The Trouble With Mechs
Man is a robot with defects
- Emile M. Cioran


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Westworld
D: Michael Crichton (1973) 88m


Non-stop sci-fi thriller with Yul Brynner playing a gun-slinging amusement park robot who has fused his microchips. Park visitors play out their fantasies in theme 'worlds' populated by amazingly lifelike robots. Despite the fact that nothing can go wrong... everything goes wrong. The premise was later revived for Jurassic Park, and then again for the 2016 Westworld television series.





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Blade Runner
D: Ridley Scott (1982) 118m


Director's Cut sees the silly voice-over narration and upbeat ending of the 1982 version replaced with something much closer to what the original Philip K. Dick story intended. Marlowe-style detective (Harrison Ford) tracks rebellious android 'replicants' in bleak near-future Los Angeles. Other cuts have since emerged leaving plenty of room for debate as to which is definitive.





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The Terminator
D: James Cameron (1984) 108m


Man vs machine in this superior Schwarzenegger action flick about a cyborg 'terminator' sent back from the near-future to prevent the rise of the human resistance movement by killing its leader's mother before she gives birth. Hard to imagine anyone but Big Arnie in the role, which he paradoxically reprises in the 1991 sequel. The film is listed in the U.S. National Film Registry.





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RoboCop
D: Paul Verhoeven (1987) 102


The Detroit police force has been privatised along with everything else and, as fate would have it, incorrigible corporate crooks are running the show. A badly injured cop gets some cybernetic implants and is programmed to bring all criminals to justice... except for the ones in charge. High-octane action with a dash of humanity. The film won an Academy Award for Best Sound Effects Editing.





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Terminator 2: Judgement Day
D: James Cameron (1991) 135


Big Arnie is back... but this time he is a sensitive new age cyborg out to do good instead of evil. The old model Terminator faces off against a shapeshifting cyborg after Sarah Connor and her ten-year-old son John. All the complex time-travelling twists and conundrums of the original, with an unexpectedly healthy dose of 'man vs machine' social conscience thrown in for good measure.





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I, Robot
D: Alex Proyas (2004) 115m


Will Smith flashes some unexpectedly hunky pecs while Asimov's famous robot stories fade into the background. Smith plays detective Del Spooner who suspects that the laborious robots of the year 2035 may be about to turn on humankind. Suspicions surrounding the death of a robotics scientist may provide some clues. A reasonably capable action flick with Smith in trademark form.





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Ex Machina
D: Alex Garland (2014) 108m


A young programmer, Caleb Smith, is selected by his company's CEO to participate in a ground-breaking experiment in synthetic intelligence. Smith sets out to determine if an attractive "female" robot is genuinely capable of thought and consciousness, and whether he can relate to her despite knowing she is artificial. Superb independent film that punches well above its weight.





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Blade Runner 2049
D: Denis Villeneuve (2017) 164m


In 2049, 30 years after the disappearance of Rick Deckard (Harrison Ford), a new blade runner discovers a well-hidden secret and must go on a quest to find Deckard in order to preserve the future of humanity and replicants. A critical success, 2049 remains faithful to the original film. At the 90th Academy Awards it won in the Best Cinematography and Best Visual Effects categories.


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