You can’t make an omelet without breaking a few eggs, you can’t explore new worlds without melting the faces off of a few red shirts, and you can’t run an evil organization intent on world domination without a gaggle of faceless henchmen to serve as cannon fodder. A hero needs a disproportionate amount of foes to punch in the face, and the villain needs someone to maintain oxygen levels on their orbiting satellite base while they are busy concocting new deathtraps.
In a nutshell, henchmen are the interns in the superhero business and, more often than not, some henchmen shine brighter than others, with a gauntlet’s worth of cronies being brighter than their eldritch employers. Here are five henchmen who actually outshined their evil masters:
The Decepticon first lieutenant who can turn into a jet, Starscream makes this list because no matter the incarnation, be it Transformers Generation 1, 2, Armada, Marvel Comics imprint, all three Michael Bay movies, Animated, a cameo appearance on Beast Wars, and Prime, Starscream’s character is a constant — a treacherous, backstabbing, proficient, shape-shifting jet who oftentimes has a voice akin to needles being dragged across the chalkboard of your very soul and at one point or another will overthrow Megatron for at least a day.
This treacherous robot, who can turn into a F-15 Eagle, has at one point or another incited a Decepticon civil war, made clones of himself to overthrow Megatron—clones who proved their lineage by turning on Starscream himself— and had a ghost who possessed the body of a wasp-themed robot and overthrew that generation’s Tyrannosaurus Rex-themed Megatron.
Starscream’s treachery aside, the positions of power Megatron places him in perfectly reflect his true positions of power. In the animated series (Generation 1), Megatron, the almighty leader of the Decepticons, turns into a gun that looks surprisingly like a Mauser pistol, and shrinks and grows through the use of Transformers based science (See also: the pocket dimension that holds Optimus Prime’s trailer) so that when he transforms into his gun form, he needs someone else to shoot him. Most of the time, this triggerman is Starscream, ultimately meaning that it is Starscream who aims and chooses when Megatron is used, and that most of Megatron’s kill-count is technically Starscream’s.
During The Transformers: The Movie, which operates in the same continuity as the animated series, Starscream is able to finally execute the final stroke of his master plan, evacuating Megatron out of an airlock and killing him, wherein Starscream is declared the new leader of the Decepticons. Only problem is that Megatron is found in Deep Space by the proverbial Galactus of the Transformer universe, Unicron, who revives Megatron, improving upon his body and strength in a new Galvatron form. Though Galvatron would come back to kill Starscream, if it wasn’t for the turncoat jet’s actions, Megatron/Galvatron wouldn’t have been strong enough to help destroy Unicron later on.
So, while Starscream is definitely an untrustworthy robot—or simply a robot if you ask me—his greater intelligence, in spite of his plans failing time and time again, is evident in the fact that Starscream is the only individual who was able to bring about a truce between the two factions. In the Generation 1 Animated Series, Starscream hijacks an “exponential generator” approaching critical mass and threatening to destroy the world, forcing Megatron and Optimus Prime to put aside their differences and work together to stop the jet who can transform into a douche. Likewise, in Transformers Armada, Starscream, in his most samurai of incarnations, allows himself to be turned to ash by the humanoid planet Unicron, forcing Megatron not only to acknowledge the threat of the world breaker, but also declare a cease-fire with the Autobots. Starscream did what neither robotic warlord could do – end the coolest civil war of all time.
Incidentally, the trigger part of Megatron is also his crotch in robot form so, it’s not a big surprise as to why Starscream wants to overthrow the guy so badly.