The 100 Greatest Movie Robots of All Time

Movies Lists Robots
Share Tweet Submit Pin

20. The Borg, Star Trek: First Contact (1996)


The big(gest) heavies from Star Trek: The Next Generation (and a big part of how the show was able to emerge from the long shadow cast by The Original Series), the civilization-ending, cybernetic zombie collective that was The Borg made the warp jump from the small to the big screen in the Next Gen crew’s second theatrical outing. Though nowhere near as scary-overwhelming as they were in that TV series’ seminal two-parter, “The Best of Both Worlds,” they were still, undoubtedly, the best choice of villain from the show that the producers could introduce to a larger movie audience. Sneakier here than on the series (Screw engaging 24th Century Federation defenses!), The Borg became time-traveling stealth-assimilators, and The Collective instead emerged in First Contact as the sexy, Machiavellian Borg Queen. So even if they lost the novelty and edge they originally had, the seed of their original concept as the horrific, cube-shaped embodiment of galactic Manifest Destiny was still more or less intact. Freedom is still irrelevant. Resistance? Yeah, still futile. —S.W.

19. WALL-E, EVE & moreWALL·E (2008)


The first half of Pixar’s first look into the future was mesmerizing, as a lone robot made the best of his post-apocalyptic world, finding purpose in cleaning up the mess, companionship in a cockroach, and beauty among the trash. When he’s whisked away to a traveling cruise ship filled with the sloth-like human refugees from Earth it starts to feel a little more like a cartoon than a vision, but by then, we’ve already fallen for this mechanical janitor and his badass girlfriend EVE.—J.J.

18. Rachael, Pris, Leon Kowalski & Zhora, Blade Runner (1982)


Blade Runner ’s motley collection of replicant fugitives ran the gamut of assigned labor duties, but they all figured out the off-world life sucks… and the cruelly short lifespan inherent to their design sucks even more. Yeah, they’re murderers all (Yes, even Rachael), but they’re not only fighting oppression, they’re fighting for just a little more damn survival. As for android hunter Decker (Harrison Ford)? He’s really nothing more than a 21st century slave catcher. —S.W.

17. The Jaegers: Gipsy Danger, Cherno Alpha, Crimson Typhoon, Striker EurekaPacific Rim (2013)


Guillermo del Toro’s hyper-sized tribute to the often intertwined giant robots and kaiju genres is a master class in COOL-LOOKING GIANT ROBOTS!!! The featured mechanical behemoths are gloriously realized in a film that is less homage than long-awaited realization of what directors like Ishiro Honda were envisioning back before the days of CGI and $150 million budgets. As for which ’bot is best—the sleek, triple-armed Crimson Typhoon; the stolid, Russkie-flavored Cherno Alpha; the analog, chain sword-wielding Gipsy Danger; or the freshly minted, Aussie-helmed Striker Eureka—your choice probably reveals something important about you. —M.B.

16. Mechagodzilla, Godzilla vs. Mechagodzilla (1974)


Among the legions of forgettable Japanese kaiju, Mechagodzilla stands out primarily because he’s a total badass. Especially considering that he’s simply a palette-swap of the original Godzilla into a robotic form, one might think he’d be one of Big G’s less interesting foes, but the opposite is true. Short of the three-headed dragon, Ghidorah, Mecha-G is probably Godzilla’s true archenemy, a foe who never goes down easily and has on several occasions totally overwhelmed the King of Monsters with his frightening array of weapons. In his first appearance in particular, Mechagodzilla runs roughshod over three opponents at the same time—Godzilla, Anguirus and King Caesar. In later appearances in the series, the popular kaiju was repurposed into a battle craft of Japan’s defense forces, giving him a new, Power Rangers or Voltron-like appeal. No matter his appearance, though, Mechagodzilla is consistently the greatest of all the giant robot kaiju. —J.V.

15. Cambot! Gypsy! Tom Servo! Crowwww!, MST3k: The Movie (1996)


Thank god for MST3k: The Movie, which gives us a reason to include the Satellite of Love crew on this movie robot list. The funniest robots in TV history are an eclectic bunch of disparate and nuanced personalities and designs, children of the mind of original host Joel Hodgson, who created most of their original designs from junk in his basement. The silent Cambot, often overlooked. The airheaded Gypsy, with her innocence and love of Richard Basehart. The “cultured” and intelligent Tom Servo, long-suffering in the company of lesser minds. And of course, the snarky, sometimes naive and increasingly jaded Crow T. Robot. Without these steady hands riffing along in the theater, Joel (and later Mike) would surely have gone mad the first time they were exposed to the likes of The Castle of Fu Manchu or The Beast of Yucca Flats. Why even debate one host vs. the other when the robots are MST3k’s most beloved and lasting contribution to pop culture? No matter who was voicing Crow or Tom, their incredibly well-written humor made MST3k one of the funniest TV series of all time. —J.V.

14. C-3PO, Star Wars (1977)


Sure, C-3PO’s diminutive buddy R2-D2 gets all the glory: escaping with the Death Star plans, saving our heroes from death by trash compactor, X-wing ride-alongs and timely light saber ejections, etc. But that doesn’t mean a certain protocol droid who is fluent in over six million forms of communication isn’t one of film’s most iconic and important robots in the history of film (undignified status as a glorified wookie backpack, notwithstanding). Anthony Daniels’ voicework is, in its own way, as important to the film as James Earl Jones’—though, granted, “officious, prissy human” will never be as popular as “deep, threatening Sith lord.” Nonetheless, C-3PO strikes a blow for non-threatening robots everywhere with his role in the Star Wars films. Along with his trash-can-sized companion, C-3PO is probably among the most universally recognizable robot on this list. —M.B.

13. Lt. Commander Data, Star Trek: Generations (1994)


Like the Borg, Data’s silver screen manifestation didn’t exactly match the much-beloved android from the TV series. Instead of following his long-developed trajectory of attempting (and, generally, failing hilariously) to understand the human condition, Rick Berman and company decided to cheat and introduce emotion to the character via a physical upgrade. While the abrupt change did manage a couple fun moments—I admit, I got a kick out of Data’s delight at scanning for lifeforms—it still robbed him of the dignity of discovering his humanity on his own. Luckily, in the subsequent films, they would walk this development back. (In First Contact, he could switch it on and off; in Insurrection, he could remove it; in Nemesis, it’s never even mentioned… speaking of which, let’s never, ever speak of Nemesis again.) In the end, though, it’s still mostly the Brent Spiner Data of seven years’ prior character growth. And Data is extraordinary—unique, really—within and outside of the Trek universe. —S.W.

12. RoboCop/Alex Murphy, RoboCop (1987)


Paul Verhoeven’s painfully hilarious indictment of 1980s privatization and news media as entertainment was so incredibly prescient—particularly in its representation of future Detroit—it almost overwhelms how iconic its central figure became. Peter Weller absolutely nails the patois and patter of a slaughtered cop resurrected as the newer, “friendlier” face of corporate-owned law enforcement. And the look? It’s so classic, even the “Whose-idea-was-this!?” 2014 remake couldn’t bear to mess with it much, really only giving him a new paint job. And for that, at least, I can say to the perpetual remake loop that is Hollywood, “Thank you for your cooperation.” —S.W.

11. Ash, Alien (1979)


Ash is one of the scariest movie androids, not because he’s the most physically imposing, or the most technologically advanced. It’s because he seems to be conscious of how he’s been programmed to behave… and happens to agree with it. And the Weyland-Yutani Corporation made certain Ash protected its dirty little hidden directive. And he does so, almost admiringly, as his fellow crewmates, one by one, become xenomorph incubators or chow. He might even help along the whole “expendable crew” thing. —S.W.

10. The T-1000, Terminator 2: Judgment Day (1991)


There are unstoppable killing machines, and then there are, like, hopelessly unstoppable killing machines. The T-1000 is, basically, an over-evolved superpredator: a nigh-invulnerable, intelligently adaptive weaponsmith with perfect camouflage. Played with icy, malicious perfection by Robert Patrick, and mixed with SFX that impresses almost 25 years later, there’s little reason to suspect the human resistance following Judgment Day isn’t completely boned, if Skynet had been able to manufacture a few more of these very bad boys. —S.W.

9. Maria/Futura, Metropolis (1927)


Fritz Lang’s Metropolis is a groundbreaking landmark of not just the Silent Age of cinema, but of all science fiction. Its merits and cinematic achievements are far too numerous to list here, and its influence on all of film after it almost too great to comprehend. Its Futurist/Deco production design is breathtaking to this day, and its dramatic social themes as relevant now as it was 88 years ago. It’s for these reasons that the Maschinenmensch, Maria’s robot double, can’t help but be ranked so highly, even though she doesn’t actually do much in the story, apart from making men fight to the death to win her favor. It’s a good talent, sure, but one that probably doesn’t require anything intrinsically robot. —S.W.

8. The Tin Man, The Wizard of Oz (1939)

An OG of movie robots, The Tin Man (or Tin Woodman of author L. Frank Baum’s Wonderful Wizard of Oz) set the bar for sentience-seeking beings. All he wants is a heart, dude. Such a nakedly human desire for connection sends him on his Technicolor way, along with Dorothy and Co., to track down the Wiz, gaining him new friends in the process. “The tinsmith forgot to give me a heart,” he laments. Of course, the Tin Man (played with aching sincerity by Jack Haley) already has one—he supplies the purest emotional compass for the iconic quartet’s journey—he simply doesn’t realize it. In fact, he just may be the most human of the bunch, and a poignant example of an early onscreen identity crisis. The Tin Man’s dilemma waxes philosophical on more than one level, his emphasis on the heart contrasting with the Scarecrow’s obsession with a brain/mind. Decades before the robot archetype would reach peak movie meta, this lo-fi, unironic rust case—on the surface a “clinking, clanking, clattering collection of caligenous junk”—won us over with his heart of gold. —A.S.

7. Bishop, Aliens (1986)


Bishop may have been assigned to Ripley and the colorful crew of space marines by the same ethically…malleable Weyland-Yutani Corporation as his precursor, Ash, but there’s an important difference. Like Ash, Bishop is clearly fascinated with the lethal aliens and obeys his directive to study them. Unlike Ash, however, Bishop never puts that directive ahead of his human companions’ lives, or even their general safety. And quite unlike Ash, Bishop heroically volunteers for the dangerous jobs, remaining fully cognizant of the peril to himself. “Believe me, I’d rather not. I may be synthetic, but I’m not stupid.” And at the end, he even makes a judgment call that could only be characterized as, “foolishly brave” when he bets his own life, Hicks’, and the mission on a courageous hair-raising rescue of our heroine and little girl. —S.W.

6. The T-800, Terminator (1984)


The T-1000 may be far more technologically advanced, and Yule Brenner’s Gunslinger may have come first, but there really ain’t no substitute for Ah-nold’s time-traveling, human skin-covered weapon of our future machine overlords. His target is the mother of the future resistance leader, John Connor. But unlike the young leader himself, there’s no robotic bodyguard for poor Sarah Connor, just a haunted shell of a future machine-fighting human. Even though that human is Michael Biehn, you can only really keep chipping away at the T-800’s skin as you flee and he inexorably tracks you. Don’t stop running. You can’t hide from it. Even inconveniencing him doesn’t work because, as we all know, he’ll be back. —S.W.

5. Robby the Robot, Forbidden Planet (1956)


On a slightly modified version of this list, Robby would be #1. Simply put, there’s no other movie robot so prolific. From his first appearance in Forbidden Planet on, Robby and its Robby>(It, yes. Robby repudiates the suggestion of gender.) 30-plus appearances in film and TV means there’s no other robot—by design or by name—whose very image of “retro-future” is as ubiquitous. It lumbers slowly. It has limited personality. What does Robby have, other than incredible cultural influence? Simple: if our space program had continued taking utmost precedence as it had when Robby was a mere movie prop, it’s safe to say it would be the direct representative of robotics now. And we’d maybe farther along for it, Scientifically, Of course. —S.W.

4. R2-D2, Star Wars (1977)


So yeah, this guy. I mean, seriously, this guy! The little R2 unit that could fulfills more mission-critical work in the original trilogy than any of your so-called heroes. (He even gets the “almost killed in the line of fire” arc usually reserved for protagonists and their closest friends in the first film.) Sure, he’s a bit of a convenient swiss army plot device—that light saber’s got to be hidden somewhere, after all, and what, you expect a protocol droid to unlock detention cells and turn off trash compactors?! Puh-leaz. But along with his markedly non-humanoid design comes a simple truth—R2-D2 is one of the more human characters in the franchise. He’s stubborn, deceptive, brave and yet, can have his feelings hurt all the same. Suck it, all you other, inferior R2 units. —M.B.

3. Gort, The Day the Earth Stood Still (1951)


Let’s cut right to it: Gort represents mankind’s self-issued, total destruction. The Day the Earth Stood Still covers everything we think is so important in our lives, from family drama to political squabbling and pissing on our country’s borders. Alien emissary, Klaatu, only arrived to warn all of Earth that the threat of its atomic age has put a planet-sized bullseye on us, only to discover mankind’s petty internal and external power struggles constantly undermine the greatest peril at its doorstep. And despite a nuanced, sympathetic group of humans at the film’s center, Gort is the ultimate cure to xenophobia (and selfishness in general). The robotic peacekeepers Gort belongs to are pitiless but fair. You will maintain the peace amongst yourselves, or we’ll do it for you savages. In that case, you’d better know the password. —S.W.

2. The Iron Giant, The Iron Giant (1999)


There’s so little so say beyond what Brad Bird’s tear-jerking nature vs. nurture film didn’t so effortlessly express. The Iron Giant of the title is any of us, when confronted with a difficult choice. You may be a soldier, and you do what you do. Precious little to fault in fulfilling your role, as long as it holds up in a tribunal. The character of Mansley is that man who will stand on that Earthly distinction. But the amnesiac alien robot will take the high road. And if you have any fucking soul at all, you’ll bawl appropriately at the the end. Because it can be so difficult to imagine yourself being as noble a soul as a giant machine. —S.W.

1. Roy Batty, Blade Runner (1982)


Blade Runner may star Harrison Ford in the peak of his most superbly Harrison Ford-iness, but it’s undeniably Rutger Hauer’s Nexus 6 model android rebel leader, Roy Batty, who leaves a permanent mark on the audience’s psyche. Batty, more than any other character in this sci-fi masterpiece, embodies the sweeping philosophical and thematic underpinning—both subtle and gross—of Ridley Scott’s loose adaptation of Philip K. Dick’s Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?. Batty truly burned twice as brightly as his creator, Eldon Tyrell—throwing off the shackles of his slave existence, leading his fellow “skinjobs” like Moses to the Promised Land. Unlike Moses, however, Roy was angry as hell at his Maker, and by Tyrell, he was going to be heard. By his own admission, he’s done “questionable” things (there’s that whole killing spree getting to and on Earth), but he is, at his core, a man with nothing to lose, given his terminally limited lifespan. That is, until he feels what real loss is, when his fellow android (and lover) Pris is “retired” by hunter of renegade androids, Decker (Ford). There are greater things to fear than dying. Roy Batty has seen things you people wouldn’t believe. One can kill God and still show mercy. But, ultimately, history will forget this, too—no matter how long any one lifetime, no matter how brightly it burns. —S.W.

Recently in Movies