The first Robot Film Festival starts this weekend, celebrating robots on film (obviously). So we’ve decided to celebrate our own favourite robot movies…
The Day the Earth Stood Still (1951)
Michael Rennie confounding puny Earth scientists with his knowledge of astrophysics and impressing smalll boys with diamond currency is really just a side show to the real star of the movie – Gort. Yes, he may just look a little like a man in a rubber suit now, but he terrified a generation.
The Black Hole (1979)
Forget that cute little V.I.N.CENT. robot – the one you really wanted to command was the evil Maximilian, an imposing, levitating mute armed with lasers and hand blenders.
Okay, maybe it’s more an alien movie than a robot flick, but Bishop is still one of the most famous ‘bots to grace the silver screen. The freaky knife trick was emulated by kids around the world – mostly using blunt pencils and other non-threatening implements.
Forbidden Planet (1956)
Robby the Robot, with his twiddly antennae, flashing lights and synthetic voice, undoubtedly stole the show from a young Leslie Nielsen and the oddly unscary (once you saw it) Id monster.
Every kid wanted to be a robot after they saw D.A.R.Y.L. (Data Analysing Robot Youth Lifeform) kicking arse at Pole Position on the Atari and hitting ’em way outta the ballpark. Shame he was such an irritating, humourless little git. And he got to fly an SR-71 Blackbird, damn him.
In the future city of Metropolis, people are divided into exalted thinkers and downtrodden workers, and a robot disguised as a woman causes sexually charged mischief. Fritz Lang’s masterpiece was the most expensive silent movie ever made.
If your boyfriend brought you a robot’s head back from the post-apocalyptic desert, you’d probably tell him to jog on. But not Jill, who uses it in one of her sculptures. Imagine her shock when it starts using the rest of the sculpture to bolt itself back together. That’ll teach her not to horde crap.
Godzilla vs MechaGodzilla (1974)
Anything’s possible in the crazy world of Gojira (or Godzilla to us Westerners). When apelike aliens build a mechanical Godzilla-alike to decimate Japan, the real thing has to take on his robotic counterpart – making absolutely no effort to avoid flattening half of Japan himself in the process. Good job those are only model houses.
Ghost in the Shell (1995)
Who’d have thought the combination of cybernetics and binmen would prove such an inspiration? This formative 1995 cyberpunk hybrid anime-CGI outing inspired the likes of Larry and Andy “Matrix” Wachowski and James “Avatar” Cameron.
Transformers: the Movie (1986)
Before Michael Bay started making two-hour ads for GM, there was Transformers: The Movie. It was a thinly veiled excuse to sell merch to pre-teen boys (and woefully bereft of Megan Fox’s midriff), but the dramatis personae read like a hip-hop hall of fame roll call – Arcee, Springer, Blurr, Hot Rod and Kup joined Optimus Prime and co for this robotic cartoon gem.
Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope (1977)
The internet’s Star Wars quota may already be full, but that doesn’t mean we can’t tip a hat to George Lucas’s first instalment for the introduction of two of the best known robots in film, inspired by the bumbling peasants Tahei and Matashichi from Akira Kurosawa’s The Hidden Fortress (1958). The gloriously camp C-3PO buddied up with beeping projector-on-wheels R2-D2 for the first time in A New Hope. Robotic banter at its best.
“Part man. Part machine. All cop.” There were few surprises in RoboCop – the titular bionic patrolman took on Detroit’s least fine in a basic plot that pitted the deadpan hybrid copper against the monopolistic corporate vice of OCP. But the predictable ‘80s formula was so compelling no one ever asked why Murphy spent the entire film wearing a welder’s mask. And besides, the show was stolen by ED-209’s failure to acknowledge people complying.
Bill & Ted’s Bogus Journey (1991)
From the movie that coined the phrases “bogus” and “heinous” comes Bill and Ted’s Evil Robot doppelgangers. Not only was this genius at the time, but the robot showdown between the Evil Robot Doubles and Good Robot Us’es during the battle of the bands was certainly a nail-biting fight worth watching.
Blade Runner (1982)
A group of escaped replicants gets hunted down by Harrison Ford. Plays on our fears that human-like robots may be walking among us, but also brought to life a cyberpunk cityscape the like of which had previously only existed in William Gibson books. Rutger Hauer’s closing monologue is now the stuff of movie legend.
Terminator 2: Judgment Day (1991)
The shape-shifting T-1000 was truly terrifying when he first made his way onto the silver screen. His morphing abilities meant he could quickly re-form when shot, stabbed or sliced, but he could also transform his hands into blades and liquify to fit through small gaps. We’re not going to lie. We were scared. We still are.
Arguably the most loveable robot in the universe, Wall-E won the hearts of many with his adorable charm, big heart and his dutiful manner when carrying out his job compacting trash. And how could we forget how touchingly smitten he becomes when he meets Eve? Great film, despite the lack of dialogue for the first 25 minutes. All together now… Waaaaaaaaaalllllllll-Eeeeeeeeeeeee!
*Batteries Not Included (1987)
Alien robots lend a hand in saving an apartment block for its tight-knit tenants. Intergalactic business must have been slow in 1987. That or Spielberg was running low on ideas.
Short Circuit (1986)
A white guy playing an Asian, that guy from Police Academy playing his usual character, a bratpack lady love interest, and a badass laser-toting robot with a heart – Short Circuit had it all. Did we mention the badass laser?
Bicentennial Man (1999)
Written by Isaac Assimov, so you know it’s good; starring Robin Williams, so you know it’s got hairy arms; and directed by Chris Columbus of Harry Potter fame, so you know it’s… well he did a good job of The Goonies and Gremlins. Surprisingly touching.
The one thing cooler than cowboys? Robots. This had robot cowboys. And one of them was Yul Brynner. Cool overload, circuits sparking. Much like the robots in the film as they go out of control in what is supposed to be a fantasy theme park for holidaymakers. When things get real the trip turns from flight of fancy to fight for survival.
Stepford Wives (1975)
Katherine Ross plays a woman moving into a town inhabited by perfect wives. As is all too often the case, they turn out to be robots. You know what we mean, right? No, in this case they were literally robots. Homicidal ones – the best kind.
I, Robot (2004)
The year is 2035 and Will Smith is still advertising a certain trainer really obviously. Other than that, his cop character is busy hating robots and investigating a murder that he thinks was committed by a robot. Almost noir-style story drizzled with futuristic robot action – an impressive combination a la Blade Runner.
A specialist robot investigative cop uncovers a plot to create killer robots. The cop is Tom Selleck. The man he’s chasing is Gene Simmons from KISS. What’s not to like?
Battlestar Galactica (1978)
Commander Adama leads the good ship Galactica across space in an attempt to find a habitable world, while being chased by an evil robot race called Cylons who have destroyed the refugees’ homeworld. Starbuck’s fancy flying techniques keep them at bay while keeping us entertained.
The Iron Giant (1999)
Like BFG but with a giant friendly robot instead. The advantage of having a robot is, of course, lots more rocket-fuelled action and no scary eyebrows.