A Complete Illustrated History
of Robots in the Movies
|Film/Year, Name of Robot and Film Description|
D.A.R.Y.L. (Data Analysing Robot Youth Lifeform)
D.A.R.Y.L. was a sci-fi drama about a super-intelligent, 10 year-old, precocious android boy (Barret Oliver) named Daryl (Data Analysing Robot Youth Lifeform). The mysterious and miraculous boy possessed a computer brain and an organic body - he was created as a government experiment in artificial intelligence (AI).
After he was freed by sympathetic scientist Dr. Mulligan (Richard Hammatt), amnesiac Daryl lived with adoptive foster parents, a childless couple named the Richardsons, for awhile. With them, he learned human socialization skills and traits, and some new emotional responses. When Daryl's whereabouts were discovered, he was returned to the top-secret government facility where he was created, to be examined by military scientists.
In the disquieting, disturbing scene, Daryl was wired up for tests and exams on a table and scans were completed, to see why he was "malfunctioning." Daryl betrayed his true nature as a human that was capable of showing emotions (fear and anxiety) when he conveyed the computer-printed words on a monitor: "I'M FRIGHTENED." When the words were read, the tests were cancelled by Dr. Jeffrey Stewart (Josef Sommer) ("No tests, okay?").
However, other scientists and the military judged the D.A.R.Y.L. experiment to be a failure - Daryl was only considered to be a faulty, malfunctioning, and "expensive piece of hardware." A decision was made by the evil military establishment to terminate the project - which meant destroying Daryl, their human-acting robot. As one general put it:
Instead, the military chiefs wished to create an "adult version" of the D.A.R.Y.L. prototype ("a fearless, technically-skilled, devastating soldier"): "D.A.R.Y.L. goes to the scrapyard."
In the film's exciting conclusion, Dr. Stewart was mortally wounded during an attempt to free Daryl and return him to his foster parents.
Return to Oz (1985)
In Walt Disney Pictures' quasi-sequel to The Wizard of Oz (1939), with a modified Oz story, Dorothy Gale (Fairuza Balk) returned to the land of Oz from her Kansas farm, where she followed a yellow brick road to the Emerald City.
There, she encountered a round-bodied, mustached, mechanical or clockwork man named Tik-Tok (voice by Sean Barrett), representing the entire Royal Army of Oz.
Tik-Tok was created in the workshop of Smith & Tinker, and required winding for three separate functions (thinking, speaking, and moving).
Sico the Robot
In this fourth film of the original franchise of five films, heavyweight champion boxer Rocky (Sylvester Stallone) bought a life-sized robot named Sico (voice of Robert Doornick) (with moving arms, an oblong head with blinking lights, a digital read-out, and a built-in stereo), and rollers for wheels.
Sico was first seen presenting his cranky brother-in-law Paulie (Burt Young) with a birthday cake. Paulie called the robot a "walking trashcan."
Later, the 'female' robot was taught to bring Paulie beer, and to speak to him lovingly, and to be a companion to Rocky, Jr. (Rocky Krakoff).
As Paulie packed up to leave for remote Russia to accompany Rocky for training in his climactic fight against Ivan Drago (Dolph Lundgren), the distraught robot bid Paulie farewell, reminding him: “Did you pack your toothbrush? You know how tobacco stains your teeth," to which Paulie brashly replied: "Hey! Stop busting my chops!" He then quipped: "I'm gonna have her wires tied when I get back."
At the end of the film, the robot cared for young Rocky, Jr. while his parents were in Russia for the fight - during the telecast, the robot wore a Santa cap, complete with beard, and little boxing gloves on its wreath-draped ‘arms.'
Weird Science (1985)
This wacky John Hughes' comedy told about teenage geek dream fulfillment for two unpopular teenaged nerds, Gary Wallace (Anthony Michael Hall) and Wyatt Donnelly (Ilan Mitchell-Smith).
The two decided to use Wyatt's computer to create a "perfect" woman after watching a colorized print of The Bride of Frankenstein (1935). In order to "simulate a girl," they connected up their phone modem and started feeding their computer cut-out magazine images of supermodels, Albert Einstein, and art/music skills while wearing brassieres on their heads ("It's ceremonial," explained Gary). They also connected electrodes to a plastic Barbie-doll figure.
The computer started to act on its own while connecting into a government mainframe as it assembled the data - and an electrical storm activated the doll. Suddenly after lots of explosions and wind, everything stopped and the door to Wyatt's room began to bulge inward, before finally exploding.
Out of the red-lit, foggy hallway entered a sexy, leggy red-headed Ultimate sexy woman named Lisa (supermodel Kelly Le Brock), wearing nothing but micro-panties and a small white muscle-shirt top. She stood in the doorway, as Dr. Frankenstein from Frankenstein (1931) shouted from their television: "She's alive! Alive!" Their creation cooed with a mischievous twinkle in her eyes: "So... what would you little maniacs like to do first?"
In the subsequent scene, the two wide-eyed boys ogled her as they shared a shower with her, as the camera panned up and down her naked body and she commented: "You guys created me. I didn't come from anywhere. Before you started messing around with your computer, I didn't even exist. By the way, you did an excellent job. Thank you. Showering is real fun, isn't it? If we're gonna have any kind of fun together, you guys had better loosen up."
The film's concept was later expanded as a TV series in the mid 1990s, starring Vanessa Angel as the red-headed fantasy "magic genie" and John Mallory Asher and Michael Manasseri as the two teens.
Lance Bishop 341-B, or simply Bishop
In James Cameron's action-packed sequel to the original Ridley Scott film of 1979, Lance Henriksen portrayed an upgraded A-2 model android, a knife-carrying synthetic humanoid, who served as the Executive Officer of the warship USS Sulaco investigating the missing colony on the planetoid LV-426.
As the Sulaco was on the way to its mission, he performed an impressive knife trick, stabbing it between the open fingers of Marine crew member Pvt. Hudson's (Bill Paxton) hand.
Bishop personally preferred the term "artificial person" rather than "synthetic." He was derived from the earlier Hyperdyne Systems 120-A-2 android (played deviously by Ian Holm (as Ash) in the first film), but now designed to be pacifistic (as Bishop explained: "The A-2s always were a bit twitchy. That could never happen now with our behavioral inhibitors. It is impossible for me to harm or by omission of action, allow to be harmed, a human being").
Later while volunteering for a deadly task, he admitted: "I may be synthetic, but I'm not stupid."
In his demise after rescuing Lt. Ellen Ripley (Sigourney Weaver) and young orphan Newt (Carrie Henn) and redeeming himself, he was impaled in his midsection by the tail of the stowaway Alien Queen, causing him to spew whitish blood. He was then ripped in two by the creature, but kept struggling.
[Note: Bishop also made a reprise appearance at the beginning of Alien 3 (1992) as an irretrievably damaged android, and at the film's end as an ambiguous representative of the Weyland-Yutani Company.]
Chopping Mall (1986) (aka Killbots)
In this short, low-budget stalker-slasher, Roger Corman-produced film (with the tagline: "Where shopping can cost you an arm and a leg"), three high-tech security Protector 101 Killbot robots (with one horizontal red eye slit, retractable claw arms, two low-mounted headlights, and treads for motion), manufactured by the Secure-Tronics company, were installed in the Park Place 2000 shopping mall.
The motorized security guards became murderous and malfunctioned after several lightning strikes struck the central roof-top computer, and went on a rampage against a group of teens (having a wild and drunken after-hours sex-party in the mall's furniture store).
They were equipped with close-range sleeping darts and electrical shocks, but could also shoot lethal pink laser beams that exploded a human head. After each kill or demolition, they politely said: "Thank you--have a nice day."
Deadly Friend (1986)
Director Wes Craven's sci-fi/horror film told about a genius college student named Paul Conway (Matthew Labyorteaux) who excelled in artificial intelligence and computers. He built a yellow robot named Bee Bee (voice of Charles Fleischer).
When his next-door neighbor girlfriend Samantha Pringle (16 year-old Kristy Swanson in her first major role) suffered brain-death wounds from abusive father Harry (Richard Marcus) and died, Paul implanted Bee Bee's AI microchip into her brain to reanimate her.
Now with dark circles around her eyes and a zombie-like 'deadly' stare, she had vision (seen from her point-of-view) and superhuman strength (exemplified when she picked up a male victim with two hands above her head, and tossed him into the windshield of a police car).
She subsequently went on a vengeful murderous rampage, killing among others her evil, crochety, shotgun-wielding neighbor Elvira Parker (Anne Ramsey) (who had killed the original robot Bee Bee with a blast) by a swift, decapitating basketball-toss to the head.
In the shock ending set in a morgue, Samantha (after taking a policeman's bullet meant for Paul) grabbed Paul's neck as her outer skin was stripped away from her face and arms. She entreated: "Paul, come with me, Paul." He screamed: "NO!" as the film ended, his neck was snapped, and Samantha was transformed into an evil version of Bee Bee.
Flight of the Navigator (1986)
This Disney science-fiction, fantasy adventure film was designed for young audiences, and told about a young boy named David Freeman (Joey Cramer) who hadn't aged, although eight years had passed since he was reported as missing.
NASA scientists determined that he had been abducted by aliens in a spaceship and taken to a distant star 560 light years away on a 2.2 hour trip (an 8-year trip in terms of Einstein's theory of relativity). They discovered that he had star charts in his head - and served as navigator for the spaceship.
Pee Wee Herman's Paul Reubens served as the wise-cracking, robotic voice of the spaceship's computer Max, who wanted the star charts in David's head to complete his mission, and meanwhile learned various human colloquialisms of the time:
Pee-wee's Playhouse (1986) (TV Series)
Conky 2000 was Pee-wee Herman's (Paul Reubens) playhouse robot, appearing in episodes of the late 1980s TV show.
The anthropomorphic robot was constructed from household junk and old consumer electronic parts - a combination boombox-turntable-robot. It possessed old camera flash attachments for two eyes, a typewriter (with no keys) and vacuum cleaner hood for its head, a portable stereo and phonograph for its chest or torso, accordion flailing arms, and it rested on a 4-wheeled platform.
The robot spoke with an electronic stutter, often announcing: "Ready to assist you, Pee-wee."
In the show, Conky generated the day's 'secret word', printed out on a card that came from a slot in its torso that was given to Pee-wee. Afterwards, if anyone said the word (for example, "FUN"), everyone would have to scream loudly.
Short Circuit (1986)
Nova S-A-I-N-T (Strategic-Artificially-Intelligent-Nuclear-Transport)
John Badham's comedy/sci-fi fantasy film told about a group of prototypical robots that were made by a defense-military contractor (Nova Robotics in Damon, Washington) for $11 million each.
One of the five wheeled killing machines with deadly lasers was struck by lightning during recharging - a symbolic act of creation. It came alive with a conscience and pleasant personality. It now had a pacifist outlook on life with no desire to kill (or "disassemble"). Since the robot was "Number 5" in the series, it was renamed Johnny 5 (voice of Tim Blaney) - after hearing the song: "Who's Johnny" (performed by El DeBarge).
It was an endearing, adorable, sophisticated drone-robot possessed of a processor made of gold, that was AWOL with the assistance of animal-loving protector Stephanie (Ally Sheedy). It quickly learned lots of information and pop cultural trends by speed-reading dictionaries and encyclopedias, and by watching television, and could soon imitate Saturday Night Fever's dancing John Travolta as well as cook in the kitchen.
The film spawned a sequel in 1988, with rumors of a contemporary re-make 20 years later.
This popular kids film told about a summer space camp, in which NASA female astronaut Andie Bergstrom (Kate Capshaw) in the space shuttle training program (using simulators) was assigned to be one of the program's instructors.
Andie led the 5-member Blue Team, composed of two leaders:
They were accompanied by three Mission Specialists:
During their initial tour, the Blue Team was introduced to a "prototype maintenance droid," an annoyingly-cute, 3 foot tall, white, egg-shaped, $27 million sentient robot called "Jinx" (voice by Frank Welker) (similar to the robot in Short Circuit) who suffered from computer bugs, rendering him unusable in space but a clever 'handyman' around the NASA facility. Jinx had a tripod of wheeled feet and a projecting head with light.
After Max repaired Jinx when the service-robot was sabotaged by the Green Team, Max and Jinx became "friends for-e-ver." Jinx overheard Max offhandedly speak about his wish to be in space, and interpreted his words literally - the robot had a chance to launch the entire team into space orbit by causing a "thermal curtain failure" when they were in the cockpit of the Atlantis shuttle during a test firing of the rocket boosters.
After a series of emergencies in space including a spacewalk, a serious lack of oxygen, and lack of radio contact, the team landed the shuttle safely at White Sands in New Mexico. The quirky robot saved the day when it recognized the distress signal by the stranded juvenile crew via telemetry as Morse code ("C-O-M-E-I-N-C-O-N-T-R-O-L... Max's Code!").
The film's popularity was severely dampened by the Challenger, U.S. space shuttle explosion on January 28, 1986, and the film's release was delayed for many months.
Transformers: The Movie (1986)
Autobots, Decepticons, Optimus Prime, Unicron, etc.
Derived from the original animated television series (from 1984-1987), this Nelson Shin-directed feature-length animated film (with English-speaking actors providing the voices) featured a major conflict between two armies of transforming giant humanoid robots (or transformers), set in the year 2005 on the planet Cybertron.
The valiant 'good-guy' Autobots were led by the beloved hero Optimus Prime (killed in the first third of the film), who battled the 'bad-guy' Decepticons led by Megatron and StarScream - to avoid being defeated by a giant, mechanized, planet-consuming robot called Unicron (voice of Orson Welles in his last film role).
The nihilistic, dark film with a heavy metal soundtrack has become a cult classic favorite - years before director Michael Bay's live-action Transformers (2007) film.
*batteries not included (1987) (aka Miracle on 8th Street)
In this Steven Spielberg-produced film, mysterious philanthropic, flying-saucer-shaped, living 'fix-it' mechanical robots came to the aid of elderly tenants (including diner owners Frank and Faye Riley, Hume Cronyn and Jessica Tandy).
The seniors were threatened with eviction in their soon-to-be-demolished New York apartment building. The two good-natured but shy adult fix-it robots had three babies: Wheems, Jetsom and Flotsom, and continually repaired broken items, as well as served cheeseburgers in the diner.
The film was a composite of E.T.: The Extra-Terrestrial (1982) and Cocoon (1985).
Cherry 2000 (1987)
This science-fiction futuristic film had a tagline describing the title character: "She's Blond, Beautiful and Forever Young."
In a post-apocalyptic world in the year 2017, Sam Treadwell (David Andrews), the head of an Anaheim recycling plant, employed a perfect girlfriend -- a rare, irreplaceable, top-of-the-line blonde-haired sex robot named Cherry 2000 (Pamela Gidley).
She was programmed with a shiny "chip" (similar to a quarter-sized mini CD) behind her ear.
However, he found it difficult to replace her when she shorted out (wearing a tight red dress and yellow rubber gloves) when they were love-making on the floor and soapy water overflowed.
When Sam went to a robot factory to get a replacement body for his girlfriend, his choices included Robby the Robot (from Forbidden Planet (1956) and Gort (from The Day the Earth Stood Still (1951)).
Robots in Film
(chronological, by film title)
Introduction | Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 | Part 4 | Part 5 | Part 6 | Part 7 | Part 8 | Part 9 | Part 10 | Part 11 | Part 12