Pop Tech | Top 5 robot movies of the ’80s

In the 1980s, it seemed that robot movies were all the rage. Cinematic special effects weren’t that sophisticated yet, so most of the reel robots often looked cheesy or awkward (or both). Ah, but those were simpler times, when social media was not yet practically everyone’s digital poison of choice. This meant we didn’t have to put up with people overanalyzing robot films.

To go back to those primitive-yet-idyllic times, we list five live action robot movies that made quite an impression on children growing up in the 1980s.

Photo courtesy of Warner Bros.

Blade Runner (1982)
This is based on the “Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?” — a short story written by Philip K. Dick. A blade runner named Rick Deckard (Harrison Ford) hunts down renegade bioengineered beings called replicants. They are so human-looking that you forget they are still essentially robots. These replicants are made to be superior to human beings — but there’s a catch. Their life span is just four years. Their maker doesn’t want them to get any ideas about “becoming human.” The movie got a reboot in 2017, Blade Runner 2049.

Photo courtesy of Orion Pictures

The Terminator (1984)
Who can forget the fearsome sight of Arnold Schwarzenegger as a cyborg sent by Skynet to kill all the women named Sarah Connor. He was a mechanical Angel of Death whose main purpose was to prevent the lady in question from conceiving the man who would lead a revolution against the machines. This murderous robot had a catchphrase that is still being uttered by fans all over the world: “I’ll be back.” There have been Terminator prequels and sequels, as well as a TV series — but nothing beats the first installment.

Photo courtesy of Columbia Pictures

D.A.R.Y.L. (1985)
This stands for Data-Analyzing Robot Youth Lifeform. The robot in question looks like 10-year-old boy and is well-played by actor Barret Oliver. It was created by the military as part of their “super soldier program.” A scientist who feels iffy about the project decides to let the robot go free. Since it looks like a kid, it gets sent to an orphanage and is eventually adopted by a family. Eventually, the robot, who exhibits incredible skills, thinks that it wants to be human. This presents a problem to the military who comes looking for it later on.

Photo courtesy of TriStar Pictures

Short Circuit (1986)
It’s all about a military robot (again!) that becomes self-aware after being struck by lightning. It escapes the facility where it was manufactured and gets “adopted” by animal caregiver Stephanie Speck (Ally Sheedy). The robot initially names itself “Number 5,” then later decides it should be called “”Johnny 5.” And, of course, it wants to be human, which is a problem when the military comes looking for it, too.

Photo courtesy of Orion Pictures

RoboCop (1987)
It’s the story of a cop named Alex Murphy (Peter Weller), who dies but whose brain (most of his head, really) is merged with a robotic body. Voila! He becomes a programmable law enforcer. However, there’s a glitch (if you can call it that), as this robot’s humanity remains. This movie later spawned sequels and a TV series. It got a reboot in 2014. In any case, we’re still wondering if RoboCop’s nether regions featured something bionic, too.

In hindsight, we realize that all the robots in these ’80s movies yearn to be human. They probably didn’t know what the heck they were asking for.

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