Robots have been with us far longer than most people realize.
Long before we even knew what to call them, robots were already a part of our culture. Case in point, a Czech playwright called Karel Capek used the word robot for the first time in 1920 to describe mechanical creatures of humanoid shape. However, The Master Mystery, a film starred by none other than Harry Houdini, featured a powerful automaton a full two years earlier.
Having said that, it wasn’t until the 80s that the word Robot truly became a household term. By this point, many of the best movies and tv series we watched, and the video games we played, featured some of the coolest, most bad-ass robot designs to ever exist. Here is our list of the
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10 Best Robots From 80s Pop Culture
Far into the future, the world’s most eminent authority in the field of robotics, Dr. Thomas Light, gives life to a new generation of robots possessing a super advanced artificial intelligence matrix capable of thinking and acting like the humans around them. This advancement made a society where robots and humans worked together to create a utopian world.
However, Dr. Albert W. Wily, a former colleague of Dr. Light, starts a violent revolution with the aid of his personal robot army in an attempt to conquer the world.
Thus, Mega Man was born.
Rock, Dr. Light’s favored robot, his “son” if you will, takes it upon himself to become a battle robot, defender of humanity, in an attempt to put an end to the evil Dr. Wily’s plan.
Throughout his many adventures, Mega Man has had to face some ruthless and very powerful robots, but thanks to his fantastic abilities, which include his Mega Buster, Hyper Bomb, and Thunder Beam, he has always managed to come out on top.
Since his introduction in 1987, Mega Man has become one of the most beloved and recognizable characters in the world of video games. Today, Mega Man has a legion of avid fans who continue to buy and play his video games.
Number 5, aka Johnny 5
Number 5, or Johnny 5 as he chooses to be known, was first introduced to us in 1986 by the movie Short Circuit. Number 5, created by writers Brent Maddock and S.S. Wilson, and voiced by actor Tim Blaney, quickly joined the ranks of truly memorable robot designs the world has ever seen.
Number 5 was an 80s robot created by the military for the military. However, a freak accident grants him a semblance of consciousness that only grows as he begins to interact with the humans and things that he comes across.
For all intents and purposes, Johnny 5 is alive and able to experience and interpret emotions.
Unlike most other robots on this list, Number 5 is not truly humanoid. He has a hard metal body, full of orthogonal surfaces, a rectangular head with two large camera-lens eyes (Think a more jagged WAll-E), three-pronged “hands” and tank-treads instead of legs.
He is hopelessly inquisitive, constantly searching for new data to process. It is this personality trait that allows him to quickly evolve from a smart yet broken machine to a genuinely charming, perceptive, and insightful creature.
Like so many other great robots in science fiction, he possesses a combination of rationality and empathy, devoid of prejudice, that places him on a path of non-violence.
Number 5 abandons the use of his laser weapon early in the move in favor of coming up with intelligent and creative solutions to the conundrums with which he is faced.
Short Circuit was a movie originally aimed at younger audiences; however, what begins as a light comedy soon turns into an interesting meditation on the banality of war that greatly succeeds at dismissing intolerance and militarization of our society.
In June 2016 the Netflix-exclusive animated series Voltron: Legendary Defender was released. This was an attempt that sought to reboot the adventures of a mythical robot Voltron and its 5 human pilots.
However, to truly understand who Voltron really was we must go back in time 40 years ago, to the launch of Vehicle Team Voltron.
For millennia, the entire cosmos has been subdued by the power of the ruthless Emperor Zarkon, who along with the hordes of the Galra Empire, has been conquering planetary system after planetary systems.
That is until King Alfor, sovereign of the planet Altea, decided to resist the onslaught of the Empire by relying on a weapon so powerful that Zarkon himself yearned to take control of it.
However, King Alfor lost and Altea was defeated. It is at this time that King Alfor, to protect his legacy and his daughter, Princess Allura, divides his ultimate weapon into 5 pieces: each piece a giant mechanical lion war machine.
And so the legend of Voltron, defender of the universe, is born.
Each lion represents one elemental power: Lightning, Fire, Forest, Water, and Earth.
While each lion is a formidable war machine capable of great feats of strength and firepower, when they combine into Voltron they become greater than the sum of their parts.
Voltron is armed to the teeth! He can fly and possesses a battery of high-tech weaponry capable of dispensing with any enemy that dares to stand up to him. His arsenal includes several blades, including the mighty Blazing Sword, as well as canons and blasters.
Arguably, Optimus Prime is one of the most instantly recognized robots in the entire world.
Optimus Prime, originally known as Orion Pax, is the unconditional leader of the noble Autobots. Out of all the Autobots, Optimus Prime is the wisest and the most powerful, and he alone is able to unite the scattered warriors of Cybertron into a capable and mighty force.
He has the ability to transform into a powerful combat vehicle since fighting on Cybertron. His firepower was unmatched among Transformers, except for maybe Megatron.
Thanks to Optimus Prime’s constant leadership, the Autobots can repel the evil Decepticons’ assaults over and over again with renewed vigor.
Originally a civilian, Optimus Prime was chosen by the legendary Leadership Matrix to bear the responsibility of leading the Autobots to a new home. Eventually, this led the Autobots to planet Earth where their age-old struggle continues.
Optimus Prime is made of metal, but he has more heart than most humans and he mourns every single life lost in the fight to stop the evil Decepticons.
Optimus Prime is equipped with a powerful laser rifle with which he can easily dispatch the most powerful enemies.
Lance Bishop is the official mission Scientist and Executive Officer of the USS Sulaco. He seems like an inconsequential character, but it is his actions and self-sacrifice that allow Ellen Ripley’s survival of the Xenomorph’s onslaught in Alien.
The iconic alien dissection scene is carried by his stoicism and cool imperturbability.
Ripley is initially suspicious of the android’s programming and proclamations of loyalty. However, after most of the Colonial Marines have been brutally and gorily eliminated by the bestial alien xenomorph, it is Bishop that manages to get Ripley, Hicks, and Newt aboard the ship.
He dies a brutal death at the hands of the Alien xenomorph, impaled and gutted. However, he was loyal to the end.
Starring the one and only David Hasselhoff, Knight Rider aired between 1982 and 1986 for four seasons and 90 episodes. But the series’ true protagonist was a car named KITT and a worthy entry on this list of top ten robots of the 1980s.
KITT was a Pontiac Trans-Am on the outside and pure Artificial Intelligence on the inside. KITT can interact with his driver, Michael Knight as if he were another human being.
He is completely self-sufficient and entirely indestructible thanks to the molecular mesh that covers his chassis. In other words, KITT can just shrug off bullets and even rocket-propelled grenades like it’s nothing.
Starting with the fourth season, KITT undergoes a powerful upgrade to its systems and he gains the ability to reach unimaginable speeds thanks to an advanced aerodynamic armor system.
Bottom line, KITT is one of the best robots and one of the coolest cars of 80s Television.
The Tachikomas come to us via the amazing Ghost In The Shell saga. These arachnid-looking robots are equipped with a super advanced yet quirky technology that makes them one of the most interesting entries on our list.
The Tachikomas are part of a tactical weapons unit used by Section 9 of Public Security and used as either one-man tanks or as support units. However, Tachikomas are often allowed autonomy and given free rein to operate on their own.
What sets these “spider-tanks” apart is the fact that they are equipped with advanced Artificial Intelligence capable of planning and carrying out complex field missions but whose personality is similar to that of a child!
All Tachikomas are extremely inquisitive, curious, and loyal beyond measure.
Tachikoma memories are synchronized daily to share their individual experiences and thus increase their collective skill base.
Different Tachikomas possess different personalities; for example, Batou’s personal Tachikoma gives him preferential treatment, and has a slightly hyperactive personality. He is significantly more restless than other Tachikomas.
Intelligence is not the only impressive trait of the Tachikoma tanks. Their physical appearance is also very imposing.
Four articulated legs spread out of a central body. A pair of arms sprouts from the front cylinder and end in a three-fingered prong. Their right arm can fire a mounted shotgun. Some models have a cabin attached to the back of the body for a human pilot.
Four sensors line the central body: three of them on the upper body and one located on the abdomen.
For armament, they carry a light machine gun and heavy weapon centered on the front of the body. Some Tachikomas prefer a grenade launcher, and others prefer a six-barreled machine gun.
Bottom line is that Tachikomas masterfully blend the best that science fiction has to offer.
I’ll never forget the first time I saw the T-800 emerge from the flaming wreck of the 18-wheeler in the first Terminator film. It was one of the most brutal scenes my young impressionable mind had ever seen.
The Cyberdyne Systems Terminator 800 series, more commonly known as the T-800, is the main antagonist of 1984’s The Terminator film by James Cameron and played iconically by the great Arnold Schwarzenegger.
The Terminator was a weapon developed by the Skynet artificial intelligence neural network to exterminate humans.
The first time we see the T-800, it is wrapped in cultured living human skin and tissue, which allows him to easily infiltrate and exterminate its targets.
The T-800 not only looks and acts human, but it also bleeds, sweats, and smells like a real human. Moreover, the T-800 is capable of modulating and imitating human voices.
The T-800 is far stronger, faster, and more dangerous than any previous Terminator models. It possesses infrared vision with a capacity for 15x zoom. It is also capable of calculating highly complex parameters such as gravity, radar, barometric pressure, wind speed, and come up with extremely detailed kinetic models to assist in its extermination job.
The endoskeleton is built out of high-grade titanium-tungsten hyper-alloys, which makes them immune to 20th-century firearms. They can operate for more than one hundred years without requiring a recharge of their energy cells.
The original T-800 was dispatched to exterminate Sarah Connor in 1984, thus preventing the birth of her son John Connor, leader of the human resistance. Ironically, it was his defeat by Sarah, who crushed him with a hydraulic press, that led Cyberdyne to make dramatic technological and research breakthroughs, that eventually led to the development of Skynet and the Terminators themselves.
Time travel makes my head hurt!
The rich are constantly getting richer. The poor, as always, get poorer and poorer. Public safety has never been lower, the police face a hostile environment and in turn, begin to rely on brutality to enforce the law. Ordinary people are stressed and live their day-to-day lives in fear of losing, what little they have.
No, I’m not talking about the current state of the world, I’m talking about one of the best science fiction movies ever made: Robocop, the genius futurist, dystopian satire released in 1987 by Paul Verhoeven.
Robocop, officially known as OCP Crime Prevention Unit 1, is created to serve the public trust, protect the innocent, and uphold the law.
Armed with the powerful Auto-9, which is holstered in a mechanical holster that deploys from within his leg, and a sharp spike that protrudes from his closed fist, Robocopp is a force to be reckoned with.
Alex Murphy was an honest man, a good husband, and an exemplary father. He was a cop for the Detroit City Police Department and he always strove to do right by his family and coworkers. While on a routine mission, he is severely injured by a gang of violent criminals and as a consequence dies from his wounds.
Megacorporation Omni Consumer Products, better known as OCP, claims his dead body, and replaces the majority of his damaged tissue with robotic and cybernetic parts; thus creating Robocop.
Robocop possesses a plethora of enhanced abilities such as improved target tracking and projectile trajectory calculation matrix that allows him to make highly improbable ricochet shots.
His visual systems allow him to analyze the stress response of criminals, which helps him to determine guilt. He can also record any interaction and provide the police department with unimpeachable evidence.
His body is massive, but it is constructed out of titanium and is reinforced with Kevlar plates to allow a high degree of flexibility, considering his size and weight. This means that Robocop is highly resistant to firearms and explosions, as well as kinetic trauma.
Robocop may have started as a flesh-and-bone human, but he certainly deserves a top spot on any list of the best robots.
R. Giskard Reventlov
R. Giskard Reventlov is one of the most important characters in the entire Foundation Saga, Isaac Asimov’s seminal work of science fiction literature.
R. Giskard Reventlov first appears in the book The Robots of Dawn (from Amazon), as a robot assistant to Dr. Fastolfe. In the book, Giskard, alongside robot R. Daneel Olivaw, will help detective Elijah Baley solve the case of the murdered robot R. Jander Panell.
Later in the book Robots and Empire, he will contribute to a significant degree to the flourishing and prosperity of humanity throughout the galaxy.
Giskard, as he is commonly known, was created by Dr. Fastolfe to look after his young daughter Vasilia. Vasilia was a gifted scientist and master programmer. While experimenting on Giskard as a young girl, she inadvertently programmed him with an ability to penetrate the minds of those around him; which allowed him to read and manipulate human emotions.
Giskard’s role in Robots and Empire is of great importance and we learn of several times that he uses his secret ability to manipulate the minds of key characters to steer the course of human history.
Giskard also assists R. Daneel in the development of the Zeroth Law, a precursor to the legendary Three Laws of Robotics.
At the end of the book, he allows the misguided plan of Dr. Amadiro and Dr. Mandamus to irradiate the planet Earth to come to fruition. All because he believes that this ruthless act will ultimately be beneficial to the human race as they will be forced to leave their dying planet and spread out into the galaxy, thus founding their second great civilization.
However, his decision to allow the death of planet Earth, and of the billions of humans that inhabit it, is so drastic that his positronic circuits go into stasis. Before doing so, he programmed R. Daneel with his telepathic abilities.
R. Giskard Reventlov is, without a doubt, one of the most profound and interesting robots to have even been imagined by a human mind.