"You don't kill a man by mucking around with rifles, arrows, rocks or other long-distanced rubbish. You kill him by grabbing the biggest bloody sword you can find, running up nice and close to him, and chop the dumb bastard's head off!"
If you're dealing with any sword-oriented media, whether it be fantasy, medieval, kung fu, or something else, and it's more violent than a PG-13 rating, chances are, someone is going to get his head chopped off (and it may not even need the R rating if you're dealing with nonhuman enemies
). One of the most common methods of execution back in the medieval era next to hanging, decapitation is usually one of the surest ways to ensure someone is Deader Than Dead
barring some very potent magic or divine intervention. Indeed, in Real Life
, it is one of the very few ways that death can be instantly diagnosed.
Any Ridiculously Human Robot
(even one with a Cranial Processing Unit
) or other decidedly inhuman being will probably be capable of surviving decapitation
, and will do so at some point either for a joke or as a plot point. In less serious series, the body will even continue to walk around bumping into things.
It is nearly always depicted as being surprisingly easy to do
, even in one blow to a moving target. While Anne Boleyn did get beheaded with one stroke, most pre-guillotine beheadings took at least three strokes (plus, Boleyn's executioner was — by request — a professional swordsman who would know how to cleanly behead someone). In an actual Sword Fight
a strike on
the head was much more common, since it didn't put your sword at a very awkward angle and required much less force
This trope is named after the line Off with his head; ó so much for Buckingham
from Colley Cibber
's adaptation of Richard III
. The trope was also famously used by the Queen of Hearts in Lewis Carroll
's Alice's Adventures in Wonderland
. See also Your Head A Splode
for a much gorier version of this trope and Boom, Headshot
when it comes to firearms.
Also see Alas, Poor Yorick
, Decapitation Presentation
and Severed Head Sports
. When cutting of the head is the only way
to kill something, it's Decapitation Required
. If the decapitated head is somehow still alive after the fact for any notable length of time, that's Losing Your Head
As per being a death trope, EXPECT UNMARKED SPOILERS!!!
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Anime and Manga
- In Sin City: The Big Fat Kill, Miho ultimately "makes a PEZ dispenser out of" Jackie-Boy.
- Occurs regularly in Usagi Yojimbo, especially if a Zerg Rush is involved.
- The Headsman from Thunderbolts, as his name would imply, enjoys lopping heads off with his tremendous axe very, very much. This all traces back to his childhood, when his Aloof Big Brother Cody beheaded his beloved dog.
- This the way Shredder was Killed Off for Real in the original Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Mirage comics.
- Punisher v7 #11 shows Werewolf by Night tearing off a mook's head with his bare hands.
- Friday the 13th comics:
- In Friday the 13th Special, Jason hits a soldier on top of his head (the sound effect being "FAM") so hard that it goes through his body, and comes out of his ass (the written sound effect of that being "SWAQ!").
- Two unlucky hunters at the end of Friday the 13th: Bloodbath find the frozen Jason in the woods, and one of them gets his head sliced off as he thaws out on front of them.
- The fight between the two Jasons in Friday the 13th: Jason vs. Jason X ends with Uber Jason killing the regular Jason by ripping his head off. He then takes part of the loser's brain and stuffs it into his own to restore the memories of his mother.
- This is the only way to kill an Immortal in the Highlander series, any other damage is healed.
- Thulsa Doom does this to Conan's mom in Conan the Barbarian (1982) after the raid on his home village that opens the movie. Conan himself returns the favor in the end, using two cuts in a "V" using the remains of his father's sword.
- Actually took three chops: the first two to the sides of Doom's neck and the last one to the back of his neck as he knelt facing his worshippers. Not quite a Lizzie Borden, but good enough.
- O-Ren Ishii does this to Boss Tanaka for insulting her heritage in Kill Bill Volume 1.
- The Bride also deals out several decapitations during the big battle with the Crazy 88.
- Variation in the end: The Bride doesn't cut O-Ren's whole head off... but she scalps her by cutting off the top of it.
- Happens several times in The Lord of the Rings movies:
- Aragorn does this to Lurtz, the Uruk-Hai Badass who killed Boromir in Fellowship of the Ring.
- One of the NazgŻl does this to a Hobbit watchman, though the scene cuts away before the head is sheared off.
- Return of the King has three examples:
- …owyn chops the head off the Witch-King's fell-beast before facing him in person. It takes at least two strokes before the thing's head is severed.
- In the extended edition, the nasty-looking orc general who survived everything the Battle of the Pelennor Fields had to offer and was chasing …owyn around gets his other arm sliced off, two axes in his chest, and his head chopped off by Gimli and Aragorn. Just to make sure he's Deader Than Dead.
- Also in the extended edition, Aragorn does this to the Mouth of Sauron.
- The titular antagonistic species in the Predator series decapitate their victims to collect their skulls and sometimes do so in combat, the most infamous instance being the death of King Willie in Predator 2.
- Astinos, one of the 300, goes out this way during a lull in the battle, which causes his father to go berserk on the Persians until he has to be dragged away by his comrades. This is also how Leonidas finishes off the Uber-Immortal later on in the movie.
- The titular weapon of the Flying Guillotine kung fu movies, including Master of the Flying Guillotine, was a basket that was thrown and dropped upon someone's head. As the name would suggest, once the basket landed on someone's head, the chain was pulled, the blades would go to work, and it was Off With His Head!
- This inspired an episode of MythBusters where Kari, Grant and Tory competed to see which of them could design and build a real flying guillotine that worked like the one in the film.
- In the movie Johnny Mnemonic, the assassin was told to come back with Johnny's head, as it contained a cybernetic brain implant which had important information in it.
- The Matrix Revolutions has Neo decapitating an Agent Smith-possessed bad guy with a jackhandle.
- Obviously, almost every single death in Sleepy Hollow.
- In The Mummy, Rick O'Connell decapitates a mummy, and it falls "dead" after the head spins for a bit. Then he decapitates another, and it starts juggling with the head, only falling "dead" after Rick hits the head towards the camera.
- In The Mummy Returns, the only way to kill an Anubis Warrior is by taking off its head.
- In Hudson Hawk, a villain with two blades hidden up his sleeves attacks the titular Hawk, who retaliates by making the man cut off his head.
- In the 1974 film Godzilla vs. Mechagodzilla, Godzilla managed to defeat his robotic counterpart by twisting its head off and making it explode. Odd, considering that Mechagodzilla's head was able to spin with no problem.
- Refenced in the Buffy the Vampire Slayer: Season 8 comic Wolves At The Gate, part four as this is how Dawn kills her mechanical double.
- But in the 1975 sequel, Terror Of Mechagodzilla, not only does this not work, but the rays its exposed core begins firing at Godzilla actually get stronger!
- This is the female Muto's fate in Godzilla (2014), after Godzilla fries her neck from the inside with his radioactive breath and rips her head off.
- Anakin's decapitation of Count Dooku in Star Wars Episode III, Mace Windu's killing of Jango Fett in Episode II, and Luke's fight with the shadow form of Darth Vader in The Empire Strikes Back.
- In The Ice Pirates, Maida takes a swipe at an attacker, then asks, in a solicitous tone, "Feeling better?" The bad guy appears to be about to nod...and then collapses in two unequal pieces.
- Hannibal Rising (2007). Hannibal is being raised by his aunt, the Lady Murasaki-Lecter, whose samurai ancestor was into collecting the heads of his enemies. When she's insulted by a local butcher, Hannibal cuts off his head and presents it to her. His aunt is not pleased, but when Hannibal is arrested for the crime she impales the head on the railings outside police headquarters while Hannibal is being interrogated inside. The police naturally assume they have the wrong man and let Hannibal go.
- Transformers: Optimus Prime dispatches Bonecrusher by stabbing him through the neck and wrenching his head from his body.
- Ramjet is killed this way in Reign of Starscream #5. Right after mocking the Autobot he was trying to kill for "not using his head", he's beheaded by Crosshairs. Can anyone say "irony"?
- "GIVE ME YOUR FACE"
- The above quote comes from Revenge of the Fallen, where Optimus doesn't just chop the Fallen's head off, he tears it off. And it's not a nice, clean cut either. He rips his face off, and you can see the Fallen vomiting up his equivalent of blood as he dies. Geez. Beware the Nice Ones, indeed.
- Optimus also rips Grindor's head in two. Ow.
- Jetfire finishes off Mixmaster this way. After bisecting him.
- Optimus sure likes this, as evidenced by Megatron's head, lying some distance from his body with an axe lodged in it.
- Honestly just about every death is this in the 2nd and 3rd films. After having two characters that were "killed" by battle damage but later restored to life, destroying heads seems to be Transformers movieverse shorthand for "dead for real." (Mind you, in other versions, Losing Your Head is something that's easily remedied.)
- In the 4th film, Bumblebee finishes off Stinger this way.
- Near the end of Akira Kurosawa's Ran, Kurogane decapitates Lady Kaede. Much blood spatter ensues.
- Trevor Nunn bookends his film Lady Jane with decapitations.
- The Made of Plasticine factor is subverted in 30 Days of Night where the shortest decapitation is two strokes. Normally three and quite messy.
- The death of the reporter Keith Jennings from The Omen, one of Hollywood's very first onscreen decapitations, when a sheet of glass is launched from a truck in front of him and shears the guy's head off in horrific fashion. It's still considered by horror buffs to be one of the best deaths ever filmed.
- Owen Wilson's character in The Haunting (1999) is stunningly decapitated by the giant flue in the fireplace.
- The death of Simon Phoenix, the Big Bad of Demolition Man, combines this trope with Kill It with Ice.
John Spartan: Heads up!
- In The Midnight Meat Train, the killer takes out one victim by hitting him so hard with a meat tenderizer that his head goes flying across the train car. For added Narm, the camera cuts to the point of view of the victim's head.
- X-Men Origins: Wolverine; the title character talks about wanting to decapitate his big brother, but only end up beheading "Weapon XI" (Deadpool/Dudepeel, in this version an experimented up Wade Wilson).
- In The Wolverine:
Logan uses one of the Silver Samurai's own swords against him, slicing the head off with it. Unfortunately that doesn't stop it.
Yukio manages to snag Viper with a wire then ties it to an elevator, dragging her into it. A rigging coming down the shaft tags her in the head as she's being pulled up and...yeah.
- Iceman by a Sentinel during the first battle of X-Men: Days of Future Past. Two Cosmic Retcons later, he's back alive.
- Severance: Two characters discuss decapitation as a possible death and how long the head can remain aware even after it's severed. Guess how one of them dies. No, go on, guess...
- Pinhead from the Hellraiser series would usually tear people apart with chained hooks (hooked chains?) but in the fourth movie, Hellraiser: Bloodline, he shot a bladed chain at a guy's neck. After the blade punctured the neck, it unfolded and on the reverse move decapitated the poor s.o.b. Have a nice day.
- In the first Final Destination film, one of the characters was killed this way by an incoming sharp object caused by the train.
- In Jeepers Creepers, the creeper beheaded a police officer with an axe while he was driving a car. In the second film, he trapped a student with his wings and beheaded him, leaving his body still twitching for a few seconds before collapsing. The creeper consumed the head in order to grow himself a new one.
- Monty Python and the Holy Grail. The knight Bors has his head bitten off by the Rabbit of Caerbannog.
- In Heavy Metal, Taarna's only genuine act of Badassery is to decapitate three Mooks in a bar.
- In one stroke. It's like a gory Three Stooges gag.
- Happens surgically in the film adaptation of The Hitchhikers Guide To The Galaxy, when Humma Kavula takes one of Zaphod Beeblebrox's heads as collateral before their trip to Magrathea.
- Happens several times in the Underworld series.
- The most well-known example is somewhat of a variation, as Selene doesn't quite locate Viktor's neck with her sword and instead cuts his head in half to kill him.
- In the Halloween films, this happens off-screen in the fourth to an officer in a police station, is pulled off with one swing of a kitchen knife in Halloween: Resurrection, and the most gruesome example the series has to offer is in Halloween II (2009), where Michael saws a man's head off with a piece of broken glass. It's also how Laurie takes out Michael in Halloween H20: Twenty Years Later, but it got undone in the next movie so the franchise could continue.
- The Hong Kong film Heroic Trio has a villain who has a chain weapon that cuts people's heads off in an almost identical manner Master of the Flying Guillotine to the point where it is probably a Shout-Out.
- The movie Street Trash has an exceptionally bizarre decapitation during the climax.
- Jason Voorhees of the Friday the 13th series has decapitated 10 or more of his victims in the series.
- One notable instance is the triple decapitation of the paintball players in Part VI.
- Most notably in Part VIII where he punches off Julius's head.
- His mother was also killed this way in the original.
- In Freddy vs. Jason, Freddy gets his head chopped off using Jason's machete.
- In the climax of Speed Jack Traven pushes Howard Payne against a stop light while ontop of a speeding subway train causing the fixture to knock his head of his body.
- In Starship Troopers at least two soldiers are decapitated by the Hopper bugs.
- In the Apocalypse film series, those who refuse to take the Mark of the Beast when inside the Day of Wonders virtual reality program are subject to a virtual beheading, or in some cases another form of death like a lethal snake bite, which causes the victim to die in reality.
- This is how the corrupt attorney Jordan Kalfus dies in Man on Fire. Creasy finds his decapitated corpse floating in his pool, with a katana lying nearby.
- Partly done to the Blank version of Oliver Chamberlian in The World's End.
- In Idle Hands, The Offspring's Dexter Holland gets decapitated.
- Seems to be the standard means of killing vampires in Byzantium as those that are killed during the story are decapitated.
- Double subverted and Played for Laughs in Les Visiteurs: an English knight who fought the French king and Godefroy seemingly gets his head cut off, but it turns out he actually ducked under the armor's breastplate. He peeks his head out with a confident smirk, and gets his head cut off for real for his trouble.
- In Showdown in Little Tokyo, Yakuza boss Yoshida does this to Angel with his katana in a ruthless Kick the Dog moment for warning Tanaka, his previous victim, about him behind his back.
- One character is decapitated in Madman when she tries to fix her car, and the killer jumps on the open hood she's being under. Another character has his head chopped off with an axe offscreen.
Live Action TV
- So many heads rolled in the miniseries Henry VIII (2003) that it practically became a Running Gag. The King plays a particularly nasty joke on Cromwell: the executioner has never taken off anyone's head before. The results are not pretty.
- Unsurprisingly as it's the same story, The Tudors has this frequently as well, the scene of many a moving last speech beforehand. Though in this one the nasty joke against Cromwell is not by the king but several councillors. Eventually a nearby guard rushes in to take off his head, after over half a dozen less than accurate attempts by the inebriated headsman.
- Beheading would appear to be the standard method of execution in Merlin (though Burn the Witch! is also pretty common). As of yet, they have not shown it on screen.
- On the edu-tainment show, Deadliest Warrior, one of the hosts gives this as the signal when testing the makrakka, a sickle-like weapon used by the Zande tribe of Central Africa on a ballistic gel torso dummy. It does it's job.
- "Oooh dear, Richard the Third."
- And the Blackadder II episode "Head", in which Edmund gets made Lord Executioner, Baldrick becomes the man with the axe and Hilarity Ensues. We don't see the actual beheadings, although we do see one of the heads.
- The 1980 miniseries Shogun was noted as being the first American network production to actually show a head being cut off on screen. The VHS version of the mini-series is gorier and shows the blood spurting from the neck.
- The Highlander TV series, like the films, is also predicated on the fact that a beheading is the only way for Macleod to survive battles with other immortals. Therefore this happens in virtually every episode (although usually off-screen).
- The title characters of Buffy and Angel occasionally decapitate their enemies of mostly vampires or demons.
- How Xander kills Toru.
- How Glory deactivates the Buffybot, until the Scoobies rebuild her.
- The Collector: One woman made a Deal with the Devil the moment she was beheaded. Also happened to Morgan once. He got better.
- In the Mystery Science Theater 3000 episode featuring "Manos" The Hands of Fate, Dr. Forrestor invents the Chocolate Bunny Guillotine. It's Exactly What It Says on the Tin.
- Happens many, MANY times in 1000 Ways to Die:
- "D. U. Die": A drunken motorist suffering from a bought of car-sickness sticks his head out the window to puke...and is decapitated by a mailbox, to the horror of his equally drunken passenger.
- "Road Killed": A hippie chick going to a hemp convention runs over a raccoon, and tries to use CPR on it. Tilting her head up to cough, she has her head ripped off by the bumper of an incoming vehicle.
- "Tongue-Tied": Two teens driving separate cars lean out the window to kiss, only to get decapitated by a forklift in the road
- "Golden Die-Angle": A Laotian drug lord chasing after thieves ends up decapitated by the very barbed wire fence he used as a security measure
- "Kung Pao Pow!!!": A greedy crematorium worker steals the gold teeth from a corpse said to be of a man who died from getting struck by lightning strike. He wasn't killed from lighting, the man was actually killed when a weather rocket launched in order to bring rain to drought-damaged land refuse to detonate, fell back to Earth, and struck him in the chest. When the corpse was put in the furnace, the rocket's warhead ignites and blows the hatch off with enough force to decapitate the worker.
- "Odds Are You're Dead": A loan shark cuts the hydraulic line on a scissor lift, which collapses onto his neck and decapitates him
- "Miss-Ur Head": A criminal in early 20th century France is executed by the guillotine, with a doctor in attendance to his execution to study the effects of a freshly lopped-off head to prove that consciousness is maintained briefly after beheading, thus making the guillotine an inhumane form of captial punishment. (See Real Life below)
- "Withdrawn": A bank robber (obviously based on Brian Wells) wears a C4 bomb collar around his neck to convince the tellers and cops that he was being forced to commit the heist. When one freaked-out teller deactivates her car alarm to get away from the madness, she unknowingly activates the collar's remote blast cap (which was on the same frequency as her alarm remote), causing it to explode and take the robber's head clean off. Well, not exactly clean, but you get the picture...
- Occurs at least every third episode in the Stars version of Spartacus . Usually done in a single sword stroke, with one notable exception near the end of the third season.
- The Body of the Week on one episode of CSI NY was beheaded using a katana swung with such force that the severed head remained balanced on the neck (he was sitting on a park bench at the time).
- Game of Thrones.
- Ned Stark has an enormous greatsword made of Valyrian steel called Ice that he uses for executions, and he does so in the first episode, taking a deserter's head off in a single stroke. Towards the end of the first series, he is beheaded with his own sword.
- In Season 2 Theon Greyjoy, after proclaiming himself Lord of Winterfell, tries to execute someone using an ordinary sword and makes a complete mess of it, hacking and kicking madly until the head finally comes off.
- In Season 3, Robb Stark is forced to behead one of his bannermen for treason. Like his father and unlike Theon, he manages to do it in one swift stroke.
- In episode 6 of MythQuest, Alex takes the place of Caradoc the Younger. He beheads Elveis as part of a bet and is later sentenced to be beheaded himself (for a different reason).
- Midsomer Murders: In "Midsomer Rhapsody" a motorcyclist is decapitated by a length of piano wire strung across the road at neck height.
- The Doctor about to be beheaded as been used as a cliffhanger in at least three Doctor Who serials: "The Masque of Mandragora", "Four to Doomsday" and "The Visitation".
- In "The Wrong War" (also known as "The Frogs and the Lobsters") from Horatio Hornblower miniseries, Colonel le Marquis de Moncoutant has his personal guillotine. He gleefully uses it to behead half the village for treason, which was actually stuff like selling old bread. It bites him in the butt, though, because when Royalist forces collapse, the villagers execute him, equally gleefully.
- In From Dusk Till Dawn this is how Carlos deals with some people that are trying to steal from him, followed by Decapitation Presentation.
- Salem: While Rose is gloating about her foresight to Mary, Mercy comes out of nowhere and decapitates her with a razor.
- During the final episode of 24: Live Another Day, Jack decapitates Cheng Zhi in revenge for Audrey's death.
- In American Horror Story: Freak Show, this is the postmortem fate of Ethel, Salty, the curator of the American Morbidity Museum, and several of Twisty's victims.
- The music video for Praxis' "Animal Behavior" depicts Rammellzee (the guy wearing a robot samurai armor) beheading Buckethead.
- Beheaded by The Offspring is about the singer decapitating people and keeping their heads.
- The oldest and most frequent method of execution used to climax Alice Cooper's concerts is the guillotine.
- Seen used in the concert film "Good To See You Again, Alice Cooper" with magician James Randi working it and holding up Alice's severed head (in reality, a prop head).
- Alice also appeared on The Gong Show with this, singing "I Think I'm Going Out Of My Head". Instead of gonging him, Chuck Barris activated the guillotine on him.
- "Paranoid Android" by Radiohead: "Off with his head, man".
Mythology, Religion And Folklore
- Severed heads were a pretty common trope in Celtic Mythology, since they identified it as the location of the soul. The most famous is probably Bran the Blessed, whose still-living head is buried somewhere in the South-East of England to guard the British Isles against invaders.
- Older Than Feudalism: Perseus killed Medusa this way, using a magic sword to hack through the bronze scales on her neck, with the added bonus that her powers still worked on anyone he showed it to.
- There's an entire category of Christian Saints - the cephalophores - who are usually depicted as holding their severed heads.
- Saint Denis, patron saint of France, was decapitated by the Romans only to pick up his head and walk off with it, cheerfully singing praises to the Lord until he reached the nearest village and dropped dead there. Predictably, he's depicted in art and media as a headless man who carries his own mitred head in his hand.
- The most intriguing figure though is probably Saint Cuthbert, who, while never decapitated himself, is frequently depicted holding the severed head of Saint Oswald. Mystifying when you consider that Oswald had been dead for decades before Cuthbert arrived on the scene.
- The concept of cephalophore (Greek kephalos = head, phorein = to bear), a headless statue with the head on its arms, comes from the image of a beheaded saint.
- Biblical examples:
- David beheaded Goliath with the giant's own sword.
- John the Baptist was beheaded while in prison at the request of Herod's wife.
- Sheba son of Bicri had his head thrown over a town wall in 2 Samuel 20.
- Saul and Ishbosheth were both beheaded after they were killed (2 Samuel).
- Judith decapitated the Assyrian warlord Holofernes in the apocryphal Book of Judith.
- There is a truly creepy Chinese story of a beheaded general whose body did not die. His family took it home and it communicated with them via writing. It even begot a son on the 'widow'. ICK!
- This is how the trolls are defeated in Big Guns, as their heads serve as dropdown targets.
- In Sega Pinball's Golden Eye, failing the "Xenia Encounter" has the villainess crush a Naval Captain until his head pops off.
- On the backglass of Gottlieb's Haunted House, one of the windows shows a ghost holding his head under his left arm. Another dapper-looking ghost in the Attic has his head under his right arm.
- Vorpal weapons from Dungeons & Dragons have this as their primary power, activating upon rolling a natural 20 on a D20 and then confirming the crit.
- In New World of Darkness, both vampires and werewolves are capable of regenerating lost body parts... except the head. Lobbing off the head ends their hunt for good.
- Warhammer 40,000
- Worshipers and champions of Khorne go for the skull.
- During the Horus Heresy, Fulgrim presented Horus with the polished skull of Ferrus Manus after the Drop Site Massacre.
- The Horus Heresy Book One - Betrayal tells some stories of warriors who went this route. Captain Lercon Hurn of the XVI Legion's 3rd Company pulled the Panarch of Somon's head off with his bare hands after killing his guards with said hands and Horus sent the Emperor the gold-plated skull of Vatale Gerron Terentius with the message "So perish all traitors."
- Ars Magica fanzine Mythic Perspectives #9, article "Draugadrottin, The Norse Necromancer". A draug (Norse zombie) can be killed by decapitating it with a single blow. Some legends say that only a sword taken from the draug's own grave can perform this task.
- Subverted in The Mikado, wherein the Lord High Executioner only accepted the post to keep his own head and cannot bring himself to kill anyone else. He claims to have beheaded Nanki-Poo, but produces him alive when it transpires that Nanki-Poo was the heir apparent, and Ko-Ko now faces the Mikado's wrath.
- In the musical Celebration, "Saturnalia" ends with the execution of the Mock-King by decapitated. Mr. Rich is startled, perhaps because the puppet's head looks like his own.
- One of the ghosts inhabiting The Haunted Mansion is a decapitated knight. He has a small role in the video game, giving Zeke a Soul Gem.
- Allegedly, the test dummies sent down the infamous looping water slide at Action Park came out this way.
- While Your Head Asplode is common from killing headshots with ranged weaponry in Fallout 3, Off With His Head is possible with them as well as the more typical melee weapons.
- Happens frequently when using the knife on card guards, in American McGee's Alice. The Queen does this to Cheshire late in the game.
- Solom Jhee ends up suffering an anticlimactic death because of this trope in Suikoden II.
- Mortal Kombat features a fair number of these in the Fatalities of certain characters.
- The backstory of Dieu Mort, the Arcana of Death in Arcana Heart, was that he was an executioner so obsessed with chopping off heads that he eventually chopped off his own head out of madness and curiosity.
- Alex Mercer from Prototype only consumes the head of Hunters and Leader Hunters, as opposed to eating the whole body for human(-sized target)s. He also decapitates the Supreme Hunter with the Blade.
- Dead Head Fred's eponymous anti-hero Fred Neuman does this to pretty much ANYONE that angers him. Hell, it's even a major plot AND gameplay point!
- Wet features two major decapitations in story. The first decapitation happens to Trevor Ackers upon Rubi's arrival with him in the hospital after taking him out of Hong Kong, beheaded by Tarantula on orders from who Rubi (and he) initially believes is the man's own father, William Ackers, but who turns out to be an Asian-based drug lord by the name of Rupert Pelham with aspirations of operating globally. The second decapitation is delivered by Rubi herself upon Pelham as her final vengeance at the very end of the game.
- In the Japanese Playstation versions of Breath of Fire IV, Fou-lu decapitates the acting emperor Soniel with the very sword Soniel had just tried to run him through with. It's not graphically depicted, though, but shown in silhouette.
- Team Fortress 2:
- The "WAR Update" gave the Demoman a new weapon called the Eyelander, a haunted claymore that whispers "Heads..." Kills with the Eyelander grant the Demoman a stacking boost to speed and health and an enemy Demoman can take that boost for himself if he takes the Demoman's head. There can be only one!
- Updates after that have included a large number of swords as Demoman melee weapons; while they decapitate, they don't give him boosts on kills except for the Eyelander reskins Nessie's Nine-Iron and the Horseless Headless Horsemann's Headtaker.
- The Pyromania Update added the Hitman's Heatmaker as an alternative for the Sniper's Primary Weapon, which decapitates on a successful headshot kill.
- In the No More Heroes games Travis Touchdown finishes off Mooks with either a vertical or a horizontal Finishing Move; the horizontal one decapitates them. Some of the bosses get their heads cut off in post-battle cutscenes, as well. Particularly impressive is Skelter Helter's death - his head is chopped off, flies straight up into the air, and lands right back where it had been removed from.
- And then in the next cutscene, he talks to you, then rips his own head off. .... What?!
- Doing a Perfect Shot in 50 Cent: Bulletproof will result in this. Even with submachine guns.
- God Hand has the God Reel move Head Slicer.
- Invoked in many of the later Samurai Shodown games. One fatality involves the opponent being dragged down to hell in a portal, flayed, and their head thrown back to the battlefield with a satisfying thud.
- Some creatures in the Resident Evil series could kill you this way. Eg. Hunters, Ivies (plant monsters), chainsaw-wielding enemies such as Dr. Salvador, Scythe Zealots, Garradors, and the advanced Plagas.
- In Dead Space, one of The Many Deaths of You comes at the tentacles of the Separator: it tears Issac's head off and steals his body. Unfortunately, it doesn't work as well the other way; unlike with traditional zombies, decapitating a necromorph only makes it mad. Double Subverted because the Infector form creates necromorphs by jabbing its proboscis into the victim's head; preemptively cutting off the head of every corpse you encounter is sometimes worth the effort.
- One of the death executions in Manhunt involves chopping the victim's head off with the axe. Another involves garroting with barbed wire, and another, decapitation with hedge clippers.
- Blood Omen features Vorador, the most powerful character in the game, dying via decapitation. His head is later seen as a trophy in Soul Reaver 2. In Blood Omen 2, Kain will preform several decapitating stealth kills.
- The Elder Scrolls:
- In The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim this is possible with the appropriate perks in the One-handed and Two-handed skill trees. And, unfortunately, enemies can do it to you too with a lucky swing. With a high success rate to boot. Beheading is also used twice as a form of execution (at the start of the game, and the first time you visit Solitude).
- Happens at the very start of the game, just to establish how much darker this game is compared to Morrowind and Oblivion. One unnamed Stormcloak gets a discount hair-cut via axe, and it very nearly happens to you except for a dragon attacking the place and giving you a chance to escape. You get to see another beheading the first time you enter Solitude, for a man who aided Ulfric Stormcloak's escape after he killed the High King of Skyrim.
- Also features in some of the in-universe books.
- In 2920, Hearth Fire Emperor Reman Cyrodiil has his mistress beheaded for treason (she was innocent). Here it actually takes two strokes, with the first hitting the back of her head.
- In Hallgerd's Tale the title character beheads the man cuckolding him (during the act of cuckolding, we should note).
- Kratos is fond of ripping people's heads off in the God of War series. Among his kills in this fashion are Medusa from I and Helios from III.
- Time Killers lets you cut off an opponent's head at any point. A round can end in decapitation literally a half-second after it begins, and the loser's potrait shows them without their heads.
- Its Spiritual Successor, Blood Storm, required a character-specific move, and each had a smaller hit radius, but the heads could still roll at any time.
- NetHack has the vorpal blade, which has a 5% chance per hit of doing a One-Hit Kill via decapitation against any monster with a head.
- A staple side effect of hitting zombies with a cutting or bludgeoning melee weapon (except for the Frying Pan of Doom) in Left 4 Dead 2.
- Silent Hill: Homecoming is big on those, especially with the axe.
- Eldigan is executed this way in Fire Emblem : Genealogy of the Holy War. In the Oosawa manga adaptation, King Chagall then sends his severed head to Eldigan's friends Sigurd and Quan and his sister Raquesis to taunt them.
- Postal 2, the sequel to Postal, allows the player to do this using either thrown knives or a certain silenced pistol.
- In the expansion? Vanilla Postal 2 has decapitation by shovel with some interesting options of what to do with the head afterwards. You can also use a shotgun for Your Head Asplode.
- One of the more common ways to kill a zombie in the Dead Rising series.
- In Target Terror, enemies' heads pop off and bounce towards you (as opposed to Your Head Asplode) when shot repeatedly.
- The Aliens Vs Predator games of course feature plenty of decapitations as trophies and/or delicious snacks. Special mention to the Predator Speargun in AVP 2 that removes human heads and pins them to the wall. You can then collect the heads to recover the spear and trophy.
- Katanas in Grand Theft Auto games that have them are capable of decapitating, even if the swing animation seems to be a one-handed swat. Hilarity Ensues in San Andreas where there's an Asian gangster on a boat that challenges you to a duel if you then immediately manage to slice his head off with one swing.
- Good aim and proper use of the game's physics mechanics and controls allows the player to decapitate enemies in the third-person adventure game Die By The Sword.
- This is how Seiko dies in Corpse Party: Book of Shadows. Ayumi's sister Hinoe also dies this way after pulling a Big Damn Heroes to save Ayumi and Naomi.
- Umineko no Naku Koro ni: Screw you, Furudo Erika. He's the rationale:
- In version 3, the Ao Oni kills Takuro by biting off their head. This also effectively demonstrates to Hiroshi and the others that contrary to their suspicions, the monster is very real.
- In some scenes in Brain Dead 13 when Lance's head gets cut off or knocked off or bitten off. Of course, this becomes Pulling Himself Together by his head rejoining itself to his body thanks to the power of resurrection.
- Against humanoid enemies this is a possible finishing move with edged weapons in Dragon Age: Origins. It comes spectacularly close to Rasputinian Death if the character has a Dual Wielding build: you run the guy through with one blade, then lop his head off with the other.
- This is also how the Warden executes Loghain mac Tir.
- Happens fairly regularly in The Witcher when you use Group Style against humanoids. And appropriately so, since said sword art involves lots and lots of high-velocity horizontal slashes.
- Raimund's death animation goes like this in RosenkreuzStilette: Upon receiving the final blow, he loses his Grollschwert and Grassense, and his Grassense cuts his head off before they disappear off the screen completely, after which the rest of his body starts exploding after his head disappears off the screen as well.
- Diablo III's Demon Hunter can do this to demons with the Bola Shot ability. It was also apparently a common method of execution in Khanduras during the Darkening of Tristram, as evidenced in the Halls of Agony where you come across the decapitated ghost of Queen Asylla, who was executed by guillotine on orders from the maddened King Leoric.
- Malthael does this to two of the Horadrim at the start of Reaper of Souls.
- Age of Chivalry, later Chivalry Medieval Warfare allows the player to do (and suffer) this with a sufficiently powerful or accurate blow to the head.
- Native Mount & Blade does not allow for this, but the easily-found "Dismemberment and Decapitation" mod is Exactly What It Says on the Tin. Land a clean hit and watch as your opponent's head flies off with hilarious disregard for physics.
- The old 1980s fighting game Barbarian featured a spinning jumping backslash move that if launched with the correct timing and distance to the enemy could instantly decapitate them.
- Clive Barker's Undying: The only way to destroy the undead Covenants, and it has to be done with a certain weapon at that. This is also one of only two ways to make a skeleton stay down for good, the other being Revive Kills Zombie.
- The Matrix: Path of Neo has a few decapitation moves though, oddly, no heads actually fall off, they fall down dead anyway.
- Shadow Of Mordor: This is Tallion's signature execution. It makes sense, seeing as how it's one of the only ways to ensure that an orc is 100% dead. Your character can come back to life, AND SO CAN THEY - except from headshots.
- Miko in The Order of the Stick punched off a goblin's head. It struck the next goblin with enough force to kill it. So that's how unarmed people use the Cleave ability.
- Roy decapitating the zombie dragon on which Xykon rides. You could say that he has great cleave-age.
- Belkar killing the leader of the "beetle men".
- In Goblins, when Big Ears kills Saral Caine, he stabs (!) him in the chest with an axe, then cuts off his head.
- Dominic Deegan. Luna's mother, Croona Travoria just after saying "...YOU'LL NEVER TAKE ME ALIVE!"
- Amazing how a quick sword swing can change that.
- In the "Oracle Hunter" storyline, Quilt winds up losing his head to the villainess of the chapter.
- In the "March on Maltak" arc: After calling out the Doma clan orc leader for the deaths of her father and mother, and for forcing Stonewater to either claim her as a mate or kill her, Melsheena Dernaks faces down him down, and calls him a pathetic weakling. As Melsheena walks away, the Doma chief tries to stab her in the back. He never gets the chance, and Melsheena literally knocks the chief's block off. With Stonewater's hammer.
- In the "War In Hell" storyline, a demon responsible for turning Stonewater's friends against him has his head torn off by Lord Karnak... and Lord Karnak tends to make it a habit with other demons, and a few demon lords, and more notably, Tox'xel.
- In a humorous manner, Runcible Spoon is known to take his own head off willingly and non-fatally.
- Happens to Candi Levens, twice, both times on a block, and with a single ax stroke. (Though the first time was an illusion.) Also happens to all three of her sisters, although Erin was already dead beforehand. Marina meets an identical fate to Candi. Miriam, however, gets the guillotine. Thankfully, all three die only in the epilogue.
- In the Draconia Chronicles webcomic, this is how Gaia is killed.
- Axe Cop will chop your head off!
- Verbally inverted in a guest comic: "Sometimes, I chop their whole bodies off leaving just the heads."
- Demonstrated here & here in The KA Mics
- In Homestuck, this was how the Black King, the White King, the Draconian Dignitary (by Dave), the Aimless Renegade, and the Hegemonic Brute (twice) were killed.
- And now, Dirk pulled this off on himself as part of a brilliant example of the very rare Thanatos Speed Gambit.
- Also, three mooks (well technically two mooks, due to time-related shenanigans) were beheaded by Spades Slick in the Midnight Crew intermission. And Hearts Boxcars did it to another mook as well, specifically he ''ate'' the mook's head..
- In Erstwhile, the bride orders this for Maid Maleen. And gets it herself.
- It's how Sonic dies by the hands of the Troll King in Tails Gets Trolled
- In Sinfest, Lil' Evil threatens the angels with it.
- In Rusty and Co., Madeline deals with a vampire.
- In The Mansion of E, Rosemary deals with a threatening Troglodyte.
- Since Freefall averts Cranial Processing Unit, robots can be decapitated non-fatally. This is eventually◊ taken to the Logical Extreme.
- In The Gamers Alliance, Ismail gets decapitated by Dreadlord Leraje after their fierce duel during the Battle of Vanna.
- Klay World's characters usually die this way. In the movie, Dr. Brown is killed this way.
- Troy McCann, Daniel Brent and Guy Rapide in Survival of the Fittest V3 die by being decapitated. A close range gunshot to the back of the head beheads Uriel Hunter in V1. Hayley Kelly in V4 also seems to love this method, dispatching Steve Barnes and James Mulzet this way.
- In Darwins Soldiers, Alfred beheads a Dragonstorm war machine with a sledgehammer.
- In the final episode of There Will Be Brawl, Ganondorf infamously meets his end this way thanks to Kirby, who used Meta-Knight's sword to lop his head off after the big reveal on who the murderous butchers (Ness and Lucas) were.
- The Onion: "White House Jester Beheaded For Making Fun Of Soaring National Debt".
- In DSBT InsaniT, Kerry does this to Sand Snake by throwing Shovel at his neck like a boomerang.
- SF Debris did a review of the Game of Thrones pilot. This trope was a basis for his in-universe Drinking Game: One shot for every head off and for every naked girl. Well, he ended up totally wasted and started to read his script from a previous show, mumbling about the philosophy in The Matrix.
- In Ducktalez 4, Buzzkill was decapitated by a roller coaster cart launched by Huey.
- The fate of any Langemanne, as well as their only fear.
- Out of all things, in My Little Pony - the Evil Overlord Tirac keeps threatening his henchman Scorpan that if he won't get all four ponies he needs, Spike's head will roll.
- In either homage to the comic book example, the Shredder in Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles gets this treatment after the turtles storm his headquarters he lives, because it's a robot suit.
- How Pre Vizla kicks the bucket in the fifth season in Star Wars: The Clone Wars.
- This is also apparently one of the only ways (if not the way) to kill a vampire in The Venture Bros..
- This is a common way to kill vampires in general in many media, right next to staking them in the heart.
- Including Buffy the Vampire Slayer, who does so humorous times in the series. Of course, their specific rendition of vamps are all Made of Plasticine; in one episode a pencil to the chest dusts one.
- In Vampire: The Masquerade, a stake through the heart only induces torpor, a deep coma-like sleep. In that condition it's pretty trivial to decapitate the vampire, which is a guaranteed Final Death solution.
- Some Western folklore sources recommend staking, beheading and putting garlic in the head's mouth, carving out the heart and burying it at a crossroads, then burning the body.
- The Boondocks: How Bushido Brown meets his end.
- Happens to Tom at the end of the Tom and Jerry short "The Two Mouseketeers."
Nibbles/Tuffy: Pauvre, pauvre pussycat...
- Heavily implied to have happened offscreen to Chef Puree in Dan Vs. "The Fancy Restaurant."
- It would take too long to list the number of times this has happened to Kenny alone in South Park.
- Batman: The Brave and the Bold: Implied and parodied in the Animated Adaptation of Emperor Joker, when the Joker sends Batman to the guillotine, and when the blade drops, we hear it slice through his neck and the sound of his head plopping on the floor. It quickly turns into Losing Your Head for a brief moment when the Joker restores him to life again.
- Medieval martyrologies cite decapitation as a standard method of execution carried out by the Romans towards captured Christians. Examples: Saint John the Baptist (who was actually beheaded in orders of Herod rather than the Romans themselves), Saint Paul of Tarsus, Saint Agnes of Rome, Saint Philomena, etc. Supposedly, since Paul actually held Roman citizenship, he couldn't be crucified by the Roman authorities - Beheading was seen as a quick mercy for condemned Romans compared to a slow, painful, degrading death by crucifixion.
- Decapitation was the standard method of execution for murder and other capital crimes in Germanic and Scandinavian countries from the Middle Ages to 20th century. Commoners were traditionally beheaded with an axe, noblemen with a sword. Later, a guillotine was preferred.
- The last beheading in West Germany occurred 1949, when a convicted robber-murderer Berthold Wehmeyer was executed with guillotine. He was also the last person to be executed in West Germany. The last time a guillotine was used in these countries was in 1961 in East Germany.
- Thieves were instead hanged in Scandinavia. It was considered that theft was such a vile crime that the convict not only deserved death, but didn't even deserve a swift end.
- The last beheading in Scandinavia happened 1910 when Swedish murderer Johan Ander was guillotined in LŚngholmen prison, Stockholm.
- Beheading was de jure execution method in Grand Duchy of Finland until 1917, although the last execution in Finland happened in 1828 [after that, all death sentences were commuted to internal exiles in Siberia]. The method was changed 1917 into firing squad.
- During the Middle Ages in France and England, decapitation was generally reserved for nobles and royalty who committed major crimes such as treason. The weapon of choice for headsmen varied between nations. While axes were often used in Britain, swords were preferred by their French contemporaries.
- Although decapitation was the preferred means of departure for condemned members of the nobility, it could get pretty messy at times. In 1405 the Archbishop of York was executed for rebelling against King Henry IV; the headsman deliberately used five blows to sever the churchman's head to mimic the five wounds of Christ. In 1685 the Duke of Monmouth suffered an even more Nightmare Fuellish fate; the terrified executioner took seven unsuccessful blows to try and remove the head; he had to finish the job with a knife. One account states that at one point the executioner threw down his axe and offered a large sum of money to anyone in the crowd willing to take over the job. Another account says that the watch crowd was so horrified that the headsman had to be escorted out with armed guard as the mob was threatening to beat him to death.
- France standardized 1791 beheading as the mandatory means of execution. The execution was to be carried out with a special device, which got the name of guillotine.
- Obviously, Henry VIII of England, who had two of his six wives executed in this fashion. His kids did their fair share as well — Edward VI actually had two of his uncles beheaded; Mary I and Elizabeth I both had one of their cousins beheaded for claiming the throne — Lady Jane Grey and Mary, Queen of Scots, respectively. Given it was a major spectacle for the nobility, the fact that it took two or three strikes to get the job done was likely rather embarrassing to the headsman.
- A particularly horrific case was that of the 67-year-old Margaret Pole, Countess of Salisbury; condemned by Henry VIII, who refused to admit any guilt and would not kneel at the headsman's block — one account says that she leapt from the block after the first clumsy blow and ran, pursued by the executioner, being struck eleven times before she died.
- The guillotine was proposed for the sole purpose of beheading people as humanely (quickly) as possible. (It was so efficient that spectators were said to be disappointed at the brevity of the show.) Contrary to popular belief, Joseph Guillotin did not invent it (he merely proposed for it to become standard), nor was he a victim of it. The real ironies of the guillotine were (1) Robespierre dying by it (of course) and (2) Louis XVI had a hand in developing the standard design (specifically, it was he who suggested that the blade be angled, so as not to bounce off the neck of the condemned).
- During the period of The French Revolution known as the Reign of Terror, as many as 16,594 people were executed by guillotine, such that it soon became the symbol of the Terror in general.
- One contributing factor was that executioners who were skilled in decapitating people in a single stroke were generally of the upper class in France at that time. In other words, precisely the kind of people the revolution had been against and who were on the receiving end of executions.
- The first guillotined convict was bandit Nicholas-Jean Pelletier in 1792.
- Nazi Germany guillotined more people than were beheaded during the French Revolution. Beheading was the usual sentence for felonies rather than political crimes, though certain members of resistance groups, such as Hans and Sophie Scholl of the nonviolent White Rose resistance group, were executed this way. For extra cruelty points, the victims were often executed face-up, such that one was forced to watch the blade descend upon them.
- Before 1787 Scotland also used a similar beheading device, called Scottish Maiden, for carrying out executions. Likewise, the town of Halifax had its own head-chopper called Halifax Gibbet or The Gin (short from "engine").
- The last guillotining in France happened in 1977 when a Tunisian rapist-murderer Hamida Djandoubi was beheaded. Death penalty was abolished in France in 1981.
- Vic Morrow (Jennifer Jason Leigh's dad) and two child actors named My-Ca Dinh Le and Renee Shin-Yi Chen, were killed when a stunt helicopter crashed near them during the filming of the Twilight Zone movie. Morrow tried to save the children who were trapped there, then he and one of the kids were decapitated by the blades while the other was crushed under the weight... and their deaths were caught on film. AAAAAAARGH!
- For the morbidly curious, the footage found its way into one those atrocious Faces of Death videos and is now available on the internet. It happens so suddenly that nothing can be seen; Vic and the two children are there one moment, the chopper comes down, and in the next moment they've disappeared beneath the wreckage.
- Similarly to Vic Morrow, film director Boris Sagal (father of actress Katey Sagal) died via being decapitated by the tail rotor blades of a stunt helicopter.
- When the German medieval pirate Klaus StŲrtebeker was to be beheaded, he was granted the wish that those of his men would be pardoned, if he managed to walk past them after being decapitated. And according to the legend, he managed to walk past eleven of them (and may have continued, but the executioner tripped him).
- The ritual suicide of the samurai known as seppuku was traditionally concluded by the samurai's second, or kaishakunin, chopping off the samurai's head to finish him off after the initial self-disembowelment. This was so their suffering would be brief, and such prevent the shame of showing pain.
- Beheading prisoners with a Katana was a common war crime for the Empire of Japan during World War II. Just look at what happened to Leonard Siffleet.
- Averted in the second Japanese offensive of the Imjin War, when the Emperor demanded that proof be sent back to Japan of the numbers killed, but as heads were too bulky, he had the noses sent back instead.
- In the 1974 US Grand Prix, Austrian Helmuth Koinigg crashed into an armco barrier. The lower beam wasn't properly secured and buckled as the vehicle struck it. The car passed underneath the top portion... which was very firmly bolted on. Yikes.
- Another Formula One death happened this way. Tom Pryce struck a track marshal who had foolishly run onto the race course to extinguish a minor fire on the other side of the track. Pryce hit the man at full racing speed, the impact ripping him in two. The fire extinguisher the marshal had been carrying entered the cockpit of Pryce's car and struck his helmet, ripping it up and out of the car. The helmet's strap partially decapitated Pryce and his now driverless car careened down the track before hitting another car and coming to a stop. There is footage of the incident on YouTube and various other video sites.
- Although the stories about decapitated bodies walking on their own may be the stuff of legend, during the guillotine era it was scientifically confirmed that the heads can retain consciousness for several minutes after being removed, as a doctor reportedly was able to communicate with a removed head for several minutes, with the soon-to-be-dead man's eyes actually focusing on him. This was featured in 1000 Ways to Die's case "Miss-ur Head" (its alternative title being exactly the same as this trope)
- Man in Virgina uses cable to decapitate himself.
- Subverted by Real Life cases of "internal decapitation", in which the neck is yanked or struck with sufficient force to detach the vertebrae from the skull. So long as the blood vessels and trachea remain intact, survival is still possible, and if the spinal cord isn't broken the victim might eventually achieve a complete recovery.
- Abu Musab Al-Zarqawi, leader of Al-Qaeda in Iraq, was fond of this.
- New research shows Tyrannosaurus rex ate Triceratops by beheading it first.
- The occupants of a Piper Cherokee lost their heads when their plane collided with an airliner over the Los Angeles suburb of Cerritos.
- In a lot of insects, this is a standard means of killing a prey item, opponent or in the case of mantises, a mate. Incidentally, a lot of insects can still function without them. A cockroach, for instance can survive without its head for as long as it takes for it to ultimately starve to death, which can be weeks. Meanwhile, ants and termites can not only still function without their heads, the separated heads will continue to attempt to bite at whatever cut their heads off. Overall, being a bug is a pretty gruesome experience.
- For this reason, some species of ant have been used as emergency sutures, by getting the ant to bite the wound and then breaking its head off.
- Famously, this didn't completely work for Mike the Headless Chicken. On September 10, 1945, Mike was taken to the chopping block in preparation for killing and butchering... and, thanks to a botched axe swing, didn't die after his head was severed. He kept on walking around headless, as if nothing had happened, for a year and a half, and presumably would have lived longer if he hadn't suddenly choked to death on something.
- During the Ming dynasty, army commanders were rewarded for victories based on the number of enemy heads they'd collected. Unfortunately the military was rife with incompetence and corruption, so often local peasants would be decapitated instead and the heads presented as proof of nonexistent victories. Mongol raiders would sometimes play along by driving the local peasantry ahead of them — once the Chinese had gathered enough heads for a 'victory', they'd withdraw and let the Mongols get on with their Rape Pillage and Burning.
- Korean naval hero Admiral Yi Sun Shin was opposed to this, as he believed his sailors should concentrate on killing enemy soldiers who were still alive instead of collecting dead ones. However as heads were regarded as proof of a warrior's bravery, he made sure to let his men know that he would note who was brave and mention their names in his despatches to the king.
- Before the guillotine, it wasn't uncommon for two or three whacks to behead people. This of course, caused them immense pain while they were still alive. Some people even trained their executioners to make it as painless as possible.
- A favored tactic of ISIS, a terrorist group in Iraq that was too nasty for even Al Qaeda