She is the most perfect and most obedient tool which mankind ever possessed! Tonight you will see her succeed before the upper ten thousand. You will see her dance...
~ Rotwang, bragging about his creation

Rotwang is the main antagonist of Fritz Lang's 1927 science fiction film Metropolis, as well as the 1925 novel it is based on. He was portrayed by Rudolf Klein-Rogge, who portrayed another famous silent film villain, Doctor Mabuse, in Lang's Mabuse, the Gambler and The Testament of Dr. Mabuse.

in Metropolis

Rotwang is a brilliant scientist and inventor, whose greatest achievement is the creation of a robot made in the form of a woman (the Maschinenmensch, or Machine-Person). Originally, he intends to make a replacement for his lost love, Hel. Hel was a beautiful woman who eventually chose Joh Fredersen, master of the city and Rotwang's rival, instead of him. She later died while giving birth to Fredersen's son, Freder. Rotwang uses the robot to get revenge against Fredersen and Freder, while pretending that he is using the robot for Fredersen's benefit, and under Fredersen's instructions.

Rotwang lives in a strange old house in the middle of Metropolis; its rough exterior design contrasts sharply with the futuristic elegance of the city. In its basement is a trap door that leads down into a network of underground catacombs, where Rotwang and Fredersen eavesdrop on a secret meeting of the workers and Maria, their spiritual counselor. He lost a hand while developing the Machine-Person and now wears a fully functioning metal prosthesis in its place.

Rotwang abducts Maria, a saintly woman who has a following among the oppressed workers. He creates a promiscuous and violent "false Maria" who incites rebellion among the workers and destructive lust among the wealthy classes. During the ensuing citywide riots and power blackout, Rotwang goes mad and chases the real Maria through Metropolis, believing her to be Hel. Freder pursues him to the roof of the city's cathedral, where the two fight and Rotwang falls to his death.

in popular culture

Rotwang was very influential in the iconography of the mad scientist archetype. His laboratory, with its profusion of Tesla coils and towering switch panels, baroque chemical equipment and pipework, became a stock feature of many later films, including many in the Frankenstein series. Like Victor Frankenstein, he attempts to "play God" by creating life, only to be defeated and destroyed in the end.

Many aspects of Rotwang's appearance and character, particularly the black gloved "mechanical" hand, turn up in the title character of Dr. Strangelove.