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04.18.2014by: Alex Maidy

Top 10 Movie Portrayals of Artificial Intelligence (Video Edition)

Wally Pfister's TRANSCENDENCE opens today and offers a disturbing look at a not too distant future and the threat that artificial intelligence could have on all of humanity. While A.I. has often been used as a plot device or villain in movies since the invention of the medium, there are several that stand out as better than the rest. Here are our picks for the Top 10 interpretations of artificial intelligence in movies. If your favorite didn't make the list, feel free to add it to the talk backs below.

Honorable Mention - THE LAWNMOWER MAN

Loosely based on a Stephen King story of the same name, THE LAWNMOWER MAN was one of the early films to use virtual reality and CGI as a significant plot device. While the movie may not be all that great, it is definitely an artifact of how different things looked related to video games and the Internet just twenty years ago.

#10 - The Androids from the ALIEN franchise

Between Ash in ALIEN, Bishop in ALIENS, Call in ALIEN RESURRECTION, or David in PROMETHEUS, the ALIEN series has a consistent view of androids and their self-sufficient intelligence. The original ALIEN films presented the androids as being almost human and just a part of the world at large, but it was with PROMETHEUS that we learned the background of their creation by Peter Weyland. All four actors (Ian Holm, Lance Henriksen, Winona Ryder, and Michael Fassbender) are in sync with their portrayals making these the most surreally life-life takes on A.I. on film.

#9 - GERTY in MOON

Duncan Jones' brilliant scifi film is highlighted by an excellent performance from Sam Rockwell and a great twist ending. But, it is the classic voice of Kevin Spacey that brings the A.I. system called GERTY to life. Much like HAL from 2001, GERTY is a monotone computer that punctuates his statements with emoticons, adding a layer to the character that could otherwise have been a non-factor in the film.

#8 - Samantha in HER

You know you have done something special when your voice role is buzzed as a possible Oscar contending performance and that is exactly what Scarlett Johansson did in Spike Jonze's HER. Taking the concept of A.I. and turning it around to reflect our real world reliance on computers and operating systems, HER's Samantha is eerily realistic and not at all far-fetched.

#7 - HAL 9000 in 2001: A SPACE ODYSSEY

What could be more frightening than a sentient computer coming to life and not complying? The cold nature of HAL 9000 in Stanley Kubrick's masterpiece has influenced countless A.I. beings since 1968 including Auto from WALL-E. HAL has a mission and will not deviate based on intuition or emotion making it a cold-blooded killer without any need for a body. All he has to do is not open the pod bay doors and you know there is zero chance to survive.

#6 - J.A.R.V.I.S. in the IRON MAN films

Paul Bettany's role as J.A.R.V.I.S. cannot be overshadowed as a mere voice performance as his A.I. is not only a confidant and close "friend" to Tony Stark but also a unique take on the comic character. No longer a human butler as he was in the pages of Marvel Comics, the A.I. version of J.A.R.V.I.S. provides moments of comic relief and gives a personality to offset Stark when he is within his suit. Soon, Bettany will be playing The Vision in AVENGERS: AGE OF ULTRON which may be an offshoot of this same A.I.

#5 - David in A.I.

Steven Spielberg's Peter Pan-esque scifi flick was originally set to be made by Stanley Kubrick before he died. The movie definitely skews towards Kubrick's filmmaking style with a hopeful undercurrent of classic Spielberg. The final product is a memorable film with Haley Joel Osment delivering a great performance as the robot boy who wanted to be real. Jude Law also turns in a great supporting turn as Gigolo Joe, another android. Haunting and disturbing, A.I. is also brilliantly realistic.

#4 - Droids in STAR WARS

While we may all love the lightsaber battles and epic space war elements of the STAR WARS films, there is no doubt how iconic the Droids are. C3PO and R2D2 are not just the comic relief but also the audience gateway to the galaxy far, far away. It just wouldn't be STAR WARS without these two suffering through the trials and tribulations alongside their human counterparts. But, Droids pervade George Lucas' universe from being peons, slaves, to even warriors like General Grievous. One of the most lasting ideas of A.I. on film. Hell, we even have cell phones named after them.

#3 - The Borg in STAR TREK: FIRST CONTACT

While I could have just named Data from STAR TREK: THE NEXT GENERATION as an iconic A.I., the terrifying Borg and their Queen in STAR TREK: FIRST CONTACT take the cake. A combination of organic and mechanical, The Borg are a horrible and virtually unstoppable foe. There are few creations in scifi as intimidating as The Borg and FIRST CONTACT proves that point. For those who think STAR TREK is the candy-coated lesser of the major franchises, all you have to do is think of the giant space cubes of doom and you may reconsider.

#2 - The Agents from THE MATRIX Trilogy

THE MATRIX is all about the A.I. that doomed humanity and now enslaves all. The personification of The Matrix itself are the Agents who patrol the dream-like interface humans are plugged into. Agent Smith (Hugo Weaving) leads the Kafka-esque police force that evolves through the trilogy from being a sadistic and mindless opponent to an omnipotent enemy that must be destroyed by free-thinking humanity. Regardless of how you feel about the movies themselves, you have to admit the concept of the Agents is pretty damn cool.

#1 - The TERMINATOR Franchise

Arnold Schwarzenegger's portrayal of the T-800 has two very distinct sides. In James Cameron's original, he is an unstoppable killing machine. In T2, young John Connor (Edward Furlong) teaches the reprogrammed robot how to be more human. As the franchise progresses and we see the T-1000 and other iterations of SkyNet's army, we see a fully fleshed out race of beings that run the gamut from scary to almost human. This clearly makes THE TERMINATOR the kind of all A.I. on the big screen.

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7:38AM on 04/21/2014
I always liked the robot form iRobot. I do like the list, but shouldn't the Matrix itself beat out the Agents inside it?
I always liked the robot form iRobot. I do like the list, but shouldn't the Matrix itself beat out the Agents inside it?
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+0
1:37AM on 04/19/2014
I would contend that the Borg are not necessarily an *artificial* intelligence.
I would contend that the Borg are not necessarily an *artificial* intelligence.
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+0
10:57PM on 04/18/2014

other ai

I enjoyed frank and robot, walle, and bicentennial man. i like the list, eventho i missed out on some of them, i also look forward in seeing ultron.
I enjoyed frank and robot, walle, and bicentennial man. i like the list, eventho i missed out on some of them, i also look forward in seeing ultron.
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12:53PM on 04/18/2014
Pretty good list. I would have had Blade Runner up there as either 1 or 2, with Terminator taking the other spot. Also would have put HAL in the top five. Still, darn good list!
Pretty good list. I would have had Blade Runner up there as either 1 or 2, with Terminator taking the other spot. Also would have put HAL in the top five. Still, darn good list!
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11:00AM on 04/18/2014

The film I will fight for until the day I die

I still think this is one the most fascinating and well made films ever. It is such an interesting piece of film making. I loved it when I saw it the first time, when I was 18, and I still love it until this day. I watch it every so often to remember how much the film is a precious piece of film making. I think Kubrick would have been proud of the end product. One of my favorite films of all time!
I still think this is one the most fascinating and well made films ever. It is such an interesting piece of film making. I loved it when I saw it the first time, when I was 18, and I still love it until this day. I watch it every so often to remember how much the film is a precious piece of film making. I think Kubrick would have been proud of the end product. One of my favorite films of all time!
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10:58AM on 04/18/2014

Excellent film

The technology in this film seemed very real. Scarlett was amazing as Samantha.
The technology in this film seemed very real. Scarlett was amazing as Samantha.
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10:56AM on 04/18/2014

Loved this movie as a kid

Spooky and seemed to be something that could happen one day.
Spooky and seemed to be something that could happen one day.
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10:13AM on 04/18/2014
That thumbs up gets me every time.

I think that WALL-E and/or Johnny Five deserve a place on the list, but I do agree with just about every entry.
That thumbs up gets me every time.

I think that WALL-E and/or Johnny Five deserve a place on the list, but I do agree with just about every entry.
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10:13AM on 04/18/2014
Hugo Weaving's awesome and all, but don't think I'd give these guys second place.
Hugo Weaving's awesome and all, but don't think I'd give these guys second place.
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10:12AM on 04/18/2014
The visual effects work, Alice Krige's performance and Jonathan Frakes' direction combined made the Borg Queen a chilling, memorable sci-fi villain.
The visual effects work, Alice Krige's performance and Jonathan Frakes' direction combined made the Borg Queen a chilling, memorable sci-fi villain.
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10:09AM on 04/18/2014
I know it's not the popular opinion, but C-3PO is just about my favourite character in the Star Wars films. As a kid, I didn't notice any homoerotic undertones between Threepio and Artoo, it seemed like they were brothers who didn't quite get along but couldn't live without each other in their lives, and that was funny/sweet.
I know it's not the popular opinion, but C-3PO is just about my favourite character in the Star Wars films. As a kid, I didn't notice any homoerotic undertones between Threepio and Artoo, it seemed like they were brothers who didn't quite get along but couldn't live without each other in their lives, and that was funny/sweet.
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10:07AM on 04/18/2014
I love this movie. The sentimentality doesn't bother me; I think Spielberg made it work. It's also a really impressive performance from Jude Law and Haley Joel Osment was superb, I think he was even better in this film than in The Sixth Sense.
I love this movie. The sentimentality doesn't bother me; I think Spielberg made it work. It's also a really impressive performance from Jude Law and Haley Joel Osment was superb, I think he was even better in this film than in The Sixth Sense.
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10:06AM on 04/18/2014
He's Just A Rather Very Intelligent System, and sometimes at the end of every sentence he says the wrong cranberry.
He's Just A Rather Very Intelligent System, and sometimes at the end of every sentence he says the wrong cranberry.
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10:05AM on 04/18/2014
Douglas made it rain! That chilly, measured vocal performance is *the* cinematic A.I. for good reason. Honestly think HAL should be higher up on the list.
Douglas made it rain! That chilly, measured vocal performance is *the* cinematic A.I. for good reason. Honestly think HAL should be higher up on the list.
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10:03AM on 04/18/2014
Probably my favourite film of 2013. It seems like the role Scarlett Johansson was born to play, even if (or especially because?) it was just her voice. That scene where the screen blacks out so we hear just Samantha and Theodore was very clever.
Probably my favourite film of 2013. It seems like the role Scarlett Johansson was born to play, even if (or especially because?) it was just her voice. That scene where the screen blacks out so we hear just Samantha and Theodore was very clever.
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10:00AM on 04/18/2014
I felt so sorry for GERTY at the end of this movie. He and WALL-E should hang out.
I felt so sorry for GERTY at the end of this movie. He and WALL-E should hang out.
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9:58AM on 04/18/2014
Really loved Lance Henrikssen as Bishop (that five finger fillet scene will never stop being cool), even during that moment of special effects failure where we see the lower half of Henrikssen's body in a hole in the floor during the final battle. Fassbender's David was such a delicious performance.
Really loved Lance Henrikssen as Bishop (that five finger fillet scene will never stop being cool), even during that moment of special effects failure where we see the lower half of Henrikssen's body in a hole in the floor during the final battle. Fassbender's David was such a delicious performance.
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9:57AM on 04/18/2014
The infamous virtual reality sex scene got quite a funny spoof in the parody film iSteve.
The infamous virtual reality sex scene got quite a funny spoof in the parody film iSteve.
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