It’s been ten years since Michael Bay’s first Transformers film hit the big screen, and in the time since, he’s directed and produced four sequels, including this year’s very own The Last Knight. Each film has been a pretty massive financial success, either domestically or abroad (or both), and each film has also provided its audience with larger-than-life action. In honor of the franchises’ tenth anniversary, we’re going look at the best moments in the series, from the smaller moments to the biggest explosions. This list will also include moments from The Last Knight, but the entries are labeled, so feel free to skip the spoilers if you haven’t seen it yet.
In fairness to all films in the series, we’ve come up with three moments from each film, for a total of fifteen ranked moments. The moments themselves have to be either important to the plot and characters, show off the film’s visuals in a big way, or both.
Prepare yourself, for these are the 15 Best Moments In Michael Bay’s Transformers Films.
15. Megatron kills Optimus Prime (Revenge of the Fallen)
Less than halfway through Revenge of the Fallen, Optimus rescues Sam, Mikaela, and Leo Spitz from the hands of Megatron, leading into a battle in the woods that also involves Grindor and Starscream. While Optimus is able to kill Grindor and the humans are able to get away safely, all doesn’t end well; Megatron impales Optimus and kills him. A distraught Sam can only yell in anger as the rest of the Autobots come in to combat the remaining Decepticons, who eventually retreat.
While this fight doesn’t last anywhere near as long as some others in the franchise, it still stands as a highlight in Revenge. Other than being an enjoyable romp through the woods (the sort of setting we don’t see much of in this series), the scene is also important because it results in the death of Optimus, one that lasts almost the entire rest of the film before his resurrection in the climax.
14. The Fight in Shanghai (Revenge of the Fallen)
While minor in comparison to other confrontations faced by the Transformers, one of the earliest scenes in Revenge of the Fallen, the fight in Shanghai is a fun and well choreographed piece of action. Seeing Decepticons and Autobots duke it out by going through and in-between buildings is fun in its own right (especially when an old man barely notices the robots that just plowed through his room). However, it’s Optimus taking down Demolisher that makes this particular sequence so exciting to watch.
The amount of destruction on hand in this scene is impressive in scope, especially during the skirmish between Optimus and Demolisher on the highway. Even earlier in the fight, when the action is occurring in tighter corners, Bay is able to take these spaces and make them work in the film’s favor, resulting in an enjoyable piece of explosion-y action.
13. The Fallen’s Arrival to Earth (Revenge of the Fallen)
After the death of Optimus against Megatron, the Fallen in Revenge of the Fallen makes his introduction to Earth, and does so with a bang. Reminiscent of an earlier Bay film (Armageddon), the Decepticons make an assault on the planet, which includes attacking Paris, France. The Fallen himself also hijacks the airwaves to let the world know that he’s looking for one Sam Witwicky, who’s brain contains information from the AllSpark that the Decepticons so desperately need.
What makes this scene so good isn’t just that we get to see some buildings get destroyed, but that the film’s main antagonist reveals himself to the world, letting the populace know that they are not alone in the universe. It also results in Sam and friends being permanently on the run for the rest of the film, since Sam is now a wanted man — possibly even by his own kind.
12. The Fight in South Dakota (The Last Knight)
While not as grand in scope as the final fight in the film’s climax, The Last Knight provides its audience with a smaller scale battle that benefits from its abandoned town setting and slightly lower stakes. Reuniting the remaining Autobots from Age of Extinction, Cade Yeager, along with newcomers Isabella and Jimmy, have to evade a new set of Decepticons. Being in possession of an important talisman, the Decepticons go after the humans while fending off the defending Autobots.
With the main objective being to simply survive, this fight in an abandoned South Dakota town results in thrilling explosions, intense action, and of course, comedic relief; whether it’s the Decepticons making jokes, or Jimmy thinking he’s dying when he’s actually completely fine. It also introduces the protagonists to Cogman, an important (and amusing) Transformer who’s been looking for Yeager, and just so happens to find him in the middle of a battle.
11. “Deep” Wang (Dark of the Moon)
He doesn’t get a whole lot of screen time, but Ken Jeong makes his few minutes count in Dark of the Moon as Jerry “Deep” Wang. While Jeong’s style of comedy may not be to everyone’s liking, there’s no denying that his one and only scene in the entire film is an outrageous burst of energy.
As Sam Witwicky’s co-worker at Accuretta Systems, Jerry immediately recognizes and ambushes him in a bathroom toilet stall. While Sam is understandably confused, Jerry desperately asks for his help in revealing a plot the Decepticons have against Earth. Sam learns of their involvement in the lunar landings of the late 1960s and early ’70s, and not a moment too soon, as his washroom assailant is then confronted by Laserbeak, who’s been ordered to assassinate anyone who’d been involved in the Decepticon’s plot. After a brief struggle, Jerry makes his final dual-wielding stand before being promptly thrown out the window.
10. The Fight in Qatar (Transformers)
After Blackout attacks a US Military base in Qatar, Captain Lennox (Josh Duhamel) and his team (along with a local village boy) manage to escape. They spend time walking through the desert before reaching the local village the boy is from. Unfortunately, Scorponok’s been following them.
The ensuing fight begins just before the group reaches the village, and while his unit does its best to ward off Scorponok, Lennox uses a cell phone to contact the US. This scene demonstrates Bay’s ability to handle intense action (which involves a lot of close-to-the-face explosions) and juxtapose it with comic relief, courtesy of an operator who won’t let Lennox get in touch with the US unless he has a credit card number. Moments such as an explosion happening right next to Lennox, along with his frustration in trying to borrow Sgt. Epps’ (Tyrese Gibson) credit card during the middle of a firefight, are technical and comedic delights in equal measure. The scene also serves as an important story moment, as it serves as the government’s first glimpse at alien life. It’s not a pleasant one.
9. Dylan Gould’s Reveal (Dark of the Moon)
Played by the ever so handsome Patrick Dempsey, Dylan Gould is introduced in Dark of the Moon as the subtly smooth and not so subtly arrogant boss of Sam’s new girlfriend, Carly Spencer. From the get go, Sam doesn’t like Dylan, especially since he seems to have a strong interest in Carly. But during a dinner date with Carly, Dylan lets Sam and her know that he’s working with the Decepticons, and he’s not subtle about it. In fact, his dad had been in cahoots with them way back in the 1970s, so in Dylan’s defense, he had merely inherited a client.
Aside from being a bit of a surprise, what makes this scene so great is that Dylan not only threatens Sam, but sends him out on a task. Using Dylan’s transformable wrist watch, Sam is tasked with obtaining sensitive information that Dylan and his friends will be monitoring at all times. While this does result in goofy moments for Sam (due to the watch having a mind of its own), it also makes other scenes (such as his farewell to the Autobots) more interesting than they otherwise would have been.
8. Cade Yeager wielding the Sword of Excalibur (The Last Knight)
In The Last Knight, Cade has been chosen as the titular knight, due to his nobility and honorable way of being (which he, of course, questions). But anything is possible, especially since an original Cybertonian Knight gave him an ancient talisman that has refused to separate from his body.
When on the hunt for Merlin’s magical staff (which is found in an old alien machine guarded by Cybertronian Knights), Optimus shows up and attempts to take the staff himself (which he needs to save Cyberton). After a skirmish with Bumblebee, Optimus sees the error of his ways. Unfortunately, Megatron takes the staff, and just as the Knights are about to kill Optimus for his betrayal, the talisman on Cade becomes the Sword of Excalibur, allowing him to block the blades of the Knights. An unexpected and awesome moment, it changes the Knights’ minds, and they urge Optimus help reclaim the staff and save the planet.
7. Joshua Joyce and his New Transformers (Age of Extinction)
If there’s one interesting twist to Age of Extinction, it’s Joshua Joyce’s ability to create “new and improved” Transformers. Using metal found beneath the Earth (believed to be “what they’re made of“), Joyce and his company are able to create bots in their own image, or rather, in similar image to famous Transformers like Bumblebee, but not Optimus Prime. That latter fact upsets Joyce greatly, and it also serves as a warning that no one heeds, since this material is making a Transformer that looks like Megatron.
While this moment does result in a major plot point, as well as a few exciting set pieces (such as Galvatron vs Optimus), the real treat is Stanley Tucci as Joyce. While the Transformers films have managed to snag plenty of respectable actors (Jon Voight, Francis McDormand, and Extinction‘s own Kelsey Grammer), the addition of Tucci provides a hilarious, outrageous, and surprisingly not-completely-one-dimensional secondary character. It also helps that he’s pretty important to the overall plot of the film.
6. King Arthur’s Battle (The Last Knight)
Opening The Last Knight with multiple bangs, this medieval battle is grandiose and brutal, and it’s one which King Arthur isn’t winning. He insists that his friend Merlin the Magician is on his way to help; as it turns out, Merlin is a bit drunk and has gone to an unknown location to ask a Cybertronian Knight for assistance. The Knight gives Merlin a staff, one which only he can wield, giving him power over Dragonstorm; with this power, the battle King Arthur was so badly losing has now been boldly won.
Aside from providing another great Stanley Tucci performance, this opening is a gorgeously shot explosion of visual spectacle, allowing Bay to show off a battle that doesn’t require as many computer generated robots. That this fight exists mainly just to explain a plot element shows not only that any opportunity to orchestrate destruction will be taken by Bay and his crew, but that they’ll do so in fine and furious fashion.
5. The Battle in Los Angeles (Transformers)
In the climax of Transformers, this is where it all comes to a head: Decepticons vs Autobots, civilians in the cross-hairs, the AllSpark giving life to an Xbox 360. It’s a large scale conflict that involves our main characters and the military, along with Man of Steel levels of property damage. But at the same time, it’s a race for the AllSpark, which has been given to Sam Witwicky, who does a solid job not letting it get into the wrong hands. Along the way, Bumblebee gets damaged, but Mikaela helps out by attaching him to a tow truck and letting him shoot while she drives.
It’s a high stakes battle, and Bay knows how to direct it, whether its a slow-motion shot, detail on what’s being affected by the AllSpark, or giant robot action unfolding on rooftops. Its importance is also what makes it so great, since it’s bad news if the AllSpark falls into the hands of the Decepticons, and if all else fails, Sam’s been instructed by Optimus to “put the cube in my chest.” It’s a climax as tense as it is fun.
4. The Battle in Hong Kong (Age of Extinction)
Featuring Dinobots and a ship that’s able to pick up metal objects off the Earth and throw them right back at our fleeing protagonists, the climax of Age of Extinction is a wild and joyous symphony of destruction. The Hong Kong setting allows for Bay to set the action not just in-between residential buildings, but also open shopping centers, the bay (featuring plenty of sunlight), and a factory that provides euphoric explosions of crimson.
What also makes this climax great is that the humans aren’t reduced to just running around in fear. While there’s plenty of screaming to go around (thank you, Stanley Tucci), the human characters have objectives to complete, whether it’s making sure the Earth-shattering Seed doesn’t fall into enemy hands, fending off a certain CIA agent, or assisting a Transformer in need of a helping hand. It all makes for a great looking, property damaging good time.
3. The Introduction of Cade Yeager (Age of Extinction)
It’s a moment most may not even notice, but it’s an important one nonetheless. Age of Extinction introduces us to Cade Yeager, played by the one and only Mark Wahlberg, who almost immediately proves himself to be a much better protagonist than Sam Witwicky (famously played by Shia LaBeouf). An inventor and father, Cade just wants to make sure his daughter follows a good path and is able to get through college with no problems. It’s too bad things aren’t working out for Cade and his inventions, but lucky for him, he comes across a truck that he can strip for parts. He soon finds out, however, that this truck is actually Optimus Prime. Because duh, of course it is.
Bringing along his sarcastic nature and up-front attitude, Wahlberg feels like a breath of fresh air (which is probably what he was meant to be). Along with being great comedic relief himself, he also proves to be a competent protagonist who isn’t reduced to constantly screaming and being a general nuisance. He’s able to fight, use the technology he comes across, and has more at stake than Sam ever did.
2. Before Time Began (Transformers)
This is where it all began: the DreamWorks and Paramount logos feature robotic sounds, the screen goes black, and Peter Cullen as Optimus Prime narrates off camera as we see the AllSpark (or as he calls it, “the Cube”) moving slowly through space. He tells of its purpose, what it could do, and how it brought his home planet to ruin. He also talks about how they scoured the galaxy looking for it, eventually discovering it had been located on Earth. But, as he dreadfully makes clear as the main title appears, “we were already too late.”
These opening two minutes set the stage for what would not only be a highly successful first film, but a financially successful franchise that’s continued onward since. It provides an ominous mood, while also establishing what the main plot of the film will revolve around. It also leads to the first scene in the film, where a military compound is attacked by Blackout as he attempts to hack into their network (see #10)
1. The Battle of Chicago (Dark of the Moon)
Comprising the entire last hour of Dark of the Moon, the Battle of Chicago is where the mood of the film changes and the stakes are at an all-time high. Taking complete control of one major city, the Decepticons plan to make Earth their home planet once and for all, killing and enslaving humans as they do it. We witness helpless people running for their lives, being obliterated, and hiding in fear from a threat that’s greater than it’s ever been. With the odds stacked against them, Sam and others decide saving Carly and stopping the Decepticons is worth the risk.
While it’s a very significant moment plot-wise (both here and in the subsequent sequels), the Battle of Chicago demonstrates Bay and his crew’s ability to make an hour long set piece that is equal parts thrilling, exciting, fun, and impressive in scope. It also makes for an excellent climax, ending the film on an incredible high note, as well as being an event that makes Sam realize that being the world’s savior isn’t as important as just being there for the one he loves.
What other Transformers movie moments stand out to you? Let us know in the comments.
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