When any beloved character dies, it's heart-rending — but sometimes, the death of a beloved robot (or android) can be the saddest of all. Maybe because we bond so intensely with artificial beings, their deaths can feel like losing a best friend. Here are 10 robot deaths that are more devastating than almost any human's.
(In no particular order.)
Spoilers for old stories below...
1) The T-800
You could argue the T-800 is a "cybernetic organism," thanks to that flesh coating over the metal endoskeleton. But the core of the Terminator is pure robot — and he becomes the noblest companion you could imagine, in the second movie. Crucially, the T-800 doesn't just give his life in Terminator 2 to save John Connor and Sarah Connor, but to protect the future from Skynet, melting down to preserve no hint of the future. And then, in T3, he sacrifices himself again, to stop the T-2000 and get John Connor to the chopper. I mean, bomb shelter.
2) Optimus Prime
This death in Transformers: The Movie saddened and traumatized a generation of children. Nobody expected to see Optimus Prime, the leader of the Autobots, struck down in battle against Megatron — and then he turns gray as his circuits die. As AznBadger explains, "If the battle between Optimus Prime and Megatron at the beginning of Transformers: The Movie is one of the best fights in cinema history, then the death of Optimus Prime is surely one of the most dramatic deaths." It's devastating as Prime passes the Matrix of Leadership on and says his last words: "Light our darkest hour." Aw mannnnn.
3) Bicentennial Man
Based on a brilliant Isaac Asimov novelette, Bicentennial Man tells the sad story of a robot's long life and how he ends up as more than a machine. Andrew (the robot played by Robin Williams) has his share of hardships, but he really becomes part of the Martin family in a powerful way.But what's sad is that he has to watch them all die, completely unable to express the feelings that have grown within him. So after watching two generations of Martins pass he goes to his original designer's son, and together they work to make Andrew more human. Eventually he falls in love with a human and makes the slow transition to humanity himself — the World Congress even recognizes his human status internationally. Of course, befitting of the situation's drama, Andrew dies right after hearing the announcement and his wife unplugs her life support to follow him into the after-life. In this story, the cost of being recognized as human is mortality.
4) The Iron Giant
Ted Hughes' children's book becomes a shattering fable of self-sacrifice, in the hands of director Brad Bird. Everybody thinks the Iron Giant is a weapon, but his friendship with a young boy named Hogarth reveals his gentleness — but the Army still shows up to try and destroy him anyway. When the Iron Giant thinks his friend Hogarth is dead, he flips out, and then the Army is provoked into launching a nuke at the town. So it's up to the Iron Giant to intercept the missile and sacrifice himself in the process. When he says "Superman," it always gets us.
Is there any other robot death more heartbreaking? Pixar is the master at creating lovable characters, and WALL-E is arguably at the top of the list. His positivity and connection to humanity in the face of soul-crushing loneliness is adorable, and the way he takes care of EVE for an unknown amount of time is the sweetest thing one robot could do for another. Then he sacrifices himself to bring humanity back to Earth, even after most other robots would give up. And when he dies, EVE's freak-out mirrors our own. Thank goodness Wall-E gets brought back from the dead, or there would have been riots in theaters all over America.
Doctor Who has a few sad robot deaths — the K-1 robot's cries of anguish as it perishes in "Robot" are quite moving, and D-84 sacrifices himself for the Doctor in a terribly sad way in "Robots of Death." I guess it's kind of sad when the Doctor puts Kamelion out of his misery in "Planet of Fire." But when K-9 sacrifices himself in the episode "School Reunion," the desolation on Sarah-Jane's face realizing she's lost her last tangible link to the Doctor, and her longtime friend... it's just so heart-crushing. Like our hearts are being crushed into tiny frozen lumps of rock. Luckily, K-9, like Wall-E, gets better. Although does he? Or is that just a brand new K-9 that the Doctor built in his spare time, and the earlier K-9 is just toast?
When Data creates a "daughter" for himself, she's immediately one of the most lovable characters in Star Trek: The Next Generation's long history. But then Starfleet wants to take her away from him — always with the android abuse, Starfleet! — and her emotions are just too much for her positronic matrix. She's lost forever, but her memories remain inside Data. [Thanks, buttnothing!]
We go through a lot with this Geth shared mobile consciousness — so the fact that Legion has to die in Mass Effect 3, no matter what you choose, is just crushing. Check out the above video showing Legion's final moments, in which we finally address the question, "Does this unit have a soul?" [Thanks Jennnmarshall!]
9) Louie, Silent Running
Huey, Dewey and Louie are among the earliest cute robots in popular culture. They're Bruce Dern's only companions in space, and he teaches them to play poker and act more human in this influential film. And then... Louie gets swept away into space, leaving just a leg behind. Imagine if R2D2 got lost and destroyed forever in the middle of Star Wars — that's how traumatic and awful this was for many film-goers.
10) HAL-9000, 2001: A Space Odyssey
Seems weird to put a computer that's technically a villain on the list — but HAL is just obeying his programming, and the scene where HAL's consciousness slips away and slowly sings "Daisy" is one of the all-time great sad death scenes in the movies. You really sense that a living being is being taken away forever, and that HAL deserved better.
Runner Up #1: Data
Data sacrifices himself nobly for Captain Picard at the end of Star Trek: Nemesis. But it's not quite on the same level as the rest of the deaths on this list, partly because Nemesis is such a weak story in general. Plus Data seems to have transferred his consciousness into his convenient twin.
Runner Up #2: Roy Batty
Are Replicants technically robots? They're apparently biological, so maybe not. In any case, if you count Replicants in the larger category of "artificial beings," then Roy Batty's intensely melancholy ending in Blade Runner most definitely belongs on this list.