Ever since science became advanced enough to build machines, humans have been fascinated by the idea of making something that would not be just a piece of equipment but would somehow resemble them in shape and form. Trying to envision life with more advanced technologies, authors began including robots in their stories, first in books, and later in cinema.
Robots in movies come in a huge variety, in both their appearance and demeanor. Some of them assist humans, others are evil, and there are robots who are protagonists of the story. You will be surprised, but the first robot movie wasn’t made in the 70s or even the 50s. Called The Master Mystery, the first film to feature a robot in its plot came out in 1918. It starred the famous escape artist Harry Houdini and followed a Justice Department agent who investigated a cartel that was protected by The Automaton, a powerful robot.
Do you have a favorite robots movie? If you could make a movie with robots, would they be the protagonists or the antagonists? Share your ideas in the comments below, and let us know which movies on our list you like and which one, in your opinion, has the coolest robots.
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2001: A Space Odyssey
Director: Stanley Kubrick | 1968
As a crew of astronauts travels to Jupiter through deep space, they discover weird activity in some of their devices. When they try to put things back in order, they realize that HAL, the ship’s computer, started functioning independently and is turning against the humans. 2001: A Space Odyssey, one of Kubrick’s most famous works, can be assigned to the sci-fi horror genre, but it addresses multiple complex issues, including the creation of life and our dependence on technology.
Big Hero 6
Director: Chris WIlliams, Don Hall | 2014
To save his younger brother Hiro from underground robot fights, researcher Tadashi takes him to his lab where Hiro meets Baymax, an inflatable healthcare robot. Shortly after, Tadashi dies in a fire, saving his mentor. Unable to process his grief, Hiro weaponizes Baymax to avenge his brother. Initially, Tadashi’s friends help him to look for the person responsible, but when Hiro completely removes Baymax’s healthcare function to kill the culprit, they interfere with his plan. Hiro finally realizes his brother would have never wanted his invention to be used for harming people, and together with his friends, starts a team of high-tech superheroes. Big Hero 6 is rightfully considered to be one of the best robot animation films that gave us one of the cutest movie robots.
A.I. Artificial Intelligence
Director: Steven Spielberg | 2001
David is the first robot who can experience love like a human. He lives with a family who acquired him to replace their son who was put in suspended animation after falling ill with a rare disease. But when the boy gets unexpectedly cured and returns home, he makes sure his parents get rid of David. Heartbroken and longing for a mother’s love, David sets out on a quest to become a real boy, because in his understanding, that’s a necessary condition to be loved. A.I. Artificial Intelligence raises a lot of moral questions and gives amazing performances from Haley Joel Osment and Jude Law.
Alita: Battle Angel
Director: Robert Rodriguez | 2019
Alita used to be a human until her brain was attached to a robot body, turning her into a cyborg. She, however, has no recollection of when and why this happened. Dr. Ido makes her a new body to replace the old, destroyed one. Alita learns again what it means to be alive, embracing both her human and her robotic sides in a dystopian society where cyborgs compete in a gladiator-like game. Despite becoming a superb fighter, she doesn’t forget her human connections and feelings. Alita: Battle Angel was adapted from an early-1990s Japanese cyberpunk manga called Gunnm.
Director: Chris Columbus | 1999
Andrew was created and brought into the Martin household as a housekeeper. He becomes close with Amanda, the younger daughter of the family, and also starts exhibiting creative inclinations. With the support from the head of the family, he becomes a clockmaker and earns a fortune, but he still doesn’t have any rights as a robot. As time goes by, he develops human emotions and falls in love with Portia, Amanda’s granddaughter. He keeps applying to the authorities to be recognized as a human in order to legally marry Portia and enjoy other rights humans have, but he is rejected every time until the very moment he dies at the age of 200. Even though Robin Williams gave his best effort as the protagonist, Bicentennial Man was criticized for its weak script.
Director: Gavin Rothery | 2020
The question of ethics when developing conscious artificial intelligence has always been a major theme in movies about AI. Archive tells the story of a scientist who keeps developing artificial intelligence that will have full capacity, in the hopes of installing his wife’s consciousness into it. He gets frequent visits from the supervising authority who want to shut his project down. His latest AI is terrified by the idea of losing its own identity in favor of his wife’s. But the greatest twist is far more shocking than this.
Director: Ridley Scott | 1982
In the 80s, movies with robots were as popular as they are now, and Blade Runner is considered to be a classic of neo-noir and cyberpunk. Adapted from a novel by Phillip K. Dick, it explores the subject of what really makes a person human. Ex-police officer Deckard is summoned back to service to track down and “retire” a group of replicants who came back to Earth illegally. Replicants are bioengineered synthetic humans who are practically indistinguishable from real people. Deckard discovers that some of them developed emotions and have false memories installed, which makes him question his mission.
Director: Travis Knight | 2018
In 1987, Charlie receives an old yellow Volkswagen Beetle and decides to restore it. Soon after, the car reveals itself to be an Autobot from a far away planet, who was sent to Earth by the resistance leader to set up a base and protect the human planet. Charlie names her unlikely new friend Bumblebee and gets involved in his mission as Decepticons, enemies of Autobots, land on Earth. Part of the Transformers franchise, Bumblebee comes with all the robot fights and explosions you’d expect of it and is often called the best installment of a franchise that seemed to have lost its track.
The Iron Giant
Director: Neill Blomkamp | 2015
Chappie was created as a police robot, but the scientist who developed him wanted to go one step further and see if these robots could experience emotions. However, his bosses don’t approve of this idea, so the scientist has to steal a damaged robot to continue his experiments. Later both he and the robot are kidnapped by small-time gangsters who decide to use the robot to get money and repay their debt to a powerful gang leader. But Chappie, as they named the robot, has a childlike personality and soon bonds with the female member of the small gang, seeing her as his mother. Unfortunately, Chappie received unfavorable reviews from critics for its incoherent story and poorly developed characters.
Director: Alex Garland | 2014
Caleb is invited to stay in the house of his company’s CEO, Nathan Bateman, who lives in isolation. Nathan introduces him to Ava, his humanoid robot with AI. He wants Caleb to test whether she truly possesses consciousness and to see whether Caleb can relate to her. During their encounters, Ava shows romantic interest in Caleb and explains that Nathan plans to destroy her current personality when he upgrades her. Caleb agrees to help her escape the house, but later Nathan reveals that he is aware of their plot against him, and Caleb’s entire visit was the actual test. Caleb’s final decision on who to side with will now define how the events will develop. Despite its comparatively slow pace and a lot of tech talk, Ex Machina was praised for its captivating storyline and brilliant performances.
Ghost In The Shell
Star Wars: A New Hope
Ron’s Gone Wrong
Flight Of The Navigator
The Hitchhiker’s Guide To The Galaxy
Neon Genesis Evangelion: The End Of Evangelion
The World’s End
Star Trek: The Motion Picture
The Last Starfighter
The Day The Earth Stood Still
Batteries Not Included
Terminator 2: Judgment Day
Rogue One: A Star Wars Story
Return To Oz
The Avengers: Age Of Ultron
The Stepford Wifes