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Film / Starship Troopers

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"The only good Bug is a dead Bug!"
"Join the Mobile Infantry and save the galaxy."
"Service Guarantees Citizenship!"
"Would you like to know more?"
Various buzz-words in Federation propaganda

Starship Troopers is a 1997 Military Science Fiction action film directed by Paul Verhoeven. Loosely based on Robert A. Heinlein's novel of the same name, the film is generally considered to be the biggest middle finger the original source material will ever receive, and that is no accident.

A co-production between TriStar Pictures and Touchstone Pictures (that's right, Disney helped produce this movie), the film is a satire of militarism, the Cold War, dehumanization of the enemy, war movies, propaganda and military sci-fi in general. It originally started out as an unrelated script called Bug Hunt before the studio acquired the rights to the novel and Verhoeven, disgusted by what little he was able to stomach of Heinlein's book, had the script rewritten to deepen the satire.

The film was intentionally designed as the polar opposite of the book in terms of message, characterization, and themes — an attack on the idea that War Is Glorious. A fairly detailed exploration of the film's themes can be found on The AV Club. The film was also riffed by RiffTrax. (It should be noted that some people missed the satire, perceiving a simple gung-ho action flick instead; to Verhoeven's credit, the film is his most action-packed.)

There were two live-action Direct to Video sequels, Starship Troopers 2: Hero of the Federation, which had puppeteer parasites in the form of brain-eating Control Bugs, and Starship Troopers 3: Marauder, with the introduction of Powered Armor and religious subtext.

In addition, an All-CGI Cartoon was released in 1999, called Roughnecks: Starship Troopers Chronicles, which takes place in its own continuity and incorporates the Powered Armor from the book. Years later came the CGI movie Starship Troopers: Invasion, made largely by fans of the book Running the Asylum. Invasion is set several years after the third movie. As such it does reference other movies, and acts as a Spiritual Adaptation of the book, in a colossal Tone Shift from the previous movies, with the end result been it feeling very similar to a certain other adaptation of the book with a helping of Fanservice and Technology Porn added in. Of note are its Japanese influences, and the fact that Rico now looks like Big Boss IN SPACE! It was followed in 2017 by Starship Troopers: Traitor of Mars.

A Real-Time Strategy game based on the movie, Starship Troopers: Terran Command, was released in 2022.

This film and its sequels provide examples of:

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  • 10-Minute Retirement: Rico tries to quit after he is demoted (due to getting a fellow trainee killed because of his desire to win), but just as he is walking out of the base, the Bugs supposedly Colony Drop his hometown and he promptly forces his way back into the Infantry.
  • Abandon Ship: After the Rodger Young is split in two by a plasma blast.
  • Action Prologue: The opening starts with the initial landing on Klendathu, then cuts away as it starts to get bad and Rico is seen getting attacked by Bugs on the camera.
  • Actionized Adaptation: Despite its war theme, the original Starship Troopers novel doesn't actually contain many action scenes. The novel is more of a philosophical or political thought experiment that explores the moral foundations of a hypothetical future government in which people must earn their citizenship and voting rights by serving their society, following those characters who opted for the military. The Bugs are merely a backdrop in the story. The film abandoned much of the novel's social commentary in favor of offering a different kind of commentary by essentially making an action-oriented propaganda film such a society would make.
  • Actually Pretty Funny: Johnny can't help but smile when Ace and Dizzy show him a notice declaring him KIA.
  • Adaptational Dumbass:
    • Subtly done. Much of the Federation's policies and tactics are deliberately altered to be less logical, fair, factually correct, and reasonable, as part of how Verhoeven feels about Heinlein's pro-military politics. When arguing that Violence Really Is the Answer, the city of Hiroshima is discussed like it ceased to exist completely after it was nuked (spoiler alert: people still live in Hiroshima), whereas in the book it was Carthage being cited as an example.note  When Ace Levy brings up the very reasonable question of why they need to practice knife-throwing when they're training to fight pickup truck-sized Bugs that shrug off heavy arms fire, in the book, Sergeant Zim actually explains that he's training his soldiers to keep fighting no matter what, while in the movie, Zim just throws a knife at Levy's hand without even properly answering his question and justifies it by saying that "the enemy can't press a button if you disable his hand" (not only is this flatly untrue, considering the enemy could presumably just press the button with his other hand or some other part of his body, the Bugs don't even use control panels and do not have hands).
    • Rico's depiction is subtly altered to make him a dumber and less competent soldier. Most notably: in the book, he's whipped as punishment for carelessly launching a rocket during a training exercise without checking to make sure his fellow soldiers were out of the blast zone—which would have resulted in a death by friendly fire in a real combat situation. In the film, he's whipped for foolishly removing a fellow recruit's helmet during a live-fire training exercise, which leads to said recruit actually dying after he's hit in the head by a stray round. Instead of just getting a painful lesson about the dangers of carelessness in the field, he's outright court-martialed and demoted for gross incompetence.
  • Adaptation Explanation Extrication:
    • The Mobile Infantry operating without armor or artillery support was actually lampshaded and justified in the novel because the MI-powered armor suits let them provide their own support (making aircraft, tanks, and artillery pretty much useless). When the movie eliminated the powered armor, it failed to account for this, making the MI's tactics look very silly. Lampshaded: After the initial attack on Klendathu failed miserably, everyone acknowledged that the MI's tactics were moronic. In later operations they're seen operating with heavy air support.
    • Also, the scene when the soldiers were practicing throwing knives at targets. In the book, when Ted Hendrik (Ace Levey in the film) questioned Sergeant Zim on the purpose of this training exercise when the enemy uses more advanced and deadly weapons, Sergeant Zim responded by saying there are no such thing as dangerous weapons; only dangerous men. He explained that he is training his soldiers to be dangerous with any weapon in battle even if they only have one arm and one leg left. The movie changed this scene by having Sergeant Zim throw a knife at the questioning soldier's hand without even explaining the purpose of the training, which is doubly silly when you remember that the Bugs aren't tool users so throwing the knife would do precisely squat.
    • A more minor example that is easy to miss: In the movie, the soldiers are occasionally referred to as "Cap Troopers". In the book, this referred to the capsules they dropped in, but in the film the nickname becomes orphaned.
  • Adaptational Self-Defense: In the book, the attack on Buenos Aires is an unprovoked escalation of a series of border skirmishes. In the film, it's unclear why the Bugs did it (or if they did it at all), but shortly after the city is destroyed, we're shown a massive military starbase that the Federation had built deep inside their territory, and a Federation propaganda video acknowledges the theory that they were provoked by human incursions into their 'natural habitat'.
  • Adaptation Personality Change: In the original book, the Arachnids were high-tech imperialists using artificial weaponry, making their war with humanity a simple clash of empires. In this one, they're territorial isolationists with a significantly less human-like culture and mindset that (along with their reliance on advanced Organic Technology) allows humanity to (falsely) dismiss them as tough but mindless animals.
  • Adapted Out
    • In the book, the Mobile Infantry were also fighting a war against the Skinnies: A tall, green, humanoid species who were initially allied with the Arachnids, but later joined with humanity.
    • The original text also included the Cap Troopers wearing Powered Armor (in fact, the novel is the Trope Codifier for this particular Trope). The film Mobile Infantry has nothing of the sort until the third film, Marauder (and even then, they are experimental Mini-Mecha). Needless to say, this is one of the biggest reasons why people decry the film as an In Name Only adaptation.
  • Added Alliterative Appeal: Rico's assigned unit for most of the movie is Rasczak's Roughnecks. In a Meaningful Echo, this becomes Rico's Roughnecks.
  • Affectionate Parody: The musical Starship is one of the film.
  • Alien Autopsy: Performed during biology class on a bunch of dead Arkellian Sand Beetles.
  • Alien Blood: All the Bugs have green blood except for the Tankers, which bleed orange.
  • Alien Invasion: Inverted. After a series of repulsed colonisation attempts and a direct retaliatory attack on Buenos Aires on Earth, humanity declares all-out war and invades the Bug worlds.
  • Alien Sky: There are three day moons visible in the sky over Planet P.
  • All Planets Are Earthlike: And they all look like the same stretch of desert, too. Maybe the Bugs thrive best in dry, mountainous environments?
  • Almost Kiss: Between Carmen and Zander just before the asteroid appears.
  • An Arm and a Leg: The recruitment officer, lots and lots of MI troops. Rasczak in spades. It's a hint that the armed forces are pretty ineffective.
  • Anyone Can Die: Most of those close to Rico are slaughtered brutally.
  • Archaic Weapon for an Advanced Age: In boot camp, Ace complains to Sergeant Zim about having to learn to throw knives when the Federation military has starships armed with nukes. Instead of the detailed lecture on controlled force that Zim gave in the book, here he has Ace put his hand on the knife target and promptly inflicts an Impaled Palm.
    Zim: The enemy cannot push a button if you disable his hand!
  • Argentina Is Nazi-Land: Note the protagonists' homeland, if the movie's other subtle hints towards the true nature of the Federation weren't enough. Verhoeven deliberately sought to imply that a form of ethnic cleansing had occurred there - the town of Buenos Aires sure seems awfully blonde and white.
  • Armor Is Useless: The MI's heavy body armor doesn't do shit against anything, least of all the Bugs. There's not a single instance in the movie where it actually provides protection. It's possible that it's simply flak armor designed to protect against shrapnel, but we don't see it perform this function either. As Advanced Sci-Fi Civilisations Too Stupid to Exist notes, the armor is actually a detriment because it restricts movement and the Bugs don't use human weapons which it was built to protect against.
  • Artificial Limbs:
    • Rasczak's mechanical left hand. In his first scene he just has a stump, so it seems that he got it fixed when he signed back up with the Mobile Infantry.
    • The recruitment officer also has one. Though he's also missing some legs, which makes you wonder if artificial legs even existnote .
  • Artistic License – Gun Safety: As thoroughly analyzed on the Internet Movie Firearms Database, the live-fire exercise was a fatal accident just waiting to happen, with the fact that just one person died being nothing short of miraculous. To say nothing of the propaganda reel where two soldiers pass out guns to kids and then start handing out bullets. This is entirely deliberate, as a demonstration of how eerily comfortable the Federation is with the risk of death and violence (not least because that gives it an excuse to hurt people in retaliation).
  • Artistic License – Military: All over the place, but one that stands out is Carmen revealing that she'd altered the course of the spaceship they were on in order to save time and fuel...putting them directly in the path of the asteroid. In reality, a helmsman who altered a ship's course on their own would be facing court-martial, demotion, and jail time.
  • Artistic License – Physics:
    • When hit with missiles, orbiting space ships do not fall perpendicular to the planet and they especially do not fall down RELATIVE TO THE CAMERA. The third film appeared to get this right with the disabled troop ship following an unpowered decaying orbit rather than dropping like a brick.
    • The asteroid Carmen almost misses, unless it was dense as hell, should in no way have enough mass to create such a significant gravitational field, especially enough to counter the ship's own artificial gravity field.
  • Ascended Extra: Dizzy (who lest we forget was male) was nothing more than a Sacrificial Lamb for the first scene of the novel; Carl was killed off-screen — er, off-page. Both have more important roles in the movie.
  • Asskicking Leads to Leadership: Rasczak's entire History & Moral Philosophy lecture about why only veterans have the right to vote (one of the few ideals directly taken from Heinlein's novel that saw the light of day in this film).
  • Attack! Attack... Retreat! Retreat!: At the Battle of Klendathu, the Mobile Infantry go from spraying Arachnids to a complete and disorderly rout back to the dropships in a span of about half a minute.
  • Author Tract: The film is one, in a way diametrically opposed to the original book.
  • Auto-Doc: An injured Rico is placed in a nutrient tank with automated metal hands mending his thigh wound.
  • Back in the Saddle: Rico's teacher Mr. Rasczak returns to duty as lieutenant in the MI. Drill Sergeant Zim is so eager to get back on the front lines that he deliberately gets himself demoted to private to do so.
  • Bait-and-Switch Tyrant: Lt. Raschak has a reputation for being a "real nutbuster" among troops outside his unit, but Raschak's Roughnecks are fiercely loyal to their commander. He comes across as stern and demanding, not hesitant to shoot one of his own troopers to save the poor ape from being eaten alive by a nest of Bugs, and says he'd expect anyone in his unit to do the same for him. But then we see that he understands the importance of soldier morale by ordering his troops to have a party while they're in a safe zone, and even allowing Rico and Dizzy to finish up their R&R in the tent.
  • Band of Brothers: Johnny, Dizzy, and Ace become this after they went through training together, got tattoos together (with Kitten), and survived Klendathu together (without Kitten). Sugar joins the band after they join the Roughnecks, and he sees them in action.
  • Banister Slide: Carmen does one while running to a shuttle.
  • Battle Cry:
    "Come on you apes, you wanna live forever?!"
  • BBC Quarry: The alien planets all look like this.
  • Beauty Is Never Tarnished:
    • Rico's hair is always perfect. Always. Even when he just took off his helmet after marching around a hot desert planet.
    • Carmen sustains a massive explosion to the face when the bridge takes a hit over Klendathu. While Rico's recovering in the bacta tank, Carmen has a tiny cut through her eyebrow which actually serves to enhance her looks.
  • Behind the Black: Carmen and Zander notice a gravity field affecting the ship, and all its advanced sensors indicate that it's probably an asteroid. The question is why they need the sensors to tell them about it when the giant asteroid about to hit them is clearly visible out the front window.
  • Beauty, Brains, and Brawn: Carmen, Carl and Johnny.
  • Betty and Veronica: Rico for Dizzy and Ibanez. Interestingly, he essentially winds up with neither as Dizzy dies and Ibanez ends their relationship to concentrate on being a career pilot.
  • Black-and-Grey Morality: The film presents the conflict between the human race and the Bugs as Black-and-White Morality, but it has the tone of an in-universe propaganda movie and it's quite clear to most viewers that the humans are meant to be the real monsters of the movie. The sequels are better described as Evil Versus Evil.
  • Black Dude Dies First: Inverted, where the black dude dies last holding the line for his comrades to escape, with a ticking tactical nuke in one hand.
  • Blatant Lies: The information spread by the Propaganda Machine. But because it plays its satire with such a straight face, you have to be paying attention to catch it. Pay particular note to casualty numbers in the newsreel on the Battle of Klendathu and then the numbers displayed in Rico's Federation hospital. The media are underreporting the deaths by a factor of ten.
  • Blood from the Mouth: Dizzy, after she gets Impaled with Extreme Prejudice, justified, as at least one of the Arachnids talons clearly goes through where the lung is located.
  • Blood Knight:
  • Bloody Hilarious: Several examples, most notably General Owen getting crushed by a Flying Bug that had already been killed because he didn’t move out of the way in the absurdly long time it took to crash and instead screamed his head off. Ace is clearly struggling not to grin at this.
  • Boom, Headshot!: How Breckinridge dies during the live firing exercise.
  • Bottomless Magazines
    • In spite of the massive amount of ammo expended, you can pretty much count on one hand the number of times anyone reloads on-screen.
    • Averted during the battle at the outpost on Planet P in the first movie. One of the MI says he's low on ammunition and another says they're out of ammo. Which for Dizzy is kind of weird for her to run out, as she spent the better part of the assault trying to call for retrieval.
  • Brick Joke: At the end of the Boot Camp portion of the film, Zim is told that due to his value as a Veteran Instructor, the only way he'll see combat is if he busts himself down to private. Cue the film's climax, where it is revealed that Zim in fact got himself busted down to private and captured the Brain Bug. It may have even been because he decided to rip apart Rico's resignation form in front of everybody else in the office so he could get back to the Infantry.
  • Bubblegum Popping: The animation Carmen sends back to Rico at class has her popping a bubble into his face.
  • Bug War: The war is against the giant Klendathu Arachnids.
  • Burial in Space: Dizzy Flores' gets a Meaningful Funeral during which her casket is sent into space. Mostly because she's a main character; none of the thousands of unnamed soldiers who die onscreen are ever seen getting such a lavish service. Her funeral serves mainly as a vehicle for Rico's Character Development by demonstrating that he finally understands the concept of sacrifice during war.

  • Call-Back:
    • Rico, in his eulogy for Dizzy, starts off by referencing the question Rasczak asked his class at the beginning of the movie: “What is the difference between a citizen and a civilian?” Having fought and seen many friends die, Rico answers that citizens have “the courage to make the safety of the human race their personal responsibility.”
    • Once the attack on Buenos Aires happens, Zim asks for combat duty. His superior officer tells him he needs Zim there to train more cadets and that the only way he will be allowed to serve is to be demoted to private. Zim shows up again at the end of the movie after personally catching the Brain Bug. When Rico calls him sergeant, Zim corrects him and tells him he is now Private Zim.
  • Camera Abuse: During the Bug assault on the Federation outpost on Planet P, one of the Bugs gets shot in a way that its blood splatters the camera for a split second.
  • Capital Offensive: The Federation shows what a bunch of geniuses they are by invading Arachnid territory and going straight for their homeworld Klendathu, the most heavily populated and fortified planet of the Arachnid's interstellar empire. The human assault force is routed within the hour and they are forced to retreat with embarassing casualties. The next Sky Marshal goes for the somewhat more sane strategy of attacking the outlying colonies first.
  • Captain Obvious: It probably doesn't take a man with Psychic Powers to tell you that your prisoner is afraid.
  • Chastity Dagger: Of a sort. Zander passes Carmen a knife right before the Brain Bug penetrates him through the skull and sucks his brains out. Carmen uses the knife to stop the Brain Bug from doing the same thing to her.
  • Chekhov's Gun: "Who needs a knife in a nuke fight anyway?"
  • Chekhov's Skill:
    • Rico's and Dizzy's football chops from their schooldays serve them well during boot camp, and again on Planet P in their respective fights against Tanker Bugs.
    • After Rico sees how Carl can control his pet ferret’s mind, he tells Carl not to do that to him. Carl reassures him cannot control humans … yet. By the end of the movie, Carl is able to send Rico telepathic messages telling him where Carmen is. (Or maybe he did. It’s classified.)
  • Child Soldiers: In a blink-and-you-miss-it scene, we're shown Rico's New Meat. They're all teenagers, some of them look as young as 14 years old. They're not shown again for the rest of the movie, presumably because showing the inevitable outcome wouldn't be acceptable.
  • Communications Officer: A series of (usually short-lived) characters fulfill this role throughout the film, including Dizzy and Ace towards the end.
  • Composite Character: In the novel, Carl is Rico's childhood friend who dies off-screen, the only psychic is an unnamed "sensitive" who makes one brief appearance (and Rico suspects his talent is really just very good hearing), and Jenkins is one of Rico's later squadmates. Also in the novel, Colonel DuBois, Rico's teacher, and Lt. Rasczak are separate characters, but Michael Ironside pulls double duty when the two are combined.
  • Cool, but Inefficient
    • The standard-issue assault rifle of the Mobile Infantry is the Morita. It fires a hefty round that can punch through two inches of solid titanium and the carapace of a Bug creature with ease, and it can even blow a limb clean off with one shot. It also features an underslung pump shotgun, for close encounters. However between the bulk of the rifle and the sheer power of the rounds it fires, troopers fire like graduates of the Imperial Stormtrooper Marksmanship Academy, and the guns still have little effect because Arachnids Feel No Pain and will keep fighting even as automatic fire is pumped into them. Later, the knowledge that troopers can kill an Arachnid with a single aimed shot to a specific nerve cluster is frustrated because the Morita lacks any sights.
    • In Real Life, the trend for military rifles is towards smaller, lighter weapons that have superior handling, cause less fatigue on the soldiers and allow them to carry more ammunition (modern western-style military thinking says the army that can put more lead in the air is the one that will win). Rasczak uses a compact carbine version of the Morita that looks just as powerful and has sights, raising the question why they don't equip all the soldiers with that weapon, but again, it's probably keeping with the Federation's theme of style over practicality.
  • Corporal Punishment: Rico is publicly whipped after he tells Breckinridge to take off his helmet during a live firing exercise, and Breckinridge gets killed. Johnny's father mentions that it happens to civilians too.
  • Covered in Gunge: Bug guts everywhere.
  • Crapsaccharine World: The United Citizens’ Federation is a military-led society in which only veterans are citizens, you need an official license to have children, and you can be tried, found guilty, and executed all in one day (on live TV), and that is fighting an endless colonial war across space against an implacable enemy with superior numbers. Yet, this is all presented in a bright, sunny, matter-of-fact way. In the original novel, veterans are veterans of any public service, the film highly implies that it is only military service that counts.
  • Creator Cameo: Screenwriter Ed Neumeier makes an appearance in one of the news segment as a murderer sentenced to death with his execution to be broadcast live.
  • Cult Colony: Port Joe Smith is a colony founded by "Mormon Extremists" just inside the Arachnid Quarantine Zone. Bugs apparently found them quite tasty.
  • Curb-Stomp Battle: The attempted invasion of Klendathu to end the war right away ends up putting a critical dent in the Federation and takes at least 100,000 Mobile Infantry soldiers including some of Johnny's boot camp buddies when they stumble into the Arachnids' defensive swarms; it doesn't take long before the Zerg Rush tilts in the Bugs' favor and an order to abort the mission is given. The propaganda clip after the battle states "100,000 dead in one hour," but the casualty list on the hospital ship shows a number above 300,000. Another communication broadcast during the battle mentions the Bugs are actually overrunning the dropships as they're picking up the retreating troops.
  • Dare to Be Badass: "Come on, you apes! Do you wanna live forever?!"
  • Deadline News: The film opens with the reporter and his cameraman dying by Bug. Not at the same time, either; the cameraman was just that stupid.
  • Dead Man's Trigger Finger: During a (remarkably unsafe) live-fire training exercise, one recruit is hit in the back by a Static Stun Gun as she turns to bicker with another recruit who was trying to fix his helmet (on Rico's orders) by taking it off. She ends up inadvertently firing a burst that takes part of his head off.
  • "Dear John" Letter: Rico gets one from Carmen via video mail.
  • Death by Adaptation: Johnny's father. In the book, only his mother is in Buenos Aires when it's destroyed; his father was meant to join her there later and survives as a result, joining the military and going on to become Johnny's second-in-command. In the movie, he dies along with her.
  • Death by Cameo: In the first movie scriptwriter Edward Neumeier briefly appears as a murderer who is arrested in the morning, tried that day, found guilty and sentenced to to be executed that evening. Swift justice indeed.
  • Death from Above/Colony Drop: The Bugs supposedly use this by (somehow using plasma) shooting asteroids at Earth, but the humans seem to have trouble with the concept. Yes, this makes so little sense that it's implied it's bull anyway; the more likely explanation is that the government did it themselves or used a natural disaster as a Pretext for War.
  • Death Notification: Rico is initially reported KIA during the disastrous landing on Klendathu, but was actually rescued and brought back to Ticonderoga Station. Played both for drama and laughs when Carmen learns that Rico has died, only for a Gilligan Cut to reveal Dizzy and Ace showing Rico his death certificate and having a good laugh over the typical failings of military bureaucracy.
  • Death of the Hypotenuse: Dizzy. And, for that matter, arguably Zander.
  • Deconstructed Trope: Of classic Hollywood Tactics with usually gory results. Trying to out-Zerg Rush a faction that would make the actual Zerg proud? As in sending in millions of unprotected infantry without any support whatsoever? Or, never asking for space freighters to transport the infantry on the planet around? Placing all your space ships as close as possible to each other so the enemy anti-orbital artillery can conveniently land hit after hit? Yes, all of those are done by the humans and all of those end in utter failure. The Bugs, on the other hand, are incredibly adept when it comes to tactics in this movie series. Unlike older cases where humans are facing mindless aliens who attack en-mass, they are dealing with a well-coordinated Hive Mind that knows proper tactics, has plenty of surprising and deadly tricks in reserve, and their basic mooks can take so much punishment that it takes a whole clip of ammo just to bring one down.
  • Deconstructive Parody: The film started out as a satirical story called Bug Hunt before it was tied to the novel. Paul Verhoeven, who grew up in the Netherlands under German occupation, tried to read the novel and found what little he could stomach of it disgusting in a very familiar way, so he made the film specifically parody the novel, the Why We Fight WWII propaganda films, and jingoistic warmongering and fascism in general through deconstructing the entire premise. The inhuman enemy that is "Othered" is literally inhuman monsters, even more so than in the novel. The militaristic society makes the humans so complacent in their superiority that they refuse to even consider the enemy to be intelligent after the Bugs attack them with a Colony Drop from across the galaxy. They try to use horrendous military tactics and their forces are completely slaughtered. The humans only seem like heroes because of the propaganda-like tone of the film itself. They accomplish a (in retrospect) small victory and are clearly still having problems with the Bugs by the end, but the viewer is encouraged to join the Mobile Infantry because every soldier is needed. Yet despite all that, it's done in such an over-the-top fashion that most viewers don't even realize the parodic intent and cheer the humans on as if it were a straight-up action movie.
  • Defiant to the End: Zander, moments before he gets a Brain Bug spine to the head. He tried, at least. One day, someone like me is gonna kill you, and your whole fucking race. (Cue Spiteful Spit)
  • Developing Doomed Characters: The shower scene gives us a name, backstory, and motivation for all the soldiers in Rico's unit. You'd believe this to be the film's Ragtag Bunch of Misfits protagonist group, and in a standard sci-fi movie, they likely would be. All of them die quick, gruesome deaths in the very first battle, with the exceptions of Ace, Diz, Djana'D (who dropped out during training), and Rico himself.
  • Devoured by the Horde: After pulling a Leeroy Jenkins, Shujumi is torn apart by a horde of Arachnids.
  • Died in Your Arms Tonight: Dizzy, in Rico's arms.
  • Disconnected by Death: Video Phone example in the first movie. Rico is talking with his mother and father, who live in Buenos Aires. As they're talking, a shadow comes across the parents' end of the line. The screen then dissolves into static and a short time later the news shows the destruction of the city.
  • Distress Call: A fake Distress Call is sent out on Planet P. While the grunts never saw it coming, it was in fact, an Obvious Trap to Intelligence, who tripped it with aforementioned grunts to see if there was a Brain Bug on the planet.
  • Doom Magnet: Rico, to almost Walking Disaster Area degrees. Anyone in his squad should have a counter ticking down on their head. By the end of the movie, he and Ace are the only surviving members of his main squad, his initial squad is whittled down to just himself, Ace and Dizzy by the initial attempt at invasion gone horrifically wrong, then his new squad is killed (including Diz, who had just completed a Relationship Upgrade with Rico) in their third outing as well his commanding officer (also his high school teacher). By the end of the movie, the only surviving named members of the initial group are himself, Carmen, Ace and Carl.
  • Doomed Hometown: Rico was just leaving the academy when he finds out about the asteroid destroying his home of Buenos Aires. He goes and convinces the commanding officer and Zim to tear up his resignation and allow him to stay.
  • Double Entendre: Zander drops several of these, as he is trying desperately to sleep with Ibanez.
    Zander: I heard about a girl in the academy: good with math, a little wild on the stick...
    Zander: Three weeks on a starship and you think you can lick my Navs?
  • Downer Ending: By the film's end, Rico's parents, his mentor, and a woman who truly loved him are all dead. Only two of his friends survive and he will see neither of them in the same light again. It's implied that despite their technology and new insights into the Bugs, humanity is losing the war because they can't replace their losses quick enough— which explains the Child Soldiers and the fact all the main characters have found themselves in senior command positions despite their near-total inexperience. And worst of all, Rico has gone the way of Winston Smith and been so thoroughly indoctrinated into the ideals of his brutal society, that he doesn't see this as a horrible outcome.
  • Dramatic Space Drifting: On their escape route from the collapsing spaceship, Carmen and Zander pass by a field of debris and bodies floating in space.
  • Drop Ship: Appear to basically be shuttles carrying shipping containers for the troops to ride in. A smaller version is used to recover Rico's Roughnecks from the outpost in the first movie.
  • Dropped a Bridge on Him: A ton of characters die pointless, inglorious deaths and are never mentioned again, most notably Kitten, who is killed by a Bug during the Klendathu invasion in a quick, blink-and-you-miss-it manner, and is never mentioned again. This was almost certainly intentional.
  • Eat Brain for Memories: The Brain Bugs, who use a rather straw-like proboscis to stab through the skull and suck out the juicy brainmeats within.
  • Equal-Opportunity Evil: Questionably white Buenos Aires aside, the Federation is remarkably egalitarian for a fascist army of space Nazis, one of the only ways that its policies were changed to be less right-wing than the book. Men and women of all races in the Mobile Infantry sign up together, train together, fight together, die together, and, most infamously, shower together.
  • Everyone Went to School Together: We learn that the human troop strength is well in the hundreds of thousands, if not millions. Nonetheless, Rico ends up in the same unit as Dizzy. Later Rasczak joins them. Also Carmen winds up on the same ship as Zander, though he arranged for that to happen.
  • False Reassurance: When Rico first signs up, the recruiter boasts that the Mobile Infantry made him the man he is today... as he shakes Rico's hand with an artificial arm and rolls his chair back to reveal he's had both legs amputated.
  • Fanservice Extra: Gee, how could anyone be dumb enough to sign up for war under these conditions.... hold on, did you say "mixed-sex showering at boot camp?" All of the minor boot camp trainees are shown half naked in the shower scene, along with the main ones.
  • Fantastic Racism: A TV presenter says he finds the very idea of intelligent Bugs offensive. This undercurrent is also hinted at after Watkins continues to angrily shoot an already dead Bug, covering himself with alien gore.
    Watkins: Ain't much to look at after you scrape them off your boot.
  • Fascist, but Inefficient: Many (very valid) points are made about how idiotically the human race makes war in the film. However, this may very well be the point, given that in Real Life, fascist regimes actually do tend to make war with awesome incompetence due in no small part to seeing their enemy as inherently inferior. That phenomenal arrogance and ignorance, and the consequences of these attitudes on the battlefield, are on full display in the first battle of Klendathu.
  • The Federation: What the in-universe Federation presents itself as. Subverted in that it's The Empire pretending to be The Federation (something which a lot of audience members totally never picked up on).
  • Feed It a Bomb: Dizzy makes a Tanker Bug swallow a grenade.
  • Fetish-Fuel Future: Co-ed showers! Also, getting fitted for a mecha unit requires that you stand naked in front of a small device which is only high enough, and large enough, to cover your crotch. Notably, these scenes (from the first and third movies) aren't played like typical Fanservice. All the characters, male and female, have a reasonable, non-sexual discussion. Meanwhile, the camera does not focus on the sexy bits. It simply films everyone talking and interacting, exactly as if they were still wearing clothes.
  • Fictional Flag: The United Citizens Federation uses a blue and green flag with a stylized eagle in the middle drawn to resemble a military aircraft. This is a very subversive way of Putting on the Reich, since green and blue are often seen as calming, heroic colors, in contrast to Red and Black Totalitarianism. Eagles have also been used in the heraldry of many empires, from the Romans to the Nazis to the Americans.
  • Fictional Sport: The indoors-on-hardwood-with-gymnastics football game.
  • Field Promotion: Taken to extreme levels with Rico once they end up in the Roughnecks. After taking out a tanker in an extremely reckless move, he is elevated to corporal. After the previous commander dies, Rico becomes acting lieutenant. After they get back to HQ, instead of assigning another one, Carl just makes the promotion permanent. It's even directly shown that Rico is only getting this bump up to Lieutenant because his friend can make it happen. Even when he's promoted to Corporal, it's because he showed he could take initiative in the thick of action, and THEN only because Rasczak's previous man in that role was recently killed. It's also suggested that Rico simply got the promotion because the war is going so badly for the Federation that all the senior officers are out of action.
  • Fire-Forged Friends: Rico and Ace, with Ace initially starting out as The Rival, but he is eventually humbled and becomes Rico's friend.
  • Foreshadowing:
    • When Carmen shows up at the spaceport and tells Rico why she's late, she says her dad "helped" her pack and told her he was afraid he'd never see her again. Sure enough, he's right, except HE'S the one who dies thanks to the meteor that lands on Buenos Aires.
    • When Mr. Rico is told Johnny plans to enlist in the Federal Service, he retorts that he'd rather take ten lashes in public than let that happen. Johnny is the one to receive those lashes after he gets a man killed in a live-fire training exercise and succeeds in convincing the recruit who shot that man to resign and forgo her political goals.
  • Free-Love Future: Probably the case in the film, given how everyone regarded the unisex, communal showers as no big deal. In the shower scene it was mentioned that you need a license to reproduce, so perhaps they have mandatory use of contraception.

  • Gallows Humor: When Rico is revealed to be alive and recovering in a medical ward after the Battle of Klendathu, he shares a laugh with Ace and Dizzy over his Death Certificate, which was issued prematurely in the confusion after the disastrous rout the humans suffered.
  • Gender Flip: Dizzy Flores, mostly to add a Love Triangle and a Squadette.
  • Gender Is No Object: Men and women serve together in all parts of the Federation military (and even shower together). In the book the Mobile Infantry is strictly male, and women do serve, but they are almost universally in the Space Navy since they make better pilots.
  • Get a Hold of Yourself, Man!: Rasczak punches General Owen in the face hoping to snap him out of his despair mode. When that doesn’t work, he tries to shoot him.
  • Get a Room!: Carl teases Rico and Carmen this way when the latter two share a patient kiss at the school dance.
  • Gorn: The film is regularly horrifically violent and gruesome, as (yet another) a way of hammering home the fact that War Is Hell, no matter what the characters try and make you believe. The Klendathu Drop Site Massacre is probably the most horrifying scene as the Mobile Infantry are set upon by a horde of Bugs and graphically dismembered en-masse.
  • Good Scars, Evil Scars: All of the adults have horrible injuries. Rasczak is missing his arm, Rico's biology teacher is blind with massive burn scars all over her face, the recruiter is missing his legs and one forearm, and so on.
  • Good Thing You Can Heal: Played with, in that it's not a Healing Factor, but medical technology that lets boot camp be more brutal than in the real world. Zim visibly breaks a recruit's arm to the point the bone is sticking out and impales Ace's hand with a knife. The first recruit is wearing a futuristic cast with a blue liquid in the next scene, and appears totally healed thereafter, and Ace's injury is shown covered by a bandage then not at all after that. Further shown with Rico's Auto-Doc scene, where he's back in fighting shape within a couple of weeks when such a real-life injury would've, at best, been months of healing and rehabilitation (most likely he'd have been disabled for life). The advanced prosthetics also allow the characters to get back into action after losing whole limbs.
  • Government-Exploited Crisis: The asteroid that destroyed Buenos Aires is said to have been sent towards earth by Bug plasma from the Klendatu system. A visual representation shows that Klendatu and Earth are literally on opposite sides of the Galaxy, and seeing as the Terran Federation is secretly a fascist government (showing Public Executions on TV, glorification of the military, military uniforms that took inspiration from the Third Reich), it's heavily implied that the Terran Federation used the coincidental asteroid impact as an excuse to expand their dominions by invading the Arachnid's territory. To ensure public support, the Federal Network is putting on a very positive spin on the fact that the war has ground down to a quagmire.
  • Gracefully Demoted: The Drill Sergeant Nasty is shown wanting to fight the Bugs rather than train cadets. There's a minor background moment where a commanding officer tells him there's no way he's fighting the Bugs unless he busts his ass down to private. This turns out to be a Brick Joke, as said character wound up doing just that, and winds up capturing the Brain Bug and possibly turning the tide of the war.
  • Guilt-Free Extermination War:
    • The film satirizes this by having the Humans take a disturbing amount of glee in the destruction of the Insectoid Aliens. The propaganda reel after the alien meteorite destroys Buenos Aires particularly demonstrates this. One of the survivors looking straight into the camera and earnestly declaring, "The only good Bug is a dead Bug!" The next clip of people at home "doing their part" is of school children crushing cockroaches and their teacher maniacally cheering them on. The one journalist who suggests that compromise is possible if Humans stay out of Insect-populated worlds is immediately shouted down.
      Rico: I'm from Buenos Aires, and I say, Kill'em all!
    • It gets to the point where at the end of the movie, when they capture the Brain Bug, Carl psychically merges with it to learn what it’s thinking. When he announces that it’s afraid, rather than feeling empathy or sympathy, all the soldiers triumphantly cheer!
  • Gut Feeling: When searching for Carmen and Zander inside the cave, Rico tells his comrades that he knows that she is still alive. He cannot explain how he knows though. It's suggested Carl psychically influenced him, which Carl is coy about when called on.
  • Half the Man He Used to Be:
    • The usual result of someone getting caught in a Warrior Bug's mandibles, including Kitten Smith and the FedNet Correspondentnote .
    • Captain Deladier, crushed by an emergency bulkhead door.
    • Rasczak at the base. Rico has to kill him.
  • Hand Signals: Lieutenant Rascak uses them while approaching the outpost on Planet P.
  • Happy Ending: Parodied. By the end, Rico has gone from mildly questioning the morals of the society he lives in to believing in the Federation ideology of going all-in on genocidal warfare against the Arachnids, which gives him a really bad case of Genre Blindness. His parents, his mentor figure, and a woman who truly loved him, are all dead. Of his two surviving friends, he will never see either of them the same way again. Despite the new knowledge and technology granted by the capture of the Brain Bug, it is implied that the Federation is still ultimately going to lose the war because it simply lacks the manpower to replace its losses (hence the teenage soldiers seen in Rico's Roughnecks and the persistent call for more people to join up). Despite all this, as the final propaganda reel ends with triumphant music after showing a montage of post-climax developments, "THEY'LL KEEP FIGHTING AND THEY'LL WIN!".
  • Helmets Are Hardly Heroic: Oddly averted. In every battle scene, more or less everyone is seen wearing their helmet at all times. In fact, the one time a trooper removes his helmet, it's during a training exercise and it doesn't end well for him.
  • Heroic BSoD: Ace is shutting down mentally during the nocturnal raid on the alien planet.
  • He's Dead, Jim: Zander diagnoses his captain dead without checking any vital signs. Justified since they had to Abandon Ship quickly and she was crushed by a blast door.
  • Hollywood Acid: Tanker bugs spray, what looks to be, a extremely corrosive orange fluid, it simply touching you dissolves through everything within seconds, it also seems to be semi plasma as it's clear you aren't just dissolving, you are burning.
  • Hollywood Tactics:
    • Many examples for the humans. The "Battle of Klendathu" is the biggest offender. In a rare point of consistency between film and book, the Battle of Klendathu is highlighted as a demonstration of very poorly thought out tactics on the humans' part in both versions.
  1. Ships are parked in orbit right next to each other, so Bug anti-space weapons can take them out easily, hit after hit. Bonus points when this problem is mentioned by the humans as one of the reasons the attack failed, yet they did it again in the next big battle.
  2. The attack force is light infantry (not mechanized), with no armor, air support, or any kind of artillery between hand grenades and pocket nukes. While the lack of armor support is Hand Waved by statements that the terrain is unsuitable for tanks and the like, there is no justification for a lack of air support, either for bombing or rapid deployment of troops, especially when they're shown to have such capabilities (one wave of bombers is seen wiping out some Bugs, but nothing more).
  3. Human infantry is squishy, heavily-outnumbered and armed with weak but massed ranged weapons. Rather than set up kill-zones and defensive feint traps and making use of explosives to counter their numbers, they simply send the troops rushing over to fight the Bugs in a Zerg Rush. Not very good when the enemy is the actual Zerg.
  4. Poor morale and troop cohesion, with the whole assault turning into a panicked rout after only a few casualties.
  5. And perhaps worst of all, there seems to be no established ground game or grand strategy for the planetary invasion. The troops simply land on the surface and run around in a confused mass, attacking Arachnid forces as they encounter them. It's one thing to use Hollywood Tactics, but Hollywood Strategy as well?
  • Consistently averted by the Bugs, who use combined arms tactics, stage ambushes, and effectively use expendable drones to soak up fire.
  • In the third film, set eleven years after the events of the first one, MI infantry tactics have interestingly regressed yet improved; 19th Century-style "fire by rank" has made a comeback (think if the British soldiers from Zulu had automatics and you have an idea) and troop discipline is better too.
  • Hospital Surprise: Played for Laughs when Rico wakes up in a rejuvenation tank to see his buddies holding his death certificate.
  • How We Got Here: The opening newsreel takes place during the initial invasion of Klendathu, before the movie jumps back a few months, then catches up about half-way through.
  • Humans Are Morons:
    • It's less "Humans are Morons" and more "Humans Are Absolutely Too Dumb to Live". The overwhelming majority of human characters underestimate the Bugs as mindless animals in the face of overwhelming evidence to the contrary. For example, early on in the film, the city of Buenos Aires is annihilated by an asteroid knocked from the Asteroid Belt into Earth, by Bug plasma from Klendathu, thousands of light years away. Something like this was far beyond anything humanity can do without trillions of dollars worth of supercomputers, and the Bugs are doing these calculations in their heads. The humans insist that the Bugs just managed a lucky hit ("Bug plasma is random and light"), and retaliate with an invasion of Klendathu that ends in abysmal failure with thousands of humans dead and wounded, all due to massive tactical blunders on the human's part. Even after all this, the majority of humans are adamant that the Bugs are just unthinking beasts that can be easily crushed by human superiority. To quote one expert, "I find the idea of an intelligent bug offensive!" With the humans constantly underestimating the Bugs, paying dearly for it, and never once learning their lesson, one has to wonder if the Bugs find the idea of intelligent monkeys offensive as well...
    • One very common interpretation is that the asteroid attack was a False Flag Operation to serve as a Pretext for War, and the stuff about them being stupid and poorly defended is what the Federation thinks is the truth. The existence of an intelligent leadership caste is only introduced in the movie after the battle of Klendathu, as an explanation for behavior that nobody saw coming.
  • Humans Are Psychic in the Future: In the 22nd century, some humans are displaying latent psychic abilities and demographic tests are conducted to find people for the Federation's Psy-Corps division. To quote an ad that's shown on the TV: "If you think you're psychic ... maybe you are!"
  • Humans Are the Real Monsters: The humans are brainwashed fanatics living in a fascist dystopia moving out into the galaxy and slaughtering the Arachnids for territory to expand into. Then again, in this case the Bugs aren't any better. Maybe.
  • Humans Are White: The cast is significantly whiter than in the book it's supposedly based on. The protagonist Johnny Rico, a Filipino in the novel, is given a Race Lift in order to make the human society look more Nazi. Granted they're supposed to be future Argentinians (Argentina is the most European Latin American country, though still not that white in terms of looks).
  • I Cannot Self-Terminate: Rasczak's death. He gets pulled into a pit by a Bug and Rico manages to pull him out, or at least his upper body. Knowing he is a goner, he tosses his rifle to Rico and screams for him to "Do it!", prompting a hesitant Rico to put him out of his misery.
  • I Know Madden Kombat: Flip-6-3-hole!
  • I'll Kill You!: Said by Zander during his and Rico's fight scene.
  • Impaled Palm: The main characters are in basic training, learning how to throw knives. After blowing his throw, Ace asks Sergeant Zim why throwing knives is important in an age when pressing a button can unleash nuclear weapons with far more power. Zim orders him to lay his hand against a wall, and throws a knife through his palm, pinning it. He explains (while Ace moans painfully in the background) that by disabling a hand, you can prevent that button from being pressed.
  • Impaled with Extreme Prejudice: Practically every battle-scene. Rico's leg gets pinned, but he survives. Dizzy isn't as fortunate.
  • Imperial Stormtrooper Marksmanship Academy: Double subverted. The Bugs are so big that even hip-firing rookies can score hits. The hard part is scoring meaningful hits, as the Arachnids will keep coming even as their limbs are blown off one after another. As Carl shows during a newsreel, if you aim carefully at a nerve cluster, you can put a Bug out of action as easily as a man - and this happens at the end when 3-4 Moritas are mowing down dozens of Bugs, if in a confined space.
  • Insert Grenade Here: Johnny Rico jumps onto the back of a giant Bug, blows a hole in its carapace with his gun, and then tosses in a grenade. Much orange and green paint ensues.
  • Interservice Rivalry: The Mobile Infantry and the Federation Navy apparently don't get along.
    Rico: MI does the dying, Fleet just does the flying!
  • Ivy League for Everyone:
    • Rico's father is adamant that he attend Harvard rather than join the infantry. Since Rico is outright shown to be a dim bulb, it seems the trope name has come true. More than possibly justified, however, in that Johnny's family is rich (as in the novel), and historically children of wealthy families can more easily gain admission to prestigious universities than the children of poorer families. One of the other recruits mentions he got into Harvard, and joined the MI so he could afford it.
    • A more worrying possibility, and one that is backed up by the relative lack of intelligence demonstrated by humankind in general throughout the movie, is that the standards of human intellectual excellence have degenerated to the point that Rico, who isn't too bright by modern standards, is actually much more intelligent than the average human of the future.
  • I Will Only Slow You Down: During the underground battle between the MI and the Bugs Watkins is injured. He asks the others to give him a nuclear RPG round and leave him behind so he can do a You Shall Not Pass! to the Bugs.
  • Jerkass Has a Point: When Carl meets with Carmen and Rico again before the climax, he rightfully points out that he has to make decisions based on numbers that give humanity the best chance at survival that will kill people.
  • Just Hit Him: In the cave, Carmen and Zander are being kept alive by the Arachnids. Apparently, this was needed by the Brain Bug for its Eat Brain for Memories procedure. Naturally, this creates a chance for Carmen to escape.

  • Kidnapping Bird of Prey: One of the soldiers is snatched by a flying Arachnid and has to be mercy-killed by Rasczak.
  • Kinda Busy Here: While inside the cave, Carmen talks to Rico on the intercom all while Bugs start attacking.
  • Kinetic Weapons Are Just Better: Zig-zagged. Early on the rifles used by the Mobile Infantry are only marginally effective against the Bugs, though this is less because the guns are underpowered and more because the Arachnid soldiers Feel No Pain and will keep coming even as their limbs are being shot off. Later it is shown that the same Arachnid soldier Bugs can be put down with a single shot aimed at a specific nerve cluster. The bio-plasma used by the Bugs against the ships orbiting Klendathu is much more destructive.
  • Kubrick Stare: Jake Busey is as good as always with this, giving an oddly disturbing one while attempting to play a romantic tune for Rico and Diz.
  • Large Ham: Michael Ironside and Clancy Brown needed to look down to see where "over the top" stood. Arguably the best parts of the film. Later, Casper Van Dien tries to replicate their Large Ham performance as a hard-ass officer, only to come off as a small slice of baloney.
  • Last Stand: The Roughnecks defense of Whisky Outpost quickly becomes one, pushed back into the compound and running low on ammo against an overwhelming swarm of Bugs. Only to be rescued last minute by Carmen and Zander in a dropship.
  • Last-Second Villain Recovery: During the invasion of Klendathu, Johnny Rico guns down one of the attacking Warrior Bugs, killing it... only for the Bug to use the last of its strength to briefly get back up and skewer Rico in the leg, before finally collapsing onto the ground for the last time. Because of this injury, Rico is unable to retreat and seemingly meets his demise. Though he somehow survives, recovers, and takes advantage of mistaken reports of his death to join an off-the-books elite unit.
  • Leeroy Jenkins: Shujumi during the invasion of Klendathu tries to be this. He's quickly swarmed by Bugs and torn to pieces, and it all goes downhill from there.
  • Let's Get Out of Here: Line said by a female soldier during the nocturnal fight on the alien planet.
  • Let's Just Be Friends: Rico suggests this to Dizzy at the school dance. Carmem says this to Rico when she breaks up with him via video message.
  • Licensed Pinball Tables: Released by Sega Pinball in 1997. Click here for tropes.
  • Little Hero, Big War: Very little. It's questionable whether anything Rico did impacted the overall war effort at all.
  • Loophole Abuse: After Rico turns in his papers to resign out of the Mobile Infantry, his call to his parents at home is suddenly cut short. He then finds out that Buenos Aires was hit by an asteroid lobbed by the Bugs, and asks the commanding officer to withdraw his resignation papers. When the commander refuses, Rico states that his entire family was in Buenos Aires, causing Drill Sergeant Zim to ask Rico if the signature on the papers were his. Rico states that it is, and Zim looks at the commander, who just turns away. He then rips up the paperwork, claiming the signature doesn't look like his, and orders him back into the unit.

    This was an invocation, as well - Zim was gunning for a demotion so he could go back into the field, and Rico wanted back into the MI. It was a win-win that pleased all three parties, as the commander wouldn't have to listen to Zim's complaints anymore.
  • Ludicrous Gibs: And then some.
  • Lured into a Trap: The Arachnids' initial attack on the Mormon base was part of their plan to lure more soldiers into the same trap.
  • Mars and Venus Gender Contrast: Mostly averted throughout the movie, as women and men train together, fight together, and play sports together. The one time it is hinted at is when Sky Marshall Dienes, who gives a very militaristic speech before the Battle of Klendathu, is replaced by Sky Marshall Meru, who after the defeat at Klendathu says, “In order to defeat the Bug, we must understand the Bug.” In the next scene, two pundits debate whether Bugs can be intelligent, with the woman open to the idea and the man completely rejecting it.
  • Meaningful Echo: Many of Rasczak's lines to his men.
  • Mercy Kill: Lt. Rasczak snipes one of his own men who has been carried to a distant ridge by a flying Bug and tells his troops, "I'd expect any of you to do the same for me." And of course, Rico has to do so later.
  • Mess on a Plate: M.I. rations are quite literally slop. Except for one foodstuff that looks to be strawberry mousse, the rest is lumpy, brown sludge.
  • Might Makes Right: The entire point of Mr. Rasczak's Federal History class. He argues that voting is exercising authority, and authority is violence, the supreme directive from which all other authority is derived. When a student protests that violence doesn't always solve everything, he points to how violence was successfully used against Hiroshima, and that it has solved more problems in history than any other factor.
  • Mildly Military: It's strangely played both ways. Setting aside Hollywood Tactics, on the one hand the Federal Military is extremely strict with almost Spartan-level brutality in boot camp and summary execution by a field officer is threatened for desertion, and the chain of command is absolute. On the other hand the soldiers are severely undisciplined; the first attack dissolves into a confused retreat with only a few casualties, fraternization is encouraged by superiors, they throw a frat party in the middle of enemy territory seemingly without setting up a defense perimeter, and a rookie flight officer isn't even remotely disciplined for almost crashing an interstellar starship into the spaceport because of her arrogant recklessness on her first field mission.
  • Military Maverick: Everyone! The Federation seems to encourage recklessness and lack of discipline among the military. As long as they're killing Bugs, it seems nobody cares if they're putting themselves in needless jeopardy. We see soldiers express contempt for perceived cowardice, but the only time one of them is actually punished is when Rico gets a squadmate killed during a training exercise (even then, he's shown sympathy for explaining his actions with "I wanted to win!")
  • Mr. Exposition: Rasczak and the biology teacher serve as this early in the movie. Rasczak explains how the military-fascist government came to be, and the biology teacher explains how the Bugs colonized several planets.
  • National Geographic Nudity: The co-ed shower scene is treated this way. The Federation apparently has no nudity taboo.
  • A Nazi by Any Other Name:
    • Since the movie is a satire of the gung-ho jingoism of the novel, they use the Nazi-like symbolism to portray the humans as an evil invading race by Putting on the Reich, and occasionally showing a propaganda commercial. This is capped by Neil Patrick Harris (at the time, best known for Doogie Howser, M.D.) as a Dr. Mengele Expy. One fan theory is that the humans faked the asteroid attack to justify the invasion. Either that, or used the opportunity provided by the otherwise natural asteroid strike to start a war. Just like the Nazis, the Federation is forced to have child soldiers as well. As the RiffTrax guys put it: "In case you're not getting it yet, all the rest of his lines will be in German."
    • The blending of American stereotypes, Shout Outs, and general tropes with the Nazi symbolism is also meant to convey to the viewer that the filmmakers believe the real-world United States government is exactly this, as confirmed from the DVD commentaries.
  • Never a Self-Made Woman: Zigzagged; Dizzy joins the infantry just to be close to Johnny, but Carmen's desire to become a Fleet pilot is entirely her own and motivates Johnny to join the military.
  • Never Give the Captain a Straight Answer: When searching the Mormon base, Dizzy notifies Rasczak this way when she found the soldier with his brains sucked out.
    "I think you're gonna wanna see this."
  • New Meat: A common phrase used to refer to new recruits is "fresh meat for the grinder". Quite funny, in a horrible sort of way. In the end, Rico's decimated unit receives reinforcements, all of which are teens fresh out of boot camp (eerily reminiscent of World War II footage of the Germans throwing in Child Soldiers by the end of the war). Rico quips that he and his second-in-command Ace (20-year old soldiers) are the "old men" now before proceeding to give the arrivals the exact same speech that the unit commander whom Rico replaced gave when he, Ace, and Dizzy joined the unit.
  • Newsreel: "Would you like to know more?"
  • Nice Job Breaking It, Hero: During the live-fire exercise, Breckinridge's helmet begins slanting and obstructing his view, leading to him running into someone else's line of fire. Rico stops what he's doing, runs over and takes Breckinridge's helmet off on the field right away. An alien statue rises up out of of the ground and zaps another soldier, causing her to fall over and fire, and one of the bullets blows the top of Breckinridge's skull clear off his head. The exercise ends immediately along with Rico's command over the unit, and he earns himself ten lashes from a whip in view of the whole camp; he nearly resigns before the meteor that destroys his hometown convinces him to stick around as a lowly private.
  • Nitro Boost: Carmen uses the Rodger Young's emergency thrusters to boost out of the way of an oncoming Bug meteor.
  • No New Fashions in the Future: People in the future wear clothing which isn't much different from that current in the late '90s, when the film was produced.
  • Non-Protagonist Resolver: The Brain Bug plot seems set to be resolved by Rico, but after he is distracted by his desire to save Carmen, the Bug is eventually captured by a minor character whose entire arc occurs mostly under the radar.
  • Not Distracted by the Sexy: During the mixed-gender Shower Scene, nobody seems terribly aroused, and instead simply carries on completely normal conversations with their comrades just as they would as if they were fully clothed. An amusing backstage anecdote: while shooting the scene, the actors gently ribbed Verhoeven by suggesting that he should be naked too while filming them. To their amusement, he was not only a good enough sport to agree, but his cameraman and director of photography stripped down too (Verhoeven is Dutch, a culture which has far less nudity taboos).
  • Not Even Bothering with the Accent: You'd be forgiven if you thought Rico and the rest of the "Argentinian" characters went through Adaptational Nationality, since no one even bothers to modify their American accents while portraying Argentinian characters.
  • Nuke 'em: The MI seem to have only a handful of weapons — assault rifles, shotguns, grenades, and rocket launchers that shoot miniature tactical nukes.
    Watkins: Nuke 'em, Rico!
  • Oblivious Astronomers: The Bug Meteor isn't spotted by anyone before it crashes into Buenos Aires, despite the Federation's highly-advanced technology.
  • Offscreen Moment of Awesome
    • How did Zim manage to capture the Brain Bug all on his own? We are never told.
    • Izzy and Ace saving Rico on Klendathu when everyone was already retreating from swarms of Arachnids.
  • Off with His Head!: The flying Hopper Bugs are able to swoop down and decapitate humans with their claws mid-flight.
  • Oh, Crap!:
    • Several happen in rapid succession during the invasion of Klendathu, starting with the MI's reactions to a Leeroy Jenkins getting ripped apart, then another from a girl that falls into a Bug hole does one right before she gets dragged into one, then from the rest of the MI when they see the Bugs swarming out towards them, then another from the Roughnecks on Planet P when they see the giant army of Bugs coming at them, and finally Carmen when she sees that she and Zander are surrounded by Bugs. Her reaction is probably the most telling.
      Carmen:(after giving her location to Rico) The situation up to see that they're surrounded by Bugs) The situation is extremely hostile!
    • Probably the best one was early in the Klendathu raid, when a Fleet ship damaged by the Bug plasma (which was, contrary to expectations, neither random nor light) plows into another ship in orbit, directly in the Rodger Young's path.
      Captain Deladrier: Someone made a big goddamn mistake!
  • Only a Flesh Wound: Carmen gets impaled through the shoulder by a Bug talon the diameter of a soda can, picked up and thrown around by it, and yet minutes later is firing a high caliber machinegun, outruns a nuke, and then throws her arms around her friends and skips away smiling. What brave new world is this, that has such painkillers in it?note . Averted with Rico, who is impaled through the thigh during the initial battle and is out of commission for several days while the Auto Doc patches him up, erroneously reported KIA in the ensuing chaos.
  • Only Mostly Dead: Rico at one point. He gets better.
  • Organic Technology: The movie Bugs come in varying breeds for battle, instead of being tool-using like the novel.
  • Outrun the Fireball:
    • The three main characters outrun the fireball of a tactical nuke which was only detonated a few seconds before they left the cave full of Bugs.
    • Earlier, Carmen and Zander outfly a fireball with their Escape Pod when their ship falls apart.
  • Overranked Soldier: Rico rockets up the ranks because his superior officers keep dying. "Fresh meat for the grinder" indeed. Carmen and Zander are watch officers within a year of their joining the fleet. Carl is the only one who seems suited to his rank after going through Military Intelligence training, though his young age still stands out among the older Psi-Corps officers.

  • Paper Tiger: The Mobile Infantry are brutally xenophobic and gung-ho in a way only a Space Marine can be, but they're also spectacularly incompetent. The Klendathu invasion force descends into a panicked rout after only a few casualties.
  • People's Republic of Tyranny:
    • The United Citizen Federation, where civil rights are plenty (unless you want to have kids) but political freedoms are virtually nonexistent, murderers are arrested, tried and executed the same day, and the media is a fully interactive Propaganda Machine.
    • It could be said that the United Citizen Federation is de jure a democratic federation, but de facto a stratocratic oligarchy - a nation run by a small handful of military veterans with very few checks and balances on their power, as they have already proven through their service that they can handle power responsibly, or that is the theory anyway.
  • The Peter Principle: When Johnny is stripped of his squad leader status after getting another recruit killed in a live-fire exercise, Ace is given the position in his place. Come Klendathu, he panics and has no idea what to do until Rico snaps the squad out of it. He's aware of this at least, as he refuses Johnny's offer of a squad leader position when Johnny becomes a Corporal. Even at the end of the film, he's still a Private.
  • Physical Fitness Punishment: One of several methods of punishment used by the instructors in boot camp. One trooper is sent running around a distance armory (with a Corporal swatting him with a cane to keep pace) as punishment for failing to address his instructor as "Sir".
  • Pinned to the Wall:
    Ace Levy: Sir, I don't understand. Who needs a knife in a nuke fight anyway? All you gotta do is push a button, sir.
    Career Sergeant Zim: Cease fire. Put your hand on that wall, trooper. PUT YOUR HAND ON THAT WALL!
    [Zim throws a knife and hits Ace's hand, pinning it to the wall]
    Zim: The enemy can not push a button... if you disable his hand. Medic!
  • Pin-Pulling Teeth: In the first movie, Dizzy pulls out a grenade's pin with her teeth. Which seems entirely unnecessary, as pushing the big red button on top of the grenade is also shown to remove the pin.
  • Planetville
  • Plasma Cannon: The Bugs combine this with their Hive Caste System. The towering Bugs that the Mobile Infantry first encounters during their initial ground invasion of Klendathu are so-called "Plasma Bugs". They shoot huge bursts of plasma from their backs to target the human space vessels in orbit around the planet. Two of them are blown up on-screen, but the rest of them end up destroying most of the Federation's Fleet.
  • Plot Armor: Any character that needs to survive a Bug attacking them for the purposes of plot gets stabbed in the shoulder or leg. Anyone else gets it right through the chest multiple times or is torn in half.
  • Population Control: Implied by one woman saying she joined the military because she'd like to have babies, and it's easier to get a license after you serve.
  • Post-Injury Desk Job: A serviceman who has lost both legs and one arm in the Mobile Infantry has been reassigned to processing the application papers of new recruits.
  • Power Walk: Not a slo-mo one, but Rico, Ace and Sugar have a meaningful one on their return to Planet P, being the last of their old squad, coming to review some new recruits.
  • Promoted to Love Interest: Both Carmen and Dizzy (who also gets a Gender Flip and Ascended Extra status for the purpose), for Johnny. In the book, Carmen and Johnny have a mild interest in each other in high school, and later go on one date and share a kiss when they chance to meet up in training, but never exactly have a romance. In the film, it's a full-on Love Triangle.
  • Propaganda Machine: All the viral messages in the movies are a pastiche of propaganda recruitment tools, split with newsreels VERY reminiscent of today's 24-hour news services; prescient considering the original film is from the mid-1990s.
  • Psychic Powers: Some humans have psychic powers in the future. Carl uses these on his pet ferret ("Go bug Mom!"), the Brain Bug at the end ("It's afraid!"), and to guide Rico to Carmen.
  • Public Execution: The regime immediately sentences murderers to death and broadcasts their executions on live television on every channel.
  • Puny Earthlings: The Bugs can take a full magazine of ammo (or more as drama demands) and still fight. During the battle of Klendathu it took three people all their ammo to kill one Bug, which killed two of them in the process. The only person who had an effective weapon only used it after the Bugs had torn him in half. This is (almost) consistent with the book, as warrior Bugs have no sense of self preservation and may not even feel pain: if your torrent of bullets fails to hit a vital organ but only chops away at limbs, the Bug will keep coming so long as it has a limb left. But in the book, and later in the film, they realized this and aimed for the braincase on the back to disable them quickly. Subverted whenever they need a heroic stand, at which point the Bugs start dropping like... well, bugs.
  • Putting on the Reich: Taken to extremes. Nearly every military uniform has World War II German military and SS paramilitary uniform references. The flag of the Federation has a symbol that closely resembles the Imperial Eagle from WWII Germany. Given the film's send up of militarism and the fact that Verhoeven grew up in the Netherlands during World War II, it's not exacting surprising. But note how they are never portrayed as anything but good, even while saying and doing horrible things — thus reinforcing the film's take on propaganda. Carl's uniform is the worst offender: the peaked cap and black longcoat haven't been seen on an officer since 1945.
  • Race Lift: Rico was Filipino in the book; now he's white.
  • The Radio Dies First: Due to its communication tower being ripped off by a glancing hit, the Rodger Young is unable to warn Fleet of the Bug meteor hurtling towards Earth.
  • Rank Up:
    • Rico goes from Private to Lieutenant in the space of about two or three days. In fact, he's only a Sergeant for about five minutes before he's promoted to Lieutenant in order to take command of the Roughnecks.
    • Other characters have fairly meteoric rises through the ranks. Zander is Carmen's flight instructor despite the fact that he seems to have enrolled in the academy mere days before her. Carmen herself is commissioned quite quickly, somewhere around about the time Rico finishes basic training. By the film's end, she's been promoted to (Navy) Captain and has been given her own command. Carl is a Colonel within that timeframe as well, though this seems to be down to both his psychic abilities and the job he was trained for.
  • Reality Is Unrealistic: Many people (especially those who missed the point of the satire) have criticized the fact that for a group of characters supposedly from Buenos Aires, everyone looks rather suspiciously white and of the few exceptions (Watkins, Djana'D, Shujumi), none of them look particularly Argentinian either. This is actually one of the least ridiculous things about the Federation: While the fact that everyone uses an American accent isn't really explicable, Argentina is in fact one of the whitest countries in South America, and its population is, proportionately speaking, paler than the United States. Would you say that Lionel Messi or, at the time of this writing, the Pope look like people who could believably portray Argentinians?
  • Reckless Gun Usage:
    • Parodied in one television story, as soldiers hand out automatic weapons to kids to play with - then to make it more ridiculous, hand out live ammo.
    • The fact that only one person died while Rico was leading a live-fire exercise in the middle of a military installation buzzing with activity is nothing short of miraculous.
  • Red Shirt Army: The Mobile Infantry in general. Named characters generally only have slightly more Plot Armor than the typical grunt, but it can get ripped to shreds by the Bugs if needed for the drama points.
  • Removing the Head or Destroying the Brain: Except it's nowhere near the thing's head. One propaganda video shows that a Warrior Bug can fight even if one of its limbs have been shot off; shooting the "primary nerve cluster", however, kills it instantly.
  • Reports of My Death Were Greatly Exaggerated: "Hey, Rico! Congratulations—you're dead!" Said to Rico while he's in a stasis tank, getting his various battle wounds repaired. Of course, nobody thought to tell Carmen that Rico had actually survived. Ironically enough, it's Zander who informs Carmen that Rico is still alive, immediately after seeing him among the troopers they just picked up on Planet P.
  • Resigned in Disgrace: Sky Marshall Dienes resigns after the full frontal assault he ordered on the planet Klendatu ends in failure, with the invasion force forced to retreat and several hundred thousand soldiers dead in the operation (a propaganda clip says 100,000 died in one hour, but the casualty list on a hospital bay aboard a space station lists the total at over 300,000). His successor, Sky Marshall Maru, changes to a more cautious strategy by targeting the outlying Klendathu colonies first and to investigate Arachnid intelligence.
  • Revenge Before Reason: After the destruction of one of their cities, humanity declares a total war against the Bugs. When some suggested the option of retreating from the systems where Bugs lived and thus leaving them alone, the soldiers reject it immediately. Their thirst for revenge led to hundreds of thousands of deaths just in the first battle.
    Rico: I'm from Buenos Aires, and I say, "Kill'em all!"
  • Rhetorical Request Blunder: Subverted (barely). When General Owen says, “I wish you would just shoot me,” Racszak is happy to oblige and cocks his gun. Rico stops him at the last second, but then Owen is killed in a Bug attack anyway.
  • Rule of Cool:
    • It would make more sense to have a trooper or a Fleet rating loading troopers into the rescue boat on Planet P (this is, in fact, how it typically works on military helicopters in Real Life), but it was so much cooler to see Fleet officer Zander heroically jump out with an assault rifle to get Rico's men aboard. This is explicitly stated to be because nobody else is crazy enough to try the landing.
    • The massed infantry charge during the first assault on Klendathu. You'd think with a fleet of spaceships and bombers, they'd carpet bomb the Bugs a bit first before landing boots on the ground to secure the planet. Interestingly enough, they do this on the second planet they attack, and the MI faces much less resistance, initially at least.
  • Rule of Drama: A starship's emergency thruster control (presumably some sort of overclocking feature... we hope) is placed under a glass cover that must be smashed before use. (Not to mention waiting until the last second instead of firing it immediately, but that's a failure of another kind. The scene implies that they've got to get the ship rotated before firing the emergency thruster, thus the delay, which would be more forgivable.)
  • Running Gag: A subtle one. Rico surges through the ranks, but this isn't because he's especially good, it's because the people above him keep dying. "Come on, do you wanna live forever?"

  • Sex Signals Death: After spending over half of the movie pining, the day after Dizzy and Rico have sex, she dies.
  • Scars are Forever: With some exceptions, most adults in the movie have lost one or more limbs, become blind due to burn wounds, or gained some other type of permanent scarring due to their military service.
  • Scary Dogmatic Aliens: Both the Bugs and the Humans. The former are a Hive Mind horde of giant Insectoid Aliens, the latter are a prideful militaristic People's Republic of Tyranny. The sides are clearly an analogy for communists vs. fascists IN SPACE!!
  • Sci-Fi Writers Have No Sense Of Distance
    • Starships flying together in orbit so closely that they can run into each other (even if all the landing ships were heading for the same spot, there's still no reason for the starships to be closer than several miles).
    • The asteroid fired by the Bugs at Buenos Aires grazes Carmen's ship. Given the sizes and scales involved, this is so incredibly unlikely that it defies all attempts at reason.
  • Sci-Fi Writers Have No Sense of Distance and Sci-Fi Writers Have No Sense of Velocity
    • An asteroid near Jupiter reaches and hits the Earth only hours later, a trip that should have taken years.
    • Whatever the Arachnids did to crash the asteroid into Earth, judging by the distance in the galaxy of both solar systems, it would physically be impossible for the effect to take place less than 70,000 years later (and that's assuming the attack moved at light speed, which is orders of magnitude from what we see of the Bugs' capabilities). If the Arachnids are responsible for the attack, it was conducted tens of thousands of years before the first human civilizations - which leads more plausibility to the fan theory that this was not an actual attack. If the attack "only" moved at a sizable fraction of the light speed, which in itself would be an incredible achievement, it would need to be set up literally millions of years in advance.
    • And if the Bugs did launch an asteroid at speeds fast enough to reach Earth in a timely manner, unless someone put retrorockets on the rock, it would still be going FTL when it hit the planet. We'd have much bigger things to worry about than a Buenos Aires sized crater at that point if that happened.
  • Self-Punishment Over Failure: After getting a fellow trainee killed, Rico quits Mobile Infantry boot camp... but quickly joins back up when the Bugs drop an asteroid on his home town.
  • Sergeant Rock: Lieutenant Willy in command of the heroes unit during the Battle of Klendathu, who gives a badass Rousing Speech and then gets unceremoniously killed by the first Bug they encounter.
  • Shipper on Deck: Racszak encourages Johnny to not pass up on Dizzy’s advances. When they finally do dance together, Ace plays the violin specifically for them. When Dizzy and Johnny do finally hook up, Racszak gives them some extra time to seal the deal.
    Racszak (barging into Johnny’s tent): There’s been a distress call from General Owen on Planet P. So get your shit wired and report in ten minutes.
    Johnny: Yes, sir.
    Racszak: (seeing someone hiding under Johnny’s blanket) Who’s that with you?
    Dizzy: (slowly peeking out from under the blanket) It’s Flores, sir.
    Racszak: ... Make it 20 minutes.
  • Shoot Everything That Moves: There are a lot of fights like this.
    Lt. Willy: We are going in with the first wave, means more Bugs for us to kill. You smash the entire area, you kill anything with more than two legs. You get me?
  • Short-Range Long-Range Weapon: The MI's weapons are so ridiculously overpowered that the recoil makes them practically impossible to aim (possibly justified in that it still takes a full magazine to kill one Bug).
  • Shotguns Are Just Better: When Rico is pinned down by a Bug and about to get eaten, he switches to an underslung shotgun. He still empties his magazine to kill a single Bug, but the stopping power saves his life.
  • Shout-Out:
    • Rasczak's (and later Rico's) battle cry, "C'mon, you apes, do you wanna live forever?" is a shout-out to Real Life U.S. Marine Sgt. Maj. Dan Daly, a two-time Medal of Honor recipient who yelled, “Come on, you sons of bitches, do you want to live forever?” as he led Marines into the fight at Belleau Wood during World War I.
    • The boot camp sequence is reminiscent of that in Full Metal Jacket, and borrows some of Sgt. Hartman's Drill Sergeant Nasty insults almost word for word:
      Zim: Do you think I'm funny? Do I make you laugh? Do you think I'm a comedian, son?
      Zim: The first words and the last words out of your stinkin' holes will be sir.
      Dizz: What's your malfunction, Rico?
    • Another Stanley Kubrick homage is the moonbase "Tereshkova" resembling Clavius Base.
  • Shower Scene: One of the most famous in 90s cinema, in that it's communal, unisex and features full frontal nudity from many of them; the characters casually walk in, strip off and start showering while having a conversation and teasing each other.note 
  • Show Within a Show: All three live-action films. The first and third even have commercial breaks.
  • Sickening "Crunch!": When Sergeant Zim breaks the arm of one of the new recruits.
  • Sighted Guns Are Low-Tech: The basic Morita rifle lacks any sort of sighting system, save for the large scope attached specifically to Pvt. "Sugar" Watkins' weapon, and even the Mk II variation briefly demonstrated later on only has a front sight.
  • Single-Biome Planet: Apparently, they all look like Wyoming's Hell's Half Acre or the Badlands of South Dakota. Rasczak mentions that the Fleet glasses each planet before the Mobile Infantry is sent in so it explains why they all look like a wasteland.
  • Slobs vs. Snobs: The rivalry between Mobile Infantry and Fleet is presented this way. Life in the Fleet is presented as glamorous, while the poor bloody Mobile Infantry do the dirty fighting on the ground.
  • So Happy Together: Dizzy's dream of a Relationship Upgrade with Rico came true right before her death. As she says in her Last Words:
    "It's all right... because I got to have you."
  • Space Is Noisy: The ship explosions in orbit are noisy.
  • Space Navy: The Federation Fleet
  • Spared by the Adaptation: Carl, who gets an anticlimactic off-screen death in the book when the research base he's stationed on is destroyed, makes it to the end of the movie. And then some when you take Invasion into account.
  • The Spartan Way: Mobile Infantry training, where the Drill Sergeant Nasty breaks a recruit's arm and stabs another one through the hand just to make a point.
  • Spiritual Antithesis:
    • The original film, to its own source material.
    • Mike Stoklasa called it the "anti-Star Trek", in that it offers a much more cynical and fascist view of what the Federation would be like.
  • Spiteful Spit: Zander (Carmen's boyfriend) to the Brain Bug just before it sucks out his brain.
  • Spoiler Cover: The Ghanese poster spoils the fact that Zander ends up getting his brains sucked out of his skull by the Brain Bug.
  • Stealth Parody: This version of Starship Troopers was a satirical take both on the Robert A. Heinlein novel and jingoistic war movies in general. Not everybody got this when the film was released.
  • Stock Footage: The scenes involving explosions and fire after the destruction of Buenos Aires were actually videos taken from the Oakland Hills fire in October of 1991.
  • Storming the Castle: The Arachnids' Zerg Rush assault on the Mormon base.
  • Strawman Political: Verhoeven intended to express his beliefs about America through this film, as he revealed in the DVD commentaries—thus combining this with Writer on Board below. In said commentaries, Verhoeven equates the U.S. to Nazi Germany and doesn't even blink. It audibly takes his fellow commentator Edward Neumeier off guard. Verhoeven made it clear that the film was based on what he and Neumeier were observing in American politics at the time. (In particular, they were inspired by the climate in Texas during the 1990’s under then-Governor George W. Bush.)
  • Stupid Sacrifice: When Carmen and Zander find themselves surrounded by aliens and with the big brain-eating alien readying to do just that. Zander has a knife hidden, but he doesn't use it himself. No, he gives it to Carmen and promptly gets his brain eaten. The girl then uses it to wound the brain-eating alien and escape. No clear reason is given why the Zander didn't use the knife himself, other than to conveniently Murder the Hypotenuse.
  • Subspace Ansible: The video calls from outer space to Earth take place in real-time with no noticeable delay.
  • Surprisingly Realistic Outcome: Lots of this, usually in ways that result in the Humans getting handed a pile of bloody ass-chunks
    • The Humans' xenophobia and jingoism lead them to seriously underestimate the capabilities of the Bug forces.
    • Mobile Infantry training consists of team-building exercises, slapdash drills treated like sporting events, and casual brutality intended more to weed out those with weak stomachs than anything else (thanks to their medical tech, even compound fractures can be healed in a day, so they can get away with a lot). This results in a force with terrible discipline, morale so bad they break at the first casualties, and no tactics beyond waves of disposable meat shields.
    • For all the Hollywood Tactics displayed, the film is actually pretty realistic when it comes to the importance of helmets. The only time someone deliberately removes their helmet during a live-fire scenario, he is almost instantly shot in the head by accident.
    • The Hollywood Tactics employed by the human forces don't work at all well. The very basic tactics used by the Bugs completely massacre them.
  • Tactical Reminiscence: During the Capture the Flag training mission, Dizzy suggests Rico do the flip he used to perform during their indoor football games. First he doesn't get the reference but then it clicks.
    Dizzy: Flip six, three hole.
    Rico: What?
    Dizzy: We run a flip six, three-hole play, and you can score.
    Rico: Cover me!
  • Taking You with Me: Watkins does this with a tactical grenade/nuke after getting severely injured, to buy time for the remaining survivors to escape and kill as many Bugs as he possibly can.
  • A Taste of the Lash: Rico's punishment after his actions during a training exercise lead to a soldier being killed is to receive 10 lashes across the back.
  • That's an Order!: Rasczak says this after telling his troops to have fun during their party celebrating their victory.
  • Themed Tattoos: Johnny, Dizzy, Ace, and Kitten are shown getting the same "Death From Above" tattoo on their right bicep after completing basic training.
  • They Would Cut You Up: Arachnid dissection and vivisection occur, particularly pay attention to the captured Brain Bug in the epilogue.
  • ¡Three Amigos!: Rico, Carmen, and Carl. Carl being Rico's best friend, and Carmen being Rico's girlfriend. They all enlist together.
  • Token Minority: Most troopers seen are White, though a couple at boot camp are Black (the woman is kicked out after accidentally killing a fellow trainee). There's another that might be a mestiza as well (since they're all supposed to be Argentinians, and thus Latin American), since she has olive skin.
  • Token Romance: In this case, a whole-cloth token Love Triangle gets tacked on.
  • Too Dumb to Live:
    • Shujumi runs straight into the middle of the Arachnids, making it really easy for the Warrior Bugs to tear him to pieces while obstructing the line of fire for his comrades.
    • Katrina panics and breaks formation after two causalities. Predictably, she gets cornered and dragged off by a Bug in a few seconds.
    • The war reporter and his camera crew who decide to stand still to report the evacuation, even as a massive horde of Bugs is tearing their way through the soldiers.
    • Dizzy's death could've easily been avoided if she hadn't stopped to do a celebratory dance in the middle of an evacuation from a Zerg Rush. Or, failing that, if she had run to the Drop Ship instead of happily skipping to it like a schoolgirl. Or even failing that, if she'd kept moving when Rico yelled out her name instead of stopping, turning around, and staring at the Bug. Or if Rico, like an idiot, hadn't torn the jagged Bug arm from her abdomen, or maybe just yelled something helpful like "Drop, so I can shoot the Bug behind you" instead of "Diiiiiiiiizzzzyyyyyyyyyyyyyyy".
    • Humanity in general has elements of this. In the first movie, the Bugs (supposedly) attack Earth by using plasma to send an asteroid from Klendathu all the way to Earth, across three quarters of the galaxy. Something like that would take genius surpassing anything humanity is capable of without a couple trillion dollars worth of supercomputers backing them up. And the Bugs (or at least their leaders) can do those kinds of calculations in their heads. The humans assume that the Bugs are unintelligent, and that their plasma attacks when they try to land will be "random and light". They're neither. Even after the horrible slaughter at Klandathu, there are more than a few humans who insist that the Bugs can't be intelligent. In the words of one pundit, "Frankly, I find the idea of a bug that thinks offensive!" One wonders, do the Bugs find the idea of intelligent monkeys offensive as well?
    • While she doesn't die, Corporal Birdie continues to stop and look back and the emerging Tanker Bug instead of running and gets her arm burnt off by its acidic napalm for her trouble.
    • A very good example of this trope is towards the start, when a news correspondent (embedded with the MI) stops to give an on-camera summary of the action during the attack on Klendathu, only to be slaughtered by a Bug partway through. We later find out that this summary is being given in the middle of a mass retreat. Later on, after seeing what happens to the reporter, his cameraman dies in the exact same way while filming his reporter being cut in half and ignoring Rico's order to leave.
    • General Owen is crushed by a dead flying Bug because, in the time he could have simply moved out of the way of the falling Bug’s way, he instead stands still screaming his head off. Pretty much everyone is flabbergasted at this, and Ace is clearly trying very hard not to laugh at this idiotic death.
  • Trashcan Bonfire: Rasczak's Roughnecks are having a party on the planet Tango Urilla after escaping the Bug-besieged outpost. A barrel with flames coming out can be seen in the middle of the mass of soldiers.
  • Unbuilt Trope: This cracked article makes an interesting case that Starship Troopers, viewed today without context, could easily be mistaken for a satire on the War on Terror. A militaristic right-wing government, complacent in its own superiority, suffers a devastating disaster that destroys a major population center. They blame a race of far-off aliens on an isolated desert planet that couldn't possibly be responsible, and go to war, egged on by media-saturated with propaganda. They quickly get bogged down in a quagmire. After capturing the leader, and torturing it horribly, they declare victory. Except it was made in 1997.
  • Underequipped Charge: Carmen pulls a knife at a Brain Bug during the climax of the film and actually manages to fend it off until Rico's squad arrives to extract her.
  • Unprocessed Resignation: While still in boot camp, Johnny Rico resigns from the Mobile Infantry. As he's leaving the camp, the Arachnids drop an asteroid on Buenos Aires. Johnny tries to cancel his resignation, but the commanding officer says that Johhny has already signed the form and it wouldn't be legal. Johnny tells him that his entire family was in Buenos Aires when it was destroyed. Drill Sergeant Zim (with the commanding officer's implicit consent) says that Rico's signature on the resignation papers doesn't look like his and tears up the papers, allowing Johnny to stay in boot camp.
  • Used to Be a Sweet Kid: Over the course of the film Rico goes from a young man on the fence about the morals of his society to a hardened soldier who vehemently supports genocide against the Arachnids.
  • Vasquez Always Dies: Dizzy and Rake. Corporal Birdie subverts this. Despite fitting the trope, she merely loses an arm to a Tanker Bug on Tango Urilla and is removed from the action.
  • Video Phone: Johnny Rico is talking to his parents in Buenos Aires when the Bug asteroid hits the city.
  • Villain Protagonist: The subtext of the Starship Troopers trilogy is that the humans are the evil invading aliens. On the surface, however, you're still supposed to be rooting for the humans.
  • War Comes Home: John "Johnny" Rico has submitted his resignation from the military before hearing of an attack on his hometown, after which he returns and asks to rescind his resignation.
  • War Is Glorious:
    • Parodied - or at least they tried to, anyway. Sweaty bulging muscles, a faceless implacable enemy guilty of genocidal war crimes, big guns and comradeship. And if you don't fight you are a nonperson.
    • The troopers are also alarmingly blase about the horrible deaths happening around them sometimes. When the panicked general during the trap is crushed by a Bug, Ace has this big grin on his face like "Hey, that was really cool!" And even during a panicked evacuation, killing one big Bug is enough to get at least a couple of them cheering like they're at a football game, even while they're supposed to be running for their lives.
    • It is heavily implied throughout the first film however that beneath the shiny veneer, humanity is ultimately losing the Guilt-Free Extermination War against the Bugs, and badly at that. All the main characters end up in command positions with the deaths of every senior officer despite barely being out of training, suggesting nobody better for the role was available. The deranged general in the outpost trap is hysterically screaming "We're ALL going to DIE!" because he is high up enough to know the real strategic situation. Finally, at the end of the film, Rico's fresh troops are clearly Child Soldiers. The sequels make this more explicitly the case.
  • War Is Hell: The ACTUAL point of the film, even though some audiences, and even a majority of the humans in the film itself, didn't get that.
  • We Have Reserves: Both the Bugs and the humans apparently follow this philosophy, with the former obviously benefitting more from this tactic. Carl actually points out how stupid this is; "It's simple numbers. They have more." Special mention goes to the attack on Whisky Outpost. Though the Mobile Infantry is firing from raised walls, the Bugs are able to overrun the compound because the expendable Bugs leave so many piled-up corpses in their wake that the next wave can simply walk right over the walls.
  • We Will Wear Armor in the Future: Rather noticeably by fans of the novel, not Powered Armour. Here the armor is more like modern GI flak armor in terms of bulk and coverage.
  • Well-Trained, but Inexperienced: When the protagonists are sent out to attack the Bugs for the first time after scene after scene of professional training and pure, patriotic passion, they all immediately freeze up when faced with the overwhelming horde of bug drones. The exciting action music cuts off, some of the troopers flee and even a few are ripped apart screaming.
  • Whoosh in Front of the Camera: When the soldiers explore the alien planet we see one of the Insectoid Aliens rush by in the foreground, alerting the audience of the dangers to come.
  • Worst Aid: Rico ripping the huge spike out of Dizzy's chest after she has been Impaled with Extreme Prejudice.
  • Writer on Board: In the opposite direction from the source material. In addition to this, Verhoeven used the film to express opinions about the United States political climate whereas the novel did not.
  • You Are in Command Now: Rico's rise through the ranks stems entirely from field promotions to take the place of superiors who had been killed in a previous engagement. It hints at how badly the humans are doing in the war that the main characters all end up filling command positions despite only being barely out of training.
  • You Killed My Father: Rico is about to resign from the Mobile Infantry (in fact, he's got his bags packed and is just on his way out) when news hits that Buenos Aires, where his parents lived, has been destroyed by a meteorite sent by the Bugs. He immediately joins back up so he can get revenge.
  • You Shall Not Pass!: Watkins after he gets too injured to move. He insists that Rico leave a tactical grenade/nuke to kill as many Bugs as he can before he dies.
  • You Would Do the Same for Me: A marine is snatched by a flying Arachnid, which begins to dismember him alive. Rasczak grabs a sniper rifle and shoots him through the heart. He then turns to the remaining marines and says gravely: "And I expect anyone to do the same for me." Rico later does.. It's worth noting that this is exactly the opposite of the book's philosophy, which is all about No One Gets Left Behind. The lieutenant's death, in fact, comes when he's making sure every last one of his troopers, dead or alive, is evacuated from a battle.
  • Zerg Rush: By both sides, but as humanity learns the hard way, the quick-breeding, highly expendable warrior Bugs are much better at it.


Starship Troopers

The troopers first battle against the Bugs ends in disaster.

How well does it match the trope?

5 (5 votes)

Example of:

Main / BugWar

Media sources: