"I feel so alone, gonna end up a big ole pile of them bones."The human skeleton is pretty tough. If you drink a lot of milk and get plenty of sunshine, your bones can grow to be stronger than concrete* ; shattering a bone requires a really, really strong hit, as in "crashing your car at 60 km/h"-strong. Did you know that crematoria actually grind bones because otherwise the fragments could be too big to fit in the urns? But a lot of science fiction writers seem to think that the skeleton is absolutely impervious to any weapon. Hit 'em with Energy Weapons (especially Disintegrator Rays), fry 'em with electricity, dunk 'em in acid, all that will be left is a skeleton. If it's technology that does it, the resulting skeleton is usually bleach white like a medical grade demonstration. If magic, the resulting skeleton is normally old and dusty. The skeleton will also typically still be joined together perfectly, even if all the sinews and tissues that hold it together have been destroyed. Almost like it's some kind of prop or something. Arguably, of course, the bones are the hardest and densest structures in the human body (the jaw and teeth especially) so it would make sense that the skeleton would be the last body part to be destroyed. Of course, when whatever substance that has disintegrated the rest of the body has also been known to destroy much tougher substances, it goes from being understandable to an expected Sci-Fi trope. Also occurs in fantasy settings. The purpose of this trope, of course, is shock-effect rather than realism: i.e. to visibly communicate the fact that the person is really dead, since their simply disappearing wouldn't have nearly the same impact as seeing them instantly turned into The Grim Reaper's twin brother. Meanwhile, at the same time it's "cleaner" and less gruesome to show a person turned into a Halloween-type skeleton than the blood-and-gore of nastier deaths, while likewise being more devastating since it would obviously take more of an impact to strip someone to the bones than simply gouge the flesh. A variant of this trope is to have a person be reduced to a skeleton, let them stay like that for a few seconds, and then have the skeleton disintegrate or collapse. Compare X-Ray Sparks, when someone's skeleton is briefly visible through their skin. Occasionally, that trope may cross over with this one. This might be part of why people are Made of Iron. Also, compare Made of Plasticine; here, everything but the skeleton appears to be. See also Robotic Reveal. Not to be confused with Shameful Strip, where a person is forcibly stripped to the skin, but is at least allowed to keep that. As this is a Death Trope, beware of spoilers.
— Alice in Chains, "Them Bones"
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Anime and Manga
- Kimba the White Lion: In the 2009 movie, there's a swarm of mechanical bugs that reduces some birds to bones in seconds; an unpleasant surprise to anybody who's watched the 1960's show. Justified, since the carnivorous bugs have no interest in eating bones, just the flesh.
- Bleach: Barragan has an ability in his released form that will rot away all of the flesh, muscle, and organs of a person until all that is left are the bones.
- It's implied that it keeps aging until the point where the bones would be gone as well, but it takes a LONG time for bones to decay.
- In the anime, it's not just implied. When Soifon is hit in the arm, and summarily cuts it off to stop the decay from spreading, the bones turn to dust and vanish. This makes sense, since Barragan can age rocks and concrete into nothingness.
- This later happens to Driscoll Berci when Yamamoto roasts him.
- This later happens to Robert Accutrone when Yhwach conducts a second Auswählen.
- Many demons turn to bones when killed.
- This is the fate of all of the Band of Seven. Justified since they were resurrected by the power of the Shikon Jewel, and when they died their bodies simply reverted to what they were before; bones.
- Lust's death in Fullmetal Alchemist sees her reduced to bones for a second, but seconds later the skeleton disintegrates too.
- In Dragon Ball Z, one blast Piccolo fires at a remaining member of Nappa's Saibamen destroys it so thoroughly only the skeleton remains.
- From Toriko this is Chiyo's favorite method of killing, as she demonstrates on some poor guy: Stripping flesh and organs, leaving clean white bone, in the blink of an eye. The guy didn't even realize it until he looked down and saw his entire midsection was missing.
- The finale of Magical Girl Lyrical Nanoha The Movie2nd As has Shamal detecting the core of NachtWal while it was in the middle of getting disintegrated by Nanoha, Fate, and Hayate's Triple Breaker, specifically at the point where its torso had been reduced to its ribs and spine.
- Happens to Rem in Dream Hunter Rem where her skin melts off and she becomes a pile of bones. She promptly gets better.
- In Puella Magi Oriko Magica, this is what happens to Kazuko Saotome during a Witch attack at Madoka and Co.'s school.
- A variation in Fist of the North Star. Usually people explode into Ludicrous Gibs, but the Colonel of Godland is killed by Kenshiro in a manner that takes a new spin on the concept. As expected, the Colonel explodes into a gory mess when he dies... by ejecting his entire skeleton from his body. The skeleton also explodes in the anime, but is implied to be left behind in Godland in the manga.
- Happens to a random giant demon monster thing in the opening of One-Punch Man—a single Punch Parry from Saitama flays the giant monster to little more than a flailing skeleton in a fraction of a second.
- Wolverine of the X-Men, when he's in the middle of an explosion, is completely destroyed, with the exception of his adamantium bones. He regenerates from a few braincells that survive. This is, of course, justified due to the fact that Wolverine's skeleton really IS indestructible.
- But the regeneration power depends on the writer, so in Days of Future Past, Wolverine is stripped to the bone, but here it means Killed Off for Real.
- The unstoppable, Nigh Invulnerable Juggernaut has also survived being Stripped to the Bone, and magically regenerated. When they say "nothing can stop The Juggernaut", they apparently mean it.
- Subverted in that D'Spayre could have actually destroyed the bones too, he was just too shocked stupid by the fact that Juggernaut was a skeleton and was still coming at him. Ultimately, Juggs would have still lost if not for the timely intervention of D'Spayre's sister, Spite.
- The Hulk has done it on occasion.
- Subverted by DC's post-Zero Hour Legion of Super-Heroes: Toward the end of a particular arc, several characters are apparently killed and one of them is Stripped to the Bone. Following the climax of the arc, it's revealed that none of them were killed; it was all part of a Batman Gambit, and the Stripped character was actually Invisible Kid exploiting his ability to turn parts of his body invisible while leaving other parts (in this case, his bones) visible.
- During the pre-Zero Hour! but Post-Crisis Legion stories set after the five-year jump and the fall of much of the galactic structure, Dominators and other aliens would often use weapons on the hapless that left nothing but a fried set of bones, most often not intact.
- Happens again by DC in 52. Booster Gold appears to have been Stripped to the Bone (well, and his costume) by a nuclear explosion, but it turn out that his surival was planned. Booster is alive and well, and faked the body by using his own dead body from the future.
- Though it's yet to be shown happening to anyone, the voracious female faeries in Proof are said to be able to strip a person to the bone in seconds.
- In No Hero, one of the heroes is killed with a chemical weapon specifically designed to dissolve flesh, leaving bone intact.
- Dr. Jon Osterman's disintegration in Watchmen, where the skeleton's visibly the last part to go.
- Slight variation in the film version as you see him stripped away layer by layer like an anatomy textbook...
- And then reconstituted the same way, which looked pretty sweet.
- Dan's Nuclear Nightmare is a variation of this, very similar to the Terminator II version.
- Slight variation in the film version as you see him stripped away layer by layer like an anatomy textbook...
- A short arc in DC's Adventure Comics has The Spectre going around punishing criminals with Transformation Trauma. He invokes this trope for one guy.
- A whole field of super-human bones is left in the wake of a nuclear explosion at the climax of Kingdom Come.
- Practically everyone the Plutonian kills with his heat vision in Irredeemable leaves behind a charred, smoking skeleton. Also, one of the penultimate events that results in the Plutonian's Face–Heel Turn is when dozens of children are killed by an alien virus that liquefies soft tissue, animates their skeletal remains, and spreads through their screams.
- Fantastic Four Vol. 1 #241. Several Russian scientists end up this way, mystifying Reed Richards. Explained later; the Big Bad has vast cosmic powers and just simply likes disposing of malcontents this way.
- G.I. Joe Vs Transformers 2. A Kill Sat, invented by the good guys, blasts nukes into harmless puffs of machinery. However, when it hits Mercer, a good guy (oops), the flesh goes but the skeleton does not.
- Happens a lot in the Hellboy comics, especially to evil supernatural creatures who are killed by sunlight, touching holy ground, etc.
- In the Marvel mini-series Mys-Tech Wars, Nick Fury is captured by the villians and strapped to a device that is supposed to flay "skin from bone and soul from body." The end result is not pretty. Hard to believe, but he does get better.
- Happens to Johnny Alpha at the end of The Final Solution, though the bones are not exactly bleached white and do collapse into a pile once the monster releases its grasp. However, the recent Death And Life Of Johnny Alpha has retconned this into something that Feral just said happened.
- In Bill Willingham's Ironwood comic, a four-armed Amazonian woman has her skin, flesh and fabulous pair of chesty bulbs disintegrated, turning her into a four-armed skeleton wielding a sword and shield with her lower pair of arms and a huge flail with her upper pair.
- Gina defeats Dreadwing this way in Gold Digger, boobytrapping the Time Raft to fry the dragon. Later, it turns out that she actually sent the rest of him (still alive) elsewhere through time and space, where another villain finds and does a Fusion Dance with him, eventually forming Gina's Arch-Enemy.
- A Secret Six (second version, after the 60's originals but before the anti-villain incarnations)story from the late 80's in Action Comics Weekly (briefly an anthology series) had a corporation set a very corrosive cloud of acid rain over a small town, hoping to sell people protection from this 'new threat' later on. In the opener, the rain begins to fall; two teen girls part ways and try to make it home. One clearly does not. She passes out on the sidewalk, and the next panel shows she has been skeletonized; the next panel shows she is gone entirely, and the plot tells that the whole town was lost, though if everyone met her exact fate is never revealed.
- In Our Worlds at War, Imperiex takes out Doomsday by reducing him to a skeleton with a single energy blast. Being Doomsday, he eventually regenerates his body in a later story.
Films — Animated
- Seen twice in Anastasia:
- Rasputin has his flesh torn off as a result of his deal with the dark forces. He is forced to restore it with his phylactery.
- Subverted during Rasputin's death scene. He melts down to the bone and writhers briefly, but he then decays further into dust.
- During an aerial battle-scene in Epic, Mandrake's rot-arrow reduces a riding bat to a bare skeleton, which falls apart as its Leafman rider goes plummeting to the ground.
Films — Live-Action
- In the Silent Hill film, Red Pyramid (Pyramid Head) grabs a woman and tears off her clothes followed by the skin and flesh in one fluid motion.
- In the 1980's made-for-TV movie The Day After, a nuclear war results people everywhere being incinerated into skeletons.
- The opening scenes of Terminator 2: Judgment Day established that human skeletons can survive nuclear Armageddon, but not being stepped on by a T-800 chassis. Later in the movie, Sarah Connor's dream in the Mexican desert shows someone hanging to a fence when caught in the blast of a nuclear weapon being. The flesh is blown away like dust, yet the skeleton remains intact, held together, and keeps hanging on the fence.
- In the original Godzilla (or Gojira), the device that ultimately defeated Godzilla skeletonized him, and pretty much every living thing in the general area.
- Done quite a lot in the Tim Burton film Mars Attacks!. In the film, the alien ray guns can blast through steel walls and evaporate machine guns as if they were ice cubes, but damn it all if they can't destroy the human skeleton (which, in the film, turns a festive red or green color, depending on what color ray hit them).
- In the campy 1980s flick Killer Klowns from Outer Space, a security guard is pummeled with pies by the clowns, reducing him to a steaming pile of ice cream (with a cherry on top!). Upon further inspection by the heroes, the pies were acidic: The guard's bony arm is found sticking out of the pile.
- In the first Spider-Man film, the Green Goblin's Pumpkin Bombs can rip a concrete banister off a building, but when humans are subjected to it, they are blasted into bones. This might simply be that they are different types of bombs. (And said bones crumble shortly after appearing.)
- Fifties version of The War of the Worlds (1953) had a green ray that vaporized its victims completely, although the skeleton was visible (in silhouette) before it vanished, as well.
- Averted in Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade: After drinking from the wrong Holy Grail, Walter Donovan decays completely, including his bones, which are smashed against the wall when Indy pushes him back.
- At the end of Raiders of the Lost Ark, the Nazis open the Ark and have their skin and flesh blasted away, leaving the bones behind.
- In Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow (2004), a man gets skeletonised by getting hit by a bolt of electricity from a Tesla coil. (It was one of the few bits of CG in the film that looked plain bad, probably due to Stylistic Suck).
- In Hellboy II: The Golden Army, there are tooth fairies that do this. Although, in this case, it's done specifically so they can devour the bones themselves.
- Star Trek: First Contact has the Borg queen's flesh dissolved by a reactor coolant that can corrode organic compounds, leaving only the hollow shell of her metal parts.
- In The Chronicles of Riddick, the Purifier walks off into the super-heated atmosphere of Crematoria and doesn't stop until his flesh has completely melted from his skeleton, which then disintegrates into ash.
- In Pitch Black, one of the Imam's young companions gets trapped in a dark room with a swarm of juvenile winged aliens. By the time the others break in, all that's left are his clothes and bloody bones.
- Teenagers from Outer Space features a laser weapon that apparently destroys the body and leaves only the skeleton. Due to Special Effect Failure, it's more like the body just disappears and is replaced by a prop skeleton.
- In the films Batman and Batman Returns, the total of two people who get electrocuted more or less leave behind their skeletons in whatever suits they were wearing at the time.
- In the first film, the mobster gets incinerated into a charred black skeleton by the Joker's buzzer, but in the second film, a clean white skeleton is left behind that still has eyes and hair. Electricity just sort of does what it wants to in these flicks.
- In the live action Super Mario Bros. movie, King Koopa's former lover Lena has her flesh instantly disintegrated and her skeleton blasted into the wall by dimensional radiation after she attempts to reunite a meteorite shard into the whole.
- Billy Cole, The Renfield from Fright Night (1985), collapses into goo-covered bones when killed.
- In Looney Tunes: Back in Action, Mr. Chairman sics Taz on his assistant Mr. Never Learning, reducing him to a skeleton.
- Replicator!Merrick in The Ark of Truth is stripped down to his replicator skeleton by a bunch of C4.
- In Scott Pilgrim vs. The World, Matthew Patel's fireballs hit Crash and the Boys, killing all three in an instant, turning them into flaming skeletons for a second, before the bones turn to ash. "Mystical powers" indeed.
- In Transformers: Dark of the Moon, it's shown that Cybertronian weaponry does this to humans. Which makes sense, really, given that they're designed to damage giant, metallic beings; it's no surprise that they'd rip through soft tissue like nothing. Notably, the blast force also blows the skeletons apart, leading to a brief but gruesome shot of a NEST trooper's bones flying through the air as a Decepticon blasts him with his laser rifle.
- The Chevy Chase Cult Classic Nothing but Trouble has Mister Bonestripper, which does Exactly What It Says on the Tin.
- Critters 2: The Main Course near the climax a man falls and is run over by a Crite Ball. His twitching skeleton is a rare example where it's not picked clean, to dramatic effect (See description and before/after images ... or don't).
- In Caltiki, the Immortal Monster, a Blob knock-off, one man's arm is partially consumed by the titular monster, leaving only the bones of his forearm and hand. Later, Cal finishes the job, enveloping him entirely but not before dissolving the flesh of his face, leaving a visible skull as the man's last arm flails about. Evidently his brain was still functioning through all this.
- Lord of Illusions. After Swann sacrifices himself to stop Nix, his corpse is stripped to the bone by the power that he received from Nix and left behind in the Cult's old compound.
- In The Mummy (1999), the scarab horde reduces one of the workers to a skeleton in a matter of seconds, hardly slowing down while chasing the heroes.
- The eventual fate of Edward Teach/Blackbeard in Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides after he is tricked to give his life for the immortality of the another.
- In X-Men: The Last Stand, Jean Grey's power strips off the flesh from Logan's body, but his mutant healing ability, enhanced by his proximity to her, keeps healing him almost instantly, allowing him to actually approach her where as everyone else within sight was vaporized.
- In Bright, one of the offensive spells used by the Magical Wand can leave a human body like this, with their bones glowing orange and everything else turned into ash.
- Larry Niven's Known Space features a weapon called a strakakker, which fires a blizzard of glass needles that can turn its target into an instant skeleton.
- Sometimes this is used to add an unsettling factor during a hero's attempt to salvage a vessel, or wandering through a Temple of Doom.
- One of Clive Cussler's novels, Serpent, subverts the use of bones/their apparent indestructibility to add a creepiness to the scenery with Dirk Pitt remarking that "Despite the human tendency to want to picture the pilot strapped to their seats, nothing but their clothes and bone, that really by (roughly 50 years) time, the fish made sure there is nothing left".
- Older Than Radio: Nathaniel Hawthorne's Ethan Brand.
- In Neal Asher's The Skinner, the native alien life forms do not seem to like eating or otherwise decomposing bones, resulting in plenty of beautifully preserved and cleaned human skeletons around a pirate base abandoned for centuries.
- In L. Jagi Lamplighter's Prospero In Hell, Miranda recounts how her brother had used the Staff of Decay on soldiers, who were reduced first to their skeletons, then to nothing.
- In Stephen King's Firestarter, when the heroine turns her immense pyrokinetic power on Big Bads, their flesh melts off their bones in a split-second, and their bones are probably blown to smithereens.
- In the fourth book of Tamora Pierce's Song of the Lioness quartet, the protagonist confronts her nemesis by referencing this.
I have seen sandstorms that could strip a man of flesh in seconds and blizzards that froze entire herds in their tracks. Next to that, you're only a man. I can deal with you.
- In Robert Westall's Urn Burial, the Attock created harka, an engineered mould that infects and grows on living creatures, usually infecting females and young in the womb. It slowly eats away at the flesh and eventually even eats away the bones. It takes long enough on the skeleton that there a couple of collections of bones still held together with sinew and tendon in the People Jars on the Wawaka ship.
- There's a passing mention in Mistborn that the Lord Ruler has survived being burned to a walking skeleton on at least one occasion, owing the his Implacable Man powers that he gets from being a Compounder.
- In Bram Stoker's short story "The Burial of the Rats", the eponymous burial refers to hungry rats' ability to feast on a corpse so fast that only still-warm bones are left behind.
Live Action TV
- Doctor Who: The Vashta Nerada can do this to you in a fraction of a second. Red Shirts take note: When the Doctor says "Don't move," he means it.
- Probably justified considering the Vashta Nerada are living, and probably leave the bone deliberately.
- The Sycorax's weapons do this as well. Two of Harriet Jones' staff learned that the hard way.
- This is the fate of the kaiju Oxter in Return of Ultraman. After being turned into bones by Ultraman Jack, he is finally being able to rest with the rest of his skeletonized herd at the bottom of a lake.
- Happens in an earlier episode with another monster called Kingstron. After Jack finds that his Specium Ray has no effect on the monster, he simply uses his Ultra Bracelet to skeletonize him. The same thing happens in a later episode when Ultraman Jack battles the rat-like monster Robonez (who is incidentally created from the same suit as Kingstron).
- A new episode of Heroes has this happen to Adam Monroe when Arthur Petrelli takes his ability, which doesn't make much sense since all of his cells would presumably still be fairly new from the constant rejuvenation.
- Since the same thing doesn't happen to Peter when his powers are taken means either Claire's version of Healing Factor has more Ontological Inertia than Adam's, or the writers just didn't think the visual through.
- The writers just wanted Adam gone.
- In Volume 5, Samuel gets the drop on Sylar by enveloping him in a concentrated sandstorm which flays him alive. This being Sylar, he's healed by the next scene.
- Since the same thing doesn't happen to Peter when his powers are taken means either Claire's version of Healing Factor has more Ontological Inertia than Adam's, or the writers just didn't think the visual through.
- In Buffy the Vampire Slayer, when vampires are slain, their skeletons are often briefly visible before they entirely crumble into dust. This trope is played much straighter with the Master, an old and powerful vampire, whose flesh and clothes spectacularly evaporate as he dies, leaving behind a perfect, intact skeleton, suitable for resurrection. Buffy and gang fix that with a sledgehammer a few months later. One wonders why similarly old and powerful vampires (like Kakistos and the Turok-Han) don't leave behind similar keepsakes.
- Notably, the skeletons appearing for a second didn't start occurring until the third season when the show's budget increased. Since Angel shared Buffy's budget from the get-go, it managed to have the "skeleton" effect right from its start.
- Some of the Kromagg weapons in Sliders leave behind a crumbling skeleton. Shame, considering their preference for human eyes.
- In the Law & Order: Criminal Intent episode "Maledictus", a murder victim is dissolved down to her bones in her own bathtub using a large amount of lye. The killer is later shown tossing the bones out of a cardboard box and into the river.
- The Collector: Happens to Morgan's hand when dipped into some chemicals during interrogation. He got better.
- The super-toxin released on a plane in Fringe dissolves all living tissue but leaves the skeleton intact, if grungy.
- A more literal version of this trope appears in the video to Robbie Williams' "Rock DJ".
- "The Black Rider" and "It Ain't No Sin" from Tom Waits' The Black Rider, made more eerie by the fact that William S. Burroughs recites it:
When it gets too hot for comfortAnd you can't get an ice cream coneIt ain't no sin to take off your skinAnd dance around in your bones.
Mythology & Religion
- The Mystical Plague that God will send on those who fight against Jerusalem in Zechariah 14:12 (usually interpreted by modern readers as the effects of a nuclear bomb):
And this will be the pestilence with which the Lord will strike all the peoples who go to battle against Jerusalem: Their flesh will rot as they stand on their feet, their eyes will rot in their sockets, and their tongues will rot in their mouths.
- SCP Foundation, Characters/SCPFoundation, SCP-165 ("The Creeping, Hungry Sands of Tule"). SCP-165 is a swarming mass of microscopic mites that can strip an animal of all of its flesh in minutes.
- One Protectors of the Plot Continuum mission ended with this trope happening to an ill-fated character replacement of Ash Ketchum, courtesy of his unwittingly provoking a very hungry Deinonychus agent.
- The Necrons of Warhammer 40,000 make extensive use of gauss weapons, firing green lightning that strip away the target, layer by molecular layer, often to the bone. The basic version employed by Necron grunts is even called the Gauss Flayer. A subversion, technically, as there is so much power even in the infantry versions to instantly vaporise enemy infantry.
- Plus the Necrons themselves, who take the worst of a fleshless Romero zombie and a Terminator and blend it into some of the most potent horror 40k has to offer.
- Dark Eldar beastmasters have flocks of Razorwings, alien birds with extremely sharp beaks and wingtips, that can strip a man to the bone in seconds. Much like the Hellboy tooth fairies, they eat bones and tear off the flesh to get to them. Dark Eldar also have a piece of arcane wargear called the Casket of Cleansing, which releases a swarm of invisible creatures that strip the flesh off their target's bones (they leave the brain intact, though, so the unfortunate victim can be aware of his final moments for as long as possible).
- In GURPS, the advantage Unbreakable Bones will cause this if the character's body is completely destroyed.
- The Magic: The Gathering card Skeletonize connects this trope with Dem Bones.
- The page picture comes from the card Disintegrate, and the trend continues with Carbonize, older versions of Incinerate, and the list goes on. You tend to see this more in Black and Red cards, they being the colors of death and destruction, respectively. However, White gets in on the action as well, being the color of "God will look after his own" and all. Behold, the infamous Wrath of God.
- In the Dungeons & Dragons source book Fiendish Codex: Hordes of the Abyss, there's a table suggesting various death throes to empasize the demon's chaotic nature. One of these is to have the skeleton rip free from the demon's flesh, take a few steps, then disentigrates
- A variation in Exalted is the Pupeteer's Plague, a magical disease that kills your skeleton and makes it undead while you're still alive. The skeleton gets increasing autonomy until it finally tears its way out of the flesh to roam freely.
- The Great Movie Ride at Disney's Hollywood Studios has an instance of this when the gangster/cowboy that hijacks the ride vehicle attempts to steal a cursed jewel in the Raiders of the Lost Ark scene. The second they touch it, a cloud of smoke surrounds them and then dissipates, leaving behind nothing but a skeleton.
- The safety video in The Simpsons Ride has Scratchy being reduced to a skeleton after he violates the no-photography rule and is blasted by a bunch of missiles as a result.
- In Diablo III, powerful attacks can do this to a target, especially if they have a "wind" or "force" motif like the Wizard's Wave of Force spell or the Monk's Deadly Reach technique. The "Opressor" demon also has this as its normal death animation.
- New Super Mario Bros. features the series' Big Bad Bowser falling into lava and being skeletonized (which is depicted in surprisingly horrific detail for this series). Later on, you get to fight Bowser's animated skeletal remains. Though he eventually recovers later on with a little help from Bowser Jr.
- Mario will be reduced to a skeleton if you are killed by electricity in Super Mario Galaxy.
- So did the Lost Vikings from Blizzard's SNES puzzle classic, ...well, The Lost Vikings.
- Crocomire in Super Metroid suffers this upon being knocked into a pool of lava. His remains then knock open a spiked wall, allowing you to proceed further into Norfair.
- Unreal Tournament 2004 sported the Link Gun, a plasma rifle that has a long stream of plasma for an alternative fire. Death by this plasma stream resulted in its victim being reduced to a skeleton. Another skeletonizing weapon in the same game was the Ion Cannon, an orbital Satellite that fired a gigantic purple beam of death, unsurprisingly, reducing victims of it to skeletons, the downside of it was that it had to be "painted" onto an enemy with the Ion Painter, which took quite a lot of time to do so.
- Additionally, certain hazards in maps (such as lava and acid) can and will skeletonize you if you accidentally take a dip.
- The Ray Gun weapons in Another World reduce anyone hit by them(which can be either the player or enemies) into a skeleton that explodes after a few seconds
- Several characters in the Mortal Kombat series have fatalities that can do this, such as Scorpion (who breathes fire) or Reptile (who vomits acid). This also happens in the Dead Pool stage fatality from Mortal Kombat II, in which the opponent is knocked into a pool of acid.
- Metal Slug 3 combines this with Beauty Is Never Tarnished: if Marco or Tarma get hit with the giant snails' acidic vomit in level 4, they will be reduced to skeletons and melt, but if Eri or Fio get hit, we only see their clothes melt off before they turn into a puddle of slime...
- In F.E.A.R., Alma's psionic attacks tend to do this to her victims: the bodies are almost completely liquefied, but the bones remain intact. A less supernatural, more sci-fi example is when someone is killed by the Type-7 Particle Weapon, the game's equivalent to a Sniper Rifle: all matter in the corpse but the bones will vaporize, leaving behind a charred skeleton.
- In Resident Evil 4, if Leon is finished off by a Novistador (or hit at all by a flying one), they will use acid to strip the flesh off of his face. In some countries' versions of the game, this will also happen when Dr. Salvador or the sisters manage to hit with their chainsaws, rather than the alternative.
- You may see one or more charred skeletons floating in space when investigating the wreckage of the transport destroyed in the intro of Wing Commander IV
- In Kingdom of Loathing, one of the peculiar status effects that might be inflicted upon you involves getting (temporarily!) reduced to a skeleton by a particularly fierce sandstorm.
- Arthur is always reduced to a skeleton if he's killed in Ghosts 'n Goblins. In the spinoff Demon's Crest, this will happen to Firebrand.
- In Rise of the Triad, using the flamewall weapon on a mook causes them to be reduced to a bare skeleton, which them crumples to ash with a humorous falling xylophone glissando.
- Tales of Monkey Island: Parodied in Chapter 5, when, after Guybrush fails to take the Cursed Cutlass of Kaflu, LeChuck shows him what it feels to be a ghost with a vulnerability to root beer; and Elaine, under the villain's influence as his demon bride, sprays root beer on Guybrush, making him scream and dissolving his transparent form, revealing a skeleton underneath that crumbles into nothingness. Thankfully, he rematerializes back at the Crossroads Center.
- If Guybrush tries returning to LeChuck's ship as a ghost, Elaine will repeatedly spray root beer at our hero and force him back into the Crossroads, making it pure horror.
- In the NES version of Dragon's Lair, many enemies and obstacles (and DOORS!) do this to Dirk regardless of the HP meter. Also, in the Game Over screen of the original laserdisc.
- And in Dragon's Lair II, in Level 6, if Dirk dies at the flesh melting gas at some parts, Dirk will have his every part of his flesh melted, reducing Dirk to a skeleton which does not crumble. In the same level, at one part, if Dirk fails to slice the spider... the spider eats the flesh of Dirk's arm, with Dirk's Oh, Crap! expression on his face. Level 7 also had Monster Daphne putting Dirk in her lips and removes the flesh of Dirk, leaving Dirk reduced to a skeleton.
- In some scenes in Brain Dead 13 when Lance gets... in a squicky manner... reduced to a skeletal pile of bones, like getting doused in acid, or getting pulled apart from his skin in a two-way manner by Fritz! Of course, being as Badass Normal as our hero is, he revives from being a pile of bones, back to being flesh and blood.
- The carbine and shotgun can do this in Bulletstorm if you amp them up.
- In the opening cinematic of Drakengard we get a closeup as one of the imperial soldier is burned alive and turning into a skeleton which also burn up soon after.
- In Fable II, delivering the death blow to a human opponent with the shock spell leaves behind a charred skeleton.
- In BioShock Infinite, killing an enemy with the Devil's Kiss or Shock Jockey Vigors will result in this happening, followed by the bones falling apart and crumbling to ash. In the case of Shock Jockey, it also causes their heads to explode first. The Devil's Kiss aftereffect can also be applied to your melee attacks through an equippable piece of gear.
- This happens in the iOS game Fun Run, to any of the victims of the lightning attack.
- The disintegrator in Destroy All Humans! leaves a black skeleton frozen in place after killing a human, which promptly dissolves into ash a few seconds later.
- In Astro Marine Corps, when a Ballthrower breathes fire on you, you get skeletonized.
- In the PC Engine CD version of Double Dragon II: The Revenge, when beating the game on Hard mode, the final boss melts into a pile of bones after giving a Final Speech.
- Upon defeating the Magical Native American final boss of Lethal Enforcers II: Gunfighters, he is instantly skeletonized.
- In the Battletoads Arcade Game, knocking enemies dead on the ground turns them into skeletons.
- In The Elder Scrolls series, to permanently kill a dragon, you must first slay its physical form and then absorb its soul. While anyone of sufficient ability can do the former, only another dragon (or a Dragonborn) is capable of the latter. Failure to absorb a dragon's soul leaves open the possibility of it being resurrected in the future. In Skyrim, the Player Character is a Dragonborn of legend, a rare mortal gifted with the divine Aedric soul of a dragon. When the Dragonborn absorbs a dragon's soul, the flesh burns away, leaving only a smoldering skeleton.
- New Danganronpa V 3 has this fate befall Ryoma Hoshi during Himiko and Angie's magic show. A water tank has a curtain in front of it and piranhas had just been dropped into it. When the curtain opens again, Ryoma gets eaten to the bone. Mercifully, Ryoma was already dead before this happened, and the main puzzle is figuring out how he got in there.
- Happens in this Sluggy Freelance when Horribus kills Mosp.
- Richard, Cale, and Benny need some backup in battle in an early Looking for Group script. Richard decides to summon Dem Bones. The enemy soldiers donate theirs.
- In Girl Genius Andronicus Valois uses his heavily modified glowing mace to strike a group of attacking knights with a pink energy that strips them of their flesh and animates their bones as Dem Bones style servants for him.
- In Rusty and Co., Cube's victims appear like this, suspended inside him, until he finishes digesting the bones.
- In the first chapter of Undying Happiness, Naomi discovers the full extent of her internet boyfriend Keisuke's Healing Factor when he emerges from the burned-out ruins of his house as nothing but a skeleton, and spends the rest of the chapter slowly regenerating the rest of his body.
- A rather disturbing episode of The Ren & Stimpy Show features an insane Ren dropping Stimpy's precious already-dead mouse toy into a vat of acid. It skeletonizes, and then the skeleton dissolves, as Stimpy looks on in horror.
- In another episode, Stimpy buys a super powerful vacuum cleaner; as he turns it on, Ren happens to be standing in front of it. He tries to escape and clings to the rug, it ends up ripping off his skin and sucking out his organs; now a skeleton, he attempts to save his brain before being sucked inside.
- In the direct-to-video animated film Doctor Strange: Sorceror Supreme, the final creature that appears before Dormammu's return is the Wing Mouth, a massive flock of small creatures with huge fangs and tiny wings. Individually, they're easy to destroy, but together, they can skeletonize a full-grown human within seconds. They devour several civilians and sorcerers before being defeated.
- The Simpsons' Show Within a Show, Itchy & Scratchy uses this trope quite often.
- In one Treehouse of Horror episode, Bart and Lisa are being chased by Itchy and Scratchy. Bart gets hit with a blast of piranhas from a firehose, stripping everything from the neck down to the bone. Afterwards, he muses "Ooh, that's gonna hurt in the morning." He gets better, BTW.
- In Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, this happens to Agent Bishop's old body once his consciousness is transferred to a new one, with his skin and muscles melting into purple goo.
- The Futurama revival on Comedy Central began with the Planet Express crew, after a hard crash, reduced to their heads and skeletons - even Bender.
- Superjail! has Jailbot do this to a farmer pursuing Jacknife in one intro.
- Happens to Doctor Frankenollie in Runaway Brain after he switches Mickey Mouse's brain with that of a monster's.
- The alien death rays in the Young Justice episode "Failsafe" reduce those shot (y'know, like Batman, Green Lantern, the teenage heroes of the show...) into skeletons for a brief but memorable second before disintegrating the skeletons, too.
- In Batman: The Brave and the Bold's Animated Adaptation of Emperor Joker, the Joker drops Batman into the acid, and we hear a splash offscreen before the scene cuts to inside the acid... where his skeleton is shown, moments before the villain brings him back to flesh and blood again.
- Played for Laughs in the Steven Universe episode "Future Vision:" Steven has extra cartoony Imagine Spots of himself dying in various often-ridiculous ways (for example, a Falling Chandelier of Doom, being attacked by an In-Universe fictional character, etc.), which always end with him as a skeleton, no matter how little sense it makes.
- Star vs. the Forces of Evil has a subversion in the form of Toffee. Star blasts him with a spell that reduces him to nothing but black goop and bones. Not that it killed him or anything.
- Courage the Cowardly Dog:
- Courage's skin flies off when he gets scared by the tree talking to him in the episode "The Magic Tree of Nowhere". Later in "Feast or Fowl", it gets blown off when he's hit by a nuclear explosion caused by one of his failed attempts to help a dragon learn to fly.
- In "Courage in the Big Stinkin' City", Eustace has his skin and flesh eaten offscreen by an unseen creature living in the wall of a motel room. He's more concerned about not being able to find anything good on TV.
- Happens to a cow eaten by the carnivorous plants in "Dome of Doom".
- Piranhas have the potential to do this to meat carcasses in mere moments. However, they have to be isolated and starved first to get this kind of reaction; they do not naturally, as depicted in fiction, behave like a ravenous swarm.
- A caustic base will break down living soft tissue at least as quickly as an equivalent acid but will do little or nothing to the bones.
- These ants manage to strip away an entire gecko into a skeleton in a few hours.
- Any carrion-eating animals (vultures, ants, maggots) will do this, which is why scavenger beetles are used to clean bones for museums.
- In the later stages of World War II, there were reports of crashed Me 163 Komet rocket-powered fighters with the pilot having been skeletonized by the corrosive and ludicrously volatile fuel.
- Spontaneous Human Combustion can cause this. Ginette Kazmierczak had been reduced to a charred skeleton with only the lower legs still bearing any flesh.