10 Creepiest Movie Robots of All Time
Robots are scary. Any mechanical being that tries to replicate human thoughts and feelings is a pretty messed up entity, and it’s a staple which has been used time and time again in Hollywood in order to scare us mortals into a miasma of feces, urine and tears. Add some vague attempt at making them look human (especially before CGI) and you have a recipe for frequently needed trips to the shrink. Here we examine the ten freakiest and creepiest examples. Enjoy.
10. Gunslinger – Westworld
Could there really be a freakier premise for a movie than a deranged robotic cowboy running amok in a Western-themed amusement park? We think not. Memorably unnerving moments include the cowboy in question, played by Yul Brynner, having acid thrown in his face, and the part when the scientists remove the face of a robot.
Plus, of course, throughout we’re constantly having to observe Brynner’s totally freaky eyes. The movie was later lampooned by The Simpsons with their episode set in “Itchy And Scratchy Land,” and is set to be remade with Russell Crowe. Terrifying.
9. Sonny – I, Robot
Meet Sonny, a CGI monstrosity who somehow clawed his way into a live action movie to give Will Smith the opportunity to once again stand next to a blue screen, shouting to himself. Sonny spends the first half of the movie creeping around, twitching his PowerPoint eyebrows and seemingly attempting to murder Mr Smith. Naturally the tables turn and he eventually sides with our hero – in order to fend off thousands of his identical and rather more murderous robotic cousins as they rampage through Chicago.
8. T-1000 – Terminator 2
Nanomorph mimetic poly-alloy shape-shifter… These words alone should be enough to hint at the supreme terror instilled in us as wee ones by the T-1000. It couldn’t effectively be shot, stabbed or seemingly in any way injured, and like a particularly evil brand of dormouse could fit into any gap. Ultimately it did end up succumbing to a massive explosion and a vat of molten metal, but its tenacity as a bad guy put fear into our little hearts when first viewing the epic Terminator 2 back in the day. And how creepy was Robert Patrick’s portrayal of this grade A baddie?
7. Maschinenmensch – Metropolis
Proving that old silent-era movies can still pack a punch, some of the scenes in Firtz Lang’s masterpiece, Metropolis, are bordering on the terrifying. The movie concerns an imaginary city divided into two differing classes, the rulers and the proletarians. Embroiled in this balance of power is a female robot, the Maschinenmensch, created by a mad scientist, who is found either intermittently dancing like Lady Gaga after an aneurysm, or prancing around in her genuinely freaky bionic suit, and who left audiences of the time appalled.
6. Pris – Blade Runner
It was a close call as to whether Pris, portrayed by Daryl Hannah, or Roy Batty, played by Rutger Hauer, would be our creepy android representative from Ridley Scott’s classic Philip K. Dick adaptation, Blade Runner. However, ultimately it’s one of the closing scenes, in which the “pleasure model” disguises herself as a mannequin in a trap to ambush Harrison Ford’s character, that gives her the nod over her boyfriend and fellow replicant baddie. That’s no mean feat – Hauer is one of the kings of creep – but Hannah’s new wave weirdness went one better. And those gymnastics moves were sick. Creepy and sexy, all in one package…
5. Tik-Tok – Return to Oz
Return to Oz was a messed up movie, no matter how you looked at it. Remember the Wheelers? Absolutely menacing when you were a kid, literally scarier than anything you’d ever seen before. It was within this cornucopia of bed-wetting horror that we were introduced to Tik-Tok, who was meant to be a good guy. Meant to be a good guy, we say, and yet he was indescribably disconcerting, especially when we saw him walk for the first time. Plus we never quite trusted his relationship with young Dorothy…
4. David – A.I.
Haley Joel Osment is creepy enough as it is, so what the hell was Spielberg thinking by turning him into a robot in the first place? Turns out it’s not all his fault; Kubrick came up with the idea for A.I. and posthumously passed it onto his fellow director. Still, as Kubrick’s dead, it’s Spielberg that shall receive full blame. Osment plays David, a freakish android with a massive forehead (which come to think of it, was Osment’s fault). He starred alongside Jude Law – who plays the equally creepy male prostitute ‘bot and fugitive Gigolo Joe – in a movie about the nature of feeling love towards something robotic. Love? Towards something robotic?
3. Johnny Cab – Total Recall
Despite the many bizarre scenes in Total Recall, all festooned with excellent, cheesy technical effects, it is the often-forgotten rubber faced taxi driver Johnny Cab that happened to scare the crap outta us. Perhaps it was the shininess of his face, perhaps the high-pitched tone of his voice, or perhaps it was the fact that his lip movements didn’t match his words. Whatever the reason, he was a remarkably creepy character (although in his defense he did coax Arnie into muttering the immortal line, “Sue me, dickhead!”).
2. Ash – Alien
Ash from Alien wasn’t revealed to be a robot until well into the movie, in a scene which was so extreme for the time, it reputedly made an usher faint at a movie theater. Never have milk, caviar and pasta combined to such good effect as when they were used as his liquid inner workings. The crew member and android was played superbly by Ian Holm in another Ridley Scott tour de force, and, alongside the facehugger, the chestburster and pretty much every other element of this movie, made children weep with fear as they watched it secretly on VHS at a slumber party. But despite the sheer terror induced by the alien itself, it’s the image of Ash that endures in our minds – “a goddamned robot!” whose replication of our humanity is creepy to the bone.
1. Data – Star Trek: The Next Generation
Speaking of androids with a disturbing need to wrestle with their feelings, yes, it’s Data, Star Trek‘s resident rogue robot and occasionally out-of-control supervillain. Whether it was his evil twin brother (yes, they swapped places at one point), his extraordinarily creepy robo-daughter (yep, she went into meltdown within an episode) or his propensity to go nuts whenever he installed his emotion chip, Data was a liability on the level of the holodeck (if your TV sometimes took over the house, you’d turn it off, right?). Of course, that’s not to mention Brent Spiner’s fundamentally unnerving performance as the emotionally deprived artificial man, generally putting on a brave, rubbery face before occasionally bursting into insane, cackling laughter. After going rogue one more time in Star Trek: Insurrection, Data went out with a blaze of glory in the final TNG movie.
Bonus Entry: Commando Elite – Small Soldiers
There was something about the sheer cunning and fundamental evilness of these seemingly benign animated children’s action figures that was disturbing. In Small Soldiers, said evil toys terrorize some kids and their neighborhood. They were small, they were soldiers, and they were so deceitfully dark that it took what was essentially a family movie and made it into the purest of horror flicks (although ogling Kirsten Dunst certainly put a dampener on the seat dampening!).
Honorable Mention: HAL 9000 – 2001: A Space Odyssey
Although not a robot per se, with that voice, HAL 9000 is easily the creepiest artificial being ever to have been conceived, and thus receives an honorable mention on our list. Yes, the space station’s calm mannered but ultimately psychotic super computer was everything you wanted an antagonist in a Kubrick flick to be: cool, calm and collected. Ultimately HAL didn’t succeed – he was shut down after revealing his plot to take over the ship – but his camp manner (complete with chilling overtones of computer control over humanity) couldn’t have been more effectively and creepily portrayed.