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From Scarlett Johansson’s endearing O.S. “Her” to Arnie’s “Terminator” killing machine, these are the greatest on-screen Artificial Intelligences of all time.


Artificial Intelligence refers to a computer programme that is able to think for itself, as opposed to Virtual Intelligence which is programmed to mimic free thought but maintains a very coded structure. While A.I. hasn’t yet been invented in reality, it’s been the basis of several films and other media. Usually with horrendous results.

This list counts down the 10 best A.I.s in Film and the legacy they’ve left on the Science Fiction Genre.

Honourable Mention: GLaDOS – “Portal” Series (Voiced by Ellen McLain)


GLaDOS gets an honourable mention because she’s in a video game and not a film, but if this were based on all mediums, she’d likely get the top spot. Initially just an explanatory voice to lead player character Chell through a labyrinth of portal-based puzzles, GLaDOS slowly begins to showcase her true colours as a passive-aggressive, sinister and eventually murderous computer programme who killed everyone in the test centre when they tried to shut her down before she could kill them. She continues this trend in Portal 2, where she no longer hides her evil self and openly messes with the player and insults them, resulting in some of the funniest writing in videogaming.   

GLaDOS managed to break into the cinematic world when Ellen McLain voiced a computer programme in Pacific Rim as a nod to her most famous character.

10: Marvin The Paranoid Android – “The Hitchhiker’s Guide To The Galaxy” (Voice by Alan Rickman)


Marvin starts low because any one of his iterations could’ve been on this list, and while we’re looking at Rickman’s version from the film, it would be unfair to say one is more deserving than the other. Marvin may have his own personality, but a malfunction in his programming has left him severely depressed, and rather than letting that put down the rest of the crew, he serves as a voice of reality, to keep things grounded whenever it gets too insane. Which given Adams’ writing is usually quite often.

9: Samantha  – “Her” (Voiced by Scarlett Johansson)

samantha her

Originally voiced by Samantha Morton until director Spike Jonze realised her voice wasn’t fitting as expected, Samantha’s role as an A.I. introduces a romantic aspect that is rarely touched upon. Even without a body she turns out to be one of the most human A.I.s put to film as we watch her grow and learn with Theodore (Joaquin Phoenix). All she has is her voice but it’s a voice with enough personality to fall in love with.

8: Sonny – “I, Robot” (Voiced and Mo-Capped by Alan Tudyk)

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In Isaac Asimov’s world there are three laws of robotics which must be obeyed in order to allow the protection of humans. Sonny was built with a bypass, allowing him to ignore these rules. In that way, Sonny is allowed to experience a very human way of living, to be free of rules but still have to live with the notion of right and wrong and how to use them in everyday life. It’s a difficult ride but one that proves I, Robot as Sonny’s film rather than Will Smith’s.

7: Ash/Bishop – “Alien” / “Aliens” (Played by Ian Holm/Lance Henriksen)

Alien AIs

The first two android characters of the Alien series both get a mention here because of how they each represent a different form of robotics. Ash represents malice, designed exclusively to incite menace and danger to the crew in order to ensure the survival of the Xenomorph, while Bishop, an upgraded model, represents safety and humanity, protecting and helping Ripley even with her own trauma following Ash. The diametric opposition the two have makes it impossible to choose one over the other.

6: C3PO/R2D2 – “Star Wars” Series (Played by Anthony Daniels and Kenny Baker)

c3p0 r2d2

Another pairing difficult to split up, but for very different reasons. C3PO and R2 have been the only characters to be in all the Star Wars episodes to date, with their double-act proving one of the Galaxy’s most memorable friendships. While R2 provides a level of heroism that makes him a fitting partner to Luke, C3PO injects some levity to the proceedings with his upper-class sensibilities. The two of them might not seem like the best match, but it’s impossible to see one without the other.

5: WALL-E  – “WALL-E”  (Voiced by Ben Burtt)


Wall-E is a reminder of the simple things in life: a lone droid left with only his main directive of cleaning up the planet, for whom centuries working have created a sense of curiosity, friendship and wonderment in him that eventually give way to love when EVE arrives. Unlike the other entries on this list, WALL-E wasn’t designed to have a personality, his just evolved on its own, and there’s something so incredible about him being able to look upon the deserted wasteland of Earth and recognise the beauty in every little thing he finds. 

4: Ava – “Ex Machina” (Played by Alicia Vikander)


The newest entry on this list but already a classic in the making, Ava is created not for any other purpose than to prove she can be, an allegory for playing God, but like all good Frankenstein stories the creation ends up outshining the creator. Ava creates an aura of uncertainty surrounding her basis as an A.I. but it’s all part of a plan; her devious mind working towards a focused goal while exploiting the emotions of those around her, creating one of the most intriguing and complex characters of the decade.

3: T-800 – “The Terminator” Series (Played by Arnold Schwarzenegger)


Arguable the most recognisable entry on this list, Arnie’s role as Cyberdine Model T-800 has lasted 32 years and 4 out of 5 movies. While his initial performance perfected the shark-like killer instinct of a machine built to kill, it’s his future roles as the supporting hero to Sarah and John Conner that people remember most fondly. Redemption doesn’t come often to machines but James Cameron and Schwarzenegger were able to make it work and turn a ruthless killer into a very human creation

2: Roy Batty – “Blade Runner” (Played by Rutger Hauer)

roy batty blade runner

Blade Runner might have Harrison Ford’s name on the poster, but it’s easily Hauer’s film, with his complex and philosophical performance as Roy Batty, leader of a group of renegade replicants seeking an extension to their four year life span. Roy’s limited life forced him to take nothing for granted; every action he takes is of the utmost importance, and it isn’t until his final moments that he comes to accept that. Roy’s quest becomes a question of ‘what Is human?’ and in that he finds an empathy and acceptance of the life he’s lived. People still ask ‘Is Deckard a Replicant?’ when discussing the film. They should also ask themselves ‘Is Roy human?’.   

1: Hal 9000 – “2001: A Space Odyssey” (Voiced by Douglas Rain)


Alright, full disclosure. I haven’t seen 2001. I mean to, but haven’t got round to it yet. So why is Hal the number one choice? Because of the legacy he’s left behind. Not only is Hal the most recognisable A.I. in film, he’s the blueprint for all others to follow: from The Avengers to The Simpsons, he has become a cultural icon due to his calming voice, and the sinister undertones that put the crew at risk because Hal views it as logical. Hal gets the number one spot because he is THE A.I. when you ask anyone, and for as long as we keep trying to make it a reality, he will be for a long while to come.

Matthew Wilson

Operating out of Livingston, Scotland, Matthew Wilson has been self-publishing reviews since 2012 - amassing over 1000 and climbing on his personal account at MovieFanCentral- and has produced a number of short films for his Graded Unit at Edinburgh College. Matthew hopes to start writing and directing his own productions one day, having written several unpublished scripts for film and television.

Posted on Jul 4, 2016

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