It’s the year of the robot. That’s because “Chappie,” opening today, is only the first movie about artificial intelligence hitting the multiplexes this year. Coming soon are “Ex Machina” (April 10), in which Oscar Isaac interacts with a female AI; “The Avengers: Age of Ultron” (May 1), featuring the title AI; and “Terminator: Genisys” (July 1), in which Ahnald returns as everyone’s favorite android.
So what else is new? Ever since the word “robot” was coined in the 1921 Czech play “R.U.R.,” these artificial creations have been a filmmaker favorite. Whether metal men or strikingly humanoid, they have haunted our cinematic dreams for years:
This German silent classic features a striking scene in which a robot is transformed into a human, who is sent out to incite workers to riot.
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The Day The EarthStood Still (1951)
A huge metal man accompanies a humanoid alien trying to save Earth from destroying itself. Which leads to one of the most famous lines in all of sci fi: “Gort, Klaatu barada nikto.”
Forbidden Planet (1956)
Featuring Robby the Robot, with his synthetic voice and dry wit, the creation of the mysterious Dr. Morbius, who lives on the planet Altair IV with only his daughter and Robby as his companions.
The ultimate robot horror story. Amusement park ’bots go on a rampage after a power surge and start killing humans. Yul Brynner stars as the main baddie.
Star Wars (1977)
R2D2 and C3PO, the robotic equivalent of a bickering husband and wife. Trivia note: they’re based on two sad-sack peasants in the 1958 Akira Kurosawa film, “The Hidden Fortress.”
Blade Runner (1982)
Artificial “replicants” led by Rutger Hauer escape from off-world to Earth, are tracked down by weary cop Harrison Ford.
The Terminator (1984)
Yet another robot/humanoid, this time in the form of monosyllabic muscle man Arnold Schwarzenegger, sent into the past to kill the mother of a future rebel leader. When he says “Ah’ll be back,” he really, really means it.
Injured cop is converted into a cyborg, and sent out to fight crime in a dystopian, futuristic Detroit.
The Iron Giant (1999)
This wonderful animated film features a young boy who finds a giant robot that has crash landed on Earth. He tries to save the ’bot from the government agents who want to destroy him.
A.I. Artificial Intelligence (2001)
Steven Spielberg’s film about a childlike android (Haley Joel Osment) with the ability to love. Jude Law practically steals the film as Gigolo Joe, an android prostitute.
Alien robots can transform themselves into ordinary objects, mostly cars. Uh-oh. Have you checked under the hood of that Prius you’re driving?
Battlestar Galactica (2004 -2009)
Finally, no robotic list would be complete without a mention of the best TV robots, the Cylons, who appear in this cult-favorite Syfy series. The Cylons have launched a war against mankind, and some are impossible to tell apart from humans. Be afraid. One of them might be in line with you at the DMV.