The Evolution of Movie Androids


This Friday, Prometheus — the sorta-prequel to returning director Ridley Scott’s own 1979 sci-fi masterpiece, Alien — invades theaters, with Michael Fassbender as the title ship’s butler and maintenance man, David, who just so happens to be an android (Fassbender has said that he modeled the motions and mannerisms of David after Olympic swimmer Greg Louganis rather than previous big-screen versions of the robotic human doppelgangers). It got us thinking about the movie androids that preceded him, er, it, and how far Hollywood has come in that department.

T-800, T-850, T-101 (Arnold Schwarzenegger), Terminator Movies

Arnold Schwarzenegger T2

Super-human powers: Is an expert computer system at its (zillion) core; power source, er, lifespan of up to 120 years; vastly superior endoskeleton to that of humankind; self-healing.

Weaknesses: The human resistance; the noses of dogs; other Terminators (like Robert Patrick’s liquid-metal shape-shifting T-1000 in Terminator 2: Judgment Day).

Notes: We know, we know: Technically, Ahnuld’s Terminator is a cyborg, not a full-on android, but the difference between the two (some humanlike organic composition for the former vs. 100% robot for the latter) is negligible enough for us, for the purpose of this list, to mention Schwarzenegger — who himself may someday turn out to be the greatest android ever!

Lieutenant Commander Data (Brent Spiner), Star Trek Movies/TV Series

Data Star Trek

Superhuman powers: Positronic brain; immune to all biological diseases (except polywater); can be disassembled for easy storage; waterproof.

Weaknesses: Unable to dream; vulnerable to tech hazards and viruses; cannot swim.

Notes: Armed with nothing more than a pretty bad makeup job and his own (purposefully) robotic performance, Spiner was able to cement a spot in the hearts of many a techie and Trekkie during his lengthy tenure (TV’s Star Trek: The Next Generation and four Star Trek films) as Data. He also provided countless laughs over the years, of both the intentional and unintentional variety.

Replicants, Blade Runner

Blade Runner

Superhuman powers: Superior strength, agility, and intelligence; fully programmable for any mission.

Weaknesses: Voight-Kampff tests; the term “skin-job”; four-year lifespan.

Notes: There will seemingly forever be a lack of clarity as to whether or not Harrison Ford’s Rick Deckard was himself a replicant, due to everything from the fact there are a whopping seven different versions of Blade Runner to his failure of the Voight-Kampff test. The key people involved in the movie are split on the issue, but for what it’s worth, Deckard was written as a human in the Philip K. Dick novel on which the big-screen version is based. The debate rages on, with full Web sites currently devoted to the topic!

SID 6.7 (Russell Crowe), Virtuosity

Russell Crowe Virtuosity

Super-human powers: Can be programmed with multiple, variable personalities, used advantageously (for evil); tons of RAM capacity; capable of regeneration.

Weaknesses: Denzel Washington; impalement.

Notes: Virtuosity remains something of a disaster cinematically, but the virtual reality-gone-murderous concept makes for quite a mindf***, even if the execution thereof doesn’t quite work. Plus, we’ll watch Denzel and Russell square off all day, any day!

Vanessa Kensington (Elizabeth Hurley), Austin Powers: International Man of Mystery

Elizabeth Hurley Austin Powers

Superhuman powers: Super-humanly hot; skill with a Desert Eagle

Weaknesses: Vulnerable to Austin Powers’s “charms.”

Notes: Early on in Austin Powers: The Spy Who Shagged Me, Kensington self-destructs after malfunctioning related to a TV remote, and it is revealed that she was a fembot all along. She’s still the prettiest damned robot since Rosie on The Jetsons.

David (Haley Joel Osment), A.I.: Artificial Intelligence

Haley Joel Osment A.I.

Superhuman powers: Endless love; ability to not blink; great posture; undrownable.

Weaknesses: Can’t swim; sibling jealousy; has the emotions of a real boy.

Notes: Reaction to this Steven Spielberg-directed (and Stanley Kubrick-hatched) sci-fi drama remains mixed to this day, but there’s no denying that Osment was superb and believable as the main “humanoid,” to an almost disturbing degree — which was thanks more so to his astute interpretation of David than any effects wizardry.


Ash (Ian Holm), Alien (1979)

Bishop (Lance Henriksen), Aliens (1986)

Surrogates, Surrogates (2009)

Gunslinger (Yul Brenner), Westworld (1973)