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10 Animated Movies About Robots

Big Hero 6, Robot Dreams and The Iron Giant, 3 of the the animated movies about robots recommended by Loud and Clear Reviews

A list of 10 animated movies about robots that portray their uneasy relationship with humans or the world, from ethical dilemmas to comedic situations.

As debates about artificial intelligence intensify, films and animated movies about robots feel more relevant now than ever. Mechanical characters may be traced back to such fiction as Jules Verne’s 1880 The Steam House, involving a steam-powered mechanical elephant, or Edward S. Ellis’s 1868 The Steam Man of the Prairies, that introduced a mechanical steam-man. However, it was in 1921 when Czech writer Karel Čapek first coined the word “robot” (from Czech word “robota” – forced or hard labour) in his play R.U.R. about mass-produced artificial beings, and it was the year 1931 that first saw the world’s first ever humanoid robot Dai Ningen Tanku, a villain in Suzuki Ichiro and Takeo Nagamatsu’s theatrical story Ōgon Bat (Golden Bat).

The world’s passing interest in robotic entities morphed into one real, long-lasting obsession about mechanical heroes after Japan’s manga artist and animator Osamu Tezuka brought his manga’s boy-robot character to television screens in series Astro Boy, which premiered in 1963. His boy-robot possessed various superhuman abilities, such as super-hearing and super-flying speed. However, as it is seen from recent and anticipated animations about robots, including Pablo Bergers Robot Dreams and Chris Sanders’s The Wild Robot (2024), it is not only superhuman abilities that is of interest to us in such stories.

Paradoxically, it is stories about robots that may best capture the human condition, and our human need for connection and affection. This is probably because it is through a non-human entity or our interaction with them that we may truly appreciate the gift of being a “feeling” human. So, below are 10 animated movies about robots worth watching.

1. Wall-E (2008)

WALL-E: Film Review – Loud And Clear Reviews
Pixar’s film WALL-E is a celebration of culture, a warning against consumerism, and a family-friendly sci-fi adventure.

WALL-E is among the greatest, if not the greatest, robot animation(s) of all time, and that taking into account the immense achievements of Japanese studios in this genre. The nearly wordless story of one solitary robot named WALL-E finding himself alone on planet Earth in 2805 with the job of cleaning up all the human waste connects on a primal level, and its love story, as WALL-E then meets another robot called EVE, touches to the core.

Pixar’s director Andrew Stanton (Finding Nemo, also a Toy Story trilogy co-writer) managed to achieve that delicate balance here between visual charm, emotion, intelligence and humour. The ecological disaster theme, coupled with one heartbreaking love story, contributed to WALL-E becoming a classic in no time. The best animated movies out there have very clear and focused themes and storylines that also manage to tug at one’s heartstrings. WALL-E, with its meticulously-crafted visuals, is exactly that masterpiece.

2. Ghost in the Shell (1995)

A character holds a gun with a visor on their heads while running from a robot in Ghost in the Shell, one of the animated movies about robots recommended by Loud and Clear Reviews
10 Animated Movies About Robots – Ghost in the Shell (Kodansha)

Time has been kind to Ghost in the Shell that managed to achieve a cult status of greatness, and, if we are to make comparisons, it would probably be the Blade Runner of the animation world. The story is that, in the year 2029, elite female cyborg officer Major Motoko Kusanagi is on a mission to track down the Puppet Master, a cyber criminal who hacks into the brains of cyborgs, committing various crimes.

Directors Mamoru Oshii (Angel’s Egg) and Mizuho Nishikubo (Giovanni’s Island) introduced one nightmarish futuristic world where cyber-technology is widespread, and, thus, used and misused everywhere, with the line between humans and robots being so blurry as to be non-existent. With its themes ranging from the nature of consciousness and self-aware technology to advancements in crime detection, the film is not only entertaining, but also highly intelligent. Ghost in the Shell’s complex plot may be off-putting, but the visual brilliance and thought-provoking story still make this science-fiction classic a must-watch one.

3. Robot Dreams (2023)

Robot Dreams: TIFF Film Review – Loud And Clear Reviews
Film Review: Robot Dreams is an appropriate career change for director Pablo Berger, who captures the art of silent cinema brilliantly.

Based on Sara Varon’s graphic novel of the same name, Robot Dreams tells a story about the enduring power of friendship and kindness, and the unrelenting passage of time and chance accidents that always threaten that happiness. The setting is New York of 1984 where lonely Dog orders a product in a mail and soon assembles Robot, who becomes his best friend. The two spend their time together, until a forced separation on a beach puts a stop to their happy outings. Intertwining reality with fantasy, the story is fun and heart-breaking in equal measure. Director Pablo Berger managed to make his film an emotional roller-coaster that is also nostalgia-inducing: the cartoonish film references such classic films as Manhattan and The Wizard of Oz, as well as spotlights the 1980s’ Big Apple filled with arcades and funky independent shops. Life happens, but love and memory always endures. Berger’s achievement is made all the more impressive by the fact that this animation is completely wordless.

4. Ron’s Gone Wrong (2021)

A boy sits on the floor unpacking a cute robot in Ron's Gone Wrong, one of the animated movies about robots recommended by Loud and Clear Reviews
10 Animated Movies About Robots – Ron’s Gone Wrong (20th Century)

With such great films as After Yang, Finch and M3GAN, this decade definitely started strong on the theme of our tricky relationship with artificial intelligence, and Ron’s Gone Wrong is yet another example of a good film that tackles this highly interesting topic. In this animated movie, Barney is a teenage boy feeling lonely, anxious and lacking in confidence. When he gets B-bot Ron, a new intelligent device that now floods the market targeting teenagers, he may be thinking he has finally found his best friend. However, Ron’s unexpected malfunction leads to certain reconsiderations, including on the control of artificial intelligence and its ultimate purpose. Ron’s Gone Wrong, which showcases the dangers of digital appliances, such as addiction and issues of privacy, does not break any new grounds, but it still charms with its focus on the meaning of friendship in our highly digitalised twenty-first century.

5. Treasure Planet (2002)

10 Animated Movies About Robots – Treasure Planet (Rotten Tomatoes Classics)

Treasure Planet did not do so well with critics and audiences upon its release, but now warrants a fair re-evaluation. It is an exciting adventure that combines Robert Louis Stevenson’s Treasure Island narrative with space exploration, and it has a fair share of robots in it! The story follows young man Jim Hawkins who boards a ship to find the lost treasure on mythical Treasure Planet, and then falls under influence of one eccentric cook and cyborg John Silver. On Treasure Planet, he then makes fast friends with amnesiac robot B.E.N. who may be able to tell him more about the location of the treasure.

The animation may be relying on familiar tropes and predictable characters, but its retro-futuristic look is striking and wondrous, and, at its heart, there is also one fascinating and thought-provoking foe-to-friend relationship that we rarely see in animation nowadays – between young Jim and cyborg cook Silver. Treasure Planet is that fast-paced, “feel-good” animated movie that, surprisingly, has aged well.

6. The Iron Giant (1999)

A giant robot holds a boy in his hand who is waving in the film The Iron Giant, one of the animated movies about robots recommended by Loud and Clear Reviews
10 Animated Movies About Robots – The Iron Giant (Warner Bros. Pictures)

The Iron Giant is one of those excellent animated movies that unjustly fell flat upon its release and were then forgotten in some circles. Its Godzilla/E.T.-like premise tells of a young boy in 1957 who befriends a giant robot that governmental agencies want to destroy. This is a lose adaptation of 1967 novel “The Iron Man” by Ted Hughes, who wrote it to comfort his children after the death of his wife, poet Sylvia Path. The Iron Man, that encapsulates the Cold War politics of fear, and anxieties and excitement regarding space exploration, got lost quite a bit in its transition to the big screen, but the general storyline and themes remained: this is the story about our relationship with “otherness” and advanced technology.

Directed by Brad Bird (The Incredibles, Ratatouille), and starring such voice-cast as Jennifer Aniston, Vin Diesel and James Gammon, The Iron Giant is an intelligent, moving adventure whose lessons never feel preachy or forced. The computer-generated giant robot in this traditional animation may symbolically stand for many things, including weapons, computer advancements or even foreign nations, and the deceptively simple visuals hide metaphors of power, responsibility, friendship and kindness.

7. Big Hero 6 (2014)

A big robot named Baymax and a young boy with black hair hug each other tight in front of a round window in the film Big Hero 6
10 Animated Movies About Robots – Big Hero 6 (Pixar)

With such a lovable robot as Baymax, a huge, white inflatable entity, at its centre, this animated movie cannot but be successful. The story concerns robots prodigy Hiro Hamada, who gets a sole control of Baymax, a healthcare robot built by his late older brother, and sets on a journey to avenge his brother’s death. In its nutshell, Big Hero 6 is an animation that tries to reach many a middle ground. It is set both in Tokyo and San Francisco at the same time since its location is the blend of the two – the fictional town of San Fransokyo where Hiro lives.

It is based on both Eastern and Western cultures (for example, Hiro tries to fight a man called “Yokai” – a class of supernatural entities in Japanese folklore), and though it encompasses the Marvel Comics’ original vision, it also veers off to construct its own unique journey. In sum, though, the curious mix of different directions and components strangely works, and the animated movie is adorable, fun and heartfelt.  

8. Metropolis (2001)

A blonde woman with green eyes is shown but half of her face is missing and underneath there's a black robot
10 Animated Movies About Robots – Metropolis (Madhouse)

Since both Shrek and Monsters, Inc. were released in 2001, it was easy to overlook Japan’s animation Metropolis that premiered the same year. But, in fact, 2001 was one of the best years in Japanese animated history, and saw the release of such absolute masterpieces as Hayao Miyazaki’s Spirited Away and Satoshi Kon’s Millennium Actress. Metropolis follows close behind, being inspired by Fritz Lang’s classic film and written by none other than the legendary writer and director of Akira – Katsuhiro Otomo. Metropolis is a story set in a distant future telling of one unexpected romance between humanoid girl robot Tima and good-hearted boy Kenichi, as dark forces threaten to overturn their city.

Although based on the original 1949 manga by Osamu Tezuka, Metropolis’s story has much more visual and plot similarities to Fritz Lang’s Metropolis than many fans of this silent film would be comfortable with. However, the animation packs thought-provoking ideas, including on the existence of robots’ free will and their capacity to love, and the exquisite visuals make for a great wondrous journey overall as we are introduced to rotating machinery, robot armies, and just immerse ourselves in the life of a futuristic city. Besides, many of the animation’s retro-elements also mean it is a great tribute to the manga tradition in general.

9. The Mitchells vs. The Machines (2021)

The Mitchells vs the Machines: Riotous robot apocalypse – Loud & Clear
ìThe Mitchells vs. the Machines is a fun, family-friendly subversion of “sci-fi disaster” stories with a compelling emotional core.

First thing to say about The Mitchells vs. The Machines is that it is both hilarious and relevant. The premise of a family of four going on a car trip only to find themselves in the midst of a technological uprising as the world’s electronic devices come to life is something that no late millennial or Generation Z person can possibly miss. “The Mitchells have always been weird, and that’s what makes us great”, says the family patriarch in this story, as the family embarks on a journey of their lifetime when they confront robots that aim to kill them, and all the rest of humanity. The Mitchells befriend two other malfunctioning robots willing to help them make sense of the dangerous situation, but will they have enough time to save themselves, and, possibly, humanity?

In Mike Rianda’s animated movie, technology-infused comedy, including about our addiction to smart-phones and apps, runs in parallel with themes pertaining to tricky parent-child relationships and coming-of-age anxieties, and all this takes place in a heart-warming family setting that somehow reminds of The Flintstones. There is a hefty dose of sassiness thrown into this work, which may not be to everyone’s taste, but, with its relatable themes that never fail to make their mark, The Mitchells vs. The Machines is still a very fun and enjoyable animation overall.

10. Robots (2005)

A happy robot stands next to a sad robot in the film Robots
10 Animated Movies About Robots – Robots (20th Century)

What can be more inspiring amidst many already existing robot-scripts than a story about robots fighting for their own existence? It seems like a clichéd idea on its first glance, but there is still something both immensely thought-provoking and soothing about this animation by the directors of Ice Age. Robots follows robot Rodney Copperbottom, who travels from River Town to Robot City for work only to find that his chosen company has decided to maximise profits over ensuring the livelihood of robots (by choosing robot upgrades over repairs), and he must do something to stop the greed destroying his robot-kind.

Visually, the robots in the story appear almost excessively retro in their style, and not everything in this storyline falls in its right place. However, the animation benefits from the talent of its impressive cast: Ewan McGregor, Halle Berry, Mel Brooks, Robin Williams and Paul Giamatti, to name just a few, and its humour and intelligent theme also work wonders. You come out of Robots feeling like such a colourful, computer-generated mode of animating may just be the best and certainly most fitting way to tell a story about robots.

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