Robots, androids, droids, Autobots, Decepticons, humanoids – the mechanized machines come in many shapes, sizes, and spare parts. Building an inhuman figure can make any creator revel in the unsettling achievement. To be created and to create something of your own design, even in your own likeness, is life-reflecting art in Frankenstein fashion. Others have no known inception, an added layer of horror to the cold and calculating hunks of metal. B movies from science fiction’s golden age in Hollywood placed robots in a position of causing clunky, collateral damage or having a mindless automaton killer’s programming. Most think robots will replace humans rather than help them, but not all robots are evil.
In its leaps and bounds, the best science fiction movies make people think. The fancy future doodads and bells and whistles are enough to make people laugh. Some franchises that and make people cry for a better send-off. Robots have the unique role of sharing our own inhumane indifference, can-do attitude, and willingness to take anything you can throw at it. Robots are a tool, but sometimes they come engineered with their own biting, dry, and whimsical personalities. Cyborgs and AI assassins can trudge on over to RadioShack. The following robots have good intentions and make us feel with all our bits and pieces.
10 Marvin – The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy (2005)
Created by science fiction humorist and author Douglas Adams and voiced by the austere Alan Rickman (Professor Severus Snape in the Harry Potter series), Marvin the paranoid android earns his moniker. The depressed robot waddles through life, thinking about how pointless it all is. The sad truth: Marvin has a point. The Debbie Downer droid leaves a bitter but hilarious taste of irony in the debris that was our planet Earth and along a galaxy-sized bypass.
9 Sonny – I, Robot (2004)
Sonny (voiced by Alan Tudyk) was designed with the ability to express human emotions by Dr. Alfred Lanning (James Cromwell), co-founder of US Robotics. He also is not primed to follow the Three Laws of Robotics made famous in the science fiction short story, “Runaround” by Isaac Asimov. Sonny’s personalized programming puts him at the forefront of a controversial and indirect robotic revolt. Hopefully by the year 2035, man is no longer the maker of his own misery and dreams better dreams.
8 Andrew Martin – Bicentennial Male (1999)
The story is about a 200-year-old robot named Andrew Martin, who requests the right to live and die as a real human. Based on another Isaac Asimov story of the same name and played by comedian Robin Williams, this science fiction dramedy walks us through what it means to be human. Pinocchio can eat his “real boy” heart out, Andrew has all the potential, creativity, and freedom of a real man!
7 Gort – The Day the Earth Stood Still (1951)
Gort is the original RoboCop. He is arguably better than the cyborg law enforcer. Being a space-faring keeper of the peace in a larger interplanetary police force, Gort holds Earth’s redemption and damnation in the balance. He does not operate from an evil place, but out of a Stoic anti-war composition. Gort wants to defend the human race from its own destruction and from destroying other planets. However, if the human race does not comply, Gort will use the ultimate use of lethal force: destroying Earth to save the other planets.
6 Bishop – Aliens (1986)
An android who prefers the term “artificial person,” Bishop (Lance Henriksen) would never jeopardize the lives of his fellow flesh and blood brethren. Bishop is the complete opposite to the saboteur android Ash from alien, whose fascination with the Xenomorph alien species is met with a motivation to protect and serve the Colonial Marines. Henriksen does a fantastic job conveying innocence, pity, and intelligence as a robot.
5 Tin Man – The Wizard of Oz (1939)
Adapted from the fantasy children’s novel, The Wonderful Wizard of Oz by L. Frank Baum, the man made of tin was an obvious choice. His original name was the Tin Woodman, and was Baum’s conglomerate of a funnel for a hat, a saucepan for a face, a wash-boiler for a body, and stovepipes for arms and legs. Built to chop wood and built without a heart, his hollow existence is the epitome of the human condition.
4 Robby the Robot – Forbidden Planet (1956)
Deemed “the hardest working robot in Hollywood,” Robby the Robot has appeared in the revolutionary science fiction film, Forbidden Planetthe Lost in Space television series, and many other science fiction movies and shows. He is a robot that follows Asimov’s Three Laws of Robotics, and with the knowledge and capabilities of an entire alien population, Robby is a wonderful, friendly helper.
3 Futura / Maria – Metropolis (1927)
Also known as the Maschinenmensch (German for machine-human), the gynoid, or female robot, was first an oppressor to the working masses. She soon became a symbol of hope and rebellion in the groundbreaking silent dystopian film from German expressionist director, Fritz Lang. Maria is one of the earliest descriptions of a robot on film and certainly one of the most memorable.
2 Iron Giant – The Iron Giant (1999)
The bedtime story by Ted Hughes became a cult classic animated film from director Brad Bird. The anti-war machine is an ironic statement on how hurting each other, and being someone we are not, is not the answer. The robot made of autonomous parts that can put themselves back together again never failed to make us feel like Superman.
1 C-3PO – Star Wars (1977)
The gold-plated protocol droid is “fluent in over six million forms of communication” and has the etiquette and manners of a reserved butler. Maria’s design from Metropolis also inspired the parts for the droid from a galaxy far, far away. Played and voiced by Anthony Daniels, he brings a steady mix of comic relief and rationale in the face of danger. Besides Luke Skywalker, C-3PO is the only other good thing Anakin Skywalker ever made before turning to the Dark Side. C-3PO is a true friend first and a robot second.