The Transformers franchise has carved itself hallowed space in the history of influential pop-cultural media. Since its inception, it has become a top-grossing media franchise that consists of comic books, toys, videos, and various film and tv productions. Indeed, modern audiences are most familiar with Paramount’s movie franchise that began with action-film director Michael Bay‘s Transformers in 2007. Bay would direct five Transformers movies, and though the director has seemingly parted ways with the franchise, Paramount recently announced plans for a new Transformer trilogybeginning with 2023’s Transformers: Rise of the Beasts.
Every major movie franchise, of course, has a beginning, and for Transformers in the United States, that beginning came in the form 98 episodes of an animated series called The Transformers – though also known as “Generation 1” – and its sequel movie, The Transformers: The Movie. Sit back and relax, as those humble beginnings, ripe with animation errors but nonetheless entertaining, are explored in the top 10 G1 episodes here.
10 The Rebirth
“The Rebirth” consisted of the last three episodes of the original United States cartoon. The arc introduced several new characters such as Sixshot, Mr. Identity Crisis Double Agent himself in Punch / Counterpunch, the Autobot racing twins, the Decepticon animal twins, and as well as a few more. More importantly, the series of episodes also introduces two new concepts: Targetmasters and Headmaster. Targetmasters and Headmasters consist of Nebulons aiding both the Autobots and Deceptions by turning into the robots guns or staged in their heads. The episodes revolve around visions Optimus Prime has been having and feeling that something big is around the corner. Obviously, the “something big” comes in the figurative with the creation of the two new types of Transformers. It also comes in the literal sense with the creation of two new titans: Fortress Maximus and Skorponok.
9 The Burden Hardest to Bear
“The Burden Hardest to Bear” happens after the events of The Transformers: The Movie and deals with Rodimus Prime, the new leader of the Autobots, having a hard time adjusting to his new role. Rodimus Prime, who was Hot Rod not too long prior, had the Matrix of Leadership thrust upon him in defeating Galvatron and Unicron. His mentor, Kup, realizes Rodimus is struggling with his new role and refers to it as giri, the Japanese word that gives the name of the title with its English translation. Rodimus realizes that even though he was thrust into the role, he must continue on, despite his personal objections, for the good of the galaxy.
8 Megatron’s Master Plan
Fun fact: Transformers: Dark of the Moon took its main inspirations from five episodes of the G1 series. The first was a series of three episodes called “The Ultimate Doom.” The second is the two-parter “Megatron’s Master Plan.” The plan is simple: frame the Autobots and make the humans hate them. Megatron has some tapes of the Autobots edited to show them making other transformers evil – apparently this is the kind of thing that would work in the 80s. Nonetheless, the public turns on the Autobots and banishes them from Earth. The whole thing is foiled after the Autobots are able to escape their rocket before it hits the sun, and come back to Earth where they discover that the Decepticons have enslaved everyone. The good guys win, and the Autobots are acquitted.
7 More than Meets the Eye
This is the beginning of the series told throughout the first three episodes. Ripe with 80s animation errors, no one seems to care as the show kicks off with a bang and the action is non-stop. After 4 million years, the Autobots and Deceptions awaken. The plot is simple in this episode: the Deceptions needs energy to get back to Cybertron. Unfortunately, they need to pillage the Earth’s natural resources to do it, and Optimus Prime and his valiant team fight the good fight and repel the Decepticons’ first set of attacks.
6 The Key to Vector Sigma
“The Key to Vector Sigma,” a two-part series, was incredibly important to the franchise. Up until this point – unless you count the plothole regarding the Constructicons (they have two origins explained in two other episodes of the series) – this is the first time we actually see other Transformers created. Essentially, the Decepticons feel that their lack of success is driven by, well, not having drivers. The ‘Cons have a ton of air superiority, but not much on the ground. Likewise, the Autobots feel they could use some help in the air. The Deceptions use the last key, or so they think, to Cybertron’s super computer Vector Sigma to bring life to the Stunticons who can unite to form Menosaur. Alpha Trion, Optimus Prime’s creator, sacrifices himself, acting as another key to the computer, in order to bring to life The Arielbots, who, in turn, form Superion.
5 SOS Dinobots
One of the most pivotal episodes that truly tips the scales of war in the Autobots’ favor is “SOS Dinobots.” The creation of the fan favorite faction not only added a boost in power to the Autobot ranks, but also a boost to the pocket books at Hasbro. The team which started as Grimlock, Slag, and Sludge were later joined by Snarl and Swoop, and have been a steady part of the mythology of Transformers since their inception. They were even given a gestalt form, Volcanicus, in recent years.
4 The Ultimate Doom
The three episode arc of “The Ultimate Doom” did not disappoint as far as story. As a matter of fact, as mentioned earlier, it and “Megatron’s Master Plan” serve together as the main story for the events of Transformers: Dark of the Moon. Essentially, Megatron has devised a plan to enslave humanity and bring Cybertron into Earth’s orbit. The unique twist to this series of episodes happens at the end of the first episode. When Megatron and Optimus have their fight, it’s done near the new space bridge to bring Cybertron into Earth’s orbit. The first two of three pylons were activated, and, unbeknownst to Optimus, once the machine has been activated, Cybertron would be destroyed if not brought through the bridge. Megatron orders Prime to activate the device to spare their planet, a request that Optimus acquiesces. Although all is eventually set right by the third episode, it serves as a stark reminder that even the best of the good guys can have a lapse in judgment.
3 Five Faces of Darkness
After the events of The Transformers: The Movie and the defeat of both Galvatron and Unicron, The Autobots finally have the upper hand. The Decepticons are shown energy-depleted and desperate, so desperate that they fall prey to a trick from the evil Quintasons. After his new lackies Cyclonus and Scourge locate Galvatron, he resumes command of the Cons while on the look-out for the Decepticon Matrix of Leadership. The full five episodes is a direct conclusion to the events of the film and prove that the new threat is definitely the Quintisons, who do quickly force the Autobots and Decepticons to work together from time to time to defeat them.
2 The Return of Optimus Prime
This arc is a direct response to the outcry of the death of Optimus Prime in the feature film. You see, Hasbro wanted to create more characters to diversify their wallets, and parents wanted their kids to stop crying over the death of their beloved hero. Kids locked themselves in rooms for weeks after his death. This outcry single-handedly saved Duke, who was originally also going to perish in the GI Joe film. Enter: Nameless Quintison. As big of a threat as they are to both sides, it turns out Quintisons do value their own lives, which is exactly the position one of the five-faced freaks finds themselves in when a hate plague quickly takes over the galaxy. Optimus is resurrected to deal with the plague, which he does once again with the Matrix of Leadership, and, in doing so, earns Galvatron’s respect. Prime does not stay alive for long though, as he is sacrificed as a key to Vector Sigma in the first few episodes of the Japanese g1 continuation, Headmasters.
1 The Golden Lagoon
This entry may surprise a few people, but this episode holds one of the most valuable lessons kids could learn about life: the good guys do not always win. In a time when Comic Book Law reigned supreme (a law that actually states the good guys have to win), this episode tested the waters. When a pool of electrum, a substance that gives the user invulnerability, is discovered, both Autbots and Decepticons alike rush to the scene. The lagoon is covered in natural, peaceful beauty and teaming with wild life. Both sides eventually are able to coat themselves in the substance, and, knowing they cannot hurt each other, still continue to fight, destroying the beauty of nature around them. In the process, the lagoon itself is destroyed, and the area turned into smoldering ash. A sobering reminder that resonates strongly even today through one of the most highly regarded episodes in Transformers history, aside from perhaps “Beast Wars: Code of Hero.”
Spider-Man: No Way Home home release features over 80 minutes of new content, including more of Andrew Garfield and Tobey Maguire.
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