TOP 10: Giant Robots in Pop Culture

August 6, 2023

BY Bob Erlenback

Giant robots fascinate and capture the imagination of film and TV viewers of all ages. Whether they defend the planet from extraterrestrials or city-crushing monsters, we’re always ready to see a giant mecha kick ass. Since we discussed our favorite strange beasts in our recent Best Kaiju episode, it got us thinking about which planetary robot defenders are the best? Here is our list of Top 10 Giant Robots for your consideration. Do you disagree or did we miss any? Let us know in the comments.

10. Mega Maid – Spaceballs

She’s gone from suck to blow! Kicking off our list is a comedic pick from the Mel Brooks space opera spoof, Spaceballs! Mega Maid’s cinematic footprint may be small, but she made a big impact. From her Statue of Liberty appearance to the dildo-shaped vacuum handle she clings to so fiercely while hurtling through space, she can’t help but leave a lasting impression. It’s all comedic gold! Ready Kafka?

9. Alien Tripods – War of the Worlds

The oldest pick on our list, War of the Worlds has terrified audiences for more than a century. The Martian Tripods are complete nightmare fuel. Maybe it’s the fast pace in which they chase, the fact there is no place to hide, or the idea they are both plausible and possible. No matter the reason, these iconic robots couldn’t be left off of our list.

8. Sentinels – Marvel Comics

The Sentinels have been a major threat for the X-Men almost as long as Marvel’s merry mutants have existed. And like the mutants, the giant robots have themselves evolved significantly over the years, coming in all shapes and sizes — from city-sized genocide machines to devastating microscopic nanobots — and have slain their fair share of mutants in both the comic pages and film, specifically in Days of Future Past. They may be painted in fruity colors, but these giant machines are absolutely lethal.

7. Unicron – Transformers

You didn’t think we would have a pop-culture robot list without Transformers, did you? Though this might not be the first robot in disguise you think of, Unicron is definitely one of the largest. Also known as the Lord of Chaos, the Chaos Bringer, and the Planet Eater, he is hell bent on consuming planets and the multiverse for breakfast. His hulking mass, skeletal wings, and giant horns make his design the most formidable on this list. Also, let’s not forget Unicron was portrayed by Orson Wells in his inspired final performance. I can think of worse ways to cap a legacy!

6. Gypsy Danger/Jaegers – Pacific Rim

Guillermo Del Toro’s popular film Pacific Rim is both a love letter to and an evolution of Kaiju films. This film brought new excitement to the genre by blending classic Kaiju and Super Sentai tropes. The Jaegers, led by Gypsy Danger, gave a different perspective on these giant robots and the individuals who pilot them by introducing the concept of ‘drifting.’ Taking what were often just autonomous killing machines and making them a cerebral extension of the operator. This film elevated the concept of a giant robot, earning it unique recognition on this list.

5. Evangelions/Evas – Neon Genesis Evangelion

From the Japanese anime television series Neon Genesis Evangelion, these robots are used to fight the beings known as Angels. These bio-mechas offer an alternative look to many of the other similar robots on this list with their slim stylized design and elegant appearance. They are the most human in their movements, which create a greater emotional connection to the viewer. A very cool addition to our list indeed.

4. Megazord – Mighty Morphin Power Rangers

With all due respect, this is the goofiest and most derivative entry on our list. The Megazord from Mighty Morphin Power Rangers hit televisions in the 90s and now has more than two dozen franchise series still airing today. We truly believe the popularity must have something to do with viewers’ connection to this construct robot. Made up of multiple Zords, it comes together when the Rangers need to kick some major monster ass. Colorful and cartoonish, it’s no surprise this robot keeps viewers engaged. ‘…And I’ll form the head!”

3. Gundams – Mobile Suit Gundam

Clearly the inspiration for many mecha to follow, the wildly popular and iconic Gundams are a classic in anime design. These colorful and boxy robots project a feeling of strength and power. They are more militaristic in use and appearance, adding more modern weaponry to the traditional robot lasers and swords. These consummate defenders are precisely what you want between you and the enemy.

2. The Iron Giant – The Iron Giant

The Iron Giant is the robot bringing heart to our list. This animated classic from 1999 taught children that robots can be more than killing machines and capable of humanity. Director Brad Bird pitched this film as, “What if a gun didn’t want to be a gun?” The Iron Giant weighs heavy on this list with emotion and nostalgia which lead to its featuring in the Speilberg film Ready Player One, making it one of our crossover robots. With its clean 1950’s design and aesthetic, this one will likely remain on Top 10 lists for years to come.

1. Voltron Voltron

What can we say? Voltron is the defender of the universe! Not only that, this brightly colored robot is arguably one of the most well known and recognized with its unique deconstructed lion forms. The cats are just as cool as the construct. Voltron may not have been the first to sport the bipedal humanoid robot form, but it was the first to break through with a Western audience and introduce a generation of 80’s kids to the art of anime. Voltron paved the way for many other robot franchises to follow. For these reasons, we can’t deny his supremacy on this list.

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Jenna curry
1 month ago

I love Evangelion because eva unit 3 and Eva unit 8 are the inspiration for Superman’s unchained armor .which was my second mecha figure I got in years after my first being gypsy avenger which I got in 2018