Nerd Talk: The 10 Best Robots from 80's Movies

According to one nerdy 80’s kid

June 7, 2017


I grew up in a time before digital effects dominated the big screen - you had to leave it to cartoons to really let the imagination go wild. Because of this, the effects of the 1980's today often look pretty dumb. But let George Lucas and those awful Star Wars prequels remind you that digital doesn't mean better when we look back. I guess it's all suspending disbelief on some level. When we were young, it was much easier to let go and believe in robots. These are the ten that stuck with me decades later.

10. Sico from Rocky IV (1985)
This is really the worst robot ever, but somehow when thinking about my favorites, it still popped up. And at least it produced “Happy Birthday Paulie” something that definitely needs to be sampled by an all 8 bit inspired nerd rock band.

Happy Birthday Paulie

9. Fix-Its from *Batteries Not Included (1987)
Even watching clips from this cheesy 80’s film is painful, but as a child, these robots made me feel things. This is back when I trusted robots to not destroy us. This was before Terminator 2: Judgement Day.

Alien childbirth

8. Dot Matrix from Spaceballs (1987)
I’m not sure if the Joan Rivers of robots is on this list because she was the less annoying/funnier C-3PO figure we deserved, or because today it represents an element from one of the dumbest movies I ever owned and loved.

RIP Dot Matrix

7. RoboCop from RoboCop (1987)
Robocop is god awful. There’s nothing redeeming about this film, but somehow a gunslinging awkward robot man policing Detroit is better than the three previous films. That’s how bad those were. Robocop would get several sequels - the second film’s villainous RoboCop2 featured a robot with a drug problem - all of them also bad. I didn’t bother seeing the remake because why?

Your move creep

RoboCop shot a dude in the junk!

6. Jinx from Space Camp (1986)
What tiny 6-year old nerd didn’t wanna go to Space Camp?! Tom and Marsha, my parents, weren’t having any of it. I would have to live vicariously through Joaquin Phoenix, Lea Thompson, and the teenage crew who aided by the mischievous golf ball looking robot Jinx who just wants to make friends get shot to space turning camp into reality.

Look at that baby Joaquin!

5. Soundwave from Transformers: The Movie (1986)
I know there are Dinobots and Constructicons both things that were awesome to childhood me. There was a villain that literally turned into a giant gun (Megatron), but it’s his number two that steals the show - a robot boombox with the coolest vocoder voice, Soundwave. I asked Grandma to buy me Soundwave and one day she showed up with the gift of Ravage, a tiny tape that transformed into a panther that shot out of Soundwave’s chest. Grandma just didn’t get it… silly Granda.

4. Unicron from Transformers: The Movie (1986)
There are at least 12 more robots from the Transformers that should make this list and Optimus Prime is one of them - wanna fight about it? - but I have this very specific memory of being six years old and my poor mother having to sit with me and the horde of other children to watch Transformers: The Movie as my little brain was melted by the enormity and evil of a giant planet that transformed into a winged robot with a goatee.

3. R2D2 from Star Wars V-VI
Can they understand him or not?! R2D2 is the perfect counterpart to the terribly annoying C-3PO. Look, as a kid I hated 3PO. The only way they could do worse: Jar Jar. R2D2, on the other hand, is a garbage can of badassery. He’s like a million years old by the time Episode VII rolls around and he’s still saving everyone. He’s a hero of multiple galactic wars/struggles all while chirping and beeping and conveying emotion. Technically he’s from the 1970’s so he’s not gonna be #1 - then I’d have to rename this list.

Help Us Obi-Wan  This is my 1st

2. The Terminator T-800 Model 101 from The Terminator (1984)
I remember playing in the woods at cub scout camp one summer and somehow a bunch of 8-year-olds started playing pretend by calling out their favorite action movie hero and then absorbing their powers to kill each other in the mountains. Humans are weird. When one kid shouted out he was the Terminator and could only be killed by crushing him in a machine press, the rest of us may have pretended to have seen this R-rated dystopian film, but I doubt any had actually been allowed. Well, curse Cyberdyne Systems. At a birthday party a few weeks later, we saw Terminator and it was terrifying. Arnold Schwarzenegger slowly becoming less human and more machine in a relentless chase to murder Sarah Connor still gives me the willies.

The character would be perfected in the early 90’s with Terminator 2: Judgement Day and later ruined in the 2000’s. The prediction that artificial intelligence would become self-aware and stop the humans at any cost from shutting down said awareness is pretty much everything that I fear in 2017 and beyond.

1. Johnny 5 - Short Circuit (1986)
We must have watched Short Circuit 500 times in one summer. A murderous government robot gone hysterically haywire - what’s not to love?! He’s being hunted by other murderous government robots with the aim of a Storm Trooper. Not only does Johnny 5 outclass them with tactics, but also delivers hilarious banter!

Now that is how I wish I cursed today instead of all the f-bombs… They made a sequel minus the big stars but still with the white guy in brown face playing an Indian engineer (not ok). And while that movie sorta sucked, it did give us this:

Again, awesome song that I still sing today, terrible casting decisions.

Well, my YouTube suggested videos list is now full of crazy ‘80s robot references and I'll never accomplish anything ever again...

MRW I get up for work early only to find out, once I arrive at work, that I don't work this morning.