Being a device that flouts conventional scientific consensus that the molecules composing the human body must be arranged "just so", and not, for example, across a square-mile radius.
The cleanest variety of Death Ray
. Whatever it strikes, be it commoner or king, is reduced to little more than sand and ozone (or simply vanishes in a flash of light). A great way to save money on special effects and not have to litter the place with corpses
or blood. Only a few stories will bother to elaborate
on where all that matter actually goes, or how the ray gun "knows" to stop disintegrating things once the original target is vaporized (rather than disintegrating everything in the area
up to and including the very planet
everyone is standing on).
Be warned, however. If you should fall foul of a Disintegrator Ray
, it may take much more than a stay at the Trauma Inn
to cure that Status Effect
. Even people whose Healing Factor
can reconstitute their bodies From a Single Cell
would have trouble doing so from a single atom
. If the shot is somehow shrugged off as not instantly lethal but still hurtful, expect it to hit For Massive Damage
This may also make it the weapon most vulnerable to the Inverse Law of Utility and Lethality
of Ray Gun
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Anime and Manga
- In Naruto, Dust Release works like this.
- The second major invention of Baron Zemo (Captain America's once-archenemy from WWII), eventually revealed as being—tada!!—a laser beam.
- It requires physical contact, and so isn't technically a ray or laser beam or whatever, but the "vibrate through molecules" ability each Flash-type speedster possesses can be used offensively as a disintegrator.
- Darkseid's most oft-seen use of his Omega Beams is to disintegrate anyone he chooses. Furthermore, if he changes his mind, Darkseid can restore anyone so hit just as easily.
- Foolkiller's "Purification Gun" works this way; no attempt has ever been made to explain where it came from or how it works, which was intentional on the part of creator Steve Gerber.
Films — Animated
- Heavy Metal. In the "Harry Canyon" segment, the title cabbie is betrayed by a woman he helped: he destroys her with a device installed in his cab to prevent robberies.
Films — Live-Action
- The War of the Worlds:
- In the 1953 Hollywood movie adaptation, the "heat ray" truly could burn tanks to ashes, but for extra appeal, the war machines gained a second weapon, the green "skeleton beam" which "neutralized mesons," truly causing its victims to vanish in a glow of green light.
- The 2005 Spielberg adaptation included not only a scene with many fleeing civilians getting disintegrated, but also a scene afterwards where the protagonist realizes that he's covered in people dust.
- The plot of The Pink Panther Strikes Again has the crazed Chief Inspector Dreyfus threatening the world with a ray that leaves next to nothing behind unless Inspector Clouseau is killed. The villain is Hoist by His Own Petard at the end. Perhaps due to sequelitis, he got better.
- Queen of Outer Space (1958). Yllana, the dictatorial matriarch of Venus, has the Beta Disintegrator which can destroy Earth in minutes. Though given her rampant hatred of men, she should have dubbed it the Alpha-Male Disintegrator instead.
- Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow homages all of Mad Science, including a hand held disintegrator pistol that fires a little blue ring that disintegrates a neat hole through a foot of metal.
- Mars Attacks! has the Martians armed with disintegrators that leave a brightly colored skeleton behind.
- The dirtship in The Core has an ultrasonic beam at the front that disintegrates everything in front of it so it can travel through to the center of the Earth.
- Gort's eye beam in the original The Day the Earth Stood Still (1951). Used to disintegrate tanks, artillery pieces and individual weapons. After Klatuu was killed, his programming changes, and he uses it on humans, nearly doing so to Helen, but she manages to tell him the code word to make him stop.
- Earth vs. the Flying Saucers. The beams emitted from the hands of the invader's armor suits and (sometimes) the devices in the bottom of the invaders' ships.
- The American Astronaut: Professor Hess has a handgun that can turn people to ash if they forget his birthday.
- The electro-fragmentizer room in Our Man Flint.
- Though it never occurs in the trilogy, Darth Vader feels it prudent enough in The Empire Strikes Back to warn Boba Fett "No disintegrations" when sending the bounty hunters after the Millennium Falcon.
- In one of the video game adaptations, there is a disintegrator grenade In Name Only.
- In Empire at War the expansion includes units wielding disintegrator rifles.
- Some EU tech books describe these, aparently they work like blasters do except turned Up to Eleven, causing the heat to melt the whole person rather than sear holes through people.
- District 9: One of the weapon causes people to 'pop' leaving only a few splashes of blood.
- Flash Gordon (1980). The flying robot in Ming's palace uses one to destroy an escaping lizard man and the pistol in Dr. Zarkov's pocket.
- The Tesseract-powered Energy Weapons used by HYDRA in Captain America: The First Avenger fire blue bolts that violently explode when hitting an inanimate object and disintegrate any person hit with it. They only object immune to it (but not the knockback effect of the heavier versions) is Cap's own Stark-designed vibranium shield. The weapons are later collected and stored by SHIELD in order to build weapons with which to defend Earth.
- The Martian "Heat Ray" in H. G. Wells' 1898 novella The War of the Worlds is one of the earliest examples of this trope, although it did tend to leave messy burnt bits around the edges of the blast zone.
- Inside the blast zone, the messy burnt bits are smaller and harder to notice.
- The "Heat Ray" was a death ray. The first true disintegrator appears in the 1898 Edison's Conquest of Mars.
- The quark-level dissociator spell from the Young Wizards series.
- In Ringworld and Larry Niven's other Known Space stories, the Thrintun Slavers left a lot of their Lost Technology lying around in stasis, including a disintegrator digging tool that suppresses atomic valence— atoms simply fly apart. It is weaponized to slice a miles-deep canyon into a planet during the Man-Kzin wars.
- The planet is now known as "Canyon", for it's defining feature.
- ...And the weapon was called the "Wunderland Treatymaker" for it's defining feature.
- The details are amusing enough to relate: one version of the Slaver Disintegrator suppressed the charge on electrons. Another suppressed the charge on protons. Neither version acted quickly enough to be useful as a weapon, but if two beams were fired in parallel, current would flow between them. Lots of current.
- The "Little Doctor" (from "Doctor Device", from "M.D. device", from molecular disruption device) in Ender’s Game is an especially potent version. While later books in its original form it fires a pair of beams which generate a field that breaks atomic bonds at the point where they meet — and uses the energy released to expand the field, with the end result that a single shot could take out a target of any size, anything nearby, and so on in a chain reaction limited only by the vast void of space. Needless to say, the weapon was only used in space combat. At least until Ender had it used on the buggers' homeworld.
- In later books, the weapon is retconned as a missile.
- The prequel novel Earth Unaware has the "gravity laser" (or "glaser"), originally meant for very efficient asteroid mining but proving extremely effective against Bugger/Formic ships. It works by firing a focused gravity beam that breaks apart targets into atoms. It's heavily implied that the glaser is the ancestor of the Little Doctor.
- In the Animorphs series, the Yeerks' Dracon beams were deliberately engineered to disintegrate living targets slowly and painfully. Other weapons did so more cleanly.
- The disruption-balls fired by "The Gun That Shot Too Straight", in Ralph Roberts' short story.
- Another of these weapons that works too well appears in Robert Sheckley's short story "The Gun Without a Bang."
- The balefire weave of The Wheel of Time. Manifests as a beam of light that instantly banishes whatever it touches from existence, not even leaving dust behind. The destruction visited upon the target is so extreme, being killed with balefire prevents a person from being brought back to life, even by gods. If that isn't enough, contact with balefire also burns the very actions that the person recently took out of existence, undoing them.
- A disintegrator ray is the weapon ultimately (and accidentally) created in the Arthur C. Clarke short story "Armaments Race" in Tales from the White Hart.
- The Man Who Rocked the Earth by Arthur Train and Robert Wood.
- Disintegrators are one of the earliest stock energy weapons introduced in Perry Rhodan. They work on the "disrupt molecular bonds" principle and so turn whatever they touch into expanding gasses and/or very fine dust; since the beam only affects what it touches directly (and doesn't, say, expand from that spot to magically consume the whole person or object), the technology has practical applications away from the battlefield as well.
- The Ultravibe weapons in Richard K. Morgan's Broken Angels effectively did this... they were presumably some sort of intense directed broad-spectrum ultrasound device which vibrated targets apart. Used as battlefield weapons and mining devices. One character is hit by a big, warship-mounted version of these and is reduced to a thin, smooth red paste coating the surfaces of the docking bay he was in.
- Isaac Asimov's robot story "Robot Al-76 Goes Astray". A robot creates a Disinto device powerful enough to destroy the top 3/4 of a mountain.
- Colin O'Boyle's serialized novel, The Chronicles of Professor Jack Baling, has one of these. After the main character accidentally shoots his kitchen island, it shivers, takes on an ashy appearance—as though a newspaper image of the island had been lit on fire—and then collapses into a pile of dust.
- In Doom: Endgame, Fly is introduced to the Fred ray. The disintegrator weapon disturbs him because it has no visible emissions and just erases things from reality.
Live Action TV
- Used to the point of annoyance on Star Trek for years. No one seemed to ever use the settings on phasers that were between stun and unmake utterly without burning the carpet...intentionally, at least. In the TOS episode The Conscience of the King Lenore accidentally kills Karidian without disintegrating him, but a master of phaser use and safety, Lenore was not.
- Also, Karidian needed to give a Final Speech. This was the sole exception to the rule in TOS (if we don't count super-strong aliens who could shrug off phaser fire altogether.)
- A couple of original-series episodes used a hand-phaser heat-ray setting to warm up a rock on a cold world, and coffee during a power outage, respectively, serving Roddenberry's vision of phasers as tools that are incidentally weapons.
- There was one Deep Space Nine episode where a Disintegrator Ray used by a couple of snarky murderers did burn the carpet after unmaking their unfortunate target. "Oh? Now look what you did to the rug." They covered the stains with a chair, which was not enough to fool Odo.
- In The Undiscovered Country Star Fleet subversives were disposed of via a point-blank phaser on stun. Rumor has it there's an episode in The Original Series where this phenomenon was mentioned. Then the topic was tabled until Next Generation era and beyond, during which phasers had ten settings and up.
- But it was established in TNG that the phaser's highest setting didn't actually burn or vaporize, it broke down matter into Technobabblium particles which harmlessly dissipated. It's a plot point in one of the season-end three parters, when the crew scan the floor near a phaser shot for said particles to find if Picard was really killed, or just beamed away.
- In one episode both Riker and Picard fire phasers at a human possessed by alien bugs, causing his head to explode and left behind a bloody corpse. Evidently this effect and the whole episode/storyline didn't go down too well.
- In the original series episode "The Apple", a lightning bolt acted as a Disintegrator Ray.
- And in the original series episode "The Changeling", Nomad's beam weapon vaporized many a red-shirt without trace.
- In Star Trek: The Motion Picture, V'Ger disintegrated entire Klingon battle cruisers.
- In the TNG episode The Most Toys there is the Varon-T Disruptor, which combines this and Agony Beam, as it tears the body apart at the molecular level from the inside out, resulting in a relatively slow and excruciating death by disintegration compared to most phasers and disruptors, which is why it was banned in the Federation and only five were ever made.
- Three shots of a Zat gun on Stargate SG-1 used to do this, but after the writers realized it was stupid, they quietly stopped using that function.
- A joke in a later episode implies that a fourth shot will reintegrate the target.
- Parodied in the "Wormhole X-treme!" episode, where a producer considers the concept "the dumbest thing I ever heard!"
- The Zat gun went through a few changes over the course of the show. Originally, a single shot from the gun would wrack people with tortuous agony, but at some point along the way, this was replaced with a simple, humane "stun" effect.
- The Asgard used their transporter systems this way to spectacular effect in a second season episode, with a single ship completely disintegrating three pyramid ships and an entire Goa'uld army. This was never mentioned again.
- Until Stargate Atlantis, where the Asgard have specifically built safeguards into the transporters they installed on human ships to prevent using them in an offensive capacity.
- Hilariously spoofed in the British comedy series Hyperdrive. The ruler of Queppu has a fearsome-looking Doom Ray that can disintegrate his enemies... provided they stand perfectly still for three days.
- The Outer Limits TOS. In the episode "Soldier", the title character's weapon made the target glow and disappear.
- Doctor Who has numerous instances of this technology, the Daleks having one of the more frequently used. However, the DeMat Gun used by the Fourth Doctor in "The Invasion of Time" is a special weapon. Powered by the Great Key of Time, it doesn't just disintegrate the target, it removes their entire existence from time itself.
- Subverted in the episode "Bad Wolf", where the ray used in several deadly gameshows turns to be a transmat device, but those affected generally end up as Dalek meat (as in their cells are used to grow Daleks).
- The episode "Robot" had the title character using a disintegrator gun and making a battle tank glow and disappear. When asked what the "range and power of that device is", the Doctor's answer was "the power is limitless, and as to range, it could cut a hole in the surface of the moon". See also BFG.
- An episode of Time Trax featured a villain-of-the-week who is a high-tech weapons designer from the 22nd century. Two of his specialties include a powerful beam weapon and something called a "sonic demolecularizer". It fires a sonic blast that turns people and objects into a rapidly-disappearing cloud. Like the Big Bad, the villain is a personal case of Darien, whose partner was killed by the villain with the demolecularizer when they first came to arrest him in the future.
- An episode of The Invisible Man has the villain-of-the-week use a particle accelerator in this manner by throwing a colleague inside the accelerator tube before turning it on. The unfortunate victim is turned into energy atom-by-atom. Somehow, though, her energy essense survives and is visible in a certain spectrum (i.e. Darien can see it via quicksilver). The villain is Hoist by His Own Petard when the essense of his victim is able to exert control over the physical world and trap him in the same particle accelerator before turning it on.
- In The Lost Room, the Eye has the ability to restore or disintegrate flesh. However, in order to use it, it has to be inserted into an empty eye socket. The villain manages to disintegrate a squad sent to take him out, but the aim of the Eye is terrible, as he later accidentally kills his Number Two this way.
- Buffy the Vampire Slayer: The Trio's Invisibility Ray also has this function, which Warren nearly uses on Buffy.
- The Goodies. In "UF-Friend or UFO" Bill is being chased by what he thinks is an alien, but Tim won't let him in the door, so he orders Graham's robot to open it. The robot promptly disintegrates the door, so Bill can't lock it after him.
- According to the Greeks and at least one psychic from the early 20th century, Edgar Cayce, Atlantis was destroyed when they discovered machines that were essentially ancient ideas of the Disintegrator Ray.
- Dungeons & Dragons had the "Disintegrate" spell, which did Exactly What It Says on the Tin, but only if it managed to kill the target, and is mutually canceling with force effects. This made it slightly less useful than most Save or Be Screwed spells, but the spell was still a fan favorite, purely because of the Rule of Cool.
- Destroyed remnants also require more serious magic to bring one Back from the Dead, so it makes sort of Deader than Dead.
- Also appeared as one of beholders' Eye Beams (making an occasional smooth shaft or breach in the wall a hint, e.g. in Song Of The Saurials or The Summoning). As of the 4th Edition, beholders can no longer do this, having more varied and balanced powers.
- In the earlier editions of the game, this was one of the special purpose powers that could be chosen for an intelligent sword with a special purpose. This effect was delivered on any hit with the weapon (in addition to its normal damage) against those that the weapon was dedicated to slaying. In fact, in the original D&D rules, this was the main power that Chaotic special purpose swords had against the Lawful beings that they were designed to slay - Lawful special purpose swords, in contrast, paralyzed Chaotic beings they were specialized against.
- As pointed out in the undead-specific source book Libris Mortis, under 3.5E rules the "Disintegrate" spell is useful to fight The Undead because it requires a constitution-based saving throw. Undead, having no constitution score, typically have low constitution saves. Also, unlike most effects that target that particular defense (which Undead typically ignore), Disintegrate works on inanimate objects (so it also works on Undead).
- In the Planescape Splat book, Hellbound: The Blood War, one narrator who claims to be an expert on fiends lists the spell as a useful spell to use against them. He explains that fiends have lots of resistances against elemental attacks like fire, cold, and electricity, and each race of fiends has different resistances, but none of them have any special immunity to Disintegrate.
- GURPS: Ultratech has the "Reality Disintegrator" and the more traditional "Nucleonic Disintegrator".
- Mutants & Masterminds includes the Disintegration power where a sufficiently damaging attack can entirely remove the target from existence, preventing regeneration. A single power feat allows the user to reverse the effect at will.
- Warhammer 40,000 has Necron Gauss weaponry, which disintegrates its target one molecular layer at a time.
- The first set of Magic: The Gathering has the Disintegrate spell as one of the staples for red magic. Its damage is limited only by how much mana you have, allowing you to either nuke a big creature or simply obliterate your opponent.
- The Commander in Total Annihilation has one of these. It fires a spiky ball that wipes out whatever it touches. A Krogoth won't survive, either. Nasty weapon. It consumes a metric assload of energy when fired, though, and has a very short range, so blowing up a Krogoth is likely to also blow up the Commander in the resulting nuclear blast.
- Combine dark energy weaponry in Half-Life 2 and its Episodes instantly disintegrates any enemies (with the exception of Gordon Freeman), including the Strider's mounted cannon, a mortar-like "suppression device" and the secondary fire of the Pulse Rifle. Seems to be an innate quality of all dark energy-based technology, as even the dark energy reactors in the Citadel disintegrate anyone who touches them.
- The pulse machine guns equipped on the Striders and Gunships don't disintegrate their targets but their impact does release a small amount of the particles that come off disintegrating targets, implying that they still work by disintegration, but on a much smaller level.
- The Gluon Gun from Half-Life unleashes a deadly solid blue beam of destruction, one of the only weapons able to damage Gargantuas and almost instantly killing anything else the beam touches; it is a primo example of this trope.
- Lavos, the Big Bad of Chrono Trigger, can fire off a Disintegrator Ray from its eye/maw, strong enough to reduce the main protagonist to dust... but only in cutscenes.
- The final boss of Iji has this as one of his attacks. If you're unfortunate enough to get hit, you're dead no matter how much life you have, and are vaporized so quickly that Iji's usual dying scream is abruptly cut off.
- And the entire bottom menu clears. All your weapons and stats disappear.
- The aptly named Disintegrator Ray in Destroy All Humans!. It's one of the most useful weapons in the series since it deals good damage, has an excellent rate of fire, and has lots of ammo, but it has the slight drawback of leaving behind no bodies for you to harvest brains from.
- In Might and Magic games, Blasters work like this if enemies use them, having a chance of Eradicating a target. (But not when you do.)
- Prey has a Leech weapon which, when loaded from a special terminal fires a big beam of energy at your foes, leaving a brittle, burnt, rapidly-disintegrating corpse behind.
- The Particle Cannon from Wolfenstein (2009), which vibrates matter at such incredibly high frequencies that it instantly reduces enemies to green ash.
- Several of the experimental weapons in Crusader disintegrate their targets. One weapon reduces its victim into dust, another completely destroys their molecular structure and vaporizes them at once, and so on. Note that killing enemies this way prevents them from dropping weapons or ammunition or supplies.
- Averted in Fallout 3/Fallout: New Vegas. Laser and plasma weapons normally leave corpses, but fatal critical strikes by them turn your fallen enemies into piles of goo or ash.
- This is a callback to the first two games, where plasma weapons would melt foes into puddles of green goo on a Critical Hit.
- The lasers in Fallout and Fallout 2 would merely chop the target into a pile of steak on criticals, but plasma weapons would indeed reduce victims to a puddle of (usually red) goo. The Fallout 2 Pulse Rifle had the hilarious effect of making the target's hair all stand on end, burning them to a crisp, and finally the charred corpse collapses into a pile of dust. Might also have caused X-Ray Sparks, to boot.
- Despite this, the goo (or dust) can still be looted for perfectly intact items (even armor).
- The alien weapons in Fallout 3 are intended to be this (a rifle added in the "Mothership Zeta" DLC is even called the Alien Disintegrator), though their in-game effects on NPCs are similar to laser weapons.
- The disruptor rifle in Star Wars: Jedi Outcast and Jedi Academy can completely disintegrate most enemies with one fully charged shot. But they'll still conveniently drop their weapons for you. The only enemies it doesn't work on are Force-sensitive ones, who are Cheating Bastards and can dodge the Hit Scan weapon (to force you to use your lightsaber).
- Command & Conquer: Red Alert 2 had at least three ways to disintegrate infantry; radiation (gloop), electricity (ash) and light (ash/dust).
- Yuri's Revenge had the Floating Disk with its Disintegrator Ray which reduced infantry to gloop with its radiation laser, while Yuri's Psychic Blast let enemy soldier's brains explode. In-game, they were reduced to nothingness by this.
- Tiberian Sun had the Laser Tower, the small anti-infantry brother of the Obelisk, which toasted enemy infantry and reduced them to dust as well.
- In Space Quest, the slot machine fires one of these if you get triple skull & crossbones symbols, turning Roger to ashes. The Sariens' pulserays take this a step further, completely vaporizing the target.
- In King's Quest III, this is one of the favorite spells your master Manannan will cast on you if you misbehave too often. ZAP, indeed!
- Various weapons in Crusader have this effect on the protagonist or enemies, causing them to fade away into nothingness with an echoing scream.
- In Metroid Prime 1, the Plasma beam would disintegrate a target completely if charged, while the uncharged shot set things on fire. The Light beam did the same in Prime 2. Prime 3 the plasma beam returned, and when combined with the nova beam would turn a target to dust, even when uncharged if they were on fire long enough.
- In Strife, you get the Mauler, which functions as a disintegrater shotgun with a combination energy bomb launcher.
- Amorphous+ has the dreaded Void Eater. If it's not using its Instant Death Radius attack, it will charge energy, then fire out a black beam which disintegrates anything it touches (including mooks, like Sharps, Horrors, Grays, and even the Queen and Razor Queen; only excluding Grinders, who just crack instead). No amount of Reactive armour will save you either.
- In League of Legends, Vel'Koz ultimate ability is called Lifeform Disintegration Ray.
- In Nethack black dragons breathe disintegration beams which, strangely, bounce off of walls instead of destroying them. There are five ways to survive a disintegration blast: 1) have equipped an item with "reflection" attribute, 2) wear black dragon scale mail, 3) have a shield or body armor equipped (in which case the item gets disintegrated instead of you), 4) get disintegration immunity by eating the corpse of a black dragon, 5) be wearing an amulet of life saving (which gets used up in the process).
- The Cow Mangler and Righteous Bison for the Soldier in Team Fortress 2, complete with agonizing pose before being vaporized. The Engineer has his own with the Pomson 6000, and the Pyro gets his odd versions with the Phlogistinator and the Manmelter.
- First Encounter Assault Recon's Type-7 Particle Weapon vaporizes the flesh of its victims, leaving only charred skeletons. It's the game's go-to Sniper Rifle.
- Laser guns in Another World do this to victims.
- The N64 version of Duke Nukem 3D has a Plasma Cannon that vaporizes enemies.
- The 'Disintegrate' skill for the Wizard in Diablo III, It can be upgraded to be fired from both hands, make enemies explode on death, and other neat tricks. Unfortunately it has Arbitrary Maximum Range.
- Halo 4 the Composer works just like this, but its true function is converting organic material to data, and use it to create more Prometheans. The remains of its victims are just piles of dust of where they once stood.
- Many death rays in Girl Genius work like this. At one point, Agatha builds one (seen in here) that can zap huge holes in walls (and mountains,) much to the distress of the castle she's in at the time.
- In Life With Lamarr, Magnusson uses the Neek Ray, which he later fits into his pet T-Rex's eye sockets.
- In The Order of the Stick, Redcloak and Vaarsuvius both use Disintegrate as a go-to high-level spell for single targets. A big part of this is the fact that Redcloak especially looks completely badass when using it. It doesn't always work, though.
- In Everyday Heroes, Dr. Unpleasant has invented the Hyperframmiton(tm) Ray.
- In Homestuck, Lord English has a shoop-da-whoop beam attack that can disintegrate even the souls of the dead wandering the dream bubbles of the outer ring which was a terrible shock to the fans, who until that point believed the dead would stick around and so nobody would "really" be killed
- In Endtown handheld disintegration rays are commonplace, and D-bombs were one of the most common weapons of the apocalypse resulting in the surface being a vast wasteland. D-rays can also be dialed back to stun instead of kill.