With Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen out, it set us to thinking about the best robots and robot movies in the genre, from friendly to creepy.
George Lucas once said that Star Wars was not a story about the rise of a Jedi, but of two droids and their crazy adventures with all the magnificent people they interacted with. And no matter what you have to say about the prequels, at least he adhered to that. It's important to note that I'm not just talking about the first film, but the first three (aka parts IV, V, and VI) -- the holy trilogy, as Kevin Smith once famously put it. C-3PO and R2-D2 are two of the most beloved, well known robots in cinema history for good reason. They're fun, funny, independent-thinking creatures not locked into any "programming" like many other robot characters.
A recent addition to the list, Wall-E waltzed into the hearts of millions just by doing his job and having a love of a past he was unconnected to. He wasn't voiced by an A-list actor, didn't crack jokes, didn't transform into anything other than a box. He just diligently did his work and pined for a friend to appreciate the beauty of what was left of the Earth with. And he proved that you could tell a compelling story without dialogue and people would be willing to watch it.
Another series I'm lumping into a film, James Cameron's first and second Terminator films are resonant, smart, and ultimately hip masterpieces of science fiction filmmaking that gave us Arnold as both an unstoppable villain and a tragic hero. I recently sat down and showed my wife both of these films -- which she had oddly never seen - and she was blown away by how smart they were. "I always thought they were just mindless action movies. I had no idea!"
Sure, they're called "replicants" -- but we know what they really are. They're just fancier robots. Ridley Scott's noir science fiction masterpiece -- of which there are three distinctly different cuts -- introduces us to a replicant hunter who, in two of the cuts, is actually a replicant himself. Many have argued that this decision was made after the fact and thus is not really a part of the film's mythology, but like it or not, Scott insists that's what the story is about. A brilliant film any way you slice it, this is one of the best robot stories ever told.
The classic that started it all. Talk about a number of different cuts floating around out there ... my favorite is the kooky 1980s semi-colorized one with a very dated, new wave soundtrack featuring a number of incredible and goofy songs. This is the story of a dystopian future beset with class warfare -- an incredibly poor working class keeping a fully automated city running so the rich can reap the rewards. But when a beautiful woman preaching to a militant underground is discovered, she is replaced by a robot ... and the rest is cinematic history. The art deco design and the vision of the future has inspired so much that followed that it would be impossible to even fathom listing it. It isn't just an original. It is the original.