Sorry, Michael Bay, but the greatest Transformers movie ever made is not one of yours. As much money as the live-action Transformers movies have made, they all pale in comparison to the 1986 animated film, Transformers: The Movie, which was released 30 years ago this week.
For all the computer-generated wizardry of Bay’s live-action movies, the films were soulless and empty, with too much emphasis on the humans, and not enough of the character personalities that most fans love about the original Transformers cartoons.
What the live-action films lacked, however, Transformers: The Movie had in bucketloads.
I remember watching it on VHS as a 10-year-old in the 1980s, and it completely changed my life. It was not only a movie about my favourite cartoon ever, it was also one of the most emotional and powerful memories I have as a kid. I’ll never forget the soaring glory of Optimus Prime’s final stand against the Decepticons, and the gut-wrenching feeling I had when the Autobot leader died.
To this day, Transformers: The Movie stands tall as probably THE greatest feature-length Transformers movie ever made. It even had a voice cast that boasted the likes of Leonard Nimoy as Galvatron, Orson Welles as Unicron, as well as Eric Idle, Judd Nelson and Casey Kasem!
In celebration of the movie’s 30th anniversary, we’ve decided to recall the 10 greatest moments from Transformers: The Movie.
1) The arrival of Unicron
If you had grown up watching Transformers on TV, you’d be used to the constant fighting among the Autobots and Decepticons. The movie changed all that, giving both factions an enemy to unite against in the form of one of the deadliest Transformers ever – Unicron.
Introduced in deadly fashion in the prologue, which saw Unicron (in planet form) devouring an entire planet, it was the first of many momentous and frankly, scary moments in the movie.
2) The attack on Autobot City
As if the sight of Unicron eating an entire planet wasn’t shocking enough, the filmmakers decided to start off the film by essentially killing off most of our favourite Autobots. Starting out with a shuttle hijack that kills off Prowl, Ironhide and Ratchet, among others, they then descend upon Autobot City and send in Devastator to destroy the Autobots’ defences.
As the battle rages, the sight of favourite characters like Wheeljack and Windcharger lying battered and lifeless on the ground was a truly traumatic moment for young fans.
It was later revealed that the decision to kill off what would be fondly known as the Generation One (G1) Transformers was a decision made by toy-maker Hasbro, which wanted to replace them with a new line of Transformers toys and characters. That the decision was motivated by marketing and profit makes the scene even more cold-hearted and painful, even to this day.
3) You’ve got the touch!
Ask any Transformers fan what is THE greatest Optimus Prime moment ever, and chances are this will be top of their list.
Surveying the damage dealt by the Decepticons on Autobot City, Optimus declares that “Megatron must be stopped, no matter the cost.” Transforming into his truck mode (to the soaring You’ve Got The Touch by Stan Bush), he single-handedly turns the tide by mowing down several Decepticons, and then, transforming in mid-air, continues to kick Decepticon butt with his blaster before challenging Megatron in a one-on-one battle with the immortal words “One shall stand, one shall fall.”
To this day, the awesomeness of this scene still brings a tear to my eye every time I watch it, and it’s not because of what happens next…
4) End of his Prime
Although he manages to deal Megatron a whole lot of hurt during their fight, he also sustains heavy damage, which proves to be fatal. As Optimus lies on his deathbed in Autobot City surrounded by Autobots, he brings out the Autobot Matrix Of Leadership to pass on to his second in command, Ultra Magnus. However, the weakened Autobot accidentally drops it, and the young Hot Rod is the one who catches it instead, a moment that would have great significance later on.
Then, in one of the saddest scenes involving a robot ever filmed, the light in Optimus Prime’s eyes flickers out, and the Autobot leader’s body turns grey. And with that, millions of little boys’ hearts around the world broke.
5) Bah-weep grah-nah wheep nini bong!
On the run from Decepticons, the remaining Autobots crash-land on the planet of the evil Quintessons. Kup and Hot Rod are separated from the rest, and when they are confronted by a horde of robot-eating Sharkticons, the grizzly veteran decides to break out the now famous “Universal Greeting”, which roughly goes, “Bah-weep grah-nah wheep nini bong”.
What it really means, no one knows, but hey, apparently it works.
6) The rise of Galvatron
Unceremoniously tossed out by Starscream and the surviving Decepticons, Megatron, Thundercracker, Skywarp and a few others drift through space until they meet Unicron, who decides to turn them into his own personal army. Megatron is reborn as the evil Galvatron.
7) The final (Star)scream
With Megatron seemingly out of the way, Starscream decides to crown himself as the leader of the Decepticons, literally, with a coronation ceremony and an actual crown. His reign is short-lived, however, as Galvatron’s first act is to return to Cybertron and turn Starscream into dust with one blast from his cannon!
8) Me Grimlock no bozo, me king!
The Dinobots really were kings in this movie. Although the stars of the movie were pretty much Hot Rod, Ultra Magnus and his small group of surviving Autobots, it is the Dinobots that really steal the show, from their heroic stand against Devastator in Autobot City, to their rescue of Hot Rod and Kup on the Quintesson planet. And they do love listening to Kup’s war stories too.
Supremely powerful and with plenty of hilarious one-liners from Grimlock, the Dinobots added humour and lots of butt-kicking awesomeness to the movie. Their best scene? In the final battle with Unicron, the Dinobots fly out of the Autobot shuttle to tear holes in the giant robot, roared on by another classic Grimlock line: “ME GRIMLOCK KICK BUTT!”
9) Daniel saves the day!
In the movie, Spike Witwicky is a grown man, and his son Daniel is the one who takes over the “annoying little kid” role. Spike, along with several other G1 Autobots, are captured by Unicron early in the movie, and when the Autobots enter Unicron’s body in the finale, Daniel happens upon a room where his father and the captured Autobots are about to be dropped into a vat of boiling acid. Of course, Daniel saves the day, and the sight of fan favourites like Jazz and Bumblebee surviving the great G1 cull was a welcome sight indeed.
10) Arise, Rodimus Prime
Separated from the rest of the Autobots, Hot Rod confronts Galvatron, who is in possession of the Matrix. After a heated battle, the tide turns when the young Autobot finally gets his hands on the Matrix of Leadership (which had been stolen by Galvatron), and is revealed to be the chosen one, the one who will “light our darkest hour”. Opening the Matrix, he is transformed into the new Autobot Leader, Rodimus Prime, and makes short work of Galvatron while the power unleashed by the Matrix destroys Unicron from the inside.
After the heartbreaking death of Optimus, the rise of a new Prime was bittersweet for fans. This scene will forever be Rodimus Prime’s finest moment – in the cartoon series following the movie, he and the new “Generation 2” Transformers just could not capture the glory and wonder of the G1 characters.