What happened to the Shia LaBeouf Transformers character, Sam Witwicky, and is he likely to return in a future entry like Transformers: Rise of the Beasts? Michael Bay was drawn to the original Transformers on the simple, relatable hook of the movie being about a boy and his first car — the fact the car was a transforming alien robot was simply a bonus. Shia LaBeouf was later cast as Sam Witwicky, the nerdy kid who gets unwittingly drawn into an intergalactic battle between the Autobots and the Decepticons. However, after the first three Transformers movies, viewers noticed that the Shia LaBeouf Transformers character had left without a trace.


Sam Witwicky was the lead character of the first three Transformers movies, exiting after Transformers: Dark Of The Moon. After Transformers 3, Shia LaBeouf never returned to the franchise and the series received a soft reboot with 2014’s Transformers: Age Of Extinction. Mark Wahlberg was introduced in Transformers 4 as Cade Yaeger, a struggling inventor who, like Sam, is unwittingly drawn into the Autobot struggle. Cade later returned for Transformers: The Last Knight, but both this and the 2018 movie Bumblebee soft reboot didn’t feature Sam Witwicky. What happened to Sam Witwicky is at least touched upon in Transformers 5, but it’s doubtful that Bay and company thought LaBeouf would leave after the third Transformers movie given the success of the franchise. With Rise of the Beasts on the way, there’s no better time to look back at the human that started it all. So, here’s exactly what happened to the Shia LaBeouf Transformers character and why the actor left the series.

Related: Every Plot Hole Bumblebee Makes With Michael Bay’s Transformers Films

Why Shia LaBeouf Left Transformers

Shia Labeouf as Sam Witwicky - Transformers 3

While many wondered what happened to Sam Witwicky, the decision to leave was Shia LaBeouf’s. During the press tour for Transformers: Dark Of The Moon, Shia LaBeouf stated that he would not be returning to the franchise, and he hasn’t appeared in Transformers movies since, even for a cameo. LaBeouf felts that the character of Sam Witwicky had run his course, and with Sam’s narrative over he would only grow stale if he returned. Since then, Shia LaBeouf has made it clear that his career is heading in a different direction and shunned appearances in big blockbuster movies. While it might be hard to define what a big blockbuster movie is at face value, the Transformers franchise definitely falls into that category. Even if there was a narrative reason for him to return, LaBeouf has made it clear he’s not interested in any projects at the scale of the Transformers franchise.

Transformers 5 Explains What Happened To Shia LaBeouf’s Sam Witwicky

The Shia LaBeouf Transformers movies introduced increasingly convoluted mythology into the franchise, with The Last Knight really going for broke. The movie reveals King Arthur and Merlin teamed up with Transformers in the distant past to win a battle, with the Transformers gifting Merlin with an alien staff. In the present day, professor Edmund Burton (Anthony Hopkins) explains the Transformers have been helping humanity for centuries, and that Vivian Wembley is the last “Witwiccan,” a line descended from Merlin himself. This means only Wembley can wield Merlin’s (Stanley Tucci) staff and stop an impending Cybertron attack. With the odd mixture that took magic and machine way too far, it’s no wonder that Transformers‘ Sam Witwicky wasn’t too keen to return to the franchise.

Burton also explains the Witwiccan Order is a secret society of adventurers tasked with protecting this alternate history, and he shows photos of members of this society, including Transformers‘ Sam Witwicky himself. While speaking to Oxford Professor Vivian Wembley (Laura Haddock), he tells her that she’s the remaining Witwiccan. He shows Vivian her family tree, which is basically one and the same as Sam Witwicky’s, and includes his picture. Burton then tells her that she is the last surviving heir of Merlin. Since Vivian is the last of the Witwicky line, this implies that Sam died at some point between Dark Of The Moon and The Last Knight. This would be a pretty abrupt ending for the character, who previously survived death in Revenge Of The Fallen. That said, LaBeouf has been somewhat outspoken about the quality of the series since his departure, making it unlikely he would ever return to the role.

The Last Knight at least provides some closure for Transformers’ Sam Witwicky, while leaving enough wiggle room for fans to argue he could still be alive. The Transformers movie doesn’t even attempt to explain what happened to Sam Witwicky or how he died. However, with Bumblebee officially rebooting the Transformers franchise, his presumed death is likely canon within the franchise’s vast mythological universe.

Related: Transformers 7: Why A Beast Wars Movie Is What The Brand Needs

Shia LaBeouf Isn’t In Any Of The Upcoming Transformers Movies

Megan Fox and Shia LaBeouf in Transformers (2007)

The latest movie in the Transformers series sees Hailee Steinfeld in the lead for the movie Bumblebee. Bumblebee moved entirely away from its previous installments, basically rebooting the franchise with a new and fresh storyline. Therefore, if there was any hope for a Sam Witwicky return, Bumblebee more-or-less crushed it. The Shia LaBeouf Transformers character departure certainly didn’t help the franchise in Transformers 4 and 5. Arguably though the decline in writing quality was most responsible for the series’ downward arc in popularity, rather than Mark Wahlberg replacing the protagonist. So, in order to continue the franchise, creators decided to create a new story that would hopefully garner a new fanbase.

The movie worked, with Bumblebee raking in $467 million worldwide, all without Sam Witwicky. While there probably won’t be a Bumblebee 2, there are many new Transformers movies on the way. The next movie for the franchise will be Rise of the Beasts, and once more Shia LaBeouf won’t be in it. The franchise has moved into a completely new era, and bringing Sam Witwicky back would only tether it down to the old movies. It certainly doesn’t seem like studios want to bring the old gang back together, as Rise of the Beasts is supposed to introduce characters from Transformers: Beast Wars — it’s doubtful it will connect to the Bay trilogies at all beyond a passing nod at best. There are plenty of Transformers movies after Rise of the Beasts planned too, but Sam Witwicky won’t be coming back for any of them, and that’s probably for the best.

Meet Rise Of The Beasts’ Human Leads

Transformers rise of the beasts Beast Wars Anthony Ramos

Transformers: Rise of the Beasts is approaching theaters in June 2023, and the franchise has provided two new titular human lead characters: Noah and Elena. Dominique Fishback (Judas and the Black Messiah) will be playing Elena Wallace. Elena is an artifact researcher from a museum, and the only thing that’s known about her so far is that her boss keeps taking credit for her work. Elena will be on the Autobots/Maximals side, but it’s unclear which Transformer she’ll interact with the most. Elena does appear at the very end of the Rise of the Beasts trailer with Arcee, questioning whether what she’s seeing is real. It’s clear that Elena will probably spend a lot of the film in awe of the Transformers, as she seems to be reluctantly along for the ride.

Anthony Ramos (In the Heights) takes on the part of Noah Diaz, an ex-military electronics expert who tries to support his family while living in Brooklyn, NY. Ramos seems to be taking over the Sam Witwicky position as the titular human protagonist with a slate of new Transformer robots. A new ally for the Autobots and Maximals, in the trailer Noah clearly forms a bond with the Autobot Mirage (Pete Davidson), as Mirage forcibly takes him on a thrilling police chase through town. It’s unknown what the full story for Transformers: Rise of the Beasts will be, but there are tons of cool new Transformers, especially the Maximals and the Terrorcons. All in all, it looks like there’s a bright future ahead for the Transformers franchise, even without Sam Witwicky.

Next: How Michael Bay’s Transformers Redeemed The Franchise’s Weirdest Toyline

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