In some media, particularly science fiction media, armored characters will often have large plates covering their face. This could be anything from a large bubble helmet used in a conventional space suit, to a thin strip-like visor running across their eyes. Sometimes writers and artists need to show combat damage on suited characters, and one of the most visible and effective means of communicating that to the audience is by means of smashing, cracking, or putting a hole through the faceplate on their armor, suit, or mask.
This can be a very powerful image, as humans instinctively look to the face to gauge the state of another person's emotions, and even when that face is completely concealed behind a visor, the fact that the visor is damaged tends to communicate horrible damage quite quickly. This can also be a form of Gory Discretion Shot, as any damage severe enough to put a hole through a faceplate is likely to make a mess of the head it conceals, but the actual blood and gore need not be directly shown. See also Pretty Little Headshots. On the other hand, if the damage caused uncovers the character's face but does not cause head injury, that can also be a way of communicating to the audience that though the character is not dead, they are in serious danger. Tearing away their protection and revealing their face in the process will "humanize" an armored character to the audience, with all attendant human vulnerabilities that implies.
Note that though this trope seems most common to armored characters, it can apply to any character who conceals their face behind a mask. For example, a masked Superhero who gets their mask partially torn off in battle would count as this trope, though one who deliberately takes the mask off would not.
Anime and Manga
- Ryuga in Mahoromatic gets his helmet smashed open in the last episode of the first season.
- Alice of Pumpkin Scissors is buying time for Randel by taking on an entire division of Claymores (masked, heavily-armoured shock troopers). The captain mocks her because she's getting tired; her response is to hack right through the metal faceplate of the captain with her double-bladed cavalry sword, then slash through his body armour.
- The same episode has another example near the end. As the body of Hans of the 908th High-Temperature Troop is being carted away, we see the faceplate of his flame and bullet resistant armour cracked wide open. As he can no longer survive outside his suit, this example is even more appropriate than most.
- In Darker than Black, one of the most common and effective ways to show that a foe is to be feared is for them to break Hei's mask.
- Very dramatically in the Code Geass first Season Finale: Suzaku shoots a bullet straight at Zero's forehead; the mask slowly cracks, falling into two pieces on the floor and finally revealing Lelouch's identity to both him and Kallen.
- Happens in the fourth season of Bakugan when Dan shatters Mag Mel's mask in their fight, revealing his true identity of Emperor Barodius, the previous season's Big Bad who'd been sealed away for his attempted destruction of his neighboring planet.
- Haku from Naruto. His mask cracks and falls off while waiting for Naruto to kill him.
- Used in RoboCop, where his visor gets smashed open by ED209, allowing the audience to see the fear and surprise on his face during a close-up.
- In Star Trek: First Contact, Picard takes a blow to the head while wearing a Starfleet space suit, causing the visor to crack. Fortunately for him, it still holds.
- During the intense forest battle in Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen, Megatron shatters Optimus Prime's iconic faceplate by kicking him in the face. Soon after, Prime has to spit damaged pieces of it out of his mouth. Later, when he is upgraded with Jetfire's parts, Optimus's faceplate is repaired.
- The Raimi Spider Man films invoke this trope at least twice. Spidey's mask gets ripped when he's on the receiving end of a beatdown.
- In Three Hundred, the Persian Immortals wear chromed masks into battle. One gets unmasked by a blow to the face. what's underneath is even uglier, matching the rest of Xerxes' army of freaks and horrors.
- In the original Alien, the first thing the face-hugger form does is go for the helmet, secreting acid to melt through the faceplate to impregnate the host within...
- This happens in Toku shows if someone has taken a really hard hit. Their suit is always intact next time it's used, though, somehow.
- Super Sentai:
- Happens at least once in Hyakujuu Sentai Gaoranger...
- Gekiranger: Jan gets a hole punched in his visor during his final fight with Rio.
- A curious variation takes place in Mahou Sentai Magiranger; during the final battle against N Ma, Kai manifests his helmet without the faceplate.
- In Tokumei Sentai Gobusters episode 14, Hiromu and Ryuuji both get smashed visors. This shows how strong the Metaroids are getting... the episode happens to be the debut of the 4th ranger.
- Power Rangers:
- Lost Galaxy - During the final battle with Trakeena, Leo uses his Super Mode armor to grab her and fires at point-blank rage. At first, his teammates aren't sure he survived, but he staggers out of the rubble with half his visor blown off, and gives an epic thumbs up.
- Time Force - This is how Wes's father finds out that his son is a Ranger.
- This was a shot-for-shot remake of a scene from Mirai Sentai Timeranger. Including the fact that you could only a small part of his face, and the dad was a good ten yards away or more.
- Psycho Pink of Power Rangers in Space gets her helmet cracked, but you don't get to see through it. The same cracked helmet prop is reused a season later, when she (barely) survives the combined finishing moves of the Space and Galaxy Rangers, and seeks payback.
- Used in first person in Star Wars Republic Commando. The leader of Delta Squad will get cracks and chips on his visor when taking damage, which will be quickly repaired as the helmet's systems re-surface the visor.
- Used on the cover of the Play Station 3 exclusive Haze. Not that it ever actually happens in the game.
- In StarCraft II, a scene near the end of the game shows the aftermath of a battle, with many broken and imobile suits of Terran power armor strewn across the ground. One prominent shot shows a large hole shot through the characteristic domed visor.
- A few examples in Halo: Reach:
- Noble Six's helmet is shown as a Dead Hat Shot In Medias Res opening cutscene, half buried in the dirt, lying alone and abandoned on a charred battlefield.
- When Kat gets shot through the head by a Covenant sniper.
- Seen from first person when Noble Six is making a Last Stand against the Covenant, and we learn why the helmet was discarded as shown in the opening.
- In Call of Duty Black Ops, one mission requires you to wear an NBC suit during a chemical attack. You're still fighting, though, and as you take damage, your faceshield will crack. While your health will regenerate normally, your faceshield won't, meaning that if you take too much damage in the entire sequence, you'll die from exposure to the chemical agent.
- Also briefly appears Modern Warfare 3, in first person, when Price's Juggernaut suit is damaged by helicopter rockets in the final mission.
- During the Bring Down the Sky mission in Mass Effect, a survivor of the attack mentions that the Batarian terrorists killed engineers working vacuum by smashing their faceplates.
- The Game Over screen in Metroid Prime.
- In F.E.A.R. 2: Project Origin, the screen cracks when Becket dies, representing his Cool Shades being broken.
- In the Nod campaign into for Command & Conquer: Tiberian Sun, the camera pans down over the corpse of a Nod soldier whose helmet's faceplate is partially blown open.
- In Metro 2033, you have a gasmask that will start to crack and break as you take damage. As it gets closer to breaking, it becomes less effective, and you better hope there is a spare nearby if you get stuck outside with a nearly broken mask.
- In Narbonic, the state of Dave's eyeglasses symbolizes the state of his sanity. For most of the comic's run, his glasses are intact but represented as opaque. Towards the end when Dave finally realizes the great secret responsible for much of his life's path, his glasses are suddenly represented as clear, showing that he can see clearly now. And then one of the lenses cracks, as a not-so-subtle way to show that Dave is half-cracked.
- Mistress Butterfly of Collar 6 cements her status as a Big Bad by shattering the cyclops like faceplate of a supposedly powerful member of the association called a Judicatrix
- May from Supernormal Step
- In Transformers Cybertron, Optimus Prime's mouthplate is shattered during the final battle, although he is the victor. Galvatron dies though.
- During Optimus's death sequence in Transformers Armada, his faceplate cracks apart up-close before he crumbles into dust.
- In Transformers Prime, Soundwave gets slashed across his faceplate by Wheeljack, shortly before Wheeljack headbutts him hard enough to badly crack it. However, Soundwave shows pretty much no reaction to the damage and manages to narrowly win their battle.
- A scene of Clone Wars sees General Grievous grasping a clone trooper's head with his clawed foot and smashing him against a wall so hard that his helmet shatters and his jaw is visible. There's no blood, but it's reasonable to assume that the trooper is down for good.
- On Episode 7 of The Legend of Korra, police chief Lin Beifong beats an Equalist Mini-Mecha by metalbending her cables into punching daggers and smashing through the faceplate, attacking the operator.
- Rooster Teeth supposedly intended for this iconic image to be used on the DVD cover, until they discovered the trope was also being used in Halo: Reach, which was being released at nearly the same time. They decided to change it to avoid seeming like they were ripping off the idea.