What was up with the 80s thinking sentient robots were about to happen? The closest we had in real life at the time was Teddy Ruxpin. But a lot of movies tossed in a robot butler or even a talking robot in a movie that had no other futuristic or sci-fi elements. And I don’t think we, the audience, were supposed to think twice about it because in all of the examples I’ve gathered below, no one really gives the robots the time of day. They just take these sentient machines for granted. What is going on here?!
4. SPACE CAMP (1986)
Space Camp takes place in space but it is not a sci-fi movie. It’s about a bunch of teens going to Space Camp to learn what it takes to be an astronaut. And then all of a sudden there’s Jinx, a sentient robot that takes commands too literally. NASA has flat out built an artificial intelligence. That’s amazing. But no one seems that wowed by it. Oh, and it’s Jinx’s fault that the space shuttle launches with the kids in it. The drama is them having to land the space shuttle. But Jinx, man. What were they thinking?
3. REVENGE OF THE NERDS (1984)
Revenge of the Nerds is silly but it’s not like they’re inventing ghostbusting equipment or travelling to alternate dimensions. No, it’s about a bunch of nerds that are harassed by the jocks on campus. Until at one point they invent a robot butler for themselves. Kinda casually. Like, it’s just a thing that smart people can do. We’re not talking a roomba. It’s a sentient robot that cleans the entire house for them like a maid. Sadly, it doesn’t get a name before the jocks trash their house and the robot.
2. WALL STREET (1987)
Wall Street was a movie about the stock market. It’s a pretty good drama. You know what doesn’t belong in it? The robot butler that Gordon Gecko (Michael Douglas) owns. Above is a shot of Charlie Sheen completely ignoring the fact that a sentient robot is rolling around a party delivering drinks. What? That would blow my mind NOW, let alone almost 30 years ago.
1. ROCKY IV (1985)
The fourth Rocky movie is still about boxing but there’s also an extended family Christmas scene where Rocky gives his brother-in-law a robot. It knows Paulie’s name and does whatever he tells it to do. You know, like other robots of the time oh no wait that was never a thing.
Honorable Mention: COBRA (1986)
I think the robots in this scene are just props for a photo shoot. But it’s still a pretty weird scene. While Sylvester Stallone (Cobra) hunts for a serial killer, we get a lot of shots of robots and eventually realize they are part of a photo shoot for a model that’s being targeted by said killer. I think. It’s a pretty bad movie.
Honorable Mention: SAVED BY THE BELL (1989)
This is a TV show, not a film, so I’m only giving it an Honorable Mention. But nerdy Screech flat out invented a sentient robot that he named Kevin. It could do anything Screech told him and actually was so smart that he would give out sarcastic quips. No one was ever impressed by this amazing feat. This should have given Screech an instant scholarship at MIT. Instead, his friends mostly rolled their eyes.