We're not unreasonable, I mean, no-one's gonna eat your eyes.
All we want to do is eat your brains,
We're at an impasse here, maybe we should compromise.
If you open up the door,
We'll all come inside and eat your brains!"
For whatever reason, an amazingly large number of monsters enjoy eating human brains.
Sometimes there is a reason for this lust for pink matter: the monster thinks it will get the powers/knowledge/memories of the unfortunate brain owner — and depending on the monster, that may even be true. Other times... well, maybe brains just taste good.
If there is a brain eater on the scene, expect to see a scooped out head at some point, if for no other reasons that it looks really terrifying. If this is a comedy, there will nearly always be one person 'immune' to the problem, due to not having any brains to begin with.
The trope may be of particular saliency now because we no longer tend to believe that the essence of one's individual humanity, call it a 'soul', resides in (say) one's heart or (as the ancient Greeks supposedly thought) the liver; most of us would tend to place any such thing in the brain.note This gives the trope the impact of some other cultures' urging the victorious to eat their vanquished enemies' heart, or of the torture of Prometheus by Zeus' eagle's daily meal being the Titan's liver, which regrew each day for torment's sake.
The subtrope of brain-eating zombies seems to have originated with 1985's The Return of the Living Dead, with the famous character Tarman shouting "Brains" throughout the film, and most of the time when it appears it is either a reference to that film, or unknowingly influenced by other references to that film. Before George A. Romero and John Russo introduced the Flesh-Eating Zombie in Night of the Living Dead (1968), zombies were not expected to eat people at all, except in some fringe Haitian legends which included anthrophagy as part of a general rampage on the part of the normally passive zombies whose controlling voudun priest had died.
It should be noted that most Romero-style zombies tend to just eat whatever meat they can off their victims until they're satisfied. Zombies of the Russo mold are more inclined to crave people's brains specifically, and since Removing the Head or Destroying the Brain is the general way to kill many such zombies, new zombies tend to arise through infected survivors of zombie attacks rather than merely being killed by the zombies like in Romero's work. As you'll read down the page, you'll find most examples to be zombie free.
For the other type of Brain Eater (which primarily shows up among creators), see Filibuster Freefall.
- A set of HULU ads have various celebrities encouraging people to watch more television, because it softens your brain so they (being, of course, aliens in disguise) can eat it.
- The first villain in the Battle Angel Alita manga has to eat brains to get his endorphin fix and brains have a lot of endorphins. In general, Yukito Kishiro loves finding excuses to draw internal organs.
- The first new villain of Boruto can get anyone's abilities and turn into him by eating his brain alive.
- Buso Renkin: As a non-malicious humanoid homunculus, Victoria satisfies her hunger for human flesh by eating her mother's cloned brains rather than attacking and eating people.
- Inverted in Delicious in Dungeon, where one of the monster meals the Touden party cooks up is a doria made with the brains of a man-eating bicorn.
- In Digimon Ghost Game, Monster of the Week Arukenimon is a Mad Scientist who thinks eating the brains of humans and Digimon will make her smarter and strong enough to Digivolve to Mega.
- One of the numerous serial killers in MPD Psycho uses brains as plant food for his favorite flowers... by cutting open their skulls and using them as flower pots. While they're still alive.
- In Hunter × Hunter, the Chimera Ants eat any flesh they can find but prefer brains. Particularly human brains. The Chimera Ant King is even pickier and enjoys the brains of Nen users.
- In one of the weirder scenes in the film, the apes in Princess Mononoke ask San to give Ashitaka's (unconscious) body to them so that they can eat his brain. They believe that, in eating a human's brain, they will become as strong and as smart as the humans are.
- The Promised Neverland: Demons feast on humans to retain their sanity, but can permanently increase their intelligence if they eat the brain. Naturally, the demon nobles maintain a stranglehold over 'premium', well-educated brains.
- In Tokyo Ghoul :Re, formerly human half-Ghoul Seidou Takizawa mentions that human brains taste like jam.
- A villainous frog-Youkai from Ushio and Tora has the tendency to suck the brains out of people's head with his overly-long, tube-like tongue. He sees this as a Karmic Death since he deems them too stupid to give him a proper answer on the question he and his friend are pondering on for ages.
- Enigma features The Head, a lizard monster that sucks peoples brains out through their noses.
- Jack Of Fables introduced us to Lady Luck during his stint in Vegas. She lost a good chunk of her powers due to a soured romance and regains some of it when she eats the brains of high-rollers.
- The Venom Symbiote in Spider-Man must eat human brains, which sometimes doesn't agree with his human host. Sure, he could find the same chemical he obtains from the brains in chocolate but where is the fun in that?
- Mac Gargan (the Scorpion) became the new Venom. This version was more insane than Brock ever had been, and became a true cannibal, not picky about it in the least.
- On the subject of Venom, the Xenophage is a bug-like alien predator that preys on Symbiote. It doesn't just devour brains, consuming the Symbiote and its host, but it tends to go for the brain first. As a result, during the alien invasion of Symbiotes during Venom: The Hunted, Venom is initially blamed for the deaths it causes.
- Rhona Burchill, Ultimate Fantastic Four's Mad Thinker, devised a way to increase her brain's "processing power" by grafting someone else's brain tissue onto her brain, so she killed her little brother because he "wasn't using it anyway" — the implications are roughly equal that he was genuinely mentally deficient or that he simply had a lower IQ than his already-a-genius-but-psychotic sister.
- In the Chilean comic Zombies en la Moneda, we see several zombies moaning "cerebrooossss" ("Brainnnssss"), however, none of them feed exclusively on brains.
- In The Powerpuff Girls story "Undead Kola", zombie magician Abracadaver conjures up an army of zombies with a soda pop. One zombie attempts to nosh on Bubbles' brain but Buttercup thwarts the attempt.
- The Omnitrix Hero: The Conductoids, the same alien species as Feedback, don't eat brains in the traditional sense like a zombie would, but they can feed off the electrical pulses from a brain the same way they drain electricity from machines. When they drain Canterlot's power plant to refuel their ship, they take Shining Armor and a few civilians captive, intending to have them as a "snack" once their ship is fully repaired.
- The Palaververse: The first semi-success of Zebrican alchemy to make the undead, resulted in something that wanted to eat brains:
Although the immediate results of this were mixed (Idube attempting to consume the brains of his privy council was something of a let-down)
- The Mad Scientist in the schlock horror film Blood Relations experiments with brain transplants to give old, decrepit people young, healthy bodies. He also takes one of the brains stolen from a victim and fricassees it on the stove, making a ghastly joke about "food for thought."
- There's a moment in Blood Sucking Freaks when a depraved doctor uses a straw to suck some woman's brains out.
- In Body Bags, the hair growth experiment in the "Hair" segment is actually part of a scheme by wormlike alien invaders to take over human hosts and eat their brains.
- Brain Damage features a fast-talking brain-eating worm named Aylmer and his current host Brian. The whole movie is a metaphor for drug addiction because in exchange for feeding him brains the parasite injects addictive blue fluid that makes him act as though high.
- The Brainiac revolves around a magician who was to be executed in 1661, who then used his magic to get on a passing comet and returns to earth 300 years later as a brain-sucking monster. It also brought us the page image.
- An important clue in... well, Clue. The dish that everyone ate, in the beginning, was Monkey Brain Soup, popular in Cantonese cuisine... and a favorite of Mrs. Peacock's, tying her former cook to her in the blackmail scheme. It identifies her as the murderer in 2 of the endings.
- Faces of Death had people eating monkey brains right after having to kill the monkey by beating it on the head with mallets which resemble a pestle.
- The Swooping Evil from Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them is said to consume the brains of its prey, although Newt's are tame enough not to do so to the opponents it overpowers.
- Fiend Without a Face has invisible brain-like creatures that suck the brains out of the skull.
- In Gamera vs. Guiron, two alien women from the planet Terra plan to eat the brains of two children. One scene shows one of the kids secured, with his head shaved, about to become the main course... and it's a kids' movie. Funnily enough, at least in the dub, this doesn't seem to be part of their culture or usual plans. Just some random idea that one alien sprang on the other.
- Hannibal has a scene with a man literally eating his own brains.
- In The Hills Have Eyes (1977), Papa Jupiter threatens to eat the brains of the protagonists' kids.
- The evil alien in the Dolph Lungren film I Come in Peace (also known as Dark Angel) injected humans with overdoses of heroin in order to harvest Endorphins, that could be rendered into a powerful recreational drug on his home planet.
- In Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom, Indy and co. are treated to "chilled monkey brains" as they are visiting the Pankot palace.
- Mind Ripper (a.k.a. The Outpost) has a mutant who feeds on brains to get his fix of sterols.
- In Planet Terror, the zombie-like mutants eat Fergie's brain, prompting the gag "Looks like we've got a no-brainer." Similarly, a repeated line throughout the film is "I'm gonna eat your brain and gain your knowledge", first said as a small boy is playing with his action figures, although, by the time Josh Brolin starts saying it, it becomes creepy/hilarious.
- The Kothoga monster from The Relic requires certain chemicals from the human brain to sustain itself.
- The first zombie movie that used the brain-eating element was The Return of the Living Dead. Here, the zombies eat brains because they give off endorphins that kill the pain of decomposition and rigor mortis.
- The Brain Bugs in Starship Troopers, who use a rather straw-like proboscis to stab through the skull and suck out the juicy brain meats within.
- R the zombie in Warm Bodies doesn't just eat brains — eating the brains of his victims allows him to experience their memories and associated emotions. Eating Perry's brain in the beginning makes R fall in love with Julia.
- Lone Wolf: The Rakhos of Castle Death is a floating, undead, severed hand fond of eating brains. And yes, if Lone Wolf makes the mistake of turning his back to it after thinking he has defeated it in combat, we get a graphic description of the monster digging its fingers in his skull to consume the cerebral matter.
- An old children's joke is to place a hand on the head of another child and undulate the hand, and ask, "You know what this is? ("What?") A brain-sucker. You know what it's doing? ("What?") Starving."
- American Psycho: Patrick Bateman films himself eating the brains of a woman he murdered, and later shows the film to another woman before killing her as well.
- City of Devils: Lampshaded with the zombies, who turn humans into zombies by eating their brains. And can only communicate using the word "brains" with slightly different inflections.
- Dan Shamble, Zombie P.I.: Zombies are susceptible to an addiction to eating brains.
- The Dark Profit Saga: Zig-zagged in the prologue to Son of a Liche. A newly risen zombie starts moaning "brains, braaaiiinnns", then another zombie helpfully yanks the ax out of his skull. Then they start talking about how brains actually sound quite delicious now.
- Doctor Who Missing Adventures: In the First Doctor book Venusian Lullaby, it turns out that the Venusians have a particular variant, both horridly grisly and somewhat heartwarming — in funerals, it's customary to serve the deceased's brain as part of the funeral food. This is because the Venusians have the ability to acquire others' memories by consuming their brains, though as Barbara discovers when she accidentally samples the food, it can overwhelm humans to the point of actually reliving the consumed memories.
- Earth's Children: The Clan of the Cave Bear practices this as an Older Than Dirt trope, sacrificing a man to the totemic giant cave bear, after which the shamans adjourn to a private shaman soirée deep in the caves where they pass the victim's skull around and ritually munch his brains.
- Eat Them Alive: The giant praying mantises at the beck and call of the story's Villain Protagonist like to wrench people's heads off and smash them against rocks so they can suck out their brains.
- Expedition Z: Zombies enjoy eating human and animal brains more than normal flesh.
- Hannibal: Lecter stir-fries some guy's brain. Thomas Harris lovingly describes how Lecter prepares it, tableside, fresh from the source (he literally scoops out the slices of brains from the victim's skull at the table, in front of Starling). He gently coats it with breadcrumbs, then sautées it, serving with caper-berries and black truffle brown butter sauce. Just the way that Harris describes it is enough to make the reader hungry, especially since he is a foodie and the recipe would actually be delicious (except the obvious part, of course).
- The Last Chancers: In Kill Team, the titular Five-Man Band are invited to a meal by some Kroot. Too bad for the human brains for dessert.
- The Laundry Files: Many Eldritch Abominations eat human brains. Some specific examples:
- Doing certain kinds of math performs magic by drawing the attention of Abominations from other planes of reality. While computers can be made to do the math, it's also possible for a human to do it in their head, which runs the risk of drawing the attention of microscopic Abominations that will take microscopic nibbles out of the magician's brain. If this happens often enough the magician will begin to suffer symptoms resembling Mad Cow Disease.
- Brains are what vampires really eat, not blood. When a vampire drinks blood from a victim it establishes a magical link between the Abomination giving the vampire its powers and the victim, allowing the Abomination to slowly eat the victim's brain from a distance. If a single victim is fed too often they die from something resembling Mad Cow Disease.
- "A Midwinters Tale": Eating brains passes on the memories of the dead creature.
- Mogworld: Averted but lampshaded. The zombies just don't eat, but using the trope to terrify the nearby populace certainly makes for a fun time on your day off.
- My Zombie Valentine: One of the short stories focuses on a Zombie Apocalypse originating on the set of a zombie apocalypse film. The Alpha Bitch seems to be immune to a zombie attack, and they speculate that she doesn't have any brains. However, it turns out that she's wearing a perfume that repels zombies.
- Nation: One of the cannibal chiefs mentions he would like to eat Daphne's brains. It's sort of a compliment, as it means he thinks she's very intelligent.
- Nightside: In Sharper Than a Serpent's Tooth, a group of sentient zombies raised by the Big Bad and sent to slaughter the living reference this trope, debating whether or not they should eat brains and, if so, whether condiments will be required.
- Quazi: This is averted under normal circumstances, as the Risen only eat still-living flesh and, by the time a Risen gets to the cranium, the victim is already dead, while the intelligent Qazi cannot process animal proteins. However, it's eventually revealed that for a Risen to become a Quazi, it must eat a human brain. Not even a whole brain. A single human brain should be enough to get up to nine Risen to become Quazi. The protagonist is shocked by how true old movies about the undead were, and how modern people instantly dismissed the idea as ludicrous because it came from B-movies. He realizes that the Risen need brains to "ascend" to Quazihood, but, in their mindless state, they don't know it, so they go after humans in general. That's why, out of six billion Risen, there are only about a hundred million Quazi.
- The Rats: The Rodents of Unusual Size have a preference for brains, and often chew their way through the eyes of their human victims to reach this tasty treat.
- The Relic: Human brains aren't Mbwun's first choice — it prefers to eat the plants from the Amazon used as packing material in some specimen crates (which have much higher concentrations of the hormones and such it needs). The events of the novel happen because the crates are moved to a more secure area of the basement after a curator notices they've been broken into, forcing it to search for alternatives (read: brains).
- The Seven Against Thebes (adapted into the play of the same name by Aeschylus) includes Tydeus, a favorite of Athena and father of The Iliad's God-Puncher, Diomedes. Apparently, Athena wanted to make Tydeus immortal after he was heavily wounded, but changed her mind after she caught him eating his slain attacker's brains. Congratulations, Tydeus. You're supposed to eat the brains after you're dead.
- The Shahnameh: The evil king Zahhak is cursed by Ahriman with two brain-eating snakes on his shoulders, necessitating the daily sacrifice of two innocents to prevent them eating his own.
- Spots the Space Marine: Both the "Violinists" (allies of humanity) and "Crabs" (enemies) do this to their own kind to transfer memories. Violinists do it to pass on knowledge to the next generation as they have very short lifespans, while Crabs do it to share intel on their enemies; once the squad learns about this, they are ordered to kill using headshots. The Crabs also do this to captured human marines, but their Fiddler attache assures them that the biochemistry is incompatible.
- Starfleet Corps of Engineers: The creators of the monster ship on the planet Sarindar fed on brain matter. A now-departed race that colonized the planet centuries ago, they built artificial constructs in the shape of shii beasts to collect the heads; these decapitated victims in order to gather the brains.
- Star Wars Legends: The Anzati are a species that eats the "soup", also called the "luck" or the "Sea of Memory", of sentient beings. They're humanlike, but with a sort of proboscis in each cheek which unfurls to jam through the victim's nostrils and into the brain, then suck it out. One Anzati claims that the brain-eating thing is the only way to get at the "soup" and apparently lucky individuals are sensed as such and are more desirable.
- Terminal World: There are biomechanical creatures called "Carnivorgs" that survive by eating the brains of the people they capture. The front of their heads ends in a drill, which they use to punch through their victim's foreheads. The worst part? This process doesn't kill the victim.
- The Vampire Chronicles: A witch can absorb the residue of a dead person's soul by eating the brains. As it turns out, the technique also works on living vampires.
- Wild Cards: Deadhead absorbs the memories of creatures (and people) whose flesh he eats, getting the clearest 'read' from the brain.
- Zombie Haiku: The zombies eat brains. One of the haiku is:
brains brains brains brains brains
brains brains brains brains brains brains brains
brains brains brains brains brains.
- In the Angel episode "Bachelor Party", a demon tries to eat Doyle's brain as part of a ceremony before said demon marries Doyle's ex-wife.
- Buffy the Vampire Slayer:
- In "The Prom", Buffy fights hellhounds who eat brains. She takes advantage of this by questioning the butcher's shop to discover who's been buying cow brains and raising the hellhounds.
- Glory from Season 5 sucks the sanity out of people's brains.
- Subverted in "Bargaining, Part 1", in which Anya points out that real zombies don't eat brains unless instructed to do so by their zombie masters.
- An episode of Dexter has him discovering a serial killer who eats people in general but has a special liking for the brain, marinading one as a delicacy (which also clears him from being a different serial killer who mutilates brains in order to remove specific pieces).
- Doctor Who: The Dream Crabs from "Last Christmas" trap their victims in a dream state while they slowly liquefy and consume their brains.
- Hannibal: In season 3, Hannibal decides that the best way to end his obsession with Will Graham is to truly consume his intelligence aka. literally eat his brain. He gets as far as tying Will up and trying to cut his head open with a bonesaw before law enforcement bursts in.
- The cyborg Kaarvok has a habit of removing the brains of his victims with a straw, which are then fed into a slot in his head.
- After removing the neurochip from Crichton's brain, Scorpius finds that there's a large chunk of cerebral tissue clinging to it. Grinning wickedly, he eats the piece of brain matter in a single bite.
- Sylar from Heroes steals the powers of others by removing their brains and doing something unspecified with them. Fans love to joke that he eats the brains. This seems unlikely, though, as on the few occasions when he's shown just after he's stolen power, he's had blood all over his hands, but none on his face. Word of God says that yes, he was going to eat them, but they realized how ludicrous that would sound, so they left it vague. It remains to be seen whether they'll ever come up with a different explanation.
- Molly does make mention that he eats brains in the season one finale. To be fair though, she was just a little girl and probably didn't understand what Sylar was doing while poking around in her father's brain.
- There is also a suggestion that Sylar's original power was in being able to understand how things worked, which implies that he might merely need to take the brains out to study them and somehow make the required changes to his own brain. How he would do that is another matter entirely. This is actually lampshaded in the first episode of Season 3: We cut back to Sylar and Claire after last having seen Sylar cutting the top off of Claire's head, and he is indeed doing something — poking at Claire's brain, occasionally stopping as though examining something. Claire asks, "Aren't you going to eat it?" His response?
Sylar: [incredulous] Eat your brain? Claire, that's disgusting.
- The zombies of In the Flesh do not need to eat or drink and if they do, they vomit it up again. The exception to this is brains (including those from animals) which has an effect like ecstasy on them.
- The zombies in iZombie need to eat brains to keep themselves civilized. If a zombie doesn't eat brain matter regularly, they will gradually lose their intelligence. If they don't eat any brains for an extended period, then they will permanently become a "Romero", a mindless, shambling monster needing to be put down. As a side effect of eating brains, the zombie temporarily gains the personality traits and skills of the deceased, as well as occasionally seeing some of the deceased's more recent memories in the form of visions. Liv, the protagonist, works at the medical examiner's office to keep herself supplied with "food". At the same time, no zombie likes the taste of brains, finding it "metallic", and Liv usually mixes it in with some normal food and adds a lot of hot sauce, usually microwaving it beforehand. Her boss finds out about this after opening up one of the autopsies she closed and finding the brain missing. Instead of freaking out, he covers up for her "appetites" and works on finding the cure for her condition.
- Brain-eating by humans and aliens alike is a constant motif in the first season of Lexx, since they have the preserved and telepathic brains of many past God Emperors onboard and they're a bit annoying.
- Played for Laughs in "Bottle Bash" episode in which Adam speaks to a Jello-brain: "You remember when I hit your head with a beer bottle?" (eats a spoonful of Jello out of the brain) "No you don't!"
"Mm, it's a delicious memory!"
- On their 2013 Zombie Special — after one test was concluded, Adam placed platefuls of Jello brains on a table and called their test zombies over for a snack. The trope was constantly referenced throughout the episode; however, an educational "short" with Tory as the professor pointed out that this trope is a common misconception about zombies; in fact, they hunger for any human flesh.
- Played for Laughs in "Bottle Bash" episode in which Adam speaks to a Jello-brain: "You remember when I hit your head with a beer bottle?" (eats a spoonful of Jello out of the brain) "No you don't!"
- The Psirens from the Red Dwarf episode of the same name. They look like man-sized insects and will project false visions to their victims. They're perhaps the first brain-eaters to use a straw.
- Villain Angus Rickman suffers from a fungus infection in his brain which requires him to extract brain tissue from compatible "donors" and inject the tissue into his own brain, leaving the donor comatose. This is how he causes Arturo's death.
- The Kromagg on the other hand enjoy human eyes as candy.
- When Data has nightmares in the Star Trek: The Next Generation episode "Phantasms", one of his visions is of Dr. Crusher drinking from Riker's head through a straw. It's unclear if she's supposed to be drinking his blood, cerebrospinal fluid, or (liquified) brains.
- The fate of the Great Zambini in the Tales from the Crypt episode "Food for Thought", found with his brain being munched on by a gorilla. He had it coming.
- Averted in The Walking Dead (2010). The zombies tend to go for limbs and necks instead.
- The X-Files: The episode "Hungry" is told from the point of view of a Monster of the Week who tries to resist his cravings for human brains.
- Jonathan Coulton's "Re: Your Brains". It's told as a memo from an office worker who's become a zombie to one who is not yet zombified, and the chorus says "All we wanna do is eat your brains. We're not unreasonable. I mean, no one's gonna eat your eyes."
- The "Hard N' Phirm" song "Not Illegal" is dedicated to a litany of things that are not technically against the law, up to midway through when Hard, taking the lead, zealously declares,
Hard: Take a fork and eat a brain
Phirm: — And that's not illegal! (stops) That's not illegal?
Hard: (nonchalantly) I'm still a free man.
- Iron Maiden's "Piece of Mind" has it on the inner gatefold,◊ and also the record label◊/CD◊ art.
- In several of the Rhapsody of Fire songs, is often stated that demons feed on brains. In a moment of extreme wrath, the Warrior of Ice threatens to come back from the dead to eat Akron's brains.
- As mentioned above, Voltaire's "BRAINS!"
- Classical Mythology: Tydeus was a Greek hero who achieved great fame thanks to the protection of Athena, leading the Seven against Thebes. He was mortally wounded by an enemy and Athena was about to make him immortal, but Amphiaraus (a seer who'd been forced to join the expedition against his better judgement) decapitated Tydeus' killer and presented the head to Tydeus, who for whatever reason starting eating the man's brains. The understandably disgusted Athena left Tydeus to die.
- All Flesh Must Be Eaten, a game entirely about zombies, has "Braaaaaaaains" as an option for a zombie's diet. Because this takes effort and means the zombie needs to eat more people to stay active (as opposed to "All Flesh Must Be Eaten", where they can eat any part), it reduces the zombie's power level.
- BattleTech: if you play the RPG, Mechwarrior, your characters may perchance encounter the trachazoi, a horrible little bastard of a creature that lives in trees and drops down onto anything passing below. Its favorite target is primates, and it does not see humans as any different from the apelike alien creatures it normally hunts. The trachazoi's feeding habits are best described as "jump on anything vaguely humanoid, smash their heads open, and eat their brains before fleeing into the night." It does this with frightening efficiency as its oversized foreclaws are lethal, doing as much damage a sniper bullet to the head.
- Dungeons & Dragons:
- The illithids, a.k.a. mind flayers, are the most well-known brain-eaters from the game and can perform an "Extract Brain" attack on a helpless foe that will insta-kill most creatures. Their actual food is minds, but consuming brains is how they get that when it comes to beings with brains.
- Inverted by the chuuls, giant crustaceans with paralytic mouth-tentacles. They're actually allergic to brains and will instead peel the flesh and bone from around it and eat that. In an example of Gameplay and Story Integration, this often means that illithids will train them as garbage disposals for brainless corpses.
- Aboleths, primordial aquatic horrors, don't need brains to survive, but can absorb a consumed brain's knowledge to add to their incredible Genetic Memory.
- Intellect devourers eat your brain and then nest in your skull.note
- The neh-thalggu, or "brain collector", is an abomination that has been retconed with every edition of the game, it seems. All versions agree that it doesn't truly "eat" the brains it consumes, but stores them inside itself to gain intelligence, Ability Score bonuses, and either spellcasting of psionic abilities.
- Yellow musk creepers feed by stabbing their vines into the heads of their victims and sucking out their brains.
- Ravenloft: One strain of vampires feeds on cerebrospinal fluid, which is close enough to this trope.
- GURPS Creatures of the Night has two brain-eating creatures: bookworms (aka cipherids or brain leeches) are worms that absorb memories from dead brains that they eat, and iphids (aka brainbugs) are insectoids that get smarter by consuming the brains of those of higher intelligence.
- Magic: The Gathering:
- Myriad Song: Morphir begin life as ordinary carnivorous plants. But if someone feeds them the brains of sapient beings they become sapient and mobile, as well as produce buds that contain memories from those they ate, often smoked as a drug.
- SLA Industries: The vat-spawned Grit Stormers can absorb information from the brains they eat.
- Warhammer 40,000:
- Space Marines can assimilate information by ingesting the cerebral matter of the corpse they need it from.
- The Slaugth are an alien race that has a taste for (and is liable to become addicted to) human brains.
- The Tyranids known as "Lictors" will ambush enemy soldiers and consume their brains, in order to absorb strategically-useful information and pass it on to the Tyranid Hive Mind.
- The World of Darkness:
- Werewolf: The Apocalypse: One secret society of werewolves has discovered that they can gain spiritual power by eating the brains of other supernatural people. Doing so rapidly makes them insane pawns of the Wyrm, however. Fomori may also gain the Brain-Eating power, giving them the ability to gain Mental Attributes by killing people and eating their brains.
- Zombie: The Coil, a fan-made game, has zombies as playable characters. They gain Viscera and sustain themselves by eating flesh. Eating the target's brain grants them the maximum amount of Viscera (though the game notes it takes effort to open the skull).
- The Brainsucker of Bloodborne is a group of mutated Tomb Prospectors who are in a dire hunger for insight, they feed on your brain by plunging their brains onto yours.
- In Board Game Online a player can eat human brains to move forward several spaces and learn a random feat as well.
- Parodied in Dawn of the Dragons. One group of zombies moans "brains..." but a friendly necromancer informs the heroes that the zombies are merely telling them they need to destroy the zombies' heads to stop them because they can't stop themselves. Later, a zombie in your army says "Brains..." behind one of your companions which she ignores. Until she slips on some splattered brain on the floor. The zombie promptly says "Told you."
- Apparently the Zombie family of Undead monsters in Diablo-verse want to eat brains. If you don't attack them, and they don't see you, they will occasionally mumble "Brains...".
- Parodied in DragonFable by the Bread Zombies in the Necropolis' cafeteria who want "GRAINS...GRAINS..."
- Inspired by Dungeons & Dragons as discussed above, the game NetHack includes Mind Flayers which can suck out your player's intelligence and/or memory of levels you've already visited. The intelligence drain is merely deadly; having to re-explore previously-visited levels is downright annoying. Fortunately, you can turn the tables and possibly gain intelligence points by eating Mind Flyer corpses. The game even announces a success with "That was real brain food!"
- An ironic example is found in Dying Light. The protagonist can make a potion to cloak himself that uses the brains of a mutated infected called a Bolter. It's the only one of Dahlia's potions that works without serious side effects.
- Five Nights at Freddy's: Freddy Fazbear's Pizza: a popular kid's pizza parlor with fun-loving animatronics performing for all present... until the Bite of '87. There are theories around the details of the incident. And Five Nights at Freddy's 4 might elaborate on it. If not, then that means there's two bites.
- Combine Advisors from Half-Life 2 take the memories and knowledge of their victims by consuming their brains. Or at least we assume that's what they're doing. They ram their tongue in through the brainstem. Of course, they are psychic so it could just be some form of alien data transfer rather than NOMNOMNOMKNOWLEDGE.
- In Kingdom of Loathing, During the Zombie Slayer challenge path (in which you yourself are a zombie), you are only able to eat brains. These are not a naturally-occurring food in the kingdom (for the most part; the Zombie Chef drops them now and again), but as it happens, monsters drop brains while you're on the path. You can also increase the drop rate by learning the Skullcracker skill — which means, naturally, you learn how to skip the middleman and get to the grey matter yourself.
- The Jonathan Coulton song quoted at the top of this page is one of the songs that will play on the jukebox in Left 4 Dead 2. Despite the fact that the game's zombies don't seem to eat brains, the song's chorus ("All we wanna do is eat your brains...") summons a horde of them to attack the Survivors.
- Word of God explains it. The zombies have an advanced form of rabies. Think rabies symptoms x10. This induces insanity, and loud noises and bright lights give them extreme pain. This is why they attack when car alarms are set off, as well as why they attack pipe bombs. It's their way of saying "SHUT UP/TURN THAT LIGHT DOWN, IT HUUUUUUUUUUUURRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRTTTTTTTTSSSSSS". So yeah, even Jonathan Coulton pisses them off.
- Mortal Kombat:
- One of Baraka's Fatalities in Mortal Kombat 11 has him skewer his opponent's brain before pulling it out and taking a bite out of it. Keep in mind he has to pull off his opponent's face and the front half of their skull to get at it.
- In Mortal Kombat 1, Mileena has a Fatality where she brutally bites into the opponent's head, removing and swallowing their brain in the process.
- In Office Zombie, the Zombie leans back and says "Braaaaaains!" as one of his taunts. Also, several brain-related voice clips play in the background like intercom announcements, such as "Brains, line 1" or "Need brains in the cafeteria."
- Plants vs. Zombies
- Zombies want to eat your brains, so in order to stop them you... set up a yard full of plants as a defense? The basic concept of brain-eating zombies is also played with a bit in the closest thing the game has to a theme song, "Zombies On Your Lawn".
- In addition, the game features a take off of Insaniquarium, where the fish are replaced by snorkel zombies, and the fish food is replaced by brains.
- The "I, Zombie" minigame flips the script on the main gameplay, having you deploy zombies to tear your way through plant defenses and eat the brains placed at the finish line.
- The main character of [PROTOTYPE] does get information from his meal's brains, but he doesn't just eat the brain, he eats the entire person. That said, it's a plot point the brain must be intact at the moment of consumption for him to gain the knowledge inside, which prompts one of his would-be victims to shoot his own brains out first.
- Reality-On-The-Norm has the zombie Michael Gower, who, before his soul was restored, was a mindless killing machine with an appetite for brains. In one game (I Spy III), the protagonist has a nightmare about the zombie chasing her to slurp her brains while moaning about various parts of the brain, like "Cerebellum!" and "Medulla oblongata!"
- Rottytops finds brains tasty, even though she never follows up on any of her threats.
- Shantae: Risky's Revenge: Abner says that the only difference between the regular brain-eating zombies compared to him and his siblings, is that they use coffee to substitute for eating brains, and otherwise they would lose control of themselves and hunt people.
- In the Friends to the End DLC for Shantae: Half-Genie Hero, she finally gets the chance to eat brains: her special power is to pull a brain out of her back pocket and chow down, healing the team.
- Shin Megami Tensei IV: The Red Pills appear to be a humane substitute for human flesh, until the party learns that the active ingredient is human brains.
- Stubbs the Zombie: The main character. At one point he gives a rallying speech to a bunch of zombies he infected that consists of nothing but the word "Braaiins".
- Team Fortress 2: There's a special Halloween skin that you can apply to your characters that invoke this trope, although whether they're really dead or just in very convincing costume isn't clear. For example:
Scout: It ain't original, but its true. I love brains.
- Zortch: Three guesses as to what the Alien Brainsuckers want to do with their human captives, namely Zortch herself.
- In Cox and Combes' Washington George Washington is said to have eaten opponents' brains.
- In Joe Zombie series, the said zombie eats the brains of his victims.
- In PONY.MOV, Fluttershy has a musical number on how she's going to do this to Rainbow Dash.
- In Red vs. Blue (a special feature), the blue team pretends to be zombies. Caboose does the Zombie Gait with everyone else, but moans "Brians! Brians!", as he read the script wrong.
- One Brawl in the Family comic has most of the main cast turn into brain-eating zombies. Mother Brain looks awfully nervous.
- Charby the Vampirate's Mye says she's not that kind of zombie, right before tucking in to a meal of chilled human brains anyway.
- In El Goonish Shive, theoretical zombies are portrayed as having a Zombie Gait and moaning "brains" even as they fall into a trench.
- In the Goats comic, one of the characters decides to capitalize on the zombie plague by selling brains to zombies over the Internet on a site called Brains4Zombies.com. The comic's creators then defictionalized the site (though unfortunately the defictionalized site is now gone).
- Parodied in Narbonic when Zombie Dave keeps saying "Braaains", even though Helen informs him there's no reason he needs to eat brains.
- In The Order of the Stick, there was a time when Elan got separated from the party and encountered a Mind Flayer. He then asked it if it was going to eat his brain. The Mind Flayer smelled him and said "No, thanks, I'm fine". Later on, when the rest of the party caught up, the Mind Flayer jumped over Roy. Vaarsivus immediately complained, since they were the party's mage and therefore had a much more succulent brain.
- The Mind Flayer's Meat-O-Vision sees Elan's brain as a Diet Coke ("Next!"), Haley's brain as a sundae ("too sweet"), Belkar's brain as a taco ("I'll get heartburn"), Durkon's brain as a bowl of rice ("Filling but bland"), Vaarsuvius' brain as a cheeseburger ("Now we're getting somewhere..."), and Roy's brain as a roast turkey with all the trimmings ("Perfect!").
- Zombies in OOTS also seem capable of saying nothing but "Brains...". When Xykon re-animates his dead dog in one of the prequel books, the first thing it does is kill a bird and eat its brain.
- The Other Grey Meat has a zombie civilization that has wiped out humanity by devouring the brains that they need to live. They now subsist on TOGM, a brain substitute that mimics the qualities of human brains.
- Spoofed in Schlock Mercenary when Mad Scientist Kevyn Andreyasn is reconstructed by his nanotechnology and does a Rise from Your Grave saying "Braaaiiiinnnsss!" He's actually having a flashback to when Elf first admitted she was attracted to him, and once his vocal cords have been rebuilt it turns out he was trying to say, "She loves me for my brains!"
- In Skin Horse, on the St. Charlie train of mad scientists, there is even a Brain-O-Mat for all the zombies onboard.
- Unity gets considerably smarter and rational after binging on brains, briefly. It might have something to do with being a swarm of nanobots inhabiting a patchwork corpse rather than a traditional zombie. As another zombie who was smart to begin with gets dumb and lethargic after eating a similar quantity of grey matter.
- In Sluggy Freelance, one of Gwynn's jobs in recent arcs was as a waitress at Zomblebees. The daily special? "BRAAAAAINS".
- One of her co-workers was revealed to be an actual zombie. She explained that while zombies don't have a particular preference for brains, you are what you eat and that to keep command of her mental faculties, that's exactly what she eats.
- This is later explained as that the zombies have to eat what they're losing. Decomposing brains = need to eat brains.
- An earlier villain was a Mad Scientist who infused her body with Nano Machines and one of the abilities they gave her was to absorb knowledge by eating brains. Biting into Sam's brain later left her feeling stupider (being a vampire who doesn't much use his brain, he felt just fine.)
- Something*Positive has a rather funny scene where Davan, contemplating the effect of authors' prejudices upon his ability to enjoy their work, imagines John Gardener returning and asking for "Braaiiins...preferably heterosexual braaaiiins..." A nearby male-male couple indignantly responds, "We're here, we're queer, and our frontal lobes are delicious asshole!"
- Annabelle in The Spider Cliff Mysteries must eat brains to prevent the decay of her own.
- xkcd presents Zombie Feynman, who desires brains and therefore does not want to eat string theorists.
- In Cradleland, the ba'thulaz eat brains, preferably those of sapient creatures like humans.
- Spoofed in Yu-Gi-Oh! The Abridged Series: a zombie character says nothing but "brains," with very eloquent subtitles expressing his personal, unheard woes. "He has the voice of a zombie-angel." It turns out Zombie Boy is in fact capable of regular speech.
Skinny Guy: Well then how come all you ever said to us is "Brains"?
Zombie Boy: Oh gee, let me think. Maybe it's because it's in the F[bleep]ing script!
- Zombie Nutritionist Recommends All-Brain Diet, on The Onion.
- The Aqua Teen Hunger Force episode "Happy Birthday Snake" turns out to be a VR simulation Meatwad put Frylock through to make Frylock realize he'd better listen to Meatwad or Meatwad will eat his brains.
Meatwad: Frylock, please. That was a computer simulation program. And it proved to me that you don't know what I like and what I like to do. And that is to tell you what to do. And you need to listen to what I say 'cause I'm gonna eat your brains!
- In one episode of Dilbert his company prepares to merge with "Brainsuck Industries", composed of aliens with suckers in their heads dressed in business suits and wigs. Dilbert derails the merger plan by taking the Brainsuck CEO to the marketing department — the marketing people are so stupid the CEO starved to death on a full stomach, forcing the aliens to flee.
- In The Fairly OddParents!, Mark Chang threatens to suck out Chester, AJ, and Timmy's brains through a bendy straw in his first appearance. No other mention is ever made to Yugopotamians being brain eaters afterward, however.
- Gravity Falls:
- The zombies in "Scary-oke" follow the tradition, including a (temporarily) zombified Soos, who cheerily asks the twins if he can eat their brains.
- In "Dungeons, Dungeons, & More Dungeons", Ford's magical infinite-sided die accidentally summons Probabilitor the Annoying, a powerful "math wizard" from the world of DD&MD who plans to eat Ford and Dipper's brains and absorb their intelligence.
- The Grim Adventures of Billy & Mandy:
- A brain-sucking alien is featured on one episode. Billy (of course) is found inedible, so is recruited to bring it food. Bringing it Mandy is a mistake.
- And then there is Billy's pet chupacabra...
Grim: I think it's trying to suck his brains out!
Mandy: Poor thing's gonna starve.
- This joke has been used at least three more times, two of them with starving zombies in Brown Evil and Versus the Martians with the former even having Billy sent to them for being invulnerable to their threat and the latter Irwin saying that he pities them. Then there was the time in Modern Primitives that the Flintstone reference had his brain sucked out by futuristic green aliens while Billy watched idly.
- In the Invader ZIM episode "Backseat Drivers From Beyond the Stars", ZIM is simultaneously trying to keep his Robo-Parents from eating a child, pilot the (incredibly large) ship of his alien leaders to come to Earth to see his "progress" while trying to keep his rival Dib from crashing said ship, and keep a creature in a containment chamber's status stable. The creature is a giant brain-sucking parasite. No reason is given as to why it sucks the brain right out of your skull or even how ZIM managed to obtain such a thing in the first place (but this is Invader ZIM after all...)
- The Oni from Jackie Chan Adventures would sometimes threaten enemies with this.
- Parodied and subverted in My Gym Partner's a Monkey episode "That Darn Platypus", where a new platypus student keeps rubbing into everyone's faces that he is an alien. Adam refuses to believe this, but the animals have reason to believe from various signs, such as when he keeps mentioning he enjoys brain juice. It turns out that it was just a nutritional fruit juice. Then inverted towards the end when it is implied that it really is made from brains. (The real Alien is the hippo.)
- Subverted in Phineas and Ferb. The zombies moan for brains, spleens, pancreases, kidneys, and cucumber sandwiches.
- One vingette on Robot Chicken shows a zombie snarling at the camera while brandishing a severed head. It then jams a straw into it and starts guzzling, with cartoony sound effects.
- Roughnecks: Starship Troopers Chronicles has the Brain Bugs doing this to obtain information from prisoners (the bug absorbs the knowledge from the brain it eats).
- The Simpsons:
- "Treehouse of Horror III" focuses on a zombie attack and is a fairly direct parody of Return of the Living Dead — consequently, the zombies in its take follow very Return-esque rules, and that includes an inescapable hunger for brains primarily, along with enough intelligence to talk about how much they want your brains. Given its popularity, it's sometimes theorized to be the Trope Codifier for this in zombie fiction. Similarly to Fry above, Homer Simpson is immune to a zombie attack.
- When Lisa tricks Bart and Homer into thinking they have caught leprosy, they shamble to the home of their smart neighbor for his help:
Bart: Braaaaains... Braaaaains...
Homer: Use your brains to help us! Your delicious brains...
- "Saddlesore Galactica" has the imp-like jockeys threaten to eat Homer's brain if he doesn't make Duncan lose the race.
- Burns is shown fancying monkey brains a few times, and in "The Spy Who Learned Me", he recalls having eaten the brain of an assistant when he sold him to cannibals.
- Comedy Central series Ugly Americans features many zombie characters, all of whom seem to have a natural desire to eat human flesh, especially brains. This is Played for Laughs, since the civilized zombies regard brains in much the same way that recovering alcoholics regard booze.
- Played with in the Halloween Episode of The X's, the Xs (sans Truman) are turned into zombies and moan "Brains", but the zombified Tuesday moans "Spleens" because she's allergic to brains.
- Eating human brain is (or was) a practice of several cultures, either as a funeral rite or just part of eating people. It's usually for the purpose of taking knowledge, gaining immortality, or whatever.
- Women of the Fore tribe in Papua New Guinea ritually ate the brains of the tribe's dead. Which caused the spread of a prion disease called kuru.
- Brain (of animals) is actually a delicacy in several countries, which probably makes humans kind of monstrous to them.
- Note that the current edition of The Joy Of Cooking omits all recipes that contain animal brains, and states that this is due to concerns over mad cow disease (see above). The same prion causes scrapie in sheep, chronic wasting disease in deer, and Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease in humans.
- If you do feel like eating some, like say scrambled pork brain, keep in mind that this type of food is amazingly high in cholesterol and fat; a little over a 100 g can easily exceed 1000% of the recommended daily cholesterol intake.
- There's an account of a rogue baboon killing people and eating their brains.
- A cryptid, the Nandi Bear, is alleged to do this as well (and may have actually been inspired by that baboon).
- Most predators will eat brains, assuming they can crack the skull. This means that small prey like mice and lizards, which can be eaten whole or nearly whole, often have their brains consumed, while larger prey like bison tend to have their brains eaten by scavengers instead of the animal that actually killed them (often by small scavengers who simply crawl through the eye sockets). Some predators also take out smaller prey with a bite to the head, as crushing the skull is a quick way to stop your dinner from fighting back.
- During sufficiently large salmon runs in Alaska, grizzly bears love to eat just the fish's brain, skin and eggs, since those are the fattiest parts and if they can get enough of them, there's no reason to eat the leaner flesh. It's estimated that on average, grizzlies leave about half their salmon catch uneaten. This in turn has helped the vast, lush forests of Alaska, as well as other areas of the Pacific Northwest, to grow big and strong, as all that leftover fish the bears leave lying around is chock full of nitrogen for the trees to soak up when the meat decomposes into the soil.
- Some accounts of the thylacine, otherwise known as the Tasmanian tiger, alleged that it could bite clean through the skulls of sheep or dogs, then consume the contents. It's most likely this was false however, as thylacines had rather weak jaws and likely specialized on small prey.
- Great tits (okay, you can giggle if you want!), birds that normally feed on seeds and small insects, have been documented supplementing their diet when their normal food is in short supply by attacking hibernating bats. Specifically, they peck the helpless bats' heads to get at the brains.
- Models of human evolution that depict early hominids as part-time scavengers often cite the brains of dead animals as an essential food source, as brain tissue contains lots of essential fats necessary for neural development that were otherwise hard to come by on the ancient plains of Africa. As few predators could break into the skulls of their prey, hominids who could beat the hyenas to an abandoned carcass could bust one open with a rock and obtain precious nutrients to feed their own evolving brains' growth.
- While planarian worms don't normally eat each other's brains, a certain scientist named Dr. James McConell got the clever idea to teach some worms to run a maze, then fed the trained worms' entire bodies (including brains) to some untrained worms. Amazingly, the untrained worms learned the maze much more quickly, as if they had actually gotten some information by eating worms who knew what they were doing, apparently proving Power Copying true... until scientists eventually realized that the untrained worms learned the maze more quickly because they were following the mucus trails of the previous worms they had cannibalized.
- Of course, flatworms don't really have a brain: just two clusters of ganglia with a few dozen neurons each.