The Transformers: The Movie

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The Transformers: The Movie
Theatrical release poster
Directed byNelson Shin
Produced by
Screenplay byRon Friedman
Based onThe Transformers
by Hasbro & Takara
Narrated byVictor Caroli
Music byVince DiCola
CinematographyMasatoshi Fukui
Edited byDavid Hankins
Distributed byDe Laurentiis Entertainment Group[1]
Release date
  • August 8, 1986 (1986-08-08) (United States)
Running time
85 minutes[3]
Budget$6 million[5] or $5 million[6]
Box office$5.8 million (US)[7] or $2.6 million (North America)[6]

The Transformers: The Movie is a 1986 animated film based on the Transformers television series. It was released in North America on August 8, 1986, and in the United Kingdom on December 12, 1986.[8] It was co-produced and directed by Nelson Shin, who also produced the television series. The screenplay was written by Ron Friedman, who created The Bionic Six a year later.

The film features the voices of Eric Idle, Judd Nelson, Leonard Nimoy, Casey Kasem, Robert Stack, Lionel Stander, John Moschitta Jr., Peter Cullen and Frank Welker. It also marked the final film roles for Orson Welles, Roger C. Carmel and Scatman Crothers before their deaths.[9]

The film's story takes place in 2005, 20 years after the events of the TV series' second season.[10] After the death of Optimus Prime during a devastating assault on Autobot City, the Autobots are pursued by Galvatron, the regenerated form of Megatron and servant of Unicron, a planet-devouring Transformer who sets out to consume Cybertron. The soundtrack comprises synthesizer music by Vince DiCola and heavy metal by various groups.


In 2005, the evil Decepticons have conquered the Transformers' home planet of Cybertron. The heroic Autobots, operating from Cybertron's two moons, prepare a counter-offensive. Autobot leader Optimus Prime sends a shuttle to Autobot City on Earth for supplies. However, their plan is discovered by the Decepticons and their leader Megatron, who kill the crew and hijack the ship. In Autobot City, Hot Rod, relaxing with human Daniel Witwicky (son of Spike Witwicky) spots the hijacked shuttle and a battle breaks out, resulting in casualties on both sides. Optimus arrives with reinforcements just as the Decepticons are near victory. Optimus defeats many of them and then engages Megatron in brutal combat, leaving both mortally wounded. On his deathbed, Optimus passes the Matrix of Leadership to Ultra Magnus, telling him that its power will light the Autobots' darkest hour, but it drops from Optimus' hands and is caught by Hot Rod, who hands it back to Ultra Magnus.

The Decepticons withdraw from Autobot City within Astrotrain. To conserve fuel in order to make it back to Cybertron, they jettison their wounded, including Megatron, who is personally released at the hands of his treacherous second-in-command Starscream. Drifting in space, the wounded are found by Unicron, a sentient planet who consumes other worlds. Unicron offers Megatron a new body in exchange for destroying the Matrix, which has the power to destroy Unicron. Megatron initially refuses, resulting in Unicron deciding to leave him. Faced with the prospect of floating in space for eternity, Megatron reluctantly agrees; Unicron converts him into Galvatron and the corpses of other wounded Decepticons into his new troops: Cyclonus, Scourge, and the Sweeps. On Cybertron, Galvatron disrupts Starscream's coronation as Decepticon leader and kills him. Unicron then consumes the moons of Cybertron including the secret bases with Autobots and Spike. Retaking command of the Decepticons, Galvatron leads his forces to seek out Ultra Magnus at the ruined Autobot City.

The surviving Autobots escape in separate shuttles, which are shot down by the Decepticons and crash on different planets. Hot Rod and Kup are taken prisoner by the Quintessons, tyrants who hold kangaroo courts and execute prisoners by feeding them to the Sharkticons. Hot Rod and Kup learn of Unicron from Kranix, a lone survivor of Lithone, a planet devoured by Unicron at the beginning of the film. After Kranix is executed, Hot Rod and Kup escape, aided by the Dinobots and the small Autobot Wheelie, who helps them find a ship to leave the planet.[11]

The other Autobots land on the Junk Planet where they are attacked by the planet's natives, the Junkions. However, the Junkions call off their attack and hide when they see Galvatron's forces arrive. Ultra Magnus secures the remaining Autobots while attempting to release the power of the Matrix, but discovers that he is unable to open it and is then destroyed by Galvatron who seizes the Matrix, now intent on using it to control Unicron. The Autobots befriend the local Junkions, led by Wreck-Gar, who rebuild Magnus. They are then joined by the Autobots from the planet of the Quintessons. Deducing that Galvatron has the Matrix, the Autobots and Junkions (who have their own ship) fly to Cybertron. Galvatron attempts to threaten Unicron but, like Ultra Magnus, cannot activate the Matrix. In response to Galvatron's threats, Unicron transforms into a colossal robot and begins to dismember Cybertron. When Galvatron attacks him, Unicron swallows him, and the Matrix, whole.

The Autobots crash their spaceship through Unicron's eye and become separated while Unicron continues to battle Decepticons, Junkions and other defenders of Cybertron. Daniel saves his father Spike from Unicron's digestive system, and the group rescue Jazz, Bumblebee, and Cliffjumper. Galvatron attempts to form an alliance with Hot Rod, but Unicron forces him to attack. Hot Rod recovers the Matrix and becomes Rodimus Prime, the new Autobot leader. Rodimus tosses Galvatron into space and uses the Matrix's power to destroy Unicron before escaping with the other Autobots. With the Decepticons in disarray from Unicron's attack, the Autobots celebrate the war's end and the retaking of their home planet while Unicron's severed head orbits Cybertron.


Character Voice actor
Optimus Prime Peter Cullen
Hot Rod /
Rodimus Prime
Judd Nelson
Ultra Magnus Robert Stack
Springer Neil Ross
Arcee Susan Blu
Kup Lionel Stander
Wheelie Frank Welker
Blurr John Moschitta Jr.
Blaster Buster Jones
Perceptor Paul Eiding
Grimlock Gregg Berger
Slag Neil Ross
Swoop Michael Bell
Jazz Scatman Crothers
Cliffjumper Casey Kasem
Bumblebee Dan Gilvezan
Ironhide Peter Cullen
Brawn Corey Burton
Megatron Frank Welker
Galvatron Leonard Nimoy
Cyclonus Roger C. Carmel
Scourge Stanley Jones
Starscream Chris Latta
Soundwave Frank Welker
Frenzy Frank Welker
Rumble Frank Welker
Devastator Arthur Burghardt
Bonecrusher Neil Ross
Hook Neil Ross
Scavenger Don Messick
Scrapper Michael Bell
Shockwave Corey Burton
Astrotrain Jack Angel
Blitzwing Ed Gilbert
Kickback Clive Revill
Shrapnel Hal Rayle
Unicron Orson Welles
Quintesson Leader Roger C. Carmel
Wreck-Gar Eric Idle
Spike Witwicky Corey Burton
Daniel Witwicky David Mendenhall
Kranix Norman Alden
Narrator Victor Caroli
Ramjet Jack Angel
Inferno Walker Edmiston
Gears Don Messick


According to director Nelson Shin, the decisions on which characters to include or kill off were made by Hasbro: "They created the story using characters that could best be merchandised for the film. Only with that consideration could I have freedom to change the storyline."[5] According to the screenwriters, Hasbro underestimated the extent to which Prime's death would shock the young audience. Story consultant Flint Dille said: "We didn’t know that he was an icon. It was a toy show. We just thought we were killing off the old product line to replace it with new products."[12][13]

Transformers: The Movie writer Ron Friedman, who had written for the original Transformers series, advised against killing Prime; he said in a 2013 interview: "To remove Optimus Prime, to physically remove Daddy from the family, that wasn’t going to work. I told Hasbro and their lieutenants they would have to bring him back but they said no and had ‘great things planned'. In other words, they were going to create new, more expensive toys.”[12] Optimus Prime was subsequently revived in the Transformers series.[12]


The film was budgeted at $6 million, six times greater than the budget used to create 90 minutes of the regular cartoon series.[5] Shin's team of almost one hundred personnel normally took three months to make one episode of the series, so, despite the extra budget, faced considerable time constraints in making the film whilst also continuing production on the TV series at the same time.[5] Shin came up with the concept of Prime fading to grey when he died to show "the spirit was gone from the body".[5]

Toei Animation Vice President Kozo Morishita spent one year in the United States during production of the film. Morishita supervised the art direction, insisting the Transformers themselves be given several layers of shading and shadows to give them a more dynamic, detailed appearance.[14]

The Transformers: The Movie was the final film to which Orson Welles contributed before his death.[15] Shortly before he died, he told his biographer, Barbara Leaming, "You know what I did this morning? I played the voice of a toy. I play a planet. I menace somebody called Something-or-other. Then I'm destroyed. My plan to destroy Whoever-it-is is thwarted and I tear myself apart on the screen."[16] However, Shin stated that Welles had originally been pleased to accept the role after reading the script and had expressed an admiration for animated films.[5]


Stan Bush's song "The Touch", which prominently featured in the film, was originally written for the Sylvester Stallone film Cobra.[17] The song later appeared again as remixed version for the 2012 game Transformers: Fall of Cybertron,[18] and in the live action 2018 Transformers film Bumblebee. The film also features other well known songs including "Instruments of Destruction" by NRG,[19] Stan Bush's song "Dare",[20] and also two songs by Spectre General, "Nothin's Gonna Stand in Our Way" and "Hunger".[21] The song “Dare To Be Stupid” by “Weird Al” Yankovic is also used in the film. The Transformers theme song for the film was performed by the band Lion.[22]


The film was released on 990 screens in the United States and grossed $1,778,559 on its opening weekend. It opened in 14th place behind About Last Night, which had been in theaters for five weeks at the time. The film's final box office gross was $5,849,647, which made it the 99th highest-grossing movie of 1986.[7] Hasbro lost US$10 million on the combined poor performance of this, and their previous collaboration with De Laurentiis Entertainment Group (DEG), My Little Pony: The Movie.[23] However, Transformers has become a cult classic.[24] The film has been remastered and re screened since.[25][26]

In 2018, the film was re-released in September for one night only in the United States, screening in 450 (later increased with 300, totalling 750) theaters.[27]

Home media[edit]

Although the trailer describes the film as "spectacular widescreen action", the film was animated in 4:3 "fullscreen" format. The feature was vertically cropped to widescreen dimensions for theatrical showings and released in fullscreen on home video and DVD. The 20th anniversary DVD released by Sony BMG in 2006 features remastered video, and includes both the fullscreen and widescreen versions of the film.[28]

The UK version, as well as the 1999 Rhino Films VHS release, feature scrolling text and narration at the beginning of the film replacing the cast credits, and an additional closing narration assuring viewers that "Optimus Prime will return."[29][30]

The film was originally released in 1987 on VHS,[31] Betamax, and LaserDisc in North America by Family Home Entertainment.[32]

The film was first released on DVD in 2000[10][33] by Rhino Entertainment and distributed exclusively in Canada by Seville Pictures.[note 1]

Metrodome Distribution released an Ultimate Edition of The Transformers: The Movie DVD in June 2007 (a month prior to the release of the live-action Transformers film) in the UK (Region 2). The extras include many of the extras that were contained on the "Remastered" edition of the film on the first disc, with fan commentary serving as the only addition besides a fan-made Transformers trailer. The second disc contains interviews with Peter Cullen and Flint Dille. "Scramble City" is also included as an extra.[10][28]

Shout! Factory released a 30th anniversary edition of the film on Blu-ray and DVD on September 13, 2016.[34]


Rotten Tomatoes, a review aggregator reports that 61% of 23 surveyed critics gave The Transformers: The Movie a positive review; the average rating is 5.3/10. Its critics consensus that states "A surprisingly dark, emotional, and almost excessively cynical experience for Transformers fans."[35]

Film historian Leonard Maltin rated the picture the lowest possible rating in his Movie & Video Guide and wrote, "Little more than an obnoxious, feature-length toy commercial...That deafening rock score certainly doesn't help."[36]

Caryn James of The New York Times described the film by stating, "While all this action may captivate young children, the animation is not spectacular enough to dazzle adults, and the Transformers have few truly human elements to lure parents along, even when their voices are supplied by well-known actors."[8]

"Though a modest film compared with Michael Bay's (2007 Transformers), the original Transformers is the better film," wrote John Swansburg of Slate. "[T]here's nothing even approaching the original's narrative depth."[37]

Gabe Toro of CinemaBlend wrote in 2014: "...Transformers: The Movie otherwise provides the sort of chase-heavy thrills that comes from robots that can become cars. Contrast that with Michael Bay's vision, where the robots basically abandon their transforming skills to have endless, violent punch-outs that annihilate cities. Bay's films show the action as a junkyard orgy. The '86 offering slows down to allow for actors like Leonard Nimoy and, yes, even Orson Welles to give actual performances. Fans of Michael Bay's Transformers movies are free to enjoy them. But they'll never top the gravity and excitement of The Transformers: The Movie."[38]

"[N]ostalgia is a funny thing: for many of us in the 30-and-over Transformers fan club, that first movie was an integral part of our childhood. To hell with what the reviews said — the O.G. Transformers movie rocked our collective worlds," Kashann Kilson of Inverse wrote in 2015: "We still love the original so much today, part of the fun of watching Bay’s explosion-fests is being able to wave our canes at the youngsters and wax poetic about how back in our day, Hollywood knew how to make a real movie about giant, alien robot warriors."[39]

Comic book adaptations[edit]


  1. ^ The Transformers: The Movie printed text on DVD and accompanying packaging reads: "Distributed exclusively in Canada by Seville Pictures."


  1. ^ a b c d "The Transformers -- The Movie". AFI Catalog of Feature Films. Retrieved May 19, 2020.
  2. ^
  3. ^ "TRANSFORMERS (U)". British Board of Film Classification. August 21, 1986. Retrieved May 2, 2015.
  4. ^ a b "The Transformers: The Movie (EN) [Original title]". Lumiere. Retrieved May 19, 2020.
  5. ^ a b c d e f Dormehl, Luke (August 2011). "Transformers: The Movie retrospective". SFX Magazine (211).
  6. ^ a b De Laurentiis PRODUCER'S PICTURE DARKENS: KNOEDELSEDER, WILLIAM K, Jr. Los Angeles Times August 30, 1987: 1.
  7. ^ a b "Transformers: The Movie (1986)". Box Office Mojo. Retrieved May 2, 2015.
  8. ^ a b James, Caryn (August 9, 1986). "Movie Review - - Screen: 'Transformers,' Animation For Children". The New York Times. Retrieved January 15, 2017.
  9. ^ "California Death Records". Retrieved May 24, 2017.
  10. ^ a b c "Transformers: The Movie". IGN. January 29, 2002. Retrieved January 15, 2017.
  11. ^ Transformers The Movie, Kup and Hot Rod are captured by the Sharkticons, then escape, retrieved February 11, 2021
  12. ^ a b c "Transformers: The Movie and The Great Toy Massacre of 1986". Den of Geek. August 8, 2019. Retrieved June 7, 2020.
  13. ^ "The Death of Optimus Prime as told by Susan Blu, Flint Dille, Nelson Shin, Tom Griffin and Joe Bacal". March 23, 2013. Retrieved October 25, 2020.
  14. ^ Kōzō, Morishita (2010). Tōei Animēshon enshutsuka 40-nen funtōshi: anime "Doragon bōru Z" "Seinto Seiya" "Toransufōmā" o tegaketa otoko. Tōkyō: Ichijinsha. pp. 116–117. ISBN 9784758011860.
  15. ^ The Associated Press (June 23, 2007). "Welles' last role? Original 'Transformers'". Retrieved March 20, 2016.
  16. ^ Leaming, Barbara (1995). Orson Welles: A Biography (1st Limelight ed.). New York: Limelight Editions. p. 522. ISBN 9780879101992. Retrieved March 20, 2016.
  17. ^ "The Touch Songfacts". Retrieved April 27, 2010.
  18. ^ "The Best Licensed Songs Used in Video Game Commercials"You Got the Touch" - Stan Bush". Complex.
  19. ^ "Transformers The Movie - Original Motion Picture Soundtrack 20th Anniversary Edition". IGN. Retrieved January 11, 2016.
  20. ^ Entertainment, Newsarama Staff 2018-08-30T19:30:51Z. "'Transformers: The Movie' Re-Release Has the Touch, the Power and 300+ More Theaters".
  21. ^ "Kick Axe Songs". Retrieved May 24, 2017.
  22. ^ "The Transformers (Theme) Lyrics by Lion - The Transformers Soundtrack Lyrics". Retrieved May 24, 2017.
  23. ^ Kline, Stephen (1993). Out of the Garden: Toys, TV, and Children's Culture in the Age of Marketing (1st ed.). London: Verso. p. 200. ISBN 086091397X.
  24. ^ Rabin, Nathan (March 29, 2002). "Transformers: The Movie". The A.V. Club. Retrieved May 2, 2015.
  25. ^ "'The Transformers: The Movie' Returning To Theaters For Remastered HD Showing". Movies.
  26. ^ "1986's Transformers: The Movie Coming to Theaters in September". August 1, 2018.
  27. ^ "Transformers: The Movie Returns to Theaters for One Night Only". MovieWeb. August 1, 2018.
  28. ^ a b Gilchrist, Todd (October 28, 2006). "Double Dip Digest: Transformers: The Movie". IGN. Retrieved August 14, 2020.
  29. ^ "Transformers: The Movie - Reconstructed (Region 2)". DVD Talk. Retrieved August 14, 2010.
  30. ^ "Transformers: The Movie (20th Anniversary Special Edition)". DVD Talk. Retrieved August 14, 2010.
  31. ^ "The Transformers – The Movie (International Version)". Retrieved May 3, 2009.
  32. ^ Inc, Nielsen Business Media (December 26, 1987). "Billboard". Nielsen Business Media, Inc. – via Google Books.
  33. ^ Tribbey, Ralph (May 7, 2001). "Rhino Follows Up 'Tranformers Movie' Sales Shocker With Two More Special Editions on May 8". Archived from the original on May 28, 2001. Retrieved September 8, 2019.
  34. ^ "The Transformers: The Movie [30th Anniversary Edition]". Shout! Factory. Archived from the original on August 26, 2016. Retrieved June 16, 2016.
  35. ^ "The Transformers: The Movie". Rotten Tomatoes. Retrieved August 8, 2016.
  36. ^ Connelly, Sherilyn (March 7, 2017). Ponyville Confidential: The History and Culture of My Little Pony, 1981–2016. McFarland. ISBN 9781476662091 – via Google Books.
  37. ^ Swansburg, John (July 2, 2007). "When Orson Welles Was a Transformer". Slate. Retrieved August 8, 2016.
  38. ^ Toro, Gabe (June 24, 2014). "Sorry, Michael Bay - Why 1986's Transformers: The Movie Is The Best". CinemaBlend. Retrieved August 8, 2016.
  39. ^ Kilson, Kashann (October 22, 2015). "6 Enduring Legacies of 1986's Animated 'The Transformers: The Movie'". Inverse. Retrieved August 8, 2016.

External links[edit]