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Top Ten: Robots in Movies & Television (part 2)

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This week we look at the Runner-Ups as we continue to narrow down the list towards the Top Ten Robots in Movies and Television.  Keep in mind, this is just my personal opinion and this list does not include animated films or television series.  Feel free to add your own favorites in the comments!

The Runner-Ups:

#20: Sentinels | The Matrix (1999)

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The robotic sentinels patrol the real world for human escapees from the Matrix.  Featuring a striking design reminiscent of Masamune Shirow’s work, the sentinels may not be the most original robots but their knack for hunting down human prey earns them a spot on the Runner-Ups list.  When Neo negotiates an uneasy treaty with the Deus Ex Machina and the sentinels are called off, they float peacefully in Zion like a graceful – almost beautiful – school of fish.

#19: Hinokio | Hinokio (2005)

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Hinokio is a telepresence robot – operated by a young boy who is suffering from depression due to the loss of his mother.  His inability to face the outside world is somewhat remedied by Hinokio, which allows the boy to attend classes and even make some friends.  An original concept for a story that is a little sappy for my tastes – but you can’t deny that Hinokio’s concept and design are fantastic.

#18: Sonny | I, Robot (2004)

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Isaac Asimov’s collected short stories were mined to produce this film adaptation directed by Alex Proyas (Dark City).  Unfortunately the movie fails to deliver the goods and quickly dissolves into typical Hollywood action-movie formula.  It doesn’t help that Will Smith’s performance is terrible and Sonny’s visual effects aren’t as convincing as the Chris Cunningham Bjork music video that inspired them, which is why this robot is #18 on the list.

#17: NDR-113 Andrew | Bicentennial Man (1999)

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Another Isaac Asimov adaptation, but this time the robot is played by Robin Williams instead of a digital character.  As much as I dislike Williams’ antics at times, the film still manages to do justice to the story of a robot who seeks to earn personhood.  Unfortunately for us the film’s promise of androids in every household by the year 2005 slightly missed the mark – though I doubt the average family would feel comfortable adopting a robotic clone of Robin Williams into their house anyway!

#16: GORT | The Day the Earth Stood Still (1951, 2008)

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GORT cuts an imposing figure on screen in the original 1951 version of the film, and while I hated the 2008 remake GORT’s nanotechnology was certainly the best part.  Serving as a kind of all-powerful peace keeping force, robots such as GORT patrol the galaxy looking for intelligent life that risks destroying itself or others, offering a stern but reasonable warning.  Despite being an undeniable icon of science fiction, GORT is a little bit too clumsy to land in the Top Ten.

#15: Maria | Metropolis (1927)

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Fritz Lang’s silent sci-fi classic is renowned for its spectacular special effects depicting a futuristic society divided along class lines.  A young woman named Maria tries to resolve the inequities between the workers toiling underground and the elite architects who live in luxury in the skyscrapers.  Her efforts are almost ruined when a scientist, on order from the city’s planner, creates an android in her likeness to use against the revolting workers.  The film can be difficult to digest, but is well worth checking out if you are curious.

#14: RoboCop & ED 209 | RoboCop (1987)

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RoboCop, despite Paul Verhoeven’s trademarked blood and gore action scenes, is also a pretty unique take on transhumanism.  The film takes place in a crummy future Detroit where corporations own and operate the police force.  A cop gets killed but is brought back to life as a cyborg, endowed with super human capabilities that make him nearly invincible.  Unfortunately for him, memories of a life once lived begin to resurface, the gang that killed him are still on the loose, and a new crime-fighting mech is going berserk.

#13: Bishop & The Power Loader | Aliens (1986)

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Despite Ripley’s distrust of androids given her experience in the original film, Bishop actually helps his human counterparts when they get stranded on a xenomorph-infested space colony. That’s cool, but what really steals the show is the Power Loader – the best Western mech ever designed. The fact it was never intended to be used as a fighting machine only makes the final climactic battle that much sweeter.

#12: GERTY| Moon (2009)

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GERTY owes a bit too much to 2001: A Space Odyssey‘s HAL-9000 to creep into the Top Ten. That said, this robotic assistant with an emoticon-based expression system, voiced by Kevin Spacey, is one of the better robots to appear on the big screen in recent years. His dry voice and stock expressions leave both the viewer and his human charge wondering if they can trust him.  In the end, this endearing robot proves himself both a loyal and valuable friend.

#11: Darth Vader | Star Wars (1977)

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Part man, part machine – Darth Vader is the quintessential sci-fi villain.  Unfortunately for Anakin, it is that which finally redeems him (his humanity) that limits him to the Runner-Up category.

That wraps up our look at the Runner-Ups.
Next Friday we’ll finally get down to business as we count down the Top Ten Robots in Movies and Television!

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