Every Version of Optimus Prime, Ranked

Easily, the most iconic character in the Transformers franchise is Optimus Prime, the heroic leader of the Autobots. As one of the property’s breakout protagonists, he frequently transforms and rolls out across various continuities. While these different incarnations usually share various traits, there’s a lot that makes each iteration unique.



These exclusive elements also make for a better — or sometimes worse — take on the hero. Some versions of Optimus Prime are actually fairly deep and developed, whereas others are merely one-note heroes. Thus, while almost all versions of the character have the Autobot Matrix of Leadership, only some iterations of Optimus Prime have got both the touch and the power.

Updated by Timothy Blake Donohoo on January 9, 2024: Optimus Prime is obviously one of the most iconic Autobots, and to many, he’s the face of the Transformers franchise. This has earned him a place in almost every iteration of the property, though some incarnations are better than others. The quality of these Optimus Prime incarnations ranges from how stoic they are to how heroic they are, with different versions of Optimus Prime actually differing drastically. As a result, some of these are best left forgotten, whereas one underrated incarnation is the best Optimus Prime.


10 The Bayverse Optimus Prime Was the Worst Autobot Leader Ever

First Appearance

Released

Transformers

2007

1:48

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Easily the worst of all versions of Optimus Prime was the one seen in the live-action Transformers movies directed by Michael Bay. There, his characterization emphasized being tough but not gentle. Casually killing the Decepticons and having little in the way of a relationship with humanity, he was far from the hero many fans remember.

There was an attempt to give him some depth in the maligned Transformers: The Last Knight by turning him into the evil Nemesis Prime. Given how brutal he previously was, however, this didn’t work at all. Making matters worse were his sometimes questionable designs/aesthetics (flames, for instance), making him unrecognizable in several ways.

9 Kiss Players Optimus Prime Was Disgusting – Like the Rest of the Line

Optimus Prime being kissed in Transformers: Kiss Players.

First Appearance

Released

Transformers: Kiss Players (radio drama)

2006 – 2007

One of the most disgusting versions of the Transformers line was Transformers: Kiss Players. This Japanese-exclusive series combined the toys released in the West as Alternators with scantily clad young girls. Optimus Prime wasn’t safe from this treatment, with his interactions with his human partner also being grossly sexualized.

One of the most notable things about Kiss Players was that Prime (initially called Convoy in Japan) moaned whenever his female human partner cleaned his smokestacks. Thankfully, this continuity is mostly forgotten about, with Transformers: Alternators being the main way in which it’s manifested. At the very least, it did give the Autobot leader a cool Dodge Ram alternate mode, however.

8 Marvel Comics Optimus Prime Died a Ridiculous Death

Optimus Prime's death in the G1 Transformers Marvel comic books.

First Appearance

Released

The Transformers #1

1984 – 1991

Optimus may have been done justice in modern comic books, but that wasn’t the case in classic tales. The Transformers comic books by Marvel were classics in their own right, and they developed characters who were otherwise overlooked. Sadly, Optimus Prime wasn’t one of them, with the Autobot leader being somewhat pathetic in these books.

He notably had one of his worst deaths after losing to Megatron in a video game. Said death was a lot less epic than the one in the animated movie, making the affair even more disappointing. His corresponding absence from the books emphasized other characters, making him ultimately a lot less important.

7 Unicron Trilogy Optimus Prime Was Barely Developed

Optimus Prime and Super Optimus Prime from Transformers: Armada.

First Appearance

Released

Transformers: Armada

2002 – 2003

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The Optimus Prime from the “Unicron Trilogy” of anime debuted in Transformers: Armada. His role and design were heavily updated for the show, and he was constantly getting new bodies and upgrades as the shows went on. Unfortunately, this was the closest he got to real depth.

Optimus was merely “the leader” in the Unicron Trilogy, lacking much in the way of gravitas beyond cool combined modes. The closest he got to real development was when he briefly felt unworthy of the Matrix following Megatron’s death. For the most part, however, he was fairly one-note, and he definitely wasn’t the best Optimus Prime.

6 RID 2001 Optimus Prime Had a Cool Design but Little Else

Robots in Disguise (2001) Optimus Prime in his Super Mode.

First Appearance

Released

Transformers: Robots in Disguise

2000

This version of Optimus Prime was the first new take on the character in years, as he had theretofore been “replaced” by his Beast Wars descendant Optimus Primal. Robots In Disguise gave him the new alternate mode of a fire truck and a “Super Robot” mode. Still, these gimmicks weren’t exactly enough to make him the show’s most interesting character.

As can be the case with Prime, he was something of a one-note hero without any truly unique characteristics. He was frequently outshone by comical characters such as Side Burn and the rhyming Predacon Sky-Byte. His closest bit of depth was his fairly original rivalry with his brother, Ultra Magnus.

5 G1 Optimus Prime Is the Original Autobot Leader

First Appearance

Released

The Transformers

1984 – 1987

Though he might not be the best Optimus Prime, the first version of the iconic Autobot leader is still one of the best. Voiced by Peter Cullen, the Prime from the Generation 1 Transformers cartoon epitomized many of the elements that became synonymous with the hero. These extended far beyond his color scheme and alternate mode and dealt mostly with his characterization.

Optimus Prime was an honorable, animated father figure, with Cullen basing his voice performance on advice from his brother. Portrayed as “strong enough to be gentle,” he was a valiant warrior who, above all, valued freedom for all sentient beings. While clips of him playing basketball with the ‘bots might seem cheesy, they showcased how much of a loving commander he was.

4 Transformers: Prime Had a Complex and Developed Optimus Prime

Transformers Optimus Prime

First Appearance

Released

Transformers: Prime

2010- 2013

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Like a lot of other elements from the series, Optimus was faithfully adapted yet updated in the dark and serious Transformers: Prime. The show made many revelations about his origins, namely his ties to the original Primes. A brave leader who deeply cared for his soldiers, he was also somewhat conflicted over the involvement of humans in their war.

Once again voiced by Cullen, Prime‘s Prime was a slightly less larger-than-life and more fulfilled version of the G1 take. He was never merely a one-note mythical hero or father figure, while also refraining from the more violent take from the live-action movies. This resulted in the perfect balance between a hero and a military leader and one of the best versions of Optimus Prime.

3 IDW Publishing Had the Best Optimus Prime In Print

Optimus Prime from IDW's Transformers comics looks at the viewer

First Appearance

Released

The Transformers: Infiltration #6

2005 – 2018

One of the deepest and most developed takes on Optimus Prime was seen in IDW Publishing’s Transformers comic books. In the company’s original continuity, he changed heavily throughout the eons, starting as the lowly Orion Pax before becoming a heavily conflicted version of Optimus Prime. Flawed and not always making the best decisions, this Prime even went so far as to annex Earth into Cybertron’s protection.

This series showed the true fallout of the war on Cybertron’s people, leading further to Prime being questioned by his own Autobots. Prime even doubts himself, showing that this version wasn’t an all-knowing Cybertronian messiah. Instead, he was a fallible leader who always strove to do the right thing, regardless of the outcome.

2 Rise of the Beasts Gave Optimus Prime Key Character Development

Optimus Prime in a forest in Transformers: Rise of the Beasts

First Appearance

Released

Transformers: Rise of the Beasts

2023

Though previous live-action movies had disappointing takes on Optimus Prime, the one seen in Transformers: Rise of the Beasts was different. Though he still had a bit more edge compared to the older cartoon, this was tempered by actual development. His feud with humanity and his eventually coming to respect them felt earned and not simply a result of his being a hero.

Optimus Prime also had a design that embraced his G1 roots, and it made the movie as a whole feel like an original story for the Autobot leader. In many ways, it was a transition from the Michael Bay movies to a more traditional take on Prime. It also allowed him to face Unicron head-on, something the G1 version never did.

1 Animated Optimus Prime Is the Most Underrated Incarnation

Optimus Prime with his jet pack and face plate activated in Transformers: Animated.

First Appearance

Released

Transformers: Animated

2007 – 2009

1:55

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Transformers: Animated was initially controversial for its art style and new take on the franchise. Chief among these changes was the heavily altered Optimus Prime, who was notably younger. Though it took getting used to, the result was one of the best versions of the hero who truly came into his own by the finale.

A mere repair bot who went on to challenge Megatron himself, this Optimus Prime truly earned his place among the Autobot forces. The show even saw Ultra Magnus (who in this universe was Optimus’ superior) commending him on his protection of Earth. Facing Decepticons and human supervillains, there was much more to this incarnation of Optimus Prime than initially met the eye.

Transformers Rise of the Beasts Poster

Transformers

Transformers is a media franchise produced by American toy company Hasbro and Japanese toy company Takara Tomy. It primarily follows the heroic Autobots and the villainous Decepticons, two alien robot factions at war that can transform into other forms, such as vehicles and animals.

First Film
Transformers

First TV Show
Transformers

Cast
Peter Cullen , Wil Wheaton , Shia LaBeouf , Megan Fox , Luna Lauren Velez , Dominique Fishback

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