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Basilisk: Never has there been a head gone ka-goosh with more satisfaction than that of Tenzen Yakushiji.
Berserk: Extremely common in manga note But not the anime which, despite the large amounts of blood, is fairly sanitized. In fact, clean decapitations are almost nonexistent; most of the time, when Guts hits above the shoulders, the victim's head shatters.
During the Eclipse, this is the fate of Gaston, the last member of the Band of the Hawk to die during the Eclipse, by way of a parasitic demon.
Bleach: The leader of the Vandenreich does this to an Arrancar who didn't give his exact message to Soul Society. Reminiscent of how Yamamoto and Aizen could incapacitate people by focusing on them, he looks at the Arrancar until its head pops like a water balloon.
In the Dragon Ball Z Majin Buu saga, Babidi made the head of any Muggle that annoyed him explode without warning. It wasn't too gory, though. Ironically, he dies when Buu punches his head off. Of course, this was edited for the televised dub.
Death Note: Performed with a interesting visual metaphor. In the episode when Mello kills off most of the SPK, one guy kills himself by blowing his own brains out. Instead of showing his head asplode, they show an explosion of dice instead.
In D.Gray-Man, new character Wisely seems to have the power to do this to people.
This is the fact of LeBlanc from Divergence Eve after he downloads all of the information of the entire universe into his brain (so he can learn how to become immortal) and due to My Skull Runneth Over his head explodes.
Elfen Lied uses this one, but most of the time it's a simple decapitation that sends the head flying on a jet of high-pressure blood.
In Fullmetal Alchemist, this is Scar's modus operandi for killing people, though he destroys their brain instead of their entire head.
Done literally in an out-take of episode 28. The actual scene depicts Scar grabbing Father's face, growling as he unsuccessfully tries to blow it up. However in the outtake, Scar's growling is removed and replaced by a battle cry of "YOUR FACE ASPLODE!"
Later in the series, Ed destroys Pride's body by crushing his head. Yes, this is the same Pride that's an incorporeal mass of toothed shadows attached to a Creepy Child.
Atlas is killed in this fashion in The Sacred Star of Milos by Colonel Herschel aka Ashleigh Crichton.
Gantz: Done fairly frequently, thanks to special guns which cause whatever they target to explode and special bombs implanted in each Gantz player's head, which go off if they break one of the game's rules.
Ghost in the Shell: The opening scene involved Major Kusanagi taking out a diplomat who was trying to get a programmer out of the country by shooting him in the head with some delayed-fuse high-explosive rounds which make his head go boom several moments after hitting. The phrase "explosively anatomically accurate" seems apt. The animation crew seems to have a somewhat disturbing liking for these — there's a head-a-splode scene in some form or fashion at the beginning of each movie and the first/last episodes of both anime seasons.
The 1980's Golgo 13 animated film The Professional features tycoon Leonard Dawson deciding to commit suicide by throwing himself from the window of a very tall skyscraper. Lands on the concrete below so hard that when his head hits, it get pulverized. Golgo 13, always one to get the "last word" in, manages to put a bullet through his forehead before impact.
Justified Trope. By the rules of the Gundam Fight, destroying the head of the opponent's Gundam eliminates that fighter from the tournament. Whereas wrecking the entire Gundam but leaving the head intact would make it perfectly legal for the fight to have his Gundam repaired and continue competing.
Gunnm has this quite often, with guns, fists, melee weapons blunt objects or whatever strikes your fancy as the cause. "Sklorsht", indeed. Some 15 pages later in the same chapter the next head is turned to mush. The sequel series even does it to its own Big Bad.
Hellsing, with its over-the-top violence and gore, is slowly reaching the point of self-parody.
In part 3 of JoJo's Bizarre AdventureDio Brando is killed in this manner when he faces Jotaro Kujo head on. Questionable since it was really more his whole BODY that exploded, but it appears to start from the head and work its way back down. The fact that originates from a punch to his LEG of all places makes this incident particularly note worthy.
Araki is rather fond of that particularly exceptional variant: it happens to Santana in part 2 and Jotaro himself in part 6, though both of them are still alive afterwards in somefashion.
In Steel Ball Run, Mike O. decides it would be a good idea to keep using his Tubular Bells Stand even after Hot Pants made it so if he even tried to inflate anything, he would die. Predictably, he tries to make another metal balloon, and his neck and the top of his head explode violently, revealing his spinal cord where his esophagus used to be.
In the anime Kite, the protagonist, taking a page from Ghost In The Shell, uses bullets that explode five seconds after impact, typically causing the head to explode in bloody gore.
On the same season, this also seems to be the way Veyron finished off another Eclipse infected he was fighting on chapter 19. He grabbed his head with his "Claw Grab" and then BOOM!
In Naruto (post time-skip), Deidara sends spiders made of explosive clay to attach themselves to the faces of three Sand Village guards. Boom.
The beginning of Psycho Diver has a diver whose head explodes graphically. As it turned out the girl he was trying to help, Yuki, had a demon inside her soul and his head exploding was a result of the demon attacking him when he connected to her psychically.
Not that DVD-exclusive, it was shown in Latin America. Explosion scene included.
In Vampire Hunter D Count Magnus Lee makes his henchman Rei's head explode after he betrays him and attempts to kill him for not making him an immortal.
A common fate for minor villains in The Boys. Considering how brutal some of the deaths in that series are, an exploding skull is quite merciful.
Used in Fableswhen Snow White is shot in the head by Goldilocks. Since Fables are much stronger than normal people, she survives.
In the alternate timeline series Future Imperfect, this is said to be the only way to reliably kill The Hulk. Unusually, it's then subverted by using Time Travel to blow the Evil Hulk to Ludicrous Gibs instead.
In the Generation Lost tie-in to Brightest Day, Maxwell Lord succeeds in his mission to kill Magog. Max takes control of Magog's body and forces him to blow his own head apart with his own energy staff. What makes it even more horrifying is that Magog is completely aware of what's happening and spends his last moments begging for his life.
Infinite Crisis: Happens in the penultimate issue when Black Adam kills Psycho-Pirate by gouging out his eyes with his fingers then pushing his mask through his head (which asplodes). Complete with Bond One-Liner "No more silly faces."
In Johnny the Homicidal Maniac, the prime benefit of getting into Heaven is the ability to make other people's heads explode, and the highlight of Johnny's trip there is setting off a massive chain reaction of "head-a-splodey" violence, which is stopped only after a nun gets angry and detonates everybody's head simultaneously. People familiar with Jhonen Vasquez's work would probably not find this sort of thing out of place. Referenced in The Simpsons, as Homer explodes the head of a tour guide angel.
Planetary: Pops up in this Warren Ellis work, in The Drummer's backstory; he was one of about a dozen child prodigies tied to computers in an attempt to create a human system for secretly controlling the internet, all of whom wore bomb collars as extra security measures. He was the only one to survive escape.
In Requiem for a Rogue, an arc of the X-Wing Series comics, the bad guy, failing to kill the Rogues, is interrupted by a new bad guy with a stronger connection to the Force. The new bad guy shoots his own hand off and telekinetically uses it to strangle the old bad guy while monologuing, then removes the hand and makes the old one's head explode. Why not just shoot him, just strangle him, or just blow up his head? Because that's not ridiculous and overly elaborate enough, apparently.
Savage Dragon is rather fond of asploding heads. The dozens of separate instances and minor characters (PAFF!) ◊that die this way aside, Dragon himself had his brainpan asploded multiple times, twice by himself.... or his Evil Twin, really. Wait, that was an Evil Twin killing another Evil Twin, before the surving Evil Twin killed Dragon and then was shot in the face afterwards. By Dragon. It Makes Sense in Context.
Sin City has different instances in which people get their heads blown off but the one that takes the cake is actually a dream sequence. John Hartigan is handcuffed to a chair, getting beaten to a pulp. He somehow finds the urge to break the cuffs and attack his tormentor. He punches him in the face so hard... his head explodes into a mushroom cloud. Then he wakes up.
Transmetropolitan: Happens — over three panels, no less — with the assassination of Dr Vita Severn.
In Uber, the titular superhumans can suffer a gory cranial explosion if their Eye Beams are used for too long without rest.
Done in Marvel's Ultimatum. Doctor Strange is subjected to the "squeezing until the head bursts" variety, courtesy of Dormammu's only appearance in the entire damn Ultimatesverse.
In The Wicked And The Divine, Lucifer snaps her fingers and saves Laura by doing this to would-be assassins. She's also framed (maybe) for doing it to a judge, and it's later explained that any god with domain over fire could also pull that trick. It's also Ananke punishes Luci.
In the Harry Potter fanfic Partially Kissed Hero, Harry ends up taking his new-found Legilimency skills (acquired from Voldemort) to its logical conclusion: Snape was forced to relive all his own insecurities, the numerous Cruciatus curses inflicted upon him, and all of Harry's hatred for his muggle relatives. By the end of it, Snape clawed out his own eyes and his head exploded in front of the entire Potions class. The scene can be found in the third and final scene of chapter 9, and is hilarious, even if you like Snape.
The Discworld story The Importance of Index Cards thrusts Watch adjutant A.E. pessimal into the most difficult task of his administrative career. Who would have known indexing and filing could be a life-or-death matter in a place where heads are known to spontaneously explode... refer to 'Moving Pictures below, for a hint of the primal evil Pessimal encounters.
"The disruptor bucked in [Tess's] hand as she fired and her target’s head exploded in a shower of sparks, bone, brains, and blood."
Alien heads asplode quite a bit in Aliens. It's a serious plot point, because their spraying acid blood kills or injures several of the Marines.
It's also not Ludicrous Gibs in this case, as Lt. Gorman explains that the marines' pulse rifles fire "10 millimeter explosive tip caseless. Standard light armor piercing round."
Meanwhile, the prequel Prometheus has the already-severed head of a dead Engineer suddenly spasm madly before exploding into a gooey mess when the scientists restart its biological processes (said explosion occurs as a result of the bioweapon it had been infected with prior to death).
The first movie has Blade using an anticoagulant that reacts violently with vampire blood. The area hit by the syringe swells and then explodes - and he does it on the neck of an enemy, causing the head to explode.
In Blade II, Blade sticks an explosive device onto an uncooperative bad guy's head. While the Chekhov's Gun does not go off while attached to said head, it's a big enough bomb that when it does, the person holding it (including his head), explodes.
Dawn of the Dead: both the original and the remake feature memorable "shotgun blast to the head" scenes, although in very different contexts. The head splosion in the original was one of the first live-action attempts at the trope (achieved with various... organs).
A particularly awesome head asplosion occurs in Deadly Friend when a cybernetically resurrected Kristy Swanson kills the obnoxious old lady neighbor with a thrown basketball.
Die Hard has a scene where Hans demands Takagi give him the access code to the computer. Takagi says "I don't have it. You have to jet to Tokyo to ask the Chairman. You'll just have to kill me." Whereupon Hans says, "Okay," and shoots Takagi, splattering his brains all over the wall.
District 9 has at least one guy losing his head to a snazzy special effects explosion.
Dogma: Any human who hears God's voice suffers this fate. According to Metatron, "We went through five Adams before we figured that one out," resulting in an angel getting the job of speaking to humans for God. You seem to be immune if you're already dead, though (i.e.: Rufus).
In Evil Dead 2, Ash steps on the neck of a wounded Deadite then proceeds to give it a point blank shotgun blast. Considering that it's a Deadite, there is no need to mention the resulting copious gore.
Deadite: I'll swallow your soul! I'll swallow your soul!
Spoofed in Hot Fuzz: in an early scene with Angel giving a presentation to some school kids, he asks for questions. The only hand raised is that of his Genre Savvy partner, who asks, "Is it true that there is a place in a man's head that, if you shoot it, it will blow up?" Our hero is not amused. DVD extra Fuzz Facts states that they were unable to find such a place on the human head.
Referenced in In Bruges, when Harry is offered dum-dum bullets, "the bullets that make the head explode", and takes them like someone on a diet would accept chocolate cake: "I know I shouldn't... but I will." Even professional hitmen can't resist the awesome of Your Head Asplode, apparently. But they really should.
In the 1987 movie Innerspace, there is a scene where Jack Putter, while disguised as the Cowboy (thanks to a better than Latex Perfection disguise), faces the possibility of not just any pain but Propane. This results in him freaking out which causes his head to expand and distort greatly looking like it could explode. Luckily, it didn't.
This happens in Kick-Ass as a man is locked in an industrial microwave.
In Men In Black, Agent K shoots the normal-seeming pawn shop owner Jack Jeebs in the head, causing this; turns out Jeebs is an alien, and gets better. It's implied that this is the routine for the two. It's implied in Men In Black 2 that every time he does this, the head comes back a little...off.
Obscure Slasher MovieThe Prowler / Rosemary's Killer ends with the villain getting a point-blank shotgun blast to the face, blowing his head completely apart in an extremely messy manner. Of note, Tom Savini has referred to this movie as being one of his finest works.
Though oddly, if freeze-framed, Marvin's (relatively intact) head can be seen in the trunk later.
Happens a LOT in Punisher: War Zone. And A LOT of it is so over the top, that it's more funny than gory or shocking (he just punches someone and it happens), considering they were aiming to go darker, this is somewhat amusing.
In the 2008 Rambo movie, the first death via Rambo and his new M2 Browning is the driver of the truck it's mounted on. He gets off around 25-30 shots at point blank rage into the guy's head. The next shot is of a waterfall of brains, bone and blood pouring down the gun's shield.
In Saw III, one of the characters spends most of the movie with a makeshift device made out of shotgun shells attached to her neck which will detonate if the evil mastermind dies. This kinda sucks since he has terminal cancer. Mercifully, she's offscreen when it eventually does go off, but the ruined stump left in place of her neck afterwards is horrifying enough.
In the movie Spy Hard, "Weird Al" Yankovic parodies this in the title sequence, when the high note at the end causes his head to explode!
The Brain Bug in Starship Troopers 3: Marauder manages to do this to all of the non-plot-critical characters in the room with it when the human military leaders go to examine footage of Anoke talking to it by squealing.
Jables: But that shit happens to me all the tiiiiime!
It's a well known fact that, during the singing of Thunderball, the high note at the end caused Tom Jones to faint.
In the original Total Recall (1990), the exploding head is a bomb-rigged animatronic prosthesis which Quaid wears as part of a costume. His deception uncovered, he tosses the head to his pursuers, in whose hands it cracks wise and then asplodes. Later, the thin Martian atmosphere causes one bad guy's head to asplode. Arnie and his gal narrowly avoid the same fate.
In The Man Who Saves the World, the protagonist, during the middle of a fight, rips off a toilet paper mummy's head with his hands and throws it at other mummies, making the head go Boom!
Daybreakers features a scene in which an individual reacts poorly to an experimental serum. After some brief Body Horror and vomiting as the Vampire Paramedics frantically try to save his life, he finally seems to settle... before his head violently explodes.
The sharks' deaths in Jaws and Jaws 3D fit this trope, as both animals were chewing on something that exploded in their mouths.
In The Fly II, The Dragon's second-in-command is flung under a descending elevator, which crushes his body. The edge catches the back of his skull, causing it to rupture messily.
Happens in Maniac when Frank attacks a couple making out in a car and shoots the male (played by Tom Savini, who was also in charge of the effects) in the face at close range.
Sonny Chiba's "The Street Fighter" has a particularly unintentionally-hilarious example. Sonny's character sneaks onto the Big Bad's boat at night, grapples with one of his mooks, and ends up by throwing him about all of six feet down to a lower deck. The henchman's head reacts to contacting the said deck by exploding violently in what looks like it took a full gallon of red poster paint to achieve.
In the 2007 movie Shooter, when the assassination takes place, the target is shot with a .50 cal sniper rifle from over a mile away, and we get to watch the head a-splodin' through the crosshairs. It's a good-and-gory splatter, but even then it wasn't as bad as what would have happened in Real Life (see Other below).
Cloverfield: In a shocking scene, Marlena, who had previously been scratched and poisoned by one of the little mini-monsters, is hastily ushered into a curtained-off quarantine area of the Army outpost seconds before she seemingly explodes. This is obscured by a curtain though, so we see it only in silhouette, though it is still fairly graphic.
In the 2011 film Drive, a scene has Blanche's head being blown to bits, her brains splattering all over the bathroom.
Three Kings: There's a flashback scene where a man's head is shown popping off. This is done for comedic effect.
In Willow, Madmartigan puts his sword into one head of a two-headed dragon. It splodes.
Immortals does this a lot, especially when the Gods fight the Heraklions and Titans.
In the remake of The Hills Have Eyes, we are treated to a very graphic shotgun suicide. On the potty, no less.
After Prof. Campell's severed head reminds Lucas how to defeat Jenke in The Horror Show, it explodes.
In the first Gremlins it happens to a gremlin when Lynn stuffs it into the microwave and turns it on.
Happens in two war films Glory set during the Civil War and The Patriot set during The American Revolution by means of a cannonball to the face.
Happens to Chucky in Child's Play 2 after partially being melted and having an airhose shoved in his mouth.
Happens to Trantor the troll in Ernest Scared Stupid after Ernest shows him the love and innocence of a child.
In Billy's proposed ending, this happens to Charlie in Seven Psychopaths (see page quote).
Schwarzenegger's The Running Man. Prisoners wear neck collars which, when activated by a sensor perimeter, explode. It happens to Chico, when he mistakenly thinks the perimeter's been shut down.
G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra: Along with Eye Scream, this is one of the best way to dispatch Viper Commandos or Neo-Vipers. Scarlett's exploding arrow went through a Viper Commando's eye before blowing his head up, and Heavy Duty jams a grenade in a Neo-Viper's neck guard to do away with his head. OWCH. During the Paris chase, Scarlett targets an unarmored Neo-Viper in the head too, suggesting this is her preferred M.O.
In the original The Lost Boys the vampire gang member Dwayne is killed when he's shot in the head with a holy water tipped arrow by Michael, it causes him to go flying into an amplifier which electrocutes him and causes his head to explode.
They Call Me Bruce (1982). The Mafia asks a Nightmare Fetishist hitman how he plans to kill Bruce. After demonstrating various methods on a store dummy, the silenced pistol with explosive bullets that blows up its head gets their unanimous approval.
Some versions of the "Pop Rocks + Soda = Death" Urban Legend describe how a victim took a swig of cola while chewing pop rocks, and died horribly from an explosion that went off in his/her mouth.
There's a persistent rumor of a Russian guy whose head literally exploded during a chess tournament. According to the legend, he had some type of electrical imbalance in his brain, which must have somehow boiled his cranial liquids, causing pressure to build up inside his skull, exploding his head "as if someone had put a bomb in his cranium". (In terms of "head exploding like a watermelon with a firecracker in it," that would be impossible. There is no electrical configuration possible in a brain to be able to generate enough force to rupture the skull. Aneurysms, weak areas in your brain's circulation, can rupture under increased blood pressure, which is entirely possible in a stressful situation, and this can be instantly or near instantly fatal, but nothing in in your brain can blow your head up.)
The story actually originates from a spoof article in the Weekly World News.
In Battle Royale, students are outfitted with explosive collars to enforce their compliance with the government's "game". One student dies when his collar goes off when he's stuck in a forbidden area.
In his book Brain Droppings, George Carlin wondered about the possibility of a world where the only cause of death was people's heads exploding, totally without warning.
Carlin: You know what? I bet people would get used to it.
In the Doctor Who New Adventures novel Human Nature one of the school children who are defending the school from a group of attacking aliens turns to say something to John Smith and gets hit in the back of the head with a dart from one of the alien's weapons. A moment passes then this trope splatters blood and brain matter all over the room, leading to a Heroic BSOD from John Smith.
In the Hyperion Cantos, Kassad makes a religious fundamentalist's head asplode on television, using careful timing and satellites with tightly focused invisible laser beams to boil their brains. He plays this up as the wrath of Allah, backed by the wrath of the galactic military police.
In Moving Pictures, we learn of the existence of Tshlup-Ashlapeth, the Infernal Star goat with a Million young, whose preferred and only way of slaughtering a victim is to hold them down and show it pictures of its children, until they can take no more and their brain explodes.
Used metaphorically in Feet of Clay, when a dreaming Vimes sees a murder victim's head burst open and spill out words. Then again, non-metaphorically, when the Golem King's head is smashed to pieces, with countless shreds of paper containing the king golem's Words flying out.
Used even less metaphorically in The Fifth Elephant, when a werewolf reflexively catches Vimes' high-powered flare in his teeth.
According to Snuff, an overdose of the troll drug Crystal Slam can cause the victim's head to explode.
Attempted in The Approaching Storm. Soergg the Hutt controls a pair of Ansionians by planting explosive charges in their necks. Barriss Offee manages to disarm and remove them, and the Ansionians pull a Mook-Face Turn and become native guides to Offee and three other Jedi.
The first time the protagonist uses the eponymous blade from the Sword of Truth series, the powerful magic in the sword makes his enemy's head explode — in slow motion, no less.
Virtually any headshot scored in Warhammer 40,000 novels results in this, given that the primary weapon of three different factions is a fully automatic miniature RPG. Invoked in Space Wolf: Grey Hunter when the Wolves specifically go for headshots against a sanctuary of Chaos cultists because the cultists have runes painted on their heads that Thousand Sons Chaos Space Marines are using to possess them and resurrect themselves.
The magic-wielding Asha'man from The Wheel of Time series learn to do this as a standard attack. Later we see them exploding not just heads, but entire bodies, sometimes of whole ranks of soldiers at once. They are very good at their jobs. The meat-grinder carnage that results naturally makes other characters ill.
Averted in World War Z, where a military research proposal to remote-control thousands of bullet-sized cruise missiles into the skulls of zombies and detonate them never accomplished squat, except to use up a huge amount of funding and resources.
Somewhat subverted in the Angel series. Cordelia's powers start to get stronger and they consequently cause her much more pain. She's told she must give them up or her head will explode. Cordy even meets someone with most of the back of her head missing. Instead she chooses to become part-demon, which gives her the strength to contain her visions in her head and tame the splitting headaches.
Played straighter with Vail...Illyria made his head explode with one punch.
Bones: "The Bullet in the Brain". Heather Taffet was shot by a high-powered sniper rifle. One of the squints even points out that the cause of death was "asploding head".
Happens in Breaking Bad when Hank shoots one of the Mexican assassins sent to kill him with a hollow-point bullet.
In the climax of Buffy the Vampire Slayer episode "Hush," in which the residents of Sunnydale became mute, the Gentlemen fell prey to this when Buffy regained her voice.
In the episode "Storyteller" the Hellmouth is making metaphors become literal truths; this includes a student whose head literally explodes from stress.
An earlier episode has this little conversation occur after Buffy shows her mom her SAT scores:
Buffy: She saw these scores and her head spun around and exploded.
Giles: I've been on the Hellmouth too long. That was metaphorical, yes?
Season 8 has Giles using a containment field spell to do this to a guy.
Caroline In The City stole the joke shortly after by having Richard's head explode in blue confetti upon receiving shocking news.
In the infamous Clayton Bigsby skit from Chappelle's Show, this happens to a KKK member out of sheer cognitive dissonance when he realizes that one of his fellow Klansmen is actually black.
A sniper used explosive bullets in one CSI NY ep. One bullet exploded as Sid tried to remove it from the victim's head, tearing a big hole in it and dazing Sid, whose eyes only survived intact due to his glasses.
When Craig Kilborn still ran The Daily Show, his "5 Questions" interview segment opened with a slow-mo head asplosion (actually, crushing) from gore-fu flick Riki-Oh. The video of the head-crush scene from the movie can be seen here; note that the "5 Questions" intro showed the head-crush in slow motion, and ran it forward and back a few times.
Inverted in a segment about sex ed, in reference to the "news" that abstinence-only programs are ineffective at keeping teenagers from having sex — the Scanners clip was played backwards and Stewart said, "You just un-blew my mind."
Doctor Who: The Cybermen from the 80s did this quite spectacularly when killed. Even being shot in such irrelevant places like their arm would cause their head to explode violently. The Cybermen from the 2011 story Closing Time, and one Lumic Cyberman in Age of Steel, do this also.
Used on The Drew Carey Show. Drew daydreams about Mimi's head exploding, and, when she asks him what he's smiling about, he responds, "Just picturing you topless!"
In a later episode that was part clip show, a police officer asked if Drew had any violent thoughts about Mimi, followed by the above clip playing again and Drew replying, "Nope. I love her to pieces."
Fringe: "The Cure" begins with a woman in a diner who eventually begins causing bleeding of the eyes in all around her, culminating in her head asploding.
In "The Box", the unfortunate combination of an ultrasound weapon and and dental fillings causes a dwarf's head to explode.
Inverted in the first episode of Garth Marenghis Darkplace, where the head is the only part of the body that doesn't asplode.
There is an episode of House where a patient suddenly experiences a cranial fracture and severe hemorrhage while undergoing an MRI scan. Quoth House: "Her head exploded! How cool is that?"
An In Living Color! sketch (starring Jim Carrey) parodied Michael Bolton's overly-emotive singing style by having his head explode after one too many tensings of his face while singing "When a Man Loves a Woman."
Kyōryū Sentai Zyuranger: Dai Satan's head explodes the second time Ultimate Daizyujuin blasts him. Dai Satan is a giant floating head, so this trope covers the entirety of his body. Lokar, his Power Rangers counterpart, was not shown to do this, likely because of Special Effect Failure: The head that explodes is blatantly foam rubber, and it detracts from the scene.
A MADtv sketch involved a handyman getting his head precariously close to an emergency flare launcher, resulting in his head exploding. Somehow, he managed to live and had his head held together with bandages.
The episode Gunslingers had a Shout-Out to Scanners: Dr. Forrester's contribution for that episode's invention exchange was "The Scanner Planner", a magazine filled with "life's little tidbits about how to scan people's brains for information and then make their heads explode." Its cover was a print of the Scanners poster, with the iconic image of Michael Ironside. He then attempts to use these techniques on his assistant, leading to a burned-out lightbulb (his aim was off) and the quote at the top of the page.
This occasionally happens to background characters in The Muppet Show. It's never gruesome, but it's still slightly creepy.
This happens surprisingly often on 1000 Ways to Die, even though exploding heads are impossible with the vast majority of death scenarios shown.
On QI, after being shown a shape (a cylinder with two wedges cut out) that could fit snuggly through a square, triangular, or circular hole, Ross Noble suggested dropping the shape and holes off at a preschool and watching the kids' heads explode.
In one episode of Red Dwarf, the android Kryten gets locked in an enraged feedback loop which literally explodes his main head and several spares. Just because Lister asked for ketchup to go with the lobsters Kryten just prepared. To explain this a little bit more, it's revealed that Kryten's creator modelled him after her ex-fiance so that, among other things, when he had too much repressed emotion he would literally blow his top.
Torchwood references this in the episode "Sleeper":
Jack: It's just a mind probe.
Ianto: Remember what happened last time you used it?
Jack: That was different. And that species has extremely high blood pressure.
Ianto: Oh, right. Their heads must explode all the time.
Downplayed in the Under the Dome episode "Blue on Blue". Jim kills the now-insane Reverend by pressing the latter's hearing aid-equipped ear against the dome. The dome makes electrical devices in close proximity explode. So you see a runnel of blood come out of the Reverend's ear and then Jim lets him fall.
The X-Files episode "Drive": Their (man and woman) ear explodes.
Calvin from Calvin and Hobbes occasionally imagines his head exploding. In one strip, he sneezes so hard his head blows up. In another, a particularly bad mosquito itch makes him feel like his head caught on fire and exploded.
Hell On Earth also features the Combine (no, not that Combine), an Evil Empire whose soldiers each have a "loyalty chip" implanted at the base of their skull. It allows them to safely use Combine-issue weapons and vehicles, but if the chip determines that its owner could be about to reveal any Combine secrets, or if s/he defects from the Combine and is later discovered by a Combine officer who knows the correct passcode...well, they're not nicknamed "headbanger chips" because General Throckmorton is into heavy metal music.
Dungeons & Dragons has several ways to make someone's head explode, the psionic powersintellect bomb and cranial deluge being the most marked examples. So can some lesser powers, such as mind thrust, which has been described as causing the victim's head to explode when you kill them with it. Then there's detonate, which makes someone explode and damages people around him; even if he survives, he takes so much damage his head apparently made a decent attempt at exploding. In addition to this, if a character for any reason obtain over 3 times their maximum hit point total (most likely as a result of too much time spent on a Positive Energy plane), they will explode, either "merely" their head or their entire body.
For earlier versions, conjure water in cranium. They get rid of it though.
In Eclipse Phase, this is a side-effect of using the emergency backup farcaster.
Just one of the many occupational hazards of being a mook for the Eaters of the Lotus for Feng Shui — if you do or say anything contrary to what your Evil Sorcerer master wants you to do or say, the magical ward that he put on you will make your head go kaboom. A very nice example of this is what happens to any Poison Thorns your characters interrogate (which can only be done through magical compulsion because of their fear of this) in the adventure "Baptism of Fire," which features an evil Lotus sorcerer as the main villain.
"Freaks" in the 80s action movie-inspired game The Hard Way can do this to people with their minds, Scanners-style.
In Alien vs. Predator (any of the PC games or the newish console game), alien's heads tend to explode if you aim for them. Their bodies are kind of fragile and chitinous, so this is somewhat more believable.
In the second game, headbiting a human (or, far more rare, predator) caused the victim's head to completely shatter. Made of Plasticine, indeed. (The first game merely decapitated the victim).
After you defeat the pepper grinder-wielding Dutchess in American Mc Gees Alice, she has a sneezing fit, causing her head to explode.
This happens to Alice herself if she is killed by an enemy with a firearm. In fact, there's a cheat code you can implement that will show you the death scene, but then allow you to continue playing the game - with Alice having no head.
In Alice: Madness Returns, this happens to the White Rabbit within five minutes of starting the game. Seriously.
"Exploding Nazi Heads" seems to be a running gag in the series now. In the 2009 sequel, after defeating the Big Bad, a grenade is placed in his mouth and he is kicked over the edge of the platform. The player is then treated to a lovely gore explosion.
Comes in several different varieties in BioShock Infinite. The shotgun, sniper rifle, and Hand Cannon can all blow enemies' heads off with a clean headshot, one of the possible Sky-Hook executions has Booker grind the victim's head into paste with its blades, and most spectacularly, shooting an enemy to death while they're being electrocuted by Shock Jockey causes their heads to burst into flames before their bodies burn up.
Bishi Bashi Special, prefiguring the Trope Namer, had a Pong-like minigame called "Puck Attack" with round head icons which would go up in a fiery explosion if the puck went into the goal.
In The Black Heart, if you're really low on health, one of Final's grabs will do this to you.
Fatal headshots in Blacklight Retribution will not only cause the head to explode, but will sometimes cause a sharp exploding sound to be heard across the map if the headshot deals enough damage.
In keeping with the ludicrous level of violence it displays, Condemned 2 allows players to explode enemies' heads in a number of ways, including industrial presses, and eventually by shouting at them.
Borderlands: In the grim future, all of our heads are apparently filled with nitroglycerin.
In Borderlands 2, one particularly jarring boss fight ends with the boss's head exploding after you retrieve a software upgrade from its collar. The boss has all five of the game's elemental damage abilities, which are fire, electricity, corrosion, slag, and explosive, and after Handsome Jack unveils it to you he forgets its explosive capability right up until then.
Score any kill on humans with electricity and see their heads go "pop" like a lightbulb.
In Dead Rising, break a jar containing a Queen bug in the vicinity of zombies, and their heads asplode.
Dead Space: Researcher vs. freakishly grotesque space baby, yeah... You can also do this to other Necromorphs during regular gameplay. It doesn't do anything other than pissing them off some more.
In the third game, any head shot to Unitologist soldiers, even ones with weapons that would normally cause their heads to fall off, will make it explode. This applies to explosive weapons, though it's unclear how instantly severing their body parts with one single explosion would cause their head to disappear other than a logical head shot with an explosive.
In Devil May Cry 3, when you damage any of Cerberus's heads enough it explodes into stuff.
And topped in glorious fashion in 4 after the final battle with Savior-Sanctus,, where Nero finishes it off by crushing its skull in his hand. Head asplosion comes complete with city-rattling shockwave.
This hand was made for sending guys like you back to Hell! And NOW...YOU...DIE!!!! *** CRUNCH***
Some versions of Doom had this, your character portrait would show damage depending on how much health he had. In a few versions, taking a vicious shot at low health would result in not the head slumping down dead, but blowing up.
Eternal Darkness: You can hallucinate this happening if you cast a spell with low sanity. Also, if Xel'lotath is your enemy, Paul Luther gets a good telekinetic head-bursting instead of the boss fight both he and The Dragon were expecting.
Part of the Fallout experience. In Fallout 3, killing headshots with a rifle will cause this if the head is crippled, or decapitate if it isn't. After Frank Horrigan's body falls apart in Fallout 2, you can talk to him to hear some useless last words before his head pops off. Satisfying!
In Fallout 3, using the Mesmetron to collect slaves has a random chance effect of pissing them off for a few seconds before their heads pop. Likewise, anyone successfully enslaved gets a head-popping collar just to keep them in line.
Also in Fallout 3, any Rock-It Launched junk aimed to the head could explode it (watch a teddy bear impact with critically explosive fun!). It was more common than with any other Big Gun, as the others would more often result in charred husk, complete dismemberment, or full body splatter.
The Repellent Stick. Hit a mole rat with it, wait a few seconds, and its head will explode. As fun as this sounds, all the Mole Rats do is smoke for a bit before their heads burst in a rather underdramatic fashion. Moira's reaction is altogether more amusing.
The Lone Wanderer's descriptions are hilarious:
"Well, at least it's non-lethal for people. For Mole Rats... not so much."
"It repelled their limbs from their body. Can you make one that works on people?"
"It appears that Mole Rats have a most fatal allergy to it. Explosively so."
"It's like explosive whack-a-Mole Rat. Can I get it in bullet form? For people?"
"It gives them quite a kick, like too much Jet or something."
The add-on Mothership Zeta will have your head explode if you don't put your spacesuit on before opening the room's bay doors. Explosive decompression for the win! Which leaves one to wonder why you can open the bay doors when your hand, because of your Pip-Boy, is clearly exposed.
Fallout: New Vegas also has the exploding slave collars. As a twist, the Dead Money DLC puts the collar is on you. And thanks to interference from the Sierra Madre's sound system, straying too close to active speakers or ham radios for too long leads to warning beeps that grow faster and faster until BOOM splat!
In Gears of War, headshots with a sniper rifle, or headshots when making a killing shot for pistols or shotguns do this. It's possible to purchase an action figure of a Locust Drone with his head asploding.
In at least one version of Halo, there was an obtainable Skull called 'Grunt Birthday Party' that, when picked up, made it so that when you scored a headshot on a Grunt, the whole thing blew up. Into clouds of confetti. While little children cheer. And the confetti actually causes, albeit small, damage to nearby enemies.
This is its effect in Halo 3. The skull also appears in Halo 2, where its effect is slightly different. There is no confetti or children - the enemy just blows up exactly like a plasma grenade. Also, the effect works on any enemy with a head, not just Grunts.
In Infernal Runner, stepping into a certain wave field would cause your head to start bulging and after a few seconds explode messily.
Jagged Alliance 2. If you manage to shoot somebody in the head in just the right way, their head will explode and their body will fall on the ground, blood squirting out of the neck. In fact, if you're lucky, you can save your game just before such moment and replay it over and over.
In Left 4 Dead a headshot with any sufficiently powerful weapon (Any of the shotguns, the Assault Rifle or Hunting Rifle) will turn a normal infected's head into a brief cloud of red goo.
In Lemmings, the bomber lemmings would hold their heads and quiver for a second or so before they blew up, as if trying to contain the explosive force within their skulls.
In Lugaru, if you enable debug mode, you can make enemy bunny and wolf heads explode with the tap of a key.
Headshots of various types in Mass Effect 2 (at least against human-sized organic targets) cause rather violent sprays of red, blue, purple, or orange.
If you get a headshot on any mech, especially a YMIR mech, it will cause a large explosion.
Mass Effect 3 headshots can now explode the heads of organic enemies. In multiplayer, krogan and batarian characters can do the same thing with headbutts / punches...as can volus, which is a little strange given that volus characters are about three feet tall, meaning that a volus heavy melee attack with an omni-fist involves punching people in the crotch so hard their heads explode.
Celebrimbor the Wraith in Middle-earth: Shadow of Mordor is especially fond of doing this to Uruks once you advance his skill tree. There are also weapon runes you can apply that utilize or improve your head-sploding powers. The Uruks find Talion's new talent kind of disturbing, judging by their banter.
Featured in numerous fatalities across the Mortal Kombat franchise. The very first exploding head, in Mortal Kombat 1, was courtesy of Raiden, although in the savagely Bowdlerized SNES version it reduced the enemy to ashes instead.
In Escape To Ravenhearst, a mannequin's head explodes after you beat it at cards.
In Naughty Bear, if a teddy is driven insane by naughtiness and scared one last time, he will kill himself. This trope is what happens when said teddy is unarmed.
In the freeware platformer Ninja Senki, this happens when you finally kill the dragon at the end of Scene 8, followed by its entire neck gradually exploding.
In No More Heroes, Travis defeats Holly. After losing, she tells him she has a thing for him, then takes one of her grenades, pulls the pin, and puts it in her mouth, with predictable results. Travis, desperately trying to pay respects, hugs her headless body. And buries her in a pit-trap she dug.
Parasite Eve 2 had one monster that had conjoined rolling heads! The monster would explode when its HP hit 0 or if you stepped on it.
The Blood and Bone Suckler enemies hunt prey by diverting massive amounts of blood into their heads, creating explosive cranial pressure and turning their heads into fragmentation grenades, killing the prey item so that other Sucklers can eat it. They seem pretty volatile aside, though, since a single shot can set off a room full of them like a biological powder-keg.
In Portal 2's Perpetual testing initiative, one of the worlds you visit is a world where Aperture Science made psychic beings; they turn out to be assholes who just like to make people's heads explode.
Spend many a happy moment explodin' the heads of Faceless Goons in Psi-Ops: The Mindgate Conspiracy. A favorite over sadistic tactic was using telekinesis to pull one towards the player, and "catch" him with Mind Drain, which upon fully draining their HP popped their heads while they screamed in anguish. Very stress relieving!
Or you can mind-control those suckers into eating the business ends of their own firearms. Strangely enough, you seem in total control of every aspect of their bodies, except their mouths. They scream like banshees right up to the skull explosion.
Apparently, the skulls of everyone in Resident Evil 4 are made of cheap plaster. Why else would they detonate when the enemy is killed with a headshot? Maybe Las Plagas soften up your skull.
This doesn't even require a high-powered weapon like a shotgun or a magnum — Leon can elbow, kick, or punch suplex infected humans so hard that their heads burst.
The suplex head asplosion is one of the most gratifying ways to kill an enemy in the game.
Since the first Resident Evil the best way to save ammos was the head-exploding shot, a single, well aimed, scarily-close-to-the-zombie shot.
Ironically, when you start out, blasting them in the face causes an injury animation that makes it seem like someone punched them in the face. It takes anywhere from five to eight un-upgraded handgun shots to get them to explode.
School Days: Happens in the 2nd Bad Ending of the Visual Novel when Kotonoha commits suicide by throwing herself off of the balcony of Makoto's apartment when he tells her he wants to be with Sekai rather than her, and landing headfirst into the pavement. This all happens in front of Makoto and Sekai, which is what eventually drove them apart. It's even worse when you realize that washer goal. Which is why she was smiling at the last second. Complete with High-Pressure Blood
In the computer game The 7th Guest, this happens to one of the other six guests during a cutscene. There is no discernible reason why, either. Ego, the game's narrator, is heard to inquire, "...what's wrong with her head?"
It also happens in a cutscene in the sequel The 11th Hour.
The Xbox 360 game Shadow Complex has an achievement named after this, awarded to you if you get 50 headshots.
Shadowrun: A cranial bomb is part of the plot of the game for the SNES. It gets activated ("Oops." "What do you mean, "Oops."?") during a surgical procedure, and you have a relatively short amount of time to get it deactivated. The surgeon does refund your money, though.
In the original The Sims, one of the prank calls your sims can receive at night is "Your psychic adviser's head has just exploded, be forewarned."
Virtually every one of Slowbeef's Lets Plays has featured head explosions. Even Sprung, which was photoshopped with the explanation "every Slowbeef thread has a head explosion."
In the first two Soldier of Fortune games, the damage modeling was such that you could sever limbs or blow off pieces of an enemy's head, including their jaw, sometimes exposing their brain. In the third game the head always completely exploded when shot, although enemies could now temporarily continue to fight after losing a limb.
In Spec Ops: The Line, headshots usually cause Pink Mist but later on in the game, as Walker begins to go unhinged, the headshot animation switches from the more realistic to constant full-on head explodey, with only a bleeding stump left. If you actually start paying attention to the shift it can get fairly disturbing.
This also happens in a cutscene, when Lugo headshots unarmed Radioman.
In the Battle of The Amerigo cutscene in StarCraft, one of the marines' heads explodes when a Zerg claw gets put through his face. There's also the opening cutscene, when the Protoss attack that salvage ship. Their beam vaporizes the ship from one end to the other, and somehow explodes the head of the guy on the bridge before his body just for good measure.
One of the attacks Stubbs the Zombie has involves pulling off his own head, rolling it like a remote-controlled bowling ball, then detonating it in an explosive blast of toxic gas. It grows back.
In the Team Fortress 2 trailer "Meet the Spy", the BLU Spy gets his head blown off by the BLU Soldier after the latter mistakes the former for the RED Spy. To be fair, the BLU Spy had just warned the other people in the room that the RED Spy could disguise himself as one of them.
BLU Spy: He could be in this very room! It could be you! It could be me! It could even be- *BLAM*
In the intro of Vanquish, this happens to several victims of the microwave Kill Sat attack on San Francisco.
Justified in Warhammer 40,000: Space Marine, considering that most of your ranged weapons are bolter variants. For those unfamiliar, picture a rocket-propelled grenade. Now picture a repeating RPG small enough to be fired one-handed, and you've got a basic bolt pistol.
A number of the fatalities in Wu Tang: Shaolin Style will cause this to happen, most notably Inspecta Deck's Finger Poke of Doom fatality.
You Wanna See My Pecker?: Twelve dick jokes and a Unishark (Basically an excuse to give bloodthirsty sharks legs and lungs) later:
Bird: Hey, you wanna see mah pecker again? Man: NO! Bird: You wanna see mah pecker? Man: (louder) NO! Bird: Aw, comeon, it'll keep your head from explodin'! Man: Wha... (scared) Are you serious?! Bird: Yew wanna see ma peckuh? (everything above the man's jaw explodes) Bird: Upp! Too late! Hahahahaha! Oh boy, cartoons and the internet are WEIRD!
In this video starring Andrew Klavan, Klavan explained to the Occupy Wall Street representative that "thou shalt not steal" and "do unto others as you'd have them do unto you" is from The Bible and her head exploded.
In Agents Of Cracked, The Chief has implanted a failsafe in Michael, so that Dan can keep him from getting out of control. Naturally, it does this.
Swaim's head asplodes in the final episode thanks to the failsafe. Twice. He gets better.
Cracked columnists love to use a screenshot from Scanners in their articles. It'll show up at least once a month.
Specifically, saying "Blah" in the The Demented Cartoon Movie will cause you to be killed somehow, most commonly through spontaneous detonation and decapitation. There's one who has his head kicked off, and several who are crushed by Mr. Weight. And a few are apparently able to say the word without consequences.
The Cheat has a number of head-a-sploding moments in Homestar Runner, though they just leave him with the cartoon-explosion look. It was, in fact, Vector Strong Bad who coined the term "Your Head A Splode," as well as a few other poorly translated phrases on the subject.
The Nostalgia Critic: The Critic also experienced this as a result of Lady Tremaine giving him her Stare of Doom. Listening to John Moschitta, the incredibly fast-talking narrator of Micro Machines commercials, he says it's just as well the guy didn't record audiobooks. Then, of course, he illustrates that by listening to him rattling through Hamlet so fast that it makes the Critic's head explode.
Phelous: Phelous, as part of his Running Gag where he dies at the end of every review, experiences this on several occasions.
Survival of the Fittest is directly inspired by Battle Royale, and the explosive collars do make an appearance here as well. Generally they are set off if tampered with, if a character stays in a dangerzone too long, or as a warning to other characters/groups. When they do, you get this trope.
Mr. Welch has been specifically told that he cannot make anyone's head asplode no matter how well he does on an IQ roll.
In the Valentine's Smoochie (featuring Giggles) on the Happy Tree Friends website, if you pick the option "Flowers", she would sniff it, and sneeze a few times before the final one blows her head off, complete with her brains sticking on the wall.
Axel has the ability to make people's heads explode in Ansem Retort. So far, it's been seen used twice:
The first time was against a cowboy that coincidentally was in the replacement cast. Lulu said it was his just desserts for dissing The Godfather.
The second time was the entire population of Jericho, New York. Odds are, they probably deserved it.
Bob and George: Ran's head explodes when he's hit with a technobabble overdose. In addition, using the time-freezing Flash power on Quick Man causes a loud pop and a large mess.
From Charby the Vampirate Charby understood why he felt he had such a mind blowing experience when he spotted a piece of his own brain stuck on a friend's suit. How fast Charby noticed it tends to be mind bl.. er, to show that he's still street smart even with a piece of brain missing. Charby also had punched Zeno with perfect accuracy on the face while still headless! What a badass!
And way back from the earlier comics, there was Charby and Zeno's attack on Rodericke's lair. Bang.
In Marsh Rocket. With a a double-page NSFW spread. Ouchies. Character deserved it though.
Amongst the contributors that make up the webcomic community The Middle Ground (www.mgcomics.com), the former author known as Maikeru is known in-comic for making peoples' heads explode.
In one Nodwick story, this sort of curse is inflicted upon the title character twice. The first one will cause his head to explode if he reveals the secret that the Mooks tell him, while the second (inflicted by different Mooks) will turn his brain into spinach artichoke dip if he does so. After both curses are accidentally both triggered at the same time, the Big Bad remarks, "This is why I have to keep firing the help..." (Fortunately for Nodwick, Piffany is close by.)
In Prickly City, Winslow object that they can't go away with the election in November. Carmen points out that it's next year. Winslow's reaction is the trope — and "When do we head off? — No pun intended."
Subverted in Schlock Mercenary, when it happens to Ebbirnoth. Ebby happens to be a Unioc, whose "head" is one big eyeball. It's messy and very painful when a sniper pops it, but Ebby is still all right because all of his vital organs (including his brain) are in his torso. Doesn't stop the sniper from thinking that he's dead, though.
This happened in Terinu when when Terinu's powers traumatically activated and blew off the head of his kidnapper.
Robots in Vexxarr actually win arguments this way. it generally goes like this:
Drone: I will not do that/go there and you can't make me!
A pretty spectacularly gory one in the climax of an American Dad! episode, where Roger drops his elbow onto the head of the bad guy as he falls from the ceiling of a warehouse, shown four times with increasingly gruesome close-ups. The episode ends a scene later with Roger asking Stan if that guy was okay.
He even says what everyone watching was thinking: "That was unexpected."
In "Kidney Car", after a particularly inane rant from Master Shake near the end of the episode, involving Carl's new car being sucked into a jet engine Shake had affixed on his car (which happened to be Carl's old car), Carl's head explodes.
Meatwad: Why'd he do that? Master Shake: Why wouldn't he?
In the DCAU, robot heads tend to get exploded one way or another. In Justice League, Luthor reveals he has a kill switch for AMAZO—excuse me, "the android", and uses it in this fashion... but by this point, a simple head asplosion just makes him mad.
Family Guy: A cutaway gag shows Peter's head exploding after he eats half a fudgsicle in one bite.
In another episode, a cutaway gag has customers' heads exploding after eating muffins that were baked by Peter. It also makes Peter a literalLethal Chef.
Recently done in an episode of Fish Hooks, specifically it was Clamantha, after finding out that the girls knew about the party crashers. However, she is just a head so she blew herself up.
"Put Your Head On My Shoulder" introduces Malfunctioning Eddie, a neurotic robot used-car salesman whose head would explode when startled or excited. He shows up later in "Insane in the Mainframe" as a robot asylum inmate, where his condition is brought under control with medication.
Variation on Jimmy Two-Shoes: Lucius gets so angry at Beezy that his head rockets off his shoulders and flies around.
In an episode of Invader Zim, the titular alien is trapped in the fast food restaurant to which he was exiled prior to the first episode, and all exits are programmed to make him swell up and explode if he tries to leave. Every time he even thought about escaping, a small child would shout, "He's gonna 'splode, momma!"
Also happens to Gir in "Bad, Bad, Rubber Piggy", after spotting a flaw in Zim's plot to assassinate Dib via Time Travel.
Gir: Wait... if you destroy Dib in the past, then he won't ever be your enemy. Then you wouldn't have to send the robot back to destroy him, and then he WILL be your enemy, so then you WILL have to send a robot BACK... *head explodes*
At least in one episode of Pepper Ann, the main character's head explodes briefly into a mushroom cloud.
In the one-hour Phineas and Ferb episode "Summer Belongs to You", Isabella imagines her head exploding after Phineas makes an ironic statement about Candace and Jeremy being together, the irony stemming from the fact that Isabella was trying to find ways to get Phineas to hook up with her for the entire time they were in Paris.
In the Regular Show episode "The Last LaserDisc Player", when the LaserDisc guardian reveals its true form it creates a high-decibel noise that causes one of the members of the VHS society to have his head explode while he's entranced by LaserDisc's 44.1 kilohertz sample rate.
The Ren & Stimpy Show episode "Ren's Brain" ends with every single person's head exploding, blowing up Earth in the process. "And thus endeth the Republican Party as we know it," says the narrator.
In the Robot Chicken episode "Maurice Was Caught", little orphan Annie is given Mars for her sweet sixteen party, and upon visiting it, trips and loses her space suit helmet. Cue Explosive Decompression of her head. During another episode, several math students' heads exploded after being taught that the imaginary number i was the square root of -1.
A THX sound test in an episode of The Simpsons made one unlucky moviegoer's head pop.
In a Treehouse of Horror special, spoofing the Y2K furor, Homer and Bart toss themselves out of the airlock from a spaceship filled with C-list actors, comedians, and has-been celebrities (it was already headed for the Sun, but staying even one more minute was so much worse). While in the vacuum of space, their heads swell up, they sigh in their few last moments of blissful silence, and their heads go "pop!" off-screen.
In the season eight episode "And Maggie Makes Three", when Homer is telling the story of Maggie Bart takes over and Homer's head explodes after being told he was going to have another child.
A juror's head explodes after hearing a complement to the Chewbacca Defense in "Chef Aid".
Tay Zonday's head explodes after the "Dramatic Chipmunk" stares him down in "Canada on Strike". Complete with dramatic music and everything. He manages to blow the critter's head off with his gun before he croaks.
The future guns in "Go God Go". They fire a dart into the target that, after a few seconds, causes their head to explode.
Kenny's death at the Plane'arium in "Roger Ebert Should Lay Off the Fatty Foods".
Cartman's head explodes in "Medicinal Fried Chicken" after he finds out that KFC has been banned from Colorado. (He gets better, though.)
In Teen Titans, Plasmus is pretty much a giant head on legs when Raven makes him explode, so while it's not technically bloody it's still messy, graphic and complete with gunky splatters right back in Raven's face.
In one Tom and Jerry Jerry sticks an airhose in Tom's mouth and it swells to massive size, then the duckling Little Quacker pops his head with a pin, he gets better.
President John F. Kennedy when he was assassinated. To be blunt, in general, it is very possible to make people's heads explode in real life with the proper firearms, bullets, and training.
There's an infamous Shock Site image of an Iraqi insurgent with his head asploded by a .50 cal sniper rifle.
The infamous suicide video of R. Budd Dwyer shows what really happens when one fires a bullet into one's mouth. Do not go looking for it unless you want to have that image stick with you forever...
The Darwin Awards cites a Truth in Television case in Konotop, Ukraine, in which a chemistry student who was in the habit of flavoring his chewing gum with citric acid crystals apparently dipped his gum in a similar-looking, but fatally-explosive compound.
A similar death occurs in 1000 Ways to Die, though his jaw falls off rather than his head exploding.
Happened to a man in Malaysia. He was checking a powerful home-made cannon (the manufacture of such cannons is illegal, but the law is seldom enforced) that he thought didn't quite go off; it did, and it went right to his face. This happened right in front of his family.
Sadly, this is common occurrence around the Eid Al Fitr celebrations. For some reason, in Malaysia, firing of such home-made "bamboo cannons" during the holiday is a tradition. Usually there's at least one report of some unfortunate bloke getting some random body part blown off every year.
The fate of Osama Bin Laden. The Navy SEALS shot him in or just above the eye with a high-powered gun at close range, and the resulting images were not fit to show the public.
Subverted by the real-life ailment Exploding Head Syndrome (EHS), as it's a type of auditory hallucination that only sounds like one's head is exploding.
Although sometimes, it doesn't even go that far. EHS covers any kind of one-off auditory hallucination, whether its a loud bang or the sound of a kitten meowing. One of the most common forms is hearing your name being called when nobody's actually doing so.
Rumors going around the Internet that a chess player's head asploded due to too much thinking (and a made up medicinical condition "Hyper-Cerebral Electrosis") are, not surprising, pure fake.