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Top 10 Bad Robot Movies: When Artificial Intelligence Goes Wrong!

By Sean Erickson ⋅ Posted on April 24, 2015 at 3:24pm

In honor of the premier of Avengers: Age of Ultron. We look at five other movies featuring a robot or computer that decides it's high time to turn evil and try to take over the world or eliminate all of humanity. It's a theme that Hollywood has a long and storied history with and as our obsession with #technology continues to grow I'm sure it's a fear that will continue to grip the public and show up in popular culture. So, without further ado, here are 10 of the best looks at Artificial Intelligence gone wrong. Bad robot, bad!

10. Dark Star & Bomb No. 20

We start off the list with a movie that certainly isn't the best - but has a rightful reputation as one of the more influential movies in science fiction and in the sub-genre of Artificial Intelligence gone bad. If you've watched documentaries about movies like Alien and Star Wars - or seen the movie Jodorowsky's Dune, you'll find plenty of references to this early movie by horror maestro John Carpenter. Many of the people involved with this modest project went on to bigger and better things and in Dark Star you'll see these early glimpses of sci-fi greatness to come. Like many of the movies on this list - the Artificial Intelligence that goes wrong in Dark Star was intended to prevent human error but instead puts humans in plenty of danger. The beat up space ship the crew is on has to deal with a damaged Thermostellar Triggering Device on one of the ship's bombs that has convinced itself that it must live out its purpose to explode. D'oh!

9. Colossus: The Forbin Project & Colossus

Many of the movies on this list, and Avengers: Age of Ultron, could arguably get rooted back to the premise of this classic tale of a computer gone mad. Much like Age of Ultron, WarGames, Terminator's Skynet and many other movies - Colossus: The Forbin Project tells the tale of man trying to make a computer, ominously named Colossus in this case, that will eliminate the problem of human error when it comes to nuclear weapons and the American defense system. But instead, Colossus decides it really is a whole lot easier to control the entire world, or eliminate humanity altogether, if the goal is to maintain peace on Earth. Indeed, Colossus: The Forbin Project is one of the first to tell the tale of "the day Man builds itself out of existence!"

8. Tron & Master Control Program

One of the most confounding movies ever released by a studio as big as Disney - TRON's sentient Master Control Program is a very curious thing to behold. It is something like a rogue Artificial Intelligence that has come to control the digital world of ENCOM that is The Grid. Master Control Program, like many A.I.'s gone mad has ambitions to not only take over ENCOM but expand to the Pentagon and the Kremlin! Ah, the 80s... The murky ideas of Master Control Program world domination plans were overshadowed by the groundbreaking technology behind the look of TRON. Whatever, MCP - there was no doubt that this ominous voice and overlord appearance was all bad news. End of line.

7. WALL-E & Auto

Auto was the name of the Artificial Intelligence on board the Axiom, the glorified cruise ship that contains what appears to be the last surviving members of an abandoned planet Earth. Strictly speaking, perhaps Auto doesn't turn bad - maybe it was just mistakenly programmed that way, but Axiom's personified autopilot essentially becomes the antagonist of WALL-E, turning out to be the biggest threat against WALL-E, EVE and Captain McCrea being able to return to Earth and live happily ever after. After all, at the end of the day it's humans that are essentially to blame for all of the evil creations on this list.

6. WarGames & WOPR aka Joshua

What have you done, Joshua? When young proto-hacker Matthew Broderick gains access to NORAD's computer system in WarGames to play a game of chess, he inadvertently starts the path that could lead to WWIII. This wouldn't have happened if some of the muckety-mucks at NORAD didn't think it was a good idea to remove the human element from their ability to launch nuclear weapons. NORAD creates War Operation Plan Response, otherwise known as Joshua, a cold hearted Artificial Intelligence that won't have a shaky hand when it comes to turning the key and releasing the missiles. But when Joshua takes matters into its own hands it proves to be an apocalypse machine of the highest order refusing to accept orders to prevent nuclear war until a very special game of tic-tac-toe saves the day.

5. Terminator series & Skynet

The other movie from the 1980s that brilliantly played into the cold war paranoia of the time is Terminator and it's prophecy about Skynet. Much like WarGames' Joshua - Cyberdyne Systems Skynet created the ominous sounding Global Digital Defense Network to take eliminate the element of human fallibility. Everything was hunky dory until its artificial intelligence became self-aware and it decided to ensure its own survival by destroying all of humanity, first with bombs and then with killer robots. Skynet has been at the core of all the Terminator movies and with Terminator: Genisys fast approaching, it sounds like Skynet might even adopt a more human and Matt Smith looking face to personify itself. Eerie...

4. Blade Runner & The Replicants

One of the best movies to question the entire premise of humans creating Artificial Intelligence and sentient robots, Blade Runner is still considered the standard bearer of the philosophical bad robot movie. And for good reason - in making a cool sci-fi movie about a man who tries to weed out the rouge "Replicants", Blade Runner makes us question what it really means to be human and even though the bad robots are indeed bad, by the end of the movie it's hard not to feel sympathy for the androids that are arguably just confused and lashing out against their very existence. When you're a sentient being created to be a slave - it's hard to blame you when you turn out to be more than a little angry about your situation.

3. Alien & Ash

After the success of 2001: A Space Odyssey (more on that later), there were more than a few space-bound movies and television shows that featured a computer or robot with a loose screw go on a killing rampage. But Alien took it to a brilliant pinnacle with a shocking (at the time) reveal that the killer robot was an android that was secretly working alongside the crew the whole time. The idea of ulterior motives being secretly implanted in Ash - and the crew being sent on a mission they don't know all the details of - is something that was borrowed from 2001 as well, but Alien does it so well and makes it so uniquely their own that it hardly feels redundant. It's not bad enough that the crew of Nostromo had to deal with a rampaging alien - they also had to deal with a sinister android that wanted to ensure its survival.

2. The Matrix & The Machines

Maybe the most complex and sinister of the Artificial Intelligence gone wrong scenarios in movie history is that of The Matrix. In this world, technology became self aware and ended up enslaving humanity - keeping them alive to essentially be used as batteries while, at least, allowing them to have alternate realities in "the matrix". Through the trilogy of movies and some various off-shoots, the Artificial Intelligence gone wrong story of The Matrix proved powerful and deep enough to spawn it's own quasi religion, get dissected by legitimate philosophers and spawn innumerable essays and think-pieces around the world. Truly, diminishing sequels aside, The Matrix tapped into something serious in it's depiction of the dark possibilities in the relationship between humans and technology.

1. 2001: A Space Odyssey & HAL 9000

"I'm sorry, Dave, I'm afraid I can't do that." You can't talk about Artificial Intelligence gone wrong without talking about the mother of all the sentient computer killers HAL 9000. While other movies have gone on to present the threat of A.I. on screen with all manner of fancy CGI tricks and heavily weaponized robots - all HAL 9000 needed was an unblinking red eye and a smooth as butter voice to send chills down audiences' spines. HAL beautifully represents everything that can go wrong when we place our lives in the hands of a computer - and what can happen when that computer basically has a nervous breakdown due to conflicting requirements in its programming.

In fact, there's definitely something HAL-esque in the use of James Spader's cool and confident voice for Ultron. Actually, there's a bit of all of these movies in Avengers 2's Ultron and I'm sure with the success of Age of Ultron we'll continue to see more of these inspirations reappear in pop culture and movies as the idea of "man building itself out of existence" proves to be one that never goes out of style.

What do you think? What movie would you add on the list? Give us your top ten A.I. Gone Bad movies in the comments section below!

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