Unlike most fictional robots, who get a seriously bad rep as emotionless murder-bots, the Transformers have always had very human personalities. It’s their relatability that has held people's imaginations since the 1980s. Fans have genuinely cared about them and their stories over the last three decades.
And while professional pyromaniac and world-destroyer Michael Bay has brought the Autobots and the Decepticons to the big screen, most long-time fans still have their hearts closely aligned with the so-called Generation 1 Transformers.
Of these, there are still hundreds of heroic Autobots and evil Decepticons to choose from. Some have cool combining powers where they form uber-powerful super-bots, others have aliens called “Nebulons” who transform into their heads, weapons, or engines, giving them serious upgrades.
But when it comes to the BEST Autobots, it’s hard to choose a sample. However, looking at their power levels, status among fans, overall coolness, and various other factors, here are the 15 Best Autobots Ranked Least to Most Powerful
Often considered to be the “little brother” of the original ’84 line up, Bumblebee was the weakest of the team Optimus Prime left Cybertron with. However, from the outset, he was seen as a skilled spy due to his small size. He also bonded with humanity (Spike in the cartoons, Buster in the comics) very quickly. He learned all he could from Earth, partly due to his mission and partly due to simply feeling at home here.
Bumblebee did get a few major upgrades over the years. Firstly, after his body was destroyed (by Death’s Head in Marvel U.K, by the GI Joe Team in Marvel U.S., during the hate plague in the animated series) he was rebuilt as the throttlebot, Goldbug. As Goldbug he had a greater authority amongst the Autobots and became more respected as a warrior.
His second major upgrade, in the G1 comics, was as a Pretender. Brought back to life once more by his friend, Ratchet, he was given a techno-organic outer shell which made him far more powerful.
When your alternate-mode is an ambulance, it’s a given that you’re going to be the medic of the group. But Doctor Rachet is more than that, he’s everybody’s friend and colleague. In his early iterations, he’s seen as dependable if a little obsessive over keeping the Autobots combat ready. Later versions, especially from Transformers: Animated, and the Michael Bay film series, saw his character altered to resemble that of Kup, a veteran soldier, cranky, and always ready for battle.
One of Ratchet’s most extreme stories came from the pages of Marvel Comics where writer Simon Furman had Rachet held hostage by Megatron and forced to rebuild Starscream into a potent weapon of revenge. Rachet managed to sabotage Megatron’s plans, but in the ensuing chaos managed to throw himself and Megatron into a teleporter while the building they were in exploded. Ratchets’ sacrifice came at a cost greater than that of his own life: he emerged from the transporter merged with his enemy. The grotesque Magatron/Rachet tore through The Ark until it begged Optimus Prime to kill it. Although the two were separated by Fixit, they shared a mental bond for the remainder of their lives.
Jazz is something of a mainstay among the Autobots, having been in the majority of the animated and comic book series as well as the first movie, where he met a savage end at the hands of Megatron.
His Generation 1 form was that of a Porsche, and in each version, he generally resembles a fast car of some sort. Despite his easy-going nature, love of human culture (especially music) he is always a high-ranking officer and one of Optimus Prime’s closest allies. In the 1986 classic Transformers: The Movie, Jazz is relegated to a secondary character as he is seemingly consumed by Unicron early on. He is, however, alive and well, albeit facing execution by smelting pool before being saved by Daniel Witwicky.
Always cool, Jazz is also a fierce warrior. In his G1 iteration he was equipped with a Pretender Shell alongside other classic Autobots Bumblebee and Grimlock. In this form, he became one of the most powerful Autobots of his era and trusted with the most important missions.
On the face of it, Blaster is kinda lame. His alternate mode is a 1980s-style tape deck, or “Ghetto Blaster.” Which, compared to a tank, plane, or enormous T-Rex is perhaps not all that impressive. However, while he could be called a poor man’s Soundwave, he was responsible for some seriously impressive feats. Not only was he able to use his alternate mode to spy on humans and Decepticons alike (albeit with help) he could use his sonic powers for a wide range of effects, including going toe-to-toe with Galvatron in the Marvel UK series.
Seen as a potential leader, Blaster commanded a squad on Cybertron alongside Perceptor, Seaspray, Cosmic and several others before being displaced on Earth and joining the ranks of the Autobots there. During the G1 comic series, Blaster became dissatisfied with Grimlock’s command style (Grimlock having taken over after Prime’s “death”) and went on a road trip with Goldbug. Although seen as a traitor, Blaster was responsible for the unification of the Earth-based Autobots and Fortress Maximus’ Autobots into one vast army.
Despite a lame alternate mode, Blaster was a skilled and agile warrior in robot mode and was well-respected by his fellow Autobots.
Initially, the Transformers were genderless, what with them being machines and all, but generally used pronouns such as “He” and “Him” to refer to each other, suggesting they all presented as male. That all changed two years after the Transformers first appeared, with the debut of the first female Autobot, Arcee.
Naturally, Arcee was pink and filled the role of token female warrior seen in other kids animated series of the day (Cheetara in Thundercats, Teela in He-Man). However, she grew to be far more than that thanks to Susan Blu’s voice acting in Transformers: The Movie which made her more of a Princess Leia-type character who took no nonsense from her male compatriots and fought just as hard as they did. During the final assault on the planet-eater Unicron, Arcee fought inside the giant and helped with the Autobot’s victory.
In later iterations, Arcee has often lost the pink color scheme and is often a blue motorcycle or similar. What is always constant is that she is a fierce and dedicated soldier.
There are a few versions of Kup, but many later ones have seen his character merged with Rachet, making his Generation 1 version the definitive.
Older than most, Kup is a veteran of the eons-long war between the Autobots and Decepticons and has fought on Cybertron, Earth, and across the cosmos. His seen-it-all-before attitude often bugs the younger Hot Rod, but over time Hot Rod comes to respect that Kup’s experience often presents an alternative to fighting, especially when the odds are stacked against them.
Despite his age and having a fairly dull alternate mode, the name Kup deriving from “Pickup Truck”, Kup is a staggeringly effective soldier. During Transformers: The Movie he is seen being dropped into a gigantic arena filled with hundreds of sharkticons and comes up with the daring plan to give them a “Demolition Derby” where he and Hot Rod transform into vehicle mode and smash through as many as possible. He keeps up with the younger and faster Autobot and manages to tear several Sharkticons apart before the timely intervention of the Dinobots.
One of the first triple-changers, and a character designed for Transformers: The Movie, Springer is one of the Autobots' most versatile warriors. Named Springer for his ability to leap vast distances in robot mode, Springer is a skilled swordsman and engages in close quarters combat as well as using his sharpshooting skills. His ground mode resembles a futuristic vehicle, but it’s rarely used as he also transforms into a near-supersonic helicopter capable of engaging the Decepticons in the air as well as providing covering fire for his colleagues on the ground.
In the pages of the comic books, especially the Simon Furman-penned Transformers UK series, Springer is not just a warrior but a leader. After the death of Impactor, Springer takes command of the elite warriors known as The Wreckers and acts as a second in command to the commander of the Cybertronian resistance, Emirate Xarron. Springer is near-obsessed with his role as he fears he cannot ever be the fearless leader and icon Impactor was. He focusses all his energy on destroying the time-displaced Galvatron, and goes so far as to forge alliances with the Mayhem Attack Squad, led by Carnivac, his opposite-number among the Decepticons, to end the threat from the future.
Like Kup, Ironhide is one of the older Transformers. He is more of a colleague and friend to Optimus Prime than a mere subordinate. Although his role is officially Prime's bodyguard, he is often seen in battle separate from Prime and functions as a senior officer. Despite his age, he is sometimes impetuous and runs into battle against orders as he is keen to see an end to the conflict which has consumed his people.
As with many of the Autobots who first came to Earth in the 1980s Ironhide became enamoured by human customs and forged strong alliances with the humans he met. During the original animated series, Ironhide fought in the majority of major battles on Earth but by the events of Transformers: The Movie he had been stationed on Cybertron’s moon where he had become agitated with the inaction there, with the Autobots prepping for a major invasion that was taking too long. He was assigned to a shuttle to head back to Earth, which he felt would expedite the end of the war. However, his joy was short-lived as Megatron intercepted the shuttle killing the crew. Ironhide took major damage and was one of the last to fall. Still clinging to life, he tried to take hold of Megatron’s leg before being casually executed by the tyrannical Decepticon.
“Me Grimlock! Me King!” a fan-favourite, Grimlock has appeared across most versions of Transformers due to the enduring popularity of his original incarnation as the dim-witted, but very powerful, commander of the Dinobots. His alternate mode as a Tyrannosaurus Rex made him anything but stealthy, but a fearsome opponent for any Decepticon unlucky enough to cross him.
In the animated series, Grimlock and the Dinobots are often comic relief due to their lack of intellect and enormous size. Because they cannot blend in, they are often confined to The Ark which causes them to become bored and often cause as much hassle as the Decepticons. They even quit the Autobots at one time, but came back to battle the Decepticons.
In the comic books, Grimlock is equally powerful as Optimus Prime and often sees himself as a potential leader of the Autobots. During his first tenure as Autobot commander (After Prime’s first-of-many deaths) Grimlock was a terrible leader, giving poor orders and taking to wearing a crown. After a period of deactivation, Grimlock became more mature and although still insubordinate, not outright mutinous. After Prime’s second “death” he took command once more, and although taking the role more seriously, fared little better due to falling for the trap set for him by Bludgeon.
As with many on this list, there are multiple versions of Jetfire. The animated G1 version was a scientist and friend to Starscream before the great war. Tricked into joining the Decepticons, he later realized what he had done and joined the Autobots. In the G1 comics, Jetfire was built by Shockwave to be the ultimate Decepticon airborne warrior, but Shockwave was unable to bring him to life, having used all the available Matrix Energy he had siphoned off Optimus Prime. Later, his lifeless form is liberated by the Autobots were it is purged of Decepticon programming and he becomes the first of the Autobots to be “born” on Earth. He remains a loyal Autobot from this point on.
In the live-action movie series, he is also seen as a Decepticon, albeit an ancient one sent to Earth long before any other. He turns from the Decepticons, and offers his parts to Optimus Prime, giving Prime the power of flight and the strength necessary to battle Megatron and The Fallen.
5 Sky Lynx
Sky Lynx is a jerk. But when that Jerk is a gigantic Autobot powerhouse who can transform from a dinosaur to an intergalactic space shuttle, to a bird, and a lynx, with the power to turn the tide in heavy combat, the other Autobots turn a blind eye to his nature as a braggart.
While he may have the nickname “Commander Modesty” due to constantly talking about his accomplishments and vastly superior capabilities, Sky Lynx doesn’t mean to be patronizing. He respects his fellow Autobots and will lay down his life for them… he just thinks he’s vastly intellectually superior to them.
Due to his sheer power, Sky Lynx is often the one called in to save the day, especially when the Autobots are pinned-down by enemy fire. His ability to break through the enemy ranks and exfiltrate the Autobots makes him valued, even when listening to his constant boasting gets tiresome.
4 Optimus Prime
The most iconic Transformer of all time, Optimus Prime is the definitive Autobot and the one the others aspire to be. Fearless, intelligent, and inspirational, Optimus Prime is the supreme commander of the Autobots in most iterations. His iconic red and blue color scheme as well as the ability to turn into a truck is rarely altered across the various comic-books, movies, and animated shows.
Although referred to as the most powerful Autobot initially, his firepower was superseded by the larger combiner Autobots and city-sized Autobots such as Metroplex and Fortress Maximus. However, leadership isn’t defined by raw power and Optimus Prime is easily the Autobot’s greatest leader due to his courage and ability to inspire his troops even when all seems lost.
It’s become something of a cliché that Optimus Prime “dies” in pretty much every version of the Transformers. But, it’s often these sacrifices that show his true courage. The fact that he will continue to fight the good fight, even when he cannot survive, is one of the many reasons others will follow him wherever he will lead.
3 Ultra Magnus
Chosen by Optimus Prime to lead the Autobots after his Death in Transformers: The Movie, Ultra Magnus is like a beefed-up Prime. Similar to Prime in that he is a truck, he is also a transporter who combines with his trailer section into a larger, more armoured, robot form.
A reluctant leader, Ultra Magnus does his best to fill Prime’s role and leads the Autobots into space to battle the threat of Unicron. Intercepted and destroyed by Galvatron’s forces, Ultra Magnus is quickly rebuilt by the Junkions. Although technically in charge, it’s the now-seasoned Hot Rod who declares that the Autobots will travel to Unicron and battle Galvatron there. Later episodes see Ultra Magnus once more content to simply command Autobot City, seemingly happy not to have overall leadership.
Later iterations see Magnus as the overall commander, above Optimus Prime, with a distinctly contrasting character. A harsher, more eager for combat, edge makes his role antagonistic at times. However, he is always on the side of right and aligns himself with Optimus Prime more often than not.
2 Rodimus Prime / Hot Rod
Love him or hate him, there’s no denying that Hot Rod has the most significant character arc in Transformers: The Movie. Taking the role formerly held by bumblebee as the carefree, younger Autobot and friend to Daniel Witwicky, Hot Rod is the first to raise the alarm when the Decepticons attack. He fights bravely, and is one of the few survivors of the Battle of Autobot City. Sadly, his intervention in the Megatron/Optimus Prime showdown inadvertently aids Megatron to inflict mortal injuries on Prime. He matures, thanks to learning from Kup, and by the end of the movie fulfils the prophesy that “An Autobot shall rise up from the ranks, and light the darkest hour.”
In an ultimate battle between himself and Galvatron, which mirrors the Optimus/Megatron brawl, Hoot Rod is hopelessly outmatched. Galvatron is about to deliver a crushing blow when Hot Rod tears the Matrix from him and is instantly re-formatted, becoming the far more powerful Rodimus Prime. He quickly gains the upper hand, and after dealing with Galvatron, unleashes the full power of the Autobot Matrix of Leadership, destroying Unicron, and lighting the darkest hour. Finally ending the threat, he assumes command of the Autobots and leads the survivors to safety.
1 Fortress Maximus
Far from the most popular Autobot, nor the most iconic, Fortress Maximus takes the top slot due to sheer size and power. Whereas Metroplex is larger in the comic book continuity, Fortress Maximus is the biggest Autobot in the animated series as well as the most powerful.
In the comic book continuity, Fortress Maximus is the leader of one of the many factions of Autobots left on Cybertron after Prime leaves. After eons of fighting, Fortress Maximus decides to abandon Cybertron aboard the massive ship Steelhaven, and takes many like-minded Autobots with him. They settle on the peaceful planet Nebulos, and attempt to forge an alliance with the human-like inhabitants they find there. Due to the machinations of the politician, Lord Zarek, Fortress Maximus’ enemy Scorponok arrives on Nebulos, leading to the war beginning again, and an arms race which sees the arrival of the Headmasters and Targetmasters.
In the animated series, Fortress Maximus begins life as the regular-sized Autobot, Cerebros. Cerebros is a pacifist, who is forced to bond with Spike Witwicky and the remains of the original Hive city to become Fortress Maximus, and end the threat of the plasma energy chamber. At the end of the conflict, he is given the chance to remain on Nebulos as the plant’s guardian, away from the war.
Have a favourite we haven’t mentioned? Tell us all about them in the comments!