EDITORIAL: My top 10 movie robots and their lessons

In honor of the third Transformers movie coming out this weekend, there's been a lot of chatter about the best movie robots and where Optimus Prime and Bumblebee rank all-time.  I figured, much like my recent editorials on movie fathers, father-figures, and teachers, that I might as well take my shot and put my two cents on the topic.  The criteria that I rank my robots is by their coolness and impact in the movie(s) they're in.  I'm not making a list of the best "robot movies."  This list is just the characters.  Sorry, so-called "Holy Trinity," but R2-D2 isn't my number one.  Not by a long shot.  Much like the blog's theme and my other recent editorials, I will offer one life lesson conveyed by these great robot characters.  You never know.  Denzel Washington might make his fourth list in a row.  Enjoy!


1)  T-800 (Arnold Schwarzenegger) in the Terminator series-- To me, no robot character makes a bigger or better impression in any movie than the classic Terminator.  Sure, he's likely a modern update on Yul Brynner's "Gunslinger" in Westworld of 1973but creator James Cameron took it to another level.  Whether it's Arnold as a villain or a hero or the robot itself without tissue, it's mere threat and presence is unforgettable and spine-tingling.

HIS LESSON: INTIMIDATION IS A POWERFUL ATTRIBUTE-- Come on.  No one messes with Arnold and lives to tell about it.  Just his scenes of acquiring clothes at the beginning of every movie show the intimidating power of Arnold and his chiseled 6'2" frame.  Without the flesh, when that metallic skull gazes at you with those red eyes, your knees will wither along with your courage.

2)  WALL-E (voice/sounds by Ben Burtt) in WALL-E-- Sorry R2-D2 and Johnny 5.  I know WALL-E is a amalgamated copy of the two of you, but he's so much better than both of you together.  His kindheartedness, curiosity, and loyalty is arguably better than anyone else on this list.

HIS LESSON: UNCONDITIONAL LOVE-- Don't lie, ladies. You fell asleep in the first half-hour of WALL-E, but had your heart melted later like I did by his care and longing to just hold EVE's hand, let alone his love of movie showtunes.  His love was unconditional, which us humans can admire and envy.

3)  The Giant (voice by Vin Diesel) in The Iron Giant-- Much like WALL-E, his kindheartedness, curiosity, and loyalty win him admiration too.  However, what puts him high on this list is his valor to help when no one else can.  Any robot who thinks he's Superman has a fan in me.

HIS LESSON: THE HEROISM OF SELF-SACRIFICE-- Like many of the robots on this list, the Giant is willing to sacrifice his life to save his human friends.  For something so powerful to have such resolve and protective instincts is something that can only be programmed to a certain extent.  Some of that is learned from good human examples.

4)  R2-D2 (acted by Kenny Baker/voice by Ben Burtt) in the Star Wars series-- He's #1 on a great many lists, but R2-D2's not #1 on mine.  His michievous courage and actions are very commendable, no doubt.  R2 brings a lot of laughs (I, for one, would love subtitles to know the quips he beeps to piss CP-3PO off all the time), but the robots above him on the list just do so much more.

HIS LESSON: GOOD THINGS COME IN SMALL PACKAGES-- Most of the characters around R2-D2 look at him and see a slow, voiceless bucket of beeps and junk.  However, his help has saved lives and his actions have dismissed more than a few enemies.  Not bad for a twinkling garbage can.

5)  T-1000 (Robert Patrick) in Terminator 2: Judgment Day-- Talk about improved technology.  While Arnold's T-800 is one heck of a tough SOB to kill, the liquid metal T-1000 was even harder with the same unrelenting pursuit.  The first human-based computer-generated character is not only a cinematic watershed for technology, but one of the best movie villains in history.

HIS LESSON: THE POWER OF UNRELENTING PURSUIT-- The Terminators, in any shape or form, never stop.  They keep shooting, kicking, and coming after their prey until they can't anymore (and then some).  Talk about unyielding dedication.  Even when you run, he walks and still catches you.  His other lesson should be "slow and steady wins the race."

6)  Optimus Prime (voice of Peter Cullen) in the Transformers series-- The cartoon was already cool and then the new movies made him larger than life while still keeping his original tone.  Having his original voice actor, Peter Cullen, helps.  Not only is Optimus the epitome of valor, but he can throw down in any fight with intensity and righteousness.

HIS LESSON: PROTECTING THOSE WEAKER THAN YOU-- The Autobots, led by Optimus Prime, could handily defeat us at any time, yet choose to protect the human race from destruction.  Optimus sees it as the right thing to do, not something to take advantage of.  It's an admirable and memorable cause that's right there with any human cop, firefighter, or soldier.

7)  Robocop (Peter Weller) in Robocop--  Even if OCP's created cop is part human, it's the robot in him that makes his an 80's badass.  While not the most limber of robots, the guy could take punishment and dish it out just the same.  In his next life, I want him voiced or acted by Samuel L. Jackson.

HIS LESSON: EVERY ROBOT SHOULD BE PROGRAMMED WITH PRIME DIRECTIVES-- Robots are wonderful scientific creations that can do things us normal people can't do.  Nevertheless, that ability should have rules and limits.  Robocop's prime directives of self the public trust, protect the innocent, and uphold the law are a good start.

8)  Bumblebee (voice by Mark Ryan) in the Transformers series-- Bumblebee is right there with Optimus Prime for fighting and living up to the Autobot cause to protect the human race.  His Camaro persona is the dreamcar we all want and he's the best robot sidekick on this list, this side of R2-D2.  Dude, he talks in radio music and film quotes!

HIS LESSON: A LITTLE ENCOURAGEMENT IS ALWAYS APPRECIATED-- Bumblebee knows exactly when to play the right tune or clip to say what needs to be said or help the guy generate a little mojo to get the girl.  Looking like a gorgeous sports car when in disguise helps too.

9)  Data (Brent Spiner) in the Star Trek series-- While as nerdy as C3-PO from Star Wars, Data sure whines less and is a lot more handy.  A man of action, he's a good soldier and as smart as they come.  He adds a lot to the "Next Generation" Star Trek movies and is a fan-favorite.

HIS LESSON: ROBOTS AND EMOTIONS DON'T MIX-- In the same way the Terminators don't care and Robocop upholds the law, once emotions get involved robots cannot handle them or understand them.  Data constantly strives to be more human, but such a thing will always be out of his reach when it comes to feelings and emotions.  Data learns that his duty and his actions can speak for him.

10)  Johnny 5 (voice by Tim Blaney) in the Short Circuit series-- The dancing and partying Johnny 5 takes a mischievous page right out of R2-D2's book and gives it a voice.

HIS LESSON: WHEN ROBOTS GAIN A RESPECT FOR LIFE-- Much like the Iron Giant's resistance to be the weapon his government designed him to be, Johnny 5 does the same and really learns to love and appreciate life.  The same can be said when Arnold's T-800 plays the protagonist role rather than the villain in Terminator 2: Judgment Day.  The Autobots have it too, but there are plenty of crazy robots out there on the silver screen.