The Best Artificial Intelligence Movies of All Time

Whether you realize it or not, Artificial Intelligence, or AI, has been with us for quite some time in movies, TV, and books. While once upon a time, these characters seemed to only exist in the realm of science fiction, the recent advancements in AI are making the reality of intelligent robots closer than you might think.

Let’s take a look at some of the most compelling AI characters ever produced, gleaned from the imagination of Hollywood and the best books on AI.

2001 a Space Odyssey: HAL 9000

The year 1968 brought us Stanley Kubrick’s seminal film, 2001 a Space Odyssey, based on the novel by Arthur C. Clark. Perhaps the most memorable character in the film was HAL 9000, the spaceship Discovery’s artificially intelligent computer system.

At first, HAL seemed to be a solid member of the crew, maintaining the ship’s functions and engaging in genial conversation. HAL even famously played chess with crew-mate Frank Poole. However, as time goes on, HAL begins to malfunction, resulting in the decision to shut HAL down. That decision causes HAL to decide to kill his crewmates.

Apparently, HAL’s programming is unable to resolve a conflict between the ship’s general mission and instructions to provide the crew accurate information, and orders to withhold information regarding the true, secret purpose of the space mission.

HAL’s ominous glowing red camera eye, and annoyingly soft, calm voice remain creepy to this day. Anyone who has seen the film will never forget HAL’s dying, childlike voice singing “Daisy” as Frank Poole cuts his circuits.

The Terminator: Skynet and Cyberdyne Systems Model 101

Appropriately released in the year 1984, the film The Terminator was chosen in 2008 by the Library of Congress for preservation in the National Film Registry for its cultural, historic and aesthetic significance.

The film was directed by James Cameron and stars Arnold Schwarzenegger as the Terminator (Cyberdyne Systems Model 101) a cyborg assassin sent back in time to kill Sarah Connor, the mother of a future resistance leader. Of equal importance is the film’s “Skynet,” a system of surveillance satellites that both trigger the destruction of the world, as well as guide robots to hunt down the few remaining humans on Earth.

The Terminator’s sheer, superhuman strength is not the most frightening aspect of this AI-powered cyborg, but it’s a single-minded and unstoppable quest to kill the innocent waitress, Sarah Connor. The Terminator doesn’t feel, doesn’t sleep, and above all, it won’t stop until Sarah Connor is dead.

Star Trek: Data

Not all AI-powered robots are relentless killers; Star Trek: The Next Generation introduced us to Data, perhaps the most endearing AI character ever. Played by Brent Spiner, Data’s goal is to become more human. As a synthetic AI life form, Data is unable to experience an emotion or to understand the idiosyncratic nature of humans. This propels Data in search of his own humanity.

Data’s quest for his own human experience is not only humorous, but it’s a significant plot point throughout the series. Data’s nuanced sense of wisdom, curiosity, and sensitivity serves as a mirror for us to question our own humanity. While the audience is told that Data is incapable of human emotion, it’s hard to believe that he truly sees the world, and his crewmates, in only logical terms.

Futurama: Bender

It could be argued that this cartoon AI robot is the most human of all; Bender is a comical, nasty antihero, and has been described by fellow cartoon character Leela as a “whore-mongering, chain-smoking, alcoholic, gambler.” While Data strives towards the lofty end of the human experience, Bender’s programming embodies all that is wrong in the human character. Bender lies, cheats, and steals his way through life. However, it’s his irredeemable qualities that make Bender the envy of many.

Westworld: Maeve Millay

Played by Thandie Newton, Maeve Millay is the very charming, manipulative, and highly perceptive cyborg madame of the Mariposa Saloon and Brothel. She is designed and programmed to be able to instantly perceive the intimate needs of her guests. As Maeve becomes more and more self-aware she develops into a ruthless manipulator, even able to control the technicians behind Westworld.

Once again, the emotionless and program-driven nature of AI intelligence verges on psychopathy; while Maeve is smart, fiercely independent, and supremely confident, her total disregard for human life is troubling. Like the Terminator, if Maeve wants something, she’s not going to stop until she gets it.




Now we get to our first real-life AI robot, Sophia. Developed by Hong Kong-based Hanson Robotics, Sophia was brought to “life” in 2016 at the South by Southwest Festival in Austin, Texas. In 2017, Sophia Saudi Arabia granted this robot citizenship, and later that year, Sophia was named the first-ever Innovation Champion for the United Nations Development Program. In fact, Sophia is the first non-human to be awarded a United Nation title.


Sophia uses AI methods including facial recognition, emotion recognition, face tracking, and movements created by deep neural networks. Sophia’s conversational ability is generated by a decision tree. While Sophia has been programmed to mimic more than 60 human facial expressions and can converse on a variety of predetermined topics, some argue that she is nothing more than a chatbot with a face. Indeed, Sophia sadly lacks the charm, intrigue, and dangerous personality we’ve become accustomed to when it comes to AI characters.