Have You Ever Wondered About Movie AI Morality?





AI have captivated the public for over 100 years — one of the first AI in film showed up in 1927, and that doesn’t even take into account written media before that. But the morality of AI has captivated audiences even more than AI’s existence. But how does AI morality reflect the public’s view of AI and the concept of morality itself?

Good AI

Overall, you’ll find that childlike AI tend monumentally toward being good. These characters help the protagonist and often display admiration and wonder toward the world as a whole.

  • R2-D2 – Star Wars
  • Giant – The Iron Giant
  • Robocop – Robocop
  • Max – Flight of the Navigator
  • Johnny 5 – Short Circuit
  • Robot – Robot & Frank
  • Chappie – Chappie

Of course, there are also good AI with typical adult intelligence, but these are less common, likely because it’s more common for humans to fill this role.

  • KITT – Knight Rider
  • TARS – Interstellar
  • Bishop – Alien

Least common are superhuman AI who act in a good manner. But the superhuman AI who do help the protagonists achieve their goal tend to be well-loved and accepted by the crew around them.

  • Data – Star Trek
  • Marvin the Paranoid Android – Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy

Bad AI

When it comes to evil AI, you’ll find yourself pretty short on names. Even Gort, the one example on this list, is mostly doing another person’s bidding, rather than acting on his own merit.

  • Gort – The Day the Earth Stood Still

It’s more common to see evil AI who act like typical adults. You’ll see that in most of these examples, these AI are intentionally attempting to disguise themselves as humans with human emotions to take advantage of actual humans in the storyline.

  • Ava – Ex Machina
  • Evil Bill and Ted – Bill & Ted’s Bogus Journey
  • Maria’s Double – Metropolis
  • Replicants – Blade Runner
  • Agents – The Matrix

Another very common trope is for superhuman AI to lean toward being evil. These superhuman AI just want to watch the world burn, and tend to use their extreme intelligence as justification for why.

  • Borg – Star Trek
  • VIKI – I, Robot
  • Skynet – The Terminator
  • HAL 9000 – 2001: A Space Odyssey
  • Ultron – Avengers

Neutral AI

When it comes to AI that are childlike and neutral, you’ll also find a shortage of examples. After all, even the droids from Elysium are just doing what they’ve been programmed to do, for better or for worse.

  • Droids – Elysium

These adult neutral AI vary in their complexity. Some, like the Spider Robots, are advanced, but still essentially without character. But characters like Bender tend to use their AI capabilities as more of a tertiary plot device.

  • MU-TH-UR 6000 – Alien
  • Bender – Futurama
  • Connecticut Housewives – Stepford Wives
  • Spider Robots – Minority Report

Neutral superhuman AI tend toward having some of the same complexities as adult AI. Interestingly enough, most of these AI don’t showcase their superhuman abilities, being more willing to blend into the adult category despite their intelligence.

  • AUTO – Wall-E
  • David – AI
  • Samantha – Her


With this overarching depiction of AI in movies, what can you learn about the general public? First of all, it seems like people tend to be a little distrustful of AI. The smarter it gets, the more likely it is to be evil. Writers also use the concept of AI pretending to be humans as a plot device, in some ways showcasing a fear of AI that can truly pass a test of consciousness. But no matter your personal opinion on AI in real life, it’s definitely interesting to see how AI works in pop culture and movies.