Top ten film robots

What’s your favourite film robot?

Does it remind you of your childhood? Make you laugh? Make you think?

Ahead of our Robots Retro Film Night, we’ve put together a top ten list with the help of our staff:

1. The Tin Woodman (The Wizard of Oz)

Is he a robot? Just look at him, a mechanical metal man who does not sleep, even in a poppy field. But if he is a robot, when did he become one as his flesh was replaced by metal? Of course in reality we have prosthetic limbs and kidney dialysis and mechanical heart pumps but no equivalent of replacing someone’s brain – yet. I love him for the way he is hard to categorise and we need to think about the question: what is a robot?

Chosen by: Dr Tacye Phillipson, Senior Curator of Science

Woman cleaning a robot
Tacye (pictured in the Robots exhibition) will be introducing the films at the Retro Robots Film Night

2. Marvin the Paranoid Android (The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy)

“Life, don’t talk to me about life”

With a brain the size of a planet and a capacity for happiness you could fit into a matchbox without taking out the matches first, Marvin the Paranoid Android is a hilariously droll and sarcastic robot whose hyper intelligence is wasted on performing menial tasks on board the starship Heart of Gold.

Originally appearing on ‘The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy’ radio show in 1978, Marvin was brought to life by Alan Rickman’s perfect voice casting and Warwick Davies’s physical acting in the criminally underrated 2004 film adaptation.

Endlessly quotable in his contempt for his (or anyone else’s) existence, Marvin is a hilarious twisted take on modern AI and robotics. A sleek robotic appliance designed to make life easier that does nothing but complain.

Chosen by: David Smith, Administrator – Marketing and Communications

3. Roy Batty (Blade Runner)

Roy Batty – leader of the renegade group of replicants, prodigal son, Übermensch, improbable poet and scene-stealing antihero – is everything you’d want in an ambiguous 80’s-future robot antagonist.

Sure he does some pretty bad things but he has all the best lines, and unlike the more stoic Decker, he throws himself into his emotions showing that robots can have tortured souls too. Who else could pull off the infamous “tears in the rain” speech, symbolically clutching a white dove?

I also love that his name sounds like it should be a character on Coronation Street, instead of a brooding, muscly, android fighting for his life – but that just adds to his charm.

Chosen by: Amy Russell, Events Officer

Futuristic movie poster for Blade Runner
Blade Runner: The Final Cut is one of two classic sci-fi movies which will be shown on the big screen at Robots Retro Film Night

4. R2-D2 (Star Wars)

I have a really soft spot for R2-D2 from the ‘Star Wars’ franchise. I remain convinced those beeps are passive aggressive and/or obscenities.

Chosen by: Sam Alberti, Keeper of Science & Technology

5. Maria (Metropolis)

Why are robots almost always boys? In this list of the top 100 robots, only around 10% are female – and most of those seem to be wearing bikinis. Yet there are some seriously awesome female robots out there – who could forget the resourceful, determined Eve in WALL-E, Daryl Hannah’s kickass Bladerunner replicant Pris (who definitely wins the prize for best cyber hairdo) or Joan Rivers basically playing herself as C-3PO lookalike Dot Matrix in Mel Brooks’ Star Wars parody Spaceballs?

But the mother of all female robots has to be Maria, from Fritz Lang’s ground-breaking 1927 sci-fi movie Metropolis. In the film, Maria is created (by a wild-haired, bug-eyed ‘mad scientist’, of course) to sow dissent among the workers in a dystopic industrial city. She only actually appears as a shiny metal robot for a very short time, before morphing into human form and wreaking hedonistic havoc in – oh yeah – a bikini. But her transformation from robot to human forms the pivotal, most memorable moment of Metropolis, underlining the film’s concern that, in a mechanised society, the boundary between man and machine is becoming dangerously blurred.

Visit the Robots exhibition, and you’ll come face to face with Maria –she’s really quite intimidating! But also, as computers and machines become an even more intrinsic part of our lives, she’s also very relevant.

Chosen by: Elaine Macintyre, Digital Media Content Manager

On display in the exhibition: Replica of Maria, designed by Walter Schulze-Mittendorff for Fritz Lang’s film Metropolis, 1927. WSM Art – Walter Schulze-Mittendorff © The Board of Trustees of the Science Museum.

6. Number 5/Jonny 5 (Short Circuit)

One of my top five films is Short Circuit – purely for the character Number 5/Jonny 5, who is very funny and quite loveable. There is even a moment in the film that features an insect! He sees a grasshopper for the first time and tries to mimics its behaviour by jumping. Unfortunately he squashes it (“disassembles” it)… in turn learning about life and death.

Chosen by: Ashleigh Whiffin, Assistant Curator of Entomology

7. The Terminator

The Terminator was a defining robot movie for my generation. Defying Isaac Asimov’s Three Laws of Robotics, Arnold Schwarzenegger depicts a cyborg from the future where humans and machines are fighting a war. This cyborg is sent back in time to kill the mother of the unborn future leader of the human resistance. The film includes drones armed with lasers, so as an aviation curator it was an obvious choice!

Chosen by: Ian Brown, Assistant Curator – Aviation

Robot skeleton
On display in the exhibition: T-800 endoskeleton from the Terminator film series © Solent News/REX/Shutterstock

8. C-3PO (Star Wars)  

It takes me back to a time of great childhood memories.  He was very human like in appearance but also his mannerisms and intellect.

Chosen by: Shirley Maciver, General Manager – National Museum of Rural Life

9. Weebo (Flubber)

My favourite robot has to be Weebo, Robin Williams’ floating yellow assistant from the 1997 Disney film Flubber. Weebo was a robot ahead of her time, using memes to communicate and able to take flash photography. She would be a social media sensation in 2019!

In a heartbreaking scene, Weebo dies a hero when she is attacked trying to protect Flubber from being stolen. However, she leaves her blueprints for Professor Brainard to create her daughter, Weebette, and the film ends happily with Professor Brainard, his girlfriend Sara and Weebette heading to Hawaii in a flying car. Still got my fingers crossed that Weebette gets her own spin off film!

Some fun facts… Weebo was voiced by Jodi Benson, who also voiced Ariel in the Little Mermaid. You can see a life-size replica of Weebo at Epcot at Walt Disney World in Orlando.

Chosen by: Fiona Thorton, National & International Partnerships Officer

10. The Gunslinger (Westworld)

My grandfather was a huge fan of Westerns, and I remember him watching Westworld and this was probably my earliest memory of robots in the movies. Yul Brynner as the GunSlinger was terrifying and the whole film raised the fear of sentient machines who would one day break free of the command of humans.

Chosen by: Morven Donald, Library & Information Assistant

Westworld is one of two classic sci-fi movies which will be shown on the big screen at Robots Retro Film Night

What do you think of the list? Did we miss any of your favourite film robots? Let us know in the comments below.


Retro Robots Film Night 🍿

Explore the Robots exhibition after hours, get hands-on with robotic gadgets and enjoy one of two classic sci-fi movies with drinks and snacks on the big screen:

  • Westworld (1973): A robot malfunction creates havoc and terror for unsuspecting vacationers at a futuristic, adult-themed amusement park.
  • Blade Runner: The Final Cut (1982): A blade runner must pursue and terminate four replicants who stole a ship in space, and have returned to Earth to find their creator.

Tickets for this adults-only event on Friday 22 March 2019 cost £16 (£14 Members & Conc.), which includes screening for one film and exhibition entry. Click here for details and booking.

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