Transformers: The Movie

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Beyond Good. Beyond Evil. Beyond Your Wildest Imagination.

Note: This is about the Generation One original animated film. For the live-action films, see Film/Transformers.

The Transformers: The Movie, made in 1986 was the first film to come out of the Transformers franchise. It is rooted in the Generation One plot centered on the original animated TV series and associated comics from the mid-1980s, and spawned major continuity changes in that timeline, including major series plot changes. It did not have as big of an impact on the comics, since the additional space-based elements were largely inspired by ideas from the comics that had not made their way into the series, which up until then had been a relatively simple children's TV show.

The plot of the film takes us Twenty Minutes Into the Future to the far-off Year 2005, where the battle between Autobots and Decepticons has moved back to the mechanical world of Cybertron, presumably thanks to the humans apparently wising up and adopting Autobot technology in the interim, allowing regular space travel back and forth to the Transformers' home planet.

The animated film introduces, for the first time, the biggest bad in the Transformers multiverse, Unicron, who is en-route to gobbling up Cybertron after stopping off for a snack on the way. In the course of battling him and the Decepticons, a lot of Generation One robots die to make room for a new line-up, traumatizing many youngsters who had gotten used to the lack of permanent death in the TV series.

Critics panned the film upon release, with the most common complaint being that the movie was nothing but a 90-minute toy commercial (unlike other installments of the franchise, presumably). The movie also didn't perform too well in the box office (being outperformed slightly by the My Little Pony movie, of all things[1]). However, over time, the film has developed a Cult Following, including core Transfans as well as children of the 80's outside the core Transformers fanbase who were traumatized by the peril facing Optimus Prime.

Fans of the series hold the film in high regard, and many consider it to be one of the highest points in the entire Transformers franchise.

Ba Weep Granah Weep Ninny Bong.
  • Abusive Precursors: Quintessons.
    • It's revealed in Season 3 they built (or at least enslaved) the Transformers, and want revenge for their subsequent overthrow[2] Their planet is no vacation spot, either.
  • Absentee Actor: Though nearly all of the 1984 and 1985 Decepticons from the cartoon are in the film (Buzzsaw is the only exception, and he was measnt to be in the movie), a large number of Autobots are missing (such as Sideswipe, Mirage, and Trailbreaker, though they were planned to appear), including nearly every season 2 Autobot. Only Perceptor and Blaster have prominent roles, Grapple only getting a cameo and Inferno being credited despite not being in the movie. (Tracks and Red Alert had storyboarded appearances.) Out of the season 1 Autobots, Jetfire/Skyfire is the only one who was not meant to be in the movie at all.[3]
    • Amazingly, a lot of these characters are listed in the end credits.
  • Acid Pool
  • Adaptation Expansion: Massive introduction of new backstory, continuity, and other worlds, to a series that had been about 'bots blowing each other up in the US outback.
  • Aliens Steal Cable: The Junkions.
  • All There in the Manual: Where were Omega Supreme and the other combiners? The 2006 comic adaptation reveals that they were fighting each other outside the Ark. Also in this adaptation are the deaths of Shockwave and Beachcomber (though he lives in the cartoon). For the combiners, this can be justified since they didn't exist when the script was written, and if Omega Supreme was there, there'd be no drama!
  • Almost-Dead Guy
  • Amulet of Concentrated Awesome: The Autobot Matrix.
  • Animation Bump: The film easily contains the highest quality of animation out of the entire G1 series. Though to be fair, The Return of Optimus Prime is also very well animated as well, very nearly at the level of the film. Considering that Return is stated on the back of the video release to have been a direct sequel to the film, this makes sense.
  • Anyone Can Die: Done intentionally to clear the decks for a new round of characters/toys in the franchise. This proved a bit startling for a generation of latchkey kids used to worshiping Optimus Prime, and to their parents who were used to animated TV shows where nobody dies.
  • Large Ham Announcer: The absurdly overenthusiastic announcer for the (barely-seen) trailer. THE MOST INCREDIBLE Rock and Roll ADVEN-TURE IS HERE!
  • Apocalypse Wow: The opening scene featuring the destruction of an entire planet by Unicron. There are baby robots down there!
  • Arc Words: Bah Weep Granah Weep Ninny Bong.
  • Asskicking Equals Authority: After shoving an injured Megatron into space, the Decepticons promptly have an all-out brawl to determine who gets to be the new leader. Starscream apparently wins, but then Galvatron takes the job by showing up and atomizing him.
    • Word of God is that Starscream "won" by hiding quietly in a corner while all the other Decepticons fought, then shot the exhausted winner of the actual brawl in the back.
  • Autobots Rock Out- The Trope Namer.
  • Avoid the Dreaded G Rating: "Oh shit, what're we gonna do now?!" Hilariously, this one was done so the parents would have to accompany their children to the film and know which toys to buy their kids.
  • Badass Boast: Unicron.

"For a time I considered sparing your wretched little planet Cybertron. But now you shall witness... its DISMEMBERMENT!"

    • Galvatron gets a few.

"I'll rip open Ultra Magnus, and every other autobot, until the Matrix has been destroyed!"

  • Big Damn Movie: This was much more epic in scale than the majority of the cartoon.
  • Big "Never!": The conclusion to Optimus Prime and Megatron's fight, when it looks like Megatron would be the winner:

Megatron: I would have waited an eternity for this! It's over, Prime!
Optimus Prime: *throwing a two-handed punch* NEVER!!

  • Big No: Galvatron's reflexive response to Unicron's Badass Boast, above.
  • Breakaway Pop Hit: Stan Bush's "The Touch". So much so that, to this day, nearly 20/30 years after the initial film's release, is the top-selling song from its soundtrack and is a staple for usage in fan parodies and abridged series.
  • The Cameo: Huffer, Sunstreaker, Bluestreak, Hound, Gears, and Grapple appear in quick crowd shots. Wheeljack and Windcharger's dead bodies are seen being carried away. Reflector appears in three crowd shots but, due to an animation error, has Ironhide's colour scheme in one of them.
  • The Cavalry: Who's there to save Hot Rod and Kup on Quintessa? The Dinobots!
  • Celebrity Voice Actor: Judd Nelson, Eric Idle, Lionel Stander, Robert Stack, John Moschitta and, most famously, Leonard Nimoy and Orson Welles. Scatman Crothers and Casey Kasem can count too, but they were already in the TV show and not hired specifically for the movie.
  • Cool Old Guy: Kup.
  • Creepy Monotone: Orson Welles was in poor health (it was a few months before he died) and couldn't really deliver to his full potential (plus, he didn't really like the role). His bored sounding voice combined with the works of the sound engineer however, makes his bored sounding voice work.
  • Cruel and Unusual Death: Averted in post-production; as originally animated, Ultra Magnus was supposed to have been pulled apart by the Sweeps. The final movie shows them shooting rope-like lasers, cutting to Ultra Magnus being gunned down and exploding into pieces when he falls. The (original) comic adaptation depicts the storyboarded drawn-and-quartered scene.
  • Cult Soundtrack: The synthesized score by Vince DiCola, and notable songs such as "Dare To Be Stupid" (by "Weird Al" Yankovic) and "The Touch" (by Stan Bush) have received a certain cult status among pop culture.
    • The resurgence of Transformers popularity in the 1990s helped renew interest in both Vince DiCola and Stan Bush. Both have publicly expressed gratitude to the fans' support and make regular appearances at Transformers conventions.
    • Lion is best known for the movie's theme; though they signed with Scotti Brothers soon after its release, they soon faded into obscurity.
  • Darker and Edgier: An entire planet with virtually all of its occupants is destroyed by Unicron in the opening scene. Ironhide, Prowl, Ratchet and Brawn are killed a few moments later, and it doesn't exactly end there. And this movie was based on a kid's show.
  • Deadly Euphemism: see Not Quite Dead.
  • Deadpan Snarker: Unicron gets one or two.

Megatron: "You have nothing to fear. I have crushed Optimus Prime with my bare hands!"
Unicron: "You exaggerate."

    • Also:

Megatron: "Nobody summons Megatron!"
Unicron: "Then it pleases me to be the first."

Hot Rod: (facing execution) "I have nothing but contempt for this court!"

    • Also:

Galvatron: "Magnus, I want the matrix."
Ultra Magnus: "NEVER!"

    • And:

Megatron: "I would have waited an eternity for this... It's over, Prime."
Optimus Prime: "NEVER!"

  • Demoted to Extra: Jazz, Cliffjumper, Bumblebee and Spike make it out alive, but have much more minor roles. The surviving Decepticons become unimportant after Galvatron is created. The Dinobots and Perceptor are just about the only pre-movie characters to have major roles throughout, but Snarl only appears in three very short scenes and has no lines. Some characters don't appear at all, leaving their fates uncertain.
    • Scatman Crothers passed away shortly after the movie was finished, hence Jazz' role in Season 3 onward was reduced to voiceless cameos.
    • Casey Kasem left the series after a few episodes were written featuring the Republic of Carbombya, a clear jab at Arabs. Kasem himself is of Lebanese Descent. Also, try watching these episodes after 9/11...
  • Dropped a Bridge on Him: Brawn, Prowl, Ratchet, Ironhide, Wheeljack, Windcharger, Gears (supposedly digested by Unicron), Shockwave (implied to have been stomped by Unicron), Reflector etc.
    • In the third season episode "Dark Awakening", Daniel lists, among the deceased Autobots, Huffer. He only appears in the movie in a shot where he is helping Kup set up a barricade and another shot where Hot Rod is opening fire on the Autobot ship that the Decepticons invaded. This may suggest that he may have tried to make it back to Autobot City before the invasion began, but after Hot Rod and Kup made it on the skin of their skidplates, Huffer, trapped outside, likely was a casualty of Decepticon fire.
  • Doomed Hometown: er, planet.
  • Dying to Be Replaced: Optimus Prime is yesterday's toy. Arise, Rodimus Prime!
  • Dynamic Entry: Galvatron knows how to do it. Fly in so low that the whole crowd runs for cover. Leap from your insertion aircraft (which conveniently transforms into a buddy your size who can stand behind you menacingly). Throw a Pre-Mortem One-Liner. Blow away the guy you came to blow away. Claim the prize.

Slag: [to bailiff] Excuse me!

"First Prime, then Ultra Magnus, and now... you. It's a pity you Autobots die so easily, or I might have a sense of satisfaction now!"

  • Evil Sounds Deep: Leonard Nimoy as Galvatron, Orson Welles as Unicron.
  • Expansion Pack World: literally. The planet Quintessa, the planet Lithone, the planet of Junk...
  • Expository Theme Tune: Even more so than the cartoon's theme. The extended version of the movie theme over the ending credits pretty much sums up the whole of the movie.
  • Eye Scream: "I'LL RIP OUT YOUR OPTICS!"
    • Also, Hot Rod crashing a spaceship through one of Unicron's eyes. And later driving through his other eye.
  • Facing the Bullets One-Liner: Kranix makes a final defiant gesture before judgement is passed, exclaiming "Spare me this mockery of justice!"
    • Hot Rod also gets one in when he's threatened with contempt of court: "I have nothing but contempt for this court!"
  • Family-Unfriendly Death:
    • Scavenger shoots Prowl, the blast going inside him and reaching Prowl's insides, causing him to effectively burn from the inside out with fire blazing from his mouth endlessly. Directly at the camera.
    • Starscream takes a direct hit from Galvatron's cannon mode, burning him to a cinder with a look of agony on his face, before disintegrating.
    • Kranix being fed to the Sharkticons. Although mostly offscreen, we still get to hear him screaming in agony as he's eaten alive.
    • The captured Transformers inside Unicron being dissolved in the acid bath.
  • Five-Man Band: There are actually two groups in the movie.
  • Foe-Tossing Charge: Optimus Prime gets an awesome one, complete with Theme Music Power-Up.
  • Frank Miller: Believe it or not, he helped Flint Dille write the ending. In return, Dille helped Miller with that Batman book he happened to be working on at the time.
  • Giant Space Flea From Nowhere: The giant robotic squid Hot Rod fights after crash-landing on the planet Quintessa (a previously un-mentioned planet.)
    • And Unicron himself, leading to some criticism from critics of the time.
  • Hot-Blooded: Hot Rod, aptly enough.
  • Hulk Speak: Grimlock and the Dinobots.
  • I Want My Jetpack: Technology Marches On, but fans everywhere are still waiting for their jet-powered hoverboard.
  • Imperial Stormtrooper Marksmanship Academy: An unusual inversion. Even though the Autobots killed in the shuttle ambush are given enough time to turn around and start firing, none of them can hit anything. Even more unusual, the Decepticons, who in the previous series were the ones with the really bad target perception... are now able to score direct kills upon Autobots with only a single shot in some instances.
  • The Jimmy Hart Version: The Unicron melody is very similar to the Ivan Drago theme from Rocky IV, which Vince DiCola also composed for.
  • The Juggernaut: Unicron. DETONATING A MOON inside its maw didn't even dent it...
  • Kangaroo Court: Even if you're innocent, Quintesson is dropping you in the sharkticon pit. Primus only knows what they do to the guilty.
    • The same thing. "The Five Faces of Darkness" reveals that the crime is occupation and possession of Cybertron, for which Ultra Magnus and Kup are found guilty. This is never revealed in the movie, however.
  • Kill'Em All: Basically, this is what sets the Decepticons apart from their portrayals in the previous cartoon; for the first time, we actually get to see them as the deadly war machines they are supposed to be.
  • Killed Off for Real: Basically if you're in the background or weren't scheduled to have a toy released at the time; you ain't getting out alive here.
    • Bumblebee's 1984 toy continued to be produced in the 1986 line, hence his survival, only to fade into the background until his new toy came out. Jazz and Cliffjumper also survived, but were quickly out of the continuing series due to actor departures (Scatman Crothers passed away, and Casey Kasem left the show due to an outrageously offensive portrayal of the Middle East in one episode.
  • If You Know What I Mean

Arcee: Stay close to me, Daniel!
Hot Rod: And you better stay close to me!
Arcee: (pins Hot Rod against wall) No, you better stay close to me.

"Wait! I am the last survivor of the Planet Lithone!"

  • Loads and Loads of Characters
  • The Man Behind the Man: Unicron.
  • Mechanical Lifeforms: Most life in the galaxy, it seems.
  • The Messiah: Prime. Well, any Prime, the way it's presented.
  • Messianic Archetype: Optimus Prime. Who died to protect everyone, and to become one with the Matrix.
  • Merchandise-Driven: As noted above, in one of the more extreme examples, due to Executive Meddling by Hasbro, a large number of characters were killed off or reformatted for the new assortment of characters and toys.[4]
  • Money, Dear Boy: Orson Welles' motivation for playing Unicron.
  • Mood Whiplash: Megatron massacring all the Autobots to the tune of "Instruments of Destruction!" is followed by a quiet, peaceful scene of Hot Rod and Daniel fishing at a lake. And then the Decepticons show up and trigger the battle at Autobot City, which is more or less a typical battle out of the animated series, with character quirks and silliness like Starscream humiliating himself ... but then we see Wheeljack and Windcharger burnt and lifeless, and suddenly we realize this is just as serious as the battle on the shuttle, and more familiar characters are going to die before it's over.
    • Of course, we then get Optimus Prime's death scene, which is then followed by Starscream throwing Megatron and other injured Decepticons into space -- which is then followed by a comic scene where Starscream, Soundwave and his cassettes, and the Constructicons fight over who is going to be the Decepticons' new leader. And then we have Megatron's meeting with Unicron and his conversion into Galvatron, followed by the ridiculousness of Starscream being 'coronated' in a ridiculous cape and crown. Galvatron shows up, and the scene becomes dark as he shoots Starscream and Starscream crumbles to dust!
    • The rest of the movie also has plenty of Mood Whiplash, with Kup and Hot Rod's being attacked by the Sharkticons (and the resulting 'demolition derby'), followed by a rather silly sequence with the Junkions featuring Weird Al Yankovic's 'Dare to Be Stupid', and then the final confrontation with Unicron in which a few unnamed captured Autobots and Decepticons are dropped into a vat of acid (Bumblebee, Jazz, and Cliffjumper are saved, as is Spike), Unicron is destroyed, and the film abruptly ends with Rodimus making a speech on Cybertron (the Autobots apparently taking control of it off-screen).
  • The Movie: Right there in the title.
  • Never Say "Die": uncharacteristically averted for what had until then been a 1980s children's cartoon.
  • Never Trust a Trailer: The original trailer is 4 minutes of footage that was deleted or changed. Nothing in the trailer makes it into the movie without some change made to it.
  • Nostalgia Filter: Some attribute the movie's popularity to nostalgia, especially in the wake of the backlash caused by the live-action movies.
  • Nothing Is the Same Anymore: Post-movie episodes of the cartoon feature an almost completely different cast of characters in a vastly different setting. The show doesn't even look the same anymore--pre-movie episodes were usually animated by Toei Animation, while many post-movie episodes are the work of Korean studio AKOM. The Japanese dub branded the post-movie episodes as a sequel series.
  • Not Quite Dead

Megatron: "...I still function!"
Starscream: "Wanna bet?"

Optimus Prime's voice: (from the Matrix) Arise, Rodimus Prime.

"Open, dammit, open!"

    • And:

"You underestimate me, Galvatron..."

"One shall stand, one shall fall."

Starscream: "Megatron? Is that you?"
Galvatron: "Here's a HINT!"

  • Radio Mouth: Wreck-Gar and the Junkions.
  • Recycled in Space: Film critics at the time tut-tutted the movie as "Star Wars with Giant Robots", since, although a number of sci-fi, anime and comics had re-introduced Space Opera, planet-eaters and the like into relatively simple stories, Star Wars was basically the Trope Codifier in the 80s. Forgotten somewhat, since now, everybody does it.
  • Remember the New Guy?: Ultra Magnus is Optimus Prime's old friend, who was never seen or mentioned before. Kup comes off this way too, considering he's supposed to be such an "old-timer."
  • Replacement Scrappy: In-Universe. Hot Rod did NOT go over well as the Autobots' new leader, especially since his attempt to help Optimus Prime failed spectacularly and allowed Megatron to fatally wound the Autobot leader.
  • Robot Kid: Wheelie
  • Ruined FOREVER: Easily the first recorded instance of this in Transformers history.
  • Scavenger World: The Planet of Junk.
  • Sesquipedalian Loquaciousness: Perceptor, enough that even his fellow robots get fed up with it.

Perceptor: Gamma waves in this sector of space create marginal navigation probabilities, however...
Ultra Magnus leans on the console with his head in his hands looking frustrated and bored
Perceptor: Ahem... yes, I think I can.

  • She's a Man In Japan: In the French dub of the movie, which used a very different dub team from any regional French dub of the TV series, both Starscream and Shrapnel were turned into women.
  • Shout Out: In one scene, Grimlock asks Kup to "tell Grimlock about petro-rabbits!", a clear reference to the classic Of Mice and Men.
  • The Smurfette Principle: Arcee, the only female Autobot to appear in the film.
  • Sophisticated As Hell: Much of the dialogue. "Me Grimlock say you full of cesium salami!"
  • Sorry I Left the BGM On: Played with during Starscream's coronation.
  • Soundtrack Dissonance: "Dare To Be Stupid".
  • Space X: "FEED HIM TO THE SHARKTICONS!"
  • Space Opera: Although the premise was always there, this was the first time they extensively used it.
  • The Starscream Obviously. He even gets his wish, finally getting rid of Megatron and being crowned Leader of the Decepticons. for about 20 seconds, before Galvatron shows up and vaporizes him. Then Galvatron plays the same role against his new master, Unicron.
  • Strange Syntax Speaker: Wreck-Gar and the Junkions, OR YOUR MONEY BACK!
    • Also, Wheelie speaks exclusively in rhyme. Though it's sometimes hard to tell with all the post-processing done to his voice.
  • Swallowed Whole: Unicron WILL do this to your world and everyone you love unless he is stopped.
  • Technology Porn: Unicron's transformation and Autobot City's transformation.
  • That's No Moon: That's no ginormous, weird-looking planet -- it's a Transformer!
  • The Dog Bites Back: Given the utter glee with which the Sharkticons go after the Quintessons when Grimlock tells them to, one gets the idea that the Sharkticons didn't like the Quintessons very much.
  • This Is Sparta: "But Now. You shall witness. Its DISMEMBERMENT!"

"Destiny...You... cannot... destroy... my... destinyyy!"

  • Theme Music Power-Up: Sing it with me now, "You got the touch..."
  • Took a Level In Badass: A number of characters (mostly Decepticons) that were fairly ineffectual in the cartoon series, especially Megatron. For one thing, they manage to kill a bunch of Autobots early on, including Optimus himself. Hot Rod becoming Rodimus Prime also counts.
    • Spike might not have gotten to do that much, but as a result of the twenty year Time Skip, he's no longer just a Tagalong Kid.
  • Trailers Always Spoil: The original trailer proudly boasts, "The final confrontation between Optimus Prime and Megatron." (Of course, given the initial reaction to said confrontation, fans assuredly thought it would play out far differently.)
  • Transformation Is a Free Action: Unicron is one of the few cases in which this trope is justified; he's so massive, it's not like any of the Transformers could do anything about his Transformation Sequence. Galvatron tried to subvert this after having an Oh Crap moment but failed miserably at it.
  • Twenty Minutes Into the Future: It is (still) the year 2005.
  • Unfortunate Names: As Dick Gautier put it, "I played Rodimus Prime [in the TV show], and I have no idea how that name got by the censors." Not that he's particularly bad by Transformers standards, but...
  • Verbal Tic: Half the characters have one.
  • The Voiceless: Prowl, the Seekers (with the exception of Starscream), Bombshell, and Ratchet appear with no lines, and Sludge never speaks at all despite being a major character.
  • Wacky Wayside Tribe: The Junkions, played by Eric Idle.
  • Wham! Episode: The first battle scene, where it became clear that Autobots could die.
  • What Happened to the Mouse?: Cyclonus' "Armada" (really just one guy) is only seen being created, and is replaced by another Sweep for the rest of the movie. Blaster vanishes after receiving Jazz's transmission, and Ratbat appears in only one scene.
    • And what happened to Sunstreaker, Snarl, Hound, and Grapple? (The deaths of Bluestreak and Huffer were retconned in the "Dark Awakening" episode)
  • Your Size May Vary: Scale and Transformers have never mixed well, but when you bring in a guy the size of a planet...
    • Taken Up to Eleven in the original comic adaptation, where Unicron's size ranges from 'planet' to 'large building' when other characters interact with him.
    • Then there's the scene with Astrotrain carrying the entire lineup of surviving Decepticons (including a fully formed Devastator) comfortably inside his space shuttle alt-mode.
  • Zeerust: Daniel's goofy attire and the newly-introduced characters' altmodes, excluding Ultra Magnus.
  1. this was in the days before bronies, remember
  2. although Primus is implied to be the source of their spark via the Autobot Matrix.
  3. Probably for legal reasons...
  4. In one example, Perceptor is the only robot at Prime's funeral who isn't a new character, and even then he's pretty much there because Ratchet and Wheeljack aren't. This is despite a ton of other Autobots such as Blaster and the Dinobots being on Earth.