Since antiquity, civilizations around the world have imagined the possibilities of artificial life forms. From Hephaestus, the ancient Greek god of craftsmen who built mechanical servants and golden handmaidens, to the protective clay golems of medieval Jewish folklore, to the lifelike automaton presented by the engineer Yan Shi to King Mu of the Chinese Zhou Dynasty, robots of one form or another have existed almost as long as mythology and storytelling itself.
In the modern era, the rise of advanced technology puts humanoid machines at the forefront. And nowhere is the possibility of robots better imagined and more fully realized than through film and television. There’s been a slew of recent movies featuring sentient bots, including Morgan, Ex Machina, Chappie, Automata, The Machine, Robot & Frank, plus continuations of franchises like Blade Runner 2049 and Terminator: Genisys. On TV, there’s Westworld, Humans, and Almost Human.
In honor of these stories depicting the machines that work, live, love (and kill) among us, here’s a roundup of our 15 favorite robots of film and television. Keep in mind that the selections on this list are chosen for their sentience; cyborgs that are part-human and part-machine, like Robocop or Inspector Gadget; as well as tools, like Iron Man’s suit of armor or Geordi La Forge’s visor, have been left off.
These robots may or may not look like human beings, but they’ve come to represent the best—and the worst—of our collective humanity.