Starship Troopers is a 1997 American satirical military science fiction action film directed by Paul Verhoeven and written by Edward Neumeier.
It originally came from an unrelated script called Bug Hunt at Outpost Nine, but eventually licensed the name Starship Troopers from Robert A. Heinlein’s 1959 science fiction novel.
The story follows a young soldier named Johnny Rico and his exploits in the Mobile Infantry, a futuristic military unit. Rico’s military career progresses from recruit to non-commissioned officer and finally to officer against the backdrop of an interstellar war between mankind and an insectoid species known as “Arachnids”.
In the 23rd century, while colonising new planets, humans have encountered a hostile non-technological insectoid species known as Arachnids or “Bugs”.
In the United Citizen Federation, citizenship is earned by performing activities such as military service, which grants individuals opportunities prohibited to basic civilians. After graduating from high school in Buenos Aires, John “Johnny” Rico, his girlfriend Carmen Ibanez, and psychic best friend Carl Jenkins enlist in the Federal Service, despite Rico’s parents’ disapproval of military service. Carmen becomes a spaceship pilot, while Carl joins Military Intelligence. Rico enlists in the Mobile Infantry and is surprised to find Isabelle “Dizzy” Flores, his fellow ex-student, has deliberately transferred to his squad.
In Mobile Infantry basic training, Career Sgt Zim ruthlessly trains the recruits. Rico befriends fellow cadet Ace Levy and is later promoted to squad leader. He subsequently receives a Dear John letter from Carmen, as she desires a career with the fleet and now serves under Rico’s high-school sports rival, Zander Barcalow. Following a live-fire training incident that kills one of Rico’s squad members and causes another to quit out of guilt, Rico is demoted and flogged. He resigns and calls his parents to ask them if he can return home, but rescinds his resignation after an asteroid, reported to be launched by the Arachnids, obliterates Buenos Aires, killing his parents and millions of others.
An invasion force is deployed to Klendathu, the Arachnids’ home planet, but the operation severely underestimates the Arachnids and is a total disaster. Rico is severely wounded and mistakenly reported KIA. After recovering, he, Ace, and Dizzy are reassigned to the “Roughnecks”, an elite unit commanded by Lt. Jean Rasczak, Rico’s former high-school teacher. He quickly gains the respect of his peers and is promoted to the rank of Corporal after taking out a tanker bug. His relationship with Dizzy continues to grow, and they have sex during their night on Tango Urilla.
The Roughnecks respond to a distress call from Planet “P”, where they reconnoitre an outpost that has been devastated by Bugs. They soon realise that the distress call is a trap, and the Arachnids swarm the outpost. Rico, now an acting sergeant, euthanizes a mortally wounded Rasczak after a buried Bug bites off his legs. Dizzy is killed, but the surviving Roughnecks are rescued by Carmen and Zander. Rico and Carmen encounter Carl, now a high-ranking intelligence officer, at Dizzy’s funeral. Carl reveals that there is reason to believe an intelligent “brain bug” is directing the other Bugs and has been learning how to fight humans. He field-promotes Rico to lieutenant and gives him command of the Roughnecks, ordering the Mobile Infantry units under his control to return to “P” in an attempt to capture the brain bug.
The fleet encounters unexpected heavy fire from the Bugs and Carmen’s ship is destroyed. Carmen and Zander’s escape pod crashes into a Bug tunnel system near Rico. They are surrounded by Bugs, and a brain bug uses its proboscis to pierce Zander’s skull and eat his brain. As it is about to do the same to Carmen, she cuts off its proboscis with a knife. Rico, Watkins and Ace arrive and threaten the Bugs with a small nuclear bomb, which the brain bug recognises. They flee while the brain bug makes its escape. Arachnids pursue them and Watkins, mortally wounded, sacrifices himself by detonating the bomb to enable the others to escape.
After returning to the surface, they find that former Sergeant Zim, who had requested a demotion to private so that he could serve at the front, has captured the brain bug. Carl tells Rico and Carmen that the humans will soon be victorious now that Military Intelligence can study the brain bug. Carl mentally scans the Bug and reveals that it is afraid, to the cheers of the troops. A propaganda clip shows Carmen, Ace, and Rico as model servicemen, encouraging viewers to enlist in the armed forces.
- Casper Van Dien as Pvt./Cpl./Sgt./Lt./Col./Gen. John “Johnny” Rico.
- Dina Meyer as Pvt. Isabelle “Dizzy” Flores.
- Denise Richards as Lt./Capt. Carmen Ibanez.
- Jake Busey as Pvt. Ace Levy.
- Neil Patrick Harris as Col. Carl Jenkins.
- Patrick Muldoon as Lt. Zander Barcalow.
- Clancy Brown as Career Sgt./Pvt. Zim.
- Michael Ironside as Lt. Jean Rasczak.
- Seth Gilliam as Cpl. Sugar Watkins.
- Bruce Gray as Sky Marshal Dienes.
- Marshall Bell as General Owen.
- Matt Levin as Pvt. Kitten Smith.
- Eric Bruskotter as Pvt. Breckinridge.
- Brenda Strong as Captain Deladier.
- Christopher Curry as Bill Rico.
- Lenore Kasdorf as Mrs. Rico.
- Denise Dowse as Sky Marshal Meru.
- Amy Smart as Pilot Cadet/Lt. Lumbreiser.
- Dean Norris as Commanding officer.
- Rue McClanahan as Biology teacher.
- Dale Dye as Unnamed general.
- Anthony Ruivivar as Shujumi.
- Robert David Hall as Recruiter.
- The film started life as a script called Bug Hunt at Outpost Nine.
- When similarities, especially the “bugs”, were pointed out between this and the novel Starship Troopers, plans were made to license the rights to the book and tweak character names and circumstances to match.
- The “bug planet” scenes were filmed in the badlands of Hell’s Half Acre in Natrona County, Wyoming.
- The only theatrically released film in the Starship Troopers film series, it received mostly negative reviews from critics upon release but has received a more mixed reception in retrospect.
- It grossed $54.5 million in the US and a total of $121.2 million worldwide against its budget of $105 million.
- The film was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Visual Effects at the 70th Academy Awards in 1998.
- In 2012, Slant Magazine ranked the film #20 on its list of the 100 Best Films of the 1990s.
- In December 2011, film producer Neal Moritz announced plans to remake the film.
- In November 2016, Columbia and Moritz announced the writing team of Mark Swift and Damian Shannon had been signed to pen the screenplay.
- Verhoeven has expressed scepticism at the proposed remake, citing reports that it draws heavily from the original “fascistic and militaristic” 1959 novel.
Starship Troopers Series
The film has spawned four sequels, including two live-action films, Starship Troopers 2: Hero of the Federation (2004) and Starship Troopers 3: Marauder (2008), as well as two animated films, Starship Troopers: Invasion (2012) and Starship Troopers: Traitor of Mars (2017).
There was also a 1999 spin-off CGI animated half-hour television series entitled Roughnecks: Starship Troopers Chronicles, which ran for eight-story arcs and ended on an unresolved cliffhanger.
You can find a full index and overview of the Starship Troopers franchise here.
Production & Filming Details
- Director(s): Paul Verhoeven.
- Producer(s): Jon Davison and Alan Marshall.
- Writer(s): Edward Neummeier.
- Music: Basil Poledouris.
- Cinematography: Jost Vacano.
- Editor(s): Mark Goldblatt and Caroline Ross.
- Production: TriStar Pictures, Touchstone Pictures, and Jon Davison Productions.
- Distributor(s): Sony Pictures Releasing (North America) and Buena Vista International (International).
- Release Date: 07 November 1997.
- Running Time: 129 minutes.
- Country: US.
- Language: English.