They come in all sizes, from imposing, lumbering giants to pint-sized wheeled models. Sometimes, they can speak a variety of languages fluently, but other times they can only make beeping sounds or no noise at all. They’re adept at fixing things and destroying things. Once in awhile, one goes bad–but typically they function as loyal companions. Yes, we are talking about robots of the silver screen!
In our picks below, please note that cyborgs and androids have been omitted (sorry, Blade Runner, RoboCop, and Terminator!).
1. Gort (The Day the Earth Stood Still, 1951): Eight feet tall and made of an impenetrable alien metallic substance, Gort was the movies’ first robot superstar. He doesn’t say a word, but was the recipient of a classic line of dialogue: “Klaatu barada nikto” (roughly translated, it means that Klaatu was killed and needs to be revived…and, by the way, please don’t destroy the Earth). Definitely the tall silent type.
2. Robby the Robot (Forbidden Planet, 1956): Slightly shorter than Gort and much more talkative, Robby also starred in the cult sci fi film The Invisible Boy (1957). But he’s most famous for Forbidden Planet, in which his character was inspired by the sprite Ariel in Shakespeare’s The Tempest. Dr. Morbius programmed Robby so that the robot could not harm humans. (Robby was also the obvious inspiration for the robot in TV’s Lost in Space).
3. The Robot Maria (Metropolis, 1927): This 2006 inductee into the Robot Hall of Fame (Gort made it the same year) is the oldest robot on this list–though she’s doesn’t look it, of course. Possibly cinema’s first female robot, the Robot Maria (also know as the False Maria) is eventually given human features that make it impossible to discern the real Maria from her robotic duplicate. Still, it’s the image of the robot prior to the transformation that has captured the imagination of millions of film fans.
4. R2-D2 and C3PO (Star Wars movies, 1977-present): They need no introduction after compiling more screen time than any other robots in motion picture history. Plus, they’ve starred in video games, been molded into popular play-action figures, and been transformed into kiddie Halloween costumes!
5. Huey, Dewey (not pictured), and Louie (Silent Running, 1972): These three little service drones prove invaluable to an astronaut-botanist (Bruce Dern) after he hijacks a spaceship carrying a living forest. The drones not only conduct maintenance on the station, but they also perform surgery on Dern’s injured leg, tend to the forest, and play poker with their human companion.