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The 40 Best Robots of All Time (Fictional and Real)

January 27, 2011  |  7:00am

This week, the word “robot” celebrates its 90th anniversary, first appearing in Karel Capek’s play R.U.R.. What better way to toast the machines than with a list of our favorite robots—past, present, future; real, fictional and Daft Punk.

We excluded cyborgs that were once humans (sorry Seven of Nine and Robocop) and tried to only use one example from each fictional universe (we cheated with Star Wars). If you have a suggestion not on the list or a nit to pick with our definition of robot (KITT? HAL?), please do so in the comments section. And remember, Rosie may have been sweet to the Jetsons, but that doesn’t mean the Robot Apocalypse isn’t nigh.

40. da Vinci Surgical System
Created: 2000
Creator: Intuitive Surgical
da_vinci_surgery.jpg

While the da Vinci isn’t performing the operations, this kind of robotic technology was a huge advancement for surgical procedures, allowing doctors to control its four robotic arms remotely.

39. KITT (Knight Rider)
Created: 1982
Creator: Glen A. Larson
Voice: William Daniels
kitt.jpg

KITT stood for Knight Industries Two Thousand, a robotic car in the ‘80s show Knight Rider. Actor William Daniels voiced the character, which co-starred alongside David Hasselhoff, currently of hotel-floor-with-a-cheeseburger fame.—Nathan Spicer

38. The Tachikomas (Ghost in the Shell)
Created: 1989
Creator: Masamune Shirow
Tachikom.jpg

The Tachikomas were the sentient “think” tanks from the Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex anime series. Though they could be piloted as a type of ride-armor, the Tachikomas possessed artificial intelligence and could act on their own. Their childish voices and mannerisms posed a stark juxtaposition to the acts of war they commonly carried out. A sub plot of the series involves the tanks developing independent thought and judgment, bringing them closer to true sapient intelligence.—Bo Moore

37. Toyota violin-playing robot
Created: 2007
Creator: Toyota
violin_robot.jpg

This mechanical musician had a violin recital at the Shanghai World Expo last year, but Toyota is developing the line as personal assistants or “partner robots.”

36. GERTY (Moon)
Created: 2009
Writer/Director: Duncan Jones
Voice: Kevin Spacey
gerty.jpg

Of course director Duncan Jones turned to Kevin Spacey to give his monotone robot a depth of character. We make few exceptions for emoticon tolerance, but we’ll make one for Mr. Spacey.—Sean Doyle

35. Mega Man
Created: 1987
Creators: Akira Kitamura, Capcom
Creator (fictional): Dr. Light
mega_man.jpg

Mega Man predated saving. To keep advancing through Dr. Wily’s nefarious plots, you had to leave your console on and play from the last checkpoint. The amount of electricity powering our NES to beat Mega Man 1 and 2 might have powered an actual robot. Mega Man (known as Rock Man outside the U.S.) now has over 50 games to his name and is a staple in gaming history.—Sean Doyle

34. Rock ‘Em Sock ‘Em Robots
Created: 1964
Creator: Marvin Glass and Associates
rock_em_sock_em.jpg

We also like the British version, Raving Bonkers.

33. Doraemon
Created: 1969
Creator: Fujiko F. Fujio
doraemon.jpg

A robot sent from the future to help improve the lives of a man’s ancestors, Doraemon becomes the companion of Nobitakun, a boy who has become accustomed to nothing but misery. Doraemon uses his “fourth-dimensional pocket” to produce gadgets, tools, and medicines from the future. Nobitakun often attempts to use these gadgets for an easy way out of his problems, but his efforts almost always ultimately backfire hilariously, landing him in greater trouble than before.—Bo Moore

32. Awesom-O (South Park)
Created: 2004
Creator: Trey Parker
Voice: Trey Parker
awesom-o.jpg

In “AWESOM-O,” Eric Cartman becomes The A.W.E.S.O.M.-O 4000, master of pitching Adam Sandler vehicles to film studio execs until he’s, of course, captured by the military. You know, a typical South Park episode.

31. HK-47 (Knights of the Old Republic)
Created: 2003
Creator: James Ohlen and Drew Karpyshyn
Voice: Kristoffer Tabori
hk_47.jpg

It may seem impossible for a robot to be aligned to the Dark Side of The Force, but the robotic assassin HK-47 from BioWare’s classic Star Wars RPG Knights of the Old Republic was just that. Equally valuable for his prowess on the battlefield and his hilariously psychotic commentary, HK-47 could always be relied upon to take the piss out of any self-serious Jedi or Bounty Hunter. He saw all organic “meat bags” the same, and had a really hard time figuring out why the main character didn’t just kill everyone in sight. If only he’d been around for the prequel movies, maybe he could’ve done something about Jar-Jar.—Kirk Hamilton

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