The Famous Transformers Line That Was Submitted To The Movie By A Fan

The "Transformers" movies are filled with questionable choices, but bringing Peter Cullen back to voice Optimus Prime is not one of them. Reprising the role for the first time since the 1980s, Cullen became the voice of Prime for Millennials and Zoomers, just as he had been for the Gen Xers who watched the original cartoon as children. 

In the lead-up to the first movie's release, Paramount Pictures held the online contest "Make Prime Speak" (hosted on From October 2-23, 2006, entrants could submit a piece of dialogue (120 characters or less) that they wanted to hear Optimus Prime say in the then-upcoming movie. Per contest rules, Peter Cullen would recite the winning line in his John Wayne-esque baritone.

The line ultimately chosen was "Freedom is the right of all sentient beings." This was Prime's motto, according to his original toy bio, but Cullen never said it before. Garry Chalk, as Optimus Primal, had previously said the line in an episode of "Beast Wars"  — funnily enough, writer Bob Forward had nicked it from online fan forums.

"Transformers" fandom has been active online since the early days of the internet (the newsgroup began in 1993), so it's no surprise they were able to get a beloved quote past the finishing line of this contest. Not that there wasn't some steep competition.

Make Prime Speak

There were far too many submissions to "Make Prime Speak" for me to list them all here, though the Transformers Wiki has an exhaustive catalog. The alternatives ranged from fitting to ridiculous; it's clear that some people were taking the poll seriously and some weren't. 

Highlights included:

"There's a thin line between being a hero and being a memory" — that's a warning that Prime gave to his fellow Autobots in the original series pilot miniseries, "More Than Meets The Eye." Since the line comes from Cullen's early days as Prime, he said it with a lighter, less solemn pitch than he's become known for.

Naturally, some quotes from the 1986 "Transformers" movie were also among the submissions, such as, ​​"Now all we need is a little energon ... and a lot of luck" and "Megatron must be stopped, no matter the cost." 

Not all the quotes were plucked from "Transformers" history — there were some totally fan-invented ones. However, they do feel like something Optimus Prime might say.

"The burden of leadership is its heaviest when you lead those you care about, but they help to bear the burden with you."

"I see the evils that men do. I am not blind. It's what they could do that I fight for."

"Humans have a myth about a man called the Ferryman, Megatron. You're about to meet him."

Then there were the joke entries, mostly lines cribbed from unrelated media: "Do a barrel roll!", "I'll be back", or "These pretzels are making me thirsty!" "Barrel roll" actually received the most votes, though the filmmakers exercised some editorial oversight in picking "Freedom is the right of all sentient beings" instead.

The winning line

Optimus says the line when the Autobots gather at the Griffith Observatory. His right-hand Ironhide (Jess Harnell) asks why they should bother saving a "primitive and violent race" like humans. Optimus implicitly citing the petulant Sam Witwicky (Shia LaBeouf) as an example of humanity's "goodness" rings hollow, but his affirming his guiding principle doesn't. The scene ends with him reciting his other catchphrase — "Autobots, roll out!"

Later in the film, Optimus also says one of the other contest entries. When gearing up to battle Megatron, he paraphrases the 1986 movie: "By the end of this day, one shall stand, one shall fall." Unlike that movie, Optimus is the one who stands while Megatron falls.

To the best of my recollection, Optimus doesn't repeat the "Freedom" line in any of the other movies. It does come up in the third movie, "Dark of the Moon," though. When Optimus' mentor Sentinel Prime (Leonard Nimoy) defects, Optimus reminds him, "You were the one who taught me freedom is everyone's right."

This, and the proliferation of quotes from "The Transformers: The Movie" in "Make Prime Speak," is telling. The live-action Optimus Prime is based on half-forgotten memories of the messianic figure from the 1986 movie, who was also a one-robot army that blew away Decepticons like tin soldiers. Many fans forgot that there's more to Optimus Prime's personality than a wise leader or stoic speech machine. In the original cartoon, he's a lot more playful; he cracks jokes and pals around with the other Autobots (in one episode, he even plays basketball with them). 

More recent "Transformers" media is bringing back Optimus' humorous side (the latest film "Rise of the Beasts" gave Cullen a couple of comic moments). Maybe "Transformers 8" will have him shooting hoops again too.