"Just for my own edification, did you have to design the robots with such horrifying features? I'm not a design guy, or anything, but I can't see any either performance or aesthetic benefits in designing the robots with cold, skeleton heads, piercing red eyes and giant metal teeth."
A visual trope in science fiction materials: humanoid robots that look skeletal in design. They all have relatively thin limbs that are reminiscent of bones, and they usually lack "filling" in places where humans have only soft organs, like the abdomen.
Such robots can be very obvious, with sinister, grinning skull-faces, a la
the T-800 from Terminator
films. Others are more subtle, often with fairly realistic faces.
Obvious SkeleBots are meant to scare characters. Often, these are the cold, inhuman soldiers of the Big Bad
. On the other hand, subtle SkeleBots are often presented (at least at first) as perfectly innocuous consumer devices, but they're meant to subtly creep out the audience. While there might be no mechanical need
for the extra padding or housing necessary to keep a robot built on the human frame from looking skeletal, "not looking creepy" is a general design goal for consumer products, especially those with recognizable faces. Subtle SkeleBots with "intact" faces often lean as much towards the "moving corpse" nadir of the Uncanny Valley
as Dem Bones
Some, such as the T-800s, are designed to be covered with "something", so they literally are robot skeletons.
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Anime & Manga
- The Boomer androids from the original Bubblegum Crisis, as Terminator Expies, also have skull-like heads under their artificial skins (The rest of the body is much less skeletal).
- During the Red Ribbon Army arc of Dragon Ball, Goku and crew encounter what appears to be a skeleton with a Arm Cannon in an abandoned pirate's lair.
- Despite its name, the Skull Gundam from G Gundam doesn't quite fit this trope. While its arms and legs are skeletal, its torso is a giant skull.
- The Skullgunners from Blue Comet SPT Layzner are AI controlled Mecha-Mooks which communicate with each other through a Hive Mind for ruthless efficiency.
- The "anorexic Cybermen" from the Doctor Who Magazine comic story The Flood are another example of the subtle version, as seen here◊.
- The robot in "Spirou and the Robot Blueprints" (fr. orig. "Spirou et les plans du robot"), a Spirou et Fantasio comic from 1948, is at least vaguely skeletal.
- Most robots from the comic Magnus Robot Fighter: 4000 AD are somewhat subtly skeletal. They have flatly mechanical faces or faceless heads, thin limbs, and chests joined to hips by nothing more than a thick cable.
- DC Comics villain Metallo, at least in his Post-Crisis version, as a direct Shout-Out to the T-800.
- The mid-80's version of Brainiac in Superman.
- Some later versions of Warlock from New Mutants have played with this trope, by having him look very skeletal◊ when in low energy, and much more fuller and human-like when in full power.
- Terminator: The T-800 and T-X endoskeleton. While the endoskeleton is designed for a reasonable purpose - to be a framework on which to grow human flesh to better disguise the Terminators - the real reason is the horrific image (no pun intended - one of them really illustrates the trope page) of implacable metal skeletons coming after you. The fact they are also terrifying has another in-universe reason, they are built for warfare and the psychological effect on the enemy would be rather potent. Not for nothing did James Cameron base them on an actual nightmare he had while filming Pirahna 2.
- From the Star Wars prequels: The B-1 battle droids are skeletal, designed to be easily packed up and stored. According to Expanded Universe material, they are actually supposed to resemble the skeletons of Nemoidians (the people who designed them), which would be scary...if you're Nemoidian.
- The Phantom Menace concept art shows that the original plan was for the Nemoidians themselves to have elongated faces and skeletal limbs just like their battle droids. This was scrapped for the movie (perhaps because it would have required the Nemoidians to be fully animatronic or CGI, and they figured were already pushing it with Jar-Jar) and the EU explanation was retconned in.
- The unfinished version of C-3PO, with his "parts showing," in The Phantom Menace.
- The Yuuzhan Vong Hunters from the Expanded Universe are meant to be an insulting sight rather than a scary one.
- General Grievous, though he is technically a Cyborg, invokes this trope with his appearance.
- The highly evolved robots at the end of A.I.
- The NS-5 and NS-4 robots in I Robot.
- One of the methods of fighting the Yuuzhan Vong is the YVH-1, a droid that perfectly resembles the T-800 and is specifically designed to scan and identify hidden Yuuzhan Vong agents and battle the extremely technophobic race in full combat.
Live Action TV
- Stargate: The Ark of Truth: The replicators take over a human and the results is one of these after the flesh is burned off. This is a clear Shout-Out to The Terminator, especially the similar music in that scene.
- Craig Ferguson's "robot skeleton" sidekick Geoff Peterson on The Late Late Show.
- The Cylon Centurions in Caprica, specifically referred to as "skeletons" more than once. Though in the finale ones with added armor plating are shown.
- Warhammer 40,000: All of the Necrons, barring scarabs, tomb spyders, and arguably the pariahs take the form of skeleton-themed robots - which makes sense, considering they were inspired by/based on Terminator.
- The Coalition States in Rifts actually calls theirs Skelebots. Given that all their wargear (body armor, Powered Armor, Humongous Mecha, tanks and SpiderTanks, aircraft...) have a skull motif, this was pretty much the logical extension. It's also useful in their role as military terror weapons.
- "ICONS: Superpowed Roleplaying" has a adventure with a bad guy called Skeletron.
- Several Phyrexian bio-mechanical abominations. Several of them used to be humans.
- BattleTech features the Atlas, a ten-story tall battlemech armed with 30+ tons of weapons and enough armor to shrug off almost any attack, and has a white skull shaped head for a cockpit. It was intentionally design to intimidate foes on first sight.
- The Robot Master Skull Man from Mega Man 4.
- The Skeleton Joe from the same game.
- His counterpart from the Mega Man Battle Network series is even lankier, more skeletal, and downright creepier for a multitude of reasons, including his manic grin.
- After Dr. Lugae loses his first go-round with the heroes in Final Fantasy IV, he transforms himself into a skeleton robot for the second battle. The implication is that he just tears his skin off.
- The Human Reaper Larva in Mass Effect 2, often called the Reapernator by fans.
- Snatcher features Terminator-like robots. In fact, they looked so much like the Terminator that the localized release had to change their glowing eyes to green to avoid copyright infringement.
- TimeSplitters 2 has the Chasisbot, which has one of the smallest frames in the game making it hard to hit. some speculate that is just the chassis of a sentrybot with some additional equipment. seems logical no? it would also seem to explain its sub-par stats.
- The MMORPG Toontown Online has Skelecogs in-game which you will most often find in cog factories, during HQ raids, and in high level buildings (but sometimes, also during district invasions). Not only do they look creepier than their regular cogs counterpart (which already hangs around the border of Uncanny Valley), but they're almost always more powerful as well.
- Dr Nefarious from Ratchet & Clank.
- Mini-bosses Scurvo and Dreadfuse from The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword are Pirate SkeleBots.
- Phase 1 Dark Troopers in Dark Forces are essentially robot skeletons with a vibroblade in one arm and a blast shield in the other.
- The MechWarrior series (based on BattleTech) often features the Atlas, a 100 ton battlemech with a skull-shaped cockpit. Mech 4 in particular emphasizes the skeleton nature, by making the Atlas the tallest and giving it a bone-white head and fists. Multiplayer Battletech 3025 also gave it glowing red eyes
- The final boss for Mech Assault 2 is essentially an incomplete Humongous Mecha skelebot. The mech has a huge, articulated skull for a head (with moving jaws), and is missing its entire lower torso and legs. Both Mechassault games likewise feature Atlases similar to the ones in MPBT 3025
- Contra 3 features a giant one as a boss. It breathes fire, fires homing eye beams and throws time bombs around the room. Eventually it will lose its grip on the doors it was holding open, cutting off its head.
- Boss villain Yaridovich from Super Mario RPG
- The hostile golems in Phoenotopia.
- The animatronic endoskeletons in Five Nights at Freddy's.
- Followed by an Actual Endoskeleton Character (Animatronic?) in Five Nights at Freddy's 2. He only appears in 2 rooms, doesn't attack the character, and is a complete mystery.
- The Broken Lords of Endless Legend, a society forced to bind their souls to Animated Armor to survive the Endless Winter, typically have simplistic mask-like heads/helmets, but Baron Joslyn Deyval and the Dust Bishops have a skull-shaped head (complete with Glowing Eyelights of Undeath) and an enormous gaping mouth glowing with their inner Dust light.