Gary The Robot suffers this cruel fate in an ad for Pillsbury Pizza Pops.
In an advert for VO5 hair products a teenager removes his own head in order to style his hair. He then procedes to flirt with a woman holding her head in her hands.
An interesting case turned up in a commercial for Fruit Gushers that had a space theme. Toward the end of the commercial, some kid's head turns into a flying saucer. At the end of the commercial, we see the kid's Flying Saucer head fly away, leaving his headless body behind.
Could also have some Fridge Horror if you consider the fact that the kid's head might not come back, leaving his body without a head.
In a similar vein, the ad for Gushers Magic Pieces ended with a girl making a candy "disappear," only for her head to vanish in a puff of smoke. Her voice says, "Hey, where'd I go?" suggesting that the head has turned invisible or gone somewhere else. 'Cause, y'know, it's magic.
A terrifying PSA circa 1970 from the Presidential Council on Fitness (?) posited a future where, due to physical inactivity, a man of the time was reduced to a head in a box, carted around by a humanoid robot. In the ad, the power goes off, leading the head to anxiously cry out "Hello? Is anyone there??"
Anime and Manga
Dio Brando decapitates himself to avoid being killed by the Ripple in the first part of JoJo's Bizarre Adventure. He later steals Jonathan Joestar's body to replace his own. In the second part, Wham briefly survives getting his head blown off, but the Ripple is already destroying it, so he dies not too long afterward.
In the third part, Vanilla Ice decapitates himself using his own Stand so he can offer his blood to Dio. Dio then uses his own blood to revive Ice, claiming "you don't need to die." Since Dio used his blood, Vanilla Ice becomes a vampire, making him unkillable until Polnareff exposes him to sunlight. Unfortunately for Ice, although he knew about the weakness, he didn't realize he was a vampire.
Buggy the Clown from One Piece can separate any body part, but his move "Chop Chop Quick Escape" involves him popping his head off to stop people from punching his face.
There's also Trafalgar Law, who apparently can do similar things to other people. The first instance of him using tricks like that in the manga involves a justifiably weirded out marine juggling the talking head of one of his comrades.
Crocodile got his head sliced off by Doflamingo, but because he can use his Logia fruit'sreformation power by reflex he attached it just a second later.
This only happened in the manga, but after being attacked by Dalton, Wapol's troupe of doctors were quick to patch him up... except for the fact that they hadn't reattached his head to his body, which they did off-panel.
Later still, Kisame (not really) has this happen to him, and he is somehow able to get off a compliment on his opponents' abilities as his head flies through the air.
A number of people have had odd things happen to their heads in Franken Fran. Fran herself has sewn her own head back on after decapitation.
Reiko The Zombie Shop's protagonist zombifies her own head after an unfortunate run-in with a serial killer. She gets a new body in the second volume.
Invoked in class 3-A's Haunted House in the Mahora Festival of Mahou Sensei Negima!, where Akira, the guide in the school themed haunted house, appeared to get decapitated and her head told Negi to run away. She's actually just lying on the ground with a cover that matches the floor tiles camouflaging the rest of her body, but Negi was too freaked out to notice.
In the backstory, Tertium did this to Secundum after Secundum rewrote Shiori's sister.
The duel between Mai and Marik in the Yu-Gi-Oh! manga. Mai's monster manages to decapitate Marik's monster, which are both tied by lifelines to their respective duelists. Guess what happens to Marik...
Greed from Fullmetal Alchemist has Law do this to him with a huge sledgehammer as a demonstration of his powers. He then tells him to improve his aim after regenerating, due to him missing a part of his jaw.
Al also gets his head taken off multiple times. Of course, this barely affects him. He can still speak, as it seems the sound comes from the blood seal that's in the armor's body, which seems to indicate his head is essentially decorative.
Same goes for Barry, he just snaps his head back on whenever it gets knocked off.
Slicer's blood seal is in the helmet, so while it's still not fatal it does incapacitate him. Of course, then his younger brother can just take over.
Chronologically, this is how Genma gets introduced in Ninja Scroll, his head gets chopped off. It's later shown he can regenerate any wound ever, and someone put his head back on his neck and he sports a visible scar.
Also happened to Guldo when Vegeta slices his head off and he lives until Vegeta blows it up. Likewise, Dr. Gero had his head kicked off by Android 17, which appears to live until 17 also stepped on it.
Sergeant Metallic in Dragon Ball has his head blown up by Goku's Kamehameha, but survives as he's a robot. Surely, It scares and surprises him. Shortly after, however, Metallic runs out of battery.
Midori no Hibi did this with an android-version of a character. After she had been separated from her legs, her body later self destructed, but her head survived to jet into the professor who made her.
Naraku from Inuyasha often sends disguised puppets to fight in his place. The first time that this is revealed, the puppet is beheaded, and appears to be dead. After the protagonists let down their guard, the puppet springs back to life, including the head which rolls upright again, and begins to speak.
The episode "3000 Leagues in Search of Father" also focuses around this. Demons have enough vigor to survive decapitation for a day or two, which leads to the son of a demon to find his father's body and place the head back on.
Happens to various individuals around the heroine repeatedly in Hellsing, falling somewhere between Gorn and Narm.
In the manga Astro Boy's head is apparently not that well attached, judging by the frequency of which it detaches. Though it's stated that his electronic brain is in his chest and not his head, which is just for talking, hearing, and sight.
Happened to Hell King Bass in Violinist of Hameln during a flashback. Better yet, all of his body except for the head was annihilated. Unfortunately, he is a near-immortal mazoku, who can continue to exist even in this state, and he was swift to obtain a pupped to haul his (literally) disembodied head around.
Mobile Suit Gundam's Grand Finale has 2 of this. Char's Zeong has a cockpit as the mobile armor's head, and he eventually has to separate it from the body. The Gundam gets it head tore off during the battle, and the famous "Last Shooting" pose has it shoots a beam rifle into a colony to destroy an empty Zeong's head, without a head nor a left arm.◊
Played for Laughs in Dr. Slump. Arale is a little android girl whose head pops off quite easily. For example, this may cause momentary horror in an onlooker who thinks she's human.
Kikuchiyo's introduction in Seven Samurai has him get decapitated by Kambei as part of a ploy act to distract a guy holding a baby hostage, with his head later berating him for stealing his rescue attempt. Later on, in an infiltration plan in which some of the samurai let themselves get captured, his head is delivered as a trophy, while his body enters enemy territory hidden within a pile of hay.
Kendaman from Kinnikuman uses his head as a weapon, which is easy considering its more or less a wrecking ball attached to his arm.
Bloodpool had Rubble (who is indeed made of rubble), who liked to take off his head and throw it. In one issue, his head is blown to bits during this attack, and he still retains consciousness, channeling his dialogue through a telepathic teammate.
The villain Cyberface from The Savage Dragon survived as a disembodied head. Justified, in one aspect, that his power was interact with machinery.
Mr. Gone from The Maxx was somehow beheaded by an out-of-shape woman wielding a knife-length tooth of one of his henchmonsters, but that didn't stop him from continuing to play mind games with the heroes. Eventually he finds a chiropractor to reattach his head.
Numerous characters in Fables do this. including the Wooden Soldiers, Bright Day and Frankenstein's Monster.
The Mayor was able to posses dead bodies after his own death and eventually settled in a "patchwork" monster built by the Initiative with such an ability in the Buffy the Vampire Slayer tie-in comic.
Mysterio projects an illusion of himself performing such an ability in various Spider-Man comics.
Green Lantern. Abin Sur, the man who gave Hal Jordan his ring, has an evil son. Sur Jr. gets his head chopped off. It's later revealed, his race (he's an alien) doesn't quite need their heads and he regrows it (slowly) and returns. Only to get shredded after killing some kids. No luck there.
In the 1990s, this became Metallo's power - his head couldn't just operate without a body, it could seize control of any machinery and turn it into a body. In the absence of convenient machines, it scuttled around on spider-legs.
In the early 1990s Sleepwalker comics, Rick Sheridan ends up trapped in Sleepwalker's body and becomes trapped in the Mindscape, where he faces several different demons, including one that knocked his/Sleepwalker's head off. Cobweb points out that since Rick is in the Mindscape, the normal laws of nature don't apply, and it's also implied that the whole thing was just an illusion dreamt up by Cobweb to convince Rick that Sleepwalker's race actually planned to invade Earth.
Hellboy: The short story "Heads" is based on this trope. These heads reappear in Hellboy's Animated Adaptation "Sword of the Storms".
Also in the story "King Vold", the King in question carries his decapitated head at arms length.
A Variant cover for Marvel Zombies features the Undead X-Men with Cyclops carrying his head in his hands continuing to fire optic blasts at Magneto.
Also in Marvel Zombie, Zombie Hawkeye is a disembodied head who talks.
Invoked by the Monkey King in American Born Chinese, who continues speaking uninterrupted even after being beheaded.
Played straight by Deadpool. Wolverine cuts his head off, and comments that even with regeneration he may still die from it. Unless his head get reattached soon afterwards. It does, and Deadpool himself comments that his mouth is dry and that he hadn't spoken for awhile. And later Zombie-Deadpool, reduced to nothing but a hungry head.
In Death's Head's first encounter against Iron Man 2020, Iron Man decapitates Death's Head in battle. Annoyed, Death's Head used his headless body to beat up Iron Man and work off his aggression.
In the Robo-Hunter reboot, Sam has been reduced to this, forcing his granddaughter to take over running the business.
In the Harry Potter fic Can't Have It Both Ways, Nearly-Headless Nick stretched his head up by the hair so that Harry could cut it off properly with the Sword of Gryffindor. This resulted in the head shooting across the room while his body stumbled about blindly.
In Mega Man: Defender of the Human Race, a Sniper Joe in episode 9 has its head cut off by Metal Man, but just picks it up and wanders off. He loses it again later on, with the same reaction.
Films — Animated
Corpse Bride: Paul the "Head Waiter" He can't move under his own power very efficiently, so he is carried on the backs of cockroaches.
This happened to a soldier ant in Antz during a battle; he was still alive which made for a pretty bizarre death scene.
Robots: Rodney Copperbottom's second meeting with Cloud Cuckoo Lander and load, Fender, results in the latter temporarely losing his head. Much hilarity ensues:
Fender:[Lug is holding his head] Why, I'd, I'd smack you if I had a hand. [his body comes bouncing off buildings] Fender: Wow, speak of the devil... here I come. [the body falls on the floor] Fender: Owww! Daddy!
In the closing scenes of Mulan, one of the ancestral ghosts who start partying to celebrate Mulan's victorious return lifts off his own head and sends it crowd-surfing among the other ghosts.
Films — Live-Action
In the live-action Transformers, when Frenzy's head is severed with a sawzall, the head is capable of scuttling around on its trailing components, and also turning into Sam's cell phone.
Mars Attacks!. Donald and Natalie's heads are severed, but survive on hanging wires and attached to her pet chihuahua respectively.
For bonus points, Natalie's body is now inhabited by the chihuahua's head.
In Terry Gilliam's The Adventures of Baron Munchausen, the Sultan cuts off the Treasurer's head, which flies through the air, lands in one of the harem baths, and winks at one of the Sultan's wives. And then there are the King and Queen of the Moon, who have detachable heads, but that's not quite the same thing.
Re-Animator has his rival's head in a jar and tells him, "You're a no-body!"
And the severed head still got more booty than him.
The Thing That Couldn't Die (a movie that later appeared on MST3K) featured the disembodied head of an evil hypnotist, cursed to a Fate Worse than Death back in the 1500's. It was dug up centuries later by a bunch of dim-witted ranchers and was able to manipulate anyone it made eye contact with. Only after it had been reattached to its body could it be destroyed. Tom Servo showed during the host segment of this film that he too possessed such a talent.
And in yet another episode, Tormented: although the deceased girlfriend was not beheaded or otherwise dismembered, she can send selected bits of herself to vex her unfaithful beau. Her detatched head is quite sarcastic.
In the horror-comedy movie Idle Hands, Elden Henson's character Pnub is decapitated by a thrown circular saw blade, and as his head bounces down a flight of stairs, he looks up at the killer and says "Whoa, cool."
Bishop from Aliens is torn in half in that film, but in Alien³, after his ship crashes only his head (and part of the chest) "survives". Ripley does have to plug his remains into various pieces of hardware in oder to turn him back on/re-activate/bring back to life. She offers to keep him running in the hope of repair but he declines the offer and chooses to die/get turned off/de-re-activated.
After the femmebot in Jason X is decapitated by Jason, her head is retrieved by her creator and hooked up to the ship's computer.
Decapitating the monster in The Thing (1982) doesn't work—in one instance the head pulls itself off to avoid being burned with the rest of the body, grows legs, and walks away.
In Aguirre, the Wrath of God, a member of the party who displeases Aguirre is decapitated from behind — the head says one more word before expiring.
In the film version of The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, Humma Kavula takes one of Zaphod Beeblebrox's heads as collateral while they retrieved the POV gun. He mounted it on a hula girl bobblehead and put a sign that read "Idiot". (No, he's not bitter about losing the election to Zaphod. Why'd you ask?)
Alsatia in Toys. She's a robot, and does wind up needing a fair amount of repair work as a result of her decapitation.
Inverted in Tank Girl, where Kesslee suffers a terrible facial injury from the Rippers, so has his own head cut off deliberately and his consciousness downloaded into a hologram-projecting computer, installed in his neck. No telling how he eats and breathes and perceives his surroundings thereafter, but it generates a 3-D image of his head that moves in synch with a voice synthesizer.
The ending of Freddy vs. Jason. Where Jason comes out of Crystal lake with Freddy's head, and he smiles and winks at the camera.
Prince of Darkness. The woman who becomes The Chosen One of Satan has her head cut off. She picks up her head and puts it back on her neck, where it re-attaches itself.
The first shark attack in Jaws 3D is on a large grouper, the head of which is left floating in a cloud of blood. Its mouth is still moving.
The movie version of Sin City has one of the protagonists imagining that a dead body is talking to him. At one point, the dead body loses a head. The main character later imagines the decapitated head trying to talk with him briefly.
Harris from Severance wonders what it is like to be beheaded. He gets his wish, and the last sight of his body stumbling around raises a smile.
In an old The Three Stooges short, a Mad Scientist is looking for a human head for his monster. In one scene Larry pokes his head through the underside of an open-leaf table. Moe enters, sees just Larry's head poking through the hole, and assumes the worst. Cue scream and faint.
Skulduggery Pleasant's real skull was stolen by goblins. The one on his neck now is an entirely different on, which he won in a poker game. After the third book, the original skull becomes the MacGuffin.
Princess Langwidere, a character in L. Frank Baum's Oz novelOzma of Oz. She has 30 different heads that she can place on her neck.
The inspiration for Mombi in the adaptation (see Film), and given a chilling treatment in the Scissor Sisters song "Return to Oz," though Mombi and Langwidere were two separate villains in Baum.
In The Tin Woodman of Oz, the Tin Woodman returns to the (now empty) tinworker's house and finds his original, flesh-and-blood head. They have a conversation and find they don't like each other.
Worzel Gummidge only has three heads — swede, mangel-wurzel, and turnip — "for different occasions".
Ant heads remain alive for some time in Bernard Werber's Empire of the Ants novels (only the first was translated to English), and this is at times a crucial plot point.
The Denizens of the House in Garth Nix's Keys to the Kingdom series have the ability to survive being decapitated, so of course one bad guy announces himself by flinging talking severed heads at the main character's feet.
The heads in jars of Orson Scott Card's Wyrms. They are kept alive by bio-engineered alien worms, and are chemically conditioned to never lie. The king keeps them as advisors, and many of them openly hate him, and were his enemies in their former lives. They can't speak unless someone pumps the bellows that push air through their vocal cords.
In John C. Wright's The Orphans Of Chaos, Orpheus appears a headless man who carries about his head separately. On the other hand, he is dead and just coming from Hades, (and they are about to make him Psychopomp).
In many of Alastair Reynolds novels the technology exists to reattach severed heads or even regrow whole bodies. Spacesuits are equipped with built-in head-severing equipment as a last-resort survival mechanism, though in at least one novel a character opts for a prosthetic body instead.
Use of Weapons by Iain M. Banks. Special Circumstances operative Cheradenine Zakalwe crash-lands on a primitive planet and is sacrificed by the natives through decapitation. Fortunately his colleages zoom in just in time to snatch back his head, but not before he's had a horrified moment to realise exactly what just happened. Later Zakalwe is in hospital waiting for a new body to be grown (they gave him the choice of remaining unconscious but he'd rather watch television) when the artificially-intelligent drone Skaffen-Amtiskaw (who doesn't like Zakalwe much, and has a twisted sense of humor) sends him a present. A hat.
In the same author's (non-Culture) novel Against a Dark BackgroundFeril ends up decapitated. The severed head is still able to talk and even move his also-severed arm, since Feril is an android.
Urza in the Magic: The Gathering tie-in novels to the "Invasion" block. Planeswalkers being energy beings, this is understandable.
Vampires in the Discworld have to be staked as well as decapitated to kill - Otto loses his head in The Truth and merely has to put it back on the stump. They find it embarrassing to reattach their heads in public (he compares it to using the facilities in front of people).
Likewise, zombies on the Discworld can survive almost any dismemberment.
Unseen Academicals mentions a long-ago game of street football in which a fallen player's severed head was mistaken for the ball, and wound up being used to score the winning goal. The victim was posthumously credited for the victory.
Invoking this trope on King Lorenzo the Kind (who wasn't) made "Old Stoneface" Vimes infamous in Anhk-Morpork's history. No one else would dare to wield the ax.
In The Last Continent, this is mentioned as an occasional side effect of the hangman's not adjusting the length of the rope properly.
Averted in Michael Slade's Headhunter. When the POV of a just-decapitated woman is shown, she can only think, not speak or breathe, and remains conscious only briefly.
In the Dragonlance novel The Legend of Huma, Huma has to fight the immortal warlord Crynus. After running him through the neck and the stomach barely slow him down, Huma gets his hands on Crynus' battle axe and knocks off his head with one blow. Then Crynus's body stands up again and starts to stumble single-mindedly towards his severed head. He almost reaches it before the silver dragon arrives and disintegrates him with dragonfire.
In That Hideous Strength, the title of Head of the N.I.C.E. turns out to be horribly literal. The villains are taking orders from a guillotined criminal's head, which they've kept alive by supplying it with artificial blood. And yes, Lewis was well aware that it wouldn't really work — that's a plot point.
In Stephen King's The Breathing Method, a woman who's about to give birth is decapitated in a car accident in front of the hospital. She remains alive and conscious for several minutes, from sheer willpower, until she gives birth to her son.
The giant Bolloggs from Walter MoersZamonia novels are unique in Zamonia in that they can survive without their heads; once they reach a certain height they tend to discard their heads — and then go off on wanderings looking for the same heads they just discarded. (Bolloggs aren't very bright, especially not after losing their heards.) In The 13 ½ Lives of Captain Bluebear, one of the many obstacles the titular character has to face is a huge, discarded Bollogg head.
In Ringworld, Nessus, a Pierson's Puppeteer, is decapitated. Luckily, not only does his species have two heads, but neither of them are where Puppeteers keep their brain. It's at most an inconvenience until he can get a new head attached.
The short story "Procrustes" starts off with Beowulf Schaefer stepping out of an autodoc. It's later revealed that he was in it because he had been beheaded, and was regrown from the removed head.
This happens to The Dominator for a short time (less than an hour), up until his soul was imprisoned inside of a silver nail, and his head grounded and incinerated into ashes.
In the same battle that the Dominator was slain, The Limper's head was lost. And then found by the demon, Toad-Killer Dog, whom extorts tribes of savages and their shamans to construct a whicker body for the wizard who's name currently grosely overstates his mobility (i.e. The Limper).
For a time period spanning half the series Soulcatcher, would travel with her disembodied head that she would carry in a black box. Her state of head-not-being-on-top-of-her-shoulders ended when Croaker sewed it back on.
Early in Sandman Slim, Stark cuts off the head of Kasabian, the hardest-luck member of the circle that sent him to Hell. He did so with an enchanted knife that only kills when he orders it to, so Kasabian's head sits in his closet for most of the book, bitching about its state. Near the end, it dies outright, only to get sent back by Lucifer as part of a job deal. Between the first book and Kill The Dead, Stark gets it an animated table with articulated legs so that it can move by itself.
One of the historical stories from The Zombie Survival Guide had a tale told to a Jesuit Missionary in Feudal Japan. The story goes that Japan had a secret society whose function was to hunt down and eliminate zombies, and the finial initiation was for an acolyte to spend a full night sitting in a room full of moaning zombie heads that had been cut off and preserved in jars. The "editor" of these historical stories does note that this would be impossible because of the Fridge Logic about the zombies needing lungs to moan, thus either meaning the tale is false, exaggerated, or the moans are the product of the terror felt by the acolytes.
The book also contains several other cases of zombie heads kept in jars, either as part of ancient science experiments or as oddities in various courts.
In a poem by Shel Silverstein, the protagonist complained about losing their head and about the fact that they couldn't look for it ("'cause my eyes are on it"), call to it ("'cause my ears are on it") or even think about it ("'cause my brain is in it") - "so I guess I'll sit down on this rock/and rest for just a minute." (Three guesses what the "rock" was.)
Data in Star Trek: The Next Generation in the Time Travel episode "Time's Arrow" wasn't active while his head was disconnected from his body, but it did survive under San Francisco for five hundred years, and when reconnected to his body (which was blown back through the time portal into the 24th century, thus not taking The Slow Path), it worked fine.
In the Expanded Universe novel Imzadi, Data, decapitated, is still in control of his body.
In another episode of the TV series, Data stepped into a large electrical arc that was blocking a Jeffries tube; his body is non-conductive, so this broke the arc, but he was badly damaged. Riker detached his head, which was still functional, and kept going.
The Headless Horseman does this to Piper, Paige, and Phoebe in Charmed episode "The Legend of Sleepy Halliwell".
A duo known as "The Floating Heads" appear to startle LeVar Burton in an installment of Reading Rainbow.
The Young Ones, Vyvyan sticks his head out the train window and another train cuts it off. His head lies in the tracks calling out to his body, which stumbles around looking for him.
And then kicks it further along the track after the head insults it.
Another time, two head-carrying ghosts wander through the lads' flat and accidentally drop their heads, forcing the bodies to stumble around picking up round objects ("No, that's a grapefruit!") in search of them. Later, the ghostly heads are seen arguing about whose body is whose, and even forehead-butting one another over possession of the one with a nicer bottom.
The Face of Boe qualifies. Given who he is (Captain Jack Harkness), one wonders what happened to all the other bits and how the head part wound up so large.
This seems to be a general trade mark of Russell T Davies-written episodes of the show. As well as the above, there are the Toclafane (severed heads in floating heavily-armed metal spheres), Max Capricorn in "Voyage of the Damned", and also, if you include disembodied faces, Cassandra and poor Ursula.
The Headless Monks sometimes do this, keeping living heads around post-decapitation. Since the Monks behead you while you're alive, both the head and the body remain... active. The bodies seem to fall under the control of the other Monks (or possibly the papal mainframe) immediately after beheading. The heads apparently keep the same personality and are left to rot (or be preserved in boxes, if you're rich.)
On an episode where the movie involved a ghostly disembodied head, both bots remove their heads and speak in ghostly voices in an attempt to scare Joel. Unimpressed, he takes their inert bodies away and leaves them alone with the lights off.
Angel figures out that an overzealous cop is a zombie when he decapitates the cop and the cop keeps on talking for awhile.
Lorne gets his head sent to Cordelia on a platter in another episode. His people can survive this, however; as he explains, his species of demon only die if their body is mutilated too.
Red Dwarf. Kryten has multiple spare heads on a shelf that argue with one another.
The Amazing Stories episode "Go to the Head of the Class" has Sadist Teacher B.O. Beanes, after accidentally being killed by the hiccups spell, coming back to life with his head separate from his body because the picture used in the resurrection spell got torn in two.
The comedy/documentary 50 Outrageous Animal Facts includes a clip of a CGI cockroach that loses its head. Its decapitated body taps the ground in front of it a few times, finds a tiny rock, sticks the rock where its head used to be, and scuttles off. Truth in Television, as roaches can live for days after decapitation.
Happens in the Good Luck Charlie episode Gabe Turns 12-½ when Bob Duncan goes to the fridge to get some cake in a platter only to find P.J.'s very much alive head instead, which then asks where his body is at (which is never directly explained). Bob then realizes his son's unable to stop him so he eats a cupcake in front of his face. Of course, since it's an end credits gag, this never really happened.
In the "Look at the Princess" trilogy of Farscape, John and his alien princess bride are turned into fully conscious statues so they can observe the workings of the Senate until it is time for them to begin their reign. The jealous prince chops Crichton's head off in an attempt to render him unable to rule. The head is still able to talk (via magic headsets) until it is successfully reattached.
In "Leonard Betts" of The X-Files, Betts is able to regenerate his severed body parts. His head stayed alive after decapitation, and if Scully hadn't performed a high-tech mummification process, the head might have grown its own new body.
In an second season (yes, there was one) episode of Buck Rogers in the 25th Century, Mark Lenard, Sarek from Star Trek: The Original Series, played an ambassador from a planet where a symbiotic relationship existed between his kind, a living head, and a type of organism that resembled a headless body. He even points out to Buck that on his world, Buck would be considered a freak since Buck could not remove his head.
In MythQuest's sixth episode, a mysterious knight offers to play "the beheading game." His head is chopped off, then he gets up and retrieves his head and sword.
In Once Upon a Time the victims of the Queen of Hearts experience this. Jefferson a.k.a. The Mad Hatter is unfortunate enough to be a demonstration. He recovers, but it does leave a nasty scar.
One episode of Dark Angel from season 2 featured an experimental assassin from Manticore whose head and body could operate independently. Max encounters the head and spends the majority of the episode trying to find and stop the body from assassinating a minister. Turns out it was All Just a Dream.
In the game BIONICLE: Heroes, it's a recurring theme, and every boss you defeat (apart from the final boss) is left as just a head at the end of the fight. Rule of Funny applies. There's also an Idle Animation where your character starts playing keepie uppie with its head.
A gag-video released on-line had Hahli Mahri's head popping off due to a rough submarine ride. It falls on her foot, causing much pain.
The Arrogant Worms's "Johnny Came Home Headless", about a tall and forgetful man who walked into doorways so often that one time apparently knocked his head off—and his body didn't notice.
Basement Jaxx's Where's Your Head At. Although the song doesn't imply it, a lot of people seem to make fan videos associating with this trope.
Michael Jackson 's "Ghosts", Michael turns into a skeleton and proceeds to dance, removing his head in the process.
Missy Elliott does it to herself in the video to "One Minute Man."
In Insane Clown Posse's "Headless Boogie", Violent J jumps into a graveyeard and witnesses headless bodies dancing. He gets his own head chopped off and joins in.
In the music video for Regina Spektor's song "Laughing with", which is full of surprising impossibilities, the singer at one point reaches as if to remove the mask she's wearing, but instead leaves it in the air as she removes her head from behind it for a moment, which doesn't faze either the head or the body.
The Christian martyrology has Saint Denis (Bishop of Paris, executed by pagan Romans during the Imperial prosecutions) and Saint Solange (Mysterious Waif murdered by a nobelman who tried to abduct her). Both were beheaded, then their dead bodies just took their heads in their hands and walked away, praising the Lord until they reached the nearest towns and dropped dead there. In fact, Saint Denis is always represented in media with his severed head in his own hands◊.
The Welsh have Saint Winefride, who was decapitated by a jealous suitor when she announced her intention to become a nun. Her head is said to have rolled down a hill, with a healing spring bursting forth where it stopped. If that's not enough, Winefride's uncle, Saint Beuno, then picked up the head and attached it to the body, bringing her back to life.
Saint Quitteria was beheaded and thrown in the ocean. She is often depicted walking back out of the ocean with her head under her arm.
As for Hinduism and Buddhism, there's the deity Chhinnamasta who severed her own head with her own sword just to feed her two attendants with her blood. Now that's hardcore.
Brazilian folklore has the headless mule, which has fire coming out of the stump - though it's described as "coming out of its nose"... and that it has a bridle tied to its mouth. A few versions reduce the Fridge Logic by saying the fire covers its head, not replaces it.
The Arabian Nights story of King Yunan and Duban the Sage. Duban the Sage comes to the king's court when the king is very ill, and manages to save the king's life. However, an Evil Chancellor convinces the king to distrust the sage, and the sage is put to death. His head is able to speak after being cut off, reprimanding the king and eventually leading to the king's death also.
Mimir in Norse Mythology, as the wisest god. He was beheaded in the Aesir-Vanir War, but Odin used magic to preserve and revive the head, and it serves as his advisor.
From Egyptian Mythology, the sorcerer Naneferkaptah had to face a serpent both immune to magic and who had this ability as the Final Boss guarding the Book of Thoth. When standard freezing spells didn't work, Nefrekeptah went for the direct approach and cut off the serpent's head, and threw it far into the river. However, the head came back almost instantly and blocked his path again. Nefrekeptah again cut off its head, threw it into the river, and this time put sand on the neck before the head could come back. The head couldn't reattach, and though the serpent couldn't die, it just lay there, helpless.
In Japanese folklore there are monsters called Nukekubi; they seem like normal humans during the day, but in the night their head detaches from their bodies and starts to float around and search for a human victim to devour.
Similar monsters are recorded in a number of East Asian countries, with perhaps the best-known being the Malaysian penanggalan.
Baba Deep Singh. The legend says that his head was cut completely or almost completely off and still was able to fight.
The Deadlandsincarnation of Joaquin Murrieta died. He came back. Then, he got beheaded. Now, his (understandably insane) body's looking for his head, and is more than happy to "borrow" yours until he finds it. The best part? Undead Joachin Murrieta can only be stopped if you destroy his head. Happy hunting!
Trolls in Dungeons & Dragons; anything cut off them, including heads, can live and will either reattach itself or regenerate.
One of the Mystara supplements described trollish games, some of which involve using the head of one of the participants as a living football. Which tries to bite the feet that kick it.
Unsurprisingly, the Ravenloft setting plays with this trope. Jacqueline Montarri is a headless NPC villain who steals the heads of women to wear, and has an enormous collection of decapitated and still conscious female heads in her basement. (This is a curse, which she can only undo by finding her real head, which she has been looking for ever since she was executed by beheading centuries ago. To be blunt, as she will tell you horrid fates like this will often befall those who cheat and murder members of the Vistani.) Lebendtod, a zombie-like undead template, can remove their heads and limbs at will.
In earlier editions iron golems could continue to function after losing their heads, including breathing out poison gas.
Exalted has an odd version of this from the dangerously powerful Charcoal March of Spiders supernatural martial art. The user delivers a punch so ludicrously hard that the head not only explodes, but the person whose head did explode has several seconds thereafter to think and react because they, and reality itself, haven't caught up to the fact just yet.
In GURPS 3rd Edition, one of the supplements full of fantasy magic spells had a spell called Decapitate, which did exactly what its name says. Not only that, both the head and body were still alive, and since the head was still magically able to speak, if it knew any spells, it could still cast them! Of course, without the head, the body could not eat or drink, and would eventually die of dehydration or starvation. But this was not a problem either! Another spell allowed you to turn everything BUT the head into stone... and THEN you could decapitate him.
The Orks of Warhammer 40,000 are so tough that their decapitated heads can survive for up to an hour, more than enough time for a Mad Dok to easily attach it to a new body or just staple it back on.
In Pippin, Pippin has a poignant conversation with the head of a fallen Visigoth soldier. In a later scene, after Pippin has been crowned king, a headless man comes up to him and asks for his head to be reattached.
In a Ravenloft skit performed at GenCon 1999, "One Piece At A Time", a lady surgeon attempts to bring her fiancee back to life after he dies in a tragic accident. The title says it all, but early scenes correspond to this trope.
Jenova was decapitated in the events leading to Final Fantasy VII. Sephiroth, realizing the jig is up (and unable to take the entire body with him), removed his "mother's" head on his way out of the Nibelheim mako reactor. However, he was waylaid by pre-amnesiac Cloud Strife and thrown from the connecting bridge, sinking into the pool of mako. The headless body of Jenova continues to live on - albeit in cryogenic suspension - waiting to be "reunited" with its missing parts.
In Primal, the Wraith can apparently survive being decapitated. A group of severed heads in Raum's torture chamber (all of whom hate each other) eventually take time out from arguing to help the PCs. One, however, calls the guards, simply to antagonize the rest.
Other severed heads are scattered almost randomly throughout the upper mansion, giving comments, advice, and encouragement. One somehow knows Scree's name.
In Chrono Cross one skeleton character, which you have to assemble, starts off as a talking skull.
In Resident Evil 3: Nemesis, when you fight Nemesis in the Treatment Room. Douse him with a remarkable strong acid two times and his head will come off. But rather than die like the zombies, he continues attacking, albiet blind.
Killer7 has Susie, a severed head you tend to meet in very enclosed spaces (the first one being a washing machine). She always has a ring in her mouth when you find her. She's also a ghost. She's also completely loopy.
Murray the Talking Skull in The Curse of Monkey Island. Justified in that he was actually dead and re-animated by spooky voodoo magic well before he became a disembodied skull.
In Animamundi Dark Alchemist: The hero's little sister was beheaded, but still survived. Granted, by the game's universe rules, it was part of a "Test" - only witches can survive beheading.
A head in a jar is a "work of art" that you can purchase in the console version of The Sims.
Boomer in Ballz throws his head as a special attack.
Tekken 6 has Alisa Boskonovitch who can remove her head and have it explode in front of her opponent. Of course, a new one emerges shortly after.
Kratos in the God of War games not only is able to tear off the head of the Gorgons, but proceed to use their (apparently still living) heads as weapons, petrifying enemies with their eye-beams. In the third game he does the same for the god Helios, using him as a Lantern.
The Recapitator (skeleton enemies) in Wario Land The Shake Dimension have their sole attack being to detach and throw their head at Wario like a boomerang, catching it afterwards. They also come back to life when killed like the Dry Bones in the main Mario games, and can only permanently be killed by destroying their body while their head is in mid air. Or, if you're feeling saucy, destroy the head and leave the body hanging for awhile before it collapses into a heap.
PS1 RPG Shadow Madness had a disembodied telekinetic head by the name of Xero von Moon. He was kept alive (and presumably afloat and able to speak) by a thin metal ring at his neck, and fought primarily with kinetic bolts (though he could resort to a headbutt).
Although very loosely, Dynamite Headdy surely counts as the main character throws his head around and switches it with power-ups. Not to mention it explodes when he dies and it gets replaced with a game over sign.
The main character of Never Dead, a game about an immortal gunslinger fighting a demonic invasion. Even if dismembered, he can put himself back together again. He loses his head (both figuratively and literally) in the first trailer. "My story was just getting interesting too!"
In Vampire Savior, Jedah has a move called Spregio that has him doing this to himself and blasting the opponent with the resulting rush of blood!
A straighter example would be the Final Boss of Darius Force, Galst Vic (a Terminator-esque robot). When his first form is defeated, you have to escape the exploding base... and then his head comes to attack you! Strangely enough, his head can grow◊ and shrink◊ in size.
The player character in The Incredible Crash Dummies can lose his head, resulting in reversed controls until you find a spare head.
The boss Echizen in Death Crimson OX has a head that I can only describe as an egg with a pair of giant red lips. Part one of the boss fight is fighting his kung-fu kicking body as his head continuously inflates. Part two involves his head floating off of his body, then splitting into six individual floating heads that then proceed to ram into you and shoot lasers at you.
While inversions are also more common, in The Binding of Isaac, Pestilence and sometimes Gapers and Mr. Maws continue moving after losing their head.
Pictured above is a scene from a Team Fortress 2 promotional video. The head of the BLU Spy, which the RED Medic keeps in his fridge, is being sustained by some eldritch and surely illegal medical technique involving dry-cell batteries.
Skullgirls has Ms. Fortune, an undead catgirl who was chopped up into pieces by the mob after stealing and swallowing a gem that made her body undying. Her fighting style revolves around extending, detaching, and reattaching her limbs — most notably her head, which functions not only as a weapon but is capable of propelling itself around and attacking independently of her body.
In Lollipop Chainsaw, after Nick is bitten by a zombie Juliet decides to save him by chopping off his head and preserving it with a magic ritual of some sort. He's not exactly happy about the situation but Juliet thinks that it is just awesome that her boyfriend is now a talking head.
In the "Test Your Luck" game in Mortal Kombat 9, one of the results causes both fighters to fight the next match headless. The worst thing about this is, neither player can use X-Ray moves; exactly how bad it is otherwise depends on what fighter you're using. (For many, it's not much else, but for a few, it can be very hindering. It's the most debilitating for Kung-Lao, seeing as half his moves and almost all his Fatalities require his hat.)
In Grim Fandango, Salvador Limones gets reduced to a talking skull. Sure, he was Dead to Begin With, but the rest of the skeleton, which you have to find later, is not animated, implying that the head is still the part that holds one's consciousness, even after death. Even as a skull, Sal manages to perform a Heroic Sacrifice by spitting Sproutella into the face of a character who betrayed him, thus rendering both of them Deader than Dead.
The Witch Doctor in Adventure Island loses his head each time you defeat him, only to have it replaced by an uglier mug.
The opening cinematic has the ambulance have a tow truck crash into it, and the patient's head gets knocked off into the road. The ambulance driver just picks up the head, chucks it into the back of the ambulance, and gets back behind the wheel.
An encounter in the residential area has a character get his head knocked off by a passing truck. The head starts directing the body to try and pick it up.
"Hey, I'm over here! To my left! Er, your left! Er, our left!" (body walks towards head) "Right." (body goes right) "Not 'go right,' 'correct'!" (body kicks head) "It's not a soccer game! Use your brain! Oh, I guess ... that's over here." (body kicks head again) "Ow! Just bend down slowly and—" (body kicks head high into the air and it lands on the neck) "He shoots, he scores! OW!"
In Ogre Battle, you can recruit Pumpkins (men with pumpkins for heads) into your army, who attack by tearing off their own heads, kicking them into the air, whereupon they grow to huge size and land on an enemy, halving their HP (or killing undead units outright) unless they miss. If you upgrade them to a Hallowe'en, they can do it twice a fight!
In Office Zombie, you can cut the Zombie's head off with a couple of items. When you throw it back, he'll stick it back on his neck and be good as new.
Vengarl of Forossa from Dark Souls II was a brutish, bloodthirsty mercenary until he got decapitated in a fierce battle... and woke up as a disembodied undead head. Ironically, he learned to enjoy his newfound peace, spending his time watching the forest, thinking and occasionally talking with random travellers. His only concern is that his headless body still is rampaging somewhere else.
Earthen Peak area is populated mostly by some sort of headless undead ninjas. The boss of said area, Mytha, is a half-woman-half-snake, also beheaded, who carries her head in left hand and uses it as the sorcery catalyst and occasionally as a magic grenade.
Happened in Bite Me! via guillotine; her head was later located by the main character being asked to list head puns (in a room full of severed heads) until she groaned loudly enough to be found.
An entire storyline of Narbonic revolves around how Dave's disembodied head is forgotten on the bus.
Probably the single most infamous comic from Sexy Losers involved Shiunji, a necrophiliac, a corpse whose head fell off, and what he did to its neck. The comic's subtitle read "I am certain that at some point in the future, I will be prosecuted for this comic in a court of law."
In Looking for Group, one of the men in Richard's village. Justified because he's not exactly human...
Also, Richard is beheaded but still able to maintain his normal levels of awesome.
Stubble Trouble features the decapitated characters of Gynette the spidertaur and Lilith the Headless Goth Vixen. Gynette's boyfriend really seems to like her ability and her friends are unfazed as she often takes her head off. Lilith the Headless Goth Vixen was a former model who was famous for her decapitation.
Done in Khatru, where Healing Factor powered Ranger unwittingly agrees to test one of Gadgeteer Genius Kira's medical scanning devices. She tries everything to fix him, but in the end, he recovers all on his own.
Tinka's head continues to talk after being sliced off.
Castle Heterodyne while its mind was stored in the body of Otilia.
Doctor Sun keeps Selnikov's head in a jar, preserved and conscious for interrogation.
In the Girls in Space storyline The Protoype, Fergus Macrumble punches the Henchbot's head off.
Runcible Spoon in Dominic Deegan is known for sending his own head flying. Also once happened to Quilt, including the "hey, body, over here" routine.
Nostrom in Jack has a habit of switching his head between a bunch of bodies after he goes to hell. And he keeps his bodies' original heads in a jar where they're constantly begging people to kill them.
Gary from Nintendo Week begins hosting one episode as a disembodied head, with his body stumbling into walls in the background. He promptly explains this is a nod to Face Raiders for the 3DS.
Web Serial Novel
GR-210 is reduced to just a head in Statless And Tactless when he horrifically fails an attack roll and the GM is feeling vindictive. However, being a robot he's still alive as a head and gets carried around in a backpack.
Kevin Spencer fantazises about this in one episode: he imagines himself living in an old age home as a head, refusing to die. The staff decide to just run him over with a car. This trope is played with in the final episode, with Percy.
Bender also suffered this, at least once as a Shout-Out to Star Trek: The Next Generation. In another instance, he purposely sells his body for lots of money (it was worth more due to supply and demand). He drove around in a little car until getting it back from President Nixon. He also uses his ability to detach his head to (what else?) rob people.
And in Bender's Game Zoidberg's head crawls on tentacles once it's been severed from his body. Since that instance took place in Bender's fantasy world it's not certain if the real Zoidberg can do it as well.
As well as Hermes in the Futurama movie, Bender's Big Score. Somehow he managed to keep yelling at people for several minutes after being decapitated, before he was put in a jar.
In a Valentine's Day episode, Fry had his head surgically removed and placed on Amy's shoulder after being severely injured in a car accident.
Megatron, Bulkhead, Sentinel Prime, Starscream and Waspinator have all suffered from this in Transformers Animated.
As did Optimus Prime in Transformers Generation 1. Unicron gets reduced to a head after his body is blown up, and he's incredibly dangerous whenever he regains consciousness.
Also happens with Arcee shortly after becoming a Headmaster in the American series finale.
And Waspinator in Beast Wars, several times. In fact, numerous characters, primarily Predacons, end up in pieces, including an intact head. Silverbolt is the only Maximal who suffered this indignity while serving as a Maximal.
In a particularly bizarre episode of Legion of Super Heroes, on their way to Find the Cure, Brainiac 5's head is separated from his body by a Portal Cut; the body then proceeds to run amok while the frustrated Legionnaires try to recapture it.
Arthur "Meek for A Week" Arthur and his friends imagine Francine, who has recently taken to bottling up her natural aggression, will build up enough pressure that her head will pop off. We then see an Imagine Spot of just such happening with Francine's disembodied head complimenting the beautiful lawn she just landed in.
Similarly, a different episode had Buster's head fly away instead, only his head broke into pieces upon landing.
The Batman "The Joining" Part 1, Batman and J'Onn J'Onzz are able to interrogate the decapitated head of Lucius Fox's robot duplicate. "In order to nod you need a neck"
Homer's costume (which becomes real) in The Simpsons "Treehouse of Horror XVI."
In "Treehouse of Horror IV", he was decapitated while spending a day in Hell.
Oswald the Lucky Rabbit demonstrated the ability to attach and detach his head at will, with no justification other than the Rule of Funny. It is unclear how well he could function headless, as in two cases his head didn't get very far, and in the third he was reassembled by outside means. A post-Disney short indicated other characters in the setting could do this too.
SWAT Kats had this in the episode "Metal Urgency": the Metallikats were reduced to heads scuttling around on spider legs after their bodies were crushed. This doesn't prevent them from driving the Metallikat Express or operating a pair of gigantic combat robots.
An episode of Jimmy Two-Shoes featured a gingerbread man that gets eaten within a few seconds of screentime. The consumer spits out the head, who warns Jimmy to stay away.
An earlier episode has Jimmy ending up like this thanks to some Hollywood Voodoo.
Happens to Heloise in the episode "Heads Will Roll."
In the Larry episode of Teen Titans ("Fractured"), Starfire briefly gets little wings grown on her head, and she needs to hold onto her head to avoid it flying away.
Mega Man: At the beginning of "The Incredible Shrinking Mega Man", Mega says "don't lose your head" to a disassembled Roll.
Courage the Cowardly Dog had, among its multiple ghosts, ghouls and monsters, a group of ghostly skeleton vandals who would try to lay waste to the couple and their dog whenever their windmill stopped turning. Hilarity Ensues when Courage, Eustace and Muriel have their heads chopped off by the Windmill Vandals' weapons (with their headless bodies frantically feeling around for their lost heads) and end up on each other's bodies. Courage's head (transplanted on Muriel's body) even uses Eustace's complaining head as a bowlingball to momentarily topple the marauders.
Moreover, this isn't the first time Eustace has lost his head. In an earlier episode, a space chicken that Courage defeated and left featherless and headless in the pilot episode returned to replace its missing head by using Courage's head as a replacement. It only partially succeeds with its plan, taking Eustace's head instead. Although defeated, the head never returns to its original body (at least until the next episode), culminating with the appearance of a headless walking Eustace that scares Courage.
The Canadian short Land of the Heads where a headless vampiress forces his husband to go out into the village and collect the heads of younger people to replace her old and wrinkled one.
It happened to Beetlejuice several times in the animated series, perhaps most unfortunately when he fell in with a group of headhunters. (In one episode, this actually caused his head and body to argue with each other, his body doing so by forming a mouth with its hand.)
An episode of the 1980s version of Flash Gordon featured a race of aliens that could remove their heads.
A cutaway gag on Family Guy has Stewie meeting a woman's best friend whom she claims is hot. Said woman comes by holding her severed head.
Metalocalypse - Mashed Potato Johnson, the oldest living blues guitarist, educates Deathklok on the music - he relates several gruesome stories on the origins of songs, including one Shorty Johnnytop, who made a deal with the Devil and was hit by a train - "...as his head traveled in the air, he wrote 'Blue Train Blues'."
A series of controversial experiments (sorry, we can't tell you when, where or by whom) showed that it is possible to transplant a monkey's head onto a different monkey's body, although establishing spinal communication between the two was not possible. Originally proposed by the surgeon as a means of prolonging the lives of quadraplegics whose own bodies are failing, this technique has been soundly rejected by bioethicists ... not because it's gruesome, but because donor organs can save more lives if they're distributed among many transplant patients, rather than the whole body being used to aid one.
Cockroaches can live for weeks after decapitation. They will eventually starve to death because they can't eat without their mouth.
Back in the days where Losing Your Head was a punny way of saying "capital punishment", some curious people (again, we can't tell you who or when) did a series of experiments which basically consisted of waiting until the next execution, then shouting at the head to see whether and for how long they could keep its attention. The head can stay conscious for 10 seconds or so, though most lost consciousness instantly due to shock. We can thank the French for this information, since they kept using the guillotine for executions until the 20th century.
Internal decapitation, in which the skull is forcibly separated from the spinal column but the soft tissues of the neck remain intact, can be survivable if the injured person receives artificial respiration and other care. If the spinal cord isn't broken, a full recovery is also possible.
A male preying mantis can survive for a short time after decapitation. The female has a tendency to bite his head off, and this feature allows the male to finish mating before he dies.
Some snakes, particularly rattlesnakes, can react to their surroundings and bite up to an hour after decapitation.