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"Superman..."

Directed by Brad Bird (who was one of the original directors of The Simpsons and would later move on to work for Pixar), The Iron Giant is a 1999 animated film from Warner Bros., based on Ted Hughes' novel The Iron Man (not to be confused with the comic book). It is about a giant robot (the eponymous Giant) who falls to Earth in 1957, and a boy named Hogarth who befriends him. Hogarth tries to hide the Giant from the public (particularly due to Cold War-era paranoia), especially a persistent government agent named Kent Mansley. But the Giant has a very mysterious past of his own, and if things get out, the Cold War may just go hot...

The movie was executive produced by The Who's Pete Townshend, who loved the original story and had previously done a Rock Opera based on it. A 2015 "Signature Edition" of the movie adds two scenes.

The Recap is here, but beware of spoilers.

Character tropes go on to the Characters Sheet.


This film contains examples of:

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    #-E 
  • 1-Dimensional Thinking: When Hogarth tries to evade the Giant trampling on him during their first encounter, he doesn't think of stepping aside but keeps running straight forward. Justified in that Hogath is fleeing in a panic and the Giant, being intelligent, would have simply adjusted his direction.
  • The '50s: The setting of the film, with all the trappings of the Cold War included. And all that that implies.
  • '50s Hair: Since this is set in 1957, all the characters have standard '50s dos. Hogarth and his friends have crew cuts; his mother Annie has short wavy hair; government agent Kent Mansley has cropped hair on the sides with a curly mop on top; resident Beatnik Dean McCoppin has stubble and a soul patch; and General Rogard has the standard issue flat top.
  • Absent Aliens: The aliens that built the Giant are never actually seen or mentioned, with the action focusing on the Giant's adventures on Earth.
  • Accidental Art: Dean yells at the Giant who is in the process of eating one of his art pieces. The Giant removes it and does his best to smooth it out, leaving Dean dejectedly saying "Forget it. It's gone" at his ruined project. When the Giant put it down, however, Dean has a double-take saying "Hmmm. That's not bad".
  • Action Prologue: The opening scene of the nocturnal arrival of the robot.
  • Adaptational Nationality: The book is set in late 1960s England, however the film is set in 1950s America.
  • Adapted Out: The film follows Ted Hughes' novel's first half and builds upon it. The second half of the book involves The Iron Giant and Hogarth attempting to deal with an enormous extraterrestrial, a Space-Bat-Angel-Dragon, who arrives on Earth because he's excited by man's war-song, and wants to participate in it.
  • Adult Fear:
    • Annie has to work late and returns home just in time for the power to go out. She quickly searches the house for Hogarth only to discover he's wandered out into the forest at night and has no idea where he is.
    • Mansley, a government official, is rented a room in the Hughes' home and trusted to be left alone with Hogarth. However, we see that while Annie is at work, Mansley drugs Hogarth, drags him out to the barn, and threatens to use his bureaucratic influence to insure that Hogarth is taken away from his mother unless Hogarth tells him where the Giant is located.
    • Annie watches in horror as the Giant, who was carrying Hogarth, is knocked out of the sky by missiles and plummets to the ground. When she arrives at the crash site, she sees the apparently lifeless body of her son lying in the snow.
  • Aerith and Bob: Dean and Annie, Kent and Hogarth.
  • An Aesop:
    • "You are who you choose to be."
    • "It's bad to kill. Guns kill."
    • "And you don't have to be a gun."
    • Not a quote from the movie, but "unchecked paranoia is bad."
    • The movie's antiwar moral was present in the book too, but handled in a very different way.
  • Aliens in Cardiff: The Giant lands in Maine, a state not known for Humongous Mecha.
  • All Animals Are Dogs: The Giant's detached hand acts like a dog playfully exploring Hogarth's house. Its wrist joint even wags when Hogarth discovers it in the bathroom playing with the toilet paper.
  • Alliterative Name: Hogarth Hughes.
  • Aluminum Christmas Trees: That educational film shown in Hogarth's class, telling people that they can survive a blast by ducking and covering their heads, is based on a real thing.
  • Amnesiac Dissonance: The Giant is implied to have this, as he is capable of incredible destruction. The Signature Edition implies that he probably had destroyed entire planets before his crash landing on Earth, well in contrast to his childlike and innocent persona in the film proper.
  • Amusing Injuries: Happens to Mansley a couple of times.
    • When Annie and Mansley walk in on Hogarth "using the bathroom", Annie slams the door shut very quickly in embarrassment, smashing Mansley's face in between the frame and the door.
    • Late in the movie, Mansley is rear-ended in his car and slams his face into the windshield, making visible cracks. There isn't a mark on his face, and he comes out of the car screaming about something else immediately after.
  • Answer Cut: When Mr. Stutz says that he really did call the government and that they were sending someone to investigate, Dean asks, "Who in the hell would the government send?" Cut to the power plant where Kent Mansley gets out of his car.
  • Angrish: Kent has a tendency to use this, namely during his mini tantrum trying to hang up the Hughes' phone.
  • Arc Words: Several.
    • "You are who you choose to be."
    • "Guns kill"/"I am not a gun."
    • "Souls don't die."
    • "Superman"
    • "And all that that implies."
  • Arson, Murder, and Jaywalking: Mansley rhetorically asks Hogarth if he knows who built the Giant. "Is it the Russians? The Chinese? Martians? Canadians?"
  • Artistic License – Cars: The car the Giant spins Hogarth around with in the junkyard is a 1959 Cadillac Series 62.
  • Artistic License – History: Sort of. At one point, Dean jokingly describes espresso as "coffee-zilla" when warning Hogarth against drinking it. Godzilla wasn't a household name in America in 1957. There were only two Godzilla movies in existence at the time, only one of which (Godzilla: King of the Monsters!) had actually been released in the United States. While avant-garde Dean may have been familiar with it, Godzilla simply hadn't permeated pop culture enough for him to use that phrase.
  • Artistic License – Nuclear Physics: A Type I example. The Iron Giant collides with the nuclear missile high above the Earth, appearing to cause it to detonate. However, weapons like this are specifically designed not to detonate if something goes wrong before it reaches the target point. Technically, there should only have been a much smaller, rocket-fuel explosion.
  • Artistic License – Ships
    • The submarine that fires the nuclear missile at the climax is identified as the USS Nautilus. The real USS Nautilus was not equipped to carry missiles, being armed only with torpedoes.
    • In addition, the launched Polaris missile didn't enter service until 1961, 4 years after the movie's setting.
    • Shortly before this, the heavy cruisers in Rockwell's bay are referred to as battleships.
  • Astonishingly Appropriate Interruption: Hogarth concealing his outbursts at the giant severed hand messing around in the kitchen from his mother by working them into his dinnertime prayer is a sight to see:
    Hogarth: Oh my god. Uh— Ohh, my God, we… thank you! For the food that mom has put in front of us and STOP! …th-the Devil! From doing bad things. And uh, GET OUT OF HERE!! …Satan? GO! …Go, so that we may live in peace. Amen.
  • Attack of the 50-Foot Whatever: The Giant does this towards the end of the movie.
  • Bad "Bad Acting": In the B-Movie Hogarth was watching.
  • Bambification: The film uses the Giant's encounter of a stag in the forest and it's subsequent death by hunters as a pivot point in story to allow Hogarth to teach the Giant about the reality of death and deliver the arc-message that "guns kill".
  • Batman in My Basement: Hogarth has a giant robot in his barn.
  • Because You Were Nice to Me: The Giant takes an interest in Hogarth because the young boy saved him from being electrocuted at the power station.
  • Beware the Nice Ones: The ultimate example of why you should never piss off the Gentle Giant.
  • Be Yourself: Dean's advice to Hogarth after his espresso-fueled rant about his school problems is regardless of what others think, "you are who you choose to be".
  • Big Bad: Kent Mansley, the government agent pursuing the Giant. Played with in that while his cowardice and irrational behavior nearly gets the town of Rockwell nuked, it's made clear he's something of a laughingstock with no real authority.
  • Big Electric Switch: The huge On/Off switch at the power station which Hogarth pulls to save the Giant.
  • Big "OMG!":
    • Kent when he notices half of his car is destroyed.
    • Also hilariously done when Hogarth says it during dinner and he's just noticed the giant's hand in the living room... and he turns it into part of the prayer he's saying.
  • Bittersweet Ending: Subverted. To the rest of the world, the town is saved from the nuclear missile, Mansley is arrested for his crimes, Hogarth has more friends, Annie and Dean are a couple. But the Giant sacrificed himself and is remembered as a hero. However, Hogarth becomes aware that the screw is being summoned and the last scene of the movie shows the Giant on a glacier in Iceland reassembling himself, thus sweetening the ending.
  • Blatant Lies: Hogarth's teeth are chattering and he's purple with cold:
    Hogarth: C-c-come on in! The water-r's g-great!
  • Bloodless Carnage: Hogarth's nosebleed established for the audience that these characters are not Made of Iron. However, when a deer takes a lethal bullet wound, nary a drop of blood is seen. Similarly, the government agent's Amusing Injuries are all of a non-bleeding type.
  • Bluffing the Authorities: When paranoiac Jerk Ass Kent Mansley finally convinces the US Army that the title character is loose in Rockwell, Maine, they arrive at Dean McCoppin's studio to find a huge robotic figure. Dean explains that it's a modern art sculpture he's going to be selling to a wealthy industrialist.
  • B-Movie: Hogarth watches a particularly hammy movie about killer brains. They even replicated the rather wooden acting abilities of the performers and laughable special effects that typically appeared in such films.
  • Bookends: The movie begins and ends with beeps. At the beginning, the beeps are courtesy of Sputnik. At the end, they're from the Giant reassembling himself in Iceland.
  • A Boy and His X: Hogarth and the Giant.
  • Brought to You by the Letter "S": At one point when playing with Hogarth in the scrapyard, the Giant declares "I Superman!" and adorns his chest with a giant "S".
  • Came from the Sky: A fisherman lost in storm first sees something fall from the sky, then runs into the Giant thinking its glowing eyes are the lighthouse
  • The Cameo: Former Disney animators Frank Thomas and Ollie Johnston appear as railroad workers early in the film, telling Mansley about the giant. Brad Bird even got Frank and Ollie themselves to voice their inksuit cameos!
  • Cassandra Truth:
    • Early in the film, Hogarth's mother disregards him when he tries to tell her about the robot.
    • Mansley gets blown off by Rogard when he tries to phone him about the Giant's existence. Later, when he is is able to produce photographic evidence, Hogarth and Dean disguise the Giant as one of Dean's pieces of metal art destroying Mansley's credibility. He's only vindicated when the Giant appears in public in full view of the military convoy.
  • Catapult Nightmare: Happens to the Giant after he wakes from his bad android dream.
  • Catch-Phrase: Kent Mansley with his "...and all that that implies."
  • Centrifugal Farce: Hogarth and the Giant are playing test pilot with an old car. The Giant spins the car a little faster than Hogarth imagined.
  • Check, Please!: Invoked by Dean at the start of the film after he unleashes a squirrel on the diner.
  • Chekhov's Gag:
    • Early in the film, Hogarth is trying to take a photo of the Giant, but gets bored while waiting for the Giant to appear. During a Time Passes Montage, one clip is Hogarth cleaning the lens of his camera only to accidentally take a picture of himself. Later, Mansley discovers the camera and develops that same photo, discovering the Giant was looking over Hogarth's shoulder — finally giving Mansley photographic evidence that the Giant exists.
    • The "duck and cover" educational video is played as satire early, but Mansley takes the advice seriously after he has the missile launched on the town. The general lets him know there's no way to survive that.
  • Chekhov's Gun:
    • A literal one, in the form of Hogarth's BB gun, which is left behind in the woods the first time Hogarth encounters the Giant. Mansley finds it later and learns that Hogarth was at the power station when the Giant was.
    • The room at the Hughes house that Annie wants to rent out. She mentions in the diner scene that the room needs to be rented if they are to make ends meet. Mansley rents the room later so he can question Hogarth repeatedly about the Giant.
  • Chekhov's Skill: The Giant's ability to repair himself after being damaged.
  • Cold War: The entire film is couched in the paranoia and fear of the Cold War.
  • Conspicuous CGI: Very notably averted; the necessity of cost-effectively and realistically portraying a metal man led to the Giant being rendered in 3D. The animators went out of their way to add slight irregularities to the lines while rendering the Giant to make it blend into the 2D animation, with spectacular results.
  • Covers Always Lie: Some of the VHS and DVD covers for the film show Hogarth, in the Giant's hand, wearing a powder blue sweater which he doesn't wear in the actual movie. He actually wears a red-and-blue-striped sweater for most of the movie.
  • Curb-Stomp Battle: Once his weapons are fully deployed, the Giant is able to quickly destroy the bulk of the military hardware brought against it.
  • Call-Back: The Giant nudging Hogarth's unconscious body the same way he nudged the dead deer.
  • Death Glare: A few of them.
    • Annie gives one to Dean and then Hogarth in the diner after the squirrel is let loose.
    • Rogard to Mansley a few times, most notable during "Where's the giant, Mansley?!"
    • A long one from Hogarth to Mansley during their "who's going to fall asleep first" tandoff.
    • The Giant after the car he was about to eat is taken away, immediately before the first scene in the junkyard.
    • An almost literal example, with the Giant's eye-beams.
    • The Giant as he is shot after thinking Hogarth is dead and he goes into his Roaring Rampage of Revenge.
    • The Giant to Mansley right before Mansley yells for the missile to be launched.
    • Annie gives one to Mansley right after he says "You know, this sort of thing is why it's so important to really chew your food."
  • Didn't Think This Through: Mansley launching a nuclear missile on the Giant's current location... which is about 50 feet away from him and in the middle of town.
  • Die or Fly: Because of his amnesiac state upon arrival to Earth, the Giant is unaware of his full capabilities. During the course of the story, new abilities emerge in response to situations he finds himself in, like his self-repair feature or his rocket thrusters.
  • Dieselpunk: The Giant himself, is composed of both of these aesthetics. Extreme bonus points for being voiced by Vin Diesel.
  • Disappeared Dad: The picture of Hogarth's father in a plane is intended to imply that his father was a pilot that died in the Korean War. The helmet and bomber jacket Hogarth puts on when he first goes after the Giant are his father's.
  • Disaster Dominoes: "I wanna apologize to everyone in advance for this..."
  • Disintegrator Ray: During the Curb-Stomp Battle with the army, the Giant's left arm weapon fires a green plasma bubble that vaporizes a tank into nothing. Luckily, the soldiers inside escaped in time.
  • Disney Death: One of the few times it was pulled off exceptionally well.
  • Diving Save:
    • Dean does this to protect Hogarth from the Giant who automatically responds to Hogarth's toy gun with Eye Beams.
    • The Giant later does this to catch two boys falling from a balcony, which results in him being discovered by the Army.
  • Dodge by Braking: How the Giant shakes off some fighter jets.
  • The Door Slams You: Sort of. When Annie forces open the bathroom door on Hogarth and shuts the door again seconds later, she slams Mansley's face in the door by accident.
  • Double Take: Mansley pulls this off when, while remarking that Hogarth is an embarrassing name, he has a sudden realization that the words "Hog... Hug..." on the shattered B.B. Gun stood for "Hogarth Hughes." And later when he sees the Giant in Rockwell, seconds before crashing his car.
  • Dramatic Thunder: Employed in the opening scene when the giant robot appears in the floodwaters during the storm.
  • Dude, Not Funny!: She does not appreciate Kent's joking about Hogarth's straining grunts while he's locked in the bathroom. Likely because he frames it as a criticism of his eating habits saying "This sort of thing is why it's important to really chew your food." Cue a Death Glare from Annie.
  • Dying Moment of Awesome: To save the town of Rockwell, the Giant detonates the missile by colliding with it high above the Earth. As the missile approaches, he hears Hogarth's voice-over reminding him that he can be who he chooses to be. Preparing for impact, he closes his eyes and says "Superman".
  • Empathic Environment: Dean confronts the Giant for nearly killing Hogarth with his Eye Beams. As the Giant realizes he did it uncontrollably and functioned as a gun, the darkened clouds begin to snow and the Giant runs away.
  • Eureka Moment:
    • After stopping by Hogarth's house, Mansley drives away while commenting on his name. This leads him to realize who owned the mangled "Hog... Hug..." BB gun found at the wrecked power plant: Hogarth Hughes.
    • Dean has one after Hogarth takes off after the Giant, who runs away after nearly blasting the kid with his Eye Beams. Once Dean notices the toy gun on the ground, he realizes that the Giant reacted automatically in self-defense.
  • Evil Redhead: Mansley. While he initially appears to have good intentions, his actions over the course of the film show that he's quite a self-absorbed, pretentious Jerkass. He crosses the line when he threatens to have Hogarth taken away from Annie if he doesn't give up the Giant's location, and becomes so obsessed with destroying the Giant that he orders the launch of a nuclear missile having forgotten it would destroy the entire town as well as the Giant.
  • Eye Awaken: The last shot of the movie showing the Giant's eyes opening up.

    F-J 
  • Face Death with Dignity: The soldiers, Rogard, and a fair portion of the townspeople are surprisingly chill about the fact that they're about to be struck by a nuclear missile. Mansley, on the other hand, panics and tries to flee.
  • Famous Last Words: [Hogarth in voice-over] You are who you chose to be... and the Giant declares "Superman..."
  • Foil: Dean is unconventional and hip, while Mansley portrays the ideal manly man of the time - a hard-boiled authority figure with Patriotic Fervor and a fear of the unknown. Dean is a LOT faster on the uptake and more flexible in his thinking than Mansley. Finally, Dean is willing to put himself in harm's way to save Hogarth, whereas Mansley immediately tries to flee once he realizes he's going to die from the missile.
  • Foreshadowing:
    • The cover of Hogarth's Atomo comic, shows a giant metal robot on a rampage firing energy beams that destroy a building which foreshadows the Giant's Roaring Rampage of Revenge.
    • Also, in the scene where the Giant discovers the dead deer, and notices the gun, he briefly gains red eyes while his "irises" narrow before snapping out of it. This is the first sign that the giant was actually a weapon.
    • While on the phone with Mansley, General Rogard mentions that if he somehow got a photo of the Giant, then he could get some troops over. Unfortunately, Mansley later discovers Hogath's abandoned camera and develops the film...
    • When Hogarth and the Giant are playing in the junkyard, the Giant grouches at being forced to be Atomo and instead wants to play as Superman. Which is literally the Giant's final choice as he impacts with the nuclear missile.
  • Freeze-Frame Bonus: If you pause the movie at just the right second when Hogarth walks into the kitchen to find Kent sitting at the table holding a newspaper, one of the articles in the paper reads "STUDIO KEPT ALIVE BY OSMOSIS GREENLIGHT." Osmosis Jones was the next movie produced by Warner Bros. (both films flopped).
  • Genre Savvy: Hogarth has seen enough alien/monster/giant death machine movies to know that if he tells anyone about the Giant, people will start "wigging out" and shooting.
  • Getting Crap Past the Radar: Dean's method of releasing the squirrel in his pants: he stands up, makes a public apology to the other customers for what's about to happen, and then proceeds to open up his fly to release the frantic squirrel (which then causes a huge mess at the diner).
  • Giant Hands of Doom: Played with. After the Giant repairs himself after the train wreck, his left hand is unaccounted for. It turns out that the hand sneaked into Hogarth's house, forcing him to create a lot of distractions to keep his mother and Mansley from seeing it before it can rejoin the Giant.
  • Giant Robot Hands Save Lives: The titular robot races to catch a couple of kids who had fallen from a 3-4 story building in his metal robot hand.
  • Giant Wall of Watery Doom: The Giant creates one when he does a cannonball into a lake, though it's mostly for laughs as no one is seriously harmed.
  • Go-Karting with Bowser: Annie suggests that Hogarth take Mansley out with him, seemingly oblivious to how much Hogarth despises him, and they end up having an ice cream in Rockwell. Hogarth exploits this by slipping Mansley a laxative to get away from him.
  • Gosh Dang It to Heck!: Noticeable averted but not surprising given the mature themes explored by the movie.
  • Gun Accessories: Hogarth duct-tapes a flashlight to his BB gun. Loses points because the way he tapes it to the barrel means if he fires the gun, he'll destroy the flashlight in the process.
  • Hate at First Sight: Hogarth makes no effort to hide his disdain for Kent from the moment they meet. At first it's just because Kent talks down to him, calling him "scout," getting his name wrong and generally patronizing him. Later, it's because Mansley wants to destroy the Giant at all costs.
  • Hate Sink: We have Mansley, the obnoxious, smarmy, arrogant and cowardly government agent who instigates almost everything that goes wrong in the story. He definitely loses any audience sympathy when he threatens to have Hogarth separated from his mother and when his desire to destroy the Giant nearly gets the entire town of Rockwell killed as a result.
  • Helping Hands: All parts of the Giant, even little tiny screws, can move by themselves, converging for repair and reassembly.
  • Heroes Gone Fishing: Near the start of the film while Annie is working late, Hogarth spends a bit of the evening eating Twinkies and watching a Bmovie. Later, there's the scene where Hogarth and the Giant are with Dean at the lake.
  • Heroic Sacrifice: The Giant does this to save Hogarth's entire town from a missile.
  • High-Dive Hijinks: The Giant's cannonball dive creates a giant wave that washes Dean out in the middle of a nearby road and lands Hogarth on the top of a tree.
  • Hollywood New England: The film is set in coastal Maine. Don't look for any of the characters to sport anything approaching an actual Downeast accent, however.
  • Hollywood Tactics: Notably averted. In response to a potential giant robot, General Rogard brought infantry, a few tanks, and the ability to call in air support, naval artillery and even a nuclear strike. Given that a substantial threat appeared 'out of nowhere' right in the middle of a civilian population, the military response seems pretty well-planned.
  • Homage: The movie is a big one to The '50s, with pop-cultural references to the era looming everywhere. There are music boxes with swing and jazz, there's Mansley, who is embodies the typical 1950s "man's man" complete with trench-coat, hat and pipe, there is Dean, a beatnik, named after James Dean, there is the town of Rockwell, named after Norman Rockwell, just to name a few. That doesn't even include the meta!
  • Hooked Up Afterwards: Implied with Dean and Annie.
  • Hypocrite: Mansley presents himself as a patriotic American who takes his job as a federal agent very serious. When faced with the prospect of dying for his country, he says in no uncertain terms that he'd rather run.
  • I Am Not a Gun: The Trope Namer and said word for word by the Giant when he reconnects with Hogarth after saving the children from failing to their death. It's the choice he makes after going into full defensive mode, but Hogarth reminds him that "guns kill" and he can be what he chooses to be.
  • Idiot Ball: Mansley plays around with it for the majority of the movie. It's the finale where he firmly grasps it by ordering the strike on the Giant. While he's in the same town full of innocent civilians as said giant. Note that the general actually warned him only minutes before about this.
    Rogard: ...That missile is targeted to the giant's current position! WHERE'S THE GIANT, MANSLEY?!
    Mansley: (Looks up as though he'd actually forgotten, cringing and sucking air in through his teeth as he realizes just how utterly he messed up.) ...We could duck and cover! There's a fallout shelter right there.
    Rogard: There's no way to survive this, you idiot!!!
    Mansley: You mean, we're all going t-
    Rogard: To die, Mansley. For our country.
    Mansley: Screw our country! I WANNA LIVE!
  • Info Drop: The film makes no mention of what happened to Hogarth's dad, but during Hogarth's standoff with Kent, a picture of a fighter pilot is seen on his nightstand, and the audience is left to fill in the blanks.
  • Ink-Suit Actor:
  • Intelligence Equals Isolation:
    • Hogarth's grades are high enough to skip a grade; he mentions that he gets bullied for it.
    • Dean as well, who appears to be considered a bit of a kook by the rest of the town for being a Beatnik artist.
  • Intergenerational Friendship: Hogarth and Dean.
  • Interrupted Cooldown Hug: Hogarth and the Giant reconnect after the unfortunate Eye Beams incident and the Giant firmly proclaims he is not a gun. Hogarth rushes into the Giant's hand to solidify their reconciliation. Then, a missile is fired by the army and hits the Giant's back.
  • Invisible President: Sort of. In a very brief scene after the Giant is found out, two high-ranking officers enter the Oval Office, and address a man, who sits behind the president's desk to request authorization to make use of Navy and Air Force. The man is sitting with his back towards the the camera, but has a visible bald patch on his oval-shaped head who is obviously Dwight Eisenhower, who was president during the time the film is set (1957).
  • Ironic Echo: Throughout the movie, Kent Mansley uses the phrase "and all that that implies." Later, after Hogarth outwits him by disguising Giant as one of Dean's pieces of art, Hogarth watches Mansley leave with the army and says, "Bye, Kent, and all that that implies."
  • "It" Is Dehumanizing: The Giant is referred to as "it" except by Hogarth and Dean, and the latter has to be corrected by Hogarth the first time.
  • It Was Here, I Swear!: When Mansley wants to show the power station foreman his half-eaten car, it is no longer there.
  • The Joy of First Flight: Near the end, the Iron Giant discovers he has jet thrusters in his feet, allowing him to fly with Hogarth for the first time. For a few minutes they both get to experience the wonder of flight before being interrupted by fighter jets.
  • Just Plane Wrong: F-86 Sabres did not carry missile pods as shown, nor were they equipped with afterburners, as shown during the 'scramble' takeoff sequence.
  • Just Train Wrong: The locomotive that plows into the Giant looks very similar to a Norfolk & Western Class J, complete with maroon stripe, with a front end similar to a New York Central "Dreyfuss" Hudson. Two things wrong with that, aside from the locomotive not really existing. Neither of those railroads went to Maine, and both of those locomotives were used exclusively in passenger service. In fact, given the time period and location, a steam locomotive is incorrect entirely. Being set in coastal Maine the railroad serving the area would be the Maine Central, whose steam program ended in 1954, three years before the movie takes place. The locomotive would therefore likely be a Maine Central RS-3, a Maine Central GP7 or a Maine Central F3.

    K-O 
  • Laxative Prank: As a ruse to sneak out on Mansley, Hogarth introduces him to a "new" ice cream treat called a Landslide with crushed chocolate sprinkled on top. It turns out that Hogarth uses crushed chocolate laxative for Mansley's version and when he starts feeling the effects, Hogarth slips away. A later montage shows that Mansley is impacted for the rest of the day.
  • Lethally Stupid: Mansley when he orders the missile be launched at the Giant while he is in the middle of Rockwell. Meaning when the missile hits, it would decimate the Giant and everyone else in town.
  • A Light in the Distance: In the Giant's first scene, a fisherman mistakes the lights of its eyes for a lighthouse.
  • Limited Wardrobe: Subverted with Hogarth. While we do see him wear the same jacket a lot, he does have a few changes of shirts, including the striped one he wears after the diner scene, a plain blue one, and the yellow one he wears when he learns Mansley is renting the spare room.
  • Living with the Villain: For a few days, Mansley rents a room at the Hughes house to try and find out more about the Giant, much to Hogarth's frustration when Mansley won't stop questioning him about it.
  • Lock and Load Montage: When Hogarth prepares his hunt for "invaders from Mars" at night.
  • Locked in the Bathroom: Hogarth finds the Giant's lost hand in the upstairs bathroom and locks the door to keep it from being discovered by his mother and Kent. After he gets it out the window, he pretends to be on the toilet when his Mom and Kent force open the door.
  • Low Clearance: As Hogarth is chased by the Giant, he runs face-first into a low-hanging branch knocking him to the ground and giving him a bloody nose.
  • Male Gaze: Kent's first meeting Annie happens with him staring right at her hips and chest, due to her opening the front door fully, with him leaning on it.
  • Meaningful Echo
    • "You...stay. I...go. No following."
    • "You are... who you choose to be."
  • Meaningful Name: The town of Rockwell named after the idealistic artist of the period, the beatnik Dean looking slightly like James Dean, and the ever-so-manly Kent Mansley.
  • Mickey Mousing: Michael Kamen's music punctuates Hogarth's stealthy movements when approaching the power station in the forest at night.
  • Missing Child: After discovering the antenna was eaten, Hogarth ventures into the woods at night to investigate, leaving his mother Annie worried and fearful as to where he went.
  • Mood Whiplash: A many-layered version in the diner scene between Hogarth and Mansley. It starts off fairly genial between them, then snaps to serious when Mansley starts probing Hogarth about the Giant, then to fervently intense as Mansley expresses his patriotic paranoia and fear about the Giant, then to funny when the laxative Hogarth slipped Mansley earlier in the scene kicks in.
  • More Dakka: When the Giant's anguish turns to rage, the bump on his head pops out and he now appears to be fully operational. He completely gives into his defense programming and displays a considerable array of advanced weaponry.
  • Motor Mouth: Hogarth shifts into this mode twice - once when the Giant's hand flushes the toilet upstairs and he says: "Gottausethebathroom". Second, in the scene where he has his first espresso and shares his school challenges with Dean not taking a breath during the entire tirade:
    Hogarth: She goes 'Uh-uh, you don't have a challenge. You need a challenge.' So, now I'm challenged, all right, I'm challenged to hold on to my lunch money because of all the big mooses who wanna pound me because I'm a shrimpy dork who thinks he's smarter than them. But I don't think I'm smarter, I just do the stupid homework! If everyone else just did the stupid homework then they could move up a grade and get pounded too. Is there any more coffee?"
  • Multitasked Conversation: Hogarth saying grace at the dinner table doubles (rather clumsily) as an attempt to shoo away the Giant's hand before his mom sees it.
  • My God, What Have I Done?:
    • The Giant's reaction after realising he nearly vaporised Hogarth by accident.
    • The Giant has another one later when he snaps out of his Roaring Rampage of Revenge and converts back to normal.
  • Never Say "Die": Very bluntly averted, almost defied.
    Mansley: You mean... we're all going...
    Rogard: To die, Mansley. For our country.
  • Nice Job Breaking It, Hero!: Mansley is so intent on destroying the Giant who he perceives as a threat, that he foolishly orders a nuclear strike on the Giant. Rogard puts it bluntly...
    Rogard: That missile is targeted to the Giant's current position! Where's the giant, Mansley?! [Mansley turns to see the Giant standing 50 feet away]
  • Nobody Here but Us Statues: The Iron Giant poses as one of Dean's junk sculptures to escape the army. Earlier, he stands in front of an Astro Burger billboard to hide from Dean.
  • Noodle Incident: Doesn't want Hogarth to keep any pets after what happened with the raccoon.
    Annie:Do you remember the raccoon, Hogarth? (shudder) I remember the raccoon.
  • Not Now, Kiddo: Hogarth tries to tell his mother about the Giant the night he first encountered him, but she's so drained from a long day at work, coming home to the mess Hogarth left in the living room, and frantically searching for him in the woods after dark, that she keeps him from explaining the situation.
  • Nothing Exciting Ever Happens Here: Invoked derisively early on by Mansley when a local asks him if the sighting of the giant means that "something big" is happening. He soon changes his tune.
    Mansley: No, Marv. Big things happen in big places, and the sooner I file my report, the sooner I can get back to them.
    [later to himself]
    Mansley: The biggest thing in this town is probably the homecoming queen... OH MY GOD!!!
  • A Nuclear Error: The film's climax features the USS Nautilus launching a ballistic missile whereas the Real Life Nautilus was incapable of doing so since it was a normal attack submarine (albeit the first powered by a nuclear reactor). In fact, the United States Navy did not have any ballistic missile submarines until the USS George Washington entered service in 1959, two years after the film is set. When the Nautilus is stated to have "first-strike" capability, it actually meant that its missiles were accurate enough to hit specific points instead of general areas like cities.
  • Oh, Crap!: The movie has a lot of moments where the characters realize that they're in serious trouble.
    • At the beginning, Mr. Stutz realizing that what he thought was the lighthouse isn't the lighthouse at all.
    • At the power station, Hogarth witnesses the Giant chewing up some metal supports, then he reaches for the live transformers...
    • When Mansley questions Hogarth and the toilet flushes upstairs, Hogarth has one and promptly rushes to investigate.
    • Mansley, when the laxative Hogarth slipped him kicks in. He dashes off to the bathroom giving Hogarth a chance to slip out.
    • A rare humorous one was right after the Giant cannonballs into a lake. Dean, who'd been studiously ignoring Hogarth and the Giant, looks up...and sees a mini-tsunami headed right at him. Cue the Oh, Crap!. Bonus points that the newspaper he uses as a "shield" has the headline "Disaster seen as Catastrophe looms".
    • Dean's reaction when he discovers the Giant pigging out just as he was about to enter back into his house.
    • And then there's Hogarth's reaction when he notices the Giant about to vaporize him with Eye Beams while in defense mode after he aimed a toy gun at him.
    • When the Giant snaps and starts destroying tanks with ease, Mansley and the two soldiers in the jeep with him have a moment of complete slack-jawed horror.
    • Dean and Annie when Hogarth rushes out to the town's edge to stop the Giant's rampage.
    • When Mansley sees the Giant staring at him and not looking very happy.
    • Mansley, upon realizing that he's doomed himself and the town of Rockwell to a nuclear bomb.
  • "Oh, Crap!" Smile: Hogarth when Annie glares at him after the squirrel is let loose in the diner at the start of the film.
  • One-Liner, Name... One-Liner: Mansley's line "Something big, Marv. Something big.", upon the question what they are looking for.

    P-T 
  • Parental Obliviousness: Annie does not seem to have the faintest clue that Hogarth unabashedly despises Mansley, and has been desperate to avoid him since he moved in. She goes so far to suggest Hogarth take Mansley around and show him the sights. Whether this is true obliviousness or just Annie wanting her son to accept they have to rent the spare room for money is not clear. As he starts to show his true colors, she quickly begins to dislike him.
  • Parental Substitute: Dean is a father-figure/mentor to Hogarth. Hogarth himself has a fatherly/big-brother relationship to the giant robot in the title, who has the mentality of a very young child.
  • Platonic Declaration of Love: Hogarth tells the giant he loves him right before he sacrifices himself to save the town from the missile.
  • Please Wake Up: The movie gives us a double whammy. First when the giant nudges a recently-shot deer that he had seen a few minutes prior and is puzzled why it does not respond, which leads to Hogarth teaching him about the concept of death. This comes back when the Giant discovers the motionless body of Hogarth and nudges him like he did the deer with the same lack of response leading the Giant to the only conclusion he knows.
  • Precision F-Strike:
    • General Rogard grabs a walkie-talkie during the robot's rampage and yells "All battleships fire at the robot! Now! Now, damn it, now!"
    • Mansley gives off a hearty "Screw our country!" when faced with the prospect of dying with Rockwell's populace.
  • Predator Turned Protector: When young Hogarth encounters the Giant, he finds the robot to be docile and childlike; this is suggested to be the result of a dent in its head upon landing on Earth. However, once the robot goes into Papa Wolf mode, it deploys enough advanced weaponry to eradicate a battalion with frightening ease. The director's commentary mentions that the robot was meant to be a military strike probe, designed to eradicate or decimate resistance as a precursor to an Alien Invasion. Fortunately for everyone, The Power of Friendship restores the robot to its Gentle Giant mode, whereupon it makes a Heroic Sacrifice to save the townsfolk.
  • Preemptive Apology: When Dean can no longer take the squirrel crawling up his leg, he stands up and says "I'd like to apologize to everyone in advance for this!" He unzips to let the squirrel out of his pants and Hilarity Ensues.
  • Pre-Sacrifice Final Goodbye: "You stay. I go. No following."
  • Product Displacement: Brad Bird wanted to have the Giant's hand watch Disneyland, with a spiel for Tomorrowland appearing before Hogarth turns off the TV. Disney wouldn't let Warner show the clip, so the animators replaced it with a Maypo commercial. The Signature Edition replaces the commercial with the Tomorrowland spiel.
  • Properly Paranoid: Mansley intends to track down and destroy the Iron Giant since he fears the unknown and believes it could be a threat to America. He's ultimately right, as the Giant is eventually revealed to be full of advanced weaponry. However, his mistake was assuming that just because the Giant had that capacity, he would automatically use it.
  • Pulling Themselves Together: The Giant's parts are all autonomous and have a homing function, allowing him to reassemble himself if damaged. This is first showcased when he has a run-in with a train. After his Heroic Sacrifice, Hogarth realizes the Giant is still alive when this feature activates on the screw given to him by General Rogard.
  • Quizzical Tilt: Giant does this quite a few times.
  • Reality Ensues: With regards to public perception and government propaganda when it comes to an atomic bomb. If a nuclear missile is headed for your town, a fallout shelter or "Duck and Cover" isn't going to save you.
    Rogard:"There's no way to survive this, you idiot!"
  • Reasonable Authority Figure: General Rogard is this, despite being a product of a WWII/Cold War era, he proves to be more moral, disciplined and level-headed than Mansley, refusing to call the troops onto the scene without proof of the Giant, and when Mansley's photo proof seems to be a hoax, he is justifiably furious. When the Giant and the military come to blows, he acts to properly defend the town based on the information he has, but once it becomes clear the Giant is only acting in defense, he immediately issues the stand-down order.
  • Reassigned to Antarctica: Mansley's planned fate according to General Rogard when Mansley's attempt to reveal the Giant is thwarted and his credibility is destroyed.
    Rogard: You'll be Chief Inspector of Subway Toilets by the time I'm through with you!
  • Relocating the Explosion: The Iron Giant sacrifices himself by flying into the sky to meet an oncoming missile head-on.
  • Right Behind Me: When Hogarth attempts to lure the Giant out of the forest he places a piece of sheet metal against a tree stump in front of him as bait, during the long wait he falls asleep and wakes to find the sheet metal is now behind him along with the Giant.
  • Roaring Rampage of Revenge: After the army begins attacking him, the Giant flees with Hogarth and manages to avoid giving in to his defensive programming. But he gets shot down, and it looks like Hogarth has been killed. While grieving, the Giant gets shot again, and he snaps — willingly and fully giving in to his programming. He even roars when he transforms.
  • Rudely Hanging Up: Kent calls General Rogard about the giant robot he thinks is roaming the town. Rogard, upset that he's been called at home for a non-emergency, tells Kent that he first needs some evidence before he will send troops, and while Kent raves on about it, he calmly hangs up on him in mid-rant. Kent doesn't take this well.
  • Rule of Symbolism:
    • After the Giant saves the town, the blast looks a lot like artistic renditions of the Star of Bethlehem.
    • The film's commentary points out that when the Giant transforms into battle mode, the audience can see that the biggest gun is where his heart is supposed to be.
  • Running Gag: In one scene, Hogarth manages to get Kent Mansley off his back by topping his ice cream with coco-lax. Later, Kent's investigation is constantly being interrupted by sudden urges to go to the bathroom.
  • Screw This, I'm Outta Here!: Mansley, once he realizes his actions have triggered the destruction of the town and that he's expected to lay down his life for his country like a good soldier, instead tries to steal a jeep and speed off. The Giant stops him before he can get far.
    Mansley: Screw our country! I wanna live!
  • Secondary Character Title: The Giant is the Deuteragonist.
  • Shabby Heroes, Well-Dressed Villains: Hogarth is dressed in typical attire for a 9-year-old in the 50s. Kent Mansley is sharply dressed in a suit and tie with an overcoat and hat to reflect that he works for the government. And all that that implies.
  • Sharp-Dressed Man: Mansley is always seen dressed in a suit, sometimes with a hat. Justified because he works for the government. He's still suited towards the end but wears an army helmet instead.
  • Shout-Out: Has its own page.
  • Shown Their Work
    • Especially regarding cars, architecture, pop culture, and clothing styles of the 1950's.
    • Hogarth's comic covers are all genuine (save for Atomo, who was made up for the film).
    • With the exception of the Nautilus' missile capability, all the military hardware is period-appropriate. The soldiers carry M1 Garands, drive M41 Walker Bulldog tanks, and the jet planes in the "Giant flies like Superman scene" are F-86 Sabres.
    • The coordinates transmitted to the Nautilus are in Maine, near the towns of Milbridge, Cherryfield, Harrington, Addison, and Jonesport, but the actual spot specified is a wooded area near the Atlantic coast.
  • Sliding Scale of Idealism vs. Cynicism: Extremely idealistic and heartfelt.
  • Sleeping Dummy: Hogarth escapes Mansley using a dummy in his bed.
  • The Smurfette Principle: Hogarth's mother is the only main female character in the film.
  • Squirrels in My Pants: By name, and preceded the official Trope Namer.
  • Stealth Pun: Dean directs the Giant to make a mobile (hanging children's toy) out of cars.
  • Steam Never Dies: The train that hits the Iron Giant is led by a steam locomotive, and the movie is set a few years after steam locomotives in Maine had been completely replaced by diesels.
  • Stylistic Suck: The sci-fi movie Hogarth watches, full-stop, Bad "Bad Acting" and everything.
  • Suddenly SHOUTING!: Occurs when Dean is explaining the contents of his scrap yard. "There are two types of metal in this yard. Scrap and art. If you gotta eat one of them, eat the scrap. What you currently have IN YOUR MOUTH IS ART!"
  • Tank Goodness: The U.S. Army uses several M41 Walker Bulldog tanks throughout the film.
  • Tanks for Nothing: When the Giant goes berserk after Hogarth's assumed demise, the Bulldog tanks attempt to destroy it without any effect.
  • Technology Porn: When the Giant repairs itself, and when it is attacked by the Army and deploys its weapons.
  • That Poor Car: Invoked on-screen: Hogarth discovers Dean's junkyard, and decides the Iron Giant can have some food there. Unfortunately, one of the cars the Giant tries to eat hadn't had its horn removed, resulting in it going off when the Giant tries to eat it, and several failed attempts to silence it before the Giant eventually panics and hurls it as far as he can into the woods.
  • Then Let Me Be Evil: The Giant spends most of the third act actively suppressing his defensive programming and tries to flee the army as they relentlessly chase and shoot at him. As a result, they shoot him out of the sky while he's still holding Hogarth, resulting in what he thinks is the boy's death. When they start shooting at him again while he is grieving, his Death Glare when he decides he's finally had enough screams this trope. Cue Roaring Rampage of Revenge and Unstoppable Rage. Thankfully, Hogarth is able to bring him out of it.
  • There's No "B" in "Movie": Hogarth watches one inspired by the numerous Brain Monster movies of the 1950s.
  • This Is Gonna Suck:
    • Mansley's defeated "Yes sir..." after Rogard tell him to "step outside." Cue a lot of shouting from the latter, much to Hogarth's (and the audience's) amusement.
    • Hogarth, while staring down the enormous barrel of the Giant's gun arm, tells him "You are who you choose to be," then winces as he says "Choose."
  • Throwing the Distraction: Hogarth throws a penny into the kitchen to divert his mom's attention away while he sneaks out one of the Giant's hands, which has detached and is wandering around the house. The penny knocks over the spice rack by accident.
  • Time Passes Montage: While Hogarth is in the forest trying to get a picture of the Giant. One of the clips shown during the montage turns out to be a Chekhov's Gag.
  • Toilet Humor:
    • One instance involves the Laxative Prank Hogarth uses on Mansley to slip away. After slipping some chocolate laxatives into Mansley's ice cream, the scene is punctuated by Mansley's stomach suddenly gurgling as he rushes to the bathroom. A later montage shows that its effects have lasted all day.
    • The scene where the Giant's hand is exploring the Hughes' upstairs bathroom has Hogarth pretending to be on the toilet while actually trying to get the hand out the window. His straining grunts are misinterpreted by his mother and Mansley on the other side of the door.
  • Too Dumb to Live: Mansley falls victim to this near the end. He sees the Giant glaring at him, so he flips, grabs Rogard's walkie-talkie and orders the missile targeting the Giant be launched. He failed to take into account where the Giant was: in the middle of the town, barely feet from him. Cue an Oh, Crap! when Rogard makes him aware of this. Ultimately, it is subverted because Mansley and the town are saved due to the Giant's Heroic Sacrifice.
  • Tragic Keepsake:
    • Hogarth's helmet and bomber jacket are implied to be his father's (who apparently died in the Korean War) — in fact, a picture of his father has him holding the helmet.
    • Majorly Subverted with the Giant's screw. The Giant was thought to have been destroyed after his Heroic Sacrifice to save Rockwell, and General Rogard found the screw and sent it to Hogarth. However, the Giant is still alive and summoning his parts to rebuild himself. So the screw actually turns out to be the means by which Hogarth learns the Giant survived.
  • Trailers Always Lie: The trailers make it seem as though Dean discovered the Giant, and tried to get Hogarth away from the Giant when he was about to eat an alarm-live car. In actuality, the Giant eating the alarm-live car occurred before Dean discovered the Giant, and even then it wasn't from the live alarm.
  • Track Trouble: The Giant pulls on some tracks just as the train approaches. Hogarth gets him to put the tracks back, but he takes too long and is hit by the train.
  • Trailers Always Spoil: One of the theatrical trailers spoils the Giant going into defense-mode.

    U-Y 
  • Unstoppable Rage: Hogarth seemingly dies and the Giant is attacked by the army while grieving. This sends the Giant past its Rage Breaking Point and he fully embraces his defensive programming and goes into battle mode. Cue Curb-Stomp Battle with the army.
  • Up, Up and Away!: The Giant doesn't have to do this to fly, but Hogarth tells him that he'll look more like Superman if he does.
  • Vile Villain, Saccharine Show: Mansley is easily the most vile person on the whole cast, petty, self-absorbed, paranoid about anything he thinks is not patriotic and yet seeks self-aggrandizement and his actions show he Would Hurt a Child. In his obsessive need to destroy the Giant, he orders a nuclear strike against the town. This is such a sharp contrast with the affirming lessons that Giant gains during his experiences with Hogarth including: I am not a gun, Souls don't die, You are what you choose to be and his ultimate choice to be Superman.
  • Villainous Breakdown: Mansley, who gets more and more freaked out as the situation develops, finally culminating in ordering the town to be nuked, then trying to run away.
  • Villain Over for Dinner: Hogarth goes down to breakfast only to find Kent, the agent looking for the Giant, sitting at the table. He has rented the family's spare room and now wants to ask him a few questions.
  • Wave Motion Gun: The Giant has one powerful enough to destroy a ship. Fortunately for the battleship he was aiming at, Hogarth intervenes causing the Giant to fire and miss.
  • What Measure Is a Non-Human?: The reason Hogarth comes back to save the Giant after it gets tangled in the wires at the power station is because he hears it screaming in pain, causing him to empathize with him. Later, the two question whether or not the Giant has a soul.
    Giant: I die?
    Hogarth: I don't know. You're made of metal, but you have feelings. And you think about things. And that means you have a soul. And souls don't die.
  • Who Names Their Kid "Dude"?: As Mansley drives away from the Hughes homestead with the "Hog... Hug..." BB Gun beside him, he talks to himself: "Hogarth? What an embarrassing name. Might as well call him Zeppo or something. What kind of sick person would name a kid Hogar-" Cue Eureka Moment.
  • Wing Pull: The Giant skids off a cliff and appears about to plummet into the ocean...until rockets in his feet automatically ignite.
  • The Worf Barrage: A squad of jet fighters seemingly destroyed the robot, only for the U.S. Army to find out that he's still alive and mourning over the seemingly-dead Hogarth.
  • Would Hurt a Child: Mansley. During his interrogation of Hogarth to find out where the Giant is, he threatens to make it so that Hogarth will be taken away from his mother if he doesn't tell him what he wants to know. Later during the climax he lies to Rogard about the Giant having killed a child, knowing that Hogarth is with the Giant and could be easily killed in the crossfire.
  • You Just Told Me: How Annie tricks Dean into telling her Hogarth sneaks off to his junkyard every night.

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