Top 10 Hacker and Computer Geek Movies of All Time

Posted by matt on June 2, 2008

I’ve always talked about having a computer-geek-movie-marathon. The makeup of a good hacker movie has to have the technical parts right (sort of), and present mental imagery on par with that you got while reading William Gibson’s Neromancer. As is common, Hollywood often gets the style part figured out, but utterly fails on what is realistic or even remotely possible. Without further ado, my list of top 10 Hacker and Computer Geek movies.

antitrust2.jpg10. Antitrust - Though Shawshank Redemption is one of my favorite movies, I don’t think Tim Robbins is that great in this movie. While there are some interesting concepts in here, Ryan Phillipe is not a believable hacker. Also, all the ideas about the art matching the viewer are totally ripped off from Bill Gate’s The Road Ahead. Hmm.. how did this movie even make my list??

the_net.jpg9. The Net - The mid 1990’s was a very popular time for hacker movies. Sandra Bullock made every computer nerd scour the brand-new interwebs for the PI symbol so you could hold <ctrl><Shift> and then click your way into hacker heaven. Hollywood magic again, as people had instant info on everyone from their car, which in 1995 was laughable. For some reason, girls seem to like this movie more than others on the list, and guys think all girl-geeks must look like Sandra Bullock.

johnny_mnemonic.jpg8. Johnny Mnemonic - This is a smart William Gibson Short-story, which he turned into a pretty lousy movie. Why is it on this list? It has too many things going for it, like Ice-T and Henry Rollins! Somehow, Keanu got the role in Matrix even though he bumbled his way through this movie. It must have given him some type of Sci-Fi cred or something. There is one part where he sits down and says “I want Room Service”. Horrible writing and acting. The opening scene is sweet though. “I can hold 80 Gig of data in my head”. In 1995, the biggest drive was about 1 gig, this was HUGE! I’m a little disappointed that now you can have over 10X that amount for less than $200. Does that mean that your brain is only worth about $20 if it were to be used for storage??

hackers.jpg7. Hackers - Hack the Planet! Can this movie get any cheesier? There are some definite dumbass parts to this, but we were introduced to Angelina Jolie in this as well as that goofy bastard Eli Stone (I much prefer Jonny in Trainspotting). The very quick bluebox scene as well as some of the hacking of the TV programs is cool, but then Hollywood must have VISUAL ‘hacking’ and VISUAL DELETING OF HIDDEN FILES…things just get too lame for any geek to appreciate.

matrix.jpg6. Matrix - On other Sci-fi lists, this movie would be higher, but since the hacking isn’t a central part of the movie, it can’t get higher than 6th. Everyone and their brother has seen this, and hopefully you skipped the last one because it’s definitely a sequel ruiner. The tone and mood of this movie is what everyone hopes what it would be like if they were a hacker. A great story and a mind-blowing concept. “Bullet Time” was invented here for cripes sake.

swordfish.jpg5. Swordfish - Ah Hollywood. Travolta and Wolverine are effective in their roles, but there are only a couple of reasons guys re-watch this movie (I won’t bother linking, you know what I’m talking about). It’s too bad the movie can’t keep up with hot opening sequence which is one of the best from any geek movie. The ‘hacking’ is pretty out-there, but you have to appreciate them pushing the envelope. The soundtrack to this movie is also really good–Paul Oakenfold does the whole thing.

lawnmower_man.jpg4. Lawnmower Man - Remember Virtual Reality? When this movie came out, it had a mystique about it that was undeniable. While visiting Frankfurt, Germany in 1996, I vividly remember paying 8 deutschmarks to don a headset and gloves to play this shoot-em-up virtual reality game. It lasted 5 minutes, and was quite lame, unfortunately. For LOST fans, Season 4 helicopter pilot, Jeff Fahey is the star in this flick who gives a great performance along with Pierce Brosnan who plays a believable scientist. I remember when he is doing his audio diary, all I could think about was “wow, how big is his hard drive? It must be like 100 Megabytes!”. Ah, hard drives in the 1990’s.

pirates-of-silicon-valley.jpg3. Pirates of Silicon Valley - If you have any interest in Microsoft or Apple, this is a must. Rusty is well cast as the nerdy Bill Gates, and Noah Wyle plays psychedelically drugged out Steve Jobs. There’s only one real Steve Balhmer, but he helps to narrate Bill’s side with Woz narrating Steve’s side. No special effects in this flick, just a focus on what happened at a very interesting point in computing history.

wargames.jpg2. Wargames - Do you want to play a game? During prime-time of the cold-war, this awesome hacker movie introduced us to Ferris Bueller and some legit hacking techniques (i.e. war dialing) that the world had never seen at the time. Even though it’s over 25 years old, it holds up remarkably well. I’m sure this got many kids thinking: could you really change your grades at school?

sneakers.jpg1. Sneakers - Take a star-studded cast loosely based on some actual characters and you get an excellent hacker movie that is deservedly at the top of the list. While the focus is on the techniques, getting the back stories and information on all the characters is what makes this such a classic. Redford is great in a light comedic role, and the movie holds together well (despite being a little preachy). My favorite hacker / geek movie!

Honorable Mentions: Takedown - It would have made my list had I not read the book or known the Mitnick story… it’s not even close to being right, but still a good tale. Was I more ignorant, I would have liked it more. Tron - I still haven’t seen the entire thing, so I can’t get it on my list yet…

That’s my list–so, what’s on your list that I’m missing?

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Posted under movies, reviews, top 10 lists
  1. nemolian Said,

    I might throw Die Hard 4 in there somewhere. The whole movie is basically about hacking and social engineering, and it’s got ‘Mac’ and Kevin Smith in it, how much more geek cred does a movie need.

  2. RayzrShrp Said,

    Sneakers was/is an awesome movie. I use to watch it over and over again when I was younger. I would attribute it to my love of computers and technology to this day.

  3. sunspotmike Said,

    Don’t forget that Angelina Jolie married Sickboy! (That was before she wore Billy Bob’s blood in a vial on her neck.) Wow, Hackers was crap. Wargames however, still stands up as a great one and Sneakers is well done all around (even Dan Aykroyd as a fat dude called Mother works in that one.)

    This one’s a Made For TV movie, but it’s one of my favorite from the virtual reality days (remember VR5? Yeah, no one else does either!) but check out Wild Palms It’s Jim Belushi’s best role since Red Heat and it’s a paranoid take on cyberspace and Scientology. Worth a renter.

  4. Tenny Said,

    Overall I would agree with this list. I personally have always appreciated the laughable aspect of Hackers. In part that is what made it such a great crappy movie. Here are a few that I think could contend on your list:

    Revolution OS - probably the nerdiest geek movie I have every watched

    Office Space - totally awesome hacking to steal the money that is discarded when rounding ;)

    Die Hard 4: Live Free or Die Hard - OK so the movie kind of sucked, but the entire plot was centered around hacking taking over the world and Bruce blowing stuff up.

    If you wanted to go out on a limb you could even give a nod to….

    Real Genius - Sure there is pretty much no net hacking minus the bit about the military network, but the hardware hacking is great.

    Pi - Math hacking genius!

    So the question is, do any of these deserve a top 10 spot above something you have mentioned? The only one I think does is Revolution OS. Think Pirates of Silicon Valley for Linux nerds. Nice post Matt!

  5. Ziria Said,

    Untraceable (the one with Diane Lane) Server bouncing, dynamic IP, low TTL, geo-IP. Pretty technical stuff in there.

    Plus, it’s Diane Lane. She could be reading the Constitution and I would still watch it.

  6. matt Said,

    Good suggestions, thanks guys! Sounds like I have a few flicks to catch up on.

  7. Phil Said,

    Definitely Firewall starring Harrison Ford… it’s one of the most craptastic compruter movies of all time.

  8. anon Said,

    great list, I’ll check out sneakers.
    …but… how could u ref. trainspotting in the hackers desc.?! keep that shit secret, /b/ only fno.

  9. Hassan Said,

    Takedown is the BEST ^^

  10. Sean Said,

    What about Tron? That’s an awesome movie with computer lingo in it. About a hacker (or User) gets into an actual computer. It’s sequel, Tron: Legacy, was awesome too! (watch the first one first)

  11. Lemont Said,

    To only have Tron and Takedown as honorable mentions is a slap in the face to geeks as well as having hackers even on the list also missing some the greatest anime of all time on this list as well you need to do a little more research on this my friend

  12. ken Said,

    Very nice list, but I would check out these Cypher, One po1nto, and english move called Three Blind Mice. Another with denzel washington and russel crowe called virtuosity. But what about Terminator 3? I would also look into the B grades like Code Hunter. Should any of these make a top ten list, probably not but they are worth a look.

  13. kisolo. kiganda Said,

    hey people wat of echlon and eagle eye???? damn these movies r great

  14. ed1337 Said,

    Nice list, wasnt sure at first but when I saw Sneakers at number one i was easily able to forgive the inclusion of The Net.

    Havent seen Antitrust or Pirates of Silicon Valley. Might check out DH4 again, and Wild Palms and what ken said in comment 12. Oceans 11 was kinda good and hacker-y too. I love sneakers but The Matrix has to be number 1. Also worth a mention: Jumping Jack Flash? Saw it in 80’s, with its monochrome terminals and wasnt disappointed when it came on again a few years later (probably at Xmas).

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