This trope is when a character expresses their overwhelming frustration by banging their head (often repeatedly) against something nearby. Desks and walls are the most prevalent targets, but other hard surfaces or objects — such as telephone poles, nearby appliances, or trees — are also acceptable.
Most often seen in visual comedies, as doing this in Real Life could prove very painful. On the other hand, it can appear in more serious works, either to lighten the mood of a moment or to punctuate the gravity of the situation.
Compare and contrast with Face Fault, Face Palm, and Wall Slump (the non-violent variant, to say the least). Also contrast with the more serious Punch a Wall.
In CLANNAD After story, during Nagisa's 20th birthday, is also her first time drinking sake (the legal age for drinking in Japan is 20). She gets extremely drunk off just one bowl/cup and turns into a Clingy Jealous Girl. Hilarity Ensues and when Sanae and Akio start messing with him too, Tomoya does a fast headdesk.
This is a stock gag in Dork Tower, where a sufficiently annoying situation will prompt any of the main characters to bang their head against the nearest wall or table.
Archie: After ignoring a warning from his mom that it looks like rain and he might catch a cold if he goes out, he and Jughead both get soaked and head for Veronica's place. After going through a sauna and doing laps of a pool to try and avoid getting sick ("No germ would be stupid enough to stick around for that punishment") Archie gets home and...sneezes. "Banging your head against a wall is not an accepted cold medicine!"
A completely serious example in one The Joker's stories; he's been arrested and is going to trial, and the possibility of an insanity defence has (unsurprisingly) been raised by his attorney. While getting exasperated with his client, the lawyer sarcastically asks "and getting declared insane is that easy, is it?" The Joker calmly slams his own face down on the table he's sitting at, sits up with his face covered in blood, and says "It's that easy."
Nami demonstrates this in "One Piece" after discovering that most of the money she had saved up was spent at a party by Luffy.
In Surprise!, after a buxom St. Mungo's receptionist tried to get Harry to autograph her chest, he flooed back to Grimmauld Place and started banging his head on a table while muttering "I. Am. Going. To. Destroy. Witch. Weekly."
In When In Doubt Obliviate, during an argument with Remus about why Wormtail had been made the Secret Keeper instead of him, Sirius started banging his head against the wall of his room in St. Mungo's, prompting Remus to remark "Oh, that will convince them that you don't have any brain damage..."
Both tyrannosaur and megaprimate were treated to the rare sight of a deity in wrath beating her head against the wall.
In The Girl Who Loved, one of the Sailor Scouts made a suggestive remark involving Harry and Sailor Pluto, and he tried to beat the resulting images out of his head with the aid of a nearby table, which broke partway through and had to be magically repaired.
The Many Secret Origins Of Scootaloo features Twilight smashing many, many tables as she's subjected to Crack Fic after Crack Fic about Scootaloo. Prior to chapter 20's, she summons a pillow in preparation. Then, once the crack starts, she whips the pillow away as a threat to the table's health.
"Insane Asylum Escapees" has Harry who doesn't believe in magic walk out into the dragon arena shirtless with a lawn chair and a tanning mirror, as he thinks the dragons are iguanas on steroids. Cue Remus hitting his head on a book going "Stupid. Stupid. Stupid." with 'He's gonna die." thrown in every once in a while.
A frequent occurrence in NarutoFan Fiction. It has been rationalized that the use of the Shadow Clone Jutsu (Kage Bunshin no Jutsu) can defeat a Kage's greatest enemy: paperwork. When someone (usually Naruto) points this out to the Third Hokage (or any Kage for that matter), the common reaction is for him to bash his head on his desk repeatedly while muttering "stupid" every single time, usually because he's known that jutsu for decades and never realized that he could use it for paperwork.
A Brief History of Equestria describes an incident during the unicorn migration to what would eventually become Equestria. Exasperated by the bickering and delays of the aristocracy, Princess Platinum began going up to trees and tapping on them. When questioned, she did not explain her reason until she had found a suitably dense tree, which she began smacking her head against in frustration. On the plus side, they did manage to get some fruit for the caravan.
In the Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney fan game, Phoenix Drive, Phoenix does this while claiming that to be the culprit for the murder Larry is on trial for.
Phoenix: I hated her! Whooo!! Wanted to murder it! Whooo!!
In Petunia's Boys Lucius Malfoy started banging his head on a table after realizing that there were so many Muggles that it would take the entire world magical population several centuries to kill them all off.
Films — Animated
On The Road to El Dorado, Tulio is banging his head against a wall to try to figure out a way to escape from Cortez's ship. He appears to get an idea... but just resumes banging. Made funnier when Tulio appears to have a black eye and the wall had a dent in it.
Lilo & Stitch'': Stitch does this when he's in the pound, and actually knocks a brick out of place because of his power.
Buckaroo Banzai. Perfect Tommy lightly bumps his head against the prison bars while Buckaroo is talking to Penny Priddy in jail. The expression on his face and later dialogue indicates that he's doing it out of disbelief that Buckaroo is wasting his time with a woman who tried to kill him. Watch it here, starting at 3:20.
Dramatic example: In the aftermath of Smith's death in Event Horizon, Miller does a subdued version of this against the nearest wall. Then he wishes he hadn't.
The Graduate has Ben Braddock doing an "I can't believe I'm doing this" variant against a hotel room wall just before he sleeps with Mrs. Robinson for the first time.
Before they meet Anya, Dimitri and Vlad are holding an audition for girls to play Anastasia. One prospect is a middle-aged woman, who says in a sultry voice, "Granmama! It's me, Ana-STASIA!" Their reaction is a combination Head Desk and Face Palm.
The Whole Nine Yards and sequel, with more violent head-on-wall banging, The Whole Ten Yards. Dramatic and played for laughs in one go.
Done a lot in the movie Cold Turkey as the townspeople go through the withdrawls from smoking, most notably a pre-All in the Family Jean Stapleton clonking her head against a tree.
The first Police Academy movie: after the climax, Tackleberry starts banging his head against the hood of police car for having missed the shoot-out.
Kitty Norville sometimes takes advantage of her radio talk show's format to indulge in this during or after a paricularly inane/fustrating call. Needless to say, when a PETA shill gets through during her (voluntary) TV debut complete with studio audience in Kitty and the Dead Man's Hand....
The Mercedes Lackey book One Good Knight has a referenced one where a cross-dressing knight and rescued princess (who are both virgins) encounter a quartet of (related) talking unicorns that want to accompany them. The knight is... less than happy about this.
"Cousin? Why is the Warrior Maiden beating her forehead upon the tree?"
In That Meanie Jim's Birthday from the Junie B. Jones books, Junie B.'s father resorts to this after he and her mother try to console Junie B. about not being invited to Jim's birthday party and Junie B. says that she's going to move to the "It's a Small World" ride in Disney World.
Implied at the end of the Doby Gillis story "Her Face Was Familiar, But...", in which Doby is constantly interrupted every time he tries to find out the name of the girl he started dating (she doesn't realize he hasn't learned her name, and he's too proud to come right out and ask). He finally gets his chance when they go on a date to the radio studio, and he's chosen to participate in a trivia contest. He lets her take his place so that he can hear her give her name at the end, even though he is very upset to learn that not only was the trivia on a topic he knew very well (the meanings of names, of all things), but the prize money was triple what it normally would have been. He's still cheered up when he learns that her name is Mary Alice. Then, he takes her home and she gives the last line of the story:
"Why, you know perfectly well I didn't give my real name. Doby! Why are you beating your head against the wall?"
In the Daughter of the Lioness duology, the protagonist Aly is acting as spy-master for a rebellion against a corrupt court. To get information from the palace she hides a whole bunch of magical creatures called darkings; little, sentient black black blobs that are excellent at hiding and eavesdropping. Less than an hour after doing so she's confronted by a Friendly Enemy who discovered the youngest darking when it decided to go and play with the three-year-old king it was spying on. Its all Aly can do to stay in character and not immediately start banging her head against a wall.
Barefoot Boy With Cheek by Max Shulman:
I was all shaky inside as we entered Fflliikkiinnenn's room. He was standing in a corner beating his head methodically against the wall. "He's toughening up for the football season," Roger whispered.
Live Action TV
President Bartlet from The West Wing does this on the Resolute desk after being tormented for hours by the thrilling tales of an Old Soldier-esque retired diplomat while stuck in the Oval Office waiting on the phone during an international crisis.
The TV series of The Life and Loves of a She-Devil has a very drunken priest seemingly hitting his head on the table to clear it enough to string sentences together.
In an episode of The Wizard, Simon mentions "trying to punch a hole through the wall with [his] head" to a robot he built. This leads to the robot lasering a hole out of said wall a few inches from his head.
Sesame Street character Don Music, a frustrated composer, had a habit of slamming his forehead on the keys of his piano. Which is why you don't see him on Sesame Street anymore.
In the Sherlock 7-minute special "Many Happy Returns", Lestrade does one when Anderson tells him about another sighting of Sherlock.
In the "Sectionals" episode of Glee, Artie does a full-body version of this in a wheelchair when the club realizes their set list's been stolen. Emma even mentions on the phone that it's been going on for a few minutes.
At one point in Ally McBeal, the main character makes her head meet desk a few times, saying "I have my health" every time.
Dr. Cox from Scrubs does a variant on this in one episode, where he takes the liftable entry part of the desk and slams it into his head. Repeatedly.
Gordon Ramsay employs this trope in cooking shows:
He has only this reaction in an episode of Kitchen Nightmares when the cooks of Fiesta Sunrise manage to set flame to a plate of nachos.
In Hells Kitchen, repeatedly, when a chef kept messing up souffles told Gordon that he was going to try brushing sugar and cocoa powder around the rims of the ramekins to keep them from sticking. For non-chefs among readers, this is one of the first things you should do when making a souffle. The next scene has him complaining that he's got a fucking headache.
He does this in the final episode of the first season of Hotel Hell after the owner, who is also acting as the head chef, is unable to serve him a proper soft-boiled egg.
While Rimmer is explaining to Lister that the latter has accidentally signed himself (and, unbeknownest to Rimmer, the other main characters) into a suicide squad in Red Dwarf, partway through the explanation, Lister starts banging his head on a table.
Rimmer himself does this in Stoke Me A Clipper when Ace's face appears onscreen.
(There is a knock at the door.) Al: Pumpkin, can you see who's at that door? (Kelly stares at the door intently.) Kelly: ...No. Maybe I need glasses. Al:(headdesk)
The X-Files, "Rain King": Daryl Mootz seemed to be a real deal Rain King who is able to bring rain to dried out farms. When the person who is really affecting the weather stops feeling guilty for him, Daryl's show doesn't work any more. When he learns the sum people are sueing him for, he bangs his head on the desk.
In an episode of Reba, Reba has to work for her obnoxious ex-husband, and his equally irritating new wife:
Reba: You know how when Barbara Jean and Brock come over and visit for, like, 10 minutes, then I come in here and bang my head against the refrigerator? I've been with them for 8 hours today! (points to forehead) Touch it! It's still hot!
Buffy the Vampire Slayer: Xander Harris, when he unwittingly unleashed a love spell on the entire female community of Sunnydale, tried to seek refuge inside Buffy`s home while getting Cordy out of harm`s way. When Joyce suddenly tries to lead him on, he bangs his head in the table.
Xander (exasperated): Whatever!
Done in one Warhammer 40,000 battle report — a Chaos Space Marine leader wallbanged his metal forehead against the inner wall of a bunker, in response to his units' abysmal accuracy.
Charlie Brown does this in You're A Good Man, Charlie Brown, during the song "Little Known Facts" (when Lucy incorrectly explains "little known facts" to Linus, including that an elm grows into an oak and that sparrows grow into eagles that are eaten on Christmas and Thanksgiving). She does this rather than explain the truth to Linus. It was against a tree, and Lucy's explanation for this was that he's loosening the bark so it can grow faster.
Manfred von Karma does this in one game, while ranting about how Edgeworth and his father gave him a scar on his shoulder and a penalty on his record, respectively, and vowing to bury Edgeworth with his own hands.
Gumshoe in game 3 pulls a wall bang (off screen) when Phoenix and Maya tell him that Maggey hates him for betraying her.
In Spellforce, to get your siege units to use their anti-building attacks against buildings, you have to set them next to the buildings without ordering them to attack — otherwise, they'll bang their heads against the walls (as they melee attack the buildings).
In the vein of his source material, Strong Bad sometimes does this if he has a bad hand during the course of Poker Night at the Inventory. Especially hilarious because he doesn't say a thing during it, he just has this look while he slams his head into his cards and chips.
Not really done to express annoyance, but the first Dead Space game has Isaac come across a guy randomly doing this in a part of the USG Ishimura. The guy is just standing in the hallway beating his head against a wall, with more blood coming out with every hit. Eventually, he hits his head against it hard enough that it kills him. And when his corpse is on the ground you can see that there was nothing left inside him, all of his intestines had apparently been ripped out.
In Katawa Shoujo, Hisao does this late in Rin's route, after they have an argument, blaming himself for things going wrong.
In Mass Effect 3 Citadel DLC, you can encounter Wrex lamenting getting to sire half of Tuchanka after the Genophage Cure. He's swarmed day and night by eager newly fertile females who want their firstborn by his seed. His poor quad are so achy he needs an icepack for them. While complaining to Shepard, he drops his headplate on the bar table repeatedly, and each time with a resounding, glass-rattling *THUD*
A decidedly noncomedic instance can be found in BioShock Infinite's' Comstock House, where inmates may weakly bounce their heads, encased in Uncanny Valley masks of the Founding Fathers, off of surfaces in an attempt to ease their torment.
Trevor from Grand Theft Auto V is reduced to banging his head into a wooden pallet when he realizes that the government's top-secret, ultra-precious "cargo" he just stole is A FUCKING NUKE.
Arfenhouse Teh Movie Too has a random interscene with someone saying "BREAK TIME" repeatedly while bashing his head against a desk.
In the "deleted scene" from the email "from work", he hits his keyboard so hard it knocks the caption off the screen. No, not his computer screen. The cartoon's screen.
In email "sisters", he facedesks onto his keyboard after accidentally deleting an e-mail from a girl, an action which somehow types "head hit keyboard" onto his screen.
Happens in many The Nostalgia Critic episodes, as he reviews in front of a desk. In particular, the beginning of his A Kid in King Arthur's Court review had him slamming his head into his desk in an attempt to forget what he just saw. It happens so often, that the Critic's 'desk' is actually a massage table; padded so he can safely bash his head against it, and then dub in the thud effects later.
What the Fuck Is Wrong with You? Nash took this to an extreme during the pre-recorded episode 'This Is All Your Fault (The Return!)'; he went out to his garden shed, busted out the power tools, and built a section of wall specifically for him to bash his head against in protest of the stupid.
Popular YouTube vloggers Hank and John Green (known collaboratively by their channel name of VlogBrothers) sometimes do this in their videos to express dismay at the idiocy of the average internet user (see various You Fail ____Forever tropes) or other frustrations. Especially John has been known to do this from time to time. "Huaaaa—hh HEADDESK!" (after which he had a bruise, and had to end the video). In one video John performed a *headdesk* to the extent that he wondered (possibly jokingly) if he'd given himself a concussion and pretended to have memory loss through the remainder of the video.
Sweetie Belle: Yeah, I just sold your scooter and bought some cheap knockoffs at the store. Scootaloo: <Really?> Sweetie Belle: Yeah. Scootaloo: <Will you please excuse me for a moment?> Sweetie Belle: Sure, okay. [Scootaloo smashes her face into the piano keyboard repeatedly.] Sweetie Belle: What'd you do that for? Scootaloo: <Being in this group makes me want to cry.> Sweetie Belle: Well, maybe you wouldn't feel so bad if you didn't hit your head on the piano. [Beat.] [Sweetie Belle smiles at Scootaloo.] [Scootaloo resumes smashing her head against the keyboard.] Sweetie Belle: I like that noise, though. Totally brutal.
In Dubious Company, Mary and Sue use their Twin Telepathy to debrief each other. When Mary goes off on a tangent about Elly, Sue does this to shut it off. It gets worse when Sue "calls" Mary and realizes she's talking to someone about when they went through puberty.
Jimmy Neutron did this when he couldn't think of a script for a movie.
In one episode, Jimmy and Cindy were forced to work together for a science project — find the sunken ship The Oozing Scab and its treasure. After going through heck to find it, they finally retrieve the treasure chest, supposedly full of valuables. It turns out to be full of saltwater taffy. Cue Headdesk.
Rarity beats her head against a mannequin in "Suited For Success" after Rainbow Dash tells her that the Gala outfit she's making "needs to be about 20% cooler" without giving any actual details.
In "The Show Stoppers", Scootaloo bangs her head against the piano when she has difficulty composing the Cutie Mark Crusaders' song for the talent show.
Apple Bloom does this in "Hearts and Hooves Day" when she realizes that she and her fellow Crusaders have turned Cheerilee and Big Mac into "a couple o' nonsense-spouting-nincompoops."
In "A Friend in Deed", Twilight Sparkle bangs her head against a tabletop when Pinkie Pie insists on trying to befriend Cranky Doodle Donkey, despite Twilight trying to convince Pinkie that maybe he just wants to be left alone. Twilight had a book in front of her at the time. Cue jokes by the fans that Twilight has just joined Facebook.
In "Too Many Pinkie Pies", Pinkie thumps her head against a giant mushroom being used as an outdoor cafe table, having realized just how big a mess she's made by creating so many duplicates of herself.
When Bart is on a mission to get his soul back after selling it on The Simpsons, the Comic Book Guy tells him he sold it to someone else. He then tells Bart to stop banging his head on the display case as it contains a rare Mary Worth in which she has advised a friend to commit suicide.
In episode "Hooked on Monkey Fonics" Kyle falls in love with the Homeschooled Kid Rebecca, who is unfamiliar with the public school system. When he asks her to come to the dance, she says she might see him there. Kyle explains that he meant going to the dance with him, but Rebecca explains there is no need for that since her father will drive her there. Once she leaves the room, Kyle bangs his head against her chair.
Stan bangs his head on the desk in "Pinkeye" when he is stuck dressed as Raggedy Andy. He was supposed to pair with Wendy who would dress as Raggedy Ann but she ditched her costume after realizing how stupid she would look. She thought Stan would reach the same conclusion.
Gravedale High: In "Monster on Trial", Max Schneider does this when the judge declares him guilty in favor of old lady Fresno, who faked whiplash after Reggie accidentally bumps into her while taking Driver's Ed.
In the Pinky and the Brain episode "Das Mouse", the Brain appoints Pinky to disguise the bad taste of hypnotic sapo in his pancake recipe. Later, when they are making the Titanic rise, Pinky keeps trying to ask the Brain about the "icky stuff that tastes bad" in the recipe, but the Brain keeps telling him, "Cut it out!" Finally, after the pancake jamboree is held...
Brain: Tell me, Pinky, your pancake batter — how did you manage to hide the bitter taste of the hypnotic sapo? Pinky: Well, like you said, I cut it out. Brain: Cut what out? Pinky: That hypnotic stuff tasted terrible, Brain. So, like you said, I cut it out. (The Brain walks up to a test tube and repeatedly hits his head against it.) Pinky: Ooh, Brain, that looks painful.
The SpongeBob episode "Krusty Krab Training Video" had Squidward bang his head against the cash register.
According to historian Lewis H. Lapham, after the destruction of 15,000 Roman troops (and 10,000 camp followers) under their commander Publius Quinctilius Varus (and his subsequent suicide) at the Teutonberg Forest in 6 AD, Emperor Augustus, "...from time to time until the end of his life... was seen wandering through the rooms of the palace, beating his head against the wall and crying out... "Quinctillius Varus, give me back my legions."
Some editors in This Wiki tend to use this at times as a reaction... and pothole it to this very page.
Millions of workers when faced with idiotic management. Also not uncommon among call center workers (especially in tech support) when faced with callers who have apparently been brain donors. Many tech support places have what's known as "idiot checks", questions to make sure simple things like "Is the computer on in the first place?" get done. These, sadly, solve a fair amount of the customers' "problems".
Alexander Graham Bell did this when he was trying to create the telephone.
One of the special effects programmers can be seen doing this in the appendices to The Lord of the Rings, when under serious deadline pressure at the end of the last film.