Transformers: The Last Knight, the fifth film in the inordinately loud and explode-y robot film series, has officially made its theatrical debut. Director Michael Bay says that this will be his last go at the franchise, which he's also said about the past few installments, so we'll believe it when Transformers 6 shows up without his name above the title. What we do know for certain, however, is that The Last Knight will once again feature the Decepticon leader Megatron as a major villain after he spent most of the last entry as a severed head in a lab.
Megatron and Autobot hero Optimus Prime have been fighting for as long as the Transformers series has existed in any form. And over the past three decades of runs, re-runs, reboots, and re-imaginings, he has displayed an astounding array of surprising powers and abilities that rivals even those of his noble nemesis. Most of them make sense -- insofar as anything in a series about alien robots that can turn into other things "makes sense" -- but others leave us with a level of confusion that we typically only feel while watching one of Michael Bay's Transformers movies.
But if you're excited about the new film or just a fan, we're offering a rundown on the (sometimes weird) things the evil robot can do. Here are 15 powers you didn't know Megatron had. Be sure to share your favorites or ones we missed in the comments.
15 Turning into a gun
If everything you know about Megatron comes from the live-action film franchise, this one will be new to you.
The big screen incarnation of the baddie becomes a Cybertronian jet in his alternate mode, which is a huge departure from the original version. Old school, Generation 1 Megatron has a far different - and more ominous - disguise when he isn’t running around trying to defeat the Autobots while simultaneously thwarting his underling Starscream’s attempts to overthrow him.
He turned into a gun. And because he was the bad guy, it was a Nazi gun. Specifically, Megatron became a modified version of a Walther P38 pistol, the sidearm with which the German Wehrmacht replaced its standard-issue Luger in the early 1940s.
Even weirder, Megatron’s robot mode includes a massive fusion cannon mounted on his arm. And you’d think that would become the barrel in his gun form, but no: it’s the scope. All of this is confusing. And if you’re wondering what tactical advantages a huge robot gains by turning into a handgun, Megatron had another trick to make this transformation useful.
14 Mass and size manipulation
The idea of a robot who turns into a gun is already pretty silly even before you realize that it’s a useless ability if nobody can fire the thing. That’s why writers gave Megatron another, supplemental power to go along with his shapeshifting. He was also capable of decreasing in size so that other Decepticons — or even humans — could carry and wield him after he changed.
This is the kind of creative juggling one has to do when you start with the idea of a toy robot that turns into a gun (you know, for kids) and then have to work backward to fit it into a coherent narrative. The writers of the first Transformers movie considered this ability “cheating,” since they wanted to present as realistic a version of these characters as possible, and that’s why Megatron turns into a jet in the films.
Comics and cartoons shied away from this weird ability as time went on, but every once in a while, Megatron regains his arbitrary ability to shrink.
13 Right-hand energy flail
This power goes all the way back to the pilot of the TV series. One scene has Megatron and Optimus Prime grappling on top of a dam. And because giant robots fighting on top of a huge, concrete slab that is only barely containing the power of a river is somehow not exciting enough, the two foes bring out some extra weapons to jazz it up.
Optimus’ right hand retracts to issue forth an energy axe, and Megatron responds with his own light-weapon, a mace. This is the only time either of these implements appears in the entire original series, but it’s somehow one of the most iconic moments in the whole show.
We’re not going to think too hard about why super-advanced robots from another planet would employ medieval weaponry, light-based though it might be. We’ll just pile it on with all of the other things about this universe that don’t add up and enjoy the amazing trash-talking that happens during that fight.
12 Optic weaponry
“Optic weaponry” is the Transformers universe’s fancy term for “eye lasers.” Megatron isn’t the only Cybertronian who can turn on these high beams. Optimus Prime breaks them out sometimes, and all of the Predicons in the Beast Wars animated series can make like Cyclops from the X-Men as well.
This ability has yet to appear in the movies, which is odd because it provides a new way for Michael Bay to blow something up. The closest it gets is in the “Twilight’s Last Gleaming” storyline, which appears in a movie tie-in series that UK comic brand Titan Magazines started publishing in 2007. In that arc, Megatron breaks out his laser face to try to murder Optimus before some complicated sci-fi things happen that kill him, instead.
His use of the ability on the first animated series is comical and basically useless. He uses his optics to scare off a crowd of race fans in the episode “The Autobot Run.” This is instead of just slaughtering them mercilessly, which would be more in character but probably even less appropriate for a kids’ show than that part where he transforms into a Nazi handgun.
This one’s about as obscure as it gets — other than that part where Megatron has a flamethrower in The Last Knight. But we’re including it because you may not know that the new movie isn’t the first time he has unleashed the fire.
In all of the Transformers series, Megatron’s flamethrower appears exactly once, in the strategy guide for the 1986 Famicom game Transformers: Mystery of Convoy. That’s it; it doesn’t even happen in the game.
Mystery of Convoy follows Ultra Magnus on a journey through a deadly realm of bad controls and really dodgy gameplay, and, of course, Megatron is the final boss. The strategy guide presents a little comic to give players a hint about the villain’s weak spot, but before it gets to the useful tip, the Decepticon grows to a huge size and blasts Magnus with a gout of flames from his fusion cannon.
Even as Transformers lore goes, that’s pretty obscure.
10 Turning into a real-world racecar
It’s easy to look at the Transformers franchise cynically, considering it was a multimedia effort to sell useless — albeit awesome — hunks of plastic and advertising space during cartoon blocks. And in 2013, the minds behind the series tossed on another layer by adding a further tie-in with the Super GT racing championship.
Transformers GT was a toy line that mixed up the property by having all of its robot heroes and villains change into real-life vehicles that ran in the series. And to justify this, the line comes with a bit of lore that says that eventually, the Autobots and Decepticons get tired of fighting their wars with punches and varying degrees of laser eyes and settle their differences with friendly races. And they model their own contests on Earth’s Super GT to make the synergy complete.
The weirdest part of this whole stunt (or the biggest ripoff) was that all of the toys used the same molds; they just had different paint jobs, stickers, heads, and accessories.
9 Cyber Key vehicle thrusters
Transformers: Cybertron was a mixed-animation series that served as a sequel to the similarly rough-looking Armada and Energon. It’s about the Autobots and Decepticons racing (sometimes literally) to uncover the parts of a machine called the Omega Lock, which is the only way to stop a huge black hole from devouring their home planet. Megatron’s more interested in claiming the Lock’s power for his own, surprising no one.
In this series, certain Transformers can access “Cyber Keys” that temporarily buff their abilities. For the villain, this means that he gets an extra burst of speed in his vehicle form, which looks an evil, anime version of the Batmobile.
The first time Megatron busts out this feature is to cheat in a race in order to get information on where one of the missing pieces is. And this plan completely fails because he loses the contest, and his opponent doesn’t know anything about the Omega Lock, anyway. So Megatron cheated for nothing, which is kind of the story of his life.
8 Death Claw
Megatron’s Cyber Key-enhanced powers in Cybertron aren’t limited to ultimately ineffective speed boosts; his robot form also gains a few new tricks that end up being less than impressive. We’re talking here about his Death Claw, which he debuts in the episode called “Detour.”
The Decepticon busts this move out in the middle of a fight scene typical in Cybertron, which means that the combatants spend more time calling down their super moves from the clouds than they do actually hitting each other. We don't know how that cloud thing works, but it's part of the fun.
He's there to help out his pal, Scourge, who just can’t seem to defeat the Autobot named Overhaul. And Megatron starts out strong, using the Death Claw to make quick work of Snarl, who was hanging back to watch things play out. But all the weapon-hiding clouds in the sky aren’t enough to overcome Overhaul’s serendipitous evolution into a superpowerful lion robot that is so fast that Megatron’s spiky arms prove ineffective.
The Beast Wars animated series already takes some weird turns even before it introduces this odd concept. For one thing, it recasts the familiar Autobots and Decepticons as totally different robot types called Maximals and Predacons, respectively, and makes their alternate forms animals. Megatron turns into a Tyrannosaurus Rex in this series, which isn’t even the weirdest thing that happens to him.
“Aftermath,” the first episode of Beast Wars’ second season, starts in the aftermath of Maximal leader Optimus Primal’s death because even in alternate versions of the Transformers mythos, it’s just a matter of time before the guys whose first name is “Optimus” dies. A huge wave of energy hits several of the robots on both sides, changing them into Transmetals, which is another way of saying “new toys.”
But on the show, it means that everyone the blast affected gets shiny new bodies with additional powers. Megatron’s dino form gets twin back rotors that grant him flight and a pair of skates that save him the trouble of running. His first act upon debuting his amazing new abilities is to run directly at Rattrap, who trips him with his tail.
6 Lots and lots of forms
Robots in Disguise was a cartoon that ran from 2001 to 2002 and had Optimus Prime turning into a fire truck instead of the semi we all know and love. And it had probably the busiest Megatron ever.
We don’t mean “busy” as in “occupied with schemes.” We mean “look at all that stuff hanging off of him.” And his extra robot parts are there for a reason because he could turn into six different things. In addition to the standard robot mode, he could also become a car, a spaceship, a two-headed dragon, a gargoyle, and a huge hand. That’s it; just a hand. We’re sure it had uses.
Later in the series, Megatron “upgrades” to become Galvatron and grabs up four more alternate modes, making him one of the most needlessly complicated Transformers ever imagined. The bonus forms are a gryphon, a hydrofoil, an elephant, and a pterodactyl. None of these seem to offer any obvious advantages over what he could already do, but some people just like to have a lot of options.
5 Energy vampirism
Megatron’s level-up to Galvatron comes with more than just some extra configurations; he also gains the ability to suck the energy right out of other Transformers to grant himself more juice. And because he is a really bad leader, the first victims of this new feat are three of his underlings, who were lucky to be alive in the first place.
The updated villain uses his new power to yell constantly and continue failing to defeat the Autobots. Eventually, it even proves to be his undoing, since in the episode “The Final Battle,” Omega Prime (a combined form of Optimus Prime and his brother, Ultra Magnus) manages to release all of the energy Galvatron had slurped up, defeating him and creating an explosion so big that the “camera” has to jump out to space to show the whole thing.
4 DOUBLE MEGATRON TORNADO (second Megatron sold separately)
The Robotmasters toy line, and its accompanying comics and pair of DVD-only episodes, is one of the most complicated parts of the already hopelessly convoluted Transformers franchise. It’s a self-contained story about the Decepticons attacking Earth to steal its energy after their home planet runs out of its native fuel. And that sounds pretty straightforward, but it isn’t done with you yet.
In the second episode, “The Lio Convoy Typhoon Enters” (no, really), the Megatron from Beast Wars causes trouble, and the Autobots receive aid from a mysterious figure called Reverse Convoy. But it turns out that the new guy is, in fact, the original Megatron, and things only get crazier from there.
Optimus Prime and Optimus Primal join forces to create the Double Convoy Tornado, and the Megatrons match them with their own dual whirlwind, the Double Megatron Tornado. This is, by any standard, complete nonsense, but it makes for good cartoons. The two cyclones are equal in power, which is boring. But then Lio Convoy makes the title happen by adding his own strength to the Primes’ attack and saves the day.
3 Force Lightning
Apparently, shooting energy out of your hands is among the most evil of all superpowers. It’s good enough for Emperor Palpatine and Count Dooku in the Star Wars movies, and it’s good enough for Megatron.
In the Generation 1 episode “Microbots,” Megatron stops failing long enough to beat the Autobots to a buried spacecraft and attach its core to himself. This gives him the extra pep he needs to start shooting pink lighting out of his hands and hold off the heroes who have shown up to stop him. But his victory is brief, because the “good guys” blow up a hill, and Megatron and his cronies escape, return to their base, and get robot-drunk.
This is a real thing that happens. They drink so much Energon that Megatron gets sappy and passes out. That gives the Autobots time to shrink themselves, sneak into his unconscious body, and unhook the power core from the inside.
2 Super science
This story is light on details, but we’re not sure we’d get it even if we knew everything.
Fight! Super Robot Lifeform Transformers is an eight-issue (plus a two-part prologue) manga that takes place after the cartoon’s second season. It has the Decepticons traveling to Japan to steal power there, and part of that plan requires Megatron to abduct a dog.
He experiments on the poor pooch until it somehow contains enough “Decepticon super science” to meet all of Tokyo’s energy needs. And if he could do that, we don’t know why he didn’t just stop there, since power generation was kind of the point, and we’d guess that even giant robots need less juice than the world’s eighth most populated city.
Even so, the subject escapes, like a good dog, and manages to make it to the good guys even after its captors shoot it. It uploads its science into an Autobot, Powerglide, just in time to help him defeat the Decepticons, who still wanted their canine battery back even though they’d just murdered it with bullets.
1 A taste for human flesh
Admittedly, this isn’t a power or ability so much as it is a bizarre habit of an evil robot, but we can't think of any other Transformers who do it, so we’re going to give it to Megatron here.
On a couple occasions, the leader of the Decepticons has taken a long enough break from calling human beings “Earth germs” to see how they taste, which sounds like the stuff of stupid challenges that college kids issue to one another. And in one comic, he actually follows through.
The mostly silly Transformers vs. G.I. Joe series has the Transformers’ home planet of Cybertron colliding with our world, destroying it. To celebrate the occasion, Megatron throws a huge banquet that features “Earth food,” during which he unplatters a dish to reveal the Joes’ car-loving Skidmark curled up on a bed of lettuce. And he’s still alive when the villain plops him into his surprisingly human mouth like an oyster and chomps down.
These events are hardly canonical, but that doesn’t make them any less messed up.
What other abilities has Megatron showed off over the years? Let us know in the comments.