The top film robots of all-time

As the Robocop reboot threatens to have everyone under house arrest next week, Dean Williams thinks it’s about the right time to discuss the greatest robots ever to grace the screen.

Robot1 Robocop

What is it about robots that has us all aquiver with anxiety. In fact our unfathomable fear of the machineheads is so great that Isaac Asimov had to come up with three whole laws so that we could sleep better at night. Robots have taken many forms in films, from squeaky clean do-gooders in Bicentennial Man and Short Circuit, to sociopathic killers in Blade Runner and Terminator, but they’ve all had one thing in common: they’ve wanted something more. So let’s explore that little conundrum further.

Ash & Bishop

Film(s): Alien, Aliens

There may only be an ‘s’ separating the two films, but the two androids Ash (Alien), and Bishop (Aliens) couldn’t be more different. Ash is a sanctimonious little cretin with a psychopathic streak the size of Wales, while Bishop turns out to be a rather swell guy. Both had their orders, only in Bishop’s case he chose to override them to protect his human colleagues. Ash get his comeuppance in gloriously liquid fashion in Alien, and Bishop rolls on into Alien 3. In all honesty the beast in the films had more charisma than these two, but they are pivotal to the storyline, hence make the list.


C-3PO & R2-D2

Film(s): Star Wars franchise

In continuing with our tin duos, C-3PO and R2-D2 stake the claim of being the most recognizable robots in cinema (although a lot of people did recognize Keanu Reeves in 49 Ronin). While cloyingly sweet and annoying at the best of times, they do lend some mechanized relief to the human antics of Han Solo, Luke Skywalker, and Princess Leia. There’s nothing obviously astonishing about them and they have the personalities of platypuses drenched in beer, but those damn action figures made sure they were scorched into all our memories.



Film: Artificial Intelligence

Played by a young Haley Joel Osment (still running on The Sixth Sense and Pay It Forward goodwill) David is a boy robot in search of acceptance in a world that doesn’t quite like robots that don’t conform. If you ignore for a moment that Jude Law also stars in this film, and concentrate on Steven Spielberg’s artistry, AI is a rather good movie. Osment is believable as the lost little boy looking for his ‘mother’ while around him the world runs riot. He disappeared after this film until his return (sort of) in Amazon’s Alpha House.



Film: Westworld

In case you missed this cracking Western-Meets-Sci-Fi classic the first time around, then please note that a TV series is in the offing. But those of you that did catch the 1973 original will still be unnerved at the thought of a stone-faced, and blindingly bald Yul Brynner. Brynner plays a robot gunslinger that works at a Western theme park, called Westworld. Written and directed by Michael Crichton (Jurassic Park, Sphere) the film focuses on what happens when robots just refuse to do as they’re told. All hell soon breaks loose, and a theme park is turned into the real Wild West.


Iron Giant

Film: Iron Giant

Before Brad Bird came into focus with The Incredible and Ratatouille, he made Iron Giant, without a doubt his best film. This animated classic focuses on a rather peaceable alien robot being hunted down by despicable governments. With only a human boy for a friend, Iron Giant tugs at our heartstrings with all the strength Bird and company can muster (and it’s considerable). A must-see for all ages, this film is one of the reasons animation still rocks.


Johnny 5

Film: Short Circuit

He may not look like much — in fact he resembles something regurgitated by a mechanical cat — but Johnny 5 is one of the most endearing robots ever to grace the screen. While Short Circuit the film may not have been anything to crow about, despite featuring Steve Guttenberg (remember him?), Johnny 5 was hilarious and pretty much carried the entire film on his narrow metal shoulders as he suddenly realizes there’s more to life than being trapped in a lab. Cue chaos, mayhem and morals galore.


Transformers & Decepticons

Film(s): Transformers franchise

Think what you will of Michael Bay and the Transformer circus, but you’ve got to hand it to the VFX guys; they’ve done an outstanding job. And while the ‘once-famous’ Shia Lebouf may have made a mockery of fame, these robots can still draw audiences. While the Decepticons are way cooler than the Transformers, they both have the power to shock and awe, and in the process destroy huge chunks of the Earth.



Film: Wall-E

While the Iron Giant may have been a tad philosophical, Wall-E is all heart. Straight from the Pixar stable of loveable characters, Wall-E tells the story of a small waste-collecting robot who embarks on a journey of celestial proportions. The fact that he looks a bit like Johnny 5 makes him all the more accessible to our fleshy minds and hearts. Many regard Wall-E to be Pixar’s finest (and if you’re not one of them you have to admit that it gives Toy Story a run for its money).



Film: Terminator

Let’s face it the Terminator has the best lines of any robot in film history. And with Arnold Schwarzenegger fronting the metal killer, Terminator was always going to be about him, and John Connor be damned. The plot of Terminator is by now legendary: Bad robot goes back in time to kill important human. Good robot follows bad robot to save human. Human survives, but no on cares since bad robot is dead. But as the Terminator said: “I’ll be back.” By golly, he was.


Roy Batty

Film: Blade Runner

It’s only fair that the best film ever made also had the best robot ever conceived. Roy Batty (Rutger Hauer) is a menacing presence as the leader of a group of Replicants who return to Earth on a quest to increase their lifespans. Matched only by the superb Rick Deckard (Harrison Ford) Batty is at once philosophical, generous, magnanimous, and lethal. The scene on the roof when he saves Deckard’s life is legendary. By the end you’ll be rooting for Batty.


Speak Your Mind