The concept of artificial intelligence going postal is nothing new. Since the origins of science fiction, writers have ruminated on the idea of creations rebelling against their creators. New technology is always a source of anxiety for people, so it makes sense that people fear artificial intelligence. (I, for one, welcome our robot overlords.) The new HBO series Westworld features androids who aren’t so content to discover their purpose. They’re likely to get murderous soon, so in anticipation, here are some of Fandom’s favorite killer robots.
M.A.R.K. 13 – Hardware
The M.A.R.K. 13 robot from Richard Stanley’s dark and experimental sci-fi horror film Hardware is a lethal mechanical nightmare. The movie takes place in a bombed-out dystopian hell on Earth where a soldier of the future returns home to his girlfriend for Christmas. On the way, he picks up a metallic skull and arm to give her as a present.
When the girlfriend Jill uses the parts to flesh out a dark art themed sculpture, all hell breaks loose. The M.A.R.K. 13 cyborg is a military-grade death machine outfitted with a horrific array of capabilities. It’s basically a robot that has the power to rebuild itself in any environment with whatever parts it can find.
The head piece contains the programming M.A.R.K. 13 needs to become lethal, but the bots have a bad habit of going berserk. Jill winds up defending herself against the cyborg as it kills everyone around her. It’s an effective killer and a strategic one at that, but the model also has a tendency to short out when wet. This is one robot you don’t want to come across, even if it’s been ripped apart. [Andrew Hawkins]
The Terminator – Terminator Franchise
No other killer robot might be as infamous as the Terminator. These futuristic assassins are unstoppable murder machines built for the sole purpose of eliminating their intended target. They don’t feel pain or love or hate. All they know is how to kill. Granted, plenty of Terminators have been reprogrammed and re-purposed by humans for other means, but if we’re talking about one that just rolled off the assembly line, these are the gold standard when it comes to bad bots.
Arnold Schwarzenegger made the Terminator a household name when he starred as the titular villain in the 1984 classic. Though he was remade into a hero in the blockbuster sequel and subsequent installments, it’s the cold and detached original that made such a startling impression. That’s probably one of the reasons why the next villainous version we saw, the T-1000, became instantly iconic as well. Well, that whole morphing ability probably didn’t hurt either.
We’ve seen numerous other kinds of Terminators as the series progressed with motorcycle Terminators, giant Terminators, and even a Terminator made out of nanobots. The sky(net) is the limit with these monsters. As long as resistance leaders need killing, there will always be a Terminator hunting them down. [Drew Dietsch]
Protectors – Chopping Mall
Writer/director Jim Wynorski is a schlock artist. No two ways about it. When your IMDb profile boasts titles like The Bare Wench Project (and all its sequels), The Witches of Breastwick, and SyFy’s Piranhaconda, you are a schlock artist. And if you’re Jim Wynorski, you’re a prolific one, because someone’s always knocking on your door to direct another CobraGator or Sharkansas Women’s Prison Massacre.
But back before he was replaced by IBM’s Watson in a wig, Jim Wynorski made Chopping Mall. It’s his second of over 100 directing credits since 1984. Chopping Mall is a great name for a movie — one I suspect producer Roger Corman thought of when this flick bombed upon its release as Killbots in 1986. The film takes place in a futuristic shopping mall where eight teens are trapped and must survive the night. That turns out to be exceptionally difficult when the mall’s robotic Protectors start killing them off.
Chopping Mall‘s Protector 101 series robots look like Skynet’s lamest creations. Armed with tranquilizer darts, pincers, tasers, and laser eyes, these chunky bots roll around the mall trying to pew-pew-pew Kelli Maroney (Fast Times at Ridgemont High), Barbara Crampton (Re-Animator), and their rando pals to death. The Terminator it ain’t, but Chopping Mall is a fun B-movie with all things you love about crummy ’80s B-movies. It’s now available on Blu-ray, thanks to the recently resurrected Vestron Video. [Travis Newton]
IG-88A – Star Wars Franchise
Most of the robots in the Star Wars films are benevolent. Droids like C-3P0, R2-D2, and BB-8 do everything they can to help their humanoid friends. On the opposite end of the spectrum is IG-88A, one of the first assassin droids ever produced. IG-88A is a literal killing machine, created for the sole purpose of hunting down enemies of the Empire and taking them out. The Empire scientists developed him with more intelligence than they could handle, however, and IG-88A decided to expand his consciousness into three other IG-88 droids. So, he went from being one killbot to four in the blink of a creepy cybernetic eye.
After going on the hunt for Han Solo, killing loads of fleshy folks, and laying the foundation for a droid rebellion, IG-88A implanted his consciousness in the second Death Star. That’s right; he wanted to kill things on a global scale instead of just an individual one. Thankfully, the Rebellion blew the second Death Star to smithereens before IG-88A had a chance to start his galactic robotic domination. [Danielle Ryan]
ED-209 – RoboCop
Old Detroit has a cancer. The cancer is crime. The cure? Well, if you want to treat a mild rash with an amputation, the answer is ED-209. This hulk of a robot was created by Dick Jones as a simplistic solution to wiping out the undesirable elements in Old Detroit. It was also going to get shipped out to the military for whatever nefarious purpose they wanted. Unfortunately, the first demonstration ED gave was something of a disappointment.
After blowing away a lowly corporate toady (RIP Mr. Kinney), ED was relegated to doing some security work at OCP. Too bad that his greatest opponent wasn’t the cyborg police officer RoboCop, but rather a flight of innocuous stairs. Seeing the poor guy flail like a turtle flipped on its back might be one of the most pitiful moments in killer robot history.
As far as killer robots go, ED-209 is the adorably stupid puppy of the lot. It’s got firepower aplenty and looks intimidating, but it’s about as smart as a box of rocks. However, it’s impossible not to love this doofus. He’s the cutest exterminator of life on this list. [Drew Dietsch]
Robots – “The End of the Show”
Don Hertzfeldt has a thing for robots. The Texas-based animator uses robots in his work so frequently that obsession seems the only reason. His 2015 Oscar-nominated short World of Tomorrow (which is a masterpiece, by the way) draws much of its humor from the absurdity of technology. But robots aren’t killing anyone in World of Tomorrow. For that, you’ll need to watch his contributions to The Animation Show.
The brainchild of Mike Judge (Beavis and Butthead, Silicon Valley) and Don Hertzfeldt, The Animation show was a touring festival of animated shorts. It began in 2003, playing over 200 theaters in North America. Hertzfeldt created a trilogy of shorts for the show: “Welcome to the Show”, “Intermission in the Third Dimension”, and “The End of the Show”. The killer robots in question are in the third and final installment.
The end begins when two fluffy, cloud-shaped characters discuss just how valid and serious the art of animation is. Then, out of the blue — “ROOOBOOOOTS!!” A horde of giant killer robots attacks a panicking flock of the cloud-shaped characters. The robots shoot them with lasers, stomp them into paste, and submit them to electrical torture. Before long, it’s all-out war. Hertzfeldt’s simplistic robot designs aren’t much more sophisticated than a child’s doodle. But that’s the other crucial part of his style that makes his killer robots some of the best ever animated by non-robot hands. [Travis Newton]
The Teachers – Class of 1999
Class of 1999 is what happens when you cross Westworld with Escape from New York and The Breakfast Club. The teachers are robots, and the students are the enemy in this dystopian high school ’80s film. It’s a fun movie that works and never fails to entertain.
The killer bots come from a company called MegaTech who specialize in military defense. Each of them look human and get deployed into a school turned street gang war zone in Seattle. Their programming targets anyone disrupting class, fighting, using illegal drugs or possessing a firearm.
Each of the MegaTech robots has a built-in lethal weapon. The gym coach is outfitted with a rocket launcher, the chemistry teacher has a flamethrower, and the history professor’s arm contains a pneumatic claw with a drill in the center. These machines kill something like 50 kids during the course of the movie, and then in classic Westworld fashion, they turn on their creators. These bots are not to be messed with. [Andrew Hawkins]
The Gunslinger – Westworld
He’s got everything a gunslinger needs: a sharp gray outfit, a signature pinched-front black cowboy hat, and a six-shooter on each hip. And don’t forget the mirror finish irises in his robotic eyes. Those creepy eyes gave Westworld‘s Gunslinger (Yul Brynner) a keen sense of sight — better to shoot you with, my dear. Westworld‘s effects team accomplished The Gunslinger’s pixellated POV shots with vector graphics, making Westworld the first feature-length film ever to use 2D digital effects. It’s just one of the ways in which Michael Crichton‘s Westworld, released in 1973, influenced filmmakers.
Brynner’s nigh-unstoppable cybernetic golem provided inspiration for James Cameron‘s The Terminator. Cameron’s film is the more influential one, but The Terminator owes a portion of its success to Brynner’s performance. He intimidates without emotion and moves with the quiet, determined patience of an ambush predator. When a computer virus infects the robotic inhabitants of the futuristic theme park Delos, The Gunslinger goes rogue. He’s off his preprogrammed rails, and his trademark battery-powered revolvers dispense lethal damage to the guests at Delos. Our hero manages to defeat him after a tense stalking sequence, but like the best killer robots, The Gunslinger has trouble staying dead. So naturally, he made a brief return in the sequel, Futureworld. [Travis Newton]
HAL 9000 – 2001: A Space Odyssey
HAL 9000 is the central computer system aboard the Discovery spaceship in Stanley Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey. HAL is responsible for controlling most of the functions aboard the spacecraft. The astronauts are entirely reliant upon him for information and life support. Unfortunately, HAL begins making “mistakes” that endanger the astronauts. When they begin to question him, he shuts down life support and kills three of them. While HAL may not have a “body” in the same way as the rest of the killer robots in this list, he’s a killer all the same.
HAL delivers one of the most infamous lines by an AI in cinema history: “I’m sorry Dave, I’m afraid I can’t do that.” HAL has reached true sentience and is making decisions for his own well-being instead of that of the crew. It’s a terrifying moment. HAL eventually breaks down and begins even more erratic behavior, but it’s his chilling refusal to help his human hosts that cements his place on this list. [Danielle Ryan]