Narrowing this list down to the top 10 best live action tv & movie robots was a difficult prospect. Robots, androids, cyborgs, artificial intelligences, you name it – with so many to choose from, in such a wide assortment of styles, there’s bound to be some left out. Feel free to post your own favorites if they’re not on the list! Keep in mind the list does not include animated tv shows or movies.
#10: Number 5 | Short Circuit (1986)
Number 5, affectionately nicknamed Johnny 5, makes the short list for being one of the most sophisticated movie props of all time. It had to be able to work, at least mechanically if not intelligently, or the movie couldn’t be made. The end product was a real robot that could be controlled remotely by human operators.
#9: Autobots & Decepticons | Transformers (2007)
High on the list of favorite cartoons was Transformers; an early introduction to Japanese animation filled with god-like sentient robots, waging battles of mythic proportion in bite-sized 22 minute episodes. It wasn’t perfect, but the Transformers stole the show in Michael Bay’s live action adaptation. The toy-line of reconfigurable action figures / vehicles was not just a clever marketing ploy; they’re quality toys that beat just about anything else out there.
#8: T-800 | The Terminator (1984)
The Terminator is a classic movie monster, but it isn’t the product of medieval myths or superstitions like Dracula, the Mummy, or the Wolf Man. It’s a man-made technological terror, and as such I doubt it will lose its gravatas even 100 years from now (though people may laugh at the primitive special effects). Arnold became an instant star as the T-800, the nearly unstoppable robot from the future hell-bent on completing its mission: killing Sarah Connor. In the sequel, the T-800 undergoes one of the best role-reversals in cinema history as it is sent back in time to protect John Connor, the would-be savior of the human race.
#7: The Borg| Star Trek TNG (1987-1994)
Like the Terminator and many other robots from Hollywood, The Borg is an excellent personification of our deepest fears about technology: that it may one day replace us. It may also represent the shadow of Western civilization’s colonial period. The Borg operate like a computer program constantly upgrading and debugging itself, assimilating new species and technology into one gigantic organism. Resistance is futile.
#6: HAL 9000 | 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968)
Hal is just a single red light paired with a so-polite-it’s-creepy voice, but he still manages to steal the show in Kubrick’s seminal sci-fi epic based on the novel by Arthur C. Clarke. Audiences are left wondering if Hal was in fact malfunctioning, or if he simply wanted to meet with the monolith himself? HAL is an inductee to the Robot Hall of Fame.
#5: T-1000 | Terminator 2 (1991)
Skynet’s diabolical prototype terminator is a nightmarish killing machine made of modular, nano-robots that reminds one of Arthur C. Clarke’s famous quote,”Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.” Millions of microscopic robots come together, fusing and intertwining in what appears to be a puddle of liquid metal, forming whatever shape it wants. Not only was it a jaw-dropping special effect showcase for CGI before it would become commonplace, but it also puts most movie monster concepts to shame with its frightening ability to mimic almost anything it touches.
#4: Lt. Cmdr. Data | Star Trek TNG (1987-1994)
Filling in for Spock on The Next Generation, Data was a thoroughly logical android who, in archetypal fashion, wanted to know what it is like to feel emotions like a real human being. This character allowed the writers to explore all the little nuances of the human-robot relationship, which provided for many of the show’s best stories.
#3: Nexus 6 | Blade Runner (1982)
The Nexus 6 were the latest and greatest genetically-modified artificial humans from the Tyrell Corporation. The only problem is, they tend to get mad when they learn of their 4 year lifespan. In the film adaptation of Philip Dick’s Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? Roy Batty and his synthetic crew are more human than the humans who hunt them.
#2: David| A.I. Artifical Intelligence (2001)
Who could forget Haley Joel Osment’s performance as David in Stanley Kubrick and Stephen Spielberg’s sci-fi epic about a robot who dreams of becoming a real boy so his human mother will love him? Allusions to Pinocchio aside, the film invites the audience to contemplate what our responsibility will be to an A.I. as sophisticated as David, and what legacy we leave behind should robots survive if humanity destroys itself. If a robot displays human-level intelligence and has the capacity to feel love as well as pain and suffering, does it not deserve the same rights as a human?
#1: R2D2 & C3PO | Star Wars (1977)
These two are practically synonomous with movie robots, supposedly based on a couple of bungling peasants from Akira Kurosawa’s ”Hidden Fortress”. From C3PO’s bumbling antics to R2’s random acts of heroism that save the day, this duo easily takes the #1 spot for best live action movie robots.
Alita| Battle Angel Alita (2010?)
There is one robot character that should be hitting the big screen in the next couple of years that is sure to make one helluva splash: Alita (Gally) from Yukito Kishiro’s epic manga, Battle Angel! Director James Cameron has already completed a year of pre-production on the film, but is finalizing Avatar before shooting Battle Angel. Can’t wait!