How can a character die more than once, let alone ten times? Well, that’s just what’s special about Optimus Prime. The fact is, some of these deaths occur to Optimus Primes from different continuities. For example, the cartoon series, comic book and live-action movies are all different continuities but Optimus Prime has died in all of them. Theoretically, I guess it’s dramatic if the leader of the good guys actually bites it. But that’s definitely not as powerful when he comes back, which he does, sometimes within minutes of having died. Let’s take a look at his top 10 deaths, though, and debate about the story implications some other day.
10. Destroyed by the Decepticon forces in Transformers: Prime episode “Darkest Hour”
He wasn’t killed by Megatron’s hand and he didn’t die nice and quick so this ends up at the bottom of the list. Basically, the Decepticons had technology, on the Transformer home planet of Cybertron, that would terraform Earth into a second Cybertron, killing all native life. Optimus Prime and his Autobots took on the Decepticons to stop it. While the Autobots escaped via a “Ground Bridge” that allowed them to teleport to Earth, Optimus remained to the end and all the Decepticons shot him up good and blew up his whole base. He finally died two episodes later. Of course, Smokescreen then immediately used something called the Forge of Solus Prime to bring him right back to life in an upgraded body. That’s usually what happens. He dies and gets upgraded almost right away.
9. Killed by Starscream in Transformers: Animated
In the 3-part episodes that introduce this show, the Autobots find the All Spark, which can bring about life and is what the Decepticons and Autobots fight over. Eventually they get to Earth and Starscream gets it but Optimus Prime grabs a hold of it and it blows them both up. Starscream is fine but Optimus Prime dies. Wimp. Fortunately, some kid named Sari has something called the AllSpark Key which heals Optimus up and brings him back to life. The key is her work security card that touched the AllSpark. You figure out the metaphysics.
8. Killed by Megatron in Transformers: Armada
Megatron gets something called the Hydra Cannon and shoots it at Earth. To protect the planet, Optimus Prime steps in front of the blast. He is DESTROYED. I mean he literally crumbles to dust. He was revived by Minicons just three episodes later with the Matrix.
7. Sacrifices himself to stop Unicron in Transformers: Prime episode “Predacons Rising”
This one is lower on the list because it’s just so damn confusing. Basically, there’s this thing called the Well of All of All Sparks which is where all Transformer life originally came from, from some god called Primus. Unicron is a dark god and he comes back to our world and is looking for it or something. Somehow Optimus Prime figures out that if he returns the All Spark to the Well, it stops Unicron. But to contain it, he puts the All Spark into his Matrix of leadership. He tells his Autobots that from now on, leaders will be chosen on their merits, not just because they’re from the Prime lineage and he flies the All Spark into the Well. It ends with him dead. He doesn’t get revived. Not too shabby.
6. Dies when his kiss energy is removed in Transformers: Kiss Players radio episode “You, I and the Spinning Earth”
This ends up higher than some of the rest because of how bonkers it is. After Optimus Prime dies fighting Megatron in the Transformers movie, a bunch of stuff happens. The important part for this is that some girls on Earth get the ability to power up Transformers by kissing them. Marissa Fairborn kisses the corpse of Optimus Prime (he saved her when she was a kid) and it brings him back to life! They go on some adventures but ultimately the special energy in the girls is reabsorbed by Galvatron (it was his cells that gave them their power) and so Optimus Prime goes back to being dead. Hope you enjoyed kissing Marissa while it lasted, Prime!
5. Sacrifices himself to stop a Quintesson trap in Transformers episode “Dark Awakening”
Late in season 3 (the final full season of the original U.S. cartoon series) the evil Quintesson aliens revived Optimus Prime but he was just a zombie with some memories of his past. He was supposed to lead the Autobots into a Quintesson trap in space where they’d shoot the Autobots to pieces. In the end, Optimus remembers just enough of who he is to get the Autobots to flee. He pilots his ship into the trap to cover them and to blow up the Quintessons in a suicide run. Points to this weird episode full of bad animation for basically giving us zombie Optimus Prime.
4. Sacrifices himself to restart Cybertron in Transformers: Headmasters
The original cartoon actually kept going for another three full seasons in Japan (Headmasters, Super-God Masterforce, and Victory – we recap all the episodes on the site each week, so click on the previous links and get started reading them). In the first few episodes, Optimus Prime is back (he got revived right after Dark Awakening, for real this time). Unfortunately, Cybertron is about to explode because Vector Sigma, the computer that controls is, is destabilizing. With everyone in danger, Optimus Prime leaps into Vector Sigma and merges his life force with it to stop the danger. He dies, having saved everyone. However, the Decepticons blow up Cybertron a few episodes later. Sad trombone.
3. Killed by Megatron in Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen
Good luck figuring out who’s touching what in this fight. It looks like a bunch of silverware was dumped into a blender when they fight. The important thing is that Megatron drives a sword through Optimus Prime and flat out beats him. Optimus dies. Later in the movie, Shia LaBeouf’s character, Sam dies and he visits Transformers heaven. Not people heaven, Transformers heaven. He’s told how he can just touch Optimus Prime with a fragment of the All Spark and bring him back to life. Sam wakes up from being dead and does so. It’s pretty weird since touching the All Spark is what killed Megatron in the first movie.
2. Blows himself up for losing a video game in Transformers issue #24 (Marvel comics)
In this issue of the comic, Optimus Prime agrees to battle Megatron within the world of a computer game. The stakes are that whoever loses will kill themselves. This will keep the casualties on both side to a minimum. Optims Prime actually wins the game but he does so by making a bridge full of game characters fall apart and dumps them and Megatron to their end. The Autobots are all really happy but Optimus Prime says he didn’t really win because he allowed innocents to die. Ignoring that the game characters aren’t real and that the world would be a worse place without him, Optimus Prime blows himself up! However, the human who invented this video game kept Optimus Prime’s mind saved on a single floppy disk so a few years later, he tells the Autobots and they bring him back to life. This ends up high on the list because Optimus Prime killed Optimus Prime.
1. Killed by Megatron in Transformers: The Movie (1986)
This has to be number one. It was the first time Optimus Prime was killed off and at the time it was meant to be permanent. Optimus fights an epic battle against Megatron and while he leaves Megatron in terrible shape, Megatron actually wins. To be fair, Megatron took a hostage in the fight. But still, Optimus dies from his wounds. This introduced a lot of elements that you see in the other deaths – turning grey, explaining what the Matrix is. As a kid in the theater back in 1986, I was stunned and even teared up a little. Ultimately, fans hated this because Optimus was everyone’s favorite character, so they brought him back a year later.