The Saddest Robot Deaths In Movies

Voting Rules
Vote up the robot death scenes that had you crying real human tears.

Despite our reliance on it, we have a hypocritical predisposition to distrust technology in the annals of science fiction. The genre is obsessed with the idea of artificially intelligent robots - which are usually demonized because of their superiority. To quote William Golding’s Lord of the Flies, “People fear what they don't understand and hate what they can't conquer.” In short, AI can and probably will destroy humanity. Conversely, it also might not, making it all the more endearing.

When robots aren’t serving as a foe in a film, they try to understand us and become a friend. And, like the best redemptive arcs, everyone loves a good or, at the very least, conflicted robot. Like a dog who feels for you unconditionally, the greatest robots have the potential to be man’s best or worst friend in sci-fi, which makes it even harder to say goodbye. 

Photo: De Laurentiis Entertainment Group / Warner Bros. Pictures

  • Many robots sacrifice themselves for their human companions, and there’s no better example of this than the personal health robot Baymax. Near the end of Big Hero 6, Baymax realizes the only way to get Hiro and Abigail through a portal to safety is to have the former deactivate him and use his rocket fist to propel them through. Baymax’s last words to Hiro, “I will always be with you," before he floats off into the darkness are enough to make people of all ages cry.

    While that moment does indeed feel final, perhaps Disney just couldn’t deal with the amount of sorrow they dished out. At the end of the film, Baymax’s “healthcare chip” is discovered in the original’s rocket hand, allowing Hiro to rebuild his hero. 

    73 votes
  • After crash-landing on a Cold War-era Earth, Vin Diesel’s 50-foot-tall sentient robot forgets his programming as an instrument of death and befriends 9-year-old Hogarth Hughes. Despite winning over the inhabitants of Rockwell, Hogarth’s new BFF has an unfortunate encounter with the US military, which results in the latter deciding to fire a nuclear missile at Hogarth, the Iron Giant, and a town full of innocents. Realizing he has to pull a Superman, the film’s titular character sacrifices himself in an outer-space collision with the nuke.

    It may be a children’s film, but The Iron Giant says quite a lot about the power of friendship and choice (or maybe that’s just the nostalgia talking). Tears forever and always will be shed. 

    80 votes
  • Yes, WALL-E (Waste Allocation Load Lifter Earth-class) does survive the events of his self-titled film, but that doesn’t negate the emotional impact of his “death.” WALL-E follows the last robot on Earth as he cleans up garbage, acquires a personality, and becomes increasingly lonelier. Thankfully, he meets and falls in love with a scanning probe, EVE - who he then decides to follow across the galaxy and protect from harm. The pair’s adventure leads to WALL-E being crushed in the film’s third act.

    While EVE can repair WALL-E when they return to Earth, he seems to no longer be the WALL-E audiences have come to love. Instead, all of his memories are gone and he’s essentially a mindless drone. Thankfully, the “true love’s kiss” trope is evoked, allowing EVE to plant one on our hero and restore him to his former glory. Pixar sure does love to tug at our heartstrings.

    In service of humanity, WALL-E discovers his own. 

    80 votes
  • K-2SO was a KX-series security droid originally created by the Galactic Empire. At some point during the resistance, Captain Cassian Andor encountered K-2 and reprogrammed him to serve the Rebel Alliance as the snarky and combat-ready anti-C-3PO. Despite taking pride in being, well, a robot, Jyn Erso and company’s saga to steal the Death Star plans led to his very human sacrifice.

    During the Battle of Scarif, K-2 is riddled with blaster shots and uses his last ounce of energy to destroy the console keeping his friends from accessing the data room. This emotional moment is the beginning of the end for Rogue One. 

    67 votes
  • In arguably the most influential and, in turn, greatest action movie ever made, Arnold Schwarzenegger plays the T-800 as a killing machine learning what it means not to kill. This time around, the OG Terminator is sent back in time by John Connor to protect John Connor from the shape-shifting T-1000. With Kyle Reese KIA, audiences watch the seemingly secular machine develop a quasi-father/son relationship with the kid, attempting to understand the sanctity of life, and therefore resembling a human itself.

    After defeating the T-1000, the T-800 bids farewell to Sarah and John before having the former lower him into a vat of steel plant smelter to melt the last Neural Net CPU in his head and ensure Skynet never comes to fruition... that is until countless sequels fruitlessly try to recapture the magic of this film. John cried, we cried, the T-800 didn’t but understands why we did and probably wished he could’ve. 

    67 votes
  • The year was 1986 and there was indeed more than meets the eye. Then, a generation of teenage boys had the rug ripped out from under them when Hasbro decided to release what is arguably the greatest Transformers movie of all time (animated or otherwise).

    Not even halfway through the flick, the leader of the Autobots, Optimus Prime, falls in a gunfight with Megatron before passing the Matrix of Leadership to Ultra Magnus. No heroic comeback or third-act revival. The machine, the myth, the legend is actually gone, and it’s a moment our 10-year-old selves will never forget. 

    46 votes