If you’ve read this blog for a while, you’ll know that at Ashton College, we feel pretty strongly that the 1983 movie with Matthew Broderick, War Games, was the first REAL movie about hacking. If you can get past the fact that it was made almost 40 years ago, you’ll likely have a chuckle at some of the references and enjoy the movie none-the-less.
While it’s somewhat unclear if Broderick’s character engaged in any computer programming to mistakenly access the War Operation Plan response (WOPR) (he mostly entered passwords, made use of DOS commands and hacked systems through undisclosed means), it was the first movie of its kind and one that led to many others about life with computers and the hazards (or opportunities). It also inspired “geeks” from around the world to be proud of their interests in computing.
Movies and TV have taken things in new directions as computers have evolved and so has hacking, programming, etc. The phrase “I have Python certification” in the days of War Games would have led movie-goers to think “Wait, why is he certified in snakes?” whereas now, it would be generally understood the character had programming skills and would have probably taken a Python for beginners course.
In that vein, here are a few of our other favourite movies that inspired programmers and portrayed their skills fairly accurately.
1. The Social Network
Welcome Mark Zuckerberg and the advent of Facebook. Based on the true story, the movie explores Zuckerberg’s legal battle over intellectual property theft and how Facebook came to be on the computers and phones of everyone from tweens to grandmothers.
There are minimal segments that show programming, but those that do are done well. References to coding, algorithms and the pains of a tech start-up abound throughout the film, which helped it earn fairly high praise.
2. Pirates of Silicon Valley
Another throwback, though not quite as far back as War Games, Pirates of Silicon Valley came out in 1999. This is more of a personal events exploration (and a somewhat humourous one) of the formation of the personal computing industry’s leaders – Steve Jobs and Bill Gates – and their rivalry. The mention of BASIC programming language (used on Bill Gates’ Altair computer) is part of the film’s appeal.
3. Source Code
Perhaps the most programming-specific titled movie out there, this was a 2011 action thriller based on the concept that a military artificial reality system can determine and prevent a suicide bomber on a Chicago train. Source Code is the name of the experimental machine that recreates past events based on up the last eight minutes of memory of the passengers killed on the train.
It sounds very sci-fi, but keep in mind that at one time movies about robots and AI seemed far fetched. There’s a lot of questions about what Source Code (the machine in the movie) is and what it does while watching the movie, but without throwing out spoilers, we’ll just say it’s definitely worth a watch.
Programmers are the main characters in this 2011 film and while programming is highly featured, those in the industry will easily spot fake GUIs placed in the movie. Fortunately, these issues are minimal and in Antitrust we see a bright computer programmer join a disturbing employer’s ranks. While he sees his employer as his mentor, he soon begins to notice things that aren’t quite right and uncovers secrets that lead to a lack of trust and the need to dig deeper.
Code features heavily in this film where the origins of necessary source code are kept secret from the main character and programmers who create code are being killed. It’s a high-stakes life-and-death look at the programming and software world and whole lot of fun.
If you’ve been wanting to check out a film or two that feature programming and the world of sharp minds, inside jokes and brilliant geeks, there are plenty, but we suggest starting with these five. And yes, please do start with War Games.
Read our other blog: Most Effective Spends for a CyberSecurity Budget