"Robot and Frank," in which a retired Frank Langella is saddled with an android voiced by Peter Sarsgaard, hits theaters this weekend. The robot is programmed to improve his physical and mental health, but Frank has other ideas. Like many of our robotic friends, this mechanical fellow is soon operating outside his factory settings.
Robots tend to come in two varieties, aloofly evil like HAL 9000 in "2001: A Space Odyssey" or mildly judgmental like Tony Stark's Jarvis. Here, run down some of the best voice actors who provided personality (or a scary lack of one) to some of our favorite movies. Just to be clear, we kept the list to non-humanoids, so we've left off the Terminators and Jude Law gigolos and those robots who don't really talk, like Wall-E.
20. ED 209 (Jon Davison) in 'Robocop'
"You have 20 seconds to comply." This scary prototype's only scene is brief but unforgettable as it blows away an unlucky employee in what should have been a harmless demonstration. Davison was the producer of the first two "Robocop" films and provided the voice uncredited.
19. Axiom computer (Sigourney Weaver) in 'Wall-E'
She doesn't say much (<a href="http://www.moviesoundclips.net/sound.php?id=158" target="_hplink">"You are now free to move about the cabin"</a>) but in a movie where the main characters don't talk at all, Weaver's presence as the shipboard computer stands out. It's both an in-joke to her days on "Alien" and her lame job of repeating commands to and from the shipboard computer in "Galaxy Quest."
18. Starfleet Computer (Majel Barrett) in 'Star Trek'
As she did on the original series and "Star Trek: The Next Generation," Gene Roddenberry's widow voices the Enterprise's computer, which set the standard for all shipboard computers to come, making her voice as much of a sci-fi icon as the whoosh of the ship's doors or <a href="http://wavcentral.com/sounds/televis/startrek/autodest.mp3" target="_hplink">the sound of Scotty beaming someone up</a>.
17. Number Five (Tim Blaney) in 'Short Circuit'
Number Five was like a dorky, tagalong little brother who just happened to be a robot. He was designed for military use, but he had much more interesting things in mind, like spying on Ally Sheedy in the bathtub. (With apologies to J.J. Abrams, bad robot!) Blaney also voiced Frank the Pug in "Men in Black II."
16. Gallaxhar's Computer (Amy Poehler) in 'Monsters vs. Aliens'
In a voice cast this talented (Stephen Colbert is the president, Will Arnett the Missing Link), Poehler makes her mark as the villain's computer who taunts the heroic scientist-turned-cockroach (Hugh Laurie) with some Dance Dance Revolution: "Your busted, tired dance moves are no match for my security protocols." When she starts the inevitable destruction countdown, there's a nod to a certain "Self-Destruct Voice" from an earlier sci-fi comedy classic.
15. Self-Destruct Voice (Julie Pitkanen) in 'Spaceballs'
This is Pitkanen's only voice credit, since she's primarily a script supervisor! But "Spaceballs" wouldn't have been nearly as zany without her irreverent, inaccurate countdown of doom. How many ship computers say, "Just kidding!" while everyone braces for destruction?
14. Andrew Martin (Robin Williams) in 'Bicentennial Man'
Yes, Andrew eventually becomes fully human through a series of "upgrades," but he starts off the film as a man made of metal, one who looks remarkably like Robin Williams and tells jokes just like Robin Williams, if slightly stiffer. But we can see his yearning to be human even in his artificial features.
13. B.E.N. (Martin Short ) in 'Treasure Planet'
The always manic comedian is a perfect fit for for this nervous bucket of bolts, who's apt to fall apart at any minute, both emotionally and literally, because he's got more than a few screws loose.
12. Sonny (Alan Tudyk) in'"I, Robot'
Sonny is accused of murder, an unheard-of crime that violates the Three Laws of Robotics. During this interrogation scene, Sonny also displays some un-robot-like emotions, like anger and arrogance, two traits you're going to need if you decide you're the Robot Spartacus.
11. Red Queen (Michaela Decker) in 'Resident Evil'
Having a snotty little British girl deliver the line, "You're all going to die down here," makes the situation that much more unsettling. We're cheating a bit with this entry since we see a holographic image of the actress who plays the intelligence center of the Umbrella Corp's deadly underground lab. (Audio only. Language <strong>NSFW</strong>)
10. Eddie the computer (Thomas Lennon ) in 'The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy'
Eddie is the most cheerful shipboard computer ever, <a href="http://www.moviesoundclips.net/download.php?id=1894&ft=wav" target="_hplink">as in this line</a>, "Guys, I'm delighted to tell you that there are two thermonuclear missiles heading right for us. If you don't mind, I'm going to go ahead and take evasive action." Of course, he makes a certain depressed robot (#4 on our list) even more paranoid.
9. Dot Matrix (Joan Rivers) in 'Spaceballs'
We should all be so lucky to have a wisecracking robot friend like Dot Matrix, except her built-in "virgin alarm" feature might not be so popular.
8. Proteus IV (Robert Vaughn) in 'Demon Seed'
Artificial intelligence doesn't get much more disturbing than suavely voiced Proteus IV, a home security system that holds Julie Christie hostage and ultimately rapes her. As the trailer sensationally trumpets, "It is a murderously intelligent, sensually self-programmed non-being."
7. GERTY (Kevin Spacey) in 'Moon'
Lonely astronaut Sam Rockwell only has this robot for company during his three-year stint on the moon. GERTY alternates between different emoticons on his screen -- happy, sad, confused -- to help calm Sam down when things start getting weird. Fortunately, he's no HAL 9000.
6. Optimus Prime (Peter Cullen) in 'Transformers'
Does it make the badass leader from planet Cybertron less awesomely cool if you know that this actor also voices Eeyore? His evil opponent, Megatron, was voiced by Hugo Weaving, who brings a touch of the human-hating Mr. Smith to the role.
5. Robby the Robot (Marvin Miller) in 'Forbidden Planet'
Sci-fi's first famous talking robot, Robby, was the epitome of what a robot should be: polite, useful (he could synthesize food in his stomach!) and able to carry a grown man in his arms, if need be. Miller was <a href="http://www.hark.com/clips/qvrsmtqmky-attention" target="_hplink">also the PA announcer in "M*A*S*H</a> and the narrator in "Sleeping Beauty"
4. Marvin the Paranoid Android (Alan Rickman) in 'The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy'
Because he's an android with GPP (Genuine People Personalities), Marvin is the saddest, most depressed android in the galaxy. Alan Rickman can invest even the smallest line with a black hole of bitterness and despair, making his Marvin rank just below the ever-scornful Snape and his frustrated "Galaxy Quest" character.
3. Jarvis (Paul Bettany) in 'Iron Man'
Of course Tony Stark's A.I. is just like him: Smart, snarky and with a bit of an attitude, as when he tries to warn Tony not to try out his suit just yet: "Sir, there are still terrabytes of calculations needed to be done." No wonder he sounds so weary: Tony never takes his excellent advice.
2. HAL 9000 (Douglas Rain) in '2001: A Space Odyssey'
To get the disaffected detachment necessary in a murderous robot, Stanley Kubrick decided against Nigel Davenport (who read the part on set) and Martin Balsam, who recorded the original dialogue, in favor of little-known Canadian stage actor Douglas Rain, who had the "bland mid-Atlantic accent we felt was right for the part." HAL's sing-song yet flat intonation still gives us chills.
1. C-3PO (Anthony Daniels) in 'Star Wars'
Ever since C-3PO, all the best robots or A.I. have posh British accents and the not-so-secret conviction that they really are our betters. Poor 3PO doesn't realize that this protocol droid bungles as much as he saves. Anthony Daniels lent him just the right note of superiority, fussiness and charm.