Death has always been a part of the Transformers series – after all, the main story revolves around a civil war, and as such the series has never been afraid to confront the concepts of death and loss. Nobody will ever forget the infamous G1 Movie, which killed off almost every main Autobot cast member in the first act in order to make way for a new line of toys. The Michael Bay Transformers films, however, kill their Autobots for vaguely similar yet distinctly different reasons. Although merchandising is still the core reason for rotating the robot cast members, often the deaths of Autobots in the movie series are used as shock factor to telegraph to the audience that a particular villain or faction means business. As such, some beloved Autobot characters have met some violent and grisly deaths in the Michael Bay films, so in honour of the fallen (no, not The Fallen) let’s count down the Top 5 Autobots that Didn’t Deserve to Die in the Movies.
#5 – Wheeljack
Bumblebee’s apparent longtime friend, Autobot scientist/inventor Wheeljack meets a particularly violent end in Dark of the Moon, his debut film. During the final battle, several Autobots are captured (somehow) and are being held prisoner by several Decepticons including Barricade and Soundwave (for some reason) before a dastardly human turncoat convinces them that the defenceless ‘bots should be executed. Barricade selects Wheeljack as the first victim, and he is unceremoniously blown away by several point-blank shots to the face after begging for mercy. Although this scene is particularly traumatic for children, it only reaches number five on this list as Wheeljack, although a sympathetic character, is not exactly a fan-favourite, which leads to the next on the list:
#4 – Jazz
Definite fan-favourite Jazz, a character so iconic that, in G1, he was one of the few original series cast to survive the Movie massacre alongside Bumblebee – yet for some reason, Michael Bay decided to kill him off in the very first film. During the final battle, as Optimus is distracted by Bonecrusher, Jazz attempts to hold off Megatron until the Autobot leader can arrive – and to his credit, Jazz puts up a valiant fight despite being clearly outmatched. As the shortest Autobot of the original movie’s cast, Jazz is tiny compared to Megatron, and this is emphasised when the Decepticon leader picks him up and rips him in half, apparently devouring his energon before tossing his remains away. Unlike many other Autobots who die in the series, Jazz does receive a eulogy from Optimus, albeit a brief and somewhat half-hearted one. To add insult to injury, Jazz’s corpse is unceremoniously dumped into the ocean alongside the remains of the dead Decepticons at the end of the film.
#3 – Jetfire
Although he is only an Autobot for about ten minutes, Jetfire is a particularly tragic case of an old, worn-out Decepticon who has apparently spent millenia on a futile mission serving an insane master. As a result, he defects to the Autobots, and although he is grumpy and a tad deranged, the rusted Seeker is invaluable to defeating the Fallen. Jetfire not only lets Sam Witwicky know where to go to find the Matrix of Leadership, the device needed to resurrect the recently deceased Optimus, but he also participates in the final battle of Revenge of the Fallen by killing both Mixmaster and Scorponok, although he is critically wounded in the process. After seeing Prime resurrected, Jetfire rips out his own spark in order to donate him the powerful jet boosters included in the SR-71 Blackbird alt-mode, which come in really handy when Optimus then decides to make mincemeat of Megatron and the Fallen. With the help of Ratchet and Jolt, Optimus fuses Jetfire’s warm corpse to his back and then promptly discards the old parts in the desert when the battle is over. After that, Jetfire is never mentioned again…
#2 – Ratchet
Perhaps the most devastating loss of the Transformer Purge that occurs between Dark of the Moon and Age of Extinction, Ratchet is killed by Lockdown in the opening to the fourth film after heroically refusing to give up the location of Optimus Prime. Ratchet’s death is particularly tragic as he is hunted down and attacked by Humans, the creatures he has spent years defending, and they injure him enough that Lockdown is able to swoop in for an easy kill. Unlike the deaths of any other Autobot in the series, Ratchet’s death actually angers Optimus, as when he learns of the brave medic’s demise he and the other surviving Autobots storm KSI, the facility where executed Transformers’ remains are harvested, and destroyed the lab. Although he is eventually avenged, Ratchet’s death remains one of the most heavy-hitting of the fourth film. Of the three ‘backup’ Autobots from the first film, Ratchet survives the longest, and at the time of his death he is the last of the original movie’s Autobot cast other than Optimus Prime and Bumblebee.
Honourable Mention – The Arcee Trio
Included as an honourable mention are the Arcee Sisters, mainly due to their wasted potential. The trio is introduced in Revenge of the Fallen but is hardly ever seen, and one of their few scenes in the movie depicts them under attack from Decepticons in the desert, two of them being critically injured by missiles, right before the entire area gets carpet-bombed by the US Air Force. Although many Decepticons were killed in the strike, it is more than likely that the three Arcee sisters were also killed in this bombing run, as they are not seen again. This is unfortunate, as the Arcee sisters were a rare example of a gestalt Transformer – one mind controlling multiple bodies, a concept that could have been interesting to develop had the films bothered to do anything with it. Not to mention the fact that they are the only examples of female Autobots in the entire five-film series.
#1 – Ironhide
The number one spot has to go to Ironhide, who suffers one of the most violent and senseless deaths of any Autobot in the history of the franchise. Midway through Dark of the Moon, after carving up the Dreads with the help of Sideswipe, Ironhide is tasked with defending Sentinel Prime who, unknown to the other Autobots, actually intends to betray them all to Megatron. After bluntly announcing his intentions, the former Autobot leader rams the point home by shooting Ironhide in the back several times with his rust cannon, before callously discharging him from duty and firing a finishing blow to his spark. The rust cannon, as the name implies, delivers a lethal blast to a Transformer that rusts away their body at an alarmingly fast rate, so as Sentinel escapes leaving the N.E.S.T. base in ruins, Ironhide dies as his body crumbles away into dust. Ironhide’s death is perhaps the most tragic of all the Autobots in the franchise, as he was there from the beginning and so is one of the most well-defined of the Autobot characters, so audiences actually cared about him – and the fact that his death seemed so senseless was what really made it sad. At least Ratchet and Jazz died heroically, fighting to the end. Ironhide was shot in the back by a traitor that he had pledged to protect, and that is why despite his under-developed character, Ironhide’s death stands out as the most tragic of all the Autobots. However, given how brutally Ironhide is killed off in the original G1 film, one could argue that his death in Dark of the Moon is relatively tame.