In comes a Price Club-sized tin can with Slinky arms and legs, looking like the grandfather of Pimpbot 5000, buzzing with a menace that suggests he flunked Asimov 101.The opposite of those human-looking robots such as the Robot Girl — this is a robot designed with function over form in mind. It's in technically humanoid form, but generally looks like a trashcan or boiler on legs (if it even gets those), sometimes with a vaguely humanoid head (if it even has a head). This robot is usually not painted and it's often possible to easily see screw heads holding it together. Bonus points if the robot's arms are made of flexi-tube with pincers at the end. Nowadays usually done to make the 'bot look amateur-made or old-fashioned, but in older Zeerust works it was often played straight. Compare Used Future, Real Robot. Compare and contrast with Starfish Robots. See also Forgot He Was a Robot for when this robot starts acting like a Ridiculously Human Robot.
— Jim Wright's Star Trek: Voyager review of "Night"
open/close all folders
Anime & Manga
- Gigantor is a clear example of this. His body exactly resembles a tin can, being perfectly cylindrical (except for his rockets) and made of bare metal, while his arms and legs are similar.
- Mechazawa from Cromartie High School. Despite being shaped like a large tin made of metal and needing to be constantly oiled, he and everyone else is blissfully unaware of his true nature.
- ...or at least everyone's afraid to broach the issue with the school's toughest fighter directly.
- Although Astro Boy himself doesn't count, many robots in his world do.
- Spider-Man once had to deal with the robot XP-2000, who was really obsolete compared to androids like The Vision and Ultron.
- Keep in mind that Ultron was designed in the 1970s, and Vision was built by Ultron. This says a lot about XP-2000 being designed obsolete. The original Ultron design was actually pretty in-line with this aesthetic, though.
- The little flying robots used by Spidey's enemy Armada.
- Also the cobbled-together robots built by Future Max.
- Finally there's the silver-age Spider-Man villain The Living Brain, featuring the greatest mechanical mind 1964 could offer.
- Magnus Robot Fighter: 4000 AD by Gold Key Comics has a future lousy with robot servants, almost all of them of the tin-can-humanoid variety, generally with flexi-tube or armored-cable limbs.
- The lumbering warbots of Ashley Wood's World War Robot fit this trope to a T.
- Tin Can Tommy from The Beano doesn't only fit this trope but has a name to match.
- Reed Richards's little flying HERBIE robots.
- Elektro from Fin Fang Four.
- Gyro Gearloose's helper Little Bulb from the Disney Ducks Comic Universe.
- All versions of COMPUTO from Legion of Super-Heroes.
- Doctor Doom's purple Mecha-Mooks.
- The Sentinels.
- The Mad Thinker and the Leader seem to prefer using Organic Technology, but they still sometimes build metal robots, which always come out looking like this.
- Ironhorse from Astro City is like this, built with a steam locomotive motif.
- Iron Man: Titanium Man's Powered Armor has this look, resembling a green titanium can with arms, legs, and a computer monitor head bolted on, a result of Soviet engineering being primitive compared to what Iron Man is capable of.
Film - Animated
Film - Live-Action
- The Tin Man from The Wizard of Oz. Whether or not he counts as a robot himself, he's quite possibly the Trope Maker.
- The "Republic Robot◊" from several old Republic Pictures films of the 1930's-1950's, is the Trope Codifier.
"Uh oh — an enraged water heater!"
- Undersea Kingdom (1936)
- Mysterious Doctor Satan (1940)
- Zombies of the Stratosphere (1952)
- Commando Cody: Sky Marshal of the Universe (1953)
- Spoofed in J-Men Forever, a Gag Dub of the above movies.
- Robby from Forbidden Planet, who has been reused in many films and TV series and even has his own IMDB actor page.
- Many droids in the Star Wars universe arguably count.
- Power droids, and in particular the "gonk" droids.
- R2-D2 is the ultimate example, being not much more than a metal cylinder on wheels. Doesn't stop him packing plenty of hardware though.
- Torg in Santa Claus Conquers the Martians
- Huey, Dewey and Louie from Silent Running.
- B.O.B. and V.I.N.CENT from Disney's The Black Hole.
- Newman from And You Thought Your Parents Were Weird!.
- Box from Logan's Run.
- The Man Who Saves the World has one of these (in a rubber costume) as the villain's servant.
- The original Mechagodzilla (pictured here◊) was revealed as an incredibly clunky sixties style robot once the fake skin was removed. He was also a Walking Armoury and Hero Killer who proved that even the most old school robot could be bloody horrifying, nearly killing Anguirus, slaughtering thousands of people in Japan, and giving Godzilla himself a fight the likes of which only Destoroyah and King Ghidorah can match.
- Many of Dr Totenkopf's robots in Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow.
- Too Much, the robot from Too Much: The Robot With a Heart, who bears a strong resemblance to R2D2 from Star Wars.
- The hero of the short film action-comedy Robot Bastard.
- Norby, of the eponymous series by Isaac Asimov, is shaped like a container for nails, to the point where the protagonist bought him for a song because he looked so non-functional.
- Norwegian-English author Phillip Newth has written several books about a constantly-malfunctioning domestic servant robot named Matilda, who is described at least once a book as having a body shaped like a tin can and a head shaped like a smaller tin can. Matilda is a bit of an oddity in her books; robots are plentiful but usually look a lot more sophisticated or even just like humans. Matilda looks the way she does (and malfunctions so often) because she's old, "almost an antique."
Live Action TV
- Robot from the original Lost in Space; danger, Will Robinson! Not Robby, but definitely Inspired By him.
- This is a common monster template in Doctor Who, as they're a relatively easy 'obviously non-human but not obviously just a guy in a suit' monster design:
- The Daleks of Doctor Who certainly deserve a mention, despite technically being cyborgs. They're sort of bizarre by being six feet tall and having odd hemispherical protrusions, but whatever.
- Mechanoids, spherical, flamethrower-equipped robots the size of a small shed. There was some hope they'd be the next Daleks.
- The Krotons, the Sontaran scout robot, the Quarks, the servo robot, the Chumblies, the War Machine, the robot in "Robot"...
- Parodied gently in "The Celestial Toymaker", where the Toymaker's robot servant is a giant wind-up tin robot.
- Cheezoid from That Mitchell and Webb Look, which makes sense as he was made in a shed.
- Star Trek: Voyager: Satan's Robot, the robot that appears in The Adventures of Captain Proton holodeck sequences, which was inspired by the Republic Robot. The holodeck characters act like it's a terrifying Killer Robot, but in reality it's slow-moving, easily disabled and rather pathetic. To be fair, this is Played for Laughs, as it is a holodeck recreation of an in-universe 1930's movie serial that the characters are playing to relieve boredom. Only the computer-generated characters are afraid of the robot, the crewmembers think it's ridiculous. Out of universe, the whole thing is an Affectionate Parody of real 1930's serials.
- TIM from The Tomorrow People had a mobile unit that looked a bit tin-canny.
- The Venus Probes from The Six Million Dollar Man.
- Sam the Robot◊ from Sesame Street. This being Sesame Street, of course, he still has googly eyes and a bowtie.
- Robot, from the Captain Helix Show Within a Show in Hyperdrive; unsurprising, given that it's a parody of Star Wars and cheap imitations of the same.
- Plex from Yo Gabba Gabba.
- Andy, the tin box robot on Quark. In the pilot episode, it mistakes a garbage control box for a potential Love Interest.
- Toy Org from Power Rangers Wild Force. He resembles a toy robot, yet is one of the Rangers' strongest foes.
- Portrayed quite literally in The Sifl and Olly Show, where Sifl builds a robot literally made out of a tin can to use as a stand-in host for Olly, until Olly returns and destroys in the middle of it singing the 1980s song "I Know What Boys Like" by The Waitresses.
- Steampunk, one of the combatants in Robot Combat League, is a nod to this type of robot.
- Giz from "The Edge of Space" segments on Starstuff.
- TWIKI from Buck Rogers in the 25th Century probably counts.
- The Federation security robot in Blake's 7 which unfortunately was never as menacing as it was supposed to be, given the tendency of its arms to flap up and down as it moved, and the flamethrower that dropped out of its groin region which caused the production crew to dub it "The Flasher". Eventually the poor bot was restricted to a couple of close-up scenes in the early episodes.
- The robot that Grandpa and Eddie build in The Munsters episode "Tin Can Man" literally had arms and legs built out of tin cans.
- In Mystery Science Theater 3000, Tom Servo's body is made out of a barrel-shaped piggy bank and a toy car engine block resting on a Halloween "Boo Bowl" base. He has an Eyeless Face and no feet; while the tiny hands on the end of his spring arms are human-shaped, they're quite useless.
- SEX ROBOT, SEX ROBOT.
- Taken one step further with Kaiju Big Battel's Robox, a mighty robot built from "Indestructible Cardboardium", i.e. a cardboard box with arms, legs, and a robot face built on.
- Paranoia: Jackobots (from "jack of all trades") are intended to be able to do the same physical things as humans, so they're basically humanoid in size and shape, but clearly mechanical. Other bots range from sorta humanoid (docbots, scrubots) to Sapient Ships (warbots, flybots).
- Combat, Janitorial and Animal Care robots in the Classic Traveller adventure Research Station Gamma.
- The Orks in Warhammer 40,000 have Mini-Mecha (with an Ork welded inside) aptly known as Killa Kanz. Their Humongous Mecha are built to a similar design.
- The Tau attack drones that look like flying trash lids.
- Ancient Martian Robomen in Rocket Age can be sleek and graceful, but many of the non-service models were built with practicality and survivability in mind.
- The Mars Robot in the final stage of Metal Slug 3 is one, they are intended to be expy of the Daleks, for being both Cyborg and this trope.
- Also the giant blocky toy robot that's the end-boss of the factory level.
- Robots from Machinarium are very much like that, especially the main character.
- Malco, one of the control room guardians from Cave Story, is one.
- The Atlas drones from the Secret Armory of General Knoxx DLC in Borderlands.
- Most of the Hyperion bots from Borderlands 2. Claptraps would be an example if not for all the personality, though it's basically a chippy and personable UI wrapper built around a sociopathic core.
- The Robobrains from Fallout fit the bill, unusually having glass domes filled with a living brain for heads and very heavily resembling The Robot from Lost in Space. The Protectron models, meanwhile, look suspiciously like Robbie the Robot from Forbidden Planet.
- Cronk and Zephyr, elderly Warbots who first appear in Ratchet & Clank Future: Tools Of Destruction.
- Total Annihilation has a model of robot which is actually called "The Can". It's pretty much a big metal box on legs, with a turret on top.
- The Gearmos in the Super Mario Galaxy games.
- The final boss in Balloon Kid is this kind of robot.
- Super Robot Thursday from Disgaea: Hour of Darkness fits this trope, as he, Captain Gordon, Defender of Earth!, and Jennifer are parodies of early science fiction series.
- Oddworld's "Greeters" are a very literal version of the laconic, and resemble nothing so much as "a hot water heater on a unicycle." They're also the in-universe Stepford Smilers.
- Sonic the Hedgehog has many, such as E-123 Omega.
- Super Metroid features these in the Wrecked Ship. Notably, they were tin cans with legs.
- The Tinbots, defenders of the Steam Punk planet Elysia in Metroid Prime 3: Corruption, are exactly that; easily blown apart and even more easily melted once the Plasma Beam is acquired. The Steambots and Steamlord are less fragile.
- Tears to Tiara 2 has Talos like the first game. We get one on our team called Calcos.
- Custom Robo on the Gamecube features the Oil Can Robo, a clunky, weak, slow Joke Character built from old steel drums, tin cans, and lead pipes. It's basically a rusty and barely humanoid mess, useful only for a Self-Imposed Challenge or Cherry Tapping an opponent.
- The Roboids from the Future world of Cratermaze, complete with pincer hands.
- The titular robot of Alien 8 resembles a flip-top rubbish bin with feet.
- The Kohbu(/Eisenkleider/STARs/etc.) from the Sakura Wars series are trashcan-looking Humongous Mecha.
- Mettaton in Undertale is described aptly as a "sexy rectangle"; despite looking like a vending machine on a unicycle with Trollface "shloopy" arms, he's considered Mr. Fanservice in-universe. Amusingly, he implies on the Kill 'em All path that he considers this form more attractive than his Pretty Boy EX and NEO forms.
- Ourox from Monsterful is a golem robot bodyguard that looks a huge walking boiler.
- Blunt from Freefall, to the point where Sam describes him as looking like a big tin can.
- Clango and Red Robot from Diesel Sweeties.
- In Gunnerkrigg Court, the robots that Diego created were intricate, ornate, and generally far from this trope. Since no one else fully understood his designs, subsequent generations of Court robots became more tin-can-like after Diego's death.
- PROD3000, the robot "motivator" boss in Savage Chickens.
- Roofus the roof-repairing robot in The Inexplicable Adventures of Bob! The fact that he was built out of parts from a milking machine probably has something to do with it.
- Tripp: Stats is a hovering metal sphere with a few add-ons.
- Medium Large has the recurring "TODD and Son", a "heartwarming" strip about a young boy and his adoptive robot father.
- Earth space program in Marooned uses these. At least one Grew Beyond Their Programming to become a Snarky Non-Human Sidekick.
- Homestar Runner: The Cheat Bot is not a real robot (being The Cheat with a metal can on top), but would be a perfect example if he were.
- The Garbageman, a Gadgeteer Genius from the Global Guardians PBEM Universe, guarded his lair with robots that looked like they were thrown together from old car parts, some galvanized steel garbage cans, and a lawn mower or two. They looked like that because they were thrown together from old car parts, some galvanized steel garbage cans, and a lawn mower or two. More dangerous than they sounded.
- While he's more box-like than can, Pollo from Atop the Fourth Wall definitely evokes this trope.
- Transformers Animated has literal Trashcan Robots that transport all of Detroit's waste.
- B.O.T. from the infamous G1 Transformers episode of the same name.
- All bending units from Futurama are perfect caricatures of 1950s-style movie-robots, with tin-can (and cocktail shaker) bodies, flexi-hose arms and legs, typical robot heads, and eyes clearly lifted from Crow T. Robot.
- Fry encounters an actual trash can who also happens to be a self-aware robot.
- There are several robots in the Looney Tunes/Merrie Melodies series like this — for instance, in "Robot Rabbit" and "Lighter Than Hare". (In the latter, Bugs Bunny even uses the robot as a trash can.)
- Rosie the robot maid from The Jetsons. (There was also a male robot called Mac, made by Henry, the building janitor.)
- The Master Cylinder, from Felix the Cat.
- The Underdog short "March of the Monsters" had these, but it was never stated who the robots' master was.
- The Fleischer Superman series featured "The Mechanical Monsters", used by the inventor for a series of robberies.
- In an episode of The Simpsons, Homer builds one of these out of a mailbox for Bart to enter in a Robot Wars-style TV show. Justified in that Homer was secretly working it from inside, having realized he had not the faintest idea how to actually build a robot. When it doesn't work, he instead wears it like armor and pretends to be a robot.
- XJ-8 from My Life as a Teenage Robot. In comparison, her predecessors are mostly Starfish Robots, and her successor is a more streamlined fembot.
- Bot from Team Umizoomi.
- NEPTR from Adventure Time literally has a tin can Finn meant to be his "head" and drew a face on. When a lightning bolt brought it to life, its actual face ended up being elsewhere and the can-head is purely ornamental.
- H.E.L.P.E.R. from The Venture Bros., the epitome of the robot buddy as seen by pop culture in the 1950s.
- In Samurai Jack, the earliest robots built for Aku looked like they were made of scrap parts, including tin cans. They weren't very reliable and could only move about for a few seconds before breaking down. They were not sentient, however, so there was no worry about it—the roboticists just went back and designed better robots. By the time Jack arrives in the Bad Future, automatons had become advanced enough that the only ones that didn't pass off as Ridiculously Human Robots were designed intentionally to be robot-like (some of whom also intentionally invoke Tin Can Robot style, such as Extor's wicker basket robots).
- The Super Robot of Super Robot Monkey Team Hyperforce Go! has boxes for its head, body, and feet, extremely boxy hands and fingers, and tube arms. A late-series episode showed him to be the first in a line of several robots, with the most recent being a much sleeker and human-sized Robot Kid.
- Arguably XR, XL and 42 from Buzz Lightyear of Star Command.