Robots and Artificial Intelligence

R.I.S.E Pathfinder
R.I.S.E Pathfinder

From the earliest days of the silver screen, filmmakers and their audiences have been captivated by thoughts and ideas of what awaits society in the future, and its potential technological advancements.

As technology has become more prevalent in our everyday lives as the decades have passed by particularly in the 21st century combined with scientific progress around cloning and the creation of artificial intelligence, cinema has followed in fear and wonder. From robots to drones, filmmakers have represented machines in their many forms in sci-fi classics and even in other genres and will no doubt continue to innovate around the topic as time goes by.

Pinocchio

CertU

Age group5–11

Duration83 mins

Pinocchio(1940)

Animated fable about toymaker Geppetto and his wooden puppet Pinocchio, who is brought to life after he wishes for a son.

Pinocchio certainly isn’t what we would think of as a robot, but he is one of the classic examples throughout cinematic history as being an artificial creation. Brought to life by his woodcarver puppet master, Pinocchio even pleads that he’s a “real boy” as he seeks to have the same experiences as human children.

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The Iron Giant

CertU

Age group5–14

Duration86 mins

The Iron Giant(1999)

Superbly animated adaptation following young Hogarth's discovery of a colossal, friendly robot, and his plight to protect him from government agents.

This adaptation of Ted Hughes’s story ‘The Iron Man’ transplants the action to 1950s America, against a backdrop of Cold War tension with the Space Race and advances in weaponry causing fear. When a huge robot appears in this atmosphere, it takes an innocent young boy to believe he’s capable of more than just destruction.

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WALL-E

CertU

Age groupAll ages

Duration98 mins

WALL-E(2008)

A small, rather hopeless looking robot is left alone on Earth to clean up the mess left by humans, in this wonderful Pixar animation.

It could well be said that many of our household appliances have near-robot functionality – especially with the advances in smart technology in recent years – but WALL-E has the cute personality to go with it. This film suggests robots may be the only things left on planet Earth if we don’t take the issue of climate change seriously and address it soon.

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Big Hero 6

CertPG

Age group7–14

Duration98 mins

Big Hero 6(2014)

Action packed Disney animation with a lovable robot and a cool teenage scientist.

This inventive superhero origin story, adapted from a graphic novel, sees a robot designed to be a healthcare companion. But while Baymax – who looks more like an inflatable doll than a traditional robot – is indeed very cuddly and caring, he also has a number of hidden abilities.

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R.I.S.E Pathfinder

CertUnclassified

Age group7–14

Duration10 mins

R.I.S.E Pathfinder(2018)

A robot astronaut is tasked by his human inventors to measure the distance from Earth to the end of the universe.

This non-dialogue short film examines the role robots could play in future scientific endeavours, including in space exploration. But much like in most films, the robot seems to have developed a fondness for his human creators beyond the task they’ve set him.

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Ciclope

CertUnclassified

Age group7–14

Duration4 mins

Ciclope(2016)

A drone flies across a ravaged but beautiful landscape, carrying a mysterious gift for an unknown recipient.

Robots have changed in shape and size through the ages, and one of the newest form of robots – even available to the everyday consumer – is the drone. In this short film, a delivery drone makes its long journey across stunning vistas as it attempts to find its destination.

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Edward Scissorhands

CertPG

Age group7+

Duration105 mins

Edward Scissorhands(1991)

Tim Burton weaves a fantastical tale of a synthetic man with scissors for hands who is discovered and then brought into modern society.

From the early days of cinema and ‘Frankenstein’, there have been many stories on the big screen which have tackled the topic of artificial creations. ‘Edward Scissorhands’ follows titles like this and ‘Pinocchio’, updating it with Tim Burton’s trademark outsider aesthetic, where an artificial man must navigate his new suburban surroundings.

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The Day The Earth Stood Still

CertU

Age group11+

Duration88 mins

The Day The Earth Stood Still (1951)

Cold war nuclear fears are put into perspective by the dramatic arrival of peaceful alien Klaatu and his silver robot Gort in this classic sc-fi.

The fear of the ‘other’ was at its height in the 21st century during the 1950s as the feeling of paranoia was intensified by the Cold War between east and west. As such, many sci-fi – specifically alien – stories were landmark events during this time, whether it was Orson Welles’ seminal ‘War of the Worlds’ radio play or this excellent parable about cooperation and conflict.

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The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy

CertPG

Age group11–16

Duration104 mins

The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy(2005)

Waking up to find that his house is to be demolished, Arthur Dent discovers that his whole planet is lined up for a similar fate.

One of the all-time great robots on page and screen is Douglas Adams’ literary invention and comes from his ‘Hitchhiker’s Guide’ series. In this film, Marvin the Paranoid Android and his downbeat personality – because he has a “brain the size of a planet” and could quite frankly do without it all – is superbly captured by Alan Rickman’s voice performance who is expertly cast.

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Metropolis

CertPG

Age group11+

Duration138 mins

Metropolis(1927)

This visually spectacular German sci-fi classic sees the rich live in skyscrapers and the poor toil underground.

Perhaps the earliest significant example of robotics within film history, Fritz Lang’s silent sci-fi masterpiece – which remains hugely influential – sees the underground workers presided over by a clone who is actually being controlled by an evil scientist.

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Silent Running

CertPG

Age group11+

Duration86 mins

Silent Running(1972)

A visually stunning sci-fi about a hippy caretaker of a space-station greenhouse, who turns against his bosses when he's ordered to return to Earth.

A film that was arguably well ahead of its time, ‘Silent Running’ is an ecological sci-fi drama about an astronaut sent into space after all flora has become extinct on Earth. When he’s ordered to kill the plants in the greenhouse he cultivates, he refuses, and decides to spend the rest of his days in the company of three robots which he names Dewey, Huey and Louie.

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I, Robot

Cert12

Age group11–16

Duration110 mins

I, Robot(2004)

Nerve-jangling futuristic sci-fi thriller about a detective who suspects a robot has committed murder.

This entertaining blockbuster is loosely based on the short story ‘Hardwired’ from pioneering sci-fi writer, Isaac Asimov. Set in 2035, with society full of robots governed by Asimov’s Three Laws of Robotics, Will Smith’s techno-suspicious detective must get to the bottom of a conspiracy which suggests that a robot has somehow become sentient and murdered its human creator.

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Star Wars Episode VII: The Force Awakens

Cert12

Age group11+

Duration135 mins

Star Wars Episode VII: The Force Awakens(2015)

Old and new forces combine in this continuation of the space saga, set thirty years after the events of Return of the Jedi.

We know that droids have always played a hugely important part in the ‘Star Wars’ series, from C-3PO and R2-D2 – who return in this film – in ‘Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope’ through to the modern day. In ‘The Force Awakens’, we’re introduced to a new droid: BB-8, who works alongside fighter pilot Poe and escapes with a map which he passes on to Rey.

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AI: Artificial Intelligence

Cert12

Age group14+

Duration140 mins

AI: Artificial Intelligence(2001)

Beautiful science fiction fairy tale based on the future production of Mechas, humanoid robots.

Just over 60 years after Disney’s ‘Pinocchio’ came this film about another ‘real boy’, this time in a real world, loosely based on a short story named ‘Supertoys Last All Summer Long’. Though the project originated with Stanley Kubrick, he passed it to Steven Spielberg in 1995, but it wasn’t until Kubrick’s death four years later that development gained momentum.

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Blade Runner

Cert15

Age group14+

Duration117 mins

Blade Runner(1982)

In the future human clones are sent to work in the outer reaches of space, when six escape and head to earth a blade runner is sent to hunt them.

Based on the novel ‘Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?’ from revered sci-fi writer Philip K. Dick, this acclaimed film introduced the world to replicants. Set in a polluted 2019 Los Angeles, Ridley Scott’s classic asks fundamental questions about what it is to alive, what it is to be human, and has long had us pondering: is Rick Deckard real, or is he a replicant too?

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Ex Machina

Cert15

Age group14+

Duration104 mins

Ex Machina(2014)

A taut sci-fi thriller exploring the popular debate about whether Artificial Intelligence could ever match humankind's capacity to think and feel.

One of the most famous thought experiments in the field, devised by the now-celebrated British mathematician Alan Turing, The Turing Test attempts to judge whether a machine can ever truly exhibit humanlike intelligence. In this sharp three-hander from sci-fi visionary Alex Garland, this scenario is played out as a coder must decide whether the AI he interviews is sentient.

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Her

Cert15

Age group14+

Duration121 mins

Her(2013)

A lonely writer develops an unlikely relationship with a newly purchased operating system that's designed to meet his every need.

Set in the not-too-distant future, ‘Her’ follows a man named Theodore who is in the final stages of his divorce. After buying an operating system with a ‘consciousness’, Samantha, he soon develops a close bond with her. This film investigates whether an AI could ever sufficiently replace our desire and need for physical relationships.

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The Terminator

Cert15

Age group14+

Duration107 mins

The Terminator(1984)

A killer cyborg is sent back in time to murder the mother of the man who will save humanity in this Arnie-starring action thriller.

Perhaps the biggest fear humanity has in terms of artificial intelligence is around what happens when the machines become the dominant ‘species’ of Earth, and the fate which might await humankind in that scenario. Centred around one of the most famous machines in movie history, ‘The Terminator’ not only explores themes around robotics and ethics, but also time-travel.

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Cloud Atlas

Cert15

Age group14+

Duration164 mins

Cloud Atlas(2012)

From a young man's sea voyage to post-apocalyptic Hawaiian tribesmen, this sprawling, fantastical epic shows us how everything is connected.

This film, adapted from David Mitchell’s acclaimed novel which features six stories – spanning hundreds of years, from 1849 to 2321 – and connected by overlapping actors and themes, was directed by the Wachowski siblings. The fifth story, set in 2144 in a dystopian Seoul, revolves around a humanoid clone named Sonmi-451 who decides to rebel against the system.

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Moon

Cert15

Age group16+

Duration93 mins

Moon(2009)

Clever, inventive sci-fi film about an astronaut running a mining operation on the moon, with a robot as his only source of conversation.

Influenced by the likes of ‘Silent Running’ and Kubrick’s ‘2001: A Space Odyssey’, specifically riffing on the latter’s notorious computer HAL, ‘Moon’ is a sci-fi about the loneliness of space exploration. In this film, protagonist Sam Bell’s only companion is his AI operating system, GERTY, who expresses himself through basic emojis via his monitor. But is he to be trusted?

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