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Decapitation Presentation

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"A severed head isn't that gross. You just lack spine."
"Show the people my head. It's worth a look!"

Basically, a scene where, after killing someone, the victim's beheaded and their head is held up to demonstrate it.

Sub-Trope of Off with His Head!, which is about death by decapitation. This trope is about presenting the severed head in some way, be it by holding it up, or showing it stabbed on a pike, or throwing it casually to the one it is presented to, etc...

Human heads are not required. Any character engaging in this is an Anti-Hero at best, unless it's the head of something that doesn't look human whatsoever, like a dragon. In the latter case, the purpose of this trope is to show off the badassness of the character carrying the head. If it's a human head, it effectively shows that the character has no problem with killing people and often serves as a form of psychological warfare. An army engaging in this is nearly always evil and often very primitive.

Reality check: Depending on age, a human head weighs between 2.3 and 5 kg (or for those living in the US, 5.1 to 11 lbs.). In the case of the latter end of the scale, the brain inside weighs around 1.5 kilograms, famously likened to the weight of a bag of sugar, with the skull and other tissues making up the remainder of the head's weight. However, few shows manage to portray this realistically. Of course, if someone had trouble carrying 11 lbs, they probably wouldn't have the physical strength to decapitate someone anyway.

Compare Dead Guy on Display, Human Head on the Wall, Alas, Poor Yorick. See also Severed Head Sports, where the humiliation of the beheaded is taken even further. Can be parodied with Losing Your Head if the decapitated somehow survives the beheading. Compare And Show It to You, which follows the same idea of presenting your opponent's severed body part, but it's everything except their head for them to see.

Now if any of you tropers got any examples to add, NOW'S THE FUCKING TIME!

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    Anime & Manga 
  • A common tactic in Altair: A Record of Battles, since it's set in a medieval time of war. Severed heads are brought back to prove victory in battle, stuck on pikes to intimidate enemies, and handed over to secure a truce.
  • Claymore: Limt, the leader of the Organization, is beheaded by Miria and his severed head is displayed on top of a cliff before the other Claymores who rose in rebellion against the Organization. It's worthy of note that the character who does this is not an Anti-Hero but rather one with a strong sense of duty, Miria does this so that the other Claymores do not break their rule that prohibit them from harming Humans and only she will have Human blood on her hands.
  • In Death Note, Mello is stated to have brought Rod and his gang the head of another Mafia leader, at only 15 years old. Also, Mello is seen with skulls in his living space a few times in the manga, and one manga cover actually has him holding one. (It's unknown if those skulls are those of Mafia rivals that Mello is keeping as trophies, or if they are fake, decorative skulls meant to emphasize that he's something of a Goth.)
  • This happens to both Miki and her little brother in the original Devilman manga.
  • The Elusive Samurai takes place during 14th century Japan, where beheading an enemy commander's corpse and parading the head around the battlefield as proof of victory was a common tactic used to break the opposing army's morale to the point of surrender. This is exactly what happens to Shokan after he is slain by Tokiyuki and Fubuki in combat. We once see Shizuku dressing up a decapitated head, with the narration pointing out that as morbid as it seems, it's pretty well-justified in the context of a war.
  • Subverted in the manga The King of Fighters: G by Ryo Takamisaki. Goenitz hasn't decapitated Chizuru but has beaten them to almost death, and when he shows up in the battlefield he does so while lifting them by the head and gloating about his evil deeds.
  • Just to make extra sure everyone knew Hidan had in fact been beheaded in Naruto, Kakuzu picked up his still-cursing head and toted it around until they could reattach it.
  • One Piece: Doflamingo shot his father in the back of the skull and took what remained of his head to Marijoa in a futile attempt to regain his status among the World Nobles.
  • In Overlord, in a last-ditch effort to appease Ainz's Sorcerer Kingdom from destroying their capital city, the nobles of the Re-Estize Kingdom betray and behead their acting king Prince Zanac, offering his severed head to Ainz as they beg for mercy. Ainz decides not to have them killed, but instead has them sent to Neuronist Painkill, where they are to be kept alive until they beg for death, and then not allowed to die for some time after that.
  • In the manga for Rurouni Kenshin, Souzou Sagara, Sano's old commander, was executed and his head displayed after being betrayed by the government.
  • Seraph of the End: Chapter 46 reveals that Ferid has Akane's severed head which he tries to goad Yuu and Mika with. It works.
  • In Sword Art Online's Alicization arc, one of Vecta's first displays of power and brutality is him presenting the head of his would-be assassin, Lipia, encased in a block of ice.
  • Tokyo Ghoul employs this on several occasions, to establish particularly brutal Ghouls.
    • In the Prequel Jack, Lantern is introduced holding up the severed heads of two recent victims.
    • In :Re, Takizawa's changed state is established by him casually decapitating a high-ranking Investigator. After drinking blood from the severed head and making a bit of casual conversation, he proceeds to massacre all but one member of the squad.
  • The Twelve Kingdoms: When Governor Gekkei confronts Queen Kekai, Princess Shoukei, and Hourin the kirin, he shows them the head of King Chuutatsu, whom he decapitated as punishment for his Knight Templar misdeeds.
  • Violence Jack: One scene at the beginning of the "Hell's Wind" arc has this scene after Jun's boyfriend, Tetsuya, gets dismembered.


    Comic Books 
  • In Batman title "Under The Red Hood", Jason Todd arrives at a meeting of various mob bosses with a duffle bag containing the heads of their lieutenants. This is somewhat toned down with a Gory Discretion Shot in the animated film (though they're shown explicitly in Batman Death In The Family).
  • Calico (2020): At the end of Issue #2, Milo E. Barnes' family is given a food tray with a lid on it. When the lid is lifted, they discover, to their shock and revulsion, that it's Milo's severed head, clubbed until the brain is exposed with a baseball bat.
  • EC Comics:
    • The infamous cover of Crime SuspenStories #22.
    • "Halloween!" (Shock SuspenStories #2) ends with a presentation of the villain's head turned into a Human Jack-O-Lantern.
  • In one Predator comic, one of the characters held the titular Predator's head as a trophy at the end.
  • Sin City:
    • Happens to Jackie's head in "The Big, Fat Kill" during the final confrontation. It's got tape over its mouth because Dwight's stuffed a grenade into it.
    • As well as the head of Kevin from "The Hard Goodbye," when Marv confronts Cardinal Roark, who the sick little killer was working for.
  • ElfQuest: After Kahvi decapitates Guttlekraw his head gets displayed on a spear.
  • In Dark Avengers, issue 2: after failing to talk Morgana La Fey out of killing Dr. Doom, Osborn orders Sentry to take her out. He fatalities her like this. She gets better though.
  • In Gambit (2022) interstellar bounty hunter Bounty decides that the simplest way to collect a reward is to bring her quarry's head to the relevant law enforcement office and brandish it as proof.
  • In The Walking Dead, the Governor does this with the head of Martinez to show the Woodbury people how "evil" Rick's group is prior to attacking them at the prison.
  • The Punisher
    • In The Punisher: Welcome Back, Frank story arc, mob boss Ma Gnucci orders The Russian to bring her the Punisher's head. Frank kills The Russian, cuts off his head, and brings it to Ma.
      Punisher: Ma Gnucci! Is that all you got?
    • In the MAX series, Kingpin tells Bullseye he wants the Punisher's head. He quickly realizes that Bullseye is Ax-Crazy enough to take that literally, so he explains "That is a figure of speech. Do not bring a human head into this office." Bullseye looks disappointed.
  • In Empowered, after Ninjette lost her virginity, her father decapitated her boyfriend and presented his head to her.
  • In the Secret Wars (2015) title Planet Hulk, Steve Rogers holds up the Red King's head to show it to the people of the Mud Kingdom, then throws it down to them.
  • Legends of the Dead Earth:
    • In Batman: Legends of the Dark Knight Annual #6, the Jester presents Aaron Zsasz's head to the baying crowd after he is executed by Batman.
    • In Batman: Shadow of the Bat Annual #4, a Lizard-Man presents Starman's head on a pike to his king Ophos Arkayos after Finger City surrenders to their forces.
  • Superman:
    • In For the Man Who Has Everything, Mongul's dream fantasy involves tearing off Superman's head and making it his banner as he goes on to conquer everywhere. The comic refrains from showing the details.
    • Superman/Supergirl: Maelstrom: The titular villain is convinced that she will become Darkseid's s bride if she beheads Superman and brings Darkseid his head on a platter.
  • Wonder Woman:
    • Wonder Woman (1987): When Barbara Minerva takes off Mr. Urquiza's head on her way to his boss Sebastian Ballesteros she brings it along and dangles the lifeless head from her claws as she taunts the man who tried to take Cheetah from her.
    • Wonder Woman (2011): When Artemis kills Lennox by tearing off his head she brings it along with her and tosses it to Diana to mock her for failing to protect him.
  • Barracuda: In "Scars", Maria has a covered tray placed on the table before her husband Ferrango. When she lifts the cloche, the tray holds the severed head of one of the slaves he had used to have her flogged three years earlier. She then has the head mounted on a spike outside his bedroom window, with its dead eyes staring in at him.
  • In Über Sieglinde's attack on London ends with Churchill decapitated and his head left on top of the decapitated Nelson's Column.
  • The Sandman: Endless Nights: Both Kara's husband and his father were decapitated by rival clans, who then present their heads to the villagers.

    Fairy Tales 

    Fan Works 
  • Dance with the Demons: When interrogated by Batman, Ra's Al Ghul reiterates he had nothing to do with Catwoman's attempted assassination... but should one of his men be involved, he'll send his head to Batman in a box. Of course, Batman insists that Ra's merely turns the culprit over to him.
    Ra's tented his hands. "I would think not. My ranks are more disciplined than that. However, I will give you this, Detective. If one of my men is involved in this matter, I will send you his head in a box, and a note of apology. This, I promise."
  • Guardians, Wizards, and Kung-Fu Fighters: When the Rebellion lays siege to Kelliwic and it becomes apparent they can't be beaten, the city's military commander kills the Earl, Ghiscar, and presents his head to Caleb as a peace offering.
  • The Legend of the Princess: In a past life, Ganondorf gave Princess Zelda the disembodied head of her fiancé.
  • The Night Unfurls:
    • Hugh upends a sack and allows the head of a hobgoblin to hit the floor, showing to their mentor Kyril that he and Sanakan succeeded in hunting down the target as he instructed.
    • In response to a question regarding what to do with Beasley's corpse, Kyril replies that he needs proof of the kill, for "the heads of the traitors should be more than enough for a successful hunt". A few days later, Beasley's severed head is taken out from a sack and presented to Celestine and the others in the council chamber.
    • Grishom remarks that should he bring Sir Kyril's head, Vault would reward him with plenty of women. He doesn't get to do the deed.
    • Mandeville, intending to kill Soren, wants the kid's head to display when the Lord Executioner, Kyril, loses him. This also doesn't come to pass due to Hugh's Big Damn Heroes moment.
    • To receive his bounty, Kyril presents the head of an orc war chief, named the Arch-Arsonist, to the bounty board of an Adventure Guild in Chapter 1 of the remastered version.
  • Rise of the Minisukas: When Matarael kidnaps Shinji, Rei mumbles that its head must be cut off and put on display as an object lesson.
  • In Ripples, when Cedric first presents himself to Phobos in order to offer an alliance, he gifts Phobos with the heads of several leading members of the rival Council of Restoration. This impresses Phobos enough that he decides to hear the Changeling out.
  • Thousand Shinji:
    • Asuka is a Khornate berserker. She constantly holds an enemy's head up after hacking it off (or ripping it off).
    • Invoked by Shinji when he found out about what Gendo and SEELE had done to his mother and his family's ones. He swore that he'd stab Gendo's head on a pike and then he'd show it to everyone.
  • The Vow: When Lady Lianne tells Lord Shen that he's becoming like her father, he becomes enraged at being compared to the old noble he hates vehemently and threatens to begin his conquest of China with Lianne's father's lands and bring her his head on a silver platter. Fortunately neither of those threats get a chance to be carried out.
  • The Westerosi: A rare heroic variant, where the heads are taken as a way to Bring News Back, and their owners had died long beforehand... and are still moving. Jade Hasegawa doesn't like treating the fallen in this fashion, but knows the only way her tale will be believed is if she brings back proof. Unfortunately, not even seeing the head of a wight with his own eyes is enough to scare Joffrey into doing something useful for a change.
  • With This Ring: The Renegade brings back Queen Chrysalis' head as a gift for Princess Luna. Celestia is appalled, but Luna, with more old-fashioned morals after being away from society for a thousand years, is pleased by the removal of a threat to their ponies, and wants to publicly display the head on a pike.

    Films — Animated 

    Films — Live-Action 
  • The Messenger in 300 has an entire string of them: the "crowns and heads of conquered kings" that he hoist at the gates of Sparta indicate what kind of message he brings. The Spartans are unimpressed.
  • The 47 Ronin: A symbolic one, since the recipient is dead—but the 47 ronin bring the severed head of Lord Kira wrapped up in a cloth to the grave of Lord Asano, and Kuranosuke tells their story to the gravestone.
  • 8 Heads in a Duffel Bag. This trope, times eight! In a duffel bag...
  • In Ace Ventura: When Nature Calls, Ace is taken to Cadby's trophy which is decorated by countless mounted heads of big game he had killed. Ace has a Freak Out because of this. He retaliates by getting an elephant to sit on Cadby's car.
  • Kurtz from Apocalypse Now shows Willard "the horror" by tossing Chef's severed head at his feet.
  • In Bowfinger, Daisy shows the (fake) head of the woman she just decapitated.
  • In Braveheart, after the Scottish forces sack York, William has the head of the Duke of York cut off and sent back to the king in a basket.
  • Bring Me the Head of Alfredo Garcia is all about this trope as various criminals and mercenaries fight with each other to be the one to present a Mexican mob boss with the head of Alfredo Garcia—the man who knocked up his teenage daughter.
  • In Bring Me the Head of the Machine Gun Woman, the Machine Gun Woman presents the heads of all of Longara's men that she has killed to her employers to prove she has killed them.
  • The Brothers Grimm: General Delatombe cheerfully announces that he has "confessions" to the Grimm Brothers' con game. Cue one of his aides lifting the lids of two barrels, under which are the heads of Bunst and Hidlick.
  • A Classic Horror Story: While looking for a way back to the road, Riccardo and Fabrizio find a small structure with three figures on it. Below them are severed pig heads.
  • In 1981's Clash of the Titans, Perseus presents the head of Medusa to the gods the same way as artistic depictions of him. And of course, he presents it to the Kraken to turn it to stone.
  • In Cold Pursuit, Viking sends Sly to present Dexter's head to White Bull as a peace offering.
  • In Con Air, serial killer Garland Greene claims to have driven through three states while wearing the head one of his victims as a hat.
  • Near the end of Conan the Barbarian (1982), Conan holds Thulsa Doom's head aloft before the crowd. The reboot movie of the same name also features multiple decapitations on Conan's part.
  • In Death Machines, Madame Lee invites Mr. Gioletti to dinner, where she presents him with the severed head of his limo driver Mike.
  • Happens to Gunther on the orders of his sister Kriemhild after Hagen tells her he won't tell her the location of Siegfried's hoard as long as his liege is still alive. Dramatically shown towards the end of Kriemhilds Rache, the second part of Fritz Lang's Die Nibelungen (1924).
  • At the end of Doomsday, Eden informs the cannibal tribe of her Klingon Promotion to their new leader by tossing her predecessor's severed head at their feet, quoting an earlier line of his: "If you're hungry, try a piece of your friend".
  • The climax of Elizabeth is when her enemies are rounded up, sentenced to death for treason and executed. Three of them are beheaded and their heads stuck on pikes.
  • In The Expendables 2, after defeating Vilain, Barney Ross asks Maggie if she knows how to carve a turkey. He later presents Vilain's severed head in a bag to Trench and Church to prove he won.
  • In Galaxy Quest, the Big Bad presents the head of his former lieutenant on a stick who had failed him in an earlier scene.
  • The opening battle of Gladiator is preceded by the chieftain of a Germanic tribe the Romans are fighting holding up the head of a Roman messenger sent to give him terms and then contemptuously throwing it towards the Roman army.
    Germanic Chieftan: (bellows something in his own language then flings the messenger's head toward the Romans)
    Maximus: They say no.
  • Godzilla vs. Kong: Kong rips MechaGodzilla's head off with his bare hands and holds it up high in the air like a trophy, roaring and beating his chest triumphantly — it seems Mike Dougherty wasn't entirely joking when he said decapitation is a Running Gag where Ghidorah's left head is concerned (in some form or another).
  • A Good Woman is Hard to Find: Sarah is being terrorized by a crime lord, Leo, who is looking for Tito, who stole drugs from him. Sarah finally tells Leo she'll bring Tito to him. She brings him Tito's severed head, in which she has hidden a gun.
  • In The Grey, Diaz cuts off the head of the wolf the survivors killed and cooked and brandishes it in defiance of the wolf pack that surrounds them and howl in the night.
  • Hannibal Rising: Hannibal is being raised by his aunt, the Lady Murasaki-Lecter, whose samurai ancestor was into collecting the heads of his enemies. When she's insulted by a local butcher, Hannibal cuts off his head with her sword and presents it to her. His aunt is not pleased, but when Hannibal is arrested for the crime she impales the head on the railings outside police headquarters while Hannibal is being interrogated inside. The police naturally assume they have the wrong man and let Hannibal go.
  • At the end of Hardcore Henry, after Henry has cut Akan's head in half, he tosses the top half at Estelle.
  • Heads for Sale have one that doubles as a Title Drop, when the heroine kills two of the three villains and parades their removed craniums in a public square. While shouting at the top of her voice, "Heads for sale!"
  • In The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey, Azog cuts off the head of Thorin's grandfather Thrór and holds it up for all to see before throwing it at Thorin's feet.
  • In the Land of the Head Hunters: Maybe not surprising, given that title. Motana's father Kenada displays the heads of the sorcerer, and a few of the sorcerer's buddies, after killing them and rescuing Naida (Motana's intended) from the evil sorcerer's clutches.
  • The Jade Raksha opens with the discovery of severed heads, victims of the titular character, being strung on poles in public, much to the horror of several townsfolk.
  • Jaka Sembung has the hero, Jaka Sembung, subjected to being killed by Soca Indrakusuma the Blind Swordsman, who then marches to his employer with the hero's cranium in a sack to reclaim his bounty. When Soca is betrayed and survives an assasination, he steals Jaka Sembung's head and partakes in a revival ritual to reattach it.
  • Jonah Hex (2010): Bounty Hunter Jonah Hex turns up dragging three corpses of the notorious Clayton Boys behind his horse. When the sheriff points out there are four Clayton boys and quibbles about payment, Jonah throws him a sack with the head of the fourth inside, saying he was too fat for his horse to haul.
  • Similar to Ace Ventura, The Jungle Book (1994) has a scene where Mowgli finds Boone's trophy room, filled with mounted heads of big game. Mowgli imagines the noises of the poor animals moments before they were shot.
  • In Kill Bill Vol. 1, O-Ren Ishii does this with the head of Boss Tanaka, who she had just beheaded for disrespecting her mixed heritage, during her Badass Boast speech to the Yakuza.
    O-Ren Ishii: The price you pay for bringing up either my Chinese or my American heritage as a negative is: I collect your fucking head. [holds up Tanaka's head] Just like this fucker here.
  • Logan. The Reveal that Laura is actually a mutant killing machine like Wolverine is the Sound-Only Death of the mercenaries sent into a building to find her, followed by Laura walking out holding a severed head which she tosses at their leader's feet.
  • The Lord of the Rings
    • In The Return of the King, one particular Orc soldier goes through the whole battle of Minas Tirith with a human's head attached to the top of his helmet. Whether it was functional in battle or not is not addressed in the film.
      • Also the fact that Gothmog orders the severed heads of defeated Gondorian soldiers catapulted back into Minas Tirith.
    • And in The Two Towers an Uruk-Hai from the party that captured Merry and Pippin has his head stuck on a spear after Éomer takes them out.
  • Napoleon (2023) starts the day of Marie-Antoinette's Public Execution. Once she's guillotined, her head is lifted for the crowd to cheer.
  • Nightbreed: The homicidal Dr. Decker seems to be fond of this. He cuts off a motel clerk's head and places it on the front desk for his wife to find before killing her too. Later, he decapitates one of the Nightbreed and puts the head on a stick before showing it to his friends.
  • A Nightmare on Elm Street
    • In A Nightmare on Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors, Freddy does this in one of Kristen Parker's nightmares, decapitating her mother and presenting the head to Kristen... so it can bitch at Kristen for ruining her date.
    • At the very end of Freddy vs. Jason, Jason Voorhees emerges from Crystal Lake holding Freddy Krueger's severed head...which smiles and winks to the audience! In an earlier dream scene, Freddy produces the severed head of Jason's mother to inflict psychological damage to Jason's child-like psyche.
  • Pacific Rim: One photo shows the massive skull of one Kaiju on public display.
  • Padmaavati: Alauddin does this several times. Including his own uncle, whose head he displays at his coronation.
  • Phantasm III: Lord of the Dead starts with the Tall Man presenting Liz's severed head.
  • The alien from Predator is confirmed to be a headhunter when it rips out Billy's spine with his skull still attached, and waving it around in triumph.
  • In Priest, at the end of the movie, the titular Priest tosses a vampire head at the foot of the Monsignor to prove that the vampires have returned. The Monsignor is not pleased.
  • Rage of the Master: At the end of the climatic casino fight, Tiger Wong defeats the main villain's number two, the same person who killed Wong's mother, and for good measure proceeds to remove his victim's head, intending to put the head at his mother's grave during the funeral.
  • Return of the Living Dead 3: After one of the Mexican hoodlums tries to rape zombie Julie offscreen, she comes back and throws his severed head at his buddies.
  • The Rise and Fall of Idi Amin: When one of the titular dictator's wives falls ill, Dr. Oloya goes to pick up some ice, only to find the severed heads of two of Amin's political opponents in the freezer. When confronted on this, Amin explains that whenever there is a regime change in Africa, a few heads will inevitably roll.
  • Happens several times in The Scarlet Pimpernel (1982) (and likely all other versions of the tale), which is fitting as it's about the Reign of Terror. Played for laughs in one scene when the Pimpernel is smuggling aristocrats out in coffins, but also has coffins with beheaded aristocrats too. When he gets stopped by a guard who asks him to open the coffins, he throws the severed head to the guard, who promptly lets him go without checking the other two coffins with the live people inside.
  • Se7en: In the climactic desert scene, John Doe presents David Mills the head of his wife Tracy in a box to invoke the final two sins: his own envy of the Mills' life, and the wrath that David will embody by killing him.
  • Shiri. In their Training from Hell montage, the North Korean cadets being trained as assassins kill a roomful of prisoners in hand-to-hand combat, then assemble in ranks before their instructor, each holding a severed head.
  • Marv from Sin City does this with Kevin's head after he has disemboweled, dismembered and fed him to a wolf. He does it to show Cardinal Roark that he killed him before killing him, too, as part of his Roaring Rampage of Revenge.
    • Dwight does the same thing with Jackie Boy's head (although he wasn't the one who cut it off), offering to trade it to Manute and his men in exchange for Gail. Unfortunately, they don't notice the grenade Dwight stuffed in the head's mouth until it's too late.
  • Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker: Kylo Ren drops the head of an alien informant, Boolio, on the conference table in front of the First Order's ruling council. Boolio's character design, with large horns protruding from his head, was even dictated by the desire for Kylo to have something to hold onto.
  • In the 1991 action B-Movie Stone Cold, the outlaw biker leader gives a gift of a full-face motorbike helmet to a couple of Mafiosi at a restaurant. One says, "I don't ride", but then lifts up the visor to find the head of a colleague is inside.
  • The female protagonist in Trauma is unable to see the killer's features because he is holding her parents' severed heads in front of his face. Halfway subverted since her mother is actually the killer; she is holding her own head in such a way that it seems that she has also been decapitated.
  • In Tropic Thunder, Ben Stiller goes back to his Captain Oblivious roots and holds up what he thinks is a prop made to look like the director's head to explain that it's all a ruse to get the actors to feel like they're really in the Vietnam war. He even sticks the head on the tip of his rifle and eats the things dangling from the severed neck. This kind of plays with the trope not only in that the presenter didn't kill the head's owner, but that it wasn't a traditional decapitation since the director died by stepping on a land mine.
  • At the end of War (2007), Rogue sends a metal suitcase containing a valuable MacGuffin to the wife of a crime boss, with a note telling her to start a new life. Meanwhile Daddy's Little Villain (who wanted Rogue to kill the wife and her child) gets an identical suitcase and the same note. This suitcase contains her father's head.
  • The Warlords have Takeshi Kaneshiro's character, Wu-yang defeating the rebel leader in a massive battle climaxing the second act, and removing the leader's head before holding it on a hill to stop both armies from fighting, the battle is over now that one of their generals is dead.
  • Artemis Gordon in Wild Wild West presents Jim West with the severed head of a missing scientist that they had been searching for. It has been mounted on a crude projector which allows them to see what the man last saw. This grotesque display creeps Jim out.
    "That's a man's head..."
  • Year of the Dragon (1985). Up-and-coming Triad gangster Joey Tai travels to Burma to buy drugs from the guerrillas there. They're reluctant to do business with him, preferring their established contact, White Powder Ma. Joey responds by placing Ma's head on the table.
    Joey Tai: Let no motherless fuck ever raise his head again between us.
  • Zack Snyder's Justice League. The Justice League do an inadvertent version when Steppenwolf is given a Megaton Punch by Superman through the Boom Tube to Darkseid's realm. As Steppenwolf is flying through the air Wonder Woman slices off his head, which then rolls up to Darkseid's feet. Darkseid is not impressed and crushes the head underfoot.

  • In Arcia Chronicles, after Charles Tagere and his followers are ambushed and killed, the commanders' heads are nailed to the gates of a nearby castle. This (like the rest of the second duology) mirrors the actual historical event from the Wars of the Roses when Richard Plantagenet's head was stuck on a pole on the York city walls after the Battle of Wakefield.
  • In The Ballad of Boh Da Thone by Rudyard Kipling, a British officer promises a hundred rupees to anyone who delivers the head of a notorious bandit chief. After he's retired, a package arrives in the mail with a polite request for said payment, and a head rolls out in front of his wife. Unsurprisingly, she faints.
  • Bazil Broketail: After cutting off Nesessitas' head, Puxdool picks it up and presents it to the cheering crowd in the arena.
  • In Blood Meridian, the Villain Protagonist joins The Remnant of troops of the Mexican-American War seeking to raid Mexico over War for Fun and Profit with the exception being the leader of the group, Angry White Man Captain White. The group loses several members to exposure and almost the entirety to a Native American army before even reaching any civilization, and after narrowly escaping with his life the protagonist is arrested by the Mexican Army. He's then taken to a nearby town holding a festival over their deaths, with a man parading around Captain White's head pickled in a jar.
  • Captive Prince: The Regent has Nicaise's head delivered to Laurent as a threat, claiming he was Rewarded as a Traitor Deserves. Laurent snarks that murdering a helpless child isn't much of a show of force, but is privately extremely distraught at the boy's death.
  • In Joseph Wambaugh's book The Choirboys, two of the police officer protagonists are called out to a nasty traffic accident with multiple dead people. One of the officers notices a dead woman in very bad condition and decides to use her as a prank. When a car rolls by and a couple are looking at the carnage, the woman is shocked. The officer mentions to them how it's a bad accident, then holds up the severed head of the woman killed in the accident by the hair, and says, "This one didn't come out too good." The woman onlooker in the car screamed so loudly she drowned out the arriving ambulance siren.
  • Conan the Barbarian:
    • In "A Witch Shall Be Born", Salome brings the head of Krallides.
    • Conan does the same thing with the head of King Bajujah, as promised... sort of, in "The Vale of Lost Women". Unfortunately, Livia, the captive who he was going to rescue, has already bolted in terror from the general slaughter.
  • Deryni:
    • Duke Jared McLain orders the execution of his architect Rimmell for his part in the deaths of his son Kevin and his future daughter-in-law Lady Bronwyn Morgan, and he tells his executioner, "I would see evidence of your work before you leave the garden, Fergus." Fergus shortly returns from the terrace holding Rimmell's head by the hair.
    • Loris' messenger does this with Bishop Henry Istelyn's head at Kelson's court in The Bishop's Heir.
  • In Destiny's Forge, after usurping the kzinti Patriarch's throne, Kchula-Tzaatz showed the Pride Circle the severed heads of Patriarch Meerz-Rrit, his heirs (excluding Second-Son, whom Kchula kept around as a Puppet King) and their strongest servants. However, "First-Son's" head was actually that of a middle-ranked medical officer since the Tzaatz could hardly admit that First-Son's real head was far away and still firmly on his shoulders.
  • The Divine Comedy: In the ditch of the Sowers of Discord in Inferno, one of the damned holds 'his own head' up, "in the manner of a lantern," and speaks to the narrator's horror.
  • In The Executioner, this happens on several occasions with The Mafia; when the capo says, "I want his head", he usually means it literally.
    • In "Tennessee Smash", Mack Bolan is posing as a Black Ace and delivers the head of an underling who betrayed mob boss Nick Copa to him in a paper sack. Nick promptly kicks the head into his swimming pool.
    • In "Panic in Philly", Bolan does a Kill and Replace of a Professional Killer, hiding the man in his trunk dressed in Bolan's notorious blacksuit. Later he allows the son of a Mafia boss to take 'his' head to New York to be presented to the Five Families. The Mafia boss has a Villainous Breakdown when he realises how Bolan has tricked his son, knowing full well what they'll do to someone who turns up with the wrong head.
    • In "Monday's Mob", Mack Bolan is pounding a mob commission meeting place with wire-guided missiles launched from the other side of a lake, so The Dragon tries to negotiate a ceasefire. Bolan points out that he's not after him or his mooks, but the mob bosses he's guarding. The book ends with The Dragon floating over a canoe to Bolan with the bosses inside. Not the complete bosses, just their heads.
    • In "Paradine's Gauntlet", a terrorist wanting revenge for a previous encounter demands that Bolan be the courier for a ransom exchange. "This is non-negotiable. If he is unavailable, evidence of death must be presented with the repatriations payment. His head will be acceptable." This ends up being Paradine's downfall; he shoots Bolan and then puts aside his rifle for a knife, intending to collect Bolan's head. However Bolan is Not Quite Dead, and Paradine discovers you should Never Bring A Knife To A Gunfight.
  • The Faerie Queene: While lesser men settle for chocolates and flowers as gifts for their girlfriends, Calidore woos his love by presenting to her the head of a tiger that was about to kill her.
  • In The General Series, Raj Whitehall's army happens to kill the brother of the Squadron's leader in a skirmish. He takes the opportunity to attempt to provoke their (large, but disorganized) army into a Zerg Rush at his prepared position, and sends one of his men to present the head to the Admiral during the pre-battle truce. The result is shock and horror amongst the Squadron nobles, enough that they actually open fire on the officer and kill him despite the white truce flag. Raj has every single noble responsible crucified, after a battle in which his army takes effectively no other casualties.
  • In Grent's Fall, this is how a bodyguard shows off Reginald Halifax's death, shattering his army's morale.
  • In the Highlander novel The Path, after Duncan kills the Big Bad Immortal, he tosses his head to his army, asking who will be next to face him.
  • Shows up in Lewis Carroll's poem "Jabberwocky": "He left it dead, and with its head, he went galumphing back."
  • Light Thickens is built around a production of Macbeth. Superintendent Alleyn is in the audience when the prop head brought in on the end of a claymore is replaced with a real one.
  • The Lord of the Rings:
    • The Rohirrim slaughter a party of Orcs and burn their bodies. We're told that "Upon a stake in the middle was set a great goblin head".
    • When the Orcs catapult into Minas Tirith "all the heads of those who had fallen fighting at Osgiliath" it's depicted as an atrocity.
  • In the Matthew Scudder novels by Lawrence Block, Irish-American gangster Mick '"The Butcher" Ballou is the subject of an old legend in which he supposedly cut off a rival's head and then drove around town with it in a bowling ball bag, showing it to people. Mick never does confirm whether the story is true.
  • In the McAuslan short story "The Gordon Woman", a tale is told of a legendary woman of that clan who, upon being presented with the head of her husband, kept up her Dissonant Serenity to the confusion of his killers, delaying their departure until her own men turned up to slit their throats.
  • In Memory, Sorrow, and Thorn, the Sithi come to liberate the occupied nation of Hernystir, and announce that the job is complete by dropping the head of Skali Sharp-Nose at the feet of Count Eolair, the acting leader of Hernystir. When Eolair acts disturbed the Sithi are confused since a prior prince of Hernystir had done the same with his enemies five hundred years ago.
  • Parker: At the end of The Man with the Getaway Face, Parker unzips a travel bag to show May the severed head of Wells, proving that he has upheld his end of the bargain and Wells is dead.
  • When King Corb of the Fomor arrives at the titular Peace Conference in Peace Talks, he gets everyone's attention by tossing Gwynn ap Nudd's head at Mab's feet. Things only go downhill from there.
  • In the backstory of Renegades, this is how the Battle of Gatlon ended — with Captain Chromium walking out of the cathedral with Ace Anarchy's behelmeted head on a pike. The image is so famous in-universe, he still takes the helmet out on a pike during the annual parade (although without the head in it, as Ace is still alive).
  • Happens all the time in Romance of the Three Kingdoms, with both heroes and villains using the trope. Late in the story, the sons of Guan Yu and Zhang Fei would casually announce that they've defeated an enemy general and "here is his head." This was even mocked in San: Three Kingdoms Comic, a parody of this novel, as described in its own entry.
  • The Sano Ichiro mystery Bundori revolves around the Samurai tradition of turning the heads of conquered enemies into war trophies.
  • The cover art of "Second Variety" by Philip K. Dick shows a man holding up the severed head of a destroyed android assassin that looks like a 13-year-old boy.
  • In The Shadow of the Vulture, Mikhal Oglu is promised the weight of the mercenary Gottfried's head in gold if he delivers it to Suleyman the Magnificent. Instead the Sultan's victory celebration is spoiled when he receives a gift-wrapped package from Gottfried and Red Sonya, containing Oglu's preserved head.
  • In Simon R. Green's Shadows Fall, the Warriors of the Cross send Father Callahan a box containing the severed head of his good friend and childhood hero, Lester Gold. It's only then that Callahan realizes that the Warriors with whom he'd been collaborating are not the God-serving crusaders he'd been led to believe, but a horde of invaders out to exterminate everyone in the town who dares defy or offend them.
  • In Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, the Green Knight holds up his own head by the hair after Sir Gawain chops it off.
  • A Song of Ice and Fire
    • A Game of Thrones: King Joffrey Baratheon takes Sansa Stark to the battlements to show her the heads displayed on spikes: the one of her father Ned, whom he had executed despite promising not to, the head of her tutor Septa Mordane, and the heads of other members of her household.
    • A Clash of Kings: Catelyn Stark notes the trope with irony when various pretenders to the throne offer her 'justice' for her husband's treatment by delivering Joffrey's head.
      How they loved to promise heads, these men who would be king.
    • A Storm of Swords: Following the Red Wedding, the Freys decapitate Robb Stark and his direwolf Grey Wind post-mortem, and sew the latter's head to the former's body, as a final insult to the King of the North.
    • A Feast for Crows: Queen Cersei Lannister is presented with the heads of various dwarfs, but not the one she actually wants — her dwarf brother Tyrion, whom she wrongly believes killed Joffrey. Having offered a lordship to any man who does so, innocent dwarfs are being murdered at random in the hope of claiming the reward.
    • Daario Naharis creates a scandal when he strides into Queen Daenerys Targaryen's presence, throws the severed head of an enemy at her feet, and snogs her in front of the entire royal court.
    • After his death by slow poisoning, Cersei sends the skull of Gregor Clegane to the Martells as a peace offering, as Clegane had killed Oberyn Martell, and some Dornish are agitating for war against the Lannisters as a result.
    • The Dance of the Dragons, as depicted in the backstory novel Fire & Blood, has a lot of these:
      • Upon beheading Prince Jaehaerys Targaryen, Blood attempted to flee from King's Landing while carrying his head, but was captured by the gold cloaks. Under torture, he confessed that he planned to deliver the head to Jaehaerys' great uncle, Daemon, who had ordered the killing, as proof that the deed was done.
      • After Criston Cole's Undignified Death at the Butcher's Ball (his enemies had him shot full of arrows so there could be no romanticisation of his death as punishment for his driving role in starting a Civil War), his killers hacked his head off and stuck it on a spear to use as a battle standard.
      • Maelor Targaryen was either crushed to death or torn apart by a mob while being evacuated to Oldtown. His head was sent to his aunt Rhaenyra. Other accounts say that the head was then presented to Queen Alicent, his grandmother, in a chamber pot.
      • After killing Rhaenys Targaryen and her dragon Meleys, the Greens hacked off Meleys' head and paraded it throughout King's Landing (they couldn't do the same to Rhaenys herself as her body was burned beyond recognition).
      • Following the Storming of the Dragonpit, the Shepherds and his followers murdered all of the dragons in the Dragonpit, decapitated them, and hung their heads on the castle walls as the Shepherd preached beneath them.
    • In the past, during the Andal invasions of Westeros, King Theon Stark repulsed a major Andal army and led a major punitive strike back to Andalos. He then had the corpses of the slain Andal warriors decapitated and the heads loaded up onto his ships, and when he returned to the North had had them all placed on spikes along the eastern shore as a warning to any further invaders.
  • Swan's Braid & Other Tales of Terizan: In "Swan's Braid", Swan delivers the heads of the notorious bandit leader Hyrantaz with his followers to the ruling council of Oreen, after having hunted them down with her mercenary band the Wing.
  • In Sword of the Rightful King, Gawaine decapitates the bandit who killed Arthur's beloved hound and offers the head to Arthur. Arthur refuses the gift, reminding Gawaine that they aren't supposed to engage in pagan practices anymore. Morgause, who is scrying from afar, sees this refusal as weakness on Arthur's part.
  • Sword of Truth:
    • At the end of the first book, Richard does this to his stepbrother Michael, who turned out to be The Mole earlier in the book.
    • At the end of the sixth book, Richard sends the head of Jagang's mentor to be left in the path of his army, with a spell to prevent decomposition. As soon as Jagang touches it a few months later, it rots into a skull. Presumably, he was displeased.
  • Pushed up a notch by Leo Bonhart in Tower of the Swallow, who forces Ciri to watch as he saws off her True Companions' (whom he previously slaughtered) heads off, leaving her First Love (a girl, to boot) for last, and then presents them proudly to her. Ciri doesn't take it very well, to say the least.
  • The Tribe: In the second book, "Camp Cannibal", Yardstick leads Spencer and Charles to a raccoon's severed head mounted on a spike. The Tribe used it to mark the location of the cave they lived in prior to taking over Camp New Leaf.
  • There's a variation of this in the Vorkosigan Saga novel Barrayar. Instead of holding would-be usurper Lord Vordarian's severed head up, Cordelia rolls it out of the shopping bag she has been transporting it in. The possibility of leaving it on the table while conducting ceasefire talks with the elements of the military who have backed Vordarian's coup is briefly discussed, but Aral isn't that sort of regent.
  • In the last book of The Wheel of Time, Lan Mandragoran does this with Demandred, to show the result of their duel, and to dishearten his army.
  • Wulfrik: Wulfrik completely breaks Viglundr by presenting him with the head of Sveinbjorn. The act itself isn't that shocking (this is Norsca, and Wulfrik goes around wearing the skulls of defeated enemies), but its repercussions are: Sveinbjorn dead means war with his tribe, and Wulfrik made it look as though Sveinbjorn abandoned hundreds of men deep in the Empire (which, to be fair, he had intended to do), which his tribe will blame on Viglundr. Not only that, but the tribes of the abandoned men will demand reparation when Viglundr needs every coin he can get to hire mercenaries.
  • In The Zombie Knight, Desmond drafts a group of Atreyan soldiers to use for a False Flag Operation by holding up the severed head of their CO (whom he refers to as Teddy because he didn't bother to learn his name), saying that Teddy was brave and refused to do what he and his fellow Abolishers asked, and advising the soldiers not to be brave like Teddy.

    Live-Action TV 
  • 24 season 2 episode 2. Jack gains a domestic terrorist gang's trust by killing a federal witness who was going to testify against them. The man was a child rapist and killer, so there's no guilt in his death. Jack presents the head as proof
  • In The 100 Commander Lexa reveals that the Queen of the Ice Nation kidnapped her lover, Costia, tortured her for information, and when this failed, beheaded her and delivered her severed head to Lexa.
  • 666 Park Avenue: Gavin does this with Sam's head when sending Shaw a message.
  • Angel:
    • Used for Black Comedy when a vampire is shown holding up a human head in an apparent version of this trope, only to toss it down a bowling alley.
    • Angel proudly brandishes the head of a demon he's just killed, only to find Fred's parents have turned up to visit her. He claims it's a movie prop and tosses it aside, winching at the Offscreen Crash.
    • The Cliffhanger ending for "Through the Looking Glass" has Cordelia being presented with the head of her demon friend Lorne on a platter (complete with greenery). Thankfully due to his Bizarre Alien Biology Lorne can survive with his head cut off, so Cordelia has to think up an excuse not to dispose of his remains before they can be reassembled.
      Markallo: Kaldar, remove the traitor's filthy head from our lady's august presence.
      Cordelia: No, no, no, no! I... like the filthy head. That is, ah, I want to defile it more! [turns and spits on Lorne, who is playing dead] I just keep it... to spit upon, and-and-and when I grow tired of that, I-I-I will make it into ah, a planter. A traitor planter... for all to see. Or maybe a candy dish.
  • Babylon 5:
    • When Morden asks Vir what he wants:
      "I'd like to live just long enough to be there when they cut off your head and stick it on a pike as a warning to the next ten generations that some favors come with too high a price. I would look up into your lifeless eyes and wave... like this. Can you and your associates arrange that for me, Mr. Morden?"
      • Funny thing is, Londo, who was one of Morden's associates, wasn't present during this conversation, and yet he orders this fate for Morden. And yes, Vir does give it the little wave he promised.
    • Emperor Cartaglia notably had his enemies beheaded and kept them in a secret room, where he'd chat to the heads.
  • Barbarians Rising: Arminius brings the head of a German chief who wouldn't ally with him to Varus, which serves two purposes: it silences a potential leak of information about Arminius's planned uprising, and assures Varus that Arminius is doing his job of punishing tribes who won't pay Rome's taxes. After killing Varus in turn at the Battle of the Teutoburg Forest, Arminius ships his head to Emperor Augustus. (This is Rule of Drama, though only partially: in real life, Arminius actually sent Varus' head to another German chief in hopes of getting his allegiance.)
  • In Blackadder: The Cavalier Years, Baldrick's cunning plan to substitute a pumpkin instead of a head sort of fell apart when this moment came.
    Edmund Blackadder: You see, when you've cut it off you have to hold it before the crowd and say "This is the head of a traitor," at which point they will all shout "No, it isn't. It's a large pumpkin with a pathetic mustache drawn on it."
  • Breaking Bad has a particularly gruesome and also hilarious example with the informant Tortuga. While planning to spy on some gangsters, the police spot him moving behind a hill with nobody else in sight. As they get in the car and drive down to see what's going on they find his severed head stuck on the shell of a turtle slowly crawling through the desert. And then it explodes.
  • In Carnivàle, Justin does this with Scutter's head after he kills him.
  • Doctor Who
    • "The Wedding of River Song": The Doctor shows who told him of the whereabouts of Gideon Vandeleur by displaying the detached eyestalk of the Dalek whose data core he raided.
    • "Death in Heaven": The Cybermen boast to UNIT that Earth lacks the technology to beat them. Kate Lethbridge-Stewart responds by dropping the head of a Mondasian Cyberman at their feet, just to show them what happened to the last batch of Cybermen who thought messing with humanity was a good idea.
  • In the 2000 Sci-Fi Channel Dune miniseries, after the Beast Rabban is killed by a Fremen mob, a boy holds up his severed head.
  • Farscape
    • There's a sci-fi variant in "Exodus From Genesis", where the Monster of the Week can produce replicants of the crew. After a Mirror Match with his replicant self, Crichton walks onto The Bridge holding his own head.
    • After decapitating his Arch-Enemy Durka in "Liars, Guns and Money", Rygel wanders around waving it on a stick as a means of demonstrating how badass he can be. And yes, he's one of the technically good guys. He even uses it as a prop while negotiating with a group of mercenaries.
    "You need to start acting like professionals. (drops Durka's head on the ground) That is what we do to people who don't."
  • In Galavant, King Richard threatens Isabella by showing her the heads of her parents on the dinner table... except they're not actually dead, and went along with it willingly.
    King Richard: [laughing] You should have seen your face! You were all "oh no" and—
    Isabella: [to her parents] How could you go along with this!?
    Isabella's Father: He convinced us it would be funny.
    Isabella's Mother: We've been in prison a long time. We've lost all sense of perspective.
    King Richard: [serious] Bring me Galavant, or I will kill your parents. For realsies.
  • Done several times in Game of Thrones:
    • One of the White Walkers tosses the severed head of a ranger at the Sole Survivor of their patrol.
    • Ned Stark's head is held up for the mob to see after his execution. In a typical Kick the Dog moment, King Joffrey shows Sansa Stark the rotting head impaled on a spike, along with other members of her householdnote . He attempts to follow through on his threat to present her brother's as well when his house kills said brother but is refused. When Catelyn Stark hears the news of her husband's death, she goes to an imprisoned Jaime Lannister and threatens to cut off his head, pack it in a box and send it to his sister.
    • One of Dany's Dothraki men was sent to seek help. His horse returned in "The Night Lands", with his head in a bag, though it is left covered by those who find it.
    • In "Second Sons", Daario presents Dany with the heads of his former bosses as proof of his loyalty.
    • Karl Tanner likes gloating over Jeor Mormont's skull while using it as a drinking cup.
    • Postmortem, Grey Wind's head is sewn and impaled on Robb's beheaded corpse.
    • The Umbers put Shaggydog's impaled head on a fork.
  • Grimm: Variant on the trope - two Reapers are sent to kill Nick. He sends their heads back in a box with a note: "Next time, send your best."
  • In one episode of iCarly, Sam and Freddie find a dinner plate labeled as a gift from Neval. Upon opening it, they find Carly's head and immediately freak out before being told it was all a prank.
  • Interview with the Vampire (2022):
    • "Is My Very Nature That of a Devil": Lampshaded by Louis de Pointe du Lac when he asks Lestat de Lioncourt if the newspaper article he's reading mentions that the heads of executed slaves were piked on the iron gates of St. Louis Cathedral.
    • "Like Angels Put in Hell by God": Lestat holds up the severed head of the train conductor he has just murdered so that Claudia can see it.
  • The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power: In order to prove that everyone in Tirharad is in real danger and need to evacuate, Bronwyn is asked to bring proof to convince the ignorant naysayers. And she does it by bringing them the decapitated head of an orc.
  • In the Masters of Horror episode "Cigarette Burns", Dalibor creates a Snuff Film by filming himself decapitating Kirby's taxi driver right in front of Kirby, and presenting the severed head to him.
  • In The Mighty Boosh Live, the Hitcher does this with Vince and Howard. He doesn't just hold them up.
  • In Orphan Black, Alison presents Rachel with the severed head of Dr. Leekie. She's making the point that bringing his murder out in the open will be more problematic for Dyad than for the clone sisters, so Rachel should stop investigating it.
  • The Outer Limits (1995): In "The Deprogrammers", Evan Cooper killed his former master Koltok and presented his head to Professor Trent Davis as proof. Davis then presented it to his own master Megwan, who had secretly orchestrated his rival Koltok's death.
  • Princess Agents: The severed heads of Yan Xun's family are put on display. Yuwen Huai torments Yan Xun even more by holding up his father's head and mocking him.
  • Prison Break: As punishment for trying to find Sarah and his son, Lincoln receives a package. He opens it to find Sarah's head. This is later Ret Conned into being another woman, and Sarah had actually escaped (the actress playing Sarah originally left the show but came back the following season). Apparently, Linc can't tell women apart.
  • The Punisher (2017). During a Mook Horror Show, Frank Castle throws the severed head of a mook out in front of the others. As they're staring in horror at the sight, they realise too late that there's a grenade with the pin removed strapped to the head.
  • Rome
    • Turned into a Running Gag in the episode "Caesarion", where multiple severed heads are displayed on spikes above the door of the Egyptian royal palace because the owners of the heads kept pissing the wrong people off. In the same episode, the Egyptians present Julius Caesar with the head of his enemy Pompey the Great. Rather than being grateful, Caesar is furious that a consul of Rome was desecrated in this manner and demands the head of the man who killed him.
    • Deconstructed in season 2, after Vorenus decapitated Erasmus Fulmen for killing his children (he lied and he had merely sold them to slavers). He kept the head in his house and let it rot. Mark Antony had to come and throw the head out.
  • Saturday Night Live has a Real Trailer, Fake Movie about a live action remake of "Bambi". There is horrified to see his mother's head has been mounted.
  • Spartacus: Blood and Sand:
    • After his guard Hector screws up, Batiatus later holds up his severed head and warns all his slaves and employees that failure and incompetence will no longer be tolerated.
    • In the "Vengeance" season, Glaber sends Ashur to the rebels to offer a deal. They later send back his head.
  • The Stand (2020): Flagg has Larry presented with Nadine's head in order to taunt him. Turns into a Threat Backfire when Larry takes this as proof that New Vegas is on the verge of collapse if even the people close to Flagg can end up as a head on a plate.
  • Stargate Atlantis, episode "The Last Man": Michael does this with the head of a Wraith queen.
  • Titans (2018). Dick Grayson mentions how Bruce Wayne took him to a cabin in the woods, then made him go out into the dark to face his fears. One scene shows the young Grayson being chased through the woods by a wolf. The next scene shows him entering the cabin holding a bloody knife, then dumping the wolf's head on the table before Bruce.
  • In The Tudors, Catherine Howard is shown the heads of Francis Dereham and Thomas Culpeper on her way to the Tower.
  • The Walking Dead (2010) has this fate happen to a large group of the main cast, courtesy of Alpha, who has the heads placed on pikes in order to mark the border of the Whisperers territory. Negan later returns the favor, tossing Alpha's head to Carol.


  • Hawkwind's "Days of the Underground":
    We believed in Guevara
    We saw that head held up
    And our anger welled up
    But we kept it cool
  • Sometimes done with GWAR
  • When Alice Cooper ends a concert with his being executed by guillotine, the executioner will hold up his "head" afterwards.
  • Eddie, the mascot of Iron Maiden, has done this pose with the heads of Paul Di'Anno (on the original, rejected cover for Maiden Japan) and Satan (on the cover of the "The Number of the Beast" single)
  • "Weird Al" Yankovic: "Your Horoscope For Today" informs Virgos "Expect a big surprise today when you wind up with your head impaled upon a stick!"
  • Played for laughs in They Might Be Giants' "You Probably Get That A Lot", where carrying one's own severed head around is presented as an Unusually Uninteresting Sight.
    Although there are millions of cephalophores note 
    That wander through this world
    You've got something extra going on
    I think you probably know

    Mythology and Religion 
  • Biblical examples:
    • David taking the head of Goliath to King Saul.
    • Jehu having the heads of Ahab's seventy sons displayed at the entrance of the gate of the town of Jezreel.
    • Salome's wish to her stepfather Herod (suggested by her mother) for the head of John the Baptist.
    • In the apocrypha, Judith taking the head of Holofernes.
  • Perseus weaponized this trope with the head of the gorgon Medusa, which turned any who looked upon its visage to stone. He eventually gave the head to the goddess Athena for safekeeping, and Athena affixed the head to her shield.
  • The Irish dullahan - a sort of proto-Headless Horseman - carries its head around like this.
  • St. Denis (Dionysius), first bishop of Paris, is usually depicted headless, but holding his head in his hand(s). According to legend he was decapitated along with two companions, Rusticus and Eleutherius, on the orders of the Roman governor on the hill later known as Montmartre ("mountain of the martyrs"). He then got up, picked up his head, and walked all the way (ca. 6 km) to the place north of Paris that now bears his name, where he was buried. When Voltaire was asked if he thought it was possible that this actually happened, he famously replied: "In cases such as this, it's the first step that counts."
    • There are a few other saints, such as Nicasius of Rheims, who were also martyred through beheading, and are similarly depicted. These saints are referred to as "cephalophores" - literally, "head carriers".

  • The backbox side art for Bally's Centaur shows a skull impaled on a spear.

    Play-By-Post Games 

    Tabletop Games 
  • This guy from Warhammer 40,000. As friendly as he looks. Tends to end up like this VERY frequently.
    • Another Warhammer 40000 example in a fluff story behind one of the regions in Dawn of War: Dark Crusade, an Ork horde was demoralized and defeated after their war boss had this happen to him. His skull adorned the defended city's main square afterward.
    • Also in Warhammer 40000, Many Ork and Chaos models have spikes with heads impaled on them.
    • The same goes for their counterparts in Warhammer. One Orc banner takes it a step further and has an entire Dwarf hanging on it.
    • Yet another Warhammer 40000 example (Yes, happens there a lot, doesn't it?), any follower of Khorne will do this after killing an enemy leader (such as a Sergeant or other leader) mid-fight often screaming something like THE TROPHY IS MINE. He's more interested in what's inside the head, though.
    • Chaos tends to do this a lot. The trophy rack sprue for Chaos tanks includes a Tau helmet and a Necron skull, the Chaos Terminator Lord box has got a Tyranid Warrior's head impaled on spikes.
    • During the Heresy, Fulgrim decapitated his former friend and fellow Primarch Ferrus Manus and presented the head to Horus. As the Heresy raged on, Horus would converse with Ferrus' skull, usually to complain about the other Traitor Primarchs.
  • An illustration in the Werewolf: The Forsaken handbook shows a werewolf holding two severed heads.
  • Happens in Warrior: Coupe, a BattleTech novel by Michael Stackpole. The commanders of a mercenary company and a Draconis Combine regiment are locked in a duel. The Draconis 'Mech outweighs, out-armors, and outguns his opponent, but the mercenary manages to knock down his enemy. The Draconis commander pulls off one of the mercenary 'Mech's legs and attempts Grievous Harm with a Body Part, but loses the arm holding the leg to the mercenary's Last Ditch Move. The mercenary pins the Draconis commander's 'Mech and tears its head off, holding it up for all to see. The expected death that usually comes with 'Mechs losing their heads in this setting is subverted when it turns out that the Draconis leader is alive enough to punch out of his decapitated 'Mech's head.
    • Dramatic example in Star Lord. The head of the last Amaris is gruesomely presented to the Council of Clan Steel Viper by the disgraced former Viper and exiled Mechwarrior Dawn.

  • There are lots of disembodied heads floating around in Shakespeare's Henry VI plays, and even when this action is not mentioned explicitly in the stage directions or dialogue cues, many directors do it anyway, 'cause it looks awesome terrifying.
  • At the end of Christopher Durang's The Actors Nightmare, when the actor is stuck in a production of A Man for All Seasons as Sir Thomas More and is beheaded:
    Executioner: Behold the head of Sir Thomas More!
  • Usually done in productions of Macbeth:
    Re-enter MACDUFF, with MACBETH's head
    Hail, king! for so thou art: behold, where stands
    The usurper's cursed head:
  • In the opera Turandot, the Prince of Persia is decapitated offstage and his head is brought back impaled on a stake, as a warning to would-be suitors of Turandot.
  • Some productions of Richard II do this, given that apart from executions (and the title character's assassination) the play is pretty bloodless. Notably, the 2013 Royal Shakespeare Company production had Bolingbroke (played by Nigel Lindsay) rather gleefully brandish the severed heads of Bushy and Green (in blood-soaked sacks).
  • Westeros: An American Musical: Ned Stark's head shares this fate with its A Song of Ice and Fire counterpart.

    Video Games 
  • The Black Heart has a rather bizarre but still disturbing example: one of the characters, Peketo, is the ghost of a child obsessed with the color red and the occult, who was decapitated by a man as revenge after his brother was killed in Peketo's killing rampage. One of Peketo's victory poses in the game consist of him showing his own severed head to his downed opponent.
  • In Blood Omen: Legacy of Kain, this is done to the executed Vorador. Moebius, who was in charge of it, takes this trope up a notch by leaving the head in the hand of a statue of himself in the same pose, which is seen in Soul Reaver 2 about a hundred years later.
  • In Civilization IV, when you meet another civilization for the first time, you have the options to either say "Let there be peace in our time!" or "Your head would look good on the end of a pole!"
  • During the final boss battle with The Devil in Cuphead, if you lose during his second phase and onwards, the taunting message that you get shows him holding the lifeless and decrepit heads of Cuphead and Mugman. Seems that the game's title theme song wasn't kidding around.
    And if they proceed, but don't succeed...
    The Devil will take their heads!
  • In Doom Eternal, the Doom Slayer starts the game by breaking into Deag Nilox's room and ripping his head off. He carries it with him until he finds the remaining two Hell Priests later in the level, at which point he throws Nilox's head at their feet.
  • Dragon Age:
    • After occupying the Viscount's Keep, the Arishok in Dragon Age II appears briefly to lift the head of Viscount Dumar for display, but dispenses with drama to dismissively roll it down the carpet.
    • One possible War Table mission in Dragon Age: Inquisition has Cullen jokingly suggest this. You can tell him to do it. He is not pleased at all.
  • The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim:
    • Prior to the events of the game, an ambassador from the Aldmeri Dominion presented Emperor Titus Mede II with a covered cart containing the heads of all agents of the Blades that were posted in the regions of Summerset and Valenwood, as part of an ultimatum for the Empire's surrender to them. Thus began the Great War, and, afterwards, the signing of the White-Gold Concordat (which kicked off the events leading up to Skyrim's Civil War).
    • A combat perk available for both one-handed and two-handed weapons allows the Dragonborn to cut (or smash, if done with a mace/warhammer) their opponent's head off, pick it up, and walk off with it. It only works on characters that belong to playable races though, most likely because higher-level enemies can do it to you too.
  • You can do this in any of the 3D Fallout games by decapitating an enemy, reaching down, and 'grabbing' their severed head, holding it out in front of you as you walk. Doesn't have that much practical purpose aside from exploiting the 'head storage' glitch, but it's still doable, and rather badass besides. Unfortunately, few if any of the other characters acknowledge it when you walk into town with a shotgun in one hand and the head of a bandit in the other.
  • In F.E.A.R. 2: Project Origin, Snake Fist is decapitated right before your eyes the game even has him hand you a BFG to make sure that you're good and close when it happens by a Cyborg Clone Ninja Mutant, which rips it off and carries it away. You find his head a short time later, deliberately left where you will see it, and just before they're waiting to ambush you.
  • Fire Emblem:
  • A particularly cruel version of this can occur in Game of Thrones (Telltale), should you anger Ludd Whitehill excessively. Near the beginning of Episode 6, he will force the eight-year-old Ryon to carry a pike with his dead brother's head stuck on top.
  • Khotun Khan, the Big Bad of Ghost of Tsushima, does this to Taka the blacksmith, whom he had just killed for refusing to kill Jin for him. He hoped to break the Ghost's spirit by murdering his friend. Instead, he makes things personal with Jin.
    Khotun Khan: Your friend died. For you. Now, I must find another... and you must choose again.
  • El Sueño from Ghost Recon Wildlands show the Ghost the severed head of rebel lead Pac Katari dangling on a meat hook before tossing it at him.
  • God of War: Kratos to Medusa, her sister and Helios in each respective game.
  • Grim Fandango: Near the end, Olivia tosses Salvador's head towards Manuel. Still alive enough to talk and give a few instructions.
  • The title screen of Hellbound (which made it to several promotional posters and cover art) depicts you holding a severed demon head, cluing you in on what kind of awesome game you're getting into.
  • Maw mentions Jerec doing this to Kyle Katarn's father Morgan in Jedi Knight: Dark Forces II, but the actual decapitation and subsequent public display of the head on a spike occur offscreen in the Soldier for the Empire novel.
  • Killer7:
    • Curtis Blackburn hands his former partner Pedro a paper bag holding his daughter's severed head. This is merely the last of the many horrors Curtis inflicts on him.
    • Die in the game, and your character's head in a bag is found at the scene of the crime. You must go back as persona Garcian Smith to fetch your dead Smith's noggin and bring them back to life.
  • From The Legend of Dragoon, the Undead common enemy found in Mayfil carries around with it a cackling severed head that it will hold up to one of the players, causing a Fear Status Effect.
  • The Legend of Zelda: Majora's Mask uses a less violent variant. The masks that the bosses wear are substituted for the actual heads.
  • Love of Magic: When Bella beheads Sir Tomas, she catches the head in the air and holds it up.
  • For the Mass Effect 2 downloadable mission Arrival, if you let the timer run out, this happens.
  • In Middle-earth: Shadow of War, beheading the Overlord of a fort at the end of a siege will cause Talion to emerge with his head on display. He will then throw or kick it down to the orcs below depending on if the Overlord was an Orc or an Olog respectively.
  • Seems to happen a lot in the infamously bloody Mortal Kombat series.
    • A bizarre example in Mortal Kombat: Deception: Havik's Hara-Kiri involves him ripping off his own head then holding it out before dying. The usual version happens A LOT after Fatalities throughout the series. Most famously Sub-Zero's head/spine rip.
    • At the end of Mortal Kombat X, Raiden after exposure to dark magic brought all of his repressed feelings of anger about Earthrealm constantly being put in danger to the surface approaches the new rulers of the Underworld revenant Liu Kang and Kitana and warns them that he is going to take a more proactive approach to keep Earthrealm safe by seeking out and destroying any threat to it. He demonstrates that his threat is not an idle one by tossing the head of Shinnok, who is still alive thanks to his immortality at their feet.
    • In a matchup against Quan Chi, he would carry a head of Moloch upon exiting a portal before tossing it aside.
    • One of Erron Black's intros in Mortal Kombat 11 involves him dropping a bag carrying the head of Hsu Hao, who is — both in-universe and real lifethe biggest Scrappy in the franchise.
    • In the same game, Guest Fighter Spawn has an intro where he presents the head of his arch-enemy, the Violator, impaled on a piece of rebar.
  • One quest in Neverwinter Nights has you killing the red dragon Klauth and giving his head to the gold dragon Gorgotha. Given he's an old, big dragon don't ask how you carry his head around in your backpack.
  • No More Heroes 2: Desperate Struggle: Early in the game, a brown paper bag containing Bishop's head gets thrown through Travis's window. Later on, before the Final Boss fight, Batt Jr. presents the heads of Sylvia, Shinobu, and Henry on silver platters to rile Travis up. Thankfully, they're fake, as (the very much alive) Henry demonstrates.
  • In Police Quest 4: Open Season, the severed head of one of the killer's victims can be found in his refrigerator.
  • In Red Dead Redemption 2, there's a Nightmare Fuel variation of this where the decapitated body is propped up on a horse and rode into camp with the head, sans the eyes, sitting in its lap. Poor Kieran.
  • Two examples occur in Ryse: Son of Rome, both of them carried out by Player Character Marius Titus:
    • The second is Boudica herself. By the end of the game, Marius has come to realize that he and Boudica aren't so different, since Nero had both their families killed out of spite. In spite of this, he still has to kill her to defend the innocents of Rome, so he cuts off her head (and she encourages him), then puts it in a bag before giving it to a centurion, ordering him to hang it up so that the barbarians will retreat.
  • Another weird example is Serious Sam with its line of 'Beheaded' enemies. As it sounds, they are undead enemies who have been beheaded...but, upon being raised from their graves, then proceed to carry around their own heads in the manner of this trope, ostensibly so they can aim their bombs and rocket launchers. Don't ask about the guys whose heads they couldn't find.
  • One event in Six Ages: Ride Like the Wind has a neighboring chieftain show up brandishing the head of a third clan's chief, to propose a game of Severed Head Sports. And when Beren courts Redalda, one of the things her chieftain demands is the head of an enemy to prove his might and that of his clan.
  • Occurs in Siegfried Schtauffen's backstory in Soul Edge. The young bandit Siegfried holds up the severed head of the knight he just ambushed to show it off to his fellows... only to realize it was his beloved father's head. He... doesn't take it well.
  • In South Park: The Stick of Truth, though only with castration instead. One quest has the prince of Canada ordering New Kid to go kill the Bishop of Banff and bring back his balls as proof. Alternatively, New Kid can spare the Bishop, who gives him a pair of Dire Pig testicles to fool the prince.
  • Star Wars: The Old Republic gives you this option a few times, most notably as the Bounty Hunter. In one such encounter, your options include killing him and taking his head back (dark side) or leaving him be and using a random already-dead same-species replacement (light side).
  • After Chasing Neclord out of North Window in Suikoden II Flik reports that after the South Window was invaded by Solon Jhee's Battalion he surrendered immediately.....His Head hanged from the Castle Gate the following Morning. Whether it was Solon Jhee's idea or Luca Blight's orders is unknown.
  • Depicted in the banner for Mann Up mode in Mann Vs. Machine in Team Fortress 2, with the RED Heavy brandishing the severed head of a Heavy-bot that he presumably pulled off just prior. Also happens after a fashion with the Botkiller weapons, which have the heads of Robot Heavies or (more rarely) Robot Engineers hanging off their barrels or jammed onto melee weapons as trophies in full view of everyone.
  • It's (deliberately?) a little ambiguous, but have a look at the Tekken 3 intro. Is that Jun's head?!
  • In Tenchu 2, Tatsumaru vows to take Lord Toda's head. Toda is instead beheaded by Lady Kagami. She sets the head on fire and flings it down a cliff as a signal for her ninja to rise up against the samurai.
  • At the end of Act 2 of ULTRAKILL, a council member's head is presented to the citizens of Heaven. By Gabriel at that, after he went through a deep epiphany from his latest defeat at V1's hands; he wanted to make sure the denizens knew they were free from the Council's tyranny now that he'd wiped them out.
  • The trailer for The Witcher 2: Assassins of Kings ends with Lethos holding up the severed head of King Demavend of Aedirn for a few long moments before jumping overboard to escape.
  • Done about halfway through the story in Wolfenstein II: The New Colossus to B.J. Blaskowicz himself. Amazingly, he actually gets better.
  • Occurs on numerous occasions throughout World of Warcraft. While there are several quests that involve putting a severed head on a spear as a means of intimidation (most notably the old quest, "Ogre Head On A Stick = Party"), the quests that merely require killing someone and bringing back the head as proof are too numerous to count. There's even one achievement lampshading the frequent use of this trope: Bring Me The Head of... Oh Wait
    • There's also a subversion in twilight highlands where you bring someone the heads of two ogre-magi, the horde version plays it straight, but in the alliance version the quest giver is squicked out at the heads and tells you he would have just taken your word for it.
    • Orgrim Doomhammer is seen doing this to Blackhand in the instruction manual for Warcraft II: Tides of Darkness.
    • In a Kick the Dog moment, the Big Bad of the novel Warcraft: Lord of the Clans kills his mistress (Thrall's childhood friend) for helping Thrall escape and throws her head at Thralls feet when the latter comes to the keep with an orc army. Needless to say, the Big Bad doesn't survive the encounter.

    Visual Novels 
  • In one of the Bad Ends from Spirit Hunter: NG, Seiji is possessed by Kubitarou and decapitated by her after being lured to her haunting ground. Their head is 'decorated' with a sapling and displayed for Akira to find.

    Web Animation 

    Web Comics 
  • Homestuck:
    • During Dave and Bro's fight, Dave does this using the head of one of Bro's puppets, drawing a line across his throat after Bro gives him a "you're going down" thumbs down. Later parodied by Vriska when Tavros does the same thing to her, and she responds by holding up his replaced, severed legs and drawing a line across her waist.
    • Gamzee assembles a "motherfucking JURY" consisting of the heads of Nepeta, Equius, Tavros, Feferi, and Eridan, the five dead trolls at that point. It all appears to be out of the way and no one's paying attention to it or him, though.
    • Dirk later takes the historical route by putting the Hegemonic Brute's head up on public display through a stolen flagpole with an attached note as a warning to those in charge of Derse.
  • Used in this Saturday Morning Breakfast Cereal strip, though not exactly as expected.
  • This is an all too common pastime for the characters in The Overture
    • Vanessa Olsen is a brutal warlord who displays the heads of her enemies on pikes in order to instill fear.
    • The headhuntress wears the rotten skulls of her victims around her belt. The rest she leaves in a large pile outside of her layer.
    • Before burning Sophia Finley alive, Sophie places the severed heads of Sophia's bodyguards in front of her in order to give her death an audience.
  • In S.S.D.D. the Anarchist's crazier-than-normal First Adviser Kimple was killed by an angry mob and his head was stuffed and mounted in the Citadel's pool hall. Later his successor demands the head of whoever programmed that ICBM they just launched to hit Austin, Texas, and the Oracle states "Well, you're in luck there..."
  • In Looking for Group Richard's undead subjects put the severed heads of the Imperial soldiers who tried to annex their village on stakes, with an expression of mild surprise on their faces.
  • In Charby the Vampirate the vampire who murdered Blaine's parents sends his mother's head to him in a box years later and follows up a couple of months after that with his father's.
  • San: Three Kingdoms Comic is a parody of Romance of the Three Kingdoms, an old work with a substantial number of severed heads in its own right, but here it's played for dark humor: Yuan Shao would really rather that you don't put the head of a slain enemy on his desk, please.
  • Non-villainous example in Tales of the Questor, when Duke Sturmhold is trying to rally his people to fight The Wild Hunt that's coming, using the new techniques Quentyn has told him about. The people see only their latest ruinously taxing duke asking them to pit mortal weaponry against immortal spirits, and call for proof that they should believe anything he says... at which point he holds up a banshee's severed head.
  • Narbonic features a very rare use of this trope for purposes of Faking the Dead, courtesy of Helen's mother.
    Artie: "I'm sure the explanation for this is wonderfully clever, but I never want to hear it."
  • Unsounded: According to Cresce, the latest chapter in its Forever War with Alderode was instigated when Aldish soldiers murdered Crescian surveyors, then delivered their heads to the Crescian royal palace, stuffed with explosive gel.

    Western Animation 
  • Arcane: Subverted and discussed in the last episode of Season 1. When Vi is kidnapped by her sister Jinx and tied up in a chair, Jinx brings out a domed serving plate while mentioning she paid Vi's "girlfriend" (referring to Caitlyn, whom Vi has a lot of Ship Tease with) a visit and "made her a snack," playing up the idea that she has Caitlyn's head on the platter. Vi, terrified, averts her eyes when Jinx flamboyantly lifts the dome to reveal... a single cupcake with the Hextech gem everyone has been fighting over as the cherry. Jinx is amused by the reaction and jokes that not even she'd be that deranged.
  • A Family Guy Cutaway Gag has a parody of The Sound of Music where one of the nuns, after they disable the Nazis' car, whips out Rolfe's severed head.
    Nun: (reacting to the other nuns' shocked expressions) Hey, I didn't start this war but it's on!
    • In "Fresh Heir", Peter tries to brown-nose Chris by beheading a schoolmate who had been bullying him, which freaks him out.
      Chris: That's not even him! That's the deaf kid!
  • Hazbin Hotel: When Carmilla Carmine summons her fellow Overlords for a meeting a week after the latest Extermination in order to discuss their next course of action, Velvette derails the meeting by tossing the severed head of an Exorcist killed during the Extermination across the table for everyone to see, attempting to use this as undeniable proof that the Exorcists can be killed in order to spark a war against Heaven. Carmilla ends the meeting after Velvette points out that the sight made her uncomfortable; after all, it was Carmilla herself who killed the Exorcist, and she would prefer that this remained a secret since she knows damn well Hell wouldn't stand a ghost of a chance against the full might of Heaven.
  • In The Owl House episode "A Lying Witch and a Warden", Warden Wrath holds Eda's severed head up by her hair. However, she's not dead (though she does complain about how uncomfortable it is when that happens).
  • Rick and Morty: In "A Rickconvenient Mort", Morty lobs Eddie's mostly-charred skull onto the conference table where the other Tina-teers were planning to sell Planetina. The wielder of the Water ring is able to recognize the skull from the cheekbones alone.
  • At the end of the "Terror at 5 1/2 Feet" segment of The Simpsons' fourth Halloween Episode, when the gremlin displays Ned Flanders's severed (and still-living) head to Bart in the window of the ambulance.
    "Hi-dilly-ho, Bart!"
    Bart: You should have seen the look on her face. In fact, here it is!
  • The HBO adaptation of Spawn saw mafia boss Tony Twist order his subordinate, Castellano, to fly to Rome and ingratiate himself to "the man" after cybernetic hitman Overkill came off worse in a tangle with Spawn. Later in the episode, Twist is presented with a box containing Castellano's head—and a note that lets him know just how unhappy the Italian mafia is with the situation.
  • Star Wars: The Clone Wars: The first statue of Grievous in "Lair of Grievous", from prior to any of his cybernetic alterations, depicts him holding the severed head of an opponent.
  • Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (2012) features a tamer version. Leonardo presents the Super Shredder's mutated helmet to signify he has finally been killed.
  • In Toy Story That Time Forgot, the battle arena has the heads of several defeated toys mounted on pikes. They aren't dead, but it's unpleasant nonetheless.
  • 2 Stupid Dogs has an episode where they meet Little Red Riding Hood. Turns out the house they broke into belongs to the Three Bears. The episode ends with the trio's heads mounted on the wall.
  • In Visionaries, Mortdredd talks about how pleased Darkstorm will be to be presented with Feryl's "head on a silver platter." It's not clear if Mortdredd plans to behead Feryl or remove his head after killing him some other way. Feryl just tells Mortdredd to "dream on", and needless to say keeps his head.

    Real Life 
  • This actually used to be standard practice in nearly all cultures, possibly to discourage followers of beheaded people from pretending they were still alive. "Behold the head of a traitor!" was the usual formula. Alas, when they tried it with Mary of Scotland... the headsman failed to realize she was wearing a wig so it all went a bit wrong and her head rolled away. Bit of a Chew Toy was Mary.
  • After being killed by the Turks, Vlad III Dracula's severed head was said to have been sent to the Turkish sultan Mehmed II for proof that he had finally been slain.
  • This was, of course, common in The French Revolution, with or without the benefit of the guillotine. Bernard, Marquis de Launay (the Governor of the Bastille) and several of his guards, Marie-Louise, Princess de Lamballe, and Joseph-François Foullon de Doué all had their heads hacked off by Revolutionary mobs and carried around on pikes.
    • One of the most famous instances during the Revolution was with Georges Danton, who was famously disfigured from surviving smallpox and multiple animal attacks in his childhood. The last thing Danton said before his execution was « Tu montreras ma tête au peuple, elle en vaut la peine! » "You should show the people my head. It's worth the trouble!"
  • According to legend, when the Roman general Crassus was defeated, they brought his head to an enemy king, who was watching a play that ended with a severed head being displayed. They switched Crassus's head for the prop.
  • Joaquín Murieta, California bandit and outlaw hero, whose head was removed so as to collect the bounty... and then preserved in a pickle jar and displayed for years.
  • After being kidnapped and raped by Roman soldiers, Chiomara had her people, who came to rescue her, cut off her rapist's head. She proceeded to carry said severed head back home, threw it at her husband's feet, and told him "Only one man who has lain with me shall remain alive".
  • Famously, Pompey Magnus' head was delivered to Julius Caesar as a gift from the Egyptians. Caesar was furious that his allies had treacherously murdered his honoured enemy and old friend.
  • Overlapping with Murder the Hypotenuse is this horrific tale about a cuckolded soldier and his wife, pregnant by a friend. The murderer also invoked the Nightmare Fuel potential of the act, according to the wife's court testimony:
    "Look, Diane — Glover's here! He'll sleep with you every night now. Only you won't sleep — because all you'll see is this!"
    • Centuries before that, Peter the Great did something similar when he had the head of his wife's boyfriend Willem Mons preserved in a jar — though ironically, Willem only got connected with the royal family in the first place because Peter was sleeping with Willem's sister Anna on the side. Peter reputedly even made his wife keep the head in her room.
  • Sigurd Eysteinsson, Jarl of Orkney (ruled circa 872 - 892), did this to Mael Brigte of the Scots during the Viking Conquest of Northern Scotland. Unfortunately, as he was riding home, his leg scratched against Mael Brigte's buckteeth, the wound went septic and he died of the infection. That's the tooth, the whole tooth and nothing but the tooth.
  • Samurai had a custom of presenting to their Daimyo the heads of their enemies after each battle. Because of this, they would perfume their heads just to make sure any enemy that killed them got a good trophy.
  • Sort of happened to Ferdinand von Schill, the leader of a small anti-Napoleonic rebellion. After he was killed in combat in the streets of Stralsund, the French had his head cut off and pickled in a glass jar that ended up at Leiden University. It took years for the head to be returned to Germany for burial.
  • In the middle ages and early modern period, it was quite common for the heads of people executed by decapitation to be spiked onto poles etc., and displayed at a city gate or, if the people executed were pirates, at a harbour entrance. A skull of a pirate whose head was displayed that way (according to the legend that of the famous pirate Klaus Störtebeker) in the times of the Hanseatic League can be seen in the Museum für Hamburgische Geschichte in Hamburg.
  • Animal heads, of course, are very common taxidermy displays by which hunters show off their prowess, especially for large species.
  • Kathy Griffin got in a bit of trouble for invoking a simulation of this trope in May 2017.
  • Korean naval hero Admiral Yi Sun Shin was opposed to this trope, as he believed his sailors should concentrate on killing enemy soldiers who were still alive instead of collecting dead ones. However as heads were regarded as proof of a warrior's bravery, he made sure to let his men know that he would note who was brave and mention their names in his despatches to the king.
  • Accounts from the Spanish describe the Aztecs publicly displaying racks full of heads of conquistadores and their horses for the Spanish to see. This was intended both to scare the Spanish into not invading any further and to demonstrate the cutting power of the Macuahuitl blades the Aztec warriors wielded, at that time the sharpest weapon in the world.



Caesar is shocked and horrified at Pompei's death at the hands of the Egyptians.

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