From the original Japanese toys to the classic ‘80s cartoon to numerous television rebirths to countless comic books to a never-ending live action film series, Transformers is a franchise that has lived on for longer than anyone would imagine.
Throughout those innumerable versions, the world of the Autobots, Decepticons, Maximals, and Predacons has grown into a vast universe.
At its core are literally hundreds and hundreds of characters. Some good, some evil, some downright bad, the Transformers franchise is built upon instantly recognizable robots waging war across the eons. Not only that, but so many characters have been re-envisioned over and over again, giving them new histories, transformations, and even personalities.
Whether you are a newbie to the world of the Transformers or a lifelong diehard fan, everyone has their favorite characters. So in honor (or horror) of the latest entry into the Transformers franchise, Age of Extinction, hitting theaters, I present the 10 greatest Transformers of all time.
Read on for nostalgia, music galore, and the best giant robots in this quintessential ‘80s franchise!
This Decepticon commander is cold and cruel, the ultimate in unfeeling logic. Whether ruling Cybertron in the original animated series or hunting down Autobots in the films, Shockwave is deadly and constantly calculating. His humungous arm cannon and evil glowing red eye make this purple behemoth instantly recognizable. This Decepticon heavy is often seen as a scientist, except that all his thinking is turned toward destroying his enemies. No Autobot wants to run into Shockwave, and every Decepticon but Megatron is afraid to get on his bad side.
Probably the Transformer with the best storyarc in any TV show or film ever, Dinobot easily ranks among the best. This honorable Predacon was originally a fierce enemy of the Maximals, but left the evil band of Transformers when he could not stand their methods. Joining the Maximals, he not only proved to be a valuable ally, but a noble warrior. His rocky relationship with the heroes, especially Rattrap, gave him a much more interesting dynamic than many of the protagonists. In the end, his noble sacrifice to save early humans sealed his heroic journey with a devastating ending. But even after death, his spirit lived on in the form of a clone, eventually turning this unfeeling new version into a hero, with another heartbreaking sacrifice to save the world.
While he’s technically six Decepticons in one, you can’t think about the Constructicons without focusing on the giant beast they turn into. The first ever combining Transformers are still the best. While each of the Constructicons are deadly on their own, they form into a far greater threat when they piece together Devastator. Since they have six unique minds, forming into one means they must think as simply as possible. While their lack of thinking is their weak point, this behemoth is far too powerful for any one Transformer to take on alone. Even the terrible story of Revenge of the Fallen and some horrible additions can’t keep the live action Devastator from being incredibly impressive!
7. Optimus Primal
Not just an updated take on Optimus Prime, Beast Wars’ Optimus Primal is a great character all on his own. Primal has all the motivations and nobility of the original heroic leader, combined with new challenges and some awesome beastly additions. Like any great leader, he’s intelligent, lethal in battle, and self-sacrificing. Whether it it his original furry version, Transmetal upgrade, or Optimal Optimus ultimate version, Optimus Primal is a fantastic addition to the Transformers universe. Additionally, just like Optimus Prime, Primal has a pension for death and rebirth, only becoming cooler each time he returns.
Friend to Autobots and humans alike, Bumblebee is the best transforming friend anyone could ask for. In any version, Bumblebee is extremely likeable, while still being a fierce warrior. Despite ranking among the smaller Transformers, Bumblebee is tough and always ready for a fight. His bright yellow color scheme and on screen friendships make him an irreplaceable addition to the mythos. Even without a voice in the live action films, he’s one of the most likeable and memorable Transformers in all of the series.
Whether he’s an old school boombox, a satellite, or a sleek sports car, Soundwave is an unforgettable addition to the world of Transformers. Credit can’t go to boombox Decepticon Soundwave without mentioning the cassette tape fighters he deploys – jaguar Ravage, mechanical bird Laserbeak, and many more. Yes, it’s very dated, but it is still oh so awesome. Add in an instantly recognizable robotic buzzing voice and Soundwave is among the classics.
This sniveling, screeching, backstabbing Decepticon beats out the competition for so many reasons. His constant undermining of leader Megatron makes him a threat to all sides and his ultimate ambition is to be the ruler of the Decepticons. But while his cowardice makes him just as likely to retreat as he is to fight, he’s still deadly in combat. He’s also known for dying poorly! Whether it’s being disintegrated by the reformed Galvatron in Tranformer: The Movie or blinded and blown up by Sam Witwicky in Transformers: Dark of the Moon, Starscream always dies a humiliating death. Your pick.
No matter what version of the Transformers story is at hand, Megatron is always the greatest villain and the biggest threat to Transformers and humankind. He may be a coward and is sometimes bumbling, but he should never be underestimated. Whatever his goals may be, he constantly strives for world domination and the ultimate destruction of Optimus Prime. While his original transformation into a handgun may be questionable in its usefulness, his tank, jet, and truck versions are awesome additions to the pure evil Decepticons leader. Even in death he can’t be beaten. Reborn as Galvatron, Megatron continues to be a terrible threat to the Autobots and the entire universe.
My favorite Transformer as a kid is still one of my favorite robots of all time! While he may whine and complain, Rattrap is one of the smartest and toughest Transformers ever. Handy with a whip and gun, he’s also an elite mechanic who uses his brain just as much as his blaster to beat the Predacons. Throw in a sneaky rat transformation and a upgraded Hot Rod Transmetal addition, and Rattrap is deadly on all fronts. Don’t let his size fool you, he’s taken out whole platoons and giant spaceships when no one else could.
1. Optimus Prime
Could it have been anyone else? Optimus Prime is the main man! From original ’80s cartoon to the live action films to countless other iterations, Prime is the ultimate leader. He’s fearless and deadly while still being a great role model to children of all ages! Throw in voice actor Peter Cullan’s noble dulcet tones and Prime is the Transformers universe’s most irreplaceable character. What else could you want from an Autobot leader? Sure, he has a predilection for dying, but even his child-scarring death in Transformers: The Movie makes Optimus Prime an even better character!
Honorable Mentions: Grimlock, Ultra Magnus, Rodimus Prime, Omega Supreme, Jetfire, Ironhide, Tripticon, Waspinator, Inferno, Scorponok
Have any personal favorites that didn’t make the list or that you think should be higher? Tell me your thoughts in the comments below!