Sometimes people have a hairdo so big it seems like it has a mind of its own, and moves on its own accord. And then there are the people who have the ability to make it move. Characters with superpowers that allow their mullets to become murderous. To allow their ponytails to pummel. To allow their pigtails to pick fights. To allow their braids to barrage. To allow their dreads to decapitate.
Depending on the sense of realism (or lack thereof) the show or comic expresses, this can act as a Swiss Army Superpower, with characters able to form everything from extra arms, to mallets, to chainsaws with just a flick of their hair. Required Secondary Powers are necessary if the hair can support more weight than the wielder's scalp and neck.
A subtrope of Artistic License - Biology, as hair is, by definition, a filamentous outgrowth of dead cells from the skin. However, there are acceptable justifications.
Compare Expressive Hair, which is when a coif is more inclined to telegraph emotions than to strangle random passersby — although there can be considerable overlap between the two. Even when this type of animate hair isn't in motion, it tends to look like its inanimate cousin Messy Hair.
See also Feather Fingers, Helicopter Hair.
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A Skittles advertisement features a man in a job interview who possesses a long prehensile beard. He uses it to pick Skittles off a table and place them in his mouth and the mouth of his interviewer. Neither character refers to the beard.
Anime & Manga
Bobobo-bo Bo-bobo: Bobobo-bo Bo-bobo — although that's nose hair in his case. Also chest, leg, armpit and head hair in the case of Bobobo's relatives (one type of hair for each). This comes from his ability to communicate with hair, which is only shown in a flashback in the first episode with his afro telling him that he's some kind of freak for being able to talk to hair.
Duel Masters has Mikuni - later named "Johnny Coolburns" in the dub - is able to flail his ponytail when he gets worked up enough.
SHOBU: "And I thought I had hair issues!"
A minor villain from the beginning of InuYasha, Yura, has the ability to animate people like puppets and cut things using Prehensile Hair. Unlike most examples of this trope, Yura could actually add the hair of her victims to her Prehensile Hair, which she kept as a giant hairball rather than it being connected directly to her head. This was because Yura herself was not a person, but actually a demonic comb.
Big Bad Dio Brando from the Manga can shoot strands of his hair at people's head. The hair then turns into parasites that control the infected person into being a servant for Dio without thinking.
In Part 1, one of the knights Dio resurrects using the Stone Mask can suck blood through his hair in addition to moving it. Trust us, this is standard for JJBA.
In Part 2, a vampire has his body destroyed from the neck down, thus reducing him to a disembodied head. He then uses Prehensile Hair to fire himself out of a crossbow.
Further used in Part 4 where the character Yukako can use her hair as a weapon to do things like use strands to wrap around someone's tongue so they cannot talk, smash though a window so she doesn't cut herself, put some of her hair on someone else's to drag them into things, and just flat out crush a two story house.
Sailor Aluminium Siren has this power in the manga and uses it to strangle Mercury and Jupiter to death.
Ninja Resurrection features a misguided Messiah reincarnated as Satan, who looks like a naked, insanely giggling Sephiroth clone who resurrects famous samurai as his undead minions, and flies around killing people with his razor-sharp, uber-prehensile hair, which even features prominently in his gory birth scene.
One of Pretty Sammy's less useful powers in the Magical Girl Pretty Sammy continuity. With it, she can perform such heroic deeds as reading while eating, and scratching her own back.
In Tsukihime, Tohno Akiha's hair turns crimson red when she is excited (generally a bad sign). However, her method of attack (Origami, or "Imprisoning Hair") is not so much using her actual hair, but spiritual extensions that attack at the speed of thought. Invisible to Normals (including herself), the red strands can skewer straight though a human being, or ensnare and hold them in midair - at maximum output, she can encage whole buildings. She may or may not have used her hair to climb along the side of a building. The Origami also serves as a medium for her other ability: lethal absorbtion of heat (or Life Force; the line blurs).
Ironically, Medusa is featured in Fate/stay night, and her hair is completely normal except for color and length.
Masane, Reina and Nora from the Witchblade anime all had prehensile hair that they used as a weapon. Also, Maria.
In one of the funniest scenes Masane also used it for mechanical target lock. In the test fight she wasn't deft enough with her battle form yet and the bot barely dodged her once, so she used her hair to grab it and then to propel herself toward it.
Elder Toguro can freely manipulate any part of his body, including his hair. While he never tries killing people with it on screen, his powers would certainly allow him to, extending it to wrap up and strangle people, turning the tips of his hairs into razor sharp blades to impale victims, using it to engulf and crush helpless enemies, etc.
In the Dark Tournament saga, Kurama wields his Rose Whip with his hair in order to beat Gama despite being immobilized by invisible 300lb weights on his arms and legs.
Mino Nenki from Basilisk can control hair as if their were his limbs, allowing him to doing everything from wielding multiple weaponry with hair bundles to skewering victims with pointed strands.
One of the many, many, many skills that Kogarashi the Maid Guy in Kamen no Maid Guy possesses. "Maid Guy Hair Sensor" also doubles as Razor Floss and... other things. Yes, it's that kind of series.
Miyabi of Koi Koi 7. As she demonstrates in the series, the many uses of her hair include a cutter, an umbrella, and a Popeye-esque fist. She also has a limited degree of shapeshifting abilities.
Eve from Black Cat uses her Shapeshifting abilities to use her hair as a weapon. Mostly she turns it into hammers, but it has also become spikes, fists, blades, porcupine quills, and a bell like the ones used in boxing matches.
When afflicted with the curse of the Dragon's Whisker (which makes mens' hair grow uncontrollably until they lose it completely,) Ranma from Ranma ˝ fought Genma and Happôsai by tying his meters-long hair around cinderblocks, truck tires, park benches, and other such blunt instruments, to swing as giant flails.
Uzumaki takes this to a level that must be seen to be believed. In one of the few cases where hair qualifies as Body Horror, the hair fought any attempts to get rid of it or the spiral, and it strangled Kirie if she didn't do what it wanted.
One of the characters from The Law Of Ueki sequel, Law of Ueki Plus fights using hair strenghtened by hair gel.
The Holy Woman from Minoru Murao's Knights manga, whose hair (even her eyelashes, in an Omake) can grow to prodigious lengths to snare, entangle, and immobilize foes even over hundreds of feet, whipping and snaking everywhere on its own accord as she remains still. Once she has disabled the enemy thus, she can slice them to kibble with her razor-sharp strands.
Empress Gehenna in the Korean manga Aflame Inferno uses her magical hair as whips, blades, shield and a lot more.
In D.Gray-man the characters Jasdero and Devit are twins, in which if they sing their song and shoot each other (seriously), they turn into one entity that has an unbelievable amount of hair reaching his full height, which he'll often use to stab.
Niche of Letter Bee can fight and grab onto things with her hair (although only a heart bullet can finish off an armor bug). Her older twin sister can use her hair to considerably greater effect, and can even turn it into weapons like a giant bow.
Played for laughs in the second episode of Gun X Sword which has a group of people with prehensile moustaches which they use for combat.
Alucard's hair is able to do this in both the manga and the anime versions of Hellsing. Although it's kinda difficult to tell where the guy's hair ends and where his shadow... things begin. But he definitely has more prehensile body parts than any creature has the right to have.
Protagonist Oto of Milk Crown is always drawn with one lock of hair sticking up slightly. In an omake in volume 4 of Milk Crown H Jin has a nightmare in which he asks her about it, and Oto reveals that she can control that lock of hair with her mind. She then proceeds to demonstrate this by picking up a duster with it and starting to dust the ceiling.
Medusa and Lorelei are at near polar opposites in terms of level of power. Medusa's hair seems to be super strong, can't be cut by regular blades or burned, and seems to grow at her will. Lorelei is a mutant stripper who has long hair that she can control; it wasn't powerful and it was painfully proven to not be super durable when an anti-mutant gang forcefully shaved her head.
Cebolinha/Jimmy Five from Monica's Gang has only five spiky strands of hair, which apparently are sharp as wire (injures people, pops balloons and balls, and once, when the hair was overtly big, his dirty/aquaphobic best friend used some plastic to turn it into an umbrella).
One of the villains in Madame Mirage is the Weeping Willow, a morose goth girl with very long and strong prehensile hair. She loses a lot of it in a scrape with Mirage, and later complains to a fellow villain that the pain was unimaginable, like losing a thousand tiny arms.
In The Mad Scientist Wars, Jane Narbon recently invented a "hair symbiote" that gives her this ability. How it gets the necessary leverage and tensile strength to lift people and swing objects is unexplained.
In the first trailer for Tangled, the character of Rapunzel beats up a thief trespassing in her tower with her hair. However, this scene (nor actual prehensile hair) does not appear in the movie. Though Rapunzel is absurdly adept at flinging locks of hair around to pull levers, etc., so it sort of borders on this in the film.
In the 2007 movie version of Beowulf, Grendel's mother (interpreted here as a sexy siren rather than the original's poorly described ogre-like thing) has a long braid that can move on its own. It's implied to be the tail of her true, rather more monstrous form.
She can't use it to beat people up, and doesn't appear to have any conscious control over it, but Susan Sto Helit has moving hair. It seems to like the severely proper bun, a reflection of her no-nonsense personality.
Agnes "Perdita X" Nitt, the newest of Terry Pratchett's witches, has hair that has a tendency to eat combs. (It's never actually been observed doing so, however.)
While her hair is not independently intelligent, in early books Juliet Butler wore her hair in a long braid with a jade ring woven into the end. She used it as a whip when fighting.
Contrasting with another Artemis Fowl character, dwarf Mulch Diggums. His hair tells him when trouble is approaching and he can use it to pick locks and stitch his own wounds. Don't even get me started on what his phlegm can do.
In "Medusa's Coil", a story ghostwritten by H. P. Lovecraft for Zealia Bishop, Marceline Bedard's lengthy hair turns out to be an indestructable separate entity. Once the hair is cut off (not an easy thing to do thanks to its unnatural toughness) it acts much like a snake, even constricting a man to death.
The main character of children's book The Hair of Zoe Fleefenbacher Goes to School has hair that not only is twice her size, but acts of its own accord.
In Yasmin Galenorn's The Otherworld Series, Smoky the Dragon has long, silvery hair that he sometimes uses as Naughty Tentacles during funtimes with Camille.
Though not exactly prehensile, a minor villain in Tokusou Sentai Dekaranger has a secret technique that lets him whip his ponytail around and teleport anyone and anything it touches into a Death Trap miles away.
In the Power Rangers SPD version, Bridge was actually knocked out and dragged to said deathtrap, and the hair attack actually disintegrates victims outright. It's especially notable because you'd expect it to be the other way around.
There was an episode of an anthology show (probably the revived Outer Limits) in which a balding man grew a crop of long, luxurious hair after trying a new rub-on tonic. The hair turned out to be mobile, because each hair was actually a thread-like larval alien, and they were eating his brain.
Myths & Religion
The futakuchi of Japanese myth is a seemingly anorexic women with an extra mouth on the back of her head that eats twice as much. Her hair supposedly acts in the manner described to put food in the extra mouth.
From Les Guignols de l'info, many gags are milked out of Bernadette Chirac's hairdo. Most extreme parodies include giving her prehensile hair with a mind of their own.
In the Forgotten Realms setting, the Seven Sisters use hair in melee and for delicate manipulations (e.g. in Silverfall). Not too impressive, as they're so stuffed with magic that tend to spray silver fire whenever seriously wounded... and were born as semidivine beings to begin with.
The Ultimate Magic sourcebook for Pathfinder includes the Prehensile Hair hex, which allows a Witch to animate her hair as a limb, and the Strangling Hair spell, which does Exactly What It Says on the Tin.
The Dragon Empires Primer added a White-Haired Witch archetype based on several characters from Wuxia. Someone at Paizo must really love this trope.
3rd Edition supplement Creature Collection. The Storm Hag can use her hair to grab and strangle multiple opponents at one time.
In Feng Shui, prehensile hair is a good excuse for a Ghost to have the Tentacles power, as mentioned above in "Film."
The Wu-Keng of Mage The Ascension can acquire a demonic gift which makes their hair prehensile. Given the Wu-Keng were inspired by the same Wuxia material as Pathfinder's White-Haired Witch, this isn't surprising.
Millia Rage of Guilty Gear has this in spades, able to move and shape her hair however she pleases. Forming it into various stabbing implements is just the tip of the iceberg.
Rocky Rodent, where the main character was a Funny Animal of some sort with a mohawk that could slice and be thrown as a boomerang. Various powerups gave you different hairstyles with different powers.
Midna of The Legend Of Zelda Twilight Princess. Because she also doubles as Link's Exposition Fairy for the game, she mostly uses it to grab hold of switches, open doors, and point threateningly at objects just before she blasts them with magical power. It even takes the shape of a hand.
Sindel from Mortal Kombat has some very handy tresses of her own. One of her Fatalities has her use her hair to wrap up the opposing character, and then spin them so fast they explode into bloody chunks.
In La-Mulana, the area 8 boss, Tiamat, uses her hair flying outwards in eight directions as one of her attacks.
Bayonetta, from Devil May Cry creator Hideki Kamiya, features a protagonist whose special moves are pulled off with help from her hair. Also, her hair composes her entire freaking outfit. Needless to say, the more powerful special move she uses, the more hair she needs (like using it to make a spider several stories tall), and the more skin we see.
Subverted that it's not the hair moving by itself - she's summoning demons by using her hair as a conduit.
In addition to his Sinister Scythe, Prometheus from Mega Man ZX can attack players by planting his hair into the ground and then attempt to stab them with the strands from underneath, he can even protrude them from the walls too, as seen here.
Emerelda Kasim from Xenogears often reshapes her hair to use in melee combat. Granted, she does this because she is entirely composed of nanomachines, and uses other parts of her body as well, but she does seem to favor the hair.
In Eternal Fighter Zero, Akane Satomura uses her long hair as her primary weapon, forming it into whips, drills, and swords.
King Long Sauvage from Little King's Story has a prehensile beard that reaches all the way down the mountain from where he sits. And he can electrify it.
Lionwhyte in Brutal Legend has a ridiculously over-the-top hairdo which can transform into a pair of wings, allowing him to fly.
In the NES pirate game Kart Fighter, Princess Peach has a hair attack.
Filia from Skullgirls has a hair parasite, named Samson, who acts as this for her.
Myuse from Tales Of Xillia uses her hair for extremely quick and painful melee attacks when she's not busy nuking the party with elemental magic.
Tsukiko from Rumble Pack can throw or whip her opponents with her hair. The whipping attacks count because the hair moves by itself.
Grace in El Goonish Shive. Though not the hair — any greater chimera has (often furred) antennae, which in her case look much like thick locks. When she morphs them away, her hair is quite inert.
K'Thonya from the webcomic Earthsong has the power to control metal with her mind. Since her race's hair contains traces of metal, she can manipulate her hair, as well. Her race is said to have inspired the myth of Gorgons on Earth.
Noventia of the webcomic Flipside has long, prehensile hair. Also, Suspiria has hair that, if not exactly prehensile, is enchanted to change styles with her mood, and goes completely mad when she uses magic.
Miss Futakuchi, the history teacher in Eerie Cuties. An incarnation of the japanese myth in the Myths & Religion section.
Dr. Tenent, a physician and teacher in the Magical Arts Department of Whateley Academy in the Whateley Universe. She often does the medusa bit to handle multiple medical instruments at once.
Slipknot and Dreadlocks, from the Global Guardians PBEM Universe, both have this superpower. Slipknot can only manipulate his hair in this fashion. Dreadlocks is a Rubber Man who can stretch his entire body in addition to his hair.
An episode of Dexters Laboratory where Dexter grows a beard in order to fight crime with his favourite action hero. They actually tie beards together in order to use Dexter as a flail to defeat several villains. These villains have their own "super beards", including a sword beard (with sheath) and a whip.
Freddy Folicle from Grossology, who is covered in prehensile body hair.
In Wakfu season 1 episode 4, princess Ydalipe can do that with her enormous head of hair (and beard, and mustache...) as a result of a curse from the god Osamodas. She initially lure Sadlygrove into her cursed castle in a spoof of Rapunzel's story.
Gravity Falls: "Well, first I hootenannied up a biomechanical brain wave generator, and then I learned to operate a stick-shift with my beard!"]]
Night Mare Moon has a prehensile mane. Justified in that she's an extremely powerful winged unicorn, and her mane appears to be made of stardust. Fluttershy and Applejack are also occasionally seen using their mane in this way.
In Season 2, most if not all of the main six have shown prehensile manes and tails of considerable strength, for example, Applejack can throw her dog Winnona a stick using her tail and Fluttershy is seen holding Angel (her rabbit) on her tail while flying during the episode "May The Best Pet Win".
Elastika from Zevo-3. She can even fly by using strands of hair as a propeller.
Yosemite Sam's moustache displays this ability in the Merrie Melodies song "Moostache" (and nowhere else) in The Looney Tunes Show episode "Itsy Bitsy Gopher".
Yes, there was actually somebody in Real Life that could do this. 19th-century French actor Pierre Messie was able to make his hair stand, fall, and curl. He could even make one side of his hair go up and the other side stay flat.
Happens here, where somebody was apparently attacked by his own beard. Yes, blood was drawn.