411 Movies Top 5 02.14.14: Top 5 Robot Movies
Posted by Shawn S. Lealos on 02.14.2014
From RoboCop and The Terminator to Short Circuit 2, Aliens and more, the 411 staff counts down the top five robot movies of all-time!
Welcome to Week 413 of the Movie Zone Top 5. My name is Shawn S. Lealos and you have entered my world.
Robocop comes out this week, so that makes this an easy choice - Feb. 14 - Top 5 movies with a robot in them. This is pretty wide open so we can have some varied lists. It can be about robots (Robocop, I Robot) or can just have robots in the cast (Star Wars). You can even go outside the box. If you thought the replicants in Blade Runner were robots, just make your argument. Have the lists in by Wednesday night.
Honorable Mentions: Nemesis (1992), Transformers: Dark of the Moon (2011), Robot Jox (1989), I, Robot (2004), WALL-E (2008)
5. Short Circuit 2
While I love the first Short Circuit, I think the sequel is a better movie. It has the sentient former killer robot Johnny 5 hanging out in New York City with his old pal/creator Ben Jahveri (Fisher Stevens) and his new pal/"business partner" Fred (Michael McKean). They run into a group of jewel thieves led by the scummy old guy Oscar (the great Jack Weston). Johnny 5, still a trusting soul, befriends Oscar and ends up helping him steal millions of dollars in rocks. Fisher is a more fleshed out character this time, and he has instant chemistry with McKean, who is just a sleazebag here (a good sleazebag, yes, but a sleazebag nonetheless). The ending is hilarious, with the punk Johnny 5 chasing Oscar through the city (the "Hanging on for a Hero" song still gets me pumped when I hear it). It's too bad that a third Short Circuit wasn't produced. What the heck would he have gotten into in his new gold plating?
4. Eve of Destruction
Uber bad ass Special Forces operative Jim McQuade (an amazing Gregory Hines) has to track down a malfunctioning super robot agent (Eve VIII, as played by Renee Soutendijk) before it goes nuclear and kills millions. Watching a sophisticated cyborg slowly lose its mind and "experience" the bad memories of its creator is something I don't think I've seen in any other sci-fi action movie, and it leads to scenes I didn't think I'd ever seen in a sci-fi action flick (the hotel scene with the guy Eve VIII picks up in a bar, the car chase scene, and the final sequence in New York City come to mind). Soutendijk, who also plays Eve's creator Dr. Eve Simmons, is sexy as hell, and she's vulnerable, yet another thing you don't see all that often in a sci-fi action movie. And Hines shows that he could have been a real action hero if he wanted to (he's nothing short of brilliant). I think it's high time that this movie is rediscovered. It's worth seeing.
3. The Terminator
The Terminator, Jim Cameron's first killer robot flick, while not as slick or as accomplished as its eventual sequel, is still a thrill-a-minute sci fi action slasher movie three decades later. Ahnold Schwarzenegger is iconic in the role of the villainous cybernetic assassin, and Michael Biehn kicks ass as the human soldier sent back in time to protect the mother of the future leader of the human resistance. Linda Hamilton, as Sarah Connor, tries to wrap her head around what sounds impossible (a robotic assassin from the future? What?), and by the time she figures it all out she has just enough energy to survive. I think it would be neat to see Cameron try this kind of movie again, mostly to see if he still has what it takes to make a low budget movie seem bigger than it really is. That's The Terminator in a nutshell.
This low budget sci-fi action flick is one of the best B-movies of the 1990's and is easily star Olivier Gruner's best performance as an actor. And that's what Gruner has to do throughout the movie's 90 minute running time. Yes, he has to do all of the usual karate kung fu stuff (and he does a great job with those scenes) but he also has to make you feel bad for him. He plays J269, a protector cyborg that has apparently malfunctioned (he kills a big time company executive, something he shouldn't be able to do. Automatics, as creator Goddard Marx (John Glover in one of his greatest performances) explains, aren't designed to kill but can engage in behavior that can lead to a human fatality). And instead of following Marx's orders, J269 refuses to leave the side of Nora Rochester (Daphne Ashbrook), a company employee attacked by a higher up. Marx, hoping to contain the situation before it all gets out of hand, calls in a team of mercenaries led by Jeff Kober. Sadly for Marx things get out of hand almost immediately. I love every minute of this movie, and it's high time that it gets rediscovered. Track it down and watch it. It is well worth the effort.
Paul Verhoeven's mega violent sci-fi action satire is one of the greatest movies ever made. It is both viscerally exciting (it's a tight action movie with several awesome set pieces) and intellectually stimulating. The movie attacks the business world, corporate America, the drug war, and dumb ass TV ("I'd buy that for a dollar!"). It's also just sentimental enough to make you feel for Peter Weller's former human-cop-turned-cyborg-cop Alex Murphy (the scene where he, as Robocop, goes back to his old house and starts having flashbacks to his wife and son make you want to cry). Ronny Cox and Kurtwood Smith are a great villain tag team, the stop motion ED209 is a thing to behold, and the toxic waste aftermath scene will make you squirm. And who can forget that opening scene with Kenny the junior executive who is blown away by the malfunctioning robot? "I'm sure it's only a glitch. A temporary setback." Ha.
Robocop. Still brilliant twenty-seven years later.
Honorable Mentions: I may have made mention of my dislike of Michael Bay's Transformers movies before - in fact, only last week - yet I still find Dark Of The Moon rather watchable, hitting a peek of hot robot-on-robot action fighting time in the final third. Oh and Optimus gets his trailer finally.
It wouldn't exactly be a robot list with Robocop, although technically, he's a cyborg. Then again, ED-209 terrified me as a child with his metallic squealing. Slightly unlucky to miss out is Pixar's Wall-E. A quite enjoyable children's film that you get the full impact and message from if you're an adult with theme of loneliness and dynasty.
5. Ghost In The Shell
I had an anime phase back when I was in high school, hoovering up the Sci-Fi Channel UK's slim pickings. At least they had the good sense to put on some of the iconic films. Mamoru Oshii's adaptation of the manga Ghost In The Shell offered a more... grown up view into the ideas of human cyborg augmentation, culminating with an entirely new being created from a computer program. Exploring themes of identity in a technologically advanced world as well as "hacking" people's minds, Shell is not the most obvious 'robot' film but when you consider how groundbreaking this movie was and the acts of people augmenting themselves through cybernetic bodies, then he's definitely worth a place on my list.
Following on from Ridley Scott's Alien was always going to be difficult, but trust James Cameron to spin the genre of the franchise from horror to action. Following on from her crew's betrayal by an android robot in the first film, Sigourney Weaver's Ripley takes an immediate dislike to Lance Henriksen's Bishop. I like the teases they put in place which make you think that Bishop could be another company bot, but eventually he follows through and helps Ripley and co. survive the Xenomorph onslaught and escape the planet. Also, he's programmed with essential software all robots need - namely the ability to speed wield a knife through the gaps between his spread out fingers.
Going from one opposite to the other in the same universe, I was half tempted to add in Alien, purely for Ian Holm's Ash. However, having a good hard think, I feel more inclined to add in Michael Fassbender's David from Prometheus. Whilst not really going into the in's and out's of robots as a theme and being a poorly directed story, Fassbender's superb performance as the helping android who has pre-programmed sinister intentions kept me engrossed throughout, with his smarmy face and near impossibly kept hair. Even when he's reduced to just a head at the end, he still pulls off a sinister character that's only looking out for his owners best interests with such a creepy look. Superb.
2. The Terminator
Keep with the theme of the possible rise of our robot overlord masters, what better performance that Arnold Schwarzenegger as the original heel T-101 in The Terminator? Granted, the film works around his limitations but he manages to still pull off the image of brick shithouse bad guy which is seemingly indestructible. Limited dialogue and that jet black biker clothing costume just screams bad guy to me. In his mission to kill Sarah Connor, the T-101 is relentless in his pursuit, creating a film icon. It could be argued that the impact of the original character is lessened by the sequel's attempt to turn him into a father figure, which I totally agree with after Arnold's most iconic turn here.
1. Transformers: The Movie
Keep your themes at the door and check yourself in for 90 minutes of pure 80's children's entertainment your inner child will love. Transformers: The Movie was a superb transition from the original first couple of batches of the Generation 1 Autobot Vs. Decepticon conflicts before launching it into the far flung future of 2005 and introducing new robots and enemies etc. The promise of the greatest rock and roll adventure from the above trailer is not wrong with the inclusion of 80's glam and heavy metal rock groups, complimenting the best robot-on-robot smashing action ever. It also manages to be quite poignant at times, especially when it has the death of Optimus Prime, signalling the start of the end perhaps of Transformers popularity. Rocking.