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'Tis Only a Bullet in the Brain

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Shepard: You survived a gunshot, to the head?
Zaeed: Yeah... A stubborn enough person will survive just about anythin'. Rage is a hell of an anesthetic.

Almost always, shooting someone in the head is going to kill them, because the brain contains your consciousness and everything you think about, and what tells your body how to move and what to do allowing it to function.

In fiction, dismissing a Boom, Headshot! as Only a Flesh Wound is exclusively the domain of a badass and shows just how much of a Determinator or Made of Iron a character is. Sometimes the injury will be Hand Waved as a lot less serious than it looked, and sometimes it will merely be implied that the character is just that tough.

In Real Life, in relatively rare cases, people actually have survived a bullet to the brain, though it usually comes down to luck and the poor velocity of the bullet, rather than badassery. Slightly more common are cases where a bullet has lodged in the skull. It's actually very rare for someone to survive with their abilities and/or personality intact — most with brain injuries are left with disabilities and/or personality changes.

May be defied with a Double Tap or Multiple Gunshot Death. Sub-Trope of Hard Head.

This trope only applies to people who have no special powers other than the Rule of Cool. If they can regenerate or have some other bullet-defying superpower, it belongs elsewhere.


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    Anime & Manga 
  • Accelerator of A Certain Magical Index. Ordinarily, his ridiculous powers would have redirected the bullet, but he was very occupied with using them in other ways at the time. He survives thanks to the actions of an elite doctor, but suffers severe brain damage: he cannot speak, walk, or use his powers without assistance.
  • Damaramu of Dragon Half got a sword through his head in his first appearance and kept on going through the rest of the manga. Apparently his brain is so small that the blade didn't hit anything important.
  • In the finale of Fullmetal Alchemist (2003), Roy Mustang is shot in the face by Lt. Col. Archer. He appears to be dead but is later seen recovering at home with a brand new eyepatch.
  • During a climactic battle in Golden Kamuy, Sugimoto gets a bullet through the forehead from Ogata, but he survives and is able to recover fairly quickly (they don't call him The Immortal for nothing). Despite his quick physical recovery, his behavior is shown to change afterwards, having a shorter temper coupled with mild dyslexia and absentmindedness.
  • Manga Heads by Motoro Mase has the protagonist Jun-ichi get shot in the head, but he manages to survive thanks to a revolutionary partial brain transplant operation. However, the memories of the other person's original brain begin to take him over. Jun-ichi even remarks how the mother of the man who shot him died of a common cold (his despair pushing him to a rampage), while he survived a head gunshot.
  • JoJo's Bizarre Adventure:
    • Stardust Crusaders: Muhammad Avdol was seemingly killed when shot in the head by Hol Horse and his Stand Emperor, Taking the Bullet to save Polnareff. He returns later to save Polnareff again, revealing that it was Only a Flesh Wound as he jerked his head back before the bullet broke through his skull.
    • Golden Wind: Sale gets a bullet lodged in the head after Mista gets a clear shot, yet manages to stop it with the use of his Stand. After Mista fires another shot into Sale's wound to push the previous bullet further into his head, it immediately takes him down.
  • Master Keaton: A man threatening to kill himself is told by the police's negotiator that, with the gun he's using and position he's holding it (pointed inward at the temple), he's far more likely to just give himself crippling brain damage than cause his own death. The negotiator further tells him that if he really wanted to guarantee his own death he'll have to point it down his mouth toward the base of his brain.
  • In Monster, Johan Liebert is shot in the head at the beginning of the series. He survives, but only because elite neurosurgeon Dr. Kenzo Tenma operates on him. The series does point out how hard it is to safely remove a bullet to the skull though, and points out that Dr. Tenma is the only one in the entire hospital (an enormous complex) skilled enough to have a chance at it. At the very end of the series, he's shot in the head once more, possibly without even losing consciousness, and again survives thanks to Tenma. Though Johan may be technically breaking the "no supernatural powers" rule.
  • In My-Otome, Sergay is shot in the head. He survives with little more than Easy Amnesia.
  • In One Piece, Whitebeard had half his face melted off by Akainu during the Paramount War saga. Akainu got a Quake Punch for his troubles and Whitebeard continued his rampage unabated.
  • Puella Magi Madoka Magica The Movie: Rebellion: Homura's Batman Gambit to release herself from Mami's ribbon is to shoot herself in the head. Of course, since the magical girls in this series can survive anything as long as their soul gem is unharmed, Homura's only on her knees and panting for several seconds before being able to move around properly again.
  • None other than Bean Bandit from Riding Bean, who takes one right between the eyes from Semmerling, followed by being rammed into another car with her car. This would have killed an ordinary man at least twice over, but for the Made of Iron Bean, all the headshot accomplishes is scrambling his brains a bit, which get unscrambled when she rams him. And it ultimately has little effect on him, as evidenced when he proceeds to shoulder-check her car and lift the damned thing right off its front wheels when she tries to ram him again! He was wearing a bullet-proof headband.
  • Rurouni Kenshin: If the newly-found Meiji Government actually bothered to check the corpse of the assassin they shot in the head and then set on fire, they wouldn't have to deal with supreme Social Darwinist warlord Shishio Makoto ten years later.

    Comic Books 
  • The Batgirl villain Gretel was shot in the head without it killing her, and in fact it wound up unlocking a psychic power she didn't know she had that allowed her to control other people.
  • Batman:
    • The Joker was shot in the head by an unhinged police officer dressed as Batman. While he had to go through some physical therapy, the event just switched him to a different brand of crazy.
    • One-shot villainess "The Absence" takes it to an absurd degree - because of a very exaggerated case of Dandy-Walker Syndrome, the bullet shot through her forehead but missed her brain completely, leaving a softball-sized hole drilled through her skull.
    • Dick Grayson took a bullet to the back of the head towards the end of the Return of Bruce Wayne arc. It was intentionally underpowered so that it wouldn't kill him instantly. Rather, it caused severe bleeding in his brain that would eventually kill him unless he received medical attention.
  • One Daredevil story arc ended with The Kingpin being shot at point-blank range by Echo, in revenge for killing her father. The last page of the story reveals that he lived through it, but has been rendered temporarily blind. In general, the Kingpin often has the benefits of Kevlard.
  • The Firefly continuation comics reveal that Alliance lawman Lawrence Dobson survived being shot in the face by Mal in the pilot (despite Mal's sidearm being chambered for .303 rifle rounds, per fluff), and he turns up in one story with an Eyepatch of Power, bent on revenge. Mal shoots him in the head again, then goes for a Coup de Grâce to be sure this time.
  • Halo: Blood Line: Black-Two survives a shot to the head by a Covenant beam rifle (basically a particle cannon used as a sniper rifle). After a period of unconsciousness, she dismisses it as having a headache. To put this in perspective, getting shot in the leg by a beam rifle in Halo 2 was an instant One-Hit Kill.
  • During the Incredible Hulk arc "Ghosts of the Future", the Savage Banner (the Savage Hulk persona in the body of Bruce Banner), thinking he had the full power of the Hulk, tried to tank a grenade from a soldier — and unsurprisingly, nearly died as a result with only the Professor Hulk coming out saving him, though with the result being mood swings due to the resultant shrapnel stick in his head, a fact that continued with the Bannerless Hulk when Banner was ripped from the Hulk during Onslaught and sent into the pocket universe of Heroes Reborn with the Avengers, Fantastic Four, and Dr. Doom — at least until Apocalypse removed the shrapnel when he made Hulk a new Horseman of War.
  • Judge Dredd:
    • When Dredd tries to expose mad Judge Cal's corruption in "The Day the Law Died", one of Cal's guards shoots Dredd through his brain. He requires some surgery afterwards, but he's tough enough to shrug it off without any lasting damage.
    • In the Origins backstory, Chief Judge Fargo shoots himself in a fit of despair. He survives thanks to timely intervention of his colleagues, though he needs to be frozen and transported into the future, with a better medical technology, before he can regain his full faculties. Even then, he never truly physically recovers.
  • The Punisher MAX version of Bullseye had four bullet scars on his head. Most of them were probably the result of opponents aiming for the "bull's eye" tattoo on his forehead, but it was implied that his insanity and resulting career choice may have been due to brain damage from the first headshot.
  • Kerry Kross has a variation with the titular Kerry: because of a trap, she's left with a metal sliver embedded in her brain. It cannot be removed safely, and while it may cause her premature death at any moment, it may as well lay there inert for the rest of her natural life.
  • Denny O'Neill's run on The Question ends its first issue with Vic Sage being shot in the head at point-blank range by the gross assassin, Baby Gun. Luckily for Sage, Gun's chosen weapon is comparatively small-calibre, so the slug is stopped by his skull and deflected away from his brain. (After that, Sage only has to contend with the severe beating that he's taken from Lady Shiva and being dumped into the river. Tellingly, the next time that we see him, he's in intensive care.)
  • Savage Dragon once had to share his body with a human detective as a result of a story far too long to explain here. The detective was shot in the head by a criminal, resulting in the Dragon taking over the body and healing the hole through the head. While this was the sort of thing Dragon could survive due to his powers, they were not so sure about his friend. Fortunately, he pulled through.
  • Sin City:
    • Dwight is shot in the face but not only survives with a bit of surgery, but he also stays conscious.
    • There is the case of Jackie Boy whose gun exploded, sending the slide into his forehead. He remained alive long enough that the assassin Miho, chopped his head off to finish the job. Well, she didn't quite chop his head off, she made a Pez dispenser out of him.
  • The Transformers: Last Stand of the Wreckers has the Ascended Fanboy Ironfist, who conspicuously has a bullet hole in his head for the entire run of the comic. The Transformers: Mosaic "Dead Men's Boots" has very dark Foreshadowing as to why that hole is there. Ironfist developed a bullet that automatically targets Transformer brains, but his prototype was sabotaged by a rival and he was shot in a lab accident. The perfected models are later shown to be very effective. Subverted in that while he was not immediately killed by the shot since the prototype was not perfected, he will inevitably suffer a Time-Delayed Death. He keeps on going with his work and the mission in spite of this. Amusingly, he's probably the least hardcore Wrecker ever in the entire history of the team, being less "badass" and more "one of the The Knights Who Say "Squee!"."
    • In Spotlight: Hardhead, Hardhead takes a plasma blast in the face from a Brainwashed and Crazy Nightbeat, which is the sort of thing that should typically kill a Transformer. True to form for the series, it turns out that 'Hardhead' is a Meaningful Name, and all he has to show for being shot in the face is a small, smoking hole squarely in his visor. Leads to a Mood Whiplash, after which he promptly ignores having been shot in the face.
      Hardhead: *Beat.* "OW!"
  • Wonder Woman Vol 1: Hypnota was accidentally shot in the head by their sister Serva while practicing for their stage show. While they survived their personality was drastically altered and they became a villain.
  • Young Liars features a main character who survived a bullet to the brain; as a result of the brain damage, she suffered an extensive change in her personality including increased aggression, lack of social restraint, and inappropriate sexual behavior. And according to one doctor, it's a fairly realistic treatment of what could result from such a wound (other than the suggestion that the bullet will eventually drop and damage the brain stem — but that's correctly noted to be fatal if it happens).

    Comic Strips 

    Fan Works 
  • A Darker Path: Path to Ending lets Taylor intentionally stab someone in the brain as a non-lethal attack, precisely targeting the hypothalamus to disrupt sleep regulation. It renders the victim comatose without Panacea-level medical intervention, and as a bonus, it looks to everyone else like a lethal attack, so Taylor is able to claim the bounty on Bonesaw's head.

    Film — Animated 
  • Suicide Squad: Hell to Pay: Zoom is channeling the speed force and delaying his death from when Batman shoots him in the head at the end of Justice League: The Flashpoint Paradox, all this time searching for the "Get out of Hell free" card. It does tax his Speed Force usage, however, and the faster he goes the less time he has.

    Film — Live-Action 
  • A Bittersweet Life has the hero, Sun-Woo, getting shot in the back of the head in the final confrontation. He survives and kills almost every one of his enemies, until the last guy did him in by emptying the contents of an assault rifle into his midsection.
  • Bullet in the Head is the actual title of a classic John Woo film. Context is needed here - three friends make the mistake of their lives and participate in a drug deal, but one of them betrays another for the cash by covering his head in a jacket and putting about three bullets in at point-blank range. Fast forward to the present, the poor bugger is still alive but addicted to morphine to take away the pain - forcing the one remaining friend to perform a Mercy Kill. What most people take from this movie is the remaining guy vs the Evil Former Friend in a ridiculously awesome Car Fu duel in the finale.
  • Cage begins with a Vietnam war flashback where the two US Army protagonists, Scott and Billy (played by Reb Brown and Lou Ferrigno) flees from North Vietnamese insurgents. Billy tries saving Scott by helping him up a US army evac chopper, only to be shot in the cranium by a stray bullet and falling into a coma - cue a Time Skip to when the war is over, with Scott trying to make an honest living as a bar owner while taking care of his mentally-disabled friend Billy, who works as the bouncer.
  • Disturbingly violent bank robber Mickey from Cockneys vs. Zombies survived a shrapnel wound to the brain while fighting for the U.K. in the Middle East. His injury left him with an alarming scar encircling a third of his scalp, a metal plate in his head, and a complete lack of the inhibitory neural circuitry which had previously stopped him from being a "soddin' nutter".
  • Played for laughs in The Dictator. Aladeen's double is shot in the head and gets up afterward, only to confirm that it's his job to get shot in the head (the bullet was only in his brain, after all).
  • Doctor Strange (2016): In his second scene, the titular character successfully removes a bullet from the brain of a patient who'd been written off as brain dead, thus highlighting his skills as a supreme surgeon.
  • In Excessive Force II: Force on Force, Harly survives a bullet to the head from her ex-boyfriend (like 10 seconds after they had sex) after she refuses to become a dirty cop like him. She's been hunting him ever since, although she has to take pills to avoid terrible headaches and dizziness. She repays him in kind at the end, although he doesn't survive.
  • Faster: The Snuff Film of the gang's torture ends with Driver being shot in the head at close range with a large calibre handgun. Det. Cicero comments that paramedics pronounced him dead at the scene, but that he woke up at the hospital. Surgeons were able to remove the bullet, but the damage sustained necessitated putting a steel plate in his skull. This injury does not slow him down at all when he starts his Roaring Rampage of Revenge ten years later.
  • In Fight Club, the narrator survives a self-inflicted gunshot to the head, though it looks like it mostly hit him in the jaw (which is how the original book describes it).
  • For Greater Glory ends with priest-turned-revolutionary Jose Reyas Vega taking a bullet to the head without having confessed his sins. He lives another 5 hours until his allies could find a priest to give him his last rites. (Vega was a real person, and allegedly did live for hours after his head wound.)
  • In Happy Gilmore, Happy is goofing off with a nail gun and accidentally nails his boss in the head. Aside from beating Happy to a pulp, the guy is pretty good-natured about it and even becomes one of Happy's fans on the golf circuit.
  • I Love You to Death is a film, based on Real Life events, about a Womanizer (played by Kevin Kline) whose wife (Tracey Ullman) hires two bumbling killers to make an attempt on his life. He's shot twice in the head by the end of the film, yet survives because the spaghetti sauce full of painkillers she fed him first stopped the blood flow.
  • Downplayed in Ip Man 2 - Quan gets shot in the head by the Japanese and while he survives, the ordeal gives him amnesia.
  • In John Wick: Chapter 2, the sumo assassin is still able to try and get up after John shoots him several times, including once in the head. John has to headshot him a second time to kill him for good.
  • The Bride survives a bullet in the head from Bill himself in Kill Bill, though it does put her in a coma for four years. And she's left with a steel plate in her skull.
  • In The Lost City, Brad Pitt's character is shot in the head. The Stinger shows him still alive, claiming "We only use 10% of our brain. I just moved onto another 10%."
  • Machete has two examples; Machete himself survived a bullet in the brain some time prior to the start of the film when he is shot in the head again the bullet ricochets off the bullet embedded in his head saving his life. While Luz is shot through the eye and is back on her feet in no time (it isn't directly stated that the bullet went into her brain but given the range and the size of the gun it seems pretty likely it did.)
  • Spoofed in The Magic Crystal. A character fakes his death by having himself sniped... by an ice bullet. Which lodges into his brain and knocks him unconscious. But the character comes back several scenes later, having recovered due to the bullet melting. Somehow it works. It's just ''that'' type of movie.
  • Played straight at first in The Quick and the Dead. Spotted Horse boasts that he "cannot be killed by a bullet" and points out his various bullet wounds, including one from a bullet that entered his head earlier that day. Narrowly averted later when he and Cort duel; the first bullet doesn't kill him, but does leave Spotted Horse on the brink of death. Cort shoots him again, this time in the forehead. After being laid out on the ground for a while, Spotted Horse raises one arm... and then finally dies.
  • This trope is deconstructed in Regarding Henry, a domestic drama starring Harrison Ford. While Henry does survive a gunshot wound to the head, the pinched artery that results affects his memory. Cue the rest of the movie depicting him coming to terms with not remembering anything about his life before the shot.
  • One of the many wounds sustained by Alex Murphy before he becomes the title character of RoboCop (1987) is a bullet to the head. Miraculously, his brain is mostly intact, but all his memories of his former self are lost.
  • In Traffic (2000), an assassin discusses why he prefers bombs: "I don't really like guns. You shoot someone in the head three times and some pinche doctor will keep them alive."
  • The Van Damme flick Until Death sees Van Damme surviving a headshot fired point-blank by one of the villains from his chin to the back of his head, though it does put Van Damme into a year-long coma. In the final shootout, Van Damme tracks down the same guy (after killing several mooks) and shoots him the same way, this time fatally.
  • Subverted in The Viral Factor. Jon, the protagonist (as played by Jay Chou) was shot in the head in a betrayal in the prologue; despite surviving, he realize he have a few weeks remaining in his life because of neural injuries, and decides to make the best of his predicament by traveling to Malaysia and seek and reconcile with his estranged, long-lost brother living in said country.
  • Renard in The World Is Not Enough not only survived a bullet in the brain but actually gained a superpower: he can't feel pain. Admittedly it is slowly killing him but still, pretty cool. One can presume he was already badass enough not to injure himself (which is a constant danger in real life for pain-insensitive people). Really it is a case of Blessed with Suck, since not only is he unable to feel pain, he's unable to feel anything, including his girlfriend. MI6 has admitted that they are unsure how it didn't kill him, but he apparently lived long enough to make it to a doctor who did the rest. Presumably, he would have died had he not sought treatment.
  • Happens in The X-Files: Fight the Future. It's handwaved by saying the bullet only grazed Mulder's skull, although that's a little odd since he was shot at point-blank range. In any case, as soon as he wakes up a couple of hours later he escapes the hospital, and within 48 hours he's off to Antarctica to carry his partner out of a massive underground alien spacecraft on foot.

  • In the Andrew Vachss Burke book Dead and Gone'', this happens to Burke. He's out of it for a while afterwards and the eye the bullet went through is pretty much useless now.
  • In Clive Cussler's Night Probe, Dirk Pitt deliberately invokes this in his final showdown with James Bond Expy Brian Shaw, for whom he has considerable respect. Afterwards, he comments that the bullet "only creased (Shaw's) skull" and that he is tough enough to recover completely (which indeed he does).
  • Millennium Series: In The Girl Who Played with Fire, Lisbeth survives this, and then digs herself out of her own grave, grabs an axe, and attacks the guy who shot her. It is explicitly a very low-power gun, the bullet is explicitly still halfway in the skull, and there's plenty of medical work done afterwards, but when all is said and done, there isn't even any noticeable brain damage.
  • Jerome Wireman from Stephen King book Duma Key is a realistic treatment of this. He survived a suicide attempt where he shot himself in the head, and it subsequently left him with a damaged psyche, chronic pain, and the inability to read for longer than a minute or two at a time with blinding headaches, among other effects. Midway through the book, he loses sight in one eye because the bullet is still inside and still moving, and has begun interfering with the optic center in his brain.
  • In The Once and Future King, the Orkney children are told the story about a king who, while fighting in a war, had a projectile embedded in his head. He managed to survive, because of where it hit, but was warned never to get worked up about anything because the stress might cause it to kill him. He heeded this advice until he received word that Jesus was being crucified, at which point he furiously ran to defend his Lord and Savior and fell over dead. This serves as foreshadowing for how Gawain later dies...
  • In the Sherlock Holmes story "The Adventure Of The Dancing Men", Hilton Cubitt has been shot through the heart and died instantly, while his wife supposedly shot herself through the brain, but fully recovered in several months. Or so Watson was told.
  • Under the Knife, a history of surgery by Arnold van der Laar. The chapter on asphyxiation is mostly about the assassination of President Kennedy: according to the author, the president's famous head wound was undoubtedly life-changing, but not necessarily life-ending. What did for Kennedy was the less well-known shot to his throat. This stopped him from breathing properly, and by the time he reached the hospital, he had been suffocating for eight minutes, which is enough to kill anyone.
  • Gabriel Kroun in The Vampire Files was shot in the head and survived with only a white streak in his hair to show for it. He explains the bullet only grazed him. He's lying. As a matter of fact, it killed him, and he's a vampire like Jack. And there was lots more damage than the superficial - his entire memory is gone. Though this turns out to be a good thing, seeing as he wasn't such a good guy when he was alive.

    Live-Action TV 
  • In the 1000 Ways to Die segment "Master E-Raced," the victim is a former Nazi soldier who got shot in the head but survived. However, 50 years later, while trying to get some milk out of the refrigerator, the former Nazi accidentally hits his head on the freezer door, causing the bullet, which was lodged near an important blood vessel, to dislodge and cut said blood vessel causing internal hemorrhaging in his brain and death.
  • Subverted in the Angel episode "Just Rewards". When Angel gets attacked by a Battle Butler who's Dual Wielding meat cleavers, he picks up a fancy teaspoon and throws it so hard it gets impaled through the Butler's skull. However, the Butler doesn't die, he just reaches for the spoon, pulls it out of his head... and then he dies.
  • In Band of Brothers Sgt. Chuck Grant survives being shot in the head due to the quick actions of Capt. Speirs and a German doctor. The real-life Grant suffered slight brain damage and lived to 60 years of age.
  • CSI: Miami:
    • A variant when Ryan Wolfe was shot in the head - specifically, the bridge of his nose right next to a tear duct of one eye - by a nail gun. His eye got infected, and it affected his job for a brief duration of time but was back on the job a couple of weeks later.
      • Morbidly appropriate: the episode in which Ryan sustains this injury was called Nailed, due to the murders which led up to the event seemingly using a nailgun as a weapon.
    • However, Delko survives a shot to the head. It leaves him with serious lasting damage and impairment of senses. He also loses about 6 months' worth of memories.
  • In CSI: NY episode "Heart of Glass" it was eventually determined a woman with a headache actually has a bullet lodged in her skull from when her husband tried to kill her while she was asleep. She slept through it and took a shower on waking up, so there was no blood. Needless to say, the shooter was stumped.
  • Hannibal manipulates one of his victims into thinking Dr. Chilton was her kidnapper, causing her to shoot him in the head. It messed up his eye and jaw while leaving a scar, but his motor skills seem unaffected, apparently because the bullet went through his cheek and largely missing the brain.
  • Harrow: In "Pia mater" ("Gentle Mother"), what appears to be a straightforward car accident takes a turn for the weird when the autopsy reveals one of the victims had a bullet lodged in his brain. A bullet that had been there for years before the accident. The bullet shifting in the crash is what actually killed him.
  • Horatio Hornblower, "The Even Chance": Jack Simpson, a sick, twisted bully of a midshipman, shot Horatio in the head during their Boarding Party of a French ship. Luckily, Horatio was shot from a big distance and it was not too deep a wound. However, Horatio fell from a mast to the water, and good, faithful sailor Finch jumped for him and saved his life. Finch lampshades that 'Tis Only a Bullet in the Brain by saying that wounds in the head bleed terribly bad and that it must hurt like the devil, but he's sure Mr. Hornblower will mend.
  • Kamen Rider OOO: Akira Date/the first Kamen Rider Birth was shot in the head while acting as a field doctor during a civil war. While he survived, the bullet is slowly pushing itself further into his skull. Date's initial motivation is to raise enough money to pay for the operation.
  • Knight Rider: Police detective Michael Long takes a .32 pistol shot to the head after a sting operation goes sideways. He needs extensive facial reconstruction but comes away with no apparent brain injury thanks to a surgical steel plate in his skull from a previous injury.
  • In The Outer Limits (1995) episode "The Revelations of Becka Paulson", the title character accidentally shoots herself in the head. The bullet is hinted to have hit a tumor, and afterwards, she starts to hallucinate and even has flashes of genius based on the hallucinations.
  • Parks and Recreation: Ron Swanson gets shot in the head while hunting with coworkers inexperienced at handling firearms. He's pissed about it, but just got a concussion and a few small wounds on the back of his head. Since they were hunting ducks and turkey, it was probably birdshot.
  • The Punisher (2017) has Special Agent Dinah Madani surviving a shot in the head or at least the skull, something which Frank Castle himself is impressed about. Of course Frank himself survived such a wound as shown in Daredevil (2015), waking up from a coma after he caught a bullet during the gangland crossfire that killed his family. His iconic chest skull insignia is even based on the X-Ray of his head injury.
  • Jonah Gabriel of The Shadow Line survived being shot in the head prior to the events of the series, though it did give him Laser-Guided Amnesia as a side effect.
  • Subverted in Supernatural when Bobby is shot in the head, and while he has a chance at survival, he dies in the hospital.

    Video Games 
  • The Bouncer: In his backstory, Volt survived being betrayed and shot point-blank in the head by his fellow bodyguard Echidna. In the game, he's a powerful combatant with no sign of the injury other than a body modification to hide the scar on his forehead.
  • Crisis Core: Final Fantasy VII: The sheer amount of abuse Zack takes before getting taken out is simply superhuman, including a point-blank bullet to the face when he's down.
  • Dead to Rights: Downplayed, but in the first game Jack survives getting shot across the temple, leaving him with a distinct scar, by Patch, who lampshades how much skill was required to pull off a shot like that without blowing his brains out.
  • In Deus Ex: Human Revolution, a headshot was only the last thing to happen to Adam Jensen that prompted his Emergency Transformation.
  • The Courier in Fallout: New Vegas is shot in the head at close range, twice, and buried in a shallow grave at the very beginning of the game. Naturally, being the Player Character, they get better, though some quick work on the part of an escort robot and the local doctor, along with being the Fallout universe, could affect the outcome. Amusingly, if the player sets their character's intelligence stat to 1, Doc Mitchell will profusely apologize as he feels it was his fault for doing a shoddy job. With charisma stat at 1, he'll muse that the cause "must be frontal lobe damage". In an example of Gameplay and Story Integration, the would-be assassin's signature weapon is just that weak — it does 80 damage with two headshots to someone without armor, which indeed wouldn't be enough to kill you even if you had the worst HP possible. The fact that you got shot in the head and have drain bamage is also a plot point in the "Old World Blues" DLC, as it caused the Think Tank's equipment to hard-reset and actually work properly this time.
  • Hotline Miami has this happen to Jacket himself, courtesy of his own employers. A sizable chunk of the game is actually him replaying the events that led up to this while he's recovering from his coma in the hospital.
  • In Killzone: Mercenary, Admiral Alex Grey is shot in the head in the first mission but survives. It's heavily implied that the brain damage from the bullet is what turned her into an extremist hell-bent on exterminating the Helghast.
  • In LISA's Russian Roulette, one of your opponents is a heavily scarred man. It takes two shots to kill him.
  • Lincoln Clay from Mafia III is shot in the forehead early in the game, but the bullet deflects off his skull and comes out the back instead; the antagonists later rants to his assassin for not shooting him twice. Truth in Television, as lower-caliber firearms often have difficulty piercing bone.
  • Mass Effect 2's Zaeed Massani claims to have survived a point-blank headshot armoured only with The Power of Hate. Shepard's tone when responding sounds extremely incredulous.
  • Max Payne is shot in the head by Vladimir in the second game but survives. Also, Mona Sax takes a bullet to the head in the original game. Both cases are lampshaded several times in MP2. Both times it seems that the bullet just grazed them. Mona, though, is vague about how she survived; the game, however, is not. Essentially pure luck. She was shot in the head, and while the bullet didn't kill her at that time, it remained lodged in her head.
  • Due to the way damage works in Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater, it's entirely possible to go through the game with various foreign objects (usually but not limited to, bullets) lodged in various limbs. Most obvious is against The Fear, who uses arrows, and yes, they can hit Snake's head and not kill him. And if you don't remove them and let the wound heal naturally for the rest of the game, Snake has an arrow sticking out of him.
  • The orc Captains in Middle-earth: Shadow of Mordor can be shot in the face multiple times with Talion's bow, and, despite their death being confirmed, can appear again to make your life miserable. Only decapitating them will permanently rid you of them.
  • Lilith Vermillion in Pandora: First Contact was once just a hypocritical cult leader who used the Divine Ascension as a way to amass money and blackmail material without actually believing in anything she preached. Then she got shot in the head by a sniper. She survived but suffered irreparable brain damage in doing so, leading to her current A God Am I complex.
  • In Silent Scope, headshots are almost always one-hit kills on bosses, with the few exceptions being those wearing faceplates and helmets. The Recurring Boss Cobra, however, comes back in Silent Scope 2 and 3 even though he was potentially killed with a headshot in the previous game. The first game especially can have him shrug off a headshot in the highway battle, as he'll get right back up and hijack a truck for the second stage of the battle.
  • Team Fortress 2:
    • Snipers deal 50 damage with their Sniper Rifles, with an x3 multiplier for headshots and an additional x3 multiplier if they spend four seconds charging the shot. Four classes (the Demoman, the Pyro, the Soldier, and the Heavy) have more than 150 health, and as such can survive uncharged headshots. What's more, if the Heavy takes out an unlock called the Fists of Steel, he can easily survive any sort of headshot (300 health base, 40% damage resistance against ranged weapons while holding his Fists out in front of his body).
    • Originally, Snipers equipped with the Croc-o-Style kit could not be killed by headshots, which instead leave them with one hitpoint remaining no matter how healthy he was before, though if they already have exactly one hit point it's still lethal. Later on, the Set Bonus was reduced to a cosmetic effect, and the Darwin's Danger Shield granted a small reduction to bullet damage that, together with its 25 health bonus, is just enough for a Sniper at full health to survive one uncharged headshot. Even after that though, the Danger Shield was reworked entirely to protect against fire damage and afterburn.
    • A bullet resistance ubercharge from the Vaccinator will reduce a fully charged headshot to a mere 38 damage. Every class in the game is capable of surviving that, even a Spy wielding the Kunai which has the lowest maximum hitpoint total possible.
  • Turbo Overkill has a flashback cutscene to Johnny Overkill's past, which doubles as a Robocop Shout-Out, where he gets his arm shot off by enemies (including a close-up of his severed stump, like in Murphy's case), pumped full of holes, and shot in the head, which he survives before having his entire body rebuilt into a badass killer cyborg.

  • In Lackadaisy, Mordecai's lack of social skills and empathy may be because of a brain injury. Bobby shared a rumor with Ivy that "some long-ago incident left a little bit of lead rattling around Mordecai's cranium, and carved him that wonky streak."

    Western Animation 
  • In American Dad!, Stan survived a headshot when his hypnotized daughter shot him directly in the head.
  • Played for laughs in an episode of Celebrity Deathmatch, where Geena Davis' attempt to light the Deathmatch torch with a flaming bow and arrow goes awry, and Nick Diamond is impaled through the head. He doesn't seem to be hurt at all. Johnny Gomez comments that "Geena's arrow doesn't seem to hit any vital organs..." (Nick isn't very bright.)
  • In Paradise PD, Gina Jabowski took a bullet to the brain when she was just 10 years old. She survived, but the brain damage left her with no self-control and a thirst for violence.
  • South Park:
  • Star Wars: The Bad Batch: Orn Free Taa is shot in the side of his head by Crosshair, but can be seen still breathing and his hand moves after he collapses. Rampart has the Syndullas arrested for the attempted assassination of the senator, further confirming his survival. It's not too outlandish, considering the massive amount of blubber present even on his head.

    Real Life 
  • In 1978, a young woman named Leslie Worther, working as a cashier at an isolated 7-Eleven in one of the more rural areas of Orange County, Florida was shot in the back of the head twice (and stabbed in the abdomen once) during a robbery. After the robbers left her store, she called the police for help. Then she sat down and waited for nearly ten minutes for help to arrive. She survived her wounds and is still alive today. Only in Florida.
  • Chumbawamba have a song about the Real Life "El Fusilado", who survived an entire firing squad's worth of bullets to the chest and a Coup de Grâce to the head. In later life, he toured with the Ripley's Believe It or Not! show.
  • Simo Häyhä, the famous Cold Sniper, was finally put out of commission when the last man left of a counter-sniper team sent against him managed to shoot him in the head with a shot that took off half his face. Häyhä managed to maintain consciousness long enough to kill his attacker, survived the war, and lived until the age of 96, having lived past the Turn of the Millennium.
  • There are also tales of people surviving brain impalement via other means. For example, Leon Trotsky survived an ice pick to the skull long enough to put up a fight against his assassin, though he did succumb to his wounds the next day. Another famous case is that of Phineas Gage, who survived despite his tamping iron being driven right through his skull by an explosion. He lived for more than a decade after the accident, although friends remarked that his personality (and skill in math) had changed so greatly that he was no longer recognisable as the man he had been. However, by the end of his life, his character largely recovered to the point that he was able to live with his family again, demonstrating the survivability and adaptability of the human brain.
  • Press Secretary James Brady was shot in the head during John Hinckley's assassination attempt on Ronald Reagan. He survived (he ultimately passed away in 2014) and became a noted advocate for gun control; the "Brady Bill", instituting background checks on gun purchases, was named after him.
  • Arizona Representative Gabrielle Giffords was shot in the head during a shooting spree at a constituent meet-and-greet. Seven months later, she entered the US House of Representatives to a standing ovation to cast a critical vote. Seven months for being shot in the head!
  • This Marine managed to survive an Afghan sniper's attempt to shoot him in the head, the Kevlar helmet deflecting the bullet just enough that it didn't go straight into his brain. It was, however, mere millimeters away from hitting his spinal column and opening several major arteries.
  • There is a story that has appeared online a couple of times, about a man who gets out of bed one morning and heads down to his kitchen to commit suicide. He holds a revolver to the side of his head (a lower caliber type, like a .32) and fires. When his wife comes down a little while later, she finds him at the table eating cereal, with a hole through his head and no recollection of the event. A variation of this is that his wife is the one who shot him, while he was sleeping to which he assumed she had merely elbowed him in the head instead. Come the next morning, the man wakes up with a massive headache, and decides to go to the doctor for fear of it being a stroke. The doctor, sensing something off, orders an X-ray, and finds the source of the headache: a .357 bullet lodged in his cranium.
  • There was a story in a magazine in England a few years ago about a woman who was shot while trying to escape an attacker. She was apparently halfway up a fence she was trying to climb over when he shot her several times in the back and in the head. She survived because the gun he was using had been stored improperly in a garden shed and the damp had caused the bullets to fire at a reduced velocity.
  • There is a story of a suicide attempt with a nail gun leaving the man with amnesia about the whole event. However, terrible headaches soon brought him to hospital. Luckily the hospital didn't have an MRI machine and they X-rayed him instead.
  • A suicide attempt with a nail gun had the man shooting himself in the head ten times. He survived. Which just goes to show that despite what computer games may tell you, nail guns really suck as weapons. The X-ray published on some news sites showed that the nails were too short and barely pierced his skull without reaching the brain.
  • Russian field marshal Kutuzov survived a musket ball in one of his early Turkish campaigns when he was just a Colonel Badass. The bullet pierced his head temple-to-cheek, glancing his brain, and the wound was initially thought to be fatal. Surprisingly, he completely recovered with nothing worse to wear than splitting headaches after he used his right eye, injured by a bullet, for more than a couple of minutes. Because of this, he had to wear an eyepatch that led to the popular myth about him being one-eyed. And then, probably just to finally prove that he was Nigh-Invulnerable, he was injured a second time in the same place with the same result.
  • Ludwig van Beethoven's nephew attempted suicide by shooting himself in the head and survived.
  • Ladislav Stroupeznicky, a Czech playwright from the nineteenth century, felt Driven to Suicide and shot himself in the head. He survived, but he blasted his nose off and had to wear a fake one made of wax.
  • Robert Lawrence took a 7.62 bullet to the head, was left exposed to the elements for the better part of a day without painkillers, and ended up with only 57% of his grey matter left. The doctors were amazed enough that he was alive and told him he would never walk again. These days he spends his time taking fellow wounded soldiers mountain climbing.
  • In Chickenhaw, Robert Mason recalls seeing a helicopter pilot return to base with a hole in each side of his flight helmet. It turned out that the bullet had hit and gone through the flight helmet on one side of his head, deflected off his skull, turned upwards, followed the curvature of his helmet all the way around his head, deflected off another ridge of bone on the other side and gone back out through the other side of his flight helmet.
  • The Other Wiki has an article on multiple gunshot suicides, reporting one case in which four shots to the head were required to finish the job.
  • In 1812, General Hulin was shot in the head by General Malet during the latter's attempted overthrow of Napoleon's Empire. He collapsed in a pool of blood and Malet walked away, thinking that he was dead; however, when Colonel Doucet came to check on him after arresting Malet a few hours later, Hulin was unable to speak but still conscious enough to let Doucet understand that he had carte blanche to restore order in Paris. This misadventure earned Hulin a nickname from the Parisian populace: Bouffe-la-balle, or "Bullet-eater".
  • Malala Yousafzai was targeted by the Taliban for advocating women's education. The bullet damaged the left side of her brain, following the interior of her skull before lodging in her shoulder near her spine. She recovered from her injuries and continues to fiercely campaign against terror and for women's rights. The gunshot injury, in fact, arguably launched her to international prominence.
  • Trevor Noah has a bit where he speaks about when his mother was shot by her husband. One bullet entered her head and followed the curvature of her skull before exiting near her nose and taking a small chunk of flesh in the process. Aside from that, it did no damage.
  • Ernst Jünger recalled in his memoirs Storm of Steel that he endured two headshots (plus about a dozen of other injuries) on the battlefields of World War I. Although he went on to live till almost 103 years old, yet it's little wonder that the guy ended up... a bit off-kilter.
  • Mary Jo Buttafuoco survived a gunshot to the head from her husband's teenage lover. The murder attempt left her deaf in one ear and her face partially paralyzed (she underwent facial reanimation surgery years later). To this day, the bullet remains in her head.
  • During the Pacific War, Japanese Fighter Pilot Saburō Sakai suffered this while flying his Zero Fighter-Plane. In the Battle of Guadalcanal, Sakai was leading an attack against the American-Controlled Airfield and tried to shoot down an American Dive-Bomber, but the enemy plane's rear gunner fired back, piercing the cockpit and hitting Sakai in the head with a .30 caliber MG bullet. The bullet severely injured his skull, temporarily paralyzed the left side of his body, and blinded him in one eye, and he began to descend into a freefall, but Sakai managed to stabilize his plane and fly back to base. The Return Flight took Nearly Five Hours over a distance of 1040km/640mi all while in excruciating pain. He was then sent back to Japan and had several cranial surgeries, where he regained his eyesight & recovered from paralysis, and returned to service nearly two years later. After the war, Sakai lived a full life and died in 2000 in his 80s.
  • This trope is surprisingly common with victims of penetrating head trauma in modern emergency rooms. With studies finding a survival rate of 62% for adults and 32% for children. However, that is for people who live long enough to get to the ER.
  • Donald Burgett, and American paratrooper in the 101st "Screaming Eagles" Airborne Division, recalled a moment that narrowly averted this trope: A buddy of his walked up to him carrying his helmet, which had two neat bullet holes punched in it, front to back, and triumphantly showed that his head was completely unhurt; apparently, the bullet had punched through his helmet but, lacking sufficient velocity or a good enough deflection angle, traveled between the steel pot of the helmet and the resin liner, then exited the other side. Apparently, the worst that the soldier suffered was one hell of a headache, but by that time he was just glad to have survived after seeing what had happened.
  • First Lieutenant Joseph C. McGregor (often listed as MacGregor), a Scottish-born American paratrooper with the 501st Parachute Infantry Reg, 101st Airborne Division, served as a Pathfinder as part of D-Day (recorded as the first American to land in occupied France) and later parachuted into Belgium as part of Operation Market Garden. On September 18th, under heavy fire, McGregor covered his men with a sub-machine gun at a crossroad and was subsequently injured and captured. The next day he was recovered having been shot in the head with the comment "his brains were showing"; he was not expected to live. Sent to England to recover, he returned to service in December 1944 in Belgium. On 30th December, he was injured by shrapnel from a mortar but returned to service the next day. During the Battle of the Bulge, he took out an enemy half-track with a bazooka, waiting until it was almost on top of him, terrifying the soldier lying beside him. On the 9th January 1945, he was shot in the head a second time, this time fatally. While recovering after Market Garden, he was visited by two older sisters that still lived in Scotland, who he'd spent leave time with prior to D-day. They believed that he returned to the war with the intention of dying having seen his personality change following his head injury.


Video Example(s):

Alternative Title(s): Tis Only A Bullet In The Head


Rex vs King Lizard

After being shot in the head by King Lizard, Rex Splode miraculously survives and manages to beat KL to a pulp in the middle of his villainous monologue

How well does it match the trope?

5 (7 votes)

Example of:

Main / CaughtMonologuing

Media sources: