COUNTDOWN: The 12 best Hot Rod moments from the 1986 movie – RANKED!

If you’re a Transformers fan then there’s a sizeable chance that you’re a big fan of the 1986 animated movie. Whilst I’m sure we can all acknowledge its faults, there’s still little doubt that the film is emblazoned on our collective memory for a good many reasons, with one of the main ones being primary protagonist, Hot Rod. Sure the runtime may be stuffed with awesome moments from a host of animated robots, but really this is Hot Rod’s show, so today we’re counting down our 12 favourite moments he’s on screen!


#12: Underwater battle

For me, this is one of the more memorable scenes of the entire film. As Spectre General’s awesome anthem, Nothin’s Gonna Stand In Our Way wails on full blast, Hot Rod is found underwater and entangled in a bed of robotic tentacles with piranha-like creatures all around him. After calling for help he realises he’s on his own before he uses every trick at his disposal to battle against his aquatic adversaries, eventually making his way to rescue Kup from a gigantic robo-squid. It’s the kind of vivid, nightmarish stuff that stays emblazoned on your brain, especially the way he shoot the squid’s eye out!


#11: Shuttle attack

“What’s that darn fool doing?” Kup has every reason to wonder, as Hot Rod begins firing on an Autobot shuttle without raising any kind of alarm or notifying Autobot City of the impending Decepticon attack, not to mention forgetting that he’s putting Daniel at risk. It’s this classic hot-headed mentality that will cause more problems to come for the young Autobot on his journey to fulfilling his destiny, but we still can’t help but punch the air a little as Hot Rod’s heroic attempt to bring down the bad guys.


#10: The Universal Greeting

It’s not the first time we hear the much-lauded “Universal Greeting” in the film, but despite having initially sniffed at Kup’s attempt to placate their captors on Quintessa earlier on, it’s Hot Rod’s cheery confidence in it working with the Junkions that really sells this moment. In a significant role reversal, he stops the old timer’s battle-hardened approach by telling him that “Guns aren’t exactly friendly”, before extending the hand of friendship and winning over their new allies. It’s a terrific moment that is played for more than just laughs by showing that Hot Rod always had the right stuff, even before he had the matrix in hand.


#9: Taking charge

Following on quickly after #10 is this short but standout moment where the Autobots are at their lowest point, with the matrix in Galvatron’s possession and the impending threat of Unicron approaching Cybertron. Ultra Magnus and Kup have seemingly given up, with the latter even saying that “all hope” has gone. Yet it’s Hot Rod who refuses to accept this and rallies the troops by convincing them they have to try, with the grandest moment surely being his bold claim that they’ve “got to destroy Unicron!” There’s no doubting that the lad’s youthful exuberance is feeding his confidence here despite his journey towards “growing up”, but it’s still the spirit that saves the day.


#8: Nothing but contempt

There are a huge number of eminently quotable lines from the 1986 movie (we even picked out some of our favourites a while back!), but zingers like this one are just so good that they somehow transcend being in a mid-’80s animated caper about toy robots. When the Quintesson judge chides Kup and Hot Rod for talking by saying that they will be held in contempt of court, Hot Rod slings back that he has “nothing *but* contempt for this court!“, and fans everywhere scream at the TV in approval.


#7: Demolition derby

If there’s a scene in this film that’s practically guaranteed to have you punching the air, it’s this one. It’s full of any number of fantastic moments, from Kup wielding a Sharkticon’s own tail against the oncoming army to Hot Rod punching another’s teeth right out of his face. The whole thing is just one superb thrill ride from start to finish, set perfectly to the rockin’ anthem of Hunger by Spectre General (yep, them again). For my money though, it’s Hot Rod’s line, “We can’t hold out forever, Kup, but we can give them one humongous repair bill!” that is the real clincher.


#6: Catching the matrix

The Transformers movie isn’t subtle with the journey it’s trying to take Hot Rod on (about as subtle as it is with the influences it wears for that particular part of the tale), yet there are still some really effective beats in getting there. Among them is this oft-overlooked snippet from Optimus Prime’s death scene, where the Autobot leader drops the matrix of leadership in his final moments whilst passing it to Ultra Magnus. Hot Rod scoops it up and is for a moment bathed in gorgeous blue light, signifying his importance and his immediate connection to the Autobot MacGuffin, and proving that there’s definitely more to this lad than meets the eye.


#5: Galvatron battle

As a resurrected and powered-up form of Megatron, Galvatron is pretty much the ultimate Decepticon bad guy. Which means, y’know – DON’T MESS. That’s not going to wash with our Hot Rod though, who flings himself into battle with the purple oppressor without a thought for his own safety, even laughing off the suggestion that they team up because that’s clearly not something the good guy would do! The fight itself is loaded with great little moments, from Hot Rod’s defiant, “Not today, Galvatron!” to his attempting to blind the Decepticon leader with his headlights. G’wan, son!


#4: “Forgive me”

OK look, I know some of you dislike Hot Rod for jumping in the way of Optimus Prime taking down Megatron, but let’s be fair – he was only trying to help! Anyway, whatever your take on the events prior, the beat that follows is brief but remains one of the more poignant moments in the entire film. As Optimus lays helpless and fatally wounded, Hot Rod runs to his side and simply pleads for forgiveness. It’s this moment of guilt that the young Autobot will carry with him right through his entire tenure as leader himself, and one that solidifies the character into who he will become.


#3: Arise, Rodimus

I mean, it had to be in here, right? Yep, come film’s end Hot Rod has fulfilled his potential and retrieved the matrix of leadership, which now fills him with power and morphs him into his souped-up Rodimus Prime form. It’s maybe an obvious pick but it’s still a blinder of an ending, not least for voice actor, Judd Nelson’s voice-cracking delivery of the line, “Now… light our darkest hour…” Wonderful stuff.


#2: Riding in style

This particular moment is so synonymous with Hot Rod that it could very easily just be number 1 and I’m sure a lot of people wouldn’t quibble it. It’s so… everything. So retro, so 1980s, so Transformers. The transformation featured is mind-bogglingly cool and Hot Rod’s car mode is just about the biggest dollop of wish-fulfilment I think you could imagine in a film like this. Everyone watching may have hated Daniel as a character, but I’ve little doubt they also wanted to *be* Daniel at this point.


#1: Roll out

So here it is, the ultimate Hot Rod moment… and yes, it takes place after he becomes Rodimus Prime! But hey, they are the same guy, so no need to @ me. Anyway, this particular pick was just too good not to earn the top spot, with all of the previous screentime Hot Rod has built up leading to him taking charge as Autobot leader. Seeing him running down the exploding corridor, blue flames bursting behind him is a sight that one does not easily forget, not to mention how perfectly it crescendos into the delivery of the classic line, “Autobots, transform and roll out!” We knew you had potential, lad.


So that’s our list. Did you agree with our choices?


About Sixo

Transformers collector from the UK, collecting vintage G1/G2, CR/RID, UT & Masterpiece/3P. Find me at or on YouTube at


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