Clank: Movies About Robots

Clank: Movies About Robots

The concept of human-shaped constructs is far older than the machine age. The ancient Greek myth of Galatea depicts the fantasy of all sculptors when an ivory statue of a woman is given life by the goddess Aphrodite. The medieval Jewish fable of the Golem finds a clay man first protecting, then harming the people who created him. But with the advent of robotics, the idea of anthropomorphic machines has really taken off. Androids are characters used to reflect something about humanity. Here are a few memorable films about robots and what they represent to people.

Metropolis (1927)

Widely regarded as the first robot movie, Fritz Lang's stunning work of expressionist cinema features the iconic "Maschinenmensch", the machine-man. Over the course of the film the MM takes many forms, including an erotic dancer who starts a riot and a political upstart named Maria. Metropolis is full of biblical allegories and symbolic machinery. The MM is the first great representation of humanity losing itself to unchecked technology.

 

A.I. Artificial Intelligence (2001)

This stunning (though flawed) film spent three decades in development Hell, mostly thanks to Stanley Kubrick's perfectionist attitudes. It was only after Kubrick died that Steven Spielberg made the adaptation of the Brian Aldiss short story "Super-Toys Last All Summer Long" a reality. Haley-Joel Osment and Jude Law are among the many actors who portray "mecha", androids made to look and sound like people for various applications in a sleek, shining future society. A.I. enters some dark territory in its narrative of the nebulous nature of humanity and its message gets lost in an ill-fitting conclusion, but it's still one of the top robot movies of all time.

 

Blade Runner (1982)

Ridley Scott's adaptation of Phillip K. Dick's "Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?" didn't do so well at the box office but it didn't take long for it to become a well-regarded sci-fi classic. The story of a detective/assassin who is tasked with hunting down rogue robotic "replicants" is intense, stylish and unexpectedly affecting. Its suggestion that advanced robots would have an alien mindset is especially chilling.

 

Bicentennial Man (1999)

Chris Columbus adapted Isaac Asimov's story of a servant robot who gradually becomes a living thing, though he mishandled some of its concepts in an attempt to make the movie more appealing to a wide audience. The end result is a dangerously sentimental bit of sci-fi that all but ignores the original novella's ruminations on the nature of biological imperatives and social constraints.