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Domo Arigato, Mr. Roboto!

  • Oct 7, 2011
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With Hugh Jackman's futuristic ode to Rock'em Sock'em Robots, Real Steel, hitting screens today, I decided to make a list of ten of my favorite films featuring or about robots (and maybe a cyborg or two).  Most people will probably recognize all of these films, but when was the last time that you've watched any of them?

I have mixed feelings about Real Steel.  Part of me wants to view it in order to see just how surprisingly good or amazingly bad it can be.  Another part of me thinks that it's going to be so bad that I might as well wait for the DVD/Blu-ray.

In either case, the film has inspired me enough to create this list.  I hope you enjoy it!

Oh, and by the way, I've never seen Blade Runner, so that's why it isn't on this list.  I just wanted to say that before anyone blew a gasket, as it appears that that film is considered to be one of the best science fiction films ever made.  I promise to watch it in the near future.

1
Terminator 2: Judgment Day
The 1980's and 1990's produced a long list of some of the best films about robots in my opinion.  On top of that  list (and mine) is Terminator 2:  Judgment Day.  Not only is it the pinnacle of the Terminator franchise, it is also my favorite Arnold Schwarzenegger film and for its time, a cutting-edge special effects feast.  It's both a favorite of science fiction fans and of general viewing audiences.

With guns ablaze and a tearjerker ending, Terminator 2:  Judgment Day tops my list.


2
The Iron Giant
Proving that robots can have hearts, The Iron Giant is my favorite animated film about robots.  It's a heartwarming story that, like all great children's films, tackles serious issues with dignity and care but also manages to entertain all ages as well.  In this case, The Iron Giant tackles issues such as being an outsider, choosing your own path despite what you might be "programmed" or "designed" to do, government intrusion, death, and the powerful bonds of love and friendship.

The Iron Giant will make you laugh, cry, and take a very long look at yourself and the world around you.  It's the most adult kid's film you'll ever see,  and I love it.


See the full review, "One Of The Best Films Ever".
3
Star Wars: Episode V - The Empire Strikes Back

While I could have easily placed any one of the three original Star Wars films on this list, I picked Star Wars:  The Empire Strikes Back for the simple fact that it is my favorite of those three films.  While it isn't specifically about robots, two of the franchise's primary characters (appearing in all six films) happen to be of the droid variety.  Of course, I'm talking about C-3PO and R2-D2, who provided both comedic relief and even a tad bit of drama over the course of the films. 

In addition to this memorable pair of droids, the franchise also includes a number of other robots.  From the droids who assisted the X-Wing pilots all the way down to the Medic Droid who repaired Luke's hand, these films are crawling with metal thespians.  Also, throw in the droid army and the cyborg villain General Grievous from the prequels, and you have an overflow of artificial intelligence!

 


4
RoboCop
The future of law enforcement burst onto screens in 1987 with RoboCop.  Peter Weller portrayed Murphy, a recently deceased cop who is given a second chance at life through the RoboCop program.  The film is unnervingly violent, and was originally given an X-rating due to this.  However, after a lot of editing, the film finally reached an R-rating and went on to be one of the biggest films of the 1980's.

On the surface, this film is nothing more than a big action flick.  While that is definitely a major part of the film, you don't have to look very deep to see issues such as corporate greed, human desperation, and the decline of mankind.  That's some pretty heavy issues to cover in a film about a cyborg cop! 


5
WALL-E

Barely uttering a word, the title character of Disney/Pixar's WALL-E, along with his friend, EVE, explores a number of heady issues all under the guise of cute robots and chubby animated humans.  WALL-E addresses the very adult topics of human indifference, environmentalism, reliance on technology, and obesity (as a result of complacency).  The story also addresses puppy love between WALL-E and EVE.

This film sends strong messages on all of the topics it addresses, but still manages to make the viewer laugh and maybe even cry a bit.  It's the only animated science fiction film I've ever watched that comes close to the brilliance of The Iron Giant.  If you've never watched it, I highly suggest you check it out.


6
Short Circuit
"Number 5 is alive!" was uttered by the mouths of moviegoers long after they left the theaters in 1986.  The film that spawned this line was Short Circuit, a light comedy about a robot created by a young scientist, Dr. Crosby (Steve Guttenberg) and his partner, Jabituya (Fisher Stevens), who short circuits and, instead of becoming a weapon for the military, takes a liking to things such as grasshoppers and 80's pop tunes. 

The robot, Number 5, befriends Stephanie (Ally Sheedy, in one of a number of roles where she attempts to break away from the "Brat Pack"), a young lady who shows Number 5 how to respect life and nature and he soon develops emotions, specifically those related to the joy of living and a great fear of death.

Soon enough, the military is out to collect their prize, and along the way we are given a number of funny and heartwarming moments as Number 5, Stephanie, and the scientist go on the run.  This film is a lot like The Iron Giant as far as the issues it covers, but eventually falls into the trappings of standard 80's comedies.  Despite this, Short Circuit remains one of my favorite robot flicks.


7
I, Robot
Toss out Isaac Asimov's wonderful stories which "inspired" this action flick, because there are very few similarities between Asimov's world and Will Smith's world in I, Robot.  With that said, I do believe that this film stands on its own two feet quite well.  The film takes place in the near future where humans have become reliant upon robots to help us with almost every aspect of our lives.  When a prominent scientist seemingly commits suicide, a cop with personal ties to the scientist, Del Spooner (Smith), believes that it was actually a robot who murdered him and not a suicide. 

Spooner's accusation is scandalous, as all of the robots supposedly follow "three laws" that prohibit them from harming humans.  With only one scientist (Bridget Moynahan) somewhat believing him and everyone else believing he is insane, Spooner sets out to prove that a robot did kill the scientist.  As he gets closer to the truth, he begins to uncover even scarier evidence showing that there's more to the story than he could ever imagine.

This film is smart, and tackles issues revolving around human dependence on technology and what could happen if that technology began to take control.  It's also a story about someone or something becoming more than they really are.  It's an excellent film and one of my favorite Will Smith flicks.


See the full review, "Surprisingly Good".
8
Chopping Mall
While I'm pretty sure I'll never see this film on a "100 Best" movie list, I have to admit that I love Chopping Mall.  The film's title suggests that it's a typical 1980's slasher flick along the lines of the Friday The 13th films, but it's original title, Killbots, is much more accurate. 

For those of you who aren't familiar with this cheese-tastic blast from the past, Chopping Mall is about four couples (one of which includes Tony O'Dell, the preppy nerd from Head of the Class) who decide to have a little teenaged fun in a furniture store at their local mall.  What they don't realize, however, is that the mall has just installed the latest in mall security, robot guards who are supposed to catch criminals (but not kill them).  When a storm short-circuits the robots, they go on a killing spree, taking out anyone in their path.

This film is lame and terrible, but that is what makes it so great to me.


9
Transformers
While it is nowhere near perfect, 2007's Transformers is definitely a fun ride.  Michael "I need more 'splosions" Bay directs this 1980's cartoon/toy line come-to-life film and does a pretty good job of bringing some of my favorite characters to life on the big screen.  The film is pure eye candy and loaded with nostalgia for anyone who grew up during the 80's.

This film is basically a slugfest between the Autobots and Decepticons as they battle over the All Spark, the source of life for all Transformers (or Cybertronians if you want to get technical).  It has spawned two sequels so far.  The first one, Transformers:  Revenge of the Fallen, received terrible reviews and I didn't actually see it until a few days before the third film in the series, Transformers:  Dark of the Moon, was released.  I was left with such a bad taste in my mouth that I skipped the third film altogether.  I'm sure I'll get to it eventually, but for now I'm going to stick with the original film. 

For pure brainless fun and completely unbelievable action, Transformers is perfect.


10
Movie poster
I originally stumbled on 1975's The Stepford Wives when I was around twelve years old.  It came on late night on the local NBC affiliate.  Despite being a bit slow at first, I gave the film a chance and kept watching.  Since then, I've watched it quite a few times and it has slowly become one of my favorite robot films.  Why?  Because it addresses the pursuit of perfection in a very scary way. 

The men of Stepford want perfect wives, and thanks to advancements in robotics, they are getting them.  When Joanna (Katharine Ross) uncovers what makes the women of Stepford so perfect, she finds herself in the ultimate fight for her own life.

Please, please, please do not compare this film to the remake garbage from the early 2000's featuring Nicole Kidman.  That film is terrible!  The original version is so much better that it is scary.  If you're in need of a creepy robot wife fix, check out The Stepford Wives.  You will not be sorry!


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October 11, 2011
Great list! I've seen most of these films. I would have put Terminator over T2 and would have included Westworld.
October 12, 2011
I haven't seen Westworld, but people I've talked to who have appear to love it.
 
October 11, 2011
Awesome list, K! I grew up with Transformers, so I love me some robots :) I haven't seen a couple of these before, so I've got some catching up to do! I would also add The Day The Earth Stood Still to my list.
October 12, 2011
I stuck with films that I've watched, so The Day The Earth Stood Still couldn't make the cut. In all honesty, though, I've heard so many good things about the original that I almost threw him on the list based on reputation alone.
 
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About the list creator
Kendall Fontenot ()
Ranked #17
Despite looking extremely cool, I have to admit that I'm a dork. I grew up on the outskirts of the small town of Oberlin, LA. I have since relocated to the Lake Charles, LA area.I love my home state … more
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