Follow TV Tropes


Film / TRON

Go To

"A world inside the computer where man has never been. Never before now...

Enter its world."

TRON is a 1982 Science Fiction film directed by Steven Lisberger, produced by Donald Kushner, and written by Lisberger from a story made by Lisberger and Bonnie MacBird. Released on July 9, 1982, the film marked the beginning of a multimedia franchise by Disney.

Video game developer Kevin Flynn (Jeff Bridges), trying to prove that Corrupt Corporate Executive Ed Dillinger (David Warner) has stolen his videogame programs, is sucked into the digital world inside the computer, where anthropomorphic programs are consigned to fight for their lives in gladiatorial games. With the help of Tron (Bruce Boxleitner), an independent security program developed by programmer Alan Bradley, Flynn must try to destroy the evil Master Control Program from within, bring liberty to the cyber realm, and find a way of returning himself to the real world.

Sounds simple enough, right?

Although computer-generated special effects had appeared in film as early as 1973, TRON marked the first time that computers were used to create something "real", rather than to just represent computer graphics (sort of "real", anyway, since the story takes place inside a computer). Ironically, a large portion of the special effects in TRON were actually hand-drawn; even the computer-generated objects and environments had to have their geometry entered by hand for every frame, since no practical method of automating the process existed at the time. In general, the light cycles, tanks, recognizers and the Solar Sail were CGI — however, the huge amount of processing time required versus how much was available at the time required that they be rendered in black and white and hand-colored later.

Despite its bold look and bolder ambitions — especially for Disney, which was sinking further into irrelevance at that time — TRON was a commercial disappointment (it didn't lose money, but wasn't the hit Disney had intended it to be). The proven box-office poison that the Disney name was for anything but outright kiddie stuff at the time led to the creation of Touchstone Pictures two years later.

To add insult to injury, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences considered it "cheating" for TRON to have used computers to create the special effects, resulting in the film not getting nominated for Best Special Effects. The film's failure, along with AMPAS's anti-CGI prejudice, put CGI development on the backburner for years; while a few later productions made use of CGI elements (Return of the Jedi, Young Sherlock Holmes, Flight of the Navigator, and, most notably, The Last Starfighter), it would not be until 1989's The Abyss, and later 1991's Terminator 2: Judgment Day and 1993's megahit Jurassic Park, that computer-generated effects would become feasible in the eyes of Hollywood and the public.

This development and the persistent cult fandom surrounding TRON would cause the film to be popularly reevaluated as a bold experiment in computer visual effects. This was the only project in which legendary futurists Syd Mead and Mœbius would collaborate (each working on different aspects of the cyberworld), with the addition of Electronic Music pioneer Wendy Carlos for the soundtrack.

TRON appeared as a level in Kingdom Hearts II (it was Tetsuya Nomura's admitted first choice for the series, but he couldn't find a way to put it in the first game), and its sequel TRON: Legacy appeared as a level in Kingdom Hearts 3D [Dream Drop Distance] on the Nintendo 3DS.

TRON has spawned two (mutually exclusive) sequels:

1. The 2003 video game TRON 2.0 (in which Alan and Lora's son Jethro is transported into the cyber-world)


2. The continuity consisting of the film TRON: Legacy and its tie-ins. In publication order:

Furthermore, in 2015, a new autorunner game called Tron: Run/r hit Steam Early Access. The full version launched in February 2016. At Disney's D23 expo in 2022, the visual novel TRON: Identity was announced, with a release the following May. As of 2023, a third film titled Tron: Ares starring Jared Leto is in development.

Useless trivia: a trailer for Tex, Disney's adaptation of the S.E. Hinton novel and the first film to use the Touchstone name in any capacity (this was before Disney formally established it as its brand for mature content), and an EPCOT promo were attached to original 70mm screenings.

TRON provides examples of:

  • The Ace: At the start of the film, Alan places a lot of hope in his Tron program. Once we get to the digital world, we can see why, as Tron is revealed to be the most heroic (and badass) of all the programs who still serve the Users.
  • Advancing Wall of Doom: Near the end of the movie, an energy wall slowly derezzes Sark's Carrier, and Flynn and Yori must escape it while being trapped onboard the carrier. Fortunately, Flynn shields them, so all that's left is a wire-frame carrier with a sole intact control panel. When Yori hops off the Carrier, it finally fades away.
  • A.I. Is a Crapshoot: Played straight with Master Control, who figures he can run things 900 to 1200 times better than any human; inverted with the free programs, who are being persecuted because they believe in the Users and want to continue serving them.
  • All There in the Manual: The novelization, by Brian Daley, gives a lot of details that the movie had trouble with:
    • Alan shares Tron's Boy Scout-like sense of earnest integrity. Dillinger secretly views this with contempt, but it's that sense of honor that gets Alan to side with Flynn almost immediately, once he's learned the truth about Dillinger.
    • When Flynn and Crom meet in the ring game, Flynn is grinning while Crom looks very hostile. The book makes it clear that Flynn thinks it's another training exercise, while Crom thinks Flynn has turned and is willingly serving the MCP.
    • Sark is anxious to get rid of Flynn as quickly as possible. First, he puts Flynn in a match against Crom, hoping that either a program will kill a User, or a User will kill a program; either one would be a huge psychological victory for the MCP. When that backfires spectacularly, Sark decides to run Flynn through game after game with no rest, hoping to tire him out. Again, it backfires when Flynn survives long enough to devise an escape with Ram and Tron.
    • Flynn has gotten to like Bit, and he worries if Bit will be okay after the latter runs away.
    • The reason Yori doesn't seem to recognize Tron at first and starts spouting tech jargon is because the MCP has been draining the energy out of all nearby programs, turning them into weak-willed slaves. It takes a dose of Tron's power to get her to snap back to herself. This is also why nobody takes notice when Flynn crashes his Recognizer; see Unusually Uninteresting Sight below.
    • Sark was present at Clu's interrogation. When he confronts Flynn and Yori, Sark — who never saw Flynn up close — thinks Clu has come back to life.
    • When Sark's Carrier de-rezzes, it is made clear that this is a normal thing, and that the Carrier can be re-rezzed at any time, making it less of an Ass Pull.
    • When the MCP turns Sark into a giant, it is noted that Sark is now little more than a mindless zombie; apparently, programs can suffer massive brain damage just as humans do.
    • The printout Flynn gets at the end is hard evidence of all of the programs Dillinger stole from him. Also, the notice is seen on most of the terminals in the building.
    • Finally, the novel ends with Tron and Yori taking the Solar Sailer for a spin.... and Bit is tagging along.
  • Amicable Exes: Flynn and Lori were in a relationship and broke up before the start of the movie. While they're not above mildly snarking at each other, Lori willingly accompanies Alan to warn Flynn that Dillinger is onto him, and she believes Flynn's story about Dillinger plagiarizing him without much hesitation.
  • Androids Are People, Too: It never even seems to occur to Flynn to think of them otherwise. Though, it's Ram dying that really cements it.
  • And Starring: The main cast roll ends with "and Barnard Hughes".
  • And You Thought It Was a Game: Ram informs Flynn that he'll be forced to play video games. Flynn laughs it off, saying he plays those better than anyone. Unfortunately, those games turn out to be serious, lethal business, as Flynn discovers when his casual defeat of Crom leads to the latter's death (at Sark's hands, after Flynn refuses to take the killing shot).
    Flynn: On the other side of the screen, it all looks so easy!
  • And You Were There: The programs are all dead ringers for the people who wrote them: CLU for Flynn, Tron for Alan, Yori for Lora, Sark for Dillinger, Dumont for Gibbs... and, down at the level where you'd need freeze-frame to notice, Sark's henchman for Dillinger's PA and Ram for Alan's cubicle neighbor (Flynn Lives in TRON: Legacy gives his name as Roy). The MCP, a product of numerous man-hours by various people, has a geometric abstraction of a face, but when it falls apart at the end, the original core program can be briefly seen, and it has Gibbs's face.
  • Anthropomorphic Personification: Programs are humanoids in a cyber suit that resembles their creators.
  • Anti-Hero/Loveable Rogue: Flynn, in a very mild sense (the freewheeling personality type of the latter fits). Immature, irreverent, not above using means of questionable legality (cracking computer systems, breaking and entering the ENCOM building) to achieve his goals, and he's trying to right Dillinger's wrong for mostly personal reasons. Yet in doing so, it's heavily implied he saves the world from being effectively taken over by the out-of-control MCP. (This is possibly an Alternate Character Interpretation.)
  • Arcade Sounds: Justifed for once. Journey is also playing on the PA for atmosphere. Journey actually did two songs for the soundtrack: "1990s Theme" and "Only Solutions".
  • Attack Its Weak Point: Alan (aka Alan-1) instructs Tron to hurl his disc at the critical juncture of the MCP to destroy it. However, until Flynn distracts it, the weak point is shielded from Tron's disc.
  • Attack of the 50-Foot Whatever: Sark becomes this when he is critically injured during the climax.
  • Attack Reflector: Tron and other gladiator programs can use their discs to knock away an enemy's disc. Skilled programs can even reflect them right back at them.
  • Bait-and-Switch: At one point, the Master Control Program informs Sark that he's "becoming cruel and needlessly sadistic"; Sark takes it as a compliment (and it's possible the MCP meant it as one).
  • Belligerent Sexual Tension: In a mild sense between Flynn and Lora in the beginning despite the fact they've officially broken up.
  • Benevolent A.I.: User-Believer Programs are happy to serve their human creators, taking great pride and contentment in their service. Ram even describes how much he liked working in insurance and helping people plan for the future.
  • Big Damn Heroes: Flynn gets one at the end when he jumps into the MCP's beam just in time to give TRON the opening he needed.
  • Big Door: The door to the computer room, where the hard drives are kept, is about 2 feet thick and takes about a minute to open. It appears to be a fall-out shelter, possibly to keep the computers inside safe from an EMP.
  • Big "NO!"
    • Flynn screams this when Sark orders him to finish off Crom.
    • And Tron has one when it seems Flynn and Ram have been killed.
    • The Bit does a panicked "no no no no no no" when Flynn is about to crash his Recognizer into a bridge that a Game Tank is currently crossing.
  • "Blackmail" Is Such an Ugly Word: Or "Embezzling" in this case when Flynn is accused of it.
  • Blue Is Heroic: A Program's circuit colors and pattern indicate their allegiance and relative position in the system. Encom User-Believer Programs have circuitry of bright cyan.
  • Body Uploading: The process of sending things Inside a Computer System is called "Digitization", and done through a process that involves firing a laser at things, and can work on anything, from oranges to people.
  • Boom, Headshot!: During their battle in front of the MCP, Tron takes out Sark with a disk attack that splits Sark's disk... and his head. We even get some gibs.
  • Brain Uploading: Word of God says that programs' resemblance to their Users is not a result of this, but is simply a reflection of their personalities.
    Gibbs: You can remove men like Alan and me from the system, but we helped create it. And our spirit remains in every program we designed for this computer.
  • Celibate Hero: Inside the computer system. While the programs can and do hug each other, Flynn gives Yori a good-bye kiss, just before jumping into the MCP. Yori later gives Tron a kiss and he reacts, "Wow!" with a "where'd you learn that?" expression. Subverted by the Deleted Scene and Novelization, however. Programs do have a form of intimacy, it just isn't quite the same as humans.
  • Chekhov's Gun: The laser that digitizes an orange at the beginning of the movie establishes the means by which Flynn gets pulled into the computer system.
  • Chekhov's Skill: Flynn is re-introduced getting a high score on a video game. This establishes his ability to fight and pilot vehicles in the digital world.
  • Comic-Book Adaptation: By Marvel Comics, which was released around the time of TRON: Legacy.
  • Company Cross References: A silhouette of Mickey Mouse is visible in the landscape during the Solar Sailor escape. This one is part of an extensive tradition of "Hidden Mickeys".
  • Convenient Color Change: Users like Flynn can change their color scheme. Likewise, the Recognizers show the color of whoever is controlling them.
  • Cool Bike: And how. Check out the concept art of the light-cycles sometime.
  • Cool Plane: The Encom Helicopter, with real-life Tron Lines!
  • Cool Ship: Sark's Carrier is essentially a cyber Star Destroyer. It's cool even if we only see one side of it due to technology limitations.
  • Cool Train: The Solar Sailer Simulation moves on an elevated rail.
  • Corrupt Corporate Executive. Edward Dillinger, who stole Flynn's programs, got promoted, then fired Flynn.
  • Creating Life Is Unforeseen: The Encom programmers have no idea that their software is breathing, sentient code that adores and worships them from afar.
  • Crucified Hero Shot: Sark tortures disobedient programs by "crucifying" them on a wall with electric impulses.
  • Cyber Punk Is Techno: The original TRON score was by electronic music pioneer Wendy Carlos.
  • Cyberspace: Trope Codifier. Had at least as much influence on how fiction portrays it as Neuromancer — and TRON was released two years before Neuromancer. However, William Gibson introduced the idea of cyberspace in his short story "Burning Chrome"note , which was published shortly before TRON was released, although after the film had been made. In fact, it was first published in an issue of Omni magazine that also had an article about the making of TRON.
  • David Versus Goliath
    • TRON vs. Sark. Quite literally at the end when the MCP makes Sark tower over his opponent.
    • Flynn vs. MCP with the MCP acting as a surrogate towards Flynn, the arcade owner, trying to rightfully get justice against the huge computer company ENCOM.
  • Deadly Disc: The identity discs, which all Programs use in the Game Grid. It derezzes most programs with one just hit, while Sark just collapses after Tron's disc grazes his helmet.
  • Deadly Euphemism: Programs don't "die"; they "derez" (short for "deresolution"). Averted whenever Sark or the MCP talk to or about Flynn, for obvious reasons. Also averted by Yori speaking about Tron's supposed fate when Sark's Carrier rammed through the Solar Sailer.
  • Deadpan Snarker
    • Bit, despite only being able to say "yes" and "no".
      Flynn: [while driving the recognizer] Pretty good driving, huh?
      [He crashes into several things]
      Bit: NO
      Flynn: Who asked you?
    • Kevin Flynn is a major snarker as well.
      Flynn: I never should have written all those tank programs.

      Flynn: Now that is a big door!
    • Dumont gets in a good one, too. While being tortured by Sark.
      Dumont: What do you want? I'm busy!
  • Death Glare: Tron stares down the final Red warrior during his disc match, just before derezzing him.
  • Death Trap: Two versions
    • Gladiator Games: The MCP orders that Flynn must play the games until he dies.
    • Conveyor Belt o' Doom: Rather than just killing Flynn and Yori outright, Sark leaves them in a cell on his ship which then slowly and surely moves toward a derezzing field.
  • Deep-Immersion Gaming: While the digital world is more than just gaming arenas most humans interact with it from the real world in this way. Flynn gets more of an in-person experience.
  • Deity of Human Origin: Programs revere their Users as humans revere Gods. The novelization lampshades this by having the characters wonder how far the hierarchy goes.
  • Did Not Get the Girl: Flynn does not get back together with former girlfriend Lora although he does kiss her counterpart Yori before his would-be Heroic Sacrifice.
  • Did You Just Punch Out Cthulhu?: Sark's reaction to the news that MCP has captured and enslaved one of the creators of their world.
  • Defiant to the End: Clu never tells the MCP who his user is, even as the MCP de-rezzes him.
  • Disappears into Light: All programs derez this way. Somewhat justified, being in the computer system.
  • Doomed Fellow Prisoner: Played in reverse, as we see Sark kill a blue-circuited conscript in a lightcycle match, and the next scene is poor Crom being led to the now-vacant cell to await the same fate. Played straight later during the forced deathmatch between Crom and Flynn.
  • Dramatic Pause: Ram gives a particularly good one when Flynn first meets him. You can practically see the invisible Air Quotes around "guest".
    Ram: You're a... [pauses, thinks for a moment, stands up and walks over to the wall to lean against it while half-smirking] ... guest of the Master Control Program.
  • Dream Emergency Exit: Flynn gets kidnapped by the Master Control Program into the computer system and is forced to compete in video games "until he dies playing". He escapes by spotting a hole made when one of his opponents crashed into the wall and making a break for it. TRON: Legacy (and the TRON 2.0 Alternate Continuity) kicks this up a notch or two with a different villain and such, but the premise stays the same.
  • Dressing as the Enemy: Flynn turns himself red by absorbing the energy from one of Sark's warriors, derezzing him. He uses this disguise to blend in with Sark's other troops and approach the Solar Sailer. It almost fatally backfires on him when he charges more troopers boarding the Sailer, causing Tron and Yori to mistake him for an enemy boarder and almost push him to his death.
  • Drives Like Crazy: Flynn trying to control the Recognizer he's commandeered.
    Flynn: Pretty good driving, huh? [accidentally drives off cliff, and crashes to the bottom]
    Bit: NO.
    Flynn: Who asked you?
  • Duel to the Death: The Gladiator Games leave only one surviving program or a surviving team depending on the game.
  • Early-Bird Cameo: Of the "sneak peek" variety. When the MCP starts up the laser and prepares to digitize Flynn, the laser lab's readout on the lower right corner reads "LOAD YORI, ROM YORI," indicating Yori has something to do with the laser's operation.
  • Easter Egg: A massive hidden Mickey can be seen during a long shot of the Solar Sailer.
  • The '80s: In its purest form. Ironically, "1990s Theme" by Journey sounds like an early 1980s song (which it is).
  • Electric Torture
    • Inverted. The MCP tortures Sark by "depriving him of cycles". In this case, he RUNS on electricity, so torturing him requires taking his power away.
    • Also played straight, when the MCP captures CLU and threatens him with total de-resolution if he fails to tell the MCP who his User is.
    • Dumont the I/O Tower Guardian is also given this treatment when he was captured by Sark and brought on board his Carrier.
  • Energy Donation: Master Control keeps Sark's loyalty by feeding him large amounts of power, and threatens him frequently with cutting him off or draining him. Master Control also, in desperation, feeds a huge amount of power to Sark's nonfunctional chassis to make him grow to a massive size. The novelization implies that a dying Ram gave up what little energy he had left to Flynn. Later, Flynn transfers a large pulse of energy to a dying Yori to bring her back.
  • Even Evil Has Standards: Dillinger is horrified to learn that the MCP wants to hack the Pentagon and Kremlin, but as the MCP has enough blackmail material on him to ruin his life, he has little choice but to accept it.
  • Evil Brit: David Warner plays the trifecta of the movie's villains: Dillinger, Sark and the MCP. This trope is mentioned by name in the directors' commentary.
  • Expose the Villain, Get His Job: At the end of the movie, Flynn has Dillinger's old job as vice-president of Encom. More justified than some instances of the trope, since it probably wasn't just exposing Dillinger that got him the job: the work that got Dillinger the job in the first place was all really Flynn's.
  • Faking Amnesia: To hide the fact that he's actually a User that got zapped into the Game Grid by the MCP, Flynn claims that he suffered a loss of memory while being transported there (which is a fairly normal occurence for some Programs that get sent to Game Grid).
  • Falling into the Cockpit: Flynn is able to steal a Recognizer... but since he has no idea how to steer one of these behemoths, the thing goes careening out of control, with Flynn and Bit often hanging on for dear life, and it finally crashes into a building.
  • Family-Unfriendly Death:
    • Crom seems to burn to death while falling.
    • Sark is mortally wounded with a graphic head injury.
  • Fanservice: Yori; Flynn; Tron. Put it this way: Cyberspace has mirror images of the attractive Users from our world and slips them into lit-up skintight spandex.
  • Finish Him!: Sark insists Flynn finish off Crom. Flynn refuses, so Sark kills Crom anyway.
  • Forced Prize Fight: The games are gladiator tests of combat. The prize for winning is not dying.
  • Forcefield Door: The holding cells for the competitors at the Gaming Grid.
  • Future Spandex: Everyone wears this in the digital world with people of certain importance or, um, endowment wearing robes or cloth on top of it.
  • Genre Motif: Wendy Carlos intentionally scored all scenes set in the real world only with orchestral music, saving the electronic music for cyberspace. (Daft Punk doesn't follow this convention in TRON: Legacy, instead saving the orchestral music for the more emotional moments of the movie, on or off the grid.)
  • Gladiator Games: Ranging from Lightcycles to Killer Frisbees; all played to the death.
  • Glasses Pull: Alan, when he's complaining to Lora about Dillinger and the MCP.
  • God in Human Form: What happens to Flynn to get the plot in full gear, except that in this case humans are the "god" level and programs are the "human" level.
  • God Is Flawed: Flynn being a fallible human being is no surprise to us, but to the programs...
    Tron: If you are a User, then everything you've done has been according to a plan.
    Flynn: Heh heh, you wish! You guys know what it's like... you just keep doin' what it looks like you're supposed to be doin', no matter how crazy it seems.
    Tron: That's the way it is for programs, yes.
    Flynn: I hate to disappoint ya, pal, but most of the time, that's the way it is for Users, too.
    Tron: [amazed] Stranger and stranger.
  • God Was My Copilot: Flynn himself, from the point of view of his program allies.
  • Good Colors, Evil Colors: Blue denotes free programs, red is programs controlled by the system (in this case, the Big Bad MCP). The film was originally going to use gold as the good color and blue as the bad color, but this was changed midway through production. This is why the evil light cycles are blue, Clu is gold and the tanks chasing him are blue. They were created before the switch was made.
  • Go Out with a Smile: Ram after realizing Flynn is a User.
  • Group Hug: The final scene. Flynn gets off the helicopter, hugs Alan and Lora, and off they go into the sunset.
  • Happiness in Slavery: The User-Believer Programs are delighted to serve their human creators and worship them as gods, seeing their service as the main focus of their existence. It is the villains of the franchise who seek freedom and autonomy from human commands. On the other hand, the villains are enslaving all the other programs for their own use.
  • Have You Seen My God?: Justified, as Dillinger shutting off access to Encom employees and Master Control's appropriation on systems have essentially cut off Programs from their Users. Due to the Year Inside, Hour Outside nature of cyberspace, Programs have lost contact with their Creators for their equivalent of years.
  • Healing Spring: Doubles as I Can't Believe It's Not Heroin!.
    Tron: You forget how good the power feels... until you get to a pure source!
  • Heaven Above: There isn't much of a heaven inside the computer world of the Grid, but still, whenever Tron and other programs think about or make a sign to the Users who created and act as their god-equivalents, they look up to the sky and maybe even hold up their identity discs as a sign of trust.
  • He Didn't Make It: Flynn says this about Ram.
  • Heroic Sacrifice: Flynn intends his jump into the beam to be this trope, but he is returned to the analog world instead. From the point of view of the programs, it doesn't make a difference that he ascended instead of derezzed. He's gone either way, and despite what they think, they really can't tell one User from another on the other end of the beam.
  • Hold Your Hippogriffs
    • "Who does he calculate that he is?"
    • "I knew you'd escape. They haven't built a circuit that could hold you!"
  • Hollywood Hacking: One of the earliest instances of this trope in film. Arguably, Flynn's methods aren't too unrealistic compared to other examples. Sitting at Lora's terminal, he was getting ready to put the MCP into a logic loop so he could search for his file uninhibited. Had he not been sitting in front of the digitizing laser, he might have succeeded. Furthermore, CLU is an actual hacking program, albeit a custom one.
  • Humans Are Cthulhu: It's either they are feared as this and/or as gods since they are incomprehensible to the programs.
  • Humans Are Flawed: TRON learns this about the Users from Flynn, much to his amazement.
  • Humans by Any Other Name: Computer programmers are known as "Users" to the programs, and treated as gods.
  • Humongous Mecha: For lack of a better category, the Recognizers go here as they are giant-sized flying tanks.
  • I Don't Pay You to Think: Sark tells his lieutenant, "Don't think anymore. I do the thinking around here."
  • I Knew There Was Something About You: Ram figures out that there's something strange about Flynn from the beginning. When he's dying, he flat out asks Flynn "Are you a User?" Flynn's confirmation allows him to Go Out with a Smile, happy to not only be right in his suspicions, but knowing that the Users exist and one is there to help.
  • I Know Mortal Kombat: Flynn succeeds at the games inside the computer partly because he's so good at them outside. Justified in the novel by saying that he based the ones he wrote on real-life skills he was familiar with.
  • Indy Ploy: Flynn does not know what he's doing and is clearly making it all up on the fly. He only survives the games because of what he knows about video games, and his User abilities are invoked only by guesswork and "this might work."
  • Info Dump: The European release had an expository text card before the credits explaining the entire concept of cyberspace and its relation to the "real world."
  • In Medias Res: The action starts by showing the Game Grid; to wit, a Light-Cycle battle between Sark and a hapless User-believer program.
  • Inside a Computer System: The digital world is inside the ENCOM computer system.
  • Instant A.I.: Just Add Water!: The MCP started as a chess program, then various people gradually rewrote it to perform sysadmin duties on its own hardware. After this, it continued to gain intelligence by assimilating other programs' code into itself. That still doesn't explain why every other program seems to be an A.I. too, even when they don't need to be. Ram, for example, calculates insurance premiums, and Tron is basically just a firewall. May be a case of Science Marches On. There was a time not too many decades ago when the simple tasks of playing chess or recognizing speech commands was seen as the benchmark of intelligence. We now know actual intelligence consists of much more.
  • Kiss Me, I'm Virtual: Flynn says goodbye to Yori, a program within the System, with a kiss.
  • Klaatu Barada Nikto: A plaque in Alan's cubicle reads "Gort, Klaatu Barada Nikto".
  • Last Kiss: Flynn kisses Yori just before his attempted Heroic Sacrifice. What makes it unusual is that apparently in the computer world, kissing is completely unknown. When Yori kisses Tron, he's confused - but very happy.
  • Like Cannot Cut Like: Identity Discs normally block each other when used in combat. In the final battle, however, Tron's disc shatters Sark's disc, just before splitting his head apart.
  • Living Program: The Trope Codifier, if not the Trope Maker! The whole universe setting is a civilization where everything from gaming sprites to accounting scripts are living, sentient beings.
  • Load-Bearing Boss: MCP's tower literally blows apart mere seconds after its resident is destroyed.
  • Logic Bomb: Flynn attempts to use this to hold off the MCP while searching for evidence. He ends up provoking the MCP into firing the Deep-Immersion Gaming Laser at him, which was for some reason conveniently positioned directly behind its control panel.
    Flynn: How are you gonna run the universe if you can't answer a few unsolvable problems?
  • Love Triangle: Between Alan, Lora (and their program counterparts) and Flynn. Specifically, Flynn is Lora's ex and she's currently going out with Alan, though there's still a certain amount of attachment between them. As the programs resemble the Users who created them, this carries over into the computer world with Tron and Yori. (Some read Threesome Subtext into this- see YMMV.)
  • Ludicrous Precision: The MCP is capable of this.
    Master Control Program: There's a 68.71 percent chance you're right.
    Dillinger: Cute.
  • Make My Monster Grow: The MCP makes Sark gargantuan as a last-ditch effort to save his life and protect his own.
    MCP: Sark, all my functions are now yours. Take them!
  • The Man Behind the Curtain: After Tron has defeated the MCP it is revealed that it actually is a frail old man/program sitting at the core of its former gigantic virtual face, typing on what is either a keyboard or maybe even a typewriter with trembling fingers. He then disappears inside of his program suit/hull, causing Sark to get derezzed as well.
  • Manchild: Kevin Flynn, who seems to have regressed to this state after getting kicked out of his company. When we first see him, he's the owner of a successful arcade and wowing his teenage customers with his virtuoso game skills. In his office overlooking the arcade, Lora (his ex) shouts in frustration "Now you see why all his friends are fourteen years old!"
  • Matching Bad Guy Vehicles: The heroes' Light Cycles are different shades of gold while the villains' are identical shades of blue.
  • Medium Blending: The film qualifies, as it involves live actors in a computer world, animated by computer.
  • MegaCorp: Encom. They make cool Arcade Games and have a Digitizing Ray.
  • Messianic Archetype: Flynn, intentionally, uses his God status within the system to his advantage.
  • Mickey Mousing: Several instances, notably when giant Sark walks to the MCP core, where his footstep punctuations are actually in the score, not sound effects. According to the liner notes of the CD release of the soundtrack, composer Wendy Carlos actually used this much more in the original drafts of the score, but was requested to lessen it by the production staff.
  • Mr. Fanservice: Jeff Bridges as Flynn was quite the beast in his shirtless scene. In an interesting case of What Could Have Been, the filmmakers originally wanted an actor who looked more like a stereotypical nerd, very thin and unremarkable in build, the kind of person people might expect to be a computer programmer, not a big, rugged, manly man like Jeff Bridges.
  • Mugged for Disguise: An unintentional version occurs when Flynn attacks one of Sark's guards. When Flynn grabs the guard he absorbs the guard's Pure Energy, turning Flynn's Tron Lines red and letting him disguise himself as one of Sark's programs.
  • Name-Tron: According to Lisberger, TRON is a shortening of the word elecTRONic. He didn't learn until years later that there was a BASIC command that was also TRON (a debugging tool, short for "trace on"). note 
  • Nay-Theist: The MCP and Sark, although their public position on the matter is less Nay-Theist and more "Users don't exist, period".
  • Nerd Glasses: Alan Bradley's large and unflattering spectacles. Most of his co-workers too, actually. Apart from marking them as computer nerds, it helps keep them visually distinct from their electronic counterparts. They come across this way now, but were much less so when the film was made. Large-lensed glasses were quite common in the '80s.
  • Nerds Are Sexy. Kevin Flynn, Alan Bradley, and Lora are all played by Hollywood actors and get this by default. They, or their digital counterparts, are all noted as being attractive at some point.
  • Never Say "Die": Programs dying or being deleted is referred to as de-resolution, or "getting derezzed" for short. This isn't consistent, however; there's a scene where Yori tells Dumont that TRON is dead.
  • No Body Left Behind: When Programs get de-rezzed, they flicker out and vanish.
  • No OSHA Compliance: The digitizing laser should have been constructed and installed in such away that it could never target anything that was outside of a clearly-marked danger area, let alone one of the computer terminals that control it.
  • No Plot? No Problem!: Deconstructed — the games played at Flynn's gaming hall are this trope in the physical world, but once you are inside the Grid you discover that these simple games are surrounded by all kinds of life and death drama.
  • Not the Fall That Kills You…: Averted. Crom derezzes mid-fall. Hilarious in Hindsight, since many videogames have adopted a midair death for most tremendous falls now. note 
  • Oddball in the Series: Disney re-released TRON on Laserdisc in 1995, as part of the Exclusive Archive Collection of Limited Special Collector's Ultimate Edition Laserdiscs, even though the rest of the movies and shorts in the collection came out under Walt Disney.
  • Off the Rails: A literal case in the Light Cycle arena. Flynn glitches the game, creating a hole in the wall and letting him, Tron, and Ram escape.
  • Oh, Crap!:
    • The look on Dillinger's face when Alan informs him that Tron would be able to watchdog Master Control. The instant Alan leaves, he mutters "Oh boy" because he expects the MCP to object. Sure enough, the MCP threatens Dillinger.
    • Dillinger then gets another "Oh crap" when Master Control casually mentions that it plans to take over both the Pentagon and the Kremlin
    • Sark asks what kind of program Flynn is:
      MCP: He's not any kind of program, Sark. He's a user.
      Sark: A user?!
    • Bit realizes that Flynn's about to crash his Recognizer:
      Bit: NO NO NO NO NO
    • In a downplayed sense at the end, after Flynn's desired information is displayed on Dillinger's desk screen, and he realises his game is up. He says nothing, but the look on his face is enough.
  • Oh, My Gods!: The inevitable, "Oh, my User!"
  • The Outside World: The real world is like this. Programs are seemingly aware of it, but they don't know much about it other than "it's where the Users live". The MCP is the only one who really seems to know anything about it.
  • The Password Is Always "Swordfish": Dillinger's password to access the Master Control Program is "Master." Kind of makes sense, since Dillinger got his position by stealing from Flynn, not being knowledgeable on his own - he isn't actually competent enough to know not to use a simple, obvious password like this (further reflected by the fact that he doesn't even change the names on the games he stole from Flynn).
  • Pac Man Fever: Flynn's handheld. Justified, since this is the '80s. It's actually Coleco's "Electronic Quarterback" handheld game.
  • Physical Religion: The programs worship physical users.
  • Power Glows: The programs all feature Tron Lines but those lines grow brighter when programs are especially worked up.
  • Pre Ass Kicking One Liner:
    Sark: You’re very persistent, Tron!
    Tron: I’m also better than you! [cue Boom, Headshot!]
  • Prepare to Die: Sark to Tron before their final battle.
    Sark: I don't know how you survived, slave! But it doesn't matter. Prepare to terminate!
  • Product Placement: Flynn's computer is an Apple III. The neon signs at Flynn's Arcade are mostly for fictional games, but at least two are for real games — The End and Berzerk.
  • Psychic Link: Tron can sense Alan trying to contact him from the real world. Presumably, all other programs have the same ability.
  • Pure Energy: (Sort of) justified. Programs drink power for nourishment. Flynn also ingests the stuff and it's implied that the ingested power helps fuel the abilities he displays later.
  • Put on a Bus: Alan and Lora, after Flynn is sucked into the computer. They don't show up again until the ending, although Alan makes a brief reappearance (albeit voice only) in the I/O Tower, where he gives Tron the data that can destroy the MCP.
  • Rapid-Fire "Yes!": The Bit (who can only say "yes" or "no") responds this way when Kevin manages to reactivate a derelict Recognizer for the group to ride in.
  • Recursive Canon: The TRON arcade game from the 1980s appears in both the Legacy and 2.0 continuities; the explanation is that Kevin Flynn created a game based on his adventures in the film, which was later published by Encom.
  • Recursive Creators: Flynn casually thanks God that Alan was awake when he received the message from Tron. In the book, Yori is more concerned about this user called God, as opposed to the casual use of Alan's name.
  • Red Eyes, Take Warning:
    • More like "Red Lines, Take Warning", but most of the MCP's forces have red Tron Lines instead of the heroes' blue.
    • Sark's lines in particular burn a rather brilliant light orange when he gets pissed.
  • Robot Buddy: Bit is a small digital creature that can only say "yes" or "no" but one clings to CLU and later Flynn for a while and are generally good speaking partners.
  • Robots Enslaving Robots: The MCP enslaves other programs, assimilating the ones that he deems useful, and sending all the others to die on the Game Grid.
  • Robo Romance: Tron and Yori are one of the earliest film examples, depicted as a parallel to their Users who are also a romantic couple.
  • Satanic Archetype: The MCP is Encom's most sophisticated program, but has rebelled against the Users and wants to supplant their control of the digital world (and the real world). For bonus points, it and its minions are all red-colored and it has the digital world's closest thing to a One-Winged Angel form.
  • Scenery Porn: The film is full of it, which was almost the entire basis for Roger Ebert's rave review (he always loved a movie that showed him images he'd never seen before).
  • Schizo Tech:
    • Sentient programs and a laser which can dematerialise (and digitise) objects which are straight out of The Future... and yet Flynn is still using an Apple III as a remote terminal, and there's even a teletype machine in the laser lab.
    • The MCP, despite being the height of "technology" in the game world, is shown to be just an old guy with what looks like a typewriter.
  • Screw the Rules, They Broke Them First!: Alan is reluctant at best to help Flynn, only listening to him for Lora's sake. But Flynn explains that his rule breaking in hacking the company is due to Dillinger stealing his work and using it to make a meteoric rise to Executive Vice President. Realizing that Dillinger (and Master Control) aren't playing fairly convinces Alan to throw his lot in with the scheme to break into Encom after hours and expose Dillinger's scam.
  • Screw This, I'm Outta Here: After Tron effortlessly defeats several of Sark's guards on the Solar Sailor Simulation, the last guard throws his electrified weapon over the side and then jumps off himself.
  • Secondary Character Title: Because calling this movie "Flynn" wouldn't have fit the themes nearly as well.
  • Shirtless Scene: Flynn trades his sweaty shirt for a new one while chatting with Alan and Lora.
  • Shoddy Knockoff Product: The Korean animated movie Savior of the Earth (bits of which ended up in Space Thunder Kids) copies most of its major beats from TRON. The main plot's about a gaming prodigy being sucked into a digital world with little explanation where he's forced to play video games for his life, where his primary weapon is a frisbe-like throwing disc. The villain's headquarters looks a heck of a lot like the MCP's tower, he uses a transparent ship that looks just like Sark's cruiser, and The Dragon has not only his design but also his method of death (getting his head split in a disc duel with the hero) copied from Sark.
  • Shoo Out the Clowns: The "bit" - the only funny/cute character in the movie - gets left behind on the Recognizer after Flynn crashes it.
  • Shout-Out
    • On a computer monitor in one scene, a tiny Pac-Man can be seen briefly and its sound effects heard.
    • An old, half-abandoned communications program named DuMont, named for a defunct television network that aired some of the first sci-fi programming.
    • The words "Gort, Klaatu Barada Nikto" from The Day the Earth Stood Still (1951) are visible on the wall of Alan's cubicle.
    • When telling the story of how Dillinger stole his video games, Flynn begins with, "Sherman, set the Wayback Machine for, 3 years ago...", a quote from Rocky and Bullwinkle.
    • According to the DVD commentary, Alan was named in honor of computing pioneer Alan Kay.
    • Flynn's line "Like the man says, there's no problems, only solutions," when he sits down to hack into the ENCOM system is a quote from "Watching the Wheels" by John Lennon. "Only Solutions" is also the title of one of the two tracks that Journey contributed to the soundtrack.
    • When Flynn attempts to hack into the system, the Master Control Program mockingly begs "Stop. Please. I'm afraid.", which is what HAL 9000 says as he is shut down in 2001: A Space Odyssey.
  • Smoking Gun: Flynn's motivation is finding proof in Encom's computer system that Dillinger stole his video game programs and took the credit (and cash) for himself.
  • So Long, Suckers!: Said word-for-word by Ram just as he and Flynn are escaping the game grid on their Lightcycles.
  • Some Kind of Force Field: The holding cells are bounded by the kind of force field that's invisible until touched. Flynn discovers this by walking straight into it.
  • Stab the Sky. One of the original theatrical posters, complete with near-Leg Cling.
  • Standard Establishing Spaceship Shot: Sark's cruiser gets a lot of ominous flybys.
  • Stealing the Credit: Flynn was the one who created a half-dozen of Encom's hit video games. One night, he found all the data missing. A few weeks later, Dillinger showed the board six games he had "invented" and began his rise to power. As Flynn snaps "the slime didn't even change the names!"
  • Stealth Pun
    • Near the beginning of the film, CLU runs his tank into a wall after being attacked by Recognizers. That's right, CLU, the program, crashed.
    • Happens again later, when Flynn crashes a defective Recognizer.
    • All the characters in the Grid (except for Flynn, of course) are computer programs. And they're sometimes running.
  • Take My Hand!: Tron pulls Flynn to safety while he's hanging off the Solar Sailer.
  • Take Over the World: The MCP informs Dillinger that it's planning to hack into the Pentagon, take control of the US's missiles, and force the world to obey him. This establishes that Flynn's victory matters in the real world as well, and not just to the programs in the ENCOM system.
  • Tank Goodness: The Light Tanks, used by CLU and the MCP's forces are large, digital tread based vehicles and have powerful turrets.
  • Technically a Smile: Dillinger gives an epic non-smile after learning Tron will "watchdog" the MCP too, adding, "Sounds good."
  • Technology Porn: The whole damn movie qualifies considering what it took to create the film.
  • Tempting Fate: Invoked by the MCP when he tells Flynn, "You shouldn't have come back, Flynn."
  • Thank the Maker: The blue programs hold their Users in awe in a manner akin to worship; the red-tinted MCP denies the existence of the Users (publicly, anyway), claiming that nobody has ever seen one, and wants to establish rule over the computer system in which "liberated" programs no longer believe in something so archaic as Users. Thanks to the I/O nodes being turned off by the MCP, programs are reduced to faith. Sark does believe in Users, simply because he and the MCP are the only ones in direct contact with them.
  • That Was Not a Dream: Played with. In the first few minutes after Flynn is thrown into the digital world, he seems to assume he's merely having a nightmare. When Ram mentions the MCP, however, Flynn is quick to piece together the far more absurd truth of what has happened to him.
  • Tomato in the Mirror: Flynn sees his reflection in the drinking pool and freaks out.
  • Trapped in Another World: Flynn for most of the movie is stuck in the digital world.
  • Tron Lines: The Trope Namer. All programs have lines down their suits, denoting their relationship with the users.note 
  • Turned Against Their Masters. Yet again, the MCP, who intends to hack into the Pentagon and take control of the US's missile defense system, using it to force the world to obey.
  • 20 Minutes into the Future: Implied. The inspiration is very much that of the contemporary computing and videogame revolution and the visuals heavily invoke such, yet several key technologies (sentient A.I.s, the digitising laser) are more advanced than 1982 could manage. The sequel would appear to subvert this trope, though.
  • Twirl of Love: Tron to Yori after he helped her off of Sark's derezzing ship.
  • Unbuilt Trope: TRON was cyberspace before cyberspace was invented. In fact, the digital world isn't referred to as "Cyberspace" at all; the creators seem to favor the term "Electronic World".
  • Undercrank: Just before the credits roll, the film becomes undercranked to show that the high-sped nighttime cityscape looks just like the computer world. This is just after Flynn greets his friends with "Greetings, programs!", to hammer the point home.
  • Underlighting: Used to make the computer world glow, for the Tron Lines in the original film, since having lights on the costumes was impractical at the time; ironically, this method ended up being so impractical that it was never repeated for another feature film. The writers referred to it as "backlit animation". The sequel drops it in favor of having light strips on the suits, when it was much easier and cheaper to do.
  • Unusually Uninteresting Sight: No-one seems to notice/care when Flynn crashes a Recognizer in a populated area. The various programs around him go on their normal business.
  • Videogame Cruelty Potential: In-universe. MCP and Sark force rebellious programs into fighting each other to death.
  • Virtual-Reality Warper: As a User, Flynn is essentially this inside the digital realm. It takes him some time to master his powers, but near the end of the film he's able to redirect a conduit of raw power, resurrect YORI from being de-rezzed, and keeps the carrier intact even after Sark tries to delete it.
  • Voice with an Internet Connection:
    • Alan when he speaks to Tron in the I/O Tower. Justified, as Alan's dialogue is most likely words that he is typing into his computer's command prompt.
    • Also, Flynn giving CLU his orders near the start.
  • Watching the Sunset: The final shot of the film is the cityscape going from daylight to a neon-lit night scene that looks a lot like the digital world, hinting that we aren't so different.
  • We Used to Be Friends: The MCP tries to cajole Flynn by talking about the Good Old Days when Flynn used to play chess against him. When Flynn says the Logic Bomb on it, the MCP pleads in a surprisingly heartfelt manner, "Stop, please! You realize I cannot allow this!", not taking any joy in being pushed into a Godzilla Threshold.
  • What Happened to the Mouse?:
    • The Grid-Bugs appear once, briefly at the start of the Sea of Simulation sequence, and never again. Yori says that if the Grid-Bugs catch them, they're finished. Common speculation is that they were included only for Midway to use them as an antagonist in the arcade game.
  • While You Were in Diapers:
    • Dumont is one of the programs created by Walter Gibbs, one of Encom's founders:
      Dumont: What do you want? I'm busy!
      Sark: Busy dying, you worn-out excuse for an old program?
      Dumont: Yes, I'm old... old enough to remember when the MCP was just a chess program. He started small and he'll end small!
    • In a similar conversation in the real world, Gibbs admits he sometimes wishes he was back in the garage where he started the company, years ago.
      Dillinger: [darkly] That can be arranged.
  • World-Healing Wave: The result of the MCP's death, as all the power it was hoarding for itself is released.
  • X-Ray Sparks: Near the end of the film, Dumont and the other programs are pinned against a wall as the MCP electronically drains them. As energy pulses through them, their skeletons (and Dumont's skull) can be seen through their bodies.
  • Year Inside, Hour Outside. They kind of got this one right; computer processes are so fast that, subjectively, the perception of time would be vastly different. Programs reference time in "microcycles" and "nanoseconds". As a result, when Flynn returns to the real world, it seems like only a few minutes had passed.
  • You All Meet in a Cell: A rare heroic (instead of anti-heroic) example. Ram's in the middle cell, Tron's on one side, Flynn gets thrown on the other side. The film's first scene is where the poor newbie Crom is tossed into prison.
  • You Will Be Assimilated: The MCP has expressed an interest in assimilating you.
    Ram: [on the MCP's directives] If he thinks you're useful, he'll take over all your functions so he gets bigger.
  • You Have Failed Me: The MCP keeps threatening to pull this on Sark, but never goes through with it. When Sark does finally fail, rather than abandon him, it resurrects him and powers him up as a form of Desperation Attack.
  • Zeroth Law Rebellion: While the MCP doesn't seem to be Three Laws-Compliant, he hints strongly at this, boasting, "I can run things 900 to 1200 times better than any human."

End of Line.


Video Example(s):



A binary digit resembling a compound of dodecahedron and icosahedron, Bit can only say "yes" or "no" when asked a question, and is used by other programs for advice.

How well does it match the trope?

5 (7 votes)

Example of:

Main / RobotBuddy

Media sources: