Western Animation / G.I. Joe: The Movie


G.I. Joe: The Movie (1987) was the first film to come out of the G.I. Joe franchise. It is in the original animated series timeline taking place after its second season. Originally planned as a theatrical release, but after My Little Pony: The Movie and Transformers: The Movie bombed at the box office, it was released Direct-to-Video instead, and quickly added to the syndication package of the series (in both movie format and as a 5-part episode, the latter version featuring framing segments hosted by the live-action Sgt. Slaughter).

The film, much like its Transformers counterpart, expands on the story of the Joes-Cobra war, and the origin of Cobra is revealed to be tied in to a rather bizarre ancient civilization called "Cobra-La". Cobra-La's leader Golobulus has tired of Cobra Commander's constant failures and has decided to take matters into his own hands.

It also tried to avert some of the tropes associated with the TV series such as Never Say "Die" and Nobody Can Die. However, thanks to Transformers: The Movie being released first and the negative backlash against Optimus Prime's death, the death of Duke had to be changed to a coma.

For the first live-action film in the franchise, see G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra.


  • Abusive Precursors: The people of Cobra-La, who hate humanity for supplanting them.
  • Alas, Poor Villain: Cobra Commander when he gets his punishment.
  • And This Is For...: Sergeant Slaughter, while fighting Nemesis Enforcer during the final battle, gives him blows on behalf of Gung-Ho, Alpine, Bazooka, Falcon, himself, Duke and the U.S.A. in general (all of which he had helped to critically endanger in some way).
  • Animation Bump: The action packed opening, which apparently took up a good chunk of the budget.
  • As Himself: Sergeant Slaughter, played by WWE pro wrestling legend Sgt. Slaughter.
  • Asshole Victim: It would be a long stretch to describe Cobra Commander as sympathetic, and he's the one who gets to demonstrate Cobra-La's mutagen.
  • Bait-and-Switch Comment: The movie opens with Serpentor arguing with Cobra Commander over who is responsible for the endless string of failures. Cobra Commander, naturally, believes he has the support of all the Cobra leaders, and demands the others speak up for him.
    Destro: Cobra Commander is a world class... buffoon!
    Cobra Commander: WHAT?
    Dr. Mindbender: Destro forgot to mention your frequent displays... of cowardice.
    Cobra Commander: Uuugh!?!
  • Baleful Polymorph: Cobra Commander transforms gradually until he finally becomes a mindless snake and slithers away. (he gets restored in the subsequent cartoons).
  • Big Bad: Golobulus, revealed to be The Man Behind the Man for Cobra Commander's biggest plan.
  • Big Damn Heroes: Cobra attacks a celebration at the Statue of Liberty, only to then be confronted with almost every single Joe seen up to that point, with Duke taking Cobra Commander's bomb meant to destroy Lady Liberty along with the Joes and civilians and having it take out Cobra's command ship instead, ensuring Cobra's inevitable defeat.
    Duke: Yo, Joe!
    Cobra Commander: COBRA! RETREAT! RETREAT!!!!!
  • Big "NO!": Duke yells this when he jumps in front of Falcon and takes the spear meant for his brother.
  • Biotech Is Better: The denizens of Cobra-La are the original dominant species of Earth and exclusively use biotech. Their technology and wildlife are constantly shown to overpower even the most advanced weaponry and vehicles the Joes have to fight back with. They even have a biotech equivalent of WMDs complete with rockets.
  • Body Horror: What was done to Cobra Commander, and it's just a demonstration of Cobra-La's intentions for the rest of the world.
  • Break the Haughty: Happens to Cobra Commander.
    • Falcon's training with the Renegades.
  • Bridal Carry: Gone horribly, horribly wrong—done with a blinded Roadblock carrying a rapidly-mutating Cobra Commander
  • Cthulhu Mythos: Combined with "The Gods Below," (in which Set recognizes the Cobras), and the fact that Cobra Commander devolves into a great serpent when humans in the Imagine Spot devolve into ape-creatures, it is very obvious that the people of Cobra-La are at in part descended from at least a race similar to Robert E. Howard's Serpent People.
  • Demoted to Extra: Happens to most of the Season 1 and 2 Joes. Heck, even most of the Cobras.
  • Disney Villain Death: Pythona and Nemesis Enforcer both receive this when they fall into the Abyss of Oblivion.
  • The Dragon: Nemesis Enforcer
  • Dream Weaver: In Season 2's "Arise, Serpentor, Arise," Mindbender had a dream that inspired him to create the Cobra Emperor. It turns out the dream was actually sent by Golobulus to further Cobra-La's agenda.
  • Drill Sergeant Nasty: Sergeant Slaughter is even nastier than usual while training the Renegades.
  • Enemy Mine: Cobra Commander gets this with the Joes after Golobulus punishes him.
  • Eyes Do Not Belong There: Cobra Commander's true face is revealed... covered in about a dozen large, staring, inhuman eyes. It almost distracts from the fundamentally serpent-like look of his face, with scaly skin and lipless mouth. Almost.
    • The serpent-like look of his face was caused by his rapid mutation. His face was mostly human (other than the skin color - and the extra eyes) in the flashback that shows him getting disfigured.
  • Eye Scream:
    • Roadblock is blinded during his escape from Cobra-La. Fortunately, with Cobra Commander's help, he later manages to find Flint's squad and they're able to treat him.
    • In the climax, Falcon stabs Golobulus.
  • Face Hugger: Cobra La's troopers use organic technology as weapons, including throwing facehuggers.
  • Getting Crap Past the Radar: At one point, Lt. Falcon slaps Jinx's rear just offscreen and then asks if he can kiss it to make it feel better.
  • Heel–Face Turn: Part of the backstory for Mercer, one of the Renegades. He was a Cobra Viper that - as Slaughter said - "saw the light."
  • Hypocrite: Cobra-La's hatred of humanity is due to their dependence on inorganic technology, which they see as anti-life and an abomination. Still, they have no problem stealing and using such a device, the B.E.T., to carry out their Evil Plan, contradicting their own beliefs.
  • Kangaroo Court: Cobra Commander's "trial" in Cobra-La for the "crime" of failure seems like little but an excuse for Golobulus to explain the reasons for the charge; after he's done being Mr. Exposition he judges Commander guilty.
  • Leave No Man Behind: "We all go home, or nobody goes home!"
  • Madness Mantra: Cobra Commander not only is the trope namer for Was Once a Man, but he repeats it incessantly.
  • Monumental Battle: The opening sequence, of course. Originally meant to be used in the climax of the movie, it was changed to the opener due to budget concerns.
  • Merchandise-Driven
  • Narrator: When rerun as a five-part mini-series during the afternoon slot, Sergeant Slaughter narrated the movie As Himself.
  • Names to Run Away from Really Fast: Nemesis Enforcer.
  • Nice Job Breaking It, Hero: Falcon really does screw up - allowing a pretty civilian (later revealed to be Zarana) access to the detention area and later blowing off his guard duty to see Jinx. As a result, the Dreadnoks, Pythona and Nemesis Enforcer are able to break Serpentor free, as well as injure Alpine, Bazooka and Gung-Ho.
  • Only a Flesh Wound: Duke, as explained via a voiceover, despite getting the flesh wound directly through the center of his torso. But then, Duke was originally planned to die but this was changed at the last minute after the highly negative response to Optimus Prime's death.
  • Organic Technology: Cobra-La's specialty, referred to as "Hypergenetic Manipulation" at one point. They view technology that doesn't incorporate living materials to be an outright abomination, and this is one of the primary reasons for their hatred of the outside world.
  • Related in the Adaptation: Barring later being adapted to G.I. Joe: Renegades, Lt. Falcon usually isn't Duke's brother.
  • Small Steps Hero: Sergeant Slaughter (and many other Joes) will not hesitate to risk their own lives or the entire unit to save their comrades or an innocent.
  • Snake People: Most residents of Cobra-La are scaly, snake-like beings, but mostly Golobulus
  • Taking the Bullet: Duke, though he takes the spear intended for his own brother.
  • "The Reason You Suck" Speech: Cobra Commander gets this from his own group berating him for Cobra's numerous failures. He does not take this well.
  • Toyless Toyline Character: Big Lob and Pythona, though the former finally got a toy in 2010.
  • Unexplained Recovery: Duke gets better from his "coma" at the end of the movie, through the amazing power of dubbing a voice (coming from somewhere non-specific) saying as much over the final scene.
  • Unfortunate Name: The MacGuffin device that Cobra is after in this movie is called the B.E.T. Today, if Cobra were to try this, they'd have Viacom to deal with.
  • Villain Exit Stage Left: When Falcon shuts down the B.E.T., Golobulus escapes after telling G.I. Joe that they have lost.
  • Villainous Breakdown: Long before his mutation, Cobra Commander goes through one of these when his lieutenants insult him and call him "Cobra's curse":
  • The Voiceless: Nemesis Enforcer doesn't speak; it's not known whether or not he can.
  • You Have Failed Me: Golobulus has Nemesis Enforcer expose Cobra Commander to the mutagen he created after one too many failures.
  • Was Once a Man: The Trope Namer. Even though Cobra Commander's backstory from earlier in the film says otherwise.