Though the appearance of robots have changed over the years, the artificial lifeforms have remained a steady staple within the science fiction genre since the beginning of cinema itself. The following 10 films are the best of the best in terms of their portrayal of robots:
1. 'Star Wars: A New Hope'
The entire Star Wars series is full of robots and cyborgs and various other artificial lifeforms, but it’s 1977’s Star Wars: A New Hope that first introduced the world to a pair of loveable bots named C-3PO and R2-D2. The pair’s unusual friendship – C-3PO seems to be the only one who can understand R2’s beeps and whistles – stands as the backbone of the entire original trilogy, which confirms their place as perhaps the most iconic non-living characters in cinematic history.
It’s hard to believe that WALL-E doesn’t speak a word of dialogue throughout Pixar’s 2008 masterpiece, as the character eventually becomes as compelling and sympathetic a figure as his human counterparts. WALL-E’s pursuit of a fellow robot named EVE is genuinely romantic and thoroughly engaging, and it’s impossible not to feel a burst of emotion when the pair finally do get together at the end of the movie.
3. 'A.I.: Artificial Intelligence'
With A.I.: Artificial Intelligence, Steven Spielberg introduced viewers to David, a lifelike robot that’s been designed to look, sound, and behave like a young boy. Haley Joel Osment’s flawless performance as David plays a key role in the character’s placement on this list, and it’s also worth noting that the movie boasts several other memorable robotic characters – including David’s sidekick and companion, a walking, talking teddy bear named Teddy.
4. 'The Terminator'
The granddaddy of evil robots, The Terminator (Arnold Schwarzenegger) is a vicious killing machine that will do whatever it takes to kill his target, Sarah Connor (Linda Hamilton) – including murdering other folks that just happen to share her name. And although the sequels have featured some pretty impressive robots in their own right – especially Robert Patrick’s T-1000 in Terminator 2: Judgment Day – it’s James Cameron’s original creation that remains the bona fide classic.
The title character may not be a robot – he’s actually a cyborg, if you want to get technical about it – but Robocop still deserves a place on this list because of ED-209. ED-209 is a fierce, absolutely frightening robot that’s been outfitted with an intimidating voice and a pair of enormous machine guns. (The latter of which are memorably used against a hapless employee during a board meeting.)
6. 'Short Circuit'
For anyone that grew up in the 1980s, Number 5 is probably the first robot that comes to mind when the subject of movie robots is broached – as the character, also known as Johnny 5, possesses a friendly, outgoing demeanor that’s utilized to great (and often comedic) effect in 1986’s Short Circuit. It’s hard not to immediately sympathize with Number 5’s efforts at evading the military’s advances, although, as we eventually learn, the character has been outfitted with enough firepower to easily defend himself (and the people he comes to love).
In the 1950s, filmmakers began toying with a number of different science-fiction oriented ideas and elements – with robots becoming more and more prominent as a result. One of the most well-known robots from that era is Forbidden Planet’s Robby the Robot, as the character’s oversized, rather clunky design became the standard by which artificial lifeforms followed for the next several years. (The robot on the ‘60s Lost in Space television series, for example, looks quite similar.)
8. 'Star Trek: Generations'
It’s impossible to compile a list of famous robots without including at least one of the Star Trek: The Next Generation movies, as Data (Brent Spiner) remains one of the most well-known and iconic robots within the pop culture landscape. In Star Trek: Generations, the brilliant and beloved android finally received the emotion chip that he had been coveting for much of The Next Generation’s run – with the hilarious nature of his subsequent efforts at dealing with simple feelings like happiness and sadness providing the otherwise fast-paced adventure film with its heart and soul.
9. 'The Iron Giant'
Brad Bird’s The Iron Giant fulfils a dream that many of us had when we were kids, in that it details the unlikely friendship that ensues between a small boy and a 50-foot, metal-eating robot. Despite his intimidating appearance, the title character eventually becomes a surprisingly sympathetic figure that the viewer can’t help but root for – with Vin Diesel’s commanding voice performance playing a pivotal role in cementing the movie’s success.
10. 'I, Robot'
This one’s a bit of a no-brainer. Based on the famous short story collection by Isaac Asimov, I, Robot transpires in a world that’s virtually overrun by robots – as the artificial lifeforms perform a variety of mundane (and not-so-mundane) tasks and jobs. At the center of the storyline is Sonny (Alan Tudyk), a robot who possesses a desire to overcome his rigid programming and become more than just another cog in a very large machine.