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, weve 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 someones 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
2. Marvin the Paranoid Android (The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy)
Life, dont 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 Rickmans perfect voice casting and Warwick Daviess physical acting in the criminally underrated 2004 film adaptation.
Endlessly quotable in his contempt for his (or anyone elses) 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 youd want in an ambiguous 80s-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
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 Hannahs 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 Langs 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 films concern that, in a mechanised society, the boundary between man and machine is becoming dangerously blurred.
Visit the Robots exhibition, and youll come face to face with Maria shes really quite intimidating! But also, as computers and machines become an even more intrinsic part of our lives, shes also very relevant.
Chosen by: Elaine Macintyre, Digital Media Content Manager
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 Asimovs 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
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
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.