Comic-Con just happened and it’s way more than comics these days. It pretty much includes anything from movies and TV that is action, superhero, toy or sci-fi related. All of that also includes robots. Robots have been on film since all the way back to Fritz Lang’s 1927 masterpiece Metropolis. They have been scary, funny, heroic and influential. They often predict where technology is going for better or for worse. They open up morality and ethical questions and sometimes scare the living crap out of us. So let’s take a look at some of our most memorable robots of film and TV.
My list of robots come from all over the place from a little girl to a giant monster, to badass killing machines. Mine tend to be of a lighter blend though. I even had a simplistic toy robot when I was young, a 2XL see our toys post for more on him because I digress. I wanted some variety and to go all over the spectrum. Here are some of the robots that I have found most memorable.
- The Robot (Lost in Space ) – Danger Will Robinson, one of my first encounters with a TV robot, and I got a little soft spot for this unnamed android, for more see: Raised on TV
- HAL 9000 (2001: A Space Odyssey) – My favorite part of this great film is his interaction with Keir Dullea’s character Dave – it’s chilling.
- Vickie (Small Wonder) – This show blew but Vicki was creepy, cheesy, and terrifying at the same time, Ava from Ex Machina as a child.
- David (Prometheus) – A fantastic performance from Michael Fassbender makes David come alive and the most interesting character in the film.
- Ava (Ex Machina) – Fassbender’s wife Alicia Vikander also gives an amazing performance as a robot in this independent gem.
- Mechagodzilla (Godzilla vs. Mechagodzilla)- Godzilla fighting a robot version of himself is amazing, the giant version of himself gives him the fight of his life.
- Tom Servo, Crow T. Robot (MSTK3000) – The funniest robots on my list that mean to be funny.
- Gort (The Day the Earth Stood Still) – Relevant even today, Gort influenced George Lucas and Star Wars – just Google Klaatu, Barada, Nikto.
- R2D2 (Star Wars) – The smartest robot and the biggest robot hero, wished he could have been used better post Return of the Jedi.
- Cylons (Battlestar Galactica ) – The newer models are more sophisticated and the human ones not too shabby but the original ones were scary as hell for 7-year-old me.
Bonus: Rosie the Robot (The Jetsons) – 50 years ago the Jetsons predicted we would have robot maids, all we got is a Roomba. I want Rosie.
MG: Good observation on the Fassbenders both playing robots. Unfortunately, Alicia was more robotic in the awful Tomb Raider reboot. Speaking of reboots, the new Lost In Space series on Netflix is a decent family show (so few of Netflix’ original stuff is family friendly). The take on the robot is quite different, but interesting. I was sensitive to SW rip-offs in the late 70’s/early 80’s, but I did love the Cylons on BG. The roving red eye and the voice were awesome.
I’m a big fan of robots, machines, replicants, synthetics, A.I., whatever you want to call ’em. One could write a whole book on why Hollywood has been so obsessed with robots since the 1950’s, and even earlier, but I won’t get too philosophical here. Generally speaking, robots in movies/TV are either servant-oriented or dangerous to the point of homicidal, or as Deckard phrased it so well in Blade Runner: “Replicants are like any other machine – they’re either a benefit or a hazard”. Occasionally we’ve been treated to a robot that is a little more complex and doesn’t fall easily into either category – particularly in the movie that quote comes from.
- Rachel (Blade Runner) – Tyrell Corp.’s finest creation. She saves Deckard’s life by taking out “one of her own”. Was she able to love? I really liked how they incorporated her storyline into the excellent new sequel.
- IG-88 (The Empire Strikes Back) – Silent, but deadly. Another example from the pre-CGI days when less was more.
- Maeve (Westworld [2016- ]) – Dolores gets the glory, but I found Maeve’s story arc more interesting, particularly in the uneven season 2.
- Maximillian (The Black Hole) – I watched this movie again recently and it was rough. The imposing red robot Maximillian still held up though.
- Cyberdyne T-800 Model 101 (The Terminator) – The OG of cyborg assassins. The endoskeleton is truly badass looking.
- Johnny 5 (Short Circuit) – the titular robot becomes sentient after being hit by lightning. This is a film I should probably leave to my memory and not try to re-watch now.
- Ashe (Alien) – The scene where he tries to kill Ripley then goes spastic after being hit in the head is awesomely disturbing.
- Wall-E (Wall-E) – The first half, with just the robots, is a cinematic marvel. I wish the entire film had been bold enough to go without human characters or at least hearing them speak, but even still, this remains my favorite PIXAR film.
- ED-209 (Robocop) – Dick Jones had orders and spare parts lined up for 25 years. Who cares if it worked?
- “Dog” (Black Mirror – Metalhead) – This robotic “dog” is relatively simplistic but extremely terrifying – and all too believable.
Bonus: Twiki (Buck Rogers in the 25th Century) – Figured I’d go with a throwback as well. Twiki was kind of annoying but endearing at the same time. The voice was done by Looney Tunes vet Mel Blanc. See our love of Buck Rogers article here Obscure TV Shows From Our Childhood
DJ: I thought for sure you would include Roy Batty from Blade Runner, his “tears in the rain” monologue is pretty brilliant. Overall a great list, the fact that we both have Aliens related robots is a testament to that franchise. We probably could have listed a bunch more from Star Wars. I would not watch Short Circuit again, the Fisher Stevens passing as an Indian man, racist accent and all was appalling. Put it this way, it’s no Ben Kingsley. That being said, who doesn’t love the song “Who’s Johnny?”