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Film / Men in Black

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James Edwards: Why the big secret? People are smart. They can handle it.
Kay: A person is smart. People are dumb, panicky dangerous animals and you know it. Fifteen hundred years ago, everybody knew the Earth was the center of the universe. Five hundred years ago, everybody knew the Earth was flat, and fifteen minutes ago, you knew that humans were alone on this planet. Imagine what you'll know...tomorrow.

Men in Black is a 1997 American science fiction action comedy film directed by Barry Sonnenfeld, written by Ed Solomon and executive produced by Steven Spielberg, only moderately based on the original comic series of the same name, mostly borrowing the concept and wardrobe of the agents. The film was released on July 2nd, 1997.

An agent of a secret organization called the MIB (Men in Black) code-named "K" (Tommy Lee Jones) seeks out a new recruit to monitor alien activity on Earth. The MIB passes over Navy SEALs and Green Berets, instead deciding on the quick-thinking and fast-talking NYPD Detective James Edwards (Will Smith). Without knowing what he was recruited for, James (now codenamed "J") is told that the MIB agency is beyond all government jurisdiction, and that they are responsible for the alien (and we do mean alien) immigrants who have taken residence on Earth. Part of the MIB's effective cover-up is using advanced alien technology to impersonate actual government officials, and especially the use of a device called the Neuralyzer, which is able to give Laser-Guided Amnesia to anyone not wearing special MIB-issue tinted glasses.

The film also stars Linda Fiorentino as Laurel Weaver, Vincent D'Onofrio as Edgar and Rip Torn as Chief Zed.

With a smart sense of humor and indelible chemistry between Jones and Smith from their "deadpan seen-it-all"/"charismatic newbie" dynamic, the film was one of the most popular releases of 1997. Some publicity was garnered on advertising posters from the fact that its two leads are literally "Mr. Smith and Mr. Jones." Will Smith also released a tie-in song for the film entitled "Men in Black" that won him a Grammy Award.

The film has spawned two sequels, Men in Black II (2002) and Men in Black 3 (2012) with Smith, Jones and Sonnenfeld returning, an animated series, and a theme park ride. A spin-off film, Men in Black: International, was released in 2019, with F. Gary Gray (Straight Outta Compton, The Fate of the Furious) directing and Chris Hemsworth and Tessa Thompson starring.

Protecting the Tropes From the Scum of the Indexes:

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    Tropes A to F 
  • Absurdly Exclusive Recruiting Standards: The eponymous organization brings in a huge group of potential military recruits, including the Rangers and Navy SEALs, plus NYPD detective James Edwards. Z makes it abundantly clear that they're looking for the best of the best of the best, but out of the entire class, only Edwards is able pass the Incomprehensible Entrance Exam, having the practicality to use the coffee table for the written exam and the observational skills to realize that the hostile aliens on the shooting range are minding their own business; everyone else is neuralized.
  • Action Prologue: Agent K sniffing out an alien fugitive amongst some immigrants.
  • Actor Allusion:
    • Agent J gets decked by an alien, parodying Will Smith punching an alien in Independence Day.
    • In a blink and you'll miss it moment, the location of Jay's teacher in the third grade is shown as Philadelphia (also an Actor-Shared Background for Will Smith).
    • After blasting the Bug from the inside, K tells J that he should have seen the Zeronian migration in 1968, before pondering whether he was alive in 1968. Will Smith was born that year.
  • Actually, That's My Assistant: K and J are sent to pick up an alien consultant, and meet a pasty-faced man with a dog:
    J: Now that's the worst disguise ever. That guy's gotta be an alien.
    Frank the Pug: You don't like it, you can kiss my furry little butt!
  • Aerith and Bob:
    • The Twins who run the MIB headquarters are named Blblup and Bob. Note that we're guessing on how the first one's spelled. And the second one too. The novelization provides spelled-out alien names for both. Both also have Earth nicknames, "Jack" and "Gracie."
    • The fake names Kay makes up for himself and Jay while investigating the alien "Hi I'm Special Agent Mannheim/Dr. Leo Manville, this is Special Agent Black/Dr. White"
  • Adaptational Heroism: In the films, Agents J, K, and Zed are heroes. In the obscure comic book the movies are based on, the organization is downright sinister, K makes J An Offer You Can't Refuse to get him to join and considers him a very disposable pawn, and J is the only 'good guy' in the bunch. The MIB resort to murder to keep things hidden, as opposed to just erasing people's relevant memories in the films and cartoon.
  • Adaptational Villainy: By contrast, the comics version of the Bug merely wanted the farmer's gun, which he had been tasked with retrieving in exchange for living space on his overcrowded planet. After comics' Jay gives him a gun, he leaves peacefully; he also suggests that if he didn't get one, he would simply resign himself to suicide.
  • Alien Autopsy: The coroner, Laurel, ends up performing these inadvertently on two non-human corpses. It's suggested that she is one of the MIB's most frequently neuralyzed individuals for this very reason.
  • An Alien Named "Bob": Many of the aliens the agents encounter in the field have plain sounding names like Frank or Bob. This even includes a gigantic, subway-dwelling, omnivorous worm called Jeff. Presumably these are all assumed names, and they would make sense for those aliens living as humans. No explanation for the giant worm, though.
  • Aliens Steal Cattle: For a movie about aliens and UFOs, it's notably averted. When the Bug arrives at the farmhouse where Edgar lives, a cow is seen grazing near the truck, but then the cow leaves the truck shortly before the Bug's spacecraft totals it while landing, and Bug!Edgar doesn't express any interest in the cattle on the farm.
  • Almost Dead Guy: The Arquillian Prince inside the jeweler's body, who survives long enough to give a cryptic clue to the protagonists. Not that he was being cryptic on purpose. Poor fellow was dying and not fluent in English.
  • Amnesia Missed a Spot: When J meets Dr. Weaver in the morgue, they vaguely notice that they may have met before, but dismiss it as Deja Vu. In the beginning of the movie, they had met, but K had wiped both of their memories.
  • Amusing Alien: Lots, but the Worm Guys and Jeebs are probably the best example.
  • Animated Adaptation: Men in Black: The Series
  • Apologetic Attacker: The Arquillians don't actually have anything against Earth. But they have a very strict idea of quarantine.
    Translation of Arquillian transmission: MIB, deliver the Galaxy or Earth will be destroyed.
    J: Aw, that's BULLSHIT.
    Translation of Arquillian transmission: Sorry.
  • Arc Words: "They're beautiful aren't they?..The stars."
  • Artistic License – Geography: When K is looking in on his old girlfriend, he types in Truro, MA, which is close to the very tip of Cape Cod, but the satellite focuses in on the Sandwich area, which is at the very beginning of the Cape.
  • Artistic License – Gun Safety
    • In the shooting test sequence, while discussing Tiffany with Zed, J is gesturing with the hand holding a loaded gun, which points all over the place at various times. Anyone with basic gun safety knowledge will be much more careful about which direction the gun is pointed. A police officer should definitely know better.
    • J points the Noisy Cricket in K's face as soon as K hands it to him. K then proceeds to have J carry the gun into the field without having had a chance to practice with it. Both are major gun safety no-nos. J is supposed to be a trained police officer, who should know something about handling firearmsnote . Even if it doesn't look like a 9mm, he should employ the same basic safety practices as with a real gun, especially knowing it's a sidearm.
  • Artistic License – History: Washington Irving strikes again, as K repeats the misconception that people thought the world was flat 500 years ago, when the truth is that fact was first discovered (and proven beyond all doubt) around 240 BC. Of course, by "people thought" we really mean the educated higher stratas of society, whose writings are our main source of knowledge of the past. It's much harder to discern whatever misconceptions (e.g. a flat earth) the commonfolk of those times believed to be true.
  • Ask a Stupid Question...
    K: I don't suppose you know what kind of alien life form leaves a green spectral trail and craves sugar water, do you?
    J: Oh, wait! That was on "Final Jeopardy!" last night. Damn, Alex said...
    • When asked if he's dealing guns, Jeebs quips that he's openly selling crack, too. "But I still work here 'cause I love the hours."
    • After J has been manhandled by a pregnant disguised squid alien woman in labor and then spat on by her newborn squid baby (in the process of delivering said baby) K asks "Did any of that seem weird to you?" J's expression is priceless.
  • Asshole Victim
    • The opening scene where Kay ends up killing the alien "Mikey" had to be re-shot when the producers realized audiences were feeling bad for Mikey.
    • Edgar, who's shown to be a spousal abuser (at least emotionally, and possibly physically as well) just before the Bug kills him.
  • Badass Creed
    Anonymity is your name,
    Silence your native tongue.
    You are no longer part of the system.
    You are above the system. Over it. Beyond it.
    We're "Them." We're "They".
    We are the Men in Black.
  • Bavarian Fire Drill: A favorite tactic of the MIB. It's even lampshaded in the novelization: "Act like you're in charge and everybody will act like you are."
    [upon arriving at Edgar's farm]
    K: Slow down.
    J: Why?
    K: Give her time to get the wrong impression. Makes things go a lot smoother.
  • Behind the Black: J and K don't seem to notice the alien giving birth in the back seat of Reggie's car until Reggie pointed her out.
  • Berserk Button:
  • Better to Die than Be Killed: The alien Jay was chasing towards the beginning decides to jump off the roof of the Guggenheim Museum rather than live long enough to be killed for his failure.
  • BFG: Played with. The Noisy Cricket, possibly the tiniest MIB gun, can cause some serious damage. It's got a nasty recoil too. On the other hand, a gun the size of a shotgun can shoot down spaceships.
  • Big Applesauce:
    • The location of the MIB HQ. This would become common to all three movies: the second had the Statue of Liberty's torch used as a giant neuralyzer, and the third ends with "Empire State of Mind" by Alicia Keys playing in the background.
    • New York City was specifically chosen since where else in America (or the world) can so many strange people interact and strange things happen without anyone paying attention? A 7-foot guy, and a 5-foot guy eating lunch in a small restaurant while speaking a very strange language would be very noticeable anywhere else, not in New York.
  • Big Bad: An unnamed bug alien seeking a powerful energy source to win an intergalactic war.
  • Big Creepy-Crawlies: The Big Bad of the film is one of them.
  • Big Red Button: Don't press one in K's car, unless in a real hurry.
  • Bizarre Alien Biology: Almost all of the aliens the MIB processes.
  • Blatant Lies: J is suspicious of K.
    J: Have you ever flashy-thinged me?
    K: No.
    J: I ain't playing with you, man. Have you ever flashy-thinged me?
    K: No.
  • Blown Across the Room: Laser weapons hurt.
  • Bluff the Imposter: Agent K exposes an alien posting as a Mexican immigrant by saying insulting and threatening things in Spanish, but in a cheery tone of voice, to see if he reacted appropriately.
  • Body Horror: Edgar's skin steadily decays once the Bug starts wearing it as a disguise, until the face is barely recognizable when J and K confront it.
  • Bookends:
    • "They're beautiful, aren't they? The stars. ... See you around, J." "No, K, you won't." Then there's an Epic Flash.
    • The opening credits scroll over a bug flying in a sinister pattern. SPLAT. Gotcha — turns out the bug is of no significance, at least as far as people are concerned. The last shot of the movie reveals this universe to be a plaything for giant alien kids. It's also a bookend in that the climax ends with a bug going splat — though a much larger one.
  • Bowdlerize: Even in broadcasts with the most lenient editing, all instances of the word "shit" are censored, and J's reaction to the Arquillians' demand for the galaxy is dubbed over as a Big "WHAT?!"
    • The version on Canadian tv station CTV's website includes the use of the word "shit", yet it replaces Jeeb's "You insensitive PRICK" with "You insensitive jerk"
  • Brick Joke: When J learns about aliens living in New York, he immediately assumes they work as cab drivers, and is told, "Not as many as you'd think." A while later, Dr. Laurel, when it's revealed to her, starts on a rant along the lines of, "I knew it. There was this cab driver the other day..."
  • Bring It: J to Edgar.
    J: Don't start nothin'... [squish!] ... won't be nothin'! [squish!]
    (Bug Edgar looms over J absolutely livid and is one eye twitch away from tearing J in two)
    J: You need to get up outta my face 'fore something bad happens to ya.
    (energy weapon charging whine emits from Edgar's abdomen, Edgar starts freaking out)
    J: Too late.
  • Bringing Running Shoes to a Car Chase: When the Bug escapes from J and K in a cab, J tears off after the cab on foot. K sensibly goes to get their car and picks up J, and admonishes him for not remembering that they have Edgar's ship.
  • Broken Masquerade: K's introduction to aliens on Earth - and more-or-less how the Men in Black got started.
  • Buffy Speak: J calls the neuralyzer the "Flashy-Thing," and refers to getting neuralyzed as "flashy-thinged." This continues for most of the first film, with J using terms like "the little dude inside the big dude's head."
  • Captain Obvious: The bug (while in his Edgar suit) at the morgue.
    "A man came in here earlier. A dead man."
  • Casting Gag: The posters play on the fact that the film's two main stars had the last names "Smith" and "Jones"... you know, the kind of super-plain codenames you'd expect two anonymous, black-suited government agents to use.
  • Casual High Drop: The cephalopoid J chases down in New York City drops off a high overpass and keeps right on running. This is J's first clue that something unnatural is going on.
  • Character in the Logo: The film trilogy (as well the animated series) has the agents K and J getting their silhouettes on the "I" of the "MIB" acronym as the main logo of the series.
  • Chekhov's Gun:
    • The flying saucers from the first MIB meeting in 1961, converted into observation towers during the New York World's Fair New York State Pavilion at Flushing Meadows Park in Queens.
    • The little red button in the LTD.
    • K ordering J to fasten his seat belt, J lecturing him about politeness, and K politely asking J to put on a seat belt after pushing the little red button.
    • Rosenberg's cat, which he takes to the restaurant and which later ends up at the morgue. It turns out to be the Orion upon whose belt collar the Galaxy can be found.
  • Chekhov's Gunman: One of the several aliens that J sees in the customs section of MIB headquarters turns out to be the Arquilian that tries to warn Rosenberg of the assassination plans against him. Surprisingly, J recognizes him immediately upon seeing his corpse later on.
  • Chekhov's Skill: Though played for laughs, when J shoots little Tiffany, his description of the situation demonstrates a skilled ability to pick up on details in the scene. While it seems he's simply embellishing to Zed, J is later the one who makes the connection between the jeweler's cat Orion and the "Orion's Belt" clue. It's made all the more awesome by the novelization revealing his rationale for shooting Tiffany was CORRECT, something none of the other applicants succeeded at. He also demonstrates hints of an eidetic memory: he recognises the perp's weapon from his introductory chase scene when K takes him to Jeebs' pawnshop, recognises the tall alien at the morgue after spotting him arriving in M.I.B. headquarters earlier that day, and remembers the flying saucers at the World's Fair in Queens, realizing that the Bug could use the mothballed ships to escape.
  • Cleanup Crew: MIB Special Services, who show up three times to provide more extensive evidence removal than simply neuralizing witnesses. They first appear to burn Mikey's entrails after K blasts him. Afterwards, they arrive to remove the alien bodies from the morgue, with K instructing them to give Laurel a "happy memory." Finally, when the Bug escapes from the jewelry store and J nearly blows the masquerade chasing it, they gather the witnesses for a mass neuralization and get ready to remove the Bug's ship.
  • Code Name: Each agent is supplied with one, but it's the first letter of their first name (James, Kevin, Laurel). Expanded Universe has them go into detail with it.
  • The Comically Serious: Nothing about the job fazes K in the slightest, so his deadpan approach to all the outlandish alien craziness is hilarious. In an interview, Tommy Lee Jones says he actually is this; the way to make great comedy is stay close to Will Smith so the funny spills over. Word of God also describes it as something of an Enforced Trope, as he wanted Will Smith to be the only one who was trying to be funny.
    Beatrice: You here to make fun of me, too?
    K: No ma'am, we at the FBI do not have a sense of humor we are aware of.
  • Constellations as Locations: Discussed, lampshaded and ultimately averted. A dying alien tells the heroes that "the Galaxy is on the Orion's Belt", which they first take to refer to the strip of starsnote  forming the "belt" of the Orion constellation. However, they are quickly refuted when they are shown that the "belt" in reality consists of stars thousands of light years apart that only look like they are close together from Earth, and that there are no suitable galaxies in that particular direction of the sky. The alien's words turn out to refer to their pet, also named Orion, who carries a tiny galaxy hidden on its collar.
  • Cool Car: Each agent, and each of them has a hidden form that comes in handy. "Old and Busted... new hotness."
  • Cool Shades: They've got a purpose, too — they protect against the mind-wiping effects of the Neuralyzer.
  • Counting to Three: K points a gun at Jeebs' head and says he's going to count to three, unless Jeebs shows J the alien guns he has for sale. J assumes this is just a Good Cop/Bad Cop routine, and plays along... but on three, K actually shoots Jeebs' head off.
    J: Drop the weapon and put your hands on your head!
    K: I warned him.
    J: Drop the weapon!
    K: You warned him!
    J: Don't make me kill you...
  • Covered in Gunge:
    • J and K get covered in bug guts after K blows him in half, then again after Laurel blasts the rest of him.
    • One Border Patrol agent ends up wearing puree of Mikey after K shoots him.
    • The Redgicks' newborn baby pukes all over J after its delivery.
  • Covert Group with Mundane Front: In the beginning, Kay introduces himself and Dee as "INS, Division Six", much to the confusion of the border patrol officers. This extended to the animated series, where Jay and Kay would introduce themselves in any position tangentially-related to the situation as "Division Six".
  • Creator Cameo: Director Barry Sonnenfeld and his daughter are seen as two of the aliens under surveillance by the MIB.
  • Creepy Child: J justifies shooting what seems to be a young girl during the shooting range test by saying that while the aliens are simply doing fairly innocuous things in his eyes, "Little Tiffany" is hanging around in a dark alley while carrying a Quantum Physics book that would be way too advanced for someone of her age.
  • Creepy Cockroach: There's a giant roach alien who devours a human and uses his skin as a disguise. He also leaves swarms of roaches wherever he goes, and loves sugar (preferably in water). The roach alien puts on Edgar's body, and then demands sugar in water.
  • Creepy Mortician: Laurel certainly shows shades of this.
  • The Coroner: Dr. Laurel Weaver works at a morgue which receives a large number of deceased aliens. It is implied MIB operatives neuralyze her on a semi-regular basis.
  • Custom Uniform: The film ends with J wearing custom wire frame shades and a modified suit with no tie, looking more like a rap mogul than an agent.
  • Cutting the Knot: J's solution to the problem of no surface to write on is to simply loudly drag a table over to his chair.
  • Damsel out of Distress: When Laurel realizes there's a whole galaxy in Orion's collar and the Bug finds out the cat is at the morgue, he promptly storms the place, holds Laurel at gunpoint and kidnaps her on a a cab so she can take him to the observatory towers of the New York State Pavilion, which are actually confiscated UFOs. As the Bug climbs to his saucer holding Laurel captive, he tells her he plans to eat her as a "snack". Laurel, however, has none of it, breaks free of Edgar's grasp and jumps to a nearby tree while fiercely clinging to its branches to avoid falling. She does fall, but is unharmed, and manages to get a hold of J's MIB gun which she uses to blast the surviving half of the Bug into oblivion.
  • Darker and Edgier: The novelization of the film is a little closer to the original comics' moral ambiguity. For example, when J and K go to see Jeebs, J warns K that this is the kind of neighborhood crawling with carjackers, but K isn't bothered. As it turns out, the alien defense system built into the car? It disintegrates anybody who tries to pick the lock. As J goes on ahead, K lingers to hear one luckless thief try to jack the car and be reduced to dust with a soft "pop". And then there's another "pop", and another, and so K heads into Jeebs' shop smiling to himself whilst he thinks that the longer that they take in Jeebs' shop, the safer this neighborhood will get.
  • Dark Is Not Evil: They are Men In Black after all, but also Earth's "best, last, and only defense against the scum of the universe." Lampshaded in Will Smith's music video.
    The good guys dress in black, remember that / Just in case we face to face and make contact.
  • Delivery Guy: J is left to deal with Redgick's laboring wife while K pulls Redgick aside for questioning.
  • Deranged Taxi Driver: Discussed when K explains to J that most aliens on Earth are simply trying to make a living:
    J: Cab drivers?
    K: Not as many as you'd think.
  • Did You Just Flip Off Cthulhu?: The tow truck driver doesn't get intimidated by "Edgar", even when he takes out his shotgun. Unfortunately for him, he still gets shot by "Edgar".
    Tow Truck Driver: [revealing his own pistol] Please...
  • Distracted by the Sexy: J's budding attraction to Dr. Weaver.
    J: She's got a whole "Queen of the Undead" thing.
    K: What about the body?
    J: Great body.
    K: The DEAD body.
  • The Dog Is an Alien: Frank the Pug.
  • Domestic Abuser: In the short time before he's killed and inhabited by the Bug, Edgar demeans his wife's cooking, calls her lazy and threatens to hit her.
  • Do Not Call Me Sir: K says this line to one of the Border Patrol agents in the opening: "Don't 'sir' me, young man. You have no idea who you're dealing with."
  • Do Not Taunt Cthulhu: Both the tow truck driver and the morgue receptionist learn this the hard way.
  • Dramatic Irony: The Bug's saucer can be seen careening towards Earth for several seconds while Edgar rants to his wife, with his truck prominently in the foreground — so when he says "the only thing that pulls its weight around here is my goddamned truck", the audience gets a moment to realize that he really just said that before the truck in question gets thoroughly obliterated.
  • Drives Like Crazy: K. Just push the Big Red Button, and his car grows a rocket. He then drives on the roof of the Queens-Midtown Tunnel while singing along to Elvis Presley's cover of "Promised Land", and pays the toll without missing a beat even after smashing through the gate.
  • Driving Up a Wall: Agent K takes the MIB Ford LTD Crown Victoria (enhanced by alien technology) for a short upside-down blast along the ceiling of the Queens-Midtown tunnel.
  • *Drool* Hello: Indirectly. After K enters the morgue to find out what's happened to J, he tries to light a cigarette but the match is put out by a drip of slime. He looks up, and now we know what happened to the clerk...
  • Early-Installment Weirdness: In this film, K is portrayed as a man holding out for The One That Got Away. Not only would the second film have him separated from the woman he was holding out for during his temporary retirement, but it would also be implied that he had a love child with the queen of Zartha, joins Frank and Zed in talking about their sexual experiences with aliens at the end of the film, and in the third film they have him flirting with Agent O every time they are together.
  • Eat Me: Trope Namer. K goads the Bug into eating him so he can retrieve his gun and blow it up from the inside.
  • Eccentric Exterminator: Edgar actually isn't an exterminator and is a pretty normal fella (or as normal as someone played by Vincent D'Onofrio can be...) until a giant bug from outer space uses his body as a disguise and steals an exterminator's van, giving us quite a bit of this vibe.
  • Elite Agents Above the Law: The MIB was established by the government, but no longer answers to them. They don't even have a government budget, since they raise their own revenue by marketing alien technology. If any law enforcement officials give them trouble, they just zap them with the neuralyzer.
  • Elvis Has Left the Planet: According to K, "He's not dead, he just went home."
  • Enemy Rising Behind: After K blasts his way out of the Bug, he and J sit back to reflect on the moment while the upper half of the Bug crawls behind them to attack, only to be blasted at the last second by Laurel using J's gun.
  • Epic Fail: Played With; "May I ask why you felt little Tiffany deserved to die?". J points out that the freaky looking aliens all could be doing fairly innocuous things like working out, while Tiffany is walking around with physics textbooks well out of her grade range in a dark alley. Zed is not amused. The novelization reveals J was actually RIGHT in his reasoning and had shot the only real threat.note 
  • E.T. Gave Us Wi-Fi: The MIB have been supporting themselves with patent royalties on technologies they've confiscated from alien visitors, helping along the development of modern tech in the process. Microwave ovens, Velcro, and liposuction are all alien tech, and in the expanded universe, cell phones, solar power, and many more were all reverse-engineered from contraband.
  • Et Tu, Brute?: The worms are spotted leaving MIB headquarters with a cartful of cigarettes, leaving their co-workers to rot.
  • "Eureka!" Moment: J figures out the Arquillian prince's last words meant when he sees Frank barking at a cat.
  • Everything Is an iPod in the Future: A rare instance of this trope being used in the nineties.
  • Evil-Detecting Cat: When Edgar shows up at the morgue, Orion hears him ringing the bell at the front desk and hisses, then runs off to hide.
  • Exactly What It Says on the Tin: Orion's Belt... technically, collar, but whatever.
  • Exact Time to Failure: The Arquillians give MIB a time limit on getting the Galaxy back before they destroy the Earth. When J and K finally retrieve it, all K has to do is say it's in his possession, which happens exactly seven minutes after the timer showed eight minutes. They had plenty of time to spare.
  • Exact Words
    • The "You can have my gun..." exchange. Even more layers of this in the novel, where prior to assimilating Edgar's memories the Bug was using a crappy translator. It renders the saying "There's a deal" into the exact meaning of "Your proposal is acceptable." And then there's the fact that Edgar pulled out the "You can have my gun when you take it from my cold dead hands" stock phrase and the Bug takes him at his word without a trace of irony.
    • Also, Bug!Edgar, when talking with the head chef in regards to where "little Ivan" is (the server who was supposed to be serving the ambassadors of the two alien races that Bug!Edgar is trying to assassinate and steal the galaxy from), responds that he "gave him a break." The camera pans, revealing that Bug!Edgar means this quite literally, having broken his body in half and stuffed him into a cabinet.
    • When Edwards decides to join the team, he asks Kay not to call him "son or kid or sport or nothing like that". Kay calls him "Slick" in the next line. And later calls him things like "Tiger". Zed also gives him various mocking nicknames.
  • Exposed Extraterrestrials: Whenever the MIB are around.
  • Extranormal Institute: The MIB.
  • Face Death with Dignity: Rosenberg is calm when he realizes he's been cornered by the bug, only saying that it won't find the Galaxy.
  • Face Stealer: The Bug.
  • Failed a Spot Check: Lampshaded by a soldier and a marine at the firing range test whose reactions pretty much say "How the hell we miss that?"
  • Faint in Shock: After the Bug gets into his new Edgar suit, Edgar's wife Beatrice tells him that "Your skin is hanging off your bones." The Bug pulls Edgar's face back into a horribly distorted mask and Beatrice faints dead away.
  • Fantastic Racism: As to be expected in a movie about human-alien interactions, even if most humans aren't even aware of aliens.
  • Fanservice: Linda Fiorentino in a short skirt means that when she's kidnapped by a giant disguised insect from space and she's struggling to escape, she's showing us her rather lovely legs. Likewise, when she clings to a nearby tree for a good deal of the final battle.
  • Fashion Dissonance: Agent J's getup at the end of the film (oval-rim sunglasses, long Nehru jacket, and band collar without a necktie) was Hollywood haute-couture for a brief moment towards the end of The '90s. Its purpose in the film is probably to make him look more "up-to-date" and "hip". Tellingly, he goes back to a normal black suit for the sequels.
  • Fiction as Cover-Up: Tabloids serve a double purpose: they act as part of the alien cover-up by causing people to dismiss any stories they hear about aliens while also being a legitimate source of news for those in the know.
    K: Best investigative reporting on the planet. Read the New York Times if you want, they get lucky sometimes.
  • Final Speech: After his Mobile-Suit Human is "killed", the Arquillian prince manages to live long enough to pass on vital (though somewhat misleading) information to J before dying.
  • First Day from Hell: J becomes involved in a plot to save the galaxy within his first day or so. Subverted in that K berates his actions that could expose them by informing J that there is always a crisis on their hands.
    K: There is always an Arquillian battle cruiser, or a Corillian Death Ray, or an intergalactic plague that is about to wipe out all life on this miserable little planet, and the only way these people can get on with their happy lives is that they do not know about it!
  • Forbidden Chekhov's Gun
    K: Remember the little red button?
    J: Yeah?
    K: Push the little red button.
    [J does so]
    K: And you may want to put on a seat belt. [Car unfolds to reveal rocket boosters and travels upside down on the roof of the tunnel]
  • Foreshadowing:
    • The first line in the movie is "Goddamned bugs!"
    • It's real subtle in relation to K's true motives, but when K and Zed are discussing J:
      Zed: He's got a real problem with authority.
      K: So do I.
    • When K shows J the photographs of First Contact, he reacts to the picture of the random young man greeting the aliens with "Aww, you brought that tall man some flowers!" Though he doesn't realize it, his use of "you" is completely accurate — the young man in that picture is K himself.
      • When describing the people present for the First Contact, he's brief with the description of the others, "seven agents, one astronomer", but makes a point to be specific about the "one dumb kid who got lost on the wrong back road".
  • Fourth Wall Psych: When the bug invades Rosenberg's jewelry shop, he appears to walk up to the camera and punch it, cracking the lens. Then the supposedly-ruined camera pans out and we see that he's actually trying to break through the glass door to the shop.
  • Freeze-Frame Bonus
  • Freudian Threat: "I want you on the next transport off this rock or I'm going to shoot you where it don't grow back."
  • From Hero to Mentor: Examined in an interesting way. The big reveal of the first movie was that Agent K wasn't looking to train a new partner, but was instead training Agent J to replace him. Thus in the second movie J was shuffled off to be the senior agent and known for neuralizing junior agents who failed to meet his standards.
  • Funny Background Event:
    • Zed neuralyzing the rejected recruits as J and K walk by shortly after the recruitment process.
    • The alien-childbirth scene where K talks with the husband while in the background J tries to help the wife give birth in the car while tentacles come out of it.
    • While K and J are looking at the screen showing the disguised aliens, a group of MIB office workers are conversing in the background, with one of them standing on the ceiling.
  • Fun with Acronyms
    J: See this badge?! Huh?! N-Y-P-D! Means I will kNock Yo' Punk-ass Down!

    Tropes G to M 
  • Gas Leak Cover-Up
    • The course of action taken after people who witness UFO's or aliens are neuralyzed.
      Agent K: The flash of light you saw in the sky was not a UFO. Swamp gas from a weather balloon was trapped in a thermal pocket and reflected the light from Venus.
    • Also used on the INS agents in the opening sequence after having killed Mickey in their presence.
      Kay: I'm serious, fellas, you're lucky to be alive after a blast like that.
      INS Agent Janus: What blast?
      Kay: Underground gas main, genius! You fellas need to exercise a lot more caution before discharging your firearms, I'll tell you that much right now. Especially you. [points at Janus, who is covered in alien viscera.]
    • Played for Laughs in one scene when Agent J tries to give the standard cover story without having a neuralyzer, as penance for his reckless use of a MIB energy weapon that caused the need for the coverup. He's off the hook once Special Services arrives.
  • Genius Bruiser: J can beat aliens in a foot race and punch some of them out. But he's also a lateral thinker able to see the forest when everybody else is focused on the trees, and is usually able to make logical leaps that K can't.
  • Getting Eaten Is Harmless: Kay purposely lets himself be ingested by the Edgar Bug in order to get his gun back. Once he blasts the bug in two from the inside he's no worse for wear, save for the truly massive mess he made.
  • Given Name Reveal: Orion the cat.
  • Good Cop/Bad Cop: Used in the scene with Jeebs, before James is officially recruited. K threatens to blow Jeebs' head off if he doesn't talk, and James plays along, saying that K's not messing around. What James doesn't realize is that K wasn't bluffing, and he quickly gets in over his head.
  • Go Through Me: Humorously played with:
    J: There's only one way off this planet, baby, and that's through me! [the Bug promptly slaps him aside]
  • Government Conspiracy: Averted. The first agents were part of the US Government, but not anymore.
    J: What branch of the government do we report to?
    K: None, they ask too many questions.
  • Go-to Alias: "Division Six".
  • Halfway Plot Switch: Done very briefly. After the Cold Open, the plot focuses on James running down a criminal who turns out to be an alien giving portents of doom. While being berated by his superiors for this ridiculous story, he is approached by Dr. Laurel Weaver, a coroner who examined the body claims to believe him. She whispers an address to him and tells him to meet her secretly afterwards - leading the audience to believe that the movie will be a Sci-Fi mystery or thriller, involving James and the coroner as Muggles unearthing The Masquerade... and then Laurel is neuralyzed immediately after revealing her suspicions to James, cutting this plotline short immediately, leading into the agent in-training story the movie truly is. She still becomes involved later.
  • Hammerspace
    • How the Bug fits in the Edgar-suit (although he's clearly not too comfy). It makes some sense when you know that roaches are capable of pressing their bodies together to fit into tighter spaces; it makes them extremely resistant against being killed by stepping on them (you need a hard flat surface for that to work). Since the Bug is based on roaches in design and physiology, it's not too far-fetched to assume he has an improved version of that survival technique. From the novelization: "How can it do that?" "They have their ways. And using those ways just makes it even more angry." It also explicitly states that there's some literal Hammerspace going on, and that this is a natural ability the Bugs have.
    • A less obvious example is the sub-machine gun-sized weapon the cephalapoid pulls out of nowhere when Jay is trying to arrest him.
  • Hand Cannon
    • Played straight with the huge revolver the tow-truck driver pulls out when Bug!Edgar threatens him with a shotgun. He's killed by Edgar's shotgun blast before he can use it.
    • Inverted by the Noisy Cricket: a tiny, unseemly weapon resembling a hypodermic needle with a handle, pauses momentarily and chirps like a cricket when you pull the trigger, and then promptly annihilates whatever it was pointed at and knocks you flat on your butt. The recoil usually hurls Agent J about fifteen feet, no matter how he tries to brace himself.
  • Hate Sink: Edgar, the guy the Bug kills and starts impersonating, will, suffice it to say, not be missed. In his possible <60 seconds of screen time he establishes himself as a capricious, abusive jackass with strong misogynistic traits. Good riddance.
  • Herald: The MIB organization (and by extension, the existence of aliens) is this for J.
  • Hero Insurance: Shooting up the Guggenheim to chase a petty thief would get J instantly cashiered from the NYPD.
  • Historical In-Joke
  • Historical Rap Sheet: See the bouncy ball entry on Historical In-Joke above.
  • Hugh Mann: The Bug's disguise as Edgar the Farmer is not really convincing.
  • Human Disguise: Most aliens on Earth wear a disguise to live among humans; including robotic suits, rubber skins, and (in the case of the Bug) real human skin.
  • Humans Are Morons: "A person is smart. People are dumb, panicky dangerous animals and you know it."
    Human thought is so primitive, it is looked upon as an infectious disease in some of the better galaxies. Kind of makes you feel proud, doesn't it?
    • Laurel herself isn't too fond of mankind either, after she fills out the form regarding the dead Arquillian prince and asks the policeman giving it to her why there is a cat with the corpse, the rude jerk angrily takes the form away from her hands and tells her the cat is her problem now. Annoyed with the cop's negligence and rudeness, Laurel gives us this gem:
    Laurel: I hate the living.
  • Ignorance Is Bliss: "There's always an Arquillian battle cruiser, or a Corillian death ray, or an intergalactic plague that is about to wipe out all life on this miserable little planet, and the only way these people can get on with their happy lives is that they DO NOT KNOW ABOUT IT!"
  • I Love the Dead: Implied for Laurel. As a bonus, Laurel at one point explicitly states the inverse, "I hate the living."
  • I Need to Go Iron My Dog: The human smuggler at the beginning of the movie tells the Border Patrol he's been fishing in Cuernavaca to explain why he's driving across the Mexican border late at night. The Border Patrol agent has already busted him for smuggling on several previous occasions, so he doesn't buy this excuse for one second.
  • In Name Only: The first five minutes of the movie is a faithful reproduction of the first few pages of the first issue of the comic. After that, they have almost nothing in common.
  • I Surrender, Suckers: "Edgar", towards the end.
    "Edgar": Oh, I see... I'll put my hands on my head... Like this?
    [tears Edgar's skin off]
  • Immortal Life Is Cheap: K blowing Jeebs' head off isn't murder, it's interrogation.
  • Imported Alien Phlebotinum: In the games, the Aliens are responsible for everything. Also, the Galaxy in the first movie.
  • In-Joke: The driver smuggling illegal aliens (one of whom is an alien disguised as an illegal alien) along a road marked "375" claims to have been "fishing in Cuernavaca." 375 refers to Nevada State Road 375, known as the "Extraterrestrial Highway" for being near Area 51 (although the scene is in Texas), while Cuernavaca is a Mexican city that supposedly had a flying saucer crash.
  • Incomprehensible Entrance Exam: The eponymous organization draws in applicants from the very best in the military and police for a series of exams - without ever telling them what they're really hoping to achieve by participating. Along with the incredibly awkward written exam in egg-shaped chairs with no desks, the applicants are pitted against a variety of menacing-looking aliens in a shooting range... and not told that the real target of this exercise is actually the harmless-looking girl. The entire class flunks out and has their memory of the incident erased - except for James Edwards, the future J.
  • Insectoid Aliens: The alien Bug, a giant cockroach wearing a new Edgar suit.
  • Insignificant Little Blue Planet: Zig-Zagged trope. It's clearly stated that most aliens view Earth as a very unimportant planet. In fact, that's why these aliens visit: it's "an apolitical zone for aliens without a planet," the Casablanca of the universe. Of course, having so many alien species mingling every day (some of who are considered royalty on their homeworld) means that, in consequence, Earth Is the Center of the Universe. This then gets worked into the film's Anthropic Principle: the Men In Black keep up The Masquerade to make sure the neutral zone stays neutral. Which leads into a nasty conclusion: the Men In Black will keep using the neuralyzers forever, as they themselves agree with all the aliens that humans are so stupid that the only way Earth can thrive is as a neutral zone. As long as the Men In Black are around, we will never get out into space.
  • Insult Backfire
    • "Edwards, if you were half the man I am..." "I AM half the man you are!"
    • Human intelligence is so primitive that it's considered an infectious disease on other planets. "Kinda makes you proud, doesn't it?"
    • Earlier, after Kay explains the history of the MIB, James asks "When the last time you had a CAT scan?", to which Kay answers "About six months ago, company policy."
  • Internal Retcon: The whole point of the Neuralyzers.
  • Inventor of the Mundane: The MIB owns the patents to some 'out of town' inventions, naming a few which make quite a bit of sense; Velcro (not actually invented by NASA), microwave ovens (invented by a military defense contractor), liposuction (pre-dates alien contact, but was mostly a creative form of mutilation before the development of ultrasonics - another military invention)...
  • Invisible Aliens: More like disguised so as to appear invisible to those who have a Weirdness Censor.
  • It's Up to You: The other police officers aren't fit enough to keep up with Jay's first alien. Jay lampshades this.
  • Japanese Tourist: J lands on a bus full of them when chasing the perp during the Cold Opening.
  • Jerkass: Edgar was like this before he got killed and ended up body snatched by the Bug. There's also a bunch of unfriendly cops as well.
  • Jerkass Has a Point: K accurately sums up the MIB's need for secrecy by telling J that the only reason average people are able to get on with their lives is that they're not aware that the Earth is under constant threat from aliens.
  • Just Eat Him: K, going to get back his gun from Edgar's throat in the first film's climax. The novelization explains that the Bug only swallowed K whole out of anger; he would have chewed J if he'd gotten the chance.
    "Eat me. EAT ME!!"
  • Karmic Death: The Bug kidnaps Laurel and decides to make a meal out of her. Sure enough, she is ultimately the one who destroys him once and for all.
    Laurel: Interesting job you guys have.
  • Kill and Replace: The Bug does this to Edgar.
  • Knuckle Cracking: After the Bug kills Edgar, dons his new Edgar suit and climbs out of the hole made by his crashing starship, he cracks his neck.
  • Laser-Guided Amnesia: How the Neuralyzer works. They can be set to wipe a person's most recent memories for any length of time from minutes to years, allowing them to forget about the aliens trying to kill them. Repeated neuralyzations, however, cause deja vu in some subjects. Notably, this is usually matched with them telling Blatant Lies about what happened (of the typical "weather balloon and swamp gas" explanations), and the assumption is that in the absence of their regular memories the subject is more likely to accept the suggestion, no matter how far fetched.
    • Combined with No Fourth Wall in one of the commercials, in which J and K ask viewers how they liked the movie, then fire the Neuralyzer directly at the camera, and then invite the audience to go see the film: it's full of surprises. Also comes up at the end of the video for the "Men in Black" song, when Will Smith (in character as J) says "Sorry" and fires his Neuralyzer directly at the camera. The view clears to show the same empty hallway in which the video began, implying that the viewer has just had the last four minutes' worth of their memory scrubbed.
  • Laser-Guided Karma: The verbally abusive Edgar spends just enough time on screen doing his thing so that the audience will have absolutely zero sympathy when the bug's meteor crashes on his vehicle of choice.
    Edgar: The only thing that pulls its weight around here is my goddamn truck!
  • Law of Inverse Recoil: You will not break that "damn thing" Noisy Cricket, J. It will break you and everything else in the vicinity.
  • Layman's Terms: Zed compares Earth's predicament to being the last party-goer who gets stuck with the check.
  • Left Hanging: Agent J, and the audience never does find out what Laurel likes to do in the morgue when it's really late.
  • Leno Device: The end of the first movie shows tabloid articles talking about the effects of the climax on the public, including a conspiracy theory forming about Detroit perfecting a rocket car and one story about the baseball player who missed the catch during the baseball game shown in the movie claiming "UFO MADE ME MISS HOME RUN!" (which is actually true). Of course, the joke is that the MIB regard the tabloids as the world's best investigative reporting. ("You can try the New York Times if you want. They get lucky sometimes.")
  • Little Useless Gun: The Noisy Cricket is a double subversion. It's tiny, sure, but it packs a hell of a punch... which never actually helps at any point in the film.
    • The novelization informs us that this is a deliberate tactic used to train new agents not to assume things about how something because of how it looks (and to haze the new recruits and bet on how far they will fly backwards).
  • Loads and Loads of Races: Several alien species are mentioned and shown onscreen, especially when Jay first sees the inside of MIB.
  • Long List: K and Zed muse over the NYC and Jersey-based aliens who have already flown the coop. The list ends with Staten Island ("Gone, thank God.").
  • Losing Your Head: Jeebs. K shoots him in the head and he regrows it, with complaints about the inconvenience.
    Jeebs: You insensitive pricks! Do you have any idea how much that stings?
    K: Show us the merchandise or you'll lose another head, Jeebs.
  • Lost in Translation: The Arquillian Prince says that "To prevent war, the galaxy lies on Orion's Belt." The protagonists are led astray by their presumption that the Prince was referring to the constellation Orion and the three stars that comprise his "belt". Orion is actually his cat's name and the "belt" is actually a mistranslation of "collar."
  • MacGuffin: The Galaxy, in the first movie.
  • Masquerade: The alien shenanigans the MIB deal with put the Earth in mortal danger on such a regular basis that humanity simply would not be capable of functioning with that perpetual risk of annihilation looming over them. As such, the existence of alien life is kept a total secret from the world, and most aliens are required to use prosthetics or disguises to pass off as human, animal, or machine.
  • Meaningful Background Event: After K blasts his way out of the Bug, he and J sit down to discuss what the hell just happened, but behind J you can see the Not Quite Dead Bug getting up and starting to walk away...
  • Meaningful Echo: See Bookends, above.
    [in the opening scene]
    D: I'll tell you, Kay... I will miss the chase. I will miss the chase.
    K: No, Dee. You won't. [neuralyzes him]

    [after the climax]
    K: See you around, Jay.
    J: No. You won't. [neuralyzes him]
  • Memory-Wiping Crew: If the fallout from an encounter is too big for a single MIB agent to handle, a containment crew is called in to neuralyze large groups of witnesses and get rid of the evidence and/or dress up the scene to sell a cover story.
  • The Men in Black: The good guy version.
  • Mentor Occupational Hazard: Averted. K survives the Bug's innards to retrieve his gun and blast his way out.
  • Minor Crime Reveals Major Plot: Disappearance of a man after encountering a UFO and a suicide —> theft of a galaxy and possible destruction of the Earth.
  • Mobile-Suit Human: Rosenberg (who at one point provided the page image). The alien prince of the Arquillian Empire who had the Galaxy was piloting one ("the little dude inside the big dude's head"), the better to hide from enemies — and to pet his cat.
  • Monumental Damage: The Unisphere is wrecked when Edgar's stolen ship (which was one of the observation towers at the New York State Pavilion) crash lands into it.
  • Mood Whiplash
    • J is more than happy to help K with doing the whole Good Cop/Bad Cop routine while questioning Jeebs, until K holy shit blows Jeebs's head off, at which point J drops the act:
      J: [aiming a gun at K's head, deadly serious] Drop the weapon.
    • Then Whiplashed back again as Jeebs regrows his head:
      Jeebs: [in a high squeaky voice] You insensitive prrrrricks! D'you have any idea how much that stings?!
  • Muggles: Any person not part of the MIB is called a "Neutral".
  • Multi-Armed Multitasking: The twin Mission Controls.
  • Mundane Solution: When the other recruits are filling out their forms, none of them know how to do so in the odd chairs they're sitting in. J gets the idea to pull a table closer to him so he can fill it out on there.
  • My Card: K hands one to J as part of recruitment.
  • My Hovercraft Is Full of Eels: How some alien languages work.
  • Mythology Gag: When Edgar first meets the Bug, their discussion about the gun is a reference to the surprisingly obscure comic the movie was based on. It turns out much better for the farmer in that one, though - the bugs REALLY needed his gun (for a high-stakes scavenger hunt), but not so urgently that they couldn't wait him out.

    Tropes N to S 
  • Naïve Newcomer: J, to the point that he indulges in Uncle Tomfoolery.
  • Necessarily Evil: The organization is not overtly malicious, but they do recognize a certain moral ambiguity with how they deceive the population, even telling them harmful lies about the truth of loved ones. J engages Edgar on a crowded street and K is quick to berate him over jeopardizing The Masquerade. When J balks citing the situation calls for extreme measures K tells him that The World Is Always Doomed and the only thing preventing mass chaos is keeping all this a secret.
  • Needle in a Stack of Needles: When "Edgar" escapes with the Galaxy and Laurel, J realizes he's escaped in a cab. The trouble is, the movie is set in New York, and it's rush hour. The streets are filled with cabs. However, K makes him stop, saying "He's not leaving [Earth] in a cab."
  • N.G.O. Superpower: The MIB is no longer connected to any government, but effectively holds sole control over Earth's foreign policy.
  • No Accounting for Taste: Edgar and Beatrice.
    J: [to K] The dude was that ugly before he was an alien?
  • No Such Agency: Played With. Originally a Federal agency, the MIB splintered off since the government "asked too many questions." They erased any and all records and memories of their existence from their own government, getting their funding from the patents of alien technologies.
  • Noisy Shut-Up
    • The Bug losing patience with Laurel and J's bickering.
    • J to Zed and K:
      J: Hey, OLD GUYS!
      [cut to Zed and K shooting Death Glares at him]
  • Non-Answer: During the recruitment, J asks why they were there, and one of the military-trained recruits responds that Zed is looking the "the best of the best of the best, sir." J deduces, correctly, that none of the others knows why they're there either, and are following a "do what you're told" mentality. Given the results of the test, it's entirely possible that the recruitment process was just a going-through-the-motions act put on for the benefit of J and/or Zed.
    James Edwards: Maybe you already answered this, but, why exactly are we here?
    Zed: [noticing a recruit raising his hand] Son?
    Jake Jenson: Second Lieutenant, Jake Jenson. West Point. Graduate with honors. We're here because you are looking for the best of the best of the best, sir! [shoots James a snobbish glare but Edwards bursts out laughing]
    Zed: Something funny, Edwards?
    Edwards: My boy Captain America over here! "Best of the best of the best, sir! With honors!" Obviously, he's just really excited and he has no clue why we're here.
    Edwards (sheepishly): Y'all ain't laughing, though...
  • Nonverbal Miscommunication: J (understandably) misreading Laurel's frantic signals that the Bug is hiding in the trolley as a come-on.
  • Noodle Incident: Agent K tells Agent J, "you should've been here for the Zeronion migration in 1968."
  • Not Even Bothering with the Accent: Kay is supposed to be from Truro, Massachusetts, on Cape Cod. He talks with Tommy Lee Jones' Texas drawl.
  • Not This One, That One: Agent J is shown an awesome-looking Series-4 De-atomizer, but is actually issued a puny-looking Noisy Cricket. This one is actually a subversion of the usual gag, as the weapon J gets really IS the better one; it just doesn't look like it. J is later surprised when the weapon causes massive explosions akin to grenades. (While hurling him backward due to recoil.)
    Agent K: [shows J a LARGE pistol] Series 4 De-atomizer.
    Agent J: That's what I'm talking about!
    Agent K: [shows J a tiny pistol] Noisy Cricket. [hands it to him]
    Agent J: Kay, no, no, come on, man. You get a Series 4 De-atomizer, and I get a little midget Cricket? [snip] Feel like I'm gonna break this damn thing!
  • Nothing Is Scarier: When the Bug pulls the farmer Edgar into the crater, the audience isn't shown what he does to him. However, judging from the various ripping and tearing sounds, the screams of the farmer, and the fact that all that's left after is his skin, it couldn't have been fast or pleasant.
  • Obfuscating Stupidity: J, to a degree. The entire first act of the movie is designed to show that his streetwise smart-ass routine is largely a put-on and he's actually a very good, and even insightful, detective.
  • Obvious Stunt Double: An infamous scene reveals that Will Smith's stunt double during the "Remember the little red button? Push the little red button" gag was Caucasian.
  • Octopoid Aliens: J helps an alien to deliver a baby. During the process he is attacked by several tentacles, and when the mother finally gives birth to the baby, it looked like a a grey and squid hybrid.
  • Off Bridge, onto Vehicle: Played with during the Cold Opening, when Jay is seen chasing a perp who jumps down from an overpass onto a lower street. Instead of watching the perp get away, Jay jumps down onto an open-top double-decker tour bus full of Japanese Tourists.
    Officer James Edwards: It just be raining black people in New York!
  • Oh, Crap!:
    • Agent Janus when he gets discovered by Mikey and realizes that he's about to be killed.
    • Only once does Agent K briefly lose his composure, thanks to witnessing the Bug revealing itself.
  • One Dialogue, Two Conversations: Edgar's Humans Are Bastards tirade to the roach exterminator.
    Edgar: Just what exactly do you think you're doing here?
    Exterminator: I'm taking care of your pest problem.
    Edgar: Pest problem? PEST??
    Exterminator: Yeah you got a hell of an infestation here.
    Edgar: You know I've noticed an infestation here. Everywhere I look in fact, nothing but undeveloped, unevolved, barely conscious pond scum totally convinced of their own superiority as they scurry about their short, pointless lives.
    Exterminator: Well...yeah...uh, don't you wanna get rid of them?
    Edgar: Oh in the worst way.
  • One-Hit Kill: The MIB's heavy weaponry has this effect on aliens and their vehicles. The challenge is getting to a point where you both A) are in front of the alien and B) have said heavy weapon at the ready.
  • One-Winged Angel: Edgar's final form, a giant, angry cockroach with teeth.
    Edgar: I'll put my hands... on... my head... like this!?
  • O.O.C. Is Serious Business: J lets fly with his Noisy Cricket in public when they have a brush with Edgar at the jewelry store. K breaks his normally calm inscrutable demeanor to angrily rip into J for disrupting the Masquerade, and how world-endangering events just like the one they're dealing with now are a regular occurrence and the Masquerade is still upheld.
  • Oppressive Immigration Enforcement: Agent K and Agent D interrupt a bunch of border patrol agents snatching up a group of illegal immigrants from Mexico to pick out a literal blue alien who has overstayed his visa on Earth. The border patrol agents are treated as rather incompetent and obsessed with insignificant problems. But then, that goes for all Muggles who aren't in on The Masquerade.
    Agent Kay: You fellas can hit the road. Keep on protecting us from the "dangerous aliens".
  • Orphaned Punchline: "But honey, this one's eating my popcorn!" Here's the rest of the joke. The same joke also appeared in The Sting.
  • Pants-Positive Safety: Averted; Officer Edwards seems to be stashing his handgun down the front of his pants, but he actually has a specialized concealment holster in that location which is briefly visible.
  • Parody: The film parodies the witterings of conspiracy theorists by taking them at face value.
  • Passing the Torch: At the end of the film, by K giving J the neuralyzer.
  • Person with the Clothing: Black suits, black shades.
  • Pet the Dog: Kay treats the human immigrants kindly and allows them to go on their way after he detects Mikey hiding among them. He also gives Beatrice a simple, good memory of her marriage to Edgar ending to replace her encounter with the Bug.
  • Planet Looters: Edgar's race feeds off intergalactic wars.
  • Planet Terra: In the novelization, Edgar calls humans "terries."
  • Plausible Deniability
  • Possessing a Dead Body: Shortly after landing on Earth, the villainous Bug kills the farmer Edgar and proceeds to wear Edgar's hollowed-out skin as a disguise. The resulting impression—a sick-looking man who moves clumsily and turns increasingly rotten as the plot advances—very much resembles a walking corpse.
  • Possession Burnout: The "Edgar Suit" gets pretty shabby by the end of the movie.
  • Pre Ass Kicking One Liner:
    Kay: [cocks gun] Roaches check in...
    Jay: [cocks gun] ...They don't check out.
  • Public Secret Message: Agent K explains that tabloids, which are assumed to be hoaxes by muggles, are in fact based on true events behind The Masquerade (since tabloids have less Weirdness Censor than "serious" newspapers). Later, when Agent K retires, Agent J notices an article with Agent K's photo and an article about a postal worker who returned to his old job after years in a coma, revealing Agent K's fate, which then becomes a major plot point in the second film.
  • Punctuated! For! Emphasis!
    • When J catches up to the perp he's chasing:
      J: N! Y! P! D! Means I will kNock! Yo! Punk-ass! Down!
    • Also, when K, when J complains about them not having time for the cover-up:
      K: There's always an Arquillian Battle Cruiser, or a Corillian Death Ray, or an intergalactic plague that is about to wipe out all life on this miserable little planet, and the only way these people can get on with their happy lives is that they do! not! know! about! it!
    • When pressing Edgar's Berserk Button:
      Agent J: "Don't start nothin'..." [squish] "...won't be nothin'!" [squish]
  • Punny Name: Laurel becomes L — "elle", in other words.
  • Put Down Your Gun and Step Away: Happens three times.
    • The Bug to Edgar when they first meet.
    • Edwards to K after K shoots Jeebs in the head, only to drop it when his head grows back.
    • The Bug to J and K when they confront him in the morgue.
  • Quiet Cry for Help: Laurel is talking to J in the morgue while the hidden Edgar is watching her, having threatened her with death if she gives him away. J persistently misinterprets Laurel's attempts to alert him as sexual come-ons.
  • Race Lift: J was white in the original comics and was supposed to be played by Chris O'Donnell who was filming Batman & Robin at the time.
  • Real Event, Fictional Cause: The 1977 New York Blackout was caused by an alien releasing a Hyper-Destructive Bouncing Ball into the area as a prank.
  • Reality Has No Subtitles: Near the beginning of the movie, a group of Border Patrol agents stop a van carrying illegal Mexican immigrants. The driver of the van and a Border Patrol agent all speak to the illegal Mexican immigrants in Spanish without any translation of their words. However, K's dialogue after he shows up is subtitled.
  • Recoiled Across the Room: J and the Noisy Cricket. Every time J shoots it, he flies back several feet.
  • Recursive Reality: The MacGuffin that draws Edgar Bug to Earth is a miniature galaxy. The final scene reveals that our galaxy is just like the MacGuffin, and lies several layers down within a miniature galaxy-orb that an alien is playing marbles with.
  • Recycled IN SPACE!: In-universe example; K refers to Earth as Casablanca FOR ALIENS.
  • Refuge in Audacity
    • K tells J the truth about the MIB but J doesn't believe him.
      J: So, who exactly are you with? FBI? NSA?
      K: I'm part of a bureau that licenses, monitors and polices alien activity on the planet Earth.
      J: Whatever.
    • K neuralyzes J after he's identified the gun.
  • Replicant Snatching
    Edgar (the bug): Place projectile weapon on the ground.
    Edgar (the farmer): You can have my gun [Dramatic Gun Cock] when you pry it from my cold dead fingers.
    Edgar (the bug): Your proposal is acceptable. [sucks Edgar into the hole]
  • Revolting Rescue: Kay's plan to save the day involves himself being swallowed whole by a giant alien bug in order to retrieve his gun.
  • Riddle for the Ages: What does Laurel like to do in the morgue late at night?
  • Right for the Wrong Reasons: Zed says the Galaxy cannot be in Orion's Belt because the Belt only has three stars and galaxies are too big to be there. The Galaxy turns out to be small enough to be the ball that decorates Orion the cat's belt but Zed is right about the Galaxy not being in Orion's Belt.
  • Running Gag: Whenever J neuralyzes anyone, he tends to give them long rambling speeches in which he gives meaningful personal advice about their lives, goes into wild irrelevant tangents about the situation, and encourages them to do exciting and/or fun things - particularly as a counterpoint to K, who always gives very brusque and to-the-point memories and wants to be done with it. It pops up once in this movie, but really takes off in the second and third films.
    • Whenever J and K go undercover to interrogate someone, they use fake names. The first time, K introduces J as "Special Agent Black"; the second time, as "Dr. White"; and in the third instance, J introduces himself as Sgt. Friday.
  • Sadist Teacher: J discovers that one he had in grade school is actually an alien from one of the moons of Jupiter.
  • Safety in Muggles: While the Neuralyzer makes fighting outside doable, the general idea is to avoid being seen when fighting aliens.
  • Salt and Pepper: Agent J, played by Will Smith, and Agent K, played by Tommy Lee Jones, are partners. Kay exhibits a very serious demeanor, rarely joking or smiling and giving very matter-of-fact responses. Jay has an energetic, enthusiastic attitude and refusal to strictly follow authority that Kay admired when he first met NYPD officer James Edwards who would become Agent J.
  • Sci-Fi Writers Have No Sense of Scale: Very nearly averted. K explains that a grouchy alien was stuck in customs after traveling 17 trillion miles...or a bit under 3 light-years. While this wouldn't get you to the nearest known star to our sun (Proxima Centauri), it would at least put you in interstellar space.
  • Screaming Birth: The alien woman... plus a few tentacles shaking a screaming J around like a ragdoll while K casually questions her husband, oblivious to this.
  • Significant Name Shift: Throughout the movie, Agent Kay calls Agent Jay nicknames like "sport", "slick", and "kid", despite his objections. However, in the end, when Kays informs Jay he intends to retire from the MIB, and after he gives him the neuralyzer (after telling him he'd get it "when you grow up") to wipe away his memories of his service in order to protect the agency's secrecy, he says "See you around, Jay."
  • The Smurfette Principle: The film doesn't have many female agents. The end of the film shows Agent L, a woman who becomes J's new partner. However she is neuralyzed between films and given a Written-In Absence to make way for the return of Tommy Lee Jones.
  • Snark-to-Snark Combat: Part of why K and J work so well together.
    Kay: I don't suppose you know what kind of alien life form leaves a green spectral trail and craves sugar water, do you?
    Jay: Uh, wait, that was on "Final Jeopardy!" last night. Damn, Alex said...
  • Stab the Salad: K pulls a knife on a Mexican immigrant and swings it toward him - and slices open his clothing, revealing an alien hiding inside.
  • Stalking Is Love: K uses the MIB's super-advanced Spy Satellites to spy on his old girlfriend while she's out gardening.
  • Stealth Insult
    • Zed pays one to the applicants:
      Zed: Congratulations, you're everything we've come to expect from years of government training.note 
    • Agent J also gives one while he's still an NYPD officer:
      Overweight Cop: If you were half the man I was—
      James: I am half the man you are.
    • And one to the feds, when they impersonate a pair of FBI agents:
      Beatrice: You're not here to make fun of me again, are you?
      K: No, ma'am, we at the FBI do not have a sense of humor that we're aware of.
  • The Stoic: Agent K.
  • Stumbling in the New Form: When "Edgar", a 12-foot-tall, multi-legged insectoid alien super-criminal, wears the flayed skin of human farmer Edgar, he staggers and jerks around in this tiny bipedal form as if his body is barely contained and aching to burst free. It doesn't help that his new "suit" is un-refrigerated and slowly decaying over the course of the film, so it's beginning to stiffen and wear down.
  • Suit Up of Destiny: Done when J puts on his MIB uniform for the first time; it even provides the trope's page quote.
  • Sunglasses at Night: Though in this case they've got a justified purpose - they protect against the mind-wiping effects of the Neuralyzer.
  • Suspiciously Specific Denial: How the Men in Black implant new memories sometimes, after Neuralyzing someone.
  • Swallowed Whole: The Bug to K.
    • Averted between Bug and Laurel. He wanted to eat her, but threw her off a ladder instead when he decided fighting to take her as a "snack" on the "long trip" wasn't worth it.

    Tropes T to Y 
  • Team Title: Men in Black.
  • Techno Babble: Plenty.
    K: Set for pulsar level five, subsonic implosion factor two.
    J: What?
    K: Just shoot the damn thing on the count of three!
  • Tempting Fate
    • While ranting to his wife about how horrible she is, Edgar says "The only thing that pulls its weight around here is my goddamn truck!" Naturally, the Bug's saucer crashes right into the truck the moment he finishes the sentence, completely obliterating it. "Figures."
    • Edgar tells the Bug "You can have my gun when you pry it from my cold dead fingers." The Bug finds this proposal acceptable and immediately eats him.
    • J being won over by the cuteness of a baby squid. Right before it barfs on him.
  • They Look Like Us Now: Non-humanoid aliens have ways of blending in, usually some kind of robotic human suit. Or in Edgar's case, an organic one.
  • Thing-O-Meter: Not a literal device, but
    J: This definitely rates about a 9.0 on my weird-shit-o-meter.
  • This Explains So Much: Twice. J discovers his third grade teacher really was an alien all along, and at the end when J reveals Dennis Rodman is one, too.
  • Threat Backfire
    • Edgar tells the Bug "You can have my gun when you pry it from my cold dead fingers." The Bug finds this proposal acceptable and immediately eats him.
    • Also, when kidnapping Laurel, she threatens that if Bug!Edgar does anything to her (after claiming that she's Earth's ruler or even a goddess), Earth will declare war on his species in an attempt to get him to let her go. Unfortunately, this gave Bug!Edgar a lot more incentive to kidnap her than before ("War? Good. That means more food for my family. All 78 million of them. That's a lot of mouths to feed, Highness.")
  • Too Dumb to Live: The tow truck driver towing Edgar's vehicle responds to a drawn shotgun pointed at him by simply showing Edgar his revolver and then putting it back in his jacket, somehow failing to realize a revolver inside a jacket will do no good against someone who already has his gun drawn and aimed at him.
  • Troubled, but Cute: Dr. Laurel Weaver. She cynically states that she hates the living, sometimes gives off a creepy vibe, and we never find out what she likes to do in the morgue late at night. However, she's played by Linda Fiorentino and wears dresses that show off her legs, so Agent J is definitely more focused on the latter than the former.
  • Two of Your Earth Minutes
    • Parodied and played straight. A galactic week is one hour. The Arquellian message displays a timer labeled "Earth Time Remaining", counting down the hour.
    • And the MIB operates on a 37-hour-day. According to Zed, "You get used to it. Or you have a psychotic episode."
  • Two Roads Before You: As the first movie demonstrates with J, all prospective agents have the choice between remaining in their current occupations and leading their lives, or joining the agency and severing all ties to their former lives.
    J: Is it worth it?
    K: Oh, it's worth it... if you're strong enough.
  • Uncle Tomfoolery: J.
  • Undying Loyalty: Orion the cat. It doesn't let its owner's true identity bother it and it stays with him until he dies from his injuries.
  • Unflinching Faith in the Brakes: When the agents bring down the spacecraft, they stand and let it come to them. J at the least looks around nervously but otherwise doesn't move.
  • Un-person: As Zed says in the quote, it's part of the initiation process. Leaving agents get their identities back, however, or at least a reasonable facsimile thereof.
  • The Unpronounceable: Too many aliens.
  • Unusually Uninteresting Sight
    • The movie is full of this. It's implied that since most aliens live in New York, people just chalk it all up to New York being weird.
    • Originally the movie was supposed to take place somewhere in rural America, but the filmmakers moved the setting to New York City since so many odd things happen there and there are so many unusual people that nobody pays any attention. Therefore it wouldn’t seem odd at all that a seven foot tall man with a protruding forehead is sitting at a table with a small man and his cat while both are speaking some unidentifiable language.
    • Kay actually invokes it by chatting over a cup of coffee with the Worm Guys, when James remained doubtful.
  • Van Helsing Hate Crimes: The MIB are an aversion of this and only seem to accept candidates who are also an aversion of this. The rejected candidates all played this trope straight during the target practice session.
  • Video Full of Film Clips: The Will Smith song of the same name.
  • Visual Pun: The opening scene has Mikey, an illegal aliennote , traveling disguised as an illegal alien.note 
  • Vomit Indiscretion Shot: Reggie's newborn "squid" child coughs up on J shortly after it's born.
  • Wainscot Society: The alien immigrants have their own rather chaotic social systems running within human society.
  • Welcome Episode: The first half of the movie.
  • Welcomed to the Masquerade: After James has a close encounter with an alien assassin, Agent K recruits him into the Men in Black organization and gives him a tour of the facilities.
    • Then, at the end of the film, After Laurel Weaver demonstrates that she's quite capable of dispatching aliens herself, and admits she finds the MIB job interesting, she becomes Agent J's new partner after J neutralizes Agent K, allowing him to retire, and takes over K's job.
  • Wham Line: "I haven't been training a partner. I've been training a replacement."
  • What a Piece of Junk: J refers to K's Crown Victoria as a "Ford P.O.S.". He finds out very quickly that it's outfitted with alien tech that makes it outperform anything else on the road.
  • What Does This Button Do?: K's car has the little red button.
  • What Happened to the Mouse?: Edgar grabs Orion the Cat, and a split second later he's holding the charm on its collar, with the cat nowhere to be seen. The cat's whereabouts and condition are not addressed and there's no follow-up.
  • What the Hell Are You?: James, after the first alien he meets scales the side of a building and reveals his eye gills.
  • Where da White Women At?: Laurel makes a pass (okay, a few) at J. In the ending the duo are revealed to be partners.
  • Who You Gonna Call?: That's right.
  • Wistful Amnesia: J and Laurel (who had previously met, but were later neuralyzed) both think the other looks familiar when they meet for the first time (again). It's implied that those who have been neuralyzed do retain scraps of memory, usually chalked up to deja vu.
  • The World Is Always Doomed: K shuts down J's Screw the Rules, I'm Doing What's Right! moment by sternly informing him in an Armor-Piercing Response that there is always some crisis or another threatening to end life on Earth — The Masquerade isn't just to keep the MIB secret, but because most people can't handle that kind of constant danger, so the MIB makes sure they don't have to think about it, lest civilization itself collapses.
  • The World Is Not Ready: The MIB's mantra of why they're keeping alien immigration a secret from the rest of the Earth.
  • Worst News Judgment Ever: Justified as the tabloids are a better source of alien info than "mainstream" papers.
    K: But go ahead, read the New York Times if you want. They get lucky sometimes.
  • Worst. Whatever. Ever!: J's first impression on seeing the locksmith is that he's got the "worst disguise ever". The locksmith turns out to be human; his dog Frank is actually the alien.
  • Worthless Yellow Rocks: The two Arquillians at the diner are chatting and one notices an ornamental case on the table. He asks with awe, "Is that it?" The other replies, "No, just some diamonds for your children."
  • You Are Not Ready: Jay (still known as James Edwards at the moment) tells Kay that he chose him so he needs to respect the skills and he doesn't want to be called any nicknames like "son" or "kid" or "sport."
    Kay: Cool, whatever you say, slick, but I need to tell you something about all your skills. As of right now, they mean precisely... (they arrive at a massive company floor teeming with aliens) dick.
  • Your Mom: J's bug-stomping routine at the film's climax was originally the build-up to him calling one of the cockroaches "yo mama!" It was in the novelization and the original script, but the payoff was cut from the finished film.
  • You Are Who You Eat: The "Edgar-suit."
  • You Have No Idea Who You're Dealing With: Stated almost verbatim by K at the beginning of the movie.
  • Your Head A-Splode: Jeebs, hilariously. Don't worry, his race regenerates.

Now, if you could just look right here...
"Damn, what a gullible breed."


You weren't at your computer for the past few minutes. You got up, got something to eat and then visited a few other sites. Checked some blogs, answered a couple e-mails, nothing too eventful or life changing. After a few minutes, you returned to TV Tropes and found a completely different page to view.


Video Example(s):


Forget Not the Men in Black

Patrice Rushen's original song asks her former lover not to forget her, but Will Smith's sample asks people to do just that when it comes to the Men in Black.

How well does it match the trope?

5 (2 votes)

Example of:

Main / Sampling

Media sources: