Robots in Film
A Complete Illustrated History
of Robots in the Movies


Robots in Film
(chronological by film title)
Introduction | Early-1939 | 1940-1955 | 1956-1963 | 1964-1967 | 1968-1973 | 1974-1978
1979-1983 | 1984-1986 | 1987-1990 | 1991-1994 | 1995-1997 | 1998-2002 | 2003-2007 | 2008-2010 | 2011-now

Robots in the Movies - Film History: Throughout cinematic history, especially in science-fiction tales, robots have always played a primary role. Throughout history and popular culture, robots have reflected the mood, social and cultural issues, and technology of their times. For example, in the Cold War 1950s, robots were generally viewed as threatening forces, but in later years reflected both the conflict and the continuity between man and machine. Robots have also functioned as both servant-helpers or oppressors of humanity, portraying the good and evil sides.

Czech playwright Karel Capek coined the term 'robot' in post-WWI 1920 in his play R.U.R. (for Rossum's Universal Robots) that was first performed in Prague in 1921. It was taken from the Czech word 'robota' meaning work, to describe humanoid androids designed for menial and repetitive labor. In the play, docile mechanical creatures with human characteristics were produced in Rossum's factory, until one scientist gave them emotions and turned them into killing machines that took over the world.

Robotic characters were often created, in part, as a way to probe and examine prototypical humans endowed with anthropomorphic (but artificial) intelligence or characteristics, or to express fears that humans could be replaced or displaced by robots that mimic human qualities.

Terms related to robots include:

  • robot or 'robotic', often used pejoratively, refers to any 'programmed' device or machine that performs mechanically or automatically without original thought; a robot's behavior is dependent upon programmed rules, functions and commands; an artificially-intelligent (AI) super-computer can be considered robotic although it does not possess a moving machine body
  • automaton - refers to a mechanical object with a human-like appearance that operates in a manner similar to a clock or music box; it was the term most commonly used to refer to 'robots' in the early 20th century
  • android (droid or humanoid) refers to an automaton or artificial man that possesses human features and resembles a human being; over time, it has come to be used as a general nickname for a robot
  • cyborg (or bionic man/woman) refers to a human whose body and physiological processes are aided or controlled, in whole or in part, by electronic or mechanical devices that are integrated into the original organic body; in most cases, a cyborg is not a true robot
This compilation is not designed to be too strict in its choices of 'robots' -
It contains over 150 examples of robots, androids, and cyborgs in the movies

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