan) and Satan (on the cover of the "The Number of the Beast" single)
- When Alice Cooper ends a concert with his being executed by guillotine, the executioner will hold up his "head" afterwards.
Mythology and Religion
- Biblical examples:
- David taking the head of Goliath to King Saul.
- Salome's wish to her stepfather Herod (suggested by her mother) for the head of John the Baptist.
- In the apocrypha, Judith taking the head of Holofernes.
- Perseus weaponized this trope with the head of the gorgon Medusa, which turned any who looked upon its visage to stone.
- The Irish dullahan carries its head around like this.
- St. Denis (Dionysius), first bishop of Paris, is usually depicted headless, but holding his head in his hand(s). According to legend he was decapitated along with two companions, Rusticus and Eleutherius, on the orders of the Roman governor on the hill later known as Montmartre ("mountain of the martyrs"). He then got up, picked up his head and walked all the way (ca. 6 km) to the place north of Paris that now bears his name, where he was buried. When Voltaire was asked if he thought it was possible that this actually happened, he famously replied: "In cases such as this, it's the first step that counts."
- On Honorable Hogwarts, Walter Zotermeer was elevated from Quirky Miniboss Squad member in large part due to the glee with which he showed off the severed head of Chief Auror Gawain Robards. A lot of his fellow Death Eaters seemed to be less than enthusiastic about it.
- This guy◊ from Warhammer 40,000. As friendly as he looks. Tends to end up like this VERY frequently.
- Another Warhammer 40000 example in a fluff story behind one of the regions in Dawn of War: Dark Crusade, an Ork horde was demoralized and defeated after their war boss had this happen to him. His skull adorned the defended city's main square afterward.
- Also in Warhammer 40000, Many Ork and Chaos models have spikes with heads impaled on them.
- The same goes for their counterparts in Warhammer. One Orc banner takes it a step further and has an entire Dwarf hanging on it.
- Yet another Warhammer 40000 example (Yes, happens there a lot, doesn't it?), any follower of Khorne will do this after killing an enemy leader (such as a Sergeant or other leader) mid fight often screaming something like THE TROPHY IS MINE. He's more interested in what's inside the head, though.
- Chaos tends to do this a lot. The trophy rack sprue for Chaos tanks includes a Tau helmet and a Necron skull, the Chaos Terminator Lord box has got a Tyranid Warrior's head impaled on spikes.
- An illustration in the Werewolf: The Forsaken handbook shows a werewolf holding two severed heads.
- Happens in Warrior: Coupe, a BattleTech novel by Michael Stackpole. The commanders of a mercenary company and a Draconis Combine regiment are locked in a duel. The Draconis 'Mech outweighs, out-armors, and outguns his opponent, but the mercenary manages to knock down his enemy. The Draconis commander pulls off one of the mercenary 'Mech's legs and attempts Grievous Harm with a Body Part, but loses the arm holding the leg to the mercenary's Last Ditch Move. The mercenary pins the Draconis commander's 'Mech and tears its head off, holding it up for all to see. The expected death that usually comes with 'Mechs losing their heads in this setting is subverted when it turns out that the Draconis leader is alive enough to punch out of his decapitated 'Mech's head.
- Dramatic example in Star Lord. The head of the last Amaris is gruesomely presented to the Council of Clan Steel Viper by the disgraced former Viper and exiled Mechwarrior Dawn.
- There are lots of disembodied heads floating around in Shakespeare's Henry VI plays, and even when this action is not mentioned explicitly in the stage directions or dialogue cues, many directors do it anyway, 'cause it looks
- At the end of Christopher Durang's The Actors Nightmare, when the actor is stuck in a production of A Man for All Seasons as Sir Thomas More and is beheaded:
Executioner: Behold the head of Sir Thomas More!
- Usually done in productions of Macbeth:
Re-enter MACDUFF, with MACBETH's headMACDUFFHail, king! for so thou art: behold, where standsThe usurper's cursed head:
- In the opera Turandot, the Prince of Persia is decapitated offstage and his head is brought back impaled on a stake, as a warning to would-be suitors of Turandot.
- Some productions of Richard II do this, given that apart from executions (and the title character's assassination) the play is pretty bloodless. Notably, the 2013 Royal Shakespeare Company production had Bolingbroke (played by Nigel Lindsay) rather gleefully brandish the severed heads of Bushy and Green (in blood-soaked sacks).
- The Legend of Zelda: Majora's Mask uses a less violent variant. The masks that the bosses wear are substituted for the actual heads.
- God of War: Kratos to Medusa, her sister and Helios in each respective game.
- Maw mentions doing this to Kyle's father in Jedi Knight: Dark Forces II, but the actual decapitation and subsequent public display of the head on a spike occurs offscreen.
- In F.E.A.R 2, Snake Fist is decapitated right before your eyes the game even has him hand you a BFG to make sure that you're good and close when it happens by a Cyborg Clone Ninja Mutant...thing which rips it off and carries it away. You find his head a short time later, deliberately left where you will see it and just before they're waiting to ambush you.
- In Legacy of Kain: Blood Omen, this is done to the executed Vorador. Moebius, who was in charge of it, takes this trope up a notch by leaving the head in the hand of a statue of himself in the same pose, which is seen in Soul Reaver 2 about a hundred years later.
- Occurs on numerous occasions throughout World of Warcraft. While there are several quests that involve putting a decapitated head on a spear as a means of intimidation (most notably the old quest, "Ogre Head On A Stick = Party"), the quests that merely require killing someone and bringing back the head as proof are too numerous to count. There's even one achievement lampshading the frequent use of this trope: Bring Me The Head of... Oh Wait
- There's also a subversion in twilight highlands where you bring someone the heads of two ogre-magi, the horde version plays it straight, but in the alliance version the quest giver is squicked out at the heads and tells you he would have just taken your word for it.
- Orgrim Doomhammer is seen doing this to Blackhand in the instruction manual for Warcraft II.
- In a Kick the Dog moment, the Big Bad of the novel Warcraft Lord Of The Clans kills his mistress (Thrall's childhood friend) for helping Thrall escape and throws her head at Thralls feet when the latter comes to the keep with an orc army. Needless to say, the Big Bad doesn't survive the encounter.
- A bizarre example in Mortal Kombat: Deception: Havik's Hara-Kiri involves him ripping off his own head then holding it out before dying. The usual version happens A LOT after Fatalities throughout the series. Most famously Sub-Zero's head/spine rip.
- Another weird example is Serious Sam with its line of 'Beheaded' enemies. As it sounds, they are undead enemies who have been beheaded...but, upon being raised from their graves, then proceed to carry around their own heads in the manner of this trope, ostensibly so they can aim their bombs and rocket launchers. Don't ask about the guys whose heads they couldn't find.
- After occupying the Viscount's Keep, the Arishok in Dragon Age II appears briefly to lift the head of Viscount Dumar for display, but dispenses with drama to dismissively roll it down the carpet.
- One possible War Table mission in Dragon Age: Inquisition has Cullen jokingly suggest this. You can tell him to do it. He is not pleased at all.
- In killer7, Curtis Blackburn hands his former partner Pedro a paper bag holding his daughter's severed head. This is merely the last of the many horrors Curtis inflicts on him.
- Severed in paper bags are a gameplay mechanic, too: die in the game, and your character's head in a bag is found at the scene of the crime. You must go back as persona Garcian Smith to fetch your dead Smith's noggin and bring them back to life.
- It's (deliberately?) a little ambiguous, but have a look at the Tekken 3 intro. Is that Jun's head?!
- For the Mass Effect 2 downloadable mission Arrival, if you let the timer run out, this happens.
- One quest in Neverwinter Nights has you killing the red dragon Klauth and giving his head to the gold dragon Gorgotha. Given he's an old, big dragon don't ask how you carry his head around in your backpack.
- After Chasing Neclord out of North Window in Suikoden II Flik reports that after the South Window was invaded by Solon Jhee's Battalion he surrendered immediately.....His Head hanged from the Castle Gate the following Morning. Whether it was Solon Jhee's idea or by Luca Blight's orders is unknown.
- In Civilization IV, when you meet another civilization for the first time, you have the options to either say "Let there be peace in our time!" or "Your head would look good on the end of a pole!"
- Occurs in Siegfried Schtauffen's backstory in Soul Edge. The young bandit Siegfried holds up the severed head of the knight he just ambushed to show it off to his fellows.. only to realize it was his beloved father's head. He... doesn't take it well.
- The Legion's Establishing Character Moment in Fallout: New Vegas includes heads stuck on pikes.
- In Daryl Gates' Police Quest: Open Season, the severed head of one of the killer's victims can be found in his refrigerator.
- Depicted in the banner for Mann Up mode in Mann Vs. Machine in Team Fortress 2, with the RED Heavy brandishing the severed head of a Heavy-bot that he presumably pulled off just prior. Also happens after a fashion with the Botkiller weapons, which have the heads of Robot Heavies or (more rarely) Robot Engineers hanging off their barrels or jammed onto melee weapons as trophies in full view of everyone.
- From The Legend of Dragoon, the Undead common enemy found in Mayfil carries around with it a cackling severed head that it will hold up to one of the players, causing a Fear Status Effect.
- Star Wars: The Old Republic gives you this option a few times, most notably as the Bounty Hunter. In one such encounter, your options include killing him and taking his head back (dark side) or leaving him be and using a random already-dead same-species replacement (light side).
- You can do this in Fallout 3 and Fallout: New Vegas by decapitating an enemy, reaching down, and 'grabbing' their severed head, holding it out in front of you as you walk. Doesn't have that much practical purpose aside from exploiting the 'head storage' glitch, but it's still doable, and rather badass besides. Unfortunately, few if any of the other characters acknowledge it when you walk into town with a shotgun in one hand and the head of a bandit in the other.
- A particularly cruel version of this can occur in Telltale's Game of Thrones, should you anger Ludd Whitehill exessively. Near the beginning of Episode 6, he will force the eight year old Ryon to carry a pike with his dead brother's head stuck on top.
- At the end of Mortal Kombat X, Raiden after exposure to dark magic brought all of his repressed feelings of anger about Earthrealm constantly being put in danger to the surface approaches the new rulers of the Underworld revenant Liu Kang and Kitana and warns them that he is going to take a more proactive approach to keeping Earthrealm safe by seeking out and destroying any threat to it. He demonstrates that his threat is not an idle one by tossing the head of Shinnok, who is still alive thanks to his immortality at their feet.
- During Dave and Bro's fight, Dave does this using the head of one of Bro's puppets, drawing a line across his throat after Bro gives him a "you're going down" thumbs down. Later parodied by Vriska when Tavros does the same thing to her, and she responds by holding up his replaced, severed legs and drawing a line across her waist.
- Gamzee assembles a "motherfucking JURY" consisting of the heads of Nepeta, Equius, Tavros, Feferi and Eridan, the five dead trolls at that point. It all appears to be out of the way and no-one's paying attention to it or him, though.
- Dirk later takes the historical route by putting the Hegemonic Brute's head up on public display through a stolen flagpole with an attached note as a warning to those in charge of Derse.
- Used in this SMBC strip, though not exactly as expected.
- This is an all too common pastime for the characters in The Overture
- Vanessa Olsen is a brutal warlord who displays the heads of her enemies on pikes in order to instill fear.
- The headhuntress wears the rotten skulls of her victims around her belt. The rest she leaves in a large pile outside of her layer.
- Before burning Sophia Finley alive, Sophie places the decapitated heads of Sophia's bodyguards in front of her in order to give her death an audience.
- In S.S.D.D the Anarchist's crazier-than-normal First Adviser Kimple was killed by an angry mob and his head stuffed and mounted in the Citadel's pool hall. Later his successor demands the head of whoever programmed that ICBM they just launched to hit Austin, Texas, and the Oracle states "Well, you're in luck there..."
- In Looking for Group Richard's undead subjects put the severed heads of the Imperial soldiers who tried to annex their village on stakes, with an expression of mild surprise on their faces.
- At the end of the "Terror at 5 1/2 Feet" segment of The Simpsons' fourth Halloween Episode, when the gremlin displays Ned Flanders's severed (and still-living) head to Bart in the window of the ambulance.
Bart: You should have seen the look on her face. In fact, here it is!
- Because of a misunderstanding, Treehouse of Horror XIII ("Send in the Clones") saw another of Ned's decapitations, at the hands of a clone of Homer's, with a chainsaw. We see the head, but just be grateful we didn't see the actual murder.
- The Dial M for Murder parody had Bart decapitating Ms. Hoover's head and showing it to Lisa.
- A Family Guy Cutaway Gag has a parody of The Sound of Music where one of the nuns, after they disable the Nazis' car, whips out Rolfe's severed head.
Nun: (reacting to the other nuns' shocked expressions) Hey, I didn't start this war but it's on!
- This is the instigating factor of the war in Justice League: The Flashpoint Paradox: Wonder Woman decapitates Mera, who attacked her for her part in Aquaman's infidelity, takes her crown, and delivers her severed head to Aquaman. Ouch.
- This actually used to be standard practice, possibly to discourage followers of beheaded people from pretending they were still alive. "Behold the head of a traitor!" was the usual formula. Alas, when they tried it with Mary of Scotland... the headsman failed to realize she was wearing a wig so it all went a bit wrong and her head rolled away. Bit of a Chew Toy was Mary.
- This was, of course, common in The French Revolution, with or without the benefit of the guillotine. Bernard, Marquis de Launay (the Governor of the Bastille) and several of his guards, Marie-Louise, Princess de Lamballe, and Joseph-François Foullon de Doué all had their heads hacked off by Revolutionary mobs and carried around on pikes.
- According to legend, when the Roman general Crassus was defeated, they brought his head to an enemy king, who was watching a play that ended with a severed head being displayed. They switched Crassus's head for the prop.
- Joaquín Murieta, California bandit and outlaw hero, whose head was removed so as to collect the bounty... and then preserved in a pickle jar and displayed for years.
- After being kidnapped and raped by Roman soldiers, Chiomara had her people, who came to rescue her, cut off her rapist's head. She proceeded to carry said decapitated head back home, threw it at her husband's feet, and told him "Only one man who has lain with me shall remain alive".
- Famously, Pompey Magnus's head was delivered to Gaius Julius Caesar as a gift from the Egyptians. Caesar was furious that his allies had treacherously murdered his honoured enemy and old friend.
- Overlapping with Murder the Hypotenuse is this horrific tale about a cuckolded soldier and his wife, pregnant by a friend. The murderer also invoked the Nightmare Fuel potential of the act, according to the wife's court testimony:
"Look, Diane Glover's here! He'll sleep with you every night now. Only you won't sleep because all you'll see is this!"
- Sigurd Eysteinsson, Jarl of Orkney (ruled circa 872 - 892), did this to Mael Brigte of the Scots during the Viking Conquest of Northern Scotland. Unfortunately, as he was riding home, his leg scratched against Mael Brigte's buckteeth, the wound went septic and he died of the infection. That's the tooth, the whole tooth and nothing but the tooth.
- Samurai had a custom of presenting to their Daimyo the heads of their enemies after each battle. Because of this they would perfume their heads just to make sure any enemy that killed them got a good trophy.
- Sort of happened to Ferdinand von Schill, the leader of a small anti-Napoleonic rebellion. After he was killed in combat in the streets of Stralsund, the French had his head cut off and pickled in a glass jar that ended up at Leiden University. It took years for the head to be returned to Germany for burial.
- In the middle ages it was quite common for the heads of people executed by decapitation to be spiked onto poles etc. and displayed at a city gate or, if the people executed were pirates, at a harbour entrance. A skull of a pirate whose head was displayed that way (according to legend that of the famous pirate Klaus Störtebeker) in the times of the Hanseatic League can be seen in the Museum für Hamburgische Geschichte in Hamburg.
- Animal heads, of course, are very common taxidermy displays by which hunters show off their prowess, especially for large species.