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Boom, Headshot!

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"You stand around in the open? I shoot you in the face! You try to hide? I shoot you in the face! You touch my parrot? Right in the face! And if I'm feeling a bit down, I say a prayer to the forest... and THEN I shoot you in the face!"

In real life, police and military personnel are trained to fire at the center of mass (read: chest/heart), as the head is a small target that likes moving around a lot, whereas the center of mass is a relatively easy target that moves with the subject and also has lots of vital organs in it. And even if you miss, you might hit a limb (or, yes, the head) instead.

However, since most games don't have problems with pesky gun sway and other stuff that screws with aiming and bullet trajectory, the head is the usual target of choice, a One-Hit Kill for most low-level mooks, which makes it something of a Chunky Salsa Rule. Even in more realistic series, it's better to go for the head instead of the chest. Although the Boom, Headshot was popularized by media depictions of Real Life events such as the Kennedy assassination, this is really a gameplay concept more than anything else, as rewarding the more difficult shot encourages the player to shoot accurately; it should be noted that in video games it tends to be easier to score a headshot since cycled walk animations are inherently more predictable than someone's real-life non-repeating movements would be. Additionally, because of Critical Existence Failure, it is important in games to kill targets as quickly as possible, whereas in real life a less lethal but more reliable shot might be enough to incapacitate opponents.


Rule of thumb: With weaker weapons (see Standard FPS Guns), people Cherry Tap via sending a weak pistol bullet into your noggin.

Gorier games may cause disproportionate amounts of blood coming out of people's heads from headshots, or might outright have the human skull be Made of Explodium. Otherwise, they'll probably have Pretty Little Headshots.

The trope name comes from a line spoken by "pro gamer" FPS_Doug on the Pure Pwnage web TV series.

There is also a common technique with semi-automatic firearms known as the Mozambique Drill (also occasionally called the Failure Drill, compare this to the Double Tap), wherein two shots are quickly placed at center of mass, followed by (if the target still seems to be a threat) a third, more carefully aimed shot to the head (this is Michael Mann's trademark execution technique in almost all of his movies, from Heat to Public Enemies). However, this is mostly employed in combat rifle and pistol shooting, and military sniper rifles generally aren't semi-automatic. In the event they need to make an immediately lethal shot from the front, real sharpshooters generally don't aim for the forehead, but rather what is sometimes called the "vermilion line", a T-shaped section that is approximately the area between the eyes and nose. Penetrating the skull here usually destroys the sections of the brain responsible for breathing and heartbeat, and is unlikely to cause a spasm to fire the target's own gun if he has one.


Compare with 'Tis Only a Bullet in the Brain. A subtrope of Attack Its Weak Point. Someone who Ate His Gun by default has died to this trope. If this is the only way to kill a creature, then it's Removing the Head or Destroying the Brain and is one of the most solid pieces of advice for killing zombies. See also No Range Like Point-Blank Range.

As a Death Trope, all Spoilers will be unmarked ahead. Beware.


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    Action/Adventure Games 
  • Batman: Arkham Series:
    • In his Batman: Arkham City DLC, Comic Book/Nightwing is equipped with wrist darts that stun his targets, but a headshot is an instant takedown. Unfortunately, Nightwing's aim constantly sways, which is aggravated if you zoom in for a better shot.
    • In Batman: Arkham Knight in which you get to shoot unmanned drones in the Batmobile, the cannon mounts of drones are their "heads", and a shot at those with the 60 mm cannon will instantly destroy non-Mamba drones, as opposed to a shot at their chassis which will only drain half of their "life". Mamba drones always require at least 2 shots (except with the Missile Barrage), although rapid firing at their "heads" with the Vulcan Gun also seems to kill faster.
  • Uncharted: Drake's Fortune awards an instant kill on a headshot, and getting several headshots in a row (as well as hitting certain thresholds of career headshots) helps unlock bonus content.
  • In inFAMOUS, throughout most of the game headshots (or head shocks, as you're using electricity) are instant kill and give extra XP. Especially if the target is in the air, which is one of the stunts.
  • This is the preferred tactic of hammer or hunting horn wielders when applicable in the Monster Hunter series, due to their ability to knock out a monster temporarily with repeated hits to the head. The head is also commonly the weakest point on a monster, and exceptions to it are generally rather obvious.
  • The Legend of Zelda:
    • The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess: This trope is optionally self-inflicted. There is a section at the Snowpeak Ruins dungeon that contains cannons. If you load one with a cannonball and one of your bombs and position Link in front of the blast, he will die instantly, regardless oh how many hearts you have at the time.
    • The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild: Shooting an enemy in the head deals twice normal damage while also (usually) incapacitating them for a few seconds. This is an essential tactic for fighting Guardians, Lynels, and most bosses, since they are too tough to be stunned in any other way (Urbosa's Fury works on some of them, but it has to recharge for several minutes after three uses). "Stal" enemies can only be killed by destroying their heads; if you don't get a one-hit-kill headshot, their skull just falls off temporarily and will join back up with its body if you don't destroy it quickly.
  • Played for drama in [PROTOTYPE]. Cornered by Alex Mercer, McMullen chooses to shoot himself in the head to spite Alex. He knows he's going to die anyway, but he deliberately goes for the head so Alex can't take his memories. Later, when Alex is disguised as Col. Taggart, General Randall shoots him in the head, which doesn't do much to him, but would have killed a normal human.

    Action Games 
  • In one level of 2005's The Punisher video game, the eponymous protagonist is accompanied by S.H.I.E.L.D. soldiers. Whenever a criminal is shot in the head, one of the soldiers excitedly growls, "Headshot!" On another level that features head of S.H.I.E.L.D. Nick Fury, if the Punisher lands a headshot, Fury says, "Way to make it messy, Castle."
  • Invoked by Pigsy in Enslaved: Odyssey to the West.
  • MORDHAU is full of melee examples, with some ranged ones. Since the hitboxes for head, chest, and legs are neatly separate, you can aim for one or the other (it pays to aim for what's least armored if someone skimped on leg armor for example). And strikes to the head are very damaging, to the point some weapons (like the maul) can kill you no matter how thick your helmet is. However, having a helmet still pays off enormously, because even relatively small arming swords can cleave your skull open or just straight-up remove it from your neck if you're going without head protection for whatever reason.

    Adventure Games 

    Casual Games 
  • The trope is invoked in Angry Birds 2, which gives you a "Headpop!" reward if you land squarely on a pig.

    Fighting Games 
  • In Mortal Kombat vs. DC Universe, the Joker and Deathstroke both have fatalities ending in this. The Joker uses his flag gun, then whips out a revolver and does a headshot, while Deathstroke stabs the opponent in the stomach with his sword, then pulls a headshot as a Mercy Kill.
    • Sadly, due to a DC-mandated T rating, the Joker's fatality had to be censored for the US release.
    • Shang Tsung has the Joker's fatality in Mortal Kombat 9, and with no pesky T rating to get in the way, the Chunky Salsa Rule is in full effect.
    • Played Up to Eleven in Mortal Kombat X, where Erron Black has multiple moves where he unloads entire clips from his pistols straight into his opponent's head, and they get up just fine. It takes brutalities to finish the deed.
    • In Mortal Kombat 11, the Sonya from the past has defeated past Kano and is ready to snap his neck, but Kano holds past Johnny Cage with a knife, reminding past Sonya that if past Cage dies, Cassie ceases to exist. Past Sonya, thanking Kano for reminding her of the rules, takes out a gun and kills past Kano by shooting him in his right eye, which in turn causes Kano to be affected and become Ret-Gone.
  • Getting a headshot in Divekick concusses the opponent, making them lose all their special meter and move slower the next round for a few seconds.
  • In the mobile game Shadow Fight 2, blows to the head inflict more damage.

    First-Person Shooter 
  • In Postal 2 a headshot with a shotgun makes the head of the victim asplode.
  • Averted in Quake III: Arena, following the arcade FPS tradition.
    • Same for other classic Doom-like shooters, such as Serious Sam (which avoids the problem entirely for the basic mooks by making them all headless).
    • And yet DOOM (2016) plays it straight, with headshots dealing amplified damage-and causing the enemy's head to pop like an overcooked burrito on death.
    • The Brutal Doom and Project Brutality mods for the classic Doom games also allow the player to shoot enemies in the head for greater damage. Much like the vanilla game's gibbing mechanic, a headshot that reduces the enemy's health to their starting health times negative one will result in their head exploding in a shower of blood and brain matter.
  • Assault Cube. With booming "Headshot" announcement, and double kill-score.
  • Counter-Strike. Oh, so very much.note  Indeed, the thwack! sound effect and special icon were firsts for FPS games, making this the Trope Codifier in some respects.
  • Call of Duty.
    • Worth noting are the Juggernauts from Modern Warfare 2 and 3. Though they can stay alive even after multiple headshots from a Barrett .50 cal, a direct headshot from a Thumper or RPG-7 is still a One-Hit Kill. How you manage to line up that headshot between their More Dakka and the infamous difficulty of use/inaccuracy of those two weapons, though...
      • Funnily enough, you're better off aiming for the centre of mass instead of the head in most Call of Duty games, since guns kill in about 1-2 seconds of concentrated fire anyway. Actual headshots generally were rewarded in multiplayer, however - Modern Warfare 1 and 2, for instance, would both give an experience bonus and unlock a new camouflage pattern for the gun in question after a specific amount of headshots were made with it.
    • World at War includes a Death Card for co-op mode that, when activated, causes enemies killed via headshot to explode.
  • Battlefield: Generally, only the sniper rifle can really nail a OHK with a headshot, other weapons will just deal out more damage. Bad Company 2 gives you ten more points if you finish an enemy off with a headshot though (a kill is normally 50 points).
    • In Battlefield 3, several weapons can OHK with a headshot and will get a headshot bonus for it. The bonus for Snipers is a marksmanship bonus for doing it at extreme ranges.
  • Urban Chaos: Riot Response even had awards for attaining extremely easy headshots, thanks to the controls.
  • Left 4 Dead has a few achievements based around this; one for scoring a certain number of headshots over all, one for killing a zombie who hasn't seen you by bashing its head in from behind, and one for killing a Witch with a single headshot (which basically has to be done with a shotgun from point-blank range. And if you screw it up, man is she pissed...)
    • Left 4 Dead 2 has "realism mode" which (among other things) makes headshots much more important. While shooting the normal zombies center-of-mass enough times will still kill them, they don't go down nearly as easily as in the standard mode...and you also chew through ammo a lot faster. The "Headshot!" mutation plays this trope more straight: headshots are the only thing that will kill a common infected, including melee weapon hits to the head. Hitting them anywhere else causes them to just stumble back. Fire, explosions, and chainsaws can still kill commons in a single hit no matter in what body part.
  • In the TimeSplitters games, zombies often need headshots to be killed. The aiming of that game can be a bit hard though, so the easiest way to kill them is with your fists. The reason is simple, one punch makes their heads fall off.
  • In Team Fortress 2 the Sniper is the only class that does critical damage on a headshot. A charged-up headshot (from anything but the Sydney Sleeper, which minicrits on headshots instead) is able to One-Hit Kill almost everyone else. Everyone else's weapons (with one sole exception, see below) do the same damage no matter where they hit.
    • The "Meet the Sniper" video opens with shots of the Sniper driving his RV through the desert; inside, he flicks a TFC VIP bobblehead on his dashboard and says, "Boom. Headshot." Cut to the title card. Good things are in store.
    • One of the Spy's revolvers, the Ambassador, is the only non-Sniper weapon in the entire game that can get a critical hit on a headshot. The unpatched Ambassador used to be able to over-penetrate targets, with hilarious results, and before the headshots were subjected to damage fall-off, it was able to two-shot most classes at any distance - in a game mostly focused on fighting up close.
  • GoldenEye (1997) is an early example of this, and certainly made console owners aware of it. However, headshots only do amplified damage, as showcased by it taking several of them to kill an enemy with 1000% health. The Spiritual Successor, Perfect Dark, plays it much straighter and had headshots be One Hit Kills.
    • So was MDK, which was highly praised for its then-strong graphics and gunplay, which features a sniper option.
  • The original Unreal Tournament is responsible for the "HEADSHOT!" announcement so dominant in CS servers. Unreal Tournament 2004, Unreal Championship 2: The Liandri Conflict and Unreal Tournament III bring this to the extreme by adding the "Head Hunter" award, for 15 consecutive headshots, which typically result in the offending extremity vanishing in an explosion of red chunks. UT2003 also introduced the Lightning Gun as a replacement/alternative to the normal sniper rifle - headshots with it set its victims' neck stumps on fire along with decapitation for good measure.
  • Like most shooters, Halo encourages the player to aim for the head:
    • The pistol was particularly infamous in Halo: Combat Evolved for being a headshot machine—it's a Hand Cannon with a camera that syncs with the Master Chief's armor, essentially giving it a scope—while the Halo 3: ODST version came with a convenient laser-sight dot that appears when the head is targeted. Halo 5: Guardians's Warzone mode has some pretty powerful pistol variants too.
    • There's also the "Noob Combo", which is where you shoot a shield draining shot with the plasma pistol before scoring a headshot with the regular pistol, which was overused to no limit in Halo 2's online gameplay.
    • Later games feature a "skull" that, when activated, makes the heads of Grunts, the weakest enemies, explode into confetti with the sound of children cheering. It's a hilarious way to encourage selective aiming since headshots are the most efficient way to kill them.
    • Defied throughout the series with Hunters, however: the head and most of the body are armored well enough to fend off small arms fire. You can kill them by aiming for the neck, but it's much easier to strafe behind them and land a few shots in the small of their backs (the weak points are helpfully colored bright orange).
  • In Jedi Outcast, a headshot was usually a lethal take down. Good luck getting one with the stormtrooper rifle, which, as a sort of Mythology Gag, was ridiculously inaccurate).
  • Half-Life 1. The pistol will require a few headshots to kill most things, but it's very accurate so you can stay well out of range. The magnum will probably do it in one with roughly the same accuracy. Then there is the sniper crossbow: much deadlier than it looks, and headshots can be surprisingly messy. Opposing Force replaced the magnum with the Desert Eagle which was likewise supremely accurate if you aimed using its Laser Sight rather than your own HUD crosshair. And it had a true sniper rifle.
    • In Half-Life 2, at least, not only do bodyshots towards headcrab zombies do less damage; they also risk leaving the headcrab itself alive to try to attack you. Father Grigori advises you to aim for the head. You will do well to listen to him. The crossbow's back, too. It's still the long-range terror against anything your size, and it now features heated rebar for bolts.
  • Metroid Prime: Hunters shows HEAD SHOT! on the screen when you score one. The sniping laser, the Imperialist, obviously does a one-hit kill if it's a head shot and one of the hunters has the ability to be invisible when idle if he has the weapon.
    • In Metroid Prime 3, the Nova Beam has the ability to kill certain enemies in one hit if you shoot a particular area (usually the head), and the X-Ray Visor highlights these vulnerable areas. You can even "headshot" Metroids, which are otherwise hard-to-kill nuisances.
  • The Delta Force series of games awards double points for knocking your opponent's block off in multiplayer. Especially amusing is the fact that this can be done with any of the guns - the knife can't manage it (but killing with that is so rare as to be worth triple points anyway) and nor can the various forms of Boom a player can leave lying around or throw into the other guy's path, but you can score a headshot with a LAW. As in, a rocket that is supposed to be for cracking open TANKS. It was also immensely satisfying to Cherry Tap an opponent by sneaking to within ten metres of them and planting a 40mm grenade from the M203 In the Back of their skull, since at that range it won't explode, but will do enough damage to kill the recipient.
  • Resistance 2 has a nice, squishy sound when you pop a cap in a Chimera's face, instant kill with even upper-tier enemies except for the bosses, which is handy to know as those Ravagers can be damned lethal.
  • In the In Name Only FPS of Shadowrun, there's an interesting twist on this—the Dwarves seem to be the only race that can survive a single headshot with a sniper rifle.
  • The Aliens vs. Predator PC shooters both allow the titular xenomorphs to score MELEE headshots in which the player trains their crosshairs on the offender's cranium for a moment (causing teeth to appear all around the edges of the screen), then launches the alien's inner jaws at the target, EATING THEIR HEAD and TOTALLY HEALING YOU, all from up to 15 feet away! This can even be performed on corpses.
    • All parties in the game can go for headshots. The Predator, however, can attack a killed enemy's head with his wristblade to take a trophy.
  • Splitgate: While all weapons can headshot, the damage varies per weapon; only the Sniper Rifle consistently delivers an instant kill on a headshot where it otherwise wouldn't.
  • Headshots in the STALKER series are instantly lethal for human enemies not wearing helmets and deal massive damage to everything elsenote  but are very difficult to score at anything moving at farther than point-blank range. As opposed to most other shooters, though, hitting the center of mass usually makes the human enemy stagger. There's a reason why the Mozambique Drill is so popular in gameplay videos. Subverted, however, by the realistically detailed ballistics system; bullets are affected by weather and gravity, and any gun – outside of the sniper rifles – that is not tinkered with by a professional technician will make it frustrating for players to get a clean headshot. Therefore, in order for a gun to be considered a proper head-blasting machine, the gun itself must be maxed out in its stats by the map's resident technician to be truly effective. Depending on the gun, it can cost a fortune for upgrades, and to further complicate things, the upgrades are separated into tiers. Furthermore, once a particular upgrade is chosen, the other gets locked out forever, and a few certain guns can only be acquired once, thus forcing you to think your options wisely. This feature is only prevalent in Call of Pripyat and Clear Sky; in CoP's case: you have to find the toolkits in all three maps of that game to unlock the tiers, while in CS, you have to find particular items requested by the giver to unlock the tiers.
  • Deus Ex. This trope can even apply with weapons like the minicrossbow, though rather than killing them when they, say, receive a crossbow dart in the eye, a tranquilizer dart will take immediate effect as opposed to taking several seconds to knock them out.
  • This is a handy way to bring down enemies in Killzone 2, as well; but first you often have to shoot off the enemies' helmets and reveal their big pale Bald of Evil before you can actually score a lethal hit there.
    • Unless you're using the shotgun at close range, or the sniper rifle, speaking of which, score 15 headshots with the snipe rifle and you're rewarded with the 'Melonpopper' Trophy. Or you can simply aim for their Glowing Eyes of Doom.
  • Inverted, sort of, in Turok 2. While most weapons instant kill with a head shot, both the Tek Arrows, and the Cerebral Bore are Headshot, Boom weapons.
  • In Dark Messiah of Might and Magic, it is possible to do this with a bow and arrow - assuming you can get close enough to both aim and avoid the sorta-subversion of No "Arc" in "Archery", you can insta-kill opponents will a well-placed arrow to the face.
    • But if you miss... good luck getting your sword out in time...
    • You can even do it with the Rope Bow. Sniping zombies from the rafters, hi-larious.
  • Rainbow Six used this since the beginning, though it wasn't as noticeable in the original trilogy, where any shot could kill you or an enemy. The cross-hairs would automatically aim for the head regardless, though, and it's become even more important into the Vegas duology and Siege, where no matter what kind of armor your target is wearing, a single shot to the head will still put them down.
  • In Combat Arms, a headshot which causes a death results in a rather satisfying "HEADSHOT" plaque showing up. Often happens with the ridiculously overpowered L96 and G36E guns, but no one's complaining.
  • The FPS Red Steel for the Nintendo Wii had an automatic lock-on system, which would put box corners around the entire target's body and lock crosshairs in that region. If the target were standing up or even moving, it was trivially easy to fire at head level (the upper middle portion of the box) and nail the target's head. The lock-on system worked through walls, and the location of the crosshair would scale to the size of the box - aiming at head level when the target was sitting would still be locked to his head when he stood.
  • Nearly all headshots in Borderlands will remove the head, and even sometimes destroy the entire body. This is sometimes a necessary gameplay gimmick since some enemies will shrug off everything but a headshot. There are also challenges centered around getting certain numbers of headshots for bonus XP. As of Borderlands 2, we have Face McShooty.
    • Averted on non-mammalian targets, though. Spiderants and varkids are more susceptible to abdominal shots, threshers are best dealt with by targeting the eyes (which can be in some pretty weird places - on their tentacles, for example), Hyperion Loaders quite literally fall apart when targeted on the joints, and Crystalisks are virtually invulnerable unless you hit them on the visible crystals on their legs (it's hard to tell if they even have heads).
  • Parodied in Rayman: Raving Rabbids 2s FPS segments. You can get the regular headshot, but can also get a buttshot by hitting them from behind.
  • Medal of Honor:
    • The first Medal of Honor game had a way of naming the different places where you shoot someone the most (for instance, if you shot the Nazis in the arm the most in a level, one of the titles you could receive would be winger) so if you shot them in the head a lot, you'd get titles like melon popper, cap shooter, helmet plunker, etc.
      • A shot to the center mass could also One-Hit Kill enemies, especially with higher-power weapons.
    • Medal of Honor: Vanguard rewards the player with a medal if they get over a certain number of headshots per level.
  • In Soldier of Fortune, in addition to headshots, any shot that removes a limb or disembowels the enemy, or a shot to the nether region, is a One-Hit Kill.
  • Headshots in Bulletstorm are the easiest skillshot to pull off, though also the least rewarding point-wise. You do however, get bonuses for the PMC's Charged Attack (Overkill), the Screamer (One-Hit Wonder for the primary fire, Enlightenment for the Charged Attack]], the Head Hunter (Hotshot), the Flailgun (Grenade Gag), and the Penetrator (Root Canal).
  • The game Sniper: Ghost Warrior makes a definite point of forcing the player to think much like a real-life sniper, though it somewhat averts this trope by allowing you to miss the sweet spot and simply remove a target's helmet without the insta-kill. Also averted in that a single center mass shot with the high powered rifle is typically enough to drop any target.
  • Clive Barker's Jericho has the Achievements/Trophies named (Insert Adjective Here) Of Pop, where landing so many headshots nets you an additional character bio sheet in the extras section.
  • Headshots in Project Blackout are instantly lethal if the target isn't wearing a helmet.
  • Just like the movie it was based on (see below), if Jet makes a head shot in TRON 2.0, it's almost always an insta-kill. The times it's not is when it's glanced off armor. Jet will also say something like "Ouch" or "Yes!" if he manages a perfect hit.
  • Not only played straight but very nearly a Game-Breaker in Ace of Spades, as the hitbox for a player's head is enormous. The standard semi-automatic rifle is nearly as good as a Sniper Rifle, and headshots with it are a One-Hit Kill. Being hit in the head by the sub-machine gun "only" costs you 75HP, which is hardly better given that most players who wield it really believe in More Dakka, and the shotgun... Well, let's just say it averts Short-Range Shotgun.
    • As of version 0.75 the rifle was made much less accurate (making sniping with the submachine gun a viable alternative), the shotgun now follows its stock trope and the SMG is the most commonly used weapon around.
  • The bots of PAYDAY: The Heist will encourage you to go for headshots, with shouts of "I want to see helmets flying!" Because yes, when you land a headshot, the hat or helmet worn by the victim will pop up as a "well done!" signal. Interestingly, the headshot-immune civilians are all bareheaded.
  • Killing Floor's Specimens all have a weak point in the head. Blowing said head off doesn't guarantee an instant kill, but it does prevent them from using any special abilities (the clot's grab, the bloat's vomit, etc), causes them to stagger around blindly (they can still hit you if they find you), makes any further damage hurt more, and kills them after a few seconds anyway from bleeding out through the neck stump. So, aim for the head.
    • The Sharpshooter perk is based around this - his weapons are typically single-fire or semi-auto fare which he gets massive headshot-damage and reload-speed bonuses for, from various pistols and revolvers, up to a crossbow and even a breech-loading, .50-caliber sniper rifle.
  • In Day Of Defeat and Day of Defeat: Source, shooting someone in the head results in a shhunk sound and the opposing player's helmet flying off (provided it wasn't knocked off prior by an explosion). All weapons are a one-hit kill to the head, provided it didn't pass through any objects prior.
  • BioShock has headshots with the basic pistol deal quadruple damage. This is enough to put down most splicers in one hit-at least until the player reaches Farmer's Market, at which point every enemy gets a massive boost in health. Later on, the player gets a crossbow that deals ten times normal damage when aiming for the head, enabling you to kill even the toughest splicers with a single bolt.
    • BioShock 2 has a tonic that amplifies headshot damage with all weapons.
    • In Bioshock Infinite, each weapon has its own headshot damage multiplier. Whether or not it's an instant kill depends on the power of the weapon and the health value of the enemy being shot.
  • In Far Cry 3: Blood Dragon Rex Power Colt says this word for word as one of his phrases when you use a sniper and shoot an enemy in the head.
  • Headshots in Fistful of Frags not only deal twice the damage but cause the victim's hat to fly off.
  • In Evolve, hitting the monster in the head deals double damage. Behemoth is the exception, with its weakspot in its underbelly. Conversely, hitting a limb does half damage. This only affects projectile-based weapons, as all other weapons deal flat damage regardless of where you hit.
  • Nexuiz and its Spiritual Successor Xonotic have the Nex and the Vortex, respectively, which are capable of instakilling by hitting the head, complete with the announcer screaming "Headshot!".
  • In Black, a good headshot is a good way to get rid of the Incredibly Durable Enemies that can otherwise take more than 20 bodyshots to take out. Masked shotgunners are immune until you spend some ammo shooting their masks off first unless you're packing the M16A2, which is a One-Hit Kill on a headshot no matter what.

    Flash Games 
  • Many Flash "assassin" games, such as Sift Heads and Anaksha: Female Assassin require you to shoot your target in the head.
    • In Anaksha's case, it's justified — with the amount of gun crime that goes down in Santa Lina, many citizens have taken to wearing body armor.

    Light Gun Games 
  • House of the Dead, being about zombies, encouraged this. In most games, you can kill them by way of pumping their bodies full of lead, but the quicker way to down them was to blow off their heads, which usually killed them in three shots.
  • Virtua Cop is possibly the Ur-Example of headshots in video games.
    • Inverted in Virtua Cop 3, however, where headshots are actually the least lucrative, as they score low and don't allow for chains. The better alternatives are shooting their gun, or just chaining 3 hits starting with any other part of the body.
  • Target Terror on the highest violence setting, had this. Multiple bullets in the head of a terrorist would result in Your Head Asplode, a massive point bonus, and in the Gold edition, there's a combat medal for headshot streaks.
  • Silent Scope, obviously. Double points and a decent time bonus, plus One-Hit Kill on the bosses.
    • In the third Silent Scope game, your life / time meter will refill a bit on head shots.
    • Headshots on most bosses are a One-Hit Kill unless they are wearing a mask/helmet.
      • Certain bosses must be shot in the head on the first shot. Failure to do so results in retrying the stage (if it's a non-final boss in Silent Scope EX') or a Non Standard Game Over (if it's a Final Boss).
  • Averted in Point Blank; in stages where you shoot at human-shaped cardboard targets, shooting the center of the chest yields 100 points, the highest point value on the target. Shooting the head only nets 60 points.
  • In Time Crisis 2, 3, and 4, hitting non-armored Mooks anywhere will kill them, but headshots yield the most points, followed by body shots, then limb shots. However, getting points doesn't stop at a headshot; shooting the head once and then shooting their body twice (you can hit a Mook twice more after the initial hit) yields the most points.
  • In GHOST Squad, hitting an enemy on the head results in a "Good Shot" bonus, but like in Virtua Cop, also by Sega-AM2, headshots cannot be followed up with extra shots. There is a special but very difficult to achieve bonus known as "2 Body 1 Head", which is done by doing a Mozambique Drill on an enemy, plugging 2 shots into the torso and then 1 shot into the head.

  • The Headshot skill in Urban Dead results in that zombie being forced to spend 5 more Action Points than normal to rise. However, a skill allows veteran zombies to circumvent this somewhat.
    • In the Diary of the Dead tie-in side city Monroeville (where the zombies are conveniently Romero-style zombies), a headshot is an instant kill.
    • A headshot death used to cost the zombie experience. Painful indeed.

  • The multiplayer arenas in Conker's Bad Fur Day (at least the N64 version) tracked these. Especially fun when the headshot was from crossbow or knife; the bolt or knife would be stuck in the head as they spun dazed.
    • Also, due to stylization most of the characters were only about 3 heads tall, with their heads being the widest part of the body. That's right, in Conker's Bad Fur Day heads were usually the biggest and easiest target to hit.
    • Furthermore, during the main adventure, you can only kill zombies by shooting them in the head.
    • As an added bonus, in the War multiplayer especially, the player character would often yell dialogue for certain kills, and headshots came with a raft of them, such as "Oooh, nasty!" and "Oho, headshot!"
  • Anytime you run into a seemingly-invincible enemy in the Mega Man series, his Weak Spot will inevitably be his head. If the enemy's head fills the screen, then it will be the eyes or an obvious gem or protrusion somewhere on his head.
    • You can use this trope in Mega Man X8 to hijack Ride Armors. A well-aimed shot to the head blows up the pilot without damaging the mecha.

    Puzzle Games 
  • Flaming Zombooka: Shoot a zombie in the head to kill it instantly and get more points (500 in the first game, 1000 in the second game and onwards).

    Rail Shooter 
  • Star Fox: Assault's Sniper Rifle does bonus damage on a head shot. Of course, the thing is so powerful, you don't even need a headshot to take most opponents down. Wolf is the only multi-player character that can survive being shot at all, but he's also the fastest.
  • Headshots in Transformers: Cybertron Adventures will outright kill the smaller enemies, while bosses and the Destroyers can shrug a few off at the expense of a noticeable percentage of their health.

    Role-Playing Games 
  • In the original Fallout creatures have a location map for called shots; critical hit effects depend on specific location, and head shots tend to be severe. But it's far from "always instant kill" and usually the head is the second hardest to hit location after the target's eyes. Other times it's more beneficial to aim for a different location even if it doesn't bring the enemy down as fast - you'll want to cripple that Deathclaw's legs so you can survive long enough to try for a headshot.
    • The Sniper perk exists to facilitate these, and gives a substantial bonus when using VATS to aim at heads, which combined with sneak attacks allows you to one-shot many enemies. The Bloody Mess perk on the other hand can cause victims' heads to asplode even if you hit them in the foot. With a flamethrower.
    • This trope is parodied in Fallout 3 with the quest "You Gotta Shoot 'Em in the Head". A ghoul hires you to kill a bunch of humans who considers ghouls to be just like mindless zombies, and specifically requests that you shoot them in the head or else you're paid less.
      • The game also features Mirelurks, bipedal mutant crab people with a heavily-armored carapace. Shooting them in the head is the quickest way to bring them down, but said soft target is deeply recessed in their torso and often hidden when they're attacking, making pulling this off easier said than done.
    • Fallout: New Vegas starts with this trope, as the Courier receives a double-tap to the skull, courtesy of Benny. Of course, seeing as that's only the start of the game, it doesn't quite take. The game later averts this with the "Three-Card Bounty" quest, in which headshots are discouraged because the questgiver wants the targets' skulls intact so he can verify they're dead. There's also the "Center of Mass" perk that gives the player a damage bonus to shots aimed at the enemy's torso.
      • The "Dead Money" DLC for Fallout New Vegas features "ghosts", which recover from being killed unless they're overkilled to the extent of being decapitated or otherwise dismembered. The easiest way to do this is to cause enough damage to knock them down, then pull a Boom, Headshot on them.
    • While attacks to the head in Fallout 3 and New Vegas cause twice as much HP loss, the effect of specifically injuring the head is almost comically minimal: Perception is lowered by 4 (not that big a deal because Perception only matters before the battle starts), accuracy is lowered somewhat, and if it's the player character they also get an occasional Interface Screw in the form of an Impairment Shot. For comparison, crippling an arm hurts accuracy far worse and a crippled leg can make melee enemies too slow to catch up with you backpedaling.
    • Fallout 4 has one of the most unintentionally ludicrous examples of this trope. The companion perk Killshot was supposed to increase the VATS accuracy of a headshot by 20%. However, due to a typo, it was increased by 2000%, making it almost impossible to not get a headshot, and essentially turning the player into John Wick.
  • In Fable I of all games, thanks to existent but heavily reduced sway of hands, you can headshot from a fair distance with a crossbow or even a bow. It comes complete with a fountain of blood and the disembodied head spinning for another moment in the air. It's only if you can inflict a one-hit kill with it, though (sometimes even more resistant normal enemies can survive a headshot when it's from a weak enough hero and when they're at full HP). For the more sadistic among us, you can also make enemies' head explode in much the same way with a Lightning spell.
    • In Fable II, the last dexterous style is sub-targeting, which allows you to target specific spots on an enemy such as the hand (to disarm them), groin, or head. A headshot will often kill an enemy in one shot, decapitating them in the process. One achievement actually requires killing a Hollow Man by first shooting their weapons away, then blasting its head off before finally killing it for good.
      • You can boot the heads around when you shoot one off, too.
  • A successful headshot in Valkyria Chronicles will cause critical damage to the opponent. For snipers, who are good at this sort of thing, it's almost a guaranteed One-Hit Kill. You can protect yourself from these types of hits by crouching behind sandbags or laying down in the grass where the enemy can't see you.
    • Specifically, going into cover (grass or sandbags usually, but other things can give cover, too) prevents critical hits from actually happening, even if a character is actually hit in the head. Unfortunately, it works both ways. Enemies under cover can't receive criticals, either.
  • Though you can't actually aim for heads in Dragon Age: Origins, one of the death animations for humanoid enemies has the attacker make a wide swinging blow that slices the head off in a huge gush of blood.
  • A finishing move when equipped with a sword in Jade Empire is decapitation. It doesn't show where the head goes, but it does show a fountain of blood, which makes you wonder just how much of the head is intact afterwards.
  • Mass Effect
    • Through the series, a headshot is (if not an insta-kill) a high damage hit. In Mass Effect 2 if it is a kill shot your teammates will make impressed comments about it. One of the upgrades for sniper rifles gives an extra damage bonus to headshots.
    • In the case of security mechs, killing them with headshots causes them to explode damaging anyone nearby (useful, since they come in packs). Headshotting YMIR Mechs (which always explode on death) causes them to go critical and detonate with a massive boom.
    • You can also score perhaps the ultimate headshot on the final boss. Human-Reaper's head, meet Cain.
    • There are even armor pieces to improve the power of your headshots (Garrus wears one).
    • Averted in a realistic sense by the Widow series, though: it's so overwhelmingly powerful that there's little incentive to go for headshots. Any hit will kill most enemies outright.
    • Averted with Zaeed's backstory. His business partner double-crossed him and had six of their underlings restrain him while said partner put a gun to Zaeed's head and pulled the trigger.
      Shepard: You survived a gunshot wound to the head?
      Zaeed: Yeah, and you survived getting your ship blown up. A stubborn enough person can survive anything. Rage is a hell of an anesthetic.
    • Contrary to the first game's relatively realistic Pretty Little Head Shots with small entrance and exit wounds through the helmet, headshots on Cerberus troops in Mass Effect 3 cause the entire head and helmet to disappear, leaving behind bloody neck and a bit of exposed spinal column.
    • Mass Effect 3's multiplayer mode managed to zigzag this trope. Originally, bosses did not suffer from head shots, with the exception of the Geth Prime, which did due to a bug. A patch removed this and some other similar bugs and people complained that it removed the incentive to aim, as the bosses were the main targets you needed head shots on. A latter patch added weakpoints for bosses in, but at a much lower bonus. Headshots did 150% bonus damage, and there were a few weapons and bonuses that could increase this. The new weakpoints (sometimes the head, sometimes somewhere else) did 40% bonus damage and were not affected by weapon or other bonuses to headshot damage.
    • Mass Effect 3's DLC weapon, the M-11 Suppressor, is built around this trope. While not as powerful as other pistols available, it has the largest headshot bonus of any weapon in the game. This essentially means that as long as you can aim for the head, it is guaranteed to kill in two shots if not instantly.
  • In Valkyrie Profile 2 Silmeria, the battle system lets you break off parts of monsters depending on what part you hit. If the part you break off happens to be the monster's head, it's instant death, unless the enemy is a zombie or skeleton or something.
  • Shin Megami Tensei: Strange Journey: One gun has this technique. The effect is simulated by a chance of inflicting Curse damage.
  • In Persona 5, the default Non Standard Game Over for missing a deadline ends with a mysterious man (Goro Akechi) blowing your brains out in captivity. In the true ending, this is how your Ultimate Persona Satanael disposes of Yaldabaoth in the end.
  • In Dark Souls, getting a headshot with a bow causes extra damage.
  • All of the ranged weapons in Phantasy Star Online 2 have the passive ability to deal increased damage to most enemies by scoring a headshot, which is accompanied by a distinctive sound and hitspark.
  • Warrior Of Ras was an early RPG that required called shots for each attack. While the head was weak, it is still stronger than the neck which only had a few hitpoints.
  • Xenoblade Chronicles has Sharla's Headshot art. While the name is mostly for flavor, fitting with her sniper side and working regardless of the enemy having a head or not, the spirit of the trope remains. The attack has a very high damage output, especially for a medic, and is the only attack the team has that's capable of inflicting Instant Death on the enemy.
  • Kingdom Hearts II contains a boss battle against Sark and the MCP that has this trope as an option. Sometimes, Sark will put up a wall to prevent the party from fleeing. But a reaction command allows for Sora to climb that wall, leap off, and use the Keyblade to stab Sark in the head for a One-Hit Kill.
  • The Legend of Heroes: Trails of Cold Steel III has Giliath Osborne taunting Ash, who is under the will of the curse of Erebonia, to point his gun at Osborne's head to kill him to satisfy his revenge for the Hamel Incident. He never goes through it because the emperor volunteers to get shot in the chest instead which nearly kills the emperor.

    Shoot Em Ups 
  • In Centipede, shooting the head of the centipede gives you more points than shooting body or tail segments.
  • In Gradius and its spin-offs, starting with Salamander and Gradius II, only one original boss per main series games (except in Gradius V) has the head as its weakpoint, as the announcer directs by shouting "Shoot it in the head!".

  • Subverted in first-person hunter Deer Hunter 2005. Headshots will kill the deer instantly, but you won't get the special slow-motion insta-kill bullet cam you get with a lung/heart shot.
  • Later played straight in subsequent Deer Hunter games, notably Deer Hunter Classic (formerly Deer Hunter 2014), where only the final animal you kill gets the special slow-motion insta-kill bullet cam.
  • In Mutant Football League, sportscaster Grim Blitzro threatens this on "Brickhead" Mulligan after an obnoxious touchdown commentary.
    Grim: Brick, if you ever do that again, I'll shoot you in the head!
    Brick: But they like it!

    Stealth-Based Games 
  • Metal Gear Solid. Head shots are handled realistically in this series, all guns have meaningful recoil and idle sway meaning that you do have to adjust your shots at a distance especially if aiming for the head. Also head shots are always instant kills unless the enemy soldier's head is shielded in some way, and there is no gore so even with higher-powered guns such as the Barret M82 sniper rifle there are no flashy results. There's even a multiplayer mode for the hardcore enthusiasts, where head shots are the only shots that deal any damage.
    • Metal Gear Solid V, in keeping with the Darker and Edgier feel, averts the "no flashy results" part, with a headshot with any weapon except the tranq guns resulting in a massive blood spray and very nasty wounds.
  • Sniper Elite,''Sniper Elite V2, Sniper Elite III complete with entry and exit wounds.
  • In '"Man Hunt'' when you shoot an enemy in the head with a shotgun their head explodes with bits of brain and skull fragments raining down.

  • This is one of Caitlyn's quotes from League of Legends. Her occupation? She's a sheriff carrying a sniper rifle. Her special ability? Every eighth shot she fires is... you guessed it... called 'Headshot', which does additional damage.
  • Another one who quotes this is Kardel Sharpeye in Dot A 2, aptly classed 'Sniper'. He also has a Headshot skill that is generated at a random chance that does additional damage and makes his target so dizzy they move and attack slower.

    Survival Horror 
  • Obviously, most Zombie Apocalypse games. Resident Evil, House of the Dead, and Umbrella Chronicles, especially.
  • In the remake of the original Resident Evil, blowing off a zombie's head was one of the ways to prevent a zombie from resurrecting as a Crimson Head (as opposed to burning it or blowing off its kneecaps). The headshots were random when using a handgun, but pointing a shotgun at a zombie's head was much more reliable. Additionally, Chris Redfield is more likely to secure a headshot than Jill Valentine.
    • It is actually possible to shoot off the heads off Hunters, Chimeras, and Cerberus, especially when using the Samurai Edge...although it doesn't serve any tactical purpose.
  • In Condemned 2: Bloodshot, getting a headshot will result in the unfortunate target's head bursting like a squeezed zit, even if you're using a dinky .22LR pistol. Considering how guns in the game are rare and mostly situational weapons, this is an efficient way of using them.
  • In Cold Fear, the only way to kill a zombie is to shoot their head, or else they won't stop coming after you.
  • In Deadly Premonition, headshots do more damage, interrupt enemies' attacks, and earn you bonus Agent Honor.
  • Averted with the Dead Space series of horror games. Oh sure, feel free to ignore the multiple warnings of "Cut off their limbs" written in blood across the walls of the ghost ship Ishimura; watch as your delight turns to horror as the now headless space zombie continues charging at you to claw you into iddy biddy pieces.
  • Literally so in the Fatal Frame series: photo-shots centered around the target ghost's head will destroy the ghost quicker. Unfortunately, this usually means you're staring right at the ghost's face as he or she is about to touch you. The final boss in the second game must be destroyed this way.
  • The Evil Within: The bad news is that your opponents are psychically mutated, so sometimes headshots don't work. The good news is, you can increase your critical rate (the probability that shooting a mook in the head kills them). Their heads explode in disgusting gore, if they aren't ripped into pieces by a weaker shot first. And considering the difficulty of the game, you will APPRECIATE their violent deaths.

    Third-Person Shooter 
  • Resident Evil 4 is the king of this trope. Unless you were using a particularly powerful weapon, it was nearly impossible to kill any Ganados without shooting them in the head, and even then in Professional mode, it would still take around nine headshots to kill them. The only other way you were encouraged to shoot them was in the legs, so you could run up and melee them in the head.
    • Unless they have a mask on, in which case it takes around 60 headshots to kill them.
    • With the exception of the Wii version, where Leon's hand is as steady as you hold the Wiimote, there is fairly realistic gun sway. Even more annoyingly, if you pointed a gun at a Ganado's head for too long, they'd anticipate the shot and start covering their faces or move out of the way.
    • Strangely, despite being able to take multiple bullets to the face, anytime an enemy was killed by an attack directed at its head, their noggin would graphically blow it up, complete with a nauseating splatting sound and chunks of head laying on the ground (strangely, this often doesn't kill them instantly). This includes everything from .50 magnum shots to 9mm bullets to the PC elbowing them in the face.
      • Likewise in Resident Evil 5 headshots are powerful enough to take heads clean off but enemies can take a few seconds to die resulting in still being hit or it can turn them into a more dangerous enemy.
    • Subverted with the Regenerators and Iron Maidens, where shooting them in the head does almost nothing. Even if you use an extremely powerful weapon, or blow its head off, it'll just regrow in a couple seconds.
  • Subverted in Dead Space. The Necromorphs can be decapitated with a headshot, but that'll just piss them off.
    • Played straight when facing human enemies in Dead Space 3.
  • Rune. Remember the zombies in Quake? Rune's zombies are just like that, except since the game has a medieval fantasy setting, your only real options are fire and decapitation. Since normal blows just make them fall over for a few seconds (and you can't decapitate them while they're down,) you don't have access to fire weapons for many levels, and only a spinning jump-slash will reliably decapitate them (plus they're otherwise just harmless but annoying goombas,) zombies get really old REALLY fast.
  • Gears of War cannot be forgotten, seeing as a head shot sometimes results in Marcus Fenix (at least in the Campaign) saying Boom Headshot. Or other witty things such as, "look Ma, no face" in Gears 2.
    • Everyone has headshot quotes including Baird's "Sorry, was that your spine?" and the epic "So good I should charge admission."
  • Syphon Filter had this, too, even explicitly telling you that headshots in manual aim were more lethal. Especially needed when enemies started wearing flak jackets, which could take dozens of rounds to penetrate. Nothing says 'I hate you' like a headshot with the lethal taser.
  • S4 League features critical hits, which generally only occur when a player's shot connects with an enemy's head. On the other hand, S4 League's entire setting revolves around unashamedly presenting itself as an online 'sport' played in virtual stadiums over the internet. Which it is.
  • In Total Overdose, head shots give the most style points and are the only way to rack up combos for multiple kills. The most points are awarded for delivering a headshot while airborne, twisting 360 degrees, and getting another headshot before hitting the ground...even more if done leaping from a speeding vehicle.
  • Lost Planet makes this the only way to liberate weapons from human enemies. Also, the Machine Gun does double damage if bullets hit the head.
  • Played mostly straight in Monday Night Combat, with a minor aversion: one of the upgrades for the Gunner class is a face-shield that drops down when it deploys, making headshots only as effective as regular shots.
    • Invoked by name as a ProTag and earned for scoring ten headshot kills in a Crossfire match.
  • Jet Force Gemini: If you aim correctly even with the pistol, you can blow an enemy's head off. You even get rewards for collecting heads. You can get a sniper rifle later on to make this easier
  • in Transformers: War for Cybertron singleplayer, the two other bots/cons with you make comment about how good your aim is, or the char you're playing makes a smart-arse remark about it. In Multiplayer, it's worth a score bonus. Likely will remain the same in Transformers: Fall of Cybertron.
  • The Star Wars: Battlefront games give a bonus weapon and medal of "Marksman" to a sniper who gains 4 head shots within one life. Snipers can often become Goddamn Bats because of the head shots. The trooper's weapon doesn't instantly kill somebody if you shoot them in the head, but a head shot does more damage to an enemy than a body shot.

    Vehicular Combat 
  • Interstate 76 centered on armed cars doing battle with each other. In addition to the usual complement of machine guns, rockets, and the like, the player carried a handgun that could shoot at a ninety-degree angle to the direction of travel. Kills with the handgun were preferable because they not only killed the opponent instantly but left the opponent's vehicle intact to be scavenged at the end of the mission.
  • Amusingly, the MechWarrior games (the computer games, at least) allow you to score headshots on Humongous Mecha. The head is a discreet section of the 'mech with its own armor and generally has very little protection. It's tiny, but an instant kill if you do manage to destroy it.
    • Probably a carryover from the original BattleTech where the maximum limit on head armor was the same (that is, quite low) for everybody regardless of size category. Weapons that could do enough focused damage to take out the head in a single shot were given a very high value compared to other weapons in the Battle Value system, used to calculate the overall effectiveness of a 'mech.
    • In the BattleTech MechCommander video games, shooting a mech in the head tended to kill the pilot as well. If the mech was destroyed any other way, the pilot would usually eject the head as an escape pod and survive.
    • Some 'Mechs have notoriously large cockpit hitboxes in their respective games. Specifically, MechWarrior 2: Mercenaries when regarding the Jenner, the Catapult, and the UrbanMech. It was not uncommon for players to hit the heads of these models of 'Mech without actually trying to, and killing the target in a few clustered headshots instead of slugging it out with them. Don't get any ideas that it's easy though, because unlike humans, the actual 'head' on mechs may not correspond exactly to where one would assume the head is and the randomness of the hit chances thanks to the games' design makes headshots an exercise in luck. Headshots are difficult enough that Mechwarrior Online considers getting a single headshot kill to be an achievement, whereas most other combat achievements require doing a particular strategy or technique at least fifty times.
  • In the Transformers game for the PlayStation 2, there is a specific Mini-Con upgrade that allows for Sniper rifle Head shots that are OHKO's for a great many units, though it does take 3 Headshots for the Heavy units, and a couple of Enemies have no head, being non-humanoid Mecha.
  • The Twisted Metal reboot introduces the Sniper Rifle as a weapon pickup. The longer you keep an aim on the target, the greater the damage will be dealt. However, if you take aim long enough and let the weapon fully charge, you shoot the driver's head instead and destroy his/her vehicle instantly, regardless of how tough or how much health it has left. Yes, its possible to destroy Juggernaut this way. The catch is that the charging time is freakin' long, not to mention hard to take aim in a fast-paced game.
    • The Sawed-Off Shotgun sidearm and the Shotgun pickup from the same game. Shooting at the target's windscreen earns you the Point-Blank bonus which deals massive damage. It's essentially headshoting a car.

    Wide Open Sandbox 
  • Grand Theft Auto:
    • This started creeping into the console version of starting with Grand Theft Auto III, which gave you an M16-type that could be freely aimed while other weapons either fired wherever you faced or targeted centre of mass(though the M16's insane rate of fire and damage output means that it will kill enemies very quickly regardless of where you aim). Both 3 and Vice City also had sniper rifles (although those would be instant kill even if you shot them in the foot). San Andreas let you aim any weapon manually, so even your lousy 9mm starter pistol can get headshots in. Any high-powered gun, such as the .50 cal Desert Eagle, any Shotgun, any Assault Rifle, or any Sniper Rifle, causes heads to pop.
    • Reaches its peak in Grand Theft Auto IV. Auto-target aims at center of mass while holding the auto-target button allows you to move the crosshair slightly. It becomes laughably easy to get headshots in this way, making many of the game's missions incredibly easy.
    • Grand Theft Auto IV: The Ballad of Gay Tony requires you to score a certain number of headshots each mission (which requires a shootout) to get the 100% score. "Chinese Takeout" in fact requires every kill to be a headshot.
    • Similar to TBOGT, Grand Theft Auto V also uses headshots as a recurring gold medal objective.
      • In the Prologue, the very first kill you make in the game, a security guard holding a gun to Michael's head, has to be a headshot, otherwise the mission will fail.
      • In "Predator", the player has to kill all three targets, the surviving O'Neil Brothers, with a headshot.
      • In "Meltdown", Michael has to save Amanda and Tracey by killing their captors with a headshot.
      • "The Third Way" requires you to kill Steve Haines with a headshot.
  • Headshots seem to do more damage in Bully too, when using the slingshot at least. A fully-charged shot to the head will drop almost any student.
  • As no one is really wearing armor in the game, Red Dead Redemption rewards this with increased damage. This generally turns rifle hits into one-shot kills, and being able to activate Dead Eye mode makes it all the easier to line up a shot to the head. The player is also rewarded with rather graphic damage models showing large holes blown in the victim's head, something that is not done for hits on any other part of the body.
  • In The Godfather game headshots are a One-Hit Kill, allowing you to go through enemies more efficiently. Given that Tommygun and shotgun users show up quite early and you don't become Made of Iron until quite a bit later, this is important. You can even go through mob wars using just your .38 pea-shooter by taking cover and making precision headshots. Bonus assassination missions sometimes asked for headshots; this meant even more cash.
  • Mount & Blade featured the ability to score headshots and deal critical damage with any projectile, including stones, arrows, crossbow bolts, throwing knives, throwing axes, and javelins. Now consider that sharp projectiles sometimes remain visible in an enemy's corpse...
  • Dwarf Fortress: While it is certainly possible to kill things by severing their heads, in practice not only are called shots to the head with a ranged or thrown weapon considerably harder to achieve, but arrows and crossbow bolts will bounce off even a low-grade helmet. Melee attacks to the head, on the other hand, are significantly more reliable.
  • Scarface: The World Is Yours encouraged bold gameplay by rewarding you more Balls (which allowed you to build your Blind Rage/temporary invincibility meter more quickly). Using pistols gives a 4x bonus, as is manually targeting (the auto-target aims for center of mass but can be tweaked to aim for specific body parts). And targeting some body parts gives you more Balls than others (fits the trope because the head is a high-value target—it and the nuts have the highest value).
    • On the flip side, taunting a wounded enemy gets Balls as well. Killing and taunting gets even more making it sometimes preferable to avoid the headshot, at least right away.

Non-Videogame Examples

    Anime & Manga 
  • Macross notably inverts the trope almost constantly, as headshots on Battroid-mode Valkyries don't kill (though they do render Valkyries almost completely blind unless they switch back to fighter jet mode), yet center of mass shots do (as that's where the cockpit is in Battroid mode).
    • Macross Frontier invokes yet inverts it even more with the Vajra when one of them gets its head blown off, leaving our heroes all thinking that the Vajra has been killed. Turns out it wasn't, and that the closest analogue to the brain the Vajra have is actually located in their digestive tract, right in their center of mass.
      • The Grand Finale plays it straight though, with the death of the Big Bad who had inhabited the head of the err... Final Boss. Taking out the head killed the Big Bad but left the Vajra Queen thing alive, due to not having any vital organs in the head.
      • To be more specific, they decapitated the Queen with a missile salvo before Alto blew the helpless Big Bad (and the head via unexplained secondary explosions) away with a shot from Michel's sniper rifle. Mind you, the Big Bad was a human-sized target that was hit with a Valkyrie's rifle.
  • As with Macross, Mobile Suit Gundam repeatedly subverts this trope as mobile suit cockpits are typically mounted in the torso, whereas the head normally contains sensors and (occasionally) vulcans and/or other weapons. As if that wasn't amusing enough, the first series reverts and then re-inverts the trope during the final battle: Amuro shoots the Zeong in the torso, thinking it a kill shot, only to realize upon seeing the head detach and fly up that the cockpit had, for once, been placed there instead. In turn, Char fires back and blows the Gundam's own head away, to which Amuro boasts that all Char did was cost him his main camera (and vulcans).
    • Kycilia Zabi shoots her brother Gihren in the head as payback for Gihren committing patricide. Char, in turn, takes out Kycilia by shooting her in the head with a rocket launcher as she tries to evacuate A Bao a Qu on her flagship.
    • Lady Une is no slouch in crazy headshots either.
    • In G Gundam it's an Enforced Trope since the rules of the Gundam Fight tournament say that losing your Gundam's head is instant disqualification; any other damage to the machine can be repaired without penalty. For a more literal version of this, England's warrior Sir Gentle Chapman almost takes France's fighter George de Sand out with his sniper rifle, but just grazes the head of George's Gundam due to age and illness hampering his skill.
    • Destroying a Mobile Suit's head is ironically usually a non-lethal way of taking it out of the fight since the actual cockpit (with a few exceptions) is almost always in the abdomen. As noted with Amuro and the RX-78-2 above, some models have backup cameras and sensors, and can continue fighting even without a head.
    • One of the more notorious cases came in Mobile Suit Gundam ZZ, when the Zeta Gundam got its head shot off, and Iino decided to replace it with the head of a salvaged Zaku II until a proper replacement could be built, resulting in the infamous "Zeta Zaku".
  • Mazinger Z: Baremos Q7 was a Mechanical Beast built with stolen samples of Alloy Z. However, its head was made of a less sturdy metal since Dr. Hell had not enough alloy. During the battle, Kouji eventually noticed the Robeast was ALWAYS protecting its head. Logically, he aimed for it. Another example happened in one of the first chapters, when he was told Bikong O9 weak point were its horns.
  • In Psycho-Pass, Rikako gets shot in the face with a shotgun point blank.
  • Kiddy Grade pulled one off too in the finale. Namely, Alv became one with the Deucalion so Lumiére hacked into the ship's left arm and used the cannons on it to score a hit on the bridge. Yes, you heard that right: Lumie headshotted Alv with her own arm.
  • Happens to Johan Liebert from Monster twice.
    • Lampshaded by Martin mocking a gunman for not shooting someone in the head. That someone was him.
  • Justifiably so in Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex. As a significant amount of individuals have cyberized brains that can be transplanted into fully prosthetic bodies even if the rest of the body is gibbed, completely annihilating the brain case of a cyber-brain is often the only way to completely "kill" a person and is often heartily encouraged.
  • Golgo 13 almost always goes for a head shot.
  • Cowboy Bebop:
    • In "Ballad of Fallen Angels," a Red Dragon mook who takes Faye hostage gets a bullet right through his skull from Spike, setting off a furious Church Shootout that ends with Spike and Vicious clashing for the first time in the series.
    • The villain of "Sympathy for the Devil" also gets a bullet in the head. This bullet, however, is fashioned from a gem that was created from the energy released by the Gate explosion, the same energy which broke Wen's circadian rhythm and made him essentially immortal and unaging, and using it has the effect of rapidly aging him to death as Wen's true age is returned to him.
  • Ami's dad in Occult Academy manages to decapitate a chupacabra in episode 8... with a nailgun.
  • In the 9th volume of High School D×D, Issei finishes the fight at Kyoto when he fires his Trianna Bishop Shoulder Cannons at Cao Cao in the face just when he was about to retreat. Cao Cao survived but is missing an eye thanks to it.
  • In the finale of Magical Girl Lyrical Nanoha StrikerS, Teana takes out two Combat Cyborgs with this. Almost. Deed proved to be more durable than expected, requiring a second head shot from Vice. It doesn't kill them though.
  • Subverted in Attack on Titan, many Titans get their heads blown off by explosive cannon shells, but they survive and regenerate. The only way to kill them is to slice (or punch, if you're the Rogue Titan) off a small area at the base of the neck. Turns out that Titan brains are located in their spines.
    • Then played straight later on in the series, with the arrival of the 1st Central Squad. Their custom Cool Guns are designed for blowing a sizable chunk out of a human target's head, which they quickly display by shooting several unlucky soldiers in the head.
  • In Aldnoah.Zero, Inaho and Asseylum both die in this manner. They get better in the second season. Inaho comes back equipped with a cybernetic eye to replace his damaged eye and Asseylum is seen again alive in stasis.
  • In Mother Keeper, Graham manages two head shots, once was one of Silas's men and later Silas himself.
  • In The Voynich Hotel, three drug dealers are taken out in this manner by an assassin who's a guest at the hotel. The ghosts of the first two go on to haunt the hotel, with one still missing half his head, while the third appears to briefly come back to life to chew out one of her fellow dealers for mooching their supply.
  • Dragon Ball: When Commander Red reveals that his goal in gathering the Dragon Balls was to make himself taller, his adjutant Black is naturally not happy about it, considering how many lives and resources they've thrown away for him, and shoots him in the forehead before taking over command of the Red Ribbon army.

    Comic Books 
  • Several times, notably on Penny, in Back to Brooklyn.
  • Played in Season 8 of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, as it happens to Ethan Rayne and The General.
  • In issue #10 of Mega Man, After defeating Heat Man and taking his weapon, Mega Man shoots him point-blank in the face, with an evil smile. This clued Dr. Light and the others that something was very wrong with Mega Man.
  • Subverted in the Marvel G.I. Joe comics where Scarlett survives a point-blank shot to the head.
  • As expected, Sin City does this a lot to gruesome effect. Since it often averts the Instant Death Bullet, almost any quick kills involve bullets to the brain.
    • Wallace was notorious about this; most of his kills being headshots. In fact, in the climax, he killed an entire warehouse full of assassins with headshots.
    • Miho, likewise, often hit mooks in the head with her throwing-stars and arrows or simply stabs in the head them with her swords. In fact, in one darkly humorous moment, she shot a neo-Nazi through the chest with an arrow and he remained standing, marveling at the entire situation while the rest of the villains ignored him. She then finished him off with a shot through the head.
    • In The Big Fat Kill, Dwight killed a few mercenaries via shots to the head.
    • Dwight also killed Ava Lord with a shot to the forehead.
    • In Silent Night, Marv killed the madame running the child-prostitution ring with a headshot.
    • In Marv's first story, he wakes up in a hospital after receiving several bullets to the chest. He complains that, in order to kill him, the bad guys should've shot him in the head — and enough times to make sure.
    • It should also be noted that when John Hartigan committed suicide, he shot himself in the head even though he had already been shot in the back (Sin City heroes tend to walk away from other shots with ease).
    • There are aversions, however:
      • When Jackie Boy's gun exploded, the slide went right through his forehead but he was alive for a few more minutes, prompting Miho to finish the job by chopping his head off completely.
      • Dwight was shot in the face with what appeared to be a glancing hit and while he needed immediate medical attention, he remained conscious and survived with a little surgery.
  • Preacher is in LOVE with this trope. The results of headshots are always shown in the most graphic detail with skulls being obliterated, along with showing the victim's brains and eyeballs flying everywhere. Including a few darkly humorous scenes in which characters are shown surviving headshots despite having their entire jaw completely blown off.
  • In The Transformers: Last Stand of the Wreckers, weapon designer Ironfist reveals that he invented "cerebro-sensitive bullets," which have an onboard computer and guidance system that causes them to automatically home in on the head of anyone they're fired at, insuring headshots with 100% success rates. However, because of their lethality, the Autobot Ethics Committee banned them and ordered him to turn in all the bullets and modified guns he'd produced. When he's packing to join the Wreckers, he decides to "accidentally" switch one case and bring it with him. He also reveals to his team that he was shot with a prototype of the bullet that's slowly burrowing through his head and will eventually kill him.
  • Subverted in The Transformers (IDW) Spotlight: Hardhead. Hardhead is shot point-blank in the face by a mind-controlled Nightbeat and shrugs it off completely while pointing out that he has a Meaningful Name.
  • In Justice League 3001 Superman spends so much time boasting how he's going to kill a couple of aliens that they shut him up by doing this.
  • Wallflower of the New X-Men: Academy X was shot through the head by a sniper as part of Stryker's preparations to attack the Xavier School in the aftermath of House of M.
  • Wolverine's adamantium-reinforced skull prevents this. Shooting him in the head is only likely to piss him off.
    • By contrast, his daughter/Opposite-Sex Clone, X-23's, skull is not. As a consequence, a headshot is just as messy for her as it would be for any normal person. However because of her Healing Factor she'll get back up again, and then come gut you. In All-New Wolverine she even has a Waking Non Sequitur while her brain is knitting back together after being sniped.
      • She delivers them, too. In Target: X she drills a helicopter pilot right between the eyes (Laura was on the ground, the chopper pilot was in the air). She also uses this as an execution method with her claws against a Purifier goon during Second Coming.
  • Deadpool splatters Werewolf by Night's head with a shotgun for sleeping with his wife.
  • The Transformers: Till All Are One: Has Ironhide defeat Bruticus by launching a rocket into the giant's visor blowing his head apart and forcing him to separate into his individual components.
  • Iron Man is forced to do this to Mallen in the Extremis storyline to take him down for good. Tony's so pissed off having done this that he kicks Mallen's lifeless body in total spite.
    • This is also how Obadiah Stane dies. Confronted by a recently returned Tony Stark armed with the Silver Centurian Armor and unable to fight Tony with his massive armor, he blasts his own head to spite Tony and rob him of a victory.
  • The Batman: Black and White story "An Innocent Guy" tells of a young man who decides he's going to kill the Batman and goes into detail about how he'll do it, sniping him while he's preoccupied. An Imagine Spot shows the bullet plowing through Batman's head and causing a fountain of gore.
  • In the Joker graphic novel, Joker henchman Johnny Frost shoots one of Harvey's cops in the face and saves Joker's life. The perspective makes it look like the hole takes up half his face.
  • In the first issue of Avengers: The Initiative, MVP gets shot in the head on his first day in basic training.
  • Ultimate Marvel:
    • The Ultimates:
      • Black Widow managed to escape from the defeat of the Liberators at the end of vol. 2, but Hawkeye hunted her, found her, and killed her with a shot to the head. Still, she was Defiant to the End.
      • Hawkeye killed the man in the lobby of the building (actually an alien) with an arrow to the head.
      • Nick Fury tried to kill Herr Kleiser this way. But, as he's Made of Iron, it was Only a Flesh Wound.
    • Ultimatum: Cyclops was killed with one by the end of the story.

    Comic Strips 
  • Dick Tracy in its early decades had numerous villains taken down by Tracy by shooting them in the dead.

    Fan Works 
  • Child of the Storm:
    • The ability to do this almost casually is a trademark of the Winter Soldier - however, he'll frequently put someone down with bullets to the chest, then finish them off with a double-tap to the skull.
    • In the sequel, Harry Dresden puts three bullets from his .44 Magnum revolver into Voldemort's head from close range to kill him - or more accurately, get him out of the way, because Magneto's vengeance-driven method of killing him was too slow and they had other priorities. Magneto was not pleased, and to add insult to injury, it didn't even work.
  • In Half Life: Hero Begginning, when Henry Freeman's mom protests the Combines pointing their lasers at him, they shoot her and laugh at her. Despite this apparently destroying her head ("haha stupid humen girl with no head"), she's able to tell Henry Freeman to run away before she dies.
  • In Revenge Road, Hikaru shoots Madoka in the head, killing her instantly. She thinks Madoka has to die for stealing Kyosuke away but doesn't think she deserves to suffer because she was her friend for a long time. As for Kyosuke, she's nowhere near as merciful with him.
  • How Lyra kills two of Pyrrha’s teammates in Ruby and Nora.
  • In Chapter 20 of Team 8, Kurenai is killed by being hit in the head with a kunai after breaking Tsukuyomi.
  • Camp Nightmare: This is Jerome's fate, thanks to the police.
  • In I Did Not Want To Die, several soldiers are killed in this way.
  • In Origins, a Mass Effect/Star Wars/Borderlands/Halo Massive Multiplayer Crossover, twice in one chapter! Tali shreds a commando's faceplate with a flechette shotgun followed by a heavier round to finish the job, and Legion follows up shortly thereafter with a "sickening 'pop'" from his railgun-amplified Widow.
  • In Worldwar: War of Equals, Race landcruiser commanders stick their heads out of the hatch, making them prime targets for snipers.
  • Frostbite has a few instances of this with Frickin' Laser Beams at close range, resulting in a number of exploding Breen heads.
  • The Rise of Darth Vulcan: The titular Villain Protagonist ends his brief fight with Tirek by shoving a crude gun, forged by his Diamond Dog blacksmiths, into Tirek's face and firing off both barrels point-blank.
  • In canon Worm, Taylor Hebert only uses guns a few times, but she finds herself unusually capable. In Recoil, she actually gets real training, and she becomes very capable. Headshots are now the order of the day.
  • In Four Deadly Secrets Ruby demonstrates this several times against Grimm.
  • At the beginning of Old West, Rattlesnake Jake kills one of Tomson's fellow mercenaries this way. Later Tomson himself is killed this way by his boss.
  • The Sweetie Chronicles: Fragments; Sweetie Belle takes a point-blank shotgun blast to the face courtesy of a Twilight-possessed Blackjack when visiting Fallout: Equestria - Project Horizons. She gets better when Twilight uses her soul to bring Sweetie back to life.
  • Hellsing Ultimate Abridged:
    • Alucard invokes this trope on numerous occasions, even quoting the trope verbatim during his first fight with Anderson. Subverted though when Anderson no-sells the shot seconds later.
    • Jeb Forrest decides to interrupt Integra's orders to Alucard, and Alucard nonchalantly gives him one of these. Nobody cared.
  • In Hyperemesis Gravidarum by A.A. Pessimal, Julian Smith-Rhodes escapes an assassination attempt simply because the attacker just had to try and make it as emphatic as possible by going for the head-shot: the crossbow bolt misses by a fraction of an inch. Julian was annoyed about this: an Army officer's cap does not come cheap and replacing one with a crossbow bolt-hole through the crown was going to cost him at least twenty dollars.
  • Brilliantly subverted in Code Geass: Paladins of Voltron. A Brittanian sniper tries pulling this on Kallen, but her armor's helmet effortlessly protects her.
  • In Neon Genesis Evangelion: Genocide, Ritsuko gets killed when Seele's agent Musashi Kluge puts one bullet through her head.
    Again Rei did not hear the shot. The back of Ritsuko Akagi's head exploded into a red mist and sprayed on the ground next to her dead body.
  • In Dragon Ball fanfic The Warriors Daughter, Gohan kills Cell by shooting one ki blast through his head. Unfortunately, the energy beam goes also through Bulla's head, who was holding Cell in place to give Gohan a shot at him, aware that it would kill her.

    Films — Animated 
  • Frozen (2013) has a downplayed, PG-rated example, where Elsa accidentally shoots ice in Anna's head in an attempt to keep Anna from falling, which incapacitated her. Grandpabbie did tell their parents that Anna was lucky it wasn't in the heart, which would've been fatal both in the film and in Real Life.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • A Little Bit Zombie: Penelope kills Max by blowing a massive hole through the middle of his head. Tina kills Penelope the same way.
  • Blood Bags: Antonio kills Vittoriao with a shot to the head in Tracy's Imagine Spot.
  • Clown Motel: One of the clowns gets shot through the head.
  • Collateral features extensive use of the Mozambique drill, which is a double-tap to center of mass followed by a headshot, and is Vincent's signature killing technique.
  • Dawning Of The Dead: In one scene, someone shoots a zombie in the head, causing it to explode in a fantastic fashion.
  • GoodFellas: The murder of Tommy DeVito is carried out via a bullet to the head; Tommy himself kills a henchman the same way one scene prior.
  • TRON: The titular character does this to Sark using his disc, which causes chunks of data to bleed from his head.
    • This trope surprisingly appears quite a bit in the sequel, TRON: Legacy. The most notable example however was when Quorra shoots one of Clu's mooks, leaving a rather graphic headshot during the dogfight scene.
  • Mystery Team implies the effects of a cherry bomb hitting someone in the face.
  • In City of Life and Death, Kadokawa kills Mrs. Jiang by shooting her in the head.
  • Jackboots on Whitehall showed you can even do this to marionettes!
  • One of the most famous examples occurs in Maniac! (1980) when Tom Savini's character Disco Boy gets his head blown off at point-blank range with Frank's double-barrel shotgun.
  • In the Transformers Film Series, Optimus Prime seems obsessed with destroying the heads of his enemies. Throughout the course of all three films, he decapitates Bonecrusher, shoots Demolisher in the head, tears Grindor's head in two, shoots off half of Megatron's face (with his own cannon), tears the skin off The Fallen's head, rips Shockwave's eye out of its socket, shoots Sentinel Prime twice in the head, and finally tears off Megatron's head and SPINE.
  • Both versions of Dawn of the Dead feature shotgun-blast-to-the-head scenes. The remake also has a scene where a character unerringly picks off a string of zombies with headshots, but he's a gun-store owner doing it from a safe rooftop, with a high-powered sniper rifle, while the zombies aimlessly mill around below. And it's all just a morbid way of killing time.
  • Everyone in The Zombie Diaries seems to know that the only way to stop the zombies is to shoot them in the head.
  • In Wild Wild West, Gordon has been taken captive, and Loveless will just have someone shoot him. Expecting this, Gordon attempts to trick the secessionist Loveless into shooting "[his] heart, that has loved this country so much", as Gordon is wearing the bulletproof vest he just invented. Response?
    Loveless: Shoot him in the head.
    Gordon: Damn.
  • In The Matrix, Trinity disposes of an agent this way by shoving the gun right against his head.
    Trinity: Dodge this.
  • In Underworld: Awakening, an escaping Selene is shot in the head by a guard. Being a vampire, this just pisses her off. She proceeds to drain said guard, which quickly heals the wound.
  • In Thor, the titular god performs one of these... as a Dynamic Entry.
  • A non-lethal variation occurs in Home Alone, where Kevin McCallister manages to drive away Marv by shooting him between the eyes with a b.b. gun when he pokes his head through a doggie door.
  • In Open Range, Butler has just had time to gloat about killing Moose and injuring Button for a second when Charley puts a bullet between his eyes.
  • Johnny Wong goes out this way by way of Moe Greene Special in the finale of Hard Boiled.
  • In R.I.P.D. the dead can only die from a headshot. Anything else is considered annoying.
  • The opening sequence of Lord of War ends this way.
  • Averted in Premium Rush. Corrupt Cop Robert Monday walks around almost normally for a while after being shot in the head. It takes about a minute for him to realize what happened, and another minute for him to start stumbling and die.
  • In X-Men: First Class, Magneto kills Sebastian Shaw by telemagnetically pushing a coin through his brain.
  • Harry Hart delivers quite a few of these in Kingsman: The Secret Service, and dies by being on the receiving end of one of these, courtesy of Valentine.
    • In the sequel Kingsman: The Golden Circle it turns out these things are survivable: Statesman has developed Alpha Gel and nanomachine technology to cure headshots, at the cost of amnesia that requires reliving a traumatic experience to regain their memories. In Harry's case it was the prospect of shooting his beloved dog Mr. Pickle, and in Whiskey's case it was finding out his wife was dead. By the way, that gunshot to the head Whiskey got came from Harry, who realized Whiskey was a traitor.
  • Blue Velvet: Frank Booth is shot in the head with a gun. We even get to see brain matter shoot out of the back of his head. Can't say the bastard didn't deserve it.
  • In The Suicide Theory, Steve uses headshots frequently, as he is a trained hitman. Three men he shoots go down with Pretty Little Headshots, while Percival, who hired him to help him commit suicide, survives three shots to the head.
  • DC Extended Universe:
    • Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice: During a melee, a mook runs up behind Batman and shoots him in the back of the head at point-blank range. Fortunately his cowl is bulletproof, though Batman flinches in visible pain.
    • Wonder Woman (2017): A patron at the bar Charlie is introduced in decides to shoot Charile in the head for taking a drink from his glass. Diana's speed allows her to intercept, but there was an attempt to murder him at point blank range.
  • John Wick could alternatively be titled "Boom, Headshot: The Movie."
  • Bring Me the Head of the Machine Gun Woman: Despite lying wounded and bleeding on the ground, the Machine Gun Woman saves Santiago by firing a shot that takes off the top of Panguinao's head; sending it flying high into the air.
  • Somehow, Kylo Ren manages to pull this off with a FREAKING LIGHTSABER in The Last Jedi by activating Rey's lightsaber through the head of one of Snoke's guards and deactivating it again so quickly it's almost imperceptible.
  • Happens no less than four times in Momentum. In a movie where characters seem to be Made of Iron, it's better to make certain they're dead.
  • Stein's death in Silent Night. Deputy Bradimore puts a shot between his eyes that splatters his brains over the wall behind him.
  • SHAZAM! (2019): While still trying to figure out his new powers, Shazam interrupts a convenience store robbery. One of the robbers shoots him, with no effect. Freddie suggests giving the gun back and having the robber shoot him in the face to see if he's bulletproof, or if it's just the suit. Shazam does so, but belatedly objects when he realizes how horribly this could go wrong. Fortunately, the headshots do nothing but tickle a bit.
  • In Hellboy (2019), Hellboy is a crack shot with his massive Hand Cannon. Almost every hit he lands that is shown on-screen is a headshot with predictably gory results, and he rarely, if ever, seems to miss his target.
  • Dirty Harry:
    Dirty Harry: But being this is a .44 Magnum, the most powerful handgun in the world that would blow your head clean off...
    • The end result: Dirty Harry shoots the Scorpio killer in the head, sending him to fall into the body of water behind him.
  • In Primal, Loffel makes almost of his kills via headshot so as to bypass the Bullet Proof Vests the US Marshals are wearing.
  • Naturally comes up in Saving Private Ryan, as many of the soldiers take rounds or even artillery to the head. However special mention goes to the German sniper; Jackson combines this with Scope Snipe to put a round right through his eye.
  • How Stan dies in Revenge (2017).
  • Save Yourselves!: The pouffes manage to instantly kill multiple people by simply shooting their tendrils through their heads.
  • S.W.A.T.: During the opening, the two bank robbers outside the bank are killed with headshots by the SWAT Teams, one by a sniper when he tries to steal a car to escape, one in a close-range gun battle. Inside the bank, Gamble attempts a headshot on the third when he takes a hostage, but misses and hits the hostage in the shoulder instead. There is also a Deleted Scene where Hondo tells Chris Sanchez that when she goes for a headshot on a target, she needs to aim for the "vermilion line", i.e. shoot for the center of the face and not the forehead.
  • Mohawk: When Myles is torturing Calvin by pouring boiling water into his mouth, Joshua kills him with a single expertly place musket ball through the forehead.
  • Virus Shark: Anne is killed with a bullet to the head after she's been infected.

  • The Dresden Files:
    • Characters with firearms training occasionally double-tap their target if they can get away with it. The most impressive headshot in the series, however, was in Small Favor, when Kincaid dropped two Denarians with one shot, through their heads.
    • In Cold Days, Harry finishes off an Outsider after winning a Battle in the Center of the Mind by shoving his gun through its mouth, and firing a spell through it as he pulls the trigger. To the tune of Queen's "We Will Rock You".
  • Worm, when Skitter executes Coil.
  • Averted in The Dark Tower novel The Waste Lands. When The Tick Tock Man is shot in the head, the low caliber bullet only grazes the person's skull, a fact which allows someone to revive the person, later.
  • Before the beginning of Thomas Bernhard's grim novel The Lime Works, the main character, who is a typical Bernhard character in that he's a dark and tortured Ditzy Genius, has shot his paraplegic wife in the head with the carbine he fitted to her wheelchair so she could fend off burglars.
  • Played realistically straight in The Zombie Survival Guide and its companion novel World War Z: brain destruction is the only way to kill a zombie (even fire needs to cause brain damage to be effective, and the heads survive after decapitation), but it's not as simple as "Shoot in head, head explodes." It's perfectly possible to miss and shoot off the jaw, and one of the many demoralizing incidents in the Battle of Yonkers was soldiers panicking at the sight of zombies apparently surviving head shots, not realizing that their poorly aimed bullets were glancing off the skull. The fact that real soldiers are trained to aim at the center of mass is also touched upon: they have trouble unlearning that particular rule, and torso hits don't really slow zombies down all that much. Everyone, even the experienced marksmen, has to re-train themselves to shoot for the head. Real soldiers are also trained to fire at the head in situations exactly like those described in the book, though, as part of failure drills, especially at close range.
    • It's even lampshaded in an entry detailing how a Chinese Army unit was up against a horde of zombies, but put them down quickly and efficiently from long range with their snipers, never realizing they were zombies. The Chinese snipers were trained to always aim for the head, so the zombies never got close to them and the soldiers didn't know what they were dealing with and had no reason to try and find out.
  • At the end of Honor Harrington "Ashes of Victory" Thomas Theisman puts an end to the Committee of Public Safety's Reign of Terror with one of these and one of the most immortal lines in science fiction.
  • At the end of Fevre Dream by George R. R. Martin, the Big Bad, thousands years old vampire Damon Julian, is killed with a point-blank headshot. From both shotgun barrels.
  • In Space Marine Battles, the Space Marines seem to prefer this, which combined with the fact that bolt rounds are explosive, leaves most of their targets headless.
  • Lampshaded In The Hunger Games trilogy when Peeta mentions his father liking buying game from Katniss because she always shoots the bird in the eye, thus preserving the edible part of the flesh - presumably included by the author to show what a good shot her heroine is, but one wonders how anyone, even such a star as Ms Everdeen, could guarantee to shoot at a bird on the wing so accurately!
  • Shattered Continent features these extensively, due to the abundance of things on Neue Erde that a center-mass hit will only slow down.
  • The preferred method of hitman Sean Callan in Don Winslow's "The Power of The Dog". He sticks with a .22 pistol as his weapon of choice, since he knows the .22 load is powerful enough to pierce the skull, but not exit it. That means the bullet rattles around the skull like a "pinball", shredding grey matter the whole time. Combined with his habitual Double Tap, it makes him frighteningly efficient at killing.
  • The title character of the Dan Shamble, Zombie P.I. acquired his "zombie" moniker after dying of a Boom Headshot, inflicted from behind in a dark alley. He keeps the unsightly exit hole concealed with morticians' putty, and wears a hat over the entry hole.
  • In Renegades, Nova puts down the Detonator with a headshot, as anything less deadly would've given her enough time to detonate the bombs hidden around the amusement park.
  • In the Monument 14 Trilogy, Robbie gets shot in the head after the kids catch him trying to have sex with Sahalia.
  • The Marvellous Land of Snergs: Gorbo kills the ogre Golithos by embedding three arrows in his head.

    Live-Action TV 
  • The Barrier: Alejo dies of a bullet in the head, after the armed guard restraining the person Alejo was insulting turns to be an ally of the restrained person taking advantage of Faceless Goons.
  • Big Sky: Cody gets killed by a shot to the head at close range by. Legarski is also downed by Cassie in the same way, though at a greater distance, later on.
  • Bones:
    • In "The Bullet In The Brain" (guess what it's about), The Gravedigger is headed to an appeal. Outside the courthouse, she's shot in the head by a high-caliber rifle (as the name of the episode implied). The shot makes her head asplode.
    • Another episode deals with a victim possibly killed in this manner, but the team have to figure out how many gunmen and who the victim was. It might have been JFK.
  • Buffy the Vampire Slayer: The General, via Simone, at the end of the Season 8 comic.
  • In the sixth season finale of ER, a cop on the scene of a mass shooting is shown doing CPR on someone whose brains were splattered all over the concrete. This is the show's typical subversion of Worst Aid, since Dr. Kovac comes by and tells him to stop.
    Dr. Kovac: We'll never get her back with a head wound like that! Stop compressions!
  • Criminal Minds:
    • "Penelope": This is how J.J. takes down the crooked cop who nearly killed Garcia. She does so by shooting through a pane of glass while he isn't looking.
    • "L.D.S.K": Reid manages to take Hotch's ankle-holster gun while being kicked, and then shoot straight through the sniper's forehead.
  • Final Deployment 4: Queen Battle Walkthrough:
    • Scourge kills Xanxicon with a headshot.
    • Featured in a First-Person Shooter game near the end of the short film.
  • Game of Thrones:
    • Theon's rescuer kills the leader of his pursuers point-blank with an arrow to the face.
    • A peasant who makes fun of Cersei gets a taste of this from Gregor smashing the poor bastard's head to the wall.
  • On Rookie Blue Andy is talking to a young woman when suddenly the woman gets shot in the head and Andy is splattered with the woman's blood and brain matter. The woman is brain dead and the doctors keep her body alive only because she is an organ donor and they need the police investigation to be closed before they can perform the transplants.
  • A hostage situation in Blue Bloods is ended this way when Frank Reagan kills the crook with a knife to his daughter's throat.
    • Jamie Reagan stops a criminal from blowing up a room full of people this way in "Occupational Hazards".
  • In Degrassi High, this is how Claude commits suicide. Snake, who found the body, mentioned later that only half his face was left.
  • The last season of Highlander had an episode where a guy was wearing a bomb vest wired to his heart rate. The female immortal bounty hunter guest-star shoots him in the head (she tells him that by shooting him there, she will have a few seconds before his heart stops and the bomb goes off), then tackles him out the window and into the water, where the bomb won't hurt anyone else.
  • In the Mystery Science Theater 3000 episode featuring Gunslinger, heroine Rose delivers the final blow on antagonist Cain by shooting him in the head. However, thanks to a bit of Special Effect Failure...
    Joel: [Rose fires, knocks off Cain's hat, Cain slumps over] Oh, shot him right in the hat.
  • NCIS provides interesting variations of this.
    • In one episode, Gibbs stops a computer by shooting it. When the computer boots back up again, Gibbs shoots the monitor to permanently shut it down.
    • This is what happens to the suspect that killed Chris Pacchi.
    • At the end of Season 2 Kate went out this way, courtesy of Ari after Taking the Bullet for Gibbs by means of body armor.
      • The event is recreated with Gibbs's ex-wife Diane by Sergei Mishnev.
    • In a Moment of Awesome in the Season 7 premiere, Gibbs does this to a terrorist who had taken McGee, Tony, and Ziva hostage. From a half-mile away.
  • Deconstructed in 19-2, where Jean-Pierre Harvey gets shot in the eye during a police operation in response to an armed suspect, suffering severe brain damage that leaves him mentally and physically crippled before he passes away.
  • Many characters in The Expanse get their craniums fatally ventilated, but special mention goes to Shed Garvey, who had the misfortune of getting his head taken clean off by a railgun round during a heated Space Battle
  • In The Wire Chris Partlow, The Dragon for sociopathic druglord Marlo, trains his soldiers to shoot for the head if they're close enough and have a clear shot, or low enough that they'll be able to kill or incapacitate even a target that wears a Bulletproof Vest, as several of the drug dealers and stick up artists tend to do. We see it play out several times, perhaps most memorably when Chris and Snoop distract Bodie so that one of their men can sneak up behind him and shoot him in the head. Twice.
    • In Season 3, Tri takes out Jelly this way, starting a gang war.
  • In the first episode of Firefly, Dobson, an Alliance agent, holds River hostage. He gets about halfway through his "nobody move or I kill her" rant when Mal, without even so much as breaking stride on his way back onto the ship, whips his revolver out and puts one right in Dobson's eye socket. The supplemental comic books reveal that Dobson somehow survives this, and gets tasked by the Hands of Blue with retrieving River, giving him a shot at revenge. He fails and gets shot in the other eye by Mal, along with a few more just to make sure he stays dead this time.
  • On Forever Knight, Nick gets one of these in 'Knight in Question'. He's a vampire, so he survives, but ends up with temporary Laser-Guided Amnesia. LaCroix has to help maintain the Masquerade by whammying the doctors with the idea that it bounced off Nick's 'very thick skull'.
  • In Breaking Bad:
    • Hank does this to one of the Mexican assassins sent to kill him. Made harder by the fact that Hank's been shot and is more or less paralyzed except for his arms. Made easier by the fact that the assassin is literally standing directly over Hank in order to kill him with an axe (it's kind of a thing with him), and messier by the bullet Hank used to put him down: a hollow-point.
    • Hank himself ultimately meets such a fate at the hands of Jack Welker. He's not the first person to meet this fate at the hands of Jack, as Jack had earlier ended Declan's life by shooting him in the face.
    • Ultimately, Jack dies the same way Declan and Hank died.
  • Sherlock: This is how Sherlock gets rid of Magnussen in "His Last Vow", after the latter is dumb enough to reveal that there are no hard copies of his Blackmail material, and it was all kept in his head.
  • Star Trek: The Next Generation has a rather surprising (for the time) example in the first season episode "Conspiracy": when confronted by Commander Dexter Remmick, who had been possessed by a parasitic lifeform, Picard and Riker both set their phasers to kill and fire on Remmick, causing his head to melt and promptly explode.
  • In The Walking Dead it's common to see walkers getting headshots, but a particularly brutal example on a human was the death of Axel, who was casually talking to Carol and is suddenly Killed Mid-Sentence by the Governor from afar. Mood Whiplash indeed.
    • In the episode "Coda", escaped-hostage Bob Lamson gets executed by Rick in this manner. Also, from the same episode, Beth's death. Dear God, Beth's death.
  • Bennett Halverson gets shot by Whiskey in this manner in Dollhouse. Cue the waterworks.
  • House of Saddam: The execution of several Baath loyalists. Even worse was that those that were spared were ordered to do the killing.
  • Supernatural: Ghouls can only be killed by a headshot. It is also a preferred method of killing Nazi necromancers.
    • In the episode "Bedtime Stories'', Sam uses the Colt to kill the Crossroads Demon this way.
  • In iZombie, Blaine is fond of killing other zombies in this manner. Justified, since this is a surefire way of killing a zombie. He is shown doing this to two of his underlings who try to steal his clients from under him. He also kills Lowell in this manner, albeit in self-defense. Naturally, he doesn't do that to his human victims, since this would damage the brain, which is his primary commodity.
  • In Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles, the unceremonious death of Derek Reese after suddenly encountering an armed Terminator at close range.
  • Murder in the First: Alfie Rentman dies this way, after holding a girl hostage and then threatening Hildy, at the hands of a police sniper.
  • In the Emerald City episode "The Beast Forever", Dorothy manages the impressive feat of landing a bullet between the eyes of her target without even holding the gun. She tricks East into pointing the pistol at herself and pulling the trigger. When the other witches examine East's body, they wonder how someone carved a perfectly round hole into her forehead and wonder why anyone would do so.
  • True Blood: Jason Stackhouse and Jessica Hamby get into an argument when he realizes she's just fed on a complete stranger. It escalates to the point that Jessica bites Jason on the neck, prompting him to shoot her in the head with his duty gun to get her off him. As Jessica is a vampire, it heals instantly, but she is none too pleased. She later rants about it in one of her vlogs.
  • Daredevil (2015) and The Punisher (2017): Frank Castle was shot in the head at close-range by the operatives who were sent to kill him and his family when he was about to blow the whistle on war crimes his fellow Marines were involved in. Frank survived, as if by a miracle, but there's an implication that he's taken some brain damage as a result.
    • Frank practices one shot-one kill, so many of his targets get this fate: Finn Cooley, Colonel Schoonover, and one of the guys that he lures to a diner by using Karen Page as bait, among others.
    • Also within Daredevil season 3, this is the fate given to Jasper Evans and Ray Nadeem courtesy of Dex.
  • Altered Carbon: Variant. Since everyone uses cortical stacks, they can survive any injury so long as their stack is resleeved in a new body. Therefore, it's very common for people to shoot at the base of their brainstem, where the stack sits, rather than the skull, since that's a Real Death. And is typical for this trope, some of these shots are a bit improbable. While Kovacs and the numerous assassins certainly have the skills to reliably pull off a stackshot, Ortega's partner Samir manages to get shot perfectly in the stack when he covers her from a stackshot with his own body.
  • Band of Brothers:
    • During the Brecourt Manner assault in "Day of Days," a lost GI pokes his head up at the wrong moment while getting his bearings, and takes a round through the brain pan.
    • Sergeant Grant is shot in the head by a drunken replacement in "Points." He survives because they were able to rustle up a brain surgeon from one of the local German hospitals.
  • Hightown: Osito uses this method on more than one occasion.

  • The music video for "All About Us" by t.A.T.u, this is how one of the singers kills the man who almost raped, then beat and tried to kill her.
  • Dubstep/Electro house artist Feed Me made a Stupid Statement Dance Mix for a rather exuberant FPS player (FPS Doug from Pure Pwnage again) going about how he pulls these off with gusto. It's aptly titled "One Click Headshot", and it's awesome.
  • "Aim For The Head" by Creature Feature is all about doing this to ghouls, and "A Gorey Demise" mentions "K is for Kim, who was shot in the head".
  • In Warren Zevon's "Roland the Headless Thompson Gunner": "That son-of-a-bitch Van Owen blew off Roland's head."

    Myths & Religion 
  • Older Than Feudalism. In The Bible, David hits Goliath right between his eyes wtih his slingshot. Then David goes up and behead Goliath with his own sword, just to make sure he was dead.
  • Celtic Mythology: Similarly, in the Lebor Gabala Erenn or Book of Invasions, an ancient Irish myth, Lugh of the Long Arm shoots a sling stone through his grandfather Balor's eye, driving it into his brain and killing him.


  • In the first episode of Jemjammer, Alana hits a giant spider right between the eyes with her gun—and it's strong enough to completely disintegrate it.
    Ælfgifu: Next time we let her go first.
  • In The Fallen Gods, Solvin one-hit kills a draconian with an arrow directly through its head.
  • The audio drama We're Alive is a story set during a Zombie Apocalypse with this being the most effective way to kill a zombie.

  • In Nan Quest, Pablo is killed this way. Justified, as the target was standing still and had to be killed as quickly as possible.

    Tabletop Games 
  • BattleTech: You can make a called shot at an enemy mech's head, but only if the mech is immobile due to being shut down or the pilot being unconsious. You take a mild penalty, but since the target typically won't have any defensive bonuses for movement this usually isn't too bad. In return, if you can deal at least 12 points of damage to the head you're guaranteed to kill the mech.
  • A combat technique of the same name in Psionics: The Next Stage in Human Evolution allows you to aim at an opponent's head. You get a penalty to the attack but it does double damage if it hits.
  • In Cyberpunk, headshots are either the best or worst combat option. There is an attack penalty, but most PCs are skilled enough at gunplay that missing is rare. On the other hand, helmets tended to be much sturdier than body armour, so the chance of doing damage is reduced. But it's often worth it since headshots give the possibility of an instant kill if your gun is powerful enough.
  • GURPS makes headshots a very tempting target with a 4x damage multiplier and even if the damage isn't lethal requires an immediate (nearly impossible) roll to avoid being stunned and knocked down. The penalty to hit, however, is very large.
    • That said, you can invest in the "Targeted Attack" Technique to buy the penalty down. Additionally, trying to hit the Skull from behind is significantly easier.
  • This is a called shot in Shadow Run.
  • In Hc Svnt Dracones a headshot deals triple damage if they're not wearing a helmet, but requires three successes on a Single Shot, in which case you don't get any extra dice for your gun's rate of fire and have to rely on your Trait dice (which have an unaugmented max of three dice). But you can still hit them somewhere else unarmored with just two successes, and the H-101 Long-arm deals 15 damage per hit, more than any other gun short of the V-801 Mag-Lance.
  • Hero System gives a -8 penalty to your roll if you're going for a head shot. For comparison, Blasting It Out of Their Hands is only a -6. But a head shot also does double BODY damage, and five times the STUN damage, so unless your target is wearing a helmet it's worth trying.
  • Yu-Gi-Oh!: This is depicted in the artwork of Graydle Combat. Graydle Slime is seen being shot in the head by a card effect, and Graydle Slime Jr. emerges from it as a result.

    Theme Parks 

    Web Animation 

    Web Comics 

    Web Original 

    Web Videos 
  • Messier does this to a Meyer Security prison guard while rescuing the rest of The Anarchists in Door Monster's The Guards Themselves.
  • This is one of Percy's abilities in Critical Role. Mechanically, he can take a headshot to impose disadvantage on attack rolls; he's also killed a stitch monster in the Underdark and Clarota this way.
  • The Nostalgia Critic does this to keep Roger the Angel from killing him in "You're a Rotten Dirty Bastard." Much to Roger's surprise since he thought angels couldn't be killed.
    Roger: Hmm... so God lied to me.... that seems like a bit of a dick move.
  • How Snake kills Liquid the second time around in Stupid Mario Brothers.
  • Activists against autonomous killer drones shot a cute little film. (Technically, Boom Head C4, but with the same result.) Go on, google it on YouTube.
  • Episode 2 of Missing Reel, "Zombies"!, since it emphasizes how Night of the Living Dead (1968) established the "aim for the head" method of killing zombies.
  • The Weather: "James" the hunter kills the talkative owl by shooting it in the head, accompanied with a shot of the owl's blown-off head.

    Western Animation 
  • In one episode of Ben 10, Gwen performs a G-rated version of this by using a squirt gun against aliens who are weak to water.
  • Another G-rated example occurs in the DuckTales (1987) episode "Where No Duck Has Gone Before"; Launchpad blasts Bulvan in the face with the food-maker he nabbed from the Kronks' robot, knocking him back and blurring his vision long enough for the party to escape.
  • In the Family Guy episode "Brian's a Bad Father", Quagmire shoots Peter through the skull (with his eyeball popping out) as payback for getting shot in the arm by him earlier on. Peter does survive, but he's left in a crippled state.

Shot through the head, and you're to blame! Darling, you give guns--a bad name!

Video Example(s):


Batman: Gotham Knight

In "Batman: Gotham Knight", Deadshot is shown doing a super precise shot that ends in a glorious headshot.

How well does it match the trope?

5 (9 votes)

Example of:

Main / BoomHeadshot

Media sources:

Main / BoomHeadshot