Robots in Film
A Complete Illustrated History
of Robots in the Movies

1968 to 1973

Robots in Film
(chronological by film title)
Introduction | Early-1939 | 1940-1955 | 1956-1963 | 1964-1967 | 1968-1973 | 1974-1978
1979-1983 | 1984-1986 | 1987-1990 | 1991-1994 | 1995-1997 | 1998-2002 | 2003-2007 | 2008-2010 | 2011-now

Robots in the Movies
Title Screen
Film/Year, Name of Robot and Film Description

Barbarella (1968, Fr./It.) (aka Barbarella: Queen of the Galaxy)

Robot devil dolls

During Barbarella's (Jane Fonda) mission from Earth to the planet Lythion to find young scientist Durand-Durand (Milo O'Shea), she was forced to battle mechanical, razor-toothed robot devil dolls.

Superargo and the Faceless Giants (1968, It./Sp.) (aka L'invincibile Superman)

Faceless Giants

This superhero action film co-produced from Italy-Spain was a sequel to Superargo vs. Diabolicus (1966). The title character was black leather-masked, red-hooded and caped, and red tights-wearing superhero secret agent-crusader Superargo (Ken Wood aka Giovanni Cianfriglia) - a square-jawed ex-pro wrestler who fought crime with his turbaned Indian mystic sidekick Kamir (Aldo Sambrell). He possessed super-powers of telepathy, levitation and other mental abilities.

A number of kidnappings and bank thefts were occurring, conducted by unstoppable, robotized, helmeted, 'faceless giants' - a horde of mechanical enemies. In reality, the giants weren't faceless (they had pantyhose stockings pulled over their faces), and they were not giant-sized.

The Secret Service commissioned Superargo to stop the mad scientist and master criminal Professor Wendland Wond (Guy Madison). His army was kidnapping world class athletes, and replacing them with the 'faceless giants' of the film's title - robotized super-athletes. It was a curious premise - why abduct the world's best athletes and turn them into slow-moving robotic zombies?

2001: A Space Odyssey (1968, UK)

HAL 9000 Computer

Stanley Kubrick's landmark science-fiction film was based on Arthur C. Clarke's The Sentinel. The Discovery spaceship, on a nine-month, manned mission to Jupiter, was intelligently controlled and monitored by a "sixth member of the Discovery crew" - an even-toned, talkative, alert, "thinking" and "feeling" super-computer with Artificial Intelligence, named HAL-9000.

HAL maintained the electronic systems of the spaceship (HAL "became operational at the H A L plant in Urbana, Illinois on the 12th of January, 1992"). It had anthropomorphic, human-mimicking qualities: a glowing, watchful red eye with which he connected to the world, and a rich, pleasant TV announcer's voice (voice by Douglas Rain).

Although appearing and sounding robotic, HAL was not really a traditional robot with a moving body. HAL was an acronym that stood for "Heuristically programmed ALgorithmic computer."

HAL was capable of speech recognition (lip-reading), chess-playing, sophisticated language interpretation, and, of course, malevolence.

In the film's most dramatic scene, astronaut Dave Bowman (Keir Dullea) turned off HAL's cognitive functions by removing brain modules arranged as panels/arrays - he floated through the computer's memory bank, de-braining, lobotomizing, dismantling and disconnecting HAL's higher-logic functions by ejecting components of HAL's auto-intellect panels (shaped like tiny white monoliths). HAL pleaded and protested with Bowman - in a programmed voice - as his 'mind' gradually decayed and he became imbecilic and returned to infancy, while singing the song Daisy, or A Bicycle Built for Two.

Bowman Lobotomizing HAL-9000's Circuits

HAL-9000s Ubiquitous Glowing, Watchful Red Eye

HAL Listening to Two Scheming Astronauts Through Lip-Reading

Colossus: The Forbin Project (1970)

Colossus and Guardian super-computers

In this low-budget, cautionary science fiction film set during the Cold War Era and based on the 1966 novel by Dennis Feltham Jones, the AI 'robot' was a mainframe super-computer code-named Colossus, similar to HAL-9000 in 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968).

  • It was constructed in a bunker deep in Colorado's Rocky Mountains, where it was activated by its brilliant creator Dr. Charles Forbin (Eric Braeden).
  • It was an untested, uncontrollable mecha-brain (and later equipped with a mechanical and metallic voice) designed to control the United States' nuclear arsenal of weapons and military decision-making.

The film also postulated that the Soviet Communists had built an identical super-computer named Guardian to control their defense system - setting up the film's plot that the two computers would be linked together, run amok and threaten world destruction (with nuclear blackmail by firing ICBMs on each other), a common theme of films at the time (e.g. The Andromeda Strain (1971), THX 1138 (1971), and Westworld (1973)).

THX 1138 (1971)

Enforcement cops

George Lucas' feature-length debut film was about a post-apocalyptic, oppressive futuristic, underground police state world of the 25th century, where people were required to wear white gowns and shave their heads.

The society was patrolled by hundreds of identical, black leather-clad, chrome-faced android-robot enforcement cops with white motorcycle helmets, long baton-sticks or cattle prods, and radioactive power supplies.

A few of the society's individuals, including robot-building production line worker THX 1138 (Robert Duvall) and his female roommate LUH 3417 (Maggie McOmie) - after not taking their state-required and prescribed, anti-emotion drug doses - began to experience illegal sexual feelings for each other, but then were caught and arrested by the black-garbed police.

Silent Running (1972)

Dewey (Drone # 1), Huey (Drone # 2), and Louie (Drone # 3)

Douglas Trumbull's directorial debut film was a speculative vision of eco-disaster. The environmental message movie told about the aftermath of a climate catastrophe, and featured three, beautifully-designed, faceless, silent, ecologically-friendly, anthropomorphic drones or robots.

[Note: The three drone robots, Dewey, Huey and Louie were the first non-humanoid film robots (Mark Persons, Steven Brown, Cheryl Sparks and Larry Whisenhunt) that were propelled to walk and operated by four human bilateral amputee actors who walked on their arms hidden inside their boxy frames. Trumbull had acquired the idea of using human amputees inside the drone units from Tod Browning's Freaks (1932).]

They were low-profile, 3 foot-tall robots with retractable, pneumatic arms and a front-mounted searchlight, originally named Drones 1, 2 and 3, but then re-named after Donald Duck's nephews Dewey (1), Huey (2), and Louie (3) (colored bluish gray, orange, and green respectively). [Note: Later, the drones became the inspiration for Star Wars' R2-D2 robot.]

Long-haired, non-conforming hippie loner and botanist-ecologist Freeman Lowell (Bruce Dern) was onboard the USS Valley Forge, one of a fleet of eight converted and orbiting space-freighters (sponsored by American Airlines) in outer space circling around Saturn. Lowell was first seen inside a transparent, pressurized greenhouse geodesic biodome attached to the ship - one of freighter's six domes. The ship's mission was tending to the last remaining plant specimens from a radiation-devastated planet Earth.

Ordered to destroy all of the geodesic greenhouse domes and return the freighter to commercial service, the agitated Lowell became visibly angry after four of the six Valley Forge domes were jettisoned six miles out and destroyed with nuclear charges; upset and crazed, Lowell rebelled and refused to allow any more domes to be destroyed, and decided to save the animals and plant life and refoliate Earth with the last surviving vegetation.

To carry out his plan, Lowell blocked the path of crewmate John Keenan (Cliff Potts) who arrived to plant explosives in his favorite dome. He then murdered him, but also seriously injured his leg; in order to kill the two other crewmen, he trapped them in the fifth dome, jettisoned it, and destroyed them. There was now only one remaining dome.

To execute his hijack plan, Freeman staged a trick explosion that sent the Valley Forge toward Saturn and its rings. Lowell then frantically reported that all of the crew members, Wolf, Barker, and Keenan had been accidentally ejected in the dome and blown up. Lowell also notified his lead commander that he was unable to change his course toward Saturn due to the irreparable damage.

Lowell reprogrammed the three innocent and protective robots to answer and respond to him only, and then ordered them to report to the surgical room immediately, to help perform an operation on his bleeding leg; during the fierce, rough and turbulent passage around Saturn, Lowell watched on a monitor as # 3 Drone (green) was lost when it was blown off the outside of the ship; one of its feet became stuck in the grating and was left behind; after emerging on the other side (with the ship and single dome intact) and proceeding further into deep space, Lowell instructed the two surviving robots (# 1 and # 2) to bury murdered crewman Keenan's body in the biodome.

As they continued to journey into deep space, the two remaining drones (# 1 and # 2) - Lowell's sole companions, were renamed after Donald Duck's nephews: # 1 became Dewey (grayish-blue) and # 2 became Huey (orange); # 3 (green) was posthumously renamed Louie; they would still perform their accustomed duties to provide maintenance for the ship, but in addition, they would function as Lowell's new family of pet-like "boys" (who responded with squeaks and flashing lights). He also attempted to teach the drones how to plant a tree in the biodome.

To simulate having friends, Lowell invited (and programmed) the two robots to play poker with him in the recreation room, and although one-sided, he pretended to be carrying on a meaningful dialogue with them; he also began to regularly eat synthetic food that he had criticized the others about.

One day, he suspected that his irresponsible actions had led to signs that the biodome was mysteriously dying and the plants were inexplicably wilting and turning brown, ruining his mission's goal. Lowell became frantic as he tried to study, investigate and solve the dome's growth problems, but couldn't find out what was wrong; as he drove in a motorized buggy to the biodome to meet with Huey, he carelessly struck and seriously damaged the robot in one of the ship's corridors.

Grief-stricken and apologetic, he struggled in an attempt to repair Huey's dented frame and one unusable extension arm, but failed and felt miserable for causing the accident. When a search party on the opposite side of Saturn contacted him, and proposed to pick him up in six hours, Freeman knew that eventually, his sabotage of the mission would be discovered by another freighter nearby, the Berkshire.

Lowell suddenly realized the reason for the biodome's slow death; it wasn't due to neglect, but to a lack of sunlight that prohibited photosynthesis: ("It's the sun....We can still save the forest!"); to correct the situation inside the biodome, Lowell installed a series of bright artificial arc lights-lamps. He instructed the fully-functioning drone Dewey to remain in the last remaining, well-lit dome to tend, take care of, and maintain the forest plants. He tearfully bid Dewey farewell before jettisoning the biodome to safety, to preserve it, and again spoke his final goodbye to Dewey in voice-over: ("Take good care of the forest, Dewey").

Lowell returned to the main ship with the injured Huey, and self-sacrificially prepared nuclear charges to destroy the Valley Forge. After the Valley Forge was obliterated with nuclear charges, Dewey was seen drifting off into the cosmic darkness of deep space, but was successfully caring for the forest of young trees in the brightly-lit biodome (using Lowell's old-fashioned, colorful, battered watering can)

Lowell's Final Instructions to Dewey to Tend and Care For the Forest

A Tearful Goodbye: "Take care of yourself, Dewey"

Jettisoning the Last Biodome Into Space With Dewey

Preparing Nuclear Charges to Destroy the Valley Forge While Sharing Early Memories with Huey

In Deep Space in the Biodome, Dewey Caring For the Biodome with Freeman's Watering Can

Dewey Seen Caring For the Forest with Lowell's Colorful, Battered, Old-Fashioned Watering Can

2-Huey (orange), 3-Louie (green), 1-Dewey (grayish-blue)

Drone # 1 (Dewey, grayish-blue) in Closeup

# 2 Drone (orange) Performing Surgery on Lowell's Leg

The Drones' Burial of the Murdered Crewman

Renaming the Two Drones, Lowell's Two New Companions

Lowell With Two Robots In the Biodome Forest, Teaching Them to Plant a Tree

Robots Programmed to Play Poker With Him

Lowell Attempting to Repair the Heavily-Damaged Robot Huey

Lowell Installing Bright Lamps to Save the Dying Plants in the Forest (Within the Last Biodome)

Fantastic Planet (1973, Fr./Czech.) (aka Planète Sauvage, La, or The Savage Planet)


René Laloux's surrealistic animated film featured themes of oppression and rebellion, and was the winner of the Special Grand Prix jury prize at the 1973 Cannes Film Festival.

It told about an alien race of giant blue robotic creatures called Draags, superior beings on the futuristic planet of Ygam. They ruled over the "Oms" - tiny kidnapped humanoids from an Earth-like planet, some of which were kept by the Draag children as domesticated pets with collars.

The Draags had bluish skin, huge round and protruding red eyes, and a skull-like head. The tale concluded with a chronologically-reversed Planet of the Apes (1968) twist ending.

Gojira Tai Megaro (1973, Jp.) (aka Godzilla vs. Megalon)

Jet Jaguar

In director Jun Fukuda's low-budget science-fiction film (the 13th Godzilla film and the fourth for Fukuda), monstrous bipedal, winged, stag beetle-like Megalon (with drill-bit hands and capable of shooting laser rays from his head) from an ancient subterranean civilization called Seatopia attempted to take over Earth.

Godzilla came to the rescue after being informed on Monster Island by experimental robot Jet Jaguar, a cone-headed android capable of flying, wearing an orange-red-silver colored rubber suit.

It was shown that the robot was programmed by punch cards, and capable of transforming himself into giant size.

The final showdown battle (a tag-team wrestling match that was about one-half hour long) pitted Godzilla and Jet Jaguar against two space monsters (Megalon and one-eyed cyclopean dinosaur-like buzzard Gigan).

Sleeper (1973)

Robotic Household Butler
also Rags the Dog

Woody Allen's satirical comedy about the future opened with jazz clarinet musician and co-owner of a Greenwich Village health food store, the nerdy Miles Monroe (Allen), waking up in the dystopic world of 2173 after being cryo-frozen with liquid nitrogen after a botched surgery.

When first unwrapped and awakened, he staggered around (backwards) like a zombie-like Frankenstein. To escape detection and capture, he ineptly pretended to be a servant-robot, with a silver-painted face and dome on his head (although he still retained his black-framed thick glasses), in the household of hedonistic poetess Luna Schlosser (Diane Keaton) during a party.

In the house party scene, Miles as the robotic butler participated in the passing of the pleasure-producing "intoxication orb" - and tried to pretend that he wasn't affected by it.

The film also featured a robotic workshop to repair his defective robotic head, and a computerized, blue-eyed robotic Rags pet dog that barked: "Woof woof woof...Hello, I'm Rags..." - accompanied by Miles' question:

"Is he housebroken or will he be leaving little batteries all over the floor?"

Westworld (1973)
and sequel Futureworld (1976)

Gunslinging Cowboy Robot Model 406

Writer/director Michael Crichton's original film was about a remote, adult-entertainment theme park named Delos populated with androids in three different worlds: Medieval World, Roman World and Westworld. The experience was designed to provide visitors with a "vacation of the future" (with heavy doses of sex and violence) for $1,000/day:

"Expensive and unusual, Delos is not for everyone. But for those that choose it, it is truly a unique and rewarding experience... (the female announcer's ominous words in the background) Welcome to Delos. Please go to your color-coded tram which will take you to the World of your choice. We are sure you will enjoy your stay in Western World. While you are there, please do whatever you want. There are no rules. And you should feel free to indulge your every whim. Do not be afraid of hurting anything or of hurting yourself. Nothing can go wrong"

The sci-fi thriller followed the role-playing experiences of first-time nerdy "new-in-town" visitor Peter Martin (Richard Benjamin) and his pal John Blane (James Brolin) at Westworld, acting out archetypal 'western' fantasies: a mock saloon and a quick-draw shootout with the Magnificent Seven's cold and mechanical gunslinger (Yul Brynner) (with authentic blood splatter) - a black-clad Cowboy automaton robot, who allowed visitors to kill him in shooting matches.

Then, the two bedded down of a pair of honky-tonk prostitutes (one was showing signs of defectiveness in her eyes). an escape-breakout from a sheriff's jail-cell, a cyborg rattlesnake bite, a rollicking bar-room brawl, and a third showdown at high-noon with the gunslinger in the middle of the dusty town (resulting in Blane's actual death!).

Every night, trucks collected the damaged robots and took them to an underground lab where they were cleaned and repaired by white-coated lab technicians, and controlled by giant computers. Ultimately, the scientists died of oxygen deprivation when the entire resort's computers began to spread breakdowns (like a viral disease) among the androids (who became disobedient and began harming guests) - and the scientists became locked in the control room when they shut down the park's power

The cold and expressionless gunslinger, after being revived numerous times by the scientists - was shown to possess ultra-sonic hearing and magnified, infrared vision (represented by red-tinted POV shots), demonstrating the first use in a feature film of 2-D CGI.

When the Gunslinger went beserk and ran amok in the park, threatening sole surviving Peter, it withstood melting by hydrochloric acid thrown in its face, and being set on fire with a torch. Eventually, its backup power supply failed and its charred remains short-circuited.

Who ? (1973, UK/W. Germ.) (aka Roboman, and The Man With the Steel Mask)

Roboman, a Robotic Cyborg (or Android)

Director Jack Gold's Cold War-era action-espionage thriller and suspenseful character study was about an identity crisis. The plot was based upon Algis Budrys' 1958 philosophical sci-fi novel Who ?, a tale of political espionage. Its major stars were Elliott Gould and Trevor Howard. For its video VHS re-release, the film was renamed Roboman and given the tagline: "The Kill Machine with the Megaton Mind" (to capitalize on the popularity of Robocop (1987)).

In the story (told with flashbacks), American government official and US scientist Dr. Lucas Martino (Joseph Bova) had been seriously injured in a deadly car accident in East Germany (Russian territory). After the crash he was brought to a secluded location by the Russians, who interrogated him. But first, they administered experimental surgery to rebuild most of the scientist's body with metal implants and cybernetic components. Martino was turned into a robotic, metal-faced and armed cyborg with a steel mask (a bald silvery head). He was mostly metal, with human eyes and one human arm.


After the US forced the Russians to release the cyborg scientist, Roboman/Martino was kept under surveillance to discover who he really was. Due to the suspicious circumstances, Martino was not allowed to return to his super-secret work on Project Neptune. Skeptical FBI agent Sean Rogers (Elliott Gould) struggled to verify if the 'mechanical man' was really Lucas Martino. He was suspicious that devious senior Soviet KGB agent Colonel Azarin (Trevor Howard) may have sent back an imposter secret agent in place of the scientist, or even a brainwashed double-agent victim.

As the film ended, Martino had given up trying to get his former life (and top secret project work) restored. He took up farming on his abandoned family farm.

Robots in Film
(chronological by film title)
Introduction | Early-1939 | 1940-1955 | 1956-1963 | 1964-1967 | 1968-1973 | 1974-1978
1979-1983 | 1984-1986 | 1987-1990 | 1991-1994 | 1995-1997 | 1998-2002 | 2003-2007 | 2008-2010 | 2011-now

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