Robots are a staple of the science fiction cinema. Sometimes these films are able to breath life into a machine made of nuts and bolts, in a way that allows the audience to form a strong emotional bond to these lifeless creations. They become characters as real as the actors in the scene with them. Seeing a robot disassembled makes us cry, our hearts race as they menace the heroes or make us laugh out loud with their sense of humor (or lack of). Sometimes these artificially intelligent beings are able to steal the show. The following are my top 10 favorite movie robots.
Movie: Robocop Franchise (1987)
Voice: Jon Davison (was also executive producer)
- ED--209’s design was inspired by the BELL UH-1H-HUEY (used heavily by the US in Vietnam) and the 1980s anime series Robotech.
- The scientist who introduces the ED--209 was named McNamara, after Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara, who had a large role in the escalation of the US involvement in Vietnam.
About: Enforcement Droid Series 209 was a heavily armored robot designed to help the privatized Detroit, Michigan Police Force fight the crime plaguing the city. This deadly machine was a formidable force but crudely designed.
Why Top 10: ED-209 makes the list because it had enough brute force to take on a tank, making it a formidable antagonist for our powerful hero Robocop. At the same time it was clumsy and stupid, adding some much needed comic relief to a dark film.
9. Dot Matrix
Movie: Spaceballs (1987)
Voice: Joan Rivers
Body: Lorene Yarnell Jansson
- There were six Dot Matrix costumes used during production.
- Dot Matrix was a popular computer printer before Ink-Jet and Laser were invented.
About: Dot Matrix was Princess Vespa’s droid-of-honor. She was responsible for keeping the princess safe from all sorts of danger. She would accompany the princess from her failed wedding ceremony on Druidia, to planet Spaceballs and back again.
Why Top 10: With a built in virgin alarm she was ready to fend of the most charming of space pirates or evil schwartz wielding Spaceball. An obvious female parody of C-3PO, it is hard to believe the voice of Joan Rivers in a Mel Brooks comedy could be less annoying than the character it was spoofing.
Scary observation: Have you noticed that after all Joan Rivers' surgeries she now looks a lot like Dot Matrix?
Movie: Clash of the Titans (1981)
- Bubo was added to the movie because to R2-D2’s popularity.
- Bubo is styled after a barn owl but Bubo is the genus of the horned and eagle owls.
About: When Zeus order Athena to give Perseus her owl, she has Hephaestus build a mechanical copy and gives that to him instead. This small robot owl would be crucial in Perseus’ quest to survive his journey and defeat the kraken. This little guy was not afraid to distract the Kraken on his own until Perseus could arrive to save the day.
Why Top 10: Bubo was the cutest and most ridiculous looking robot ever. It fit right in with the hokey special effects of this classic. Bubo was such a memorable part of the original Clash of the Titans that he made an appearance in both the remake in 2010 and Wrath of the Titans in 2012. Some of the actors from the remake could not even make it into Wrath of the Titans. Or maybe they read the script and thought better of it.
7. Johnny “Number” 5
Movie: Short Circuit (1986) & Short Circuit 2 (1988)
Voice: Tim Blaney
- Number 5 was originally a villain in a dark thriller but drastic script revisions turned the movie into a comedy and Number 5 into the hero.
- The large machines found in the future battle ground of The Terminator movie, inspired the design of the S.A.I.N.T. robots.
About: The military robot S.A.I.N.T. #5 (Strategic Artifically Intelligent Nuclear Transport) is hit by a lightning bolt that causes him to “malfunction”. While he is on the run from the military, we discover the “malfunction” is that Number 5 is alive! Casting Steve Guttenberg (Yes, the guy from the Police Academy movies) as a Ph.D. scientist set the right tone for this comedic adventure. The second movie was twice as corny and just as good.
Why Top 10: This was an ingenious modern spin on the classic Frankenstein monster story. A bolt of lighting brings a robot to life and while the military sees him as a threat, all he wants to do is find his place in the world. In the sequel, Short Circuit 2, when Johnny 5 fixes himself using the products from a Radio Shack and ends up looking like a mohawked punk rocker, he cemented a spot on this list.
Movie: The Hitchhiker’s Guide To The Galaxy (2005)
Body: Warwick Davis
Voice: Alan Rickman
- The original Marvin from the 1981 television series can be seen waiting in line at the Vogon office where Arthur, Ford and Zaphod are attempting to find and fill out the correct release form to save Trillian.
- Warwick Davis and Alan Rickman were both professors at Hogwarts, in the Harry Potter movies.
About: Marvin accompanied Arthur Dent, Ford Prefect, Trillian and Zaphod Beeblebrox on their wacky space adventures. Marvin is a failed prototype. Due to his extreme intelligence he suffers from severe depression and boredom. With his constant low spirits many of his shipmates on the Heart of Gold have taken to giving him unflattering nicknames. Zaphod calls him the “Paranoid Android” and Ford describes him as the manically depressed robot.
Why Top 10: I have read all the Hitchhiker Guide to the Galaxy books and seen this movie but I have not experience the television or radio series. This morbidly depressed robot is able to bring tears of joy to the audience. Using one emotion to elicit the exact opposite in others is an amazing feat. Alan Rickman’s voice performance was perfect.
Movie: Star Wars Franchise (1977)
Actor: Anthony Daniels
- The C-3PO costume was so inflexible that Daniels could not sit down. Scenes where Daniels had to sit required the lower half of the costume to be taken apart and then hidden by camera angles and set pieces.
- The white-up transition after the Tusken Raiders attack and C-3PO is carried off was used because Daniels was wearing black tights below the waist and only had the gold C-3PO costume on his upper body.
About: When the original Star Wars Trilogy came out we knew that Threepio was a protocol droid who was fluent in over 6 million forms of communication. What we didn’t know (or him because of a memory wipe. Goodness Gracious Me!) is that he was built by a young Anakin Skywalker. From his modest beginning with all his parts showing, to working for the royal Organa family, to being a rebel, to serving in the New Republic, C-3PO has remained a pessimistic complainer.
Why Top 10: In a galaxy far far away there were heroic Jedi Knights, brave rebels fighters, adventurous space pirates and the cowardly C-3PO, who was always ready to tell you the odds of why you were going to die. Threepio added a great dimension and some fun humor to this epic space masterpiece.
Movie: Terminator 2: Judgement Day (1991)
Actor: Robert Patrick
- It took 36 computer graphic artists, 8 months and $5.5 million to create 3.5 minutes of screen time of the T-1000.
- The sound of the T-1000 transforming into the flowing metal was made by spraying Dust-Off into a mixture of flour and water, with a condom-sealed mic submerged in the mixture.
About: The T-1000 was the second Terminator that Skynet sent back in time to kill a young John Connor. Created from a poly-alloy, liquid metal, this robot could shapeshift into any form that served its purpose. Its ability to mimic any individual made for the perfect assassin. There was no longer a need to shoot up an entire police station to reach its target. It could simply take on the appearance of someone who worked there and enter unnoticed.
Why Top 10: Anybody who can make us believe they are beating up Arnold Schwarzenegger back in the 80s and 90s needs to be given credit. This killing machine not only rates high on this list but beats out most film antagonist. Allmovie described the T-1000 as, “one of the most memorable roles in one of the most memorable films of the decade". Online Film Critics ranked the T-1000 as the 39th greatest Villain of all time and Wizard Magazine ranked it #29. Robert Patrick, who portrayed the T-1000, was nominated as Best Villain for the MTV Awards and Best Supporting Actor for the Saturn Awards. This robot is universally accepted as one bad mother...watch your mouth.
3. Iron Giant
Movie: The Iron Giant (1999)
Voice: Vin Diesel
- The Iron Giant only has 53 spoken words in the entire film
- The three tendrils that emerge from the Iron Giant when he goes into attack mode were inspired by War of the Worlds.
About: An Iron Giant fall from space and into a small community in Maine, during the Cold War. Damaged and alone the Iron Giant meets a lonely boy named Hogarth and they soon become good friends. This loving robot was originally programmed as a weapon. When events trigger his warrior instincts it is through love and friendship that he is able to nurture his desire for good and not his destructive programming.
Why Top 10: The Iron Giant was build to destroy. He is large and menacing but with the bonds of friendship we see the gentle giant inside. Watching him overcome what is expected of him to become who he really is will resonate with audience for years to come. You are what you choose to be.
Movie: Wall●E (2008)
Voice: Ben Burtt
- All robots in this film follow the Three Laws of Robotics created by Isaac Asimov.
- A robot may not injure a human being or, through inaction, allow a human being to come to harm.
- A robot must obey the orders given to it by human beings, except where such orders would conflict with the First Law.
- A robot must protect its own existence as long as such protection does not conflict with the First or Second Laws.
- Wall-E’s name was chosen as a nod to Walt Disney, whose full name is Walter Elias Disney.
About: Wall-E is a Waste Allocation Load Lifter – Earth Class, that was built to clean up the garbage left by humans before they moved off world. All alone on the desolate planet Earth, he continues his job of compacting the garbage after all the other robots have broken down. His only companion is an insect, until he runs into EVE. Falling in love, this simple robot chases his love through space and fights through endless danger to be with his soul-mate. Along the way he is able to give humanity hope for their future.
Why Top 10: With the exception of a pre-recorded billboard used to establish the setting there is no dialogue for 22 minutes. However, Wall-E was able to grab the audiences attention and take them on an emotional rollercoaster from the opening moments all the way to the end. A robot being able to help humans understand love and find the important things in life is pretty big accomplishment as well.
Movie: The Star Wars Franchise (1977)
- R2-D2’s voice was created by people and real babies making baby-like sounds, then feeding those recordings through a synthesizer to make them sound mechanical.
- At one point in time R2-D2 spoke english and used a lot of foul language.
About: R2-D2 is an R2 series astromech droid. Artoo may have been a small cylindrical worker droid but his bravery, resourcefulness and loyalty makes him stand out from the crowd. With an array of gadgets for any occasion, Artoo is a handy droid to have at your side. He has been an integral part in many of the most important moments in the Star Wars film saga; accompanying Anakin Skywalker in destroying the control ship that would free Naboo from the Trade Federation’s blockade, fighting with the Jedi on Geonosis in the battle that would ultimately mark the beginning of the clone wars, witnessing the birth of Luke and Leia, riding with Luke as he destroyed the first Death Star, hiding a lightsaber to rescue Han Solo, and many more. Not bad for a little guy.
Why Top 10: R2-D2 could only communicate in beeps and whistles. Yet, we didn’t need C-3PO to understand what he was saying. To have a robot come alive with such basic language and movements is a testament to how simple things can have immense power. R2-D2 was the friend kids around the world wanted to have by their side. An astromech droid standing up to a B2 Super Battle Droid was pretty cool too.
Robby The Robot Links
Learn about Robby the Robot and all off his guest appearances.
Top 10 Robot Lists
Geekdom (author) on May 28, 2013:
Maybe we should star and Oscar campaign? Thanks for sharing.
Shinkicker from Scotland on May 27, 2013:
R2-D2 will always be No.1
Great list Geekdom. It's time a robot won an Oscar LOL
Cheers for an interesting read. Voted up and shared on Facebook
Geekdom (author) on May 10, 2013:
I put Bumblebee in as my favorite Transformer for 10 Best Television Robots as a place holder for the Autobots. So many Transformers could have been put in that I only wanted to choose one Autobot and one Decepticon. That way the list was more varied. I HATED the Transformer movie, so I could not put any of them in my 10 Best Movie Robot list.
J Lin on May 09, 2013:
Geekdom (author) on April 07, 2013:
It was very bloody. Ahhh the 80s.
Carlo Giovannetti from Puerto Rico on April 07, 2013:
I must say that the ED-209 was one of the creepiest and scariest things I saw as a teen. That opening scene, my Gawwd XD
Geekdom (author) on January 25, 2013:
Rich from New Jersey on January 25, 2013:
Hey, one persons useless trivia is another persons.......um, I don't know where I was going with that.....I guess I just like sexy androids.
Geekdom (author) on January 24, 2013:
Evil Maria from Metropolis made the number 6 spot on my 10 Best Android list. Because I am all about fun and useless trivia, C-3P0's design was inspired by Evil Maria.
Rich from New Jersey on January 24, 2013:
Again, very nice. I love the lady robot in the silent film "Metropolis".
Very Striking.....would make a good companion to C3Po.
Geekdom (author) on December 02, 2012:
I am glad you enjoyed my list. I have seen Metropolis and Evil Maria made my 10 Best Androids Hub. I have not seen Enthiran but I will have to check it out. Thanks for taking the time to comment.
amandajoyshapiro on December 02, 2012:
I love this post! All of the robots in Wall-E are brilliantly characterized. Dot Matrix from Spaceballs was a hilarious spoof. Ever seen Fritz Lang's Metropolis, or the Bollywood movie Enthiran?
Geekdom (author) on November 30, 2012:
Thanks for reading. Random trivia has always been fun for me. I am glad you enjoyed it.
sarcasticool from New Zealand on November 30, 2012:
Good to read someone else's Robot List, well done. I loved reading the Trivia too. Thanks for sharing!