Follow TV Tropes


Film / Free Guy

Go To
"Guy. This world is a video game and it's full of bad guys. We need you to be the good guy."

A 2021 Science Fiction action comedy starring Ryan Reynolds and Jodie Comer and directed by Shawn Levy, Free Guy tells the story of Guy, a Non-Player Character bank teller in an online open-world video game called Free City, which is best described as a mash-up of Grand Theft Auto and Fortnite, where Player Characters (known to Guy as "Sunglasses People" for their distinctive eyewear) commit crimes and act like violent sociopaths for fun.

Guy's world changes when he falls in love with a player character named "MolotovGirl", and is motivated to stop a bank robbery instead of just going along with it like normal. In the process he takes the player character's sunglasses and puts them on, allowing him to see the game's HUD and interact with the game like a player would. He tries to catch MolotovGirl's eye, but she brushes him off as a noob and tells him to reach level 100 if he wants to talk to her. Guy accepts this challenge, but he's unwilling to commit crimes to Level Grind, so he decides to stop them instead. Guy's level begins to shoot up, and he becomes a viral sensation as players take notice of an NPC becoming a hero and fighting back against the players.

In the real world, MolotovGirl is the username of a programmer named Millie (Jodie Comer), who is pursuing a lawsuit against the publisher of Free City, Soonami Games, believing their CEO Antwan (Taika Waititi) created the game using code stolen from an indie game called Life Itself that Millie had worked on with her friend ​Keys (Joe Keery). Keys works at Soonami as a content moderator alongside Mouser (Utkarsh Ambudkar), and the two begin to investigate Guy, believing he's a player who hacked an NPC skin for himself.

Eventually both Keys and Millie discover that Guy is actually an NPC who has begun to act beyond the boundaries of his programming, a realization that has huge implications not just for Millie's lawsuit and Antwan's company, but for the concept of Artificial Intelligence itself. But their quest to prove their suspicions about Free City meets strong opposition from Antwan, who is in the process of launching Free City 2 and is infuriated by Millie's lawsuit hurting the company's reputation and Guy's popularity tanking pre-sales — and he's prepared to go to extreme lengths to put an end to them, even if it means the destruction of Free City.

The film released in theaters on August 13, 2021, and was the first Disney film to be released under a 45-day exclusive theatrical window.

According to Reynolds, Disney has expressed interest in a sequel. Until then, Reynolds and Levy have collaborated a second time on The Adam Project and will do a third time on the third Deadpool movie.

Previews: Teaser, Trailer, Final Trailer

Free Guy contains examples of:

    open/close all folders 

    Tropes # to F 
  • 20 Bear Asses: One sidequest in Free City involves finding all the missing cats for a Crazy Cat Lady. At one point, Guy himself becomes so overly-annoyed by her repetitive dialogue about finding her cats that he just goes off on her and tells her to stop leaving her door open so they can escape. According to the credits, she has 99 of them for the players to collect.
  • Achievements in Ignorance: Millie and Keys were working together on developing Life Itself to be an interactive, immersive game where the point was to see how the characters grew and changed over time. While Millie was the one obsessing over the AI code, Keys was the one to fill in the basic characteristics of the NPCs. Once Keys tracks down Guy in the source code, it serves as proof that Free City adopted the Life Itself AI code, and Guy was specifically designed to reflect his own feelings for Millie. The combination of the evolving AI programming with a very humanistic foundation created a true AI, which spread to the other NPCs, something neither Millie nor Keys ever would have imagined.
  • Action Girl: As MolotovGirl, Millie strolls down Free City’s streets, which are almost always filled with shooting and explosions, gets into random gunfights, and dual-wields guns while sitting backwards on a motorcycle.
  • Advertising by Association: Parodied. The first trailer begins with a list of movies "from the studio that brought you..." (namely Beauty and the Beast, Aladdin, and The Lion King), and ending it with "Twice".
  • A.I. Is a Crapshoot: Turned on its head, since the AI in question is the main protagonist, who only becomes self-aware since he's built on stolen code that is far more advanced than necessary for the game it's in. While his eventual self-awareness throws a wrench into the game company's plans, he becomes a widely-beloved figure and the catalyst for Soonami's eventual failure instead of an evil rogue.
  • All-Loving Hero: Guy is kind and welcoming to everyone he meets, INCLUDING the violent "sunglasses people", who regularly threaten, rob and attack him and his friends.
  • Ambiguously Gay:
    • Buddy gets a lot of pleasure from feeling Dude's pecs. There are points where his relationship with Guy seems to blur between Heterosexual Life-Partners and Homoerotic Subtext.
    • The streamer who made the video Millie needs is visibly attracted to Guy.
    • The Bombshell, after Guy "wakes" her up to the world around them, is very quick to say she doesn't need men at all after Guy suggests merely finding a good one. After this, she seems very close with the Barista, and they share lingering looks and hug often.
  • And You Thought It Would Fail: In-Universe, Life Itself. The reason Antwan gives Keys as to why his company didn't publish the game they bought from him is that the numbers and focus groups said the game would flop. At the end, when they are able to publish the game themselves, they are already doing well enough that they are expanding server space for people to view the game.
  • Animal Motifs: Mouser, contrary to what you might expect, is associated with rabbits.
  • The Anti-Nihilist:
    • After learning that his whole world is just a video game, including himself and all the people in it, Guy understandably experiences an existential crisis: if nothing is real, what's the point of anything? Guy ultimately comes to the conclusion that the other NPC video game characters are functionally "real": they're all at least semi-sapient, and their emotions are real to them. Therefore, he sets out to be not just the "good guy" he was programmed to be, but a "great guy": spreading kindness everywhere and protecting his fellow NPCs from the senseless carnage (defending them from player attacks, foiling bank robbery missions and returning money to stores, etc.) This makes him a global phenomenon in the real world, as his altruism becomes infectious, and people start rooting for "Blue Shirt Guy" and his good-hearted philosophy of protecting the world instead of blowing it up — much to the ire of the game creator, because the entire point of the game is to blow things up guilt-free.
    • Guy only comes to the above conclusion thanks to a pep talk from Buddy. When Guy reveals to him that neither of them are real, Buddy says it doesn't matter, because nothing is more real than one friend helping another.
  • Apologetic Attacker: While defending himself from a cowboy, Guy ends up breaking the cowboy's arm. He is noticeably horrified, and apologizes before knocking him out.
  • Artificial Brilliance: To such an extent that Guy is presumed to be a human player by anyone that encounters him. Even before he starts joining in the game's missions, he has fairly interesting discussions with his fellow NPCs that fall outside the range of canned lines an actor would record for the part (or that a dev would even write); Millie even first takes notice when Guy comments on her singing Mariah Carey's "Fantasy" to herself ("Love that song!") instead of reciting his catch phrase, calling it "a new one".
  • Ascended Meme: In-Universe. In response to Guy's growing popularity in the Free City fanbase, Antwan tells the art team to make a new player skin based on Guy for Free City 2, resulting in the creation of Dude.
  • As Himself: Played straight with Alex Trebek and Chris Evans; zig-zagged with the various streamer/content creator cameos, who are credited as playing their online handles rather than themselves (e.g. Sean McLoughlin is credited as playing Jacksepticeye).
  • Attention Deficit... Ooh, Shiny!: Exploited. Guy hastily puts his own glasses on Dude, wowing the less intelligent NPC with the wonders of the game's HUD and allowing him and Buddy to continue racing for the Life Itself landmass while Dude is distracted.
  • Author Avatar: In-universe. Guy's desire to find the right girl, and falling for Millie, is based on Keys' own long-held feelings for her. Guy himself in the ending points out to Millie that everything he was programmed with had to come from someone, which is what clues Millie into what Keys really feels about her.
    Guy: I'm just a love letter to you. Somewhere out there is the author.
  • Author Tract: In-game, the newly sentient Ms. Fanservice Bombshell writes a memoir which Keys describes as "a searing indictment of gender roles", if a bit "preachy". He's nonetheless extremely proud of her for demonstrating not only self-awareness but actual self-reflection.
  • Ax-Crazy: Quite literally in the climax, as Antwan smashes Free City's servers with a fire axe in a last-ditch effort to stop Guy from reaching the Life Itself island.
  • Bad Boss: Antwan. He's introduced with Mouser warning Keys that he's on the premises, and as he strolls through the office, he casually fires an employee for little reason, dismisses conversations from his assistants about lawsuits, and admits to Keys that he outright lied about players being able to carry over their characters from Free City 1 into Free City 2. He gets worse from there.
  • Bad Is Good and Good Is Bad: While at first Antwan sees Guy as free advertising due to his popularity, it is when the Video Game Caring Potential Guy's actions encourage in the Free City community starts cutting into preorder sales for the sequel does he start trying to eradicate him.
  • Bank Robbery: The bank that Guy works at suffers from these, along the lines of those found in other crime games, multiple times a shift for Buddy and Guy, who think nothing of it.
  • Basement-Dweller: One gamer by the name of Revenjamin Buttons has an encrypted file in his hideout that shows proof of Life Itself existing in the game's code. After Guy becomes an internet sensation, he ends up confronting the player, who is shown to be a 22-year-old who lives with his mom.
    Buttons: Mom, do you have to vacuum right now? I'm saying my catchphrase! You're ruining it for my viewers, God!
    Button's mom: You're 22 and live in my house, there is no God!
  • Beware the Silly Ones: Antwan might be an immature motormouth, but he's also a cutthroat businessman who does not take threats to his bottom line lightly.
  • Big Bad: Antwan, the CEO of Soonami Games, who stole Keys and Millie's code and is threatening to shut down the servers for Free City, thus killing Guy and all the other newly-sentient NPCs, when he releases his sequel product.
  • Big Damn Heroes: Guy coming to Millie's rescue in the stash house after hitting level 100, jumping through the window in a motorcycle, taking out three enemies, then dismounting the skidding bike in stride.
  • The Big Damn Kiss:
    • When the server is reset and Guy is put back to his original self, Millie kisses him to reawaken his memories.
    • Later, in the real world, Millie and Keys share one when she clues into his feelings for her and that he based Guy's "true love" on her.
  • Birds of a Feather: Justified. The reason Guy shares Millie's interests is because Keys programmed him to be pining after a dream girl, and Keys based said dream girl on his unrequited feelings for Millie.
  • Biting-the-Hand Humor: The first trailer starts with a small dig at Disney's recent live-action remakes. Guess who produces Free Guy?note 
  • Bloodless Carnage: Guy wields a genuine lightsaber during his fight against Dude. None of the attacks he lands end up doing any aesthetic damage to the character model, such as slicing off an arm or leaving any slash wounds.
  • Blue Is Heroic: Guy, the protagonist, has his iconic blue shirt.
  • Border Patrol: The player lounge is behind a set of train tracks. A train is supposed to take out any NPC that tries to cross them, as Guy finds out the first time he tries to talk to Millie. Instead of specifically targeting NPCs, the train doesn't appear to people wearing sunglasses, which NPCs aren't supposed to have.
  • But Now I Must Go: After Free Life is settled, Millie goes into the game and breaks the news to Guy. To her surprise, Guy not only encourages her to leave, stating it's not her real world like it is his, but that his love and affection for her was born out of his programming, and that "someone" out there wrote it as such. Millie learns it was Keys and leaves the game to unite with her real love.
  • Calling Your Attacks: Dude's dialogue comes across as this, as he narrates his every action at the top of his lungs.
    Dude: Friendly gesture!!!
  • The Cameo:
    • A few high-profile actors appear as avatars for the player characters.
      • Channing Tatum plays a gamer's avatar, whose safe house provides the key to Millie's proof that the AI in Free City was built from the game she and Keys created a few years before.
      • Near the beginning of the film, Millie is introduced in her MolotovGirl persona meeting with a masked informant in an alley. Though he puts on an American accent, some viewers may recognize the informant's voice as Hugh Jackman.
      • Dwayne Johnson cameos as the voice of a bank robber that ends up getting blasted across the room with his own shotgun by Guy.
      • John Krasinski is the voice of the silhouetted gamer in the first real world montage about Guy.
      • Tina Fey is the voice of the gamer’s mother.
    • Alex Trebek As Himself, the host of Jeopardy!, giving a clue in the Video Games category about "Blue Shirt Guy".
    • An assortment of popular streamers/content creators appear as themselves observing the game's events on their livestreams, including Jacksepticeye, Ninja, and Pokimane.
    • Chris Evans also shows up As Himself in the climax, watching the stream as Guy fights Dude with Captain America's shield.
  • Cannot Spit It Out: Keys is obviously in love with Millie, but too awkward to say it out loud. Guy considers himself to be a "love letter" written to Millie, which helps her realize Keys' feelings.
  • Catapult Nightmare: Guy gets up like this every morning, but with a smile. He's only really upset after the second time he dies.
  • Catchphrase:
    • All the NPCs have a signature line to provide background chatter. "Don't have a good day, have a great day!" is Guy's.
    • Dude hasn't had his programmed yet, and just says "Catchphrase". Antwan considers leaving it as his catchphrase.
  • Celebrity Paradox:
  • Chekhov's Gun:
    • Guy's morning ritual of flipping his window shades back and forth. They show Keys and Millie's original build of their game in their reflection.
    • Every morning, Guy gets a medium coffee, one cream, two sugars. Barista later confirms everyone gets that coffee. Millie also says that's her favorite drink in an interview from when she and Keys were promoting their indie game, an early hint that Millie is the inspiration for Guy's Lovelorn love interest.
    • Guy has been saving up for a long time to buy a pair of sneakers, which turn out to be one of the fancy add-ons players can get. After he learns how to grind for in-game currency, he finally gets them — and discovers they actually offer power-ups.
    • When trying to get Guy to remember after a server reboot resets him, Millie is sent a video by Keys detailing that she is the key to doing so, as Guy's "dream girl" was based on Millie. She stops the video early, but later continues playing it after Guy says he was written by somebody who loved Millie. The part of the video she skipped is essentially a love confession, allowing the two to finally connect.
  • Chekhov's Gunman: The first character we see is a regular player (Channing Tatum) dropping in to Free City for a regular day of copious consumption and carnage. Turns out he's more significant to the plot than that — he's the one who owns the safehouse where the proof of Antwan's code theft is stashed.
  • Cloudcuckoolander: Dude, who claims to be able to bench press a sentence.
  • Combat Stilettos: Millie shows Guy a montage of his life to prove to him that he's an NPC. In one clip, a player earns a "Brutality Bonus" by kicking him in the crotch. Her avatar wears stiletto heels, but fortunately for Guy she kicks him with her instep.
  • Company Cross References:
  • Conditioned to Accept Horror: The NPCs generally don't have a wide range of emotions, but they do remember events from day to day. This results in things like a bank robbery being a routine event, with Buddy and Guy happily chatting away lying on the floor while gunfire is going off and shot-out glass sprays over their heads.
  • Cool Car: All sorts of sports cars, muscle cars, Hummer Dingers, and Rice Burners are driven in the game world and owned by players. Guy ends up gathering a garage of vehicles, including a space capsule and a buggy with horses, but later drives a muscle car.
  • Cool Shades: The player characters in Free City wear them to see the game's powerups, objectives, and other elements of the HUD. It's when an NPC takes a pair from a player that our tale really begins.
  • Corrupt Corporate Executive: Antwan is the head of Soonami Games, and a Jerkass.
  • Creative Sterility: Antwan doesn't see the point in creating new games, and only focuses on repackaging and reselling the same basic game over and over. Millie easily convinces him to hand over what's left of Free City in exchange for her giving up any claim to any future Free City sequels and dropping her lawsuit. This backfires on Antwan when Free City 2 ends up bombing in sales, in part due to buggy code, as people flock over to Free Life.
  • Curse Cut Short: In one scene where two girls are playing the game, one tells the other to "Waste that motherf—" [cut back into the video game]
  • Cut Lex Luthor a Check: In the end, Millie attempts to do this with Antwan. She succeeds in getting him to hand over the server with Life Itself and what's left of Free City in exchange for dropping her lawsuit threats, now that there's proof he stole her code.
  • Cutting the Knot:
    • Millie's avatar can't be individually logged out because she's taken efforts to prevent it. Antwan gets around this by ordering a mass purge of all the player accounts.
    • After trying to stop Guy in multiple ways to no avail, Antwan decides to just destroy the servers.
  • Declining Promotion: Keys refuses to accept a promotion to the programming department despite Antwan genuinely believing he deserves it.
  • Defeat Means Friendship: Dude is accepted into Guy’s community, and becomes friends with Guy and Buddy after being beaten.
  • Designated Hero: In-Universe, all of the players are (initially) this; early on, Guy enthusiastically describes the "sunglasses people" as heroes even as the audience is being shown that what they actually do is go around gratuitously robbing, murdering people, and objectifying women (in fact, just after Guy says this the camera lingers on all the violence and destruction they've just caused to let the message sink in). Millie later describes them as sociopathic man-children.
  • Dick Dastardly Stops to Cheat:
    • Antwan is so maniacal of a villain, he openly admits to his employees that Free City 2 is not backwards compatible despite being advertised as such and that it is filled with glitches despite being days away from launch, all while boasting of how strong the IP is. While this may reflect some attitudes of Real Life game publishers, he seems oblivious to the oncoming implosion that will happen from treating the content and player base with this attitude.
    • Prior to this, Antwan oversaw the deal that acquired the publishing rights to Life Itself and then proceeded to bury the game, essentially spending money to sink a game that wasn't even competition. He actually did so to steal the engine, but even that is Dick Dastardly level. Had he simply copied the engine and paid the royalties, he could have had two games covering different market demographics, two skilled programmers, and no potentially ruinous lawsuit.
  • Did Not Get the Girl: It makes total sense that Guy and Millie don't end up together in the end, given the fact that one's an AI in the game and the other's a human being.
  • Digital Head Swap: Dude has Ryan Reynolds' head on the body of bodybuilder Aaron W. Reed.
  • Disney Death: Buddy gets erased when Guy crosses the bridge, but he is resurrected when Life Itself is restarted with the Free City data.
  • Disproportionate Retribution: When Guy asks for a cappuccino instead of his usual coffee, Officer Johnny threatens to shoot him and a tank prepares to fire on him.
  • Dissonant Serenity: NPCs tend to react with little actual concern to the crimes of players, such as Guy and Buddy using bank robberies as a chance to chat.
  • Does Not Like Guns: Aside from the accidental use of a shotgun to kill a player as well as taking one to threaten another, Guy never uses a gun himself. Any time he takes a gun from a player, he often holds it away from him and seems to just collect them.
  • A Dog Named "Dog": Everything in Free City. The protagonist is a guy named Guy. His best buddy is a security guard named Buddy. He has a goldfish named Goldie, he drinks Coffee brand coffee, and so on. There are only a couple of exceptions: Phyllis, who gets a name thanks to her sidequest, and Officer Jenkins.
  • Double-Meaning Title: A "free guy" is a somewhat outdated colloquial term for a 1-Up, referencing Free City being a video game and Guy an NPC therein. It also refers to Guy being "free" in the sense that he has abandoned his NPC routines and is actively engaging with the players. Finally, there's a straightforward interpretation of the story being about Guy, and he's in Free City, thus a Free Guy. Finally, there's the interpretation of the game's title from the perspective of its in-universe audience, a city in which they are "free" to do whatever they want.
  • Double Subversion: When Barista states she wants to do something different, Guy believes she would want to make a cappuccino, only for her to state she wants to make a difference in the world — that difference being making a green tea boba.
  • The Dragon: Mouser goes along with Antwan's orders for the sake of his job through most of the film, but he's also not privy to what is actually happening with Guy or that Antwan definitely stole the source code.
  • Dude, Not Funny!: In-Universe, Guy starts to tell Millie a joke involving a homosexual and a cripple that he overheard some players telling. She hastily tells him not to share humor from trolls.
  • Dumb Muscle:invoked DUDE, the buffed-up Obvious Beta version of Guy.
  • Dummied Out: In-Universe, because Free City was built on the back of Life Itself, the latter's setting is still in the game and functional, just not normally accessible to players. Finding it is the key to proving that Antwan stole Millie and Keys' content.
  • Easily Forgiven: Mouser. He does every single slimy, illegal, or immoral thing Antwan tells him to do, then FINALLY draws the line when he learns Antwan DID steal Millie and Keys' work. He shows up at the end, completely buddy-buddy with Millie and Keys, as if he hadn't been 100% behind Antwan until the Moral Event Horizon. He doesn't even apologize to them, at least that we see on-screen.
  • The End of the World as We Know It: Guy's actions eventually catch the attention of the developers, which forces them to consider shutting down the game, which would essentially amount to this for the Non Player Characters.
  • Ensemble Dark Horse: Guy (known as Blue Shirt Guy to the world) becomes one in-universe for doing a Pacifist Run of Free City while looking like a regular NPC.
  • Everybody Lives: None of the real-world people are ever in physical danger, and every NPC who is killed or erased eventually respawns.
  • Everyone Can See It: Keys and Millie, to where even an interviewer at a game conference picks up on it, but they insist they're just best friends. It turns out Keys has been in love with Millie forever, and programmed Guy's original AI off his forlorn love for her, and to carry and respond to her real-life traits. When Millie learns this through Guy and a video confession from Keys, she catches on and reciprocates, prompting Mouser to sigh "Finally!"
  • Everyone Has Standards: Mouser more or less goes along with anything Antwan tells him to do for the vast majority of the movie, but he is genuinely disgusted when he discovers Antwan stole Millie and Keys' work and passed it off as his own.
  • Evil Cannot Comprehend Good: Antwan is baffled that Millie is willing to offer him the entire Free City franchise in exchange for ownership of Free City 1. He prioritizes profit over everything else, so he assumes she would too.
  • Evil Knockoff: "Dude" is a new NPC Antwan had his team hastily code in to cash in on Guy's popularity, but much more physically jacked up. Unfortunately, his AI is incomplete and buggy, leading to some Clone Degeneration.
  • Executive Meddling: In-Universe. Antwan constantly makes new demands of his already overworked staff, and is pushing Free City 2 to an early release despite its incomplete state. He also bought the rights to publish Life Itself and then buried the game, claiming marketing showed it would never sell. He actually used its engine to build Free City, but didn't want to pay the royalties.
  • Explosive Stupidity: Subverted when Guy picks up one of the grenades in Millie's hideout and tries to pull the pin until she takes it away from him. Millie's dialogue combined with how hard he's trying imply that he isn't even high-enough level to use it.
  • Fake Nationality: In-Universe. The game's avatars have optional accent filters that allow the player to speak with any accent or voice that they want. The American Millie uses a British accent, which Guy mistakes for Australian, in her MolotovGirl persona.
  • Fantasy Kitchen Sink:
    • From a video game perspective, Free City seems to combine the Wide-Open Sandbox crime elements of Grand Theft Auto with the highly customized, exaggerated player controls and guest appearances from many real-world franchises of Fortnite, but with everything turned to the extreme. Keys even admits the game lacks any real cohesive vision, and he and Millie lament that their game was turned into a brainless shooter.
    • The rebooted version of Free Life goes in a different direction, focusing more on nature, as it shows dinosaurs, dragons, centaurs, and numerous other fantasy beings wandering the setting without rhyme or reason.
  • Fascinating Eyebrow: Guy pulls one several times, best shown after he brings out Captain America's shield and the lightsaber during the fight with Dude.
  • Faux Affably Evil: When first introduced, Antwan, while greedy and inconsiderate, still has an aura of quirky coolness that one would expect from his actor. As the film goes on, he gradually reveals his much darker side until he goes off the rails in the climax.
  • Fictional Videogame:
    • Free City, the GTA-like multiplayer game that the majority of the film takes place in.
    • There's also Life Itself, a prototype developed by Keys and Millie that Soonami buried so they could steal its code to build Free City.
    • At the end, there's also Free Life, a combination of the last two games created for the self-aware NPCs to inhabit.
  • Fire-Breathing Weapon: The trailer shows one game player firing a flamethrower in the middle of the street.
  • Flipping the Bird:
    • Keys flips off Antwan before using that same middle finger to hit the enter key on his keyboard and create the bridge needed for Guy to cross over to Life Itself.
    • After being escorted out of the Soonami building, he gives the building itself both fingers after Guy successfully makes it to Life Itself.
  • Foreshadowing:
    • Guy starts each day greeting his goldfish, referencing how by the end of the movie, players end up really enjoying a "goldfish game": a game that's just observing people going about their day.
    • Also, the fact that the players need to use glasses to see Free City as opposed to the NPCs is a visual metaphor for the game's own existence. That it is a game built on top of a pre-existing game, an extra layer of simulation inside of a simulation.
    • Keys spends a lot of the movie wearing blue shirts. In the climax, he's even wearing a short-sleeved light blue dress shirt, identical to Guy's, over a T-shirt, and in the post-climax scene he's wearing a dark blue shirt. It's because Guy is not only his Foil but his Author Avatar, since his original 'Lovelorn' character was based on Keys' unrequited love for Millie.
    • Early in the movie, we see Keys and Millie being interviewed on the creation of Life Itself. Keys says that he considers himself an author, working in ones and zeroes instead of words because words don't always work. Guy — created by Keys from ones and zeroes — was Keys' love letter to Millie, because he could never find the words to actually tell her outright.
    • After Guy's been reset after the server reboot, Keys sends Millie a video explaining how he thinks Guy's AI developed and talking about a character he programmed for their game he called "Lovelorn". Millie, upon realising that she is the key to Guy's awakened AI, pauses the video of Keys talking while he is partway through a sentence about what he based Lovelorn's basic behaviours on. This foreshadows the reveal at the end that Keys used the very end of the video to confess that he also had feelings for Millie.
    • Throughout the film, whenever Antwan is demanding things from his teams (usually the art team), he's told that Free City 2 is still full of bugs and that should be what they're focusing on instead of whatever Antwan is asking for, which Antwan always blows off. At the end of the film, we see that without the Life Itself code as a foundation, Free City 2 is released as a bug-filled, glitchy mess that is panned by the players.
  • Foil: Firstly, Keys and Guy. Both are in love with Millie, and both are trapped in a 'life' that keeps them going in a constant loop at the mercy of Antwan. Secondly, Buddy and Mouser, though you have to think a bit. Both are men of color who are best friends to the blue shirt wearing characters; Buddy's fear of putting on the glasses, choosing to remain trapped in his NPC cycle, is a mirror to Mouser obeying Antwan's orders. The day Buddy overcomes his fear and joins Guy in his fight, helping him cross the bridge to Life Itself, is the same day Mouser breaks free of Antwan and declares 'Keys is my boy' and supports him and Millie in their quest to keep the servers from being destroyed. In both cases, the AI foils are the ones who evolve more quickly and grow further, especially Buddy in comparison to Mouser, which could reflect how computers have evolved far more quickly than humans.
  • The Foreign Subtitle: It goes by the name Free Guy: Tomando el Control in Spanish Latin America and Free Guy — Assumindo o Controle in Brazil. The subtitle in both cases translates to "taking control".
  • Franchise Killer: invoked In-universe. The buggy launch of Free City 2, a cheap cash grab that doesn't have Millie and Keys' code, is strongly implied to have killed the potential franchise that Antwan was hoping for and ruined Soonami financially. Millie recognizes this when she happily takes the deal that gives her what's left of Free City to make her own game, the successful indie title Free Life, in exchange for dropping her lawsuit against him for stealing her AI code, while Antwan arrogantly believed that the Free City brand was so golden that people would pay for any crap he released.
  • Freeze-Frame Bonus:
    • When Guy and Millie are looking at the recording, you can see the Life Itself island in the reflection of the windows as the camera passes through the building.
    • The menu displayed on the wall at the cafe in Free City is nothing but pure coffee at different temperatures.
    • When Guy puts the glasses put on Dude, you can see Dude has infinite strength and infinite armor as well as maxed-out cash. invoked
    • You can read the chats shown in several of the in-universe clips of livestreams.
    • Several businesses have funny names and titles, such as a Loan Office that admits it's a scam.
  • From the Mouths of Babes: One gamer’s younger sister is watching her as she robs the banks, and encourages her to “Waste that motherfu—“. And in the next cut, “I told you to beat his ass!”
  • From Zero to Hero: Guy starts out a standard NPC in the game, with the role of working at a bank that gets regularly robbed by players. When he discovers the truth about his world, he decides to commit acts of heroism and altruism, going against the intended point of the game and infuriating its developers in the real world.
  • Funny Background Event:
    • This movie is so packed full of them, the viewer can ignore the entire plot and still be entertained. Pay attention to the coffeeshop scene when Guy attempts to order a cappuccino — after Guy goes back on script, the tank in the background slowly swivels its cannon away from his head. You can even hear the tank rolling up before it's shown on screen, although this blends in with the background music.
    • All throughout the film, there are numerous players in the background who are just having fun with their avatars, like randomly jumping or trying to exploit the geometry by finding a way to double jump up a wall while running in place.

    Tropes G to L 
  • Genre-Busting: The film is a science-fiction action comedy with dashes of romantic comedy. It also works as a speculative fiction drama about the possibility of sapience in artificial intelligence, and it's a video game movie that focuses as much on the real life culture of video games as it does what's actually happening in the game itself. And it touches on existential themes of what it means to be alive and what makes life worth living.
  • Gentle Giant: Dude proves to be a very kind, if simpleminded, NPC once he's no longer being controlled by Soonami.
  • Ghibli Hills: From what little is shown of the Life Itself demo Millie and Keys were working on, it looks like a mountainous green area that could be straight from Xenoblade Chronicles 1, rich in foliage and tall waterfalls. It's still tucked away in Free City if you know what to look for.
  • G.I.R.L.: Gender-flipped. The male avatar that Guy takes his first pair of glasses from is being controlled by a young girl in real life.
  • Girl of My Dreams: Guy starts the film happy in every way, except that he's longing hopelessly for the girl of his dreams. Millie seems to fit everything in his dreams, having all the same quirks and interests, and his desire to be with her drives his actions throughout the movie. Guy was written by Keys as a tragic character who would always long for the girl he could never find, and based said girl on his own unrequited love, Millie.
  • God Is Evil: Antwan is established to be this from the perspective of Guy, in a conversation with MolotovGirl.
    MolotovGirl: If you ever met the dick responsible for this world, you'd agree.
    Guy: Are we talking about God? You've met God? And he's a dick?
  • Goggles Do Something Unusual: The sunglasses worn by the players in-game serve as a Heads-Up Display, showing stuff such as player stats, game missions, power-ups, and so forth. When Guy steals a pair, he is able to gain access to these features.
  • Go Out with a Smile: In the climax, Buddy is about to be destroyed by Antwan wrecking the servers. When Guy tells him that he's sorry for it, Buddy replies he's not, since he was able to feel truly alive, even if only for a short while. Of course, Buddy comes back at the end of the film, but he doesn't know that yet.
  • Good Feels Good: Guy levels up by fighting crime instead of committing it like a normal PC would.
  • Good Pays Better: It's shown that Guy playing the game by being a hero and fighting crime rather than being a sociopathic criminal results in him climbing through the levels at an incredible pace, his meteoric rise in the game through selfless actions catching the attention of the online gaming community.
  • Grenade Hot Potato: During his leveling montage, a player chucks a grenade at Guy, who catches it and then throws it back... only for it to bounce off of a passing truck and back into Guy's hand.
  • Grew Beyond Their Programming: Guy was just a background NPC until he saw Millie, and soon evolved well beyond his programming. This was a key part of the Life Itself AI design, which inadvertently allows Guy to become the first true AI in the world. And many other NPCs follow in his wake. By the end of the movie, Guy's AI has grown advanced enough to understand the concept of a creator and that he was created by someone who is in love with Millie. He's actually the one who points out his own purpose to Millie.
  • "Groundhog Day" Loop: The residents of Free City are effectively in one, because the concept of deviating from their preprogrammed daily routine in any way other than handling interrupts caused by player interactions never occurs to them. Even Guy's stamp at the bank just says "Today".
  • The Guards Must Be Crazy: The Soonami security guards are so distracted by Buddy's death they don't notice Millie entering the restricted server room.
  • Guns Akimbo: Millie does this while escaping the player's vault...while straddling a moving motorcycle backwards, with Guy driving.
  • Hammerspace: Inside the game, players will reach over their shoulder, and the item they want fizzles into existence. Holstering weapons has the opposite effect. Pumping the hand with the weapon will quickly call another one out.
  • Have You Tried Rebooting?: One of the suggestions to deal with Guy is to simply reboot the entire game, as that will force all the NPCs, Guy included, back to their default parameters. It does work, but it doesn't actually delete any data, so Guy just needs to be snapped back into consciousness.
  • Heel–Face Turn: Mouser turns against Antwan when Antwan goes too far in destroying Free City and confirms he did steal code from Millie and Keys.
  • Heroic BSoD: Guy has two.
  • Heterosexual Life-Partners: Guy and Buddy. Buddy openly and casually admits to loving Guy, and sacrifices himself to achieve Guy's victory. Their reunion at the end is a direct parallel to Keys and Millie's Big Damn Kiss.
  • Hidden Depths: Keys and Millie initially dismiss the NPCs in Free City as being one-dimensional. However, they have far more complex personal lives than might be believed, and once jolted out of their routine, quickly begin to develop into full AI.
  • Hidden in Plain Sight: The video Millie is tracking down reveals the original build of Life Itself is concealed behind the southern expanse of Free City's skybox, not officially removed from the game's coding. It can be seen via a reflective surface.
  • Hide Your Children: Played straight with there being no one younger than an adult in Free City... except for one kid that is only seen when Guy saves her from being run over.
  • His Name Really Is "Barkeep": "Guy's" programmed role literally is just a guy who works at the bank; "Buddy" is his buddy. Then they expand way beyond that.
  • Hollywood Hacking: Played With. Most of the movie is fairly accurate in terms of how programming and computers are displayed, with some exceptions.
    • There's the Omnidisciplinary Scientist trope being applied here too: even creating a (relatively) primitive device like a router requires a huge team of software engineers, hardware engineers, architects, technical leads, and perhaps computer scientists too. And yet in this movie, "Life Itself" was apparently created by two young engineers, and Millie is implied to be the one who designed the advanced A.I and built its engine all by herself. Even if we assume that the graphics design, animation, speech processing, game engine, and server maintenance were completely outsourced, it is highly implausible if not ridiculous for a few young engineers (regardless of talent) to be pioneers of a self-aware A.I as advanced as Guy, a feat that our real world's top scientists collectively are still FAR from achieving as of 2021.
    • Mouser and Keys can modify Free City's infrastructure while the game is running, and the effects are instantly seen. This isn't possible (yet) for such a sophisticated game.
    • Mouser and Keys are given way too many responsibilities for apparently only being content moderators. They are seen coding, testing, debugging, and monitoring the game while it is running live. Mouser has authority to restart the server and kick out all players at the drop of a hat, and even has access to the server room.
    • In the finale, Antwan's destruction of the servers destroys portions of the digital city and anyone in it. It is possible to program a game to run like that, but it would be highly unlikely and unnecessary. Also, this scene ignores the fact that any game of Free City's size would have backup or redundant servers in distant locations.
  • Hope Spot:
    • Guy extinguishes a guy on fire, who then thanks him for doing so. Seconds later, a random player shoots him dead and teabags him.
    • Millie is able to get the recording she needs, only for the player's alarm to go off and summon hordes of guards that force her to leave it behind.
  • Horrible Judge of Character: Mouser follows every order Antwan gives him, believing Millie really is just someone filing a faulty lawsuit to get Soonami royalties. It isn't until Antwan flat out confirms that he did steal her game that he commits a Heel–Face Turn.
  • How's Your British Accent?: There's a lot of chatter about MolotovGirl's British accent; another player asks her if it's an accent filter. Later it's revealed that Millie is American, and it is an accent filter. Jodie Comer is British, although her accent as MolotovGirl is different from her natural one.
  • I Have a Family: Guy, after being kidnapped by Millie, states he has a goldfish.
  • I Lied: Antwan had previously promised that Free City 2 would be backwards compatible and players would be able to port their characters from Free City into it. He tells Keys that he lied when he said that, and players will have to start over from scratch in the new game.
  • Implausible Deniability: After Guy accidentally kills a player, the avatar's torso completely vaporized by a shotgun blast, he tries to insist he is just sleeping.
  • In a Single Bound: The trendy shoes that Guy buys turn out to be able to let him jump up buildings. Sadly, this power can only be used three times.
  • Ink-Suit Actor:
    • While most of the game is displayed Deep-Immersion Gaming-style, whenever game footage is seen on a monitor, it's rendered in a 3D-modeled style closer to real games like GTA Online, with the characters looking eerily like their human actors.
    • Keys, Mouser, and Millie's in-game avatars are played by the same actors as their players.
  • Innocent Bigot: Since Millie finds him charming and funny, Guy hopes to keep his momentum going by telling Millie a joke. Unfortunately, it’s a horribly offensive joke that Guy heard from one of the players. Millie then advises Guy not to repeat what he hears from trolls.
  • Insistent Terminology: Mouser's outfit in-game isn't a bunny, it's a rabbit, and he insists that rabbits are apex predators.
  • Instant A.I.: Just Add Water!:
    • Guy becomes self-aware after meeting Millie. He can awaken other NPCs by persuading them to act out of character, like asking a barista to make a new type of coffee or telling a woman who acts as an admirer to badass players that she doesn't need a man. Their programming was based on the Life Itself AI engine, so they always had the potential to develop, they just needed a trigger to jolt them out of their routine.
    • Later in the film, after Antwan has reset the servers, setting the NPCs back to their original behavior, including Guy, Keys tells Millie that somewhere in their prior interaction, she activated Guy's ability to evolve his AI. When she kisses Guy in-game to get him to remember, it restores his prior branches of AI evolution and his memory.
  • Invisible Wall: They block off all the places you shouldn't be going to in Free City. Normally, NPCs don't even notice them, just following their routines, but for Guy it ends up being part of his revelation he's actually just a background extra in a game when he interacts with a blatantly-placed wall.
  • It Will Never Catch On: Antwan buried Life Itself, claiming marketing showed it would never be a viable product compared to Free City. When re-released as Free Life, the game easily beats out Antwan's bug-ridden Free City 2.
  • I Want My Beloved to Be Happy: Millie is the girl of Guy's dreams, but he realizes that they can't be together. He admits that he loves her and then points out that's because he was written as a love letter by Keys, and he's the one Millie should be looking for.
  • Jaded Washout: Downplayed. Keys was an indie darling developer working alongside a girl he adored until Soonami buried his groundbreaking game and locked him under multiple agreements and NDAs that prevented him from recreating it. Now he works as a low-level GM for the company that ruined his dream to cover his college debt, alienated and legally forbidden from contacting Millie.
  • Kindhearted Cat Lover: A little old lady NPC has a recurring mission to find her lost cats. She's shown carrying them in a basket after Free Life has officially launched.
  • Kiss Me, I'm Virtual: Millie develops nebulous feelings for Guy, whom she later learns is an NPC developed using the artificial intelligence code she created with Keys.
  • Kissing Discretion Shot: Literally right before Millie and Keys kiss, the movie does a Smash to Black, and the credits roll.
  • Large Ham: Antwan's over-the-top weirdness, and later over-the-top villainy, makes him come across as more of a cartoon character than the actual game characters!
  • Laser-Guided Karma: Antwan agrees to give Millie the remains of the data for Free City in exchange for dropping the lawsuit and letting Antwan keep the rights to any sequels and spinoffs. Some time later, sales for Antwan’s sequels significantly plummet, and the sequels are filled with bugs and malfunctions without Millie and Keys’s programming, ruining what remains of Antwan’s reputation.
  • Leaning on the Fourth Wall: Chris Evans being angry that his shield appeared in a random video game makes less sense (and is less funny) than Chris Evans being pissed that Disney lent his shield to Ryan 'Deadpool' Reynolds.
  • Leno Device: In a very 2020s variation, several notable game streamers appear as themselves to comment on the events of the film. More traditionally, Alex Trebek shows up with a question on Jeopardy about the game.
  • Level Grinding: Millie informs Guy that he can't help her with her mission until he's "over level 100"; Guy rises to the challenge, performing multiple missions and earning a reputation noticed by IGN and various YouTube and Twitch personalities.
  • Limited Wardrobe: Guy has one outfit as an NPC: a blue button down and tie, tan slacks, and a blue jacket, with his closet literally filled with that one outfit. Even his pajamas are a blue top and tan bottoms. This changes once he becomes aware of his surroundings and the nature of his world... to a blue Henley shirt.
  • Literal-Minded: Guy responds to everything players tell him in this fashion. For instance, when Keys asks Guy about his "skin", he thinks it's his literal skin and not the gaming term for a customizable aspect of one's appearance in game. Another time, when Millie tells him to turn around as she inputs her safe house code, he turns in a circle on the spot.
  • The Lonely Door: The door to the multiplayer bar is a Portal Door sitting in the middle of a road with a empty street behind it on the other side of a set train tracks, which run through the middle of the street.
  • Look Both Ways: Guy gets hit by a train the first time he follows Millie. He is later hit by two cars after ranting that they're not real.
  • Love at First Sight: Guy is smitten with Millie when he first sees her avatar. Justified: this is what unlocked his free-thinking AI, as programmed by Keys.
  • Love Revelation Epiphany: Millie spends the film oblivious to Keys' feelings for her until she finds a video of Keys confessing his love for her at the end, and realizes that she reciprocates his feelings.

    Tropes M to R 
  • Mad Libs Dialogue: Dude's dialogue consists mainly of this, since his development was highly rushed and not yet complete when he was put into the game.
  • Made of Plasticine: The player whose sunglasses Guy stole ends up with a clean hole punched through his torso after being blasted with his own gun.
  • Male Gaze: Millie as MolotovGirl gets a fair amount of this. She's always seen wearing tight pants, and the amount of times we see her from the back make it hard not to notice her rear.
  • The Masquerade: The NPCs aren't aware their world's a video game, and treat everything involving the chaos around them without a comment, which include bank robberies and players shooting at each other. At least, until Guy begins to see the reality...
  • Meaningful Echo: Whenever the bank heist mission starts and the PC yells at everyone to get on the ground, Buddy makes a point of unclipping his gun belt and letting it drop to the floor before he gets down on the floor. At the end of the movie, when he learns he can do whatever he wants, Buddy once again drops his gun belt before running off with Guy.
  • Minus World: The video clip Millie is looking for shows a now-patched glitch where the user saw the Life Itself map through a gap in the game's geometry. The map is located past the south coastline, but can't be reached normally, as the game's physics engine doesn't work past the beach until Keys creates a bridge.
  • Mood Whiplash:
    • During the bank robbery where Guy decides to fight back, the angry male bank robber is threatening to shoot Guy. We quickly learn that the player is actually a preteen girl, with her even younger sister encouraging her to be more violent.
    • When Guy and MolotovGirl kiss for the first time, dramatic music swells up — then cut to Millie looking at her monitor awkwardly at what is (from her point of view) two computer game characters making out.
    • Keys dramatically executes a bit of code with his middle finger that forms a bridge towards the evidence of Life Itself hidden in Free City. The music swells as the architecture reforms around Guy and Millie — and once again, cut to Keys and Antwan just standing in a room, since nothing visually happens outside the video game world, Antwan questioning what all the flair was about as he calls security.
  • Moody Trailer Cover Song: Inverted — all the trailers make good use of Mariah Carey's "Fantasy", while the actual movie has a deliberately downbeat version performed by Jodie Comer (Millie).
  • Morning Routine: Guy is introduced with one. He greets his goldfish, picks out his clothes for the day, eats some cereal while watching the local news, plays with his window blinds, and goes out to get some coffee with Buddy before arriving at the bank they both work at. It's used as a barometer for how things are going: the more self-aware and powerful he gets, the more complex and luxurious his morning routine, and when his memories are wiped, we can tell because the routine is back to what it was originally.
  • Mourning a Dead Robot: When Antwan reboots the game and effectively wipes the memory of all the Free City NPCs, including Guy, Millie takes it hard when Guy is unable to remember anything he experienced with her avatar MolotovGirl. Thankfully, she is able to reboot his memory by kissing him.
  • Mr. Fanservice: Dude is a living Walking Shirtless Scene, with Buddy openly commenting on and objectifying his physical beauty. Though his face and voice are provided by Ryan Reynolds, his body is that of bodybuilder/actor Aaron W. Reed.
  • Ms. Fanservice:
    • One of the NPCs is this, wearing a low-cut dress to show off her assets, as well as the dress itself being short to show off her legs. She doesn't enjoy the male attention this gives her, and ends up writing an angry memoir about this and declaring she doesn't need a man. Invoked by her programmers, who appropriately named her "Bombshell".
    • Downplayed with MolotovGirl, who isn't very sexualized but does get some Male Gaze shots of her rear in tight pants.
  • Nerd in Evil's Helmet: Millie has to break into the safehouse of a longtime player who's been in the game long enough to discover evidence of Life Itself's existence, not to mention collect a hall full of cars guarded by his own army of thugs like he's a drug lord. Turns out he's a Basement-Dweller who's already a big fan of Guy, and is easily reasoned with.
  • Newscaster Cameo: The Good Morning America segments are performed by real GMA anchor Lara Spencer.
  • Nice Guy: Guy is this to a "T," to the point where he gets popular because he's NOT hurting people out in the game.
  • No Endor Holocaust: Antwan is so desperate to prevent the discovery of the Life Itself island that he starts taking an ax to the servers for Free City. This is represented in the game as the city dissolving into a void, and numerous NPCs are disintegrated in the chaos. Buddy even gets a moment to Face Death with Dignity. Millie strikes a deal with Antwan to not destroy the final server, which contains the last of Free City, Life Itself, Guy, and the NPCs who survived. When Free Life goes online, Buddy is resurrected with no explanation given, which implies the same for similar NPCs who were caught in the crash.
  • Non-Player Character: In-universe, Guy is a bank teller at a bank that gets robbed by players on a regular basis. The story kicks off when he steals a player's glasses, which allows him to see the HUD of the game.
  • "No Peeking!" Request: MolotovGirl asks Guy to turn around while she enters the password to open her safe house. However, he misunderstands and makes a complete turn in a circle on the spot.
  • Obvious Beta:invoked
    • Based on the concerns from his employees that Antwan completely dismisses, Free City 2 sounds like it is far from playable, even just days away from launch. The poor reception it receives at the end of the movie pretty much kills Antwan's career as a game developer.
    • Antwan also, as a last resort to stop Guy, orders the upload of DUDE, which seems to be a buffed-up version of Guy planned as an Ascended Meme for Free City 2. Most of his dialogue consists of placeholders, and his AI is roughly equivalent to a child.
  • Official Couple: Millie and Keys get together and kiss at the very end of the movie.
  • Oh, Crap!:
    • Millie has this reaction when Keys informs her that Guy is not a player but an AI NPC. Though this is mainly due to the fact that minutes before, she kissed him in game under the impression he was real.
    • Guy and Buddy have this expression when they see Free City getting deleted behind them.
      Guy: Run.
  • One Dialogue, Two Conversations: When Keys reveals to Millie that Guy is actually the first sentient AI, she starts freaking out. He is explaining how revolutionary this is, unaware she's freaking out because her game character just kissed him moments beforehand.
    • When Keys and Mouser confront Guy in the game, believing him to be a hacker with an NPC skin who could potentially break the game, they order him to remove his "skin". Guy, being an actual NPC, is bewildered on why they want him to literally remove his skin.
  • Only Known By His Nickname: On the news report, Millie's partner is labeled as "Walter "Keys" McKey", but people only call him Keys. Mouser doesn't even get a real name mentioned.
  • Or Are You Just Happy to See Me?: After Millie lands on Guy's lap while trying to escape the stash house.
    Millie: Is that a Glock in your pocket?
    Guy: No.
    Millie: What?
    Guy: It’s two Glocks.
    [Millie smiles and takes the Glocks.]
    Guy: Oh!
  • Out of Character Is Serious Business:
    • During the second coffee shop scene, Guy wishes that the Barista could make a cappuccino, just for something different. This leaves the Barista and other NPCs confused, even arousing the suspicion of a police officer as well. In the background, a tank rolls up and slowly points its barrel at Guy, who turns around just in time to see it and immediately claims he was joking, at which point the tank backs off and everyone goes back to their routine. Nothing is ever stated in the movie's dialogue other than Officer Johnny saying "Someone is getting shot", but the scene suggests that there's a system in place where an NPC can be punished for acting out of character and breaking the game's internal routines by the law enforcement mechanic.
    • Antwan is surprised to hear they have no ammunition to use against Millie after learning her in-game name, because Guy had convinced every single NPC to effectively go on strike.
  • Pacifist Run: Guy is the first person to attempt to level up by "being a hero" — only doing missions that involve stopping crime and helping people.
  • Perception Filter: Inverted. The players wear glasses in-game which allow them to see power-ups and player levels similar to AR glasses in the real world. Guy gains a pair of these after killing a player, which clues him in to the true nature of his reality.
  • Permanent Placeholder: In-Universe, Dude's dialogue was never fully fleshed out, so he yells his stage directions and says "catchphrase" in place of an actual catchphrase. Antwan considers leaving it as-is since it's amusing, and he maintains the same dialogue in Free Life.
  • Perspective Flip: The beginning of the movie, and especially Guy's opening narration, is how an NPC views a video game and its players.
  • Pet the Dog:
    • Subverted. Antwan feels that Keys can do better for himself than being a quality control moderator and has previously offered him a promotion to programming, but Keys politely refuses. The reason Antwan offered him this promotion is because Keys was the major programmer of Life Itself, whose code Antwan stole to build Free City — he wants Keys as a programmer because it's his program that Antwan is basing his company's flagship franchise on. Not to mention Antwan brags that Millie's lawsuit against him is doomed, and as part of that points out that her former partner works for him. Both show that Antwan sees Keys as an asset to exploit.
    • A subtle one played straight: after Guy starts to level up and his world metaphorically expands, Goldie gets a new fish tank at least triple the size of the one originally programmed.
  • Phrase Catcher: Guy is programmed to respond and call out to the presence of other NPCs as part of his daily routine. Officer Johnny is always greeted with enthusiasm. This is even Played for Laughs after Guy has a dramatic Heroic BSoD, and it manifests after he gets hit by a car.
    [Guy gets hit with a car after walking into the street during his tirade.]
    Guy: Officer JOHNNAYYY!
  • The Pirates Who Don't Do Anything: A lot of NPCs are like this, such as the businessman who continuously talks about the report he has to deliver tomorrow but never does, or Buddy the security guard, who never once takes any action to protect the bank that employs him, its money, or its customers.
  • The Place: Free City is both the name of the game and the location it's set in.
  • Player Tic: Player characters can often be seen doing these in the background of scenes, such as jumping over and over unnecessarily while traveling down the street. They also may have some stilted movements, as if they are just avatars moving about the game. Millie unconsciously using her personal Character Tic as MolotovGirl's Player Tic in the game is what sets Guy's Character Development in motion because Keys had used those tics as the parameters for the Lovelorn NPC's unknown Girl Of His Dreams, based on his own unrequited IRL crush on Millie, and Guy was derived from Lovelorn.
  • Porn Stache: Keys' avatar in Free City has one.
  • Precision F-Strike:
    • Guy lets one slip when saying good morning to his goldfish.
    • Keys does a physical one just before activating the code to bridge out to the Life Itself island.
    • Chris Evans, of all people, gets one when, during his fight with Dude in the climax, Guy busts out Captain America's shield.
  • Product Placement:
    • Parodied; one of the things that become visible when Guy dons his sunglasses is a floating bottle of Aviation Gin (of which Reynolds owns a stake in and is the spokesperson), accompanied by the caption "SUBTLE PRODUCT PLACEMENT".
    • Played straight with Keys' laptop, which has a prominent, glowing Razer icon often positioned towards the camera, and Millie's HyperX Cloud II headset, which is prominently shown whenever she's at her monitor, shot from the side or at an angle. Both companies were official sponsors in the movie's marketing.
    • There are Pop Tarts, Kellogg's Frosted Flakes, and Lipton tea all on the shelves in the break room after Keys and Mouser deal with Guy.
  • Professional Butt-Kisser: Mouser does everything he can to get on Antwan's good side, only finally stopping when Antwan admits he did steal Keys' game.
  • Punch-Clock Villain: The rank-and-file Soonami staff are just doing their jobs with no malice when impeding Guy and Millie. Mouser is the closest to overtly villainous, as he enjoys trying to kill Guy, but at the end, he still backs down when things go too far.
  • Pyrrhic Victory: Just as Antwan is about to destroy the last Free City server and destroy all evidence of his using the original Life Itself code, Millie offers to stop the lawsuit in exchange for the right to preserve Guy and the rest of Free City in a new game. Antwan accepts, thinking he's making out like a bandit; in reality, his lack of experience and poor management ultimately end up imploding his company, while Millie gets to finally take credit for her creation.
  • Race Against the Clock: Millie is in a race to uncover evidence that Antwan stole Life Itself to build Free City, as once the sequel launches, the original game will be taken offline. Guy has to lead the NPCs in order to save Free City before the game is unplugged.
  • Race for Your Love: At the end of the movie, Millie running after Keys going to the coffee shop after realizing everything she loved about Guy and vice versa was born from Keys' feelings for her.
  • Recycled Soundtrack: During the above-mentioned Race for Your Love scene, as well as the scene where Millie kisses Guy to restore his memories, composer Christophe Beck reuses his own score from the climax of Paperman.
  • Resurrective Immortality: Anyone in Free City until respawns are turned off. NPCs respawn the morning after their deaths in their beds.
  • Rousseau Was Right: When Guy achieves sapience and is told he needs to level up to have a chance with Millie, he's horrified by the idea of committing crimes to do so, and decides to stop other people from committing crimes instead. Even once he's made fully aware that he's a video game NPC, he remains a Martial Pacifist who doesn't like hurting people unless he has to. This extends to most of the NPCs in Free City too, who are all friendly, personable people that want to do good. And while Free City encourages players to act like sociopathic criminals, in real life they're shown to be (mostly) people who love what Guy is doing and would never act in real life the way they do in the game. In fact, Guy's actions starts to make gamers rethink Video Game Cruelty Potential regarding how they treat NPCs.
  • RPG Mechanics 'Verse: The story takes place in the game Free City, which features levels, power ups, and healing packs along with all the trappings of a GTA-like multiplayer crime game.
  • Rule of Drama: Servers generally have an "off" switch, and Soonami is even able to take the servers down at a moment's notice earlier. The only reason Antwan goes Ax-Crazy on the physical machines is for the added drama.
  • Rule of Three: Parodied with Dude's three things he likes. Since he hasn't been fully programmed, he only has one ("kicking ass"), with the other two being placeholders ("TBD!...third thing here!").

    Tropes S to Z 
  • Save Scumming: Like any other new player, Guy struggles with the gameplay of Free City, and is killed regularly as he learns what he is capable of doing. But every revive gives him another shot to do things right, and in a couple cases like the bank robbery, the NPCs are locked in such a rigid routine that several characters can use it to their advantage.
  • Scenery Porn: Free Life is a gorgeous utopia, a green solarpunk-esque city with dinosaurs and flying cars.
  • Screw the Rules, I Make Them!: In the final battle, Antwan is unwilling to use good sportsmanship.
  • Serial Escalation: When Guy ends up becoming a problem for Antwan's bottom line, he orders Mouser to just ban every player in the game in an effort to stop the "hacker" playing Guy. Once he learns that doesn't work, he then forces his programmers to unleash the Dude NPC into the game to physically stop Guy. When THAT fails, he takes an axe to the physical servers.
  • Shout-Out:
    • The movie posters are based on other games. These include Super Mario 64, Mega Man (with the bad box art), Animal Crossing, Street Fighter II (the SNES box art) Among Us, Minecraft and Doom.
    • They Live!:
      • Right off the bat, the premise involves special glasses that let you see what the world is really like. Bonus points for Millie committing a bank robbery, much like an iconic scene from that movie.
      • There's also a scene where the hero tries to convince his Token Black Friend to put on the same glasses, but refuses. Fortunately, Guy accepts Buddy's decision and just tells him the glasses will be waiting when he's ready, rather than a drawn-out No-Holds-Barred Beatdown to force the glasses on him.
      • Dude only likes three things: kicking ass, TBD, and third thing here.
    • The laptop that Keys uses to show Millie that Free City 2 will be a sequel has a visible N7 sticker on the back.
    • Another meta-one is to The Thirteenth Floor. When Guy tries to figure out what his world is, he goes to a place where nobody would normally go and the simulation starts to crumble, in his case in the form of an Invisible Wall.
    • The little girl Guy saves from a moving vehicle is dressed exactly like Anna from Frozen.
    • During the first battle for the video clip, Guy equips the Mega Buster from Mega Man.
    • Guy's fight with Dude isn't the first time Ryan Reynolds has gotten beaten up by a larger version of himself.
    • To the Marvel Cinematic Universe:
      • Matty Cardarople's unnamed streamer character has a poster of Avengers: Infinity War on his wall, as well as a poster for Deadpool, though that movie is in a different Marvel universe. And when Free City starts disintegrating with a blue pixelated effect, the NPCs that get caught in the collapse instead look like they were Snapped.
      • During his battle with Dude, Guy equips himself with Captain America's shield and a Hulk fist, while Alan Silvestri's Avengers theme plays full blast. The sound effect and framing of the shot when Dude punches the shield also homages one of Cap’s fights against the Winter Soldier.
    • During the climactic fight, Guy also equips himself with a lightsaber, accompanied by John Williams' Star Wars theme, a llama pickaxe, a gravity gun from Half-Life (that behaves more like a physics gun from Garry's Mod, and even a portal gun from Portal.
    • Considering the amount of YouTubers already in the film, the fictional streamer’s love of Twizzlers could be a tribute to Etika.
    • The Halo Scorpion Tank is seen several times.
    • Some player characters carry the alien rifles from I Am Number Four
    • During MolotovGirll's first onscreen interactions with other game characters, the theme music is reminiscent of the scene when Sam Flynn enters the grid in TRON: Legacy.
    • Guy learning horribly offensive jokes from the players is reminiscent of the Tay bot, which was taught politically incorrect expressions by trolls.
    • Keith's in-game avatar is named "Revenjamin Buttons", a play on the titular character of The Curious Case of Benjamin Button.
  • Shown Their Work: With few exceptions, the movie is very on-point with its demonstration not just of how video games work when being played, but of what the development of video games is like and how video game culture works.
    • Free City is a Wide-Open Sandbox where players take on missions to earn experience points and level up, and also earn money to buy new gear for their characters. Particularly dedicated players can have safehouses in-game which include trophy rooms to show off all the valuables they've collected. A central plot point is that Guy and everyone who lives in Free City is an NPC, and when Guy starts acting in ways that NPCs usually don't, players take notice and wonder if the game is glitching or if it's part of a mission they haven't done yet. Video game terminology is also used all throughout the film more or less accurately, like two content moderators turning on God Mode to reshape the area and give themselves superhuman abilities to aid them in chasing down Guy.
    • Millie is looking for evidence that Antwan illegally used the AI coding she and Keys developed for Life Itself to make Free City, and the one lead she has comes from a longtime player who recorded a clip of a glitch that briefly showed the setting for Life Itself. Millie discovers that Antwan did build Free City on the Life Itself engine and the original setting is still buried in the game's code as a Minus World, an island out in the bay that players cannot normally access. Antwan covered it up with a barrier to keep players from going too far out into the water and discovering it. However, he forgot to change the coding for the reflections, and Guy's window blinds still show a glimpse of the island from where it was originally.
    • The Internet community is given a lot of focus, including several famous real-life YouTube and Twitch streamers, who discuss what is happening in Free City and chat with their audiences about it. No one knows who Guy is, but they assume he's a player who hacked their account to give themself an NPC skin, and "Blue Shirt Guy" becomes an in-universe Ensemble Dark Horse, because players love the idea of an NPC (or at least, a player they think is roleplaying as an NPC) fighting back against the player characters and stopping them from committing crimes/completing missions. Iconic players of this nature crop up in real-life gaming communities too: see Let Me Solo Her for just one example.
    • Soonami and Antwan is an astute look at the perils and errors of AAA game development. Antwan has lied about features promised in Free City 2, including that players will be able to retain some of their progress and collectables from the original Free City and they'll actually have to start from scratch. invoked] The game is also incredibly buggy and is practically being Christmas Rushed without Christmas, and Soonami is banking on the power of the IP to make the game successful regardless of its unfinished state. As Guy becomes popular and Free City starts seeing a new influx of players, Antwan gets worried that pre-orders for Free City 2 have slowed, and decides to take the original off-line once the sequel launches to force players to migrate.
  • Spell My Name with an S: In-universe. 'Soonami' is a phonetic spelling of the weather term 'tsunami' (an ocean-bound natural disaster).
  • Skyward Scream: "IT'S ALL! A LIE!"
  • Smarter Than You Look: For all intents and purposes, Antwan just seems like a Bad Boss idiot who relies on IP and focus groups to run his company. However, he also has the technical skill to hide Life Itself past the horizon and make it a Minus World. Keys claims he didn't realize Antwan could be smart enough to be that diabolical.
  • Solar Punk: The rebooted Free Life takes place in a cityscape rich with greenery.
  • Soundtrack Dissonance: During the fight in the stash house, Guy swoons over MolotovGirl and watches her kick ass dreamily to the tune of to Mama Cass's "Make Your Own Kind of Music".
  • Spiritual Antithesis:
    • The movie can be seen as a counterargument to Wreck-It Ralph, because though both are about game characters getting sentience and acting outside of their pre-established characters, Free Guy makes the case that a game character "going Turbo" and challenging their predetermined role is a good thing.
    • A lot of time is spent with the players who are actively engaged with this fantasy world where they can be anyone and do anything, along with a Corrupt Corporate Executive looking to exploit the users, which touches on similar topics to Ready Player One. But whereas that film landed on the side of being critical of the illusion, Free Guy spends more time on the wonders of creative engagement. Millie even says regarding Life Itself, "You can keep your game, so long as I can play in mine."
    • To Deadpool. In a world where everyone's trying to emulate the merc with the mouth, Ryan Reynolds is an unambiguously Nice Guy who wants to live a humble life.
  • Stacked Characters Poster: The theatrical poster has Guy as the largest character at the top; the supporting cast is stacked below him in various sizes.
  • Status Quo Is God: Enforced among the NPCs within Free City. When Guy decides he wants to try a new drink and requests a cappucino from Barista, everyone in the cafe looks at him in shock, with Officer Johnny slowy readying his gun while Barista insists that she only ever serves medium coffee, one cream, two sugars to everyone. Guy reluctantly takes the coffee, resumes his usual Stock Phrase, and claims he was just kidding, calming everyone down. This incident does trigger Barista to experiment and create a cappucino later on, however.
  • Strolling Through the Chaos: There are several shots throughout the movie of this. For players such as Millie, it's because they're confident enough in their level that they're not concerned, while NPCs view violent destruction as completely normal.
  • Sudden Game Interface: From Guy's perspective, Free City acquires various elements that exist for the benefit of the players, but don't exist from a Non-Player Character perspective, when he puts on sunglasses stolen from a Player Character. He can now see his own Character Level, businesses now have extra, much more visible, signs pertaining to their use in gameplay and he can now pick up healing items that used to be outright invisible to him.
  • Surprisingly Realistic Outcome:
    • Throughout half the movie, the protagonists have trouble trying to get a video clip from someone's safehouse, and it looks like they're not going to get it without a big fight... only for the "antagonist" in question to just give them the item when he finds out who wants it because, hey, he's actually just a player in a video game and not one of Antwan's mooks, so he has no reason to not want that video clip to fall into the wrong hands.
    • A player who tries to have a conversation with Guy (complimenting him for his recent fame and heroics) while driving a car ends up being hit by a truck because he isn't watching the road.
    • Bombshell has only ever been around guys who are players, who only ever treated her as arm candy. No wonder she has a low opinion of men after Guy gives her awareness.
    • Antwan thinks he's getting the better end of the deal by receiving any and all exclusive rights to the Free City franchise. But without Millie and Keys' source code, and because of a Christmas Rushed production, the sequels are buggy and unplayable, tarnishing both the franchise as a whole, and his reputation. invoked
  • Sword Sparks: Guy's lightsaber emits these whenever Dude counters him... with his bare hands.
  • Take That!:
    • During Guy's big rallying speech to the citizens of Free City, he uses Millie to explain how the real world is far different than Free City, with very few bank robberies or corpses littering the street. However, when it comes to the topic of gun violence, Millie has to admit that it's a significant problem in the real world too...
    • Soonami represents several of the worst aspects of AAA video game companies, with the company being an unsubtle Expy of Konami, just with the artistic stylings of Blizzard Entertainment. Both, however, are AAA game studios that rely on a singular popular franchise to pump out endless sequels instead of trying anything new, releasing new games that are full of glitches and lack features they promised players because they're confident it will still sell, a lack of understanding of what their player base wants by over-relying on focus groups and marketing surveys to make decisions, and buying up smaller, more innovative studios and either destroying them or reducing them to a shell while exploiting their work. Konami specifically is well-known to have a very draconian employee policy, as it had a very public fallout with Hideo Kojima, its most popular game developer, who eventually left to start Kojima Productions, and this led to a very contentious release of Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain. Likewise, since the release of the movie, Blizzard has been revealed to have a seriously toxic workplace culture, with countless accounts of sexual harassment and misogynist discrimination coming out in 2021.
    • Antwan is a shot at the sort of "rock star developers" who overpromise, underdeliver, and seem to genuinely expect their game should continue to sell even when nothing has changed in the games' formula.
    • Dude comes across as a failed attempt at an Ascended Meme. While Guy became a sensation to Free City's fanbase purely through organic momentum, Dude was created by the developers (under Antwan's Totally Radical specifications) to piggyback on Guy's popularity to match the aesthetics of his intended sequel. The result? A generic tough guy with the brain of a rock that Guy manages to overpower with his well-earned loot and outsmart using shiny objects displayed with his sunglasses.
    • The incredibly bigoted joke that Guy starts to tell Millie before she stops him is said to have been picked up from a player, a shot at the unfortunately common toxicity endemic in online gaming communities.
  • Tech Bro: Antwan, the hammy, self-centered boss of a gaming company, has little regard for the quality of his games or the wellbeing of his employees as long as his games sell. He turns up at Soonami in the middle of the film in an outrageous outfit, having just returned from Burning Man.
  • Teleport Gun: Millie and later Guy wield portal guns similar to the ones in Portal — although the visuals of the guns themselves don't match the games, they do make the characteristic blue and orange portals.
  • Teleporting Keycard Squad: The stash house with the video file Millie needs is rigged with spawn points that warp in NPCs if an alarm is triggered.
  • Theme Music Power-Up: Snippets of the themes of The Avengers (2012) and Star Wars play when Guy pulls out Captain America's shield and a lightsaber respectively.
  • This Is Gonna Suck:
    • Guy has this reaction when he tries to throw a hot grenade back to sender, only for it to bounce off a poorly timed truck in front of him and land in his hands again.
    • When ordered to upload the incomplete Dude to the game, the head of the art department advises her crew to remember this as the moment just before they were fired.
  • Throw the Dog a Bone: Antwan lets Millie have her source code back when she lets him have all royalties for the Free City franchise.
  • Time Stands Still: Antwan has the Soonami staff reboot the Free City servers at one point in order to reset Guy's AI to default. It's treated as this, with Guy wandering around a city frozen in time until the Reset Button finally kicks in.
  • Token Black Friend:
    • Buddynote  is the black best friend to the white Guy. Because he refuses to join Guy's quest, he stays out of the action for much of the film until the climax, but gives advice that turns Guy into The Anti-Nihilist. In the end, Guy is overjoyed to see Buddy alive, and the two go on to Free Life together.
    • In the real world, Keys has a Token Minority Friend in his Soonami coworker Mousernote , whose role is to pretty much follow Antwan's orders while Keys rebels against him.
  • Torso with a View: The player guy accidentally blasts with a shotgun has a gaping, perfectly circular hole in their torso.
  • Trademark Favorite Food: Coffee with cream and two sugars for Guy, and he later reveals that he enjoys bubblegum ice cream. Turns out that Millie really enjoys them, too. They were deliberately programmed in as tribute to her.
  • Trailers Always Spoil: The final trailer shows Millie revealing the nature of the game to Guy. Given the first trailer also shows him discovering that by shooting a player character and taking his HUD glasses, this is an indicator that something will go wrong with Guy.
  • Training Montage: Guy goes through one while grinding his level, starting off easily bested by players and Mooks but gradually gaining the upper hand.
  • "Truman Show" Plot:
    • Guy is an NPC who gains sentience, and his exploits become global entertainment. He eventually learns that his world is just a video game and the "sunglasses people" he views as heroes are players from the real world.
    • Millie and Keys original idea for Life Itself was this. They described it as a Goldfish Game where players would watch the NPCs go about their lives and watch as they learned and changed over time.
  • Uncanny Valley: The film surprisingly uses this effect for comedy in a few instances:
    • First, it's utilized with the NPC and 'player' animations. A number of times, the characters in the game world will move in a way that is jarringly unrealistic-looking, in ways that are perfectly possible for someone to do (and were no doubt performed by the actors without problem), but are just oddly stiff-looking, lacking the fluidity of human movement. It captures the way video game characters move well as a result.
    • The scene at the climax with Dude, Guy's hyper-muscular doppelganger: an obvious deepfake effect, but the obviousness of it all is intentional, since the character is an In-Universe Obvious Beta, which turns something that normally would be off-putting into something that fits the tone of the movie.
  • Unsportsmanlike Gloating: Free City being an online shooter, you can bet on seeing some players engage in teabagging.
  • Unusually Uninteresting Sight: None of the NPCs see anything wrong with all the chaos and violence happening around them.
  • Unwitting Instigator of Doom: After Millie begins to trust Guy, she gives him her real name. Guy later goes back to a gamer's hideout to find the encrypted file that she failed to secure the first time, and directly interacts with the gamer himself. The gamer is ecstatic to meet such a famous character as Guy, and willingly gives the file after Guy innocently namedrops Millie. This gaming clip ends up making the rounds on the internet, and clues Antwan to go after Millie and Keys. If Millie hadn't revealed her name, she could've achieved her goals without Antwan being any the wiser.
  • Vice City: Free City is set in one of these. It's an MMO equivalent of Grand Theft Auto in which players are encouraged to murder and steal for their own amusement.
  • Video Game Caring Potential: After "Blue Shirt Guy" becomes a phenomenon due to acting as a hero for the other NPCs, many gamers start wondering if maybe they couldn't do the same thing. Given the global community's shock at how fast Guy levels up by playing as a good guy, it suggests that one actually gets a lot more EXP from playing as a good guy rather than a bad guy.
  • Video Game Cruelty Potential: In-Universe, the videogame players are encouraged to commit acts of destructive violence. One player who kicks Guy in the testicles is awarded 200 "brutality points."
  • Villainous Breakdown: When Guy gets closer to the Life Itself island after defeating Dude, Antwan goes from being smugly confident in his victory to smashing the servers with an axe to erase all of Free City.
  • Villain World: As Free City is described as partially based on Grand Theft Auto, this is a given, with all the players being the criminals who rob and kill to their delight as seen in the trailer (we see one of the missions being a bank heist, and earlier than that we see Guy getting run over by two cars). It's Guy's role (albeit outside of the one that was programmed for him) to be the hero of the game and fight them.
  • Virtual Paper Doll: Free City has a broad range of skins available to players, and it has an explicit rule that no NPC appearances can be used. This makes people think Guy is being controlled by a hacker at first, and is not in fact an autonomous NPC.
  • Virtual-Reality Warper: Mouser goes "God Mode" when chasing Guy and controls the environment to stop Guy escaping. He gets away both times, the latter because Keys counter-warped the world to turn the road into a ramp.
  • Weirdly Underpowered Admins: Played with; the admins are certainly powerful, but the problem is that Guy is not a player but a Non-Player Character that became self aware. Thus, most of the usual tools the admins have to deal with rogue players (like banishing them from the game's servers) simply don't work on Guy. It's still strange that they have no tools for dealing with malfunctioning NPCs.
  • Welcome to Corneria: Many of the NPCs say the same things over and over, to the annoyance of Millie and a post-revelation Guy. Even Guy’s own catchphrase starts as this.
  • What Measure Is a Non-Human?: This is a major theme of the film. As people start to learn that Guy is a free-willed, sentient program (rather than just a rogue player), they reconsider what they think about him and their actions with the NPCs of Free City, and to video games in general. Many players admit they never stopped to think if an NPC could have their own life to live because they just took them for granted.
  • The Whole World Is Watching: Due to being played and streamed globally by many popular figures, people around the world watch the climax on various screens, from a small television in the South Asian countryside to restaurants in East Asia to LED screens in big cities.
  • Wide-Open Sandbox: Free City is an online multiplayer sandbox game in the vein of Grand Theft Auto, Watch_Dogs, and the rest of that ilk. Before it released, Millie and Keys worked on an indie title called Life Itself, which was also sandbox in style but didn't have violent goals, resembling an advanced version of The Sims, but this resulted in it not performing well with focus groups. Their work on it was stolen by Soonami and became the basis of Free City.
  • A World Half Full: Free City was a game originally created to be a criminal game where players can be as violent and unrepentantly awful as they'd want, something Millie cynically calls a Murder Simulator. With that said, Guy manages to move up the ranks in the game and become an internet darling when he starts defending his fellow NPCs as a Player Killer, with a lot of players seeing his more heroic playing style as a refreshing alternative to the mindless debauchery the game was made for. By the end, the NPCs are allowed to thrive in a more compassionate version of their world while Antwan's attempt at doubling down in the game's sequel becomes a critical and commercial failure.
  • Would Hurt a Child: Guy ends up gaining experience for lifting a little girl out of the way of getting hit by a truck, suggesting that killing children is not only possible, but the players themselves never give it a second thought.
  • Younger Than They Look: After Millie reveals to Keys she kissed Guy, he messes with her by stating Guy is legally four years old.


Video Example(s):


Free Guy as Truman Show

The Honest Trailer for Free Guy notices some similarities with The Truman Show.

How well does it match the trope?

4.81 (16 votes)

Example of:

Main / RecycledPremise

Media sources: