The Transformers: The Movie (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 snackon 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:
Absentee Actor: Though nearly all of the 1984 and 1985 Decepticons from the cartoon are in the film, a large number of Autobots are missing, including nearly every season 2 Autobot. Only Perceptor and Blaster have prominent roles; Grapple only gets a cameo and Inferno is credited despite not being in the movie. Out of the season 1 Autobots, Jetfire/Skyfire is the only one who was not meant to be in the movie at all. Many of these were planned to be included but got cut.
All There in the Manual: Where were Omega Supreme and the other combiners? The 2006 comic adaptation reveals that they were fighting each other outside the Ark. Also in this adaptation are the deaths of Shockwave and Beachcomber (though he lives in the cartoon). For the combiners, this can be justified since they didn't exist when the script was written, and if Omega Supreme was there, there'd be no drama!
Almost Dead Guy: Both Megatron and Optimus are left barely alive after their battle. Optimus gasps out a last message before expiring, and Megatron is unceremoniously booted out of Astrotrain by Starscream and left for dead.
Amulet of Concentrated Awesome: The Autobot Matrix of Leadership is the receptacle of the power of the Primes and is the one thing in the entire universe that Unicron fears.
Animation Bump: The film easily contains the highest quality of animation out of the entire G1 series. In fact, the animation is so high quality that it was reused for the commercial for Transformers Armada Unicron 17 years later, and the scenes from the movie were better looking than the actual footage of Unicron from Armada.
Anyone Can Die: Done intentionally to clear the decks for a new round of characters/toys in the franchise. This proved a bit startling for a generation of latchkey kids used to worshiping Optimus Prime, and to their parents who were used to animated TV shows where nobody dies. The full list of characters who are confirmed to die or are reformatted beyond recognition in the movie is Optimus Prime, Megatron, Starscream, Prowl, Ironhide, Brawn, Ratchet, Wheeljack, Windcharger, the Insecticons, Skywarp, Thundercracker, Gears, Shockwave, Bluestreak, and Huffer. That's almost half of the cast. More deaths were planned but left out including Red Alert and Smokescreen.
Apocalypse Wow: The opening scene featuring the destruction of an entire planet by Unicron. There are baby robots down there!
"Light Our Darkest Hour", first said by Optimus, is the mantra by which the Matrix is finally opened.
More humorously, the 'Universal Greeting' - "Bah Weep Grah Na Weep Ninny Bong", first used by Kup in a failed attempt to befriend the Sharkticons, is later used successfully by Hot Rod to befriend the Junkions.
As Lethal as It Needs to Be: In some scenes Transformers die from one hit by pistol-sized laser guns, but in other scenes they are just knocked down (like Starscream during the battle for Autobot City) or even simply shrug them off (like Optimus Prime in the same battle).
Asskicking Equals Authority: After shoving an injured Megatron into space, the Decepticons promptly have an all-out brawl to determine who gets to be the new leader. Starscream apparently wins, but then Galvatron takes the job by showing up and atomizing him. Word of God is that Starscream "won" by hiding quietly in a corner while all the other Decepticons fought, then shot the exhausted winner of the actual brawl in the back.
Galvatron, upon first being created from the body of Megatron.
Galvatron: "I'll rip open Ultra Magnus, and every other Autobot, until the Matrix has been destroyed!"
Unicron, to Galvatron, when announcing the punishment for attempting to betray him.
Unicron: "For a time I considered sparing your wretched little planet Cybertron. But now you shall witness... its DISMEMBERMENT!"
Big Damn Movie: This was much more epic in scale than the majority of the cartoon.
Big "NEVER!": The conclusion to Optimus Prime and Megatron's fight, when it looks like Megatron would be the winner:
Megatron: I would have waited an eternity for this! It's over, Prime! Optimus Prime: *throwing a two-handed punch* NEVER!!
Big "NO!": Galvatron's horrified reaction to Unicron declaring that Cybertron is now on the menu.
The Cameo: Huffer, Sunstreaker, Bluestreak, Hound, Gears, and Grapple appear in quick crowd shots. Wheeljack and Windcharger's dead bodies are seen on the ground. Reflector appears in three crowd shots but, due to an animation error, has Ironhide's colour scheme in one of them.
Catch Phrase: The Junkions are full of recycled catch phrases from other TV series and commercials. ("Kill the grand poobah! Eliminate even the toughest stains!")
The Cavalry: Who's there to save Hot Rod and Kup on Quintessa? The Dinobots!
Creepy Monotone: Orson Welles was in poor health (it was a few months before he died) and couldn't really deliver to his full potential (plus, he didn't really like the role). His bored sounding voice combined with the works of the sound engineer however, makes his bored sounding voice work.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Galvatron knows how to do it. Fly in so low that the whole crowd runs for cover. Leap from your insertion aircraft (which conveniently transforms into a buddy your size who can stand behind you menacingly). Throw a Pre-Mortem One-Liner. Blow away the guy you came to blow away. Claim the prize.
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.
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.
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.
TF Wiki: 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.
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.
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.
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.
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 In one example, Perceptor is the only robot at Prime's funeral who isn't a new character, and even then he's pretty much there because Ratchet and Wheeljack aren't. This is despite a ton of other Autobots such as Blaster and the Dinobots being on Earth.
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).
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.
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.
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."
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).
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...
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.
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.
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.
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...
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.
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.
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.