Western Animation: Transformers: The Movie
Note: This is about the Generation One original animated film. For the live-action films, see Film/Transformers.Beyond Good. Beyond Evil. Beyond Your Wildest Imagination.
Killing all your favorite characters (except Soundwave
) for the new Fall toy line!
The Transformers: The Movie
"80's hair metal and Transformers is the perfect marriage."
(1986) was the first film to come out of the Transformers
franchise. It is rooted in the Generation One
plot centered on the original animated TV series
and associated comics from the mid-1980s, and spawned major continuity changes in that timeline, including major series plot changes. It did not have as big of an impact on the comics, since the additional space-based
elements were largely inspired by ideas from the comics that had not made their way into the series, which up until then had been a relatively simple children's TV show.
The plot of the film takes us Twenty Minutes into the Future
to the far-off Year 2005, where the battle between Autobots and Decepticons has moved back to the mechanical world of Cybertron, presumably thanks to the humans apparently wising up and adopting Autobot technology in the interim, allowing regular space travel back and forth to the Transformers' home planet.
The animated film introduces, for the first time, the biggest bad
in the Transformers multiverse, Unicron, who is en-route to gobbling up Cybertron
after stopping off for a snack on the way
. In the course of battling him and the Decepticons, a lot
of Generation One robots die to make room
for a new line-up
, traumatizing many youngsters who had gotten used to the lack of permanent death
in the TV series.Spoiler notice: There are unmarked spoilers in this article.
This film contains examples of:
- Cruel and Unusual Death: Averted in post-production; as originally animated, Ultra Magnus was supposed to have been pulled apart by the Sweeps. The final movie shows them shooting rope-like lasers, cutting to Ultra Magnus being gunned down and exploding into pieces when he falls. The (original) comic adaptation depicts the storyboarded drawn-and-quartered scene.
- Cult Soundtrack:
- The synthesized score by Vince DiCola, and notable songs such as "Dare To Be Stupid" (by "Weird Al" Yankovic) and "The Touch" (by Stan Bush) have received a certain cult status among pop culture.
- The resurgence of Transformers popularity in the 1990s helped renew interest in both Vince DiCola and Stan Bush. Both have publicly expressed gratitude to the fans' support and make regular appearances at Transformers conventions.
- Lion is best known for the movie's theme; though they signed with Scotti Brothers soon after its release, they soon faded into obscurity.
- And you won't believe where "The Touch" showed up after that...
- Darker and Edgier: Unicron destroys an entire planet with virtually all of its occupants in the opening scene. Ironhide, Prowl, Ratchet and Brawn are killed a few moments later, and it doesn't exactly end there. And this movie was based on a kid's show.
- Deadly Euphemism: see Not Quite Dead.
- Deadpan Snarker: Unicron is unimpressed with Megatron's boasting, and lets him know this in a disinterested, almost casual way.
Megatron: Nobody summons Megatron!
Unicron: Then it pleases me to be the first.
Megatron: You have nothing to fear. I have crushed Optimus Prime with my bare hands!
Unicron: You exaggerate.
- Deal with the Devil: Unicron offers to rebuild Megatron in return for servitude; thus is born Galvatron.
- Defiant to the End:
- Megatron stands over the fatally wounded Optimus Prime, about to deliver the finishing blow.
- On Quintessa, when Hot Rod and Kup are facing the Quintessons' Kangaroo Court, and either verdict results in execution.
Hot Rod: (facing execution) "I have nothing but contempt for this court!"
- When Galvatron confronts Ultra Magnus, and it is clear that the latter is outnumbered and about to be killed. Ultra Magnus is deliberately echoing Optimus' earlier Big "NEVER!", but since he isn't the Chosen One, it falls short.
Galvatron: "Magnus, I want the matrix."
Ultra Magnus: "NEVER!"
- Demoted to Extra: Several characters have this happen to them. Bluestreak, Sunstreaker, Huffer, Thundercracker, Skywarp, and Bombshell appear in cameos with no lines, Shockwave appears in two scenes and is implied to die, Shrapnel and Kickback are reduced to Butt Monkeys and then rebuilt, Mixmaster, Scavenger and Long Haul do not speak, Blitzwing gets one scene for himself, Ironhide, Wheeljack, Brawn, Prowl, Ratchet and Windcharger are killed off and Sludge, despite being a major character, has no lines. Spike and the three major Autobots who survive the movie (Bumblebee, Jazz, and Cliffjumper) have more minor roles. Perceptor and the four other Dinobots (Snarl mysteriously receiving this treatment) are the only pre-movie characters to do much of anything in the post-Autobot City scenes. Even Optimus Prime is only around for the first half of the movie. Plus, some characters don't appear in the movie at all, leaving their fates uncertain.
- The Dog Bites Back: Given the utter glee with which the Sharkticons go after the Quintessons when Grimlock tells them to, one gets the idea that the Sharkticons didn't like the Quintessons very much.
- Doomed Hometown: Any planet that Unicron devours; a survivor of Lithone is encountered (briefly) on Quintessa.
- The Dreaded: Unicron. While the Cybertronians have no knowledge of him, he's apparently feared through the rest of the galaxy as his approach to Lithone is met with cries of "it's Unicron!" and Kranix manages to relate the tale of Unicron to Kup and Hot Rod.
- Dying to Be Replaced: Optimus Prime is yesterday's toy. Arise, Rodimus Prime!
- Dynamic Entry:
- Eaten Alive:
- This primal fear of what Unicron can do to your world, along with EVERY man, woman, and child on it, is what makes him so scary.
- The Sharkticons appear to devour Transformers alive.
- Everything Trying to Kill You: The Quintessons' home planet, Quintessa, is filled with robotic wildlife that attacks anything foreign.
- Evil Gloating: Galvatron is even better than Megatron in showing pure pleasure over killing Autobots.
Galvatron: First Prime, then Ultra Magnus, and now...you. It's a pity you Autobots die so easily, or I might have a sense of satisfaction now!
- Evil Laugh: The Quintesson judge, after issuing the first verdict we see, laughs with each of his five faces in succession as the hapless "innocent" is fed to the Sharkticons.
- Evil Sounds Deep: Galvatron's voice is deeper than Megatron's, reflecting his more pure evil, and Unicron's voice is a resonating, almost disinterested bass, reflecting his incredible age and malevolence.
- Expansion Pack World: The show to this point had featured only Cybertron and Earth as significant locations. The film adds Quintessa, Lithone, and the planet of Junk, and implies that the universe is teeming with robotic lifeforms.
- Expository Theme Tune: Even more so than the cartoon's theme. The extended version of the movie theme over the ending credits pretty much sums up the whole of the movie.
- Eye Lights Out: The concept of a Cybertronians' eye's blinking out as they die was first introduced in the film.
- Eye Scream: Hot Rod crashes a spaceship through one of Unicron's eyes; later, the Autobots collectively drive through his other eye.
- "Facing the Bullets" One-Liner:
- Kranix makes a final defiant gesture before judgement is passed, exclaiming "Spare me this mockery of justice!"
- Hot Rod, when he and Kup are also on "trial", is threatened with contempt of court, and retorts, "I have nothing but contempt for this court!"
- Family-Unfriendly Death: Most of The Transformers first two seasons' cast is killed in graphic ways, not counting those who die offscreen.
- Unicron eats a planet on-screen that contains millions of robotic lifeforms.
- Scavenger shoots Prowl, the blast going inside him and reaching Prowl's insides, causing him to effectively burn from the inside out with fire blazing from his mouth endlessly and his optics glowing with the light of the flames. Directly at the camera.
- Ironhide has his computer-brains blown out execution-style by Megs.
- Optimus gets blasted and stabbed a dozen times (supposedly the fatal wound was due to a stab) while Hot Rod is held hostage.
- Kranix and another Lithonian are fed to the Sharkticons. Although mostly offscreen, we still get to hear him screaming in agony as he's eaten alive.
- Gears and several other captured Transformers inside Unicron are dissolved in an acid bath.
- The Conehead Seekers get chomped by Uni's robot form. (This one ends up being a continuity error)
- Starscream takes a direct hit from Galvatron's cannon mode, burning him to a cinder with a look of agony on his face, before disintegrating.
- Ultra Magnus gets blown to pieces (originally was going to be drawn and quartered), although put back together shortly after.
- Shockwave was supposed to be stomped by Unicron, but they cut out the shot.
- Red Alert was also supposed to die by being shot in the back by Devastator, but that scene was never animated. However, Wheeljack and Windcharger look as though this is what happened to them judging by the damage to vital areas on their chests.
- Megatron is beaten to a pulp by Optimus Prime and then left to die in space by Starscream - and probably would have died if Unicron hadn't found him.
- Foe-Tossing Charge:
- Optimus Prime trashes the Decepticons who are attacking Earth, complete with Theme Music Power-Up. He leaves Megatron crippled.
- Rodimus Prime gets an identical treatment upon his Matrix-fueled promotion, curb stomping Galvatron in the process.
- Foreshadowing: When Optimus tries to pass on the Matrix, it drops out of his hand and Hot Rod is the first to grab it. Not only that, but the Matrix glows when he holds it. All this is proof that he was destined to be the new Prime from the get-go.
- Generic Doomsday Villain: Unicron. Later episodes and adaptations would explore his backstory and motivations, but the movie itself doesn't make him anything other than being the biggest threat the Autobots and Decepticons have ever faced.
Unicron is given no backstory (until season 3) or justification; he simply exists, is very dangerous, and is afraid of the Matrix, all for no adequately explained reason.
- Hot-Blooded: Hot Rod, true to his name, gets in a lot of trouble due to his impulsiveness, including being indirectly responsible for Optimus' death.
- Hulk Speak: The Dinobots all speak in third person.
Grimlock: Me Grimlock want to munch metal!
- I Want My Jetpack: Technology Marches On, but fans everywhere are still waiting for their jet-powered hoverboard.
- Imperial Stormtrooper Marksmanship Academy: An unusual inversion. Even though the Autobots killed in the shuttle ambush are given enough time to turn around and start firing, none of them can hit anything. Even more unusual, the Decepticons, who in the previous series were the ones with the really bad target perception... are now able to score direct kills upon Autobots with only a single shot in some instances.
- The Juggernaut: Blowing up a moon inside Unicron's maw doesn't even slow him down. He's not lying when he says that only the Matrix can stop him.
- Kangaroo Court: Even if you're innocent, the Quintesson judge is dropping you in the Sharkticon pit. Primus only knows what they do to the guilty. (It's actually the same thing either way, they just like to taunt the victim first.)
- Lampshaded Double Entendre: Apparently, sexual tension is a thing among the notionally genderless Autobots.
: Stay close to me, Daniel! Hot Rod
: And you better stay close to me! Arcee
: (pins Hot Rod against wall)
better stay close to me
- Large Ham Announcer: The absurdly overenthusiastic announcer for the (barely-seen) trailer. THE MOST INCREDIBLE ROCK AND ROLL ADVEN-TURE IS HERE!
- Laser Blade: Hot Rod wields one while sparing with an Auto-Combatant. Megatron uses a very similar weapon, that he finds lying on the ground, against Optimus Prime in their duel.
- Last of His Kind: Kranix tells Hot Rod and Kup that he's the last surviving native of the planet Lithone, which Unicron devoured in the opening. He is executed by the Quintessons, reducing that number to zero.
- Left the Background Music On: During Starscream's coronation, the trumpet fanfare is cut off when he gets impatient with the ceremony and blasts them.
- Literal Ass Kicking: Courtesy of Grimlock, to Unicron.
Grimlock: "Me Grimlock kick butt!"
- Loads and Loads of Characters: Between clearing out the old Transformers toy line (ahem, cast) and introducing an entirely new cast, the film does rack up an impressive character count.
- Magical Security Camera: Unicron somehow has monitors showing the same footage the audience just saw of the Matrix being handed off.
- The Man Behind the Man: Unicron is this to Galvatron. From the Autobots' perspective, they only know that Galvatron is a powerful Decepticon and have no idea until the climax that he's in league with the planet-eater that took out both of their moon bases. The Decepticons don't even know the details about Unicron so this trope applies even more directly to them.
- Mechanical Lifeforms: Besides Earth, all planets seen in the film have robotic life.
- Messianic Archetype: Optimus Prime rescues the Autobots from certain death at the hands of the Decepticons, dies for his trouble, then passes on the mantle in the form of the Matrix of Leadership, wherein he resides in spirit.
- Merchandise-Driven: As noted above, in one of the more extreme examples, due to Executive Meddling by Creator/Hasbro, a large number of characters are killed off or reformatted for the new assortment of characters and toys.note
- Mood Whiplash:
- Megatron massacring all the Autobots to the tune of "Instruments of Destruction!" is followed by a quiet, peaceful scene of Hot Rod and Daniel fishing at a lake. And then the Decepticons show up and trigger the battle at Autobot City, which is more or less a typical battle out of the animated series, with character quirks and silliness like Starscream humiliating himself ... but then we see Wheeljack and Windcharger burnt and lifeless, and suddenly we realize this is just as serious as the battle on the shuttle, and more familiar characters are going to die before it's over.
- Of course, we then get Optimus Prime's death scene, which is then followed by Starscream throwing Megatron and other injured Decepticons into space — which is then followed by a comic scene where Starscream, Soundwave and his cassettes, and the Constructicons fight over who is going to be the Decepticons' new leader. And then we have Megatron's meeting with Unicron and his conversion into Galvatron, followed by the ridiculousness of Starscream being 'crowned' in a ridiculous cape and crown. Galvatron shows up, and the scene becomes dark as he shoots Starscream and Starscream crumbles to dust!
- The rest of the movie also has plenty of Mood Whiplash, with Kup and Hot Rod's being attacked by the Sharkticons (and the resulting 'demolition derby'), followed by a rather silly sequence with the Junkions featuring "Weird Al" Yankovic's 'Dare to Be Stupid', and then the final confrontation with Unicron in which a few unnamed captured Autobots and Decepticons are dropped into a vat of acid (Bumblebee, Jazz, and Cliffjumper are saved, as is Spike), Unicron is destroyed, and the film abruptly ends with Rodimus making a speech on Cybertron (the Autobots apparently taking control of it off-screen).
- The Movie: Right there in the title.
- Never Trust a Trailer: The original trailer is 4 minutes of footage that was deleted or changed. Nothing in the trailer makes it into the movie without some change made to it.
- No Honor Among Thieves: Had Galvatron just given the Autobot Matrix of Leadership to Unicron as ordered, the story would have ended with the planet eater's victory. Furthermore, as mentioned previously in Badass Boast, had everything gone according to plan, Unicron was planning on giving Cybertron to Galvatron (or at least not making it a meal). The dominoes that brought about their mutual defeat were knocked down by the backstabbing.
- Nothing Is the Same Anymore: Post-movie episodes of the cartoon feature an almost completely different cast of characters in a vastly different setting. The show doesn't even look the same anymore—pre-movie episodes were usually animated by Toei Animation, while many post-movie episodes are the work of Korean studio AKOM. The Japanese dub branded the post-movie episodes as a sequel series.
- Not Quite Dead: A number of the defeated Decepticons are clinging to the edges of life after they escape in Astrotrain, and are cast adrift to "lighten the load".
Megatron: "...I still function!"
Starscream: "Wanna bet?"
- The Obi-Wan: Optimus' death serves as a call to heroism for the other Autobots, and in particular Hot Rod. He also manages to stick around in spirit thanks to the Matrix.
Optimus Prime's voice: (from the Matrix) Arise, Rodimus Prime.
- Kup, being a mentor of Hot Rod.
- Offscreen Moment of Awesome: As mentioned under All There in the Manual, the battle between Omega Supreme and the Autobot gestalts versus the Decepticon gestalts is pretty amazing◊.
- Oh, Crap: Both Ultra Magnus and Galvatron attempt to open the Matrix at pivotal moments in an attempt to use it against their foes. In both cases, they fail, because they aren't The Chosen One. In Galvatron's case, this prompts Unicron's decision to destroy Cybertron. Oops.
- Omnicidal Maniac: Unicron's purpose is to eat everything in the universe. Depending on which canon continuity you follow, he was either created to fulfill that role in a cosmic duality with Primus (who doesn't appear in this film) or chose it for himself.
- The Omniscient: Unicron seems to know what's happening in all corners of the universe as it happens. Comes with the territory of being a Physical God.
- One-Hit Kill: Galvatron reasserts his leadership of the Decepticons by vaporizing Starscream. More generally, Transformers (Autobot and Decepticon alike) die easily from single shots, whereas they had been very resilient in the cartoon.
- Out-of-Character Moment: No Decepticons, even ones established as blindly loyal to Megatron such as Soundwave, object to having him Thrown Out the Airlock to lose dead weight, and instantly make their claims to his spot afterwards. It's particularly glaring with Soundwave, who went to the trouble of going back for Megatron and carrying him aboard in the first place.
- Pep Talk Song: Stan Bush's uplifting and inspirational theme song The Touch, which serves as the theme song of the noble and heroic Optimus Prime and later Rodimus Prime.
- Planet Eater: Unicron is a planet that eats other planets to fuel his cosmic rampage of destruction.
- Precision S-Strike: See Avoid the Dreaded G Rating.
- Pre-Asskicking One-Liner: Rodimus Prime, who had (as Hot Rod) been getting choked to death by Galvatron, tells him in no uncertain terms that the tide has turned.
Rodimus: "This is the end of the road, Galvatron."
- Pre-Mortem One-Liner:
- Punctuated! For! Emphasis!: Unicron talks very slowly and deliberately, but some of his lines stand out.
Unicron: "But now. You shall witness. Its DISMEMBERMENT!"
Unicron: "Destiny...You... cannot... destroy... my... destinyyy!"
- Recycled In Space: Film critics at the time tut-tutted the movie as "Star Wars with Giant Robots", since, although a number of sci-fi, anime and comics had re-introduced Space Opera, planet-eaters and the like into relatively simple stories, Star Wars was basically the Trope Codifier in the 80s. Forgotten somewhat, since now, everybody does it.
- Remember the New Guy: Ultra Magnus is Optimus Prime's old friend, who was never seen or mentioned before. Kup comes off this way too, considering he's supposed to be such an "old-timer."
- Robot Kid: New Kid-Appeal Character Wheelie. He looks like a child, speaks in rhyme, and even has a slingshot.
- R-Rated Opening: To show this is Darker and Edgier, the opening has a planet (with robotic children, no less) being eaten by Unicron. Shortly thereafter we have the Decepticons boarding the Autobot shuttle, which has the most brutal on-screen deaths in the movie (Prowl's death in particular is gruesome, as his insides seem to explode and smoke pours out of his eyes and mouth).
- Sacrificial Planet: At the beginning of the movie, Unicron devours a planet full of robotic lifeforms before threatening to do the same to Cybertron.
- Scavenger World: The Planet of Junk appears to be the trash heap of the universe, where the aptly named Junkions make their home and use all the stuff to build spaceships and such. There is no indication of how all the trash gets there in the first place.
- Seen It All: Pretty much any situation they're in reminds Kup of some old war story, much to Hot Rod's continued annoyance. This is Played for Laughs for most of the film, until they see Unicron standing astride Cybertron.
Hot Rod: Doesn't this remind you of anything, Kup?
Kup: (quietly) Nope. Never seen anything like this before...
- Sesquipedalian Loquaciousness: Perceptor, enough that even his fellow robots get fed up with it.
Perceptor: Gamma waves in this sector of space create marginal navigation probabilities, however...
(Ultra Magnus leans on the console with his head in his hands looking frustrated and bored)
Perceptor: Ahem... Yes, I think I can.
- Sham Ceremony: Galvatron certainly thought this of Starscream's short-lived Awesome Moment of Crowning.
- Shark Pool: In a world with oceans full of robot sharks, the Quintessons also have a more traditional pool filled with those same sharks for dramatic executions.
- She's a Man in Japan: In the French dub of the movie, which used a very different dub team from any regional French dub of the TV series, both Starscream and Shrapnel were turned into women.
- The Smurfette Principle: Arcee, the only female Autobot to appear in the film.
- Sophisticated as Hell: Much of the dialogue. "Me Grimlock say you full of cesium salami!"
- Soundtrack Dissonance: "Dare To Be Stupid".
- SpaceX: Take any normal word and add "-ion" or "-ticon" to the name, and you've got a Transformer "species".
- Space Opera: Although the premise was always there, this was the first time they extensively used it.
- Speaks in Shout-Outs: Wreck-Gar and the Junkions speak entirely in 20th century Earth advertising lingo.
- The Starscream: Starscream gets his wish, finally getting rid of Megatron and being crowned Leader of the Decepticons... for about 20 seconds, before Galvatron shows up and vaporizes him. Then Galvatron plays the same role against his new master, Unicron.
- Strange Syntax Speaker:
- Wreck-Gar and the Junkions speak entirely in 20th century advertising lingo.
- Wheelie speaks exclusively in rhyme. Though it's sometimes hard to tell with all the post-processing done to his voice.
- Taking Up The Mantle: Ultra Magnus is given the Autobot Matrix of Leadership upon Prime's death. However, it's Hot Rod who truly winds up taking up the role of Prime.
- Technology Porn: Unicron's transformation and Autobot City's transformation.
- That's No Moon!: That's no ginormous, weird-looking planet — it's a Transformer!
- Theme Music Power-Up: "The Touch" by Stan Bush is played during Optimus' and Rodimus' finest moments. Other contenders are Dare to Be Stupid for the Junkions, and Instruments of Destruction for the Decepticons.
- This Cannot Be!: Unicron's reaction when he's finally beaten.
- Trailers Always Spoil: The original trailer proudly boasts, "The final confrontation between Optimus Prime and Megatron." (Of course, given the initial reaction to said confrontation, fans assuredly thought it would play out far differently.)
- Commercials for the movie had the narrator say "Does Prime die?" over footage of Optimus getting blasted, followed by Megatron's line: "It's over, Prime!" Some viewers may have thought "Like You Would Really Do It", but...
- Transformation Is a Free Action: Unicron is one of the few cases in which this trope is justified; he's so massive, it's not like any of the Transformers could do anything about his Transformation Sequence. Galvatron tried to subvert this after having an Oh, Crap moment but failed miserably at it.
- Twenty Minutes into the Future: "It is the year 2005." The movie came out in 1986. Interestingly, most of the new Autobots' alt-modes are considered futuristic Earth vehicles, even though they resemble Cybertronian vehicles.
- Verbal Tic:
- The Voiceless: Prowl, the Seekers (with the exception of Starscream), Bombshell, and Ratchet appear with no lines, and Sludge never speaks at all despite being a major character.
- Wacky Wayside Tribe: The Junkions are apparently an offshoot of the Autobots who speak almost exclusively in lines taken from TV transmissions.
- War Is Hell: Almost as if apologizing for trivializing an affair as tragic as battle with the TV-Series, this movie dragged an entire generation of children kicking-and-screaming by the ears into visceral horror, death and sorrow that is actual warfare. Special mention goes to a scene featuring Arcee pointlessly dragging the blackened corpses of Windcharger and Wheeljack to safety.
- We All Die Someday: Galvatron invokes this to try to coerce Hot Rod out of hiding. Hot Rod's response? "Not today, Galvatron!"
- Wham Episode: The first battle scene shocked an entire generation of moviegoers with the fact that Autobots could die.
- What Happened to the Mouse?:
- Cyclonus's "Armada" (really just one guy) is only seen being created, and is replaced by another Sweep for the rest of the movie. Blaster vanishes after receiving Jazz's transmission, and Ratbat appears in only one scene.
- What happened to Sunstreaker, Snarl, Hound, and Grapple? (The deaths of Bluestreak and Huffer were retconned in the "Dark Awakening" episode)
- A number of characters introduced in Season 2 were nowhere to be found due to the script being written concurrently. The comic based on the film retconned this◊ with the Combiners in the Autobots' side facing Decepticon combiners.
- World-Wrecking Wave: Considering Unicron is a planet (and then a planet sized transformer), the Matrix's energy wave that cripples and ultimately destroys him qualifies as one of the few times this is a good thing.
- Your Size May Vary: Scale and Transformers have never mixed well, but when you bring in a guy the size of a planet...
- Unicron tears the scale of things asunder; no matter what he is interacting with in planet mode, it's about the same size as his mouth, be it a planet, a moon, a shuttle, or just Megatron on his own. Once he transforms, a spaceship carrying a dozen characters goes through one eye, and just fits. Its dozen crew transform to ride out the other eye one at a time, and they just fit as well.
- Astrotrain carries the entire lineup of surviving Decepticons (including a fully formed Devastator) comfortably inside his space shuttle alt-mode.
Till All Are One!