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Losing Your Head

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"In Evil Within, you can get beheaded, and continue to play the game. I mean it's pretty cool that you can get beheaded in the game, and that's usually a death, like it usually kills you. But there are times, when it will not, and you just continue playing the game. It's particulary funny because, if a like it, starts to happen again where you get beheaded again, it doesn't like, kill you like you don't have a head it's like, no, no head, blade can't do that, no head, stay alive."
— gameranx

A beheading can be a messy and extremely painful thing to see, let alone experience. While it's been said that, theoretically (it's understandably hard to confirm), consciousness may continue for a few seconds after decapitation, note  in fiction, consciousness after decapitation can last much, much longer... or even indefinitely. The severed head generally possesses the ability to audibly speak despite their mouth no longer being connected to their lungs, and may or may not even be capable of independent movement, either by bouncing, rolling or levitating. Sometimes the body will still be functional and capable of moving on it's own, resulting in the head trying to tell it to pick it up and reattach it.


This trope can be justified for robots, which may have a power source in their skull that keeps them going after it's been separated from their shoulders: they may not have their core processor in their head anyway. The Undead and other supernatural beings may also exhibit an ability to have a functioning head separate from their still-functioning body. Robots could also have their entire vocal system located in their head, but any biological creature should only be able to mouth words.

When multiple heads/brains/souls/CPUs/etc. are removed and then reinstalled in working order at the same time, this will almost always result in them being "returned" to the wrong bodies, giving a "Freaky Friday" Flip.

See: Alas, Poor Yorick, Brain in a Jar, Helping Hands, Your Head A-Splode, Cranial Processing Unit, Detachment Combat, Oracular Head. Related to Headless Horseman, Pulling Themselves Together, Appendage Assimilation, and Having a Heart. Contrast Decapitation Required, when it's the only way to kill them successfully. For decapitation in general, see Off with His Head!. Not to be confused with Talking Heads, which is a stylistic convention.



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  • A TV advertisement for Gusto, a European snack food resembling shoestring potatoes, has a man's severed head lying on the floor, still talking, as his body stumbles around aimlessly.
  • A Maestro credit card ad features a headless woman shopping for new clothes, and as she pays for her stuff with her Maestro card, she leaves her head behind.
  • A banner ad for Treximet, a prescription headache remedy, has a woman who says, "My migraines are so excruciating, I just want to take my head off."
  • A Dentyne Frost Bites commercial plus Human Popsicle
  • Gary The Robot suffers this cruel fate in an ad for Pillsbury Pizza Pops.
  • In an advert for VO5 Extreme Style hair products a teenager removes his own head in order to style his hair. He then proceeds to flirt with a woman holding her head in her hands.
  • An interesting case turned up in a commercial for Fruit Gushers that had a space theme. Toward the end of the commercial, some kid's head turns into a flying saucer. At the end of the commercial, we see the kid's Flying Saucer head fly away, leaving his headless body behind. Could also have some Fridge Horror if you consider the fact that the kid's head might not come back, leaving his body without a head.
  • In a similar vein, the ad for Gushers Magic Pieces ended with a girl making a candy "disappear," only for her head to vanish in a puff of smoke. Her voice says, "Hey, where'd I go?" suggesting that the head has turned invisible or gone somewhere else. 'Cause, y'know, it's magic.
  • A terrifying PSA circa 1971 from the Presidential Council on Fitness (?) posited a future where, due to physical inactivity, a man of the time was reduced to a head in a box, carted around by a humanoid robot. In the ad, the power goes off, leading the head to anxiously cry out "Hello? Is anyone there??"
  • A commercial for Kids Foot Locker features two kids sitting at a cafeteria table. One of them is clearly interested in the jacket that the other is wearing, and starts bargaining to trade one of his own possessions for the other's jacket. The offering quickly escalates from simple things like sandwiches and pudding, to the boy offering his very own head for it. Sure enough, this is what gets his friend's attention, as he finally agrees to the trade. After the trade, a passing student quips "Nice jacket!" to which the now-headless boy hi-fives him, almost as if to say that it was worth it. View the ad here.
  • Gary from Nintendo Week begins hosting one episode as a disembodied head, with his body stumbling into walls in the background. He promptly explains this is a nod to Face Raiders for the 3DS.
  • A McDonald's commercial featuring the famous magician David Copperfield has this happen to his assistant via the Head Mover magic trick.
  • There are at least two separate commercials from 1990 about Consolidated Auto Sales that feature Frank Sawark holding his own head on a platter.
  • An ad for the Teacher's Training Agency starts off with a guy detaching his head when getting out of bed and then continues for most of the commercial with the headless bodies doing their jobs while the song "Heigh ho" plays in the background.
  • Happens to a kid in this commercial for the Panasonic 3DO when his head flies off his body while his now headless body continues to play due to the graphics "blowing his mind".
  • A commercial for a film themed event that happened from 2013 to 2014 in a french community center has a headless DJ that after finding and then dropping his head he tries to reattach it only for it to fall off again after sneezing.
  • This commercial for Coca-Cola has a guy's headless body in a house that sitting in front of a television that is showing a tropical paradise which it then gets launched to by the Coca-Cola. It then reveals that his head is involved in a tropical paradise party that temporarily comes to a halt when his body arrives but then resumes with his disembodied head soon afterwards getting reattached to his body.
  • There is a commercial for MTV's Panasonic Face of Beauty that features three girls separated from their heads that only reattach them after finishing on getting their headless bodies fully dressed up.
  • A guy is seen holding his head while talking about a college in Brazil.
  • There are two different Canadian PSAs that both involve a black kid detaching his head from his body to teach kid to eat healthy and exercise frequently.
  • An ad for ECUST Sound Engineering features either an android or cyborg removing his head to work on at least one of his ears.
  • Has this happen to a boy wearing earbuds in an ad for NRJ mobile after listening to music that causes his ears to first wiggle and then start to grow in size until they large enough that his head flies off his body.
  • In this ad for Halloween fanta has a breakdancer's head come off as a result of his breakdancing.
  • This commercial for a brand of condoms has a young couple have both their heads fall off when they can't find the advertised condom.
  • On a rather Not Safe for Work PSA about AIDS education, a couple who has their heads note  either disappear or detach from their bodies and moved to somewhere offscreen while having sex using their headless bodies.
  • In a Japanese commercial for an cooking school called Taiwa has a man with an egg for a head literally sneezes his head off resulting in his headless body frantically looking for presumably his head until it settles for a cabbage.
  • Happens to Terry Crews in some of the Old Spice commercials he appears in such as this one.
  • A 2002 Hong Kong commercial for E*Trade has it happen to a motorcycler when he takes off his helmet to which he immediately afterwards removes from his helmet and reattaches to his body.
  • Similarily this Microsoft commercial also features someone with a helmet taking off their head when attempting to remove their helmet and reattaching their head to their body only this time it happens to a Go-Cart driver after crashing their Go-Cart against the wall.
  • Generally any commercial with penanggalans in them tend to play this trope rather straight. Here is a relatively recent PSA that features a penanggalan.

    Anime & Manga 
  • In the manga Astro Boy's head is apparently not that well attached, judging by the frequency of which it detaches. Though it's stated that his electronic brain is in his chest and not his head, which is just for talking, hearing, and sight.
  • Attack on Titan: Titans can generally survive the removal of their heads (which they'll quickly regenerate), often being able to keep walking without it. Even on the occasions where decapitation kills them, it's not actually the loss of the head, but when the process of its removal also happens to cut away the nape of the neck.
  • Normally, humans and demons die when Guts of Berserk shears their heads off. The Count from the Guardians of Desire arc proves to be quite more resilient than that, which drives Guts to torture him further because he "doesn't know how to fucking die."
  • In Claymore normally cutting the head is the surest way to kill a Claymore or an Awakened being, except when it isn't. Two or three Awakened Being defied this norm.
    • Of them, Europa is the one who plays this trope the straightest as she's able to "play dead" by being decapitated while in Human form and then transform in her true Awakened form Decapitation has otherwise no effect on her.
    • The other two are Priscilla, who's not only resistant to decapitation but has the ability to regenerate From a Single Cell, and "Bloody" Agatha, who basically cheats as her human body is just an appendage while her true "necks" that connect her head to her true body are her hairs; when she was decapitated in battle she all but mocked her enemies.
  • Dowman Sayman's The Collector and the Phantom Pain is a short story about Narumiya, a girl who finds her friend in pieces while on her way to school. Narumiya speaks to the girl's head and offers her help in recovering the scattered body parts, which fell inexplicably in the hands of other clingy school girls who refuse to give them away, and easily does so but secretly keeps her friend's breasts to herself, telling her that she was unable to find them. Narumiya's friend doesn't mind, however, saying that she feels them being taken care of very affectionately.
  • May spends most of Coyote Ragtime Show as a disembodied head after Mister blows her up with an RPG.
  • Daily Life with Monster Girl: Lala, being a dullahan, has her head permanently detached from her body. Normally, she leaves her head on her neck, but sometimes it gets knocked off and she has to get it back. Body and head are both capable of acting independently, but the body lacks the head's senses and needs to get it back in order to use them. The head, however, is very conscious of whatever the body's feeling.
  • Played for Laughs in Doctor Slump. Arale is a little android girl whose head pops off quite easily. For example, this may cause momentary horror in an onlooker who thinks she's human.
  • Dragon Ball:
    • Sergeant Metallic in the original Dragon Ball has his head blown up by Goku's Kamehameha, but survives as he's a robot. Surely, it scares and surprises him. Shortly after, however, Metallic runs out of battery.
    • After Vegeta decapitates Guldo, Guldo's head survives long enough to yell at Vegeta before getting vaporized altogether.
    • Similarly, Doctor Gero (a cyborg) is still able to rant after Android 17 decapitates him. 17 fixes this by stomping on Gero's head.
    • Happens to Android 16 (who, unlike other "androids", is 100% mechanical) after he gets blown to bits in the Cell arc. After his Final Speech, Cell steps on the head and destroys it. Which makes Gohan go BATSHIT on Cell.
    • Majin Buu has his head blasted off during the fight against Kid Buu (having been removed from Kid Buu's system). It's easily reformed from his body, however, since he can regenerate from almost every wound.
  • Durarara!!: Her head wasn't attached to begin with, but losing it is what sent Celty to search for it in Ikebukuro.
  • A number of people have had odd things happen to their heads in Franken Fran. Fran herself has sewn her own head back on after decapitation.
  • Fullmetal Alchemist:
    • Greed has Law take his head off with a huge sledgehammer as a demonstration of his powers. He then tells him to improve his aim after regenerating, due to him missing a part of his jaw.
    • Al gets his head taken off multiple times. Of course, this barely affects him. He can still speak, as it seems the sound comes from the blood seal that's in the armor's body, which seems to indicate his head is essentially decorative.
    • Same goes for Barry; he just snaps his head back on whenever it gets knocked off.
    • Slicer's blood seal is in the helmet, so while it's still not fatal it does incapacitate him. Of course, then his younger brother can just take over.
  • Ghost In The Shell Standalone Complex. Batou is attacked by a Mini-Mecha who blows his head off. The pilot gets a shock when Batou's head starts talking back to him, as Batou has hacked his cyborg eyes and sent a false image. An unharmed Batou is actually standing right behind the pilot. Cue Boom, Headshot!.
  • Happens to various individuals around the heroine repeatedly in Hellsing, falling somewhere between Gorn and Narm.
  • The dullahan class of demi-humans in Interviews with Monster Girls have their heads detached from their bodies from birth, but their heads and bodies does what like the same parts of muggles despite miles away, to the point that wormholes were being suspected in-universe.
  • Inuyasha:
    • Naraku often sends disguised puppets to fight in his place. The first time that this is revealed, the puppet is beheaded, and appears to be dead. After the protagonists let down their guard, the puppet springs back to life, including the head which rolls upright again, and begins to speak.
    • The episode "3000 Leagues in Search of Father" also focuses around this. Demons have enough vigor to survive decapitation for a day or two, which leads to the son of a demon to find his father's body and place the head back on.
  • JoJo's Bizarre Adventure:
    • Dio Brando decapitates himself in Phantom Blood to avoid being killed by the Ripple. He later steals Jonathan Joestar's body to replace his own.
    • Battle Tendency: Wamuu briefly survives getting his head blown off, but the Ripple is already destroying it, so he dies not too long afterward.
    • In Stardust Crusaders, Vanilla Ice decapitates himself using his own Stand so he can offer his blood to Dio. Dio then uses his own blood to revive Ice, claiming "you don't need to die." Since Dio used his blood, Vanilla Ice becomes a vampire, making him unkillable until Polnareff exposes him to sunlight. Unfortunately for Ice, although he knew about the weakness, he didn't realize he was a vampire.
    • In Vento Aureo, Bruno Buccellati uses his zipper-ability to unzip rival gangster Zucchero's head clean off, which the other team members then hang from a fish hook in an attempt to interrogate him. When Zucchero refuses to comply, they resort to the Torture Dance, while Zucchero's head dangles helplessly by his eyelid and is Forced to Watch.
  • In episode 18 of Kill la Kill, Satsuki decapitates Ragyo during their epic confrontation. However, since Ragyo is a Life Fiber hybrid, she has no trouble at all putting herself back together - or beating the crap out of Satsuki afterward.
  • Kendaman from Kinnikuman uses his head as a weapon, which is easy considering it's more or less a wrecking ball attached to his arm.
  • Living Dead!: Being a Flesh-Eating Zombie, Monako's parts fall off easily, especially her head as it can pop off her neck or tumble with enough force.
  • Invoked in class 3-A's Haunted House in the Mahora Festival of Mahou Sensei Negima!, where Akira, the guide in the school themed haunted house, appeared to get decapitated and her head told Negi to run away. She's actually just lying on the ground with a cover that matches the floor tiles camouflaging the rest of her body, but Negi was too freaked out to notice.
    • In the backstory, Tertium did this to Secundum after Secundum "rewrote" Shiori's older sister, effectively erasing the poor girl out of existence.
  • Mazinger Z: Count Brocken was a Nazi ex-officer that got mortally wounded. Dr. Hell found him when he was dying, cut his head from his body and turned him into a cyborg. His head always follows him around, either floating on its own or resting on one of his hands.
    "Brocken BALL! The game where everyone wins. Except Brocken".
  • Midori Days did this with an android-version of a character. After she had been separated from her legs, her body later self destructed, but her head survived to jet into the professor who made her.
  • Mobile Suit Gundam's Grand Finale has 2 of this. Char's Zeong has a cockpit as the mobile armor's head, and he eventually has to separate it from the body. The Gundam gets it head tore off during the battle, and the famous "Last Shooting" pose has it shoots a beam rifle into a colony to destroy an empty Zeong's head, without a head nor a left arm.
  • Hidan from Naruto is immortal, but one time it was cut off he couldn't move until Kakuzu used his threads to sew it back on. Later Kakuzu isn't around to reattach it, and Shikamaru cuts his head off, but decides to be more thorough and blows up his body while throwing his head into a deep pit in the private land of the Nara clan and then buries it in an avalanche. While the head is screaming curses at him.
    • Later still, Kisame (not really) has this happen to him, and he is somehow able to get off a compliment on his opponents' abilities as his head flies through the air.
  • Chronologically, this is how Genma gets introduced in Ninja Scroll, his head gets chopped off. It's later shown he can regenerate any wound ever, and someone put his head back on his neck and he sports a visible scar.
  • Buggy the Clown from One Piece can separate any body part, but his move "Chop Chop Quick Escape" involves him popping his head off to stop people from punching his face.
    • There's also Trafalgar Law, who apparently can do similar things to other people. The first instance of him using tricks like that in the manga involves a justifiably weirded out marine juggling the talking head of one of his comrades.
    • Crocodile got his head sliced off by Doflamingo, but because he can use his Logia fruit's reformation power by reflex he attached it just a second later.
    • This only happened in the manga, but after being attacked by Dalton, Wapol's troupe of doctors were quick to patch him up... except for the fact that they hadn't reattached his head to his body, which they did off-panel.
    • After the Timeskip, Brook gets his head taken off by a Fish Man Pirate, but then reveals he's perfectly fine. Since learning to master the power of his Revive-Revive Fruit, Brook learned that it was the power of his soul keeping his body moving. Since he has no vital organs to risk, it's a simple matter to pop his head back on.
  • Princess Mononoke: "Cut off a wolf's head and it still has the power to bite."
  • Reiko the Zombie Shop's protagonist zombifies her own head after an unfortunate run-in with a serial killer. She gets a new body in the second volume.
  • Rio -Rainbow Gate!- uses this as a Running Gag with Linda the Robot Girl.
  • Played for Laughs in Rosario + Vampire by Ling-Ling, a zombie who can (and frequently does) freely detach and reattach her body parts, most especially her head.
  • Subverted in 3×3 Eyes during the combat between Yakumo and Benares on the moon: true, Wu such as themselves can survive anything, even decapitation (which happened to Yakumo himself earlier on in the manga) but, as Benares pointed out, the sheer pain of having your head graphically torn from your neck is enough to reduce the victim in a comatose state.
  • Kikuchiyo's introduction in Seven Samurai has him get decapitated by Kambei as part of a ploy act to distract a guy holding a baby hostage, with his head later berating him for stealing his rescue attempt. Later on, in an infiltration plan in which some of the samurai let themselves get captured, his head is delivered as a trophy, while his body enters enemy territory hidden within a pile of hay.
  • Tomie, but then she is an Eldritch Abomination in human form.
  • Transformers: The★Headmasters: Some Transformers can change into heads while others change into bodies to combine and become more powerful.
  • One rather disturbing scene in the anime of Umineko: When They Cry features Maria's head on a platter. Laughing psychotically and daring Rosa to eat her.
  • Happens to Reiha in the Vampire Princess Miyu TV series. After Miyu and Larva kill her, her body picks up her head and then disappears, sweating to return later.
  • Happened to Hell King Bass in Violinist of Hameln during a flashback. Better yet, all of his body except for the head was annihilated. Unfortunately, he is a near-immortal mazoku, who can continue to exist even in this state, and he was swift to obtain a pupped to haul his (literally) disembodied head around.
  • Yondemasu Yo Azazel San: This constantly happens to Azazel, though he often has it coming.
  • The duel between Mai and Marik in the Yu-Gi-Oh! manga. Mai's monster manages to decapitate Marik's monster, which are both tied by lifelines to their respective duelists. Guess what happens to Marik...
  • The first Appleseed movie had a pair of gynoids with cutting whips that did quite a number on Hitomi's car and later on Briareos' Hand Cannon as well. Then when a gynoid thinks it will be taken prisoner, it twirls the wire around its own head to slice up its cranial section. However the lower jaw section apparently has enough functional circuitry to say the cryptic words: "The Appleseed seal must not be unlocked" before it's destroyed by a Boom, Headshot! (implied to have been fired to stop anything further from being said).

    Card Games 
  • This trope appears in the diamond suit in John Littleboy's Bag of Bones playing cards, published in 2008.

    Comic Books 
  • The Amazing Screw-On Head is built on this trope.
  • An early issue of The Transformers did this, with Optimus Prime's head held captive and his body under the Decepticons' remote control.
  • In The Transformers Megaseries, Scorponok has been reduced to a badly damaged but still-living head as a result of the injuries inflicted upon him by Ultra Magnus. Sunstreaker suffers the same fate, courtesy of Scorponok’s human minions the Machination. In the Devastation arc, Runamuck survives being decapitated by one of the Reapers, only for another Reaper to kill him by crushing his head with a boulder.
  • Transformers Optimus Prime: Wreck-Gar got decapitated during a fight. He spent the rest of the series as a disembodied head being carried around by his consort, Rum-Maj. This resulted in many, many head-related puns.
  • The comic book series Wildguard has a character named Segmented Man who can segment his body parts. He demonstrates with his head.
  • MF Enterprises' Captain Marvel (unrelated to the Fawcett and Marvel characters who used that name) who could detach all of his body part.
  • In Preacher vampire sidekick Cassidy, is beheaded, leading to his asking "Can ye sew?" He is fine afterwards. By Cassidy's standards, anyway.
    • Healing was difficult. Scarves were employed.
  • X-Men villain Cameron Hodge survived beheading after a Deal with the Devil that had made him immortal.
  • Bloodpool had Rubble (who is indeed made of rubble), who liked to take off his head and throw it. After his head is blown to bits during this attack, he still retains consciousness and channels his dialogue through a telepathic teammate.
  • The villain Cyberface from Savage Dragon survived as a disembodied head. Justified, in one aspect, that his power was interact with machinery.
  • Mr. Gone of The Maxx was somehow beheaded by an out-of-shape woman wielding a knife-length tooth of one of his henchmonsters, but that didn't stop him from continuing to play mind games with the heroes. He eventually finds a chiropractor to reattach his head.
  • Numerous characters in Fables do this. including the Wooden Soldiers, Bright Day and Frankenstein's Monster.
  • The Mayor was able to posses dead bodies after his own death and eventually settled in a "patchwork" monster built by the Initiative with such an ability in the Buffy the Vampire Slayer tie-in comic.
  • Mysterio projects an illusion of himself performing such an ability in various Spider-Man comics.
  • Green Lantern. Abin Sur, the man who gave Hal Jordan his ring, has an evil son. Sur Jr. gets his head chopped off. It's later revealed that his race (he's an alien) doesn't quite need their heads and he regrows it (slowly) and returns. Only to get shredded after killing some kids. No luck there.
  • Dimitri from the Archie Comics' Sonic the Hedgehog is a cyborg head in a floating fishbowl.
  • Superman:
    • The Puzzler.
    • In the 1990s, this became Metallo's power — his head couldn't just operate without a body, it could seize control of any machinery and turn it into a body. In the absence of convenient machines, it scuttled around on spider-legs.
  • In the early 1990s Sleepwalker comics, Rick Sheridan ends up trapped in Sleepwalker's body and becomes trapped in the Mindscape, where he faces several different demons, including one that knocked his/Sleepwalker's head off. Cobweb points out that since Rick is in the Mindscape, the normal laws of nature don't apply, and it's also implied that the whole thing was just an illusion dreamed up by Cobweb to convince Rick that Sleepwalker's race actually planned to invade Earth.
  • Hellboy: The short story "Heads" is based on this trope. These heads reappear in Hellboy's Animated Adaptation "Sword of the Storms".
    • Also in the story "King Vold", the King in question carries his decapitated head at arms length.
  • A Variant cover for Marvel Zombies features the Undead X-Men with Cyclops carrying his head in his hands continuing to fire optic blasts at Magneto.
    • Also in Marvel Zombie, Zombie Hawkeye is a disembodied head who talks. He's given a gynoid body at one point.
    • In the crossover sequel with Marvel Apes the zombie Reed Richards gets beheaded and still moves around by using his stretching powers to extend pieces of his neck stump into rudimentary legs.
  • Brick of the Doom's IV.
  • The Scarecrow demonstrates in the cover of the The Wonderful Wizard of Oz #7
  • Niles Caulder of the Doom Patrol has spent time as a disembodied head in a jar. Hard to say if this is still true as of the latest retcon, though.
  • New Adventures of Superboy #25
  • Strange Adventures #136
  • Orpheus from The Sandman is beheaded but unable to die due to a deal with Death he made while in the throes of grief.
  • Brazilian comic Penadinho/Bug-a-booo's Stock Monsters include Cranicola/Skully, a disembodied skull who lies atop a stone (though he jumps from time to time) and sometimes misses his body.
  • Dick Grayson in The Dark Knight Strikes Again believe it or not.
  • Invoked by the Monkey King in American Born Chinese, who continues speaking uninterrupted even after being beheaded.
  • Played straight by Deadpool. Wolverine cuts his head off, and comments that even with regeneration he may still die from it, unless his head get reattached soon afterwards. It does, and Deadpool himself comments that his mouth is dry and that he hadn't spoken for awhile. And later Zombie-Deadpool a.k.a. "Headpool", reduced to nothing but a hungry head. Like other zombies, he's compelled to eat but doesn't need to (not like it matters).
  • In Death's Head's first encounter against Iron Man 2020, Iron Man decapitates Death's Head in battle. Annoyed, Death's Head used his headless body to beat up Iron Man and work off his aggression.
  • In the RoboHunter reboot, Sam has been reduced to this, forcing his granddaughter to take over running the business.
  • The Mighty Thor:
    • Thanks to magical precautions, Loki can survive decapitation, and his body can pick up his head and reattach it. At the climax of one arc, an empowered Thor inflicts this on Loki by ripping his head off and magically keeping him alive, forced to watch the conclusion of Ragnarok.
    • Later, the Enchantress does this to Donald Blake after he is separated from Thor, Thor eventually leaving Blake's head where it can remain in a 'dream' of the life he would have lived if he had been real.
  • In The Wicked + The Divine, Baphomet decapitates The Morrigan. She was still able to talk and sing his praises. And it was a fake anyway, so ultimately averted.
    • #33 reveals three of the dead gods live on as disembodied heads.
  • In The Multiversity #2, Captain Carrot gets decapitated by the corrupted Nix Uotan. Being a Toon, however, this does not stop him from continuing to fight, although he is unable to eat his Power-Up Food in order to replenish his superpowers until his head is reattached with Red Racer's help.
  • Arawn: Arawn cut off Owen's head many years ago, but he's still alive and talking to him. This is because Arawn, as the Lord of the Dead, can render any part of a person immortal.
  • Ultimate Vision: Vision cut Tarleton's head for killing Dima, and threw it to the horizon. That doesn't kill him, but left him in a highly uncomfortable position.
    • Ultimate Wolverine at one point gets decapitated, yet remains alive to converse with Nick Fury. Fury theorizes it's because his healing factor is actually a "survival factor" and his body is adapting to continue surviving instead of merely healing, with the skin of his head taking in oxygen to keep his brain alive
  • Lori Lovecraft: Horatio is a zombie who also a fanatical basketball fan. When his team wins the playoffs in Back to the Garden, the feedback of magical energy from Lori's battle with Elston Gunn is enough to knock his head off. Horatio doesn't notice and his head continues to cheer at the television while his body stumbles blindly around the workshop.
  • Wonder Woman:
    • Wonder Woman (2006): D'grth's giant head continues talking after Diana decapitates him with her plane, and draggs him back to the other warriors gathered to put an end to D'grth's scheming.
    • Wonder Woman 600: In the Ivan Reis, Oclair Albert and Rod Reis collaboration Diana defeats Medusa by cutting off her head, and while this seems to do in the snake woman's body her head and hair is still snarling and furious.
  • One arc of Daredevil had the hero break up a human trafficking ring with the twist that the lynchpin was a new villain who replicated the Spot's powers. Named Coyote, he used special collars with his portal abilities to indefinitely separate peoples' bodies from their heads, keeping them on shelves in a room, the disorientation and horror of the situation making them compliant laborers for various illicit operations.
  • Tales of the Jedi: In The Golden Age of the Sith, the Sith council has a Sith Lord who is a head in a container, kept alive with his Sith powers.

    Comic Strips 
  • Horace Graevsyte in Non Sequitur has his head on a silver platter.
  • Jeremy's head has popped off his body and went about its own way as a part of many visual gags in Zits. Connie's head also floats away like a balloon to depict her "airheaded-ness".
  • A headless swamp monster doesn't scare Garfield more than his dish bowl being empty.

    Fan Works 
  • In the Harry Potter fic Can't Have It Both Ways, Nearly-Headless Nick stretched his head up by the hair so that Harry could cut it off properly with the Sword of Gryffindor. This resulted in the head shooting across the room while his body stumbled about blindly.
  • In Mega Man: Defender of the Human Race, a Sniper Joe in episode 9 has its head cut off by Metal Man, but just picks it up and wanders off. He loses it again later on, with the same reaction.
  • In the Dick Figures fanfic "Giving Pink Head", Red steals a katana sword ends up chopping off Pink's head with it, though she still survives. Later, Red steals said sword later on and cuts off Stacy's head with it. You can imagine how that ended up.
  • In the Fan Film Deadpool: The Musical, after Deadpool demonstrates that he's "especially good at decapitating!", the severed head still sings his part: "Heads roll for Deadpool!"
  • In Robb Returns, the still-alive head of a female wight inside a special cage that prevents it from decaying is used as proof that the Others are returning.
  • I'm a Marvel... and I'm a DC: Lance M. Donavan display this characteristics in "DC/Marvel Happy Hour".
  • In Episode 10 of the Celebrity Deathmatch fic, Final Stand of Death, Melanie C finds herself in this while her body is being upgraded. Since it was done in the lab in the afterlife, so she doesn't die from it, though is place in a container until ready.
  • Spice Girls / S Club 7 AU fic, Spice Fortress short, "Is There a Medic in The House", Geri the Hacker has this problem, which Victoria the Medic telling her she'll get to her.
  • A strange version in The Loud House fanfiction The Nightmare House, where Lynn's nightmare involves accidentally beheading Lincoln, whose head then talks but it's implied he's still dead.
  • This occurred a numerous times in Gunner's genocide, First was lucina. she went into the supply closet, only to get her head blown of by Gunner. then Dark pit's head was exploded in part 10 but we don't know if pit lost his head as well. 1 part later, Richter suffered this death as well and LATER another fate happened where Luigi has his head teared of. and in part 23, Villager was killed by losing his head then in part 26, Diddy kong has his head blown off.

    Films — Animation 
  • The first thing the Genie in Aladdin does after escaping the lamp is complain about the crick in his neck, which he fixes by popping his head off, spinning it around once, and slamming it back on.
  • Rasputin in Anastasia loses his parts, head included, constantly as he's technically a zombie.
  • The soldier ant Barbatus in Antz is decapitated during a battle. This does kill him, but he survives long enough to make a Final Speech to Z, which makes for a pretty bizarre death scene.
  • In The Book of Life, Luis' head gets temporarily separated from the rest of his skeletal body during his journey alongside Manolo. Cures his arthritis for the duration though.
  • Corpse Bride: Paul the "Head Waiter" He can't move under his own power very efficiently, so he is carried on the backs of cockroaches.
  • Olaf the Snowman from Frozen manages to flip this one on its head when his head constantly loses its body.
  • In Mulan, the spirit of Fa Deng (the last ancestor Mushu tried acting as guardian to) is shown holding his severed head. In the closing scene, when the ancestors start celebrating Mulan's return, he throws it off and sends it crowd-surfing.
  • The Nightmare Before Christmas: Jack Skellington, natch.
    And since I am dead, I can take off my head/To recite Shakespearean quotations!
  • This is referenced in Peter Pan in a scene where Smee mistakenly thinks that he decapitated Captain Hook while giving him a shave and tells Hook that he will find his head, not realizing that this would have killed him, or that there should have been more blood if it had happened. He had actually just covered Hook's head with a towel and somehow didn't notice that he had been shaving a seagull that landed on it and then flew away.
  • Robots: Rodney Copperbottom's second meeting with Cloud Cuckoo Lander and load, Fender, results in the latter temporarely losing his head. Much hilarity ensues:
    Fender: [Lug is holding his head] Why, I'd, I'd smack you if I had a hand.
    [his body comes bouncing off buildings]
    Fender: Wow, speak of the devil... here I come.
    [the body falls on the floor]
    Fender: Owww! Daddy!
  • In the animated adaptation of A Terrible Vengeance as the hero is fighting the Big Bad other cossacks are fighting Polish hussars and Tartars. When one Cossack is beheaded, his head starts attacking the head of a Tartar warrior.
  • Suur Toll is an Estonian animated short based on the below-mentioned folktale of Tõll the Great.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • Played for Black Comedy during an Imagine Spot in 8 Heads in a Duffel Bag, when Joe Pesci's hitman character has a nightmare of the titular heads lined up and singing a parody of "Mr. Sandman."
  • In Terry Gilliam's The Adventures of Baron Munchausen, the Sultan cuts off the Treasurer's head, which flies through the air, lands in one of the harem baths, and winks at one of the Sultan's wives. And then there are the King and Queen of the Moon, who have detachable heads, but that's not quite the same thing.
  • Aguirre, the Wrath of God: Taking a rest after the storming of an Indian village, Aguirre notices two soldiers sitting somewhat apart discussing desertion. One of them says that he has counted the river bends they passed. He draws a map into the sand and is counting out the river bends to his companion as Perucho approaches quietly from behind with a machete. When the man is at 'nine', Perucho swipes his head off, and we get a shot of the head lying on the ground, counting 'ten'.
  • While not completely decapitated, Ash in Alien and The Terminator in Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines are able to operate with only a few wires keeping their heads on their shoulders.
  • Bishop from Aliens is torn in half in that film, but in Alien³, after his ship crashes only his head (and part of the chest) "survives". Ripley does have to plug his remains into various pieces of hardware in order to turn him back on/re-activate/bring back to life. She offers to keep him running in the hope of repair but he declines the offer and chooses to die/get turned off/de-re-activated.
  • In the 1982 film Android, the Mad Scientist who built the androids Max and Cassandra is graphically revealed to be an android too after his head is ripped off in a struggle and it keeps speaking until it is thrown down a trash chute. He keeps repeating "I'm not an android" the entire time.
  • The film poster of Beetlejuice.
    • In the movie Barbara decapitates Adam to scare the living folks out of their house - unfortunately the two of them are Invisible to Normals except Lydia.
  • The evil robots at the beginning of Bill & Ted's Bogus Journey play hoops with their heads.
  • The Mayor's Daughter from Cemetery Man.
  • In Curse of the Headless Horseman, the eponymous horseman carries a head(possibly his) with him. At the end of the movie, the Horseman can be heard laughing, so presumably it is still capable of some form of communication.
  • In Cyborg 2, Angelina Jolie's character has her head removed when being interrogated.
  • At the end of Death Becomes Her, which flashed forward to the funeral of Ernest, Helen and Madeline trip and fall on the front steps as they leave. Because the serum not only prevented them from aging, but dying as well, and they were so badly disintegrated by this time, they end up breaking apart when they hit the bottom, their heads still functioning.
    Helen: Do you remember where you parked the car?
  • "Evil" Ash in Army of Darkness
    • A beheaded demon-possessed woman also does a rather memorable dance while headless in Evil Dead 2.
  • The villain in the 1959 supernatural thriller The Four Skulls of Jonathan Drake is revealed to be the patchwork undead creation of a Jivaro witch doctor, who'd sought vengeance for the massacre of his tribe. He'd reanimated the body of a decapitated Jivaro after attaching the head of one of their Caucasian enemies, so the result could track down and murder the descendants of the massacre's instigator in the guise of a white scholar.
  • The ending of Freddy vs. Jason. Where Jason comes out of Crystal lake with Freddy's head, and he smiles and winks at the camera.
  • Godzilla: King of the Monsters (2019): Godzilla reduces King Ghidorah to just his middle head. The head continues roaring and trying to bite Godzilla until he vaporises it.
  • Ghostbusters II discussed this trope when detailing the fate of Vigo the Carpathian. Just before his head died, he uttered a prophetic statement that he would return.
  • Nakano clings to life after being beheaded by Kane in Highlander III: The Sorcerer long enough to trap him in the cave they are in.
  • In the film version of The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, Humma Kavula takes one of Zaphod Beeblebrox's heads as collateral while they retrieved the POV gun. He mounted it on a hula girl bobblehead and put a sign that read "Idiot". (No, he's not bitter about losing the election to Zaphod. Why'd you ask?)
  • The Saturation Chamber in House on Haunted Hill (1999) has Mr. Price hallucinate many horrifying things. One of them is his wife holding his living head in his hands.
  • In the horror-comedy movie Idle Hands, Elden Henson's character Pnub is decapitated by a thrown circular saw blade, and as his head bounces down a flight of stairs, he looks up at the killer and says "Whoa, cool."
  • "Evil" Gadget in the Live-Action Adaptation of Inspector Gadget once the real Gadget pulls a plug in the back of "Evil" Gadget's neck.
  • After the femmebot in Jason X is decapitated by Jason, her head is retrieved by her creator and hooked up to the ship's computer.
  • The first shark attack in Jaws 3D is on a large grouper, the head of which is left floating in a cloud of blood. Its mouth is still moving.
  • The Fireys in Labyrinth can come apart. To escape, Sarah throws their heads away from the clearing.
  • In The Last Starfighter, the android Beta removes his own head to repair it.
  • Little Monsters has this happen to a monster kid named Arnold due to Snik tearing his head off for not giving "Boy what he wants" and then promptly replacing his head with what appears to be a ball with a face.
  • Daffy Duck in Looney Tunes: Back in Action. Lasers can be hazardous to your health.
  • The Magic Serpent has the protagonist get decapitated when one of the ninjas throws a boomerang at him to which not only did he survive but he could also controls his headless body, be able to talk as a severed head, and levitate his head around from one place to another.
  • Mars Attacks!. Donald and Natalie's heads are severed, but survive on hanging wires and attached to her pet chihuahua respectively. For bonus points, Natalie's body is now inhabited by the chihuahua's head.
  • Georges Méliès takes off his head a surprising number of times. An identical one almost always reappears on his shoulders immediately, however, allowing him to pull off all sorts of multi-head stunts: just take a look at his films The Four Troublesome Heads and The Melomaniac.
  • The film adaptation of My Favorite Martian has Martin literally fall apart during "Martian depression".
  • The two friends in Nothing eventually wish away everything around each other in an argument until they're both down to just their heads... which they find they can't bring themselves to wish away because they still like each other after all. Awwwwww.
  • One of Davy Jones' crewman in Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest did this. Eventually his body ran off without him and the head crawled off on its own, using his Half-Human Hybrid abilities.
    "Follow my voice! Follow my voice! To the left. No, the other left. (body rams into a tree) ...No, that's a tree."
  • Prince of Darkness. The woman who becomes The Chosen One of Satan has her head cut off. She picks up her head and puts it back on her neck, where it re-attaches itself.
  • Re-Animator has his rival's head in a pan and tells him, "You're a no-body!"
    • Many viewers have quipped about that scene where "the head gave head!"
  • Mombi and her Hall of Heads plus Gump in Return to Oz
    • Which was adapted from Langwidere - see the literature section below.
  • R.L. Stine's Mostly Ghostly: Who Let the Ghosts Out?. The live action movie version of "Mostly Ghostly" has this happen to the ghost boy called Nicky when listening to a portal in the wall to an evil dimension. A hand comes out of the wall and grabs him by the hair. His sister grabs his ankles and pulls to stop him from getting dragged in. The hand tugs hard enough that his head comes off and his headless body aimlessly wanders away until his sister stops him. She tries to pull his head free from the hand with no avail, so she tells his body to help her pull him free from the hand. The hand lets go and his head falls on the floor. His sister reattaches his head to his body, only she apparently put his head on backwards so he rotates his head back to normal.
  • In the short film Robot Bastard, the Tin-Can Robot hero escapes the Big Bad by shoving his head in the space station's waste disposal unit and pulling the lever, severing his head and sending it down a chute into outer space. The body then self-destructs, destroying the station.
  • Harris from Severance wonders what it is like to be beheaded. He gets his wish, and the last sight of his body stumbling around raises a smile.
  • The movie version of Sin City has one of the protagonists imagining that a dead body is talking to him. At one point, the dead body loses a head. The main character later imagines the decapitated head trying to talk with him briefly.
  • The Borg Queen, first introduced in Star Trek: First Contact, displays the ability again in Voyager.
  • B4 from Star Trek: Nemesis
  • Star Wars"
    • Attack of the Clones: C-3PO gets his head knocked off and switched with that of a battle droid, resulting in a horrifyingly cringe-inducing Hurricane of Puns.
    • In Revenge of the Sith, General Grievous' bodyguard robots can continue fighting after decapitation due to having a backup brain and optical receptors in their chests.
  • Inverted in Tank Girl, where Kesslee suffers a terrible facial injury from the Rippers, so has his own head cut off deliberately and his consciousness downloaded into a hologram-projecting computer, installed in his neck. No telling how he eats and breathes and perceives his surroundings thereafter, but it generates a 3-D image of his head that moves in synch with a voice synthesizer.
  • They Saved Hitler's Brain - Hitler's head in a jar pretty much has to have inspired the folks at Futurama.
  • Decapitating the monster in The Thing (1982) doesn't work — in one instance the head pulls itself off to avoid being burned with the rest of the body, grows legs, and walks away.
  • The Thing That Couldn't Die (a movie that later appeared on MST3K) featured the disembodied head of an evil hypnotist, cursed to a Fate Worse than Death back in the 1500's. It was dug up centuries later by a bunch of dim-witted ranchers and was able to manipulate anyone it made eye contact with. Only after it had been reattached to its body could it be destroyed. Tom Servo showed during the host segment of this film that he too possessed such a talent.
  • In an old The Three Stooges short, a Mad Scientist is looking for a human head for his monster. In one scene Larry pokes his head through the underside of an open-leaf table. Moe enters, sees just Larry's head poking through the hole, and assumes the worst. Cue scream and faint.
  • Alsatia in Toys. She's a robot, and does wind up needing a fair amount of repair work as a result of her decapitation.
  • In the live-action Transformers, when Frenzy's head is severed with a sawzall, the head is capable of scuttling around on its trailing components, and also turning into Sam's cell phone.
  • An example near the end of Wolfen has a character's throat torn out by a wolf, resulting in his head ending up separate from his body. When it's obvious from the attempted mouthing of words and blinking that the head is still functional, a colleague shoots the car he's next to, putting him out of his misery.
  • Several people are quite headless by the end of The Wolfman (2010).
  • In X-Men Origins: Wolverine, In one of The Stingers Deadpool's severed head wakes up before shushing to the audience and fading to black.

  • According to 1066 and All That, Charles I was so little affected by his beheading that he continued to walk and talk for half an hour afterwards. This angered Cromwell.
  • In Against a Dark Background, Feril ends up decapitated. The severed head is still able to talk and even move his also-severed arm, since Feril is an android.
  • In Angels of Music, some of the characters attend a stage show at the Théâtre des Horreurs. At one point in the show, a representation of Saint Denis is decapitated and his headless body continues to blunder around, while his bodiless head preaches against immorality until another character kicks it off stage like a football.
  • In The Black Company
    • This happens to The Dominator for a short time (less than an hour), up until his soul was imprisoned inside of a silver nail, and his head grounded and incinerated into ashes.
    • In the same battle that the Dominator was slain, The Limper's head was lost. And then found by the demon, Toad-Killer Dog, who extorts tribes of savages and their shamans to construct a wicker body for the wizard whose name currently grosely overstates his mobility (i.e. The Limper).
    • For a time period spanning half the series Soulcatcher, would travel with her disembodied head that she would carry in a black box. Her state of head-not-being-on-top-of-her-shoulders ended when Croaker sewed it back on.
  • John C. Wright's Chronicles of Chaos: In The Orphans Of Chaos, Orpheus appears as a headless man who carries about his head separately. On the other hand, he is dead and just coming from Hades (and they are about to make him Psychopomp).
  • In the Conan the Barbarian story "The Scarlet Citadel", Tsotha-lanti tells Conan that "if you hack me in pieces, the bits of flesh and bone will reunite and haunt you to your doom!" The next moment, Conan cuts off his head. The head remained alive, and the body attempted to recover it. Fortunately, a friendly sorcerer took away the head, the body ran after him, and the king was rid of the need to find a solution.
  • Iain M. Banks' The Culture: Use of Weapons. Special Circumstances operative Cheradenine Zakalwe crash-lands on a primitive planet and is sacrificed by the natives through decapitation. Fortunately his colleages zoom in just in time to snatch back his head, but not before he's had a horrified moment to realise exactly what just happened. Later Zakalwe is in hospital waiting for a new body to be grown (they gave him the choice of remaining unconscious but he'd rather watch television) when the artificially-intelligent drone Skaffen-Amtiskaw (who doesn't like Zakalwe much, and has a twisted sense of humor) sends him a present. A hat.
  • Discworld:
    • Vampires have to be staked as well as decapitated to kill — Otto loses his head in The Truth and merely has to put it back on the stump. They find it embarrassing to reattach their heads in public (he compares it to using the facilities in front of people).
    • Likewise, zombies on the Discworld can survive almost any dismemberment.
    • The ghost of Champot, first King of Lancre in Wyrd Sisters, carries his head under his arm in the standard ghost-of-Anne-Boleyn style. However, while he claims he was decapitated by his son, the Discworld Companion says he actually died of gout, and the reason for the head-under-the-arm thing is unknown.
  • In the Dragonlance novel The Legend of Huma, Huma has to fight the immortal warlord Crynus. After running him through the neck and the stomach barely slow him down, Huma gets his hands on Crynus' battle axe and knocks off his head with one blow. Then Crynus's body stands up again and starts to stumble single-mindedly towards his severed head. He almost reaches it before the silver dragon arrives and disintegrates him with dragonfire.
  • Ant heads remain alive for some time in Bernard Werber's Empire of the Ants novels (only the first was translated to English), and this is at times a crucial plot point.
  • In The Golgotha Series, Clay reanimated the severed head of Auggie's wife Gerta.
  • Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets introduces the Headless Hunt, a Wild Hunt-esque troupe of Headless Horsemen who partake in Severed Head Sports like Horseback Head-Juggling, Head Polo, and Headless Bowling. A perennial source of frustration for Nearly Headless Nick is that he can't join because his his head is still attached to his neck by one little strip of flesh.
  • Averted in Michael Slade's Headhunter. When the POV of a just-decapitated woman is shown, she can only think, not speak or breathe, and remains conscious only briefly.
  • There's a medical horror novel, Heads, in which the heads of people who'd agreed to donate their bodies for research are kept preserved and wired up as organic supercomputers. Nobody warned them that it'd be their heads that were made use of ... or that they'd regain consciousness once integrated into the system.
  • The Icelandic Sagas: Njal's Saga: Kari, intent on revenge for the death of his son in the Burning of Njal, pursues the Burners on their voyage to Rome and catches up with them in Wales. He spots Kol Thorsteinsson, one of the Burners, selling goods at a market; Kari strikes at him just as Kol is counting silver, and "Kol kept on counting the silver, and his head counted 'ten' as it flew from the trunk."
  • The Denizens of the House in Garth Nix's Keys to the Kingdom series have the ability to survive being decapitated, so of course one bad guy announces himself by flinging talking severed heads at the main character's feet.
  • In Stephen King's The Breathing Method, a woman who's about to give birth is decapitated in a car accident in front of the hospital. She remains alive and conscious for several minutes, from sheer willpower, until she gives birth to her son.
  • Larry Niven's Known Space:
    • In Ringworld, Nessus, a Pierson's Puppeteer, is decapitated. Luckily, not only does his species have two heads, but neither of them are where Puppeteers keep their brain. It's at most an inconvenience until he can get a new head attached.
    • The short story "Procrustes" starts off with Beowulf Schaefer stepping out of an autodoc. It's later revealed that he was in it because he had been beheaded, and was regrown from the removed head.
  • The baddies in Richard K. Morgan's The Steel Remains cut off their victims' heads and do really terrible things to them, by way of an object lesson to anyone who tries to work against them.
  • Princess Langwidere, a character in L. Frank Baum's Oz novel Ozma of Oz. She has 30 different heads that she can place on her neck. Her heads come in a variety of hair, eye, and skin colors.
    • Princess Langwidere was the inspiration for Mombi in the adaptation (see Return to Oz), and given a chilling treatment in the Scissor Sisters song "Return to Oz". Mombi and Langwidere were separate characters in Baum's books, and the latter was merely a spoiled and careless Royal Brat instead of a villain.
    • In The Tin Woodman of Oz, the Tin Woodman returns to the (now empty) tinworker's house and finds his original, flesh-and-blood head. (For him, the trope was inverted: he lost the rest of his body.) They have a conversation and find they don't like each other.
    • In The Marvelous Land of Oz (which features Mombi), when Jack Pumpkinhead is riding in the flying Gump, he refuses to look over the side, fearing that his head might fall off. Prof. Wogglebug lampshades this with one of his insensitive puns, declaring: "In that event your head would no longer be a pumpkin, for it would become a squash."
    • Later on in Oz, Jack Pumpkinhead has his own pumpkin patch. Every time his head begins to spoil, he carves out a new head for himself.
  • The Headless Horseman in The Legend of Sleepy Hollow.
  • Urza in the Magic: The Gathering tie-in novels to the "Invasion" block. Planeswalkers being energy beings, this is understandable.
  • The fate of Edward Page Mitchell's Absent-Minded Professor Prof. Dummkopf in the 1877 short story The Man Without a Body, in the aftermath of what may be fiction's earliest Teleporter Accident. Unusually for this trope, Dummkopf is rendered mute by the loss of his vocal chords, and as a result it takes several years before anyone notices that the loss of his lungs, heart, and other vital organs hasn't inconvenienced him in the slightest.
  • In The Nekropolis Archives novel Dead Streets, main character Matthew Richter gets decapitated. Since he's already a zombie, it doesn't kill him, but it renders him unable to do anything but talk until his friends are able to get it reattached.
  • Sacha and Wyan from The Prism Pentad. They were decapitated for not siding against Rajaat, and were turned into zombie heads by Kalak. They serves as mentors for King Tithian during the series. Oh, they also have a desire for human flesh and blood.
  • Revelation Space has space suits designed to deliberately decapitate and then freeze the user's head in the event of an emergency (such as a suit breach). Once the head is recovered, they can be installed on a robotic body and be pretty much none the worse for wear.
  • In many of Alastair Reynolds' novels, the technology exists to reattach severed heads or even regrow whole bodies. Spacesuits are equipped with built-in head-severing equipment as a last-resort survival mechanism, though in at least one novel a character opts for a prosthetic body instead.
  • Discussed (in a way) in Saga of the Jomsvikings, when a captured Viking facing execution suggests he will hold up his knife if he still can after being beheaded.
  • The Saga of the People of Laxardal: Audgisl Thorarinsson looks for an opportunity to kill Thorgils Holluson at the Althing and comes upon Thorgils as he is counting out the money he is to pay for the killing of Helgi. As Thorgils is counting 'ten', Audgisl strikes, and "everyone thought they could hear his head say 'eleven' as it flew off his body."
  • Early in Sandman Slim, Stark cuts off the head of Kasabian, the hardest-luck member of the circle that sent him to Hell. He did so with an enchanted knife that only kills when he orders it to, so Kasabian's head sits in his closet for most of the book, bitching about its state. Near the end, it dies outright, only to get sent back by Lucifer as part of a job deal. Between the first book and Kill The Dead, Stark gets it an animated table with articulated legs so that it can move by itself.
  • Robert Olen Butler's Severance is a short story collection in which each short story is told from the point of view of a beheading victim in their last minute or so of life.
  • In a poem by Shel Silverstein, the protagonist complained about losing their head and about the fact that they couldn't look for it ("'cause my eyes are on it"), call to it ("'cause my ears are on it") or even think about it ("'cause my brain is in it") - "so I guess I'll sit down on this rock/and rest for just a minute." (Three guesses what the "rock" was.)
  • Sir Gawain and the Green Knight: The Green Knight comes to Camelot, taunts the knights, and issues a challenge: he will allow any knight to deal him one blow and then he will return the following year to inflict the same. Gawain accepts the challenge and decapitates him. The Green Knight picks up his severed head and tells him to meet him at the Green Chapel at the appointed time.
  • Skulduggery Pleasant's real skull was stolen by goblins. The one on his neck now is an entirely different one, which he won in a poker game. After the third book, the original skull becomes the MacGuffin.
  • Averted in Charles de Lint's Svaha: A minor character who's just been beheaded by a Ninja sent by the Yakuza maintains consciousness only long enough to see his body collapse.
  • In That Hideous Strength, the title of Head of the N.I.C.E. turns out to be horribly literal. The villains are taking orders from a guillotined criminal's head, which they've kept alive by supplying it with artificial blood. And yes, Lewis was well aware that it wouldn't really work — that's a plot point.
  • In Too Many Curses, Decapitated Dan was a serial killer executed for strangling people, whose head and body were retrieved and de-fleshed by dark wizard Margle, then re-animated separately. Dan's talking skull rants insanely from atop the kitchen spice rack, whereas his body — no longer subordinated to his wicked mind — has become perfectly polite and helpful, cooking meals for Margle's kobold housekeeper and her friends among Margle's many transformed captives. "Mr. Bones" can't speak, but gestures or knocks to communicate.
  • In Veniss Underground, the genetically engineered assassin-class meerkats produced by Quin are capable of surviving for several days as just a head. Shadrach decapitates the meerkat Salvador in order to render him harmless and portable, and renames him "John the Baptist".
  • Thalassa in the Warhammer 40,000 novel Dark Adeptus remains able to talk after decapitation due to Chaos sorcery.
  • Worzel Gummidge only has three heads — swede, mangel-wurzel, and turnip — "for different occasions".
  • The heads in jars of Orson Scott Card's Wyrms. They are kept alive by bio-engineered alien worms, and are chemically conditioned to never lie. The king keeps them as advisors, and many of them openly hate him, and were his enemies in their former lives. They can't speak unless someone pumps the bellows that push air through their vocal cords.
  • Xanth: In A Spell for Chameleon, Trent beheads the mortally wounded Herman at his request. Herman's severed head thanks him for a quick and clean death.
  • The giant Bolloggs from Walter Moers' Zamonia novels are unique in Zamonia in that they can survive without their heads; once they reach a certain height they tend to discard their heads — and then go off on wanderings looking for the same heads they just discarded. (Bolloggs aren't very bright, especially not after losing their heards.) In The 13 ½ Lives of Captain Bluebear, one of the many obstacles the titular character has to face is a huge, discarded Bollogg head.
  • One of the historical stories from The Zombie Survival Guide had a tale told to a Jesuit Missionary in Feudal Japan. The story goes that Japan had a secret society whose function was to hunt down and eliminate zombies, and the finial initiation was for an acolyte to spend a full night sitting in a room full of moaning zombie heads that had been cut off and preserved in jars. The "editor" of these historical stories does note that this would be impossible because of the Fridge Logic about the zombies needing lungs to moan, thus either meaning the tale is false, exaggerated, or the moans are the product of the terror felt by the acolytes.
    • The book also contains several other cases of zombie heads kept in jars, either as part of ancient science experiments or as oddities in various courts.

    Live-Action TV 
  • The comedy/documentary 50 Outrageous Animal Facts includes a clip of a CGI cockroach that loses its head. Its decapitated body taps the ground in front of it a few times, finds a tiny rock, sticks the rock where its head used to be, and scuttles off. Truth in Television, as roaches can live for days after decapitation.
  • S.T.A.N. in Aaron Stone since he's a robot.
  • The Amazing Stories episode "Go to the Head of the Class" has Sadist Teacher B.O. Beanes, after accidentally being killed by the hiccups spell, coming back to life with his head separate from his body because the picture used in the resurrection spell got torn in two.
  • In All That, Coach Kreeton receives an antique cannon as a birthday present, sticks his head inside and loses his head when it fires.
  • Angel:
    • Angel figures out that an overzealous cop is a zombie when he decapitates the cop and the cop keeps on talking for awhile.
    • Lorne gets his head sent to Cordelia on a platter in another episode. His people can survive this, however; as he explains, his species of demon only die if their body is mutilated too.
  • In an second season (yes, there was one) episode of Buck Rogers in the 25th Century, Mark Lenard, Sarek from Star Trek: The Original Series, played an ambassador from a planet where a symbiotic relationship existed between his kind, a living head, and a type of organism that resembled a headless body. He even points out to Buck that on his world, Buck would be considered a freak since Buck could not remove his head.
  • The Headless Horseman does this to Piper, Paige, and Phoebe in Charmed episode "The Legend of Sleepy Halliwell", with the sisters only surviving as they were decapitated in the Magic School that protects the residents from suffering permanent damage.
  • One episode of Dark Angel from season 2 featured an experimental assassin from Manticore whose head and body could operate independently. Max encounters the head and spends the majority of the episode trying to find and stop the body from assassinating a minister. Turns out it was All Just a Dream.
  • Deadtime Stories has the episode "Little Magic Shop of Horrors" where a kid called Bo ends up with his head painlessly flying off his body... as a result of performing a bike flip about an hour or two after his best friend Peter's magic trick was performed.
  • Doctor Who:
    • "Rose": The Doctor rips off the head of Mickey's Auton duplicate. In response:
      Auton!Mickey: Don't think that's going to stop me.
    • The Face of Boe qualifies. Given who he is (Captain Jack Harkness), one wonders what happened to all the other bits and how the head part wound up so large.
    • This seems to be a general trade mark of Russell T Davies-written episodes of the show. As well as the above, there are the Toclafane (severed heads in floating heavily-armed metal spheres), Max Capricorn in "Voyage of the Damned", and also, if you include disembodied faces, Lady Cassandra and poor Ursula.
    • "The Pandorica Opens" demonstrates Cybermen can survive decapitation, then reattach their heads.
    • The Headless Monks sometimes do this, keeping living heads around post-decapitation. Since the Monks behead you while you're alive, both the head and the body remain... active. The bodies seem to fall under the control of the other Monks (or possibly the papal mainframe) immediately after beheading. The heads apparently keep the same personality and are left to rot (or be preserved in boxes, if you're rich).
    • "The Husbands of River Song" has two characters losing their heads to the independently-functioning robot body of the tyrannical cyborg King Hydroflax when the Doctor and River Song make off with the monarch's head, which apparently underwent this trope many years ago. The heads remain alive as the body uses them to get information about the heroes' whereabouts; it can even store and switch between them. Later, another villain convinces the body not to take his head by offering to get him the Doctor's...
  • In the "Look at the Princess" trilogy of Farscape, John and his alien princess bride are turned into fully conscious statues so they can observe the workings of the Senate until it is time for them to begin their reign. The jealous prince chops Crichton's head off in an attempt to render him unable to rule. The head is still able to talk (via magic headsets) until it is successfully reattached.
  • Happens in the Good Luck Charlie episode "Gabe Turns 12-½" when Bob Duncan goes to the fridge to get some cake in a platter only to find P.J.'s very much alive head instead, which then asks where his body is at (which is never directly explained). Bob then realizes his son's unable to stop him so he eats a cupcake in front of his face. Of course, since it's an end credits gag, this never really happened.
  • Happens at the end of one of the Halloween Episodes of Home Improvement called A Night To Dismember, where Tim and Jill Taylor have their disembodied heads in a basket and their bodies are implied to be somewhere else offscreen after their son decapitates them for his film.
  • In Living Color!'s segment "The Head Detective"
  • Happens in Kyojuu Tokusou Juspion to Gilza after Juspion beheads her, to which she not only survives but also manages to immediately summon her head back, which is capable of speech even when still detached.
  • 790, a robot, is beheaded in the pilot of Lexx, and tries to obtain a new body several times over the course of the series but never manages to keep one for long. Whereas Kai is dismembered or decapitated (sometimes both, such as his fight with Thodin) fairly regularly but since he's already dead it amounts to little more than a momentary inconvenience before he puts himself back together.
  • In the Lost Girl episode "Where There's a Will, There's a Fae" shows this as one of the clear ways of telling apart a dullahan from a human, that and the fact that they are also able to shrug off most injuries like they were nothing.
  • Mystery Science Theater 3000:
    • Tom Servo's gumball machine head falls off a few times. This happened quite often during shooting, as the Hilarious Outtakes show, and sometimes they decided to Throw It In!.
    • On an episode where the movie involved a ghostly disembodied head, both bots remove their heads and speak in ghostly voices in an attempt to scare Joel. Unimpressed, he takes their inert bodies away and leaves them alone with the lights off.
  • In MythQuest's sixth episode, a mysterious knight offers to play "the beheading game". His head is chopped off, then he gets up and retrieves his head and sword.
  • In Once Upon a Time the victims of the Queen of Hearts experience this. Jefferson a.k.a. The Mad Hatter is unfortunate enough to be a demonstration. He recovers, but it does leave a nasty scar.
  • Power Rangers:
  • A duo known as "The Floating Heads" appear to startle LeVar Burton in an installment of Reading Rainbow.
  • Red Dwarf. Kryten has multiple spare heads on a shelf that argue with one another.
  • JD in Scrubs has three odd daydreams of Head and Body Doctor where he imagines life as a floating head with his body doing something else. [1]
  • Happens to Data a few times in Star Trek: The Next Generation; as an android, he can survive his head being removed and can still talk in that event. Some examples:
    • In the Time Travel episode "Time's Arrow", his head didn't remain active while disconnected from his body, but it did survive under San Francisco for five hundred years, and when reconnected to his body (which was blown back through the time portal into the 24th century, thus not taking The Slow Path), it worked fine.
    • In "Disaster", Data offers to use himself to absorb an electric current, allowing Riker to pass, which will cripple him, but should leave him repairable later on. Riker points out to him that even if he's willing to sacrifice Data (which he isn't), it would be pointless, as Riker wouldn't be able to fix the Warp Core without him as he's not an engineer. Instead they disconnect Data's head and toss his headless body into the current, diverting it, but allowing Riker to take Data's head along so he can talk him through the necessary repairs.
    • In the Expanded Universe novel Imzadi, a decapitated Data is still in control of his body.
  • Supernatural. Bobby discovers that a Leviathan can survive even after you cut its head off (the head actually managing to somehow return to its body), so he puts the head in a box and tells a friend to chuck it off a bridge. "Don't open it, even if it starts talking. Especially if it starts talking."
  • Reversed in Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles, in which Cromartie's body seeks out his head which does not appear to have any activity.
  • Ultra Series
    • The Ultraseven monster Gabura was able to survive as a floating head after Seven chopped it off with his Eye Slugger, catching the hero by surprise. Fortunately for Seven, it turned out that the spaceship of the aliens commanding Gabura needed to be destroyed to kill the monster permanently.
    • Ultraman Taro had Mukadender, who could detach its head from its body at will to fight as two combatants. The catch is that damage to Mukadendar’s head is still felt by its body and vice versa (same goes with actions such as being thrown into the air).
    • Sakuna Oni from Ultraman Tiga pulled the same trick on Tiga that Gabura did to Seven as the only thing that can truly slay Sakuna Oni is the sword of the samurai who originally defeated it.
  • Rhonda Shear did this in wraparounds on USA Up All Night.
  • Orpheus spends most of the Xena: Warrior Princess episode Girls Just Wanna Have Fun without his body.
  • In "Leonard Betts" of The X-Files, Betts is able to regenerate his severed body parts. His head stayed alive after decapitation, and if Scully hadn't performed a high-tech mummification process, the head might have grown its own new body.
  • The Young Ones, Vyvyan sticks his head out the train window and another train cuts it off. His head lies in the tracks calling out to his body, which stumbles around looking for him.
    • And then kicks it further along the track after the head insults it.
    • Another time, two head-carrying ghosts wander through the lads' flat and accidentally drop their heads, forcing the bodies to stumble around picking up round objects ("No, that's a grapefruit!") in search of them. Later, the ghostly heads are seen arguing about whose body is whose, and even forehead-butting one another over possession of the one with a nicer bottom.

  • The Arrogant Worms's "Johnny Came Home Headless", about a tall and forgetful man who walked into doorways so often that one time apparently knocked his head off — and his body didn't notice.
  • Basement Jaxx's "Where's Your Head At". Although the song doesn't imply it, a lot of people seem to make fan videos associating with this trope.
  • Warren Zevon's "Roland the Headless Thompson Gunner" is about a Norwegen mercenary who gets double-crossed by a comrade who blows his head off. Roland's headless corpse then tracks the traitor all the way across Africa for revenge and ends up blowing his entire body away.
  • In the final verse of "Weird Al" Yankovic's "A Complicated Song", he sings about how he stood up while riding a roller coaster and got his head knocked off. He thinks it is "a major inconvenience".
  • Dismember has the cover art of Pieces, showing the band members themselves like this.

    Music Videos 
  • Michael Jackson 's "Ghosts", Michael turns into a skeleton and proceeds to dance, removing his head in the process.
  • Happens to "Weird Al" Yankovic again in the "Right Round" part of the official music video of the medley song "Polka Face" where he spins his head around 360 degrees until it unscrews off of his body.
  • In Slipknot's "Wait and Bleed" music video, Clown has to put his head on because the doll-maker didn't finish him.
  • Happens to a Creepy Doll and Chibi in The Birthday Massacre's video for Blue
  • Missy Elliott does it to herself in the video to "One Minute Man."
  • In Insane Clown Posse's "Headless Boogie", Violent J jumps into a graveyard and witnesses headless bodies dancing. He gets his own head chopped off and joins in.
  • In the music video for Regina Spektor's song "Laughing with", which is full of surprising impossibilities, the singer at one point reaches as if to remove the mask she's wearing, but instead leaves it in the air as she removes her head from behind it for a moment, which doesn't faze either the head or the body.
  • Gorillaz's "DARE" features a giant head of Shaun Ryder kept on life support in Noodle's room; he starts singing when Noodle activates some of the machinery. The video also spoofs some special effect mistakes often found in old horror movies, by showing some of the parts on his head shifting positions throughout the video.
  • Big Boi ends up with his disembodied head being held by a girl while his headless body is seen dancing to his own music in the background in the music video for "Shutterbugg".
  • In the music video for "Break Down The Doors" by Erick Morillo ft. Audio Bullys, at two points in the song the first is when singers are seen in a room with 3 girls' heads mounted on the wall in the background followed immediately afterwards with all 3 girls' headless bodies dancing to the beat, and then later Erick's disembodied head is seen on a plate in a room with 2 girls that look alike with his body nowhere to be seen.
  • Pate No.1's "Always" has the lead singer take off her head and place it on a nearby table as her headless body strips down to her undergarments before her very eyes not long before said body takes a shower.
  • RACKETT's "Prey" showed a woman eating RACKETT's body parts throughout the song. At the end, the woman opened a serving dish, revealing RACKETT's severed (and still-alive) head. As RACKETT's body crawled around looking for her head, the woman cut off one of RACKETT's ears, put it on a cake and ate it.
  • In Dizzee Rascal's "Couple Of Stacks", after Dizzee popped up under a sleeping woman's bed (and terrified her), he suddenly walked into her room through the doorway and chopped off her head. The woman's body crawled around while looking for her head.
  • Several scenes in Blue, The Misfit's "Alive" show headless women dancing.
  • In Lisa Crawley's "Elizabeth", Lisa's headless body plays an electric keyboard while a scientist keeps her head alive on a tray.
  • In a Canadian show called Ants In Your Pants that features music videos, this happen in one by the name of "I Didn't Need That" by Eric Nagler & Friends to Eric when his head levitates from from his body and then rolls away.
  • Ghost Revue's "Lost My Head" is played by the band members' headless bodies. The lead singer goes out to find the band members' heads and puts them all in a bag before he returns to the band and they reattach each other's heads.

    Myths & Religion 
  • Classical Mythology:
    • Orpheus, according to Roman writer Ovid: his severed head continued to sing for a while after his murder.
    • One of the Lernaean Hydra's heads was immortal. After Heracles chopped it off, he buried it under a boulder.
  • The Christian martyrology has Saint Denis (Bishop of Paris, executed by pagan Romans during the Imperial prosecutions) and Saint Solange (Mysterious Waif murdered by a nobelman who tried to abduct her). Both were beheaded, then their dead bodies just took their heads in their hands and walked away, praising the Lord until they reached the nearest towns and dropped dead there. In fact, Saint Denis is always represented in media with his severed head in his own hands.
  • The Welsh have Saint Winefride, who was decapitated by a jealous suitor when she announced her intention to become a nun. Her head is said to have rolled down a hill, with a healing spring bursting forth where it stopped. If that's not enough, Winefride's uncle, Saint Beuno, then picked up the head and attached it to the body, bringing her back to life.
  • Saint Quitteria was beheaded and thrown in the ocean. She is often depicted walking back out of the ocean with her head under her arm.
  • It's probably not a coincidence that many of cephalophoric saints (like the three aforementioned) come from Celtic or formerly Celtic lands like Gaul and Britain: Celtic myths have several examples of gods, heroes or giants whose heads continue to talk, drink or recite poems after having been severed.
  • As for Hinduism and Buddhism, there's the deity Chhinnamasta who severed her own head with her own sword just to feed her two attendants with her blood. Now that's hardcore.
  • Brazilian folklore has the headless mule, which has fire coming out of the stump - though it's described as "coming out of its nose"... and that it has a bridle tied to its mouth. A few versions reduce the Fridge Logic by saying the fire covers its head, not replaces it.
  • The Arabian Nights story of King Yunan and Duban the Sage. Duban the Sage comes to the king's court when the king is very ill, and manages to save the king's life. However, an Evil Chancellor convinces the king to distrust the sage, and the sage is put to death. His head is able to speak after being cut off, reprimanding the king and eventually leading to the king's death also.
  • Mimir in Norse Mythology, as the wisest god. He was beheaded in the Aesir-Vanir War, but Odin used magic to preserve and revive the head, and it serves as his advisor.
  • From Egyptian Mythology, the sorcerer Naneferkaptah had to face a serpent both immune to magic and who had this ability as the Final Boss guarding the Book of Thoth. When standard freezing spells didn't work, Nefrekeptah went for the direct approach and cut off the serpent's head, and threw it far into the river. However, the head came back almost instantly and blocked his path again. Nefrekeptah again cut off its head, threw it into the river, and this time put sand on the neck before the head could come back. The head couldn't reattach, and though the serpent couldn't die, it just lay there, helpless.
  • In Japanese folklore there are monsters called Nukekubi; they seem like normal humans during the day, but in the night their head detaches from their bodies and starts to float around and search for a human victim to devour.
    • Similar monsters are recorded in a number of East Asian countries, with perhaps the best-known being the Malaysian penanggalan.
  • Baba Deep Singh. The legend says that his head was cut completely or almost completely off and still was able to fight.
  • In the medieval Dutch ballad "Het lied van heer Halewijn" (the song of lord Halewijn), the evil Halewijn's head keeps talking after the heroine chops it off, asking her to blow on his horn to summon his friends, and to rub salve on his neck (the heroine refuses). Possibly justified because Halewijn is hinted not to be quite human.
  • Störtebeker, the legendary pirate of Hamburg. When he finally met his fate, he asked that all his mateys, which he could walk on by after his beheading, would be pardoned. His wish was granted, and when the executor saw that he really did it, he played unfair and tripped him.
  • Estonian folklore tells the story of Tõll, a giant who came to the aid of the Estonian people in a time of conflict, transporting soldiers en masse on giant wheels. During the subsequent battle, Tõll was decapitated and placed his own head on his sword. He then walked to his grave, promising to rise again in the event of another war against Estonia.

  • Bone Busters has Ol' One-Eye, a disembodied skull who throws quips and jokes at the player.
  • Similarly, there's Skull the Bone Head in No Fear: Dangerous Sports, who's strictly for the snark.

    Pro Wrestling 
  • Dragon Dragon has survived despite losing his head in Chikara, due to him being a giant stuffed animal, that can somehow move and compete in matches.

    Recorded and Stand-Up Comedy 
  • This was the subject of one of Robert Schimmel's bits on Robert Schimmel Comes Clean:
    "I saw a plane crash on TV. The reporter says, 'Yeah, the plane crashed over here, decapitated this guy. He's apparently dead.' Good guess. No, the head's alive by itself. 'Psst! Over here, behind the bush!' What would you say if you saw something like that? 'Hey, are you okay?' 'I can't feel my legs!' 'Don't look down.' Well, what if your head lived for a minute after? It'd be weird to see some torso hopping around. 'Shit, lookit that!....Hey, that's MY shirt. Oh, fuck, my head's off. This is bad.'"

  • Mei from AJCO can remove her head (among other limbs) and stitch it back on at will, due to being a zombie. She mostly does it to freak people out.

    Tabletop Games 
  • The Deadlands incarnation of Joaquin Murrieta died. He came back. Then, he got beheaded. Now, his (understandably insane) body's looking for his head, and is more than happy to "borrow" yours until he finds it. The best part? Undead Joachin Murrieta can only be stopped if you destroy his head. Happy hunting!
    • In Deadlands in general, this is what happens when you decapitate a Harrowed. The head is unfazed by the loss of the body and stays fully conscious, but helpless because of not having any arms or legs. A Harrowed can recover from this condition if someone kindly sews the head back on and feeds them some meat.
  • Dungeons & Dragons:
    • Trolls; anything cut off them, including heads, can live and will either reattach itself or regenerate. One of the Mystara supplements described trollish games, some of which involve using the head of one of the participants as a living football. Which tries to bite the feet that kick it.
    • Unsurprisingly, the Ravenloft setting plays with this trope. Jacqueline Montarri is a headless NPC villain who steals the heads of women to wear, and has an enormous collection of decapitated and still conscious female heads in her basement. (This is a curse, which she can only undo by finding her real head, which she has been looking for ever since she was executed by beheading centuries ago. To be blunt, as she will tell you, horrid fates like this will often befall those who cheat and murder members of the Vistani.)
    • Lebendtod, a zombie-like undead template, can remove their heads and limbs at will.
  • Exalted has an odd version of this from the dangerously powerful Charcoal March of Spiders supernatural martial art. The user delivers a punch so ludicrously hard that the head not only explodes, but the person whose head did explode has several seconds thereafter to think and react because they, and reality itself, haven't caught up to the fact just yet.
  • In GURPS 3rd Edition, one of the supplements full of fantasy magic spells had a spell called Decapitate, which did exactly what its name says. Not only that, both the head and body were still alive, and since the head was still magically able to speak, if it knew any spells, it could still cast them! Of course, without the head, the body could not eat or drink, and would eventually die of dehydration or starvation. But this was not a problem either! Another spell allowed you to turn everything BUT the head into stone... and THEN you could decapitate him.
  • The Orks of Warhammer 40,000 are so tough that their decapitated heads can survive for up to an hour, more than enough time for a Mad Dok to easily attach it to a new body or just staple it back on.

  • In Pippin, Pippin has a poignant conversation with the head of a fallen Visigoth soldier. In a later scene, after Pippin has been crowned king, a headless man comes up to him and asks for his head to be reattached.
  • In a Ravenloft skit performed at GenCon 1999, "One Piece at a Time", a lady surgeon attempts to bring her fiancée back to life after he dies in a tragic accident. The title says it all, but early scenes correspond to this trope. Sean Reynolds, playing the fiancée with his head stuck through a hole in a covered table, couldn't see the page of lines lying beside him. "I can't even hold a script!"

    Theme Parks 

  • BIONICLE examples, none of which are canon:
    • Very early storyboards for a planned promo animation of Tahu reassembling himself on the Ta-Wahi beach show him attaching his fallen-off head first.
    • In the game BIONICLE: Heroes, it's a recurring theme, and every boss you defeat (apart from the final boss) is left as just a head at the end of the fight. Rule of Funny applies. There's also an Idle Animation where your character starts playing keepie uppie with its head.
    • A gag-video released on-line had Hahli Mahri's head popping off due to a rough submarine ride. It falls on her foot, causing much pain.

    Video Games 
  • This happens to Mutoid Man of Smash TV as the next step after getting his arms blown off (causing a bunch of heads to fly out), as well as his re-skin, The Host, who is fought at the end. In both cases, another head will be inside of the main body once that part's gone.
  • Mimir, of God of War (PS4). When Kratos and Atreus first meet him, he's been trapped in a tree for over a century by Odin. Since Mimir was Odin's advisor and ambassador to all nine realms, he has a wealth of knowledge about everything in them, and offers to share said knowledge with the pair in exchange for cutting off his head, and having the Witch in the Woods resurrect it. He spends the rest of the game dangling from Kratos' belt, acting as Mr. Exposition and occasionaly The Conscience.
  • In Metroid Prime 2: Echoes, Samus has to deal with the Quads, four-legged sentry robots that are built so that their bodies and heads can function independently of each other - if the body is destroyed, the head simply detaches and continues shooting, zipping back and forth via levitation. This trait also applies to their massive boss counterpart, Quadraxis.
  • Jenova was decapitated in the events leading to Final Fantasy VII. Sephiroth, realizing the jig is up (and unable to take the entire body with him), removed his "mother's" head on his way out of the Nibelheim mako reactor. However, he was waylaid by pre-amnesiac Cloud Strife and thrown from the connecting bridge, sinking into the pool of mako. The headless body of Jenova continues to live on - albeit in cryogenic suspension - waiting to be "reunited" with its missing parts.
  • In Primal, the Wraith can apparently survive being decapitated. A group of severed heads in Raum's torture chamber (all of whom hate each other) eventually take time out from arguing to help the PCs. One, however, calls the guards, simply to antagonize the rest.
    Other severed heads are scattered almost randomly throughout the upper mansion, giving comments, advice, and encouragement. One somehow knows Scree's name.
  • In Chrono Cross one skeleton character, which you have to assemble, starts off as a talking skull.
  • In Resident Evil 3: Nemesis, when you fight Nemesis in the Treatment Room. Douse him with a remarkable strong acid two times and his head will come off. But rather than die like the zombies, he continues attacking, albeit blind.
  • Killer7 has Susie, a severed head you tend to meet in very enclosed spaces (the first one being a washing machine). She always has a ring in her mouth when you find her. She's also a ghost. She's also completely loopy.
  • The Monkey Island franchise is fond of this trope.
  • A head in a jar is a "work of art" that you can purchase in the console version of The Sims.
  • Boomer in Ballz throws his head as a special attack.
  • Tekken 6 has Alisa Boskonovitch who can remove her head and have it explode in front of her opponent. Of course, a new one emerges shortly after.
  • Kangaxx from Baldur's Gate II, when you first meet him was just a skull. Helps he's a lich who had been disassembled and this game was based on Dungeons & Dragons.
  • Kratos in the God of War games not only is able to tear off the head of the Gorgons, but proceed to use their (apparently still living) heads as weapons, petrifying enemies with their eye-beams. In the third game he does the same for the god Helios, using him as a Lantern.
  • Super Mario Bros.:
    • The Recapitator (skeleton enemies) in Wario Land The Shake Dimension have their sole attack being to detach and throw their head at Wario like a boomerang, catching it afterwards. They also come back to life when killed like the Dry Bones in the main Mario games, and can only permanently be killed by destroying their body while their head is in mid air. Or, if you're feeling saucy, destroy the head and leave the body hanging for awhile before it collapses into a heap.
    • Broque Monsieur of the Mario & Luigi games is shown in Bowser's Inside Story and Dream Team to be able to flip his head in the air in order to, of all things, change his facial expression.
  • PS1 RPG Shadow Madness had a disembodied telekinetic head by the name of Xero von Moon. He was kept alive (and presumably afloat and able to speak) by a thin metal ring at his neck, and fought primarily with kinetic bolts (though he could resort to a headbutt).
  • In the first episode of Xenosaga, the functionally immortal Dragon Albedo is left in charge of a young hostage. So he rips off his own head, throws it at her feet, then spends a while like that mocking her fear (and making creepily suggestive puns in French) before stomping it into paste. Just to pass the time.
  • Morte, a floating skull and the resident Deadpan Snarker of Planescape: Torment. Morte didn't lose his head; it's right here. He also didn't lose his body, it's where he left it.
  • Serious Sam has beheaded rocketeers, beheaded bombers, beheaded firecrackers and beheaded kamikazes. Former three carry their head with one hand while the latter doesn't have a head at all. Despite not having a head, the Beheaded Kamikazes can still scream. The scream of a kamikaze is one of the most recognizable (and feared) sounds in the game.
  • Dr. Nefarious in robot mode gets his head knocked off by Qwark in one of the vid-comic sections in Ratchet & Clank: Up Your Arsenal. Horrible punning ensues.
  • When Captain Slag is defeated in Ratchet & Clank Future: Tools of Destruction his severed head talks to his first mate Rusty Pete for a full minute before losing power. In the DLC Quest For Booty Rusty Pete continues to carry around Slag's head and use it as a ventriloquist dummy, until he finds a new body for Slag, and after Ratchet destroys that body his head is shown still alive in the epilogue.
  • Although very loosely, Dynamite Headdy surely counts as the main character throws his head around and switches it with power-ups. Not to mention it explodes when he dies and it gets replaced with a game over sign.
  • The main character of Never Dead, a game about an immortal gunslinger fighting a demonic invasion. Even if dismembered, he can put himself back together again. He loses his head (both figuratively and literally) in the first trailer. "My story was just getting interesting too!"
  • In Vampire Savior, Jedah has a move called Spregio that has him doing this to himself and blasting the opponent with the resulting rush of blood!
  • This is the entire plot and gameplay gimmick of Dead Head Fred.
  • Some enemies in Unreal will feel for their head for moment after decapitation.
  • Several enemies from Dead Space can remove Isaac's head, one will take over his body after his death. Instant decapitation results in Isaac feeling for his missing head for a second.
  • In Avernum 3, you can get a talking skull, which will shout random phrases at random times. One hilarious one goes:]] "Aragorn! Boromir! Come quick... Oh, never mind."
  • Runescape's "A Clockwork Syringe" quest features a severed zombie pirate head, which the Player Character has to torture for information.
  • The original Kung Fu Master has the Black Magician: any mid/high attack would result in his head falling off, and him teleporting back to reappear complete and unharmed.
  • In Chariot: Adventures Through the Sky, Final Boss Lar loses his entire body halfway through the Boss Fight, but he's got no problem keeping up with the Bullet Hell as a disemboweled head.
  • In the extremely bizarre Samurai Zombie Nation, you control the detached (and giant) head of the samurai Namakubi as you use Eye Beams and acid spit on zombies. Really.
  • Yet another Shoot 'em Up example: Tripod Sardine from G-Darius. Once it takes enough damage, its head gets blown off. It still survives, though.
    • A straighter example would be the Final Boss of Darius Force, Galst Vic (a Terminator-esque robot). When his first form is defeated, you have to escape the exploding base... and then his head comes to attack you! Strangely enough, his head can grow and shrink in size.
  • The player character in The Incredible Crash Dummies can lose his head, resulting in reversed controls until you find a spare head.
  • In Disney's Villains' Revenge, Alice (of Alice in Wonderland fame) actually gets beheaded and you have to travel a maze to find her head.
  • The boss Echizen in Death Crimson OX has a head that I can only describe as an egg with a pair of giant red lips. Part one of the boss fight is fighting his kung-fu kicking body as his head continuously inflates. Part two involves his head floating off of his body, then splitting into six individual floating heads that then proceed to ram into you and shoot lasers at you.
  • While inversions are also more common, in The Binding of Isaac, Pestilence and sometimes Gapers and Mr. Maws continue moving after losing their head.
  • Pictured above is a scene from the Team Fortress 2 promotional video Meet the Medic. The head of the BLU Spy, which the RED Medic keeps in his fridge, is being sustained by some eldritch and surely illegal medical technique involving dry-cell batteries.
  • Skullgirls has Ms. Fortune, an undead catgirl who was chopped up into pieces by the mob after stealing and swallowing a gem that made her body undying. Her fighting style revolves around extending, detaching, and reattaching her limbs — most notably her head, which functions not only as a weapon but is capable of propelling itself around and attacking independently of her body.
  • Jet Headstrong had this power on Defenders of Dynatron City.
  • In Lollipop Chainsaw, after Nick is bitten by a zombie Juliet decides to save him by chopping off his head and preserving it with a magic ritual of some sort. He's not exactly happy about the situation but Juliet thinks that it is just awesome that her boyfriend is now a talking head.
    Nick: How am I still talking... without a FUCKING THORAX?!
  • In the "Test Your Luck" game in Mortal Kombat 9, one of the results causes both fighters to fight the next match headless. The worst thing about this is, neither player can use X-Ray moves; exactly how bad it is otherwise depends on what fighter you're using. (For many, it's not much else, but for a few, it can be very hindering. It's the most debilitating for Kung-Lao, seeing as half his moves and almost all his Fatalities require his hat.)
    • In Mortal Kombat X, this is the fate of Shinnok at the hands of Dark Raiden, because he is an Elder God and cannot die. In one of the stages of Mortal Kombat 11, his severed and still living head is on display.
  • The Elder Scrolls
    • From the series' backstory comes Pelinal Whitestrake, the legendary 1st Era hero of mankind/racist berserker. Believed to have been a Shezarrine, physical incarnations of the spirit of the "dead" creator god Lorkhan (known to the Imperials as "Shezarr"), Pelinal came to St. Alessia to serve as her divine champion in the war against the Ayleids. When Alessia and her army was too struck with fear to attack the White-Gold Tower occupied by Ayleid leader Umaril the Unfeathered, Pelinal charged in himself and defeated (though could not kill) Umaril before he himself was slain. His body was cut into eight pieces by the Ayleids to mock the Eight Divines. His head was left behind and discovered by Morihaus, with whom he had one final conversation that is now lost to history.
    • A Good Bad Bug in Skyrim sometimes causes enemies beheaded mid-sentence to continue a taunt after decapitation. The game doesn't stop the sound file when the enemy dies, resulting in a disembodied voice for a second or so.
  • In the PC-98 version of Madou Monogatari 2note , after Arle defeats Schezo, his head gets up and starts fighting on its own.
  • The Skelterwild Dream Eater in Kingdom Hearts 3D: Dream Drop Distance has a tendency to do this whenever it receives a hit strong enough to make it stagger. This is by no means a good thing (unless it's your friend), as it causes the head and body to attack in tandem by using ice breath and by ramming respectively.
  • In Grim Fandango, Salvador Limones gets reduced to a talking skull. Sure, he was Dead to Begin With, but the rest of the skeleton, which you have to find later, is not animated, implying that the head is still the part that holds one's consciousness, even after death. Even as a skull, Sal manages to perform a Heroic Sacrifice by spitting Sproutella into the face of a character who betrayed him, thus rendering both of them Deader Than Dead.
  • The Evil King/Witch Doctor in Wonder Boy/Adventure Island loses his head each time you defeat him, only to have it replaced by an uglier mug.
  • Sekibanki of Touhou, a Rokurokubi with some Dullahan motifs mixed in. She has the ability to make her head fly off independently from her body. ZUN mentioned in his music notes for her theme music that he wasn't sure if the Rokurokubi was the Youkai that could stretch their neck or if it was the youkai that could detach their head (a possible Shout-Out to Lafcadio Hearn who mentioned in his book that people misidentify the Nukekubi for a Rokurokubi), so he gave her both powers.
  • Some zombies in Doom 3 have lost their heads.
  • Played for Laughs in LEGO Island. The island's inhabitants, being made of LEGOs, can easily survive decapitation:
    • The opening cinematic has the ambulance have a tow truck crash into it, and the patient's head gets knocked off into the road. The ambulance driver just picks up the head, chucks it into the back of the ambulance, and gets back behind the wheel.
    • An encounter in the residential area has a character get his head knocked off by a passing truck. The head starts directing the body to try and pick it up.
      "Hey, I'm over here! To my left! Er, your left! Er, our left!" (body walks towards head) "Right." (body goes right) "Not 'go right,' 'correct'!" (body kicks head) "It's not a soccer game! Use your brain! Oh, I guess ... that's over here." (body kicks head again) "Ow! Just bend down slowly and—" (body kicks head high into the air and it lands on the neck) "He shoots, he scores! OW!"
  • In Ogre Battle, you can recruit Pumpkins (men with pumpkins for heads) into your army, who attack by tearing off their own heads, kicking them into the air, whereupon they grow to huge size and land on an enemy, halving their HP (or killing undead units outright) unless they miss. If you upgrade them to a Hallowe'en, they can do it twice a fight!
  • In Office Zombie, you can cut the Zombie's head off with a couple of items. When you throw it back, he'll stick it back on his neck and be good as new.
  • Vengarl of Forossa from Dark Souls II was a brutish, bloodthirsty mercenary until he got decapitated in a fierce battle... and woke up as a disembodied undead head. Ironically, he learned to enjoy his newfound peace, spending his time watching the forest, thinking and occasionally talking with random travellers. His only concern is that his headless body still is rampaging somewhere else.
    • Earthen Peak area is populated mostly by some sort of headless undead ninjas. The boss of said area, Mytha, is a half-woman-half-snake, also beheaded, who carries her head in left hand and uses it as the sorcery catalyst and occasionally as a magic grenade.
  • Chivalry: Medieval Warfare's "Black Knight" Game Mod makes decapitations (and other severed bits and pieces) non-lethal, allowing for a headless, armless knight to run around kicking people to death.
  • In the reboot of Shadow Warrior, Xing, one of the Ancients, lost his head on the order of Enra, the leader of the Shadow Realm, for conspiring with Hoji to poison their sister and try to overthrow him. But because Xing is an Ancient, an immortal demon that cannot be killed except with the Nobitsura Kage, being decapitated is just an inconvenience to him. You encounter his head late in the game, when you journey to the Shadow Realm to rescue Hoji and stop him from creating a Whisperer of you and sacrificing his memories of you, and he proves to be quite the amiable and chatty fellow.
  • In Knights of the Old Republic II: The Sith Lords, when HK-47 is describing his history of enacting assassination protocols against Jedi, he notes their love of sending his limbs and head flying with their Laser Blade, which he describes as "an inconvenience".
  • The Quest for Glory series has Bonehead, Baba Yaga's gatekeeper. He's a talking skull animated by some form of magic, though little else is elaborated on.
  • In Headlander you wake up in the future with no body and must make do with a space helmet that comes equipped with rockets and the ability to attach to various robot bodies.
  • Dragon's Crown:
    • Skeleton enemies will lose their head if you damage them enough but they will still fight in this state. However, since they no longer have eyes to see with, they'll mainly run around randomly while flailing their sword wildly.
    • The Warrior Monk you meet in the Forgotten Sanctuary is injured by a Hell Hound's head that continued to bite down on her leg even after it was decapitated.
  • In Fallout 4, a glitch can cause enemies or even the player to survive decapitation.
  • The Legend of Zelda:
    • In Zelda II: The Adventure of Link, the boss monster Jermafenser/Helmethead will lose several helmet-covered heads that proceed to float and attack Link independently of the body.
    • Blind the Thief from The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past has a similar strategy, losing and regrowing his head through the fight while the extra heads attack Link.
    • Igos du Ikana from The Legend of Zelda: Majora's Mask attaches and reattaches his head to attack Link during the fight against him. Once he and his Skull Knights are defeated and their bodies disintegrated using reflected sunlight, their incorporeal spirits are represented by the same floating skulls.
    • In The Legend of Zelda: Oracle of Seasons, a skeletal Piratian had his entire body destroyed except for his skull. Link must carry his skull so the Piratian can help locate the bell his Captain was looking for.
    • In The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, attacking the body of a Stal creature will just cause the head and body to separate. It can only be defeated if Link destroys the head... but if there are any other Stal creatures of the same type, any head can reaffix to any matching body, leaving the bodies to attack Link until all heads are destroyed. Fortunately, all Stal heads will die from a single blow from any weapon, even if still attached to the body.
  • Ed in Ben and Ed can have his head cut off, or he can even detach it himself, and will still be able to continue the level albeit with less maneuverability. Alternatively, he can just reattach it to his body. Justified in that Ed is a zombie.
  • The Onkies from the Grow games (and other games from the Eyezmaze website) may sometime lose their head after tripping or doing a big jump, but they can simply put it back on has if nothing happened.
  • One of the randomly generated mutations in RAD allows you to throw your head at enemies, which will then explode. Upgrades to this will add either a bone-mohawk or a spiked skull, both of which will cause extra damage.
  • Schezo Wegey from Madou Monogatari (the RPG series that would eventually become the Puyo Puyo games) is infamously beheaded by protagonist Arle Nadja over the course of the first boss fight against him in the second part of the series. However, his head sticks around to continue fighting by casting spells for a while before he goes down for real. He later appears in other installments of Madou, as well as the Puyo games, seemingly no worse for wear and his decapitation is never mentioned again.
  • The second Garfield's Scary Scavenger Hunt game has a part where the player can open the fridge to find the severed head of Orson Pig from U.S. Acres. Unlike Lyman's severed head shown in the same game, Orson appears to be still alive in spite of his beheading, as he says to Garfield "Watch out for sneaky mice!"

    Visual Novels 
  • In Animamundi Dark Alchemist: The hero's little sister was beheaded, but still survived. Granted, by the game's universe rules, it was part of a "Test" - only witches can survive beheading.
  • In one of Spirit Hunter: NG's Bad Ends, Kaoru is decapitated. Not only do they remain alive for a minute, but they're even capable of holding a conversation over a phone, something that they recognize should be impossible.

    Web Animation 
  • In the second Mystery Skulls Animated video Lewis punches Shiromori's head clean off when she wakes him by messing with his locket. She grows it, and her burnt arm, back in short order but decides to book it rather than have an all out brawl with the fiery ghost.
  • In the Strong Bad Email "disconnected", Strong Bad imagines what it'd be like if he had a disembodied head.
  • Red vs. Blue: Lopez seems to handle life without a head quite well.
  • Bjork in the video for "I Miss You".

  • Happened in Bite Me! via guillotine; her head was later located by the main character being asked to list head puns (in a room full of severed heads) until she groaned loudly enough to be found.
  • An entire storyline of Narbonic revolves around how Dave's disembodied head is forgotten on the bus.
  • Happens to Xykon in The Order of the Stick.
    • And also to the Eye of Fear and Flame, which was kept by Belkar until it decided death was better than living (well, undying) as an immobile skull with Belkar as a master.
  • In No Rest for the Wicked, Red severs the witch's head. The witch sticks it back on, grumbling.
  • Daisy Is Dead has two instances.
  • Violet Zombie: Penelope Martinez demonstrates this ability frequently, either to scare people or just for fun.
  • Probably the single most infamous comic from Sexy Losers involved Shiunji, a necrophiliac, a corpse whose head fell off, and what he did to its neck. The comic's subtitle read "I am certain that at some point in the future, I will be prosecuted for this comic in a court of law."
  • In Sluggy Freelance, Torg invented the "Zombie-Head-On-A-Stick." It's Exactly What It Says on the Tin.
    • To say nothing of the time Riff managed to disconnect his own head (and trap Torg and Gwynn's upper halves in another dimension) by thinking with portals.
  • Dan and Mab's Furry Adventures: "You would be amazed how difficult it is to aim when your head is in a box across the room."
  • One Project Future side comic has a healing mage reattach a decapitated waitress's head before her brain died, though she needed additional spinal regeneration afterwards.
  • In Looking for Group, one of the men in Richard's village. Justified because he's not exactly human...
    • Also, Richard is beheaded but still able to maintain his normal levels of awesome.
  • Stubble Trouble features the decapitated characters of Gynette the spidertaur and Lilith the Headless Goth Vixen. Gynette's boyfriend really seems to like her ability and her friends are unfazed as she often takes her head off. Lilith the Headless Goth Vixen was a former model who was famous for her decapitation.
  • Done in Fanboys in a very nightmarish fashion. With an undead cat.
  • Done in Khatru, where Healing Factor powered Ranger unwittingly agrees to test one of Gadgeteer Genius Kira's medical scanning devices. She tries everything to fix him, but in the end, he recovers all on his own.
  • Girl Genius:
    • Tinka's head continues to talk after being sliced off.
    • Castle Heterodyne while its mind was stored in the body of Otilia.
    • Doctor Sun keeps Selnikov's head in a jar, preserved and conscious for interrogation.
  • In the Girls in Space storyline The Protoype, Fergus Macrumble punches the Henchbot's head off.
  • Runcible Spoon in Dominic Deegan is known for sending his own head flying. Also once happened to Quilt, including the "hey, body, over here" routine.
  • Nostrom in Jack has a habit of switching his head between a bunch of bodies after he goes to hell. And he keeps his bodies' original heads in a jar where they're constantly begging people to kill them.
  • Hector in No Songs For The Dead got his head punched off by Romeo, after which Hector taunted Romeo, saying "You punch like a girl."
  • In Rusty and Co., decapitation does not work on the vampires.
  • In Commander Kitty, CK ends up in pieces after a Teleporter Accident, with his still-talking head landing inside a toolbox. Fortunately for him, it seems he just needs someone to snap him back together like a LEGO minifig.
  • Questionable Content had an Imagine Spot featuring Penelope vomiting a rainbow mixed with Cheshire Cat Grin.
  • Rick of Umlaut House is cybernetic below the neck, and his head can detach and walk around on mechanical spider legs.
  • Dragon Ball Multiverse: Cell does this to himself to avoid being petrified by Dabura.
  • Happens from time to time in Schlock Mercenary. The level of medical technology available in the series allows entire bodies to be regrown so long as the head remains intact. Der Trihs spent quite a few strips as a head in a jar, as have most of the cast. Karl Tagon once spent an arc as a head in a jar as well. Attached to a headless monkey he was able to control, and still kicked a ton of ass doing it.
  • Ashley Yakamura from Light And Dark can detach her head, along with other parts of her body.
  • Oglaf has Morag The Immortal, a follower of the dead god Sithrak. As revealed in "Bellows" and "Rise of the Funsnake" Morag's body was eaten by the funworm, a demon god disguised as group of men in a cheap parade costume. She now needs somebody to blow into her neck to talk because nobody understood that one blink meant "yes" and two meant "no".
  • Most of the Boneheads are able to take off their heads and be perfectly fine, being undead skeletons and the like. Three of the Boneheads perform while holding their skulls in their hands. This comes as a shock to Sans and Papyrus, who can't just take off their heads. Poor Papyrus thought he killed Brook by accidentally knocking off his head before Jack assured him Brook was fine.
  • In Slightly Damned the third head of Cerberus seems to be perfectly fine with just being a skull/living headgear for Darius. This is a temporary punishment for insufficient vigilance, that dragged out far longer than expected.

    Web Original 

    Western Animation 
  • Kevin Spencer fantazises about this in one episode: he imagines himself living in an old age home as a head, refusing to die. The staff decide to just run him over with a car. This trope is played with in the final episode, with Percy.
  • Futurama with The Heads in Jars.
    • Bender also suffered this, at least once as a Shout-Out to Star Trek: The Next Generation. In another instance, he purposely sells his body for lots of money (it was worth more due to supply and demand). He drove around in a little car until getting it back from President Nixon. He also uses his ability to detach his head to (what else?) rob people.
    • And in Bender's Game Zoidberg's head crawls on tentacles once it's been severed from his body. Since that instance took place in Bender's fantasy world it's not certain if the real Zoidberg can do it as well.
    • As well as Hermes in the Futurama movie, Bender's Big Score. Somehow he managed to keep yelling at people for several minutes after being decapitated, before he was put in a jar.
    • In a Valentine's Day episode, Fry had his head surgically removed and placed on Amy's shoulder after being severely injured in a car accident.
  • Grim from The Grim Adventures of Billy & Mandy is frequently hit with this trope.
    • There was an episode parodying "The Fly" in which Mandy unzips her head and accidentally zips onto a fly's body.
    • Grim inflicts this on Jack O'Lantern, a one-episode villain from the Halloween special. Justified in that he had wished for immortality before he was decapitated.
  • The Warners exhibit this ability in Animaniacs.
    • In one short, "Moon over Minerva," a smitten Minerva Mink's head turns into a balloon because of her pounding heart and starts to float away before she catches it and hastily reattaches it.
  • Happens in Tiny Toon Adventures in the short "Born to be Riled" when Babs does an impersonation of Shirley Loon.
  • Mr. Freeze gains this gruesome ability in the final season of Batman: The Animated Series.
    • In a Continuity Nod, when he first shows up in Batman Beyond, all that's left is his head. He's understandably not too happy about it.
      • Early drafts for Beyond played this for black humor, with Old Man Wayne keeping the head in his refrigerator. It curses him impotently whenever he opens the door.
  • Aladdin: The Series had a villain named Kapok where his evil head is separated from his kind body. Interestingly, his head thought with his mind, but his body thought with his heart. Aladdin even gets inflicted with the same curse during the episode. Don't worry, he gets better.
    • The Genie himself does this after explain how he can't kill anybody in the original movie.
  • The outlaws in the Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer short "Deputy Droopy".
  • Mr. Mxyzptlk in Superman: The Animated Series. Of course, he could do anything.
  • Transformers
    • Megatron, Bulkhead, Sentinel Prime, Starscream and Waspinator have all suffered from this in Transformers Animated.
    • As did Optimus Prime in Transformers: Generation 1. Unicron gets reduced to a head after his body is blown up, and he's incredibly dangerous whenever he regains consciousness.
    • All of the Headmasters have this as their backstory. (To summarize, the future Headmasters were a subgroup of Autobot pacifists called the Nebulans who were sickened by the conflict, and as a result had little trust for any other resident of Cybertron. to gain trust, five Autobots removed their heads and offered them to the Nebulans to earn trust. Later, the Nebulans could no longer avoid the war, but were still unwilling to trust the headless Autobots enough to reassemble them, so as compromise, they used special technology on five of their own, so they could become the heads, working with the five Autobots in a symbiotic bond. Each Nebulon controls the body, while its partner's true head — which is hidden somewhere — maintains telepathic communication while providing fighting skills and advice. Unfortunately, it isn't long before the Decepticons learn how to do this too.) Also, Arcee becomes a "new" Headmaster in the finale of the series, the same deal as the others.
    • And Waspinator in Beast Wars, several times. In fact, numerous characters, primarily Predacons, end up in pieces, including an intact head. Silverbolt is the only Maximal who suffered this indignity while serving as a Maximal.
  • In a particularly bizarre episode of Legion of Super-Heroes, on their way to Find the Cure!, Brainiac 5's head is separated from his body by a Portal Cut; the body then proceeds to run amok while the frustrated Legionnaires try to recapture it.
  • XR in Buzz Lightyear of Star Command was prone to this.
  • Dr. Pretorius from the Animated Adaptation of The Mask.
  • Scared Stiff, the ghost robot in Filmation's Ghostbusters, suffered from this.
  • Commander Bem from the Star Trek: The Animated Series episode "Bem".
  • Ard of Heavy Metal chops off his own head in order to show Den that he can't be killed (at least through normal means).
  • In the 2003 Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles cartoon, Leonardo cuts off the Shredder's head in a Single-Stroke Battle. This would have been more effective if the Shredder wasn't actually an alien inhabiting a much larger robot body.
  • The Incredible Crash Dummies seem to spend a lot of time without their heads (or arms or legs) attached.
  • Fidget in the Gadget and the Gadgetinis episode "Claw's Collection".
  • Arthur "Meek for A Week" Arthur and his friends imagine Francine, who has recently taken to bottling up her natural aggression, will build up enough pressure that her head will pop off. We then see an Imagine Spot of just such happening with Francine's disembodied head complimenting the beautiful lawn she just landed in.
    • Similarly, a different episode had Buster's head fly away instead, only his head broke into pieces upon landing.
  • SpongeBob SquarePants
    • Man Ray's head is removable, as shown in his first appearance in "Mermaid Man and Barnacle Boy III" where he takes it off and gives it to SpongeBob when he literally can't show his face in Bikini Bottom anymore. When he later appears in "Shuffleboarding", he weaponizes this by throwing his head at SpongeBob while fighting him and Patrick at the laundromat, only for it to fly into a washer and shrink because it's dry clean only.
    • "Squid Noir" Patrick throws a rock at Squidward thinking that he's being attacked by a monster when he's actually playing his clarinet. The rock pins Squidward's head to a wood mount on his wall leaving him without a head.
    • Patrick's head harmlessly popping off his body for whatever reason is something of a Running Gag in the show (especially in later seasons). For example, in "Escape from Beneath Glove World", when Patrick finds out that the Hieronymus Glove robot literally wants Patrick's head, Patrick nonchalantly removes his head from his shoulders and gives it to him.
  • The Batman "The Joining" Part 1, Batman and J'Onn J'Onzz are able to interrogate the decapitated head of Lucius Fox's robot duplicate. "In order to nod you need a neck"
  • Homer's costume (which becomes real) in The Simpsons "Treehouse of Horror XVI."
    • In "Treehouse of Horror IV", he was decapitated while spending a day in Hell.
    • Scratchy from The Itchy and Scratchy Show loses his head tons of times thanks to Itchy. Whether he lives or dies from it seems to vary.
    • There was a couch-gag in which the Simpsons switched heads. This was repeated on the Season 2 DVD artwork.
  • In a time-travel episode, The Tick has his head momentarily teleported, minus his body, onto a golf tee in the 1950s. He loudly declares "Men in plaid!!!" at the sight of the golfers.
  • Unsurprisingly happens a few times in Nightmare Ned's many Nightmare Sequences:
    • In "Headless Lester", Ned has a run-in with the eponymous campfire-story creep and afterwards walks back to his cabin, whereupon his constantly giggling head topples off his body after his worried cabin counselor grabs him by the shoulders. Notably, and a bit ironically, this was in the one episode of the series wherein the obligatory nightmare wasn't actually being had by Ned.
    • In "A Doll's House", this happens to Ned when he drives a toy car down his house's stairs in an attempt to escape his (now giant to him) cousins. His cousins "fix" the broken "dolly" by sticking Ned's head on a cheerleader doll, much to Ned's chagrin.
  • Oswald the Lucky Rabbit demonstrated the ability to attach and detach his head at will, with no justification other than the Rule of Funny. It is unclear how well he could function headless, as in two cases his head didn't get very far, and in the third he was reassembled by outside means. A post-Disney short indicated other characters in the setting could do this too.
  • The Venture Bros.: Dean during "Escape to the House of Mummies".
  • Absorbing Man after his battle with the Hulk in The Avengers: Earth's Mightiest Heroes!.
  • SWAT Kats had this in the episode "Metal Urgency": the Metallikats were reduced to heads scuttling around on spider legs after their bodies were crushed. This doesn't prevent them from driving the Metallikat Express or operating a pair of gigantic combat robots.
  • Jimmy Two-Shoes: Happens to Heloise in the episode "Heads Will Roll", thanks to Dr. Scientist trying to obstruct her from entering Miseryville's Annual Mad Scientist Awards. Both her head and body were able to operate relatively well on their own, with the former managing to somehow build a vehicle out of sticks and stones to get to the awards and Dr. Scientist in time.
  • The Canadian short La Salla. Of course, the main character losing his head isn't the only thing that makes this screwy.
  • Jenny on My Life as a Teenage Robot had this happen occasionally.
  • Drawn Together: Toot's body manages to flash her boobs at Xandir after she chops her head off in the first episode.
  • Cindy Vortex, Carl Wheezer, Sheen Estevez and Betty Quinlan in The Adventures of Jimmy Neutron's magic themed episode "Vanishing Act" become floating heads when they enter a strange dimension and look for their headless bodies. Once they enter a picture of a desert they find their headless bodies are searching around the desert feeling the ground for them. They reattach their heads to their bodies and act like nothing happened (except Sheen, whose head is on backwards).
  • In the Larry episode of Teen Titans ("Fractured"), Starfire briefly gets little wings grown on her head, and she needs to hold onto her head to avoid it flying away.
  • Mega Man: At the beginning of "The Incredible Shrinking Mega Man", Mega says "don't lose your head" to a disassembled Roll.
  • Courage the Cowardly Dog had, among its multiple ghosts, ghouls and monsters, a group of ghostly skeleton vandals who would try to lay waste to the couple and their dog whenever their windmill stopped turning. Hilarity Ensues when Courage, Eustace and Muriel have their heads chopped off by the Windmill Vandals' weapons (with their headless bodies frantically feeling around for their lost heads) and end up on each other's bodies. Courage's head (transplanted on Muriel's body) even uses Eustace's complaining head as a bowlingball to momentarily topple the marauders.
    • Moreover, this isn't the first time Eustace has lost his head. In an earlier episode, a space chicken that Courage defeated and left featherless and headless in the pilot episode returned to replace its missing head by using Courage's head as a replacement. It only partially succeeds with its plan, taking Eustace's head instead. Although defeated, the head never returns to its original body (at least until the next episode), culminating with the appearance of a headless walking Eustace that scares Courage.
    • Another time Eustace lost his head was in "Mega Muriel the Magnificent", where Courage's computer temporarily takes over his body and accidentally hits a wall while running, causing Eustace to collapse part-by-part. His disembodied head then spends the remainder of the episode watching the possessed Muriel's death-defying stunts on TV, oblivious to the fact that he no longer has a body.
  • The Canadian short Land of the Heads where a headless vampiress forces his husband to go out into the village and collect the heads of younger people to replace her old and wrinkled one.
  • It happened to Beetlejuice several times in the animated series, perhaps most unfortunately when he fell in with a group of headhunters. (In one episode, this actually caused his head and body to argue with each other, his body doing so by forming a mouth with its hand.)
  • An episode of the 1980s version of Flash Gordon featured a race of aliens that could remove their heads.
  • A cutaway gag on Family Guy has Stewie meeting a woman's best friend whom she claims is hot. Said woman comes by holding her severed head.
  • On The Cleveland Show, this happened to Rallo after he ran with scissors.
    Rallo's severed head: Little help?
  • Metalocalypse - Mashed Potato Johnson, the oldest living blues guitarist, educates Deathklok on the music - he relates several gruesome stories on the origins of songs, including one Shorty Johnnytop, who made a deal with the Devil and was hit by a train - " his head traveled in the air, he wrote 'Blue Train Blues'."
  • Dr. Pretorious from The Mask animated series has heavily modified his body, including allowing his head to be detached from his body and move around on spider legs. Unfortunately, this tends to work against him as his opponents tend to take advantage of this and knock his head off to distract him during his plans. His body can move independently on its own.
  • In the Oggy and the Cockroaches episode, "It's Been a Hard Day's Noise", Oggy gets this after repeatedly opening and shutting a door. Proof here.
  • The titular character in Bunnicula has had his head knocked off or intentionally removed it to mess with Chester the cat on a few occasions, he can just stick it back on like it's nothing due to his supernatural abilities.
  • Sarah from The Amazing World of Gumball removes her head every night before she goes to sleep and puts it in the freezer.
  • In the Star vs. the Forces of Evil episode "Game of Flags", Star's Uncle Lump was decapitated during the Game of Flags at last year's family reunion, but they managed to save his head and attach it to the body of a horse. Later in the episode Uncle Lump's head bounces in from off-screen, still alive but incredibly annoyed that he lost another body.
  • Scaramouche the assassin android from Season 5 of Samurai Jack was seemingly killed in the first episode, his head being the only part of him that survived. Five episodes later it rebooted, and he hopped off to go tell Aku that Jack had lost his sword. As a head, though, he becomes prime Butt-Monkey material, being kicked and tossed around by people and denied entrance to a ship due to his lack of a body.
  • In the Lilo & Stitch: The Series Halloween Episode "Spooky", the episode's titular experiment scares Mertle Edmonds and her posse by shapeshifting to appear as Lilo (in her dead hula girl costume from earlier in the episode) with her head detached from her body.
  • Kaeloo: This happens to Quack Quack the duck, who is indestructible and can't be killed, almost Once an Episode.
  • In one Robot Chicken sketch, the Crypt Keeper tries to find a new job after his show is canceled, but when he finds one he's quickly fired for disrespecting his manager. Following this, his wife leaves him, which drives him to suicide. When he tries to hang himself, his head pops off.
  • In The Crumpets, Ditzy's head is detachable, and with its lightness and string, it floats and looks like a balloon. Both the head and body can function on their own. The string can secure her head to the body by a tied knot. Her head can come off by force or surprise. There is an episode where her head is unable to float.
  • The Owl House: In the very first episode, Eda gets her head cut off by Warden Wrath. Luz is horrified, but thankfully Eda is still alive (though she does complain that losing her head is rather uncomfortable and inconvenient).
  • Happens to Mrs. Tofu in an episode of The Tofus called "The Great Escape" when Mr. Tofu performs a magic trick that ends up resulting in her head being teleported to a nearby box via magic while her now headless body is clearly seen still standing in the larger box.
  • In Dilbert, the villainous Lena decapitates her business rivals and keeps their heads in jars, where they are somehow still alive and able to talk. Notably, when Dilbert discovers one of these heads, he speaks to it first, as if he expects it to be able to answer. Lena suffers this same fate herself by the end of the episode.


    Real Life 
  • A series of controversial experiments by Robert White showed that it is possible to transplant a monkey's head onto a different monkey's body, although establishing spinal communication between the two was not possible. Originally proposed by the surgeon as a means of prolonging the lives of quadriplegics whose own bodies are failing, this technique has been soundly rejected by bioethicists... not because it's gruesome, but because donor organs can save more lives if they're distributed among many transplant patients, rather than the whole body being used to aid one.
  • Mike the headless chicken was a chicken who survived a full two years after his owner tried to chop his head off and slaughter him for supper. The axe had missed one of Mike's ears and most of his brain stem, and a clot in his jugular vein prevented him from bleeding out. For all intents and purposes, Mike didn't notice that he was missing the top half of his head, and behaved like any other chicken; he could still walk around, albeit clumsily, and would try to peck the ground for food, preen himself, and crow. Mike's owner toured the country with him for the next two years, watering him with an eyedropper and feeding him worms and small grains of corn. Mike finally passed away in a motel room after choking on some corn, and his caretakers left Mike's cleaning syringes behind at the previous sideshow and couldn't save him.
  • Tapeworms. Their head, known as the scolex, is all the tapeworm really needs to live, while the rest of the body, consisting of segments called proglottids, are just merely reproductive organs that in fact break away from to body to release its eggs. As such, tapeworm removal is very difficult, as even if the entire length of the body is removed, if the head remains then it will just grow an entire new body.
  • Cockroaches can live for weeks after decapitation. They will eventually starve to death because they can't eat without their mouth.
  • Back in the days where Losing Your Head was a punny way of saying "capital punishment", some curious people (again, we can't tell you who or when) did a series of experiments which basically consisted of waiting until the next execution, then shouting at the head to see whether and for how long they could keep its attention. The head can stay conscious for 10 seconds or so, though most lost consciousness instantly due to shock. We can thank the French for this information, since they kept using the guillotine for executions until the 20th century.
  • Internal decapitation, in which the skull is forcibly separated from the spinal column but the soft tissues of the neck remain intact, can be survivable if the injured person receives artificial respiration and other care. If the spinal cord isn't broken, a full recovery is also possible.
  • A male praying mantis can survive for a short time after decapitation. The female has a tendency to bite his head off, and this feature allows the male to finish mating before he dies.
  • Some snakes, particularly rattlesnakes, can react to their surroundings and bite up to an hour after decapitation.


Video Example(s):

Alternative Title(s): Headless Boogie



Eda gets beheaded by Warden Wrath. At first Eda's head appears dead, but quickly regains consciousness.

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Example of:

Main / LosingYourHead

Media sources:

Main / LosingYourHead