Explainer: Memorable movie robots

  • Walt Disney Pictures / Pixar

    WALL-E, a robot left to clean up a trashed planet Earth, is one of the cutest robots ever devised by Hollywood. But he's not the only movie robot to work its way into our hearts (or our nightmares). Click the "Next" label to see nine more robots that have left an impression on the silver screen. —

  • 1927: Fake Maria threatens 'Metropolis'

    Hulton Archive  /  Getty Images

    The first major movie robot made its debut in "Metropolis," an influential sci-fi flick about a distant future in which the rich elite frolic in a paradise maintained by the working class. The robot, Der Maschinian-Mensch, is cloaked in the skin of the workers' heroine, Maria, to corrupt the masses with provocative dancing. Fake Maria, as the robot is popularly known, continues to win kudos from critics for an appearance well before her time: Some say she was the inspiration for the famous "Star Wars" droid C-3PO.

  • 1951: Gort keeps peace through strength

    20th Century Fox

    According to "The Day the Earth Stood Still," there is harmonious life on other planets —and thuggish robots whose sole purpose is to keep the peace. When intergalactic spaceman Klaatu arrives on planet Earth with his menacing robot, Gort, to promote peace, Earthlings will have none of it. They immediately begin to shoot at Klaatu. Gort instinctively fires back with his eyebeam laser and melts their weapons. Klaatu, of course, fails to convince Earthlings to join the peace-loving spacefaring nations and is killed. Told the famous line "Klaatu barada nikto," Gort refrains from unleashing his wrath.

  • 1956: Robby the (career) Robot

    Warner Home Video

    Any robot that can make batches of whiskey and gilded dresses on command is all but guaranteed a long acting career. Thus is the case with Robby the Robot. He made his first appearance in the Shakespeare-inspired movie "The Forbidden Planet" as a do-no-evil home machine. From there, he went on to have an illustrious career on screens big and small. Appearances range from "The Twilight Zone" to the "Love Boat."

  • 1977: R2-D2 and C-3PO, the Laurel and Hardybots

    Twentieth Century Fox

    R2-D2 and C-3PO of "Star Wars" fame are perhaps the most recognized and lovable movie robots in the world. While the droids are inseparable in many people's minds, R2-D2 stands out for some critics as the more lovable, if only because the robot pulled on our heartstrings without ever uttering a word of English. And as Luke Skywalker's co-pilot, he helped annihilate the Death Star.

  • 1979: Ash, the Company man

    Warner Home Video

    Spoiler alert: For most of "Alien," the original film in the eponymous media franchise, Ash is taken to be a human crew member keen to rid the spaceship of the deadly parasitic alien. But when given the chance to do the deed, his true motives — and persona — are revealed, an android tasked to bring the creature to Earth for the Company, presumably for its weapons division. A stiff whack on the head with a fire extinguisher ended his run. Moments before his plug was pulled, he famously said, "I can't lie to you about your chances, but ... you have my sympathies."

  • 1984: The Terminator, a future Governator

    Carolco Pictures Inc.  /  Zuma Press file

    Before he became the governor of California, Arnold Schwarzenegger was one bad-ass robot known simply as the "The Terminator." He was sent from the future to kill the mother-to-be of a human leader, though his mission fails. In two "Terminator" sequels, he changes course and returns to protect the young boy from even more bad-ass Terminator robots. Some critics rank the later models as the better bots on the big screen, but only the original went on to govern one of the largest economies in the real world.

  • 1987: RoboCop vs. ED-209, Detroit's future finest?

    Orion Pictures

    The titular cyborg in "RoboCop" beats out the fallible ED-209 model in the race to develop a machine-based replacement for Detroit's inadequate police force. But ED-209's mishaps earned it the larger cult following. In one memorable scene, a malfunctioning ED-209 guns down an eager young executive during a product demonstration after it utters the famous line, "Please put down your weapon. You have 20 seconds to comply."

  • 1994: Data's chip provides human emotions


    Lieutenant Commander Data made its (his?) debut in the "Next Generation" TV series of the "Star Trek" franchise as an efficient android that yearns to feel human emotions. When Data hit the big screen in 1994's "Star Trek: Generations," he installs a computer chip that treats him to the gamut of joy, fear and guilt. At the end of the film, he even sheds tears upon finding his cat safe. But is Data really a robot? In a TV episode, he famously said, "I am an android, not a robot." Nevertheless, he was inducted to Carnegie Mellon's Robot Hall of Fame.

  • 1997: Fembots perk up 'Austin Powers'

    New Line Cinema

    In the hit comedy "Austin Powers: International Man of Mystery," Dr. Evil creates seductive fembots to capitalize on Austin's weakness: an insatiable libido. Dr. Evil tests the breast-gun-equipped bots on his own guards, who are lured to lower their weapons and then killed. Austin too almost succumbs to the seductive power of the fembots, but gets his mojo back in time to turn the tables with a striptease of his own. This causes the fembots to short-circuit. In the aftermath, a nearly-naked Austin explains to Vanessa that "we got cross mojonations and their heads started exploding, that whole thing."

    Do other 'bots belong on the most memorable list? Register your comments


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