I was watching a movie the other night that had such bad hacking ‘skills’ displayed that it was laughable. I thought that it would be a great idea for a post on my now defunct movie site but then I remembered that I could just post it here! So with that said I present to you my list of the best and worst hacking films of all time!
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. 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 they thought 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, 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.
The practice of hacking has reached laughable levels when portrayed in television. Shows like NCIS, Criminal Minds, and Leverage are the worst offenders, but just about any other show on television that requires information immediately invokes the hacking skills of a flamboyant character who is, within one or two keyboard clicks, able to connect to any and all mainframes and databases that just so happen to contain the information they are looking for. It is such an incredibly moronic plot device that I find it difficult to continue watching any of these dreadful wastes of satellite time any further.
Need to know who bought 3/4” pipe fittings from any and all hardware stores in Virginia and paid for it using a gift card? Click click click… There ya go, the information is being sent to your phones right now. With all of the crap writing coming out of television and movie studios thee days I guess they need a poorly contrived and unbelievable method to further their investigation so they can concentrate on the ‘talent’ and the character development that we all care so little about.