As automation, AI, and robots gradually become an increasing part of our everyday reality, it’s worth remembering that this ‘reality’ was first dreamed up by science fiction writers well over a hundred years ago. Initially these ‘robots’ were mere machines created by humans to help with menial tasks. As the imagination of these writers continued to expand, so did the role of these robots in the stories.
It was not long before that these robots became a staple of science fiction movies, and their roles began to be examined in greater depth and many questions and issues were raised. They could be built for purposes of good, so surely, they could be built for purposes of evil? What would happen if they malfunctioned? What would happen if they began to feel emotion? And ultimately, in the case of sci-fi horror movies, could the tables be turned, and we become their slaves? Many of the movies below deal with these questions, and more. These are the 10 best movies about robots, ranked.
10 Transformers: Bumblebee
These warring intergalactic transforming robots were everywhere in the 80s and 90s. Based on an 80s cartoon showthe Transformers series became so popular that an animated feature-length movie was released in 1986, which went on to achieve cult status. The franchise received a huge resurgence in popularity when renowned director Michael Bay helmed the blockbuster live-action reboot Transformers in 2007 starring Shia LaBeouf. The movie went on to gross over $ 700 million, prompting Bay to direct four sequels. But it was the spin-off / reboot, Bumblebeethat finally hit the mark, managing to appease critics, long term fans, and casual viewers alike.
Set in a crime ridden Detroit of the future, Robocop is about a new a brutal cyborg ‘Robocop’ created to rid the city of crime. Robocop is fantastically fun and an over-the-top sci-fi action flick, but looks a little deeper, and there’s a little more than meets the eye to this brutal dystopian crime thriller. Aside from managing to successfully blend multiple genres and tropes including elements of horror, action and comedy, and much more, there’s also the biting satire running throughout. It’s humorous but thought-provoking critiques of reality television and corporate America ring truer now than ever.
8 Short Circuit
Short Circuit is a staple of classic 80s comedy and still stands up surprisingly well today. The plot follows the exploits of ‘Johnny 5’, a military robot experiment that develops hyper intelligence and a human-like curiosity about his surroundings. A family fun adventure that still packs quite the emotional punch.
7 Forbidden Planet
Loosely inspired by William Shakespeare’s The Tempest, Forbidden Planet stars Leslie Nielsen, long before he had reinvented himself as the fart machine wielding, puntastic funny man he later became. Influential beyond comprehension, Forbidden Planet serves as a fine precursor of contemporary science fiction cinema and is one of the finest of its era. It is also notable for being among the very first movies to feature a robot that exhibits a unique personality and is a character in its own right and plays an integral role in the plot.
6 Ron’s Gone Wrong
From the oldest entry on the list to the newest, Ron’s Gone Wrong was a surprise hit that captivated the nation when it hit the market last year. Chock-a-block full of laugh out loud moments, it follows Barney, a socially awkward young teen as he develops a friendship with his defective robot Ron. Full of social commentary and sharp satire, this beautifully animated comedy also manages to tug on our collective heartstrings, just as much as any Pixar movie, leaving us all rooting for Barney and Ron.
Long before it was adapted into a successful HBO Original television seriesthere was the 1973 hit movie Westworld, written and directed by Michael Crichton and starring Yul Brynner. Drawing straight from our deepest, darkest imaginations, the story follows a bunch of guests as their dream holiday at a fully immersive western themed amusement park turns into a nightmare as one of the cowboy robots goes rogue and wreaks havoc.
After Toy Story, Wall-E is the only other feature-length Pixar movie that has been selected for preservation in the United States National Film Registry by the Library of Congress as being ‘culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant.’ Wall-E manages to achieve what many would have considered unachievable, in that, based almost entirely on a single non-verbal character, it manages to tackle a whole host of important issues including religion, technology, environment and pollution whilst remaining completely enticing to children of all ages throughout – a true masterpiece.
3 Blade Runner
Featuring one of the most immersive and well-developed dystopian landscapes ever committed to film, and thanks to some stellar performances from Harrison Ford and Rutger Hauer, Blade Runner is considered one of the finest and most influential sci-fi movies of all. Unlike a lot of other movies that feature robots, the ‘replicant’ robots are the backbone to this film which deals with a lot of thought-provoking ideas surrounding the notions of artificial intelligence.
2 Terminator 2: Judgment Day
As we near the top of this list, we’re encountering movies that are not just among the best movies about robots, but that are some of the best movies ever made. Period. It’s safe to say that Terminator 2: Judgment Day sits proudly in that category. The first was revolutionary, but was among James Cameron’s first directing experiences and had budget constraints. Following its success, the now more experienced Cameron was given more creative freedom and a greater budget. The result? One of the most visually impressive, action packed, thought-provoking sci-fi movies ever made. Drawing inspiration from horror and action movies, this genre bending masterpiece cemented Cameron as one of the industry’s most exciting directors and Arnold Schwarzenegger as the biggest action star in the biz.
1 The Iron Giant
Based on the iconic novel The Iron Man by Ted Hughes, which was written as a means of comforting his children after his wife, Sylvia Plath, died by suicide, specifically through the metaphor of the title character being able to re-assemble itself after being damaged, it was obvious from the start that there was potential for something special. Thanks to the brilliant and sensitive direction from Brad Bird and its unique animation style which combined a traditional hand drawn style with CGI, it reached and exceeded all expectations and was showered with praised across the board. One of the most emotionally involved movies ever about a robot, The Iron Giant also benefited from a great voice cast, including Vin Diesel, Jennifer Aniston, Harry Connick Jr. A must-see for pretty much anyone who has a heart.
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