It might seem surprising that some of our favorite characters are robots — by definition they’re not human. However, robots are literally what we make of them, and that’s all the more true of fictional ones. As we become more and more dependent on technology in our daily lives, we can project our hopes and fears onto robot characters as well as being entertained by them.
To determine America’s favorite fictional robots, 24/7 Tempo reviewed characters from popular science fiction TV shows and movies on IMDb, an online movie database owned by Amazon. Robots were considered if they appeared in a long-running TV show, high-grossing film, or a movie or TV show with a high IMDb rating. (These are the 50 best sci-fi movies of all time.)
One of the first robots depicted in film was Maria in the 1927 Fritz Lang classic “Metropolis,” and she has had a lasting impact on popular culture. The music video for Queen‘s 1984 song “Radio Ga Ga” used clips from “Metropolis” and Maria is said to have inspired George Lucas when he designed C-3PO — another robot on our list — for “Star Wars.” (Of course, C-3PO is one of the most popular Star Wars characters.)
The robots we like aren’t necessarily all good guys. Far from it. Some, like H.A.L. in “2001: A Space Odyssey” and the T-1000 android in “Terminator 2: Judgment Day,” will kill anybody who gets in their way. Others, like Ultron and the Daleks, are bent on conquering the universe and even exterminating the human race. However, most are helpful, or at least harmless. And a few, like Andrew Martin in “Bicentennial Man,” want to be human.
> From: Futurama (1999-2003)
Bender Bending Rodríguez is one of the main characters in the animated television series “Futurama.” He’s something of a comic antihero and is described by a fellow character as an “alcoholic, whore-mongering, chain-smoking gambler.”
> From: 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968)
H.A.L. (short for Heuristically programmed ALgorithmic computer) is the antihero of Stanley Kubrick’s science fiction classic “2001: A Space Odyssey.” He has to be shut down after killing crew members on the Discovery One spaceship.
> From: Ex Machina (2014)
Ava, played by Alicia Vikander in the psychological thriller “Ex Machina,” is a feminine humanoid robot with artificial intelligence.
> From: Lost in Space (1965-1968)
B-9 was a robot with human characteristics in the 1960s television series “Lost in Space.” He was known for his catchphrases “It does not compute” and “Danger, Will Robinson!” (The latter, derived originally from a Mark Twain quote, has come to mean “You’re about to do something stupid.”)
> From: Star Trek: The Next Generation (1987-1994)
Data made his debut in the television series “Star Trek: The Next Generation” and subsequently appeared in “Star Trek: Picard,” and some of the Star Trek feature films. He has been described as a successor to Spock from the original television series — an outsider with superior mental abilities.
> From: Knight Rider (1982-1986)
KITT is an acronym for both Knight Industries Two Thousand and Knight Industries Three Thousand, in both cases an advanced automobile with artificial intelligence — in short, a talking car.
R2-D2 & C-3PO
> From: Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope (1977)
R2-D2 is a straight-up robot and C-3PO is his humanoid robot counterpart in the “Star Wars” franchise. They provide a measure of comic relief against the other characters.
> From: Transformers (2007)
Optimus Prime is a Cybertronian, one of a fictional extraterrestrial species of sentient self-configuring modular robotic lifeforms — a Transformer, in other words.
> From: WALL-E (2008)
WALL-E (Waste Allocation Load Lifter: Earth-Class) is a trash compacting robot, the only one of his kind still functioning on an Earth that has become a garbage-strewn wasteland by the 29th century.
> From: Terminator 2: Judgment Day (1991)
The T-1000 is a new Terminator, a shapeshifting android аssаssin — a kick-аss bad guy — made out of a so-called mimetic polyalloy, which accounts for his ability to change forms.
The Iron Giant
> From: The Iron Giant (1999)
The Iron Giant is a 50-foot alien robot who befriends a nine-year-old boy against a backdrop of the Cold War in this animated film based on the 1968 novel “The Iron Man” by English poet and children’s writer Ted Hughes.
> From: RoboCop (1987)
RoboCop is a cyborg law enforcer created by Omni Consumer Products by reviving a real police officer who is shot to death by a gang of villains in a dystopian Detroit.
> From: Big Hero 6 (2014)
Baymax is an inflatable healthcare robot who knows 10,000 medical procedures. He and his friends are transformed into a band of high-tech heroes by robotics prodigy Hiro.
> From: Avengers: Age of Ultron (2015)
Ultron is a highly intelligent robot designed by Avengers Tony Stark and Bruce Banner as the head of a peacekeeping program. He misunderstands and goes rogue, believing that he must eradicate humanity — and the Avengers must stop him.
> From: Voltron (1984-1985)
Voltron is a giant super robot piloted by a team of five space explorers in the television series of the same name.
> From: I, Robot (2004)
In the film “I, Robot,” highly intelligent robots fill public service positions in a dystopian world and operate under the Three Rules of Robotics, originally devised by science fiction giant Isaac Asimov. Sonny, in this film loosely based on Asimov’s stories, is a different kind of robot who can ignore these rules.
> From: Avengers: Age of Ultron (2015)
Vision is an android, also called a synthezoid, created by Ultron as a weapon against the Avengers.
> From: The Daleks (Doctor Who) (1963-1964)
The Daleks are merciless, Nazi-like cyborg aliens bent on the conquest of the universe and the extermination of what they regard as inferior races in the second British television series featuring Doctor Who.
> From: The Jetsons (1962-1963)
Rosie is the Jetson family’s robotic maid and housekeeper in this animated science fiction sitcom — created by Hanna-Barbera as a counterpoint to their caveman series “The Flintstones.”
> From: Bicentennial Man (1999)
Andrew Martin, played by Robin Williams, is an android servant of the Martin family who displays creativity and emotions and wants to become human.
> From: Metropolis (1927)
Maria is a feminine robot based on a human of that name in the Fritz Lang classic “Metropolis,” one of the first fictional robots ever depicted in film and one of the most famous.
> From: Interstellar (2014)
TARS is one of four former United States Marine Corps tactical robots in the film “Interstellar” — a crew member of the spacecraft Endurance, which is carrying frozen human embryos to settle a habitable planet.
> From: Battlestar Galactica (2003, miniseries)
Number Six is a seductive, statuesque humanoid Cylon in the miniseries “Battlestar Galactica,” based on the original 1978 series and a prelude to the 2004 revival. There are several versions of the character, who was named after Number Six in the classic 1960s show “The Prisoner.”
> From: Inspector Gadget (1983-1986)
Gadget is a cyborg with numerous high-tech devices installed in his body. He’s a powerful and protective lawman, but can also be clueless and incompetent. The original animated series led to numerous spinoffs, both animated and live-action, in the form of further TV series and films.
Robby the Robot
> From: Forbidden Planet (1956)
One of the most iconic robots of all, Robby is a mechanical servant created by the mysterious Dr. Morbius, ruler of the planet Altair IV, in this classic sci-fi film loosely based on Shakespeare’s “The Tempest.”. He exhibits artificial intelligence and has a distinct personality. Robby subsequently appeared, in various forms, in countless TV shows and movies.
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