Cinema’s newest robot is making its grand debut this weekend with “A.X.L.” In light of this cybernetic canine creation, it’s only right to remind audiences just how vital non-human robots can be. Below you’ll find a complete list of the ten greatest mechanical characters that don’t require a humanoid exterior to make an impact.
1. R2-D2 (“Star Wars”)
No robot’s “whirs” and “wheeps” are as satisfying to the ears as R2-D2’s. His chirps of confidence spurn optimism in the darkest of situations. Thankfully, he’s no pushover, as he often rebels against the wishes of his human “masters” for their own safety. Unlike the updated BB-8 whose personality is uninspired confection, Artoo has sass aplenty and isn’t afraid to get his parts short-circuited if it means escaping danger.
2. HAL 9000 (“2001: A Space Odyssey”)
A tragic character of Shakespearean proportions, HAL’s actions may be evil but his intentions are purely methodical. Rather than accept a deficiency in its programming, HAL does everything to ensure that the mission to the ancient monolith isn’t aborted. Manipulating the entire space station leaves the human crew to HAL’s diabolical mercy. So cold and calculated in its decision-making, HAL 9000 is frightening because he’s a villain masked as humanity’s scientific answer to perfection.
3. Puppet Master (“Ghost in the Shell”)
Cunning and duplicitous, this artificial intelligence poses as a cyber-terrorist in order to connect to the one individual who might free her from digital bondage. It isn’t until deep in their investigation that Section 9 cybernetic agents Motoko Kusanagi and Batou uncover the truth about Puppet Master’s identity (or lack thereof). Framed as a villain by the scientists who created her, the Puppet Master manages to form a profound bond with Kusanagi that entwines their fates forever.
4. Wall-E (“Wall-E”)
Devoted to his programming as Earth’s last trash compactor until his digital heart discovers a new priority, Wall-E is the epitome of a loyal companion. Traveling across the stars to save the female robot — EVE — with whom he’s smitten, there is no stopping Wall-E’s work ethic. If Wall-E is all that’s left of our planet, at least someone had the grace to imbue him with the greatest characteristic of all: kindness. Wall-E may fall under the spell of cinema but it’s the viewing audience that becomes infinitesimally enchanted by his effortless decency.
5. EVE (“Wall-E”)
More than just a love interest to Wall-E, EVE is an advanced probe droid with steely resolve once she’s makes a decision about something. Her initial hesitation towards Wall-E’s advances demonstrates that she’s no damsel in distress. Independent and extremely capable, EVE is the role-reversing muscle to Wall-E’s sentimentality. Despite being unfamiliar with the human condition of romantic love, EVE proves there are more genuine displays of affection than what’s depicted in the movies.
6. TARS (“Interstellar”)
In many ways the opposite of HAL 9000, TARS is designed to prize human life above the mission. His deduction of Dr. Mann’s (Matt Damon) duplicity was instrumental in preventing a lethal hostile takeover. With dry humor, unassuming intelligence and fierce dedication, TARS is the golden retriever of robot companions. For Joseph Cooper (Matthew McConaughey) and the rest of the Endurance crew, TARS is an invaluable asset both resourcefully and spiritually.
7. Scrapper (“Pacific Rim Uprising”)
Arguably the most memorable aspect of the maligned “Pacific Rim: Uprising,” Scrapper is really an extension of her Jaeger pilots. Miniature and adorable beyond words on the battlefield, Scrapper demonstrates how one should never underestimate the small in stature. She’s a ferocious piece of hardware that makes the ultimate sacrifice to save the human race from the Mega-Kaiju’s destructive might. When it comes to making an iconic impression in such a short amount of time, Scrapper dominates her movie robot counterparts.
8. Gideon (“Legends of Tomorrow”)
This female AI is much more than a conductor of intergalactic time-traveling. She instantly becomes a part of the Legends team upon their discovery of the “Waverider” ship and the intelligent machine piloting it. Always equipped with an answer but never in a clipped manner, Gideon puts Siri to shame with her charm and genuine interest in all subjects. She even manages to form a romantic connection with Captain Rip Hunter (Arthur Darvill) during a brief moment of human embodiment. Although Gideon’s physical existence was temporary, the crew never doubts her presence as anything less than corporeal.
9. Bumblebee (“Transformers”)
The breakout star of the Autobots is about to have an upcoming movie in his name. Bumblebee was one of the few saving graces in the first three movies that made his obnoxious human rider, Sam (Shia LaBeouf), somewhat tolerable. Buzzing into action at any given moment and exhibiting cutesy camaraderie in spades, Bumblebee never ceases to awe. For a Transformer, that’s saying something.
10. BB-8 (“Star Wars: The Force Awakens”)
A literal ball of energy, BB-8’s newfound popularity does overlook his “Deus Ex Machina” complex…and yet he’s a difficult droid to dislike. Rolling his spherical self into battle without hesitation cements his value among legends. Predictable timing notwithstanding (heroic, comedic and otherwise), BB-8 is as infectious as they come. Any droid who can make multiple lasting friendships with sentient beings is worth getting to know again and again.