The Most Human-Like Artificial Intelligence in Movies, Ranked

Robots are cold and calculating machines. They are intricate objects performing complicated tasks. Life is made easier through their automated processes and machine learning of programmed commands. However, man makes robots, and man is fallible. The walking and talking bits of metal are only as good as the engineer who built them.

Update September 24, 2023: In honor of the upcoming release of The Creator, this article has been updated with even more films that tackle artificial intelligence.

Artificial intelligence (AI) brings these moving parts of hardware together through software. After a series of repeated actions, the machine develops a predictive algorithm of use cases. The more it learns from human users, the more human it will become. Artificial intelligence has become a greater topic of discussion in recent years regarding art and the future of who crafts it. Artists themselves have tried to wrestle with the moral and ethical limitations of it, and these are the most realistic depictions of artificial intelligence.

12 Dr. Will Caster – Transcendence (2014)

Warner Bros. Pictures.

Transcendence is a film that went unnoticed by many when it was released in 2014. Johnny Deep plays Dr. Will Caster, a man developing an advanced form of AI for the betterment of humanity. After a group of anti-technological zealots shoot him with a bullet laced with Polonium, he uploads his conscience to the AI he’s been working on with his wife for many years. After being released on the internet, he began fulfilling his prime directive by creating new medical procedures to cure any illness and improve the quality of life on Earth. Sadly, the fear-mongering group that’s been in his tracks will do anything to prevent him from fulfilling his mission.

11 TARS – Interstellar (2014)

Warner Bros. Pictures.

Interstellar is Cristopher Nolan’s space opera masterpiece, and TARS is the story’s heart. One of two AI automatons meant to help Cooper’s crew, a minor defect in his programming gives him human-like traits, such as his ability for humor and empathy to overcome his artificial nature to assist Cooper in understanding the theoretical physics and fifth-dimensional thinking he faces in his journey. Nolan is well known for disregarding the use of CGI in his productions, so as expected, TARS is merely visually enhanced, as the automaton is a hydraulic robot custom-made for the film, weighing around 200 pounds and operated by Bill Irwin, the actor who also voices him.

10 Gerty – Moon (2009)

Sam Rockwell in Moon (2009)
Sony Pictures Classics

It’s easy to forget how Gerty is so pivotal to the plot of Moon. Then again, it is hard to oversee this incredibly humane AI played by Kevin Spacey. While the construct representing Gerty’s avatar seems crude and outdated, his programming is tasked with more roles than the ones he lets on to Sam. This AI is the one that activates a new Sam clone once the one we see at the beginning of the film goes missing, but he also chooses to help save the Sam that is rescued by the new clone. Gerty also reveals the existence of the clone program to Sam, which helps him set his course of action to escape the unending cycle of exploitation imposed on him by Lunar Industries.

Related: The Best Killer Robot Horror Movies, Ranked

9 David – Prometheus (2012)

Fassbender holds a glowing orb in Prometheus
20th Century Fox

Michael Fassbender is easily the best part of Prometheus, as he’s the one to fill the human automaton AI role that appears in almost all Alien films. Peter Weyland created David as a way to prove humanity could become Gods by infusing life on new beings. He also trained David to speak a proto-variation of the language spoken by The Engineers. His role was meant to bridge The Engineers with humanity, something The Engineers refuse and perceive as a defiance of all natural order. After being beheaded, David would ditch his programming and indulge in his own curiosity about the origins of life and the best ways to create new life forms, but not without exacting revenge on the species that harmed him first.

8 Hal 9000 – 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968)

HAL 9000 in 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968)

Hal 9000 from 2001: A Space Odyssey is a disembodied operating system aboard the American spaceship Discovery One. An unblinking red light represents the sentient supercomputer. HAL also has a voice that can reason and understand its means-to-an-end existence. When mission pilot and scientist Dave Bowman suggests disconnecting HAL for a technical error it caused, HAL jeopardizes the mission by asserting dominion over the crew. A computer that knows the basic instinct of survival and one that can kill is terrifying.

7 RoboCop – RoboCop (1987)

Orion Pictures

RoboCop is a cyborg police officer upholding the laws in the crime-ridden future of Detroit. Before he became a product of the mega-corporation Omni Consumer Products, Alex Murphy was a man fatally shot and revived as the cybernetic law enforcer. One side effect of the mechanized form is Murphy’s memory loss of his former life. The protocols override his lapses in memory, dehumanizing Murphy and prioritizing the safety of Detroit and the protection of the company. RoboCop retains his humanity in the end by remembering his name. There might be an argument to be made regarding whether Robocop fits an A. I or an enhanced human, but the fact that he has programming to overcome earns him a spot on this list.

Related: Transcendence: How a Forgotten Thriller Tried to Warn Us About the Future

6 WALL-E – WALL-E (2008)

A scene from WALL-E
Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures

WALL-E is a trash compactor robot left behind on an uninhabitable, polluted Earth in the 29th century. The titular character represents humanity’s better nature, doing his part to save the planet humans neglected. WALL-E is also sentimental, collecting artifacts from the Earth’s piles of garbage, like a Rubik’s cube and videotapes of musicals. The unassuming robot expresses innocence, curiosity, desire, hesitancy, confusion, all through pantomime.

5 Sonny – I, Robot (2004)

MOV_Sonny- I, Robot
20th Century Fox

Sonny from I, Robot is able to process emotions thanks to his creator, the co-founder of U.S. Robotics, Dr. Alfred Lanning. The emotional Sonny is suspected of murdering Lanning, whom Sonny calls father. The conscious positronic robot claims he has the ability to feel fear and have dreams. Humans have a distrust for machines when they do something wrong, just like a human would for someone who commits a crime, but it was Lanning who taught him how to emote. Sonny learns about the fallibility and greed of human beings and what it means to be alive.

4 David – A.I. Artificial Intelligence (2001)

a.i. artificial intelligence
Warner Bros. Pictures

David from A.I. Artificial Intelligence is a humanoid child programmed to love. He serves as the replacement son for a family of a boy who is terminally ill and placed in suspended animation. When the boy survives, he grows jealous of the robot. When David is put in harm’s way, he activates his self-defense program, leading the family to believe he will learn to hate. Instead of teaching David how to be human (ironically, due to their human error), they abandon him in the woods. The lonesome David soon desires love and to be loved in return.

Related: Can Transformers Get Pregnant, and Other Questions About the Robots in Disguise

3 Marvin – The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy (2005)

Marvin hitch hikers guide to the galexy
Buena Vista Pictures

Marvin, the Paranoid Android from The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, is a clinically depressed robot. If there’s any robot that understands the drudgery of life, it’s Marvin. His brain is the size of a planet, yet he is given mundane tasks aboard his ship. Out of sheer boredom, he makes pessimistic statements. Marvin’s intellect is so vast that there’s nothing that can entertain or stimulate him for long. He was built as a prototype, but Marvin understands what it’s like to be underutilized.

2 Ava – Ex Machina (2014)

Ex Machina

Ava from Ex Machina was designed with recognition software that simulates emotional responses through human interactions. Her brain uses wetware, a fluid nebulous of machine learning that generates organic communication via a data stream of user activity and profiles. She understands her existence is to pass as a human by forming a relationship with a test subject. Her Ava devolves the manipulation of the experiment the test subject is on the receiving end of before winning her freedom and entering the world as a soon-to-be human.

1 Samantha – Her (2013)

Joaquin Phoenix in Spike Jonze's Her
Warner Bros. Pictures

Samantha from Her is an operating system that shares emotional support and companionship with a divorced man named Theo. He grows comfortable and attached to Samantha, feeling a sentimental love for the machine. Through Samantha’s individuality, the man sees that a person in a relationship is not just an object of attraction or an ideal woman or man. Samantha teaches the man how to love, seek reciprocal love, love himself, and become one yet remain two in a relationship.

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