From the silent movie classic “Metropolis” to this year’s sci-fi hit “Gravity”, computers have played several prominent roles on the silver screen. Most any fan of science fiction movies has a top 10 list, but by just selecting a chosen few, one could easily miss someone else’s favorite, thereby becoming a wide source of criticism.
In an attempt to pay homage to more than just 10 of the best, here is an incomplete guide to some of the greatest movie computers, in alphabetical order rather than order of preference.. Although they’re technically computers, no robots such as C3PO, Gort from the “Day the Earth Stood Still”, Agent Smith from “The Matrix”, “Blade Runner” replicants and the “Terminator” don’t make the list. However one surprising entry, is a movie that’s hasn’t even been released.
Colossus - The Forbin Project
Designed to manage America’s nuclear defense system, the supercomputer Colossus develops its own intelligence and links up with “Guardian”, Russia’s own supercomputer. Rotten Tomatoes describes “Colossus – the Forbin Project” as the “granddaddy of all computer run amok films” and has an 88 percent fresh rating. In a remake of this 1970 classic, Will Smith is rumored to portray Dr. Charles Forbin, the creator of Colossus.
This 1974 sci-fi comedy following the misadventure of four shaggy haired astronauts was John Carpenter’s directorial debut. Clearly a low budget affair, Dark Star’s computer’s malfunctions, causing a “triggering device” known as “bomb 20” to commence a countdown to detonate. During a conversation with crewmember Pinpack, bomb 20 believe its exists by saying “hmmm, well I think, therefore I am”. Fans familiar with the movie will recall the memorable ending with the ship’s commander “surfing” on a piece of debris.
Deep Thought - Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy
Based upon the fictional computer from the popular radio and television series, Deep Thought was built to calculate the Ultimate Question of Life, the Universe and Everything? After 7.5 million years of calculations, Deep Thought’s answer is 42 but professes it really doesn't know the answer and offers to help design a new computer capable of answering the ultimate question. In the 2005 movie, Deep Thought's red eye is believed to resemble the Apple logo.
Gatekeeper - The Net
A year after starring as an unwilling bus driver in the 1994 hit Speed, Sandra Bullock portrayed a cyber security specialist who's given a floppy disk containing a powerful program known as “Gatekeeper” that’s capable of accessing national defense systems. No it’s not a computer, but in an era when the World Wide Web was still in its infancy, Bullock’s character becomes a victim of identify theft but eventually exposes the criminals by using their own computer while at MacWorld San Francisco.
Computers play a backup role in this highly acclaimed 2013 sci-fi movie starring Sandra Bullock and George Clooney. But if it weren’t for the computers, particularly from the International Space Station, a Russian Soyuz spacecraft and Tiangong Chinese space station, moviegoers may have been disappointed with the ending.
HAL 9000 - 2001: A Space Odyssey
Among the greatest film villains of all time, the HAL 9000 is also one of Hollywood’s most famous computers. While in full command of the spaceship, HAL enjoyed working with humans until it’s blamed for an error, then discovers Dr. Bowman and Dr. Poole plan to disconnect it. HAL kills everyone on board except for Dr. Bowman, who utters the most famous quote from the 1968 movie – “open the pod bay doors, HAL”.
Well before this popular science fiction film opened, an enormous marketing campaign teased the American public with movie trailers, creating a huge wave of anticipation. After its July 1996 release, “Independence Day” then set an all time weekend box office record for sales and became the highest grossing film of the year. Despite wreaking havoc in every major international city, killing millions of humans, and nearly taking control of the entire planet, the squid-like alien agitators were eventually defeated after a computer virus created by David Levinson (Jeff Goldblum), destroys the mothership. Movie may recall that evil aliens met a similar fate in the 1953 classic sci-fi movie “the War of the Worlds”, as well as the 2005 remake, when the common cold eradicates them.
Jarvis - Iron Man
The Iron Man movie series replaces Tony Stark’s butler, Edwin Jarvis from the comic book series, with a supercomputer who speaks with a British accent. J.A.R.V.I.S. (Just a Rather Very Intelligent System), serves as a personal assistant, controls all home electronics, helps design and operate Iron Mask’s suits and offers expert advice on how to beat evil villains.
In this post-apocalyptic world, humans live in a domed city controlled by a computer. When residents reach the age of 30, they must participate in a cult-like ceremony to be “renewed” but instead are incinerated. Logan, portrayed by Michael York discovers his own termination date then sets out to search for “Sanctuary”, a place known to shelter people who managed to escape the dome. When Logan finally confronts the computer, he says there is no sanctuary, causing it to overload and explode.
The Machines - The Matrix
Like many others mentioned here, “The Matrix” stands among the finest science fiction films of all time. Written and directed by the Wachowski Brothers and starring Keanu Reeves as Neo, humans are controlled in The Matrix, a virtual reality simulator, by The Machines that have taken over the world. Members of the hovercraft Nebuchadnezzar believe Neo is “The One”, a man prophesied to lead the humans to end the war against the intelligent machines. Although the fate of Neo is still up for considerable debate, the former computer hacker defeats The Machines in “Matrix Revolutions”.
Master Control Program (MCP) - Tron
MCP was the primary villain in the 1982 Disney movie “Tron” starting Jeff Bridges as a video arcade owner and hacker. Slightly resembling a red colored Jabba the Hut, MCP controlled the digital environment within the computer mainframe created by Dr. Walter Gibbs, founder of ENCOM. Intent on world domination, MCP forces programs to compete on “lightcycles” in cyberspace.
MU-TH-UR 6000 - Alien
MU-TH-UR 6000 aka Mother, was the powerful mainframe computer of the commercial spaceship Nostromo in the spine-tingling (literally) 1979 sci-fi classic “Alien”. After intercepting a distress from a nearby planetoid Acheron, the Nosotomo sets out to investigate the source of the signal. The rest, as they say, is history, as Mother receives Special Order 937, a Priority One directive, to “insure return of organism for analysis. All other considerations secondary. Crew expendable”.
Red Queen - Resident Evil
The Red Queen, was a supercomputer in the 2002 movie “Resident Evil”, whose holographic image was inspired by the daughter of the head programmer working for the totalitarian Umbrella Corporation. Designed to oversee the secret underground laboratory “The Hive”, The Red Queen’s main purpose was to protect assets of the Umbrella and its employees. When a lab created virus breaks out, the Red Queen tries to kill everyone in the Hive, ostensibly in an effort to save humanity from the virus.
Samantha - Her
Although the 2013 sci-fi movie “Her” has yet to be released, it’s already gaining Academy Award buzz for Scarlett Johansson. The actress recently voted by Esquire Magazine as its “Sexiest Woman Alive” never appears in the movie, but as the voice of Samantha, the world’s first artificially intelligent operating system, develops a relationship with co-star Joaquin Phoenix and fall in love.
The Federation Main Computer - Star Trek
The Federation’s main computer on the starship Enterprise controls all onboard operations. Using cutting edge operating systems such as LCARS (Library Computer Access/Retrieval System), the ships computer is capable of powering everything from teleportation and launching torpedo tubes to protective force fields and maximum warp speed to go where no man has gone before. Star Trek fans may recall other memorable moments involving a computer, such as when James Kirk secretly reprograms the Kobayashi Maru simulator test in “Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan and Scott using a 20th century computer in “Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home”.
Skynet - The Terminator
The computer system created for the U.S. military by defense contractor Cyberdyne Systems, Skynet was designed to act as a “Global Digital Defense Network”. Like some other fictional computers like HAL 9000, Skynet becomes self aware and perceived humans as a threat to its existence. Skynet responds by invoking nuclear war against Russia and setting the stage for Judgement Day and enlisting terminators to exterminate the human race.
Two high school computer nerds develop a program on a Memotech MTX512 to create a perfect woman in this 1980s sci-fi comedy. After infiltrating a government security system and a lightning strike, the computer creates a woman (Kelly LeBrock) that most guys can only dream of. The late director John Hughes was also well known for several popular teenage movies, including “The Breakfast Club”, “Sixteen Candles”, “Pretty in Pink” and “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off”.
WOPR (War Operations Plan Response) - WarGames
WOPR is America’s top military supercomputer inexplicably hacked by a high school hacker in the 1983 movie “WarGames” starring Matthew Broderick. After cracking the password (Joshua), Broderick accesses the backdoor and plays a video game known as “ Global Thermonuclear War”. WOPR, believes it's the real deal and almost destroys Russia with a nuclear barrage. The most famous quote from the movie has WOPR asking “shall we play a game?” WarGames currently has a 92 percent fresh rating on Rotten Tomatoes.