Artificial Intelligence (or simply, A.I.) has been a pop culture fixation and an intellectual curiosity for some time, and with the recent wide release of Ex Machina and the upcoming debut of Avengers: Age of Ultron and Terminator Genysis, it is clear that our fascination is not waning. Is it because we dream of a subservient race of helper-bots ala Rosie in The Jetsons, or are we fearful of what they might do once they have a chance to study our vulnerabilities up close? Many films have sought to answer these questions, but we’re still not sure. For now, though, check out these 10 films that will let you study robot-kind in detail. #OppositionResearch
Star Wars: Episode IV – A New Hope (1977)
While droids feature prominently in every Star Wars film, Episode IV – A New Hope introduces us to the dynamic duo of C-3PO and R2-D2, who often function as the metallic heart of the franchise. Often involved in hijinks while the rest of the crew of the Millennium Falcon dealt with weightier matters, C-3PO and R2-D2 grew to be some of the most beloved characters in the Star Wars film universe. Fans are sure to be excited about revisiting this legendary friendship in Episode VII – The Force Awakens.
The Terminator (1984)
“I’ll be back.” With that one line, Arnold Schwarzenegger’s T-101 became a legend. Over the course of several sequels, the original Terminator evolved from relentless killer to a stalwart protector. However, with the humanoid form instead of traditional metal and gears of robotics, The Terminator preyed on humanity’s abiding fear about robots: Are they actually better “humans” than we are?
Disney and Pixar took a gamble with the film Wall-E. Would young audiences connect with a film that was mostly free of dialogue and would parents be okay with a film had a fairly strong environmentalist stance? Thankfully, that risk paid off and audiences fell in love with an expressive little robot named Wall-E and his beloved, Eve.
Despite being about great strides in technology, Wall-E also examined that toll that these advances took on humanity and the world at large. Also, the main robot duo is very, very cute.
Blade Runner (1982)
While the replicant humanoid clones used to serve on off-world territories in Blade Runner do not have the look of traditional robots, it is impossible to leave Ridley Scott’s sci-fi masterpiece off this list. An unsettling cyberpunk vision of the future, Blade Runner tells the story of Rick Deckard, a specially trained cop or “blade runner”, who is pulled out of retirement to hunt down a group of rogue replicants who have returned to Los Angeles to find their creator. A deeply philosophical film, Blade Runner ponders what it means to truly be human and why mankind is constantly searching for answers.
I, Robot (2004)
While it shares little resemblance with the collection of short stories by Isaac Asimov that bears the same name, I, Robot nonetheless portrays a future where robots have become deeply intertwined with humanity, possibly to humanity’s detriment. In the film, robots are supposed to always follow the Three Laws of Robotics, but do they? Are they benevolent helpers, or do they have a more sinister agenda?
The Iron Giant (1999)
Brad Bird’s The Iron Giant is an emotionally rich experience for the entire family. While it recognizes the fear that humanity has of robots and what they represent, The Iron Giant also acknowledges that having a robot best friend would be one of the coolest things ever. Before he was Guardians of the Galaxy‘s Groot, Vin Diesel voiced the titular giant, and he will bring you to tears every time.
Set in an ultra-violent and dystopic version of Detroit, Robocop tells the story of policeman Alex Murphy, who is gunned down in the line of duty. A shadowy corporation that controls much of the city decides to reconstruct Murphy as the cyborg RoboCop to crack down on crime. As he struggles with the repressed memories of his human self, Murphy also manages to lay down the law as he embraces his robot side.
With HBO developing a series based on the Michael Crichton novel that inspired the film, Westworld has once again been pulled into the public forum. It chronicles the breakdown of a futuristic theme park for adults, as the murderous robot The Gunslinger (Yul Brenner) stalks the trapped vacationers. Featuring the first use of computer digitized images in a feature film, Westworld is a truly frightening and electrifying movie.
Transformers is a candy coated explosion of robot-on-robot violence. By bringing the popular toys to life on the big screen, Michael Bay truly crafted a love letter to fanboys thanks to Shia LaBeouf’s Sam Witwicky, Optimus Prime, the Autobots, the Decepticons, and the villainous Megatron. It’s necessary viewing for fans of spectacle, machinery, and 80s toys.
The first film to prominently feature robots, Metropolis is a crazy vision of a utopian future defined by the struggle between the upper and lower classes. A mad scientist creates a robotic version of his deceased beloved, and eventually morphs her into a human looking revolutionary named Maria to inspire the masses and stifle an uprising. As can be expected, all does not go according to plan. While Metropolis is more fantastical than scientific, it set the stage for the robots of future cinema.