After hours of hard work, rewatching some of the classics from science fiction, staff at software company SolarWinds have analysed the on-screen performance of cinema’s greatest techno-villains to see who stands tall as the worst of them all.
A true villain dominates the screen, but lets their actions speak louder than words. 14 characters were chosen in total, with their on-screen time, total on-screen kills, and number of lines spoken all tallied up to help rank them. And the results are in!
Which are the biggest robot villains? Which are the deadliest?
Mechagodzilla took the top prize, compensating for above-average screen time with a cataclysmic death toll of over nine million. That’s thanks to attacking an apartment building, a power plant, and an entire village of people in Godzilla vs. Mechagodzilla, before bringing the fight to a major city in Terror of Mechagodzilla. Without the ability to speak, Mechagodzilla is also quietest of the cybernetic villains, though some of our other villains love to talk the talk more than walk the walk.
Agent Smith is a prime example, racking up close to an hour of individual screen time across the three Matrix films, and delivering 95 lines. However, when it comes to actually pulling the trigger, he only kills two people across the whole of the Matrix trilogy, thanks to his penchant for converting people into himself while he is in the Matrix. Therefore, Smith’s only true kills come when he enters the body of Bane in The Matrix Reloaded and when he stabs Maggie (the Hammer ship’s doctor) in The Matrix Revolutions.
While Agent Smith doesn’t shirk the limelight, some villains seem to barely receive any attention in their own films! ED-209, AUTO, The Gunslinger and even Ultron, who fought earth’s mightiest heroes last year, all received less than 15 minutes screen time in their respective films. At least Ultron made the most of his time, attacking the country of Sokovia and killing over a hundred of its residents (confirmed in, and helping spark the events of, Captain America: Civil War). Megatron makes a big impression on the graph above, which is more than can be said for this appearance in the first Transformers movie (with only six minutes spent on screen)!
Darth Vader and the T-800 are two of science fiction’s most celebrated characters, but how did they fare in the research?
Arnold Schwarzenegger’s performance as the T-800 in the original Terminator film is often heralded as a classic; staying quiet but deadly as he rampages through Los Angeles to eliminate Sarah Connor. The research found that Arnie totals 23 kills and almost 21 minutes of screen time, but speaks just 20 lines. This bests Robert Patrick’s T-1000 from Terminator 2: Judgement Day in every respect, as the T-1000 totalled fewer kills (seven), less on-screen time (close to 19 minutes) and spoke more lines (24).
Some of the most interesting findings came from Darth Vader’s actions across the original Star Wars trilogy. In A New Hope, Vader makes sporadic appearances throughout the film until his duel with Obi-Wan Kenobi and his defence of the Death Star when the rebels attack. He kills eight people in A New Hope, though only three people across The Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi. This reduced violence, coupled with an increase in screen time, shows the shift of power throughout the trilogy, as Emperor Palpatine starts to control Vader more actively and becomes the focus of the films himself.
How Characters Change Over Time
SolarWinds’ research also looked at the purpose each cybernetic character was built for and examined the conclusion of each character’s personal journey at the end of their story.
Half of the characters were constructed to neutrally perform tasks, such as HAL-9000 as the pilot system of the Discovery One spacecraft in 2001: A Space Odyssey. Surprisingly, all of these characters become evil by the end of their time on screen. From Agent Smith keeping order in the Matrix to The Gunslinger’s entertainment for the tourists of Westworld, it seems that neutral characters will always rebel against their human creators when given the option.
Morally good characters typically become more evil, though the inverse is also true, with Darth Vader and the T-800 redeeming themselves in the future. While Darth Vader sacrificed himself to aid Luke Skywalker in Return of the Jedi, other T-800 model Terminators are reprogrammed to protect John Connor in future Terminator films, meaning Arnie has played the same character in radically different contexts. Even Mechagodzilla, who was (brace yourselves) originally a weapon created by extra-terrestrials to conquer Earth, becomes a heroic character as he is rebuilt by the military to protect citizens from the monsters of Toho’s Godzilla series.
We’re sure to get some new additions to this research in the near future, with the Blade Runner sequel currently in production, HBO’s Westworld series premiering in October and Darth Vader set to return to the big screen at the end of this year in Rogue One.
Who’s your favourite cybernetic character in film? Let us know with a comment below!
You might also want to read “Wanna Know How I Got These Scars: 7 Best Villains From Geek Movies“
Emily Trant of SolarWinds is a cContent writer, serial napper and Harry Potter mega-fan. Can sing every colour from Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dream coat, on request.