To gear up for ''Transformers'' (opening July 3), we count down our 10 favorite mechanical men (and fembots) in movie history

By Gary Susman
Updated April 27, 2007 at 04:00 AM EDT
Credit: ILM
  • Movie

Image credit: Austin Powers: New Line Cinema


FROM Austin Powers: International Man of Mystery (1997)

PLAYED BY Cindy Margolis of Internet-download fame (foreground), plus a bevy of unknowns (Cheryl Bartel, Donna W. Scott, Barbara Ann Moore, and Cynthia Lamontagne)

PROGRAMMING These swingin’ synthetic sirens, done up like bedroom Barbies, are designed by Dr. Evil to lure Austin Powers to his doom.

SPECIAL FEATURES Each of the fembot fatales has, as Austin calls them, ”machine-gun jubblies.” Oh, naughty!

MEMORABLE MOMENT Austin short-circuits the fembots, sending their heads spinning with nothing more than his hairy-chested mojo.

WHY THEY PUSH OUR BUTTONS Actually, the existence of these lethally sexy androids explains a lot, especially in Austin Powers in Goldmember, which reveals that Britney Spears is a fembot too.


Image credit: Forbidden Planet: Kobal Collection


FROM Forbidden Planet (1956)

PLAYED BY Designer Robert Kinoshita’s creation Robby the Robot, which went on to appear in a handful of other movies and TV shows

PROGRAMMING In this sci-fi version of Shakespeare’s The Tempest, Robby is the Ariel figure, at the beck and call of solitary Morbius (Walter Pidgeon) and his daughter Altaira (Anne Francis, pictured).

SPECIAL FEATURES Though he looks like a jukebox (especially the way his parts awaken and twirl when someone asks him to do something), he’s a skilled butler, capable of making dresses for Altaira or synthesizing gallons of whiskey.

MEMORABLE LINE ”I rarely use [oxygen] myself, sir. It promotes rust.”

WHY HE PUSHES OUR BUTTONS Although today he seems quaintly stiff and clunky, Robby was clearly influential — such mechanical men as the Robinsons’ robot on Lost in Space (also designed by Kinoshita) bear his classic imprint.


Image credit: Metropolis: Everett Collection


FROM Metropolis (1927)

PLAYED BY Brigitte Helm, once she’s fully animated

PROGRAMMING In a future world where masses of industrial workers toil underground while the elite live in the spires of skyscrapers, a scientist (played by Rudolf Klein-Rogge, pictured) kidnaps radical labor leader Maria and replaces her with a robot doppelgänger to defuse a potential rebellion.

SPECIAL FEATURES Looks like the real thing but is more inclined to dance with erotic abandon than to give fiery speeches

MEMORABLE MOMENT The android Maria offers a lascivious, unsettling wink, an instant re-created in 2004’s I, Robot.

WHY SHE PUSHES OUR BUTTONS Robot or not, Maria is a captivating presence and an apparent influence on a range of electric-powered film females, from the Bride of Frankenstein to the T-X of Terminator 3.



FROM A.I. Artificial Intelligence (2001)


PROGRAMMING Humanoid hustler Joe accompanies young ”mecha” David (Haley Joel Osment, above left) on his Pinocchio-like quest to find the Blue Fairy and become a real boy.

SPECIAL FEATURES Joe, who struts to his own soundtrack of old love songs, can alter his hair color and his accent according to the whims of the client he’s, um, servicing.

MEMORABLE LINE (Talking to David about humans) ”They made us too smart, too quick, and too many. We are suffering for the mistakes they made because when the end comes, all that will be left is us.”

WHY HE PUSHES OUR BUTTONS David may be A.I.‘s protagonist, but it’s cynical Joe, with his contempt for the humans who’ve built him, used him, and discarded him, who gives the movie its kick.



FROM The Iron Giant (1999)

PLAYED BY Vin Diesel (voice)

PROGRAMMING He may have been designed as an interstellar weapon, but the alien android makes an ideal companion for a fatherless boy, Hogarth Hughes, who in turn teaches the massive robot that he actually has a soul.

SPECIAL FEATURES Like any alien invader in a movie set in the early Atomic Age, this metal-munching robot can take on an entire army. Also, he can fly, learn a few English words, and make believe he’s Superman.

MEMORABLE LINE ”I am not a gun.”

WHY HE PUSHES OUR BUTTONS We like his retro-cool design, but we also choke up at his self-sacrificing stand against a paranoid army, a tearjerking climax worthy of E.T.


Image credit: Robocop: Everett Collection


FROM RoboCop (1987), RoboCop 2 (1990), RoboCop 3 (1993)

PLAYED BY Peter Weller (RoboCop, RoboCop 2), Robert John Burke (RoboCop 3)

PROGRAMMING Killed in the line of duty and brought back to life as a cyborg, Officer Murphy fights both street thugs and the white-collar criminals at OCP, the corporation that built him.

SPECIAL FEATURES His mind is a crime database, his body is bulletproof, and he’s quick on the draw.

MEMORABLE LINE ”Your move, creep.”

WHY HE PUSHES OUR BUTTONS In the first film, at least, Weller puts his wry deadpan to good use as the monotone law-enforcing machine who retains a flicker of his old humanity.

EW MOVIE GRADES: A (RoboCop); C+ (RoboCop 2); D- (RoboCop 3)

Image credit: Alien: Everett Collection

4. ASH

MOVIE Alien (1979)


PROGRAMMING The most villainous computerized space traveler this side of 2001‘s HAL 9000, Ash keeps the fact that he’s an android secret from Ripley (Sigourney Weaver, above left) and the rest of the crew until he’s well on the way to accomplishing his mission: to bring one of the predatory, parasitic aliens back to Earth for the Company.

SPECIAL FEATURES Even after his head is knocked off, he can still speak, offering a final, chilling warning to the crew.

MEMORABLE LINE (Before he’s disconnected for good) ”I can’t lie to you about your chances, but…you have my sympathies.”

WHY HE PUSHES OUR BUTTONS Ash says of the alien, ”I admire its purity. A survivor…unclouded by conscience, remorse, or delusions of morality.” We could say the same about him.


Image credit: Star Trek: Everett Collection


FROM Star Trek: Generations (1994), Star Trek: First Contact (1996), Star Trek: Insurrection (1998), and Star Trek: Nemesis (2002)

PLAYED BY Brent Spiner

PROGRAMMING A twist on Mr. Spock from the original Trek, Data is an efficient science officer aboard the Enterprise — but he’s also an android who yearns to experience human emotion.

SPECIAL FEATURES In Generations, Data installs a chip that enables him to feel everything from fear to glee.

MEMORABLE LINE (In Generations, recalling a joke he’d been told seven years earlier) ”I get it! ‘The clown can stay, but the Ferengi in the gorilla suit has to leave!’ I get it!”

WHY HE PUSHES OUR BUTTONS Like many of the best robot characters, Data makes us wonder what it really means to be human.

EW MOVIE GRADES: B (Generations); B+ (First Contact); C (Insurrection); B- (Nemesis)

Image credit: Everett Collection


FROM The Terminator (1984), Terminator 2: Judgment Day (1991), Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines (2003)

PLAYED BY Arnold Schwarzenegger

PROGRAMMING Having failed to kill Sarah Connor, mother of anti-machine resistance leader John Connor, in the first movie, the time-traveling T-800 is reprogrammed to protect young John against even scarier new-model Terminators in the two sequels.

SPECIAL FEATURES Though he lacks the molten-metal-morphing ability of T2‘s T-1000 (Robert Patrick), or the ability to turn his limbs into complex weapons like T3‘s T-X (Kristanna Loken), T-800 is just as relentless, nearly as indestructible, and much more charismatic (in T2, he’s even an unlikely father figure for John). Also, he looks good in leather and sunglasses.

MEMORABLE LINE ”I’ll be back.”

WHY HE PUSHES OUR BUTTONS Like the actor-turned-California governor who plays him, T-800 has proven surprisingly adaptable for such an inexpressive, monotone guy. Good or evil, he’s an all-purpose golem, a double-barreled horseman of the apocalypse.

EW MOVIE GRADES: B (Terminator); B+ (Terminator 2); B+ (Terminator 3)

Image credit: Star Wars: Kobal Collection

1. R2-D2 AND C-3PO

FROM Star Wars (1977), The Empire Strikes Back (1980), Return of the Jedi (1983), Star Wars: Episode I — The Phantom Menace (1999), Star Wars: Episode II — Attack of the Clones (2002), Star Wars: Episode III — Revenge of the Sith (2005)

PLAYED BY Kenny Baker (R2-D2) and Anthony Daniels (C-3PO)

PROGRAMMING The Laurel & Hardy of the ”Star Wars” saga, the droids provide comic relief, though they also frequently help Luke Skywalker (or, in the pre-Luke episodes, his father Anakin) out of tight jams.

SPECIAL FEATURES Fussbudget 3PO can speak 6 million languages; headstrong R2 can play holographic movies, help navigate X-wing fighter ships, and, as we discover in ”Attack of the Clones,” fly.

MEMORABLE LINE (3PO to R2, as the latter is about to leave with Luke on a mission to destroy the Death Star in ”Star Wars”) ”Hang on tight, R2. You’ve got to come back. You wouldn’t want my life to get boring, would you?”

WHY THEY PUSH OUR BUTTONS Scrappy, heroic R2 is the most lovable of all movie robots. Even though he has no face and a language of only beeps and whistles, he’s wonderfully expressive. And you can’t beat his odd-couple chemistry with 3PO.

EW MOVIE GRADES: A (Star Wars); A (The Empire Strikes Back); B+ (Return of the Jedi); B- (Phantom Menace); C+ (Attack of the Clones); B- (Revenge of the Sith)


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