In honor of Ultron: The Living Automaton making his presence known to film fans everywhere, I decided to compile a list of the creepiest robots in film history. If everything goes well, Ultron will eventually join this list. He is the quintessential Avengers villain and a haunting reminder of their greatest failure (You really need to read Ultron Unlimited).
Preston – Wallace & Gromit: A Close Shave: Wallace & Gromit is a lighthearted series of shorts designed to please people of all ages, especially children. So when one of the short films involves a murderous robotic dog, it’s worth noting. The criminal penguin is probably responsible for my recurring nightmares of penguins as a child (Long story) but a terminator dog earns terror by being especially unrelenting in its attempt to shear every sheep and human in the film. I guess you could call him the Dog-9000. Or the T-Dog. And now I’m getting flashbacks of The Walking Dead and their tradition of terrible minor characters.
Spheres – Phantasm: There’s not much to these dronelike silver spheres. And the movie they inhibit isn’t really memorable, but I needed to put them on this list for the highly inventive way they kill people. I’ll just let the video speak for itself.
ED-209 – RoboCop: The idea of a murderous police officer is bad enough. The prospect of law enforcement becoming reliant on these highly malfunctioning Enforcement Droids is terrifying. At least they share an enemy with Jack Black’s Kung-Fu Panda: Stairs.
The Gunslinger – Westworld: Before Michael Crichton wrote the book that inspired a movie that awoke my love of cinema, he directed a movie with another malfunctioning theme park. The Gunslinger serves as the primary antagonist. Yul Brynner employs his status as an icon in Western filmography and giving it a cold robotic twist. He was the Terminator before Terminator and he killed Josh Brolin’s dad!
Roy Batty – Blade Runner: Of course I was going to toss in my favorite science fiction film somehow. All things considered, Roy Batty is the most logical entry on the list. The terror doesn’t come from his actions (though those help) but rather, his desire to live. He loved life more than anything and was willing to take the lives of others to extend his own.
Ash – Alien: Two Ridley Scott films back to back! While his downfall as a director might be more terrifying to some, his foray into science fiction and horror remains quintessential viewing as the Xenomorph is a perfect organism. What many people forget is the use of Ian Holm as the seemingly calm crewmember, Ash. Ash turns out to be “a goddam robot” in a movie where, on initial viewing, you’re not sure if there are robots. Turns out there are, and with the exception of Bishop in the sequel, they all suck. But especially Ash. “You have my sympathy.” Fuck you.
T-800 – The Terminator: There will always be debates on which one of the first two Terminator films is truly the superior film (The answer is T2). However, there is no question that the first film is basically a horror movie about an unstoppable force comprised of metal gears. Arnold’s bad acting came to perfect use here as the perfect killing machine. Even a fiery explosion didn’t completely halt the metal monstrosity, the image of it hobbling out of the fire forever etched into my mind as one of pure terror.
T-1000 – Terminator 2: Judgement Day: What’s scarier than an unstoppable killer robot with a metal exo-skeleton? An unstoppable killer robot with no skeleton whatsoever! Like Arnold Schwarzenegger, Robert Patrick’s best role to date is still the one where he only needs to look like pure evil and not convince us with his words. The shape-shifting metal beast slices and dices his way through the film, leaving a trail of bodies that would make Ultron proud.
Maria – Metropolis: If you’ve never seen a silent film, Metropolis would be near the top of my recommendation list. It’s not an inherently scary movie, though the themes could be perceived as such, but the design of the Maria robot is classic in its design. The heavy biblical inspiration by silent masterpiece, Metropolis (1927), is only exemplified by the robot Maria ritualizing the seven deadly sins. Through a hypnotic dance, Maria hypnotizes the men of Metropolis.
HAL 9000 – 2001: A Space Odyssey: “Daisy… Daisy… Give me your answer, do. I’m half crazy… all for the love of you. It won’t be a stylish marriage. I can’t afford a carriage…” Hal is technically an artificial intelligence but he’s also part of the ship and utterly horrifying in his distant vocalization to Dave so he’s on the list. Also, it’s my list. Like Metropolis, 2001 isn’t inherently a horror film. But if you showed someone just the snippets of HAL malfunctioning, there’s no doubt in my mind that you could convince them it was.