Having recently seen a list of top science fiction robots, I noticed some omissions and decided to do a list for myself. So here are what I think are the best of science fiction robots, androids and AIs.This list includes robots villainous and heroic. I’m afraid there are not a lot of classic movies here–these movies are from the late 70s and beyond.
10 – C-3PO from Star Wars and sequels/prequels
Threepio almost didn’t make this list, but he (it?) did make a good foil for Artoo, so I added him to round it out. He was a very reluctant hero, apparently happy to follow orders as long as he could stay shiny. His loyalty to one master only lasted until another one took over, but he did retain affection for former masters who were kind to him, and would reluctantly go against more recent orders. He was designed for “human-cyborg relations”, but I don’t know which actual cyborgs were involved.
9 – Agent Smith from The Matrix
The only reason Agent Smith isn’t better ranking on this list is because of the Matrix sequels. But for a moment, forget the sequels. I certainly try to. Remember how chilling Smith was on the original Matrix. You think he is just a brutal FBI agent until he starts to do some truly terrifying and outright weird things to Neo’s stomach. For a long time, he looked totally unbeatable, until Neo supposedly killed him.
And he should have stayed dead. I guess he was restored from backup a thousand times over, but that totally defeated the purpose of the original impossible death. Which is why I ignore the subsequent movies.
8 – T-1000 from Terminator 2: Judgement Day
T-1000 was totally freaky and machine-like. Not a shred of mercy. Absolute obedience to his orders. He did display a bit of a human side with his apparent joy in following his orders. But you could easily imagine that such ruthless sadism was, as we say in software development, by design.
7 – Data From Star Trek: The Next Generation series and movies
Actually, I didn’t see all the TNG movies, or even most of the episodes. I’m not that much of a Trekkie. But Data was a clear favorite. (It wasn’t difficult, since I disliked many of the other characters, especially Ryker, who elevated “cheese” to orbital levels.) He was the anti-Spock, the reluctant and loyal android who really wanted to be human.
6 – Number 5 from Short Circuit
I never saw the Wall-E movie because the little robot looked like such a ripoff of Number 5. In fact, when I first saw the Wall-E robot, I wondered if they were doing a remake of Short Circuit. Number 5 was much like ET, a charming little creature stuck in a movie with a totally implausible plot, who you rooted for all the way.
5 – R2D2 from Star Wars and sequels/prequels
The group thief and sneak, Artoo was ignored by the enemy, to their own peril. His language of chirps was charming, if useless. At least Threepio could understand him. Artoo rolled around enemy compounds, as overlooked as might be an automated mop, disabling security systems, sneaking in weapons, and opening those tricky electronic locks. Of course he is a favorite.
4 – HAL 9000 from 2001: A Space Odyssey
To the moviegoer, HAL was nothing more than a red light with a soothing voice. And a red light has never been so terrifying. HAL was a computer who had control over the spaceship on the mission to Jupiter to investigate the monolith. I read the book before I saw the movie, and HAL certainly kept the pages turning.
3 – The Terminator from the Terminator movies
The Terminator was the first movie where Arnold Schwarzenegger really got to show off his screen presence. The Terminator did not speak unless it had to, and when it did, there was devastating consequences. It was relentless and pretty near unstoppable. It was totally without emotion. Unlike T-1000, it did not seem to enjoy it’s task or feel any emotion whatsoever. It did what it had to do to get the job done. And it was terrifying.
2 – The Replicants from Blade Runner
Rachel inspired this post when she was missing from the post that inspired this one. (I’d link back to it, but I’ve been trying to write this post for a month and a half, and if I tried to find it, you’d never get to read this.)
Anyway, Rachel (Sean Young) was the perfect replicant. She was so perfect that she didn’t even know she was a replicant. She has to face the fact that her entire past consisted of reconstructed memories from someone else. As for the others, Daryl Hannah really got to shine in the brutal role of Pris, which worked surprisingly well for her.
This position is a three way tie between Rachel, Pris and Roy (Rutger Hauer–of course), who were all terrific androids in their own way.
1 – Bishop from Aliens
Why Bishop? Mostly because of the way his story is revealed. Think back, if you can, to the first time you saw Aliens. Even though Alien had come out like eight years earlier, it was still fresh in your mind. Well did you remember the treacherous android, Ash. His androidness was not revealed until he was killed. He was slavishly obedient to his corporate masters, and nothing stood in his way.
Now, return to that first time you saw Aliens. Bishop’s androidness is revealed early, so that you would always be uncertain of him. His protestation that he cannot harm humans is unconvincing. He has a creepy look about him. He just cannot be trusted.
Then you learn that nothing can stop him, either–not even being ripped in half. He will fulfill his mission. And he does. And not until well into the movie are you certain of who he is.
A list like this one will always be incomplete. Which ones did I leave off, that should have been here? Which should I not have included?