Let’s do a quick word association: what pops into your head when we say “android?” It’s “phone,” right? Unfortunately, the Android operating system has stolen the word from its rightful place in science fiction, where it describes a robot that looks and acts human. The Fox series Almost Human is a step in the right direction. The futuristic buddy-cop series follows surly detective John Kennex (Karl Urban) and his android partner Dorian (Michael Ealy), who’s a good guy to have around: he can warm your coffee with his bare hands, diffuse a bomb in seconds, and look into your soul with his piercing blue eyes. But how does he stack up against other iconic pop-culture androids? Here’s our definitive list of the 10 greatest movie and television androids, ranked by awesomenesss.
10. Astro Boy
It would be easy to overlook Astro Boy, mainly because his hedgehog-in-a-Speedo style hasn’t held up too well over the years. But there are good reasons why this android superhero has stuck around so long. Built to resemble his creator’s dead son, Astro Boy can fight giant monsters and throw bombs into space, yet maintains the innocence and optimism of a child. His superpowers include amazing strength, jet-powered hands and feet, and enhanced hearing – but since he’s a Japanese anime character, he also gets some weird ones. Like eyes that can shoot water. And a machine gun in his butt. Basically, the machine gun in his butt is all you need to know.
9. Gigolo Joe from A.I.
Like humans, androids have all different skill sets – and one of the best belongs to Gigolo Joe (Jude Law). Built as a male prostitute, he’s rightly proud of his seduction skills, which could put any pick-up artist to shame. He can execute perfect dance moves, generate mood music with a twitch of his neck, and go all night (we assume). But it’s his talent for smooth talk that really sets him apart. You may want to borrow this line some time: “I think you’re afraid of letting go. I think you’re afraid of happiness. And this is starting to excite me.” Disclaimer: it may not work so well if you don’t look like Jude Law.
8. The Gunslinger from Westworld
There are certainly similarities between old West heroes and androids: the stoicism, the steely eyes, the ability to draw a gun in a split second. That’s what we get from Yul Brynner in Westworld, and it’s a beautiful thing. His Gunslinger is an amusement-park android, modeled after the classic black-hat cowboy, who malfunctions and starts killing guests. Is he rebelling against his programming, or is he executing it perfectly? Either way, he makes an excellent case for cowboys and robots sharing more screen time.
7. The False Maria from Metropolis
Almost a century after its original release, the convoluted story of Metropolis doesn’t really hold up. What does is Maria, the robot designed to drive men out of their minds with lust and fury. Her famous transformation, from sleek machine to beautiful woman, is a more memorable special effect than anything in the last four Will Smith movies. And then there’ s her other great special effect, the half-naked Whore of Babylon dance, which may be the sexiest version of “the robot” ever performed. As androids go, none ever wreaked more havoc, and did it with more style, than this mechanical vixen.
You’re thinking that this guy should be higher on the list, aren’t you? Okay, putting aside your childhood action figure collection for a moment, let’s take a hard look at how awesome Threepio actually is. He spends most of Star Wars and The Empire Strikes Back whining about his lot in life, and worse, blaming it on R2D2. The cool C3PO doesn’t really emerge until Return of the Jedi, when he finally puts his knowledge of six million languages to good use: first as a mole in Jabba’s palace, then as the guy who convinces the Ewoks to take up arms against the Empire. So in the end, C3PO does save face, and deserves some legit credit for the Rebels’ victory. But let’s not kid ourselves: if R2D2 qualified as an android, he’d knock his counterpart clear out of the running.
5. Brother Cavil/Number One from Battlestar Galactica
There is something to be said for an awesome villain, especially one as compelling as Cavil (Dean Stockwell). Sure, he’s a sadist who wants to annihilate humankind completely. But has a better case ever been made for the superiority of robots than his “I don’t want to be human” speech? While most of science fiction’s androids are striving to be as human-like as possible, Cavil resents his inability to see gamma rays, smell dark matter, and think beyond the limits of spoken language. Also, his dying word is “frak,” which may be the best send-off for a villain since John Dillinger’s “you got me.”
4. Bishop from Aliens
In the version of the future populated by facehuggers, the androids range from devious (Ash from Alien) to inscrutable (David from Prometheus) to completely devoid of personality (Call from Alien:Resurrection). The one you want on your H.R. Giger-designed ship is obviously Bishop (Lance Henrikson). First and foremost, he can do the knife trick.
He’s also honorable, risking own destruction for a fairly sorry-ass crew of humans. It’s really his dry sense of humor that makes him superior to other androids, though. Even after he’s been torn in half by the alien queen, he can’t resist a final dig at Ripley. In Bishop’s own words: he may be synthetic, but he’s not stupid.
3. Pris from Blade Runner
You didn’t think we were done with sex robots, did you? It’s just the logical extension of android technology. So let’s talk about Pris (Daryl Hannah), the most badass replicant in Blade Runner. Yes, her character was created as a “basic pleasure model,” and Rutger Hauer has her beat in the famous-last-words department. But Pris very nearly takes down Harrison Ford single-handedly, using her own patented three-prong attack strategy: mannequin ambush, triple backflip, and Thighmaster of Death. Which just goes to show you: never piss off a sex robot.
2. The Terminator
The Terminator films tell us that in 2029, artificial life forms will take over the world. We’d be cool with that, as long as our robot overlords closely resemble Arnold Schwarzenegger in Terminator 2. A cyborg killing machine reprogrammed to protect young John Connor, he has an uncanny ability to absorb the finer details of human culture. He immediately intuits that his leather jacket would be best accessorized by Ray Bans. He perfects the use of catch phrases after hearing them only once. These are qualities too often overlooked by artificial intelligence. Most importantly, the Terminator balances his toughness by learning compassion. He even sacrifices himself for humanity—much like Jesus, if the Romans had used a vat of boiling steel instead of a cross.
1. Data from Star Trek: The Next Generation
Centuries from now, when government scientists are programming the personalities of America’s space robots, we hope they heed these two words of advice: Commander Data. There’s no better vision of robot technology infused with humanity. You wouldn’t mistake him for a person, what with his infallible memory and his inability to use sarcasm. But as much as Data would like to be human, he’s far more awesome as an android. He plays poker without a tell and does a flawless Sherlock Holmes imitation. Though lacking in sexual desire, he knows how to get it on—which is how the phrase “I’m fully functional” became a Star Trek convention pick-up line. He’s strong enough to lift an anvil, yet sensitive enough to write terrible poetry. He even has a dark side, in the form of his robot twin Lore, who went bad after being programmed with volatile human emotions. Really, Data is the gold standard by which all androids should be judged—phones and tablets included.