Follow TV Tropes


Cranial Plate Ability

Go To
He's a metal head, but not a metalhead.

A character's life is saved by a metal plate (most often steel or titanium) they got after head surgery. It can also happen when a character has a piece of metal inserted in their brain/head via an accident. Whatever the case, the surgery/accident gave them new abilities.

How the character acquired such a piece there varies: either they were preparing for a mission and the preparation required this kind of surgery, they suffered an accident that embedded a piece of metal (usually shrapnel) in their head, or the accident actually forced the surgeons to resort to this kind of surgery in order to save the patient's life. In the case of surgeries, the risks of such a procedure (brain damage and infection) are usually glossed over in fiction, and in fact the recipient of such a procedure sometimes finds it to be an advantage.

Either way, the new head implant gives them accidental new abilities such as bullet deflection, a Hard Head allowing them to headbutt other people or objects and coming out no worse for the wear, the ability to listen to specific radio frequencies making them a human radio, and immunity to mind control, brainwashing, mind raping and other superhuman abilities. Seldom, the implant actually gives them amplification powers and actual psychic powers, such as the actual ability to read minds.

Note that this doesn't mean the steel plate is all gain and no loss: side effects may include migraines and vertigo around magnets.

Implanting a metal plate into a person's skull does happen in real life and is called a cranioplasty, though it's usually done after brain surgery rather than random injury. Due to the high rate of complications even relative to other brain surgeries, it's usually not a doctor's first choice when deciding on treatment for a patient.

Subtrope to Disability Immunity and Hard Head. Compare Tinfoil Hat, a type of hat done by someone displaying signs of paranoia, usually a Conspiracy Theorist. Compare Pocket Protector, where the object is instead located in, well, a pocket, instead of the character's head.


    open/close all folders 
    Anime & Manga 
  • Gauron of Full Metal Panic! is revealed to have installed a titanium plate in his forehead due to an earlier injury, and hence is the reason he survived Sousuke's bullet to the head and lives to terrorize him some more. This is just one of the many times Gauron is thought to have died before he is actually Killed Off for Real.

    Comic Books 
  • Cattivik: Played for laughs in one story, where the person he just hammered on the head happens to have a 10 cm thick steel plate under his hat.
  • The Mighty Thor: In Walter Simonson's run, during "The Surtur Saga" story arc, Thor fights The Fair Folk with the assistance of an army veteran who turns out to have partial immunity to their glamour because of the steel plate in his head.
  • Spider-Man: Exaggerated with recurring antagonist Hammerhead, originally a low-level thug following being fatally wounded in an ambush his life was saved by an experimental procedure from a disgraced surgeon that replaced most of his skull with a strong steel alloy. As he discovered to his absolute joy upon recovery this meant his head was now hard enough for him to shrug off punches from Spider-Man and even headbutt his way through brick walls. Between this power and his strategic insight, he quickly rose to be one of the most dangerous Maggia Bosses in the city.
  • US 1: When Trucker U.S. Archer had his skull fractured in a murder attempt by the Highwayman, it was replaced with a "cap" of experimental metal in order to save his life. In addition to the hammerhead abilities that it gives him, he can hear different radio frequencies based on which filling he touches with his tongue. Taking the foil from a stick of gum and making contact with all of his fillings at once makes him immune to mind control, but also a severe headache afterwards.

    Fan Works 
  • In the Gravity Falls/The Secret World crossover fanfic Pine Trees And Honeybees, Stanford Pines ends up getting shot in the head by a rogue Council of Venice operative during the climactic battle between Lorraine and the Bogeyman. However, thanks to the metal plate in his head, he survives... but he's left in a lot of pain, he has to bandage up the gory wound in his head before he can continue, and the impact leaves him concussed — prompting him to warn Dipper and Mabel not to let him fall asleep. For good measure, Ford specifically notes that if it had been an ordinary surgical steel plate and not a rare prosthesis made out of extradimensional alloys, he'd be dead.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • Boys Don't Cry (2000): Grucha survives being shot right into the forehead due to having a titanium plate filling in his skull.
    [After the doctor explains the whole thing in a matter-of-fact way]
    Bolec: What is he, a fucking Robocop?
  • Bullet Proof has Jack Carter, who is shot in the head (accidentally) by his friend Archie. He uses the steel plate on Archie when he's pissed. Later he uses it as a surprise weapon against bad guys.
  • Mickey from Cockneys vs. Zombies has a plate in his forehead due to a traumatic brain injury in Afghanistan, which made him go criminally insane. When he gets zombified, this plate turns out to be bulletproof, making it quite difficult to shoot his brain.
  • A downplayed example in Elysium; Towards the end Kruger survived having a grenade go off in his face due to a plate protecting his brain. It still made a gory mess out of his head and incapacitated him until he could be reconstructed
  • Faster. Driver has a steel plate which he got after being shot in the head by the men he's now hunting down in his Roaring Rampage of Revenge. At the end of the movie it saves his life after Cop shoots him in the back of the head.
  • In Infinite, it's mentioned that Evan McCauley suffered a mental breakdown due to the jumbled memories of his past lives and attempted suicide via car crash, requiring doctors to install a steel plate in his skull. Late in the film, Bathurst shoots Evan in the head with the Dethroner, an attack that should kill Evan and prevent him from being reborn — but thanks to the steel plate in his skull, the Dethroner bullet doesn't penetrate, and Evan is back on his feet in seconds. For good measure, Evan mocks Bathurst for forgetting about the plate when he was the one who brought up this detail in the first place.
  • Kick-Ass. After his disastrous first attempt at being a superhero, the protagonist ends up with a lot of metal in his body, including a metal-plated skull. This metal is used throughout the film as the reason he's Made of Iron and able to withstand blows that should at the very least knock him unconscious, if not outright kill him.
  • Inverted in National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation. Eddie used to have a metal plate in his head but would forget things when his wife turned on the microwave, so it was replaced with plastic. He doesn't believe the plastic is as strong as his skull.
  • A Perfect Getaway: One of Nick's Miles Gloriosus stories about his military service involves him taking shrapnel to the back of the head and having his skull rebuilt with titanium, which Cliff dismisses as more of Nick's macho bullshit. When Cliff reveals himself as the murderous Rocky, he shoots Nick in the head... and Nick, who's precisely the badass he claimed to be, wakes up moments later with his titanium plate having stopped the bullet.
  • Scanner Cop. The Big Bad initially resists the protagonist's psychic attack because of his steel plate, though it peels away the hair on his head. The cop then concentrates really hard and gets the desired result.
  • In the old B-Movie They Came From Beyond Space, a character's metal plate prevents him from being psychically controlled by the aliens like all his colleagues.

  • The Surprising Adventures of Baron Munchausen: In Russia, Munchausen and his drinking buddies are baffled by an old general who, in a nation of hard drinkers, is drinking everyone under the table without ever showing signs of intoxication. Munchausen however discovers the general's secret, which is to discreetly lift the silver plate that serves him as a skull prosthesis once in a while, thus releasing the alcoholic vapors which collect in his brain.
  • Mistborn: The Steel Inquisitors have several metal spikes driven through their body, with their most striking feature being steel spikes driven through their eyes. This process allows them to use all of the core allomantic powers, even if they weren't a mistborn to begin with. They're also Long-Lived, with Kelsier's younger brother-turned-inquisitor, Marsh, appearing in the sequel series to Mistborn, which is set 341 years after the end of the original series.
  • The Supernaturalist: Cosmo Hill gets a piece of tank armor grafted to his skull from improvised surgery. It allows him to headbutt his way through bulletproof glass when he's trapped by a villain.
  • The Tommyknockers: Gardener and Ev Hillman are immune to the Body Horror effects of the spaceship because they have metal plates in their heads (Gardener because of a skiing accident, Ev because of a war wound).

    Live-Action TV 
  • Inverted in 1000 Ways to Die. One death involves a drug addict who gets killed when an MRI is activated with the intent to disarm him, but a metal plate in his head causes him to get sucked into the machine and slam headfirst into the magnet inside.
  • Joyce Wrigley, the protagonists' mother in The Adventures of Pete & Pete has a metal plate in her head (it even gets a spot in the opening credits), but it's mostly used to pick up Mexican radio stations and the local police scanner. She even met her husband because he was looking for treasure with a metal detector. The downside is that people can also use it to broadcast suggestions into her mind as well, and it makes it too heavy for her to swim and vulnerable to magnetism and lightning.
  • The Blacklist: After Raymond shot Mr. Kaplan in the head and she survived, it's later revealed that she had a steel plate in her head from a previous shooting.
  • Drop the Dead Donkey: Jerry the Cameraman has a "suicide by jumping" land on his head (thanks to Damien demanding he get right in underneath for the shot), however he is saved from injury due to the steel plate he has in his head from Damien's piece on why plastic bullets are safe.
  • In the pilot episode of the original Knight Rider, undercover detective Michael Long is shot in the face, but survives thanks to the steel plate he got after brain surgery for a Vietnam War injury. The bullet severely damages his face, but thanks to Magic Plastic Surgery he can now return as Michael Knight.
  • iZombie: Martin Roberts survives a shot because of the metal plate in his head which he hides under a wig.
  • In the season 1 finale of The Umbrella Academy (2019), the Handler is shot in the head by Hazel. However, season 2 reveals that the character actually survived thanks to a metal skull plate, installed following a Noodle Incident during the backstory. However, the impact of the bullet does leave the Handler paralyzed, to the point that the Commission would have disposed of the body in a cremation oven if the "corpse" hadn't regained consciousness and demanded to be taken to a hospital. Plus, it takes three months before the character is capable of walking again.
  • Invoked in Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles: John explains that his "sister" Cameron has a steel plate in her head from a childhood accident, which is why she sets off the school's metal detector.

    Tabletop Games 
  • In Magic: The Gathering, Cranial Plating is an artifact that applies this to a creature. The equipped creature gains +1/0 for every artifact you control, meaning you can get a very strong creature in any artifact-heavy deck.
  • Warhammer 40,000:
    • Ghazghkull Mag Uruk Thraka, the biggest of all ork warlords, has a skull partly made of adamantium after much of both the original bone and the brain tissue was destroyed by an Astartes bolter round. Ever since he got it, he claims to have received visions from the ork gods and is threatening to lead every ork in the galaxy as a unified threat. He won the fealty of many rival warbands in part by defeating their leaders in combat, often finishing the fights with powerful headbutts from his metal-plated skull.
    • Ogryn, a breed of abhuman, are normally dimwitted brutes, but members of their kind who show greater than average intelligence are usually given a cybernetic brain surgery to further increase their brainpower. These ogryn are nicknamed "bone 'eads" after the distinctive metal half-dome and Electronic Eye that now replaces most of their skull.

    Video Games 
  • Deponia Doomsday: Rufus has a metal plate in his skull after one of his many misadventures trying to reach Elysium. This gives him a Ripple-Effect-Proof Memory, handy when timelines start resetting.
  • Spider-Man (PS4): The climax of Turf Wars, the second half of The City That Never Sleeps, sees Spidey's Friend on the Force, Captain Yuri Watanabe, growing increasingly vengeful in her war against Hammerhead, which rounds off with her breaking the law to show up and execute Hammerhead with a headshot. Luckily for Hammerhead (but unluckily for anyone else), he has, as his name suggests, a plate of carbon steel implanted in his skull that shields him from the bullet. That said, the impact of Yuri shooting him close up DOES nearly kill him via heart attack, and he only gets revived due to one of his mooks hiding in the police van with a defibrillator. In the next stage of the DLC, Hammerhead decides to make himself more invulnerable by converting himself into a Cyborg, but the plate in his head is made of weaker metal than the rest of his body, so Spidey is able to heat and soften it with Silver Sable's laser in order to actually hurt Hammerhead with his punches, thereby turning the plate into an Achilles' Heel and subverting this trope.
  • Wolfenstein: The New Order features a form of this as Foreshadowing. During the battle at Deathshead's Compound in 1946, after B.J. picks up either Wyatt or Fergus, they escape the Compound just as it's about to be destroyed via grenade. A shrapnel gets into B.J.'s brain and leaves him catatonic for 14 years. Fast forward to 1960, during the climax, he's faced with Bubi, Frau Engel's lover, who drugs B.J., only to find out that the shrapnel prevented the drug from getting into B.J.'s brain. B.J. recovers and knifes Bubi to death while Frau Engel is Forced to Watch from a distance.

    Web Comics 

    Western Animation 
  • Gravity Falls: Stanford Pines has a metal plate put in his head sometime after he fell through the portal in order to protect his mind from being taken over by Gravity Falls' resident Eldritch Abomination, Bill Cipher. The plate also makes him immune to Dipper's memory-erasing gun in a panic, with the unintended consequence that his brother Stanley has to let himself get possessed by Bill and mind-wiped instead of him.
  • Harley Quinn (2019): When Dr. Psycho betrays the crew, he uses his powers to brainwash King Shark and Clayface. He also attempts to do the same to Cy Borgman, but it doesn't work due to metal plates in his skull. Psycho isn't phased by this issue.
    Dr. Psycho: Why didn't it work on the old timer?
    Cy: Same reason I can't go to the airport. Metal plates, baby!
    Dr. Psycho: God you're old! Whatever. I'll kill you too.
  • In Harvey Birdman, Attorney at Law, Mentok the Mindtaker tries to do his shtick on Ernie Devlin, but only hears static. Devlin reveals that he has a metal plate in his head due to one of his many motorcycle crashes.
  • In He-Man and the Masters of the Universe (2002), it's shown that, under his helmet, Ram Man appears to have a metal plate grafted to the outside of his head. This comes in handy, considering his role as a human battering ram. It isn't stated if this is because of an old injury but seems plausible considering his teammates Mekaneck and Fisto got their respective metal parts following battle injuries.