That film becomes the biggest hit of the summer, as moviegoers flock to go see the crowd-pleasing heroics of a faceless government bureaucracy with zero accountability or transparency, preventing humanity from making vast breakthroughs in our understanding of science and the universe. Geez, where's Wikileaks when you need it?
Star Trek Movie Curse: The first and third films have great reception while the second and fourth films have mixed or negative reception.
Acceptable Targets: Human!Edgar, the wife-beating redneck whom Bug!Edgar kills and turns into a disguise for himself at the start of the first film. Obviously didn't want anyone worrying about what happens to someone who gets eaten by a space cockroach.
Adaptation Displacement: It was originally an indie comic book. One that didn't focus exclusively on aliens, either. Originally, the MIB's job was to snuff anything too weird for the American public. The first issue was all about a New Mexico death cult, for example.
Additionally, MIB was not nearly as benevolent in the comics. Instead of having a neuralyzer, agents would outright murder a witness to cover-up or complete a mission, as well as executing and torturing innocent aliens. The organization also had an ulterior agenda that involved manipulating Earth as opposed to simply protecting it.
Alternative Character Interpretation: The tests Jay participated in to qualify for MIB. Were Zed and Kay giving the candidates a Secret Test of Character that Jay passed by thinking differently and deviating from what they expected, or were they straight tests and Jay passed due to his impressive physical showing against the alien earlier in the film that Kay was impressed by? The novel sides with the former interpretation, even saying Jay's choice to shoot little Tiffany on the firing range was right.
Not only does the novel state outright that shooting the Tiffany target was the right call, the novelization also includes the detail that Jay's pistol (and presumably those of the other candidates) was loaded with only one bullet, making the firing range test clearly a Hidden Purpose Test and/or Secret Test of Character.
J — at that point still a police officer — shooting a "little girl" during the firing range test can be more uncomfortable to many viewers nowadays, since there have been multiple police shootings of children that got significant attention.
J: I ain't playing with you, K. Did you ever flashy-thing me?
Though it could have referring to the fact that J had been memory wiped earlier in the movie, we later find out that yes, K did wipe J's memory when he was little after his father was killed in Men in Black 3.
Not to mention the entire dynamic between K and J in the previous two movies has to be re-imagined thanks to the revelation in 3 that K feels extreme guilt over getting J's father killed.
This line also becomes much harsher:
K: I've just gone down the gullet of an interstellar cockroach. That's one of a hundred memories I don't want.
Laurel's remark, "But don't tell him, he looks like he's already under enough stress.".
Jay asks Kay not to call him names like "son" or "kid" or "junior". In the third movie, we learn K got J's original dad killed, and has been secretly watching over him as a sort of self-appointed godfather ever since.
Heartwarming in Hindsight: The reason why K so quickly recruits J into the MIB as well as acting like a surrogate father makes more sense when it's revealed that K pretty much does consider himself J's surrogate father to make up for accidentally getting J's real father killed.
The first film (released in 1997) includes a scene where K talks about a "fascinating little gadget" confiscated from aliens that's "going to replace CDs soon". To anyone watching the movie after 2001, he sounds like a time traveler describing the iPod to someone in The '90s.
For added irony, K also offhandedly remarks that "I'll have to buy The White Album again". In the early years of iTunes, the store's failure to carry music by The Beatles was one of the biggest complaints against it.
The device itself was a Sony MiniDisc player, one of the company's many failed attempts to get past the CD era.
In a blink-and-you'll-miss-it line from the first film, K is about to say "I guess you weren't even alive in 1968" right as the Bug's surviving half almost eats him before Laurel blows Edgar to smithereens with J's gun. The third film shows he clearly knew this isn't the case.
In the first film, J is very worried about the effects of multiple neuralyzations. In the second film, he neuralyzes a group of New Yorkers in the subway twice in the same scene.
Smith's "Men in Black" tie-in song is based on a sample from Patrice Rushen's "Forget Me Nots". Ironic choice for a film centered around Laser-Guided Amnesia.
Lenny Vinito (The Bowling-Ball Head Alien) went on to play the human among the aliens on ABC's The Neighbors.
The alien baby in the first film bears some resemblance to Kit Fisto.
Ho Yay: J constantly referring to K as his partner, which is fine because they are both federal government agents and Space Cops. Unfortunately for them it was enough to cause them to be Mistaken for Gay at one point. He also mentions in one occasion that K is all he has in the future. By the third film they're practically bickering like an old married couple.
I Am Not Shazam: The Bug Alien's name is NOT "Edgar". Edgar is the name of the farmer the Bug Alien kills and disguises himself as in the first movie. The animated series seems to forget this. Even his action figure is called Edgar. In the first movie, J calls it "the bug in the Edgar suit". Though they probably just call him that to differentiate him from his identical brothers in the animated series, like Edwin.
Wearing shades, followed by the use of The Neuralyzer, are a must in any MIB parody.
You know the difference between you and me? I make this look good.
One-Scene Wonder: Jeebs, Frank the Pug and the Worms in the first movie (though they show up briefly in three different scenes). Positive response led to them all returning for the animated series and the sequel.
Spiritual Adaptation: This video argues that the first Men in Black video is probably the closest we're going to get to a third movie in the original Ghostbusters series, especially since the actual third Ghostbusters movie ended up being a reboot... or at least, until Ghostbusters 2020 was announced as a continuation from the original two films.
They Wasted a Perfectly Good Character: Agent Elle, played by Linda Fiorentino, never came back in the sequels. Her absence is explained by J claiming she wanted to go back to work at the morgue, and thus was neuralyzed by himnote A terribly weak excuse after joining the MIB being stressed as a permanent life-changing decision which involves your entire life being erased until you're old enough to be forced into retirement- the idea that L just "decided to leave" heavily undermines the speech Z gave J during his "suiting up" montage; still, the earlier scene with T already gave a Hand Wave with J just neuralyzing the other agent and trying to hook him up with a waitress. (Of course, when writing Elle, nobody had any idea that Fiorentino would be exceedingly hard to work with, thus necessitating her departure.) It could instead have been easily explained that she wanted to return to the morgue and MIB decided stationing an agent directly at the morgue under a new identity, in order to track potential cases was beneficial. There was no need for her to reappear but it would keep the supposed stakes of enlisting as MIB for life. Still, in the animated series she's still an agent, and her lack of presence in the live-action movies hasn't stopped fanfic writers from doing stories where she returns to MIB and becomes an agent once again.
Ugly Cute: The guck-spitting alien squid baby that J helps deliver. He even remarks that it does look kinda cute.
Frank the pug is this as well seeing that pugs are known to be ugly cute in real life.
Uncanny Valley: Aliens in more questionable human disguises will have this effect.
Values Dissonance: While paranoia towards those with unchecked power was certainly present during the 90s, it seems unlikely that the first film would have been made in the 2010s without making the MIB far more morally ambiguous.
Woolseyism: Edward's line about NYPD meaning he will "kNock Yo Punkass Down" was rather brilliantly rendered in the Danish translation as: "Nu Ydmyger Politimanden Dig" (Now the Policeman Humiliates You).