Skull for a Head
When skin moisturizing goes horribly wrong.

A character has a skull for a head. This may be because the character is a supernatural being, or due to some disfigurement that makes their head look like a skull. Occasionally used to make a robot look menacing, with a skull instead of a head — see Skele Bot 9000, although this also covers robots whose whole bodies look like skeletons. Fully human characters may paint their faces to look like skulls; done right, this can appear almost as terrifying as the real thing, or arguably even more so.

In all cases of this trope, the rest of the body is relatively normal (i.e., not an animated skeleton.)

See also Dem Bones, Flaming Skulls, Flying Face and Skeletons in the Coat Closet. Often overlaps with Obviously Evil. Depending on if it moves, it could possibly be an Expressive Skull.


    open/close all folders 

    Anime and Manga 
  • Captain Terror(Pic 1, pic 2) from Speed Racer hides his eyes behind goggles, has an upturned nose exposing his nostrils, and constantly wears an evil grimace giving him a skull faced look.
  • Admiral Perry from Space Dandy. He is depicted as a large cloaked being with a crowned skull head with flames and tiny planets orbiting around it. In the last episode of the second season, however, it is revealed that this depiction is actually a hologram to disguise Perry's true form: a middle-aged human man in a business suit. Doesn't make him any less threatening, though.
  • Ainz from Overlord is an undead lich sorcerer with a horned skull for a head.
  • Elias Ainsworth from The Ancient Magus' Bride has a skull that's a cross between a dog's and an antelope's for a head, signifying his non-human nature.

    Comic Books 
  • Mrs. Pruneface(Pictured here, and here) from Dick Tracy seemingly has empty black sockets for eyes, nose holes, and tends to grimace showing her teeth, and fangs.
  • Ghost Rider has one that's on fire.
  • Judge Dredd:
    • Judge Mortis has a cow skull for a head, representing the Horseman Famine.
    • Fink Angel has lost his lips and most of his nose, which makes his face look eerily similar to a skull.
  • There's a demon in The Grievous Journey of Ichabod Azrael (and the Dead Left in his Wake) who commands Charon, and also has a cow's skull for a head.
  • Bludgeon in Transformers tends to have this; in G1 it's just the face of his Pretender shell, but the movie version has this as his main robot head.
  • While the original character was just a guy in a onmi-present skull mask, some versions of Captain America's Arch-Enemy the Red Skull qualify:
    • After having his consciousness transferred into a cloned duplicate of Captain America's body, the original Red Skull accidentally inhaled a dose of his own "Dust of Death" — a chemical similar in effect to Joker Venom. Ordinarily, the Red Skull's dust kills its victim, while also transforming the head into a red skull. In this case, due to his cloned body's Super-Soldier Serum, the Skull didn't die, but merely gained an actual red skull for a face.
    • The Red Skull's daughter, Sin, suffered a similar fate, but her face looks like a red skull due to relatively "normal" disfigurement — an explosion and severe burn damage.
    • His Ultimate counterpart is Captain America's sociopathic son who skinned his head because of his resemblance to his father.
  • Franklin Richards in Marvel's MC 2 gets a dose of cosmic rays, giving him new energy powers that burn the flesh off his head and require him to wear a mask.
  • Death's Head, a freelance peacekeeping agent who appeared in Marvel's Transformers and Doctor Who comics.
  • Borderline example: the Doom Patrol archvillain the Brain is a Brain in a Jar perched atop a chess piece-like pedestal. The upper portion of the pedestal is designed to look like a skull.
  • Batman villain the Black Mask originally just wore an obsidian mask. But Cameron Stewart, artist of Catwoman 14 drew him with a blackened skull which later writers picked up on.
  • In the B.P.R.D.-verse, a Nazi supervillain known as The Black Flame had a skull wreathed in black fire. Decades later, one Mr. Pope from Zinco Enterprises takes up the mantle of The Black Flame; he wears a skull-shaped helmet.
  • The Blue Knight of Astro City wears a face mask that projects a holographic skull.
  • One What If? story showed a world where Captain America came into being during The American Civil War when Native American magic gave skinny Union soldier Steve Rogers a body to match his heart. His racist commander "Bucky" Barnes was likewise affected by the spell, turning his head into a fleshless skull and causing him to become the villain White Skull.
  • Skully/Cranicola of Brazilian comic Monica's Bug-a-booo is an extreme case: he's a skull that lost its body and lies atop a rock.
  • The Wild CA Ts villain Helspont has a flaming horned skull for a head due to his possession of Acuran host.
  • Atomic Skull (Joe Martin and Albert Michaels) from Superman. Both of the men have skull wreathed in atomic fire but very different powers. The former has superhuman strength, agility and endurance which he can further empower with the same energy that he shoots from his hands and mouth. The latter has superhuman strength and stamina but his main power is using his own bio-electricity to shoot beams of atomic energy from his visor with his radium-powered brain implant.
  • Supervillain Doctor Destiny started out wearing a mask that conveyed this image. After a lengthy stay in Arkham Asylum, in which the doctors decided to curtail his dream powers by making him unable to dream (and consequently sleep, not that the doctors cared) he himself became an emaciated ghoul with a similar motif.

    Films — Animated 
  • A plot twist in Wreck-It Ralph: the character of Turbo, the protagonist of a racing game, has chalk-white skin, sunken eyes, and yellow, grinning teeth. Guess who's the bad guy...?
  • The mechanical Cat Beast from 9 has an actual cat's skull incorporated into its head.
  • The Horned King from The Black Cauldron is a horned variation. While he's an undead evil sorcerer, the rest of his body looks quite normal compared to his positively skull-like head.
  • Cruella De Vil from 101 Dalmatians, with her sunken cheeks, pushed-up nose and ashen complexion, has the appearance of having a skull for a face.
  • When casting his spell on Prince Naveen in The Princess and the Frog, Dr. Facillier has his face painted to look like a skull.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • Time Bandits. Evil's minions include tall humanoid creatures with giant claws for hands and cow skulls for heads. As seen here.
  • The Marvel Cinematic Universe version of the Red Skull in Captain America: The First Avenger had his previously normal face transformed into a literal red skull due to infusing himself with an incomplete Super Soldier Serum.
  • In Star Wars: A New Hope, Elis Helrot, a member of the Givin species, can be seen in the cantina scene.
  • The hybrid alien from Alien: Resurrection has what can only be described as a skull face.
  • In The Abominable Dr. Phibes, the title character's head is revealed to be little more than a skull with some scarred flesh clinging to it.
  • Unlike most adaptations, The Phantom of the Opera (1925) follows the novel in giving the Phantom a skull-like face with sunken eyes, a nearly lipless mouth, and such oversized nostrils that one character is convinced he has no nose at all, just a hole.


    Live-Action TV 
  • Monty Python's Flying Circus. In a sketch about a hospital for overacting, there's a brief animation of actors portraying Hamlet giving his "To be or not to be" speech. At one point they pull the flesh off their heads, leaving them with only their skulls on their shoulders.
  • The Master does this in the Doctor Who finale The End of Time. Due to an accident during his resurrection, he's burning up life-energy faster than he can take it in, which results in his skull showing through his skin. He had a skull-like face earlier, in "The Deadly Assassin," but it applies even more here, because the Tenth Doctor even calls him "Skeletor."
  • There is an episode of Boy Meets World, where the gang is in detention and being stalked by a killer who wears a skull mask.
  • Kamen Rider:
  • Emperor Gruumm from Power Rangers S.P.D.

  • Mr. Skull of The Residents would have been a Faceless Eye like the rest of the band if his eyeball mask wasn't stolen and defaced.

    Mythology and Religion 

    New Media 
  • A popular game on Facebook called War Metal has a character appropriately called Skullkeeper who fits this trope.

    Tabletop Games 
  • Dungeons & Dragons:
    • The Gambado from the 1st Edition Field Folio.
    • In Module I12 Egg of the Phoenix, the cleric MacKurian's dead body had a cow's skull attached to it. It is later changed into a revenant form and occupied by MacKurian's spirit, leading to the final confrontation with Doc.
    • One of more freakish monsters in Forgotten Realms is "lichling". A 6'' cockroach with human arms and legs and skull-for-a-head, feeding on the fear, immune to normal weapons and thus hilariously lethal. It can slowly grow to 80' long, but is likely to be destroyed sooner. They're spawned by demiliches. In thousands.
    • Black Dragons are sometimes nicknamed "Skull Dragons" because as they age, their acidic breath degrades the flesh and scales around their face, which combined with their already sunken eyes gives them a distinctly skull-like appearance.
  • In Warhammer 40,000, Space Marine Chaplains have skull-designed helms, as do Eversor assassins. Cassius of the Ultramarines goes further, although not willingly — a lot of his actual skull is visible, thanks to a close encounter with Tyranid bio-acid, and it's only thanks to cybernetics that he can even see.
  • In BattleTech, the archetypal 100 ton assault mech, the Atlas, features a head stylized after a human skull. Making it "as ugly and foreboding as conceivable" was explicit part of the design specs. The numerous successor models and derivatives like the Akuma keep the motif.
    • The Banshee is only 5 tons lighter than the Atlas and also features an angular screaming skull face.
    • This trope plus Cephalothorax gives us the Ursus, best described as a Humongous Mecha with a skull for a torso that also happens to look like a giant head with arms and legs.

  • The Knights of Asperity from Boss Fight Studio Vitruvian H.A.C.K.S. series is a band of menacing Black Knights with a skull for their heads, as well as evil red eyes. The skull head can be swapped out for a blood-soaked human head, though.
  • Shadow Tracker from G.I. Joe (released in 2011) looks like a Predator expy, but is this trope once his mask is removed.
  • The He-Man knock-off line Combo Warriors has Satana, who has skin on the right-side of his face, but the left-side is a skull.
  • Skullossus from League of Super Evil has a floating expressive skull in a jar for a head.

    Video Games 
  • Dark Souls has the Darkwraith, the former knights of New Londo succumbed to the Dark. They wear skull mask with a hood, and are merged with their face over time.
  • Shin Megami Tensei: While not a hard-and-fast rule, most demons of the Fiend race appear as this to signify their status as avatars of Death. The most famous of these demons include the Horsemen of the Apocalypse, the Trumpeter, and Mother Harlot, all figures from the Book of Revelation.
  • Modern Warfare features Ghost, who wears an iconic skull mask.
    • Ghost was so popular that his mask became the inspiration for the titular unit of Call of Duty: Ghosts, who all wear custom skull masks.
  • Blacklight Retribution has the "Bonebreaker" helmet, which places a stylized skull faceplate on one of the default helmets.
  • Some incarnations of Scorpion from Mortal Kombat depict him as having a flaming skull for a head.
    • Most other times, it's a non-flaming skull. It's never made clear whether this is a supernatural power of his or if that is his actual head now.
    • Scorpion's fellow undead Noob Saibot has an alternate costume in Mortal Kombat 4 that gives him one, too. Along with his shadow powers and Sinister Scythe, it makes him look a lot like The Grim Reaper.
  • Mephisto of Diablo has this. My goodness! So horrible!
  • Duskull from Pokémon.
    • One can make a case for Marowak too: in its pre-evolutionary form as Cubone, it wears its mom's skull as a helmet. After it evolves, the skull's become fused to its head.
  • In RuneScape, the normal form of the Mahjarrat is this when they haven't been rejuvenated for a while.
  • Applies to every character in Raskulls, aside from the Pirats.
  • Mumbo from Banjo-Kazooie. According to his backstory, his head became a skull because he was placed under a magic spell by the evil witch Gruntilda, who was once his student.
  • Murray from Monkey Island. However, his skull is all that's left of him after Guybrush destroyed his boat.
  • The Skullmonkeys and Klogg from The Neverhood.
  • Like his namesake suggests, Skull Man from Mega Man 4.
  • Doc Robot in Mega Man 3 predates Skull Man—Doc Robot's name is is Dokurobotto in Japanese, and is actually a Punny Name based on the Japanese words 'dokuro' (skull) and 'robotto' (robot).
  • Harpies and Medusa in Will Rock.
  • Rogath, one of Dage the Evil's Generals from AdventureQuest Worlds, has a horned skull for a head.
  • Kirby Mass Attack: Necrodeus also has a horned skull for a head, as well as a clown-like nose on it.
  • This example, combined with exaggerated Facial Horror, is the result of what happens if Lance can't escape the deadly Beautifier in Vivi's Funeral Salon in Brain Dead 13.
  • Skullmageddon, the Big Bad of Double Dragon Neon (naturally, since he's a walking, talking Expy of Skeletor).
  • In Little King's Story, Cow Bones of the Cemetery, one of the UMA Guardians. Its skull comes off sometimes.
  • The Jersey Devil in The Wolf Among Us is depicted as having a horse's skull for a head when he takes on his true form.
  • The Atlas battlemech in the MechWarrior series, like its source material, is an assault-class Humongous Mecha with a skull-shaped cockpit, often painted bone-white. Depending on the game, it can have a laser mount in one of the eyes or Glowing Mechanical Eyes
  • Concept art for Commander Rimanah in E.Y.E.: Divine Cybermancy gave him a golden, grinning skull helmet, though his in-game appearance uses a serene face mask.
  • In PlanetSide 2, players can purchase skull helmets that invoke this, though they are merely masks that are worn around the basic helmet. The Lumifiber Skulls introduced in the Halloween 2015, however, completely remove the user's head and replace it with a glowing holographic skull in either red, blue, or purple depending on the player's empire.
  • Battleborn:
  • Persona 5: Ryuji's mask makes the upper portion of his head resemble a jawless skull. His Guardian Entity is similarly a skeletal pirate with a skinless skull wearing a pirate hat for a head.
  • The Cyborg Reaper in Command & Conquer: Tiberian Sun comes pretty darned close to this. It's essentially a mutated human torso mounted in a spider-like four-legged chassis and armed with missiles and a net launcher. Its head is so disfigured that it almost literally looks like a skull. Seen here
  • The inhabitants of Tostarena in Super Mario Odyssey have heads themed on the Mexican decorated sugar skulls associated with the Día de los Muertos celebration. Unlike most other examples of this trope, however, they are absolutely not threatening at all and are a very friendly, energetic people. The Chinchos, on the other hand, are zombie-like enemies that closely resemble Tostarenans and are hostile and dangerous.
  • Ruh Kaan, one of Battlerite's combatants, has a beast's skull on top of a bandage-wrapped body.

  • Lord English from Homestuck has a green skull for a head, natch.
    • Calliope and Caliborn have the same thing going on, being Lord English's sister and younger self, respectively.
  • Various characters in Coga Suro 2 adopt this look when activating their Immortal-given powers- their skin turns grey, their hair white, and their head into a grey skull that glows from within.
  • Edward from Monster Pulse, since his face turned into a monster.
  • Sithrak from Oglaf is a huge god with a burning skull for a head and nails driven into his eye sockets with enough force to crack the surrounding bone. The Doomsayers of the Blind Gibberer believe his is an angry, hateful god who's holy book was written with the blod of his enemies on the skin of his friends but really that was his angry teenage poetry. They still believe that he's playing another trick on them.

    Web Original 
  • In Worm, the supervillain Grue uses a black skull wreathed in the darkness he generates as his first Cool Mask. When he is later captured by Bonesaw, she discusses making his face like that permanently.
  • The titular character of Inferno Cop.
  • The ghost of Mystery Skulls Animated has a floating stylized skull for a head, and is also notably lacking in the jawbone department.
  • From The SCP Foundation comes SCP-1471, AKA "Mal O" (sic). It's a freeware mobile app that when downloaded, causes you to see a huge creature appear in your peripheral vision through Windows and mirrors, which looks like a giant humanoid monster covered in shaggy black fur and a canine skull for a head with glowing white eyes.
  • Dreamscape: Jenna's Skull Snake is a giant snake with one of these.

    Western Animation 
  • Skeletor in He-Man and the Masters of the Universe (1983) and its reboot. He was simply a guy whose head looked like a skull; in one episode of The New Adventures of He-Man we even see that he has some hair up top. In the 2002 series, however, Keldor's face was melted off by a vial of acid — his life was saved by Hordak, but at the cost of his head now being a skull floating above his shoulders.
  • Justice League examples:
    • "Only a Dream": Dr. Destiny uses his powers of illusion to achieve this look. He reverts to a normal appearance when recovering from a punch to the face, and when he is finally defeated.
    • Atomic Skull also has a skull wrapped in green fire, which he could fire energy blasts from.
  • Slade from Teen Titans had this while acting as Trigon's undead servant, because in life he was burned to death by lava. As he kept it hidden behind his mask, however, it was only glimpsed a couple of times near the climax of that storyline.
  • In Jonny Quest: The Real Adventures, Ezekiel Rage usually gets the "Phantom of the Opera" motif, what with his face badly burned and him having to wear a white mask. His Questworld avatar, though (which we see in "The Edge of Yesterday"), actually has a skull for a head.
  • The Scarecrow from the Batman: The Animated Series revamp (the New Batman Adventures) had a shriveled zombie-like face with the skin seemingly shrunk to the bone — if it was a mask or not is still up for debate.
  • The Venture Bros. has a few of these.
    • In "Ghosts of the Sargasso", Dr. Venture's "metasonic locator" inadvertently resurrects a dead test pilot. The ghost has a flight suit, a skull for a head, and glowing, flaming eyes.
    • The villain Red Death has a skull for a head, being a lookalike of Red Skull.