The 30 best movie robots to make you fear for humanity
The best 'bots on the silver screen
Whether we're talking metal menaces made from diving helmets and gorilla suits, or mighty CG behemoths striding through the oceans, robots have been a staple of cinema for nearly a century. For the most part - well, before the 1950s - robots were flat-out evil. Since then, that's not always been the case and cinema's gifted us a slew of friendly robots alongside their more sinister counterparts. So welcome to our countdown of the best 30 'bots to ever slide, stomp, and glide across the big screen.
30. Gigolo Joe
The movie: A.I. (2000)
The robot: An android designed specifically for the, ahem, pleasures of the flesh, Gigolo Joe knows all about women, about whom he dispenses wisdom with a theatrical sense of style. Designed to be naughty, he's proven rather too good at it, what with getting framed for murder!
Best moment: The perfectly-coiffed Joe inspires his pal David, the young 'droid who wants to be a real boy, with tall tales beneath the moonlight, finishing his story with a Fred Astaire-inspired tap.
The movie: Interstellar (2014)
The robot: A tactical bot who journeys with the crew of the Endurance to visit several planets, TARS is one of the most likeable, three-dimensional characters in a movie that stars multiple Oscar-winners. He adapts to new scenarios with sharp wit, can perform tons of tasks like piloting and data research and is always willing to save your life.
Best moment: Brand is stranded at sea, trapped beneath the wreckage of a downed pod, about to be decimated by a HUGE tsunami wave when TARS charges through the water, and rescues Brand.
28. Johnny 5
The movie: Short Circuit (1986)
The robot: Johnny was originally designed by the military to be used against Russia during the Cold War. Yeah, sure, it's impressive that he could blow up the planet if he wanted to. But the fact he can play musical instruments is cooler.
Best moment: His amusing appreciation for naked Ally Sheedy: "Nice software!"
27. M.A.R.K. 13
The movie: Hardware (1990)
The robot: Born into a post-apocalyptic world - think Mad Max crossed with Terminator - M.A.R.K. 13 is a killer cyborg. The product of random 'bot parts scavenged and reassembled by an artist called Jill, it springs to life (presumably with something evil attached like in Flatliners) with a vengeance. All it wants to do is throw people out of windows and kill them, it would seem.
Best moment: Despite being a homicidal robot it does do some good by horribly murdering a sex pest who keeps bothering Jill. Metallic fingers into eye sockets! Industrial drill into the solar plexus! Yep, it's gory as hell.
26. Dot Matrix
The movie: Spaceballs (1987)
The robot: Visually she's designed as a piss take of Threepio. Dot's persona however is straight out of the big book of Jewish mother stereotypes, her programming varies a fair bit from the usual Isaac Asimov robot rules. Her job is to stop Princess from Vespa losing her virginity.
Best moment: Vespa and Lone Starr are about to share a kiss... that's rudely interrupted when Dot's Virgin Alarm goes off.
The movie: Aliens (1986)
The robot: A step up from the dastardly Ash, Bishop is a stand-up android. Technically a Hyperdyne Systems Synthetic, he prefers to be called an artificial person. Despite taking Ripley's prejudice throughout the film, he's the guy who gets her off the planet and suffers at the claws of the Alien queen.
Best moment: He can do that knife-between-the-fingers trick really, really fast.
The movie: The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy (2005)
The robot: A brain the size of a planet, but nobody ever needs him to use more than a fraction of it, Marvin is the paranoid android aboard the Heart of Gold. Perpetually bored and permanently depressed, he's made all the more so for being sourly voiced by Alan Rickman.
Best moment: "Freeze!" shouts Zaphod, drawing his weapon and scaring the bejeezus out of Arthur Dent and Ford Prefect. "Freeze?" replies Marvin, "I'm a robot not a refrigerator."
23. Roy Batty
The movie: Blade Runner (1982)
The robot: Superhuman strength is but one of Batty's many skills. An android on the run and trying to outsmart Deckard, this Nexus-6 replicant has insane endurance levels and is capable of discussing the finer things in life on account of being a genius to boot. He's a little unhinged and not exactly happy about being hunted down...
Best moment: His final words, in the rain, with Deckard: "I've seen things you people wouldn't believe. Attack ships on fire off the shoulder of Orion. I watched c-beams glitter in the dark near the Tanhauser Gate. All these moments will be lost in time. Like tears in rain. Time to die."
22. ED 209
The movie: Robocop (1987)
The robot: It might not be a suave or stream-lined 'bot, but the ED-209's bulkiness works in its favour. Designed by the This machine is powerful. This mother is locked and loaded, and you have 15 seconds to comply! His professionalism get compromised a smidge as he's a little bit too trigger-happy.
Best moment: Stomped into the boardroom at Omni Consumer Products for its first demonstration, the ED-209 malfunctions spectacularly, blowing away one of the board members.
21. The Gunslinger
The movie: Westworld (1973)
The robot: Initially programmed to start but always lose a duel, the Gunslinger is one of the main attractions at the Westworld theme park. He looks cool, but he can't hurt people. Well, except he goes off the rails and starts murdering guests. Yul Brynner's implacable performance only heightens the android's remorselessness.
Best moment: John and Peter, two guests at the park, encounter the Gunslinger on the street following an earlier altercation in a saloon. "Your move," says John. Seconds later the Gunslinger plugs him full of lead. And kills him. "Draw," says the android, turning to Peter...
The movie: I, Robot (2007)
The robot: Technically an NS-5 android, Sonny's modifications by his designer have allowed him to evolve and wrangle with all sorts of fun human characteristics like emotions! This machine is chatty, instinctive and prone to bouts of depression.
Best moment: Sonny holds Dr. Calvin at gunpoint, telling Spooner that as long as they do what he says everything will be OK and he'd rather not kill her... yeah, then he winks like a proper person. Creepy, yet cool.
19. Gipsy Danger
The movie: Pacific Rim (2013)
The robot: A towering Jaeger, Gipsy Danger is a huge robot that stands at 260ft tall and weighs 7000 tons, and it typically piloted by a pair of trained operatives who unite together mentally via a procedure called drifting. While it takes a lot for Gipsy to function it's worth it; this staggering beast can swagger through oceans, and pummel interdimensional monsters.
Best moment: The kaiju known as Knifehead emerges from the ocean, and gazes down at a tiny fishing boat and its crew who look like they're ready to meet their maker until... a bright light bursts through - it's Gipsy Danger!
18. Optimus Prime
The movie: Transformers live-action franchise (2007-)
The robot: If there's one 'bot you can count on it's Optimus. His fortitude is part of the reason he's the leader of the Autobots, and also hmm... how about the ability to transform into a truck? While he's a strong figure, his tendency to make very long, very boring speeches sometimes gets in the way of fighting and driving.
Best moment: Sam and Mikaela are taken by Bumblebee to meet the rest of the Autobots, including Optimus. This is the first time we see him transform from a semi-truck into his true form.
17. Future Sentinels
The movie: X-Men: Days of Future Past (2014)
The robot: Giant hordes of Sentinels are designed by Bolivar Trask to wipe out mutants... which is weird because he uses Mystique's DNA to allow them to adapt to mutant powers. Regardless of the irony, the Sentinels aren't to be messed with. They stand at 18ft tall and weigh about 4000 tons. Throw in the whole 'can adapt to any mutant gift' thing and these guys are your worst nightmare.
Best moment: A Sentinel sneaks up into the X-Men's stronghold, and skewers Storm through the chest, tossing her dead body into the abyss. Best for the Sentinel, obviously not Storm's best moment.
The movie: The Matrix franchise (1999-2003)
The robot: Yes, another type of Sentinels and this bunch are still out to mindlessly slay people. Less bothered with a humanoid appearance, the Sentinels of the Matrix are more clued into what makes us tick... being attacked by giant, scrabbling spider-y things. They use sonar for detection and lasers to rip open the rebels' submersibles. They hunt in packs, the cowards.
Best moment: Captain Mifune, in his Aliens-esque powerloader, tries to hold off an army of Sentinels, who crawl into the room and careen around the air like gigantic swathes of twisting rope.
15. The Iron Giant
The movie: The Iron Giant (1999)
The robot: He's self-repairing, but hindered by a defence mechanism that reacts automatically to provocation. In short? While he's nice-as-pie, you probably wouldn't want to mess with him. The Iron Giant is really a sweet, docile robot who likes to eat metal and learn more about the human experience.
Best moment: The government decides to attack him with nukes that will obliterate everyone in town so the Iron Giant sacrifices himself to protect the people he cares about.
The movie: Prometheus (2012), Alien: Covenant (2017)
The robot: An android with dreams of being more human than human, David possesses a huge ego. His desires go much farther than obeying his master, which is for lesser models. Nah, for David, the only thing that will suffice is harnessing the power of creation to spark a new race, no matter what the cost.
Best moment: Dripping the black goo into Holloway's drink. He's not human but that doesn't stop him from being an utter bastard.
13. Evil Maria
The movie: Metropolis (1927)
The robot: Plenty of 'bots are devious, and perhaps the cinematic trailblazer for all that bad behaviour stems from Maria. Or her other name: fake evil Maria! The ability to perfectly replicate Maria's femininity - who, in case you didn't know, is human - comes in handy for a machine with ulterior motives.
Best moment: Her robot rumba certainly has more sex appeal than most computers - she enthrals all the men of Metropolis with her saucy moves.
The movie: Alien (1979)
The robot: With weird milky stuff for blood and the ability to hold a conversation after being decapitated, Ash is certainly a special android. And by special I mean, a huge jerk. His directives are inhumane, his social skills are seriously lacking and he's partial to a light spot of attempted murder. Yeah, he's a good scientist, however. That's the extent of his good qualities.
Best moment: On account of being such a git, it's watching his decapitated head get torched by a flame thrower.
The movie: Star Trek: Generations (1995)
The robot: Data's an iconic android whose very existence paved the way for more positive representations of artificial people. A walking computer, with strength to match his mental prowess, he's a reliable individual whose logistical mind is a real asset. He also owns a cat. Eventually, yes, he does.
Best moment: He finally installs the emotion chip his creator had always intended him to have.
The movie: Star Wars franchise (1977-)
The robot: Fluent in over six million forms of communication, Threepio is also an Ewok deity! Pedantic to the point of prissiness, once you remove the circuitry he's the archetypal dragged-along-for-the-ride comedy robot sidekick.
Best moment: The Ewoks bow down to him, believing him to be a god, and craft him his own throne!
The movie: The Day the Earth Stood Still (1951)
The robot: An emissary for an alien race. Gort is part of a series of robots created by the equivalent of an interstellar United Nations. He's constructed from a single sheet of metal and comes loaded with directional lasers that are incredibly specific: they destroy military hardware but leave humans unharmed. Only answers to the cool-sounding command, "Klaatu barada nikto!"
Best moment: He certainly knows how to make an entrance, that's all I'm saying...
The movie: WALL-E (2008)
The robot: This little guy is the last of his kind. A trash compactor 'bot, WALL-E is all the remains of sentient life on Earth after humans completely destroy the planet with garbage. He has binocular eyes, shovels garbage into his tummy and turns it into a tidy cube, likes Barbra Streisand movies and falls in love with a lay-dee robot from another planet, EVE.
Best moment: Giving EVE a plant for their first date causes her to go into stand-by, but that doesn't stop this cute guy from showing her the sights! Best date montage ever?
The movie: Ex Machina (2015)
The robot: Call her what you like. Humanoid robot, android, barmy pile of nuts and bolts, Ava nevertheless possesses an artificial intelligence that's so far past terrifying she gives the Terminator a run for his money. She might look all sweetness and light but make no mistake: this machine doesn't care
Best moment: Not the best for poor Caleb, the human schlub who falls for her duplicitous intentions, but for Ava it's her escape from the compound in the helicopter meant for Caleb.
The movie: Rogue One: A Star Wars Story (2016)
The robot: New for us, but technically an ancient 'droid in the Star Wars world, K-260 is a former Imperial droid reprogrammed by Cassian. He behaves a little like Threepio but instead of goofy eye-rolling, Kaytoo possesses a dry, biting wit. He's kinda like the equivalent of an old man 'bot; he's seen it all and really does know what's best for you.
Best moment: "There are a lot of explosions for two people blending in," Kaytoo informs Jyn, before tossing a live grenade over his shoulder at a bunch of Stormtroopers.
5. The Terminator
The movie: The Terminator (1984)
The robot: Coated in Schwarzenegger-esque skin, it looks real enough doesn't it? Well, don't be fooled. The original T-800, model 101 is an infiltration unit designed by Skynet to blend into the modern world so it can be a more efficient killer. Beneath the real, living tissue sits a metal skeleton.
Best moment: He tracks down Sarah Connor to a police station, and proceeds to tell the officer on desk that he will "be back." He returns to destroy the building by first driving a car into it and then by blowing everyone away with a rifle.
The movie: Robocop (1987)
The robot: A former police officer slain on duty is brought to life with the help of cybernetics! Alex Murphy's memories instil Robocop with a solid sense of duty, but he's still a law enforcement officer made out of metal.
Best moment: During Murphy's first night of resurrection he stumbles across a convenience store mid-robbery. "Fuck me!" the thief shouts over and over, pumping round after round at Robocop, who calmly walks up to the robber, bends his rifle in two and tosses him across the room into the dairy fridge. "Thank you for your co-operation," his only retort.
3. Robby the Robot
The movie: Forbidden Planet (1956)
The robot: All kinds of whirling, flashing, moving parts are what makes Robby stand out. This diminutive 'bot is a happy-go-lucky chappie whose most notable physical attribute is that his mouth that lights up when he speaks.
Best moment: When he's showing off his comedy chops. Consider his view of oxygen: "I seldom use it myself, sir. It promotes rust."
The movie: Star Wars franchise (1977-)
The robot: Artoo is a seminal astromech whose very existence spawned a whole slew of floor-crawling machines in cinema. From his distinct appearance to his unique verbal mode of communication, he's not like anyone else. Despite only being able to communicate in beeps and whistles, there's no denying his altruism and reckless bravery.
Best moment: The trash compactor's a legendary scene, yes, but things would have ended there for Luke, Leia and Han if R2 hadn't told Threepio to turn the communications back on. He also stops the compactor when he hears the trio screaming. Go Artoo!
The movie: Terminator 2: Judgment Day (1991)
The robot: Sent back by the Resistance to eliminate John Connor, the T-1000 is a lean, mean mofo. Under the guise of a cop for most of the flick, he manages to infiltrate the modern world with little suspicion. Made of liquid metal, this guy can dissolve and reassemble at will, turn hands into weapons, and let bullets pass through himself. He's a highly effective killing machine.
Best moment: Leaping from the Cyberdyne Building into a moving helicopter, he morphs through the seat and calmly tells the agog pilot to "Get out." The guy obliges by falling sideways out of the door.