Hollywood Acid

Everything About Fiction You Never Wanted to Know.
It burns!

In films, on TV, and in comic books, an "acid" is any liquid that can eat away at and completely dissolve skin and muscle, leaving only bone and sometimes not even that. Even stronger "acids" will melt steel, glass, plastic, concrete, and ultimately everything it comes into contact with. Well everything except the glass flask that it is stored in. Such liquids are almost always either a sickly green or sickly yellow color. They bubble and fizz on the counter or floor when you spill them, give off visible, smoky fumes, and they never dissipate. If a drop of acid eats through the floor, it will continue to eat through things on the next level down, and so on. There are even some video games where puddles of this stuff can move around and try to kill you.

This stuff will never be referred to as anything other than "acid," unless it's given some highly scientific name at its introduction, after which it will simply be called "acid." Expect it to show up at least once in any work involving a Mad Scientist. If this stuff is ever spilled on a person or other living creature, say hello to the Nightmare Fuel.

A Sub-Trope of Hollywood Science. Compare Poison Is Corrosive and Acid Pool (when this is applied to a Death Trap). Has nothing to do with that other kind of acid or this one.

Examples of Hollywood Acid include:


  • A gout medication ad features a man walking around with a giant flask of fluid, which shrinks to illustrate how his uric acid levels fall once he tries the medicine. Uric acid is colorless in solution or yellow when crystallized, yet the flask's contents are a sickly greenish hue.
    • If you don't pay attention it appears that he has quite a love for his homemade Mt Dew.

Anime & Manga

  • In Gantz, the Thousand Arms Buddha statue carries a vial full of acid corrosive enough to completely liquify a person in the blink of an eye, even if he's wearing the protective Gantz suit. This actually worked in the hunters' advantage, as it was the acid spilled by Sei Sakuraoka that eventually disabled the Buddha statue's regenerative ability. (Although this didn't happen until Kei Kishimoto, among others, had met their fate because of the same acid.)

Comic Books

  • Three Donald Duck stories by Don Rosa involved a liquid called "The Universal Solvent". It was capable of dissolving pretty much anything—except diamonds. In real life, unless you're an alchemist, the term 'Universal Solvent' usually refers to water...
    • Technically the Universal Solvent in the stories doesn't dissolve anything. It compresses the atoms of anything it comes in contact with, turning all matter into a superdense powder. Granted, this is only mentioned in the first story.
  • Batman loves this stuff; it's used to kill the villain in his very first story, The Case of the Chemical Syndicate, and is the comic-book source of Harvey Dent's scars as Two-Face. Deconstructed in Dr. Scott's article on an issue where Batman counteracts The Joker's acid by spraying the target with a strong base. Hello exothermic reaction!


  • In Tomie:Replay, Tomie pushes Yumi, the protagonist, out of the wheelchair she was in onto a floor covered in acid.
  • Superman III featured "beltric acid," which became super-corrosive if it heated up far enough. It ends up as a Chekhov's Gun in the final fight against the rogue computer.
  • The blood of the xenomorphs in Alien and its sequels is made of a "concentrated molecular acid" (sic) that can eat through a starship's hull but not through the body of the xenomorph itself, due to being Silicon-Based Life. It seems to have less effect on human flesh when convenient. In Aliens, Private Hudson gets some splashed on his arm when Corporal Hicks shoots a Xenomorph in the head at point-blank range, causing little more than painful burns.
    • Notable in that its potency freaks everyone out; one character makes noises about "molecular acid" in the first film, and an executive speaks of "concentrated acid" in a patronizing manner in he second - they're basically saying, "Umm... Acid isn't supposed to do that!"
  • Aliens vs. Predator is inconsistent with the lethality of Alien blood. A hunter's arm is seared off by a splash of facehugger blood, and another unfortunate human has his skull melted by a blast of Xenomorph blood to the face. However, the first film also presents it as mild enough to use for body scarification.
    • This is actually a nod to the previous AVP fluff, where the Predators are said to have antacid blood that neutralizes the Aliens' acid blood. It will damages their skin but stops once it reaches their blood.
      • Still inconsistent, though. In the first AVP comic Broken Tusk gives the 'scarification' ritual to Machiko Noguchi -- who is a human being -- and yet doesn't melt through her forehead when he slaps on some Xenomorph blood, straight from the gore-dripping severed limb of a recently-dead Xenomorph.
  • Richie Rich, where Richie uses the acid (disguised as a tube of toothpaste) to help break Cadbury, his butler out of jail.
  • In Gremlins 2, there is a bit with a beaker of acid labeled "Acid: Do Not Throw In Face". One gremlin throws it in the face of another, who then assumes a Phantom of the Opera mask and cape.
  • The goop that Jack Napier falls into in Tim Burton's Batman is puke-green and has the consistency of a milkshake. Its later described as "acid". Later in the same film, the Joker's trick flower squirts acid strong enough to eat through thick metal in seconds (when he sprays it on the bolts holding up the church bell).
  • The same fate befalls some nameless extras in The Mummy 1999 as well. Rick even identifies the substance as "Salt acid. Pressurized salt acid." ('Salt acid' is the period-authentic name for Hydrochloric acid.) Although, in a subversion, the acid here burns the extras rather than dissolving their skin.
  • The DIP in Who Framed Roger Rabbit? pretty much acts like Hollywood Acid, though it only works on Toons. It's essentially made of the solution used to clean cels (which is to say, it's a blend of powerful paint thinners), but it still is colored green and is constantly steaming.
    • Slightly justified. The mix of paint-thinners may very well have a green appearance, and it's not unreasonable to have it heated by the motion and such. More pain for the toon, and less viscosity.
  • Averted in Runaway, in which the acid sprayed by Gene Simmons' insectoid robots causes ugly black burns on the hero's skin rather than dissolving his tissues.
  • In Return of the Living Dead, one of the zombies gets blinded by a faceful of nitric acid, which audibly sizzles on contact with dead flesh.
  • Jeff Goldblum's character Seth Brundle uses his stomach acid in the 1986 Cronenberg remake of The Fly, both to externally digest food and in one stomach-turning scene, as a weapon. It's actually specified as containing digestive enzymes.
  • Played straight in Saw III. In the infamous "Angel Trap" scene, Kerry has one minute to grab a key (which, contrary to Jigsaw's warning, never actually dissolves) inside a beaker of highly corrosive acid and free herself from a harness before it tears open her ribcage. By the time she finally retrieves said key, her hand is horribly mangled and the acid is dark red. What makes the scene even scarier is that the key actually doesn't free her, so she still dies.
    • An even more ridiculous usage of the substance tops off Saw VI, dissolving a man from the inside out in about ten seconds.
  • In |Seed of Chucky, John Waters' character dies when Glen accidentally scares him, causing him to back up into a shelf in his red room, sending photo developing chemicals crashing down on him and melting his face.
  • The Tall Man is killed in Phantasm II when the fluid he uses to reanimate corpses is tainted with hydrochloric acid and then injected into him, melting him from the inside-out. If that wasn't improbable enough to bother all of you chemists, this somehow causes his eyeballs to explode. Of course, this may be justified as the Tall Man's physiology is alien.
  • In The Rock, VX nerve gas is shown to be a corrosive acid. Crosses over with Poison Is Corrosive.
  • In the first RoboCop movie, Boddicker's henchman Emil attempts to crush Murphy with his car, only to miss Murphy and drive straight into a tank full of corrosive toxic waste. He survives... kind of.
  • Stomach acid serves as this trope in the final battle of Innerspace, when Tuck Pendleton drops his pod into Jack Putter's stomach with Mr. Igoe clinging to the side. The pod survives; Mr. Igoe doesn't.
  • The House on Haunted Hill in 1959 had a tank full of acid in the basement as big as a swimming pool, still caustic enough to reduce human bodies to skeletons.
  • A janitor is killed by having his head dunked in a sink that was randomly full of acid (or some kind of corrosive chemical) in Hospital Massacre.
  • In Mindhunters, a quantity of acid small enough to be concealed undetectably in a cigarette is sufficient to kill the FBI trainee who smokes it. While her death might be reasonable under the circumstances, her entire body emitting vapor from, at most, a few mL of acid isn't, nor is the dropped cigarette melting its way into the ground beneath it.
  • Alien knockoff flick Deep Rising features giant worms with stomach acids so strong that they get their nutrition by merely engulfing and digesting their prey alive. The acting effects of this are shown in one particularly gory sequence appropriately know as "half-digested Billy".
  • The 1985 B-grade horror flick Attack of the Beast Creatures features a whole river made of acid, which coincidentally looks exactly like normal water. When one person tries to cross it, his body gets dissolved until only the skeleton remains. It's never made clear how such a large body of highly corrosive acid came to exist, nor how the tropical rainforest on the river bank manages to prosper.


  • Aversion in A Darkness at Sethanon - the Tsurani Empire's homeworld has very little metal, so they have had to find other means of torture, which consist of using caustic bases to blister the skin, not acid.
  • In the novel of God of War, one of the Temple Of Pandora's boobytraps is a tripwire that spills a substance so powerful that it turns the room into a sinkhole. The fumes also burn Kratos on contact.
  • In Discworld, the metal-dissolving aspects of this trope are applied to scumble, as well as (justifiably) to the caustic beverages favored by trolls.
  • In the New Jedi Order, the Jedi-hunting voxyn beasts can vomit acid (which is, unusually, not depicted as stereotypical acid, but rather mucus that happens to be strong enough to burn through faces), and their blood is both acidic and a neurotoxin.

Live Action TV

  • A very memorable aversion is found in the AMC series Breaking Bad. The main character (who is a chemistry teacher and thus knowledgeable about such things) and his partner need to get rid of a body. The chemistry teacher tells his dimwitted sidekick to pick up a specific type of plastic tub, because hydrofluoric acid will dissolve pretty much any other container. So what does the sidekick do? Takes a shortcut and dumps it in a ceramic bathtub. The result is a very... messy hole in the ceiling (the tub being on the second floor). Since the body, at this point, is no longer recognizable as human, the result, for those who are not completely disgusted, is Bloody Hilarious.
  • Surprisingly averted in an episode of The Lucy Show of all places. Lucille Ball and Vivian Vance attend a night-school chemistry class, and Lucy panics when she gets splashed with a very weak acid... until the instructor tells her that the stuff she got covered in was effectively harmless.
  • Better Off Ted had an episode which featured a biocomputer that leaked an "acid-like goo," or "ass-goo" for short that burned through several floors and desks.
  • Surprisingly, The X-Files gets the bit about acid vapors right. The aliens have acid blood similar to the Xenomorphs, but most of their victims die from inhaling the stuff. This may have something to do with the fact it's cheaper to film than acid eating through people's bodies.
    • The blood emits toxic vapours which cause swelling and reddening around the eyes and death by coagulation. It may be acidic, but that is incidental to its effectiveness.
  • In the Tales from the Crypt episode "99 & 44/100% Pure Horror" a woman murders her soap magnate husband and disposes the body by putting it through the machine at his factory and turning it into soap. She takes the soap home with her and uses it when she takes a shower, but to her horror the acid from his stomach starts eating away at her skin. Of course, if stomach acid really could dissolve human skin it wouldn't be able to stay in the stomach in the first place.
    • Of course, only someone who had already Failed Biology Forever would confuse a special purpose acid resisting membrane (eg, your stomach and presumably bits of your digestive tract) with any other part of the body. Witness the damage acid reflux can cause, and the fact that people can eat and digest the skins of other animals. Possibly even other people, too.
      • Indeed. Gastric acid is predominantly hydrochloric acid with some potassium chloride and sodium chloride. The only thing keeping that from eating through your stomach is a lining of acid-resistant mucus and production of bicarbonates to act as extra cushion. Failure of either of those protective systems is what causes stomach ulcers (which is a fancy term for when there isn't enough of said cushion and your stomach starts eating itself, resulting in open aggravated internal sores). The show still fails horribly, though, in that if the acid 'trapped' in the soap was eating through her skin, it would eat through the soap as well, nevermind stink like nothing else, and be noticeable well before she tried using it. Considering that lye has been used in soap production and still is in some brands, disposing of the body via turning it into soap should have destroyed everything (except maybe the teeth) and made perfectly good usable soap without even recognizable DNA to pick up.
    • Moreover, the manufacture of soap involves adding enough lye to give the mixture a neutral to slightly alkaline pH, so the soap-making process, itself, should've rendered the acid harmless.
    • The fact that one of her husbands eye balls was in the soap and still moving and looking at her as she died may indicate that there was an element of the supernatural to the soap.
  • The live action Batman had an inspired variant in a Riddler story when the villain gets a special wax. It is the perfect safe-cracking tool: a powerful corrosive that is potent enough that a pocketful of the stuff will quickly and silently penetrate thick steel doors or concrete walls in minutes and yet is perfectly safe to handle until you expose it to direct flame. In fact, you'd almost wonder why Riddler didn't make a bundle simply auctioning the stuff to other criminals.
  • In the Friday the 13th: The Series episode "Crippled Inside" a teenaged attempted rapist backs away from his apparently cured victim into a rack of various chemicals. Body Horror ensues, and one must assume that his surviving family will be getting one hell of a wrongful death settlement.
  • Clark Kent, in the 1950’s Superman series, was lowered into an enormous vat of acid by chortling villains, who then walked out to arrange their next evil deed. Naturally, Superman then emerged, his costume soaked, but unharmed. Presumably, Kent’s glasses and clothes were dissolved.
  • The Columbo episode Mind Over Mayhem features a killer who disposes of certain key bits of evidence- a wallet, file folder with papers, and a metal can containing heroin- in a vat labeled "contaminated acid". It looks like water until the items drop in and starts to boil.
  • Several episodes of 1000 Ways To Die play this trope straight with various degrees of accuracy, particularly "Deep Fried", "Fools Russian", and "Caught In A Lye".
  • Played with in Brisco County, Jr.- a skeleton is found in a bathtub full of acid. The skeleton was a fake, left by the supposed victim to fake his own death. But despite only sitting about waist deep in the acid tub, the entire body was bones.

Tabletop Games

  • Dungeons & Dragons has this as a major damage type in 4th Edition, as well as it being one of the few ways to put down a troll for good.
    • Earlier editions have it too, with spells such as Acid Fog, and a black dragon's Acid Breath. And whenever the stuff is illustrated, expect it to be a bright green.
  • A very common damage type in Mortasheen, as well as a more specific Corrosive type of damage that specifically does heavy damage to metal (Perfect for the Mecha-Mooks the game has as its main villains)

Video Games

  • Reptile from Mortal Kombat. His fatality in Ultimate MK3 has him vomit a gallon of "acid" on his opponent, melting their flesh clear off their skeleton. He also has acid fatalities in Mortal Kombat 4 and Deadly Alliance.
    • And don't forget the "Dead Pool" from Mortal Kombat 2.
  • Borderlands features "caustic" weapons that fire acid-filled rounds that dissolve armor and flesh. "Caustic" usually refers to corrosive bases, not acids.
  • Any falling sand clone that features acid has it behave this way. The Powder Toy has acid not only dissolve everything it touches except diamond, but it's also flammable.
  • The Mac game Spin Doctor had droplets of bright green acid that activated when you passed over them and chased you.
  • In Metroid, Brinstar is full of some kind of acid that depletes your energy by roughly twenty points per second of contact. Considering the sort of damage the power suit can endure, that makes it about as strong as 10-12M HCl. The acid is also boiling, looking at its animation, which means that, if it is HCl, the air in Brinstar must be largely chlorine gas.
    • Fridge Brilliance: Samus is wearing a sealed suit of Powered Armor every time she's headed down there, and nobody ever said anything about Brinstar's native lifeforms being obligate aerobes. In-universe logic would tend to argue that they aren't, given that the surface of the planet (Chozodia, Crateria) is constantly bathed in a mild acidic rain, and given that OrphanedToddler!Samus had to undergo fairly extensive genetic engineering, courtesy of the Chozo, just to survive there.
      • And even with the modifications, it was stated she could only survive unaided on the areas around the surface. Super Metroid also features "acid lava" , which is yellowish boiling liquid that is found in lower Norfair and is able to damage Samus even after she acquires the Gravity Suit (which renders her immune to damage from lava). Whether it's actually acid or not isn't clear, as "acid lava" is just the fan nickname (to differentiate it from regular lava).
  • In the Monkey Island games, grog is so acidic that it dissolves the pewter mugs it is served in as well as the locks on cell doors.
  • In Uninvited, the servant ghost kills you by engulfing you into his "misty form", which covers you in a thick, sticky goo that turns out to be acid that not only hurts like hell, but turns you into a "lifeless lump of flesh".
  • In StarCraft and StarCraft II, several zerg units use "acid" attacks.
  • In the Flash game Crush the Castle 2, acid projectiles play the trope 100% straight. They are green and hissing, will completely dissolve almost any substance it touches, and will leak down, dissolving any objects beneath that the target point directly contacts. This can create a chain reaction which can bring down entire structures by itself. Oddly, though it can disintegrate solid iron, it will not eat through the much softer earth once it reaches down that far, and a few kinds of rock walls are impervious to it. Human targets are naturally dissolved.
  • Several Gauntlet games have puddles of green acid as enemies.


  • Subverted in Eight Bit Theater. Garland has the Light Warriors (plus White Mage) tied up over a cauldron full of a hissing, bubbling green liquid - which turns out to be Mountain Dew, swapped with Garland's real acid by the Forest Imps.
  • In a Wonderella strip, Jokerella threatens her with citric acid (which can be harmful in its pure form, but it's not exactly Joker-level evil).

Western Animation

  • The Batman/Superman episode World's Finest both subverts this and plays it straight, kinda. When the Joker leaves Superman and Batman trapped in one of Luthor's laboratories (with a chunk of kryptonite slowly killing Superman), Batman begins looking for ways to escape. He finds a container of hydrochloric acid. Batman notes that while it will take a week for the acid to eat through the wall of the room they're in, it will destroy the kryptonite almost immediately.
    • To be fair, what the acid did was dissolve the kryptonite... and thus allow it to flow down the drain and out of the room.
    • Similarly, Superman's Anti-Kryptonite suit is supposed to be designed to resist corrosion by acid, yet is destroyed by it anyway.
  • In Jimmy Two-Shoes, Jimmy's "dog" Cerbee actually has acid as waste, which dissolves anything he relieves himself on.
  • The Simpsons: Radioactive Man's actor is famous on the Internet for getting washed away by a sea of Hollywood Acid while (understandably) complaining that his protective eyewear is not serving its ostensible function.
    • Homer was also about to quaff a beaker of acid, but it was knocked out of his hand by Frank Grimes. It splashed all over the wall, creating a hole big enough to drive a car through. Grimes was then chewed out by Mr. Burns for destroying the wall.
      • And for wasting his precious acid.

Real Life

  • Real acids actually do some of the things commonly attributed to Hollywood acids. Most notably, common acids do dissolve ordinary metals, producing flammable hydrogen gas in the process(though plastic, glass, concrete, and most other common materials are basically unaffected). The stronger ones can also burn flesh, and produce some very nasty fumes, like smelling vinegar but far stronger. Most acids won't dissolve flesh, though, that's actually what bases are for. However, most of the common acids are clear liquids that look just like water, and they certainly don't bubble continuously for the sake of it.
  • Hydrofluoric acid is probably the most dangerous acid someone not working in a lab could get a hold of and reasonably store. It rapidly penetrates the skin and proceeds to destroy the human body from the inside out by reacting readily with calcium. To make matters worse because calcium is used in the propagation of action potentials (those thingamajigs that let you feel pain) many people don’t realize they’re dying until it’s too late.
    • Also, it's poisonous, when it reaches the blood stream and it doesn't become less corrosive nearly as fast as other acids when diluted.
  • The term Super Acid is used for any material that is more acidic than 100% pure sulphuric acid. Some particularly corrosive chemicals can protonate and dissolve hydrocarbons, something that does not occur in a normal acid environment for example.
  • Chlorine trifluoride - not technically an acid, but it burns through flesh, glass, rock and concrete like nobody's business. When mixed with water it explodes and forms hydrochloric and hydrofluoric acids as byproducts. Too nasty even for Those Wacky Nazis.
"It is, of course, extremely toxic, but that's the least of the problem. It is hypergolic with every known fuel, and so rapidly hypergolic that no ignition delay has ever been measured. It is also hypergolic with such things as cloth, wood, and test engineers, not to mention asbestos, sand, and water — with which it reacts explosively. It can be kept in some of the ordinary structural metals — steel, copper, aluminium, etc. — because of the formation of a thin film of insoluble metal fluoride which protects the bulk of the metal, just as the invisible coat of oxide on aluminium keeps it from burning up in the atmosphere. If, however, this coat is melted or scrubbed off, and has no chance to reform, the operator is confronted with the problem of coping with a metal-fluorine fire. For dealing with this situation, I have always recommended a good pair of running shoes."
—John D. Clark, Rocket Scientist. As quoted here.