With <i>Transformers: Dark of the Moon</i> in theaters this week, Michael Bay's trilogy adapting the '80s cartoon/action figure franchise comes to a close, and with it comes lots and lots of robots. Familiar faces like Optimus Prime, Bumblebee and Megatron, but also a few new to the films, like Sentinel Prime and Shockwave (pictured). <p>Pop culture has been fascinated with robots (in disguise or otherwise) for more than a century, dating back to Tik-Tok in L. Frank Baum's Oz books and Fritz Lang's <i>Metropolis</i>. In a world where the concept is quickly becoming less science fiction and more everyday life how many people out there reading this own a "Droid" phone? these mechanical minds continue to permeate the imagination. <p>So we took a look at the vast history of robots in movies, TV and comics and came up with our list of 10 of the coolest. <p>But before we get to that, here a few honorable mentions that didn't quite make the cut: RoboCop (cyborgs don't count for the purpose of this list), HAL 9000 from <i>2001: A Space Odyssey</i> (non-mobile artificial intelligences are similarly excluded), Astro Boy, Marvin the Paranoid Android from <i> The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy</i>, The Iron Giant, Mega Man, The Vision from <i>The Avengers</i>, the bots from <i>Mystery Science Theater 3000</i> we could go on. There are a lot of cool robots out there. <p>Click "Start Here" to see what we think, then let us know your picks. <p><i>Got a comment? There's lots of conversation on Newsarama's <a href=http://www.facebook.com/Newsarama><b>FACEBOOK</b></a> and <a href=http://twitter.com/newsarama><b>TWITTER</b></a>!</i> <p>
If you looked up "robot" in the dictionary (and it happened to be a dictionary with pictures), there very well might be a picture of Robby from 1956's <i>Forbidden Planet</i>, pretty much the archetypal old-school sci-fi robot. <p>Robby's got such an iconic look, that the same prop appeared in multiple subsequent movies and TV shows, ranging from <i>The Twilight Zone</i> to <i>Mork & Mindy</i>. The plainly named Robot from 1965-1969's <i>Lost in Space</i> ("Danger, Will Robinson!") took several visual cues from Robby, and both share a common designer, Robert Kinoshita. Bringing things full circle, Robby appeared in a couple episodes of <i>Lost in Space</i>.
For nearly 50 years, the Avengers have been "Earth's Mightiest Heroes," a team consisting of the heaviest hitters in Marvel's lineup, frequently including Captain America, Thor and Iron Man. The team's most persistently vexing foe has been Ultron, a continually upgrading sentient robot bent on rampant destruction. <p>Ultron was created with the best of intentions by founding Avenger Hank Pym known as both Giant-Man and Ant-Man and first appeared in 1968's <i>Avengers #54</i>. The character recently was a major antagonist in the current Disney XD cartoon <i> The Avengers: Earth's Mightiest Heroes</i>, and with an <i>Avengers</i> film coming to theaters in summer 2012, Ultron's next diabolical move could be onto the big screen.
Pixar's <i>Wall-E</i> showed that subtlety was not dead in modern American cinema. The film has virtually no dialogue in its first two acts, yet managed to convey considerable emotion and heart, much of it from the load-lifting title character. <p>Wall-E's romance with fellow robot Eve felt more human than most on-screen dalliances between actual people, resulting in an underdog story that (like many of Pixar's films) actually succeeds in appealing to all ages.
Bender, from Matt Groening and David X. Cohen's <i>Futurama</i>, is the robot on this list with the most personality, and in the immortal words of Jules Winnfield, personality goes a long way. Though he's an alcoholic and kleptomania who often professes his desire to "kill all humans," he's ultimately a pretty good guy. <p>Voice actor John DiMaggio has brought Bender to life since the show's premiere in 1999, with the bending unit becoming the standout character among a cast that also includes a Cyclops and lobster doctor. Without Bender's unique, abrasive charm, it's hard to imagine the show having the success it's had currently airing its sixth season on Comedy Central after returning from cancellation by Fox in 2003.
Gort is in many ways the grandpappy of all the 'bots on this list, with origins dating back to the 1940 short story "Farewell to the Master." That inspired the classic 1951 sci-fi film <i>The Day the Earth Stood Still</i>, where Gort was introduced to the world as the physically intimidating (yet mostly peaceful) robotic companion of Klaatu. <p>Given the historical significance, why isn't Gort higher? Well, he's still got a bit of the stink from the critically reviled 2008 <i>The Day the Earth Stood Still</i> remake on him.
The Cylons were created by man. There are many copies. And you better believe they have a plan. <p>Robots gaining intelligence and overthrowing their human superiors has long been a sci-fi trope oh, the irony! but perhaps never realized quite as profoundly as in <i>Battlestar Galactica</i>, especially the 2004 reimagination. In the latter series, Cylons weren't just robot conquerors, but also evolved into 12 humanoid models, virtually indistinguishable from humans down to the biological level. <p>And sure, they wiped out most of the human race, but this wrinkle also made the Cylons sympathetic, raising all sorts of provocative questions about religion, politics, and the nature of life. (And for the most part, they tended to be pretty easy on the eyes.)
Data's constant struggle to understand humanity in seven seasons of <I>Star Trek: The Next Generation</i> and four subsequent feature films made him not only one of the most compelling characters on this list, but also the direct descendant of many robots in the annals of science fiction. <p>Episodes like "The Measure of a Man" dealt with the issue of artificial versus organic intelligence, and then there was that infamous season one tryst with Tasha Yar, where the Lt. Commander went where no robot had gone before. <p>Data experienced further growth in the films, gaining an emotion chip in <i>Generations</i> and (nine-year-old spoiler alert!) sacrificing himself to save the Enterprise crew in <i>Nemesis</i>.
Optimus Prime is not only the noble leader of the Autobots in many different incarnations of the Transformers franchise, he's also a bit of a philosopher, coming up with inspirational gems like, "Freedom is the right of all sentient beings." And even in the Transformers series where he's not around, there's usually an analogue in his place, like Optimus Primal in <i>Beast Wars</i>. <p>Of course, he's not just good for pontificating he can kick Decepticon butt like no one else, as seen in full display during this week's <i>Transformers: Dark of the Moon</i>. And could the death of any other fictional robot on this list evoke the type of visceral response in a nation's youth like Prime's in the 1986 <i>The Transformers: The Movie</i> animated film? (He was later resurrected in the cartoon, to the comfort of many.)
If this list was judged on catchphrases alone, The Terminator would be No. 1: "Hasta la vista, Baby." "I'll be back." "Come with me if you want to live." And so on. <p>The character is also central to one of the biggest franchises in movie history, dating back to the 1984 original and the smash-hit 1991 sequel, <i>Judgement Day</i>. That film introduced the liquid-metal T-1000, and subsequent films and the <i>Sarah Connor Chronicles</i> TV series have added more versions to the mythos, but for this list we're celebrating the original as played by Arnold Schwarzenegger effective as both a bad guy in the first and a good guy (who could forget the thumbs up in the molten lava?) in the second.
When you look at robots throughout the history of pop culture, it's hard to ignore one of the biggest multimedia franchises of all time, and the droid that played an integral role in all six of the Star Wars films. <p>R2-D2's lists of credits include assisting Luke Skywalker during the destruction of the original Death Star, serving as an invaluable asset to Obi-Wan and Anakin in the prequels, and rescuing the gang from Jabba the Hutt in <i>Return of the Jedi</i>. He's a mechanic, a communications device, a friend and pretty much whatever you need at any given moment; all that while communicating solely in beeps and whistles. <p>So why R2 over his long-time companion C-3PO? Well, though C-3PO is handy with languages and provides plenty of comic relief in the films, he isn't quite as ubiquitously useful as R2. Plus, R2's look is among the most indelible visuals in film. Remember the R2-themed mailboxes during the 30th anniversary of <i>A New Hope</i>? Who hasn't seen an R2 cookie jar, or the R2 cell phone introduced last fall by Verizon Wireless? Go to a comic book convention and try to walk five paces without running into a remote-controlled R2 prowling the exhibit floor. Heck the droid even infiltrated the world of women's fashion recently, with an <a href=http://www.newsarama.com/comics/hey-thats-my-cape-comic-merchandising-101020.html>R2-D2 one-piece swimsuit</a> debuting last fall. <p>In the world of robots, R2-D2 is its humble king.