27 years later, this cult sci-fi film is getting a new lease of life thanks to Helldivers 2

Starship Troopers
(Image credit: TriStar)

More than 20 years after its initial release, Starship Troopers is getting a new lease of life thanks to a video game homage that draws on many of the film's central themes.

Earlier this month, Helldivers 2 released on PS5 and PC. The over-the-shoulder shooter places players on the front lines of a chaotic, evolving war against a race of insectoid aliens known as the Terranoids. If that sounds familiar, it might be because, at some point in the last 27 years, you caught Starship Troopers, a sci-fi film that puts its characters on the front lines of a chaotic, evolving war against a race of insectoid aliens known as Arachnids.

There's an obviously pulpy comparison to be drawn between Starship Troopers and Helldivers 2, in part because while the former is an adaptation of a 1950s novel of the same name, the latter is a pretty faithful reimagining of the film. In fact, that reimagining is so faithful that one viral tweet labelled Helldivers 2 "an unlicensed Starship Troopers game." 

Whether that comparison is fair or not, it's likely being made because while neither Starship Troopers nor Helldivers 2 created the concept of a forever war against alien insects, the two projects have more in common than simple conflict. When it was released in 1997, Starship Troopers was widely criticized for what was then received as an endorsement of the fascistic elements of the society that underwrites the film's action sequences, one that is steeped in propaganda, is heavily militaristic, and thrives on xenophobia. Those themes also rear their heads throughout Helldivers 2, along with an intro sequence that feels as though it could have been lifted directly from Starship Troopers.

Helldivers 2 happens to be going through a meteoric rise on gaming platforms, overtaking games like Starfield and GTA 5 on its way into Steam's top 25, and beating Fortnite on PS5. And rising quietly behind it is Starship Troopers; over the past week, the game has regularly found itself trending on Twitter; and according to online TV ratings tracker Television Stats, in recent days the film has seen its viewership stats, Wikipedia popularity, and IMDB rank all rise considerably.

With that spike in interest has come another reexamination of Starship Troopers' themes, which has likely further spurred on its increase in attention on Twitter. Social media discourse about the nuances of totalitarianism is unlikely to prove particularly valuable, but it's safe to say that the link between Helldivers 2 and its three-decade-old inspiration is fascinating - it's pretty rare that a video game drives a flood of attention to any film, let alone a cult hit from nearly 30 years ago.

Who knows, maybe Helldivers will drive Starship Troopers to a spot on our best sci-fi movies of all time.

Ali Jones
News Editor

I'm GamesRadar's news editor, working with the team to deliver breaking news from across the industry. I started my journalistic career while getting my degree in English Literature at the University of Warwick, where I also worked as Games Editor on the student newspaper, The Boar. Since then, I've run the news sections at PCGamesN and Kotaku UK, and also regularly contributed to PC Gamer. As you might be able to tell, PC is my platform of choice, so you can regularly find me playing League of Legends or Steam's latest indie hit.