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.
But before we look at the Top Ten, let’s take a look at the Honorable Mentions:
#30: Max Headroom | Max Headroom Show (1985-1986)
When Max Headroom first appeared, people actually thought he was a real A.I., supposedly created by the memories of a fictional character. Were people in the ’80s just gullible, or was Max’s stuttering, synthesized voice and creepy make-up effects just that impressive? He went on to appear in a made-for-tv short film in the UK, which was adapted in a tv show, and became a spokesperson for Coca-cola. Though memorable, he only just barely made the list of honorable mentions.
#29: Daleks | Dr. Who (1953, 2005)
Daleks are mutants hailing from the planet Skaro, with a hatred of all things non-Dalek. They’re encased in protective mechanical shells armed with death rays with which they plan to cull all human life. Their catchphrase is simply, “Exterminate!”. As ridiculous as they are, the Daleks have managed to gain a foothold in popular culture, with the term Dalek even being foisted on unpopular humans (such as politicians) who resemble emotionless robots.
#28: Gypsy, Crow, & Tom Servo | MST3K (1988,1992)
These robots were trapped with a human aboard a satellite by an evil scientist who forces them to watch B movies. They provide color commentary during the otherwise mostly unwatchable features, poking fun at the bad acting, low budget special effects, and hideous writing.
#27: Kryten 2X4B 523P | Red Dwarf (1988)
Red Dwarf fans will cry foul that Kryten isn’t higher on this list, which is admittedly biased against characters appearing in shows airing primarily out of our district. That said, this slavenoid (robotic servant) is probably the best character to appear in Red Dwarf, and one of the funniest robots to appear on television.
#26: Robby | Forbidden Planet (1956)
An icon of science fiction robots, Robby made several appearances in films and tv series after its initial role in Forbidden Planet. It takes its name and its moral injunction from harming humans from Isaac Asimov’s collection of short stories I, Robot. Robby was inducted into the Robot Hall of Fame in 2004.
#25: Robot B9 | Lost In Space (1965, 1998)
Robot B9 was originally designed by Robert Kinoshita, the same person responsible for designing Forbidden Planet’s Robby. He often displayed human characteristics such as laughter, sadness, and mockery and would sing and play the guitar. He is probably best known for shouting, “Danger, Danger, Will Robinson!“ The robot underwent a significant design overhaul for the 1998 movie.
#24: KITT | Knightrider (1982-1986)
KITT (Knight Industries Two Thousand) was a sentient A.I. with a sensitive ego installed inside the Pontiac Firebird Trans Am driven by David Hasselhoff, who played a modern-day Lone Ranger. For its part, KITT could operate autonomously, had bullet proof shielding, and a turbo boost mode, among many other features. Thanks to the DARPA Urban Challenge, we might see a day when cars like KITT become a reality.
#23: ABC Warrior | Judge Dredd (1995)
Selected mostly for its brutish appearance that looks a bit like the Terminator on steroids, Hammerstein is probably the most memorable character from the film adaptation of cult-classic comic Judge Dredd besides Dredd himself. One of the ABC Warriors (a team of 7 robots which actually had their own comic series), insusceptible to atomic, bacterial, and chemical warfare, had distinct personalities, and fought in the Volgan War.
#22: Tik-Tok | Return to Oz (1985)
Considered the first robot to appear in modern literature (though the term robot had not yet been invented), Tik-Tok was a clockwork mechanical knight designed to police the Kingdom of Oz. Due to his spring-loaded design, he often needs to be wound in order to think, speak, or move. Baum described him as lifeless and without feelings or emotions. However, he proves to be a loyal and trustworthy partner for Dorothy during the course of their adventures. He also speaks in a halting fashion which is seen in many other robots.
#21: Marvin | The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy (2005)
The original Paranoid Android, Marvin was the Heart of Gold starship’s complimentary robot. A prototype displaying Genuine People Personalities technology, Marvin suffers from severe depression and boredom since he cannot make use of his vast intellect – which he claims is 50,000 times that of a human. Considered one of the most popular characters from The Guide, I felt this film adaptation didn’t quite do the character justice, which is why he is at the top of the Honorable Mentions.
That’s it for this week’s feature. Next week we’ll continue our countdown, taking a look at the runner-ups on the way to the top ten robots to appear in movies and television.