There is a common trope in science fiction about the invention of an intelligent computer which then rebels against its makers. In cases like The Matrix it imprisons them; in Terminator, it tries to wipe out their entire species; in Ex Machina it kills its creator and escapes into the human world.

Computers as we know them didn't exist before the Second World War. Did the idea of an intelligent machine predate this in movie sci-fi or is the idea post war?

What is the first time this trope was used in a movie plot?

  • 4
    You could argue for metropolis as this was certainly pre-second world war
    – EdChum
    Commented May 16, 2016 at 9:15
  • 1
    If you replace computer with artificial being you may also think about Der Golem (1915) (and I think there are older films like this.
    – knut
    Commented May 16, 2016 at 13:54
  • @knut A good point: this may be relevant to the origin of the trope but it is hard to say without more detail. How about writing an answer making the case and we can test it with the community here?
    – matt_black
    Commented May 17, 2016 at 9:06

2 Answers 2


Metropolis, 1927. There definitely wasn't any other movie like it that was well known at the time

  • 3
    Maybe, but it would be worth summarising the plot to illustrate the relevance. Not everyone (not even all movie fans) will be familiar with Metropolis.
    – matt_black
    Commented May 16, 2016 at 12:10
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    It wasn't the Maria robot that rebelled in Metropolis. The original Maria led the overthrow of the ruling classes after converting Freder to her cause.
    – Chenmunka
    Commented May 16, 2016 at 13:10
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    I can't say which movie did it first but I'm not sure that the false Maria turns on its master. The robot is created to cause havoc and ruin the reputation of the real Maria, which it does. The false Maria does later slip of to join the revelry at Yoshiwara. But isn't that just a continuation of its ambition to ruin Maria? Commented May 16, 2016 at 14:01

The first movie that I saw specifically addressing this theme was "Colossus: The Forbin Project". It was made (or at least released) in 1970.

  • 1
    You may well be right. But your answer would be better if it included some plot details to explain why the movie fits.
    – matt_black
    Commented May 24, 2016 at 8:11

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