The new movie Pacific Rim has brought robots bursting back into our collective consciousness like wanton property damage. Here, we look back on artificial actors of the past who will always grip our hearts with their cold, crushing robot hands. These are the 12 best robots in film.
12 The Fembots
First Appearance: Austin Powers: International Man of Mystery (1997)
Why we love them: The Fembots were designed as both alluring honey traps and dangerous weapons that would finally net a win for Dr. Evil against Austin Powers. Their introduction, accompanied by “These Boots Are Made for Walkin’,” encompasses how sultry and deadly this bevy of beauties could be. Even Austin’s wife, Vanessa, turns out to be one of them (somehow)! They come equipped with synchronization, guns, gas, and irresistible charm. Their only weakness is sexiness stronger than theirs.
First Appearance: Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy (2005)
Why We Love Him: By far the best part of the movie adaptation of the novel was the permanently depressed helper robot Marvin, appropriately voiced by Alan Rickman. His boredom and gloomy disposition come from his hyperintelligence, but he almost never gets to use his big brain for much other than performing aboard the spaceship Heart of Gold. Everyone knows what it’s like to be stuck doing a menial task; for Marvin, that’s life. He moves a little slowly to comply with orders and even other machines aren’t keen to spend time with such a downer, but his sarcasm is fun for the audience.
10 Iron Giant
First Appearance: The Iron Giant (1999)
Why We Love It: The Iron Giant was a commercial failure, but it has been vindicated over time as an animated classic. The titular Iron Giant is dropped on Earth in the ’50s during Cold War hysteria and befriends a young boy named Hogarth. The reason why the Iron Giant is so beloved is twofold. Yes, he is still a giant robot who can crush rocks, fly, and stop trains, but he’s got a heart of gold (or iron?). Anyone who does not shed a tear when the Iron Giant flies to stop a nuclear missile to protect his friend, smiling and imagining that he’s Superman, is deader on the inside than a coffee machine.
9. Robot Maria
First Appearance: Metropolis (1927)
Why We Love It: During a time when film was a relatively new medium, Metropolis was a sprawling vision of a futuristic society with a huge divide between rich and poor, where making robot replicas of real people was possible. A mad scientist creates Robot Maria in order to ruin the reputation of the real Maria, but as with most things produced by mad scientists, things quickly get out of hand. Robot Maria entices the men of Metropolis, which drives them into a frenzy of lust and murder and pushes the workers to riot. Robot Maria was one of the very first evil AIs in film and with her innocent doe-eyes she plunges Metropolis into complete chaos.
First Appearance: The Transformers: The Movie (1986)
Why We Love It: This spot could really go to any of the Transformers. Michael Bay’s trilogy brought them out of the nostalgia closet and there could be a list made up of just the coolest Transformers. For this list, we decided to give a little love to Unicron from the animated movie. So what makes Unicron worthy of a spot over Optimus Prime? For one, he was voiced by the one and only Orson Welles shortly before his death, with some unfinished lines performed by Leonard Nimoy. Further, Unicron is no run-of-the-mill Transformer. The Transformers are giant fighting robots, but next to the sheer size of Unicron they look like the size of the toys they were based on. He is an eater of planets and consumes whole realities. He’s such a threat to both the Autobots and Decepticons that they have to work together to finally take him down, which should speak for how dangerous he really is.
First Appearance: WALL-E (2008)
Why We Love It: From a robot the size of a planet to a robot smaller than an oven, No. 7 is WALL-E. WALL-E isn’t dangerous, malicious, or even really very helpful—unless there’s trash around that needs to be compacted. He’s dutiful and lonely until the Apple-inspired Eve comes into his life. This tiny robot captured hearts with his curiosity, innocence, perseverance—and his love for another little robot.
First Appearance: Aliens (1986)
Why We Love It: If there is ever a robot you’d want in a tight spot, it would be Bishop. Bishop is a technician aboard the same ship as Ripley, the USS Sulaco and over the course of the movie he proves himself to be loyal and brave. For the most part he can socialize like humans do, but his superior reflexes allow him to do things like play a nasty game of five finger fillet at hyper speed. Even when ripped in half, he keeps going to ensure the safety of others. In Aliens 3 he acknowledges he might be able to be repaired, but would never be what he once was and in a moment of pride asks Ripley to disconnect him.
5 Roy Batty
First Appearance: Blade Runner (1982)
Why We Love It: Roy was a part of a group of fugitive replicants being hunted down for murder and escaping servitude. It’s hard not to be sympathetic to Roy, who was only escaping a life of slavery and knows he will soon expire, given his shortened lifespan. He has super strength, super speed, and can dispatch humans with frightening efficiency. One of the core themes of the film was whether or not artificial beings are conscious, demonstrated by the moving and mournful speech about memories Roy gives his would-be captor, Rick Deckard. Roy Batty was indeed, more human than human.
First Appearance: The Terminator (1984)
Why We Love It: Arnold Schwarzenegger really makes you believe you are looking at an emotionless, stiff robot. In an impressive feat of conditioning, Schwarzenegger even trained himself not to blink for long stretches to be more robotic—not even when firing a gun. This computerized assassin is given a task and goes to complete it no matter what. He has brutal strength, instant visual analysis, and only lives to complete his mission. He was later reprogrammed to help the heroes, becoming a hero himself, but he didn’t lose any of the things that made him a force to be reckoned with in the first film.
First Appearance: 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968)
Why We Love It: A robot is defined as a machine that automatically performs complicated tasks. The HAL 9000 doesn’t have an independent body, but he is in control of the ship and all of its functions. He makes sure that the crew is kept alive and on schedule toward their mission. However, when he concludes that the crew is inefficient and a danger to the mission, he decides quite logically that it would be better for him to continue on alone. Like many on the list, he is exceedingly intelligent, but he differs in that he is literally the environment. He uses much more passive ways of ending the lives of the crew, usually though only his intellect. His soft, calm monotone never fluctuates, adding an extra creepy factor. HAL is devious and sneaky and tries lying, bargaining, and emotionally manipulating David Bowman, the last of the astronauts, while he disconnects him.
First Appearance: RoboCop (1987)
Why We Love It: Part robot, part cop, all awesome. He is the cyborg product of a murdered police officer and the latest in crime-fighting technology. RoboCop is a one-man arsenal, including a 9mm handgun, an arm cannon, a jetpack for flight, and a grenade launcher. It might be a little overkill for a police officer, but it makes for one very memorable robot.
First Appearance: Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope (1977)
Why We Love It: Lovable, useful, and sassy without saying a word, R2D2 is our No. 1. R2D2 and C3P0 were robots, of course, but maybe the reason they’ve got so much soul is the fact that they were inspired by the friendly thieves in Akira Kurosawa’s The Hidden Fortress. R2D2 can only communicate in beeps and whirring sounds, but the audience still gets a sense that he’s snarky and sarcastic, in comparison to the tight-laced C3P0. Throughout the Star Wars movies, he delivers vital information among characters, repairs the Millennium Falcon and C3P0, and helps pilot smaller ships. Interestingly, because R2D2 was present for the events of the prequels and never received a memory wipe, he is the only surviving character at the end of Return of the Jedi who knows the entire story of Star Wars. Never has a collection of metal pieces had such an impact on a universe.