A little more pandering for your week. “The Happytime Murders” isn’t the only film being released this weekend. Another, more family friendly adventure called “A-X-L” will also hit theaters telling the story of a young man who befriends a mechanical dog built to protect and assist soldiers. Sound familiar? That’s became while this exact promise may not be overdone the idea is. With the evolution of technology came the ever-growing idea in entertainment of humans and machines teaming up and becoming best friends. Thus, we get robots, androids, cyborgs and the like becoming mechanical sidekicks or even the main characters helping humans and other organic being through their stories. While “A-X-L” may not be destined to break the bank at the box office it still gave me an opportunity to look at this popular modern film trope and examine those robotic partners or sidekicks that have stood the test of time. These are my picks for the Top 10 Robotic Allies in Movies.
Honestly, I tried to think of a better title but the characters featured on this list aren’t just sidekicks. Some of them are actually the stars of the show, but they all help living beings through their movies and not just other robots. The robots considered for this list had to play a major role as a primary character in their film or franchise. In order to be considered they had to have been partnered with a human or organic living character either as the sidekick or the main protagonist. I was pretty lenient on what I considered for this list for the most part. As long as it’s a robot that teamed with a living organism to play a major role in a story or series it was considered.
I had a lot of fun with this list so I hope you guys have fun looking it over as well. Who is your favorite robotic ally in movies? Let me know in the comments below and look for my review of “A-X-L” coming soon.
OH and SPOILER ALERT as I’ll be talking about the fate of some of these robots here that may spoil the movies.
10. Baymax, “Big Hero 6”
Let’s start things off with an animated robot that stole the hearts of moviegoers everywhere in 2014. Baymax is one of several characters in this superhero flick based on the Marvel property of the same name although instead of being the reptilian-like robot he is presented as in the comics the movie version of Baymax presents him as more akin to a living marshmallow. Made of material designed to absorb impact and programmed with technology that can detect medical anomalies in the humans around him Baymax is created by Tadashi, the older brother of the movie’s main character Hiro, as a medical robot meant to change the world. After Tadashi’s tragic death however Baymax becomes a source of emotional support for Hiro and eventually the two become the leading members of the Big Hero 6. Baymax is not only lovable, but very capable in a fight and despite being completely synthetic shows true heart in how much he cares for Hiro and his friends. He even sacrifices himself in the very end to make sure Hiro can get home but worry not. The robot leaves behind his essence so that Hiro can rebuild him allowing Hiro some closure by following in his brother’s shoes as a mechanical genius. Baymax’s popularity and loyalty to Hiro speak for themselves so it’s no surprise this lovable machine kicks off this list.
9. Bumblebee, the “Transformers” franchise
Admittedly the “Transformers” franchise isn’t exactly the best movie series by any definition of the word, but if there’s one character many will say has been a standout throughout it’s lengthy run it’s Bumblebee. While robots like Optimus Prime were household names even before Michael Bay’s first live action adaptation in 2007 Bumblebee was a little less relevant and known more to devoted fans of the property rather than the general public. However, the loyal robot guardian of the first film’s human protagonist Sam Witwicky quickly became the breakout star of the entire series due in no small part of his design and personality. Over the course of five movies Bumblebee has served the guardian role for pretty much every main human in the franchise which has allowed him to relate to the humans more than any other Autobot on the team. The fact that his character’s lack of vocal ability forces him to actually be an emotive robot also helps and he’s always equipped with some of the coolest gadgets and weapons of any Autobot. It’s no wonder Bumblebee was the transformer what earned his own spinoff. The “Bumblebee” movie will hit theaters this December to put even more of the spotlight on this deserving fan favorite as he teams with yet another human to save the world.
8. Sonny, “I, Robot”
While not everyone is a fan of the 2004 box office smash “I, Robot” it’s hard not to love the main mechanical character in the film. Sonny is an NS-5, the newest model of servant robots in a technologically advanced future, and appears to have done something the “three laws” that govern robots should prevent him from doing. He has killed a man, and not just any man but his creator which puts him at odds with Will Smith’s Detective Spooner, a robot hating cop with a grudge. Eventually the story actually sees the two partner up to take down the real baddy of the film which is incredibly satisfying because Sonny uses tricks and mannerisms learned from his time interacting with Spooner to get the job done. In many ways Sonny feels more human than the actual humans due in part to an incredible vocal and motion capture performance by Alan Tudyk who would go on to portray another amazing robot partner in “Rogue One: A Star Wars Story” years later. Sonny is more than just the servant his fellow robots were designed to be. He contains logic, emotion and is even a bit sentient as he has the unique design of being able to break the three laws of robotics. He’s a badass partner that teaches Will Smith a lesson about not judging a book by its cover and that’s good enough for me.
7. Vision, The Marvel Cinematic Universe
One of the most powerful heroes in the extended film universe Marvel Studios has brought to life, Vision was created from a failed attempt by the villainous sentient machine Ultron to form a more stable and permanent body for him to exist in. The Avengers stole the body to stop their foe but only learned later that the body was equipped with the Mind Infinity Stone. Thor, Bruce Banner and Tony Stark use their combined abilities to bring Vision to life finding him gifted with numerous abilities including the power to phase through objects, form items out of thin air, and of course use the Mind Stone to release projectile blasts. Vision quickly becomes a capable addition to the Avengers and later appears in “Captain America: Civil War” and “Avengers: Infinity War” where his powers are even explored even further. In the later film we see him destroyed at the hands of Thanos who reveals the inner mechanical workings of Vision’s head when he removes the Mind Stone by force. While it’s unclear if we’ll see Vision again in the MCU, the glimpses we did get of this mechanical ally to Earth’s Mightiest Heroes left a mark and solidified him as one of the most formidable beings to be included in the MCU to date.
6. Data, “Star Trek Generations”
Pretty much every Trek fan is familiar with Data so it’s only fair to have him on this list since he appeared in numerous films based on the “Star Trek: The Next Generation” series including the first such movie in 1994. Portrayed on television and on the big screen by Brent Spiner Data quickly became one of the most popular characters from the series to mainstream audiences and remains that way today. While his appearance on the silver screen has been criticized it’s undeniably interesting to see what becomes of him in the first theatrical film as the robot that spent so long trying to understand humanity is upgraded to finally be able to feel and understand emotion. This was eventually remedied in subsequent films but whether it’s the emotional Data or the out-of-touch Data trying to understand the humans there’s no denying the charm of this android. He’s an important a valued member of the Enterprise crew and seeing him evolve, both literally and figuratively, in the big screen films released after the show’s run only adds to his legacy. Many have related him to Spock thanks to his outside perspective on humanity and it’s his unmistakable wisdom and his odd separation from the human condition even when given emotions that allowed him to become such an iconic movie robot and a valued partner to every member of his crew.
5. Bishop, “Aliens”
There have been many robots associated with the “Alien” franchise but most of them eventually turn on their human compadres in favor of their loyalty to the Weyland-Yutani Corporation. Not Bishop though. Bishop is much more human than his fellow androids despite sticking with his primary objective to study the aliens. Initially seen as a threat by the series’ main heroine Ripley due to her negative experience with Bishop’s predecessor Ash in the first movie, Bishop actually proves to be more friend than foe in the beloved sequel “Aliens” even refusing to put the crew of the Sulaco in danger. He even volunteers for dangerous missions despite knowing how illogical those decisions are. Bishop goes beyond his programmed objective to assist his human partners rather than put them in harms way which makes him a valuable asset in the showdown with the Xenomorphs in “Aliens”. Bishop is not only a memorable android, he’s one of the most intriguing characters in the entire “Aliens” saga as he shows signs of sentience while also understanding the risks of his very human decisions. One thing’s for sure though. If Bishop hadn’t been around and decided to help Ripley and her team it’s likely she would not have escaped her encounter with the aliens a second time.
4. The Iron Giant, “The Iron Giant”
The classic star of Brad Bird’s animated masterpiece, the Iron Giant starts his adventure as a weapon from another world built to destroy. However, a friendship with a young boy named Hogarth shows him he can be more than a weapon. While he doesn’t assist his human ally in the same way as many characters on this list the Iron Giant still counts because by the end of the story he becomes Hogarth’s best friends, helping him through a rocky segment of his childhood and also learning from Hogarth that we don’t have to remain what we were made to be. He transforms himself from weapon of mass destruction to the ultimate hero willing to sacrifice himself to protect Hogarth and his town. He and Hogarth strike up a valuable and mutually beneficial partnership that allows each of them to see the world, and themselves, in a different way. While some androids and robots are more famous for assisting in combat the Iron Giant made his name for assisting in life providing friendship to a young boy lost in a world he has yet to even try to comprehend. Perhaps this is why despite the movie’s initial box office failure that “The Iron Giant” lives on as a powerfully respected animated feature and why its main character remains one of most iconic of movie robots.
3. The Tin Man, “The Wizard of Oz”
Honestly, it’s never explicitly said in the film that the Tin Man is a robot but, let’s face it, he is. Maybe not in the traditional sense, but he is. It’s a metal man who moves, emotes and talks without the need of internal organs…after all he lacks a real heart. However, the irony of the Tin Man is that he serves as the emotional core of the crew that helps Dorothy travel to the land of Oz. It’s fitting that when he finally sees the Wizard himself he is told he’d had a heart all along because he really did, at least in a symbolic fashion. Time and time again he was the emotional center of the trio that traveled with Dorothy in the same way that the Scarecrow knew more than he admitted and the Lion was braver than he initially assumed. The Tin Man is not only one of the most iconic movie “robots” he’s possibly the most human in terms of his understanding of emotion and what it means to hurt and to love. In some ways he actually set the standard for many on this list by showing how mechanical humanoid beings could be of value to a story, especially as a sidekick to humans. These traits made him a fitting partner for Dorothy and friends along the yellow brick road and into cinematic history.
2. R2-D2, the “Star Wars” franchise
It was tough for me to decide between my top two choices for this list but in the end I put the legendary R2-D2 in second. One of the most iconic “Star Wars” characters even to people who have never or will never watch the movies R2-D2 is a trusted companion to several characters throughout the series, first serving the likes of Obi-Wan Kenobi and Anakin Skywalker and later serving his son Luke Skywalker. Despite only speaking in beeps, R2 somehow still maintains a very human character to the point where we understand him more than even his partner C3PO who actually speaks English. R2 has proven to be a valuable asset to the heroes of “Star Wars” serving as an assistant in battle, an expert in repairs, a recording device, and even just a friend to comfort and console his human and alien allies when needed. He’s such a valuable partner that Luke Skywalker entrusted him with the missing piece of a map telling of his location after suffering a tragic loss that would haunt him well into the current sequel trilogy. R2’s popularity gave birth to many similar characters, including the equally adorable BB-8, but there’s no getting past the original “Stars Wars” droid that never turned his back on his friends and stole the hearts of a generation.
1. The T-800, the “Terminator” franchise
Speaking of robots that stole the heart of a generation…the T-800 did just that in the 90s and showed the world that a robot can feel truly human if given the proper motivation and programming. There are many reasons why the T-800 deserves to top this list. First off, he’s a robot model that served as the villain in the original but in the sequel he is reprogrammed to SAVE the grown boy he once tried to kill before his birth, John Connor. As the film progresses we see the T-800 evolve into more than just a protector. He begins to understand humanity in a way his machine creators never did and becomes a father figure for John Connor in the process. He teams with Sarah Connor, the woman his predecessor tried to kill, to protect John and wins her respect. The peak of his awesomeness comes late in the film however when he admits to John “I know now why you cry, but it’s something I can never do”. These powerful words show incredible self-awareness from a machine built to kill while also providing powerful words of wisdom to John Connor to help him understand why the T-800 must be destroyed. The T-800 would return as a partner to John Connor again in the sequel, “Terminator 3”, and as a partner to Sarah Connor in the much maligned and unneeded “Terminator: Genysis”, but regardless of the film this machine defies his programming which helped him become an iconic robotic protector that learned the value of the humans he was made to terminate.