From the first film:
- Acceptable Targets: The wife-beating redneck who gets bugified at the start of the first film. Obviously didn't want any worrying about what happens to someone who gets eaten by a space cockroach.
- Adaptation Displacement: It was originally an indie comic book. One that didn't focus exclusively on aliens, either. Originally, the MiB's job was to snuff anything too weird for the American public. The first issue was all about a New Mexico death cult, for example.
- Additionally, MIB was not nearly as benevolent in the comics. Instead of having a neuralyzer, agents would outright murder a witness to cover-up or complete a mission, as well as executing and torturing innocent aliens. The organization also had an ulterior agenda that involved manipulating Earth as opposed to simply protecting it.
- Alternative Character Interpretation: The tests Jay participated in to qualify for MIB. Were Zed and Kay giving the candidates a Secret Test of Character that Jay passed by thinking differently and deviating from what they expected, or were they straight tests and Jay passed due to his impressive physical showing against the alien earlier in the film that Kay was impressed by? The novel sides with the former interpretation, even saying Jay's choice to shoot little Tiffany on the firing range was right.
- "Funny Aneurysm" Moment:
- Genius Bonus: The first film included a "practical joke by the Great Attractor". In Real Life, the Great Attractor is the name for a strange gravitational anomaly with an apparent mass equal to tens of thousands of Milky Way galaxies.
- Harsher in Hindsight: This exchange, from Men in Black:
J: Did you ever flashy-thing me?K: No.J: I ain't playing with you, K. Did you ever flashy-thing me?K: No.
K: I've just gone down the gullet of an interstellar cockroach. That's one of a hundred memories I don't want.
- Though it could have referring to the fact that J had been memory wiped earlier in the movie, we later find out that yes, K did wipe J's memory when he was little after his father was killed in Men in Black 3.
- Not to mention the entire dynamic between K and J in the previous two movies has to be re-imagined thanks to the revelation in 3 that K feels extreme guilt over getting J's father killed.
- This line also becomes much harsher:
- Laurel's remark, "But don't tell him, he looks like he's already under enough stress.".
- Heartwarming in Hindsight: The reason why K so quickly recruits J into the MIB as well as acting like a surrogate father makes more sense when it's revealed that K pretty much does consider himself J's surrogate father to make up for accidentally getting J's real father killed.
- Hilarious in Hindsight:
- Will Smith was originally slated to play Neo in the Matrix trilogy. In that movie, he would have fought Agent Smith, a villain who greatly resembles an MIB agent. Similarly, J poking fun at another MIB candidate by calling him 'Captain America' means something different after Will was briefly linked to the role. Not to mention Tommy Lee Jones being in the film.
- Speaking of Captain America, six years after this movie, Marvel Comics character Isaiah Bradley, an African-American who went by that alias, was introduced.
- The first film (released in 1997) includes a scene where K talks about a "fascinating little gadget" confiscated from aliens that's "going to replace CDs soon". To anyone watching the movie after 2001, he sounds like a time traveler describing the iPod to someone in The '90s.
- For added irony, K also offhandedly remarks that "I'll have to buy The White Album again". In the early years of iTunes, the store's failure to carry music by The Beatles was one of the biggest complaints against it.
- The device itself was a Sony MiniDisc player, one of the company's many failed attempts to get past the CD era.
- In a blink-and-you'll-miss-it line from the first film, K is about to say "I guess you weren't even alive in 1968" before the Bug almost eats him. The third film shows he clearly knew this isn't the case.
- In the first film, J is very worried about the effects of multiple neuralyzations. In the second film, he neuralyzes a group of New Yorkers in the subway twice in the same scene.
- Smith's "Men in Black" tie-in song is based on a sample from Patrice Rushen's "Forget Me Nots." Ironic choice for a film centered around Laser-Guided Amnesia.
- Lenny Vinito(The Bowling-Ball Head Alien) went on to play the human among the aliens on ABC's The Neighbors.
- The alien baby in the first film bears some resemblance to Kit Fisto.
- Ho Yay: J constantly referring to K as his partner, which is fine because they are both federal government agents and SpaceCops. Unfortunately for them it was enough to cause them to be Mistaken for Gay at one point. He also mentions in one occasion that K is all he has in the future. By the third film they're practically bickering like an old married couple.
- I Am Not Shazam: The Bug Alien's name is NOT "Edgar". Edgar is the name of the farmer the Bug Alien kills and disguises himself as in the first movie. The animated series seems to forget this. Even his action figure is called Edgar. In the first movie, J calls it "the bug in the Edgar suit". Though they probably just call him that to differentiate him from his identical brothers in the animated series, like Edwin.
- Memetic Mutation:
*pointing at old trend* Old and busted.
- Wearing shades, followed by the use of The Neuralyzer, are a must in any MIB parody.
- A common phrase to compare a new trend with an out-dated one:
*pointing at himself (new trend)* New hotness.
- You know the difference between you and me? I make this look good.
- One-Scene Wonder: Jeebs, Frank the Pug and the Worms in the first movie (though they show up briefly in three different scenes). Positive response led to them all returning for the animated series and the sequel.
- They Wasted a Perfectly Good Character: Agent Elle, played by Linda Fiorentino, never came back in the sequels. Her absence is explained by J claiming she wanted to go back to work at the morgue, and thus was neuralyzed by himnote . (Of course, when writing Elle, nobody had any idea that Fiorentino would be exceedingly hard to work with, thus necessitating her departure.) It could instead havw been easily explained that she wanted to return to the morgue and MIB decided stationing an agent directly at the morgue under a new identity, in order to track potential cases was beneficial. There was no need for her to reappear but it would keep the supposed stakes of enlisting as MIB for life. Still, in the animated series she's still an agent, and her lack of presence in the live-action movies hasn't stopped fanfic writers from doing stories where she returns to MIB and becomes an agent once again.
- Ugly Cute: The guck-spitting squidling that J delivers.
- Uncanny Valley: Aliens in more questionable human disguises will have this effect.
From the Animated Series:
- Accidental Innuendo: In "The Alpha Syndrome":
Alpha: Let's you and me take the ultimate thrill-ride...
- "Funny Aneurysm" Moment: The episode "the Neuralizer Syndrome", where K is accidentally neuralyzed, becomes a lot more unsettling after 9/11, due to the references to the Twin Towers (and one part of the episode being to avoid having an airship ram into the Twin Towers). It's also a major reason why the episode never reaired after 9/11 in the U.S. Here is the episode.
- Complete Monster:
- Alpha was once the top agent for the Men in Black; however, after getting his hands on an alien device known as the Cosmic Integrator, he began his path of evil that leads him to become the monster he is in the present. Originally offering his partner, Agent Kay, a team up to use the Cosmic Integrator for immoral schemes, Alpha coldly gunned down his pupil when he refused Alpha's offer. Alpha went on to butcher aliens across the galaxy, ripping off or tearing out parts of their bodies that he would then fuse to his own biology via the Cosmic Integrator, with his most targeted part being the heads of aliens, attaching them to his torso while they stay conscious of their current state but unable to do anything of consequence to help themselves. Throughout the series, Alpha regularly mutilates aliens, nearly kills Agent Kay and his partner Jay in various sadistic ways, and murdered at least one human to steal his body parts. Trying numerous times to subjugate the Earth by way of mass murder, from using a Kill Sat to trying to flood half the planet, Alpha ultimately allies with the psychopathic Vangus to lead a full-scale assault on Earth, laying siege to numerous cities and causing countless amounts of destruction, all in his quest for total domination of first his own planet, then the galaxy. A sociopath with a lust for power above all else, Alpha was an arrogant, manipulative genius who used his intelligence for nothing but his own gain.
- The aforementioned Vangus is the leader of the Ixion Federation, a race of planet-plundering aliens who value oil as an extremely valuable commodity and go from planet to planet draining them dry of their oil. Vangus sets his eyes on Earth and strikes up a deal with the traitorous MIB agent Alpha to invade Earth and steal it of its oil, leaving what remains of the Earth itself for Alpha to dictate. Vangus grows tired of waiting after Alpha postpones the invasion and, after a failed attempt to scout out oil fields which leads to his capture, Vangus breaks out in the series finale and teams up with Alpha to invade the Earth. Vangus sets his forces to obliterate both the UN and the Washington Monument before leading his forces in an all-out invasion on Earth, ravaging cities all across the world. Out of sheer impatience with the continued resistance, Vangus ultimately attempts to detonate a bomb to wipe out all life on Earth to make the planet's oil ooze to the crust, callously betraying Alpha and setting a torpedo en route to Earth with the assurance he'll come back and clean up whatever's left after the attack.
- Magnificent Bastard: Alpha, especially in season four when he helps the Ixions plan an invasion of Earth.
- The Scrappy:
- Agent U, suck-up extraordinaire.
- Many fans feel this way about the Worms, mainly because they are often very rude never got punished for their actions. In the Grand Finale, they even used the Declaration of Independence to clean up spilled coffee.