Guy Cry: Robots: social

Robot movies aren’t all about action — they can have some real tearjerker moments that will bring even the manliest to tears.

The goal of this series is to show that being “manly” and being disconnected with your emotions do not necessarily go hand-in-hand. While the approach to these articles is one of comedy and satire, the emotional core of these movies is very valid. Manly movies make guys cry, for example:

Robot Movies

The definition of “robot” movie is going to have to be stretched a bit for this list. Between cyborgs, androids and plain old traditional robots, it’s necessary to apply the spirit of the definition. And the spirit involves a man/machine that makes us love them, and then does something selfless and powerful to make us cry. It’s quite a feat to make someone feel for an automaton, so these films generally are cinematic powerhouses on their own right. When guys sit down to watch machines either blasting us away or blasting with us, there’s always the chance that a box of tissues will need to be at the ready.

1. Transformers: The Movie

We’re talking the animated original, not the Michael Baysplosion. Here is one of the nerdiest moments worth crying about: the death of the Autobot leader, Optimus Prime. As a kid, Optimus Prime was as important as He-Man and Batman. He was a robot that inspired and cared for his fellow Autobots, always putting them above himself. Perma-death was not something kids were used to in Saturday morning cartoons, so the animated movie set in the same continuity didn’t telegraph any changes. For a lot of kids, this was the first time you ever saw a cartoon hero die.

In one scene, it is determined that Optimus’ wounds are fatal and will soon be one with the Matrix of Leadership. He opens his chest and hands over his Matrix to Ultra Magnus. The powerful moment is when the music kicks in and Optimus’ eyes turn off. His body deteriorates and the surrounding Autobots weep. The human, Spike, grabs his head and bursts into tears. Take the best parts of all four new Transformer movies and you have nothing close to the quality or emotional impact of this scene. Particularly because Optimus Prime seems to die and resurrect more than Tom Cruise…you know. In that one movie.

2. Blade Runner

Are they robots? Perhaps not made of metal and circuits, but they’re definitely artificial, as in designed, engineered, and manufactured. In fact, going into the definition of “robot,” we find it means “a machine made to look like a human, that can perform various tasks.” Pretty sure Rutger Hauer performed various tasks in this film, while looking human.

I’ve gone over this film before at length, but we must bring it up again. Rutger “Roy” Hauer fights against a society that’s deemed him expendable and insignificant, only to end up realizing they’re right and achieving self-awareness in death. With no way to extend his shelf-life and his creator being a crippling disappointment, Roy transcends his origin and truly knows what it is to be human. Roy learns you can’t live forever, sometimes as you grow up the halo you place on your parents loses its shine, and all that truly matters is your actions and how you are remembered. He ends his existence saving Harrison “Indiana” Ford’s life. Does that make him more human? Was Harrison a synthetic himself? Depends on what version you watch.

3. The Iron Giant

This movie pretty much has the same premise as E.T.: A being from space lands on Earth and becomes friends with a young boy. The boy teaches him about customs and even introduces him to Superman comics. Director Brad Bird definitely loves superheroes because his next film was Pixar’s The Incredibles.

In this scene, a rocket is headed to the little boy’s town to destroy the Iron Giant. The whole film has a 1950s almost-art deco/cold war theme going on, and someone was a little trigger happy. The little boy Hogarth explains to his robot friend that when the missile hits, everyone will die. The Giant tells Hogarth to stay and not follow him, then launches himself into space to intercept the missile. The most powerful moment is when Hogarth tells the Giant that he loves him and when the Giant sacrifices himself. He closes his eyes and says: “Superman.”

4. RoboCop

RoboCop is a cop. Then he turns into a machine. Then, through the power of the human spirit, he becomes a man again. But also, he’s all cop. That’s pretty much the plot, and again we’re talking about the original masterpiece, not the rebooted vomit-bag.

The sad parts of this movie are difficult to find for guys, because we’re too busy cheering the ultra-violence, or almost vomiting at the ultra-violence. (Let’s just say the new movie doesn’t have an R-rating for a reason.) Hidden in all that awesome movie is a touching scene where Robo-Murphy is starting to remember his human life. He walks into his old home, currently for sale with robo-realtors at the ready, and starts recalling his family. He sees pictures of his family and electronic static pulls back to show us that moment in time. This scene almost becomes more applicable today, with military heroes coming home to find their families have moved on, or grown up unrecognizably. Murphy can no longer identify himself as a father and husband first, and a cop second. He doesn’t even have the ability to identify himself as anything other than a cop. It’s so emotional, Murphy’s only recourse was to punch a computer monitor in the face.

We understand, Murphy, we do.

5. Terminator 2: Judgment Day

I know, this film was just mentioned last week, but good god the thumbs-up scene! After a contemplative discussion of why humans cry and how emotions work, there’s nothing so tender as a machine that has learned about emotional longing. “I know now why you cry,” the giant Austrian kill-bot says, “but it is something I can never do.”

Arnold, back when that name meant something, being lowered to his doom NOT because an enemy was attacking him, but because he knew he represented the possible enemy of the future. The father figure that the characters and we the audience had grown to love sacrificing himself to protect us from the future war of bad Terminator sequels. (Perhaps he should have found hotter molten steel?)

I know I harp on this moment so much, but think about this: the machine is completely logical in choosing to destroy himself, but what is logical about giving that thumbs-up? Nothing. It’s emotion. He wanted to communicate with his friend one last time regardless of what it would accomplish. He learned that much.

Like what you see? Secure enough in your masculinity for more? Check out more Guy Cry Cinema or watch Dan on No Right Answer, the weekly debate show that knows what’s really important: Pointlessly arguing about geek culture.

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Daniel Epstein
Father, filmmaker, and writer. Once he won an Emmy, but it wasn't for being a father or writing.

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