Top 10 Robots of the 80s

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Back in the 1980’s you couldn’t have a Sci Fi hit movie without featuring a few Robots in the story. Robots in the 80’s symbolised our fascination back then with technology and as a child I dreamed of forging lasting friendships with robot pals but unfortunately technology didn’t advance as quickly as the movies of the day promised they would. The closest I get to robot interaction is talking to “Stacey from California” on Facebook who always answers “please can you send me $100 for my sick mum” whatever I decide to chat about. Still I’m just about over that now and I would like to share with you my list of favourite robots in 80s films. Please let me know what you think.

1. Robocop / Murphy (Robocop 1987)

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This futuristic yet satirical smash hit featured two famous robots, Robocop (played by Peter Weller) and the mostly animated Ed-209 but for me Robocop (Murphy) steals the show. Whilst Robocop is technically an android (part human/part robot), who cares about technicality, and besides whose blog is this anyway?
This film was inspired by Edward Neumeier (co-writer) working on the set of Blade Runner and thought the concept of humans hunting robots could be reversed thus Robocop was born. Arguably one of the most violent films of the 80's for the Robocop connoisseur there is a highly sought after directors cut still to this day only available on the original VHS release containing the extended killing scene of Murphy.

2. The Terminator (The Terminator 1984)

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Back before Arnold Schwarzenegger was a bankable action hero, the Austrian actor had yet to find a defining role and often played roles demanding more physique than acting ability but casting him as the Terminator (A killer robot sent back in time to kill the mother of Earth’s future saviour) was a stroke of genius. After his popularity rose in the 80's he would never be cast as a bad guy again, conveniently coming back in the sequel as a reprogrammed robot helping the good guys (and learning emotions along the way).

3. SICO (Rocky IV 1985)

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More of a cameo than a full on robot film but Rocky 4 is my favourite film of the 80s and this standout scene is well worth a visit. What do you get the freeloading, permanently complaining yet likeable brother in law Uncle Paulie; the guy who has everything? A 7 foot, talking Robot apparently. Initially Paulie is upset as it’s not the sports car he was expecting but as the film progresses they form a bond and Paulie realises that love between a human and a robot can exist (largely as the robot learns to fetch him cold beers). Perhaps this whole relationship could have boasted a standalone film exploring the complex relationship between this unlikely cinematic pairing, or perhaps I need some sleep.
Sylvester Stallone added the robot scene in the film after seeing the robot at a party and thought it would add comic relief to balance out the films darker subjects of revenge and death.

4. R2D2 (Star Wars - Return of the Jedi 1983)

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Confession time, I have not seen ANY star wars films ever however you would have to living in a cave to not know who R2D2 is. He is the gold one right?
R2D2 is a loveable robot who helped Luke Skywalker and co. in their quest to defeat Darth Vader and stop the Empire and was actually played by Kenny Baker whose height (3ft, 8 in) made him a perfect fit for R2D2’S chassis. Kenny revealed in later years that himself and Anthony Daniels ( who played C-3PO, R2D2’S sidekick) hated each other and constantly argued on set however in spite of this both actors portrayed their respective robots in all star wars film to date including the forthcoming Episode VII– The Force Awakens.

5. Johnny 5 (Short Circuit 1986)

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Johnny 5 was a friendly but military built Robot who gained free will after being hit by lightning. With an insatiable appetite for “input”, he spends the time reading books at lightning while being chased by his military owners, very keen to get him back but with a top speed of about 6 MPH you do wonder if they have their best men on the job as they never get close. According to the producer, most of the budget went on designing and building Johnny 5 which explains the casting, locations and special effects however Short circuit is a pretty good family film and people still remember Johnny 5 and that is why he makes my list.

6. Roy Batty (Road Runner 1982)

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No all my favourite 80’s robots are cute, or funny or even righteous. Set in the then distant future (2019), Blade runner is a slow burner, about robots on the run from their human creators. Whilst now considered a cult classic it performed poorly at the box office (although its worthy of note that E.T was out at the same time and dominated the box office that summer). Rutger Hauer played Roy Batty, the emotionless leader of the “replicants” and whilst firmly in the bad guy camp, he does show some emotion especially in the unforgettable scene when he confronts his father and maker, Dr Eldon Tyrell.

7. Max (Flight of the Navigator 1986)

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This mid 80’s Sci Fi concentrates on the story on David Freeman, a small boy abducted by aliens and returned to earth years later, yet without ageing one day. Naturally NASA want to run a bunch of tests on him but thankfully David is saved with the help of R.A.L.F, a friendly N.A.S.A robot commanded by Max, a robotic space ship who actually kidnapped him in the first place but now needs his help getting home (ET anyone?). Max like a lot of my featured robots learn compassion and emotion throughout the films journey leading up to an emotional ending.

8. Lance Bishop (Aliens 1986)

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Lance is a robot technician working for the Marines on a mission to investigate a sudden loss of transmission from the Hadley’s Hope colony deep in space. While accepted by the crew as a robot, Ripley (played by Sigourney Weaver) is sceptical of him as she had previous “issues with robots (remember Ash from Alien) but he proves to her in time his worth by saving her life. Lance is a likeable, sociable Robot if you will and his famous knife trick scene with Pvt Hudson (Bill Paxton) still stand up today, especially for the fear in Bill’s eyes as he was purposely not told of the stunt prior to the filming of the scene.

9. Bubo (Clash of the Titans 1981)

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Granted that Bubo, a robotic Owl on paper might not seem as badass as say The Terminator or ED-209 it’s worth noting that in movie land he actually helps (Spoiler alert!) Pegasus kill the Kraken at the end of the adventure but not before destroying the enemies camp single handed and for this reason alone Bubo is my favourite (if not only known example) robot Owl) ever.

10. Optimus Prime (Transformers Movie 1986)

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As leader of the Autobots, Optimus Prime is my choice from what essentially is an all robot cast. Featuring a glorious, synth led 80’s soundtrack by Vince DiCola and a voice over cast featuring brat pack mainstay Judd Nelson and the late Leonard Nimoy this film in many ways is the ultimate Robot film of the decade.


Published by Matt Young in Top 10