In honor of the closing chapter (for now) of Michael Bay’s Transformers trilogy, we present 20 of our favorite movie robots of all time.
Whether it is an android or autonomous robot, the only rules for this list are that they can speak and they have a dedicated physical form (i.e. they are not a computer program like HAL 9000, KITT or S1m0ne). With those two guidelines in place, we present our list of robots below, ordered alphabetically.
Keep in mind this is only a list of the movie robots we love, and not a definitive “Top 20 Robots of All Time.” It is interesting to note how similar many of these robots are when you look at them closely. There are a handful that experience what I like to call the Pinocchio Effect, in which a robot designed to be human-like wants to actually become a human (or as close as it can manage). Of course, Pinocchio was likely a great inspiration for many of these characters. On the other hand, there are many robots with destructive capabilities that use brute strength to get their way. The only question is whose side they are on.
Note that there are some SPOILERS in the following explanations of each character. The list is in alphabetical order, so if you would like to list any more or rank them, feel free to do so in the comments section below. Enjoy our list and please add your own favorites afterwards.
Ash – Alien
“Bring back alien life form. Crew expendable.” Those are the eerie orders for Ash, the android who tricked the crew of the Nostromo into thinking he was human. Thanks to his sinister intention to capture a live specimen of the alien species, all hell breaks loose on board the vessel and we get one of the greatest science fiction/horror movies of all time. In addition, how many robots can say they’ve shoved a rolled-up porn magazine down Sigourney Weaver’s throat?
Ash also holds one of the best movie deaths for an alien of all time. First he is decapitated, then electrocuted and finally burnt to a crisp. Actor Ian Holm brought an extra dose of creepiness to the character that made him all the more memorable in the grand scheme of the Alien franchise. Ash is yet another reason to be wary of any future real-world attempts to create human-like robots.
Robot Bill & Ted – Bill & Ted’s Bogus Journey
Not all robots on this list have to be good. Bill & Ted’s Bogus Journey features a murderous robot clone of each titular character. The interaction between human Bill and Ted and Evil Bill and Ted is pretty hilarious, and makes the characters that much more memorable. I don’t think I’ve ever heard a robot say he has a “full-on robot chubby,” which pretty much solidified their place on this list.
The evil robots even get an opportunity to kill the real Bill & Ted and don’t mess it up, proving they are truly enhanced versions of their human counterparts. Plus, in a robot-on-robot fight that would make Michael Bay vomit, the admirable Station creates good robot clones of Bill & Ted to take down the Evil Bill & Ted in a bogus fight of excellent proportions.
C-3PO & R2-D2 – Star Wars
(We understand that R2-D2 is not an android, but for the sake of organization, he has been paired up with C-3PO in this category.)
The most famous droids in the universe are an obvious combo pick for this list. While they argue like a married couple, they have one of cinema’s most legendary friendships. They are the yin and the yang. R2-D2 can do it all and save the day, while C-3PO can… well, he can probably do your taxes. The two bring an essential comedic relief to the otherwise serious (apart from a few Han Solo jokes) Star Wars saga and bring an extra dose of camp to the franchise. It’s amazing their spin-off TV show Droids did not work out, as their relationship is surely more entertaining than some of the shows on television today.
R2-D2’s uncanny ability to get his friends out of even the hairiest of situations puts him right near the top of the Most Talented Movie Robot list. If there is a gadget, you can bet R2-D2 has it in that mechanical frame. He can even fly if the situation calls for it. In the end, with today’s CGI characters, it will always amaze me that there was actually a person (Kenny Baker) inside of R2 during some scenes. Anthony Daniels’ presence as C-3PO fast became legend and put him on par with the great performances of the saga.
Daryl – D.A.R.Y.L.
The Data-Analyzing Robot Youth Lifeform is yet another Pinocchio-style scientific experiment brought to the big screen. This android was designed to become a super-soldier with an advanced ability to hack computer systems and enhanced physical functions. When a scientist grows a conscience and lets Daryl go, the “boy” finds a loving family in The Richardsons and the classic tale unfolds. The final act of D.A.R.Y.L. is pretty intense even for a mid-80s science fiction movie, as Daryl steals a Blackbird in hopes of returning to the Richardsons’ home.
Barret Oliver’s career didn’t amount to much after D.A.R.Y.L. (other than Cocoon), but his performance is just as strong as any other involving a boy robot trying to find his humanity. It drives the film and makes you feel compassion for the android. It’s a testament to the nostalgic feeling of the film and its coming-of-age structure that really goes beyond just the story’s fictional events.