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.
10. 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??
9. 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.
8. 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??
7. 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.
6. 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.
5. 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.
4. 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.
3. 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.
2. 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?
1. 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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