Editor's note: With the animated film Robots opening this Friday, we asked one of our critics, a self-professed robot nerd, to compile this list of the best robots in film history.
I have a weird fascination with robots. Part of it is that I am a boy. Another part is that I like science fiction. But I think there's more to it than that: I feel a weird tension about robots that hints at something deeper.
On one hand, I think robots are darn cool. When I doodle, I doodle pictures of robots. And for the magazine I edit, Campus Life, we even built our own robot (I love my job) out of a water heater and duct work. And when I look at my movie collection, well, I see lots of robots.
But there's another side of my robo-fascination: they scare the crud out of me. I have dreams about fighting armies of cyborgs. I get chills when I read about new developments in robotics. Even the invention of the robot vacuum made me think, "Yup, this is how the rise of the machines begins!"
I'm not alone in feeling this almost intrinsic love/hate tension with technology. Science fictions films have tapped this theme for decades. On one hand you have the friendly, helper robots that in the 1950s we believed would come along any day to change our lives. And on the other hand, you have the terrifying killer robots who can't be stopped even though we created them. I think these two kinds of film robots show that while we embrace the good technology can provide, we are frightened of the bad. We like the convenience but fear the loss of humanity or the threat of rebellion.
But robot movies are not always about machine vs. human. They're also a staple of sci-fi, a genre that often probes the human condition. Because robots seem so close to being human—but ...