The ’90s Sci-Fi Classic That Was Torn To Shreds By Critics

Starship Troopers was initially destroyed by critics as promoting "fascism" but was later deemed one of the best sci-fi movies ever made.

By James Brizuela | Published

We would be lying if we said that critics are never wrong. In fact, audiences often go against what critics say about movies a lot of the time. Take Venom, for instance. The movie was critically panned across the board. However, it managed to land over $850 million in worldwide box office numbers, and audiences loved the movie. The same can be said for the 1990s hit, Starship Troopers. This military-based sci-fi movie was torn to shreds by critics, as many mistakes the satire of the movie to be in line with promoting fascism. How fascism ties to killing bugs is beyond us, but it was critically panned despite being one of the best sci-fi movies ever made.

Starship Troopers was released in 1997 and still holds a 67% critic rating on Rotten Tomatoes. The 70% audience score is a bit more respectable. Still, the movie was oddly torn to shreds based on many ratings that stated the movie was building the “endorsement of a fascist utopia.” This poor analysis of the movie led to a box office disaster as Starship Troopers only pulled in $121 million against a budget of $100 million. Despite it being a box office flop of epic proportions, the movie has been lauded as being one of the best sci-fi movies ever made.

Starship Troopers follows Johnny Rico, Carmen Ibanez, and Carl Jenkins as they navigate high school with one another. After graduation, they plan to join the military of the United Citizen Federation. Based on their aptitude tests, they are split up. Rico is sent to be a regular soldier, Ibanez becomes a pilot, and Jenkins is sent into military intelligence. Rico rises fast as a platoon leader before one of his troops is killed while in a live fire exercise. He is demoted and forced to incur whipping as his punishment for breaking protocol. He is set to quit the military when the Arachnids aka Bugs send a meteor to Earth, destroying Buenos Aires. It kills millions, including Rico and Ibanez’s families. Rico then asks to be allowed to be sent to the Bug planet for revenge. Without ruining the rest of the movie, everyone can rent the movie on most streaming apps.

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Starship Troopers stars Casper Van Dien, Dina Meyer, Neil Patrick Harris, Denise Richards, Jake Busey, and many more. The movie was directed by Paul Verhoeven. Verhoeven famously directed RoboCop. Everyone can see the same similarities between RoboCop and Starship Troopers. However, despite the clear instances of satircal delivery in Starship Troopers, critics took the movie for wanting to showcase fascism. That is what caused the movie to drown when it was initially released.

Despite the initial reviews of the movie, Starship Troopers would come out on top. The movie would be given a critical reassessment, marking it as one of the most influential sci-fi movies ever made. The military-industrial complex that was embedded within the plot of the story and how it made fun of right-wing militarism resulted in critics understanding that the movie was far ahead of its time. Societal shifts would catch up the jokes, but not until the 2010s. The “wooden” acting and melodrama of the movie should have also been a dead giveaway of its satirical nature, but that is how advanced it was for coming out in 1997. The tone of the movie is so serious that people couldn’t quite figure out if it was joking or not. That is some great writing.

Starship Troopers became a cultural important movie, as many critics began to break down the themes of them movie, and how propaganda is used to entice young people to join the military. For being a satirical movie , it got a lot of people to start thinking about the deeper thematic elements that were shown in the movie. Filmmakers like Robert Rodriquez, Quentin Tarantino, and Eli Roth have all named the movie as a huge inspiration as well.

Despite what critics intially had to say about Starship Troopers, it was a hit for audiences. Even now, people still refer to Ricos Roughnecks. Though the movie would spawn several comics, video games, and movie sequel, the original movie still holds a special place for sci-fi fans. Though you may understand that the movie was meant to be satirical after reading this piece, go give it a shot. See for yourself if the movie is clearly making fun of itself. Plus, there is some great action in the movie as well.