MACHINES LIKE US: ROBOTS IN SCIENCE FICTION CINEMA | Offscreen
Lang's Expressionist silent classic reached a new generation via this Giorgio Moroder version with an 1980s pop soundtrack. Brigitte Helm plays a double role as proletarian heroine Maria and the iconic robot created in her image. See the eternal class war played out in an Art Deco setting, with a cast of thousands!
The intergalactic equivalent of a UN observer lands in Washington DC and demands a stop to nuclear testing in this sci-fi allegory with religious undertones. The earthlings ignore his pleas for peace, leaving them at the mercy of a giant robot that can only be stopped with the immortal words "Klaatu barada nikto!"
A starship heads to Alpha Centauri on a search for alien intelligence in this classic Stanisław Lem adaptation, a key influence on everything from 2001 to Star Trek with its depiction of everyday life in space and discovery of an abandoned vessel. The old-fashioned robot is a figure of fun - until he saves the day!
From the iconic Metropolis in 1927 all the way up to Franklin Rich’s The Artifice Girl in 2022, cinema has been a watchful presence in humanity’s dalliance with artificial life. From robots, to androids, to cyborgs, the idea that our own hubris might, in fact, create the very conditions for our own destruction has been central to the ways in which filmmakers have reflected on issues surrounding artificial life. Whether it be the out-of-control security robots of Jim Wynorski’s Chopping Mall (who take their role as shopping mall guards a little too seriously), the uncanny, malfunctioning androids of Westworld or the army of daleks jealously bent on total domination of humanity in Dr Who and The Daleks, their portrayal has often been seen as a warning against humanity’s unbridled creation of electronic or robotic life. Yet they have also been portrayed as benevolent: as faithful friends (The Iron Giant); humorous and quirky sidekicks (Short Circuit); clever and loyal allies such as R2D2 and C3PO (amongst others) in The Empire Strikes Back; and even studious (and heart-warming) workers (WALL-E). Cinema’s relationship with the robot, the android and cyborg has therefore been a complex one.
After a nuclear war, human survivors fear and despise the robots they now depend on, with extremists even launching terrorist attacks against the blue-skinned humanoids. Wooden acting and no-budget sets give an agreeably avant-garde flavour to this forgotten sci-fi gem packed with unusually progressive ideas.
A Los Angeles gumshoe, assigned to terminate rogue replicants, starts to question the ethics of his job. Scott's visionary reworking of Philip K. Dick's Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? revolutionised the face of sci-fi cinema with its neo-noir imagery, unforgettable androids, and spine-tingling Vangelis score.
Heroic Autobots battle evil Decepticons in this spin-off from the animated TV show; more fun than Michael Bay's live-action pics, and not averse to killing off beloved characters. The illustrious voice cast includes Robert Stack, Leonard Nimoy and Orson Welles, in his final role, as the voracious planet Unicron.
During the Cold War, a young boy befriends a big metal-eating robot from outer space which crashlands near his small town, but the paranoid government sends agents to investigate. This lovely animated fable, based on a children's story by poet Ted Hughes, flopped on its release but is now hailed as a modern classic.
Shakespeare's The Tempest gets a sci-fi makeover in this fantasy masterpiece with an avant-garde score. A starship lands on a planet where a sinister force has killed all but two members of a previous expedition: a scientist and his daughter. Robby the Robot, their mechanical servant, was a big hit with the public.
The BBC's beloved sci-fi TV show first aired in 1963 and quickly spawned this big screen spin-off. Peter Cushing plays the time-travelling doctor who is transported with his two daughters and an assistant to Planet Skaro, home of the doctor's most fearsome enemies, the robotic Daleks. Their catchphrase? EX-TER-MIN-ATE!
Garland's directing debut is a virtual three-hander in which a naïve programmer is helicoptered into a billionaire tech bro's luxury home to determine whether a female android is capable of independent thought. Toxic masculinity and Machiavellian mind games ensue, with results that will keep you guessing to the end.
A Chicago cop suspects a robot may be responsible for the death of a robotics company CEO. Are robots starting to ignore Asimov's Three Laws, which prevent them from harming human beings? Meanwhile, the laws of Hollywood blockbusters ensure a full complement of superb special effects and Will Smith kicking robot ass.
Arnold Schwarzenegger plays a creaky old T-800 sent back in time to protect mankind's future saviour and his mom from the more advanced T-1000 - a robot made of liquid metal! Just because this blockbuster has a pro-peace message doesn't mean it's not packed with chases, explosions and mind-blowing special effects.
Just when you thought Godzilla was one of the good guys, he goes on the rampage again. But it's a mechanical imposter, controlled by aliens from another planet! The real Godzilla, outmatched, has to team up with King Caesar, a shaggy kaiju from Okinawa, for a three-way showdown that would do credit to Sergio Leone.
A heroic pilot agrees to lead a mission to Saturn, aware UNESCO has placed an android on his crew as part of a risky experiment. Can he work out which of his men is the non-human? This adaptation from one of Stanisław Lem's Pirxa stories blends Cold War aesthetics and Arvo Pärt music with thrilling deep space action.
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