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Anime and Manga
- In Ranma ˝, the Phoenix King Saffron's only weakness is cold. When Ranma stabs his arm with the freezing weapon Gekkaja, half of Saffron's body is frozen solid, and then his own weapon, the Kinjakan, breaks through and shatters said arm, setting him free just before the Gekkaja could turn all of him into ice. Later, Ranma turns the Gekkaja on himself to avoid death from Saffron's mountain-vaporizing heat ray, and Saffron nearly breaks him in half with the Kinjakan. The battle finally ends when Ranma, still half-frozen, delivers an attack so unbelievably cold it breaks even the ice left on his fist and instantly freezes and shatters Saffron like so much glass.
- In Saint Seiya, foes hit with Cygnus Hyoga's Diamond Dust or Aurora Execution tend to fall to pieces unless they are recurring characters. His master, Aquarius Camus, can do the same.
- Negima!'s Evangeline A K McDowell has a few spells that fit this trope.
- In Bleach, this tends to happen to Rukia Kuchiki's enemies when she freezes them, through oddly doesn't happen when Toshiro Hitsugaya freezes them.
- In Batman & Robin, BINO (Bane In-Name-Only) slams a wall of reinforced steel with both fists but is unable to break it. All it takes is for Mr. Freeze to use his suit to freeze the water pipes and thus freeze the wall, thus making it easier to bust out.
- Actually, freezing the pipes is pretty destructive by itself. In some comic he destroyed a wall that way. And steel does get surprisingly brittle if it gets cold enough.
- Probably the best-known example of the trope in action: in Terminator 2: Judgment Day, the nigh-invulnerable T-1000 is splashed with a tanker-full of liquid nitrogen. Its liquid metal matrix steadily freezes over until it starts shattering simply by trying to move around, until it's frozen completely solid. Then, it only takes a bullet to shatter the whole construct into itty, bitty pieces. Shame they did it in the vicinity of molten metal... A deleted scene showed that the T-1000 was still affected afterwards by its cold spell, with its mimic ability glitching and out of control, even copying the floor it was walking on.
- The Terminator 2 scene was parodied in Hot Shots! Part Deux by President Benson freezing Saddam Hussein (and his little dog, too!) with, uh, a fire extinguisher. Wait, what?
- At one point in The Sorcerer's Apprentice, when Balthazar is immobilized by bent metal piping, he escapes by magically supercooling the bits that were holding him and snapping them off.
- The Mortal Kombat movie has Sub-Zero calmly freeze the muzzle of Sonya's Glock and snap it off with his bare hands when she tries pointing it at him.
- In Pacific Rim, Gipsy Danger does this by venting its coolant onto a Kaiju's tail, freezing it solid and breaking it off.
- In Jason X, Jason puts a woman's face into liquid nitrogen, freezing it, and then smashing her face onto the table.
- The film Demolition Man ends with John Spartan kicking off Phoenix's head after being flash frozen with a suitable Bond One-Liner. Spartan then crashes through a gate of frozen steel bars to escape before the place explodes.
- Scott Lang in Ant-Man manages to break into a vault by pouring water in the locking mechanism, followed by liquid nitrogen. While the door doesn't shatter, it frosts over and warps out of shape, sending bolts flying before finally falling off its hinges.
- The Dresden Files: in Changes Harry, after becoming the Winter Knight, covers a vampire's arm with ice, then snaps it in half. Possibly justified in that the cold is magical and Harry has superhuman strength.
- In Shadow Ops, this is used while trying to flush a Selfer physiomancer out of a New York sewer. The team Aquamancer freezes the lock and hinges on a locked door, and then kicks the door in. Cheaper and quieter than C4, quicker than lockpicks.
Live Action TV
- MacGyver did this in one episode where he was locked in a freezer. However it worked because MacGyver had gotten water to freeze in the lock. Since water is one of the few chemical that expands when it freezes, it broke the lock as it froze.
- Confirmed by the Mythbusters: liquid nitrogen can make locks significantly easier to physically destroy. Of course, the equipment required makes freezing locks anything but subtle. Busted, however, in the case of dunking someone's head in liquid nitrogen for a few seconds and then shattering it against a table (as per the movie Jason X): as demonstrated with an artificial head analogue, the trauma would obviously be fatal, but the result as depicted would be impossible to achieve, even if the victim's head were submerged in liquid nitrogen for several minutes.
- The episode When Justice Fails of RoboCop: The Series is full of this as it's centered around a cryonicatics/fuel company. First Robo's legs get's frozen and he breaks it attempting to pursue the criminal. Later he gets completely frozen in about 3 seconds but thankfully just before he's shattered into pieces he uses a plug to warm himself up (again in seconds). Then criminal slips on the ice right into a stream of liquid nitrogen freezing solid and breaking into pieces when something hits him.
- Used as the murder method in the Castle episode "Food to Die For." An inventive gourmet chef who used liquid nitrogen is killed when a vat of it is poured over him. He's mostly intact, but his hand did shatter when he fell to the floor. Castle, being Castle, is thus inspired to get his own liquid nitrogen and spends some time freezing and shattering random objects at home with Alexis.
- A subtrope of this is when a character becomes frozen, only to shatter the ice seconds later by flexing his or her muscles. Spark Mandrill of Mega Man X'' does this every time.
- So does Samus in Metroid Prime, if she gets attacked by an ice-based weapon.
- Duke Nukem 3D lets you do this to enemies: Frozen enemies will shatter into shards no bigger than your fist if kicked or shot, without fail. However, if they have time to thaw they'll still somehow be able to keep fighting with one hit point.
- Same in Hexen, but there, once an enemy is frozen, it shatters by itself within a few seconds.
- The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker allows you to do this to enemies by hitting them with an Ice Arrow, then slamming them with the Skull Hammer.
- Darknuts will also exhibit the second type of this trope; they break out almost immediately to prevent you from smashing them. (The key word is almost. You can still kill them with this combo if you act as soon as possible.)
- Pokémon Mystery Dungeon: Gates to Infinity does this in a horrifying Mood Whiplash scene. What Do You Mean, It's Not for Kids?
- Freeware game ^Exit Fate has a "Freeze" status ailment: Affected characters cannot dodge and will be killed instantly by any physical attack.
- Many of Sub-Zero's Fatalities throughout the Mortal Kombat series employ this. Freezing the opponent and uppercutting him to bits; holding them over his head, freezing them with his hands and breaking them in two; ripping their skull and spine from their frozen body and shatter it by swinging the skull like a flail, you name it.
- Oddly, Sub-Zero also subverts this trope. Later games show him fighting with his fists frozen, which apparently makes his punches stronger.
- The Metroid series has a few variations on this. When using the Ice Beam, a creature not strong enough to survive the shot simply explodes into frozen chunks, while a stronger creature will freeze and can be shattered with a missile. Some take more than one. Other times, a frozen enemy may be used as a stepping stone to reach higher areas, and will not shatter when a 200+ pound suit of armor jumps on top of it.
- In Diablo II any player character with an ice enchanted weapon or ice based spells could destroy enemies like this. Shattering an enemy like this leaves no corpse behind, which is helpful against Nihlathak or Regurgitators, but a hassle for Necromancers and Barbarians, who have skills that consume corpses.
- In BioShock your ice plasmid does this. Though the damage something takes while frozen is actually separate from their regular health bar...
- It is also mentioned by McDonagh in an Audio Log this is a major problem with living in a city under water where said water can "get colder than a witch's teet". He seems to have repeatedly told people they have to make sure their pipes stay warm or they will burst. One of the main obstacles at the beginning is finding the Fire Plasmid so you can get past a door that has been frozen over due to a pipe burst.
- In World of Warcraft frost mages have a talent called Shatter which greatly increases their critical strike chance against frozen targets.
- Frost death knights also get the "Brittle Bones" talent that causes creatures infected with the frost fever disease to take extra damage. This disease makes their bones easier to break by lowering their temperature and is quite survivable.
- Sypha in Castlevania III: Dracula's Curse has an ice spell that freezes enemies, who can then be shattered with her staff. It's the only way a Blood Skeleton can be permanently killed.
- One boss in Resident Evil 4 is defeated by knocking over nitrogen tanks and shooting him while he's frozen.
- Resident Evil 5 has nitrogen rounds for the Grenade Launcher that turn mooks in ice statues which can be shattered in a single melee hit. If untouched, they will thaw out perfectly fine in fifteen seconds.
- Most Final Fantasy games featuring Shiva as a summon will have this — her magic encases enemies in ice; then, with a snap of her fingers, she shatters them to bits. Of course it's only a visual effect. Final Fantasy XII lacks the traditional summons, but Fran has ice-based quickenings, and her "Shatterheart" acts in the same way.
- Getting hit by or killing a Frostie in Amorphous+ causes it to explode in an icy explosion. This freezes both you and any glooples caught in it. Getting touched by anything while frozen kills you instantly (thankfully, you can do the same to glooples once you unfreeze).
- Mega Man Battle Network: setting your foe in ice (by hitting them with Aqua element attack while they're standing on an ice panel) will make them take double damage from Break-attribute attacks.
- In Path of Exile cold damage can freeze enemies, leaving them helpless for a time based on the amount of damage taken relative to their total health. Being slain while frozen causes the target to shatter, leaving no corpse and suppressing some on-death effects. When using the Herald of Ice skill a shattered target will also explode into icy shrapnel, striking those nearby with cold damage.
- Klaus in Girl Genius wanted to use firefighters this way. That is, a little army of Humongous Mecha carrying liquid nitrogen fire extinguishers.
- In Bob and George, Ice Man uses this when Megaman uses Guts Man's blocks.
- One of the Snow Queen Oglaf strips provides a cautionary tale against attempting to have sex with the personification of winter. KRAK tinkle tinkle.
- In Avatar: The Last Airbender, Aang uses water to freeze a lock to let Flopsy free.
- Justified, as mentioned above, in that water does expand with quite impressive force as it freezes.
- Xiaolin Showdown also uses this trope. The Xiaolin Warriors and Jack are held in the dungeon. Even Dojo can't escape his cage by growing to his super size. But all it takes is for Omi to freeze the bars, and the warriors easily break free. (Omi is even able to break the bars of Jack's cell with his PINKY!)
- Subverted in King of the Hill: Peggy tries to demonstrate the "make it brittle by dipping it in liquid nitrogen" part mentioned above on a rose, but apparently didn't hold the thing in long enough, as it easily bends when she tries to break it.
- In Super Friends, Captain Cold was able to knock a building over by freezing and then punching it.
- On Totally Spies!, the gadget Ice Queen Perfume/Spray serves as a sprayable Freeze Ray. Need to break something? Spray and shatter!
- Water pipes or full and tightly closed vessels made of non-elastic materials (metal, glass, ceramics, etc.) can and will rupture or shatter if the water inside them freezes, though it has less to do with them becoming brittle and more with the fact that water, unlike most materials, becomes about 10% less dense when it freezes, and thus expands with considerable force.