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 executive produced by The Who's 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 Recap is here, but beware of spoilers.

Character tropes go on to the Characters Sheet.

This film contains examples of:

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  • 1-Dimensional Thinking: When Hogarth tries to evade the Giant trampling on him during their first encounter, he doesn't think of stepping aside but keeps running straight forward.
  • The '50s: The setting of the film, with all the trappings of the Cold War included. And all that that implies.
  • '50s Hair: Since this is set in 1957, all the characters have standard '50s dos. Hogarth and his friends have crew cuts; his mother Annie has short wavy hair; government agent Kent Mansley has cropped hair on the sides with a curly mop on top; resident Beatnik Dean McCoppin has stubble and a soul patch; and General Rogard has the standard issue flat top.
  • 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.
  • Accidental Art: Dean yells at the giant who has been indiscriminately eating the junk and happened to swallow some of the art pieces. At this the giant pulls a half-eaten sculpture from his mouth, adjusts a few parts, and then sets it down. Even though the giant only understands art as "what Dean doesn't want to be eaten", Dean decides that the result is as impressive as the other artistic displays.
  • Action Prologue: The opening scene of the nocturnal arrival of the robot.
  • 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 participate in it.
  • Adult Fear: Annie has to work late and returns home just in time for the power to go out. She quickly searches the house for Hogarth only to discover he's wandered out into the forest at night and has no idea where he is.
  • Aerith and Bob: Dean and Annie, Kent and Hogarth.
  • An Aesop:
    • "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."
    • The movie's antiwar moral was present in the book too, but handled in a very different way.
  • 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 blast by ducking and covering their heads, is based on a real thing.
    • The ordinary twinkie that Hogarth inflates with additional whipped cream is known as a "Turbo Twinkie."
  • Amnesiac Dissonance: The Giant is implied to have this, as he is capable of incredible destruction. The Signature Edition implies 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.
  • 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.
  • Arc Words: Several.
    • "You are who you choose to be."
    • "Guns kill"/"I am not a gun."
    • "Souls don't die."
    • "Superman"
    • "And all that that implies"
  • 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: Sort of. At one point, Dean jokingly describes espresso as "coffee-zilla" when warning Hogarth against drinking it. Godzilla wasn't a household name in America in 1957. 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. While it's possible Dean might have known about the Godzilla movies at the time, a child like Hogarth probably would not have gotten the reference.
  • Artistic License – Physics: "My Nuke Is Going Critical" version. When the Iron Giant intercepts and rams the missile fired by the Nautilus up in the ionosphere, it detonates. 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.
  • Artistic License – Ships: The submarine that fires the nuclear missile at the climax is identified as the USS Nautilus. The real USS Nautilus was not equipped to carry missiles, being armed only with torpedoes.
  • Astonishingly Appropriate Interruption: Hogarth concealing his outbursts at the giant severed hand messing around in the kitchen from his mother by working them into his dinnertime prayer is a sight to see:
    Hogarth: Oh my god. Uh— Ohh, my God, we… thank you! For the food that mom has put in front of us and STOP! …th-the Devil! From doing bad things. And uh, GET OUT OF HERE!! …Satan? GO! …Go, so that we may live in peace. Amen.
  • Attack of the 50-Foot Whatever: The Giant does this towards the end of the movie.
  • Bad "Bad Acting": In the B-Movie Hogarth was watching.
  • 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 while he likes Bambi, he dislikes its infamous Mood Whiplash.
  • Batman in My Basement: Hogarth has a giant robot in his barn.
  • Because You Were Nice to Me: The Giant takes an interest in Hogarth because the young boy saved him from being electrocuted at the power station. .
  • Beware the Nice Ones: The ultimate example of why you should never piss off the Gentle Giant.
  • Big Bad: Kent Mansley, the government agent pursuing the Giant.
  • Big Electric Switch: The huge On/Off switch at the power station which Hogarth pulls to save the Giant.
  • Big "OMG!":
    • Kent when he notices half of his car is destroyed.
    • Also hilariously done when Hogarth says it during dinner and he's just noticed the giant's hand in the living room... and he turns it into part of the prayer he's saying.
  • Bittersweet Ending: The town is saved from the bomb. Mansley is arrested for his crimes. Hogarth has more friends. Annie and Dean are a couple. But, the Giant sacrificed himself to ensure the town's safety, but is remembered as a hero. And in the end, the Giant is last seen remodeling himself.
  • 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. Similarly, the government agent's Amusing Injuries are all of a non-bleeding type.
  • Bluffing the Authorities: When paranoiac Jerk Ass Kent Mansley finally convinces the US Army that the title character is loose in Rockwell, Maine, they arrive at Dean McCoppin's studio to find a huge robotic figure. Dean explains that it's a modern art sculpture he's going to be selling to a wealthy industrialist.
  • B-Movie: Hogarth watches a particularly hammy movie about killer brains. They even replicated the rather questionable acting abilities of the performers and laughable special effects that typically appeared in such films.
  • 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 when playing with Hogarth in the scrapyard, the Giant declares "I Superman!" and adorns his chest with a giant "S".
  • Came from the Sky: A fisherman lost in storm first sees something fall from the sky, then runs into the Giant thinking its glowing eyes are the lighthouse
  • 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.
  • Catapult Nightmare: Happens to the Giant after he wakes from his bad android dream.
  • 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.
    • The room at the Hughes house that Annie wants to rent out. She mentions in the diner scene that the room needs to be rented if they are to make ends meet. Mansley rents the room later so he can question Hogarth aboput the Giant and found out where the Giant is.
  • Chekhov's Skill: The Giant's ability to repair himself after being damaged.
  • 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).
  • Curb-Stomp Battle: Once his weapons are fully deployed, the Giant is able to quickly destroy the bulk of the military hardware brought against it.
  • Call-Back: Early in the film, when Hogarth is annoyed with the giant, he says "You stay, I go, no following" Later The Giant repeats this back to him before his Heroic Sacrifice.
  • 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 missile on the Giant. See Nice Job Breaking It, Hero! and Idiot Ball below.
  • Dieselpunk: The Giant himself, is composed of both of these aesthetics. Especially Dieselpunk.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Dramatic Thunder: Employed in the opening scene when the giant robot appears in the floodwaters during the storm.
  • 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!
  • Evil Redhead: Mansley. Granted, he initially has good intentions, but pesters Hogarth repeatedly about the Giant, rents the Hughes's spare room under false pretences, steals Hogarth's camera and photos for his own use, threatens to have Hogarth taken away from Annie if he doesn't give up the Giant's location, and becomes so obsessed with destroying the Giant that he doesn't give a shit if Hogarth or indeed anyone else gets hurt or killed in doing so. Even going so far as to launch a strike on the Giant, apparently having forgotten it would take out him along with the town as well as the Giant.
  • Eye Awaken: The last shot of the movie showing the Giant's eye opening up.

  • 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.
  • 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. He even has "Man" in his name. 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.
    • 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...
    • When Hogarth and the Giant are playing in the junkyard, the Giant grouches at being forced to be Atomo and instead wants to play as Superman. This is literally how the movie ends.
    • 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...
  • Freeze-Frame Bonus: If you pause the movie at just the right second when Hogarth walks into the kitchen to find Kent sitting at the table holding a newspaper, one of the articles in the paper reads "STUDIO KEPT ALIVE BY OSMOSIS GREENLIGHT." Osmosis Jones was the next movie produced by Warner Bros. (both films flopped).
  • Genre Savvy: Hogarth has seen enough alien/monster/giant death machine movies to know that if he tells anyone about the Giant, people will start "wigging out" and shooting.
  • Getting Crap Past the Radar: Dean's method of releasing the squirrel in his pants: he stands up, makes a public apology to the other customers for what's about to happen, and then proceeds to open up his fly to release the frantic squirrel (which then 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 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.
  • 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-Karting with Bowser: Annie suggests that Hogarth take Mansley out with him, seemingly oblivious to how much Hogarth despises him, and they end up having an ice cream in Rockwell. Hogarth exploits this by slipping Mansley a laxative to get away from him.
  • Go Out with a Smile: "Superman..."
  • Gosh Dang It to Heck!: Surprisingly averted. Then again, this isn't strictly a kid's movie.
  • Gun Accessories: Hogarth duct-tapes a flashlight to his BB gun.
  • Hate at First Sight: Hogarth makes no effort to hide his disdain for Kent from the moment they meet. At first it's just because Kent talks down to him, calling him "scout," getting his name wrong and generally failing at being charming.
  • Helping Hands: All parts of the Giant, even little tiny screws, can move by themselves, converging for repair and reassembly.
  • Heroes Gone Fishing: Near the start of the film while Annie is working late, Hogarth spends a bit of the evening eating Twinkies and watching a Bmovie. It gets interrupted when the Giant bites off the house's TV antenna.
    • There's also the scene where Hogarth and the Giant are with Dean at the lake.
  • 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."
  • High-Dive Hijinks: The Giant's cannonball dive creates a giant wave that washes Dean out in the middle of a nearby road and lands Hogarth on the top of a tree.
  • 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 '50s, 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 (who by coincidence resembles Mansley's voice actor Christopher McDonald), 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.
  • Hypocrite: Mansley presents himself as a patriotic American who takes his job as a federal agent very serious. When faced with the prospect of dying for his country, he says in no uncertain terms that he'd rather run.
  • 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 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.
    Mansley: Screw our country! I WANNA LIVE!
  • 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.
  • Intelligence Equals Isolation:
    • Hogarth's grades are high enough to skip a grade; he mentions that he gets bullied for it. Which was common at the time.
    • Dean as well, who appears to be considered a bit of a kook by the rest of the town for being a Beatnik artist.
  • Intergenerational Friendship: Hogarth and Dean.
  • Interrupted Cooldown Hug: After Hogarth calmed the Iron Giant, a missile hits his back.
  • 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."
  • "It" Is Dehumanizing: The Giant is referred to as "it" except by Hogarth and Dean, and the latter has to be corrected by Hogarth the first time.
  • It Was Here, I Swear!: When Mansley wants to show townfolks his half-eaten car, it is no longer there.
  • The Joy of First Flight: Near the end the Iron Giant enables its jet thrusters for the first time to fly away with Hogarth, who is amazed that he can fly.
  • 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.
  • 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.

  • Laxative Prank: "Landslide. It's new. Very new."
  • Lethally Stupid: Mansley when he orders the missile be launched at the Giant, while the Giant is in the middle of Rockwell. Which is also where he is, meaning if the missile hit, it would decimate the town, the Giant and everyone in it.
  • 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.
  • Limited Wardrobe: Subverted with Hogarth. While we do see him wear the same jacket a lot, he does have a few changes of shirts, including the striped one he wears after the diner scene, a plain blue one, and the yellow one he wears when he learns Mansley is renting the spare room.
  • Living with the Villain: For a while, Mansley is renting a room at the Hughes house to try and find out more about the Giant, much to Hogarth's anger when Mansley won't stop questioning him about it.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Mickey Mousing: The music punctuates Hogarth's stealthy movements when approaching the power station in the forest at night.
  • Missing Child: After discovering the antenna was eaten, Hogarth ventures into the woods at night to investigate, leaving his mother Annie worried and fearful as to where he went.
  • Mood Whiplash: A three-layered version in the diner scene between Hogarth and Mansley. It starts off fairly genial between them, then snaps to tense when Mansley starts properly probing Hogarth about the Giant, then to funny when the laxative Hogarth slipped Mansley earlier in the scene kicks in.
  • More Dakka: When the Giant's anguish turns to rage, the bump on his head pops out and he now appears to be fully operational. He completely gives into his defense programming and displays a considerable array of advanced weaponry.
  • 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?"
  • Multitasked Conversation: Hogarth saying grace at the dinner table doubles (rather clumsily) as an attempt to shoo away the Giant's hand before his mom sees it.
  • My God, What Have I Done?:
    • The Giant's reaction after realising he nearly vaporised Hogarth by accident.
    • The Giant has another one later when he snaps out of his Roaring Rampage of Revenge and converts back to normal.
  • 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 death on the area. Rogard puts it bluntly...
    Rogard: That missile is targeted to the giant's current position! Where's the giant, Mansley?!
  • Nobody Here but Us Statues: The Iron Giant poses as one of Dean's junk sculptures to escape the army. Earlier, he stands in front of an Astro Burger billboard to hide from Dean.
  • 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 ballistic missile whereas the Real Life Nautilus was incapable of doing so since it was a normal attack submarine (albeit the first powered by a nuclear reactor). In fact, the United States Navy did not have any ballistic missile submarines until the USS George Washington entered service in 1959, two years after the film is set. When the Nautilus is stated to have "first-strike" capability, it actually meant that its missiles were accurate enough to hit specific points instead of general areas like cities.
  • 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 questions Hogarth and the toilet flushes upstairs, Hogarth has one and promptly rushes to investigate.
    • When Mansley sees the Giant staring at him and not looking very happy.
    • Mansley, when the laxative Hogarth slipped him kicks in. He dashes off to the bathroom and Hogarth gets out of there.
    • Mansley, upon realizing that he's doomed himself and the town of Rockwell to 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 right at him. 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 left 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-Liner, Name... One-Liner: Mansley's line "Something big, Marv. Something big.", upon the question what they are looking for.

  • 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.
  • Platonic Declaration of Love: Hogarth tells the giant he loves him right before it sacrifices itself to save the town from the missile.
  • Please Wake Up: The Iron Giant gives us a double whammy. First when the giant nudges a recently-shot deer that he had seen a few minutes prior and is puzzled why it does not respond, which leads to Hogarth teaching him about the concept of death. This comes back when the giant discovers the motionless body of Hogarth and nudges him the same way he did the deer with the same lack of response.
  • Potty Emergency: Hogary slips Mansly laxatives to keep him busy for a few hours while he check on the Giant, and Mansly is later seen taking frequent bathroom breaks for the rest of the day.
  • Precision F-Strike:
    • Mansley's hearty "Screw our country!"
    • General Rogard during the robot's rampage.
    General Rogard: All battleships fire at the robot! Now! Now, damn it, now!
  • Predator Turned Protector: When young Hogarth encounters the Giant, he finds the robot to be docile and childlike; this is suggested to be the result of a dent in its head upon landing on Earth. However, once the robot goes into Papa Wolf mode, it deploys enough advanced weaponry to eradicate a battalion with frightening ease. The director's commentary mentions that the robot was meant to be a military strike probe, designed to eradicate or decimate resistance as a precursor to an Alien Invasion. Fortunately for everyone, The Power of Friendship restores the robot to its Gentle Giant mode, whereupon it makes a Heroic Sacrifice to save the townsfolk.
  • Preemptive Apology: Dean "Excuse me! I'd like to apologize to everyone in advance for this!" He lets a squirrel out of his pants and Hilarity Ensues.
  • Pre-Sacrifice Final Goodbye: "You stay. I go. No following."
  • 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.
  • 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.
    Rogard:"There's no way to survive this, you idiot!"
  • Reasonable Authority Figure: General Rogard is this, despite of initially seeming to be a Eisenhower/Patton-esque Expy of WWII/Cold War era General Rippers, he proves to be more moral and level-headed than Mansley, refusing to call the troops onto the scene without proof of the giant, and when Mansley's photo proof seems to turn out to be a hoax, he is justifiably furious. When the Giant and the military come to blows, he starts showing more of his "Ripper" side, but once it becomes clear the Giant is only acting in defense, he immediately issues the stand-down order.
  • Reassigned to Antarctica: Mansley's planned fate according to General Rogard when Mansley's attempt to reveal the Giant is thwarted and his credibility is destroyed.
    Rogard: You'll be Chief Inspector of Subway Toilets by the time I'm through with you!
  • Relocating the Explosion: The Iron Giant sacrifices himself by flying into the sky to meet an oncoming missile head-on.
  • 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.
  • Rousseau Was Right: Even the main antagonist of this movie, Kent, is more a Well-Intentioned Extremist.
  • Rudely Hanging Up: Kent calls General Rogard about the giant robot he thinks is roaming the town. Rogard, upset that Kent called him at home for a non-emergency, tells him that he first needs evidence to send troops, and while Kent raves about it, he calmly hangs up on him in mid-rant. Kent doesn't take this well.
  • Rule of Symbolism: After the giant's saving of the town, the 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.
  • Running Gag: In one scene, Hogarth manages to get Kent Mansley off his back by topping his ice cream with coco-lax. Later, Kent's investigation is constantly being interrupted by sudden urges to go to the bathroom.
  • Screw This, I'm Outta Here!: Mansly, once he realizes his actions have triggered the destruction of the town and that he's expected to lay down his life for his country like a good soldier, instead tries to steal a jeep and speed off. The Giant stops him before he can get far.
    Mansley: Screw our country! I wanna live!
  • Secondary Character Title: The Giant is the Deuteragonist.
  • Sharp-Dressed Man: Mansley is always seen dressed in a suit, sometimes with a hat. Justified because he works for the government. He's still suited towards the end but wears an army helmet instead.
  • 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, 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.
  • Sliding Scale of Idealism vs. Cynicism: Extremely idealistic and heartfelt.
  • Sleeping Dummy: Hogarth escapes Mansley using a dummy in his bed.
  • The Smurfette Principle: Hogarth's mother is the only main female character in the film.
  • Squirrels in My Pants: By name, and preceded the official Trope Namer.
  • 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.
  • Stylistic Suck: The sci-fi movie Hogarth watches, full-stop, Bad "Bad Acting" and everything.
  • Suddenly SHOUTING!: "There are two types of metal in this yard. Scrap and art. If you gotta eat one of them, eat the scrap. What you currently have IN YOUR MOUTH IS ART!"
  • Tank Goodness: The U.S. Army uses several M41 Walker Bulldog tanks throughout the film.
  • Tanks for Nothing: When the Giant goes berserk after Hogarth's assumed demise, the Bulldog tanks attempt to destroy it without any effect.
  • Technology Porn: When the Giant repairs itself, and when it is attacked by the Army and deploys its weapons.
  • 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 numerous Brain Monster movies of the 1950s.
  • This Is Gonna Suck
    • Mansley's defeated "Yes sir..." after Rogard tell him to "step outside." Cue a lot of shouting from the latter, much to Hogarth's (and the audience's) amusement.
    • Hogarth, while held at gunpoint by the defense-mode Giant, tells him "You are who you choose to be," then winces as he says "Choose."
    • Mansley, again, when he turns to see that the Giant, which he just launched a missile at, is standing right there next to him.
  • Throwing the Distraction: Hogarth throws a penny into the kitchen to divert his mom's attention away while he sneaks out one of the Giant's hands, which has detached and is wandering around the house. The penny knocks over the spice rack by accident.
  • 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.
  • Toilet Humor: Downplayed. One joke involves Hogarth slipping Mansly laxatives to get him off his back, and the scene is punctuated by Mansly's stomach gurgling nauseously as he waddles to the bathroom. A montage two scenes later shows that it's effects lasted all day, but we're spared having to see or hear anything grosser.
  • Too Dumb to Live: Mansley falls victim to this near the end. He sees the Giant glaring at him, so he flips, grabs Rogard's walkie-talkie and orders the missile targeting the Giant be launched. He failed to take into account where the Giant was: in the middle of the town, barely feet from him. Cue an Oh, Crap! when Rogard makes him aware of this.
  • 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.
  • Track Trouble: The Giant pulls on some tracks just as the train approaches. Hogarth gets him to put the tracks back, but he takes too long and is hit by the train.
  • Trailers Always Spoil: One of the theatrical trailers spoils the Giant going into defense-mode.
  • Transatlantic 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 tells him that he'll look more like Superman if he does.
  • 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.
  • Villain Over for Dinner: Hogarth goes down to breakfast only to find Kent, the agent looking for the Giant, sitting at the table. He has rented the family's spare room and now wants to ask him a few questions.
  • Wave Motion Gun: The Giant has one powerful enough to destroy a ship. Fortunately for the battleship he was aiming at, Hogarth intervened.
  • What Measure Is a Non-Human?: The reason Hogarth comes back to save the Giant after it gets tangled in the wires at the power station is because he hears it screaming in pain, causing him to empathize for it. Later, the two question whether or not the Giant has a soul.
    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.
  • White and Grey Morality: Hogarth, the Giant, Annie, and Dean are definitely the good guys where the main antagonist, Kent, is more of a Well-Intentioned Extremist.
  • 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.
  • The Worf Barrage: A squad of jet fighters seemingly destroyed the robot, only for the U.S. Army to find out that he's still alive and mourning over the seemingly-dead Hogarth.
  • Would Hurt a Child: Mansley. During his interrogation of Hogarth to find out where the Giant is, he threatens to make it so that Hogarth will be taken away from his mother if he doesn't spill the beans, and later during the climax lies to Rogard about the Giant having killed a child, knowing that Hogarth is with the Giant and will likely be killed in the crossfire.
  • You Just Told Me: How Annie tricks Dean into telling her Hogarth sneaks off to his junkyard every night.