Top 10 Robots Who Think They’re Human

“Johnny 5 is alive” says the robot in Short Circuit. He’s not the only “machine” to think they are human. From RoboCop to David Swinton, here’s ten of the best…

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Robots, or as some like to call themselves, Cyborgs, are computer-programmed characters that have turned up in films in both good-guy and bad-guy roles. However, those really advanced specimens get so hung up on their time spent with their human operators, owners, makers or foe, that they start acting like them.

These human-like qualities often provide the most entertainment as we can relate to their motivation in the wider context of their mechanical construction and microcomputer intelligence.

Here I take a look at some of my favourite robots to get infected by the “Pinocchio Complex” – the moment when the robot thinks it’s human.

More on Top 10 Films you might like: Top 10 Robots | Top 10 Robots Who Think They’re Human | Top 10 Scariest Robots, Cyborgs and Artificial Intelligence

10. Data (Star Trek: Generations, Carson, 1994)

The good-guy of the Starship Enterprise decides to add an emotions chip to his hardware in order to understand the human condition in 1994’s Star Trek: Generations.

9. The Terminator (Terminator 2: Judgment Day, Cameron, 1991)

The Terminator, once a robot sent from the future to commit murder, is now a caring, at times lovable and charming, protector to those that need it most. His relationship with the young boy he has been programmed to care for develops and more human qualities creep into his mechanical make-up. The ultimate sacrifice he makes – to destroy himself to safeguard civilisation – is perhaps the most human thing he accomplishes.

8. Sonny (I, Robot, Proyas, 2004)

Insisting on being called Sonny, this robot from the year 2035 helps Will Smith’s detective solve a murder.

7. D.A.R.Y.L (D.A.R.Y.L, Wincer, 1985)

D.A.R.Y.L isn’t hydraulic limbs, engine oil and metal heart, rather a human child with a supercomputer powering his brain. But, after enjoying the fruits of life away from his military prison, and displaying human-like fragility, his government owners want to terminate their project. Poor thing.

6. David Swinton (A.I. Artificial Intelligence, Spielberg, 2001)

Robot-child David sets out to find the Blue Fairy who he believes will turn him into a real boy and allow his adopted mother to love him like she does her biological son.

5. C-3PO (Star Wars, Lucas, 1977)

C-3PO does his best for his owners despite any real talents apart from keeping his far more advanced friend R2-D2 in check.

4. RoboCop (RoboCop, Verhoeven, 1987)

A courageous cop is brutally murdered but given a second chance as a cyborg. However, the human qualities still evident in his brain bring out the “man” inside the “robot”.

3. Johnny 5 (Short Circuit, Badham, 1986)

A military robot gets a change of heart after a power surge turns him from a professional killer into a warm-hearted soul eager to learn about human life and live like one of the guys!

2. Rachael (Blade Runner, Scott, 1982)

Rachael is a “replicant”, a bioengineered robot that looks and sounds human. The crux is that she actually believes she is a human thanks to the Tyrell Corporation giving her consciousness an emotional upgrade. Replicants have greater strength and intelligence than their human counterparts but are distinguished by their lack of emotional insight. Rachael throws a spanner in the works of this futuristic story.

1. Andrew (Bicentennial Man, Columbus, 1999)

Andrew is a robot created to carry out menial tasks like doing the housework, cleaning and looking after general maintenance work around the family home. However, within the family environment of which he finds himself, he begins to interact with his owners on an emotional level. Over time his personality grows, befriending people along a journey that lasts many years, becoming more and more human with each step.

Written and compiled by Daniel Stephens.

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About the Author
Editor of Top 10 Films, Dan Stephens is usually found pondering his next list. An unhealthy love of 1980s Hollywood sees most of his top 10s involving a time-travelling DeLorean and an adventurous archaeologist going by the name Indiana.

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    Louise Reply

    What a great idea for a list.

    Do replicants count as robots?

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    Dan Reply

    Thanks Louise. I think my idea of “robots” is very loose given that some like to differentiate between robots and cyborgs and man-made versus alien-made. I’d say replicants count…

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    Mark Reply

    Stuart Margolin’s faceless assistant (that looks like it may have been based on Yul Brynner) in Futureworld – there’s that nice little touch when it looks like it wants to cry when it gets left behind …

    Sooooo, if replicants also count, then we have Harrison Ford and Sean Young in Blade Runner and, arguably, Fassbinder in Prometheous, who seems to take umbrage at some of the robophobe comments thrown at him by the scientists in the film’s first third (plus he thinks he’s smarter than everyone else – a definite human trait).

  4. Avatar
    Dan Reply

    @Mark: Fassbender in Prometheus – “…he thinks he’s smarter than everyone else – a definite human trait” – good point! 🙂

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    Evan Crean Reply

    Another fantastic list, though many of these characters aren’t strictly robots. Data is an android while Robocop and The Terminator are cyborgs. I can look past that though haha. As a huge Star Trek fan, I wish Data was higher up, but overall I’m satisfied with your picks. Love the inclusion of The Terminator, Robocop and Johnny 5 from Short Circuit. I also agree with the above comments that Michael Fassbender’s character from Prometheus would have been a nice inclusion. Ash or Bishop from Alien and Aliens respectively also would have made nice additions.

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    Rodney Reply

    You had me worried with the Fembots at 10 (I doubt they actually think they’re human!) but the rest of the list is pretty solid. Good work including Robbie and Johnny 5, too. Great list, Dan!

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    Scott Lawlor Reply

    DARYL!!!! Aw man now you are taking me back to a happy place!! Nice list Dan

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    Pete Reply

    haha I agree with Scott. Had totally forgotten about DARYL. I remember loving it but now I can’t remember a single thing about it.

    Good to see Bicentennial Man not making an appearance.

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    Bubbawheat Reply

    I’ve got to be the one to argue a slightly different set of semantics. I don’t mind lumping cyborgs and androids into the robot pool, but I disagree with some of them under the “that think they’re human” part. C3PO, while humanoid in design, very clearly knows his role as a droid and doesn’t really act, think, or behave very humanly and neither does he wish to become human as several on the list do. I imagine the same is true for Robby, the Terminator, and the Fembots. Love the middle section of the list though.

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    Chris Reply

    Solid choices here, a few on your list I still need to catch.

    Dan, keep an eye out for the upcoming release of Robot & Frank (2012), which definitely fits this category. I believe it’s out in March in the UK.

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    Valeria Reply

    Robocop no es un robot, es un cyborg.

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