We wouldn't wish harm on anybody, but sometimes bad things happen. That's true in real life, but especially in sci-fi. You never know when an experiment will go wrong or a bad guy's going to give you a traumatic backstory. We salute both the heroes and villains who have triumphed over adversity and turned a tragedy into their badass trademark.
Note that we've tried to limit our choices to characters who spend most of their time in this state (not just those who sacrifice themselves in the end) and characters whose original bodies have been affected (so no aliens/robots whose human forms fall apart).
We'll see if Josh Brolin's western hero becomes a Hollywood mainstay, but you've got to appreciate a studio film that stars a guy with a hole in his cheek. Jonah Hex got branded by the bad guy, but he's so tough that he reburned his face off to remove the villain's mark.
Neo and Ted Pikul
These are the main characters in The Matrix and eXistenZ, two movies released within months of each other about people with electronic ports in their bodies. Of course, in The Matrix, Neo woke up to find his body riddled with holes where the Matrix was sapping his power, and one plug-in on the back where he could access the Matrix. Pikul had one bioport where he could plug into the game eXistenZ, but same idea. For Cronenberg fans, honorable mention also goes to Max Renn in his earlier film Videodrome—Renn grew a VCR in his chest.
Dr. Who's nemesis and creator of the Daleks has a cybernetic third eye and stays alive with his life support chair. We may never know what accident scarred him and took his legs and arm, but it made him a memorable villain.
The Cylons ripped out Col. Tigh's eye as part of their intimidation practices on New Caprica. Then he spent the rest of the series with even more motivation to lead the resistance.
Depending which backstory you follow, Victor Von Doom either scarred himself in an experiment to contact the dead, or exposure to a cosmic energy cloud made him grow metal out of his skin. Either way, he covers himself with a pretty badass mask and armor.
One of the most striking images of '80s horror, the leader of the Cenobites had nails hammered into his head for playing with that puzzle box. Now he tortures other people who play with the box by shooting hooks into their skin and ripping them apart with chains.
The Nazi henchman from Raiders of the Lost Ark burned his hand trying to pick up the amulet from the fire. It burned the markings into his palm, so the Nazis hastily constructed their own Staff of Ra. But without the other side of the amulet, they ended up digging in the wrong place. Take that, Hitler!
This poor demon just wants to fit in. Conjured up by Nazi occultists, Hellboy filed off his horns to try to look more human. Hellboy, we accept you just the way you are.
The Toxic Avenger
This guy even refers to himself as "a hideously deformed creature of superhuman size and strength." He was a nerdy wimp who fell into a vat of toxic waste while running away from some bullies. He mutated pretty nastily in the first Troma classic and became the icon for low-budget indie producers.
The signature look of this child wizard actually comes from some evil magic. Lord Voldemort tried to murder him but only left a lightning bolt emblazoned on his forehead. Usually Daniel Radcliffe's dreamy hair flops over it anyway.
Dr. Peyton Westlake was burned and blown up in his lab. Pretty much the only unburned skin on his face was the left half of his forehead. The look of Sam Raimi's creation was awesome, and he could make temporary faces to wear to mess with the bad guys.
Not the Bruce Greenwood one. The original Capt. Pike in the original series was so messed up by the Menagerie that he could only stay alive in a box beeping yes or no answers. A tragic fate, but one of the most memorable images in all of Trek.
Steve Austin and Jamie Sommers
Both the Six Million Dollar Man and the Bionic Woman started out in tragic accidents, losing several limbs each. Fortunately for them, they were repaired by technology, with the added benefit of bionic powers.
In any version of the story, Harvey Dent loses half of his face in some kind of burning by acid, oil fire, etc. This turns the noble DA into one of Gotham City's most unpredictable villains.
Not that he didn't deserve it, but when the parents of Springwood burned the child murderer alive, they created one of cinema's greatest monsters. Heck, that face became a child's Halloween mask and action figure. They didn't even have to look like real burns, because it was all a dream.
Star Trek's most formidable nemeses attach all kinds of mechanical devices when they assimilate a human (or any species, presumably). Resistance may be futile, but it looks kinda cool when you succumb to it.
Well, these stories are wildly different, and in The Dark Knight you don't even really know what happened. Whether it was chemical waste on Jack Nicholson or sliced cheeks on Heath Ledger, it created the scariest clown you've ever seen. (And clowns are already scary, right?)
Ash had to make a really tough call when the Evil Dead possessed his hand. Chopping it off with a chainsaw proved to be the right choice, because he could attach the chainsaw to his stump and make a cool new metal hand in Army of Darkness.
The Jeff Goldblum Fly totally takes the cake over the cheesy old version. As he slowly mutates into a fly over the course of the film, he gets super strength, spastic Goldblum energy and, finally, a tragic complete metamorphosis. Honorable mention to Eric Stoltz as his son, Martin Brundle.
Office Alex Murphy was killed in the line of duty, but OCP turned his parts into the cyborg super-officer Robocop. The coolest part was that Robocop remembered being Murphy and reclaimed his soul, even though his body was millions of dollars in OCP parts.
Because Logan had the super power of instant healing, he was able to sustain a total skeletal transplant. It was a barbaric experiment, but now he has adamantium bones and extra claws that come out, so that's pretty cool.
Losing an eye didn't stop Snake Plissken from becoming the poster child for cool badass heroes. He only got to do two movies, yet we all remember Kurt Russell with the eyepatch.
Now we know that the black helmet and suit is a life support system to keep Anakin Skywalker's burned body alive and replace his legs and arm. Remember how shocking it was in Empire Strikes Back when you saw that there was something under the helmet, and then in Return of the Jedi when you saw the extent of his damage? It all combined to make one of the greatest characters in history.