What with Jake Schreier's upcoming movie 'Robot & Frank' scheduled for release in the UK on March 8th 2013 and talks of 'Star Wars: Episode VII' being in the making, we've put together a list of what we think are the best robots that we've ever seen on screen. This is with the exception of cyborgs, human-looking robots, cybernetic organisms and bots from TV programs because, let's face it, we'd be here forever.
Robot ('Robot & Frank')
We can't tell you how much we're looking forward to this movie. It's proof that films don't have to be sci-fi to have robots and a reminder that we are approaching an age where robots could be more than just onscreen characters as the robot in this flick is strongly based on the real-life Japanese Honda creation ASIMO. It's also another example of the unfortunate human habit of personification as the trailer shows Frank (Frank Langella) saying about the robot (Peter Sarsgaard) who has been brought in to care for him in his old age, 'He's my friend' despite the robot not having any emotions or, indeed, morals as he duly demonstrates by helping Frank, who is a former cat burglar, with a jewellery heist.
R2-D2 & C-3PO ('Star Wars')
We couldn't really have a list of our favourite movie robots without including these guys. They're probably the most recognisable robots in the world and definitely two of the best. C-3PO (Anthony Daniels) is a droid responsible for general protocol and making sure that communications between different planets go ahead without complications or confusion. He is nearly always accompanied by dome-shaped tripod robot R2-D2 (Kenny Baker) who can only communicate through a series of electronic whistles and beeping and so needs C-3PO to translate for him. They are generally thought of as best friends, often displaying human feelings and favouritism in spite of being man-made machines. One of our favourite things about them is that they are still as retro as ever and no unnecessary, film-ruining updates have been made. at least, not yet.
Here's one for the kids; WALL-E (Ben Burtt) is a robot who was designed, along with others like him, to clean the evacuated, rubbish filled wasteland that is Earth in the future. However, after all the other robots break down WALL-E (which stands for Waste Allocation Load Lifter - Earth class) is the only one left, learning to repair himself with broken parts and developing feelings and a consciousness. He even falls in love with another robot, EVE (Elissa Knight) - which stands for Extraterrestrial Vegetation Evaluator - and the pair help to restore the environment of the planet. Humans love the idea of robots with emotions which probably contributed to the enormously positive reception it received on its release. WALL-E also carries a responsible, eco-friendly message and this, coupled with those doleful metal eyes, make him the perfect modern kids' robot.
Optimus Prime ('Transformers')
We at Contact Music are not afraid to express our geeky side and admit that we are major fans of Optimus Prime (Peter Cullen). If we were doing a piece on our favourite badass metal monster, he'd definitely be it. For those who don't know, Prime is the leader of the Autobots on planet Cybertron in the 'Transformers' franchise. He and his team are constantly up against the evil Decepticons but Prime's bravery, righteousness and wisdom are always enough to win them victory. Whilst we enjoy watching androidian, human-serving, man-made bots, Prime makes a nice change by being an independent machine created on his own planet to serve himself and his army.
Johnny 5 ('Short Circuit')
Originally called SAINT Number 5 (SAINT meaning Strategic Artificially Intelligent Nuclear Transport), Johnny 5 (Tim Blaney) is definitely one of the cutest robots ever. Fairly basic in design (welcome to the '80s!) but with remarkably complex functions, he develops sentience following a freak power surge at the lab he was built at and a subsequent chance meeting with a woman who befriends him. He was developed for use in the Cold War before the incident but also developed other abilities such as social interaction and using musical instruments. He's probably one of the only movie robots who goes totally against his purpose from day one, resenting the military practises he was made for.
Marvin, the Paranoid Android ('The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy')
This 2005 comedy sci-fi flick based on the 1978 TV series has got to be the first to portray a clinically depressed machine. Marvin (Alan Rickman) is frequently bored, assumes that nobody cares about his feelings and often contemplates the general point in life. As distinctly uncheerful as he is, it only adds to his appeal and, indeed, ultimately saves the day. In the movie, he is depicted with a large, drooping, spherical head and no facial expression apart from triangular green lights for eyes. Although not always doing as he is told, he is duly loyal towards the people he serves saving their lives on more than one occasion. He also has a very human voice which is unusual but entirely suitable for this lovable character.
GERTY (Kevin Spacey) can only convey feelings through smileys on a computer screen (a little like 21st century human beings) but just that, along with the remarkable compassion he continues to show throughout the movie, is enough to convince his audience of his anthropomorphism. He is an artificial intelligence machine designed to assist and accompany astronaut Sam Bell (Sam Rockwell) on his lunar mission. However, when Sam inadvertently discovers that he is a clone of the real Sam, GERTY tries his best to comfort him, even showing remorse for keeping the information from him. He's arguably more of a computer than a robot, though we insist on putting him on this list due to his physical functions, such as cutting Sam's hair and patting him reassuringly on the shoulder.
Sonny ('I, Robot')
Some people might find the whole idea of having robot servants to do the housework pretty epic but this movie definitely puts us off a little. When robots are programmed to take over the planet (after being used as household assistants), Sonny (Alan Tudyk) remains the only one who believes the plan is wrong despite being programmed to deliberately ignore the three laws of robotics which are not to harm a human being, obey all orders giving by a human being and protect itself unless it violates the first law. He is initially arrested by detective Del Spooner (Will Smith) who is one of the few people to be against the robotic technology and accuses him of killing his creator. Sonny is probably the most advanced looking of our list but was almost too human looking to be included. Still, we can't decide what's better: humanoid bot or metal machine?
It's a bit of a random one, but this guy was just too cool not to mention. A juggernaut of a robot if ever there was one and quite a nemesis for RoboCop, ED-209 (Jon Davison) was destroyed at the end of the movie after being sent to kill the cyborg Alex Murphy (Peter Weller). He's a deadly machine with big guns and no humanity but he definitely makes the best baddy robot ever. Pop fact: ED-209 was sampled in the club hit by Silver Bullet '20 Seconds To Comply'
Maria's Robot Double ('Metropolis')
It's ironic that all the biggest robots that come to mind are depicted as male when the first ever silver screen robot was in fact made to resemble a woman. 1926's silent movie 'Metropolis' tells of a man who creates a robot to resemble a woman called Maria (Brigitte Helm) who is attempting to help the oppressed workers of the city and the ruling wealthy people come together and live more equally. However, the robot causes chaos in the city causing everyone to turn against the real Maria and attempt to hunt her down while she protests her innocence. 'Star Wars'' C-3PO was loosely based on the 'Metropolis' robot, both being gold coloured and resembling people. Anyway, despite being massively creepy looking, we think she deserves a mention for being the first robot on our screens and for being, uncommonly, female.
Other Legendary Bots!
We know we said no TV robots but we couldn't leave it without giving honourable mentions for 'Futurama''s womanizing robot Bender (John DiMaggio) and 'Doctor Who''s adorable pet metal dog K-9 (John Leeson). Bender is truly the star of the show in the sci-fi animated comedy and enjoys the drinking, smoking and the company of woman (be they fem-bots or human). K-9, on the other hand, is highly intelligent and never fails to ignore orders. He was a staple from the 15 season of 'Doctor Who' when Sarah Jane Smith (Elisabeth Sladen) was the Doctor's (Tom Baker) companion. Just like a real dog, he remained loyal and stuck with Sarah Jane even when she and the Doctor parted. To the delight of 'Doctor Who' fans, K-9 made cameos in several other future episodes and appeared in the spin-off 'The Sarah Jane Adventures'.
Another robot that deserves an honourable mention is probably the ultimate; 'The Terminator'. However, he's TECHNICALLY a cybernetic organism and so he can't go on the main list; you can't deny, though, that the Terminator (Arnold Schwarzenegger) deserves legendary status for his flawless fighting skill and his remarkable penchant for sarcasm.
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