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Top 10 Movie Robots

  • Aug 24, 2010
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Robots have been appearing in movies for nearly 100 years. They can be cute, cool, scary or just plain annoying, but one things for sure, everyone seems to love them.

The term "robot" was first used by Czech playwright Karel Capek in his stage production R.U.R. (Rossum's Universal Robots). Capek attributed the creation of the word to his brother, Josef. It's derived from the Czech word "robota", which literally translates as "work" or "labour".
Writer Isaac Asimov coined the term "robotics" in 1941, and then famously invented its three "laws".

I have been quite strict with the criteria for this list. Cyborgs have been disqualified, as have human-like androids.
Just out of the Top 10: Gort (Day the Earth Stood Still), Maximillian (The Black Hole), Hector (Saturn 3).
The iconic, Art Deco, machine-human from Fritz Lang's 1927 masterpiece Metropolis. One of the first screen robots and still one of the best. An obvious design inspiration for Star Wars' C-3PO.

Robby is a genuine Science Fiction and pop-culture icon. He was first seen in Forbidden Planet (1956) and went on to appear in numerous movies and TV shows, including The Twilight Zone, Columbo, Wonder Woman and Gremlins.

I could have filled this entire list with various robots from the Star Wars movies, but R2 is undoubtedly the most loved of all the droids.
In the original Star Wars trilogy (1977 - 1983) and The Phantom Menace (1999), Artoo was bought to life through a combination of radio controlled models and a suit worn by actor Kenny Baker. A fully CGI version was used for many shots in Attack of the Clones (2002) and Revenge of the Sith (2005).

Huey, Louie & Dewey (Silent Running)
Named after the nephews of Donald Duck, these robots are an important part of Douglas Trumbull's underrated Silent Running (1972). Interestingly, the three actors inside the costumes were all double amputees who moved around by walking on their hands.
The big, bad enforcement robot from Robocop (1987). ED was bought to life in the movie using a combination of miniature stop-motion animation and a full sized model. A great design - mean and aggressive. Not so great when faced with a flight of stairs though...

ABC Robot
Definitely one of the highlights of the mediocre Judge Dredd (1995) movie. The ABC robot is modeled on the character Hammerstein from the 2000AD comic strip ABC Warriors . 2000AD, of course, is also where the Judge Dredd comic strip appears, so his inclusion in the film is somewhat of an in-joke and a fan pleaser.

Johnny 5
Designed by "visual futurist" and legendary film concept designer Syd Mead, Johnny 5 appeared in two Short Circuit movies (1986 & 1988). Johnny's voice was provided by Tim Blaney, who also served as the character's puppeteer.

The Iron Giant
I love The Iron Giant (1999) movie, and I just had to include this robot in my top ten. I think it's a wonderfully designed and realised character; equal parts intimidating and lovable.
Although the movie is predominantly hand drawn, the Iron Giant is completely computer animated.

Wall-E is a masterclass in design, taking the best elements from some of cinema's greatest robots and wrapping them up in one adorable, yellow package.
Wall-E's "voice" was provided by Ben Burtt, the sound-effects genius behind R2-D2.

It was a bit of a battle for last place on my list, but after careful consideration, Marvin from The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy claims the final spot. Marvin has the rare distinction of being brilliantly realised twice on screen - in the 1981 BBC television series and the 2005 movie. The version from the TV series actually makes a cameo in the movie, which I thought was a nice touch.
Marvin also gets extra kudos for inspiring the superb Radiohead song, Paranoid Android.


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September 02, 2010
Data was a robot, no?
September 02, 2010
I think Data was an android, so I couldn't include him in this list ( I discounted all androids that look human). If I get around to making a Top 10 Movie Androids & Cyborgs list, he'll definitely be on it.
September 02, 2010
What about bicentennial man?
September 02, 2010
I considered including Andrew, The Bicentennial Man, but after careful consideration, I concluded he fell into the android category. It's a tricky one as he begins the movie as a robot, but develops into a human-looking android as the movie progresses. He might go on my Top 10 Movie Androids & Cyborgs list, when I get around to writing it.
September 02, 2010
Okay, fair enough. That would def be the most influential robot/human I can think of, really made me think of what could come.
September 02, 2010
so cool.
September 02, 2010
Thanks! :)
August 27, 2010
As  you know, I love this list!  I especially love that you've got movie robots on it that practically span the century.  Thanks for sharing! :)
August 29, 2010
Thanks, Deb! I think it's great that, despite the advances in special effects and CGI technology, some of the most memorable screen robots were crafted the old fashioned way.
August 26, 2010
Nice list. What do you think About Sonny from the Movie IRobot? I thought he was pretty cool, a robot with free will.
August 26, 2010
I thought "I, Robot" was OK, and the idea of a robot with free will and emotions was nicely handled, but I wasn't really impressed with the design of Sonny. I think they were possibly inspired by the robots in Chris Cunningham's superb music video for Bjork's "All Is Full of Love", which I think are realised much better.

August 26, 2010
intresting ive never seen that video
August 25, 2010
Wonderful list, but I must ask if we're prejudiced against androids? ; )
August 25, 2010
Cheers, Sean! I have no prejudice, I promise. Some of my best friends are androids. :P
August 25, 2010
ABC made the list? AWESOME!! THAT is coming from out of nowhere and makes things stand out. I know of ABC from 2000AD but never got around to reading about him.
August 25, 2010
ABC Warriors is one of my favourite 2000AD strips, so I was really happy to see him in the Dredd movie, and even happier they did such a great job bringing him to life. Now I want to see an ABC Warriors movie!
August 24, 2010
awesome list! I think your list has inspired me to do something similar...cheers, Simon!
August 24, 2010
Thanks, William! Can't wait to see what you come up with. :)
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Simon Lee Tranter ()
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Member Since: May 8, 2009
Last Login: Jan 24, 2015 05:53 PM UTC
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