In the director's ''Pacific Rim,'' massive machines slug it out with Godzilla-size sea monsters; we asked del Toro to name the pop culture bots that have influenced him the most

By Geoff Boucher
Updated June 21, 2013 at 04:00 AM EDT

Metropolis 1927
The ”grandmother of them all,” as del Toro puts it. Considered one of cinema’s very first androids, the curvy industrialized siren was created by Walter Schulze-Mittendorff for Fritz Lang’s 1927 silent sci-fi masterpiece. ”The design fuses the majesty of an Egyptian statue with the beauty of futuristic art-deco lines,” he says. ”It is hypnotically beautiful and terrifying. One of the great film icons of all time.”

Forbidden Planet 1956
Moviegoers gasped when they saw the towering mechanical man. ”Robby exhibited a distinct personality, thanks to both script writing and the careful execution of design master Robert Kinoshita,” says del Toro, who also notes that the robot’s clear dome reveals moving internal parts that ”give the illusion of thought and speech mechanics.”

Gigantor 1964-65
”The first giant robot I ever saw and a robot that defined my childhood,” del Toro says of the star of the Japanese anime series. ”When I was 3 or 4 years old and I had a fever, my recurrent image would be the signature shot of the robot flying toward the camera, one fist extended, looking straight at the lens. My older brother and I used to draw him over and over.”

Astro Boy 1963-66
On this Japanese series from godfather of anime Osamu Tezuka, Astro was built and (for a time) loved by his maker, a scientist who had lost his only son. ”It’s a complex, idiosyncratic amalgam of science fiction and fantasy,” according to del Toro. ”For me it has always been rooted in Pinocchio and stands as an empowering fable for kids.”

Lost in Space 1965-68
”One of the fundamental robots of my childhood,” the director says rhapsodically. Created by Forbidden Planet‘s Kinoshita (who was handpicked by producer Irwin Allen), it was ”a magnificent piece of modernist design, a robot with innate personality and great futuristic appeal. This was also one of the early incarnations of the ‘a boy and his robot’ story.”

Westworld 1973
The sci-fi film itself might seem dated, but not the android (played by Yul Brynner), who was built for recreational gun battles with human tourists. ”The main special effect in this film is Yul Brynner. His movement, his mythic stature, and the absolute control of the performance stand the test of time. Almost nothing else in the film does.”

RoboCop 1987
Del Toro was taken with the squatting T. rex: ”As sleek as an American car prototype and as deadly as an armored tank. A mechanical hard-ass. The ED-209 is all hard surface and no face, crouched in a combat position. My mind was blown as soon as it took a step. I marveled at all the details like the hydraulic rams and cooling Gatling guns.”

Star Wars 1977
Designed by Ralph McQuarrie, the Laurel and Hardy of the Skywalker universe introduced the term droids. ”They are the perfect odd couple. One is blue, short, stocky, and free; the other is golden, fussy, and rigid. More than any other robot on this list, they are fused with their performers [Kenny Baker and Anthony Daniels] in voice and mannerisms.”

The Iron Giant 1999
Joe Johnston and Brad Bird (who made his directorial debut here) designed the alien giant, which was a retro-minded achievement in ”masterful simplicity,” according to del Toro. ”The eccentric jaw, gyrating eye shutters, angular torso, and rounded bucket head are absolutely perfect. He conveys scale, power, and innocence in equal parts.”