Western Animation / The Iron Giant



Directed by Brad Bird (who was one of the original directors of The Simpsons and would later move on to work for Pixar), The Iron Giant is a 1999 animated film from Warner Bros., based on Ted Hughes' novel The Iron Man (not to be confused with the comic book). It is about a giant robot (the eponymous Giant) who falls to Earth in 1957, and a boy named Hogarth who befriends him. Hogarth tries to hide the Giant from the public (particularly due to Cold War-era paranoia), especially a persistent government agent named Kent Mansley. But the Giant has a very mysterious past of his own, and if things get out, the Cold War may just go hot...

The movie was produced by Pete Townshend, who loved the original story and had previously done a Rock Opera based on it. A 2015 "Signature Edition" of the movie adds two scenes.

The Synopsis is here, but beware of spoilers.

This film contains examples of:

  • Absent Aliens: The aliens that built the Giant are never actually seen or mentioned, with the action focusing on the Giant's adventures on Earth.
  • Accidental Aiming Skills: When the giant's hand is in Hogarth's home, he distracts his mom from it by tossing a penny to the kitchen. Said penny hits a cupboard, knocking it down and breaking all of the items in it.
  • Adaptational Nationality: The book is set in late 60s England, while the film is set in 50s America. Both time periods were very popular in the histories of both countries.
  • Adapted Out: The film follows Ted Hughes' novel's first half and builds upon it. The second half of the book involves The Iron Giant and Hogarth attempting to deal with an enormous extraterrestrial, a Space-Bat-Angel-Dragon, who arrives on Earth because he's excited by man's war-song, and wants to join in.
  • Adorably Precocious Child: Hogarth.
  • Adult Fear: You had to work late, so you left your young son alone at home... with the man who just started renting a room from you yesterday. A man with ulterior motives.
    • Likely Truth in Television for the time, people were far more trusting of each other in the 50's. And Mansley is a government agent, so (at least at this point in the movie) he's seen as somewhat more trustworthy than the average renter.
  • Aliens in Cardiff: The Giant landed in Maine, a state not known for Humongous Mecha. In the book, he arrives on a cliff overlooking the sea (possibly the Cliffs of Dover).
  • All Animals Are Dogs: The Giant's hand acts like a dog when it's inside Hogarth's house.
  • Alliterative Name: Hogarth Hughes.
  • Aluminum Christmas Trees: That educational film shown in Hogarth's class, telling people that they can survive a nuclear blast by ducking and covering their heads, is based on a real thing.
    • The repulsive-looking junk food Hogarth inflates with whipped cream is known as a "turbo Twinkie."
  • Amnesiac Dissonance: The Giant is implied to have this, as he is capable of incredible destruction. A deleted scene implied that he probably had destroyed entire planets before his crash landing on Earth, well in contrast to his childlike and innocent persona in the film proper.
  • Amusing Injuries: Happens to Mansley a couple of times.
    • When Annie and Mansley walk in on Hogarth "using the bathroom", Annie slams the door shut very quickly in embarrassment, smashing Mansley's face in between the frame and the door. Ouch.
    • Late in the movie, Mansley is rear-ended in his car and slams his face into the windshield, making visible cracks. There isn't a mark on his face, and he comes out of the car screaming about something else immediately after.
  • An Aesop: Several.
    • "You are who you choose to be."
    • "It's bad to kill. Guns kill."
      • "And you don't have to be a gun."
    • Not a quote from the movie, but "unchecked paranoia is bad."
  • Answer Cut: When Mr. Stutz says that he really did call the government and that they were sending someone to investigate, Dean asks, "Who in the hell would the government send?" Cut to the power plant where Kent Mansley gets out of his car.
  • Angrish: Kent has a tendency to use this, namely during his mini tantrum trying to hang up the Hughes' phone.
  • Anti Anti Christ: A deleted scene in the film, as well as the nature of the Iron Giant's weapons, heavily implies that the Iron Giant was originally created to destroy planets, and that either he was just one out of a huge line of robots who were created for this purpose or had managed to destroy quite a large amount of planets prior to arriving on Earth. However, the Iron Giant eventually manages to reject going down/continuing down this path.
  • Arm Cannon: Among the Giant's plethora of weapons, also the first one he deploys when he goes ape-shit on the Army.
  • Arson, Murder, and Jaywalking: Mansley rhetorically asks Hogarth if he knows who built the Giant. "Is it the Russians? The Chinese? Martians? Canadians?"
  • Artistic License Cars: The car the Giant spins Hogarth around with in the junkyard is a 1959 Cadillac Series 62.
  • Artistic License History: At one point, Dean jokingly describes espresso as "coffee-zilla" when warning Hogarth against drinking it. Godzilla definitely wasn't a household name in America in 1957, as there were only two Godzilla movies in existence at the time, only one of which (Godzilla: King of the Monsters!) had actually been released in the United States. The sole sequel (Godzilla Raids Again) didn't come out in the United States until 1959.
  • Artistic License Military: Mansley snatches General Rogard's walkie-talkie and orders a nuclear strike on Rockwell. In the (partial) defense of that scene, the submarine crew was already all set for firing and waiting for the order, so Mansley's "LAUNCH NOW!" could have been taken for it... although considering that they know it's a "danger close" launch of a nuke inside of a town full of American citizens, it still probably would have merited at least a "come again?".
  • Artistic License Nuclear Physics: "My Nuke Is Going Critical" version. When the Iron Giant intercepts and rams the nuclear missile fired by the Nautilus up in the ionosphere, it detonates. Nuclear weapons are specifically designed to fail to detonate if something goes wrong before they reach the target point. There should have been a much smaller, rocket-fuel explosion.
  • Ascended Extra: Hogarth Hughes only had a small role in the original book.
  • Attack of the 50-Foot Whatever: The Giant does this towards the end of the movie. The Space-Bat-Angel-Dragon of the book, however, is much larger and is described as being the size of Australia.
  • B-Movie: Hogarth watches a particularly hammy movie about killer brains. They even replicated the rather questionable acting abilities of the performers that typically appeared in such films.
  • Bad Bad Acting: In the B-Movie Hogarth was watching.
  • Badass Adorable: Despite being 50 feet tall and possibly even sent to pulverize Earth, the Giant's childlike naivete about the world makes him an endearing hero.
  • Bambification: The film makes a rather jarring transition from a lighthearted A Boy and His X story to an anti-weapons moral after Hogarth and the Giant discover the deer.
    • Averted, ironically, with the death of the deer, which continues into an equally sombre scene and doesn't light up for another several minutes.
      • Apparently, this was a deliberate inversion of the trope: Brad Bird claims that he dislikes Bambi because of its infamous Mood Whiplash.
  • Batman in My Basement: Hogarth has a giant robot in his barn.
  • Beatnik: Dean, though he's portrayed more sympathetically than actual films of the 1950s would have shown him.
  • Berserk Button: Never point a gun at the Giant. And definitely don't threaten his best friend Hogarth.
    • Hogarth blows his top when Mansley won't stop questioning him about the Giant.After Mansley rents the room he bothers Hogarth all over the house, culminating in Hogarth yelling, "I'M GOING OOOUT!" (Though, to be fair, most people would share his reaction.)
    • Don't bring Mansley's authority into question. Just the Giant squinting disapprovingly at him is enough to make him flip and order a nuclear strike.
  • Beware the Nice Ones: The ultimate example of why you should never piss off the Gentle Giant.
  • Blatant Lies: Hogarth's teeth are chattering and he's purple with cold:
    Hogarth: C-c-come on in! The water-r's g-great!
  • Bloodless Carnage: Hogarth's nosebleed established for the audience that these characters are not Made of Iron. However, when a deer takes a lethal bullet wound, nary a drop of blood is seen (added in the signature edition). Similarly, the government agent's Amusing Injuries are all of a non-bleeding type.
  • Book Ends: The movie begins and ends with beeps. At the beginning, the beeps are courtesy of Sputnik. They're heard again at the very end. (This time from the Giant reassembling himself in Iceland.)
  • A Boy and His X: Hogarth and the Giant.
  • Brought to You by the Letter "S": At one point, the Giant declares "I Superman!" and adorns his chest with a giant S. A minute later, he showcases the bad side of the Man of Steel with a case of Red Eyes, Take Warning. And then, at the end...
  • Butt Monkey: Mansley. He deserves every second of it though.
  • The Cameo: Former Disney animators Frank Thomas and Ollie Johnston appear as railroad workers early in the film, telling Mansley about the giant. Brad Bird even got Frank and Ollie themselves to voice their inksuit cameos!
  • Cassandra Truth:
    • Early in the film, Hogarth's mother doesn't believe him when he tries to tell her about the robot. He later chooses to keep it a secret.
    • Mansley gets blown off by the general when he tries to phone him about the Giant's existence. Later, when he is finally capable of producing evidence, Hogarth and Dean get the one-up on him by disguising the Giant as one of Dean's pieces of metal art. Though Mansley is vindicated when, after being fired by the general for his supposed incompetence, the Giant appears in public in full view of the military convoy.
  • Catch Phrase: Kent Mansley with his "...and all that that implies."
  • Centrifugal Farce: Hogarth and the Giant are playing test pilot with an old car. The Giant spins the car a little faster than Hogarth imagined.
  • Check Please: Invoked by Dean at the start of the film after he unleashes a squirrel on the diner.
  • Chekhov's Gag:
    • Early in the film, Hogarth is trying to take a photo of the Giant, but gets bored while waiting for the Giant to appear. During a Time Passes Montage, one clip is Hogarth cleaning the lens of his camera only to accidentally take a picture of himself. Later, Mansley discovers the camera and develops that same photo, discovering the Giant was looking over Hogarth's shoulder — finally giving Mansley photographic evidence that the Giant exists.
    • The "duck and cover" educational video is played as satire early, but Mansley takes the advice seriously after he has the missile launched on the town. The general lets him know there's no way to survive that.
  • Chekhov's Gun: A literal one, in the form of Hogarth's BB gun, which is left behind in the woods the first time Hogarth encounters the Giant. Mansley finds it later and learns that Hogarth was at the power station when the Giant was. And later, Hogarth's camera. Virtually identical to Chekhov's Gag above.
    • The Giant's ability to repair himself after being damaged.
  • Chest Blaster: A straight example.
  • Cold War: The entire film is couched in the paranoia and fear of the Cold War.
  • Conspicuous CGI: Very notably averted; the necessity of cost-effectively and realistically portraying a metal man led to the Giant being rendered in 3D. The animators went out of their way to add slight irregularities to the lines while rendering the Giant to make it fit in more, with spectacular results.
  • Covers Always Lie:
    • The VHS and DVD cover for the film had Hogarth (in the Giant's hand) wearing a powder blue sweater, which he doesn't wear in the actual movie (he just wears a red-and-blue-striped sweater for most of the movie).
    • Averted with the 2004 Special Edition DVD, which has a completely different cover where more emphasis is placed on the Giant and Hogarth is depicted in the form of a silhouette.
  • Curb-Stomp Battle: The giant's Roaring Rampage of Revenge. Once his weapons are fully deployed, it becomes The War of the Worlds all over again for the military.
  • Curse Cut Short: As the two kids fall off their balcony.
  • Cute Giant: The title character himself. This would probably fall under What Measure Is a Non-Cute? as well.
  • Deadpan Snarker: Dean.
  • Death Glare: A few of them.
    • Annie gives one to Dean and then Hogarth in the diner after the squirrel is let loose.
    • "Where's the giant?!"
    • A long one from Hogarth to Mansley during their standoff. By the end of it, he's asleep.
    • The Giant after the car he was about to eat is taken away, immediately before the first scene in the junkyard.
    • An almost literal example, with the Giant's eye-beams.
    • The Giant as he is shot after thinking Hogarth is dead and he goes into his Roaring Rampage of Revenge.
    • The Giant to Mansley right before Mansley yells for the missile to be launched.
    • Rogard to Mansley a few times.
    • "You know, this sort of thing is why it's so important to really chew your food." (Cue death glare)
  • Decoy Protagonist: Stutz is the first character we see in the film, and it's not until the next scene that we are introduced to Hogarth.
  • Didn't Think This Through: Mansley launching the nuclear missile on the giant. See Nice Job Breaking It, Hero and Idiot Ball below.
  • Die or Fly: The Giant has this in spades.
  • Dieselpunk/Raygun Gothic: The Giant himself, is composed of both of these aesthetics.
  • Dirty Coward: Mansley tries to bolt out of town when a serious danger arises. Namely, after dooming everyone in the town thanks to his own paranoia. He doesn't get far.
  • Disappeared Dad: The picture of Hogarth's father in a plane is intended to imply that his father was a pilot that died in the Korean War. The helmet and bomber jacket Hogarth puts on when he first goes after the Giant are his father's. However in the book, Hogarth's father is very much alive, yet he is a farmer who rounds up to other farmers to get revenge on the Giant for gobbling up their plows, tractors and other farming machines.
  • Disaster Dominoes: "I wanna apologize to everyone in advance for this..."
  • Disney Death: One of the few times it was pulled off well.
  • Diving Save: Dean does this to protect Hogarth from the Giant who automatically responds to Hogarth's toy gun with Eye Beams.
    • The Giant later does this to catch two boys falling from a balcony, which results in him being discovered by the Army.
  • Dodge by Braking: How the Giant shakes off some fighter jets.
  • Doesn't Like Guns: The Giant, who is also quick to show that he isn't one. Despite the fact that he is made of them.
  • The Door Slams You: Sort of. When Annie forces open the bathroom door on Hogarth and shuts the door again seconds later, she slams Mansley's face in the door by accident.
  • Double Take: Mansley pulls this off when, while remarking that Hogarth is an embarrassing name, he has a sudden realization that the words "Hog... Hug..." on the shattered B.B. Gun stood for "Hogarth Hughes." And later when he sees the Giant in Rockwell, seconds before crashing his car.
  • Dying Moment of Awesome: SUUUPERMAAAAN!
  • Empathic Environment: The film's mood becomes darker as the season makes the jump from Fall to Winter.
  • Eureka Moment: After stopping by Hogarth's house, Mansley drives away while commenting on his name. This leads him to realize who owned the mangled "Hog Hug" BB gun found at the wrecked power plant: Hogarth Hughes.
    • Dean has a minor one after Hogarth takes off after the Giant, who runs away after nearly blasting the kid with his Eye Beams. Once Dean notices Hogarth's toy gun on the ground, it doesn't take long for him to put two-and-two together and realize that the Giant had automatically reacted in self-defense.
    Dean: It was defensive. He reacted to the gun!
  • Extreme Omnivore: The Giant thrives on a diet entirely of metal. A lot of it. So Hogarth decides to hide him at a junkyard.
  • Eye Beams: The Giant has these, though they're only shown in one scene. It's when he automatically acts in self-defense from Hogarth's toy gun.
  • Face Death with Dignity: The soldiers, Rogard, and a fair portion of the townspeople are surprisingly chill about the fact that they're about to get nuked off the map. They've been told this day might be coming for years. Mansley, on the other hand, panics and tries to run.
  • The Fifties: The setting of the film, with all the trappings of the Cold War included.
  • Foil: Dean is very unconventional and hip, while Mansley portrays the ideal manly man of the time - a hard-boiled detective type with a steel jaw. Dean is also a LOT faster on the uptake and more flexible than Mansley. Although he does make the mistake of trusting Mansley to do the right thing...
  • Foreshadowing
    • If you pay attention to Hogarth's Atomo comic, you'll notice that it bears a somewhat eerie resemblance to the Giant's combat mode in his Roaring Rampage of Revenge.
    • Also, in the scene where the Giant discovers the dead deer, and notices the gun, he briefly gains red eyes while his "irises" narrow before snapping out of it. This is the first sign that the giant was actually a weapon.
    • And the part where Hogarth watches the movie with killer brains in it (see B-Movie above), towards the end the army are forced to defend against the Giant which has become a monster with 3 brain like objects (along with other weapons) on it.
    • While on the phone with Mansley, General Rogard mentions that if he somehow got a photo of the Giant, then he could get some troops over. Guess what happens later in the film...
    • After the Giant almost vaporizes Hogarth, Dean calls the Giant 'a big gun that walks.' Considering what happens when the army has to retreat after the Giant starts to go on a Roaring Rampage of Revenge after he believes Hogarth is dead...
  • Four-Fingered Hands: The Giant only. But then, he IS an alien (and a robot).
  • Four-Star Badass: General Rogard stays absolutely in control during the battle with the Giant, at one point shooting at him with his pistol. Compare this to some of his more panicky subordinates, and especially Mansley.
  • General Ripper: Subverted with General Rogard. He has the appearance and mannerisms of your standard Cold War psychotic, but turns out to be a Reasonable Authority Figure who quite clearly distrusts Mansley and calls off the attack when it is finally revealed that the Giant only attacks defensively. Mansley, however, more than makes up for the expected psychotic tendencies.
  • Gentle Giant: The Movie
  • Getting Crap Past the Radar: Dean's method of releasing the squirrel in his pants: he stands up, makes a public declaration to the other customers that it's not his fault, and then proceeds to open up his fly to release the crazed squirrel (which then utterly causes a huge mess at the diner).
  • Giant Hands of Doom: Sort of: After the Giant's first on-screen repair function is displayed, it is later revealed that he didn't quite take into account all of his body parts. It turns out that the left hand sneaked into Hogarth's house, forcing the boy to create a lot of distractions to keep his mother and Mansley from seeing it before it can rejoin the Giant.
  • Giant Robot
  • Giant Robot Hands Save Lives: The titular robot races to catch a couple of kids who had fallen from a 3-4 story building in his metal robot hand. Though when he caught them his hand seemed to be barely a meter or two off the ground, so one wonders why he even bothered...
  • Giant Wall of Watery Doom: The Giant creates one when he does a cannonball into a lake, though it's mostly for laughs as no one is seriously harmed.
  • Go Out with a Smile
  • Gosh Dang It to Heck!: Surprisingly averted. Then again, this isn't strictly a kid's movie.
  • Happily Married: Dean is implied to have married Annie during the ending of the film.
  • He Who Fights Monsters: Mansley. Subverted in that he barely did any actual fighting against the benign Giant, and when he did, he nearly killed them all.
  • Helping Hands: All parts of the Giant, even little tiny screws, can move by themselves, converging for repair and reassembly.
  • Heroic Sacrifice: The Giant does this to save Hogarth's entire town from a missile.
  • He's a Friend: "His name is Dean; we like Dean."
  • Hollywood New England: The film is set in coastal Maine. Don't look for any of the characters to sport anything approaching an actual Downeast accent, however.
  • Homage: This movie may be a big one to The Fifties, with pop-cultural references to the era looming behind every corner. There are music boxes with swing and jazz, there's Mansley, who is a dead ringer for Richard Feynman, there is Dean, a beatnik, named after James Dean, there is the town of Rockwell, named after Norman Rockwell, an obvious expy of John Wayne movies that General Rogard watches, just to name a few. That doesn't even include the meta!
  • Hooked Up Afterwards: Implied with Dean and Annie.
  • Humongous Mecha: The Giant being a sentient, non-piloted version.
  • Humanoid Aliens: Hinted at by the Giant's design and backstory; not shown.
  • I Am Not a Gun: Trope Namer.
    Giant: No Atomo... I, Superman.
  • Idiot Ball: Mansley plays around with it for the majority of the movie. It's the finale where he firmly grasps it by ordering the nuclear strike on the giant. While he's in the same town full of innocent civilians as said giant. Note that the general actually warned him only minutes before about this.
    Rogard: ...That missile is targeted to the giant's current position! WHERE'S THE GIANT, MANSLEY?!
    Mansley: *Looks up as though he'd actually forgotten, cringing and sucking air in through his teeth as he realizes just how utterly he done goofed.* ...We could duck and cover! There's a fallout shelter right there.
    Rogard: There's no way to survive this, you idiot!!!
    Rogard: To die Mansley. For our country.
  • In-Name-Only: The film has little-to-no resemblance with the original novel.
    • Not even that: they changed the name too.
  • Info Drop: The film makes no mention of what happened to Hogarth's dad, but during Hogarth's standoff with Kent, a picture of a fighter pilot is seen on his nightstand, and the audience is left to fill in the blanks.
  • Ink-Suit Actor
    • Dean is just an animated version of Harry Connick Jr. Seriously, there's no difference at all.
    • Same with Frank and Ollie's cameos.
    • Same goes for Chris McDonald as Kent Mansley,
  • Intergenerational Friendship: Hogarth and Dean.
    • And technically Hogarth and the Giant. Although his amnesia makes his precise origins unknown, unless he's able to travel between stars quickly, he's likely very old. His ability to self-repair makes his true age even more impossible to accurately guess.
  • Intelligence Equals Isolation: Hogarth's grades are high enough to skip a grade; he mentions that he gets bullied for it.
    • Dean as well, who appears to be considered a bit of a kook by the rest of the town for being a Beatnik artist.
  • Interrupted Cooldown Hug
  • Invisible President: Sort of. In a very brief scene after the giant is found out, two high-ranking officers enter the Oval Office, and address a man, who sits behind the president's desk to request authorization to make use of Navy and Air Force (you can take a look at it here). The man is sitting with the back towards the the camera, but has a visible bald patch on his oval-shaped head. Therefore it is very obviously President ''Ike'' Eisenhower, who actually was president during the time the film is set (1957), although this movie is a clear case of Alternate History. He is the only real person in the whole movie.
  • Ironic Echo: Throughout the movie, Kent Mansley uses the phrase "and all that that implies." Later, after Hogarth outwits him by disguising Giant as one of Dean's pieces of art, Hogarth watches Mansley leave with the army and says, "Bye, Kent, and all that that implies."
  • Jerkass: Mansley
  • The Juggernaut: Tank shells, battleship guns, and even a nuclear missile can't destroy the Giant completely. All but the last are nothing but a Worf Barrage. If he had stuck to his original programming, he would be completely unstoppable. The missile would have only slowed him down.
  • Just Train Wrong: The locomotive that plows into the Giant looks very similar to a Norfolk & Western Class J, complete with maroon stripe, with a front end similar to a New York Central "Dreyfuss" Hudson. Two things wrong with that, aside from the locomotive not really existing. Neither of those railroads went to Maine, and both of those locomotives were used exclusively in passenger service.
    • In fact, given the time period and location, a steam locomotive is incorrect entirely. Being set in coastal Maine the railroad serving the area would be the Maine Central, whose steam program ended in 1954, three years before the movie takes place. The locomotive would therefore likely be a Maine Central RS-3, a Maine Central GP7 or a Maine Central F3. See Steam Never Dies.
  • Just Plane Wrong: F-86 Sabres did not carry missile pods as shown, nor were they equipped with afterburners, as shown during the 'scramble' takeoff sequence.
  • Kid Hero: Hogarth, though he's a very likable variation in that while he acts like a normal kid (mischievous and fun-loving), he possesses a surprising level of emotional maturity.
    • It's mentioned in passing that part of the reason the other kids in his class consider him a "Poindexter" is because he was moved up a grade after constantly getting A's, suggesting this is why he's unusually perceptive for a nine-year-old.
  • Kids Shouldn't Watch Horror Films: "The Brain That Wouldn't Die!"
  • Large Ham: Mansley again.
  • Late To The Realization: See the Eureka Moment example listed above.
  • Laxative Prank: "Landslide. It's new. Very new."
  • A Light in the Distance: In the Giant's first scene, a fisherman mistakes the lights of its eyes for a lighthouse. It's actually kind of spooky.
  • Lock and Load Montage: When Hogarth prepares his hunt for "invaders from Mars" at night.
  • Locked in the Bathroom: Hogarth hides the giant's lost hand in the bathroom from his mother and Kent. After he gets it out the window, he pretends to be in the toilet when Mom and Kent force open the door.
  • Low Clearance: As Hogarth is chased by the Giant, he hits his head on a low-lying branch.
  • Made of Iron: If the title is to be believed, the Giant is made of iron, quite literally.
  • Male Gaze: Kent's first meeting Annie happens with him staring right at her hips and chest, due to her opening the front door fully, with him leaning on it.
  • Meaningful Echo
  • Meaningful Name: The town of Rockwell named after the idealistic artist of the period, the beatnik Dean looking slightly like James Dean, and the ever-so-manly Kent Mansley.
  • The Men in Black: Mansley. Originally portrayed as some faceless, bumbling bureaucrat with a poor worker-boss relationship. Later on, he turns into a very dangerous Man in Black with the power to disappear anyone at any time with no repercussions. Or so he would have Hogarth believe.
  • More Dakka: The Giant, once he stops playing pacifist.
  • Motor Mouth: Hogarth, twice - once in the scene where he has an espresso and the other when the Giant's hand flushes the toilet upstairs and he says: "Gottausethebathroom".
    "So she says 'No, you need a challenge.' Well, I'm challenged, all right, I'm challenged to hold on to my lunch money because of all the big mooses who wanna pound me because I'm a shrimpy dork who thinks he's smarter than them — but I don't think I'm smarter, I just do the stinkin' homework! If everyone just did the stinkin' homework then they could move up a grade and get pounded too — is there any more coffee?"
  • Mr. Fanservice: Dean, the handsome artistically inclined beatnik with the voice of Harry Connick Jr. and animated by a team of female artists.
  • My God, What Have I Done?: The Giant's reaction after realising he nearly vaporised Hogarth by accident.
  • Never Say "Die": Very bluntly averted, almost defied.
    Mansley: You mean... we're all going...
    Rogard: To die, Mansley. For our country.
  • Nice Job Breaking It, Hero: From a certain point of view since Mansley did have good intentions. But he panics and nearly brings nuclear death on the area. Rogard puts it bluntly...
    Rogard: That missile is targeted to the giant's current position! Where's the giant, Mansley?!
  • No Respect Guy: With huge helpings of Small Name, Big Ego on Mansley's side. He deserves exactly the respect that he's given.
  • Nobody Poops: Averted to great effect, though still tastefully, when Hogarth gives Mansley a large dose of laxative.
  • Noodle Incident: "Do you remember the raccoon, Hogarth? (shudder) I remember the raccoon."
  • Nothing Exciting Ever Happens Here: Invoked derisively early on by Mansley when a local asks him if the sighting of the giant means that "something big" is happening. He soon changes his tune.
    Mansley: No, Marv. Big things happen in big places, and the sooner I file my report, the sooner I can get back to them.
    [later to himself]
    Mansley: The biggest thing in this town is probably the homecoming queen... OH MY GOD!!!
  • A Nuclear Error: The film's climax features the USS Nautilus launching a nuclear-armed ballistic missile; the Real Life Nautilus was incapable of doing so - it was a normal attack submarine (albeit the first powered by a nuclear reactor). The United States Navy did not have any ballistic missile submarines at all until the USS George Washington entered service in 1959, two years after the film is set. At the time, the USN's nuclear deterrent force were the guided missile submarines USS Tunny and USS Barbero, firing Regulus cruise missiles. Further, the missile appears to be a UGM-73 Poseidon C3 missile, not fielded until 1972 on the Lafayette and James Madison-class SSBNs.
  • Obstructive Bureaucrat: Mansley.
  • Oh Crap!: The movie uses a lot of this.
    • At the beginning, Mr. Stutz realizing that what he thought was the lighthouse isn't the lighthouse at all.
    • Hogarth witnessing the Giant chewing up some metal towers, then reaching for the live ones...
    • When Mansley sees the Giant staring at him and not looking very happy.
    • Mansley after Rogard's line "Step outside, Mansley." Cue a lot of shouting from the latter, much to Hogarth's amusement (and the audience's).
    • Mansley, upon realizing that he's doomed himself and the town of Rockwell to nuclear incineration.
    • When the giant snaps and starts popping tanks like popcorn, Mansley and the two soldiers in the jeep with him have a moment of complete slack-jawed horror.
    • Also, Dean's reaction when he discovers the Giant pigging out just as he was about to enter back into his house.
    • And then there's Hogarth's reaction when he notices the Giant about to vaporize him with Eye Beams while in defense mode after he aimed a toy gun at him.
    • A rare humorous one was right after the Giant cannonballed into a lake. Dean, who'd been studiously ignoring Hogarth and the Giant, looks up...and sees a mini-tsunami headed his way. Cue the Oh Crap!.
    • Another humorous one is when the Giant is reassembling himself in the barn. He waves as Hogarth closes the door and realizes his hand is missing (Hogarth finds it upstairs in the bathroom).
  • "Oh, Crap!" Smile: Hogarth when Annie glares at him after the squirrel is let loose in the diner at the start of the film.
  • One-Winged Angel: When the Iron Giant feels threatened, he turns into a much less humanoid war machine.
  • Organ Autonomy: Pieces of the Giant will return to him when summoned.
  • Papa Wolf
    • Thinking of harming Hogarth within Giant's eyesight? You're in for it.
    • Dean's no slouch, either. His first reaction to seeing the Giant is to protect the kid. He also chews out the Giant after the Giant nearly vaporizes Hogarth by accident.
  • Parental Obliviousness: Annie does not seem to have the faintest clue that Hogarth unabashedly despises Mansley, and has been desperate to avoid him since he moved in. She goes so far to suggest Hogarth take Mansley around and show him the sights. Whether this is true obliviousness or just Annie wanting her son to accept they have to rent the spare room for money is not clear. As he starts to show his true colors, she quickly begins to dislike him.
  • Parental Substitute: Dean is a father-figure/mentor to Hogarth. Hogarth himself has a fatherly/big-brother relationship to the giant robot in the title, who has the mentality of a very young child.
  • Perma Stubble: Dean
  • Planet Killer: The deleted Dream Scene shows that the giant is supposed to be this. Even without the scene, the film itself, especially during the giant's rampage, heavily implies that this was what he really was.
  • Platonic Declaration of Love: Hogarth tells the giant he loves him right before it sacrifices itself to save the town from the missile.
  • Precision F-Strike: Mansley's hearty "Screw our country!"
    • General Rogard gets an even bigger one during the robot's rampage.
    General Rogard: All battleships fire at the robot! Now! Now, damnit, now!
  • Product Displacement: Brad Bird wanted to have the Giant's hand watch Disneyland, with a spiel for Tomorrowland appearing before Hogarth turns off the TV. Disney wouldn't let Warner show the clip, so the animators replaced it with a Maypo commercial. The Signature Edition replaces the commercial with the Tomorrowland spiel.
  • Properly Paranoid: Mansley intends to track down and destroy the Iron Giant since he believes it to be a threat to America. He's ultimately right, as the Iron Giant is eventually revealed to be what is heavily implied to be a Planet Killer: his mistake was assuming that just because the Giant had that capacity, it would automatically use it.
  • Pulling Themselves Together: The Giant's parts are all autonomous and have a homing function, allowing him to reassemble himself if damaged. This is first showcased when he has a run-in with a train. After his Heroic Sacrifice, Hogarth realizes the Giant is still alive when this feature activates on the screw given to him by Rogard.
  • Quizzical Tilt: Giant does this a few times.
  • Reality Ensues: Both in-universe and in regards to public perception in real life at the time when it comes to an atomic bomb. As much as we wish it wasn't true, if an A-bomb is dropped on your town, a fallout shelter isn't going to save you.
  • Reasonable Authority Figure: General Rogard. He won't stand for Mansley's shit, knows the Giant is a possible threat but he doesn't use force until it seems necessary. After it becomes apparent that Mansley lied about the giant killing Hogarth, as well as Dean explaining that the Giant only attacks if provoked, he immediately calls off the attack and orders his troops to stand down.
  • Reassigned to Antarctica: Mansley's planned fate according to General Rogard when Dean was initially able to trick the military into thinking that the giant was simply a harmless piece of artwork. A popular interpretation posits this is why he was in a dead-end position in an unimportant government agency.
    Rogard: You'll be Chief Inspector of Subway Toilets by the time I'm through with you!
  • Red Eyes, Take Warning: Played terrifyingly straight.
  • The Renaissance Age of Animation: This film came out at the tail end of it.
  • Right Behind Me: When Hogarth lures the Giant and finds the sheet metal not against the tree stump he placed it in front of, but right behind him. Guess where the Giant is?
  • Roaring Rampage of Revenge: After the army begins attacking him, the Giant flees with Hogarth and tries to avoid giving in to his programming, but he gets shot down, and it looks like Hogarth has been killed. While grieving, the Giant gets shot again, and he snaps - willingly and fully giving in to his programming. He even roars when he transforms. That mechanical, inhuman scream of rage will make you shudder.
  • Rule of Symbolism: After the giant's saving of the town, the nuclear blast looks a lot like the star of Bethlehem.
    • As pointed out in the developer commentary, when the giant transforms for its Roaring Rampage of Revenge, you can see that there's a big gun where his heart is supposed to be.
  • Screw This, I'm Outta Here!: What Mansley says near the end of the film, learning that the nuke that he just launched at the Giant is also going to wipe him out along with everyone in the town.
    Mansley: Screw our country! I wanna live!
  • Shout-Out: Has its own page.
  • Shown Their Work
    • Especially regarding cars, architecture, pop culture, and clothing styles of the 1950's.
    • Hogarth's comic covers are all genuine (save for Atomo, who was made up for the film).
    • With the exception of the Nautilus' missile capability (see A Nuclear Error above), all the military hardware is period-appropriate. The soldiers carry M1 Garands, drive M41 Walker Bulldog tanks, and the jet planes in the Superman scene are F-86 Sabres.
    • The coordinates transmitted to the Nautilus are in Maine, near the towns of Milbridge, Cherryfield, Harrington, Addison, and Jonesport, but the actual spot specified is a wooded area near the Atlantic coast.
  • The '60s: The implied setting of the book, which was published in 1968.
  • The Smurfette Principle: Hogarth's mother is the only main female character in the film.
  • The Spook: The Giant. We never find out where he is from.
  • Squirrels in My Pants: By name, and preceded the official Trope Namer.
  • Starving Artist: Dean. At one point he grumbles that turning the scrap in his junkyard into art actually makes it worth less.
  • Stealth Pun: Dean directs the Giant to make a mobile (hanging children's toy) out of cars.
  • Steam Never Dies: The train that hits the Iron Giant is led by a steam locomotive, and the movie is set a few years after steam locomotives in Maine had been completely replaced by diesels.
  • Suddenly Shouting: "This... is junk. What you currently have IN YOUR MOUTH IS ART!"
  • Technology Porn: When the Giant repairs itself, and when it is attacked by the Army and deploys its weapons.
  • Telescoping Robot: One of the straighter, and more haunting, examples.
  • That Poor Car
    • Invoked on-screen: Hogarth discovers Dean's junkyard, and decides the Iron Giant can have some food there. Unfortunately, one of the cars the Giant tries to eat hadn't had its horn removed, resulting in it going off when the Giant tries to eat it, and several failed attempts to silence it before the Giant eventually panics and hurls it as far as he can into the woods.
    • In some trailer spots, they make it seem as though the reason why Dean was getting Hogarth to flee is because the Iron Giant was about to unknowingly eat the car with the honking horn.
  • There's No "B" in Movie: Hogarth watches one inspired by The Brain from Planet Arous. It was the 50s...
  • Time-Compression Montage: While Hogarth is in the forest trying to get a picture of the Giant. One of the clips shown during the montage turns out to be a Chekhov's Gag.
  • Trailers Always Lie: The trailers make it seem as though Dean discovered the Giant, and tried to get Hogarth away from the Giant when he was about to eat an alarm-live car. In actuality, the Giant eating the alarm-live car occurred before Dean discovered the Giant, and even then it wasn't from the live alarm.
  • Trailers Always Spoil: One of the theatrical trailers spoils the Giant going into defense-mode.
  • Trans Atlantic Equivalent: The original novel was set in Britain. For The Iron Giant, the setting was transplanted to Maine.
  • Unstoppable Rage: Hogarth seemingly dies. Ladies and gentlemen, the Berserk Button has been pressed.
  • Up, Up and Away!: The Giant doesn't have to do this to fly, but Hogarth insists on it.
  • Villainous Breakdown: Mansley, who gets more and more freaked out as the situation develops, finally culminating in ordering the town to be nuked, then trying to run away.
  • Wave Motion Gun: The Giant has one. Lucky for the battleship he was aiming at, Hogarth distracted him.
  • What Measure Is a Non-Human?: Hogarth and the Giant question whether he has a soul.
    Hogarth: Things die. It's part of life. It's bad to kill. But it's not bad to die.
    Giant: You die?
    Hogarth: Well, yes, someday.
    Giant: I die?
    Hogarth: I don't know. You're made of metal, but you have feelings. And you think about things. And that means you have a soul. And souls don't die.
  • Who Names Their Kid "Dude"?: Kent Mansley with this line: "Hogarth? What an embarrassing name. Might as well call him Zeppo or something. What kind of sick person would name a kid Hoga-" Cue Eureka Moment.
  • Wing Pull: The Giant skids off a cliff and appears about to plummet into the ocean...until rockets in his feet automatically ignite.
  • Woobie, Destroyer of Worlds: Subverted, the Giant easily could be if he was not so docile.
  • You Just Told Me: How Annie tricks Dean into telling her Hogarth sneaks off to his junkyard every night.