Since their first appearance in cartoons, comics, and on toy store shelves, the Autobots have waged their battle to destroy the evil Decepticons. Every new story has involved the Transformers in war and conflict, often with surprisingly gory deaths of beloved characters. Because they are robots, it allows the franchise to push the boundaries on how far they can take the violence. In this article, we’re counting down twenty of the most shocking and gruesome casualties of war from across the board. And to think, Hasbro markets this franchise for children.
Warning: Obvious spoiler warning for the various cartoons, films, and comic books. Some images are also a little graphic. Possibly traumatised children have been warned!
20. So Funny, It Hurts
Let’s begin this list of the macabre and tragedy with what will become a recurring comic as we go along: The Last Stand of the Wreckers. The Wreckers are the Autobots’ special ops division who often go on dangerous assignments. As Springer points out, a Wreckers’ first day on the job could be their last. Poor Rotorstorm learns this the hard way. The Wreckers meet the terrifying Overlord, and when Rotorstorm cracks a joke in an attempt to intimidate the Decepticon terrorist, Overlord reacts with a light chuckle and then shoots Rotorstorm right between the eyes, shocking his comrades. Only use the puns after you’ve beaten the badguy!
19. Dial Z For Zombie
The first episodes of Transformers Prime made it clear that the cartoon would be a bit more darker than past series. Cliffjumper was advertised as a main character, and voiced by Dwayne Johnson. However, Cliff is brutally and unexpectedly killed off barely ten minutes into the pilot by Starscream. But, to make matters worse, Megatron uses Cliffjumper’s body as a test subject for the zombie-making Dark Energon. The undead Cliffjumper later attacks his former partner Arcee, and even then his secondary death is unforgiving, tumbling down into a pile of exploding Energon. He should’ve called for backup!
18. Who Wants To Live Forever
Beast Wars has a relatively small cast of characters, and some were killed off to balance out the show’s budget. However, the series finale upped the ante by axing off multiple characters all at once. Old rivals Depth Charge and the immortal Rampage fight their last battle underwater, whilst the former tries to prevent the rise of the Decepticon warship Nemesis. The duel to the death reaches its climax when Depth Charge pins down Rampage with a piece of raw Energon, which can destroy his immortalised spark. Rather than put up a fight, Rampage allows Depth Charge to put an end to their feud, both obliterated in the destruction of Rampage’s spark.
17. A Little On the Rusty Side
In the original live action film trilogy, Ironhide probably had the most characterization after Optimus Prime and Bumblebee. Plus, he was pretty cool. So it made perfect sense for Ironhide to be killed off in Transformers: Dark of the Moon. After a pretty fantastic battle against a trio of Decepticons, Ironhide escorts Sentinel Prime to safety, only for the former Autobot leader to reveal he turned traitor and promptly pumps Ironhide’s guts full with cosmic rust, a painful Cybertronian virus which quickly reduces poor Ironhide to pieces. Rust in peace, Ironhide.
16. Tarantulas Gets Probed
Back to Beast Wars. Tarantulas was one sadistic mad scientist with so many spider webs and secrets, he’d make Lord Varys and Petyr Baelish blush. The spider also had an obsession with the aliens known as the Vok, who visit prehistoric Earth multiple times during the series, with Tarantulas hoping to exploit their technology. He finally gets his chance when he captures Vok emissary Tigerhawk, a fusion of dead Maximals, Tigatron and Airazor. Tarantulas attempts to brainwash Tigerhawk into wiping out the Autobots and Decepticons using a death ray, only to awaken the Vok already controlling Tigerhawk. Tarantulas freaks out when the Vok appear, instead possessing his body. Tarantulas then gets zapped by his own death ray and dies what the Transformers Wiki describes as “the most hardcore death in Beast Wars”.
15. A Blaze of Glory
Another casualty in Beast Wars was the Decepticon scout Ravage. One of only four G1 characters to appear in the series, Ravage was sent back in time to capture Megatron. However, when Megatron reveals his intentions on assassinating Optimus Prime to change the outcome of the Great War, Ravage has a change of heart and joins him in his campaign. Not taking kindly to this, the Maximals fight back. Rattrap breaks into Ravage’s ship, blows up Tarantulas, sending a wall of fire funnelling through the ship. Seeing it coming, Ravage proudly throws a fist to the sky and shouts glory to the Decepticons, before being consumed by flames. Well, at least he went out in style.
14. Blurr Under Pressure
Transformers Animated was one of the more kid-friendly cartoons, but it still had the occasional shock death. Blurr is by far the fastest Autobot, both in running and talking, but even he couldn’t outrun death. In the second season, Blurr identified Longarm Prime as the evil Shockwave in disguise but needed to prove it. Shockwave, needing to maintain cover, attacks Blurr, who tries to escape. However, Shockwave uses his control over his own compound to trap Blurr…and then outright crushed him into a garbage cube. As Longarm, Shockwave handed the Blurr cube over to Cliffjumper and ordered him to chuck it into an incinerator! However, while Blurr’s fate was never revealed in the show, concept art and later tie-in comics confirmed he survived and was rebuilt.
13. Spiders On the Brain
Sins of the Wreckers, the sequel to The Last Stand of the Wreckers, perhaps tops it as being even more darker and gorier. Roadbuster was introduced as perhaps the most mentally unstable Wrecker, a former drill sergeant who brutally mistreated and tortured Autobot cadets in the name of his “god” Mortilus, who he claimed whispered things into his head. This turned out to be true, as Mortilus was in fact Tarantulas, who had shrunk down to the size of a spider and controlled Roadbuster from within. Yikes! Roadbuster’s sins come back to haunt him, but he attempts to make amends by killing Tarantulas. They fall down a pit and are buried under rubble, Roadbuster surviving…but so did Tarantulas, by shrinking down to hide back in the Autobot’s head. And then, Tarantulas turns Roadbuster into a head-burster.
12. No Innocence in War
War is never nice, or good, and any innocent souls who get in the way are bound to be caught in the crossfire. The deformed Transmutate falls into this category during her singular appearance in Beast Wars. A mutated Transformer protoform, Transmutate has a child-like mind and uncontrolled powers. While both Rampage and Silverbolt attempt to befriend her, their hatred for each other only leads to Transmutate’s destruction. Preventing both of her friends’ attacks from reaching each other, Transmutate explodes, her surviving dying in the hysterical Rampage’s arms. Interestingly, in the alternate universe comic, Beast Wars Uprising, Transmutate was a slightly abnormal Maximal who forms a bizarre romance with Rampage. I guess you could call it a happy ending?
11. Surgical Strike
Poor Ratchet. The medical bot goes through a lot of misery in the comics, often watching fellow doctors get brutally gunned down and torn apart from Decepticons. Amongst the unfortunate is Ambulon, who has the strange alt. mode of a leg, being part of a failed attempt to make a Combiner. In the comic, The Divided Self, Ratchet, Ambulon, and First Aid are taken prisoner by the crazed Autobot medic Pharma. Pharma challenges Ratchet to a contest to save their comrades – and then proceeds to saw Ambulon vertically in two as the “challenge”. Ratchet tries to rescue his friend, but poor Ambulon is beyond repair. However, Ratchet uses Ambulon’s parts to build a cannon and introduces Pharma to the morgue.
10. Welcome to Con Air
One of the main purposes of The Transformers: The Movie was to introduce new toys and wipe the slate clean of the old ones. That meant executing the original Autobots onscreen. In the opening minutes of the fandom-changing film, the Decepticons storm an Autobot shuttle piloted by Brawn, Prowl, Ratchet, and Ironhide, and blast them to smithereens. Ironhide survives the initial onslaught and tries to stop Megatron, who spouts out the great line, “Such heroic nonsense,” before finishing Ironhide off.
09. A Broken Pedestal
So, at the end of Dark of the Moon, Optimus Prime really does hit rock bottom. After staging his death to teach humanity a lesson in trust, he and the Autobots proceed to basically exterminate their species, culminating in the implosion of Cybertron. A despairing Megatron offers a truce, but Optimus, tired of his brother’s tyranny, proceeds to put an axe in Megatron’s head. He then proceeds to execute the crippled, unarmed, pleading Sentinel Prime for betraying him and his own beliefs. Oh, how the mighty have fallen.
08. Give Me Your Face
Speaking of which, The Fallen, the big bad of the god-awful Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen, was built up as being a villain who could give Megatron a run for his money. The ultimate traitor of Transformers kind. The Judas Iscariot of the lore. A robot who walked in fire and revenge who even Megatron bowed down to. And, he gets his ass kicked by Optimus Prime in the space of about thirty seconds. In one of Optimus’ most brutal kills in the film franchise, the Fallen gets his face torn off, a fist through his back, and his spark chamber crushed to pieces.
The Transformers Armada take on the treacherous Starscream was quite a different one. Instead of a backstabbing glory hound, he is a more honourable warrior wishing to earn Megatron’s approval. Upon learning of the threat of Unicron, Starscream attempts to convince his master to team up with the Autobots to protect the galaxy. The two have a duel, which Starscream loses. After calling out Megatron for being an asshole, Starscream fires his energy cannons skyward to destroy Unicron. The Chaos Bringer promptly responds with a lethal lightning bolt, obliterating Starscream. The character’s demise was one of the few heartbreaking moments of the dreadful “Unicron Trilogy”. Too bad it was then ruined by Starscream being resurrected as a blank zombie, and then reimagined as his more traditional, treacherous self.
06. Don’t Drink the Kool-Energon!
Out of all of the Wreckers, made up of angsty veterans, murderers, lunatics, and monsters, Guzzle may be the worst. Violent, bloodthirsty, and driven by a need to consume high levels of fuels, Guzzle lives up to his name when he goes full out vampire in Sins of the Wreckers. Developing an urge to just plain out murder others, Guzzle was considered a liability but was still brought along for the Wreckers’ latest mission to hell. During which, the Wreckers are attacked by the Chimeracons, who sport realistic-looking beast modes. Guzzle then made jaws drop by grabbing Polar Claw, rips him in two, and then proceeds to drink his Energon like champagne. Heavens above!
05. Death Comes Cheap
Death comes for all of us, but never before has it ever haunted someone like it did for poor Ironfist. The main protagonist of The Last Stand of the Wreckers, Ironfist is a new recruit for the Wreckers, actually an idealistic fanboy and adores the team. However, he learns that the life of a Wrecker sucks. He watches several friends die and discovers his hero Impactor is a murderer. Then, at the end of the comic, Ironfist suddenly drops down dead. Throughout the story, Ironfist suffers strange blackouts connected to a strange entry wound in his head. It is revealed that before the events of the story, he was shot in the head by his open weapon, a tiny drill-like bullet which slowly destroys a Transformer’s brain. Ironfist’s death comes as a surprise, but it was cleverly built up throughout the comic.
04. Crashing the Coronation
Uneasy lies the head that wears the crown. Oh, Starscream, karma does sting. In the 1986 animated movie, Starscream finally usurps Megatron as leader of the Decepticons, chucking his crippled leader into space. Sometime later, Starscream crowned himself King of the Decepticons, sporting a flashy cape and a crown. However, his coronation is crashed by Galvatron and his minions, actually the revived Megatron. Referring to Starscream’s coronation as “bad comedy”, Galvatron proceeds to reduce his former lieutenant to ash, symbolically crushing his crown beneath his foot. However, Starscream later appeared as a ghost, and then in Beast Wars as an immortal thanks to be resurrected by Unicron.
03. Parting Is Such Sweet Sorrow
Perhaps the most beloved of couples in the franchise are Chromedome and Rewind. Yes, robots can fall in love. Just look at WALL-E. Though these guys are gay, but that wasn’t the point I was making. Anyway, Chromedome and Rewind have quite the rocky relationship. Chromedome has four previous relationships and all of them died, inspiring him to erase his memories of them to escape the pain. Rewind ends up becoming the fifth casualty, accidentally trapped in an escape pod with the evil Overlord. To save his boyfriend, Chromedome blows up the pod to spare him being tortured by Overlord. However, rather than erase his memory, Chromedome held back thanks to an affectionate message from Rewind. Let the tears flow! Thankfully, the couple are kinda reunited when an alternate version of Rewind appears.
02. The Rest is Silence
I’ve talked a lot about Dinobot in past articles about Beast Wars. A complex, Shakespearean character, Dinobot was a Predacon but then defected to the Maximals, before going back-and-forth between the two factions. He eventually chose the role of the hero. Upon learning Megatron planned to alter time by exterminating protohumans, Dinobot risks his life to defeat the entire Predacon forces. Essentially going on a suicide mission, Dinobot’s body is torn apart and broken down as he fights his former comrades, defying the odds, and saved mankind. He dies with his Maximal allies around him. As Optimus Primal states, he lived a warrior and died a hero.
01. The Many Deaths of Optimus Prime
Well, well, what a surprise. The death of Optimus Prime has become a recurring plot twist in Transformers fiction, to the point that it isn’t funny anymore. His death count is around twenty-five, so he’s on a roll. However, the first time he died in the 1986 film came as quite the emotional shock for young audiences. After a climatic battle with Megatron, Optimus is blasted to pieces by his nemesis and dies a slow death on the operating table. His demise changed the relationship between Hasbro and the fanbase forever, and though he was later resurrected, the impact is still there.
Which deaths in Transformers do you think are the most shocking of horrific? Leave a comment below or on our Twitter feed.