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. Also the "Barraks" during Serpentors rescue, and the Mauler only seen for a few seconds behind and to the left of Hawks Snowcat when his strikeforce was in the tunnel entrance to Cobra-La.
  • Artistic License – Biology: Most of the Organisms of Cobra-la violate the Square-cube law.
  • 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: Militarily speaking, it is only fair to say that Cobra Commander is a world class... buffoon!
    Cobra Commander: WHAT? Baroness! Dr. Mindbender! Brave Xamot and Tomax! You won't let Destro's treacherous assassination of my character go unchallenged, will you?!
    Dr. Mindbender: Certainly not! 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 stands up in front of Falcon and takes the spear meant for his half-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
  • Camera Abuse: A Crimson Guardsmen smashes the lens of a news camera in the opening sequence.
  • Covers Always Lie: Despite being one of the better known characters in the GI Joe franchise, and one of the five characters on the poster, placed left of new character Lt. Falcon, Lady Jaye gets few scenes, and only says three words throughout the whole film.
  • 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: 2 of them. First is Beachhead, for his obstacle course. Second is Sergeant Slaughter, even nastier than usual while training Falcon with his 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) in the flashback that shows him getting those extra eyes when a spore pod blew up in his face, said flashback also implying he may have even created them in the first place.
  • 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: Pythona, and Nemesis Enforcer use something like these. The former, on a few Crimson Guards, and the latter, on Sgt. Slaughter when rescuing Falcon from Serpentor while infiltrating the Terror Drome during an "extra rough training exercise".
  • Freeze-Frame Bonus: 2 in the Terror Drome, first is Sgt. Slaughters left eye in the airvent, and second is on a Tele-Vipers goggles.
  • Getting Crap Past the Radar: At one point, Lt. Falcon slaps Jinx's rear just offscreen, causing her to hit her head on a H.A.V.O.C.'s maintenance hatch, then asks if he can kiss it, and make it better. Buzz Dixon even says on the DVD's commentary that he can't believe they got away with that one.
  • Grand Finale: Due to being the last installment of G.I. Joe: A Real American Hero made before the DiC Entertainment continuation and consisting of the Joes having an epic battle with Cobra that results in Cobra Commander being put out of action for the time being, this movie is pretty much the Grand Finale for the Sunbow run of the series.
  • Hawaiian-Shirted Tourist: Chuckles, one of the new recruits, is usually wearing one (a shirt that is, not a tourist). He is also the Joes' best undercover operative. A frequently mentioned point is that most people would never imagine an undercover operative to stick out like a sore thumb as he does.
  • 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." Whether he was ever in a past episode is never brought up, however.
  • Hell Is That Noise: The Organism's of Cobra-La all make an awful racket. The "vine trap trees" make the same noise as the "tubeworms" from the 5-part pilot's 3rd episode for some reason, but not the same as the previously mentioned organisms.
  • 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.
  • Kaiju: Serpentor orders several snake/slug-like ones called Barabers during his second and more successful raid to steal the B.E.T. from G.I. Joe, later using a moth-like one to fly away after putting Duke in his "coma". Golobulus wakes a lot more up in defense of his palace near the films end.
  • 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: Invoked twice by Sgt. Slaughter, "Either we all go home, or nobody goes home!"
  • MacGuffin: The (B)roadcast (E)nergy (T)ransmitter, the human race can use it as a Tesla-esque mobile generator, while Cobra-La wants it to incubate their orbiting spore pods.
  • 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: Much like The Transformers: The Movie, this animated film introduces a bunch of new characters as a way of advertising new toys.
  • Misplaced Accent: Almost. New character Law use's an Hispanic accent, and some words, despite having a French surname, but he is from Houston, Texas, which explains the confusion.
  • 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. The slaughter house, Sgt. Slaughters outpost.
  • 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 greyish, scaly, snake-like beings, but mostly the somehow Caucasian Golobulus, though we don't see his lowerhalf until Falcon confronts him.
  • Taking the Bullet: Duke, though he takes the spear intended for his own half-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.
  • The Reveal: Duke announces to General Hawk and some other's during Falcon's preliminary hearing, to Falcon's chagrin, that the two are half-brothers, and later to the latter's fellow rawhides, that they have the same mother.
  • Toyless Toyline Character: Big Lob and Pythona, though the former finally got a toy in 2010. note 
  • 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; though he does grunt and yell.
  • 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: This animated movie is the Trope Namer, with Cobra Commander repeatedly hollering that he was once a man after he becomes a mutant snake monster, though Cobra Commander's backstory from earlier in the film says otherwise, so it's more like "Was Once a Humanoid Being".