One of the most common tropes in science fiction films are robots, especially cyborgs. Defined as "a cybernetic organism" (at least in one classic movie), cyborgs are essentially part human and part artificial intelligence.
Whether it's a human or organism who has been bought back to life with cybernetic technology, or a human that has artificial components, cyborgs are exactly what the word suggests, and their involvement in science fiction is huge.
The ones featuring in this month's futuristic action movie Ghost in the Shell, specifically The Major (played by Scarlett Johansson), are not robots simply with contact lenses, but highly intelligent, extremely agile and strong. Before we prepare to meet The Major and her task force Section 9, we're look back at some of the best cyborgs in film.
Starting off our list is a classic from the 1980s. After being killed by a crime gang police officer Alex Murphy (Peter Weller) has almost all of his body, apart from his brain and stomach, renovated into cyborg RoboCop as part of a new law enforcement programme for the Detroit Police Department.
Following the three laws set to him – “Serve the public trust, Protect the innocent, and Uphold the law” – RoboCop continues to work alongside the police, all the while not knowing who he was before becoming a cyborg, although he ultimately remembers his past and vows to track down those who responsible.
From what we are shown in the Ghost in the Shell trailer, there may be some similarities in terms of secrecy about the previous lives of cyborgs.
Just as Ghost in the Shell is based on the manga series and 1995 film, the 1999 movie version of Inspector Gadget is based on athe much-loved cartoon series from the 80s. The movie starred Matthew Broderick as the titled cyborg and Rupert Everett as Dr Claw.
Although it didn’t receive the highest praise from critics, it portrays cyborgs in a comedic way, unlike the usual dark approach. What’s best about it is seeing 80s icon Ferris Bueller as Inspector Gadget, who is sometimes a bit dim but always ends up saving the day in some way. If you’re not familiar with Inspector Gadget (or tried to remove the film from your memory), you at least remember the classic "Go go gadget" catchphrase.
As one of Arnold Schwarzenegger’s most memorable characters, The Terminator is a cyborg assassin who, in James Cameron's original c1984 classic, has been sent from the future to the to kill the mother of the lead of the resistance against Skynet, John Connor.
Skynet is artificial intelligence software that becomes self-aware and therefore able to create cyborg assassins. What makes The Terminator interesting as a cyborg franchise is the change of allegiance throughout the series. In The Terminator, Arnie’s killer cyborg is sent to kill Sarah Connor, while in T2 the Terminator has been reprogrammed by John Connor in the future and sent back to protect Sarah and a young John. It's clear that cyborgs can be good or bad, so it will be fascinating to see what side the ones in Ghost in the Shell fall on.
Anakin Skywalker, aka Darth Vader, is a classic example of a cyborg. Anakin is fitted with robotic legs and arms after a battle with Obi Wan Kenobi next to a broiling lava pit, and also requires a breathing machine to survive. Of course, Vader is not known for purely his cyborg qualities, but his skills with the Force and the fact that he uses his talents for the dark side.
In Ghost in the Shell The Major is ostensibly on the side of the good guys and has to track down the villains - but will she be strong enough to resist them or become weak like Anakin? While Ghost in the Shell has nothing to do with the Force or Star Wars narratively speaking, cyborgs often have similar creation stories so there may be a few ties between The Major and Darth Vader. We will have to see.
Where do you think The Major will rank in terms of the classic movie cyborgs? Click here to book your tickets for Ghost in the Shell and let us know @Cineworld.
Nadine Shambrook is a writer who blogs for Cineworld as part of our news team.