One of Science fiction’s oldest and by extension most enduring tropes are the various versions of a story where human-made, or alien creations born of technology, namely robots, are doing things most of us would consider rude at the least and in other cases deadly. It’s been nearly a century of stories turned theatrical representations of our obsession with fictional mechanical creations doing us harm in some way or another is almost endless. From Metropolis to Robby The Robot, to Battlestar Galactica, the Terminator, and Star Wars the examples of these stories are nearly inexhaustible. In fact, trying to create a complete discussion on the subject of errant robots in movies and on TV is so vast in scope it is a daunting task to narrow the topic down enough to fit within the confines of an article of reasonable length. A serious study of the subject could fill volumes I will, however, attempt to do so here.
I have decided to begin by touching on some of the more popular and well-known examples of the subgenre while also attempting to highlight some of the lesser known examples here. Early examples, of course, include the classic editions of scientific creations we are all familiar with some of which I have already mentioned.
No summary of TV and movie robots with evil intentions would be complete without Hel/Maria from Fritz Lang’s Metropolis (1927) What’s interesting about Hel of course is she is not only styled to be a seductress and deceiver who passes as human. She is the first of her kind, a sort of grandmother to the all the naughty lady robots that followed. Mr. Robot creator Sam Esmail is reported to be involved in a more modern take on the film in the form of a miniseries.
Following Metropolis misbehaving robots, such as the one created by Dr. Satan became a standard part of the genre in both matinee serials and B movies meant to thrill kids and separate them from their nickles while also keeping them out of their parent’s hair for a few hours. Ironically, these bad robots were doing some good by merely existing.
Later on into the seventies and eighties, the role of robots as bad guys continued with the creation of The centurions of Battlestar Galactica.
This period also saw the creation of Maximilian in Disney’s Black Hole (1979). Maxi managed to create a menacing and sinister effect from a straightforward design. Seeing him left no doubt he meant you ill will.
Around the same time, the role of these robots was altered into behavior more adult in nature when a few of these fictional creations tried to get busy with human women like Hector, the robot from Saturn 3 (1980).
Another unique non-humanoid robot, Proteus played a similar role in Demonseed (1977) a film where the errant robot with unsavory ambitions managed to impregnate the imprisoned wife of its creator. How? It is Science fiction.
Another one of my favorite robots with bad intentions is The Ed-209 from RoboCop (1987) Ed was truly frightening not just because he was powerful and heavily armed, but because he was not too bright. Just ask Mr. Kinney.
Of course, no article about robots with bad intentions would be complete without at least mentioning perhaps the greatest robot inspired movie franchise of all. I refer to James Cameron’s Terminator film series which began in 1979 and continues still today with another chapter in the works for the near future this franchise is showing no signs of slowing down.
After decades of bad robots portrayed in movies and on TV, George Lucas came along with Star Wars c and portrayed the robot-palooza we could only dream of before that time. The myriad robot designs of Industrial Light and Magic (ILM) blew the lid off robots in film and on TV revolutionizing the world of science fiction robots forever.
Well, as I said earlier in this post, the topic under discussion is a vast one, and I have barely scraped the surface, but that is all for now. These are some of my favorite examples of robots with impolite intentions but I’m sure I must have overlooked some. What are yours?