After humans and pets, robots are among the most talked about subjects in movies. They have been a staple for almost as long as filmmaking itself. The way they have been portrayed over the decades shows how people feel about technology during any particular period. In the early years, the fear of robots annihilating all life on earth sprouted frightening robotic movie characters. Today, with everybody walking around with a smartphone in their pocket, many movies paint a friendly picture of robots.
Earlier, these characters were referred to as automatons. But when the term robot was introduced to refer to these mechanical beings, it was quickly adopted by the science fiction genre and the English language.
Robots, both real life and animated, have appeared in numerous movies throughout filmmaking history. Some have gained more popularity than others. Even as you are reading this, one of your favorite robotic movie characters must have popped up in your mind. You may have a liking for more than one. This post covers some of the most famous and memorable movie robots and explains the significance of each in the history of cinema.
False Maria (Metropolis – 1927)
An iconic robotic character of all time, False Maria serves as the catalyst for much of the Metropolis‘s action. Eventually, she is even the cause of the city’s near destruction.
The Master of the City created her as a robot version of his dead lady love, but the charismatic revolutionary Maria starts using lust to drive the men of the city wild. She makes them abandon their children as the under-city is flooding.
False Maria is an early example of an android gone wrong. Yet her powers are more magical than mechanical. The film was the first movie to feature a robot and has since influenced the production design of many subsequent sci-fi movies.
T-800 (Terminator – 1984)
Arnold Schwarzenegger had all of us awed with his menacing robotic look. He is seen as T-800 in multiple films in the Terminator franchise. However, his most memorable role as this character is the heroic one that he played in Terminator 2: Judgement Day.
In the first film, he is a villainous character that hunts down the protagonist Sarah Connor. However, in the second film, he is reprogrammed in the future by an older John Connor, Sarah’s son, to assist and protect Sarah and the younger John against other Terminators that are targeting them.
The T-800 continues to appear in the next four films, namely Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines, Terminator: Salvation, Terminator: Genisys, and Terminator: Dark Fate, as an antagonist and as a supporting character.
RoboCop (RoboCop – 1987)
RoboCop is a well-known robotic movie character from the late 1980s and is still liked today. The cyborg police officer is ready to do anything in the name of justice and the law.
The original RoboCop is played by Peter Weller. The actor also plays Alex Murphy, the police officer who is killed at the beginning of the film by the Boddicker gang. His brain and some parts of his original body are then transferred to a mechanical body to bring it to life.
After being turned into a robot, RoboCop constantly struggles between following orders and having free will. A reboot of RoboCop was released in 2014, but it was not as successful as the original 1987 version.
Rosey (Jetsons: The Movie – 1990)
Rosey is a famous and loved robot from the cartoon series The Jetsons. She is the housekeeper and maid of the family. Jane Jetson has rented her from U-Rent A Maid. She is an XB-500, an older model, but the only one that Jane could afford.
The cartoon series was adapted as a film in 1990. When the Jetsons move to the Orbiting-Ore Asteroid, as George is tasked to head the new mining factory, Rosey moves with them. She does everything she can to make the family feel comfortable in their new home. She, with Jane, befriends plant engineer Rudy-2’s wife Lucy-2.
Rosey is a movie character that many viewers wanted as their house help. Her kindness and helpfulness are what makes her an iconic robotic character.
Motoko Kusanagi (Ghost in the Shell – 1995)
Motoko Kusanagi is a cybernetic human featured in ‘Ghost in the Shell’. The movie is based on the Japanese manga created by Masamune Shirow. It has also been made into an animated film directed by Mamoru Oshii in 1995.
Kusanagi is often referred to as “Major,” as that is her position as the field commander for Public Security Section 9, a group of cybernetic humans who fight crime for the National Public Safety Commission in Japan.
The film may not have been much of a success; Scarlett Johansson as Major has earned a whole load of criticism. The movie was criticized for whitewashing the main character, which is another reason for this cyborg being popular.
The 1995 film is also considered by many critics and film enthusiasts as one of the greatest animated films of all time. It paved the way for other Japanese animated movies to be recognized by thr Western audiences.
Dot Matrix (Spaceballs – 1987)
Joan River as Dot Matrix in Spaceballs is in her cracking comedic form. Meant to be a parody of the C-3PO in Star Wars, Dot Matrix is a memorable robot who plays the cynical voice of reason in the movie.
Equipped with a virgin alarm, this iconic robot serves to make us realize that robots can be funny too. The film itself was a hit and miss. Its robotic character serves as a lively memory of the late Joan Rivers.
R2-D2 (Star Wars – 1977)
Arguably the most popular movie robot, R2-D2 has appeared in all nine movie entries in the Star Wars film franchise. Those who watched Star Wars will recognize R2-D2’s memorable beeps that are supposed to be his voice, as well as his weird three feet that have wheels at the bottom in order for the robot to move around.
R2-D2 is a reliable companion to the protagonists of each trilogy in the series, and we will most likely see this robot again in future Star Wars movies or TV shows too.
Wall-E (Wall-E – 2008)
Wall-E is probably the best mechanical representative in animated or CGI films. Wall-E appeared in the movie of the same name released by Disney Pixar in 2008. The film is considered by many to be one of the best animated movies of all time, not only for its story but for its theme as well. Besides Wall-E, the film also featured another popular robot named EVE.
TARS (Interstellar – 2014)
Interstellar features Matthew McConaughey, Jessica Chastain, and Anne Hathaway as its star cast. However, the character that steals their limelight away is a box-shaped robot named TARS.
TARS may be a robot, it has a human personality and a hilarious sense of humor. It is humorous, sarcastic, and to top it all, programmed to be a companion.
Its twin robot CASE is programmed for tasks like piloting and data collection, TARS is tasked with problem solving. It is quite intelligent and, despite taking orders from the crew members, TARS is capable of acting on its own. In the end, TARS is one of the four surviving crew members.
Ava (Ex Machina – 2014)
Despite having a metallic head and body, Ava in Ex Machina barely acts like a robot. She is the secondary antagonist of the film, played by Swedish actress Alicia Vikander.
She is an artificial intelligence (AI) robot that started off with a mechanical appearance at the start of the movie. Towards the ending, she remodels herself as an attractive young woman with a white dress and long, curly hair. No one can guess that this beautiful woman emotionlessly stabbed her creator a little while ago. The only real emotion she expresses is happiness to finally be free.
These are the ten very famous robotic characters portrayed in different movies over the years of cinematic history. They are well-recognized, loved or hated according to the part they played in their respective movies. We may even spot some of them in upcoming sci-fi films because of their popularity. With the fast technological advances, who knows we may have real robots playing their own roles instead of the computer-generated versions or props that are controlled by humans.