For much of the 20th century, humans were fascinated with the prospect of artificial beings that could think and act on their own. Robots were featured prominently in many favorite television shows and films. They are helpful, often hysterical characters with personality, or soulless machines bent on destroying their creators. Either way, they’re pretty cool. Here are our picks for some of the most famous robots ever featured in fictional film and television.
- Rosie from The Jetsons: This lovable cartoon robot had all the quirks of a middle-aged maid — which she basically was, in robot form. An older model that the Jetsons would never trade in for a new model, she dutifully served George, Jane Judy and Elroy over the series’ entirety, but only appeared in two episodes in the first season in 1962. A strong disciplinarian with a sweetheart side, this robot is the rock of the animated human family.
- The Robot from Lost in Space: The unnamed robot from the popular 60s sci-fi series is most famous for saying the show’s best known line: “Danger Will Robinson!” The Class M-3 Model B9, General Utility Non-Theorizing Environmental Control Robot had many human characteristics, such a laughing, making fun of humans, and playing the guitar. It was also the best friend of 9-year old robotics genius Will Robinson, for whom it would always keep a watchful eye.
- HAL9000 from 2001, A Space Odyssey: HAL is one of the best movie villains ever, even though he is just an ever-present, all-knowing red eye. He is one of the first film examples of technology gone wrong, of a machine that takes matters — and lives — into its own hands. Though soft spoken and kindly (and a good chess player), HAL has other plans in store for the crew of astronauts venturing to Jupiter.
- C-3PO and R2D2 from Star Wars: This robotic odd couple brought some comic relief to the epic sci-fi franchise, and in the process became two of the most famous robots in entertainment history. C-3PO is the uptight straight man, while R2 is the zany little guy who only speaks in beeps and whirrs. The two did their part to bring down the Empire, with more than a few great one-liners and classic moments in the process.
- KITT from Knight Rider: It is because of this robot that a generation of young boys grew up desparately wanting a talking Pontiac Firebird. The Knight Industries Two Thousand, better known as KITT, was chock full of gadgets to help Michael Knight stop crime in its tracks — and swoop the ladies off their feet.
- The Terminator from Terminator: This is the role that defined Arnold Schwarzenegger’s career. First a terrifying, seemingly unstoppable villain, then a kick-butt good guy, the Terminator wowed audiences with its special effects. And it spouted some of the most famous lines in film history: “I’ll be back” and “Hasta la vista, baby.”