Starship Troopers is a 1997 American military science fiction film, written by Edward Neumeier (screenplay), directed by Paul Verhoeven, loosely adapted from Starship Troopers, a science fiction novel by Robert A. Heinlein. It was the first of three films released in the Starship Troopers franchise. The film had a budget estimated around $105 million and grossed over $121 million worldwide. 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 arachnoid species known as "the Bugs". Starship Troopers was nominated for an Academy Award (visual effects) in 1998. The film has attracted controversy and criticism for its social and political themes, which some critics claim promote militarism or even fascism. Director Paul Verhoeven says his satirical use of irony and hyperbole is "playing with fascism or fascist imagery to point out certain aspects of American society... of course, the movie is about 'Let's all go to war and let's all die.'"
In the distant future, humans are at tense relations with an alien race named the Arachnids, or "Bugs", whose homeworld is the planet Klendathu, along with many colonies in that sector. John D. "Johnny" Rico, his girlfriend Carmen Ibanez, and best friend Carl Jenkins graduate from high school in Buenos Aires; now integrated as part of a unified human nation spanning many planets throughout the galaxy. In this society, citizenship is not a birthright; rather it is a privilege granted to those who help better society or risk their lives for the species by serving in the military. Citizens are honored individuals with many opportunities that are limited for non-citizens. Carmen and Jenkins have earned high enough grades to receive prestigious positions in the military. Rico is only eligible for front line duties in the Mobile Infantry. Their paths diverge as Carmen becomes a commissioned officer and pilot for the Fleet while Jenkins joins the secretive and exclusive Military Intelligence division. Rico's parents demand that he cancel his enlistment when they discover he will be assigned to mobile infantry, but Rico's desire to follow Ibanez is too strong. At Mobile Infantry training, Rico and his unit, including Ace and infatuated former classmate "Dizzy" Flores are drilled under the brutal Career Sergeant Zim. Rico shows leadership aptitude and is promoted to squad leader. He learns that Carmen is satisfied with her life in the fleet and works with Rico's high-school rival, Zander. Rico's hopes for a romance with Carmen are dashed when she decides to stay with the fleet. Zander is quickly supplanting Rico in Carmen's romantic life, causing Rico to become dejected and angry. After a bad command decision during live-fire training that results in the death of one of Rico's squad members, he is demoted and publicly flogged as punishment before submitting his resignation. Rico calls his parents in Buenos Aires to give them the news, but is interrupted when the call drops. An enormous asteroid launched by the Arachnids and undetected by Earth's defenses has obliterated Buenos Aires. Millions are killed, including Rico's family. Rico rescinds his resignation and remains with the Infantry as an invasion force is shipped out to the Klendathu sector. The first major strike on Klendathu is a failure, with heavy casualties in both the Fleet and Infantry due to underestimating the Bugs' capabilities. Rico's unit is nearly wiped out and Rico himself is heavily injured and mistakenly labeled "Killed in action", causing Carmen to believe he died. Rico, Ace and Dizzy are reassigned to a squad called the Roughnecks, led by Rico's high school teacher, Lieutenant Jean Rasczak. The Roughnecks are sent to a Bug planet named Tango Urilla to investigate the Bugs' tactics, and Rico is promoted to Corporal. On the next mission the Roughnecks are sent to an apparently abandoned human colony on another Bug planet, Planet "P". They discover that the outpost was not abandoned; it was secretly overrun by Bugs. During a disastrous ambush, Rasczak is mortally wounded and shot by Rico. As a rescue ship piloted by Carmen and Zander evacuates the Roughnecks, Dizzy is fatally wounded, dying in Rico's arms. On the Fleet carrier, Rico is field-promoted to lieutenant and the leader of the Roughnecks. Rico and Ibanez reconnect at Flores's funeral along with Jenkins, now a high-ranking Intelligence official. As a representative of Military Intelligence, Jenkins apologizes for the debacle on Planet "P". He defends the decision to send units in as a necessary reconnaissance mission, and states that Intelligence is now absolutely sure of the existence of a "brain bug". The advanced strategy behind the bugs' ambush suggests the existence of an evolved intelligence directing the Arachnids. Jenkins orders Rico and the Roughnecks to attempt to procure a brain bug. While Rico, Ace and the other Roughnecks search the planet, the Fleet encounters more fire from the Bugs, and Carmen's ship is destroyed. She and Zander make it to an escape pod, crashing into the Bug tunnel system near Rico's location. The Roughnecks continue searching for the brain bug under heavy fire while Rico, disobeying orders, takes Ace and Sugar Watkins (Seth Gilliam) into the tunnels to rescue Carmen. They find Carmen and Zander disarmed in a large cavern at the mercy of several Arachnids including a brain bug. Just before the brain bug drains the contents of Zander's cranial cavity with a specially-adapted proboscis he covertly passes his knife to Carmen. Before the brain bug can attack Carmen she wounds it with the knife, providing the recently-arrived Rico, Ace and Sugar with a distraction to cover her escape. Sugar Watkins is mortally wounded by an Arachnid soldier while retreating. He sacrifices himself, arming and detonating a tactical nuclear weapon while the others escape. Upon their arrival at the surface, they are startled to learn that Sergeant Zim (Rico and Dizzy's drill instructor) has demoted himself to private so that he can serve on the front lines. Zim has single-handedly captured a brain bug. In a debriefing, Jenkins congratulates Rico for his hard work and tells him that the humans will soon be victorious now that Intelligence can study the brain bug at length.