Creators: Thea von Harbou (novel), Fritz Lang (film)
Creator (fictional): C. A. Rotwang
Actor: Brigitte Helm
A machine-man made in the image of a beautiful schoolteacher, the robot of Fritz Lang’s monumental film became an icon for a dystopic vision of the future (which in the Germany of 1927 might not have been pessimistic enough).
Honda wasn’t kidding when they named this astronaut looking creation “Advanced Step in Innovative MObility.” Pronounced “ah she mow,” this is the robot we all wanted as a kid. See him in action in this British Honda commercial.
Creator: Erik Wolpaw, Kim Swift
Voice: Ellen McLain
Everyone’s favorite passive-aggressive robotic tormentor, GLaDOS was the primary antagonist in Valve’s brilliant 2007 puzzle game Portal. The game may have stood strong on its clever physics puzzles and tightly paced gameplay, but it was GLaDOS who stole the show. And thoguh she may have been destroyed in the game’s grand finale, her lovely robotic voice made an encore appearance and sang to us over the credits, “I’m still alive.” Since Portal 2 comes out in but a few months, we’re assuming she was telling the truth.—Kirk Hamilton
Creator: Arthur C. Clarke
Voice: Douglas Rain
We debated whether HAL belonged on this list. He’s a computer program with artificial intelligence, but his only physical representation is a camera eye, though he does control the Discovery. But he was one of the inaugural inductees in the Robot Hall of Fame, so that kind of settles it.
Creators: Ronald D. Moore and Glen A. Larson
Actors: Well, that’d be giving it away now wouldn’t it.
How to pick a Cylon? Athena? Boomer? Leoben? We’re going to go with the reveal of the final five, particularly…well, you know who. The Cylon’s relationship with humanity grows more complex as disagreement arises within their ranks. And BSG’s “skinjobs” were so real and nuanced, even they didn’t know they were robots.
Controllers: The Jet Propulsion Laboratory at California Institute of Technology
Delivered by the Mars Pathfinder on Independence Day 1997, the 23-pound Sojourner studied the Martian surface and atmosphere—a relative bargain at $150 million for the mission. Its name was chosen by a 12-year-old from Connecticut honoring abolitionist and feminist Sojourner Truth.
Creator (real): Gene Roddenberry
Creator (fictional): Dr. Noonien Soong
Actor: Brent Spiner
The sentient android who wanted to be human, this Pinocchio couldn’t tell a lie—or a joke. Data was the best character from the best Star Trek series, and Spiner was brilliant at giving life to his alter-egos: his evil brother Lore, characters on the Holodeck and, of course, his creator Dr. Soong.
Creator: George Lucas
Actor: Kenny Baker (Yes, there was a guy inside)
Voice: Ben Burtt
Like Charlie Brown’s teacher, we never knew what the little guy was saying, but you didn’t have to speak R2 to know he had an attitude. Despite C-3PO’s protestations, there were no delusions of grandeur—Luke Skywalker’s astromech droid made a habit of saving the galaxy.
Creator: Matt Groening
Voice: John DiMaggio
Made in Mexico, Bender is a sociopath of steel (er, well, iron, titanium, lead, zinc, dolomite and nickel), who has kidnapped Jay Leno’s head and sent his own son to robot hell. But he really just wants to be a folk-singer.—JJ
Director: Andrew Stanton
Ambitious. Daring. Incredible. A work of art. Pixar’s loftiest film yet happens to be all of those things and more. It also happens to be near-perfect, especially in its near-silent first half. Its deceptively-straightforward tale of two robots in love is shrewdly enmeshed in a environmentally-friendly story with a rather scathing critique of American consumerism and decadence. The pure sense of wonder and level of artistry in WALL-E continues to be nothing short of astonishing.—Jeremy Medina