The Definitive Ranking of Robot Sidekicks

Arnold Schwarzenegger's Terminator and 15 other rad robo-buddies

June 22, 2015

by staff

Photo: TriStar Pictures

From classic films like “Metropolis” to iconic TV shows like “Lost in Space,” the road to science fiction has long been paved with the scrap metal of memorable robots.

Some, like Sico from “Rocky IV” live to serve humans, while others, like the Cylons from “Battlestar Galactica” live to eradicate them. In our opinion, however, one class of automaton stands above the rest — the robot sidekick.

Because everyone needs a best friend, right?

So, with that in mind, and “Terminator: Genisys” on the horizon (opens July 1), and Arnold Schwarzenegger sitting down with Howard this week, here’s a list of the all-time great robot companions to ever hit the large or small screens:

16. Edward Scissorhands, “Edward Scissorhands”

Johnny Depp and Winona Ryder in "Edward Scissorhands" Johnny Depp and Winona Ryder in “Edward Scissorhands” Photo: Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation

“Edward Scissorhands” is a fine film, but the titular protagonist makes for a lackluster robot companion. Yeah, that’s right, we said it: he’s a robot. Most people incorrectly assume he’s some type of Frankenstein’s monster, probably because Johnny Depp’s face is painted to look like a corpse, but in fact he’s a Gothic-styled mechanical man constructed to… wait for it, wait for it… cut cookies. That’s why he has scissors for hands. Anyway, he’s a cool dude and everything, but kind of a crap robot companion.

First, he’s way, way too emo. Life is tragic enough, Ed — we don’t need you frowning all day long like a teenager who just dropped his phone into an un-flushed public toilet. Second, everyone knows the real key to a solid friendship is a convoluted secret handshake. Can you even fist bump, scissor-handed bro? Still, Edward gets the last spot on the list because he’s a great hedge trimmer and motivated landscapers are hard to find.

Classic Edward Scissorhands quote: “I am not complete.”

15. Vicki, “Small Wonder”

"Small Wonder" “Small Wonder” Photo: Fox

In most scenarios when a grown man builds a “little girl” and takes her home, we call it creepy. But in the ’80s we called it a wacky sitcom premise just crazy enough to work. And, really, what son of a robotics engineer hasn’t asked his dad to design him an adorable little sister? Starring Tiffany Brissette as Vicki, “Small Wonder” had all the charm of “Punky Brewster” without any of its ultra-mild rebellion. She dressed like a Stepford Wife in training, but all things considered she was a pretty sweet girl.

Classic Vicki quote: “I can show you how to smoke… I saw Betty Davis do it in an old movie on TV.”

14. Bubo, “The Clash of the Titans”

Harry Hamlin and Bubo from "The Clash of the Titans" (1981) Harry Hamlin and Bubo from “The Clash of the Titans” (1981) Photo: Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer

Bubo gets a bad rap because the special effects from the 1981 version of “Clash of the Titans” look about as realistic as a third-rate porn star’s breasts. But in our minds this loyal robot owl is actually a hoot (yeah, we went there!) Many rightfully criticize the mechanical bird for being a R2-D2 rip-off – as both crash into their surroundings like they’re being operated by drunk drivers and both bleep or bloop instead of talking – but, again, we say who cares? This is a robot owl that Hephaestus, the god of blacksmiths, forged from gold so that Perseus would have a better chance at defeating Medusa and the Kraken. That’s just cool.

Classic Bubo quote: “Doodle-bop, be-boop.”

13. Johnny Five, “Short Circuit”

Johnny Five and Ally Sheedy in "Short Circuit" (1986) Johnny Five and Ally Sheedy in “Short Circuit” (1986) Photo: TriStar Pictures

A freak lightning bolt strikes a weaponized robot, giving it both a soul and a knack for John Wayne impressions – it’s a tale as old as time, really. But “Short Circuit’s” motorized hero, Johnny Five stands a cut above the other robots with Pinocchio Syndrome because he’s optimistic, he’s an avid reader, and he has a sweet shoulder-mounted laser cannon. Did we mention he’s also friends with some of the ’80s hottest celebrities, like Ally Sheedy and Steve Guttenberg?

Classic Johnny Five quote: “Hey laser lips, your mama is a snow blower!”

12. Optimus Prime, “Transformers”

Optimus Prime from "Transformers" Optimus Prime from “Transformers” Photo: Paramount Pictures

What makes Optimus Prime a kick-ass companion? For starters, he teamed up with Shia LaBeouf to save mankind on several occasions… and anyone who can handle spending that much time with Shia deserves a mother-loving medal. In addition to being the Supreme Commander of the alien Autobots, he’s fully capable of turning into a semi-truck. Not only does he save the Earth once every few years, but he also plays a vital role in the transportation industry. Admittedly, we are concerned with Optimus Prime’s fuel economy.

Classic Optimus Prime quote: “Freedom is the right of all sentient beings.”

11. Dot Matrix, “Spaceballs”

Joan Rivers voicing Dot Matrix in "Spaceballs" (1987) Joan Rivers voicing Dot Matrix in “Spaceballs” (1987) Photo: Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer

Joan Rivers skewering C-3P0 in a Mel Brooks comedy? Sign us up, please. She voices Dot Matrix, a crass, cock-blocking android programmed to protect Princess Vespa’s virginity at all costs. She’s a pretty solid robot companion, especially considering she’s a walking, talking chastity belt, but she only made the list because we really miss hearing Joan’s voice.

Classic Dot Matrix quote: “That was my virgin-alarm. It’s programmed to go off before you do!”

10. D.A.R.Y.L., “D.A.R.Y.L.”

Barret Oliver and Michael McKean in "D.A.R.Y.L." (1985) Barret Oliver and Michael McKean in “D.A.R.Y.L.” (1985) Photo: Paramount Pictures

Remember the whiny kid from “The NeverEnding Story”? Turns out he played D.A.R.Y.L., too. The artificially intelligent machine, whose name is an acronym for Data Analyzing Robot Youth Lifeform, is extremely good at sports, video games, driving cars sideways, and flying fighter jets. Unfortunately, his personality is still a work in progress. Oh well, we’re still picking him first during gym class.

Classic D.A.R.Y.L. quote: “What is a hooker?”

9. Inspector Gadget, “Inspector Gadget”

"Inspector Gadget" “Inspector Gadget” Photo: DIC Entertainment

First, let’s address the elephant in the room: Inspector Gadget’s hat and trench coat make him look like a sexual predator. Putting that aside, he’s actually one of the more useful cyborgs in the biz. He orders milk on the rocks at bars. He watches over his niece Penny without any sort of impropriety. He’s really a stand-up guy. Err, robot. More to the point, he has dozens of useful gadgets installed on his person, like binoculars, a helicopter propeller, handcuffs, and even super stretchy arms. Hmm, upon further consideration, maybe he’s better suited to moonlight as a dominatrix.

Classic Inspector Gadget quote: “Go, go, gadget arms!”

8. Marvin, “The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy”

Trillian (Zooey Deschanel) and Marvin in "The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy" (2005) Trillian (Zooey Deschanel) and Marvin in “The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy” (2005) Photo: Disney

Marvin the Paranoid Android is a super-intelligent robot who joins Ford Prefect on his romp around the galaxy, while complaining every second of every day. Voiced by Alan Rickman in “The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy,” he claims to be 50,000 times smarter than the average human and a billion times more depressed, He spends his free time waxing miserable about the meaning of life and penning lullabies. The infamously sad character, which originally appeared in Douglas Adams’ BBC Radio production of “The HItchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy,” inspired Radiohead to write the disturbingly humorous song “Paranoid Android.” When your ennui is so intense that it’s bumming Thom Yorke out, well, then you’ve got a problem. All of that aside, Marvin makes for one hell of a traveling companion.

Classic Marvin quote: “I’d make a suggestion, but you wouldn’t listen… No one ever does.”

7. Evil Robot Bill & Ted, “Bill & Ted’s Bogus Journey”

Evil Robot Bill and Ted from "Bill and Ted's Bogus Journey" Evil Robot Bill and Ted from “Bill and Ted’s Bogus Journey” Photo: Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer

We know what you’re thinking: “How can Evil Robot Bill & Ted be so near the top of the list when they murdered Bill and Ted and sent them to Hell?” Hey, we’re not here to judge. Wicked or not, these (literal) metal heads are pretty cool dudes when they aren’t pushing Bill and Ted off of a cliff. They’re slobs, sure, but so are their flesh and blood counterparts. Where they really excel is with their gnarly sense of humor and totally quotable lines, like Evil Ted’s comment about getting “a full-on robot chubby” after looking at pictures of the princesses. Plus, they get bonus points because “Bill & Ted’s Bogus Journey” is a most excellent and underrated movie.

Classic Evil Bill quote: “I totally loogied on that good, dead me!”

6. K.I.T.T., “Knight Rider”

David Hasselhoff and K.I.T.T. in "Knight Rider' David Hasselhoff and K.I.T.T. in “Knight Rider’ Photo: NBC

Anyone who says dogs are man’s best friend has clearly never taken a ride in K.I.T.T. Powered by an artificially intelligent supercomputer and voiced by the guy who played Dustin Hoffman’s dad in “The Graduate,” this 1982 Pontiac Trans AM spent most of the ’80s saving David Hasselhoff’s ass. If that doesn’t float your boat, K.I.T.T. also comes outfitted with a variety of gadgets, including self-inflating tires and an onboard bomb sniffer. Bet your hybrid import can’t do that!

Classic K.I.T.T. quote: “I’m already reviewing my computer logs of our confrontation. In a matter of hours I will know everything there is to know about that banana-headed bovine!”

5. Bender, “Futurama”

Bender from Fox's "Futurama" Bender from Fox’s “Futurama” Photo: Fox

You’re wondering why an alcoholic, human-hating robot whose only semi-marketable skill is bending pieces of metal ranks so high on the list, right? Here’s a hint: Bender is effing hilarious. The sardonic son of a vacuum cleaner smokes too much, drinks too much, and threatens to beat children just the right amount, but we love him because his heart is in the right place. Well, no, he’s a robot, so it’s probably not. But his off-putting quotes do double as pearls of wisdom for us puny mortals to live by.

Classic Bender quote: “Have you ever tried simply turning off the TV, sitting down with your children, and hitting them?”

4. Jarvis, “Iron Man”

Robert Downey Jr. talking to Jarvis in "Iron Man" Robert Downey Jr. talking to Jarvis in “Iron Man” Photo: Marvel

Next on our list is “Iron Man’s” Jarvis (voiced by Paul Bettany). You can think of him like Tony Stark’s version of Siri, except he’s capable of doing way more than directing you to the nearest Chipotle. Like C-3PO, Jarvis is stodgy, British, and frequently judgmental, but unlike C-3PO the dude can command Iron Man’s drone robot army in a pinch. Even more impressive, he evolves during “Avengers: Age of Ultron” into a purple-skinned superhero named Vision. And everyone needs at least one token purple-skinned friend, right?

Classic Jarvis quote: “I seem to do quite well for a stretch, and then at the end of the sentence I say the wrong cranberry.”

3. Data, “Star Trek: The Next Generation”

"Star Trek: The Next Generation" “Star Trek: The Next Generation” Photo: CBS

A sentient android-turned-Starfleet Officer, Data has served alongside humans, Klingons, and a variety of other species in a handful of “Star Trek” movies and on nearly 200 episodes of “The Next Generation.” Like many of the robots on this list, most especially the space traveling companions, He spends the majority of his calculating the probability of mission failure and analyzing the nuances of human emotion, yet basic concepts like humor, sadness, and romance still elude him. While we admit the dude’s scaly, pasty-white/yellowish skin is off-putting, he’s ranks near the very top of this list because he’s smart, loyal, reliable and frequently brave. Plus, we have it on good authority that Data has a fully functioning robo-wang that he uses to boldly go where no robo-wang has gone before.

Classic Data quote: “Commander Riker’s easy-going manner and sense of humor is fascinating to me. I believe it to be one reason he is so popular among the crew. It may also be partly responsible for his success in matters of love. There may be a correlation between humor and sex. The need for more research is clearly indicated.”

2. C-3PO and R2-D2, “Star Wars”

R2-D2 and C-3PO in "Star Wars" R2-D2 and C-3PO in “Star Wars” Photo: Disney

C-3PO is one of “Star Wars’ most cherished characters, but he’s also a gold-plated stick in the mud. His rigid formality makes him a hilarious foil for Han Solo and Chewbacca, but he often whines like there’s a lightsaber stuck up his ass. We get that C-3PO is a protocol droid, and that he doesn’t enjoy wandering around the desert like an extra from the Old Testament, but there’s never an excuse for being annoying. Thankfully, C-3PO comes part and parcel with R2-D2, the galaxy’s most adorable robot. As an astromech droid, R2-D2 repairs X-Wings and plans their navigational routes. But all of that is secondary to how adorable he is. We’re surprised Luke doesn’t take the little guy to the Mos Eisley cantina more often because we imagine the ladies would be all over him in under 12 parsecs.

Classic C-3PO quote: “I really don’t see how that is going to help! Surrender is a perfectly acceptable alternative in extreme circumstances! The Empire may be gracious enough to…” (he trails off as Leia shuts him down)

1. The Terminator, a.k.a Cyberdyne Systems Model 101 Series 800 Version 2.4, “Terminator 2: Judgment Day”

Edward Furlong and Arnold Schwarzenegger in "Terminator 2: Judgment Day" Edward Furlong and Arnold Schwarzenegger in “Terminator 2: Judgment Day” Photo: DIC Entertainment

At the top of our list is The Terminator, obviously — the artificially intelligent cyborg sent back in time to save John Connor while rocking sunglasses at night. There are dozens of great reasons why he reigns supreme, one of which is that, unlike most kids’ toys these days, the Terminator is built Ford tough. The dude can take a licking and keep on ass-kicking. He can also be programmed to use hip, pragmatic, and multi-lingual phrases like “no problemo” and “hasta la vista, baby.” Best of all, the Terminator is loyal to mankind, happy to give his life if it means staving off the robot apocalypse. We just love it when they go against their own.

Classic Terminator quote: “Chill out, dickwad.”

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