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Top 10 Androids in Film

Vision
A future contender?
With hype building for Marvel's The Avengers: Age of Ultron, the recent U.S. release of the critically-acclaimed Ex Machina, and the news trickling in about the forthcoming sequel to Blade Runner, there are no indications that androids have lost any popularity in sci-fi films. Indeed, the idea of a humanoid robot has been a staple of sci-fi for as long as science-fiction has been a thing. When coming up with a list of the top androids in film, I had to restrict myself to live-action movies, because television and animation would make the list far too difficult to whittle down. So, for the sake of clarity, I am defining "android" here as a fully synthetic being that is built to resemble a human, and sometimes the line between "android" and "robot" is a blurry one. Before I begin, though, a few honorable mentions that didn't quite make the cut: the Stepford wives, Robby the Robot, Jet Jaguar, Dot Matrix, Andrew (The Bicentennial Man), and the Transformers. Also, for the sake of this list, I am only listing one android per film or franchise, because I don't want all five (or is it six?) replicants to crowd out other good androids who deserve a spot.



#10
DAVID
A.I. Artificial Intelligence
David (A.I.)

I almost picked Jude Law's Gigolo Joe here, but even though I love that dancing, Fred Astaire robot prostitute, David still manages to come out as the heart of Spielberg's science-fiction epic. David represents one of the core philosophical questions raised by artificial intelligence: if you can create something real enough to not only pass the Turing test but also be loved, is it alive? If not, what's the difference between a human being and a sophisticated android? Do androids deserve the same rights and treatment? Is it right to give them things like desire and anguish? Haley Joel Osment was a hell of a child actor, and his performance alone makes Adam deserving of this list.



#9
DAVID
Prometheus
David (Prometheus)

The most recent film on this list, Prometheus features another android named David. This David, though, is the polar opposite of Spielberg's creation, an enigmatic thinking machine with alien motives and the creepy ability to cross the uncanny valley when it suits him. It's hard to imagine anybody loving this David, and yet, in the universe of Prometheus, he serves as a foil against flesh and blood characters who are as paradoxical and unreadable as he is. Whether it's the cold mission overseer Meredith Vickers, the ruthless CEO Peter Weyland, the clearly mentally unstable Fifield, or the brutal Engineers themselves, the characters of Prometheus are portrayed as being just as programmed and inhuman as David is. What gives David a spot on this list, though, is the montage of scenes at the start of the film that show what an android like him does when facing an intense stretch of alone time.



#8
MARIA
Metropolis (1927)
The Maschinenmensch

Credited as the first Maschinenmensch to appear in cinema (which may not be true, depending on your definitions), Maria is the creation of the maniacal scientist Rotwang in Fritz Lang's seminal silent film, Metropolis. Created as a way to resurrect the love he lost, Maria--in both robot form and in the guise of a human--serves as the lynchpin to everything that happens in the plot. She is also an incredibly influential figure throughout science-fiction, even earning her own statue in Babelsberg, Germany. However, the android Maria is definitely not a hero, and her subsequent death at a burning at the stake is testament to this fact. She was a tool being used to affect death and destruction that no sane human could be capable of, but the irony of her being treated like a witch hints at a deeper meaning, that she was simply a creation that mankind was not ready to understand or embrace.



#7
ASH
Alien
Ash

No, I do not consider Prometheus to be in the same franchise as Alien. You can debate the merits of this position in the comments section if you must. Having said that, Ash is a character who everyone--even the audience--assumes is a real human being, until he suddenly goes all HAL-9000 on Sigourney Weaver and starts sweating International Delight. When he is ripped open and revealed, though, it is not the typical wires, metal, and motherboards we've come to expect from our androids over the years, but an almost organic creation, fittingly alien and inexplicable. It is as shocking to first-time audiences as the famous chestburster scene from earlier in the film, and as such, the film makes a clear parallel between the alien and the android, showing how technology is just as much a frontier of the unknown as space is, and that there is no reason to assume that whatever we come across will be benevolent. Ash, like Maria and David before him, reveals himself to be less than reverent of human life, more concerned with the alien whose "purity" he admires.



#6
THE T-800
The Terminator
The Terminator

Though I am sorely tempted to swap him out for Terminator 2: Judgement Day's T-1000, with his awesome liquid metal self, there is no getting away from the fact that the T-800 is the most iconic terminator of the franchise. A killing machine, created by post-apocalyptic robots specifically to trick and then assassinate humans, the T-800 is the id of androids we all fear. It doesn't care about human life--or even self-preservation--all it cares about is following through with its programmed mission to seek out and destroy its targets. It's also the perfect role for 1980's Arnold Schwarzenegger, who is more believable as a robotic murder beast than he is a normal human being. Maybe it's the ludicrous muscles or the thick, Austrian accent (which he actually exentuates in his films, believe it or not), but no matter what else he has done in life, Schwarzenegger will always be the T-800. That's probably why he's playing the role yet again in this year's Terminator: Genisys, despite being far too old for it to make any sense whatsoever.

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-e. magill 4/20/2015



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