EX MACHINA opens today and begs us to ask the question: what does it mean to be human? Film has asked this for decades and there are quite an array of films to choose from that tackle the question. Here are our ten top examples of life-like movie robots and why they are so impressive. If your favorite didn't make the cut, be sure to let us know in the talk backs below.
It is pretty sad that the most realistic human characters in Michael Bay's series are the CGI creations. But, you can not question that the films do an amazing job in realizing the machine alien race and make them believable in motivation and execution.
Right when traditional animation was disappearing from movie theaters, Brad Bird's THE IRON GIANT blew everyone away. Despite not being a massive box office hit, popularity for the film has grown on home video and it is now recognized as a classic. Vin Diesel's gravelly voice lends a soul to the giant alien robot that doesn't want to be a monster but rather Superman. Brilliantly executed and perfect viewing no matter how many times you watch it.
Steven Spielberg has always imbued unreal characters with a humanity that helps us relate to them. He did it with E.T. and he did it again with the robotic race in A.I. ARTIFICIAL INTELLIGENCE. Both young David and Gigolo Joe are facing different aspects of humanity in their journey. Jude Law plays Joe as someone who fears the humans while Haley Joel Osment is like a young Pinocchio searching for a way to become a real boy. Stirring and wonderfully acted.
A personal favorite of mine, SHORT CIRCUIT shares a lot in common with THE IRON GIANT. Both are about machines that have true souls at their core and have to contend with the fear of those who do not understand them. This is nowhere near as good of a movie as Bard Bird's animated film, but Johnny 5 is a character you forget is not actually real because he feels so real.
Brent Spiner's character may have developed on the small screen, but he had memorable outings in the four Next Generation films in the STAR TREK series. Specifically in STAR TREK: FIRST CONTACT, Data is forced to deal with the potential of becoming human thanks to the Borg Queen. He naturally decides to fight the evil alien hive in what ranks as one of the best films in the franchise.
While he was an unstoppable killing machine in the original film, Arnold Schwarzenegger's T-800 learns what it means to be a protector to young John Connor in T2: JUDGEMENT DAY. While no other film has come close to the emotional impact of James Cameron's sequel, it did represent one of the few occasions where an iconic movie villain could become an iconic movie hero.
Like it or not, STAR WARS would not work without R2-D2 and C-3PO. The bumbling droids are central to the films and represent our way into the massive galactic saga. Characters come and go in the films, but these two droids are front and center in each movie. They primarily provide comic relief, but they are so integral to the experience of STAR WARS that you almost forget they aren't people.
A Buster Keaton-esque masterpiece, Wall-E is a robot that could not look less human and yet embraces love, art, music, nature, and life better than most of us. With barely any dialogue, this character conveys more than some real human actors and that is a testament to how well designed this character is.
Starting with Ridley Scott's ALIEN through to PROMETHEUS, the Xenomorph saga has always featured android characters who have been intrinsic to the plot of the film. From Ash in the first movie to fan favorite Lance Henriksen as Bishop to Michael Fassbender as David, these artificial lifeforms have felt like creepy mirrors to our own humanity but with a stark mission they do not deviate from.
One of the most haunting and beautiful science fiction films of all time, BLADE RUNNER presents a look at artificial life that begs the question of what it truly means to be human. Whether it be Sean Young, Daryl Hannah, Rutger Hauer, or possibly even Harrison Ford, you get an existential crisis coupled with amazing visuals and a pulsating score.