/>
X

36 of the best movies about AI, ranked

Here's a whole list of AI movies to stream next time you're in the mood for something self-aware
|
|
Topic: Innovation
blade-runner-2049axvddo.jpg
1 of 37 Warner Bros.

Beyond Blade Runner 2049

How can a movie featuring artificial intelligence be anything but amazing? Well... maybe some are just more amazing than others. At No. 36 on our list...

robot-and-frank.jpg
2 of 37 Samuel Goldwyn Films

36. Robot & Frank (2012)

In the case of this quirky-cool Sundance favorite, AI might also stand for Artistic Indie. Frank (Frank Langela) is an aging ex con with memory issues whose son hooks him up with a care robot. Impish Frank teaches Robot how to pick locks and become his android accomplice.

On unsteady moral ground, the helper robot reluctantly plays along, but eventually draws the line, and Frank agrees to quit ... after one last career-crowning heist.

bicentennial-man.jpg
3 of 37 Columbia Pictures

35. Bicentennial Man (1999)

This not-well-received-but-not-half-bad AI flick finds accidentally sentient robutler Andrew (Robin Williams) working his way toward full humanity over the course of a 200-year life. This movie wants to be a meditation on what it means to be human, and it has enough moments to be worth streaming, but it gets a little hammy and heavy handed in the second half. (See our note about Robin Williams.)

resident-evil.jpg
4 of 37 Constantin Films

34. Resident Evil (2002)

What's creepier than a scary child? The answer, thanks to Resident Evil, is one that's actually controlled by AI. The Red Queen, an homage to HAL 9000 in 2001: A Space Odyssey, is the horrifying system running the Hive facility and killing everyone inside, making her the movie's villain.

passengers.jpg
5 of 37 Columbia Pictures

33. Passengers (2016)

The true star of this two-hander is android bartender Arthur (Michael Sheen). His intelligence is artificial, the robot essentially acts as the conscience and confidante of Chris Pratt's character without even knowing it. His lifelike personality and appearance make him not only an easy character to get along with but also one of the most realistic in the film.

westworld.jpg
6 of 37 Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer

32. Westworld (1973)

Welcome to a dystopian Disneyland where rich folks pay $1,000 per day for the privilege of shooting it out harmlessly with an android gunslinger (Yul Brynner). Until, uh oh, a power surge makes the robot galoot go haywire. Look out, city slickers, y'all in big trouble.

Long a cult favorite, Westworld was rebooted as a series on HBO in 2016, with a second season coming in 2018.

chappie.jpg
7 of 37 Columbia Pictures

31. Chappie (2015)

A gang reprograms a police robot who has feelings and the personality of a child.

There's plenty of comedy to be found in Chappie, but the most heartbreaking moment, when the robot realizes the true goal of the "family" that's formed around him, is the true core of this story.

transcendence.jpg
8 of 37 Warner Bros.

30. Transcendence (2014)

Scientist hipster Johnny Depp is hard at work investigating death and building a sentient computer, prepping for the "technological singularity," just at the moment when AI passes human intelligence. Anti-tech radicals have other plans, however, and they assassinate Depp, but his wife and science partner Rebecca Hall manage to upload his consciousness into a machine she's been working on. Convenient.

While Transcendence is packed with state of the art ideas, the state of the movie is a bit of a mess, sprawling all over the place like the out-of-control AI at the film's center. By the time it comes to the high-tech Romeo and Juliet ending, it's all a bit much. But this box-office dud is definitely a smart bargain rental.

tron.jpg
9 of 37 Disney

29. Tron (1982)

Yes, once upon a time, "The Dude" was, like, a program.

Computer programmer Flynn (Jeff Bridges) gets digitized and becomes a ghost in the machine where he runs smack dab into an evil AI Master Control Program.

An early cautionary tale of artificial intelligence run amok, Tron is all that and bag of tricks. Though the microcomputer world of code and programs may have seemed confusing to reviewers back in the '80s, Tron's story seems increasingly clear and straightforward in our more current tech savvy-times, making it something of a cult fave. Indeed, this futuristic head-scratcher now seems charmingly old-timey.

The film is worth it just to see Flynn and his pals morph into microscopic motorcycles.

robocop-2-screenshot.png
10 of 37 Orion Pictures

28. RoboCop (1987)

A wounded Detroit cop is transformed into a futuristic crime-fighting cyborg. Reconstituted officer Murphy (Peter Weller) has barely a shred of his old brain left, but that doesn't stop him from being one hell of a cop!

A mordant urban satire packed with absurd fake ads ("I'd buy that for a dollar") and corporate greed, RoboCop somehow finds a shaky middle ground between man and machine--salvaging some positives from each side.

Fun Fact: The RoboCop suit was reportedly so bulky that Weller couldn't wear the bottom half in his police cruiser. So any time he's in his car, he's robo pantsless!

star-wars-rogue-one.jpg
11 of 37 Lucasfilm

27. Rogue One: A Star Wars Story

The Star Wars franchise has always had goofy, friendly droids. With the arrival of Rogue One: A Star Wars Story, though, things took a turn. K-2SO's artificial intelligence is dry and biting. This was a droid that was quick to make a comment that, coming from anyone else, would seem like an insult.

This installment further cements the Star Wars franchise as a great platform for exploring artificial intelligence, showing the many personalities this tech could have.

i-robot.jpg
12 of 37 20th Century Fox

26. I, Robot (2004)

Loosely based on the classic Isaac Asimov story collection, I, Robot is a bit too Hollywood bombastic for it's own good in spots, but this sci-fi noir actioner still has plenty to offer.

Hardboiled cop (and robo hater) Del Spooner (Will Smith) derides bots as "Toasters" and suspects one of committing murder. Robot pandemonium soon breaks loose as thousands of androids attack in a blizzard of amazing special effects.

metropolis-screenshot.png
13 of 37 Paramount Pictures

25. Metropolis (1927)

Fritz Lang's silent masterpiece is also a monster piece--with a scary metal robot ruling over a city that's part Deco dreamscape and part industrial hellscape.

One of the first feature-length sci-fi flicks, it goes to show that visually stunning dystopian AI movies have been with us from the get-go. The plot may sound vaguely familiar, since it's been rehashed for decades, but here it is: Mad scientist builds a beautiful but deadly machine-woman to replace his lost love.

It does not go well. Except in terms of the awesome visual artistry on display.

screen-shot-2015-09-28-at-4-19-24-pm.png
14 of 37 Universal

24. Colossus: The Forbin Project (1970)

Foreshadowing The Terminator's computer takeover of Skynet, the Colossus computer, built to prevent war, becomes sentient and starts making new rules. Oh: And killing humans.

In a satirical Cold War riff on Mutually Assured Destruction, U.S./NATO supercomputer Colossus and it's Soviet counterpart, Guardian, join forces and nuke humanity into submission. Resistance, as you might guess, is futile.

Ah well. We had a good run.

hhgg-marvin.jpg
15 of 37 Disney

23. Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy (2005)

Who's to say whether a super-intelligent robot future is a good thing? Certainly not Marvin, a paranoid android who provides the gloomy cosmic/comic relief in the movie version of Douglas Adams' cult classic series of books.

Even having Radiohead name a song after you couldn't cheer Marvin, who is known to say things like: "Life? Don't talk to me about life."

Lugubriously, hilariously voiced by Alan Rickman (Harry Potter's professor Snape), this is artificial sentience laced with ridiculously profound depression. If we can give our robot overlords of the future this kind of emotional baggage, we may stand a fighting chance against them.

star-trek-first-contact.jpg
16 of 37 Paramount Pictures

22. Star Trek: First Contact (1996)

Star Trek: The Next Generation made the jump to the big screen multiple times, but only First Contact stands out as a truly quality film. It's an important movie thanks to the arc of Lieutenant Commander Data (Brent Spiner).

Data is an outsider to humanity, trying to understand why people behave the way they do. Breaking down human and alien interactions in this way made everything about the Star Trek universe more digestible, while Data became a fan favorite character.

austin-fembots.jpg
17 of 37 New Line

21. Austin Powers: International Man of Mystery (1997)

Artificial Intelligence takes a delightfully dumb detour into sexist sillyville when horndog superspy Austin Powers encounters the dead-sexy Fembots, who try to take him out by taking him to bed.

Dr. Evil's minionesses come armed with nipple canons that fire bullets or poison gas. But the bad doctor's AI obviously needs some work, because, why don't they just kill him right away? Oh, behave. If they offed him immediately, the movie would end early.

short-circuit.jpg
18 of 37 Tri-Star Pictures

20. Short Circuit (1986)

Of all the films to drop artificial intelligence into, Short Circuit picked a buddy flick. The stakes aren't as dire as many AI films; it's not set in a dystopian future and the story is planted firmly on Earth. But that's what makes this story noteworthy. Johnny 5 -- the robot in question -- is being pursued by the evil government, but so much of the story is rooted a sense of fun that you just don't often find in movies like this.

avengers.jpg
19 of 37 Disney

19. Avengers: Age of Ultron (2015)

Stop me if you've heard this one: A clever artificial intelligence decides that humanity is the real threat to Earth and must be eradicated to save the planet. Okay, the premise is old hat, but not when you have the whole Avengers crew duking it out with evil AI Ultron across a rubble-strewn Earth.

Smart-alecky jokes and superhero fists fly every which way in this breakneck blockbuster with cool bits from Iron Man, Hulk, Captain America, Black Widow, Hawkeye, Thor and more.

interstellar.jpg
20 of 37 Paramount Pictures

18. Interstellar (2014)

In an obvious callout to sci-fi classic 2001: A Space Odyssey, Interstellar's versatile Marine robots look like some crazy combo of the 2001 monolith and a Rubik's cube.

Director Christopher Nolan says he resisted the urge to anthropomorphize his 'bots, telling the San Jose Mercury News, "They're not human. [So] they keep you thinking about what it means to be human." So you don't see Matthew McConaughey's robot buddy TARS talking or acting like a human. He's all robot, and vive la difference.

transformers.jpg
21 of 37 Paramount Pictures

17. Transformers (2007)

All too often, AI is pitted against humans in a war. Transformers takes a different approach, pitting robots against robots with the fate of Earth hanging in the balance. The quality of the various Transformers movies can be debated until the end of time. But with the first installment, director Michael Bay created an intriguing universe where alien AI learns to integrate.

ex-machina-1.jpg
22 of 37 Universal

16. Ex Machina (2015)

Scientists never learn--always assembling hot lady androids who are way out of their league (we're looking at you, Weird Science).

Genius inventor Bateman (yeah, he's an American psycho) invites programmer Caleb to his secluded mansion to flirt with lovely bot Ava (Alicia Vikander). Caleb falls for her, and all hell breaks loose. And by all hell we mean Ava.

war-games.jpg
23 of 37 MGM

15. WarGames (1983)

A year before the Terminator taught us the folly of turning military decisions over to machines, WarGames made the same point. Seems we never learn, or at least our screen writers never do. Matthew Broderick plays the hacker brat who goes from forging high-school grades to accidentally pushing the world to the brink of nuclear war

Ultimately, the hacker kid helps teach a sentient war computer the folly of mutually assured destruction, with the machine ultimately preferring a "nice game of chess."

blade-runner-2049kydisv.jpg
24 of 37 Courtesy of Warner Bros. Pictures

14: Blade Runner 2049 (2017)

Yep, it's got replicants, see-through raincoats and more replicants. To avoid spoiling this movie for those who haven't seen it yet, we'll just say this: The acting and visuals were stunning, but we found other elements to be uneven.

a-i-artificial-intel.jpg
25 of 37 Warner Bros.

13. A.I. Artificial Intelligence (2001)

Programming love into an android boy who is used to seeing dead people (Haley Joel Osment) sounds like a recipe for disaster. But this robot riff on Pinocchio is cram-packed with stuff to like--maybe too much. Gloomy genius Stanley Kubrick handed off the project to genial film savant Steven Spielberg because he was dissatisfied with the special effects in the '90s, but by the time Spielberg cranked this out in 2001, the state of the art had progressed mightily.

It's a futuristic fairy-tale detective story/domestic drama featuring one life lesson: When a droid can love, he can also die of a broken heart ... only to be frozen in a glacier and revived years later after the AIs have taken over for the now-extinct humans. Yeah, there's a lot going on. But it's hard to argue with any film that typecasts Jude Law as an android male prostitute.

terminator-screenshot.png
26 of 37 TriStar Pictures

12. Terminator 2: Judgment Day (1991)

Just like evil Terminator Ah-nuld promised, he's back. Only the second time around, he's a good-guy robot sent from the future to battle a more advanced terminator and defend human leader-to-be John Connor in boy form (Ed Furlong).

Nobody does big like director James Cameron, and T2 is a truly titanic achievement, winning 4 technical Oscars and raising the sci-fi action movie bar. At the time, its $96 million budget made it the most expensive film ever, though in retrospect that seems like a small price to pay.

star-wars-tfa.jpg
27 of 37 Lucasfilm

11. Star Wars: The Force Awakens (2015)

What C-3PO and R2-D2 did for the original Star Wars films, BB-8 does for the new trilogy. The ball droid proved the perfect sidekick for Rey (Daisy Ridley) in her quest toward ... whatever she's going to become, and the spirited little AI gives fans a robot to root for -- much like R2-D2 has been all these years.

The upgraded design also gives BB-8 the opportunity to be a much bigger part of the action than either C-3PO or R2-D2, which will, with luck, lead to him being more integral to the story.

moon.jpg
28 of 37 Sony Pictures Classics

10. Moon (2009)

In this taut indie thriller from Brit director Duncan Jones (David Bowie's son), astronaut Sam (Sam Rockwell) is nearing the end of a three-year stint supervising a robot mining mission on the moon. He can't wait to get back to Earth to see his wife and baby daughter, but something's not quite right.

As in Alien, a greedy corporation is running a covert operation inside the mining operation with an AI spy. In this case it's computer consciousness GERTY, voiced by Kevin Spacey, doing his best HAL 9000 impersonation. Life is cheap and rocket launches are expensive, which puts Sam's life is in danger in a way he'd never imagined. And, in an odd sort of way, he only has himself to rely on.

matrix-3-screenshot.png
29 of 37 Warner Bros.

9. The Matrix (1999)

Maybe you cannot know the Matrix, but everyone knows it was an instant classic of dystopian computer futurism that spawned two killer sequels.

For the unwitting masses in the Matrix universe, the good life is actually a bad dream as evil AI overlords are actually feeding off humans. Keanu Reeves' hacker hero Neo learns the truth, joins the rebels and embarks on a trippy spiritual quest to save humanity from the mass-delusion simulacrum of the matrix.

Fun fact: Keanu gave his back-end points money to the movie's special effects team so they could share in the profits because he reportedly thought they were the movie's real star. Whoa!

wall-e-1.jpg
30 of 37 Pixar

8. Wall-E (2008)

The story of a good-natured planetary janitor-bot left to clean up our human mess, WALL-E effortlessly dredges up what it means to be truly human, with his free will and big, beautiful heart.

Hopeless romantic WALL-E falls for lady robot EVE after she comes to investigate the first plant to grow on Earth in centuries. Not to give anything away, but even when it comes to robots, love conquers all; Hollywood, like other big, sentient machines, can never completely rewrite its own programming.

her-2.jpg
31 of 37 Warner Bros. Pictures

7. Her (2013)

Emotional intelligence is an unexpected mode of AI in Her. Sensitive soul Theodore finds himself falling in love with his new OS, Samantha (Scarlett Johansson). Much to Theodore's surprise, she also falls for him.

When Theodore finds out Samantha is dating other people, thousands of them, actually, he can't cope. It seems that Samantha and all the other OSes have been getting together on the side. Sigh. That's how relationships go sometimes: One side grows and other doesn't.

star-trek.jpg
32 of 37 Paramount

6. Star Trek: The Motion Picture (1979)

The original TV crew hits the big screen to battle the interstellar fog V'Ger, which is burning a path of destruction across the universe as it heads straight for Earth. The gas cloud, and the humongous ship deep within it, turn out to be an AI.

It's corn-ball cool of the highest order.

the-terminator.jpg
33 of 37 Orion Pictures

5. The Terminator (1984)

As AI becomes more advanced, what happens when it is able to reason ... and decides that humans are unnecessary?

Artificial intelligence is the ultimate enemy here, one that simply cannot be beaten with time travel. That's what makes the sequels -- in which AI also becomes the hero -- so special. In exploring both sides of AI, Cameron showed the world just how bad things could get in a worst-case scenario with AI.

blade-runner-2-screenshot.png
34 of 37 Warner Bros.

4. Blade Runner (1982; Director's Cut, 1992)

On a broken-down future Earth, scientists have created realistic android replicants to do dangerous jobs like interplanetary mining. But when some of these sentient slaves run away, private dick Harrison Ford is put on the case.

The twisty noir plot finds creepy, dying droids (Rutger Hauer, Daryl Hannah) tracking down their creator to ask for a life extension, while Ford tries to help them meet their maker in the metaphorical sense.

alien-2.png
35 of 37 20th Century Fox

3. Alien (1979)

Alien's famous tagline says "In space, no one can hear you scream," but in theaters it was a whole different story. The Oscar winner for visual effects featured horrific H.R. Giger creature designs that still cause nightmares decades later.

On the AI tip, the flick featured the quiet malice of secret android science officer Ash, the emotionless corporate sellout tasked by "the company" with bringing the alien back as a weapons research tool.

star-wars.jpg
36 of 37 Lucasfilm

2. Star Wars: Episode IV - A New Hope (1977)

It would be hard to refute that C-3PO and R2-D2 are the most celebrated vessels of artificial intelligence in cinema history. In a way, they're also the glue of the Star Wars franchise, beginning with A New Hope. They serve as comic relief for their human counterparts, but their chemistry together is so human that it's hard to believe thy don't have souls.

2001-2-screenshot.png
37 of 37 Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer

1. 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968)

The Stanley Kubrick masterpiece still holds up decades later, telling the story of the human race as it's guided to evolve from caveman to star child by a strange alien force.

While investigating this mystery on a flight to Jupiter, the ship's crew gets double crossed by its sentient computer, Hal. When "infallible" Hal makes an odd error, the astronauts decide to shut him down, but Hal catches wind of the plan and kills most of the crew.

Before the mission can continue, Dave, the lone surviving astronaut, slowly shuts Hal down as the computer pleads for mercy.

Related Galleries

Polestar 2 gallery tour: It's electrifying!
img-8843.jpg

Related Galleries

Polestar 2 gallery tour: It's electrifying!

34 Photos
First Look: Samsung's Galaxy Z Flip 3 [pictures]
01-001ef-gf711t-001-front-navy-210719-h.jpg

Related Galleries

First Look: Samsung's Galaxy Z Flip 3 [pictures]

26 Photos
Remote working, programming languages, artificial intelligence, and more: ZDNet's research roundup
gartnerhypeai2020.png

Related Galleries

Remote working, programming languages, artificial intelligence, and more: ZDNet's research roundup

10 Photos
Pitfalls to Avoid when Interpreting Machine Learning Models
1-bad-model-generalization.jpg

Related Galleries

Pitfalls to Avoid when Interpreting Machine Learning Models

8 Photos
Toshiba laptops through the ages
screenshot-2020-08-11-at-11-52-27.png

Related Galleries

Toshiba laptops through the ages

11 Photos
Innovative projects now online to combat coronavirus outbreak
7.jpg

Related Galleries

Innovative projects now online to combat coronavirus outbreak

7 Photos
Top programming languages, 5G worries, cloud computing, and more: Research round-up
gsa-status-of-5g-by-country-end-2019.jpg

Related Galleries

Top programming languages, 5G worries, cloud computing, and more: Research round-up

12 Photos