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Film: Starship Troopers

"Join the Mobile Infantry and save the galaxy."
"Service Guarantees Citizenship!"
"Would you like to know more?"
Various buzz-words in Federation propaganda

Starship Troopers, the Paul Verhoeven film, is generally considered to be the biggest middle finger the novel will ever receive, and that is no accident. A coproduction between Tristar Pictures and Touchstone Pictures, it's a satire of militarism, the Cold War, dehumanization of the enemy, war movies, propaganda and military sci-fi in general. It originally started out as an unrelated script called Bug Hunt, before the studio acquired the rights to the novel and Verhoeven, disgusted by what little he was able to stomach of Heinlein's book, had the script rewritten to deepen the satire. The film was intentionally designed as the polar opposite of the book in terms of message, characterization, and themes — an attack on the idea that War Is Glorious. A fairly detailed exploration of the film's themes can be found on The AV Club. The film was also riffed by RiffTrax. (It should be noted that some people missed the satire, perceiving a simple gung-ho action flick instead.)

There were two Live-Action Direct-to-Video sequels, Starship Troopers 2: Hero of the Federation, which had Puppeteer Parasites in the form of brain-eating Control Bugs, and Starship Troopers 3: Marauder, with the introduction of Powered Armor and religious subtext. They can be viewed on Hulu.

In addition an All-CGI Cartoon was released in 2012, called Starship Troopers: Invasion, made largely by fans of the book Running the Asylum. Bizarrely, it both follows the continuity of the first film (including Putting the Band Back Together, albeit with said characters being The Other Darrin) with plenty of Call Back moments; AND, acts as a Spiritual Licensee of the book, in a colossal Tone Shift, with the end result feeling very similar to a certain other adaptation of the book with a helping of Fanservice and Technology Porn added in. Of note are its Japanese influences, and the fact that Rico now looks like Big Boss IN SPACE! All examples for that movie go on that movie's page.


This film and its sequels provide examples of the following tropes:

  • 10-Minute Retirement: Rico tries to quit after he is demoted (due to getting a fellow trainee killed because of his desire to win), but just as he is walking out of the base, the bugs Colony Drop his hometown and he promptly forces his way back into the Infantry.
  • Ace Pilot: Carmen, overlapping with Drives Like Crazy.
  • Action Prologue: The opening starts with the initial landing on Klendathu, then cuts away as it starts to get bad and Rico is seen getting attacked by bugs on the camera.
  • Adaptation Explanation Extrication: The Mobile Infantry operating without armor or artillery support was actually justified in the novel, because the MI powered armor suits let them provide their own support. When the movie eliminated the powered armor, it failed to account for this, making the MI's tactics look very silly. Lampshaded: After the initial attack on Klendathu failed miserably, everyone acknowledged that the MI's tactics were moronic. In later operations they're seen operating with heavy air support.
  • Added Alliterative Appeal: Rico's assigned unit for most of the movie is Rasczak's Roughnecks. In a Meaningful Echo, this becomes Rico's Roughnecks.
  • Affectionate Parody: The musical Starship is one of the film.
  • Alien Invasion: Inverted. After a series of attacks on human colonies and a direct attack on Buenos Aires on Earth, humanity declares war and invades the bug worlds.
  • All Planets Are Earthlike: And they all look like the same stretch of desert, too. Maybe the Bugs thrive best in dry, mountainous environments?
  • Almost Kiss: Between Carmen and Zander just before the asteroid appears.
  • Always Chaotic Evil: The Bugs. Although it's deliberately left unclear whether the Bugs started the war or if the humans did, they are absolutely merciless in battle and kill the humans without restraint.
  • Anachronic Order: The opening newsreel takes place during the initial invasion of Klendathu, before the movie jumps back a few months, then catches up about half-way through.
  • Anyone Can Die: Most of those close to Rico are slaughtered brutally.
  • An Arm and a Leg: The recruitment officer, lots and lots of MI troops. Rasczak in spades.
  • Artificial Limbs: Rasczak's mechanical left hand.
  • Artistic License – Gun Safety: As thoroughly analyzed on the Internet Movie Firearms Database, the live-fire exercise was a fatal accident just waiting to happen.
  • Artistic License – History: Rasczak and his students appears to be under the impression the city of Hiroshima ceased to exist after the atomic bomb was dropped on it.
  • Artistic License – Physics
    • When hit with missiles, orbiting space ships do not fall perpendicular to the planet and they especially do not fall down RELATIVE TO THE CAMERA.
    • The asteroid Carmen almost misses, unless it was dense as hell, should in no way have enough mass to create such a significant gravitational field, especially enough to counter the ship's own artificial gravity field.
  • Ascended Extra: Male!Dizzy was a Sacrificial Lamb for the first scene of the novel; Carl was killed offscreen — er, off-page. Both have more important roles in the movie.
  • Author Tract: In a way diamterically opposed to the original book.
  • Autodoc: An injured Rico is placed in a nutrient tank with automated metal hands mending his thigh wound.
  • Back in the Saddle: Rico's teacher Mr. Rasczak returns to duty as lieutenant in the MI. Drill Sergeant Zim is so eager to get back on the front lines that he deliberately gets himself demoted to private to do so.
  • Bad Ass: Sgt. Zim! Starts the movie as a Drill Sergeant Nasty, then takes a VOLUNTARY DEMOTION so that he can go into combat, THEN captures a brain bug! Being played by Clancy Brown certainly doesn't hurt his badassitude.
  • Bait-and-Switch Tyrant: Lt. Raschak has a reputation for being a "real nutbuster" among troops outside his unit, but Raschak's Roughnecks are fiercely loyal to their commander. He comes across as stern and demanding, not hesitant to shoot one of his own troopers to save the poor ape from being eaten alive by a nest of bugs, and says he'd expect anyone in his unit to do the same for him. But then we see that he understands the importance of soldier morale by ordering his troops have a party while they're in a safe zone, and even allowing Rico and Dizzy to finish up their R&R in the tent.
  • Banister Slide: Carmen does one while running to a shuttle in the first film.
  • Battle Cry: From the first film:
    "Come on you apes, you wanna live forever?!"
  • Beauty Is Never Tarnished
    • Rico's hair is always perfect. Always. Even when he just took off his helmet after marching around a hot desert planet.
    • Also worth mentioning is Carmen who sustains a massive explosion to the face when the bridge takes a hit over Klendathu. While Rico's recovering in the bacta tank, Carmen has a tiny cut through her eyebrow which actually serves to enhance her looks.
  • Behind the Black: In the first film, Carmen and Xander notice a gravity field affecting the ship, and all its advanced sensors indicate that it's probably an asteroid. This is opposed to simply looking out the front window, in which the giant asteroid about to hit them is clearly visible.
  • Better to Die Than Be Killed: Lt. Rasczak shoots an unfortunate soldier before he gets mauled by a giant bug. He then requests for the same to be done to him if he were to get in a similar situation. Which happens.
  • Betty and Veronica: Rico for Dizzy and Ibanez. Interestingly, he essentially winds up with neither as Dizzy dies and Ibanez ends their relationship to concentrate on being a career pilot.
  • Big Bad: The Brain Bug in the first film, which leads the other Bugs.
  • Bigger Bad: Behemecoatyl is retroactively the Bigger Bad of the first two films. It is the absolute leader of the Bugs, but is never seen in the previous ones, in which the humans only fought its minions.
  • Big Creepy-Crawlies
  • Black and Grey Morality: At best. With the bugs in the "grey" area. Otherwise, Black And Black Morality might be a better description in the next two films.
  • Black Dude Dies First: Inverted, where the black dude dies last holding the line for his comrades to escape, with a ticking tactical nuke in one hand.
  • Blatant Lies: All over the film, but because it plays its satire with such a straight face, you have to be paying attention to catch it. Pay particular note to casualty numbers in the newsreel on the Battle of Klendathu and then the numbers displayed in Rico's Federation hospital. The media are underreporting the deaths by a factor of ten.
  • Blood Knight: Watkins empties roughly a hundred rounds into a bug, even after it's clearly obvious it's dead. Instant Section Eight.
  • Bloody Hilarious
  • Bottomless Magazines
    • In spite of the massive amount of ammo expended, you can pretty much count on one hand the number of times anyone reloads on-screen.
    • Averted during the battle at the outpost on Planet P in the first movie. One of the MI says he's low on ammunition and another says they're out of ammo. Which for Dizzy is kind of weird for her to run out, as she spent the better part of the assault trying to call for retrieval.
  • Brain Food: The Brain Bugs, who use a rather straw-like proboscis to stab through the skull and suck out the juicy brainmeats within.
  • Brick Joke: At the end of the Boot Camp portion of the first film, Zim is told that due to his value as a Veteran Instructor, the only way he'll see combat is if he busts himself down to private. Cue the film's climax, where it is revealed that Zim in fact got himself busted down to private and captured the Brain Bug.
  • Bug War: The war is against the giant Klendathu Arachnids.
  • The Call Knows Where You Live: Buenos Aires. Note that in the novel, only one of Rico's relatives was in B.A., and he didn't even find that out until months later.
  • Cannon Fodder: Johnny Rico and his fellow ground troops.
  • Censor Decoy: FedNet censors a cow being ripped apart by an Arachnid and later the Brain Bug being probed, yet they show the gruesomely mangled bodies of humans killed by the Arachnids not once, but TWICE.
  • Chekhov's Gun: "Who needs a knife in a nuke fight anyway?"
  • Child Soldiers: In a blink-and-you-miss-it scene, we're shown Rico's new troops. They're all teenagers, some of them look as young as 14 years old. They're not shown again for the rest of the movie, presumably because showing the inevitable outcome wouldn't be acceptable.
  • Clint Squint: Private Ace Levy has one.
  • Colonel Badass: Michael Ironside as Lieutenant Rasczak from the first movie qualifies.
  • Communications Officer: A series of (usually short-lived) characters fulfill this role throughout the first film, including Dizzy and Ace towards the end.
  • Composite Character: In the novel, Carl is Rico's childhood friend who dies offscreen, the only psychic is an unnnamed "sensitive" who makes one brief appearance (and Rico suspects his talent is really just very good hearing), and Jenkins is one of Rico's later squadmates. Also in the novel, Colonel DuBois, Rico's teacher, and Lt. Rasczak are separate characters, but Michael Ironside pulls double duty when the two are combined.
  • Covered in Gunge: Bug guts everywhere.
  • Cult Colony: Port Joe Smith is a colony founded by "Mormon Extremists" just inside the Arachnid Quarantine Zone. Bugs apparently found them quite tasty.
  • Dare to Be Badass: "Come on, you apes! Do you wanna live forever?!"
  • Deadline News: The film opens with the reporter and his cameraman dying by Bug. Not at the same time, either; the cameraman was just that stupid.
  • Dead Man's Trigger Finger: During a (remarkably unsafe) live-fire training exercise, one recruit is hit in the back by a Stun Gun as she turns to bicker with another recruit who had just removed his helmet. She ends up spaz-firing a burst that takes part of his head off.
  • "Dear John" Letter: Rico gets one from Carmen via video mail.
  • Death by Adaptation: Johnny's father. In the book, only his mother is in Buenos Aires when it's destroyed; his father was meant to join her there later and survives as a result, going on to become Johnny's second-in-command. In the movie, he dies along with her.
  • Death by Cameo: In the first movie scriptwriter Edward Neumeier briefly appears as a murderer who is arrested in the morning, tried that day, found guilty and sentenced to to be executed that evening. Swift justice indeed.
  • Death by Sex: After spending over half of the movie pining, the day after Dizzy and Rico have sex, she dies.
  • Death from Above / Colony Drop: The Bugs use this by (somehow using plasma) shooting asteroids, but the humans seem to have trouble with the concept. Yes, this makes so little sense that it's implied it's bull anyway; the more likely explanation is that the government did it themselves as an excuse for war.
  • Death of the Hypotenuse: Dizzy. And, for that matter, arguably Zander.
  • Deconstructed Trope: Of classic Hollywood Tactics with usually gory results. Trying to out-Zerg Rush a faction that would make the actual Zerg proud? As in sending in millions of unprotected infantry without any support whatsoever? Or, never asking for space freighters to transport the infantry on the planet around? Placing all your space ships as close as possible to each other so the enemy anti-orbital artillery can conveniently land hit after hit? Yes, all of those are done by the humans and all of those end in utter failure. The bugs on the other hand are incredibly Dangerously Genre Savvy when it comes to tactics in this movie series. Unlike older cases where humans are facing mindless aliens who attack en-mass, they are dealing with a well coordinated Hive Mind that knows proper tactics, has plenty of surprising and deadly tricks in reserve, and their basic mooks can take so much punishment that it takes a whole clip of ammo just to bring one down.
  • Deconstructive Parody: The film started out as a satirical story called Bug Hunt before it was tied to the novel. Paul Verhoeven hated the novel and felt it had a lot of fascistic elements (a very hotly debated assessment), so he made the film an outright parody of the novel, the Why We Fight WWII propaganda films, and jingoistic warmongering and fascism in general through deconstructing the entire premise. The inhuman enemy that is "Othered" are literally inhuman monsters, even moreso than in the novel. The militaristic society makes the humans so complacent in their superiority that they refuse to even consider the enemy to be intelligent after the Bugs attack them with a Colony Drop from across the galaxy. They try to use horrendous military tactics and their forces are completely slaughtered. The attrition warfare gets so bad that the humans are reduced to using Child Soldiers by the end. The humans only seem like heroes because of the propaganda-like tone of the film itself. They accomplish a (in retrospect) small victory and are clearly still having problems with the bugs by the end, but the viewer is encouraged to join the Mobile Infantry because every soldier is needed. Yet despite all that, it's done in such an over-the-top fashion that most viewers don't even realize the parodic intent and cheer the humans on as if it were a straight-up action movie.
  • Disconnected By Death: Video Phone example in the first movie. Rico is talking with his mother and father, who live in Buenos Aires. As they're talking, a shadow comes across the parents' ends of the line. The screen then dissolves into static and a short time later the news shows the destruction of the city.
  • Distress Call: A fake Distress Call is sent out on Planet P. While the grunts never saw it coming, it was in fact, an Obvious Trap to Intelligence, who tripped it with aforementioned grunts to see if there was a brain bug on the planet.
  • Do Not Do This Cool Thing: Played with. The exciting battle scenes seem to undermine Verhoeven's supposed message, but most of the soldiers still die agonizingly horrible deaths. But the trope itself is also a large part of the message, the unsavory elements of the war and its reasons are referenced by people trying to downplay or distract from those elements.
  • Doomed Hometown: Buenos Aires.
  • Double Entendre: Zander drops several of these, as he is trying desperately to sleep with Ibanez.
    Zander: I heard about a girl in the academy: good with math, a little wild on the stick...
    Zander: Three weeks on a starship and you think you can lick my Navs?
  • Drill Sergeant Nasty: Career Sergeant Zim, to the point of exaggeration. He casually breaks recruits' arms and throws knives into their hands as part of their training.
  • Drives Like Crazy: Ibanez flies this way. She doesn't suffer any serious repercussions for her recklessness and it's even treated as a positive trait. She takes chances, but she's also a damn good pilot who is able to take such risks because she can pull them off. Kind of like Maverick.
  • Drop Ship: Appear to basically be shuttles carrying shipping containers for the troops to ride in. A smaller version is used to recover Rico's Roughnecks from the outpost in the first movie.
  • Dull Surprise: Denise Richards pulls a few of these throughout.
  • Elite Mooks: The tanker and hopper bugs. An encroaching tanker especially just means the soldiers are better off retreating since they have few means to counter them effectively.
  • The Empire: The United Citizen's Federation is this, being a Federation In Name Only. Their supercilious self-image just means they have to conquer the Klendathu Arachnids as revenge, who would actually qualify as the Empire themselves if they weren't the ones being invaded at the time.
  • Evil Versus Evil: A federation of warmongering fascists is pitted against a merciless race of alien killers. The first movie was playing sly with the notion that it was humanity that provoked the bugs. The later films however depicted the bugs as being pretty horrible while showing that humanity was still the propaganda-heavy, war-glorifying nutcases they were in the first movie (though with a few more sympathetic characters whereas the bugs are all monsters).
  • False Reassurance: When Rico first signs up, the recruiter boasts that the Mobile Infantry made him the man he is today... as he rolls his chair back to reveal he's had both legs amputated.
  • Fantastic Racism: A TV presenter says he finds the very idea of intelligent Bugs offensive. This undercurrent is also hinted at after a soldier continues to angrily shoot an already dead Bug, covering himself with alien gore.
    Soldier: Ain't much to look at after you scrape them off your boot.
  • The Federation: What the Federation presents itself as. They're more The Empire, actually.
  • Fetish-Fuel Future: Co-ed showers! Also, getting fitted for a mecha unit requires that you stand naked in front of a small device which is only high enough, and large enough, to cover your crotch.
    • Notably, these scenes (from the first and third movies) aren't played like typical Fanservice. All the characters, male and female, have a reasonable, non-sexual discussion. Meanwhile, the camera does not focus on the sexy bits. It simply films everyone talking and interacting, exactly as if they were still wearing clothes.
  • Fictional Sport: The indoors-on-hardwood-with-gymnastics football game.
  • Field Promotion: Taken to extreme levels with Rico once they end up in the Roughnecks. After taking out a tanker in an extremely reckless move, he was elevated to corporal. After the previous commander dies, Rico becomes acting lieutenant. After they get back to HQ, instead of assigning another one Carl just make the promotion permanent despite Rico having actually been in the field for a few weeks at most.
  • Fire-Forged Friends: Rico and Ace, with Ace initially starting out as The Rival, but he is eventually humbled and becomes Rico's friend.
  • Follow the Leader: The original script "Bug Hunt" was an Aliens ripoff, and much of Aliens was inspired by the original Starship Troopers novel.
    • Futurama episode "War is the H Word" referenced the film heavily, with Fry realizing near the end that the humans were the evil invaders, not the sentient balls.
  • Gender Flip: Dizzy Flores, mostly to add a Love Triangle and a Squadette.
  • Gender Is No Object: Men and women serve together in all parts of the Federation military (and even shower together). In the book the Mobile Infantry is strictly male, and women do serve, but they are almost universally in the Space Navy since they make better pilots.
  • Go Mad from the Isolation: General Owen is a mild example.
  • Half the Man He Used to Be:
    • Carmen's commander, thanks to a descending bulkhead door.
    • The reporter seen in the beginning of the film, twice (once in the In Media Res opening and again once the film eventually works its way back to that point).
  • Hand Signals: Lieutenant Rascak uses them while approaching the outpost on Planet P.
  • Heroic Sacrifice: Watkins after he gets too injured to move. He insists that Rico leave a tactical grenade/nuke to kill as many bugs as he can before he dies.
  • Hive Caste System: In addition to the Bug castes in the novel, the movie and its direct-to-DVD sequels added Plasma Bugs, who shot blue death from their butts clear up to orbit; Tanker Bugs, giant bombardier beetles who spat red death at close range; Chariot Bugs, who carried around the bloated Brain Bugs; Hoppers, which could fly but were otherwise similar to Warriors; and in the later films Control Bugs, who were much smaller and could mind-control people similar to Puppeteer Parasites, and the God-Bug or Brain-Of-Brains Behemecoatyl, a top-level caste with a hyperintelligent and telepathic Bug that overgrows most of a planet. Even so, in the original, they used tools instead of Organic Technology.
  • Hive Mind: The Arachnids (or Bugs). The series expanded on them having a caste system, with each subspecies filling a specific role. The Brain Bugs and Behemacoatyl (from the third film, Marauder; the largest Bug seen so far - its body engulfed almost a planet) have extreme psychic abilities that can be used to control all bugs in the colony.
  • Hollywood Tactics: Many examples, likely on purpose. The "Battle of Klendathu" is the biggest offender.
  1. Ships are parked in orbit right next to each other, so Bug anti-space weapons can take them out easily, hit after hit. Bonus points when this problem is mentioned by the humans as one of the reasons the attack failed, then they did it again in the next big battle.
  2. The attack force is light infantry (not mechanized), with no armour or air support. While the lack of armour support is Hand Waved by statements that the terrain is unsuitable for tanks and the like, there is no justification for a lack of air-support, either for bombing or rapid deployment of troops, especially when they're shown to have such capabilities.
  3. Human infantry are squishy, heavily-outnumbered and armed with weak but massed ranged weapons. Rather than set up kill-zones and Defensive Feint Traps and make use of explosives to counter their numbers, they simply send the troops rushing over to fight the bugs in a Zerg Rush. Not very good when the enemy is the actual Zerg.
  4. Poor morale and troop cohesion, with the whole assault turning into a panicked rout after only a few casualties.
  • Consistently averted by the Bugs, who use combined arms tactics, stage ambushes, and effectively use expendable drones to soak up fire.
  • Humans Are the Real Monsters: The humans are brainwashed fanatics living in a fascist dystopia moving out into the galaxy and slaughtering the Arachnids for territory to expand into. Then again, in this case the Bugs aren't any better.
    • Note that the only one of those things that isn't in the book is the fascist dystopia, and Robert A. Heinlein considered genocidal expansionism a necessity.
      • That being said, the book emphasizes that the necessity of genocidal expansion comes more from "The Bugs will never make peace with us, hate us to the last individual, and so must be killed before they kill us"; Heinlein also notes that the Federation is actually a member of an intergalactic alliance against the Bugs with other alien races, and that it is quite capable of getting along with other races that don't have an insatiable desire to conquer and exterminate all other life forms. The fact that the Bugs are *horribly* out of the norm is actually a plot point, even if it's not delved into.
  • Humans Are Morons: It's less "Humans are Morons" and more "Humans Are Absolutely Too Dumb to Live". The overwhelming majority of human characters underestimate the Bugs as mindless animals in the face of overwhelming evidence to the contrary. For example, early on in the film, the city of Buenos Aires is annihilated by an asteroid knocked from the Asteroid Belt into Earth, by bug plasma from Klendathu, thousands of light years away. Something like this far beyond anything humanity can do without trillions of dollars worth of supercomputer, and the Bugs are doing these calculations in their heads. The humans insist that the Bugs just managed a lucky hit ("Bug plasma is random and light"), and retaliate with an invasion of Klendathu that ends in abysmal failure with thousands of humans dead and wounded, all due to massive tactical blunders on the human's part. Even after all this, the majority of humans are adamant that the Bugs are just unthinking beasts that can be easily crushed by human superiority. To quote one expert, "I find the idea of an intelligent bug offensive!" With the humans constantly underestimating the Bugs, paying dearly for it, and never once learning their lesson, one has to wonder if the Bugs find the idea of intelligent monkeys offensive as well...
  • Humans Are Psychic in the Future: In the 22nd century, some humans are displaying latent psychic abilities and demographic tests are conducted to find people for the Federation's Psy-Corps division. To quote an ad that's shown on the TV: "If you think you're psychic ... maybe you are!"
  • I Cannot Self-Terminate: Rasczak, the leader of the Roughnecks, informs all of his new recruits "I've only got one rule: everybody fights, no one quits. You don't do your job, I'll shoot you myself." Later, during a battle he is being consumed from the waist down in a pit he's been sucked into. He tosses his rifle to Rico and screams for him to "Do it!" which prompts Rico to empty the magazine into Rasczak. Not that bad as a rule, considering the alternative to being shot in the head by the teammate is getting slowly devoured and/or brain-sucked by aliens...
  • I Just Shot Marvin in the Face:
    • The horridly unsafe live-fire exercise where, sure enough, someone gets accidentally shot in the face.
    • Earlier in the film, during one of the propaganda commercials, three soldiers pass off their guns to children, even teaching them how to aim them. The kids actually fight over the guns! In case you had any faith that these soldiers aren't complete imbeciles, they then proceed to pass out bullets.
  • I Know Madden Kombat: Flip-6-3-hole!
  • Impaled Palm: The main characters are in basic training, learning how to throw knives. After blowing his throw, Ace asks Sergeant Zim why throwing knives is important in an age when pressing a button can unleash nuclear weapons with far more power. Zim orders him to lay his hand against a wall, and throws a knife through his palm, pinning it. He explains (while Ace moans painfully in the background) that by disabling a hand, you can prevent that button from being pressed.
  • Impaled with Extreme Prejudice: Practically every battle-scene. Rico's leg gets pinned, but he survives.
  • Imperial Stormtrooper Marksmanship Academy: Actually depends on the scene.
  • Improbable Parking Skills: It's implied that Carmen Ibanez had to have them to land her shuttle in the middle of a besieged Mobile Infantry outpost during a fierce battle. Of course, she had already been established as the Ace Pilot.
  • Insert Grenade Here: Done twice in the first movie where Rico shoots a hole in the top of a armoured bug and again when Dizzy makes one swallow a grenade.
  • It Can Think: The humans just quickly assume that the Bugs are dumb, mindless animals, and just the idea of them being capable of intelligent thought is incredibly offensive. However, the humans learn their lesson once the Bugs spring a massive trap and repel the initial human invasion force. It's later revealed that they are being led by extremely intelligent "Brain Bugs", a leadership caste.
  • Ivy League For Everyone: Rico's father is adamant that he attend Harvard rather than join the infantry. Since Rico is outright shown to be a dim bulb, it seems the trope name has come true. More-than-possibly justified, however, in that Johnny's family is rich (as in the novel), and historically children of wealthy families can more easily gain admission to prestigious universities than the children of poorer families. One of the other recruits mentions he got into Harvard, and joined the MI so he could afford it.
  • I Will Only Slow You Down: In the first film, during the underground battle between the MI and the Bugs Watkins is injured. He asks the others to give him a nuclear RPG round and leave him behind so he can do a You Shall Not Pass to the Bugs.
  • Kinetic Weapons Are Just Better: Averted. Many human weapons are shown to be only marginally effective against the bugs (an entire assault rifle clip might bring down a common soldier bug), whereas the plasma bugs are able to seriously damage the human fleet.
  • Large Ham: Michael Ironside and Clancy Brown needed to look down to see where "over the top" stood. Arguably the best parts of the film. Later Casper Van Dien tries to replicate their Large Ham performance as a hard-ass officer, only to come off as a small slice of baloney.
  • Leeroy Jenkins: One guy during the invasion of Klendathu tries to be this. He's quickly swarmed by bugs and torn to pieces and it all goes downhill from there.
  • Licensed Pinball Tables: Released by Sega Pinball in 1997. Click here for tropes.
  • Loophole Abuse: After Rico turns in his papers to resign out of the Mobile Infantry, his call to his parents at home are suddenly cut short. He then finds out that Buenos Aires was hit by an asteroid lobbed by the bugs, and asks the commanding officer to withdraw his resignation papers. When the commander refuses, Rico states that his entire family was in Buenos Aires, causing Drill Sergeant Zim to ask Rico if the signature on the papers were his. Rico states that it is, and Zim looks at the commander, who just turns away. He then rips up the paperwork, claims the signature doesn't look like his, and orders him back into the unit.
    • This was an invocation, as well - Zim was gunning for a demotion so he could go back into the field, and Rico wanted back into the MI. It was a win-win that pleased all three parties, as the commander wouldn't have to listen to Zim's complaints anymore.
  • Ludicrous Gibs: And then some.
  • Meaningful Echo: Many of Rasczak's lines to his men.
  • Mercy Kill: Lt. Rasczak snipes one of his own men who has been carried to a distant ridge by a flying bug and tells his troops, "I'd expect any of you to do the same for me." And of course, Rico has to do so later.
  • Might Makes Right: The entire point of Mr. Rasczak's Federal History class. He argues that voting is exercising authority, and authority is violence, the supreme directive from which all other authority is derived. When a student protests that violence doesn't always solve everything, he points to how violence was succesfully used against Hiroshima, and that it has "solved" more problems in history than any other factor.
  • Mildly Military: It's strangely played both ways. Setting aside Hollywood Tactics, on the one hand the Federal Military is extremely strict with almost Spartan-level brutality in boot camp and summary execution by a field officer is threatened for desertion, and the chain of command is absolute. On the other hand the soldiers are severely undisciplined; the first attack dissolves into a confused retreat with only a few casualties, fraternization is encouraged by superiors, they throw a frat party in the middle of enemy territory seemingly without setting up a defense perimeter, and a rookie flight officer isn't even remotely disciplined for almost crashing an interstellar starship into the spaceport because of her arrogant recklessness on her first field mission.
  • Moral Dissonance:
    • Invoked. "It's afraid!" *cheers*
    • Pretty much the whole film - life in the Federation is pretty good: everyone is fit and healthy, there is no gender divide, no poverty, black and white live in harmony and jump in and out of bed with no moral condemnation, and all under the benevolent leadership of... a tyrannical fascist dictatorship.
  • A Nazi by Any Other Name: Since the movie is a satire of the gung-ho jingoism of the novel, they use the Nazi-like symbolism to portray the humans as an evil invading race by Putting on the Reich, and occasionally showing a propaganda commercial. This is capped by Neil Patrick Harris (at the time, best known for Doogie Howser, M.D.) as a Dr. Mengele Expy. One fan theory is that the humans faked the asteroid attack to justify the invasion. Either that, or used the opportunity provided by the otherwise natural asteroid strike to start a war.
    • As the RiffTrax guys put it: "In case you're not getting it yet, all the rest of his lines will be in German."
  • Never a Self-Made Woman: Zigzagged; Dizzy joins the infantry just to be close to Johnny, but Carmen's desire to become a Fleet pilot is entirely her own and motivates Johnny to join the military.
  • New Meat: A common phrase used to refer to new recruits is "fresh meat for the grinder". Quite funny, in a horrible sort of way. At the end Rico's decimated unit receives reinforcements, all of which are teens fresh out of bootcamp (earily reminiscent of World War II footage of the Nazis throwing in Child Soldiers by the end of the war). Rico quips that he and his second-in-command Ace (20-year old soldiers) are the "old men" now before proceeding to give the arrivals the exact same speech that the unit commander whom Rico replaced gave when he, Ace, and Dizzy joined the unit.
  • Nominal Hero: Humanity in this film is a race of arrogant, jingoistic, xenophobic bastards run by an openly fascist and militaristic People's Republic of Tyranny. Their every action in the war against the Klendathu Arachnids is presented as heroic, embodying the film's intended satire on militarism.
  • No New Fashions in the Future
  • Nuke 'em: the MI seem to have only a handful of weapons — assault rifles, shotguns, grenades, and rocket launchers that shoot miniature tactical nukes.
  • Oh, Crap: Done a lot throughout the film.
    • Several happen in rapid succession during the invasion of Klendathu, starting with the MI's reactions to a Leeroy Jenkins getting ripped apart, then another from a girl that falls into a bug hole does one right before she gets dragged into one, then from the rest of the MI when they see the bugs swarming out towards them, then another from the Roughnecks on Planet P when they see the giant army of bugs coming at them, and finally Carmen when she sees that she and Zander are surrounded by bugs. Her reaction is probably the most telling.
      Carmen:(after giving her location to Rico) The situation is...is...(looks up to see that they're surrounded by bugs) The situation is extremely hostile!
    • Probably the best one was early in the Klendathu raid, when a Fleet ship damaged by the bug plasma (which was, contrary to expectations, neither random nor light) plows into another ship in orbit, directly in the Roger Young's path.
      Captain Deladrier: Someone made a big goddamn mistake!
  • Only a Flesh Wound: Carmen gets impaled through the shoulder by a bug talon the diameter of a soda can, picked up and thrown around by it, and yet minutes later is firing a high caliber machinegun, outruns a nuke, and then throws her arms around her friends and skips away smiling. What brave new world is this, that has such painkillers in it?
  • Newsreel: "Would you like to know more?"
  • Only Mostly Dead: Rico at one point. He gets better.
  • Organic Technology: The movie Bugs come in varying breeds for battle, instead of being tool-using like the novel.
  • Overranked Soldier: Rico rockets up the ranks because his superior officers keep dying. "Fresh meat for the grinder" indeed. Carmen and Zander are watch officers within a year of their joining the fleet. Carl is the only one who seems suited to his rank after going through Military Intelligence training, though his young age still stands out among the older Psi-Corps officers.
  • People's Republic of Tyranny: The United Citizen Federation, where civil rights are plenty (unless you want to have kids) but political freedoms are virtually nonexistent, murderers are arrested, tried and executed the same day, and the media is a fully interactive Propaganda Machine.
  • Physical Fitness Punishment: One of several methods of punishment used by the instructors in boot camp. One trooper is sent running around a distance armory (with a Corporal swatting him with a cane to keep pace) as punishment for failing to address his instructor as "Sir".
  • Pinned to the Wall:
    Ace Levy: Sir, I don't understand. Who needs a knife in a nuke fight anyway? All you gotta do is push a button, sir.
    Career Sergeant Zim: Cease fire. Put your hand on that wall, trooper. PUT YOUR HAND ON THAT WALL!
    [Zim throws a knife and hits Ace's hand, pinning it to the wall]
    Zim: The enemy can not push a button... if you disable his hand. Medic!
  • Pin-Pulling Teeth: In the first movie, Dizzy pulls out a grenade's pin with her teeth. Which seems entirely unnecessary, as pushing the big red button on top of the grenade is also shown to remove the pin.
  • Planetville
  • Plasma Cannon: The Bugs combine this with their Hive Caste System. The towering bugs that the Mobile Infantry first encounters during their initial ground invasion of Klendathu are so-called "Plasma Bugs". They shoot huge bursts of plasma from their backs to target the human space vessels in orbit around the planet. Two of them are blown up onscreen, but the rest of them end up destroying most of the Federation's Fleet.
  • Plot Armor: Any character that needs to survive a bug attacking them for the purposes of plot get stabbed in the shoulder or leg. Anyone else gets it right through the chest multiple times or are torn in half.
  • Power Walk: Not a slo-mo one, but Rico, Ace and Sugar have a meaningful one on their return to Planet P, being the last of their old squad, coming to review some new recruits.
  • Promoted to Love Interest: Both Carmen and Dizzy (who also gets a Gender Flip and Ascended Extra status for the purpose), for Johnny. In the book, Carmen and Johnny have a mild interest in each other in high school, and later go on one date and share a kiss when they chance to meet up in training, but never exactly have a romance. In the film, it's a full-on Love Triangle.
  • Propaganda Machine: All the viral messages in the movies are a pastiche of propaganda recruitment tools.
  • Psychic Powers: Some humans have psychic powers in the future. Carl uses these on his pet ferret ("Go bug Mom!"), the brain bug at the end ("It's afraid!"), and to guide Rico to Carmen.
  • Public Execution: The fascist regime immediately sentences murderers to death and broadcasts their executions on live television on every channel.
  • Puny Earthlings:
    • The Bugs can take a full magazine of ammo (or more as drama demands) and still fight. During the battle of Klendathu it took three people all their ammo to kill one bug, which would kill at least two of them in the process. The only person who had an effective weapon only used it after the bugs had torn him in half. This is (almost) consistent with the book, as warrior bugs have no sense of self preservation and may not even feel pain: if your torrent of bullets fails to hit a vital organ but only chops away at limbs, the bug will keep coming so long as it has a limb left. But in the book, and later in the film, they realized this and aimed for the brain case on the back to disable them quickly.
      • Subverted in the ending fight of the first movie. After they rescue Carmen, the protagonists are attacked by an army of bugs. The protagonists respond by letting loose with a torrent of bullets that causes a mountain of bug corpses to form in about three seconds flat.
  • Putting on the Reich: Taken to extremes. It is impossible to look at a dress or officer's uniform and not think "How very German." Given the film's send up of militarism and the fact that Verhoeven grew up in the Netherlands during World War II, it's not exacting surprising. But note how they are never portrayed as anything but good, even while saying and doing horrible things — thus reinforcing the film's take on propaganda. Carl's uniform is the worst offender: the cap and black longcoat haven't been seen on an officer since 1945.
    • Everything that the Federation does, from racist ideology that refuses to believe It Can Think to getting so desperate as to have children as soldiers, is straight from late World War II. "We are fighting and we will win!" Guess who said that in the last few weeks of the war?
    • Word of God states that the use of Argentina was quite deliberate, since its Nazi ties are documented.
  • Race Lift: Rico was Filipino in the book; now he's sparkling white. Coupled with the Dawson Casting, this is very disconcerting, and was thus probably done on purpose.
    • Fridge Brilliance: In this version, the main characters are all from Buenos Aires which was destroyed in both the book and the film. Argentina's population is much more heavily European in ancestry than other Latin American countries.
  • Reckless Gun Usage: Parodied in one television story, as soldiers hand out automatic weapons to kids to play with - then to make it more ridiculous, hand out live ammo.
  • Red Shirt Army: The Mobile Infantry in general. Named characters generally only have slightly more Plot Armor than the typical grunt, but it can get ripped to shreds by the bugs if needed for the drama points.
  • Red Shirt Reporter: The film opens with a reporter in the middle of a battle, a few seconds before he becomes Half the Man He Used to Be.
  • Reports of My Death Were Greatly Exaggerated: "Hey, Rico! Congratulations—you're dead!" Said to Rico while he's in a stasis tank, getting his various battle wounds repaired. Of course, nobody thought to tell Carmen that Rico had actually survived. Ironically enough, it's Xander who informs Carmen that Rico is still alive, immediately after seeing him amongst the troopers they just picked up on Planet P.
  • Rule of Cool: It would make more sense to have a trooper or a Fleet rating loading troopers into the rescue boat on Planet P (this is, in fact, how it typically works on military helicopters in Real Life), but it was so much cooler to see Fleet officer Xander heroically jump out with an assault rifle to get Rico's men aboard.
    • The massed infantry charge during their the first assault on Klendathu. You'd think with a fleet of spaceships and bombers, they'd carpet bomb the bugs a bit first before landing boots on the ground to secure the planet. Interestingly enough, they do this on the second planet they attack, and the MI faces much less resistance, initially at least.
  • Rule of Drama: A starship's emergency thruster control (presumably some sort of overclocking feature... we hope) is placed under a glass cover that must be smashed before use. (Not to mention waiting until the last second instead of firing it immediately, but that's a failure of another kind.)
    • The scene implies that they've got to get the ship rotated before firing the emergency thruster, thus the delay.
  • Running Gag: A subtle one. Rico surges through the ranks, but this isn't because he's especially good, it's because the people above him keep dying. "Come on, do you wanna live forever?"
  • Scars Are Forever: With some exceptions, most adults in the movie have lost one or more limbs, become blind due to burn wounds, or gained some other type of permanent scarring due to their military service.
  • Scary Dogmatic Humans: Humanity is fascist in the first two movies, and by the end of the third movie, on the fast track to becoming a race of religious fanatics.
  • Sci Fi Writers Have No Sense Of Distance
    • Starships flying together in orbit so closely that they can run into each other.
    • The asteroid fired by the bugs grazes Carmen's ship. Given the sizes and scales involved, this is so incredibly unlikely that it defies all attempts at reason.
  • Sci Fi Writers Have No Sense Of Distance and Sci Fi Writers Have No Sense Of Velocity
    • An asteroid near Jupiter reaches and hits the Earth only hours later, a trip that should have taken years.
  • Shoot Everything That Moves: There are a lot of fights like this.
    We are going in with the first wave, means more bugs for us to kill. You smash the entire area, you kill anything with more than two legs. You get me?
  • Short Range Longrange Weapon: The MI's weapons are so ridiculously overpowered that the recoil makes them practically impossible to aim (possibly justified in that it still takes a full magazine to kill one bug).
  • Shout-Out:
    • Rasczak's (and later Rico's) battle cry, "C'mon you apes, do you wanna live forever?" is a shout-out to Real Life U.S. Marine Sgt. Maj. Dan Daly, a two-time Medal of Honor recipient who yelled, “Come on, you sons of bitches, do you want to live forever?” as he led Marines into the fight at Belleau Wood during World War I.
    • The bootcamp sequence is reminiscent of that in Full Metal Jacket, and borrows some of Sgt. Hartman's Drill Sergeant Nasty insults almost word for word:
    Zim: Do you think I'm funny. Do I make you laugh? Do you think I'm a comedian, son?''
    Zim: The first words and the last words out of your stinkin' holes will be sir''
    Dizz: What's your malfunction Rico?''
  • Show Within a Show: All three live-action films. The first and third even have commercial breaks.
  • Stealth Parody: This version of Starship Troopers was a satirical take both on the Robert A. Heinlein novel and jingoistic war movies in general. Not everybody got this when the film was released.
  • Single-Biome Planet: Apparently, they all look like Wyoming's Hell's Half Acre or the Badlands of South Dakota.
  • Spared by the Adaptation: Carl, who gets an anticlimactic off-screen death in the book when the research base he's stationed on is destroyed, makes it to the end of the movie.
  • The Spartan Way: Mobile Infantry training, where the Drill Sergeant Nasty breaks a recruit's arm and stabs another one through the hand just to make a point.
  • Spiritual Antithesis: The original film, to its own source material.
  • Spiteful Spit: Zander (Carmen's boyfriend) to the Brain Bug just before it sucks out his brain.
  • Strawman Political: Again.
  • Stupid Sacrifice: When Carmen and Zander find themselves surrounded by aliens and with the big brain-eating alien readying to do just that. Zander has a knife hidden, but he doesn't use it himself. No, he gives it to Carmen and promptly gets his brain eaten. The girl then uses it to wound the brain-eating alien and escape. No clear reason is given why the Zander didn't use the knife himself, other than to conveniently Murder the Hypotenuse.
  • Taking You with Me: Watkins does this with a tactical grenade/nuke after getting severely injured, to buy time for the remaining survivors to escape and kill as many bugs as he possibly can.
  • A Taste of the Lash: Rico's punishment after his actions during a training exercise lead to a soldier being killed is to receive 10 lashes across the back.
  • A Telepath Did It: Apparently an in-canon explanation for how Rico rescued his conveniently-recently-lost-her-boyfriend ex-girlfriend. Happens again in Invasion, except Carl is willing to actually admit it this time.
  • That's an Order: Rasczak says this after telling his troops to have fun during their party celebrating their victory.
  • They Would Cut You Up: Arachnid dissection and vivisection occur in the first film as well as the sequels—particularly pay attention to the captured brain bug in the epilogue.
  • ˇThree Amigos!: Rico, Carmen, and Carl. Carl bring Rico's best friend, and Carmen being Rico's girlfriend. They all enlist together.
  • Token Romance: In this case, a whole-cloth token Romantic Plot Tumor/Love Triangle gets tacked on.
  • Too Dumb to Live:
    • Dizzy's death could've easily been avoided if she hadn't stopped to do a celebratory dance in the middle of an evacuation from a Zerg Rush. Or, failing that, if she had run to the Drop Ship instead of happily skipping to it like a schoolgirl. Or even failing that, if she'd kept moving when Rico yelled out her name instead of stopping, turning around, and staring at the bug. Or if Rico, like an idiot, hadn't torn the jagged bug arm from her abdomen, or maybe just yelled something helpful like "Dizzy, drop so I can shoot the bug behind you" instead of "Diiiiiiiiizzzzyyyyyyyyyyyyyyy".
    • Humanity in general has elements of this. In the first movie, the Bugs supposedly attack Earth by using plasma to send an asteroid from Klendathu all the way to Earth, across half the galaxy. Something like that would take genius surpassing anything humanity is capable of without a couple trillion dollars worth of supercomputers backing them up. And the Bugs (or at least their leaders) can do those kind of calculations in their heads. The humans assume that the Bugs are unintelligent, and that their plasma attacks when they try to land will be "random and light". They're neither. Even after the horrible slaughter at Klandathu, there are more than a few humans who insist that the Bugs can't be intelligent. In the words of one person "I find the idea of an intelligent bug offensive!" One wonders, do the Bugs find the idea of intelligent monkeys offensive as well?
    • A very good example of this trope is towards the start, when a news correspondent (embedded with the MI) stops to give an on-camera summary of the action during the attack on Klendathu, only to be slaughtered by a Bug partway through. We later find out that this summary is being given in the middle of a mass retreat. Later on, after seeing what happens to the reporter, his cameraman dies in the exact same way.
  • Unbuilt Trope: This cracked article makes an interesting case that Starship Troopers, viewed today without context, could easily be mistaken for a satire on the War on Terror. A militaristic right wing government, complacent in its own superiority, suffers a devastating disaster that destroys a major population center. They blame a race of far off aliens on an isolated desert planet that couldn't possibly be responsible, and go to war, egged on by media saturated with progadanda. They quickly get bogged down in a quagmire. After capturing the leader, and torturing it horribly, they declare victory. Except it was made in 1997.
  • Unlucky Childhood Friend: Dizzy.
  • Up Through the Ranks: Johnny Rico is given a Klingon Promotion from the enlisted ranks to lieutenant so he can take command of the Roughnecks after Raczak is killed.
  • Vasquez Always Dies: Dizzy and Rake.
  • Video Phone: Johnny Rico is talking to his parents in Buenos Aires when the Bug asteroid hits the city.
  • Villain Protagonist: The subtext of the Starship Troopers trilogy is that the humans are the evil invading aliens. On the surface, however, you're still supposed to be rooting for the humans.
  • War Is Glorious:
    • Parodied - or at least they tried to, anyway. Sweaty bulging muscles, a faceless implacable enemy guilty of genocidal war crimes, big guns and comradeship. And if you don't fight you are a nonperson.
    • The troopers are also alarmingly blase about the horrible deaths happening around them sometimes. When the panicked general during the trap is crushed by a bug, Ace has this big grin on his face like "Hey, that was really cool!" And even during a panicked evacuation, killing one big bug is enough to get at least a couple of them cheering like they're at a football game, even while they're supposed to be running for their lives.
  • We Have Reserves: Both the Bugs and the humans apparently follow this philosophy, with the former obviously benefitting more from this tactic. Special mention goes to the attack on Whisky Outpost. After the Mobile Infantry shoots hundreds of Bugs from the compound, the dead Bug soldiers leave so many piled-up corpses in their wake that the next wave can simply walk right over the walls.
  • We Will Wear Armor in the Future: Rather noticeably by fans of the novel, not Powered Armour. Here the armour is more like modern GI flak armour in terms of bulk and coverage.
  • Writer on Board: In the opposite direction from the source material.
  • You Would Do the Same for Me
  • Zerg Rush: By both sides, but as humanity learns the hard way, the quick-breeding, highly expendable warrior bugs are much better at it.



SparkleCreator/Tri Star PicturesSteel Magnolias
South PacificMilitary and Warfare FilmsStalag 17
Men In BlackHugo AwardThe Truman Show
The Amazing Spider-Man 2Creator/Sony Pictures ImageworksStreet Fighter: The Legend of Chun-Li
Spice WorldFilms of the 1990sSteel
StarcrashScience Fiction FilmsStarship Troopers 2: Hero of the Federation
Futuristic PyramidImageSource/Live-Action FilmsBug War
PattonThe EpicStar Wars

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