Best Androids in Pop Culture
[Movie still from Blade Runner 1982, Warner Bros.]
Blade Runner 2049 is about to hit theaters, and while the reviews have been good, what we’re really interested in is whether or not it will give us a definitive answer to the question posed by the original movie: is Deckard a replicant? (And if so, why does he age?)
As we gear up to re-enter Blade Runner’s world of dark intrigue and murderous androids, let’s take a look at a few more of the best humanoid robots that pop culture has to offer.
[TV still from Star Trek: The Next Generation, Paramount Television]
Data, Star Trek: The Next Generation
As the innocent android with a heart of gold (and a positronic brain that can hack a ship’s computer in the literal blink of an eye), Data is one of the most beloved characters in the Trekverse. With his pearly white skin and golden eyes, Data may not look fully human, but he longs to be one with every electronic fiber of his being, and spends much of the course of The Next Generation exploring what it means to be human. Although Data cannot feel human emotions, his quest to emulate and understand them turns out to be a constant source of both comic relief and genuine heart throughout the show. And while the Star Trek movies eventually gave Data an emotions chip that enabled him to experience the full spectrum of human feelings, the best version of the character will always be the one from the show: emotionless, inquisitive, and surprisingly loyal.
[Movie still from The Terminator, Hemdale and Pacific Western Productions]
T-800, The Terminator
While T-800 starts out as the bad guy, by Terminator 2, he’s mended his evil robot ways to aid Sarah Connor in her quest to protect her son from Skynet. Sure, as a robot, the T-800 is inferior to the oft-gooey T-1000, but as a character, he is leagues beyond anything else Skynet can throw at the heroes of the Terminatorverse. And since it sounds like Hollywood is going to keep cranking out Terminator movies at least as long as Arnold is willing to keep making them (and maybe even beyond), it turns out T-800’s promise to come back was pretty well founded.
[TV still from Battlestar Galactica, NBC]
The Cylons, Battlestar Galactica
As the villains of the series, the human-appearing Cylons of Battlestar Galactica did a lot of terrible things, beginning with the destruction of the human world of Caprica and just getting worse from there. However, while the Cylons as a whole never developed much of a conscience, each model – and, in most cases, each individual version of each model – came with a fully formed personality all its own. From the sensual Six to the compassionate Eight to the cooler, more mechanical One, the Cylons were fascinating characters to watch evolve through the course of the show. And while the plot of Battlestar Galactica eventually got a little too ambitious in regards to the Cylon mythology, the Cylons of the first few seasons were some of the most interesting and compelling human-appearing robots to ever grace television screens.
[Movie still from Star Wars: Episode VII – The Force Awakens, Lucasfilm and Walt Disney Pictures]
C-3PO, Star Wars
You can’t have a list of best androids in pop culture and not include Star Wars’ uppity protocol droid C-3PO. He may not look as convincingly human as some of the other robots on this list, but that just adds to his charm, which is somehow not dulled by his constant complaining throughout all three original movies. C-3PO may pale in comparison to his companion R2-D2 when it comes to courage, but he makes up for it in loyalty, proving time and time again how much he cares for his friends (and how sad his little droid heart would be if they were ever crushed in a trash compactor). And although he is rarely intentionally funny, his perplexed (and often annoyed) one-liners provide great amusement every time he is on screen. Hopefully he, and his red arm, will be part of the Star Wars universe for as long as it continues.
Baymax, Big Hero 6
Like C-3PO, Baymax isn’t exactly convincingly human in appearance, but he makes up for it in heart. Created as a healthcare companion/science project by Tadashi Hamada, Baymax winds up being the support system, confidante, and secret weapon of Tadashi’s younger brother, Hiro. Unlike most of the other robots on this list, Baymax has very little care for his own wellbeing, and instead focuses entirely on the health and happiness of the people around him. This selflessness translates into a softer (figuratively and, in the case of his inflatable body, literally) brand of heroism, where Baymax is far more concerned with Hiro’s emotional state than defeating the bad guy. And while he definitely can pack quite a punch, Baymax’s true strength lies in his gentle spirit and his big, squishy hugs.
Lauren is a writer of YA speculative fiction and a dedicated eater of queso. She lives in Middle Tennessee with her husband, two daughters, and a half-blind dog. When she’s not busy with her family, binge-watching TV shows, or writing books about dragons or superheroes, she can probably be found on Twitter, or in close proximity to coffee, tacos, or a bookstore.