There are plenty of reasons to enjoy the Transformers films. Nobody makes destruction look quite as glorious as director Michael Bay, who seemingly dreams of robots smashing skyscrapers. There’s more than a little nostalgic value in seeing the titular robots in disguise on the big screen. The score is always suitably epic. There are even occasionally moments where the movies’ broad sense of humor works.
One of the things you’d be hard pressed to credit as a strength of the franchise is its human characters. A seemingly endless well of screaming, idiosyncratic maniacs, the humans surrounding the robots always get way, way too much screen time, often making the Transformers feel like supporting players in their own movies.
This might be more forgivable if the humans were well written, nuanced characters, but they are almost universally irritating, cartoonish morons. A lot of them started out deeply unlikable; a select few had the privilege of devolving over several movies.
As The Last Knight is set to debut a new handful of human protagonists (including Sir Anthony Hopkins, who between this and Westworld is spending a surprising amount of his later career surrounded by robots), we take a look at the very worst humanity has to offer in the world of the Transformers.
These are the 15 Most Annoying Humans In The Transformers Movies.
15. Cade Yeager
Cade Yeager was an instantly more likable human lead for these movies than Sam Witwicky, who had devolved into a screaming, oblivious lunatic by the third film, Dark of the Moon. Cade’s life as a down on his luck father trying to do right by his family was an immediately more appealing setup than that of a sour, whiny twenty-something with congressional medals and a litany of supermodel girlfriends. Mark Walhberg does solid work in the role, even when he’s not given much to work with.
And yet we can’t help but notice Cade makes very little sense as a character if you look even a little bit below the surface. A self-proclaimed inventor, Cade seems more like a guy who likes the idea of being an inventor, to the financial detriment of his family.
14. Lucas Flannery
The most annoying thing about Lucas Flannery is that we got so little of him. Lucas is Cade Yeager’s right hand man in Age of Extinction. Played with an admirable slacker charm by Deadpool and Silicon Valley star T.J. Miller, Lucas is a trusted family friend as well as Cade’s employee. Like virtually every male supporting character in these movies, Lucas leans in a little too hard on the toilet humor, but he’s a likable enough character, and felt like a sign that maybe Bay had learned from some of his earlier mistakes.
And then Lucas dies, incinerated by the Decepticon Lockdown early in the movie’s first act. Bay had somehow managed to conjure a relatively likable supporting player, and then literally reduced him to a pile of ash for no particular reason.
13. Joshua Joyce
Joshua Joyce is essentially a poorly conceived spin on Steve Jobs. Following the chaos and destruction of Dark of the Moon, Joyce (the head of Kinetic Solutions Incorporated) enlists the help of a covert CIA unit to round up as many pieces of dead Transformers as he can so he can figure out what makes them tick. He eventually cracks the code on “Transformium” (ugh), the elemental metal that helps give the Transformers life. He attempts to utilize this metal to better humanity… and ends up reviving Megatron with a new set of superpowers. Quite the genius, that guy.
Like virtually all humans in this franchise, Joyce spends the back half of Age of Extinction running from explosions and acting like an unhinged maniac. You would think an actor of Stanley Tucci’s caliber would tire of this sort of thing… yet he’s back in The Last Knight, playing a completely different character; the legendary wizard Merlin. Hopefully they keep all the magical metal away from him.
12. Shane Dyson
Shane Dyson is really not much of a character. Played with dead eyed apathy by Jack Reynor in Age of Extinction, Shane is another thinly drawn character who exists primarily to run and scream when things start exploding around him.
Shane is really only noteworthy for one, horrifying reason. He’s the secret boyfriend of Cade Yeager’s teenage daughter, Tessa (Shane is pretty clearly in his 20s). When confronted about this revelation by Cade, Shane whips out a laminated card with the details of the “Romeo and Juliet” law that explains why he’s legally in the clear dating a 17 year old.
It’s a bizarre digression in the movie that is ostensibly played for laughs, but fully leans into the idea that his character – who the audience is supposed to be rooting for – has spent a significant amount of time and effort researching ways to make sure people don’t think he’s a statutory rapist. In a franchise full of head scratching moments, it’s possible that one takes the cake.
11. Dylan Gould
Dylan Gould is designed to be a certain kind of unlikable. He’s a rich, handsome jerk who is not only trying to steal away Sam’s girlfriend, Carly (played by model Rosie Huntington-Whitely, after Megan Fox’s Mikaela Banes was unceremoniously jettisoned between movies), but is also a Decepticon collaborator.
Played by Grey’s Anatomy star Patrick Dempsey, Gould never comes across as an interesting villain. Indeed, in a world of characters dominated by eccentricities and over the top histrionics, Gould is a downright bore. Making a guy who is collaborating with evil alien robots to annihilate the majority of his species such a cipher is a bizarre choice, and one that goes directly against Michael Bay’s instincts. Maybe Gould was an attempt by Bay to make a more nuanced, believable character, but it backfired spectacularly.
10. Jerry Wang
Ken Jeong really can be a great comedic actor. His six years on the cult sitcom Community showed that with good writing, he’s more than capable of delivering laughs without being reduced to an empty caricature. And yet Jerry Wang leans into every one of his worst comedic habits. A fellow employee of Sam Witwicky at Accuretta Systems, Wang is a former NASA employee being blackmailed by the Decepticon Laserbeak to do their evil bidding.
Wang is a grab bag of bad jokes and stereotypes. He refers to himself as “Deep Wang.” He is overtly aggressive and rude. Even his grisly death, being thrown from a skyscraper window, is played for laughs. Jerry Wang is essentially a Family Guy character that Michael Bay snuck into a Transformers movie.
9. Charlotte Mearing
Charlotte Mearing (played by the luminous Frances McDormand) has the unenviable task of essentially playing Dark of the Moon’s version of the hapless, always wrong government official who exists only to put up silly plot roadblocks for Sam and the Autobots. McDormand is given even less to work with than John Turturro, who filled basically the same role in the first film as Seymour Simmons. Simmons at least had a weirdo energy that made him marginally compelling at times.
For the majority of the movie, Mearing is a dry, humorless suit who is weirdly dismissive of Sam – the one who actually has a personal relationship with the alien robots she’s trying to understand.
Mearing’s late movie dalliance with Simmons is not the quirky flirtation Bay was clearly looking, but rather a nightmare melding of two of the franchise’s most irritating characters. The robots are supposed to combine into bigger, more horrifying monsters – not the humans.
8. Glen Whitmann
Anthony Anderson’s Glen Whitmann is a walking, talking version of every lazy fanboy stereotype. A hacker enlisted by his friend Maggie Madsen (one of the few human characters in these movies who’s tough to find much fault with) to help her decode the machinations of the mysterious Sector Seven organization, Glen checks virtually every box of the tired “loser nerd” stereotype. He lives with his grandmother; he’s obsessed with pop culture, making Wolverine references at highly inappropriate times; he’s prone to nervous fits of panic; he’s a virgin who gets awkward around women.
Glen is really the only character in the first movie who has essentially no redeeming qualities beyond being a lazy punchline. He was unfortunately a harbinger of things to come for the franchise’s supporting players.
7. John Keller
There is a long and storied history of once great actors of a certain age participating in franchise blockbusters to land a big payday for relatively easy work. Indeed, there’s a fairly rich history of that phenomenon in this franchise alone, with Sir Anthony Hopkins on deck for The Last Knight.
The progenitor of the movement in the Transformers movies was Jon Voight’s turn as United States Secretary of Defense John Keller. It’s a scattershot, undercooked performance. There are more than a few moments when Voight seems to have genuinely forgotten his lines and just makes up something on the fly (that these scenes are still in the movie is another discussion entirely).
Seemingly an amalgam of several bad impressions of American political figures, Keller at least gets to shoot at some Decepticons in the movie’s final act, allowing Voight to tack “action movie badass” onto his character’s scattered resume.
6. Ron Witwicky
Like quite a few characters in this franchise, both human and robot, Ron Witwicky was mostly fine in the first movie. He was a little overbearing toward his son Sam, and seemed to do a few too many things that couldn’t be justified for any other reason than to move the plot along, but those are not mortal sins.
The character got considerably less likable in Revenge of the Fallen, where his exasperated but good-hearted father had somehow morphed into a miserable man who could barely tolerate his family.
Kevin Dunn is a great comedic actor. More often than not he ends up stealing the scenes he’s in on HBO’s Veep, utilizing a kind of defeated, cynical hangdog energy not that far removed from Ron Witwicky. With better writing, he could have been an asset to these movies, instead of the grating nag he ended up becoming.
5. Judy Witwicky
Much like her onscreen husband, Judy Witwicky was a relatively benign presence in the first Transformers movie. But by the time Revenge of the Fallen and Dark of the Moon rolled around, she had devolved into a walking punchline.
Accompanying Sam to his first day of college in Revenge of the Fallen, the Witwickys are both deeply embarrassing, but Judy takes the brass ring, as she accidentally eats a pot brownie and proceeds to act as if she’s from another planet for a solid 15 minutes of the film.
Add to this her penchant for asking her son highly inappropriate questions about his sex life and hygiene and her weird obsession with her chihuahua, and Judy emerges as the champion in the incredibly hard fought “most irritating Witwicky parent” competition.
4. Leo Spitz
One of the early signs that Revenge of the Fallen may have been a less than great film was the appearance of Leo Spitz. Introduced as Sam’s college roommate, Leo is a whirling dervish of various, seemingly unrelated eccentricities.
Leo runs a conspiracy theory website about the Transformers called “The Real Effing Deal,” is obsessed with kitten calendars, and somehow manages to be a stereotypical misogynistic bro while also holding the weirdly earnest belief he can win the heart of his crush Alice with a meat lover’s pizza. When Alice turns out to be a nightmarish Decepticon Pretender, Leo’s irritating character traits find their second gear.
Dragged kicking and screaming through the rest of the movie, Leo is a near constant annoyance. Michael Bay seemed to project most of his considerable raging id on Leo, and managed to maneuver the witless goof into arguably the most Michael Bay-esque scenario in cinematic history: tasering himself in the crotch in a bathroom with his pants around his ankles.
3. Mikaela Banes
Mikaela Banes is actually a pretty well crafted character in the first Transformers movie. She’s a slight tweak on the old movie trope of the unattainable girl next door that the male lead had a crush on. Megan Fox did strong work making Mikaela seem like more than a caricature, and she had undeniable chemistry with Shia LaBeouf’s Sam Witwicky. By Michael Bay’s standards with female characters, she’s bordering on Wonder Woman.
Revenge of the Fallen burned away all that goodwill pretty much immediately. Bereft of any nuance or agency, Mikaela was now simply a version of the tired old stereotype of the nagging girlfriend, existing only to admonish Sam and make his life more difficult. Fox had no chance with what she was given; it’s not exactly shocking that she publicly took Michael Bay to task for how deeply unpleasant her experience on the movie was.
2. Seymour Simmons
John Turturro is one of the great actors of his generation. His work in the movies of the Coen Brothers and serious, prestige television fare like The Night Of is undeniable. You could almost forgive him for cashing easy paychecks to goof around in Transformers movies if his Seymour Simmons wasn’t such a bizarre simulacrum of a human being.
Introduced as an agent of the mysterious Sector Seven organization in the first film, Simmons is almost cartoonishly abrasive, threatening to jail teenagers and impound chihuahuas if not given the information he’s looking for.
As you could likely guess, Simmons ends up an even more ridiculous character in the sequels. After being drummed out of Sector Seven, he works in his family’s deli and maintains a conspiracy website about the Transformers called GiantEffingRobots.com.
1. Sam Witwicky
It’s easy to forget what an absolute sensation Shia LaBeouf was around the time of the first Transformers movie. After memorable supporting turns in movies like Constantine and I, Robot, the one time Disney Channel star was suddenly one of the most sought after actors in Hollywood, hosting Saturday Night Live and being offered roles in iconic sequels like Indiana Jones and Wall Street. His everyman charm in Transformers as Sam Witwicky drew more than a few comparisons to early Tom Hanks performances.
And then came Revenge of the Fallen and Dark of the Moon. Sam slowly but surely mutated from the loveable underdog of the first film into a charmless, screaming lunatic by the third film. His sense of wonder at the world of the Autobots and Decepticons curdled into an off-putting sense of entitlement.
The decline of the Transformers movies can be directly charted by the decline of its human lead: a character once defined by his heart and good intentions, Sam Witwicky ended up a loud, oblivious caricature.
Which human character in Transformers annoys you the most? Let us know in the comments!
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