Robots have been featured in movies as far back as back as 1907’s “The Mechanical Statue and the Ingenious Servant,” proving moviegoers’ fascination with the intersection between humanity and technology is as old as cinema itself. In an era where the field of robotics is steadily advancing and AI is part of many people’s day-to-day life, there’s now an entire genre devoted to robot movies. But what’s most fascinating is all the different ways Hollywood portrays robots, cyborgs, and AI on screen.
Quite often, robots are the heroes of their own stories. Iconic robots like Wall-E, Chappie, and even Sonny from “I, Robot” are brilliant, but also wonderfully human in their actions. They transcend their programmed directives to become sympathetic characters who are sometimes at odds with the humans who made them — and for good reason. Humans tend to be the real monsters in movies about robots, thanks in large part to an inability to accept the technology they designed for one purpose has a mind of its own.
But robots can be the bad guys, too. Just as filmmakers relish juxtaposing the innocence of a robot against human characters indulging in the worst possible behavior, they also love to serve up a tale of technology gone rogue. You have to look no further than the power-mad HAL from “2001: A Space Odyssey” to see our collective fear that technology might one day outsmart its creators and seek to usurp us.
Whether you love to root for robots or you like a robot tale that will send shivers down your spine, this list of the best robot movies has a robotic allegory for everyone. A few caveats: we included disembodied AI characters and cyborgs on this list as well, because it simply felt wrong to leave the likes of HAL and Alita off this list. Ultimately, they all face the same human prejudices and fears — it’s just that some of them are misunderstood, while others really are up to no good. Ready to dive into some robot classics (and future classics)? Read on for our picks for the best robot movies out there.