Transformers: The Movie – In a universe with an unending war between a race of transforming robots with the good Autobots versus the evil Decepticons a new threat has emerged. A vast Transformer, Unicron, feeds by devouring planets. It has sights set on the Transformers’ home planet, Cybertron, and later: Earth. With a badly beaten band of Autobots fighting to survive against powerful and determined Decepticons, young upstart Autobot Hot Rod finds himself responsible for his people, his race, and the galaxy itself. Can he fight to keep hope alive, or will Unicron devour life as we know it?

Transformers: The Movie (1986) – Director: Nelson Shin

transformers: the movie suitable for children 80s 1986

By Source, Fair use,

Rating: U

Running Length: 84 mins

Starring: Frank Welker, Peter Cullen, Orson Wells, Leonard Nimoy, Judd Nelson

Genre: Animated, Fantasy, Action / Adventure


While live action Transformers movies are big money these days and completely synonymous with Michael Bay’s somewhat signature style (which is not to everyone’s taste), it can be easy to forget the more charming origins of this once beloved franchise. Originally a Hasbro toy line only, the animated show may have launched in 1984 as a marketing directive to sell more toys (the same for almost every other cartoon series both then and now) but quickly latched onto the hearts and minds of children everywhere. The base appeal of a car or plane that can change into a robot and back again was cleverly built up with easily identifiable characters, a rousing ‘good vs evil’ dynamic, and distinctive Japanese style animation to boot. A movie was inevitable, and one came in 1986 to bridge the gap between series 2 and 3 of the show.

But what a distinctive movie this is. Coming slap bang in the middle of 80s, ‘Transformers: The Movie’ features the very best of the ‘golden era’ of the classic 80s cartoon crop (see also He-Man, ThunderCats and GI Joe). The bright colours gleam throughout, a thumping hard rock soundtrack both dates the movie but also plays a huge part of its identity (the music and score literally never stop at any point), and the ‘woah, cool!’ moments for a child are numerous and spectacular. In no particularly order this movie features: a transforming planet eating planet (voiced by Orson Wells); a full-scale siege of a robotic city with robots that morph into other, huge, robots; a swarm of metal piranhas that are temporarily placated by a nonsense ‘universal greeting’; a space battle that easily rivals Star Wars for scale and scope; and a young vs old buddy pairing to rival any action flick you care to mention.

While it’s full of the charm of the era, ‘Transformers: The Movie’ is also a distinctly darker movie than first impressions may hint at.  At the time, the brief was given to ‘write out’ many major characters to cynically make way for a new toy line for season 3 and so many many characters are permanently killed off. Times can often seem hopeless and bleak, and a planet eating robot certainly brings an inexorable sense of doom to proceedings. And while the Michael Bay efforts have tried, and tried (and failed) to make you care about featureless robots by dictating to you that you should feel something, the clearly defined facial features make these original characters empathetic and their plights relatable so that when a major character is given a tear-jerking death scene it genuinely lands and pulls at the heart-strings. ‘Transformers: The Movie’ was not afraid to up the stakes to the point where the plot feels significantly epic and universe changing rather than a money splurging sequence of events.

With the current crop of Transformers movies continuing to make a depressingly large amount of money, there are some within a certain generation who cannot help but clutch the original big screen outing for the alien transforming robots close to their nostalgia soaked hearts. ‘Transformers: The Movie’ is 80s through and through. A simpler time when it was enough that a car could be a robot could be a truck could be a plane and all have a huge pew pew pew fight in space whilst defending against a planet munching Orson Wells. Simpler, and better times.


A giant transformer the size of a planet looms over a planet inhabited by robots. It buries claws into the surface and then hoovers up everything on the surface into a mouth-like aperture. A ship with robot characters on board tries to fly off into space and escape but is sucked back in. Eating noises are heard and eventually the planet and everyone on it are devoured. No characters are established at this point so we don’t have any time to connect with anyone on-screen. This is the opening scene of the movie and so if your child is not comfortable with this scene we would recommend not continuing.

The Decepticons board a ship being piloted by the Autobots. All characters have laser gun weapons and there is a firefight. The Autobots are all shot and killed. When hit with the weapons their eyes go red and smoke emits from their mouths before they collapse. The characters had had a few short scenes before this so the callousness of their deaths may be upsetting.

During a huge battle at Autobot city there is heavy weapon fire. One character is seen dragging the corpse of another for two seconds although this character was not known beforehand. During the battle, Decepticons use language such as ‘prepare for the extermination!’ and ‘let the slaughter begin!’. This battle climaxes in a fight between two characters who scrabble and shoot at each other. One yells, ‘I’ll rip out your optics!’ (meaning eyes). A wound is inflicted using a laser sword, made worse by a thrown projectile, and then fired upon several more times causing sparks and smoke. The character writhes in pain and clutches the wound.

A major character dies whilst all the other characters are gathered around them. Everyone is upset and emotional. The death scene lasts around 5 minutes and is played for maximum upset. Once the character dies the lights in their eyes flicker out, they slump back and their colour fades to black and white.

Damaged Decepticons are ganged up on during their transport and thrown into space in order to lighten the load. This doesn’t injure them further but they yell in anger as they drift away. They later drift towards Unicron (the planet transformer) who emits a deep flashing red light which causes one of the characters pain. This red light turns into grid lines as the character is deconstructed and put back together. Whilst they initially yell out in pain this quickly stops and they are satisfied with being ‘reborn’.

One of the ‘reborn’ Decepticons returns to the others that threw him into space. He fires a massive energy beam at one of them which causes them to flash as if lightning is coursing over their body whilst they cry out in agony. They then slowly disintegrate into dust. This character was unsympathetic before but was established and the drawn out nature of their death may upset.

Unicron attacks another planet which is shown to have several established good characters on board. They also try to escape by ship but do not succeed and are sucked into the planet. One of the characters is human and is the father to a human boy who is with the other large group of Autobots on Earth. The boy is upset and the fate of these characters is not known for some time.

Hot Rod and Cup, the two main Autobots, find themselves stranded on a planet with robotic aquatic life. A giant robot squid attacks one of them and rips out his arm and leg although he isn’t overly concerned by this. The encounter is dramatic and quite intense in combination with the soundtrack. After a few minutes when they are both on the surface one of them needs repairs but is more annoyed than anything. Shortly after a swarm of robotic piranhas gather around them. It appears at first as if they can be placated in a comedy moment but shortly after they are jumped on and captured. Again, they are more annoyed than afraid by this.

Hot Rod and Cup are held prisoner and witness a ‘mock court’ where prisoners are deemed ‘innocent’ by a large floating head that rotates around a variety of scary separate faces. Despite being declared innocent they are ‘fed to the sharkticons’ and dropped into a large pit where they are pounced upon by robots with large teeth and killed. One screams ‘I’m the last of my kind!’ before being torn apart – although this is only shown in very brief.

A main character is cornered by the Decepticons and is desperately trying to activate something he hopes will save him. However, this doesn’t work and he is shot down several times, falling to the ground among an explosion which blasts off his head. One character growls ‘die! die!’ as they fire. Other character sobs over him although a turn of events makes this brief and then resolved.

One character sobs, ‘Where’s my dad?!’ and another responds, ‘That’s what we’re gonna find out.’

Lines of transformers are held up in the air by a moving conveyor belt only to be dropped into a large pit with molten metal. One unknown character is shown to drop and scream before landing inside. There is then a shot lasting around 5 seconds where they turn red and melt, screaming in agony. Then some previously established characters are lined up to meet the same fate, needing action to be taken before it is too late.

A battle between two characters lasts a few minutes. One tries to strangle the other and shouts, ‘I’ll crush you with my bare hands!’ This is the climax of the movie and events become very uplifting shortly after.


There is something almost impossible to replicate about the classic era 80s cartoons and no modern attempt will ever be able to recapture the magic. The modern Transformers movies, by chasing the teenage cash, have abandoned the simple child like glee that came from transforming robots being the point of the series. ‘Transformers: The Movie’ delivers this in spades. But, it is a dark toned movie by modern standards. Unicron, by its scale and evilness, can be disturbing for some. Whilst it is no longer the case that children will have followed these characters through two seasons and have the emotional investment that kids of the 80s will have had, the clear-cut nature of ‘good vs evil’ means that the sheer volume of distinctive ‘good’ characters who are killed may cause upset also. We therefore recommend that ‘Transformers: The Movie’ is not suitable for children aged 6 and under.

  • Violence: 3/5 (as all the violence is directed towards robots there is no ‘gore’ but there are various limbs detached, weapons impacts, and lingered on deaths)
  • Emotional Distress: 4/5 (the level of good characters who are killed could upset, and one death scene in particular shows all characters being very upset and is sustained)
  • Fear Factor: 2/5 (Unicron can be scary as well as some other threatening robots, such as the piranhas, the multi-faced ‘judge’ robot, and Megatron / Galvatron in their callousness)
  • Sexual Content: 0/5
  • Bad Language: 0/5 (the cinematic release feature one moderate curse word but this has been edited out of all home releases)
  • Dialogue: 3/5 (a lot of threatening language, some describing injury detail)
  • Other Notes: Deals with themes of good versus evil, living up to the responsibilities of command, a duty to protect, coercion, defeating a threat bigger than you, and rising up to expectations.

Words by Michael Record


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