21. THE DESTROYER
FROM Thor (2011)
PROGRAMMING This metal monster, who?s doing little brother Loki?s bidding, has pretty clear parameters: take out Thor.
SPECIAL FEATURES It?s giant, seemingly indestructible, and its face opens up to reveal projectile hellfire.
WHY HE PUSHES OUR BUTTONS This live-action movie version of this comic-book villain lived up to expectations and added to the heat of this summer blockbuster.
20. THE FEMBOTS
FROM Austin Powers: International Man of Mystery (1997)
PLAYED BY Cindy Margolis (foreground), 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.”
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.
19. EVIL BILL and TED
FROM Bill and Ted’s Bogus Journey (1991)
PLAYED BY Alex Winter (Evil Bill) and Keanu Reeves (Evil Ted)
PROGRAMMING Like the Terminator, these doppelgangers from the future are sent to the late 20th century to kill and replace the real Bill and Ted (Winter and Reeves), preventing them from fulfilling their destiny as rock ‘n’ roll messiahs who will bring about an age of peace, prosperity, and awesome tunes.
SPECIAL FEATURES They’re not much brighter than the slacker dudes they’re sent to kill, but at least they can play some wicked guitar licks.
WHY THEY PUSH OUR BUTTONS Makes you think, doesn’t it? Like, what if benign stupidity really could be harnessed in the service of evil? That really would be, like, totally bogus.
FROM The Black Hole (1979)
PROGRAMMING In this atypically dark Disney adventure, he’s the leader of a droid army, the right-hand robot to mad scientist Hans Reinhardt (Maximilian Schell), and an enforcer willing to take lethal action against anyone who stands in the way of Reinhardt’s seemingly suicidal scheme to pilot his ship into a mysterious black hole in deep space.
SPECIAL FEATURES He doesn’t speak, but he has a multitude of skills, from programming computers to performing lobotomies.
WHY HE PUSHES OUR BUTTONS His giant frame, stony silence, expressionless face, and demonic red paint job all made for a memorable villain who scared the pants off of us when we were kids.
FROM Godzilla vs. Mechagodzilla (1974)
PROGRAMMING Apelike alien invaders build the giant mechanical lizard to aid in their takeover bid, and to thwart a certain well-known homegrown lizard that is Earth’s best hope to repel the aliens.
SPECIAL FEATURES He looks like Godzilla, confusing the helpless, trod-upon humans, but he also has laser eyes and missiles that shoot from his fingers.
WHY HE PUSHES OUR BUTTONS He’s one of the coolest monsters Godzilla has ever fought, and one of the few who’s evenly matched in strength against the Japanese lizard.
FROM Aliens (1986), Alien 3 (1992)
PLAYED BY Lance Henriksen
PROGRAMMING Accompanying a platoon of alien fighters preparing for battle against the acid-dripping parasites who’ve apparently wiped out a distant human colony, Bishop is an android, which alarms Ripley (Sigourney Weaver), who’s had a bad experience with one of Bishop’s predecessors (see entry on Ash).
SPECIAL FEATURES There’s that wicked-cool knife trick he does, rapidly and repeatedly stabbing the table while avoiding poor Bill Paxton’s hand.
WHY HE PUSHES OUR BUTTONS As advertised, he turns out to be loyal and dependable in a pinch, even after he’s lost the lower half of his body.
FROM Westworld (1973)
PLAYED BY Yul Brynner
PROGRAMMING A black-hatted badass programmed to engage in mock shootouts with visitors to a Western-themed adult amusement resort, the Gunslinger starts gunning down tourists for real when he and the other robots go glitchy.
SPECIAL FEATURES A menacing stride, an icy stare, and a quick trigger finger.
WHY HE PUSHES OUR BUTTONS Brynner’s truly chilling performance manages both to send up his Magnificent Seven role and to anticipate the implacable cyborgs of the Terminator movies.
14. THE STEPFORD WIVES
FROM The Stepford Wives (1975)
PLAYED BY Paula Prentiss, Tina Louise, Nanette Newman, and others
PROGRAMMING In this feminist nightmare, suburban husbands respond to the women’s lib movement with a conspiracy to replace their wives with passively compliant android replicas.
SPECIAL FEATURES They cook, they clean, they have sex, they never age or get fat, and they never argue.
WHY THEY PUSH OUR BUTTONS After watching this movie, if you spend a little time in the suburbs, you too may wonder which of the people you meet have been secretly Stepfordized.
13. TOM SERVO AND CROW T. ROBOT
FROM Mystery Science Theater 3000 (1996)
VOICED BY Kevin Murphy (Tom Servo) and Trace Beaulieu (Crow)
PROGRAMMING As on the long-running TV series, these wisecracking robots and human custodian Mike Nelson serve as a peanut gallery trapped in space and forced to watch legendarily inept old sci-fi movies ? in this case, 1955’s This Island Earth.
SPECIAL FEATURES They can’t do much ? Tom appears to be little more than a modified gumball machine, while Crow seems a cross between a bowling pin and a box of takeout food ? but their snark capability goes up to 11.
WHY THEY PUSH OUR BUTTONS Watching delightfully bad cinema, they say what we’d say if only we were clever, witty, and fast enough.
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.
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.
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
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.
10. GIGOLO JOE
FROM A.I. Artificial Intelligence (2001)
PLAYED BY Jude Law
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.
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 Day the Earth Stood Still (1951)
PLAYED BY Lock Martin, who was the doorman at the landmark Grauman’s Theater in Hollywood and cast for his seven-foot height.
PROGRAMMING Brought to Earth by an alien messenger named Klaatu (Michael Rennie), Gort is one of a race of interstellar robot cops who keep the peace between planets by responding with deadly force at the first hint of aggression. Klaatu has come to warn humanity that Earth will be destroyed if it doesn’t give up nuclear weaponry.
SPECIAL FEATURES Gort doesn’t talk (he doesn’t even have a mouth), but his visor shoots rays that can melt tanks and other weapons, and Klaatu says he’s capable of destroying the Earth single-handedly.
WHY HE PUSHES OUR BUTTONS Is Klaatu really Christ? (He adopts the Earth name “Carpenter.”) Is Gort really the Angel of Death? The robot’s silence has preserved the mystery for more than half a century.
8. THE IRON GIANT
FROM The Iron Giant (1999)
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.
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.
FROM RoboCop (1987), RoboCop 2 (1990), RoboCop 3 (1993), RoboCop (2014)
PLAYED BY Peter Weller (RoboCop, 1987, pictured), RoboCop 2), Robert John Burke (RoboCop 3), Joel Kinnaman (RoboCop, 2014)
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.
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.
MOVIE Alien (1979)
PLAYED BY Ian Holm
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.
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.
FROM Wall-E (2008)
PLAYED BY Voiced by Ben Burtt
PROGRAMMING The hero of Pixar’s animated feature is a lonely, trash-compacting robot on an abandoned Earth who pines for a newly arrived probe droid named EVE.
SPECIAL FEATURES Molds scrap metal into bricks, speaks in R2-D2-like beeps and blurps, and has a binocular-shaped head that gives him an unfortunate resemblance to Johnny 5, the robot in the much-reviled Short Circuit movies.
WHY HE PUSHES OUR BUTTONS His heartfelt emotional journey made him as good as a flesh-and-blood hero to us.
4. OPTIMUS PRIME
FROM Transformers (2007), Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen (2009), Transformers: Dark of the Moon (2011)
PLAYED BY Peter Cullen, who voiced the character in the ’80s cartoon series as well
PROGRAMMING When Earth becomes the battlefield in an age-old war between two factions of huge, shape-shifting alien robots, it’s up to Optimus Prime, leader of the benevolent Autobots, to defeat Megatron’s evil Decepticons — and to keep the human race from becoming collateral damage.
SPECIAL FEATURES He’s got that charismatic bass voice, cooperates well with young humans, and can turn himself into a tractor trailer with a cool blue paint job. Why, it’s as if he were a big toy come to life!
WHY HE PUSHES OUR BUTTONS There’s the reassurance factor of having an enormous semi from space as your friend and bodyguard. But mostly, it’s that impressive voice.
3. LT. COMMANDER DATA
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.
WHY HE PUSHES OUR BUTTONS Like many of the best robot characters, Data makes us wonder what it really means to be human.
2. THE TERMINATOR, MODEL T-800
FROM The Terminator (1984), Terminator 2: Judgment Day (1991), Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines (2003), Terminator Salvation (2009)
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.
WHY HE PUSHES OUR BUTTONS Like the actor-turned-California-governor-turned-actor-again 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.
1. R2-D2 AND C-3PO
FROM The Star Wars saga (1977-2005)
PLAYED BY Kenny Baker (R2-D2) and Anthony Daniels (C-3PO)
PROGRAMMING The Laurel and 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.
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.