Roger Ebert, while reviewing ‘The Iron Giant’, compared the film to the works of great animator Hayao Miyazaki, writing, “the film is not just a cute romp but an involving story that has something to say.” Directed by Brad Bird and written by Tim McCanlies and Bird, the movie follows a young boy who befriends a giant robot from outer space. The story is about the boy’s struggles in saving the robot that the state’s paranoid government agent wants to destroy.
An animated science fiction film, ‘The Iron Giant’ showcased the brilliance of Brad Bird before he showered us with the magnificent ‘The Incredibles’ (2004), ‘Ratatouille’ (2007) and ‘Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol’ (2011). The narrative was adapted from Ted Hughes’ science fiction novel ‘The Iron Man’, which was published in 1968. The film is a very compassionate piece of work that goes well beyond its seemingly simplistic storyline. It was a box office failure, but has become a classic and is considered as one of the greatest animated films of all time. ‘The Iron Giant’ went on to win the “Best Feature Film” for children at the BAFTAs and nearly swept away the Annie Awards.
For this article, I have taken into account films which contain narrative traits similar to this cult sci-fi piece. These films revolve around the relationships between humans and robots and weave it into a borderline social narrative. So with all that said, here’s the list of best movies similar to ‘The Iron Giant’ that are our recommendations. You can watch several of these movies like ‘The Iron Giant’ on Netflix, Hulu or Amazon Prime.
10. Robots (2005)
Directed by Chris Wedge and co-written by David Lindsay-Abaire, Lowell Ganz and Babaloo Mandel, ‘Robots’ is set in the world of robots, where a young and idealistic inventor travels to the big city to fulfill his dreams and join his idol’s company. However, his idealistic self comes in the way when he finds out that the management of the company is quite corrupted. Starring the talents of Ewan McGregor, Robin Williams, Greg Kinnear, Halle Berry, Mel Brooks, Jim Broadbent, Amanda Bynes and Drew Carey as the voice cast, the film, while not boasting of a cohesive screenplay, is quite entertaining and contains engaging visuals.
9. I, Robot (2004)
Directed by Alex Proyas and co-written by Jeff Vintar and Akiva Goldsman, ‘I, Robot’ is set in the year of 2035, where a “technophobic” detective, essayed by Will Smith, has to investigate a murder wherein the culprit might be a robot. This leads to the bigger question of whether the robots might be a larger threat to humanity. The film is an entertaining piece that has a wonderful performance from Smith. In addition, the visual effects by the team of John Nelson, Andrew R. Jones, Erik Nash and Joe Letteri made the robots look immensely realistic, for which they received a nomination at the Academy Award for “Best Achievement in Visual Effects”.
8. Real Steel (2011)
Directed by Shawn Levy and written by John Gatins, ‘Real Steel’ is a science fiction sports film which is set in the near future, where “robot boxing” has become the top sport. Charlie Kenton, essayed by Hugh Jackman, is a promoter whose luck has run out in the business. However, things start turning for the better when he meets his long lost son, Max Kenton, essayed by Dakota Goyo, and together, they turn things up when they come across a discarded “shadow” robot. Adapted from Richard Matheson’s short story ‘Steel’, the film is led by the visuals, the action set pieces and the performances. ’Real Steel’ also received a nomination for “Best Visual Effects” at the Academy Awards, but lost out to the brilliant Martin Scorsese-directed ‘Hugo’.
7. Treasure Planet (2002)
An adaptation of Robert Louis Stevenson’s classic adventure novel ‘Treasure Island, published in 1883, ‘Treasure Planet’ follows the exact story of the novel but is set in the extra-terrestrial. Co-directed by Ron Clements and John Musker and co-written by Rob Edwards, Clements and Musker, ‘Treasure Planets’ is quite an impressive take on the classic which integrates the fantasy of the space and the adventure. The film stars Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Brian Murray, David Hyde Pierce, Martin Short, Roscoe Lee Browne, Emma Thompson, Laurie Metcalf, and Patrick McGoohan, whose voice talents cannot be denied. Among its many positive reviewers, Stephen Hunter of The Washington Post wrote, “The film boasts the purest of Disney raptures: It unites the generations, rather than driving them apart”.
6. Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow (2004)
Written and directed by Kerry Conran ‘Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow’ follows a reporter, Polly Perkins, essayed by Gwyneth Paltrow, who has to join forces with a pilot named Joseph Sullivan a.k.a Sky Captain, played by Jude Law, after New York City is attacked by giant flying robots, and the famous scientists of the world suddenly disappear. A science fiction action adventure, ‘Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow’ employs the genre of “Dieselpunk” to bring postmodern sensibilities within the narrative. A commercial disaster at the time of release, the film received quite a lot of positive reviews from critics and over the course of time, has also become a cult classic. It is full of homages and is certainly an enjoyable watch.
5. Meet the Robinsons (2007)
A computer-animated science fiction comedy, ‘Meet the Robinsons’ centres around Lewis, voiced by Jordan Fry, a talented inventor who meets a mysterious man named Wilbur Robinson, voiced by Wesley Singerman, who takes Lewis away in a time machine to ask for his assistance in tracking down the villainous Bowler Hat Guy, essayed by Steve Anderson. Produced by Walt Disney Studios, ‘Meet the Robinsons’ is adapted from American writer William Joyce’s children’s picture book ‘A Day with Wilbur Robinson’, which was published in 1990. Directed by animator and filmmaker Stephen Anderson, the film, while not amongst Disney’s best productions, is certainly quite a fun watch.
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4. A.I. Artificial Intelligence (2001)
A science fiction drama, ‘A.I. Artificial Intelligence’ follows the story of David, an android which is programmed with the ability to love, who tries to regain the love of his human mother with the aid of his advanced technology. Directed by the brilliant Steven Spielberg, the film includes all his classic elements: the narrative blends technology, thrills and emotions. ‘A.I. Artificial Intelligence’ was adapted from Brian Aldiss’ short story ‘Supertoys Last All Summer Long’ (1969) and was in developmental hell since Stanley Kubrick dropped the project due to the lack of technology. The film went on to become a commercial success and garnered nominations for Best Visual Effects and Best Original Score at the Academy Awards.
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3. Robot & Frank (2012)
A science fiction comedy-drama, ‘Robot & Frank’ is set in the near future, where Frank Weld, an ageing former jewel thief is gifted a robot butler, which can look after him, by his son. While the Weld does not get along with the robot at first, the two form an unlikely bond and plot to restart his career as a thief. Premiering at the Sundance Film Festival, the movie won the Alfred P. Sloan Prize. ‘Robot & Frank’ won immense critical appreciation for its writing and performances. What makes the film such an engaging watch is the charming and easy going tonality it has. In addition, the movie also holds a respectable rating of 86% on Rotten Tomatoes.
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2. Big Hero 6 (2014)
An adaptation of Marvel Comic’s ‘Big Hero 6’, this animated superhero film follows Hiro Hamada, a robotics prodigy, who forms a superhero team alongside a plus-sized inflatable robot Baymax to contest against a masked villain. Co-directed by Don Hall and Chris Williams and co-written by Jordan Roberts, Dan Gerson and Robert L. Baird, ‘Big Hero 6’ merges the elements of Marvel films with its high octane action sequences and the humour with the elements of Walt Disney Pictures with its compassionate moments. The film was met with high praises and won the Academy Award for “Best Animated Feature Film of the Year”.
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1. WALL-E (2008)
‘Wall-E’ is perhaps one of the most thought-provoking and intelligent films ever made. Directed by Andrew Stanton and co-written by Jim Reardon and Stanton, the film is set in the distant future, where a small waste-collecting robot inadvertently embarks on an epic space journey that will decide the fate of mankind. The narrative is filled with themes of consumerism, corporatism, waste management, obesity and global catastrophic risk, to name a few. The film is an incredibly ambitious piece of art. Though it explores several themes, it does not deviate from its main story. With minimalist dialogue and compassionate moments among robotic characters, ‘Wall-E’ makes for a truly memorable cinematic experience. Upon its release, the flick blew the critical circles as some critics named it as the best film of 2008 while some even named it as one of the best films of the 21st century.
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