If there’s one thing the Transformers franchise excels in (other than, you know, giant robots punching one another and turning into vehicles) it’s really drilling into that nostalgia vein. There’s a wealth of totally radical 80s potential to be found in the world of Autobots and Decepticons, and Bumblebee was not afraid to just go for it wholeheartedly, resulting in one of the most Easter Egg packed installments of the live action lineup. From nods to the robots of Transformers cartoons past to wink-nudge references to classic movies, Bumblebee never missed an opportunity–which might have been a bad thing if it hadn’t managed to be so charming along the way.
In our Bumblebee review, we called out the movie’s ability to ride the referential line with surprising grace. "Bumblebee hits a perfect tone with a great mix of action, humor, and heart. The soundtrack strikes all the right chords, the action is mostly clear and easy to follow even when two massive robots are rapidly grappling and transforming into various forms, and the characters are instantly relatable, without screenwriter Christina Hodson relying too much on cliches. The homages to Spielberg, Hughes, and other ’80s filmmakers may not be subtle, but they are a lot of fun, and Bumblebee pays tribute in smart ways that don’t feel out of place or forced. "
Unsurprisingly, there are some spoilers coming up, so proceed with caution as we recount every reference (both 80s and otherwise) we were able to find.
While Megatron is conspicuously absent from the movie, other prominent members of the Decepticon leadership are front and center. The cycloptic Shockwave, a purple robot who, much like his boss, typically transforms into a gun, is seen giving orders on Cybertron during the opening moments. If you pay close enough attention, you’ll even hear his iconic, highly accented voice deliver a few lines.
2.) Soundwave & Ravage
Arguably one of the most famous and recognizable Decepticons of all time, master spy Soundwave gets a prominent shoutout during the opening scene as he sends out his cassette tape minion–Ravage, a robotic cat–for the attack. "Ravage, eject," he says.
Instantly recognizable for her bright pink and white paint job, Arcee, one of the first female Transformers, can be seen fighting with the Autobots on Cybertron.
Endearing Autobot scientist Wheeljack shouts some orders to his teammates in the Cybertron scene–you can pick him out by his distinctive mouth plating and weirdly prominent "ear" crests.
Autobot medic and one of the original Bay universe Transformers, Rachet, can be spotted on Cybertron represented with his classic red and white colors and design.
One of the last big cameos during the battle for Cybertron is Ironhide, another of the original team from the Bay universe, who, like Ratchet, can be scene here sporting his original design and colors.
Shatter and Dropkick track down an autobot soldier named Cliffjumper as they search the solar system for information on Optimus. Not only is Cliffjumper a classic Transformer represented in his original design, he’s also notable as being close to identical to Bumblebee in the 80s cartoon and comic universe. Though the two of them were not officially related, they’re commonly mistaken for one another.
The Decepticon forces on Cybertron are made up primarily of flying robots who transform into fighter jets, a quick shorthand for the Decepticon special forces team known as the Seekers, who were frequently lead by Starscream. They’re never formally named, but other members like Skywarp, Thundercracker, and Acid Storm can be spotted among the crowds.
9.) The Touch
While Bee tries to encourage Charlie to impress all her high school friends, he plays 80s power ballad "The Touch" over his radio–a nice little nod to the theme song of the 1986 Transformers animated movie.
10.) Breakfast Club
It wouldn’t be a movie set in the ’80s without plenty of gratuitous ’80s references. The main thing Bumblebee keeps going back to is the John Hughes 1985 classic The Breakfast Club, an essential teen movie from the decade that’s still worth watching today.
11.) Triple Changers
Dropkick and Shatter are able to have two different alt modes simultaneously, making them the first real triple changers we’ve seen in the live action universe. However, triple changers have been a pretty major part of the Transformers mythology for a while, dating all the way back to the 80s.
12.) Sector 7
John Cena’s character, Agent Burns, works for Sector 7, an arm of the US military specifically created to monitor and control otherworldly threats. It was first established back in the first Michael Bay movie.
13.) The Camaro
At the end of the movie, Bee changes his alt mode from his vintage VW bug to a sleek yellow Camaro, a nod to his alt mode through the other live action movies.
14.) Rick Roll
Naturally for a movie about Bumblebee, who uses songs on the radio to communicate, music plays a big part in the film. The funniest musical moment probably comes when Charlie gives Bumblebee the Rick Astley cassette with the song "Never Gonna Give You Up" on it–AKA the internet’s beloved/despised "Rick Roll" meme–and he promptly spits it out.
Here’s another fun ’80s reference: The Watson family enjoys the show Alf, which is about an Alien Life Form who crash lands in a suburban garage. Get it? (Yes, we get it.)
Just in case you forgot, this movie is set in the ’80s. Was Pong still popular in the ’80s? Didn’t they have the NES and Mario already by then?
17.) "Take us to your leader"
It’s pretty clear that Shatter and Dropkick are in on the joke when they repeat this commonly used science fiction phrase.
18.) Help me, Bumblebee. You’re my only hope
The way Optimus Prime’s message to Bumblebee gets unveiled as a hologram emitted from the robot’s chest may be a nod to Princess Leia’s message to Obi-Wan Kenobi in A New Hope. Or maybe not–you decide!
19.) Inventing the internet
Based on the scene where they take over the world’s satellites and communications networks, it seems in Transformers lore, Shatter and Dropkick actually did do something positive for humanity: Although it wasn’t their intent, they just invented the internet.
20.) Pop Tarts
Members of the Watson family eat Pop Tarts, which were a popular breakfast choice in the 1980s, before scientists learned that eating nothing but processed sugar for an entire meal is actually a bad idea and let everyone know as much.
21.) Hot Dog on a Stick
Charlie works at a Hot Dog on a Stick, a fast food restaurant popular at malls in the 1980s. They made corn dogs, which is why the name "Hot Dog on a Stick" is funny. They would also deep fry pure breaded cheese on a stick, which was delicious.
22.) ’80s Movies
What kind of movie is set in the ’80s but doesn’t have overt references to ’80s movies? Luckily Bumblebee includes posters for The Thing and Raiders of the Lost Ark in Memo’s bedroom.