Wargames (1983): The top of the list! What can you say about this movie other than marvel at it’s greatness. What’s that you say? You’re not convinced it’s the best… well then your probably under 40. For those of us that were around during that time, the accuracy of the equipment and methods used were 100% spot on. I’ll forgive a little poetic license with the voicebox (even though they did exist at a more primitive level), but if you had to read what was on the screen the movie would get tiresome real fast. It added to the creepiness of the emotionally void WOPR when the voice says, “To win the game.” The voice, BTW, was provided by the director who recorded the lines by speaking them in reverse, then played back in the opposite reverse forward direction…??? You know what I mean. It completely represented the aura of the time. If you buy the DVD that has the director’s comments, you’ll find that they purposely used a hodgepodge of older computer equipment so it would accurately represent what a teenager would be able to afford or scrounge up during that time. Incredible accuracy, especially the part showing how to jack a pay telephone with a soda can pull tab. What’s a pull tab? Go away kid, ya bother me!
Tron (1982): Even though this film came out in the 80’s, it feels like a late 70’s film. I don’t know why. Basically it’s about a hacker that is transported into the digital universe inside a computer, and must survive combat as a cyber gladiator in order to stop the villainous Master Control. It wanes a little in places, but make no mistake this was a groundbreaking adventure at the time. The graphics, while dated now, were extremely cutting edge at the time and wowed movie audiences lucky enough to see it on the big screen.
Pirates of Silicon Valley (1999): Not so much a hacking film as a corporate espionage film… involving computer companies. Fantastic tale from start to finish. My only gripe is that it does leave out some key information. For instance, the only reason Bill Gates got in to see the higher up’s at IBM was that his mother served on the same board of directors for a charity that the IBM chairman served on. She got the wheels rolling on the meeting. It also makes Bill Gates out to be some rebellious drop out who risked everything to start his company. Truth is, Bill was a multi millionaire by the time he went to college thanks to a generous trust fund from his grandparents and parents, who were also very wealthy. So was Paul Allen, who knew Bill from their grade school days at one the most exclusive and expensive private schools in Seattle. They weren’t hurting for anything… unlike Jobs and Wozniak. Still the historical bend of this movie makes it one of the best biopic films for computer nostalgia nerds.
Sneakers (1992): Some of the hacking was OK, but the social commentary peppered throughout by Robert Redford made this film unwatchable. If you want to blame Republicans for everything, watch a Michael Moore movie. If you want to make a hacking movie, leave your left wing garbage out and just make a damn hacking film. Is that too much to ask there, Bobby? The story revolves around two college buddies who take different paths in life. One becomes an “ethical” hacker, and the other…well, he is not quite so noble, although rich. The underlying message is that capitalist greed is bad but being broke, running from the FBI, and working in a run down, abandoned warehouse is morally superior. Some great plot twists and comic scenes ruined by over the top political grandstanding make this a movie I would only watch if it were free… and beer was free.
The Net (1995): Ugh. The only saving grace of this movie is Sandra Bullock. Technology at that time was emerging at a great pace. This thing called ‘Internet’ was finally taking off and the filmmakers and writers took a lot of poetic justice to portray what computers might be able to do in the 2 months between shooting the movie and releasing it. It had it’s moments but the whininess of Bullock and the whole portrayal of the security software hack made it almost unwatchable. A good MST3K candidate.
Swordfish (2001): This movie’s tagline should tell you just how unrealistic the hacking is: “Log on. Hack in. Go anywhere. Steal everything.” Yeah, it’s that easy. If you watch the movie, you’ll realize that’s exactly what the filmmakers believe. John Travolta is a villain who’s grand scheme is to steal billions from the U.S. government through yes, you guessed it… hacking. The entire premise of the plot is that in the vast, computerized world of modern finance, $9.5 billion could slip through the cracks so that a clever hacker could, with hacking, transfer it to his own account unnoticed. Heck, I could use a new car… I’m gonna hack a few grand right now using my Hollywood generated CGI screens with 3d hacking tools where the mouse moves even though your hands are busy typing! It might have fooled the unwashed masses, but we know better.
David Ryder is an Internet Marketing Professional that has been helping individuals, corporations, and promotional companies achieve success through various methods and campaign styles.