This probably has you scratching your head already. After all, the Transformers franchise is a lot like a Happy Meal. People don’t buy them for the nutritional content—it’s for the flashy box and the toys. Consequently, it can be really easy to overlook some visually compelling moments throughout the series.
That’s because the movies are so long and full of fireworks from beginning to end. Nothing gets to stand out. However, there are genuine fans of the Hasbro line, original cartoons, and even the movies. So, rather than more of the same, here are some fantastic action sequences that just might make you reconsider all the steadfast hate.
10 Age Of Extinction: Steeljaws and Anchors
Cade Yeager isn’t as relatable as Sam. However, Cade is a dad, which provides an incredible relief. In Age of Extinction, teenagers are actually sidelined, with an adult protagonist. The driving force behind the film is Cade trying to rescue or defend his family. That’s a lot easier to digest than the melodrama of Sam’s uninteresting life. Also, this scene in particular establishes alien weaponry that allows humans to actually make a difference in subsequent battle sequences.
Say what you will about Michael Bay’s direction, his establishing shots have a tremendous sense of scale. In this scene, an alien craft has attached anchors to a skyscraper. In order to rescue his daughter Tessa, Cade leads her across a high-wire act. The height is captured really well, with strong winds and effective frames of reference. The escalation of the Steeljaw guard dogs is also pretty neat.
9 Revenge Of The Fallen: The Forest Battle
Michael Bay himself has referenced the writers’ strike as a major impediment to Revenge of the Fallen. It’s a legitimately terrible film, with the most juvenile humor of the entire series. Stereotypes are abound, as well as exposed briefs and wrecking ball... unmentionables. Generally speaking, action always works best when we’re invested.
So, although this scene may be memorable in and of itself, it just can’t be ranked higher. The death of Optimus was very telegraphed, and there was no question he’d be returning. Also, Optimus is the only character we’re rooting for in the fight, making it more obvious what’s actually happening. He gets some fun one-liners, and it’s neat to see him fend off multiple opponents. Most importantly, he only dies because of his compassion for Sam.
8 Transformers: Optimus vs Bonecrusher
Michael Bay is really fond of freeway chases. They’re inherently kinetic, allowing for a lot of speed and a surplus of vehicles. He’s used this setting in movies like Bad Boys II, The Island, and of course in Transformers sequels. But this original scene is particularly iconic—namely because the visuals were still very novel at this point. Bay is careful to put the camera in positions that feature the transformation effect very well.
His addiction to slow-motion isn’t a nuisance here, used only to accentuate some incredible CGI. The slowed image of Bonecrusher and Optimus sliding down the freeway is a lot of fun. Bonecrusher causes some great chaos, and has a neat design, with that snapping tail. Optimus’ execution is very satisfying too.
7 Age Of Extinction: Dinobots Charge
The promise of the Dinobots didn’t quite deliver, mainly because of their runtime. Despite being the gimmick of the ads, these characters aren’t featured very much at all. Which is disappointing, since the Dinobots themselves are actually designed pretty well. Grimlock clearly stands out. The only problem here was the incorporation of the Dinobots. They’re basically forced into helping Optimus, and only get one heroic scene.
Still, the variety is fun, with a Triceratops and even a Spinosaurus imitation. They each have a unique manner of attack, and Strafe even gets to help Bumblebee finally overcome Stinger. Strafe’s flight sequence is surprisingly easy to follow, since the camera doesn’t cut half as much as usual. Also, Bumblebee and Stinger have clearly contrasting colors for the fight.
6 Dark Of The Moon: NEST Wingsuit Drop
This was shorter than many of the action sequences in the franchise. But it’s undeniably impactful, because people are actually up there, flying unprecedented stunts. The absolute best in the field were called in to portray the wingsuit scene.
Their skill is made very clear, and they were actually only familiar with performing these maneuvers in nature. The wingsuits are very unique and impressive as is. But practical efforts are always more engaging, and have a very distinct feel. Watching men plummet and glide through the air, you can really feel the speed.
5 Dark Of The Moon: Coiling Driller
It’s somewhat disappointing that the character is given a name that’s so on the nose. Driller is only Shockwave’s pet, but it’s definitely the most appealing design for a Decepticon in the series (and they get all of the most interesting designs).
Bay actually does a decent job of capturing the fluid movement of the giant worm-like threat. The way it snakes up the building, and crunches it in half, makes for a genuinely intriguing scene. The trapped humans have to outrageously leap out the windows of the tilting skyscraper, and slide down the side. Also, Optimus using his jetpack to fly straight down and lop off its head is a worthy death.
4 Bumblebee: Cybertron War
This opening to Bumblebee was the first indication that audiences would be treated to something very different. Even the sound effects are simple fan service that should have been around since the inception of the movie franchise. Also, the new visual language of transforming is equally familiar and rewarding.
Through dialogue, the context of the battle is made explicitly clear for newcomers. Crucially, it also ties Earth’s fate to the Autobots, when Optimus gives Bumblebee his orders. The camerawork is consistently steady and self-assured throughout. This makes it easier to visually understand the goals of this initial battle. Optimus and Bumblebee both get some fun hero moments too.
3 Transformers: Scorponok Battle
After the original trilogy, the Decepticons became frustratingly simple to defeat. The Scorponok scene from the original Transformers still holds up because it was so notoriously difficult to kill. It’s a purely human versus Decepticon fight. The soldiers have no Autobot to save the day, and the Scorponok actually kills people. However, it’s a small enough Decepticon that it also feels like the humans have a fighting chance.
Visually, the vast and open desert makes for a perfect visual contrast, just like Optimus’ death in the sequel. The Scorponok has an innately attractive design, using the unique scorpion body. The way that it digs underground is also very neat, and is distinctly well-suited to Bay’s consistently chaotic editing. For this scene, it feels appropriate, capturing the panic of an ambush with sand splashing everywhere. Lastly, the music is absolutely firing on all cylinders.
2 Bumblebee: Blitzwing Duel
Bumblebee was undoubtedly a revelation, adding stronger human elements by borrowing from E.T. and employing more coherent camerawork. Establishing a new director was a really smart move, since Bay himself was probably tired of the franchis and audiences had tired of the redundant style as well. So, this was a very refreshing change of pace. There are fewer characters to keep track of, making it easier to invest, and to visually comprehend. That’s the most significant update, and it was much needed.
Bumblebee got this spinoff because he’s the most beloved character of the entire franchise. So, the way he loses his voice in this scene is both tragic and absolutely fitting. The combat itself is distinctly new throughout the film. It feels more hard-hitting, and involves more hand-to-hand techniques. Best of all, the characters always have clear and understandable motivations for their actions.
1 Bumblebee: The Finale
In the original Transformers, there’s absolutely no reason Sam should be the one running around with the AllSpark. In fact, the human characters generally have no place in any of these battles. Our protagonists usually spend most of the time cowering in fear. But in this installment, they found a way to more organically incorporate the hero, Charlie. And they really gave us time to care about her, developing the bond with Bumblebee and dealing with grief.
The finale of Bumblebee ties up all the loose ends, with action that’s easy to follow. The Transformers don’t feel like clunky, moving junkyards. They have fluid movements, intriguing for fight sequences. Previous fights have often felt like a kid bashing two action figures together. The transforming is smoothly incorporated into the fight, used for quick evasion. Dropkick’s multiple-transformation technique is stunning. Shatter’s emotional response to his death makes sense. Once again, Bumblebee lays his life on the line to save the day.