Follow TV Tropes


Off with His Head!
aka: Off With Her Head

Go To
"You don't kill a man by mucking around with rifles, arrows, rocks or other long-distance rubbish. You kill him by grabbing the biggest bloody sword you can find, running up nice and close to him, and chop the dumb bastard's head off!"

If you're dealing with any sword-oriented media, whether it be fantasy, medieval, kung fu, or something else, and it's more violent than a PG-13 rating, chances are, someone is going to get his head chopped off (and it may not even need the R rating if you're dealing with nonhuman enemies). One of the most common methods of execution back in the medieval era next to hanging, decapitation is usually one of the surest ways to ensure someone is Deader Than Dead barring some very potent magic or divine intervention. Indeed, in Real Life, it is one of the very few ways that death can be instantly diagnosed.

Any Ridiculously Human Robot (even one with a Cranial Processing Unit) or other decidedly inhuman being will probably be capable of surviving decapitation, and will do so at some point either for a joke or as a plot point. In less serious series, the body will even continue to walk around bumping into things like a chicken or a cockroach with its head cut off.


It is nearly always depicted as being surprisingly easy to cut through someone's whole neck and spinal column, even in one blow to a moving target. While Anne Boleyn did get beheaded with one stroke, most pre-guillotine beheadings took at least three strokes. Boleyn's executioner was — by request — a professional swordsman who would know how to cleanly behead someone. And that's when the target is helpfully restrained; in an actual Sword Fight it would have been even harder to pull off and would also have been serious overkill. A direct cut through the skull into the brain — or a strike to the neck that would at least sever critical blood vessels or the windpipe if it didn't cut through the spine — was usually more expedient.

This trope is named after the line Off with his head; — so much for Buckingham from Colley Cibber's adaptation of Richard III. The trope was also famously used by the Queen of Hearts in Lewis Carroll's Alice's Adventures in Wonderland. See also Your Head A-Splode for a much gorier version of this trope and Boom, Headshot! when it comes to firearms.


May result in a Human Head on the Wall.

Also see Alas, Poor Yorick, Decapitation Presentation and Severed Head Sports. When cutting off the head is the only way to kill something, it's Decapitation Required. If the decapitated head is somehow still alive after the fact for any notable length of time, that's Losing Your Head.

Not to be confused with a Decapitation Strike, which is about decapitating a whole faction rather than just some person.

As per being a death trope, EXPECT UNMARKED SPOILERS!!!


    open/close all folders 

  • A senile old king is delighted when told of a competition which required people to cut off and mail in the headlines of the advertised newspaper. His Establishing Character Moment shows he's got a complex about this trope.
    Courtier: Sire! Sire!
    King: (waking up) Mmm, what? Off with your head!
    Courtier: (panicking) But a messenger has arrived!
    King: Off with his head!
  • The "Don't Lose your Head!" campaign for Fosters Beer in Australia, which showed people being decapitated mid-broadcast by animals, though the headless body still seems to be alive post-decapitation. These commercials caused quite a stir and calls for banning after they were shown on British TV, although most of the complaints were rejected.
    • One commercial shows a TV presenter crouching near a river and warning viewers about what may be lurking inside, right before his head is bitten off by a nearby pelican as the cameraman cracks up in laughter.
    • In another commercial, a presenter hosting a falconry show at the zoo makes a young female volunteer hold some meat intended for the eagle to take. But after being released, the eagle instead rips off her head as the audience gasps in shock, and the presenter promptly ends the show.
    • The third and final commercial shows a broadcast of a man bungee jumping over a river before his head is bitten off by some hungry crocodiles as the cameraman once again cracks up.
  • An advert for Crunchy Nut set during The French Revolution has two aristocrats hiding out in the basement of a chocolate shop, only for one to loudly eat a bowl of Crunchy Nut with chocolate and they get found out. Both of them and the shop owner are then executed via guillotine.

    Anime & Manga 
  • In Akame ga Kill!, Kurome's People Puppet Natala finishes off the mortally wounded Chelsea this way before chopping the poor girl to pieces.
    • At the end of the series, the deposed emperor is guillotined.
  • In Attack on Titan, Eren Yeager gets their head blown clean off of their neck through the use of a special anti-Titan rifle. It obliterated his neck and only super-lucky timing and the difference in time moving in The Paths result in his life being saved.
  • In the manga of Samurai Deeper Kyo, Kyo beheaded Nobunaga in their fight in the forest.
  • Naruto:
    • In the manga, Zabuza kills Gato this way, but the anime Bowdlerised it down to stabbing him in the chest with a kunai Zabuza held between his teeth and then kicking him off of a bridge.
    • Killer Bee and the Raikage together blow a Zetsu clone disguised as Kisame's head right off, which compliments them on its way down.
    • Asuma managed to cut off Hidan's head during his fight with him. However, thanks to his Complete Immortality, Hidan survived with his head even still talking!
  • Princess Mononoke has two instances when Ashitaka decapitated people by shooting them in the head with arrows. His arm was possessed by a demon, so that could have something to do with it.
  • Karura in Utawarerumono actually punches a mook's head off. That must have been messy.
  • In Bleach, the Fracción Avirama Redder asks Lieutenant Izuru Kira what his 'weird-looking' Zanpakutō, Wabisuke - which is shaped like a square hook - can cut through. Kira gives him a demonstration by placing the hooked bit under Redder's neck and - yoink! There goes Redder's head.
  • This is how Daisuke Saiki dies in the manga version of X1999. It was so gruesome that the TV series censored it.
    • Earlier in the story, Kotori Monou is first stabbed in the chest by her Face Heel Turned brother Fuuma with a BFS, then her body is dismembered by cables turned into Razor Floss. Kamui is seen holding her head in his arms. Agaon, so gruesome that the TV series had to censor it - she "only" got stabbed.
    • While, barring a dream sequence involving Kotori, neither of these occurs in the film, Fuuma suffers this courtesy of Kamui at the very end.
  • It happens to Tolle Koenig in Mobile Suit Gundam SEED, when the shield of Athrun's Gundam'' hits his cockpit. OUCH.
  • The Headhunter in PandoraHearts, invoked by name.
    The Queen of Hearts
    Made some tarts
    The Knave of Hearts
    Stole these tarts
    So the mad queen said
    "Off with his head!"
  • This is one of the very, VERY few ways to kill a sen-nin in The Twelve Kingdoms. Brutally proved by Governor Gekkei, who kills King Chuutatsu of Hou this way as punishment for his horrible reign and brings his head to his family. Then, he subjects Chuutatsu's wife Kekai and the kirin Hourin to the same fate, also as punishment for their own deeds (or inaction). " Royal Consort! Princess! Say goodbye to your King!", indeed.''
  • In Vinland Saga, this is how Askeladd kills King Sweyn.
  • In chapter 51 of Future Diary Yuno kills Akise this way.
  • Teresa from Claymore is beheaded by Priscilla the instant she Awakens.
  • A lot of deaths in Gantz involve decapitation. Kurono and Izumi beheaded the oni boss, as well as the former beheading the shapeshifting oni. Katou also beheaded the Buddha boss. Anything else I miss?
  • Many deaths in Elfen Lied caused by Diclonius, like in the cases of Kurama's secretary Kisaragi and Kouta's father. Their vectors can pick off a person's head like picking fruit off a tree or crush them like nothing.
  • Guts of Berserk is powerful enough to shear off the head of a horse with one blow from his BFS, as evidenced during the rampage at the end of the first Black Swordsman story. He pulls off an extremely spectacular decapitation in his fight against General Boscone during the Golden Age Arc; taking a sword lent to him by Nosferatu Zodd, he uses it to chop off the heads of both Boscone and his horse in one mighty swing!
    • Also a standard method of execution in the series proper. At the beginning of the third arc (the one before the Golden Age arc), a young woman gets executed this way for heresy. Her head gets used by Guts to send a declaration of war to the Count, an Apostle who uses such accusations of heresy to provide him with people to eat.
    • During the Conviction Arc, Guts decapitates a demon-possessed horse that tries to rape Farnese and the possessed Great Goat Head, as well as one of Mozgus' disciples, the guy with the mancatcher and the Plague Doctor mask.
  • Dragon Ball:
    • In the original series, Goku kicked Drum's head off.
    • In the Namek Saga, Vegeta does this to Guldo after he tried to kill Gohan and Krillin, though it was only because he wanted to kill off the weakest member of the Ginyu Force (he didn't give a damn about them at that point). Guldo actually lives long enough to yell at Vegeta for what he did until he vaporized him.
    • During the battle against the Cell Jrs. Gohan decapitates two of them.
    • Two of the movies had decapitations, in the fourth Piccolo blasts Doradabo's head off and in the seventh Vegeta punches Android 15's head off.
  • In Amon, an alternative continuation to Devilman, Akira's love interest Miki and her little brother are both decapitated by an angry mob after it was revealed on TV that Akira is actually Devilman.
    • It did happen in the original manga and in the Devilman OVA too. Miki is searching for her brother and sees him fall from the second floor; she approaches him and sees it's his headless body, and a member of the angry mob has his severed head. Later, when Akira arrives too late, he sees Miki has not only been killed but dismembered by the mob, and her head is on a pike as well (alongside her other limbs, each one on its own pike). Akira goes berserk and tears the mob to bloody pieces (in the manga, he set them all on fire). A few moments later, Akira is seen cradling her head in his arms, having crossed the Despair Event Horizon for real. In fact, it's said that this scene inspired the one in the X1999 manga where Kamui does the same with Kotori's head.
  • Baccano! has this happen to Czeslaw Meyer in the first episode via shotgun blast at point-blank range. Fortunately for him, after his assailant leaves, his head reforms a few minutes later.
  • Happens in Re:Zero when Subaru returns to the massacred and frozen-over village as a giant monster emerges from the mansion and tells him to "Sleep, along with my daughter." before Subaru's head suddenly falls off of his neck. Subaru gets better (kind of) and we later learn that the monster is Puck, who will end the world and kill anyone who isn't Emilia if Emilia ever dies.
  • Space Runaway Ideon:
  • Raoh of Fist of the North Star can do this to someone by slapping them, as a particularly sadistic soldier of his learned the hard way after he made the mistake of abusing Raoh's female subjects in his absence.
  • Detective Conan uses the trope once in a while, and these times tend to be very memorable:
    • The murder of the first episode. Who would have thought of using the momentum of the roller coaster and a wire with hooks to make a gruesome decapitation?
    • Also happens to Chikako Ikeda in the Mountain Villa Bandaged Man Murder Case. And her killer not only beheads her but dismembers her corpse and carries her head around hidden in his clothes. For worse, in the manga, there is a panel where the reader sees how the killer decapitates his victim in one single hit.
    • And it takes place again in chapter 915 of the manga, to some Red Shirt from Nagano police. The way this takes place makes it even worse if that's even possible, thanks to a noose tied up to the guy's neck and with its other end tied to a vehicle that goes off a cliff, taking the pleading victim with it and cutting off his head in its way down. What the HELL?! Then it's subverted: the "victim" was the killer and had used the headless corpse of the first person he killed (whom he strangled to death and then decapitated) and some props to go Faking The Death and get to his other targets.
  • In the School Days anime finale, Makoto's head is taken by Kotonoha soon after he gets knifed to death by Sekai. Kotonoha decides to display the head to Sekai before killing her to avenge Makoto.
  • In Soul Eater Justin cuts off Tezca's head. This destroys his body, but Tezca moved his soul elsewhere and "lives" on. Rather fitting, since Justin is a guillotine.
  • In Seven Deadly Sins, Hendrickson, after transforming into a Grey Demon-Human Hybrid, engages in battle with the Seven Deadly Sins (minus Escanor, who had yet to be found) and Liones' Holy Knights and summons an attack called Dark Snow, a shower of slow-moving orbs which cause instant death upon contact. When two knights remark that the attack, while impressive, is easy to avoid, Hendrickson appears above them in mid-air upside down and rips their heads clean off in a single move.
  • In Lupin III: Dead or Alive, to show Ole he's serious about the situation, General Headhunter casually decapitates one of his own men with a sword.
  • Puella Magi Madoka Magica: Mami Tomoe is killed in the penultimate timeline in episode 3 after the witch Charlotte devours her head.
    • Also, in that same timeline Sayaka Miki chops off the head of the witch Elsa Maria with her sword. And then she mutilates Elsa's corpse, as proof that poor Sayaka is this close to crossing the Despair Event Horizon.
    • In the spin-off series, Puella Magi Kazumi Magica, Mirai Wakaba meets this same fate after refusing to fight a witch that used to be Saki Asami, who Mirai loves.
  • In another Alice-related manga, Are You Alice?, the Queen himself (yes, him) states this a few times as an order. His job, executing "useless characters", also leads to this, with him using a giant scythe to do the job.
  • Xam'd: Lost Memories, Fuurichi commits suicide by cutting his own head off.
  • In JoJo's Bizarre Adventure, Dio Brando did this to himself to keep Jonathan's Ripple from finishing him off.
  • In Golgo 13 The Professional, Duke sticks a grenade into Silver's mouth causing his head to be blown off his body in the resulting explosion.
  • Justice does this to Afro's father just five minutes into Afro Samurai. Right in front of the young Afro, no less!
  • The Voynich Hotel: The second of the Three Mothers, Suspiriorum, the Mother of Sighs, met her fate via beheading. Rumor has it that her head is somewhere in Spain, christened "The Singing Witch Head."
  • Turned upside-down by the finale of Macross Frontier: removing the Vajra Queen's head is presented as a nonlethal way of detaching Grace O'Connor from the main body. Due to Bizarre Alien Biology, Vajra don't actually have any vital organs in their heads (their nervous system is decentralized, so they lack a "brain" as an organ). The Queen is not harmed by the loss of her head any more than the loss of one of her other limbs, and flies away with the rest of the Vajra once peace is restored.
  • In Samurai Flamenco, a drug dealer takes some kind of pill before getting arrested and turns into a giant gorilla with a guillotine in his mid-section. He then uses it to decapitate at least one of the cops and nearly kills Samurai Flamenco the same way before being saved by his cop friend Goto.
  • Strider Hiryu: If not cut in half, this is the other common fate of anyone on the wrong end of the eponymous Hiryu's Cypher.
  • In One Piece, this is only a minor inconvenience for Logia users and Buggy, as well as Brook after the time skip, provided his bones don't get damaged. However, it can also happen to non-Logias, like the dragon on Punk Hazard, in which case it's obviously fatal.
    • There has been an exception, however, with the Devil Fruit powers of one Trafalgar Law. His fruit powers let him create a space in which he can alter anything however he chooses, and he often uses his sword in conjunction. The earliest example of this was decapitating a Marine and switching his head with a cannonball, without even killing him.
    • Another exception is Donquixote Doflamingo, who survived decapitation though it wasn't actually him, a full-body puppet clone made of his strings.
    • During Act 3 of Wano, Kaido decapitates Orochi after he objects to his "New Onigashima" plan.
  • In Hunterx Hunter, Kortopi has this done to him in Chapter 357 by Hisoka. On the toilet, of all things.
  • In Mermaid Saga decapitation is the only way to kill a mermaid, a Lost Soul or an immortal person.
  • In Blame! chapter 27, Killy tears the head off a regenerating Silicon Creature with his bare hands.
  • The second Titan that the Rogue Titan fights in Trost suffers this fate in Attack on Titan. Its head is punched clean off, and flies quite some distance away as well. Chapter 119 also features Gabi decapitating Eren with anti-titan rifle shot to Eren's neck
  • In Parasyte chapter 3, Migi cuts off the head of the opposing parasite's host in addition to cutting the body in half.
  • Tomio in the Fragments of Horror story "Red Turtleneck" has his head severed by his wicked fortune-teller mistress' enchanted hair. But before she adds it to her collection, she gives him the chance to keep himself alive by holding his head on, warning him that any slip that disconnects the head will kill him. She tests his strength, too, torturing him by inserting things into the new gap between head and neck, hoping to make him slip.
  • Durarara!!: This is the entire reason Celty Sturluson came to Ikebukuro in the first place. Being a dullahan, her head was never attached in the first place and she carried it around in her arms. However, after Shingen used Saika to sever its connection to her she woke up missing her head and has been searching for it for the past twenty years. The head is repeatedly given away or stolen by various parties, though is in the possession of Izaya Orihara for the majority of the show. Throughout the series, various men developed odd obsessions with it, such as Seiji and Seitarou's love for it, the artist's need to draw it and Izaya's wish to create a gang war over it. In conclusion, Shingen returns Celty's head to her, however, she attempts to leave to resume her duties as a dullahan. Fortunately, Shinra obtains Saika and once again severs Celty's head and it is given to Nebula.
    • Celty also threatens to do this to Izaya for making fun of Shinra.
  • Demon Slayer: Kimetsu no Yaiba: This is the primary way to kill demons, though it only works when the Demon Slayers' special swords are used. Otherwise the demon will remain alive, and the severed head will still somehow control its body. As seen when Nezuko revealed her Super Strength by kicking a demon's head right off, but it kept on fighting.

    Comic Books 
  • Killtopia: Happens frequently, such as Stiletto decapitating Megaton Prime in a previous Wreck-Fest.
  • In Sin City: The Big Fat Kill, Miho ultimately "makes a PEZ dispenser out of" Jackie-Boy.
  • Occurs regularly in Usagi Yojimbo, especially if a Zerg Rush is involved.
  • The Headsman from Thunderbolts, as his name would imply, enjoys lopping heads off with his tremendous axe very, very much. This all traces back to his childhood when his Aloof Big Brother Cody beheaded his beloved dog.
  • This is the way Shredder was Killed Off for Real in the original Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Mirage comics.
  • The Punisher Franken-Castle arc shows Werewolf by Night tearing off a mook's head with his bare hands.
  • Friday the 13th comics:
    • In Friday the 13th Special, Jason hits a soldier on top of his head (the sound effect being "FAM") so hard that his head goes through his body and comes out his ass (the written sound effect of that being "SWAQ!").
    • Two unlucky hunters at the end of Friday the 13th: Bloodbath find the frozen Jason in the woods, and one of them gets his head sliced off as he thaws out in front of them.
    • The fight between the two Jasons in Friday the 13th: Jason vs. Jason X ends with Uber Jason killing the regular Jason by ripping his head off. He then takes part of the loser's brain and stuffs it into his own to restore the memories of his mother.
  • In Last Days of the Justice Society, Starman uses his cosmic rod in the battle of Ragnarok to decapitate Loki, whose horned head then stabs Starman in the back.
  • In the Secret Wars (2015) tie-in Mrs Deadpool And The Howling Commandos Marcus gets his head chopped off by Dracula with one clean sword-swing.
  • After the cursed Vikings in Thor: Vikings make their landing in New York, they start slaughtering the populace, mostly by decapitating them. Their body count gets so high that the police are unable to enter a certain area because the road is blocked by a mountain of removed heads.
  • 2000 AD:
    • The Ten-Seconders: Watchtower kills two of his fellow gods by decapitating them. Harris even notes that it's starting to become a signature move for him.
    • Anderson: Psi-Division: Anderson has run into an Artifact of Doom that had been used by a headhunting cult. It drove anyone who went near it completely insane and made them cut off people's heads while shouting "Blood for the Blood God!".
    • Judge Dredd: During the "Judgement Day" arc, Dredd decapitates Sabbat. Being immortal, he survives this. Dredd still manages to defeat him by impaling the head on the lodestone Sabbat had been using to control the dead.
  • X-23 wordlessly beheads a pimp she catches beating a prostitute in her self-titled one-shot. As her claws are coated in adamantium, she has little trouble slicing through his neck in one blow.
  • Robin and Batgirl (2000) villain Lynx ends up decapitated mostly due to the incompetence of her own gang. Niether Tim nor Cass are happy about it despite how much trouble she gave them with her ability to avoid prison time.
  • Due to his strength Simon Dark uses his garrote wire to decapitate people. He does so rarely as he is opposed to killing humans, but he makes exceptions for those who have been killed by possessing entities and a rapist targeting the local high school.
  • Star Wars: Kanan: Lightsabers make short work of necks on two occasions:
    • After Coburn Sear sets himself on fire in an attempt to kill Caleb Caleb cuts his head off in what is mostly a mercy kill and which disturbs him greatly as it's the first time he'd killed someone who wasn't a droid and he had momements before felt the call of the Dark Side and wanted to kill Sear out of anger fueled revenge.
    • Depa Billaba decapitated Mixx when defending her life and that of her padawan Caleb when Palpatine issued Order 66 and her battalion tried to execute them. It took seeing his former friend's head flying to get Caleb to unfreeze from having their friends go from joking with them to trying to kill them.
  • In Superman storyline The Great Phantom Peril, villainess Faora Hu-Ul breaks into the Fortress of Solitude. As she is exploring Superman's base, Faora runs into a Superman robot, and quickly slaps its head off its body.
  • Ultimate Marvel:
    • Ultimate Vision: Vision cut Tarleton's head for killing Dima, and threw it to the horizon.
    • The Ultimates: Abomination was dismembered by Hulk, and the finally executed with a megaton punch through the head.
  • Wonder Woman:
    • Wonder Woman (1987): Diana ends her duel with Medusa by chopping off her head.
    • Wonder Woman (2006): Diana takes off D'grth's head with her jet when the demonic entity attacks Washington DC, this does not kill him or stop him talking however.
    • Wonder Woman (2011): Artemis kills Lennox by tearing off his head, which she then presents to his surviving demi-god siblings with a taunt.
  • In Sachs & Violens, the girls in the Snuff Films are killed by being decapitated with an executioner's axe.
  • In Diabolik, the State of Clerville carries out death sentences via guillotine (The Artifact from the early issues, when the story was supposed to be set in France). Every time Diabolik is arrested, the police needs only to file the paperwork to try and behead him, as when he was arrested the second time he was held long enough to be tried and sentenced to death, and not even an abolitionist lawyer appealing on his behalf could change it. Actually beheading him, on the other hand, is quite complicated...

    Fan Works 
  • Advice and Trust: In chapter 7 Zeruel beheads Unit 00 with a single blow of its arm-whips.
  • Evangelion 303: When Unit 04 crashed, Jessika got decapitated in the explosion.
  • Thousand Shinji: In this setting Asuka is a Khornate berserker. In battle, she hacks her enemies' heads off to offer them up to Khorne, God of War. Sometimes Shinji cuts an enemy's head off after defeating it to give it to Asuka as a present.
  • From Unfamiliar:
    Louise: Alex, be a dear and remove Lord Mott's head from his shoulders.
  • In Retro Chill, Rupert threatens Lenny with this if he starts freaking out about the ghost again.
  • In The Immortal Game: This is how Twilight kills Big Bad Titan, after depowered him from mighty Physical God alicorn to a mere mortal.
    • This also happens in a flashback which features a knight named Valiant presents Astor Coruscare (Twilight's Famous Ancestor) with the head of one of the most powerful dragons to ever live as an engagement gift. Sadly, the battle happens offscreen.
  • Fire Emblem Awakening: Invisible Ties: In chapter 15, this is how Chrom slays Gangrel.
  • The pirate captain in the Golden Age series has the pirate ringleader killed this way for disobeying orders. He then has the head thrown into the kids' cell.
  • In the Pony POV Series, Silver Spoon's father was brainwashed by Discord into trying to do this to her. Discord's defeat saved her, but the experience still left the poor filly traumatized for awhile. In Dark World, where Discord won and that wasn't the case, she was killed this way though she was brought Back from the Dead by Queen Libra.
  • Two Kim Possible fanfics (Midnight Savior and Nightmare) had Kim having nightmares of being beheaded by the Lorwardians. Both times have Kim waking up the moment the blade hits her neck.
  • In Real Men Don't Make Sandwiches, Krillin observes that Vegeta seems to have made this into a habit. Doesn't stop the prince from literally knocking one poor jerk's head off during their ill-fated night out.
  • Quicken: Emma beheads super-villain Cricket with a kukri after defeating her.
  • In Dead Man Switch, Ron Stoppable gets beheaded in Lorwardia, which sets off a weapon to destroy the Lorwardian Star System as revenge for beheading Kim and forcing Earth to send them 15 teenage girls each year to be beheaded as a "tribute". But it turns out to be just Kim's nightmare.
  • A non-sword example in A Mother's Love; having taken Connor from Holtz, Illyria kills the hunter by literally kicking his head off, with that single blow sending Holtz’s head flying out of sight as his body falls to the ground.
  • Another non-sword example occurs in Smallville Glory, which sees Glory literally tear off Lana's head after Lana tried to control her with her own meteor power.
  • In Rabbit of the Moon, Gascoigne beheads Bell with his axe the first time Bell encounters him. When Bell wakes up in the Hunter's Dream, he quickly clutches at his neck to see if his head is still attached.
  • In To Belong, Cinderella was Charming's loyal maid who helped him escape after he kills his fiancee Belle and his brother John. Charming's sister Pocahontas has her killed for treason.
  • The one-shot The Princess of Ev expands upon what happened in Ozma of Oz. It starts with Princess Langwidere's uncle chopping off her head at age seven and replacing it with a young maid's head. He kicks the maid down a well, however people can't die in Ev so she's still alive without her head. He continues chopping off other's heads and giving them to Langwidere. Eventually, she too gains a liking for stealing other people's heads.
  • The Frozen (2013) fic In Pain And Blood ends with Elsa beheading her murderous son Aksel.
  • In Chrysanthemums, the "traditional Unovan method of execution" is a public beheading. At least Opelucid City uses a blade made of a Haxorus' tusk.
  • Dungeon Keeper Ami: Happens at least twice:
    • In Surprise Guest, How a Mukrezar dies, Killed Mid-Sentence:
      Mukrezar smirked “Just as I planned, you—” That was as far as he got before the Avatar’s two-handed sword cut off his words, along with his head.
    • From "Underworld Army Attack": How an Underworld dragon dies:
      Actions magically slowed, the dragon plummeted like a rock, unable to keep itself aloft. A moment before it struck the ground, the reaper blurred and leapt, swinging his scythe. The dragon's head separated from its neck before the giant body crashed, releasing a huge gout of hot blood. Rabixtrel landed on the corpse and screamed his triumph at the wavering soldiers.
  • In the beginning of Golden Threads Tie Us, Severa eliminates a Risen by lopping his head off.
    Severa heard a slash beside her ear, sharp and distinct from the white noise of the rain. A feinted step to the left, then she pushed forward and drove the tip of her blade up into the Risen's exposed chest. She gasped for breath, heart pounding in her ears, and took a second of reprieve before whipping out a foot and sweeping the Risen off its feet, forcing her sword out of its torso and swinging at its neck.
    The severed head rolled to a stop, already covered in mud.
  • Anachronism: In the past timeline, Gloria's Inteleon had its head torn off in a battle.
  • The Nightmare House: Lynn Loud's nightmare involves accidentally punching her brother's head off.
  • In Chapter 19 of Remnant Inferis: DOOM, the Doom Slayer kills Marlowe by using his hands to rip off his head (and much of his spinal column).
  • In Shazam fanfiction Here There Be Monsters'', Doctor Sivana intends to use his strength-augmenting disks to rip Captain Marvel's head from his shoulders.

    Film — Live-Action 
  • This is the only way to kill an Immortal in the Highlander series, any other damage is healed.
  • Thulsa Doom does this to Conan's mom in Conan the Barbarian (1982) after the raid on his home village that opens the movie. Conan himself returns the favor in the end, using two cuts in a "V" using the remains of his father's sword.
    • Actually took three chops: the first two to the sides of Doom's neck and the last one to the back of his neck as he knelt facing his worshippers. Not quite a Lizzie Borden, but good enough.
  • O-Ren Ishii does this to Boss Tanaka for insulting her heritage in Kill Bill Volume 1.
    • The Bride also deals out several decapitations during the big battle with the Crazy 88.
    • Variation in the end: The Bride doesn't cut O-Ren's whole head off... but she scalps her by cutting off the top of it.
  • Happens several times in The Lord of the Rings movies:
    • Aragorn does this to Lurtz, the Uruk-Hai badass who killed Boromir in The Fellowship of the Ring.
      • One of the Nazgûl does this to a Hobbit watchman, though the scene cuts away before the head is sheared off.
    • The Return of the King has three examples:
      • Éowyn chops the head off the Witch-King's Fell-Beast before facing him in person. It takes at least two strokes before the thing's head is severed.
      • In the extended edition, the nasty-looking orc general who survived everything the Battle of the Pelennor Fields had to offer and was chasing Éowyn around gets his other arm sliced off, two axes in his chest, and his head chopped off by Gimli and Aragorn. Just to make sure he's Deader Than Dead.
      • Also in the extended edition, Aragorn does this to the Mouth of Sauron.
  • The titular antagonistic species in the Predator series decapitate their victims to collect their skulls and sometimes do so in combat, the most infamous instance being the death of King Willie in Predator 2.
    • Royce kills the lead Predator in Predators by decapitating him with a machete.
  • Terror Birds: The titular birds kill a few people over the course of the movie by biting their heads off.
  • Astinos, one of the 300, goes out this way during a lull in the battle, which causes his father to go berserk on the Persians until he has to be dragged away by his comrades. This is also how Leonidas finishes off the Uber-Immortal later on in the movie.
    • The same death is spoofed in Meet the Spartans when Captain's son is decapitated, and his headless body gives a "peace out" gesture before it falls.
  • The titular weapon of the Flying Guillotine kung fu movies, including Master of the Flying Guillotine, was a basket that was thrown and dropped upon someone's head. As the name would suggest, once the basket landed on someone's head, the chain was pulled, the blades would go to work, and it was Off With His Head!
    • This inspired an episode of MythBusters where Kari, Grant, and Tory competed to see which of them could design and build a real flying guillotine that worked like the one in the film.
    • A similar flying guillotine-style weapon shows up in Seven Swords, used by one of Fire-Wind's Lieutenants. The same villain who uses the weapon can be seen carrying half a dozen severed heads with him.
  • In the movie Johnny Mnemonic, the assassin was told to come back with Johnny's head, as it contained a cybernetic brain implant which had important information in it.
  • The Matrix Revolutions has Neo decapitating an Agent Smith-possessed bad guy with a jack handle.
  • Obviously, almost every single death in Sleepy Hollow (1999), due to the Headless Horseman's head fixation.
    • As well as Headless Horseman, which unleashes him on the modern-day south, including one incredibly badass kill that has him leaping over a car and taking the driver's head off on the way.
  • In The Mummy, Rick O'Connell decapitates a mummy, and it falls "dead" after the head spins for a bit. Then he decapitates another, and it starts juggling with the head, only falling "dead" after Rick hits the head towards the camera.
    • In The Mummy Returns, the only way to kill an Anubis Warrior is by taking off its head.
  • In Hudson Hawk, a villain with two blades hidden up his sleeves attacks the titular Hawk, who retaliates by making the man cut off his head.
  • Godzilla
    • In the 1974 film Godzilla vs. Mechagodzilla, Godzilla managed to defeat his robotic counterpart by twisting its head off and making it explode. Odd, considering that Mechagodzilla's head was able to spin with no problem.
      • Referenced in the Buffy the Vampire Slayer: Season 8 comic Wolves At The Gate, part four as this is how Dawn kills her mechanical double.
    • But in the 1975 sequel, Terror of Mechagodzilla, not only does this not work but the rays its exposed core begins firing at Godzilla actually get stronger!
    • This is the female MUTO's fate in Godzilla (2014), after Godzilla fries her neck from the inside with his radioactive breath and rips her head off.
  • This trope is not uncommon in Star Wars thanks to the iconic Laser Blade weapon, the lightsaber.
    • Anakin literally disarms Count Dooku in Episode III and takes his lightsaber, scissoring the twin blades between Dooku's neck. Anakin is hesitant to kill him, but when Palpatine urges him to, he snips Dooku's head off with the joined blades.
    • Mace Windu kills off Jango Fett in Episode II this way.
    • Luke's fight with the shadow form of Darth Vader in The Empire Strikes Back.
    • Also in Revenge of the Sith Yoda beheads Commander Gree and a clone scout trooper sent to assassinate him, and Mace Windu attempts to do this to Darth Sidious but is prevented (ironically, considering what he did to Count Dooku) by Anakin.
    • Many, many droids get beheaded throughout the prequel movies since the Jedi don't have the same compunctions about destroying them versus killing a sentient being.
    • At least one of the Praetorian Guard gets beheaded by Kylo Ren after they attack him and Rey in The Last Jedi.
  • In The Ice Pirates, Maida takes a swipe at an attacker, then asks, in a solicitous tone, "Feeling better?" The bad guy appears to be about to nod...and then collapses in two unequal pieces.
  • Hannibal Rising (2007). Hannibal is being raised by his aunt, the Lady Murasaki-Lecter, whose samurai ancestor was into collecting the heads of his enemies. When she's insulted by a local butcher, Hannibal cuts off his head with her sword and presents it to her. His aunt is not pleased, but when Hannibal is arrested for the crime she impales the head on the railings outside police headquarters while Hannibal is being interrogated inside. The police naturally assume they have the wrong man and let Hannibal go.
  • Transformers: Optimus Prime dispatches Bonecrusher by stabbing him through the neck and wrenching his head from his body.
    • Ramjet is killed this way in Reign of Starscream #5. Right after mocking the Autobot he was trying to kill for "not using his head", he's beheaded by Crosshairs. Can anyone say "irony"?
    • The above quote comes from Revenge of the Fallen, where Optimus doesn't just chop the Fallen's head off, he tears it off. And it's not a nice, clean cut either. He only rips his face off, and you can see the Fallen vomiting up his equivalent of blood as he dies. Geez. Beware the Nice Ones, indeed.
    • Optimus also rips Grindor's head in two. Oww.
    • Jetfire finishes off Mixmaster this way. After bisecting him.
    • Optimus sure likes this, as evidenced by Megatron's head, lying some distance from his body with an axe lodged in it.
      • Honestly just about every death is this in the 2nd and 3rd films. After having two characters that were "killed" by battle damage but later restored to life, destroying heads seems to be Transformers movieverse shorthand for "dead for real." (Mind you, in other versions, Losing Your Head is something that's easily remedied.)
    • In the 4th film, Bumblebee finishes off Stinger this way.
  • Near the end of Akira Kurosawa's Ran, Kurogane decapitates Lady Kaede. Much blood spatter ensues.
  • Trevor Nunn bookends his film Lady Jane with decapitations.
  • The Made of Plasticine factor is subverted in 30 Days of Night where the shortest decapitation is two strokes. Normally three and quite messy.
  • The death of the reporter Keith Jennings from The Omen (1976), one of Hollywood's very first onscreen decapitations, when a sheet of glass is launched from a truck in front of him and shears the guy's head off in horrific fashion. It's still considered by horror buffs to be one of the best deaths ever filmed.
  • Owen Wilson's character in The Haunting (1999) is stunningly decapitated by the giant flue in the fireplace.
  • The death of Simon Phoenix, the Big Bad of Demolition Man, combines this trope with Kill It with Ice.
    John Spartan: Heads up!
  • In The Midnight Meat Train, the killer takes out one victim by hitting him so hard with a meat tenderizer that his head goes flying across the train car. For added Narm, the camera cuts to the point of view of the victim's head.
  • X-Men Film Series
    • X-Men Origins: Wolverine; the title character talks about wanting to decapitate his big brother, but only end up beheading "Weapon XI" (Deadpool/Dudepeel, in this version an experimented up Wade Wilson).
    • In The Wolverine: Logan uses one of the Silver Samurai's own swords against him, slicing the head off with it. Unfortunately that doesn't stop it.
      • Yukio manages to snag Viper with a wire then ties it to an elevator, dragging her into it. A rigging coming down the shaft tags her in the head as she's being pulled up and...yeah.
    • Iceman by a Sentinel during the first battle of X-Men: Days of Future Past. Two Cosmic Retcons later, he's back alive.
  • In the epilogue of Demon Knight, the Crypt Keeper attends the lavish premiere of the movie, where the producers reveal their powers of "final cut", decapitating him with a guillotine - much to his delight.
  • Severance: Two characters discuss decapitation as a possible death and how long the head can remain aware even after it's severed. Guess how one of them dies. No, go on, guess...
  • Pinhead from the Hellraiser series would usually tear people apart with chained hooks (hooked chains?) but in the fourth movie, Hellraiser: Bloodline, he shot a bladed chain at a guy's neck. After the blade punctured the neck, it unfolded and on the reverse move decapitated the poor s.o.b. Have a nice day.
  • Final Destination:
    • In the first Final Destination film, one of the characters was killed this way by an incoming sharp object caused by the train.
    • This happens to Nora Carpenter in Final Destination 2. Thanks to getting her hair caught in a man's prosthetic hook box, she gets her head trapped between elevator doors, the ceiling, and the elevator floor, and it chokes and slices her head off.
  • Jeepers Creepers: The Creeper beheads a police officer with an axe while the man is driving a car.
  • Jeepers Creepers 2: The Creeper traps a student with his wings and beheads him, leaving his body to exaggeratedly move around and flail his arms in the air for a few seconds before collapsing. The creeper then consumes the head in order to grow himself a new one.
  • Monty Python and the Holy Grail. The knight Bors has his head bitten off by the Rabbit of Caerbannog.
  • In Heavy Metal, Taarna's only genuine act of badassery is to decapitate three Mooks in a bar.
    • In one stroke. It's like a gory Three Stooges gag.
  • The Sleepaway Camp movies have this happen in every film.
    • The first film has it happen to Paul off-screen.
    • The second film has it happen to Sean.
    • The third film, this happens to Arab, when sticking her head out of the tent.
  • Happens surgically in the film adaptation of The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, when Humma Kavula takes one of Zaphod Beeblebrox's heads as collateral before their trip to Magrathea.
  • Happens several times in the Underworld (2003) series.
    • The most well-known example is somewhat of a variation, as Selene doesn't quite locate Viktor's neck with her sword and instead cuts his head in half to kill him.
    • William in the sequel meets a similar fate to Victor, losing the top half of his head to Michael rather suddenly.
  • In the Halloween films, this happens off-screen in the fourth to an officer in a police station, is pulled off with one swing of a kitchen knife in Halloween: Resurrection, and the most gruesome example the series has to offer is in Halloween II (2009), where Michael saws a man's head off with a piece of broken glass. It's also how Laurie takes out Michael in Halloween H20: Twenty Years Later, but it got undone in the next movie so the franchise could continue.
  • The Hong Kong film Heroic Trio has a villain who has a chain weapon that cuts people's heads off in an almost identical manner Master of the Flying Guillotine to the point where it is probably a Shout-Out.
  • The movie Street Trash has an exceptionally bizarre decapitation during the climax.
  • Jason Voorhees of the Friday the 13th series has decapitated 10 or more of his victims in the series.
    • One notable instance is the triple decapitation of the paintball players in Part VI.
    • Most notably in Part VIII where he punches off Julius's head.
    • His mother was also killed this way in the original.
    • In Freddy vs. Jason, Freddy gets his head chopped off using Jason's machete.
  • In Magadheera, the battle between the warrior Kala Bhairava and the traitor Ranadev Billa ends with Bhairava shoving his sword through his opponent's face, and ripping Ranadev's entire head off from the neck. In the final scene 400 years later, the same sword was retrieved, and Ranadev's skull is still stuck in it's blade, having being embedded on the spot for four centuries.
  • In the climax of Speed Jack Traven pushes Howard Payne against a stop light while on top of a speeding subway train causing the fixture to knock his head off his body.
  • In Starship Troopers at least two soldiers are decapitated by the Hopper bugs.
  • In the Apocalypse film series, those who refuse to take the Mark of the Beast when inside the Day of Wonders virtual reality program is subjected to a virtual beheading, or in some cases another form of death like a lethal snake bite, which causes the victim to die in reality.
  • This is how the corrupt attorney Jordan Kalfus dies in Man on Fire. Creasy finds his decapitated corpse floating in his pool, with a katana lying nearby.
  • Partly done to the Blank version of Oliver Chamberlian in The World's End.
  • In Idle Hands, The Offspring's Dexter Holland gets decapitated.
  • Seems to be the standard means of killing vampires in Byzantium as those that are killed during the story are decapitated.
  • Double subverted and Played for Laughs in Les Visiteurs: an English knight who fought the French king and Godefroy seemingly gets his head cut off, but it turns out he actually ducked under the armor's breastplate. He peeks his head out with a confident smirk and gets his head cut off for real for his trouble.
  • In Showdown in Little Tokyo, Yakuza boss Yoshida does this to Angel with his katana in a ruthless Kick the Dog moment for warning Tanaka, his previous victim, about him behind his back.
  • One character is decapitated in Madman when she tries to fix her car, and the killer jumps on the open hood she's being under. Another character has his head chopped off with an axe offscreen.
  • When Mad Dog Morgan is shot by the police, the Big Bad Hanging Judge Cobham orders the doctor to remove the outlaw's head.
  • Jurassic World: After flipping over and immobilizing an Ankylosaur, rather than attack her exposed underside, the Indominus Rex wraps her jaws around her head and bites. It's offscreen, however.
  • The Final Battle between Henry and Akan in Hardcore Henry ends with Henry ripping out his own eye socket and using it to decapitate Akan.
  • In WarCraft:
    • Large amounts of people and orcs are killed either by beheading or having the skull crushed. The probability of the latter rises exponentially whenever Orgrim is on screen.
    • To stop Medivh's golem from finishing Portal incantation, Lothar cuts its head off, although this doesn't kill the thing.
  • Lula is introduced in Now You See Me 2 using a Rube Goldberg Device to fake her own decapitation.
  • In Napoléon, this is the favoured method of execution by the revolutionaries—preferably via guillotine — and a few of them suffer this fate themselves. This was, of course, the case in Real Life as well.
  • In Ghosts of Mars, the possessed miners like throwing sharpened metal disks at their enemies. Bashira Kincaid is decapitated with one during the climax. Commander Braddock disappears at one point early in the film, and Lieutenant Ballard later finds her head being mounted on a pike. It's not clear if she was actually killed by decapitation or merely decapitated after being killed.
  • Fury: Exaggerated by Peterson, who is killed extremely graphically during the Tiger ambush sequence when a shot from the Tiger's immense 88mm main gun hits him. It's less a decapitation as it is the poor bastard basically stops existing above the waist.
  • In Bring Me the Head of the Machine Gun Woman, the Machine Gun Woman cuts the heads off Longara's hitmen to prove that she has killed them. Santiago is horrified when he sees her take an axe to their corpses.
  • Vincent uses his twin knives to decapitate Dalton after he falls over in House of Wax (2005).
  • Valentine: After Dorothy's party, Kate finds the head of Detective Vaughn floating in the fishpond.
  • The Windmill Massacre: The Miller kills Douglas by looping a rope around his neck and then attaching one end to one of the windmill's vanes and holding on to the other. As the vane turns, the rope tightens till his head pops off.
  • In Alice in Murderland, Tiffany is murdered by being decapitated.
  • In Bad Kids Go to Hell, Dr. Day is decapitated by the tomahawk on the sculpture of the Indian battling the serpent.
  • Peppermint: Just before the attack on Riley North's family, Diego Garcia is shown taking a kukri to lop off the head of a would-be thief. The actual decapitation isn't depicted, just a big splash of blood on a nearby statue after showing the start of Garcia's swing.
  • In The Hollow, the Headless Horseman dispatches his victims by decapitating them with a cavalry sabre.
  • All of the victims in Night School (1981) are murdered by having being decapitated with a kukri.
  • In Avengers: Endgame, Thor kills Thanos this way at the start of the film, remarking that he went for the head this time.
  • In 13 Sins, a group of motorcyclists are decapitated (and lose limbs) to a Razor Floss steel cable stretched across the road.
  • In Madhouse (1974), Paul discovers that Ellen has been decapitated when he shakes her shoulder and her head falls off.
  • In Horrors of the Black Museum, the killer uses a portable guillotine to decapitate Joan in her bed.
  • Black Rain: Sato beheads Charlie with his sword while riding his motorcycle.
  • A third violence-related theme in Hellboy (2019), lots of folks get forcefully relieved of their heads.
  • Vamps: Cisserus beheads and dismembers one of her victims fairly early in the film. Later she's killed by beheading herself.
  • In Headless Horseman, Headless makes all of his kills by decapitation as he needs to deliver the heads to Hell to keep his end of the bargian.
  • Both Hans and his father are executed by being guillotined in Frankenstein Created Woman. Later, Christina murders Anton, Karl and Johann by cutting their heads off.
  • Killer Party: During Goat Night, Vivia fakes her own decapitation with a guillotine. During the April Fools Party, the killer uses it to kill Albert for real.
  • In Sleepy Hollow High, the Headless Horseman kills all of his victims by decapitating them with a sword.
  • In Ripper: Letter from Hell, Chantel is decapitated by a buzzsaw during the Lumber Mill Mayhem.
  • Star Trek Beyond features a starship version when Krall's swarm attack slices through the neck of the Enterprise, separating the saucer from the stardrive section.
  • In The Mad Magician, Gallico murders Ormond by using 'The Lady and the Buzzsaw' illusion to decapitate him.
  • Feeding Frenzy: Mr. Plinkett is killed when his reanimated wife breaks free of her cage and pulls his head off.
  • At least one one Vietnamese soldier has his head cut off (and several others lose limbs) when Sammo Hung unleashes his Machete Mayhem in Eastern Condors.
  • Timber Falls: During the final escape, Sheryl decapitates Ida with a sickle.
  • In Hobo with a Shotgun, Drake decapitates his brother Lloyd using a barbed wire noose attached to Slick and Ivan's car.
  • In Slashers, Dr. Ripper cuts off Brenda's head using his oversized surgical shears.
  • In Curse of the Headless Horseman, the Headless Horseman is a gunfighter who somehow lost his head. Possibly in a botched hanging, but this (like so much else in the movie) is never really explained.
  • In Accident Man, Mike decapitates Atal Zim with a single stroke of Jane's katana after deciding he is not worth the far more elaborate demise he originally had planned.
  • Torture Garden: The evil cat in "Enoch" demands that the heads of the victims his servants kill for him have their heads removed. When Colin can no longer kill people because he is imprisoned, the cat visits him in his cell. When the constable next checks on him, Colin headless corpse is lying on his bunk.
  • Under the Bed: The monster kills one of the Evans boys by ripping his head off with its bare hands.
  • In Lizzie Borden's Revenge, Lizzie decapitates Janice with a single swing of her axe.
  • In Evil Breed: The Legend of Samhain, Steve is decapitated when he runs into a length of Razor Floss strung between two trees while running from the Shape.
  • Killer/saurus: In the opening scene, one of the scientists goes into the printing room to check on the dinosaur, and is promptly attacked. Afterwards, her severed head flies out of the room.
  • Triassic World: When things start to go downhill, it's kicked off by a security guard trying to warn everyone before getting his head bitten off by a dinosaur.
  • In Most Likely to Die, The Graduate murders Bella by slashing her throat, then ripping her head off with his hands.
  • A Hidden Life: Franz and other prisoners are put to death by guillotine.
  • In The Erotic Rites of Frankenstein, the first woman the monster kidnaps is decapitated so by Cagliostro's cult so that Cagliostro can use her head in constructing his female creature.
  • Deadtime Stories: Volume 1: In ''Valley of the Shadow", the entire expedition winds up beheaded with their heads mounted on sticks as a warning to other intruders.
  • In Vampires vs. Zombies, decapitation is one certain way to kill a vampire. The General takes Tessa's head off with an axe, while Travis uses a saw to cut off the head of the Jeep driver.

  • Animorphs: Visser Three's preferred method of execution, though he's a fan of torture as well.
  • Bloody Jack: Jacky has a date with Madame Guillotine in My Bonny Light Horseman.
  • Dark Shores: Basically, the surest way to kill a corrupted is to cut its head, as the life they have stolen from others allows them to heal even fatal injuries, like being spiked with arrows. Slicing the spine or crashing the skull also works in some cases.
  • In the Discworld book Thief of Time it's revealed that yetis can survive this (or, presumably, other causes of death, but this is the specific method used to demonstrate the ability) by, basically, Save Scumming. Becomes a Chekhov's Gun when Lu-Tze, in desperate gambit, uses it to survive Mr White beheading him. This made the Auditors shifted their attention to Unity long enough for Lu-Tze to Save Scum back and kills Mr White with chocolate
  • Aulis of The First Dwarf King kills the Demon Lord by chopping off all three of the latter's heads at once.
  • Harry Potter:
    • Nearly Headless Nick is decapitated, but his head stays attached to his body by some remaining flesh and remains that way in his ghostly form.
    • There are also properly decapitated ghosts that can throw their heads around at will and have formed "The Headless Hunt" which refuses to allow Nick to join.
    • In Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix Hagrid reveals that Karkus, the gurg of the giants who was sympathetic to the Order's cause, was decapitated and replaced by a usurper with Death Eater ties.
    • In Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Neville chops off Nagini's head with the sword of Gryffindor. After pulling it out of the flaming Sorting Hat.
  • In Lois McMaster Bujold's novel Barrayar, the heroine not only orders the decapitation of the enemy leader, but she also brings the head back to her base as evidence. In a shopping bag. The woman has style.
    Good God, woman, where have you been?
  • Somewhat subverted in Neal Stephenson's Snow Crash. While Hiro does actually manage to decapitate someone with his katana, he muses to himself how difficult it is to actually kill someone in this manner, and considers himself lucky that he managed it rather than getting his sword lodged in his victim's vertebrae.
  • Sir Gawain and the Green Knight. The Green Knight dares anyone to chop his head off with his own battle-axe. Sir Gawain chops off the Green Knight's head, only to have the Green Knight pick his own head up, and place it back upon his shoulders. One of the best-known stories of King Arthur.
  • In Dan Abnett's Gaunt's Ghosts novel First & Only, this is how the Inquisitor Heldane deals with the doctor who objects to his coming into the infirmary; it is told from the POV of the doctor, who sees his own boots and only then realizes that he lost his head.
    • In Traitor General, Uexkull kills the local commander this way when he fails to search for Gaunt and his men as a top priority.
    • In Duty Calls, Ciaphas Cain uses his chainsword to decapitate a psyker cultist who was trying to assassinate him.
  • Charles de Lint's novel Svaha has at least two scenes where characters (one of them the Big Bad) get decapitated in fairly gory detail.
  • In The Executioner series by Don Pendleton, when The Mafia boss says "bring me his head" he often means it literally. Bolan has to decapitate a man while posing as a Black Ace, whilst in another novel to stop the notorious One-Man Army from killing them all The Dragon hands over his Mafia bosses by floating them across a lake to Bolan in a boat. But not all of them. Just the heads.
  • In C. J. Cherryh's The Paladin, Shoka and Taizu are good enough with a sword to decapitate with seeming ease.
  • Another favorite kind of death in Brandon Sanderson's Mistborn series, especially as the Steel Ministry loves to dual-wield obsidian axes. There are the mass executions in The Final Empire, the first Steel Minister seen killed, and most brutally to the reader Elend Venture, possibly intentionally on his part at the climax of Hero of Ages.
    • Another memorable example is Elend killing his former best friend Jastes this way, the first person he ever kills.
  • In the Warhammer 40,000 novel Grey Knights, Justicar Tancred finishes off the fallen Saint Evisser reanimated by lopping his head off.
  • Robert Olen Butler's book Severance consists entirely of vignettes presenting the imagined last thoughts of decapitation victims throughout history (including a few non-humans and the occasional fictional character). Very weird, quite fascinating.
  • Many know the trope name from Alice's Adventures in Wonderland, in which the Queen of Hearts shouts "Off with his head!" and "Off with her head!" and "Off with their heads!" to order the execution of almost everyone at the croquet game. It isn't until the Tim Burton version that the Queen is actually seen to have gone through with it, though. Every other time, victims were pardoned behind her back by the King.
    The Gryphon: It's all her fancy, that: they never executes nobody, you know.
  • In the first book of A Song of Ice and Fire, the rather shocking end of the road for Ned Stark, firmly planting the Anyone Can Die aspect of the series. Also, the fate of several lesser characters declared traitors by the crown, including some poor, innocent dwarfs.
    • Also in the first book, Gregor Clegane decapitates his own horse during the tourney scene.
    • The entire series grew from George R. R. Martin's vision of a man being beheaded whilst a young boy watched. He wrote the scene and found it expanding into a second chapter and then a third. Thus, the first book was born.
    • However, the only "clean" decapitations are done with Valyrian steel swords, or headsman's axes designed for this very purpose. Decapitations using other weapons are usually done in three or more strokes.
  • In Robert E. Howard's Conan the Barbarian story "Beyond the Black River," Zogar Sag has his enemies decapitated so their heads can be offered on an altar.
  • In Isabel Allende's "The House Of Spirits", Clara's mother Nívea has her head cut off when she and her husband Severo perish in a crash car and a metal shard beheads her. Her head goes flying and isn't found until much, much later, when Clara is about to give birth to Blanca: she gets a vision of said head and goes searching for it with Esteban and some servants.
  • Anita Blake often requests this (if she can't do it herself) for crazy old/powerful vampires/shapeshifters to ensure they're Deader Than Dead.
  • Done through guillotines (referred to as "loyalty enforcement facilitators") on the general populace to enforce the law of taking the "mark of loyalty" during the Tribulation in the Left Behind book series.
  • The Headless Horseman in The Legend of Sleepy Hollow was a Hessian trooper who was decapitated by a cannonball, and they were unable to find his head.
  • Merlin does this several times in the Safehold novels. Often with comments by observers on the fact that normal people aren't physically capable of cutting people's heads off with a single swing. Of course, Merlin is a PICA with a battle steel katana, not a normal person.
  • The Saga of the Jomsvikings: After the Battle of Hjorunga Bay, seventy Jomsvikings who have failed to get away are taken prisoner by the Norwegians, and are set to be executed by beheading. One by one, ten Vikings get decapitated until their death-defiance impresses the captors sufficiently they pardon the rest.
  • Land of Oz:
    • In The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, our heroes are beset by a pack of vicious wolves. The Tin Woodsman swings his axe and decapitates one wolf, then decapitates another with a single axe swing, then another, then another; every swing of his axe separated a wolf's head from its shoulders. By the time he was done, there was a great big pile of headless wolf bodies lying at his feet.
    • Princess Langwidere from Ozma of Oz has a unique non-fatal example. As she collects heads to swap with her own on certain days to suit her mood which comes with different personalities, and she attempts to force Dorothy to trade her head for one she doesn't mind letting go from her collection (which is a case of Blue-and-Orange Morality, as the Princess thinks it is a perfectly fair and equitable deal—even generous, and simply can't understand why Dorothy objects).
  • This is the fate of Prince Baird at the end of the third Beka Cooper book for his role as the willing figurehead of the conspiracy against his brother King Roger. (For the record, Baird got off lightly. Everyone else was drawn and quartered.)
  • James Bond
    • The dying leader of SPECTRE in Nobody Lives for Ever organizes a literal headhunt for Bond, as the person who manages to kill him is required to bring his head to the leader on a silver charger to claim his prize of ten million Swiss francs.
    • A backstory detail in Never Send Flowers concerns of a Serial Killer who believed that an Egyptian Goddess spoke to him, and decapitated four women on her orders.
    • After being bested in a duel, the eponymous villain in The Man with the Red Tattoo commits Seppuku, and his friend finishes the ritual by decapitating him.
    • As Bond and fellow agent try to The Dragon out of a train window in Devil May Care, they suddenly enter a tunnel, and he ends up decapitated.
  • In the third book of the Christ Clone Trilogy, the main protagonist Decker Hawthorne gets his head lopped off by The Antichrist with a sword.
  • The Hunger Games: Finnick Odair. He is killed by having his head bitten off by giant white lizard mutts in Mockingjay.
  • Wolf Hall is about the reign of Henry VIII through the eyes of Thomas Cromwell, so. The beheadings of Sir Thomas More and Bishop Fisher occur in the first book. The second, Bring Up the Bodies, has the famed execution of Anne Boleyn carried out by a specialist from France to ensure she gets a Clean Cut. Her brother was not so lucky; at the block, it took three attempts by the executioner and the other four men accused of being her lovers in one.
  • The Dresden Files has this as the default punishment for breaking the laws of magic. Wardens typically carry a Cool Sword for this purpose, since even they are beholden to the law that Thou Shalt Not Kill Using Magic.
  • Last two sentences of Someone Is Bleeding by Richard Matheson read as follows:
    And when they took away the thing that Peggy was fondling in her lap she said they mustn’t. She said they had to let her keep his head because she loved the man.
    • Notably averted in the French film adaptation, Le Seines de Glace (Icy Breasts).
  • In Starfleet Corps of Engineers, Soloman's Bynar partner is decapitated by a flying Insectoid Alien's scythe-like appendage. Rather than return to Bynar to be paired with another of his kind, Soloman chooses to stay with the ship, trying to learn to be a singular being.
  • In Armageddon Force, this is how the main villain is dispatched; he gets punched so hard (the arm is cybernetic) that his head flies off.
  • Villains by Necessity: This turns out to be one of the only ways someone can be killed permanently as otherwise magical resurrection could be done. Sam kills Mizzamir in this manner near the end.
  • The Barbarian and the Sorceress: This is how Barnabus is killed.
  • In Roald Dahl's Revolting Rhymes, the story of Cinderella has one of the ugly stepsisters replace the glass slipper with one of her own shoes, so it naturally fits. Horrified at the thought of marrying someone so ugly and obnoxious, the Prince cuts the ugly stepsister's head off in one blow, then does the same to the other sister when she offers to try on the shoe. Cinderella, horrified that her "Prince Charming" chops people's heads off at the slightest provocation, decides to wash her hands of the whole thing and gets the Fairy Godmother to set her up with a humble jam-maker instead.
  • Shadow of the Conqueror:
    • After Dayless conquered Hamahra and executed the queen, her young daughter swore to subject him to a Cruel and Unusual Death for his treason. Dayless responded by lopping her head off.
    • After destroying Daybreak, Dayless's Archknight advisor turned on him and attacked. Knowing that some Archknights possess a powerful Healing Factor, Dayless went for the head.
    • A beggar tries to rob and murder Daylen in an alleyway, which ends with said beggar's severed head pinned to a wall with a dagger.
    • When Daylen and Lyrah catch two men in the act of Attempted Rape, she cuts both their heads off with blinding speed. This might have been a mercy, as Daylen castrated the last man he caught in such a situation.
    • Daylen's use of Imperious and Lyrah's massive Super Strength means that any fight either of them is in is likely to involve a decapitation or two, alongside their targets being Half the Man He Used to Be.
  • The Reluctant King: The city state of Xylar operates under an odd custom where after five years each of their kings is publicly beheaded. At that point, his head is thrown into the crowd, with whoever catching this then becoming their next king. However, they have to suffer the same fate once their own five years are up. Jorian however escaped.
  • Isaac Asimov's "Let's Get Together": When Lynn shoots Breckenridge, he hits the neck, causing The Mole's head to roll around on the floor.

    Live-Action TV 
  • So many heads rolled in the miniseries Henry VIII (2003) that it practically became a Running Gag. The King plays a particularly nasty joke on Cromwell: the executioner has never taken off anyone's head before. The results are not pretty.
  • Unsurprisingly as it's the same story, The Tudors has this frequently as well, the scene of many a moving last speech beforehand. Though in this one the nasty joke against Cromwell is not by the king but several councillors. Eventually a nearby guard rushes in to take off his head, after over half a dozen less than accurate attempts by the inebriated headsman.
  • Beheading would appear to be the standard method of execution in Merlin (though Burn the Witch! is also pretty common). As of yet, they have not shown it on screen.
  • On the edu-tainment show, Deadliest Warrior, one of the hosts gives this as the signal when testing the makraka, a sickle-like weapon used by the Zande tribe of Central Africa on a ballistic gel torso dummy. It does its job.
  • In the first episode of The Black Adder, Edmund decapitates someone trying to steal his horse at the Battle of Bosworth Field. When he and Baldrick examine the head he's just cut off: "Oooh dear, Richard the Third."
    • And the Blackadder II episode "Head", in which Edmund gets made Lord Executioner, Baldrick becomes the man with the axe and Hilarity Ensues. We don't see the actual beheadings, although we do see one of the heads.
  • The 1980 miniseries Shogun was noted as being the first American network production to actually show a head being cut off on screen. The VHS version of the mini-series is gorier and shows the blood spurting from the neck.
  • The Highlander TV series, like the films, is also predicated on the fact that a beheading is the only way for Macleod to survive battles with other immortals. Therefore this happens in virtually every episode (although usually off-screen).
  • Buffyverse. The title characters of Buffy and Angel occasionally decapitate their enemies—mostly vampires or demons.
    Adam: You fear the cross. The sun. Fire. And, oh yes... (Adam pulls a vampire's head off through sheer strength) I believe decapitation is a problem as well.
    • How Xander kills Toru.
    • How Glory deactivates the Buffybot until the Scoobies rebuild her.
  • The Collector: One woman made a Deal with the Devil the moment she was beheaded. Also happened to Morgan once. He got better.
  • In the Mystery Science Theater 3000 episode featuring Manos: The Hands of Fate, Dr. Forrester invents the Chocolate Bunny Guillotine. It's Exactly What It Says on the Tin.
    • In the Netflix revival, Jonah has a habit of yanking off Tom's dome head whenever he goes too far with something.
  • Happens many, MANY times in 1000 Ways to Die:
    • "D. U. Die": A drunken motorist suffering from a bought of car-sickness sticks his head out the window to puke...and is decapitated by a mailbox, to the horror of his equally drunken passenger.
    • "Road Killed": A hippie chick going to a hemp convention runs over a raccoon, and tries to use CPR on it. Tilting her head up to cough, she has her head ripped off by the bumper of an incoming vehicle.
    • "Tongue-Tied": Two teens driving separate cars lean out the window to kiss, only to get decapitated by a forklift in the road
    • "Golden Die-Angle": A Laotian drug lord chasing after thieves end up decapitated by the very barbed wire fence he used as a security measure
    • "Kung Pao Pow!!!": A greedy crematorium worker steals the gold teeth from a corpse said to be of a man who died from getting struck by lightning strike. He wasn't killed from lighting, the man was actually killed when a weather rocket launched in order to bring rain to drought-damaged land refuse to detonate, fell back to Earth, and struck him in the chest. When the corpse was put in the furnace, the rocket's warhead ignited and blew the hatch off with enough force to decapitate the worker.
    • "Odds Are You're Dead": A loan shark cuts the hydraulic line on a scissor lift, which collapses onto his neck and decapitates him
    • "Miss-Ur Head": A criminal in early 20th century France is executed by the guillotine, with a doctor in attendance to his execution to study the effects of a freshly lopped-off head to prove that consciousness is maintained briefly after beheading, thus making the guillotine an inhumane form of capital punishment. (See Real Life below)
    • "Withdrawn": A bank robber (obviously based on Brian Wells) wears a C4 bomb collar around his neck to convince the tellers and cops that he was being forced to commit the heist. When one freaked-out teller deactivates her car alarm to get away from the madness, she unknowingly activates the collar's remote blast cap (which was on the same frequency as her alarm remote), causing it to explode and take the robber's head clean off. Well, not exactly clean, but you get the picture...
  • Occurs at least every third episode in the Stars version of 'Spartacus. Usually done in a single sword stroke, with one notable exception near the end of the third season.
  • Game of Thrones.
    • Ned Stark has an enormous greatsword made of Valyrian steel called Ice that he uses for executions, and he does so in the first episode, taking a deserter's head off in a single stroke. Towards the end of the first series, he is beheaded with his own sword when Joffrey instructs Ilyn Payne to 'bring me his head'.
    • In Season 2 Theon Greyjoy, after proclaiming himself Lord of Winterfell, tries to execute someone using an ordinary sword and makes a complete mess of it, hacking and kicking madly until the head finally comes off. This contrasts with Ned's clean single stroke and Ned's own execution.
    • In Season 3, Robb Stark is forced to behead one of his bannermen, Rickard Karstark, for treason. Like his father and unlike Theon, he manages to do it in one swift stroke.
    • In Season 6, Gregor Clegane shows off his even more impressive strength as Robert Strong by casually tossing aside a Sparrow (religious follower, not the bird), and nearly effortlessly ripping his head off, with his bare hands, while his younger brother Sandor decapitates a Brotherhood marauder in one swing with a wood axe.
    • Robb Stark was beheaded posthumously.
    • Though Septa Mordane was not necessarily killed this way, her head is later displayed alongside Ned's and those of the rest of the Stark household.
    • It's unclear if Shaggydog was killed this way, but the Umbers make a Decapitation Presentation of his head nonetheless in season 6.
    • Dany has Mossador executed by beheading, which is carried out by Daario.
    • This was how Rakharo died.
  • In episode 6 of MythQuest, Alex takes the place of Caradoc the Younger. He beheads Elveis as part of a bet and is later sentenced to be beheaded himself (for a different reason).
  • Midsomer Murders:
    • In "Death's Shadow", the first Victim of the Week is decapitated by a single blow from an Indian sword.
    • In "Midsomer Rhapsody" a motorcyclist is decapitated by a length of piano wire strung across the road at neck height.
    • In "They Seek Him Here", the victims are beheaded with a prop guillotine on the set of a film adaptation of The Scarlet Pimpernel.
    • In "The Sword of Guillaume", the first two victims are beheaded with a medieval longsword.
  • The Doctor about to be beheaded as been used as a cliffhanger in at least three Doctor Who serials: "The Masque of Mandragora", "Four to Doomsday" and "The Visitation".
  • In "The Wrong War" (also known as "The Frogs and the Lobsters") from Horatio Hornblower miniseries, Colonel le Marquis de Moncoutant has his personal guillotine. He gleefully uses it to behead half the village for treason, which was actually stuff like selling old bread. It bites him in the butt, though, because when Royalist forces collapse, the villagers execute him, equally gleefully.
  • In From Dusk Till Dawn this is how Carlos deals with some people that are trying to steal from him, followed by Decapitation Presentation.
  • Salem: While Rose is gloating about her foresight to Mary, Mercy comes out of nowhere and decapitates her with a razor.
  • During the final episode of 24: Live Another Day, Jack decapitates Cheng Zhi in revenge for Audrey's death.
  • In American Horror Story: Freak Show, this is the postmortem fate of Ethel, Salty, the curator of the American Morbidity Museum, and several of Twisty's victims.
  • New Tricks: The Body of the Week in "Romans Ruined" was a decapitated corpse found in a sandpit. UCOS gets involved when the murder weapon (a Roman sword) and the head are discovered years later. In a nod to realism, it is noted that it took several blows to remove the head.
  • Daredevil (2015):
    • John Healy, an assassin hired by Wilson Fisk for a job, goes to a bowling alley to carry out a hit. After taking out the target's bodyguards, he pulls a gun on his target...only for it to jam (despite Turk Barrett assuring him it wouldn't). Healy is forced to take the target on in a battle of fisticuffs, and after breaking both of his target's arms, finishes the guy off by smashing his head to pieces with a ten-pound bowling ball.
    • Wilson Fisk kills Anatoly Ranskahov by beating him unconscious, then bashing his head in with a car door until it snaps clean off the neck. All because the guy interrupted Fisk's date with Vanessa.
    • When Stick is first introduced in his titular episode in season 1, he cuts off a Yakuza gangster's hand, gets him to reveal where the Black Sky is headed, then decapitates him.
    • In the season 2 finale, Matt pitches Nobu off the rooftop. Nobu survives, so Stick finishes him off by impaling him, then slicing his head off. As revealed in later shows, this means Nobu can't resurrect anymore.
  • Jessica Jones (2015): After Jessica finds that Kilgrave has killed Ruben by making him cut his throat in Jessica's bed, she tries to get herself thrown in prison in an attempt to protect the people she cares about. Her 'plan', as it is, involves cutting off Ruben's head, going to the precinct, and dropping the head in a grocery bag on Det. Oscar Clemons' desk. The plan falls apart because Kilgrave tracks Jessica there and makes the cops point their guns at each other, and after giving Jessica an ultimatum, he makes the cops dismiss the severed head as the world's greatest prank ever.
    Kilgrave: Manual decapitation? [laughs] You're full of surprises.
  • Luke Cage (2016): The Stylers' modus operandi in season 2 is to cut off the heads of their enemy's associates then send the heads to the boss as messages.
    • In the first episode, Bushmaster kills Nigel Garrison, leader of the Brooklyn Yardies, then decapitates him posthumously and presents the head in a briefcase full of cash that he gives to Shades.
    • To officially declare his war on Mariah Dillard, Bushmaster arranges for the deaths of Mark Higgins (Atreus Plastics CEO who Mariah just blackmailed), Cockroach Hamilton (a gun buyer), and Ray-Ray Jackson (a bodyguard at Harlem's Paradise), and mounts their heads on pikes in the entrance of Mariah's new Shirley Chisholm complex, positioned so that they're prominently revealed during Mariah's ribbon-cutting ceremony.
    • Simultaneously with the severed heads, Bushmaster's men make several efforts to grab Mariah's banker Piranha Jones. After Luke thwarts the first few attempts, they are able to capture Piranha, make him empty Mariah's bank accounts, then kill him. They then decapitate him and leave his head in a tank of, well, piranhas, which is how Luke and Misty find him.
  • Iron Fist (2017):
    • Decapitation is said to be the only way to permanently kill someone that's been resurrected by the Hand, meaning Nobu is dead for good.
    • Madame Gao personally kills one of her henchmen, King, by skewering him through the head with her Sword Cane, after Danny and Colleen overpower him and manages to get the Hand's chemist Radovan away from them. Then she cuts off his head and skewers it on a pole in the back of a truck, where Danny and Ward find it the next day, with a stick on it with the address of a location where Danny is to be challenged in a duel with several Hand assassins.
  • The Defenders (2017): Continuing from Iron Fist, decapitation is the only way to permanently kill a Hand member, especially when they lack the substancenote  they use to revive themselves (due to Alexandra having used up their remaining reserves to revive Elektra). Over the course of the show, three of the Hand's five Fingers meet their demise by decapitation:
    • First Stick decapitates Sowande diagonally when he tries to kidnap Danny using the distraction of Matt telling Luke and Jessica about Elektra.
    • One episode later, after capturing Danny (and killing Stick in the process) and delivering him to the Hand, Elektra abruptly kills Alexandra in this way while she's chewing out Murakami, Bakuto and Madame Gao.
    Elektra Natchios: His name is Matthew. [pulls her sai out of Alexandra's body, letting the body fall to the floor] And my Elektra Natchios. You all work for me now. [as if on second thought, Elektra then turns and abruptly cuts Alexandra's head off with her remaining katana blade] Any questions?
    • In the finale, Colleen Wing, Misty Knight, and Claire Temple take on Bakuto, and unlike their duel in Iron Fist, Colleen successfully kills Bakuto for good by decapitating him, but not before Bakuto slices off Misty's right arm.
  • The Punisher (2017): When Billy Russo's men track Frank Castle to David's compound, Frank surprises them by decapitating one of Russo's men, then strapping a grenade to the head before throwing it as an explosive.
  • The Ultra Series features this a fair bit in its earlier shows, back when Japanese censors weren't as concerned with how the heroes killed the monsters, most notably Ultraseven and Ultraman Ace.
  • Miss Fisher's Murder Mysteries: In "Death Defying Feats", a magician's assistant is decapitated when the killer sabotages the prop guillotine being used in the act, turning it into a Not-So-Fake Prop Weapon.
  • In the TV adaptation of Scream, the first kill is of a boy named Tyler getting his head chopped off. We don't see the deed, but we do see the severed head get tossed into his girlfriend Nina's hot tub.
  • Jonathan Creek: A sabotaged chainsaw leads to decapitation in "The Clue of the Savant's Thumb". This leads to an elaborate cover-up in which a body seems to vanish from a locked room.
  • The New Avengers: In "Trap", Soo Choy plans to behead Steed, Gambit, and Purdey as revenge for foiling his drug operation. He gets as far as getting Gambit's head on the chopping block.
  • The Tudors again in Wolf Hall. This time, only two beheadings are shown, that of Sir Thomas More in the fourth episode and Anne Boleyn's in the sixth and final one. In each case, the camera cuts away from the scene just as the executioner is about to strike. Both were orchestrated by the protagonist, Thomas Cromwell, but he also seems to be one of the only named characters who show any respect for Anne as she ascends the scaffold.
  • Star Trek: Deep Space Nine:
    • In "Apocalypse Rising", an undercover Sisko punches out a Klingon warrior after he brags about beheading the Tellarite first officer of a Federation ship, before ripping the Benzite captain's breathing apparatus off so she'd slowly suffocate. Sisko knew the captain personally.
    • Discussed in "Nor the Battle to the Strong", when a group of hospital workers discusses how they'd prefer to die if Klingons (with whom the Federation is at war at the moment) break into the hospital. One suggests being clearly decapitated with a bat'leth, only for another to say that he heard that the head remains alive for some time after death, making it a pretty horrible way to go.
  • Star Trek: Picard: In "Absolute Candor", Tenqem decides to continue his assault on Picard after being warned by Elnor that he'd be choosing to die, so Elnor cuts his head off.
  • In Moonlight, decapitation is one of the two known ways to kill a vampire (the other being fire). Despite this, it only happens twice on the show, and only once intentionally. The other time, the vampire slipped, while running on a roller coaster track and got stuck, with his head perfectly positioned to be struck by a speeding coaster.
  • Happens quite a lot in Grimm. The Grimm are well-known (and feared) among the Wesen for this method of killing, as many Wesen are far tougher than humans. The Reapers, trained to hunt the Grimm, usually carry scythes in order to do the same to their hated enemies. It's also revealed that, prior to the Brothers Grimm becoming synonymous with others of their kind, Wesen hunters were known as "Decapitare", which is Latin for "decapitator", or more literally "he who decapitates". Some Wesen still use the older name.
  • The CSI franchise had had a few episodes in which at least one Body of the Week dies via decapitation:
    • CSI
      • "A la Cart": A go-kart racer loses his head on a road outside of Vegas. Near the end, the CSIs test their theory on a dummy, which is proven correct. As it turns out, the guy was racing a rival on a road at night. The rival passed a semi, causing the truck to swerve. One of the truck's tires burst and the rubber was flung backward at over 100 miles per hour... right at the head of the unfortunate victim, ripping it clean off.note 
      • "Blood Moon": At the end of a "vampire and werewolf" convention, one of the attendees masquerading as a vampire is beheaded the night after its festivities end.
      • "Jackpot": The CSIs looking in the death of a young man upon receiving his severed head. When his body is discovered in a forest in Jackpot, Nevada, it's discovered that he was buried up to his neck, his cheek was cut with a blade and was decapitated by predatory animals drawn to the scent of his blood.
      • "Last Victim Standing": A pro poker player found decapitated near the end of the episode.
      • "Way to Go": An actor who recreates battles from The American Civil War is found headless alongside railroad tracks.
    • CSI: Miami
      • "High Octane": Young adults perform dangerous automobile stunts in a beach parking lot at the start of the episode. One driver, who's sitting on the roof of his car as he uses his feet to maneuver the steering wheel, whenafter a saboteur remotely elevates his car high enough, an electrical wire (connected to a string of lights) cuts clean through his neck at 40 miles per hour.
    • CSI: NY
      • "Corporate Warriors": One case investigates a businessman who was beheaded using a katana swung with such force that the severed head remained balanced on the neck (he was sitting on a park bench at the time).
      • "Hung Out to Dry": A sorority girl's headless body is found hanging from a ceiling fan. It's soon discovered that the killer's weapon of choice was a blowtorch.
  • Mythbusters, in both its original and its revival series, have tested several legends about this trope.
    • Cases where decapitation is an integral outcome of the myth...
      • Can hair gel detonate in an oxygen-rich environment (such as a jet's cockpit) and cause the pilot's head to explode? Busted. It might start a small fire, but hardly anything more dangerous than that will happen.
      • Can a ceiling fan running at full speed decapitate someone? Busted. Standard household wooden blades, industrial metal blades, and lawnmower blades were tested. The wooden blades would only result in a sore throat; the industrial and lawnmower blades were able to puncture the neck, but couldn't detach the head from the neck.
      • Taken from Lethal Weapon 2: Can a surfboard both penetrate through a windshield at 40 miles (64 km) per hour and immediately decapitate the driver of an oncoming vehicle in one fell swoop? Busted. Regardless of speed, all the surfboards used in this test simply deflected off the windshield.
      • If a tire on an eighteen-wheeler explodes, can the rubbery shrapnel decapitate a motorcyclist? Confirmed. If the tire tread it flying at least 40 miles (64 km) an hour, not only could it tear a motorcyclist's head off if connects, it could also decapitate anyone riding in a car with its windows rolled up.
      • Can a sheet of glass flying in a tornado decapitate someone? Confirmed quite easily, in fact, at speeds as low as 70 miles (119 km) per hour. Speaking of flying guillotines...
      • Could "flying guillotines" (tethered "hat" weapons that can decapitate someone and return the head back to its thrower in a bucket) have existed as viable weapons? Plausible. If they actually were used, they were likely to have been used in situations for a stealthy assassination; live-combat usage would have been impractical due to accuracy issues when thrown.
      • Is Delayed Causality (the possibility of a severed head temporarily staying in place before falling off) possible? Busted. Both a watermelon and a prop zombie head were used as targets for a rocket-propelled guillotine. Once the blade sliced through them, the upper halves of each fell to the floor almost immediately.
    • Where decapitation is a potential outcome, though not being an inherent part of the myth...
      • When testing if pirates fired anything they could find out of a cannon, a chain, if used in place of a cannonball cut straight through a pig carcass, which makes decapitation — and a likely messier death — a frightening possibility.
      • Keeping either a bowling ball or a hatchet on a car's backboard while slamming on the brakes could create a cannonball and a flying guillotine, respectively.
      • A scene from the film Headhunters suggests a man of normal build could survive getting T-boned from a big rig in the back seat of a squad car, provided he was sandwiched between two heavyset police officers as opposed to being alone. This was proven false; while the normal-sized passenger might have had some chance of survival, he was decapitated after being forced to share the back seat with the cops.
  • Motive: In "Remains to be Seen", the Victim of the Week is decapitated with a katana.
  • The Outer Limits (1995): In "Promised Land", Krenn and Dlavan perform burial rites in which they behead David's corpse to release his spirit. Naturally, this comes off as wrong to the watching Rebecca, who doesn't understand their custom or language.
  • Father Brown: "The Resurrectionists" starts with a young man on a motorcycle being decapitated by a low hanging branch. However, this turns out to be a case of Faking the Dead.
  • The Boys (2019): A security guard's head is blasted off by the Eye Beams of a superpowered baby held by Billy Butcher. Notably, there's no clean cauterization of the wound as usually expected with beam wounds, and instead there's thick gore from both the neck stump and the separated head.
  • In Dracula (2020), Dracula beheads Mother Superior during his invasion of the convent.
  • Happens several times in Resurrection Ertugrul. Season 1 gives us Sahabettin Tugrul, Kurdoglu Bey, and Petruchio Manzini, season 2 has Kocabas Alp, Gumustekin Bey, Bogac Alp, and Doruk Bey, the death of Ural Bey counts as this in season 3, Sadettin Kopek and Tekfur Kritos suffer this fate in season 4, while the fifth season presents us the deaths of Lais, Uranos, and Dragos.

  • Happens frequently in SMG4's Mario Bloopers.
  • A repeated problem for Lopez on Red vs. Blue, though inverted. He spends the latter half of The Blood Gulch Chronicles reduced to a head. Not that this stops him from building O'Malley a robot army or firing a turret gun. ("He's very determined," according to Simmons) Sarge rebuilds him after Season 5, but when Lopez shows up in Season 11, he's revealed to have somehow lost the rest of his body again. He manages to get a new body by the end, and Season 12 shows that he's somehow able to control it if dismembered again.
    • The rematch between the buff Insurrectionist and Agent Maine in Season 10 ends with Maine taking the man's head off with one punch.


  • The music video for Praxis' "Animal Behavior" depicts Rammellzee (the guy wearing a robot samurai armor) beheading Buckethead.
  • "Beheaded" by The Offspring is about the singer decapitating people and keeping their heads.
  • The oldest and most frequent method of execution used to climax Alice Cooper's concerts is the guillotine.
    • Seen used in the concert film "Good To See You Again, Alice Cooper" with magician James Randi working it and holding up Alice's severed head (in reality, a prop head).
    • Alice also appeared on The Gong Show with this, singing "I Think I'm Going Out Of My Head". Instead of gonging him, Chuck Barris activated the guillotine on him.
  • A specialty for GWAR
  • "Paranoid Android" by Radiohead: "Off with his head, man".
  • The third segment to "A Complicated Song" by "Weird Al" Yankovic involves Al losing his head after he stands up on a roller coaster ride.
  • Sir Marmaduke is beheaded by his wife in To Keep My Love Alive.
  • Cormorant recounts the Cruel and Unusual Death off Maximilien Robespierre in "Uneasy Lies the Head".
  • A woman in a Bad-Guy Bar gets her head yanked off and passed to another person in the video for "Weird Al" Yankovic's "Eat It", which parodies the video for Michael Jackson's "Beat It".
  • In "Angel and the Ghost" by Leaves' Eyes, the female speaker is beheaded for refusing a duke's advances. In the spoken-word bridge of the song, her ghost promises to haunt him at night and lay her head before his feet.
  • Edmund Kemper in Macabre's song about him would pick up hitchhiking Co-Ed’s and cut off their heads.

    Mythology, Religion And Folklore 
  • Severed heads were a pretty common trope in Celtic Mythology, since they identified it as the location of the soul. The most famous is probably Bran the Blessed, whose still-living head is buried somewhere in the South-East of England to guard the British Isles against invaders.
  • Older Than Feudalism: Perseus killed Medusa this way, using a magic sword to hack through the bronze scales on her neck, with the added bonus that her powers still worked on anyone he showed it to.
  • There's an entire category of Christian Saints - the cephalophores - who are usually depicted as holding their severed heads.
    • Saint Denis, patron saint of France, was decapitated by the Romans only to pick up his head and walk off with it, cheerfully singing praises to the Lord until he reached the nearest village and dropped dead there. Predictably, he's depicted in art and media as a headless man who carries his own mitred head in his hand.
    • The most intriguing figure though is probably Saint Cuthbert, who, while never decapitated himself, is frequently depicted holding the severed head of Saint Oswald. Mystifying when you consider that Oswald had been dead for decades before Cuthbert arrived on the scene.
    • The concept of cephalophore (Greek kephalos = head, phorein = to bear), a headless statue with the head on its arms, comes from the image of a beheaded saint.
  • Biblical examples:
    • David beheaded Goliath with the giant's own sword.
    • John the Baptist was beheaded while in prison at the request of Herod's wife.
    • Sheba son of Bicri had his head thrown over a town wall in 2 Samuel 20.
    • Saul and Ishbosheth were both beheaded after they were killed (2 Samuel).
    • Judith decapitated the Assyrian warlord Holofernes in the apocryphal Book of Judith.
  • There is a truly creepy Chinese story of a beheaded general whose body did not die. His family took it home and it communicated with them via writing. It even begot a son on the 'widow'. ICK!


  • In the Cool Kids Table game Small Magic, this is how Maggie defeats the cockatrice.
    • In Bloody Mooney, Mooney tears the head of one of the government agents clean off.
  • Dealing as it does with The French Revolution, Revolutions deals a lot—like a lot with deaths by guillotine—or as Mike Duncan put it "zip, thud, the end."

    Professional Wrestling 

  • Averted in How Green Was My Cactus - when the prime minister of Cactus Island (Australia) particularly annoys her, Queen Bessie of Buckinghuge Palace is disappointed that she does not have the same powers as previous monarchs.
    "Phillip, do I still have the power to behead people? Lock them in the tower, perhaps? Punch in the face would do."
  • Averted in Cabin Pressure when the Bratty Half-Pint A Child Shall Lead Them King Maxie of Lichtenstein is constantly threatening to behead his schoolmates, despite his sister Princess Theresa telling him he doesn't actually have the right to do that.

    Tabletop Games 
  • Vorpal weapons from Dungeons & Dragons have this as their primary power, activating upon rolling a natural 20 on a D20 and then confirming the Critical Hit. Downplayed in 5th Edition, where creatures with Legendary Actions take lots of extra damage but are protected from decapitation by what's effectively Plot Armor.
  • In New World of Darkness, both vampires and werewolves are capable of regenerating lost body parts... except the head. Lopping off the head ends their hunt for good.
  • Games Workshop games:
    • Worshipers, Daemons and Champions of Khorne from Warhammer, Warhammer: Age of Sigmar and Warhammer 40,000 go for the skull yelling "BLOOD FOR THE BLOOD GOD! SKULLS FOR THE SKULL THRONE!", cutting the heads from worth opponents as offerings for their bloodthirsty god.
    • Warhammer 40,000
      • During the Horus Heresy, Fulgrim presented Horus with the polished skull of Ferrus Manus after the Drop Site Massacre. Later, he chopped the head off one of his commanders, Eidolon, when he felt the Astartes was being too mouthy, but had it sewn back on when he realized Eidolon was still a useful commander to have around.
      • The Horus Heresy Book One - Betrayal tells some stories of warriors who went this route. Captain Lercon Hurn of the XVI Legion's 3rd Company pulled the Panarch of Somon's head off with his bare hands after killing his guards with said hands and Horus sent the Emperor the gold-plated skull of Vatale Gerron Terentius with the message "So perish all traitors."
      • Ghazkhull Thraka suffered this during the Psychic Awakening storyline, courtesy of a Mutual Kill between him and Ragnar Blackmane. Thanks to his orky physiology and a couple staples courtesy of Mad Dok Grotsnik, he got better.
      • Alicia Dominica, leader of the Brides of the Emperor, put an end to the Age of Apostasy with her beheading of the crazed High Lord Goge Vandire. The group originally known as Daughters of the Emperor would later become the Adepta Sororitas, the main military force for the Adeptus Ministorum and considered one of the most elite forces utilized by the Imperium.
  • Ars Magica fanzine Mythic Perspectives #9, article "Draugadrottin, The Norse Necromancer". A draug (Norse zombie) can be killed by decapitating it with a single blow. Some legends say that only a sword taken from the draug's own grave can perform this task.

  • Gilbert and Sullivan:
    • Subverted in The Mikado, wherein the Lord High Executioner only accepted the post to keep his own head and cannot bring himself to kill anyone else. He claims to have beheaded Nanki-Poo, but produces him alive when it transpires that Nanki-Poo was the heir apparent, and Ko-Ko now faces the Mikado's wrath.
    • At the start of The Yeomen of the Guard, Colonel Fairfax, imprisoned in the Tower of London, is scheduled for beheading. His escape is the plot.
  • In the musical Celebration, "Saturnalia" ends with the execution of the Mock-King by decapitation. Mr. Rich is startled, perhaps because the puppet's head looks like his own.

    Theme Parks 

    Video Games 
  • While Your Head Asplode is common from killing headshots with ranged weaponry in Fallout 3, Off With His Head is possible with them as well as the more typical melee weapons. A head shot with a Railway Rifle will often result in the target's head being ripped off their body and nailed to the wall behind them.
  • Happens frequently when using the knife on card guards, in American McGee's Alice. The Queen does this to Cheshire late in the game.
  • In Weaponlord when one character's health hits zero it's possible for their opponent to take their head off with an attack. Continuing to attack the severed head in mid-air can lead to the head bursting open and the brain falling out.
  • Solom Jhee ends up suffering an anticlimactic death because of this trope in Suikoden II.
  • Mortal Kombat features a fair number of these in the Fatalities of certain characters. Perhaps the most notorious is Sub-Zero's Spine Rip fatality from the first game, where he pulls off an opponent's head, along with their entire spine dangling beneath it—it was so gruesome it ultimately resulted in the creation of the ESRB.
  • The ending of Mortal Kombat X has Raiden present Shinnok's severed head to new Netherrealm rulers Liu Kang and Kitana. The intro to Mortal Kombat 11 shows how that happened: after repeatedly subjecting the fallen Elder God to Electric Torture, Raiden manifests a blade made of electricity from his fist and uses it to decapitate Shinnok.
  • The backstory of Dieu Mort, the Arcana of Death in Arcana Heart, was that he was an executioner so obsessed with chopping off heads that he eventually chopped off his own head out of madness and curiosity.
  • Alex Mercer from [PROTOTYPE] only consumes the head of Hunters and Leader Hunters, as opposed to eating the whole body for human(-sized target)s. He also decapitates the Supreme Hunter with the Blade.
  • Dead Head Fred's eponymous anti-hero Fred Neuman does this to pretty much ANYONE that angers him. Hell, it's even a major plot AND gameplay point!
  • Wet features two major decapitations in-story. The first decapitation happens to Trevor Ackers upon Rubi's arrival with him in the hospital after taking him out of Hong Kong, beheaded by Tarantula on orders from who Rubi (and he) initially believes is the man's own father, William Ackers, but who turns out to be an Asian-based drug lord by the name of Rupert Pelham with aspirations of operating globally. The second decapitation is delivered by Rubi herself upon Pelham as her final vengeance at the very end of the game.
  • In the Japanese Playstation versions of Breath of Fire IV, Fou-lu decapitates the acting emperor Soniel with the very sword Soniel had just tried to run him through with. It's not graphically depicted, though, but shown in silhouette.
  • Team Fortress 2:
    • The "WAR Update" gave the Demoman a new weapon called the Eyelander, a haunted claymore that whispers "Heads..." Kills with the Eyelander grant the Demoman a stacking boost to speed and health and an enemy Demoman can take that boost for himself if he takes the Demoman's head. There can be only one!
    • Updates after that have included a large number of swords as Demoman melee weapons; while they decapitate, they don't give him boosts on kills except for the Eyelander reskins Nessie's Nine-Iron and the Horseless Headless Horsemann's Headtaker.
    • The Pyromania Update added the Hitman's Heatmaker as an alternative for the Sniper's Primary Weapon, which decapitates on a successful headshot kill.
  • In the No More Heroes games Travis Touchdown finishes off Mooks with either a vertical or a horizontal Finishing Move; the horizontal one decapitates them. Some of the bosses get their heads cut off in post-battle cutscenes, as well. Particularly impressive is Skelter Helter's death - his head is chopped off, flies straight up into the air, and lands right back where it had been removed from.
    • And then in the next cutscene, he talks to you, then rips his own head off. .... What?!
  • Doing a Perfect Shot in 50 Cent: Bulletproof will result in this. Even with submachine guns.
  • God Hand has the God Reel move Head Slicer.
  • Invoked in many of the later Samurai Shodown games. One fatality ( Basara Kubikiri's) involves the opponent being dragged down to hell in a portal, flayed, and their head thrown back to the battlefield with a satisfying thud.
  • Some creatures in the Resident Evil series could kill you this way. Eg. Hunters, Ivies (plant monsters), chainsaw-wielding enemies such as Dr. Salvador, Scythe Zealots, Garradors, and the advanced Plagas.
    • One particular instance distinguishes itself: not using the antidote on the Jack Baker during his last encounter in Resident Evil 7 will result in him grabbing you by the head and killing you: the last thing you see is your newly decapitated body in his other hand.
  • In Dead Space, one of The Many Deaths of You comes at the tentacles of the Separator: it tears Issac's head off and steals his body. Unfortunately, it doesn't work as well the other way; unlike with traditional zombies, decapitating a necromorph only makes it mad. Double Subverted because the Infector form creates necromorphs by jabbing its proboscis into the victim's head; preemptively cutting off the head of every corpse you encounter is sometimes worth the effort.
  • One of the death executions in Manhunt involves chopping the victim's head off with the axe. Another involves garroting with barbed wire, and another, decapitation with hedge clippers.
  • Blood Omen features Vorador, the most powerful character in the game, dying via decapitation. His head is later seen as a trophy in Soul Reaver 2 (which features decapitations as a possible finishing move that Raziel can perform). Also in Blood Omen, Kain dispatches Moebius. In Blood Omen 2, Kain will perform several decapitating stealth kills.
  • The Elder Scrolls:
    • This features in some of the in-universe books.
      • In 2920, Hearth Fire Emperor Reman Cyrodiil III has his mistress beheaded for treason (she was innocent). Here it actually takes two strokes, with the first hitting the back of her head.
      • In Hallgerd's Tale the title character beheads the man cuckolding him (during the act of cuckolding, we should note).
    • In Oblivion, the invading Daedra seem to really enjoy doing this captured mortals. For added measure, they then place the heads on pikes. Notably, they did this to St. Jiub the Eradicator when they sacked Kvatch. All that is left of him when you find his "corpse" in Kvatch is a severed head with a large chunk of his skull missing and a look of sheer terror on his dead face in the remains of a ruined house. (Oddly, despite being a Dunmer, it was modeled with human-like ears.)
    • Skyrim:
      • Happens at the very start of the game, with your head on the chopping block seconds away from execution. (A Villainous Rescue saves you, thankfully.) One unnamed Stormcloak gets a discount hair-cut via axe right before you.
      • Another instance occurs when you first enter the city of Solitude, for a man who aided Ulfric Stormcloak's escape after he killed the High King of Skyrim.
      • This is possible with the appropriate perks in the One-handed and Two-handed skill trees. And, unfortunately, enemies can do it to you too with a lucky swing. With a high success rate to boot.
  • Kratos is fond of ripping people's heads off in the God of War series. Among his kills in this fashion are Medusa from I and Helios from God of War III.
  • Time Killers lets you cut off an opponent's head at any point. A round can end in decapitation literally a half-second after it begins, and the loser's portrait shows them without their heads.
    • Its Spiritual Successor, BloodStorm, required a character-specific move, and each had a smaller hit radius, but the heads could still roll at any time.
  • NetHack has the vorpal blade, which has a 5% chance per hit of doing a One-Hit Kill via decapitation against any monster with a head.
  • A staple side effect of hitting zombies with a cutting or bludgeoning melee weapon (except for the Frying Pan of Doom) in Left 4 Dead 2.
  • Silent Hill: Homecoming is big on those, especially with the axe.
  • Eldigan is executed this way in Fire Emblem: Genealogy of the Holy War. In the Oosawa manga adaptation, King Chagall then sends his severed head to Eldigan's friends Sigurd and Quan and his sister Raquesis to taunt them.
  • Postal 2, the sequel to Postal, allows the player to do this using either thrown knives or a certain silenced pistol.
    • In the expansion? Vanilla Postal 2 has decapitation by shovel with some interesting options of what to do with the head afterward. You can also use a shotgun for Your Head A-Splode.
  • One of the more common ways to kill a zombie in the Dead Rising series.
  • In Target Terror, enemies' heads pop off and bounce towards you (as opposed to Your Head Asplode) when shot repeatedly.
  • The Aliens vs. Predator games, of course, feature plenty of decapitations as trophies and/or delicious snacks. Special mention to the Predator Speargun in AVP 2 that removes human heads and pins them to the wall. You can then collect the heads to recover the spear and trophy.
  • Katanas in Grand Theft Auto games that have them are capable of decapitating, even if the swing animation seems to be a one-handed swat. Hilarity Ensues in San Andreas where there's an Asian gangster on a boat that challenges you to a duel if you then immediately manage to slice his head off with one swing.
  • Good aim and proper use of the game's physics mechanics and controls allow the player to decapitate enemies in the third-person adventure game Die By The Sword.
  • In version 3, the Ao Oni kills Takuro by biting off their head. This also effectively demonstrates to Hiroshi and the others that contrary to their suspicions, the monster is very real.
  • In some scenes in Brain Dead 13 when Lance's head gets cut off or knocked off or bitten off. Of course, this becomes Pulling Himself Together by his head rejoining itself to his body thanks to the power of resurrection.
  • Against humanoid enemies this is a possible finishing move with edged weapons in Dragon Age: Origins. It comes spectacularly close to Rasputinian Death if the character has a Dual Wielding build: you run the guy through with one blade, then lop his head off with the other.
    • This is also how the Warden executes Loghain Mac Tir, should you decide to kill him (if Alistair doesn't do it first).
  • Happens fairly regularly in The Witcher when you use Group Style against humanoids. And appropriately so, since said sword art involves lots and lots of high-velocity horizontal slashes.
  • Raimund's death animation goes like this in RosenkreuzStilette: Upon receiving the final blow, he loses his Grollschwert and Grassense, and his Grassense cuts his head off before they disappear off the screen completely, after which the rest of his body starts exploding after his head disappears off the screen as well.
  • Diablo III's Demon Hunter can do this to demons with the Bola Shot ability. It was also apparently a common method of execution in Khanduras during the Darkening of Tristram, as evidenced in the Halls of Agony where you come across the decapitated ghost of Queen Asylla, who was executed by guillotine on orders from the maddened King Leoric.
    • Malthael does this to two of the Horadrim at the start of Reaper of Souls.
  • Age of Chivalry, later Chivalry: Medieval Warfare allows the player to do (and suffer) this with a sufficiently powerful or accurate blow to the head.
  • Native Mount & Blade does not allow for this, but the easily-found "Dismemberment and Decapitation" mod is Exactly What It Says on the Tin. Land a clean hit and watch as your opponent's head fly off with hilarious disregard for physics.
  • The old 1980s fighting game Barbarian featured a spinning jumping backslash move that if launched with the correct timing and distance to the enemy could instantly decapitate them.
  • Clive Barker's Undying: The only way to destroy the undead Covenants, and it has to be done with a certain weapon at that. This is also one of only two ways to make a skeleton stay down for good, the other being Revive Kills Zombie.
  • The Matrix: Path of Neo has a few decapitation moves though, oddly, no heads actually fall off, they fall down dead anyway.
  • Middle-earth: Shadow of Mordor: This is Tallion's signature execution. It makes sense, seeing as how it's one of the only ways to ensure that an orc is 100% dead. Your character can come back to life, AND SO CAN THEY - except from headshots.
  • The fastest way to defeat zombies and Horrors in Eternal Darkness is by beheading them. In particular, it is the safest way to deal with Ulyaoth-aligned zombies to prevent them from Taking You With Them.
  • Jedi Knight: Dark Forces II, Jedi Knight II: Jedi Outcast, and Jedi Knight: Jedi Academy all feature rather vigorous decapitations as one of your rewards for skilled lightsaber use—it will quickly and very definitively eliminate a threat in a single blow. A powerful head-height swing is without question the best way to take care of large groups of weaker enemies, as well as see multiple decapitations in one swing. Decapitation and the occasional arm severing are the only 'default' dismemberment options in the game, but it's possible to enable a much more robust and incredibly gratifying 'realistic saber combat' mode. With that particular mode enabled, expect to see a lot more heads (and other body parts) popping off like wine corks.
  • In Dark Souls II, you can decapitate Duke's Dear Freja should you sliced enough time on either of her head or both.
  • In Bloodborne, Gehrman does this to you with a Sinister Scythe if you choose to give up instead of fight him. Funnily enough, considering the setting and the fact it doesn't technically kill you for real, it's the happiest ending the game has for your character.
  • Decapitation is one of the possible Finishing Moves in Dragon Age: Origins. It's most common with the two-weapon style- the character will impale the target with their off-hand blade, then perform a backhand stroke that slices their head clean off with their primary weapon.
  • Implied a few times in Cuphead: The opening theme song at the beginning of the game implies that "the Devil will take [Cuphead's and Mugman's] heads" if they can't get the Soul Contracts for him by the midnight deadline (and that song isn't kidding if you lose to the Devil's second phase and onwards in the final battle!); and Baroness von Bon Bon makes her throat-slitting gesture with her finger as her head jumps up a bit as a threat to the boys at the beginning of her battle. Also, earlier promos and previous trailers had the Devil threaten to decapitate the boys when he set out to claim their souls after winning the game (Word of God even says that they have their immortal souls inside their cups-for-heads as their lifeblood, which may be the reason why the Devil wants their heads so badly). The shadows on the wall show him making a cutthroat motion on their throats to illustrate the point of this threat.
  • Road Redemption has a sword weapon, which is weak against helmeted riders but removes the head of unprotected ones, giving a "decapitation bonus" that awards twice the resources granted for a normal take-down.
  • In Fredbear and Friends, Thomas deals with one of the animatronics by knocking it over as it enters the security booth and dropping the automatic door on its neck.
  • In Touch The Dead, some of the zombies will actually rip off their own heads and throw them at you.
  • Death end re;Quest starts with this, with Shina being stabbed by a giant monster, then her head was chomped off.
  • Ajna in Indivisible, hungry for revenge for her village, swears to do this to Ravannavar after their first meeting. She makes good on her promise when they next meet, decapitating him in a cutscene. It doesn't help.
  • Unreal Tournament includes the ripper, a gun that shoots ricocheting buzzsaw blades. A neckshot with the ripper will indeed cleanly remove a head for a One-Hit Kill. Including your own head should you get caught by the ricochet. Sadly, it did not return for later games in the franchise.
  • The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past: After taking enough damage, Blind the Thief's head flies off and he grows a new one. He survives two decapitations before being felled for good.
  • In Persona 5, Fusions are now done by putting the Personas in bags and executing them via guillotines to fuse a new one. In the event of a Fusion Accident when the guillotines jam, Caroline and Justine pull out chainsaws instead. After realising who they really are, they order Joker to prepare the guillotines to execute them as a Fusion, which creates their true form as Lavenza.

    Visual Novels 


    Web Original 
  • In The Gamer's Alliance, Ismail gets decapitated by Dreadlord Leraje after their fierce duel during the Battle of Vanna.
  • Klay World's characters usually die this way. In the movie, Dr. Brown is killed this way.
  • Troy McCann, Daniel Brent and Guy Rapide in Survival of the Fittest V3 die by being decapitated. A close-range gunshot to the back of the head beheads Uriel Hunter in V1. Hayley Kelly in V4 also seems to love this method, dispatching Steve Barnes and James Mulzet this way.
  • In Darwin's Soldiers, Alfred beheads a Dragonstorm war machine with a sledgehammer.
  • In the final episode of There Will Be Brawl, Ganondorf infamously meets his end this way thanks to Kirby, who used Meta-Knight's sword to lop his head off after the big reveal on who the murderous butchers (Ness and Lucas) were.
  • The Onion: "White House Jester Beheaded For Making Fun Of Soaring National Debt".
  • In DSBT InsaniT, Kerry does this to Sand Snake by throwing Shovel at his neck like a boomerang.
    • This happens rather frequently with the Darkness Clones in 'VRcade', but since they function like an Asteroids Monster, they can keep going even without a head.
  • SF Debris did a review of the Game of Thrones pilot. This trope was a basis for his in-universe Drinking Game: One shot for every head off and for every naked girl. Well, he ended up totally wasted and started to read his script from a previous show, mumbling about the philosophy in The Matrix.
  • In Ducktalez 4, Buzzkill was decapitated by a roller coaster cart launched by Huey.
  • The fate of any Langemanne, as well as their only fear.
  • In AsteroidQuest, it is a testament to the durability of neumono that this is not immediately fatal for them. They do still require immediate medical attention to survive it, however, and Rokoa is killed this way by her mother during a false memory sequence.
  • Lyle Krinkor from The Pirates Covered in Fur beheads Pryllic after he fails to beat Michum and Tully in combat.
  • In Episode 3 of Dr. Havoc's Diary, this happens to one Mook during a fight with Brock.
    Random Henchman: Oh yeah, he's dead.
  • In the final chapter of T.O.T., Maximus Slade is (finally) killed when Rachel chops off his head with a machete.
  • Dragon Ball Z Abridged naturally lampshades this by having Vegeta throw a dog bone to any heads that he decapitated.
  • This is how the Giant Nevermore meets its end in Episode 8 of RWBY, courtesy of a plan by Ruby involving a Fastball Special and the use of Weiss's runes to run up a mountain before finishing it with Crescent Rose.
  • Chadam:
    • A Pallid manages to kill someone by ripping their head off- with their bare hands, no less.
    • Simkin kills a Pallid by chopping off their head, when he and Chadam go to save Palco.

    Western Animation 
  • Chicken Run: The fate of any chicken that no longer lays enough eggs it to have it's head cut by an axe by Mrs. Tweedy. Poor Edwina meets this fate.
  • Batman: The Brave and the Bold: Implied and parodied in the Animated Adaptation of Emperor Joker, when the Joker sends Batman to the guillotine, and when the blade drops, we hear it slice through his neck and the sound of his head plopping on the floor. It quickly turns into Losing Your Head for a brief moment when the Joker restores him to life again.
  • Batman vs. The Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: The fate of an unfortunate Arkham guard.
  • The Boondocks: How Bushido Brown meets his end.
  • Heavily implied to have happened offscreen to Chef Puree in Dan Vs. "The Fancy Restaurant."
  • Family Guy: A cutaway gag featuring Foghorn Leghorn at a KFC commenting to Col Sanders on how good it smells in there, only to be beheaded by Sanders.
    Foghorn Leghorn's severed head: Heh heh, look at that boy! Running all around like a chicken with his head cu— Wait a minute...
  • The Grim Adventures of Billy & Mandy: Jack, a destructive prankster, had tricked Grim into giving up his scythe. Grim was forced to grant him eternal life in order to get it back and cut off Jack's head out of fury. Jack, now forced to wear a pumpkin as a head, decided to get his revenge by stealing back the scythe and using it on Grim, which would actually kill him.
    Billy: Don't be an idiot. Grim's head is removable. Observe. (pulls Grim's head off)
    Jack: Ah, but any head cut off by the Grim Reaper's scythe stays off. Forever.
    Billy: (fearful) That's a different story.
  • Subverted in My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic of all places. In "Just for Sidekicks", Spike leaves the Mane Six's pets with the Cutie Mark Crusaders and has second thoughts when he hears Scootaloo screaming that Tank, Rainbow Dash's tortoise, lost his head. Tank turns out to be fine as he was hiding in his shell.
  • This frequently happens to Kenny in South Park.
  • Star Wars: The Clone Wars:
    • "Cloak of Darkness": Ventress decapitates the first clone trooper to see her boarding the Tranquility, before he can warn the others on the ship of her presence.
    • "Monster": Ventress takes out two of the candidates for transformation by throwing their own scythes into their necks, seemingly just to toy with them.
    • "A Friend in Need": Ahsoka takes out four Death Watch members at once this way.
    • "Shades of Reason": Darth Maul executes Pre Vizsla in this fashion after the latter loses their duel for authority.
    • "Sacrifice": In Yoda's vision, Anakin kills Count Dooku the same way he will in Revenge of the Sith, by scissoring his and Dooku's lightsabers at the man's neck before decapitating him.
    • "Shattered": Maul, in perhaps the most brutal combat scene in the entire series, shows that lightsabers are completely unnecessary when you have sharp metal plates and the force for removing clone trooper heads.
  • Star Wars Rebels: In "Call to Action", Grand Moff Tarkin has the Inquisitor execute incompetent officers Aresko and Grint this way for their failures. Simultaneously, thanks to the Inquisitor's double-bladed lightsaber.
  • In either homage to the comic book example, the Shredder in Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (2003) gets this treatment after the turtles storm his headquarters. He lives, because it's a robot suit.
  • Happens to Tom at the end of the Tom and Jerry short "The Two Mouseketeers."
    Nibbles/Tuffy: Pauvre, pauvre pussycat...
  • In the Van Beuren Studios Tom and Jerry short "Swiss Trick", Tom briefly gets his head knocked off as a gag. He quickly puts it back on.
  • ToonMarty: Happens to Hollie in one episode.
  • This is also apparently one of the only ways (if not the way) to kill a vampire in The Venture Bros..
    • This is a common way to kill vampires in general in many media, right next to staking them in the heart.
      • Including Buffy the Vampire Slayer, who does so humorous times in the series. Of course, their specific rendition of vamps are all Made of Plasticine; in one episode a pencil to the chest dusts one.
      • In Vampire: The Masquerade, a stake through the heart only induces torpor, a deep coma-like sleep. In that condition, it's pretty trivial to decapitate the vampire, which is a guaranteed Final Death solution.
      • Some Western folklore sources recommend staking, beheading and putting garlic in the head's mouth, carving out the heart and burying it at a crossroads, then burning the body.
  • Lady Shiva slices Ocean Master's head off with a sword in Young Justice: Outsiders.

    Real Life 
  • Medieval martyrologies cite decapitation as a standard method of execution carried out by the Romans towards captured Christians. Examples: Saint John the Baptist (who was actually beheaded in orders of Herod rather than the Romans themselves), Saint Paul of Tarsus, Saint Agnes of Rome, Saint Philomena, etc. Supposedly, since Paul actually held Roman citizenship, he couldn't be crucified by the Roman authorities - Beheading was seen as quick mercy for condemned Romans compared to a slow, painful, degrading death by crucifixion.
  • Decapitation was the standard method of execution for murder and other capital crimes in Germanic and Scandinavian countries from the Middle Ages to the 20th century. Commoners were traditionally beheaded with an axe, noblemen with a sword. Later, a guillotine was preferred.
    • The last beheading in West Germany occurred in 1949 when a convicted robber-murderer Berthold Wehmeyer was executed by guillotine. He was also the last person to be executed in West Germany. The last time a guillotine was used in these countries was in 1961 in East Germany.
    • Thieves were instead hanged in Scandinavia. It was considered that theft was such a vile crime that the convict not only deserved death but didn't even deserve a swift end.
    • The last beheading in Scandinavia happened 1910 when Swedish murderer Johan Ander was guillotined in Långholmen prison, Stockholm.
      • Beheading was de jure execution method in Grand Duchy of Finland until 1917, although the last execution in Finland happened in 1828 [after that, all death sentences were commuted to internal exiles in Siberia]. The method was changed in 1917 into firing squad.
      • The last beheading in Denmark took place in 1892. The last beheading before that had been in 1882, and the death penalty was largely on the vane in the country. Indeed, Jens Nielsen, the prisoner sentenced to death, had had two prior death penalties converted to life in prison, but he didn't want to rot in prison, so he kept attacking the prison guards. After the third incident, his deathwish was finally carried out. When the death penalty was re-introduced following WW2, the sentences were carried out by firing squad.
  • During the Middle Ages in France and England, decapitation was generally reserved for nobles and royalty who committed major crimes such as treason. The weapon of choice for headsmen varied between nations. While axes were often used in Britain, swords were preferred by their French contemporaries.
    • Although decapitation was the preferred means of departure for condemned members of the nobility, it could get pretty messy at times. In 1405 the Archbishop of York was executed for rebelling against King Henry IV; the headsman deliberately used five blows to sever the churchman's head to mimic the five wounds of Christ. In 1685 the Duke of Monmouth suffered an even more Nightmare Fuel-lish fate; the terrified and incompetent executioner, Jack Ketch, took over seven unsuccessful blows to try and remove the head; he had to finish off the job with a knife. One account states that at one point the executioner threw down his axe and offered a large sum of money to anyone in the crowd willing to take over the job. Another account says that the watching crowd was so horrified (and the half-dead Duke was so annoyed) that the headsman had to be escorted out with armed guards at the ready as the mob was threatening to beat him to death.
    • In 1791, France standardized beheading by guillotine as the mandatory means of execution (outside the military, where the firing squad prevailed). The execution was to be carried out with a special device, which got the name of guillotine. It remained the official method of execution until capital punishment was abolished in 1981, although the very last execution in France had occurred (by guillotine) in 1977.
  • Obviously, Henry VIII of England, who had two of his six wives executed in this fashion. His kids did their fair share as well — Edward VI actually had two of his uncles beheaded; Mary I and Elizabeth I both had one of their cousins beheaded for claiming the throne — Lady Jane Grey and Mary, Queen of Scots, respectively. Given it was a major spectacle for the nobility, the fact that it took two or three strikes to get the job done was likely rather embarrassing to the headsman. (He was generous enough to call for a swordsman to come from France to do it for Anne Boleyn at her own request; also, contrary to popular belief, nobles were executed away from the public; not only was it considered harsh for them to be jeered at, many monarchs who had sentenced them did not want the bad publicity it would often cause.)
  • A particularly horrific case was that of the 67-year-old Margaret Pole, Countess of Salisbury and a Blessed of the Catholic Church; condemned by Henry VIII (in what historians consider a spiteful act to get back at her son, Cardinal Reginald Pole, who'd been disparaging and encouraging resistance to Henry's rule), who refused to admit any guilt and would not kneel at the headsman's block — one account says that she leapt from the block after the first clumsy blow and ran, pursued by the executioner, being struck eleven times before she died.
  • The guillotine was proposed for the sole purpose of beheading people as humanely (quickly) as possible. (It was so efficient that spectators were said to be disappointed at the brevity of the show—as Mike Duncan succinctly put it, "just zip, thud, the end".) Contrary to popular belief, Joseph Guillotin did not invent it (he merely proposed for it to become standard), nor was he a victim of it. The real ironies of the guillotine were (1) Robespierre dying by it (of course) and (2) Louis XVI had a hand in developing the standard design (specifically, it was he who suggested that the blade be angled, so as not to bounce off the neck of the condemned).
    • During the period of The French Revolution known as the Reign of Terror, as many as 16,594 people were executed by guillotine, such that it soon became the symbol of the Terror in general.
    • One contributing factor was that executioners who were skilled in decapitating people in a single stroke were generally of the upper class in France at that time. In other words, precisely the kind of people the revolution had been against and who were on the receiving end of executions.
      • The first guillotined convict was bandit Nicholas-Jean Pelletier in 1792.
      • Nazi Germany guillotined more people than were beheaded during the French Revolution. Beheading was the usual sentence for felonies rather than political crimes, though certain members of resistance groups, such as Hans and Sophie Scholl of the nonviolent White Rose resistance group, were executed this way. For extra cruelty points, the victims were often executed face-up, such that one was forced to watch the blade descend upon them.
      • Before 1787 Scotland also used a similar beheading device, called Scottish Maiden, for carrying out executions. Likewise, the town of Halifax had its own head-chopper called Halifax Gibbet or The Gin (short from "engine").
      • The last guillotining in France happened in 1977 when a Tunisian rapist-murderer Hamida Djandoubi was beheaded. The death penalty was abolished in France in 1981.
  • Vic Morrow (Jennifer Jason Leigh's dad) and two child actors named My-ca Dinh Le and Renee Shin-Yi Chen were killed when a stunt helicopter crashed near them during the filming of Twilight Zone: The Movie in 1982. Morrow was filming a scene where his character tried to save the children who were trapped in an area about to be bombed in The Vietnam War. He and one of the kids were decapitated by the chopper's rotor blades while the other was crushed under the weight... and their deaths were caught on film.
    • For the morbidly curious, the footage found its way into one those atrocious Death Scenes mondo videos and is now available on the internet. It happens so suddenly that nothing can be seen; Vic and the two children are there one moment, the chopper comes down, and in the next moment they've disappeared beneath the wreckage.
  • Similarly to Vic Morrow, film director Boris Sagal (father of actress Katey Sagal) died via being decapitated by the tail rotor blades of a stunt helicopter.
  • When the German medieval pirate Klaus Störtebeker was to be beheaded, he was granted the wish that those of his men would be pardoned, if he managed to walk past them after being decapitated. And according to the legend, he managed to walk past eleven of them (and may have continued, but the executioner tripped him).
  • The ritual suicide of the samurai known as seppuku was traditionally concluded by the samurai's second, or kaishakunin, chopping off the samurai's head to finish him off after the initial self-disembowelment. This was so their suffering would be brief, and such prevent the shame of showing pain.
    • Beheading prisoners with a Katana was a common war crime for the Empire of Japan during World War II. Just look at what happened to Leonard Siffleet.
    • In fact, it wasn't uncommon for a freshly forged Katana's sharpness against flesh to be tested by executing death row criminals. For larger blades like Daikatana, Zanmato, and Nodachi, they would be several criminals stacked on each other to kill them all in one swing.
    • Averted in the second Japanese offensive of the Imjin War, when Toyotomi Hideyoshi demanded that proof be sent back to Japan of the numbers killed, but as heads were too bulky, he had the noses sent back instead.
  • In the 1974 US Grand Prix, Austrian Helmuth Koinigg crashed into an Armco barrier. The lower beam wasn't properly secured and buckled as the vehicle struck it. The car passed underneath the top portion... which was very firmly bolted on. Yikes.
  • Another Formula One death happened this way. Tom Pryce struck a track marshal who had foolishly run onto the race course to extinguish a minor fire on the other side of the track. Pryce hit the man at full racing speed, the impact ripping him in two. The fire extinguisher the marshal had been carrying entered the cockpit of Pryce's car and struck his helmet, ripping it up and out of the car. The helmet's strap partially decapitated Pryce and his now driverless car careened down the track before hitting another car and coming to a stop. There is footage of the incident on YouTube and various other video sites.
  • Although the stories about decapitated bodies walking on their own may be the stuff of legend, during the guillotine era it was scientifically confirmed that the heads can retain consciousness for several minutes after being removed, as a doctor reportedly was able to communicate with a removed head for several minutes, with the soon-to-be-dead man's eyes actually focusing on him. This was featured in the aforementioned 1000 Ways to Die's case "Miss-ur Head" (its alternative title being exactly the same as this trope)
  • Often an unintended consequence of a botched judicial long drop hanging. If the drop is too long or the convict has weak neck muscles or vertebrae, the result will be decapitation instead of Neck Snap. Squick! This is one of the reasons why hanging has been replaced with more modern methods, such as the electric chair, lethal injection or gas chamber as a method of execution.
  • Man in Virginia uses cable to decapitate himself.
  • Abu Musab Al-Zarqawi, leader of Al-Qaeda in Iraq, was fond of this.
  • The occupants of a Piper Cherokee lost their heads when their plane collided with an airliner over the Los Angeles suburb of Cerritos.
  • Famously, this didn't completely work for Mike the Headless Chicken. On September 10, 1945, Mike was taken to the chopping block in preparation for killing and butchering... and, thanks to a botched axe swing, didn't die after his head was severed. He kept on walking around headless as if nothing had happened for a year and a half and presumably would have lived longer if he hadn't suddenly choked to death on something.
  • Korean naval hero Admiral Yi Sun Shin was opposed to this, as he believed his sailors should concentrate on killing enemy soldiers who were still alive instead of collecting dead ones. However as heads were regarded as proof of a warrior's bravery, he made sure to let his men know that he would note who was brave and mention their names in his despatches to the king.
  • A possible consequence coming from flying kites with strings that are made of thread covered in liquid glue and pulverized glass. This is intended to cut rival kites' strings in flying competences, but these 'covered' threads (known as "hilo curado" in Chile and "cendol" in Brazil, countries where these contests are VERY popular) are dangerous enough to slit throats, straight-up decapitate people, etc.
  • During the religious persecutions of the fanatical Mughal Emperor Aurangzeb, two Sikh boys under 10 years old were condemned to be bricked up alive inside a wall for refusing to convert to Islam. The boys' executioners entombed them up to their shoulders and then beheaded them, presumably out of pity.
  • In a non-death example, sushi chefs usually cut off the heads of freshly caught fish before preparing it. The fish are generally already dead, and the beheading is largely because fish heads aren't much good as sushi — they have their uses (they're particularly good in soups and stocks), but their meat is not conducive to eating in 1-2 bites as required for sushi eating.
  • American Patriot Henry Laurens was so afraid of being buried alive that upon his death in 1792 he arranged for his remains to be subjected to a post-mortem decapitation just in case, and then burnt for good measure. His ashes were then buried on his estate.
  • Pirate queen Ching Shih had a pretty straightforward punishment for anyone who did anything dishonorable or excessively cruel while in her employ - have their head chopped off, and the body thrown into the ocean.
  • Convicted of murder and sentenced to hang for her crimes, this was the ultimate fate of Eva Dugan; the snap of the rope at the end resulted in her head rolling to a stop at the spectators' feet. (The state of Arizona changed its methods of execution not long after this gory display.)
  • The macuahuitl, a pre-colonial Mesoamerican weapon, was so incredibly sharp and heavy that according to the Spaniards' reports, skilled wielders lopped off the necks of horses to demonstrate that they could do the same to humans even through metal armor. Downplayed, however, as said Mesoamericans were not yet familiar with steel, namely how insanely tough it is in proportion to its mass, which were a match for the macuahuitl. When not wearing that steel armor, on the other hand, the Spaniards' heads were easily chopped off and placed on public display on a tzompantli for intimidation.


Video Example(s):

Alternative Title(s): Off With Her Head, Off With The Head


"Kill him now!"

Palpatine tempts Anakin into killing Dooku. Anakin is conflicted with his actions but Palpatine tries to justify that it is normal to do such things.

How well does it match the trope?

5 (8 votes)

Example of:

Main / TheCorrupter

Media sources:

Main / TheCorrupter