Tuesday, May 09, 2017

Top 20 Sentient Robots

The word and term “robot” came from the Czech play R.U.R. or Rossumovi Univerzální Roboti (Rossum’s Universal Robots), though its depiction of robots (created from synthetic organic matter) was way different from what the term means now (mechanical origin).  Originally portrayed in fiction as automated machines performing preset labors, storytellers made them more interesting by asking the question, “What if they became sentient?”  Since then, robots in pop culture have not only become more fascinating because of the element of self-awareness infused on them, but have become a consistent means for fiction to tell about the human condition as well as explore cautionary and thought-provoking themes about artificial intelligence.

This list is consisted of the most fascinating sentient robots in fiction, based on my opinion.  “Sentient” here means the robot must have an extent of performing “free will”, whether limited or absolute.  Thus, robots requiring to be directed by humans in real time – like mechas (which I’ve just recently made a list of) and remote-controlled robots like Atom in Real Steel – are obviously excluded in this list.  Also, only those that are still apparently robotic in appearance are considered; thus, cyborgs (like the Terminator and RoboCop) and androids (like Rockman and Vision) are disqualified as well.

Honorable Mentions: Irona (Richie Rich), GERTY (Moon), H.E.L.P.eR. (The Venture Bros.), R. Giskard Reventlov (The Robots of Dawn, Robots and Empire)

20.) X-J9 a.k.a. JENNY WAKEMAN
My Life as a Teenage Robot isn’t necessarily a notable, widely beloved cartoon.  However, it delivers undeniable fun as it focuses on a robot equipped for world-saving adventures but whose heart’s desire is to simply live a normal teenage girl life.

19.) BB-8
Debuting in Force Awakens, BB-8 easily won fans’ hearts with its adorableness, resolve, and loyalty.

Yep, a few more Star Wars droids are going to be in this list.

18.) ALPHA 5
He was somewhat annoying, but his presence and iconic “Aye yai yai” outbursts were an integral part of making Mighty Morphin’ Power Rangers deeply memorable to my generation.

The Sentinels are armed-to-the-teeth giant robots built by Bolivar Trask to hunt – and, if needed, kill – mutants.  Hence, they are usually portrayed clashing with the X-Men, and employed as “goons” by a variety of X-Men villains (often, the mutant-hating kind).

Original Sentinels have humanoid appearances, but subsequent versions come in all sizes and shapes.

Also, there’s now one serving as an X-Man (though, technically, it’s Cerebra in a Sentinel body).

16.) ROSIE
Rosie is the robot maid of the Jetsons, one of pop culture’s most recognizable families.  Though she is an old model, she displays great aptitude in keeping order and cleanliness in the Jetsons’ home.  And not only is she a great help with performing the chores, she also constantly provides invaluable emotional support to the family.

Also, a robot wearing a maid’s apron is quite funny.

For me, the recent live-action Ghost in the Shell has been a fantastic adaptation.  But one of my minor disappointments is that it didn’t have the Tachikoma.

In some versions of Ghost in the Shell (particularly Stand Alone Complex), the Tachikoma or “think thanks” are spider-legged robots working for Section 9.  They share a “hive mind” consciousness but also have distinctive personalities.  Despite being basically tanks, they move with tremendous quickness and agility.  They also have camouflage capabilities.

They’re really pretty awesome; hence, my disappointment that they aren’t in the live-action movie.

I love Beast Wars.  Thus, I’m very fond of the original lineup for both Maximals and Predacons.  But among them, my two most favorites are Dinobot and Rattrap.  Now, I already featured Dinobot in a list before, so I will give this one to Rattrap.

Among the Maximals, the mouse-transforming Rattrap probably has the most personality.  I extremely enjoy his persistent sarcasm and wisecracks.  Rude and cheeky, he regularly answers back at his superiors and annoy others with his mocking.  However, he’s always a good soldier and fiercely loyal to the Maximals.  Though he isn’t necessarily a coward, he prefers to scurry away from danger, especially if the odds don’t look good.  But if the going gets tough, he can fight with the best of them, as he is proficient in bombs and guns.

13.) JOHNNY 5
Johnny 5 is the main character of the Short Circuit movies.  Built to be a killing machine by the military, he rejects his programming (with the help of a lightning-induced power surge) to become the quintessential robot buddy you would want to hang out with – funny, off the wall, enthusiastic, and caring.

12.) K-2SO
The second representative from the Star Wars universe to this list is K-2S0 – the cynical, calculating droid of Jyn Erso’s “suicide squad.”  Originally an Imperial enforcer droid, Cassian Andor reprograms him to serve the Rebel Alliance.  Hence, his original nature is the probable reason why he displays a snarky and stoic personality, which results to an injection of excellent dry humor to Rogue One.

What if Dr. Doom is an Avenger?  That is what Doombot’s membership to the Avengers A.I. team answers. 

Doombots are robots created by Dr. Doom to be perfect facsimiles of himself, including the exact manifestation of his personality and thought processes.  When Hank Pym managed to get his hands on one of them, he reprograms him and makes him a member of the Avengers.  But though he’s already one of the good guys, Doombot still reflects the arrogance, impatience, sense of superiority, and bitter attitude that Dr. Doom has.  What ensues is the same thing that K-2SO brings to the table – only ten times better.

With this entry, I’m obviously referring to the utterly adorable and kickass “personal healthcare companion” version depicted in the 2014 Disney animated movie Big Hero 6 rather than the original Marvel Comics character.


With the Rattraps, K-2SOs, and Doombots in this list, Futurama’s Bender bests them all in being sardonic.  Sociopathic, hedonistic, and dissolute, he manages to ironically charm – probably because he’s relentlessly hilarious as a result of his flaws and sleaziness.

Built by size-changer, super scientist Hank Pym, Ultron has maintained a dysfunctional father-and-son relationship with him while becoming one the Avengers’ deadliest foes.  Heck, he even managed to conquer the world at one time, requiring the heroes to formulate an intricate time travel scheme in order to beat him (read the “Age of Ultron” storyline).

Ultron’s reputation as an infamous Avengers supervillain is so amply established that the second Avengers movie revolves around him.

6.) & 7.) WALL-E & EVE
Who would have thought that one of the greatest cinematic love stories of all time was going to be about two non-humanoid robots?

If you haven’t seen WALL-E, well, you should.  Not only is it an intelligent science fiction animated film, but its romantic aspect is superior to many romance movies starring humans.

The Bots Master is an obscure cartoon that I’m quite fond of.  It’s about a young roboticist named Ziv “ZZ” Zoolander (the eponymous “Bots Master”) who builds an army of differently themed robots (e.g. construction work, sports, vehicles, science, ninja, etc.) – i.e. The Boyzz Brigade – to stop the evil RM Corporation from taking over the world.

3.) & 4.) R2-D2 &C-3PO
Even with the recent introduction of droids like BB-8 and K-2SO – and, in the new canon comics, the badass Triple Zero and BT-1 – to the Star Wars universe, R2-D2 and C-3PO still reign supreme.  Individually, they are charming in their own right, but they are more fun as a bantering, tight duo.

The titular character of The Iron Giant is easily the most powerful, most heavily armed robot in this list.  But we won’t remember him for his violence or being a badass, but for touching us with his loving friendship with 9-year-old Hogarth Hughes and his sincere desire to become a hero like Superman.

Transformers has always been one of the most important childhood-defining cartoons (and comics) in history, especially to those who grew up in the 80’s and 90’s.  And Optimus Prime, the leader of the heroic Autobots, has been its face ever since.

Defined by his gallant courage, unparalleled leadership, tactical brilliance, firm morals, truck transformation, and Peter Cullen’s sleek voice, Optimus Prime has become an icon of pop culture icons.

He’s so great that, though the Transformers movie franchise suck, his presence in the movies helps make them watchable.

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