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  • Alternative Joke Interpretation: When RoboCop tells a couple of convenience store owners "Thank you for your cooperation" after attacking a robber, it is sometimes misinterpreted as him thanking the robber for his cooperation.
  • And You Thought It Would Fail: The screenplay had been offered to (and been rejected by) virtually every big director in Hollywood before Paul Verhoeven got hold of it. He threw it away after reading the first pages, convinced it was just a dumb action movie. However, his wife read it all the way through and convinced him that the story was layered with many satirical and allegorical elements, after which Verhoeven finally decided to direct the film.
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  • Awesome Music: The main theme.
  • Catharsis Factor:
    • Anytime RoboCop guns down a criminal, considering how horrible all of them are. Special mention goes to the scene where Robo shoves a helpless Boddicker through a bunch of windows and later stabs him in the throat, or finally puts an end to Dick Jones by shooting him out of a window.
    • His killings of both Jones and Clarence themselves are insanely satisfying all on their own, especially Jones who loses his Plot Armor shield immediately before in what's a particularly crowd-pleasing moment.
  • Complete Monster: The Big Bad Duumvirate:
    • Clarence Boddicker is the de facto crime boss of Old Detroit. An infamous Cop Killer, Boddicker is under suspicion of murdering 31 police officers, and opens the movie killing three more. When Alex Murphy, the future RoboCop, attempts to arrest him, Boddicker draws out his death, shooting off his hand with his shotgun, before letting his men continuously shoot Murphy in the chest until they're out of ammo, at which point Clarence himself shoots Murphy in the head. Later, Boddicker takes immense pleasure in assassinating Bob Morton, the corporate rival of Boddicker's ally Dick Jones. As he plays a taunting message from Jones, Boddicker shoots Morton repeatedly in the legs, then leaves behind a live grenade to finish him off. The leader of a sadistic gang of criminals, Boddicker cares nothing for the lives of his men, at one point cracking a joke as he kills one of them by throwing him into the path of a pursuing police car as a distraction. Trying to assassinate RoboCop and his partner, Anne Lewis, at the climax of the film, Boddicker shows that in addition to being paid for his crimes, he takes psychotic pride in them every step of the way.
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    • Dick Jones is not only a Corrupt Corporate Executive in Omni Consumer Products (OCP), but is also Clarence Boddicker's boss. Jones is fully aware of how awful Boddicker is and uses his thirst for violence to his own advantage and prosperity. Jones doesn't care when his ED-209 malfunctions and blows holes in an innocent executive, believing it was a necessary loss to test his subject out. Jones orders Boddicker to kill plenty of good-working and innocent cops so that he can make money with their deaths and get more support for ED-209, so that his project will be the one that profits. When Bob Morton gets the upper hand with his RoboCop project, Jones has him killed, leaving a message to taunt him and taking pride in his victory. When RoboCop later confronts and tries to arrest him, it's revealed that he's had Directive Four installed in RoboCop to have him shut down if he goes against an OCP member as an insurance policy to himself. Jones orders ED-209 to go after RoboCop to destroy what he believes is Morton's "mistake" and has him framed as a dangerous enemy when he survives. Jones has Boddicker and his men, whom RoboCop had all arrested, released just for the purpose of killing him and then later takes the Old Man hostage and threatens his life to try to get away when he's exposed.
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  • Crosses the Line Twice: The scene near the beginning with the demonstration of the ED-209 in the Director's Cut. In the theatrical version, it merely just shoots the executive for a second or two to kill him in a perfunctory manner. In the uncut version, it unloads hundreds of bullets into him with gallons of High-Pressure Blood spraying everywhere as the engineers try to disable the robot. This goes on for about 15 seconds, long after any human being could survive with ED-209 just chewing up the corpse. To top it off, some random guy says "Somebody wanna' call a goddamned paramedic?" after ED's done turning the guy into swiss cheese. The original intent of the film was to make it so outrageously violent you couldn't take it seriously. The studio cut forced out much of the violence so that some scenes ended up a bit more depressing than others.
  • Do Not Do This Cool Thing:
    • It's at least partly in effect, since the ultraviolence is often depicted in an over-the-top and somewhat campy manner (as mentioned above, the famous ED-209 scene often mentioned was deliberately intended to be so ludicrously violent that the audience would end up laughing at how over-the-top it was) and when RoboCop starts taking down the borderline-Complete Monsters he's facing throughout the movie with similar gratuitous violence it's hard not to find it triumphant on some level, especially given how violent Murphy's death was - these guys have earned it.
    • The directors played the movie for some real life police, and thought they would be horrified by the brutal arrest at the lab scene. Instead the officers cheered, saying this is how Miranda rights should be read.
  • Ensemble Dark Horse: ED-209, thanks to a very cool design and a highly memorable Signature Scene. So much so that he became a franchise staple rather than just a minor character; ED-209 is the one of the only characters besides RoboCop himself that appears in nearly every work of RoboCop fiction, even including Robo’s Guest Fighter appearance in Mortal Kombat 11.note 
  • Everyone Is Jesus in Purgatory: A good man is wrongfully tortured to death in a cruciform position, complete with vicious trauma to his hands, head and chest, but comes back from the dead and brings justice to the world. At one point, he actually walks across water shallow enough he seems to be walking on top of it. Bonus points; his ultimate enemies are militaristic ("We practically are the military!") moneylenders ("You're our product!") aka Romans. Verhoeven even confirmed it, going on to mention that the graphic violence was part of the satire. RoboCop is, after all, an American Jesus.
  • Evil Is Cool: As nasty a piece of work as he is, Clarence Boddicker displays plenty of Villainous Virtues, doesn't back down from much, and despite being a normal, squishy human, is vicious and resourceful enough to still pose a credible threat to a Nigh-Invulnerable hero like Robocop.
  • Foe Yay Shipping: It's noted on the commentary track that the scene between Bob Morton and Dick Jones is loaded with homoerotic subtext.
  • Genre Turning Point: Just a few months after Superman IV: The Quest for Peace became an embarrassing flop that threatened to make Super Hero films feel like a nothing genre, this hit film with its thrilling action, cutting satire and moving human drama gave the genre newfound dramatic credibility.
  • Harsher in Hindsight: The film was described by Stephen Colbert in 2013 as turning out to be more optimistic than the real Detroit, which at that point had become the largest city in America to file for bankruptcy.
  • Hilarious in Hindsight:
  • Improved by the Re-Cut: The 103-minute director's cut is generally seen as superior to the theatrical cut due to the increased violence, which does more to showcase Paul Verhoeven's intention of satirizing action flicks though Black Comedy.
  • Love to Hate: Boddicker and his gang are a pack of sadistic cop-killing drug pushers, but they get some decently funny lines, cool shoot-outs, and distinctive designs that earn them their fans.
  • Mandela Effect: Murphy dies 26 minutes into the movie, but many people remember him dying much earlier.
  • Memetic Mutation:
    • "I'd buy that for a dollar!" Notably later used in the game Smash TV.
  • Misaimed Fandom: A sizable portion of the film's fans love the film for its gratuitous ultraviolence. Said film is brutal satire attacking (particularly American) media for glorifying and commercializing violence while real people living in real cities are struggling with real violence, and implies that the only people who can stomach such violence are insane and sadistic criminals, and those so scarred by violence that they've lost their humanity.
    • As noted in Ensemble Dark Horse, the fandom as a whole loves ED-209, and it's become one of the iconic Mini-Mecha designs. This is despite the fact that pretty much every scene involving ED-209 — from its gory introduction (incompetent to the extreme) to its falling down the stairs(a police robot that can't climb stairs?) to its obvious weak point(a giant hole in its forward armor for its sports car-style radiator grille) — is meant to convey the fact that ED-209 is an overpriced piece of junk. Granted, its design is meant to invoke the Rule of Cool in-universe, so it was bound to happen.
  • Narm:
    • Dick Jones falling out the window looks absolutely atrocious.
    • Similarly, the scene where Emil is drenched in toxic waste and is reduced to a moaning, gargling sack of flesh can come off as more grotesquely hilarious instead of horror-inducing, particularly Leon Nash's "Don't touch me, maaan!" when Emil tries to grab him.
  • Narm Charm: Paul Verhoeven's idea of "satire" is so ham-fisted and overblown that it comes off much more darkly hilarious than thought-provoking, but it works extremely well because of the film's Black Comedy tone.
  • Never Live It Down: Dick Jones' death scene, which was considered by far the worst looking special effect in the film even at the time of its release.
  • Older Than They Think: The line "I'd buy that for a dollar!" is derived from a sarcastic put-down in the 1951 short story The Marching Morons: "Would you buy it for a quarter?".
  • Retroactive Recognition: This film is the first major credit for future Goofy voice Bill Farmer as reporter Justin Ballard-Watkins.
  • Signature Line: "Dead or alive, you're coming with me."
  • Signature Scene: The title character shooting a rapist in the junk.
    • The cocaine warehouse scene definitely counts.
  • Special Effects Failure:
    • During the scene where Lewis and Murphy pursue Boddicker's van after they stole loads of money, their car's windshield receives two shotgun blasts, but there's a scene immediately after where the windshield is pristine. The next time the windshield is seen again, it's shot up as it should be.
    • Some shots of RoboCop's handheld locating device show painfully clearly how the prop just has a painted-on small map with an embedded red LED. The scenes where it's actually put to use shows a close-up with proper animations.
    • Several of the windows Boddicker gets put through while being interrogated are pre-shattered by a squib a little too early, as seen by the glass going from clear to near-opaque well before Boddicker actually hits it. This is also evident when RoboCop throws the convenience store robber into a refrigerator display.
    • When RoboCop shoots Dick Jones out of the building at the end of the movie, his arms morph to about twice his height and he looks horribly deformed as he falls. That's to say nothing of the horribly obvious greenscreen effect over which he has been crudely superimposed. Even in 1987, most critics and audiences thought the entire scene looked laughably fake.
  • Spiritual Licensee: Many argue that RoboCop was a film adaptation of Judge Dredd. Many of the themes are quite similar, particularly the use of Black Comedy. In fact, the reason a Dredd film wasn't made during The '80s was because RoboCop came out before it could happen.
  • Squick
    • Boddicker's henchman Emil gets dunked in toxic waste, causing him to melt. Then he gets hit by a car, and explodes into Ludicrous Gibs. His head slides gracefully along the top of the car, and a substance like dirty water emerges from his exploded body to coat the windshield.
    • Murphy's death it made even squickier than it already is by the fact that the gang members taunt him viciously as they're turning him into hamburger. "Give the man a hand!" "Does it hurt? Does it hurt?" Also, at one point you see his entire right arm get blown off.
    • Watching the trauma team at Henry Ford try to resuscitate the poor guy is every bit as painful. It's one of the more realistic trauma code scenes committed to Hollywood film. The trauma team was played by real paramedics. Yes, they cast the experts.
    • The scene as planned by Paul Verhoeven was even gorier than in the director's cut. In particular, it was going to show the back of Murphy's skull blown apart by Boddicker's coup de grâce (that would foreshadow the back of his skull being replaced with metal in the scene where he takes his helmet off).
  • Strawman Has a Point: A standard of Verhoeven pictures. OCP is depicted as callous and opportunistic for wanting to take over Old Detroit and rebuild it as Delta City... and yet we're shown a Detroit on the verge of chaos even before Clarence's men start being more openly provided weapons and funding by Dick Jones, leaving one to wonder if maybe it wouldn't be better off bulldozed and rebuilt. OCP is also shown as heartless and ruthless for taking over the police department... and yet little blame is put on the cops for going on strike and allowing the city to fall into literal lawlessness. And of course, OCP's projects are shown as evil and money-grubbing... and yet they give us RoboCop, our hero, who we'll be cheering for during the next three movies as he stops rapists and terrorists.
    • That said, these "points" can be easily be rebutted by people with Verhoeven's worldviews. When corporate powers want to "develop" run down cities, it usually involves gentrification, which ultimately "improves" cities by pricing out poor residents and forces them to leave, making them Someone Else's Problem. Corporate and political corruption is also the unspoken reason the cops feel the need to go on strike, as greed and other corruption has helped undermine the cops so they would have a pretext to take over the department in the first place. This in turn forced the cops to choose between going on strike or living in poverty. And RoboCop was only built to be a soulless, mindless, obedient enforcer of the law, and only became a full-fledged good guy when he regained his memories and found a way to defy his programming in order to bring an otherwise untouchable Corrupt Corporate Executive to justice.
      • However, as for as the original goes, OCP's goal was to temporarily move civilians into trailers while the city gets rebuilt. Once Delta City was finished they would be returned to a new safer city. On top of that, the RoboCop program gave fallen police officers a chance to continue serving the city. Despite the fact that Murphy's RoboCop was originally built as a soulless machine, he still reduced violent crime and took out most of the city's major criminals on his own. There's a reason the old man isn't considered an antagonist until the sequel. note 
  • Too Bleak, Stopped Caring: While it's not as bad as the sequel in this regard, the original film can still fall into this for some viewers due to its violent nature, venomous tone, and extremely crapsack setting. Essentially, no matter what the titular cybernetic lawman does, his world will still be an impossibly depraved hellhole dominated by corrupt corporate executives, corrupt law enforcement, and crazed psychopaths.
  • Unintentional Period Piece: The film is very '80s in both its look (especially some of the fashions, the use of Stop Motion on the ED-209, and the crappy computer graphics) and themes (consumerism, the War on Drugs, free-market capitalism run amok) which make it a biting satire of the Reagan era. Of course, those themes are just as applicable today when viewed in the context of the late 2000s economic crisis and the failing auto industry, rising unemployment, and high crime rate in Detroit.
  • Unintentionally Sympathetic:
    • Bob Morton is a Jerkass Corrupt Corporate Executive who helped reassign cops to risky areas and was partly responsible for placing Murphy in harm's way. After his promotion, he is shown snorting cocaine and playing with escort women. The filmmakers fully expected audiences to cheer when he got killed by Boddicker. Instead, to their surprise as disclosed in the audio commentary on the Criterion Collection DVD, they found that the audience actually felt sorry for him, if only because he was killed in a fairly grotesque manner. Plus, he's a relatively but significantly better person than Dick Jones and Clarence Boddicker. Also and more importantly, he's the one who rescues Alex from near death and turns him into RoboCop (again, completely ignoring that he put Murphy and cops like him in harm's way in the first place)! Miguel Ferrer's natural charisma and èlan certainly helps him towering above the overall bleakness of the film, giving Morton some fatherly undertones of a man proud of his creation while overseeing Robocop's first steps. note 
    • To some extent, Emil got this reaction with his infamously nauseating fate. At least to a few being melted alive in agony and splattered was far too extreme, even for a trigger-happy scumbag like him.
  • Values Dissonance: When Murphy tries to recall his memories, he heads to his old home, which is located well outside of Detroit's city limits. In later years, it's been found that a major factor to the general distrust of the police, and a big part of Police Brutality, is that a large number of officers don't actually live in the areas that they serve in, which would make Murphy's journey outside of Detroit somewhat problematic to modern audiences.
  • Visual Effects of Awesome: Not too many visual effects are used in this film beyond squibs and animatronics/prosthetics, but the stop motion used on ED-209 is very well done, and an entire million dollars, a thirteenth of the budget, was sunk into getting the suit just right (which makes sense, considering the suit practically is the main character, and is going to be on-camera a lot). To say nothing of the makeup job on Peter Weller without the full helmet, which manages the not-particularly-easy task of convincingly looking like Murphy's face is grafted onto a robotic skull.
  • What Do You Mean, It's Not for Kids?: The movie is filled with over-the-top-violence about a grim future, dominated by corporations. RoboCop 2 retained the R rating (although the original script by Frank Miller was far more bloody, explicit, and adult than the real movie, and the Executive Meddling made him disenchanted with Hollywood)... but then they decided to follow it with a Lighter and Softer RoboCop 3 and Robo Cop The Animated Series, clearly trying to aim the franchise at children.
  • Woolseyism: The Japanese dub of the film does some notorious changes in the translation and in the personality of many of the characters:
    • Excluding the titular hero, Anne Lewis, and few other characters, the dubs includes extra profanities not included in the original English versions.
    • Unlike the English versions, the Japanese voice actors vocalize many scenes which were either silent or with very few dialogue. This is especially more evident during the final duel between Boddicker and Robocop: In the Japanese dub, Boddicker yells "Die, you bastard!" while trying to kill Murphy with crowbar, while in the English version, he just yells like crazy.
    • Almost every villain, especially Clarence Boddicker and his gang, hams their dialogues to almost epic levels.
    • The titular Robocop is somewhat more emotional than the original English version, making two key scenes even more heart-wrenching than the original version:
      • When he faces Emil in the exploding gas station and when he interrogates him, Robocop is basically yelling "Who are you?" to Emil, instead of using Peter Weller's much slower but still intimidating tone.
      • After Robocop faces Boddicker in the drug factory and when he tries to strangle him with his own hands, Boddicker begs for his life in a way that sounds out-of-character for a criminal lord to a Japanese viewer, while still keeping the original context of the translation: While the Japanese dub keeps the "You're a cop" line when Boddicker reminds Robocop of his duty as a police officer before he can try to kill him, the line is translated as "Omae wa keisatsu-sama" (お前は警察様). By adding the "-sama" honorific before the "police/keisatsu" part, Boddicker sounds like a honorless butt-kisser who tries to beg for his life at Robocop's feet and also as a way to get Murphy to see reason, as it can also be translated as "You are an honorable cop", and as such, he wouldn't steep into petty revenge.
    • If you're wondering how they translated Boddicker's Pre-Mortem One-Liner "Sayonara Robocop!", the Japanese dub translated it as "Bye-Bye Robocop!" in English instead.
    • A curious change was done during the final duel between Murphy and Dick Jones: When the Old Man uses his authority as OCP's CEO in order to fire Jones and as such override Robocop's Directive 4, the "DICK, YOU ARE FIRED!" line is changed to "JONES, YOU ARE FIRED!" (Jones, Omae wa kubi da!/お前はクビだ!). It seems that even in a hostage crisis, Japanese Politeness still applies here.note 
    • While the change was done technically due to language limitations rather than any kind of censorship, considering the unholy amount of already profane language used in the dub, when Boddicker went to Morton's house to kill him, the "Bitches, leave" line was translated as "Get out (of here), you lowly women!", being "bitches" adapted to "onna-domo" instead.

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