Total Recall

Total Recall: Best Movie Robots

We count down our favorite movie mechanoids.

by | June 23, 2009 | Comments

This week’s release of Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen marks the return of the famous “robots in disguise” to the big screen. That got us at RT thinking about movie robots, and specifically, what would be the best robot to actually own? So we’ve put together a pretty big list of the best robots in movie history.

A quick note on our methodology; for the most part, we’re sticking to movie robots, so TV stars like Twiki that never made the jump to the big screen are left in the scrap pile. And we’ve ranked this list by a very subjective measurement we call “awesomeness,” which is combination of fame, utility, physical appearance, and how great it would be to have one of these ‘bots in your possession. So without further ado, let’s get mechanical!

50. Box

Appears in: Logan’s Run

Box is pretty handy; running a fish farm means he can supply a whole city with food, but he still finds time to dispose of pesky teenagers.


49. David

Appears in: A.I. Artificial Intelligence

Some robots are shiny, some are fearsome, some have wheels, and some, like David, are basically teddy bears. David’s whole purpose is to actually feel love for an owner, which is both groundbreaking and extremely creepy.


48. Hector

Appears in: Saturn 3

Part of the Demi-God series, Hector has the potential to render a space station crew obsolete. Although it’s unfortunate that his reprogramming results in Hector deciding that “obsolete” equals “needs to die.”


47. D.A.R.Y.L. (Data-Analysing Robot Youth Lifeform)

Appears in: D.A.R.Y.L.

Another example of the “boy robot,” D.A.R.Y.L. beats David from A.I. by being able to drive a car and fly a plane, important skills he learned from playing video games.


46. Huey, Dewey, and Louie

Appears in: Silent Running

These agrobots were excellent gardners, and (more importantly) served as the primary visual influence on the legendary R2-D2. Think of them as R2’s long-lost uncles.


45. U.S. Robotics model NS-5 “Sonny”

Appears in: I, Robot

The NS-5s are pretty advanced, and they look very slick (not unlike what you might see in a Bjork video). Sadly, the entire model line loses points because of an unfortunate tendency to kill humans as part of an effort to “protect” us from ourselves. They also lose points for being in a Rotten adaptation of one of sci-fi master Isaac Asimov’s seminal works.


44. NDR-113 “Andrew”

Appears in: Bicentennial Man

Andrew is another Asimov creation, a household servant android that develops a personality and eventually desires to become human. The Pinocchio trope (the desire to become a “real” person) is something that comes up a lot in robot stories, and Asmiov’s original material won a Hugo award. But like Sonny, Andrew loses points for being in a Rotten adaptation, although we won’t penalize him for deciding to look like Robin Williams.


43. Stepford Wives

Appears in: The Stepford Wives (1975), The Stepford Wives (2004)

This is what happens when scientists and technicians decide that they want perfect, traditional wives, free of all that pesky Women’s Lib nonsense. Fembots might seem like a good idea, but they’re no replacement for a real, adult relationship.


42. Johnny Cab

Appears in: Total Recall

A self-driving car! With a snappy personality! How awesome is that? Johnny’s got a lot of potential, but ultimately falls short of greatness; he’s installed in a pretty weak car, he’s not much of a getaway driver, and leaving without paying means he’ll explode.


41. Cylon Centurions

Appears in: Battlestar Galactica

Yes, they’re basically Stormtrooper knockoffs. Yes, they were on TV. But there was a theatrical release of Battlestar Galactica. And even though they’re basically cannon fodder, slick chrome armor and cool voices (the pinnacle of ’70s audio technology) definitely earn a place on this list.

40. Jinx

Appears in: Space Camp

Jinx was something that NASA developed for exploration, but never seemed to work right. That is, until his friend Max wants to go to space — Jinx simply hacks into the NASA system, resulting in a Space Shuttle launch. Take that, Mitnick!


39. Tik Tok

Appears in: Return to Oz

Tik Tok is one of Dorothy’s faithful companions in the magical land of Oz. He’s not electronic per se, but he is entirely mechanical (unlike that Tin Man poser).


38. AMEE

Appears in: Red Planet

AMEE would be very handy to have on a Mars exploration mission, but loses points for her original military programming that turns her into a deathbot.


37. SID 6.7

Appears in: Virtuosity

SID is orginally a computer program used to study the minds of serial killers. So of course he’s going to get an electronic body. SID gets points for being a snappy dresser and looking like Russell Crowe, but loses points for being a psychotic killer.


36. Police Robots

Appears in: THX 1138

The cops in THX 1138 are faceless drones, reflective of the general paranoia towards authority in the ’70s. But they have nifty chrome faceplates, so that counts for something, right? We’ll see this idea come up again for George Lucas with the creation of the Imperial Stormtroopers in Star Wars.


35. Johnny 5

Appears in: Short Circuit, Short Circuit 2

Originally a military prototype, Johnny 5 was struck by lightning, rendering him self-aware. Ultimately, he’s pretty silly (and downright annoying at times), but he earns points for a good design and surprising utility; how many robots can make miniature versions of themselves?


34. ED-209

Appears in: Robocop

ED-209 was the original future of law enforcement. He’s extremely intimidating, with a deep, commanding voice and dual machine guns on each arm. Unfortunately, he loses points for a regrettable tendency to kill executives and not being able to walk down stairs.


33. Ash

Appears in: Alien

Fooling all of his crewmates into thinking he’s human until his head is knocked off earns Ash a decent spot on this list. But letting those same crewmates serve as bait for a bloodthirsty alien definitely costs him points on the “must own” scale.


32. Fembots

Appears in: Austin Powers: International Man of Mystery

Blonde hair and baby-doll lingerie? Robots don’t get much sexier than this. Those breast-mounted machine guns are bit of a buzzkill though…


31. Call

Appears in: Alien: Resurrection

One of the late-generation androids in the Alien universe, Call is another ‘bot that successfully fools her crewmates into thinking she’s a real human. Call also gets bonus points for looking like Winona Ryder.

30. Ro-Man

Appears in: Robot Monster

It’s a guy in a gorilla suit with a robot head! That’s 10 kinds of awesome!


29. Gort

Appears in: The Day the Earth Stood Still

One of the most iconic robots in classic sci-fi movies, Gort is the original gangster destructo-bot. He’s totally indestructible, and his laser eye is unstoppable. When little Terminators and Battle Droids are asked what they want to be when they grow up, the answer is always the same: Gort.


28. Robby the Robot

Appears in: Forbidden Planet

Robby is another icon of classic sci-fi. After his debut in Forbidden Planet, Robby went on to star in dozens of movies and TV shows. He’s also the older brother of sorts to the robot on Lost in Space


27. Maximillian

Appears in: The Black Hole

Maximillian is one of the coolest-looking robots ever to menace humans in the movies. From his blood red paint job to his fearsome red optical sensor, Maximillian looks like a demon wrapped in electronics and metal. He loses points for going to Hell at the end of the movie, though.


26. V.I.N.Cent

Appears in: The Black Hole

V.I.N.Cent isn’t as intimidating as Maximillian, and that schoolteacher tone is a little irritating (paging C-3PO). But he gets major points for being able to fly, he’s a really good shot, and he’s the only telepathic robot on this list.


25. Data

Appears in: Star Trek: Generations, Star Trek: First Contact, Star Trek: Insurrection, Star Trek: Nemesis

Sitting right in the center of this list is the one-of-a-kind android named Data. Ok, so he’s actually one of at least 3, but still, he’s pretty awesome in seven season of Star Trek: The Next Generation. But when he gets to the big screen, he’s just not as cool. Frankly, we liked him better without the emotion chip.


24. T-X

Appears in: Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines

The T-X is one of the most advanced Terminator models; she can mimic other people like the T-1000, and she’s got some pretty impressive on-board weaponry. Plus, she looks like Kristanna Loken, which is always a plus. But the T-X gets docked major points for being taken out by an older, obsolete model 850 Terminator.


23. Casella “Cash” Reese

Appears in: Cyborg 2

We could talk about Cash being a super tough combat cyborg, but that’s beside the point. She makes the list for looking like Angelina Jolie.


22. Evil Bill & Ted

Appears in: Bill & Ted’s Bogus Journey

Evil Bill & Ted are evil, to be sure, but they’re still pretty funny in a Bill & Ted doofus kind of way. And bonus points for killing the real Bill & Ted at Vasquez Rocks, where Captain Kirk fought with a Gorn.


21. Dot Matrix

Appears in: Spaceballs

Dot is a satire of C-3PO, but don’t hold that against her. Voiced by Joan Rivers, Dot has some pretty standard shtick, but since this is Spaceballs, we’ll let it slide.

20. C-3PO

Appears in: Star Wars, The Empire Strikes Back, Return of the Jedi, The Phantom Menace, Attack of the Clones, Revenge of the Sith, The Clone Wars

He’s fluent in over 6 million forms of communication, but honestly, he’s really irritating. Although 3PO serves as a bit of comic relief in the Star Wars saga, and is actually useful at times, in reality, his incessant whining would get old pretty quickly. Bonus points for being an icon, but major penalties for being so annoying.


19. The Iron Giant

Appears in: The Iron Giant

What do you do when a 50 foot robot crashes near your house? Make friends with it of course! The Iron Giant has a cool retro-future look, and a deep, gravelly voice (thanks to Vin Diesel), and he’s probably the single most powerful robot on this list.


18. Marvin, the Paranoid Android

Appears in: The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy

Marvin is likely the most intelligent robot on this list, and he won’t hesitate to tell you that. He’d probably then tell you why everything about this list is pointless, and then he’d wonder why he’s even bothering to tell you in the first place.


17. The Gunslinger

Appears in: Westworld

Before Arnold Schwarzenegger played an unstoppable robot out for blood, there was Yul Brenner in Westworld. Brenner’s gunslinger is supposed to be a fun part of a futuristic robot theme park, but something goes wrong (as it always does), and this gunslinger decides he’s tired of letting the guests win the duels, and he’s packing live ammo to boot.


16. Bishop

Appears in: Aliens, Aliens

Ellen Ripley hates androids, and rightly so: an android betrayed her and her crew, making Ripley the only survivor of an alien attack. Bishop, on the other hand, is loyal, trustworthy, and capable, and can save lives even after being ripped in half.


15. Bubo

Appears in: Clash of the Titans

In Clash of the Titans, Athena doesn’t want to give her pet owl to the hero Perseus, and so she asks Hephaestus to create this mechanical replacement. In reality, Bubo was created by legendary stop-motion animator Ray Harryhausen, making for an extremely impressive pedigree both on- and off-screen.


14. Mechagodzilla

Appears in: Godzilla vs. Mechagodzilla

How do you fight Godzilla? With a giant robot version! Being a robot version of the King of Monsters earns very high marks, and guarantees a pretty high spot on this list.


13. Maria

Appears in: Metropolis

First! Maria is the first robot in the movies. She’s also a major influence on the look of C-3PO. Granted, she gets burned at the stake, but nobody’s perfect, right?


12. Major Kusanagi

Appears in: Ghost in the Shell

In our opinion, Trinity from The Matrix owes more than a little bit to Major Kusanagi. They both wear tight clothes and they both are willing to jump through the windows of office towers.


11. Tom Servo & Crow T. Robot

Appears in: Mystery Science Theater 3000: The Movie

Another couple of robots that are mostly known for their TV work, Tom and Crow did make one jump to the big screen. In terms of utility, they may not be that great, but these guys are two of the wittiest robots ever to appear in movies.

10. EVE (Extraterrestrial Vegetation Evaluator)

Appears in: WALL-E

EVE is a state of the art robot; she can fly at supersonic speeds, she’s packing some serious onboard weaponry, and she learns that there’s more to existence than just fulfilling her programming.


9. Roy Batty (Nexus 6 Replicant)

Appears in: Blade Runner

Roy is the pinnacle of the Nexus 6 line. Built for combat, he’s faster, stronger, and smarter. And although that ability comes with a hefty price (a very short life span), Roy learns to cherish all life at the end of his own.


8. T-1000

Appears in: Terminator 2: Judgment Day

After the destruction of the original T-800 in the first Terminator film, James Cameron obviously felt that he needed to up the ante. Enter the T-1000. Made up of “liquid metal,” the T-1000 can perfectly mimic the size or shape of just about anything (or anyone) it touches. It’s mostly unstoppable, and one of the coolest robots on the list, but ultimately loses a few points for being taken down by an older model Terminator.


7. HAL 9000

Appears in: 2001: A Space Odyssey

Technically, HAL is a computer, and not a robot, but we’re willing to bend the rules for an icon like this. HAL is extremely intelligent, but has a bit of a breakdown, causing him to commit murder. Not Terminator-style mayhem mind you, but quiet, insidious murder, more suited to his calm, cool demeanor.


6. Robocop

Appears in: Robocop, Robocop 2, Robocop 3

Robocop was built by Omni Consumer Products as the ultimate in law enforcement. Admittedly, he’s still partly human (a “creamy center” if you will), but he’s just entirely too awesome to leave off of this list.


5. WALL-E (Waste Allocation Load Lifter, Earth-Class)

Appears in: WALL-E

As the last functioning garbage ‘bot on an abandoned Earth, WALL-E diligently continues his work, even though he’s evolved a personality. With personality comes loneliness, but also bravery and cleverness, and WALL-E ultimately proves that he’s much more than the sum of his programming. Bonus points for being really cute.


4. Optimus Prime

Appears in: Transformers: The Movie (1986), Transformers, Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen

In an entire race made up of really impressive robots, Optimus Prime really stands out. He’s an icon of bravery, loyalty, and honor, and he’s a magnificent warrior. To be honest, Optimus had a shot at the top spot on the list, but giving him robot lips in the live-action films is just too much. Seriously Prime, you should have put your foot down there.


3. Bender Bending Rodriguez

Appears in: Futurama: Bender’s Big Score, Futurama: Bender’s Game, Futurama: The Beast with a Billion Backs, Futurama: Into the Wild Green Yonder

He drinks! He smokes! He’ll tell you to bite his shiny metal ass. He’s also hilarious, and arguably the best character on Futurama. While it was primarily a TV show, there are a few direct-to-DVD Futurama movies out there, and if we can’t bend the rules for Bender, what’s the world coming to? Besides, he threatened to pound us if we didn’t include him.


2. T-800 (Model 101)

Appears in: The Terminator, Terminator 2: Judgment Day

The T-800 is a legendary machine. Wrapped in an impressive Austrian bodybuilder physique, this robot absolutely will not stop until it either achieves its objective or is destroyed. Either way, expect blood and mayhem in pursuit of its goal. Bonus points for being able to learn, and use snappy phrases like “Hasta la vista, baby.”


1. R2-D2

Appears in: Star Wars, The Empire Strikes Back, Return of the Jedi, The Phantom Menace, Attack of the Clones, Revenge of the Sith, The Clone Wars

We think R2-D2 is the greatest movie robot of all time for a few reasons. First of all, he’s as famous as any robot on this list; ask your grandmother who R2-D2 is, and she’ll know who you’re talking about. Secondly, when it comes to utility, it doesn’t get any better than this: if this little guy can repair starships, then he can do maintenance on your car in his sleep. Not only does he save just about everyone’s life at one point or another in the Star Wars movies, according to at least one person, he’s also one of the leaders of the rebel Alliance. He’s brave, clever, resourceful, and the best friend a young farm boy from Tatooine could ask for.

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