James Edwards: Why the big secret? People are smart. They can handle it.Men in Black is a 1997 American science fiction action comedy film directed by Barry Sonnenfeld.An agent of a secret organization called the MIB (Men in Black) code-named "K" (Tommy Lee Jones) seeks out a new recruit to monitor alien activity on earth. The MIB pass over Navy SEALs and Green Berets, instead deciding on the quick-thinking and fast-talking NYPD Detective James Edwards (Will Smith). Without knowing what he was recruited for, James (now codenamed "J") is told that the MIB agency is beyond all government jurisdiction, and that they are responsible for the alien (and we do mean it) immigrants who have taken residence on Earth. Part of the MIB's effective cover-up is using advanced alien technology to impersonate actual government officials, and especially the use of a device called the Neuralyzer, which is able to give Laser-Guided Amnesia to anyone not wearing special MIB-issue tinted glasses.The films are only moderately based on the original comics, mostly borrowing the concept and wardrobe of the agents. With a smart sense of humor, the deadpan delivery of Tommy Lee Jones as the seen-it-all K and the much lauded performance of Will Smith as J, the first Men In Black movie was one of the most popular films of 1997. Some publicity was garnered on advertising posters from the fact that they are literally "Mr. Smith and Mr. Jones." Will Smith also released a tie-in music video entitled "Men In Black."The film has spawned two sequels, Men in Black II (2002) and Men in Black 3 (2012), an animated series, and a theme park ride. A reboot of the film series has been discussed and is in development. A Crossover with 21 Jump Street titled MIB 23 is also in the works, and will follow in the latter series' footsteps of parodying film tropes; in this case, it's the shared film universe concept first introduced with the Marvel Cinematic Universe. While Channing Tatum and Jonah Hill are set to reprise their Jump Street roles, no word has been said as to whether Jones or Smith will do the same for theirs.
Kay: A person is smart. People are dumb, panicky dangerous animals and you know it. Fifteen hundred years ago everybody knew the Earth was the center of the universe. Five hundred years ago, everybody knew the Earth was flat, and fifteen minutes ago, you knew that humans were alone on this planet. Just imagine what you'll know tomorrow.
Kay: A person is smart. People are dumb, panicky dangerous animals and you know it. Fifteen hundred years ago everybody knew the Earth was the center of the universe. Five hundred years ago, everybody knew the Earth was flat, and fifteen minutes ago, you knew that humans were alone on this planet. Just imagine what you'll know tomorrow.
This film provides examples of:
- Actually, That's My Assistant: K and J are sent to pick up an alien consultant, and meet a pasty-faced man with a dog:J: Now that's the worst disguise ever. That guy's gotta be an alien.Frank the Pug: You don't like it, you can kiss my furry little ass!
- Aerith and Bob:
- The Twins who run the MIB headquarters are named Blblup and Bob. Note that we're guessing on how the first one's spelled. And the second one too. The novelization provides spelled-out alien names for both. Both also have Earth nicknames, "Jack" and "Gracie."
- The fake names Kay makes up for himself and Jay while investigating the alien "Hi I'm Special Agent Mannheim/Dr. Leo Manville, this is Special Agent Black/Dr. White"
- Adaptational Heroism: In the films, Agents J, K, and Zed are heroes. In the obscure comic book the movies are based on, the organization is downright sinister, K made J An Offer You Can't Refuse to get him to join and considers him a very disposable pawn, and J is the only 'good guy' in the bunch.
- Alien Autopsy: The coroner, Laurel, ends up performing these inadvertently on two non-human corpses. It's suggested that she is one of the MIB's most frequently neuralyzed individuals for this very reason.
- Aliens Steal Cattle: For a movie about aliens and UFOs, it's notably averted. When the Bug arrives at the farmhouse where Edgar lives, a cow is seen grazing near the truck, but then the cow leaves the truck shortly before the Bug's spacecraft totals it while landing, and Bug!Edgar doesn't express any interest in the cattle on the farm.
- Almost Dead Guy: The Arquillian Prince inside the jeweler's body, who survives long enough to give a cryptic clue to the protagonists. Not that he was being cryptic on purpose. Poor fellow was clearly dealing with a language barrier.
- Amnesia Missed a Spot: When J meets Dr. Weaver in the morgue, they vaguely notice that they may have met before, but dismiss it as Deja Vu. In the beginning of the movie, they had met, but K had wiped both of their memories.
- Amusing Alien: Lots, but the Worm Guys and Jeebs are probably the best example.
- Animated Adaptation: The series that used to air on Kids' WB! and Nickelodeon's short-lived SLAM!
- Apologetic Attacker: "Deliver the Galaxy or Earth will be destroyed. Sorry.""Aw, that's BULLSHIT."
- Artistic License – Gun Safety
- J points the Noisy Cricket in K's face as soon as K hands it to him. K then proceeds to have J carry the gun into the field without having had a chance to practice with it. Both are major gun safety no-nos. J is supposed to be a trained police officer, who should know something about handling firearms* . Even if it doesn't look like a 9mm, he should employ the same basic safety practices as with a real gun, especially knowing it's a sidearm.
- Ask a Stupid Question...K: I don't suppose you know what kind of alien life form leaves a green spectral trail and craves sugar water, do you?
J: Oh, wait! That was on "Final Jeopardy!" last night. Damn, Alex said...
- When asked if he's dealing guns, Jeebs quips that he's openly selling crack, too. "But I still work here 'cause I love the hours."
- After J has been manhandled by a pregnant disguised squid alien woman in labor and then spat on by her newborn squid baby (in the process of delivering said baby) K asks "Did any of that seem weird to you?" J's expression is priceless.
- Asshole Victim
- The opening scene where Kay ends up killing the alien "Mikey" had to be re-shot when the producers realized audiences were feeling bad for Mikey.
- Edgar, who shown to be a spousal abuser (at least emotionally, and possibly physically as well) just before the Bug kills him.
- Badass CreedAnonymity is your name,
Silence your native tongue.
You are no longer part of the system.
You are above the system. Over it. Beyond it.
We're "Them." We're "They".
We are the Men in Black.
- Bavarian Fire Drill: A favorite tactic of the MIB. It's even lampshaded in the novelization: "Act like you're in charge and everybody will act like you are."[upon arriving at Edgar's farm]
K: Slow down.
K: Give her time to make the wrong impression. Makes things smoother.
- Behind the Black: J and K don't seem to notice the alien giving birth in the back seat of Reggie's car until Reggie pointed her out.
- Berserk Button:
- Do not squish any bugs in front of Edgar. Just don't. Turns out this is how J manages to keep Edgar around long enough for K to kill him.
- Don't mention how K had to leave his girlfriend behind when he joined the MIB organization.
- Better to Die than Be Killed: The alien Jay was chasing towards the beginning decides to jump off the roof of the Guggenheim Museum rather than live long enough to be killed for his failure.
- BFG: Played with. The Noisy Cricket, possibly the tiniest MIB gun, can cause some serious damage. It's got a nasty recoil too. On the other hand, a gun the size of a shotgun can shoot down spaceships.
- Big Applesauce: The location of the MIB HQ. This would become common to all three movies: the second had the Statue of Liberty's torch used as a giant neuralyzer, and the third ends with "Empire State of Mind" by Alicia Keys playing in the background.
- Big Creepy-Crawlies: The Big Bad of the film is one of them.
- Big Red Button: Don't press one in K's car, unless in a real hurry.
- Bizarre Alien Biology: Almost all of the aliens the MiB processes.
- Blatant Lies: J is suspicious of K.J: Have you ever flashy-thinged me?K: No.J: I ain't playing with you, man. Have you ever flashy-thinged me?K: No.
- Blown Across the Room: Laser weapons hurt.
- Bluff The Imposter: Agent K exposes an alien posting as a Mexican immigrant by saying insulting and threatening things in Spanish, but in a cheery tone of voice, to see if he reacted appropriately.
- "They're beautiful, aren't they? The stars."
- "See you around, J." "No,K, you won't." Then there's an Epic Flash.
- The opening credits scroll over a bug flying in a sinister pattern. SPLAT. Gotcha — turns out the bug is of no significance, at least as far as people are concerned. The last shot of the movie reveals our universe to be a plaything for giant alien kids.
- Brick Joke: When J learns about aliens living in New York, he immediately assumes they work as cab drivers, and is told, "Not as many as you'd think." A while later, Dr. Laurel, when it's revealed to her, starts on a rant along the lines of, "I knew it. There was this cab driver the other day..."
- Bring It: J to Edgar.J: Don't start nothin'... [squish!] ... won't be nothin'!
- Bringing Running Shoes to a Car Chase: When the Bug escapes from J and K in a cab, J runs after the cab on foot. K sensibly goes to get their car and picks up J.
- Broken Masquerade: K's introduction to aliens on Earth - and more-or-less how the Men in Black got started.
- Buffy Speak: J calls the neuralyzer the "Flashy-Thing," and refers to getting neuralyzed as "flashy-thinged." This continues for most of the first film, with J using terms like "the little dude inside the big dude's head."
- Casual High Drop: The cephalopoid J chases down in New York City drops off a high overpass and keeps right on running.
- Chekhov's Gun
- The flying saucers from the first MIB meeting in 1961, converted into towers at Flushing.
- The little red button in the LTD.
- K ordering J to fasten his seat belt, J lecturing him about politeness, and K politely asking J to put on a seat belt after pushing the little red button.
- Chekhov's Gunman: One of the several aliens that J sees in the customs section of Mi B headquarters turns out to be the Arquilian that tries to warn Rosenberg of the assassination plans against him. Surprisingly, J recognizes him immediately upon seeing his corpse later on.
- Chekhov's Skill: Though played for laughs, when J shoots little Tiffany, his description of the situation demonstrates a skilled ability to pick up on details in the scene. While it seems he's simply embellishing to Zed, J is later the one who makes the connection between the jeweler's cat Orion and the "Orion's Belt" clue. It's made all the more awesome by the novelization revealing his rationale for shooting Tiffany was CORRECT, something none of the other applicants succeeded at. He also remembers the flying saucers at the World's Fair in Queens, realizing that the Bug could use the mothballed ships to escape.
- Code Name: Each agent is supplied with one, but it's the first letter of their first name (James, Kevin, Laurel). Expanded Universe has them go into detail with it.
- The Comically Serious: Nothing about the job fazes K in the slightest, so his deadpan approach to all the outlandish alien craziness is hilarious. In an interview, Tommy Lee Jones says he actually is this; the way to make great comedy is stay close to Will Smith so the funny spills over. Word of God also describes it as something of an Enforced Trope, as he wanted Will Smith to be the only one who was trying to be funny.Beatrice: You here to make fun of me, too?
K: No ma'am, we at the FBI do not have a sense of humor we are aware of.
- Cool Car: Each agent, and each of them has a hidden form that comes in handy. "Old and Busted... new hotness."
- Cool Shades: They've got a purpose, too - they protect against the mind-wiping effects of the Neuralyzer.
- Covered in Gunge: J and K get covered in bug guts after K blows him in half.
- Covert Group with Mundane Front: In the beginning, Kay introduces himself and Dee as "INS, Division Six", much to the confusion of the border patrol officers. This extended to the animated series, where Jay and Kay would introduce themselves in any position tangentially-related to the situation as "Division Six".
- Creator Cameo: Director Barry Sonnenfeld and his daughter are seen as two of the aliens under surveillance by the MIB.
- Creepy Cockroach: There's a giant roach alien who devours a human and uses his skin as a disguise. He also leaves swarms of roaches wherever he goes, and loves sugar (preferably in water). The roach alien gets zapped into Edgar's body, and then EDGAR demands sugar in water.
- Custom Uniform: The film ends with J wearing custom shades and looking more like a rap mogul then an agent.
- Cutting the Knot: J's solution to the problem of no surface to write on.
- Dark Is Not Evil: They are Men In Black after all, but also Earth's "best, last, and only defense against the scum of the universe." Lampshaded in Will Smith's music video.Good guys dress in black; remember that. In case we ever come face to face and make contact.
- Did You Just Flip Off Cthulhu?: The tow truck driver doesn't get intimidated by "Edgar", even when he takes out his shotgun. Unfortunately for him, he still gets shot by "Edgar".Tow Truck Driver: [revealing his own pistol] Please...
- Distracted by the Sexy:J: She's got a whole "Queen of the Undead" thing.
K: What about the body?
J: Great body.
K: The DEAD body.
- The Dog Is an Alien: Frank the Pug.
- Domestic Abuser: In the short time before he's killed and inhabited by the Bug, Edgar demeans his wife's cooking, calls her lazy and threatens to hit her.
- Do Not Call Me Sir: K says this line to one of the Border Patrol agents in the opening. "Do not call me sir. You have no idea who you're dealing with.
- Do Not Taunt Cthulhu: Both the tow truck driver and the morgue receptionist learn this the hard way.
- Drives Like Crazy: K. Just push the Big Red Button, and his car grows a rocket. He then drives on the roof of the Queens-Midtown Tunnel while singing along to Elvis Presley's "Promised Land", and pays the toll without missing a beat.
- *Drool* Hello: Indirectly. After K enters the morgue to find out what's happened to J, he tries to light a cigarette but the match is put out by a drip of slime. He looks up, and now we know what happened to the clerk...
- Early Installment Weirdness: In this film K is portrayed as a man holding out for The One That Got Away. Not only would the second film have him separated from the woman he was holding out during his temporary retirement, but it would also be implied that he had a love child with the queen of Zartha, joins Frank and Zed in talking about their sexual experiences with aliens at the end of the film, and in the third film they have him flirting with Agent O every time they are together.
- Eat Me: Trope Namer. K goads the Bug into eating him so he can retrieve his gun and blow it up from the inside.
- Eccentric Exterminator: Edgar actually isn't an exterminator and is a pretty normal fella (or as normal as someone played by Vincent D'Onofrio can be...) until a giant bug from outer space uses his body as a disguise and steals an exterminator's van, giving us quite a bit of this vibe.
- Elvis Has Left the Planet: According to K, "He's not dead, he just went home."
- Enemy Rising Behind: After K blasts his way out of the Bug, he and J sit back to reflect on the moment while the upper half of the Bug crawls behind them to attack, only to be blasted at the last second by Laurel using J's gun.
- Epic Fail: Played With; "May I ask why you felt little Tiffany deserved to die?". J points out that the freaky looking aliens all could be doing fairly innocuous things like working out, while Tiffany is walking around with physics textbooks well out of her grade range in a dark alley. Zed is not amused. The novelization reveals J was actually RIGHT in his reasoning and had shot the only real threat.note
- E.T. Gave Us Wi-Fi: The MIB has been supporting themselves by selling alien technology, helping along the development of modern tech. Microwaves and wi-fi are all alien tech, and in the expanded universe, cell phones, solar power, and many more were all reverse-engineered from contraband.
- Et Tu, Brute?: The worms are spotted leaving MIB headquarters with a cartful of cigarettes, leaving their co-workers to rot.Zed: You SORRY LITTLE INGRATES!
- Eureka Moment: J figures out the Arquillian prince's last words meant when he sees Frank barking at a cat.
- Everything Is an iPod in the Future: A rare instance of this trope being used in the nineties.
- Exactly What It Says on the Tin: Orion's Belt... technically, collar, but whatever.
- Exact Time to Failure: The Arquillians give MIB a time limit on getting the Galaxy back before they destroy the Earth. When J and K finally retrieve it, all K has to do is say it's in his possession, which happens exactly seven minutes after the the timer showed eight minutes. They had plenty of time to spare.
- Exact Words
- The "You can have my gun..." exchange. Even more layers of this in this scene, as the novelization reveals that prior to assimilating Edgar's memories, the Bug was using a crappy translator. It renders the saying "There's a deal" into the exact meaning of "Your proposal is acceptable."
- Also, Bug!Edgar, when talking with the head chef in regards to where "little Ivan" is (the server who was supposed to be serving the ambassadors of the two alien races that Bug!Edgar is trying to assassinate and steal the galaxy from), responds that he "gave him a break." The camera pans, revealing that Bug!Edgar means this quite literally, having broken his body in half and stuffed him into a shelf.
- Exposed Extraterrestrials: Whenever the MIB are around.
- Extranormal Institute: The MIB.
- Face Stealer: The Bug.
- Fainting: An Emotional Faint happens after the Bug gets into his new Edgar suit. Edgar's wife Beatrice tells him that "Your skin is hanging off your bones." The Bug pulls Edgar's face back into a horrible distorted mask and Beatrice faints dead away.
- Fantastic Racism
- The Bug clearly despises humans, and refers to them by a variety of unflattering terms, including "undeveloped pond-scum," "monkey-boys," "meat-sacks" and "milk-suckers." The rest of his species, according to K, are probably very much the same.
- This seems to be a major factor of most aliens as K explains that human thought is so primitive it's considered an infectious disease in the better galaxies.
- Agent J uses this to provoke the Space Cockroach into attacking him by crushing normal cockroaches under his feet.
- Fanservice: Linda Fiorentino in a short skirt means that when she's kidnapped by a giant disguised insect from space and she's struggling to escape, she's showing us her rather lovely legs. Likewise, when she gets stuck in a nearby tree for a good deal of the final battle.
- Fashion Dissonance: Agent J's getup at the end of the film (oval-rim sunglasses, long Nehru jacket, and band collar without a necktie) was Hollywood haute-couture for a brief moment towards the end of The '90s. Its purpose in the film is probably to make him look more "up-to-date" and "hip". Tellingly, he goes back to a normal black suit for the sequels.
- Fiction as Cover-Up: Tabloids serve a double purpose: they act as part of the alien cover-up by causing people to dismiss any stories they hear about aliens while also being a legitimate source of news for those in the know.
- First Day from Hell: J becomes involved in a plot to save the galaxy within his first day or so. Subverted in that K berates his actions that could expose them by informing J that there is always a crisis on their hands.K: There is always an Arquillian battle cruiser, or a Corillian Death Ray, or an intergalactic plague that is about to wipe out all life on this miserable little planet, and the only way these people can get on with their happy lives is that they do not know about it!
- Forbidden Chekhov's GunK: Remember when I said 'Don't push the little red button?'J: Yeah?K: Push the little red button.[J does so]K: And you might want to put on a seat belt. [Car develops rocket boosters and travels upside down on the roof of the tunnel]
- Foreshadowing: The first line in the movie is "Goddamned bugs!"
- Fourth Wall Psych: When the bug invades Rosenberg's jewlery shop, he appears to walk up to the camera and punch it, cracking the lens. Then the supposedly-ruined camera pans out and we see that he's actually trying to break through the glass door to the shop.
- Freeze-Frame Bonus
- The screen with the "celebrities who are secretly aliens" (includes director Barry Sonnenfeld, producer Steven Spielberg, and Sylvester Stallone) - which later singles out J's ex-teacher.
- In one scene, there are two brief shots of Orion the cat where the name on its collar (belt) is visible before the secret is revealed.
- Freudian Threat: "I want you on the next transport off this rock or I'm going to shoot you where it don't grow back."
- Funny Background Event: Zed neuralyzing the rejected recruits as J and K walk by shortly after the recruitment process. Also, the memorable alien-childbirth scene, which supplies the page image for the trope. Also, while K and J are looking at the screen showing the disguised aliens, a group of MIB office workers are conversing in the background, with one of them standing on the ceiling.
- Fun with AcronymsJ: See this badge?! Huh?! N-Y-P-D! Means I will kNock Yo' Punk-ass Down!
- Gas Leak Cover-Up
- The course of action taken after people who witness UFO's or aliens are neuralyzed.Agent K: The flash of light you saw in the sky was not a UFO. Swamp gas from a weather balloon was trapped in a thermal pocket and reflected the light from Venus.
- Played for Laughs in one scene when Agent J tries to give the standard cover story without having a neuralyzer.
- The course of action taken after people who witness UFO's or aliens are neuralyzed.
- Genius Bruiser: J can beat aliens in a foot race and punch some of them out. But he's also a lateral thinker able to see the forest when everybody else is focused on the trees, and is usually able to make logical leaps that K can't.
- Good Cop/Bad Cop: Used in the scene with Jeebs, before James is officially recruited. K threatens to blow Jeebs' head off if he doesn't talk, and James plays along, saying that K's not messing around. What James doesn't realize is that K wasn't bluffing, and he quickly gets in over his head.
- Go Through Me: Humorously played with:J: There's only one way off this planet, baby, and that's through me! [the Bug promptly slaps him aside]
- Government Conspiracy: Averted. The first agents were part of the US Government, but not anymore.J: What branch of the government do we report to?K: None, they ask too many questions.
- Go-to Alias: "Division Six".
- Halfway Plot Switch: Done very briefly. After the Cold Open, the plot focuses on James running down a criminal who turns out to be an alien giving portents of doom. While being berated by his superiors for this ridiculous story, he is approached by a Dr. Laurel, a coroner who examined the body claims to believe him. She whispers an address to him and tells him to meet her secretly afterwards - leading the audience to believe that the movie will be a Sci-Fi mystery or thriller, involving James and the coroner as Muggles unearthing The Masquerade... and then Laurel is neuralized immediately after revealing her suspicions to James, cutting this plotline short immediately, leading into the agent in-training story the movie truly is. She still becomes involved later.
- How the Bug fits in the Edgar-suit (although he's clearly not too comfy). It makes some sense when you know that roaches are capable of pressing their bodies together to fit into tighter spaces; it makes them extremely resistant against being killed by stepping on them (you need a hard flat surface for that to work). Since the Bug is based on roaches in design and physiology, it's not too far-fetched to assume he has an improved version of that survival technique. From the novelization: "How can it do that?" "They have their ways. And using those ways just makes it even more angry." It also explicitly states that there's some literal Hammerspace going on, and that this is a natural ability the Bugs have.
- A less obvious example is the submachinegun-sized weapon the cephalapoid pulls out of nowhere when Jay is trying to arrest him.
- Hand Cannon
- Played straight with the huge revolver the tow-truck driver pulls out when Bug!Edgar threatens him with a shotgun. He's killed by Edgar's shotgun blast before he can use it.
- Inverted by the Noisy Cricket: a tiny, unseemly weapon resembling a hypodermic needle with a handle, pauses momentarily and chirps like a cricket when you pull the trigger, and then promptly annihilates whatever it was pointed at and knocks you flat on your butt. The recoil usually hurls Agent J about fifteen feet, no matter how he tries to brace himself
- Hate Sink: The guy the Bug kills and starts impersonating will, suffice it to say, not be missed. In his possible <60 seconds of screen time he establishes himself as a capricious, abusive jackass with strong misogynistic traits. Good riddance.
- Herald: The MIB organization (and by extension, the existence of aliens) is this for J.
- Historical In-Joke
- Historical Rap Sheet: See the bouncy ball entry on Historical In-Joke above.
- Hugh Mann: Edgar.
- Humans Are Morons: "A person is smart. People are dumb, panicky dangerous animals and you know it."Agent K: Human thought is so primitive, it is looked upon as an infectious disease in some of the better galaxies. Kind of makes you feel proud, doesn't it?
- Ignorance Is Bliss: "There's always an Arquillian battle cruiser, or a Corillian death ray, or an intergalactic plague that is about to wipe out all life on this miserable little planet, and the only way these people can get on with their happy lives is that they DO NOT KNOW ABOUT IT!"
- I Love the Dead: Implied for Laurel. As a bonus, Laurel at one point explicitly states the inverse, "I hate the living."
- In-Name-Only: The first five minutes of the movie is a faithful reproduction of the first few pages of the first issue of the comic. After that, they have almost nothing in common.
- I Surrender, Suckers: "Edgar", towards the end."Edgar": Oh, I see... I'll put my hands on my head... Like this?
[tears Edgar's skin off]
- Immortal Life Is Cheap: K blowing Jeebs' head off isn't murder, it's interrogation.
- Imported Alien Phlebotinum: In the games, the Aliens are responsible for everything. Also, the Galaxy in the first movie.
- Insectoid Aliens: The alien Bug, a giant cockroach wearing a new Edgar suit.
- Insignificant Little Blue Planet: Zig-Zagged trope. It's clearly stated that most aliens view Earth as a very unimportant planet. In fact, that's why these aliens visit: it's "an apolitical zone for aliens without a planet," the Casablanca of the universe. Of course, having so many alien species mingling every day (some of who are considered royalty on their homeworld) means that, in consequence, Earth Is the Center of the Universe. This then gets worked into the film's Anthropic Principle: the Men In Black keep up The Masquerade to make sure the neutral zone stays neutral. Which leads into a nasty conclusion: the Men In Black will keep using the neuralizers forever, as they themselves agree with all the aliens that humans are so stupid that the only way Earth can thrive is as a neutral zone. As long as the Men In Black are around, we will never get out into space.
- Insult Backfire
- Human intelligence is so primitive that it's considered an infectious disease on other planets. "Kinda makes you proud, doesn't it?"
- Earlier, after Kay explains the history of the MIB, James asks "When the last time you had a CAT scan?", to which Kay answers "About six months ago, company policy."
- Internal Retcon: The whole point of the Neuralyzers.
- Inventor of the Mundane: The MIB owns the patents to some 'out of town' inventions, naming a few which make quite a bit of sense; Velcro (invented by NASA), microwave ovens (invented by a military defense contractor), liposuction (pre-dates alien contact, but was mostly a creative form of mutilation before the development of ultrasonics - another military invention)...
- Invisible Aliens: More like disguised so as to appear invisible to those who have a Weirdness Censor.
- It's Up to You: The other police officers aren't fit enough to keep up with Jay's first alien. Jay lampshades this.
- Japanese Tourist: J lands on a bus full of them when chasing the perp during the Cold Opening.
- Jerkass: Edgar was like this before he got killed and ended up body snatched by the Bug.
- Jerkass Has a Point: K accurately sums up the MIB's need for secrecy by telling J that the only reason average people are able to get on with their lives is that they're not aware that the earth is under constant threat from aliens.
- Just Eat Him: K, going to get back his gun from Edgar's throat in the first film's climax. "Eat me. EAT ME!!"
- Kill and Replace: The Bug does this to Edgar.
- Knuckle Cracking: After the Bug kills Edgar, dons his new Edgar suit and climbs out of the hole made by his crashing starship, he cracks his neck.
- Lame Excuse: The human smuggler at the beginning of the movie tells the Border Patrol he's been fishing in Cuernavaca to explain why he's driving across the Mexican border late at night. The Border Patrol agent has already busted him for smuggling on several previous occasions, so he doesn't buy this excuse for one second.
- Laser-Guided Amnesia: How the Neuralyzer works. They can be set to wipe someone of certain memories of someone, or the last twenty minutes of aliens trying to kill them. Repeated neuralyzations, however, cause deja vu in some subjects. Combined with No Fourth Wall in one of the commercials, in which J and K ask viewers how they liked the movie, then fire the Neuralyzer directly at the camera, and then invite the audience to go see the film: it's full of surprises.
- Laser-Guided Karma: The verbally abusive farmer spends just enough time on screen doing his thing so that the audience will have absolutely zero sympathy when the bug's meteor crashes on his vehicle of choice.Farmer: The only thing that pulls its weight around here is my goddamn truck!
- Law of Inverse Recoil: You will not break that "damn thing" Noisy Cricket, J. It will break you.
- Layman's Terms: Zed compares Earth's predicament to being the last party-goer who gets stuck with the check.
- Leno Device: The end of the first movie shows tabloid articles talking about the effects of the climax on the public, including a conspiracy theory forming about Detroit perfecting a rocket car and one story about the baseball player who missed the catch during the baseball game shown in the movie claiming "UFO MADE ME MISS HOME RUN!" (which is actually true). Of course, the joke is that the tabloids contain the best source of information for MIB ("You can try the New York Times if you want. They get lucky sometimes.")
- Little Useless Gun: The Noisy Cricket is a double subversion. It's tiny, sure, but it packs a hell of a punch... which never actually helps at any point in the film.
- The novelization informs us that this is a deliberate tactic used to train new agents not to assume things about how something because of how it looks (and to bet on how far they will fly backwards).
- Long List: K and Zed muse over the NYC and Jersey-based aliens who have already flown the coop. The list ends with Staten Island ("Gone, thank God.").
- Losing Your Head: Jeebs. K shoots him in the head and he regrows it, with complaints about the inconvenience.Jeebs: You insensitive pricks! Do you have any idea how much that stings?
K: Show us the merchandise or you'll lose another head, Jeebs.
- Lost in Translation: The Arquillian Prince says that "The galaxy lies on Orion's Belt." Orion is actually his cat's name and the "belt" is actually a mistranslation of "collar."
- MacGuffin: The Galaxy, in the first movie.
- Masquerade: The alien shenanigans the MIB deal with put the earth in mortal danger on such a regular basis that humanity simply would not be capable of functioning with that perpetual risk of annihilation looming over them. As such, the existence of alien life is kept a total secret from the world, and most aliens are required to use prosthetics or disguises to pass off as human, animal, or machine.
- Meaningful Echo: See Bookends, above.[in the opening scene]
D: I'll tell you, Kay... I will miss the chase. I will miss the chase.
K: No, Dee. You won't. [neuralizes him]
[after the climax]
K: See you around, Jay.
J: No. You won't. [neuralizes him]
- Memory-Wiping Crew: A containment crew is called in after every alien encounter, for obvious reasons.
- The Men in Black: The good guy version.
- Mentor Occupational Hazard: Averted. K survives the Bug's innards to retrieve his gun and blast his way out.
- Minor Crime Reveals Major Plot: Disappearance of a man after encountering a UFO and a suicide —> theft of a galaxy and possible destruction of the Earth.
- Mobile-Suit Human: Rosenberg (who at one point provided the page image). The alien prince of the Arquillian Empire who had the Galaxy was piloting one ("the little dude inside the big dude's head"), the better to hide from enemies — and to pet his cat.
- Mood Whiplash
- J is more than happy to help K with doing the whole Good Cop/Bad Cop routine while questioning Jeebs, until K holy shit blows Jeebs's head off, at which point J drops the act:J: [aiming a gun at K's head] DROP THE WEAPON!
- Then Whiplashed back again as Jeebs regrows his head:Jeebs: [in a high squeaky voice] You insensitive prrrrricks! D'you have any idea how much that stings?!
- J is more than happy to help K with doing the whole Good Cop/Bad Cop routine while questioning Jeebs, until K holy shit blows Jeebs's head off, at which point J drops the act:
- Muggles: Any person not part of the MIB is called a "Neutral".
- Multi-Armed Multitasking: The twin Mission Controls.
- My Card: K hands one to J as part of recruitment.
- My Hovercraft Is Full of Eels: How some alien languages work.
- Mythology Gag: When Edgar first meets the Bug, their discussion about the gun is a reference to the surprisingly obscure comic the movie was based on. It turns out much better for the farmer in that one, though - the bugs REALLY needed his gun (for a high-stakes scavenger hunt), but not so urgently that they couldn't wait him out.
- Naïve Newcomer: J, to the point that he indulges in Uncle Tomfoolery.
- Needle in a Stack of Needles: When "Edgar" escapes with the Galaxy and Laurel, J realizes he's escaped in a cab. The trouble is, the movie is set in New York, and it's rush hour. However, K makes him stop, saying "He's not leaving [Earth] in a cab."
- No Accounting for Taste: Edgar and Beatrice.J: [to K] The dude was that ugly before he was an alien?
- No Such Agency: Played With. Originally a Federal agency, the MIB splintered off since the government "asked too many questions." They erased any and all records and memories of their existence from their own government, getting their funding from the patents of alien technologies.
- Noisy Shut-Up
- The Bug losing patience with Laurel and J's bickering.
- J to Zed and K:J: Hey, OLD GUYS!
[cut to Zed and K shooting Death Glares at him]
- Non-Answer: During the recruitment, J asks why they were there, and one of the military-trained recruits responds that Zed is looking the "the best of the best of the best, sir." J deduces, correctly, that none of the others knows why they're there either, and are following a "do what you're told" mentality. Given the results of the test, it's entirely possible that the recruitment process was just a going-through-the-motions act put on for the benefit of J and/or Zed.
- Nonverbal Miscommunication: J (understandably) misreading Laurel's frantic signals that the Bug is hiding in the trolley as a come-on.
- Noodle Incident: Agent K tells Agent J, "you should've been here for the Zeronion migration in 1968."
- Not Even Bothering with the Accent: Kay is supposed to be from Truro, Massachusetts, on Cape Cod. He talks with Tommy Lee Jones' Texas drawl.
- Not This One, That One: Agent J is shown an awesome-looking Series-4 De-atomizer, but is actually issued a puny-looking Noisy Cricket. This one is actually a subversion of the usual gag, as the weapon J gets really IS the better one; it just doesn't look like it. J is later surprised when the weapon causes massive explosions akin to grenades. (While hurling him backward due to recoil.) On YouTube around 2:00.Agent K: [shows J a LARGE pistol] Series 4 De-atomizer.
Agent J: That's what I'm talking about!
Agent K: [shows J a tiny pistol] Noisy Cricket. [hands it to him]
Agent J: Kay, no, no, come on, man. You get a Series 4 De-atomizer, and I get a little midget Cricket? [snip] Feel like I'm gonna break this damn thing!
- Obfuscating Stupidity: J, to a degree. The entire first act of the movie is designed to show that his streetwise smart-ass routine is largely a put-on and he's actually a very good, and even insightful, detective.
- Obvious Stunt Double: An infamous scene reveals that Will Smith's stunt double during the "Remember the little red button? Push the little red button" gag was Caucasian.
- Octopoid Aliens: J helps an alien to deliver a baby. During the process he is attacked by several tentacles, and when the mother finally gives birth to the baby, it looked like a a grey and squid hybrid.
- Off Bridge, onto Vehicle: Played with during the Cold Opening, when Jay is seen chasing a perp who jumps down from an overpass onto a lower street. Instead of watching the perp get away, Jay jumps down onto a tour bus full of Japanese Tourists.
- Oh Crap!: Only once does Agent K briefly lose his composure, thanks to witnessing the Bug revealing itself.
- One-Winged Angel: Edgar's final form, a giant, angry cockroach with teeth.
- Orphaned Punchline: "But honey, this one's eating my popcorn!" Here's the rest of the joke. The same joke also appeared in The Sting.
- Parody: The film parodies the witterings of conspiracy theorists by taking them at face value.
- Pants-Positive Safety: Averted; Officer Edwards seems to be stashing his handgun down the front of his pants, but he actually has a specialized concealment holster in that location which is briefly visible.
- Passing the Torch: At the end of the film, by K giving J the neuralyzer.
- Person with the Clothing: Black suits, black shades.
- Planet Looters: Edgar's race feeds off intergalactic wars.
- Planet Terra: In the novelization, Edgar calls humans "terries."
- Plausible Deniability
- Possession Burnout: The "Edgar Suit" gets pretty shabby by the end of the movie.
- Pre Ass Kicking One Liner:Kay: [cocks gun] Roaches check in...
Jay: [cocks gun] ...They don't check out.
- Public Secret Message: Agent K explains that tabloids, which are assumed to be hoaxes by muggles, are in fact based on true events behind The Masquerade (since tabloids have less Weirdness Censor than "serious" newspapers). Later, when Agent K retires, Agent J notices an article with Agent K's photo and an article about a postal worker who returned to his old job after years in a coma, revealing Agent K's fate, which then becomes a major plot point in the second film.
- Punctuated! For! Emphasis!
- When J catches up to the perp he's chasing:J: N! Y! P! D! Means I will kNock! Yo! Punk-ass! Down!
- Also, when K, when J complains about them not having time for the cover-up:K: There's always an Arquillian Battle Cruiser, or a Corillian Death Ray, or an intergalactic plague that is about to wipe out all life on this miserable little planet, and the only way these people can get on with their happy lives is that they do! not! know! about! it!
- When J catches up to the perp he's chasing:
- Put Down Your Gun and Step Away: Happens three times.
- The Bug to Edgar when they first meet.
- Edwards to K after K shoots Jeebs in the head, only to drop it when his head grows back.
- The Bug to J and K when they confront him in the morgue.
- Quiet Cry for Help: Laurel is talking to J in the morgue while the hidden Edgar is watching her, having threatened her with death if she gives him away. J persistently misinterprets Laurel's attempts to alert him as sexual come-ons.
- Race Lift: J was white in the original comics and was supposed to be played by Chris O'Donnell who was filming Batman & Robin at the time.
- Recursive Reality: The MacGuffin that draws Edgar Bug to Earth is a miniature galaxy. The final scene reveals that our galaxy is just like the MacGuffin, and lies several layers down within a miniature galaxy-orb that an alien is playing marbles with.
- Recycled In Space: In-universe example; K refers to Earth as Casablanca for aliens.
- Refuge in Audacity
- K tells J the truth about the MIB but J doesn't believe him.J: So, who exactly are you with? FBI? NSA?
K: I'm part of a bureau that licenses, monitors and polices alien activity on the planet Earth.
- K neuralyzes J after he's identified the gun.
- K tells J the truth about the MIB but J doesn't believe him.
- Replicant Snatching
- Running Gag: Whenever J neuralizes anyone, he tends to give them long rambling speeches in which he gives meaningful personal advice about their lives, goes into wild irrelevant tangents about the situation, and encourages them to do exciting and/or fun things - particularly as a counterpoint to K, who always gives very brusque and to-the-point memories and wants to be done with it. It pops up once in this movie, but really takes off in the second and third films.
- Whenever J and K go undercover to interrogate someone, they use fake names. The first time, K introduces J as "Special Agent Black"; the second time, as "Dr. White"; and in the third instance, J introduces himself as Sgt. Friday.
- Sadist Teacher: J discovers that one he had in grade school is actually an alien from one of the moons of Jupiter.
- Safety in Muggles: While the Neuralizer makes fighting outside doable, the general idea is to avoid being seen when fighting aliens.
- Salt and Pepper: Agent J, played by Will Smith, and Agent K, played by Tommy Lee Jones, are partners. Kay exhibits a very serious demeanor, rarely joking or smiling and giving very matter-of-fact responses. Jay has an energetic, enthusiastic attitude and refusal to strictly follow authority that Kay admired when he first met NYPD officer James Edwards who would become Agent J.
- Sci-Fi Writers Have No Sense of Scale: Very nearly averted. K explains that a grouchy alien was stuck in customs after traveling 17 trillion miles...or a bit under 3 light-years. While this wouldn't get you to the nearest known star to our sun (Proxima Centauri), it would at least put you in interstellar space.
- Screaming Birth: The alien woman... plus a few tentacles shaking a screaming J around like a ragdoll while K casually questions her husband, oblivious to this.
- Seen It All: Agent K. J keeps trying this, but K manages to surprise him. Many other MIB personnel have a similar reaction to what happens; Zed doesn't even look up from his desk when the bouncy-ball starts careening around his office, except to move his head slightly out of the way.
- Sherlock Scan: Parodied in the Shooting Gallery sequence. "She's about to start some shit, Zed!"
- The guy behind the Locksmith counter looks remarkably like Riff Raff.
- Agent J tells K not to "go all Jack Webb" on the coroner.
- It's subtle, but when K shows J his third grade teacher, Ms. Edelson, was an alien, she's listed as being in Philadelphia where, presumably, James Edwards was born and raised.
- Sighted Guns Are Low-Tech: Despite the high tech look of their giant guns, J and K don't actually need to aim them to shoot down a UFO. Could be that they fire heat seeking rounds, or some such advanced tech that replaces the need for manual aiming.
- Signed Up for the Dental: The Worm Guys and Frank.
- The Smurfette Principle: The film doesn't have many female agents. The end of the film shows Agent L, a woman who becomes J's new partner. However she is neuralyzed between films and given a Written-In Absence to make way for the return of Tommy Lee Jones.
- Stab the Salad: K pulls a knife on a Mexican immigrant and swings it toward him - and slices open his clothing, revealing an alien hiding inside.
- Stalking Is Love: K uses the MIB's super-advanced Spy Satellites to spy on his old girlfriend while she's out gardening.
- Stealth Insult
- Zed pays one to the applicants:Zed: Congratulations, you're everything we've come to expect from years of government training.note
- Agent J also gives one while he's still an NYPD officer:Overweight Cop: If you were half the man I was—
James: I am half the man you are.
- Zed pays one to the applicants:
- The Stoic: Agent K.
- Suit-Up of Destiny: Done when J puts on his MIB uniform for the first time; it even provides the trope's page quote.
- Sunglasses at Night: Though in this case they've got a justified purpose - they protect against the mind-wiping effects of the Neuralyzer.
- Suspiciously Specific Denial: How the Men in Black implant new memories sometimes, after Neuralyzing someone.
- Swallowed Whole: The Bug to K.
- Techno Babble: Plenty.K: Set for pulsar level five, subsonic implosion factor two.J: What?K: Just shoot the damn thing on the count of three!
- Tempting Fate
- "The only thing pulling its weight around here is my goddamn truck!" FWOOM! SMASH! "Figures."
- J being won over by the cuteness of a baby squid. Right before it barfs on him.
- They Look Like Us Now: Non-humanoid aliens have ways of blending in, usually some kind of robotic human suit. Or in Edgar's case, an organic one.
- Thing-O-Meter: Not a literal device, butJ: This definitely rates about a 9.0 on my weird-shit-o-meter.
- This Explains So Much: Twice. J discovers his third grade teacher really was an alien all along, and at the end when J reveals Dennis Rodman is one, too.
- Threat Backfire
- The aforementioned threat made to Edgar the cockroach in the Exact Words entry. And the result.
- Also, when kidnapping Laurel, she threatens that if Bug!Edgar does anything to her (after claiming that she's Earth's ruler or even a goddess), Earth will declare war on his species in an attempt to get him to let her go. Unfortunately, this gave Bug!Edgar a lot more incentive to kidnap her than before ("War? Good. That means more food for my family. All 78 million of them. That's a lot of mouths to feed, Highness.")
- Too Dumb to Live: The tow truck driver towing Edgar's vehicle responds to a drawn shotgun pointed at him by simply showing Edgar his revolver and then putting it back in his jacket, somehow failing to realize the a revolver inside a jacket will do no good against someone who already has his gun drawn and aimed at him.
- Two of Your Earth Minutes
- Parodied and played straight. A galactic week is one hour. The Arquellian message displays a timer labeled "Earth Time Remaining", counting down the hour.
- And the MIB operates on a 37-hour-day. According to Zed, "You get used to it. Or you have a psychotic episode."
- Two Roads Before You: As the first movie demonstrates with J, all prospective agents have the choice between remaining in their current occupations and leading their lives, or joining the agency and severing all ties to their former lives.J: Is it worth it?
K: Oh, it's worth it... if you're strong enough.
- Uncle Tomfoolery: J.
- Undying Loyalty: The cat. It doesn't let its owner's true identity bother it and it stays with him until he dies from his injuries.
- Unflinching Faith in the Brakes: When the agents bring down the spacecraft, they stand and let it come to them. J at the least looks around nervously but otherwise doesn't move.
- Un-Person: As Zed says in the quote, it's part of the initiation process. Leaving agents get their identities back, however, or at least a reasonable facsimile thereof.
- The Unpronounceable: Too many aliens.
- Unusually Uninteresting Sight
- The movie is full of this. It's implied that since most aliens live in New York, people just chalk it all up to New York being weird.
- Kay actually invokes it by chatting over a cup of coffee with the Worm Guys, when James remained doubtful.
- Van Helsing Hate Crimes: The MIB are an aversion of this and only seem to accept candidates who are also an aversion of this. The rejected candidates all played this trope straight during the target practice session.
- Video Full of Film Clips: The Will Smith song of the same name.
- Visual Pun: The opening scene has an illegal aliennote dressed as an illegal alien.note
- Vomit Indiscretion Shot: Reggie's newborn "squid" child coughs up on J shortly after it's born.
- Wainscot Society: The alien immigrants have their own rather chaotic social systems running within human society.
- Welcome Episode: The first half of the movie.
- Welcomed to the Masquerade: After James has a close encounter with an alien assassin, Agent K recruits him into the Men in Black organization and gives him a tour of the facilities.
- Wham Line: "I haven't been training a partner. I've been training a replacement."
- What a Piece of Junk: J refers to K's Crown Victoria as a "Ford P.O.S.". He finds out very quickly that it's outfitted with alien tech that makes it outperform anything else on the road.
- What Does This Button Do?: K's car has the little red button.
- What the Hell Are You?: James, after the first alien he meets scales the side of a building and reveals his eye gills.
- Where Da White Women At?: Laurel makes a pass (okay, a few) at J. In the ending the duo are revealed to be partners.
- Who You Gonna Call?: That's right.
- Wistful Amnesia: J and Laurel (who had previously met, but were later neuralized) both think the other looks familiar when they meet for the first time (again). It's implied that those who have been neuralized do retain scraps of memory, usually chalked up to deja vu.
- The World Is Always Doomed: K always does this. Same with Zed.
- The World Is Not Ready: The MIB's mantra of why they're keeping alien immigration a secret from the rest of the Earth.
- Worst News Judgment Ever: Justified as the tabloids are a better source of alien info than "mainstream" papers.K: But go ahead, read the New York Times if you want. They get lucky sometimes.
- Worst Whatever Ever: J's first impression of Frank is "worst disguise ever".
- Worthless Yellow Rocks: The two Arquillians at the diner are chatting and one notices an ornamental case on the table. He asks with awe, "Is that it?" The other replies, "No, just some diamonds for your children."
- Your Mom: J's bug-stomping routine at the film's climax was originally the build-up to him calling one of the cockroaches "yo mama!" It was in the novelization and the original script, but the payoff was cut from the finished film.
- You Are Who You Eat: The "Edgar-suit."
- You Have No Idea Who You're Dealing With: Stated almost verbatim by K at the beginning of the movie.
- Your Head A-Splode: Jeebs, hilariously. Don't worry, his race regenerates.
(*FLASH*)You weren't at your computer for the past few minutes. You got up, got something to eat and then visited a few other sites. Checked some blogs, answered a couple e-mails, nothing too eventful or life changing. After a few minutes, you returned to TV Tropes and found a completely different page to view.