Thursday, February 18, 2010

The Irish Times: Reeling in the hackers

A new study reveals that the popular film portrayal of computer hackers is actually quite accurate, writes KARLIN LILLINGTON

IF YOU don’t like the idea of a scholarly paper on the trail of hackers in films, then take it up with Damian Gordon’s parents. “I have to blame my parents – the only films we were ever taken to were science fiction and futuristic kinds of films,” says Gordon, a lecturer in computer science at the Dublin Institute of Technology.

Gordon has just published his paper, Forty Years of Movie Hacking: Considering the Potential Implications of the Popular Media Representation of Computer Hackers from 1968 to 2008, in the current issue of the International Journal of Internet Technology and Secured Transactions.

A self-confessed film buff, he likes to show students clips from such films as a teaching tool because he feels they bring an abstract subject to life and help initiate lively discussions.

“With computer science you’re always trying to explain complex ideas in a clear way. Clips from films can be very useful for that. Any time I can, I try to slip in a film clip.”

In trying to teach his students about security issues, he realised many had misguided notions about what the typical computer hacker is like and where security threats come from.

That set him thinking that perhaps the misperceptions came from the upper trails of hackers in popular culture.

So Gordon set out to compile a list of as many films that featured hacking as he could and came up with 50 – which he realises is not comprehensive and excludes foreign films, but does pick up most Hollywood films since the late 1960s that fit within his criteria outlined in the 29-page paper. He excluded animated films and documentaries, for example.

He included films from as early as 1968 through to 2008, across several genres from science fiction to crime films.

His paper observes a curious dearth of films in the 1970s, just as computing was coming into popular visibility. His theory is that a lifting of censorship rules caused films to focus more on violence and sex.

“Hacking computers was probably too passive and boring,” he laughs.

The aim of his paper “was really to investigate why there is a general public perception that hackers all seem to be teenagers in bedrooms. Lots of books on hacking talk about this, but it is so wrong. Most hackers are around 30 and are computer professionals.

“Being a hacker is really not about sitting alone in a dark bedroom. It has a lot more to do with your interpersonal skills.”

His film findings surprised Gordon just as much as they might surprise others. Far from having public perceptions of hackers shaped by films, he found that the celluloid portrayal of hackers was actually quite accurate – setting aside the unlikelihood of your average female hacker looking like Sandra Bullock or Angelina Jolie.

“It’s devastating to realise that most movies do portray hackers correctly,” he jokes.

First off, he found that the average age of the majority of film hackers was over 25, with only a quarter younger than that. Some 65 per cent were aged between 25 and 50, and only 3 per cent were older than 50, which he thinks is fairly accurate.

As for profession, 32 per cent were portrayed as working in the computer industry, 28 per cent were full-time hackers, 20 per cent were students and 20 per cent worked in other professions.

Gordon notes that this actually meshes fairly closely with reality – one study cited in his paper notes that the average hacker is 27 and either a computer professional or full-time hacker.

Gordon also found that, in the films, about 10 per cent of the hackers were women, which also approximates real-world statistics.

He notes that for some reason there are far more female hackers portrayed on television compared to film. “I’m presuming that’s because men tend to do the action bits on television,” he says.

Two areas in which film deviated from real-world hacking are the number of attacks depicted as coming from outside an organisation rather than being instigated from those inside an organisation, and the portrayal of the intentions of hackers.

In film, only 20 per cent of the attacks are internal, but industry studies suggest the ratio may be closer to 50-50, Gordon notes in his paper.

Also, the vast majority of hackers in films are actually portrayed as the good guys – a huge 73 per cent, with 10 per cent being somewhere in between, and 17 per cent portrayed as bad guys. “I was definitely surprised at the number of films showing hackers in a positive light,” he says.

However, he rather likes this himself, given that the term “hacker” started out as a positive one, referring to people who were highly adept at tinkering with electronics and writing or modifying computer programs. Only much later did the public start to use the term hacker to mean someone with malicious intent.

“I’d like to reclaim the title as a positive one,” says Gordon.

Damian's top five

Hot Millions (1968) Peter Ustinov as Marcus Pendleton, a con-man just out of prison. “Really a great movie.”

Tron (1982) Jeff Bridges as Kevin Flynn, a former employee of fictional computer company ENCOM. “I adored Tron, and you can never go wrong with Jeff Bridges.”

Superman III (1983) Gus Gorman (Richard Pryor) discovers that he has an extraordinary talent for computer programming. “A great salami-slicing attack.”

WarGames (1983) David Lightman (Matthew Broderick) as a high school student who is highly unmotivated at school but is an enthusiastic computer hacker at home. “Fixed in people’s minds the archetype of the young hacker operating from his bedroom.”

Sneakers (1992, Heist) College students Martin Brice (Gary Hershberger) and his friend Cosmo (Jo Marr) use a college computer to hack into banking systems to transfer funds. “Fantastic film”

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Hacker Movies

Hacker Movies
By SFAM • Updated February 27, 2006

Quite a few cyberpunk movies deal with the hacker counterculture. Rebellion against the mega-corporations by the punk-hacker anti-heroes have been celebrated Since Neuromancer. This category lists all the movies where hacking is a central theme. Included are movies like Ghost in the Shell, where hacking (ghost hacks, for instance) is pretty much standard operating procedure for the main characters, even though the punk counter-culture is almost non-existent. Like all of my themes categories, I don’t distinguish here between movies and animes (which are very influential in cyberpunk) - you will see both listed.

And yes, I realize I don’t have all cyberpunk hacker movies listed - in fact I have relatively few so far. This will change, as I’m still in the process of uploading my reviews. If you have one in mind that you don’t see here, let me know, and I’ll bump it up in priority.

Hacker Movies in Cyberpunk

* Code Hunter
* Ghost in the Shell
* Ghost in the Shell Stand Alone Complex
* Hackers
* Matrix
* Nirvana
* Pi
* Serial Experiments: Lain
* Sixteen Tongues
* Sneakers
* Tron
* War Games
* X-Files: Kill Switch (Episode 11, Season 5)

The 20 Best Hacker Movies

The 20 Best Hacker Movies

# 20) The Net (1995)
Sandra Bullock plays a software engineer who loses her identity to digital thieves. Filmed during the fanatic years of the then-novel World Wide Web, this film is now cliched. Nevertheless, fans of Sandra Bullock will still enjoy watching this B movie.

# 19) The Matrix (1999)
This was such a groundbreaking adventure in reality and existentialism. No, you will not learn how to break into a Linux server by watching Trinity port-scanning with "nmap". But this movie is definitely cool, nonetheless.

# 18) Takedown (2000)
This is the sensationalized story of famous phone phreaker, Kevin Mitnick. This is a cult classic that is very hard to find in rental stores.

# 17) Pirates of Silicon Valley (1999)
This is the flawed storytelling of how Apple and Microsoft came to be. While this movie got mixed reviews, many people have commented they loved it. Three dollars at your video store, and you can decide for yourself if this was a good film.

# 16) The Conversation (1974)
While you won't see computers in this classic film, the theme of surveillance and the violation of people's privacy is so masterfully explored here.

**Related movie: The Conversation was re-imagined as Will Smith's Enemy of the State in 2001. The 2001 treatment of the story was designed as a modern techno thriller, and has some tremendous special effects and satellite surveillance sequences. Having Gene Hackman star with Will Smith makes it worth the price of a DVD rental.

# 15) Antitrust (2001)
This movie has some strong points about it. Two idealistic computer whiz kids graduate from Stanford, and one of them enters the world of private sector programming. Sure enough, these two programmers find themselves in the middle of cybercrime scandals. Definitely worth renting for three bucks.

# 14) Real Genius (1985)
There is only about 5 minutes of actual "hacking" in this comedy, where Laslo "brute-forces" his way into the defense network, and Kent and Mitch do phone bugging. But there are laughs aplenty in this fun B movie. Definite smile factor if you like playful and quirky humor movies.

# 13) Hackers (1995)
Well, this story was really weak, and the hacking scenes were nowhere near reality. But you have to watch this just to say you did. Plus: Angelina Jolie is reason enough for some males to rent this.

# 12) Mission Impossible (1996)
While many people no longer like Tom Cruise, his first MI movie did have I.T. and computer hacking sequences. Some good action, too.

# 11) The Thirteenth Floor(1999)
A very extreme version of "The Sims", this movie is about scientists who create a virtual world where participants plug in and take over a computer character's life. The characters are unaware of their puppet existence, but then a real life murder shakes the foundation of the game.

# 10) Swordfish (2001)
Over-the-top violence, preposterous situations, sexy women, and outstanding special effects make this a great popcorn rental. No, don't bring your brain to watch this, but if you like techno-thrillers, definitely rent this. John Travolta is the slimy villain, Hugh Jackman is the studly hero hacker, and Halle Berry is the mysterious damsel.

# 9) The Italian Job (2003)
Modern heist movies always involve some sort of hacking. This particular heist movie is extremely entertaining, especially when the supposed true inventor of "Napster" is the main hacker. At least 20 minutes of hacking footage in this actioner. Definitely worth renting if you haven't seen it.

# 8) Foolproof (2003)
A lower-budget movie about hobby bank robbers, this was a delightful surprise to many viewers. Ryan Reynolds and his friends "virtually" rob banks for fun, but are blackmailed into doing a heist for real. This is a good action rental.

# 7) eXistenZ (1999)
A David Cronenberg film, this is the creepiest entry in the list. A game designer creates an artificial reality game that plugs directly into people's minds. The line between reality and game then blurs in a violent and gruesome way. This is very much a powerful art film, and not for everyone.

# 6) The Score (2001)
Edward Norton and Robert De Niro are fabulous in this heist flick. In a clever plot to rob a Montreal customs house of some royal artifacts, Norton and De Niro must break into the security systems with the help of a socially-awkward hacker who lives in his mother's basement. Ten minutes of hacking, and 100 minutes of phenomenal robbery storytelling!

# 5) Sneakers (1992)
While dated, this movie was groundbreaking at the time, and is still charming to this day. 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. Some great plot twists and comic scenes make this a good way to spend a Saturday afternoon at home.

# 4) Revolution OS (2001)
This documentary tells the story about the Linux operating system, and how it forwarded the philosophy of "open source" and free intellectual property. Not an action movie, but definitely interesting for people who want to learn more about why computer culture is the way it is. If you can find a copy of this, definitely rent it.

# 3) Die Hard 4: Live Free or Die Hard (2007)
Leave it to Bruce Willis to save the world from uber hackers. Macintosh advertising personality, Justin Long, plays the reluctant programmer caught up in an digital terrorism scheme. Like Swordfish, this movie has over-the-top violence and outrageous action sequences, but if you liked the Die Hard series, definitely see this .

# 2) Wargames (1983)
Yes, this movie is very old, but it is still a pivotal film in many viewers' minds. A young man finds a back door into a military computer that is linked to the nuclear defense grid of the United States. A preposterous plot, but a compelling commentary on nuclear war and the destruction of the human race. You have to see this movie just to say you have seen it.

# 1) Tron (1982)
A classic! A hacker is transported into the digital universe inside a computer, and must survive combat as a cyber gladiator in order to stop the villanous Master Control. The imagination behind this movie made big ripples in the science fiction world, and today, Tron is a cult classic that every computer user should see at least once.

**Special Mention - movies with hackers that almost made this top 20 list:

o Jurassic Park (1993)

o Untraceable (2008)

o The Core (2003)

o Lawnmower Man (1992)

o Disclosure (1994)

o Goldeneye (1995)

o Virtuousity (1995)

o One Point Oh (2004)

o Superman III (1983)

o Deja Vu (2006)

Hollywood Hacker Movies of All Time

Hollywood Hacker Movies of All Time

Everyone has seen at least one Hollywood movie that contains (or is about) hacking or hackers. And, for the most part, the majority of them aren't all that realistic - but who cares? They are meant to be entertaining.

1. The Matrix
2. Office Space
3. Jurassic Park (1993)
4. Independence Day
5. Mission: Impossible
6. Weird Science
7. Superman III
8. The Italian Job
9. Swordfish
10. GoldenEye
11. Hackers
12. Enemy of the State
13. The Net
14. Real Genius
15. The Core
16. Tron
17. Sneakers
18. Serenity
19. The Lawnmower Man
20. Three Days of the Condor
21. Johnny Mnemonic
22. Jumpin' Jack Flash
23. WarGames
24. Firewall
25. Antitrust
26. Star Wars original Trilogy
27. Live Free, Die Hard
28. Untraceable
29. The Thirteenth Floor
30. Ghost in the Machine
31. Pirates of Silicon Valley
32. Bedwin Hacker
33. Ghost in the Shell 2.0
34. Netforce
35. Terminal Error
36. Code Hunter
37. Nichts ist so wie es Scheint
38. Nirvana
39. Track Down (Takedown)
40. The Jolson Story

How Hollywood portrays hackers

How Hollywood portrays hackers
By Andrew Brandt

(IDG) -- No doubt you remember Matthew Broderick's portrayal of a hacker in the movie War Games. That film launched hacking as a popular pastime, at least for a specific demographic of teenage males. But it wasn't the first film to feature hacking, or the last.

Movie hackers have had many faces: one-dimensional clowns, nefarious villains, mischievous geniuses, anarchic heroes. And as hackers and their motivations in the real world have changed, so have their counterparts in the movies. In more recent films they're more unrealistic, cartoonier, angrier, and able to perform completely impractical or impossible acts.

One constant among the movies, however, is the depiction of hackers as lone wolves acting independently to thwart (or in some cases, execute) a malevolent scheme. While some hackers have been presented as warriors fighting an epic battle in distant, unfamiliar realms, more often than not the Hollywood hacker is the buffoonish comic relief.

Following is a select list of hacking-related films (some primarily about hacking, others featuring a prominent hacker character), illustrating the evolution of the film industry's portrayal of hackers as it paralleled the public's changing view of hacking.
The Early Years of Hacker Films


A tale told way before its time, Tron uses the concept of cyberspace as a separate dimension to relate the story of a conflict between the good and evil inhabitants of that parallel universe.

Computer programmer and video game arcade owner Kevin Flynn (Jeff Bridges) develops a hugely popular video game, which his employer steals before firing him. Flynn attempts to hack into the company's mainframe to gather proof of the crime. The system's security program detects him and zaps him into cyberspace, where Flynn must battle the forces of the security software to survive.

The frame-by-frame, hand-painted special effects were the first significant "computer graphics" meshed with live actors in a film. The painstaking work taught the film world a lesson: For special effects, using real CGI is easier than applying traditional animation techniques.

The film tanked at the box office but became a cult hit among the hard-core geek crowd. Its portrayals both of a cyberworld separate and unique from the real world and of a networked universe where data flows freely anticipated the Internet's popularity by a decade. And the climactic triumph of individual (hacker) good over corporate evil struck a Revenge of the Nerds-esque blow to the dismissive establishment.


WarGames introduced hacking to a whole new generation of computer buffs just as the home PC was becoming popular. It foreshadowed the security dangers inherent in systems connected to a modem (and later the Internet).

In the film, Matthew Broderick plays David Lightman, a well-adjusted, curious teenager, who uses his computer, a modem, and an automated dialing program to hack into what he believes is a computer game manufacturer's system. Instead, he's broken into WOPR, the U.S. military's mainframe system at NORA, a nuclear missile command center in Colorado that simulates nuclear war games for training purposes.

When Lightman launches a game of Global Thermonuclear War with the system, military personnel read it as an enemy attack and move into high alert (Def Con 1), preparing to launch nuclear countermeasures. Lightman manages to avert nuclear war only with the aid of WOPR's reclusive creator.

In addition to giving the public its first glimpse of teenage hackers and their techniques, War Games depicted (and perhaps helped to launch) the ongoing mutual fascination and frustration that exists between hackers and the military.

Real Genius

The portrayal of hackers as young geniuses who understand and respect technology better than the adults who create it is an underlying theme of this film. A teen prodigy named Mitch Taylor (Gabe Jarrett) enters university at age 15 and takes up dorm residence with another young genius named Chris Knight (Val Kilmer).

Taylor and Knight help construct a high-power laser as part of a research project for one of their professors, only to see the professor steal the laser and sell it to the military for use as a weapon. The two students hack into the laser's control mechanism to inflict revenge on their professor and a rival student.

Real Genius offered viewers the first image of a villain deceiving smart hackers into doing his dirty deeds.


Before the public became wise to it, social engineering (tricking a person into giving away a password or information) was long the leading method hackers used to obtain entry to otherwise inaccessible systems. Sneakers was the first movie to illustrate that technique's effectiveness, and was also the first hacking film to delve into the significance of encryption.

Led by Martin Bishop (Robert Redford), several aging radicals--who have become computer security experts--are enlisted by government agents to obtain a mysterious black box of unknown origin and function.

Once Bishop and his team retrieve the box, they discover its true purpose: to crack encryption codes and break into secured computers. And the freelance hackers find out that the "government agents" are actually members of an organized crime operation that plans to use the box for nefarious deeds.
Latter-Day Hacker Films

As hacking became more widespread in the late 1980s and early 1990s, law enforcement began to clamp down on cracker gangs who stole credit card numbers and broke into phone systems to make free calls.

The latter half of the 1990s also saw several widely publicized hacks that caused mayhem on the early Internet. As a result, a few celluloid hackers ventured into more-complex roles.

But the majority of computing-related films remained corny melodramas, and the hacker went from being a cartoony good guy to being a cartoony bad guy.

There's nothing less complex than a James Bond villain, and the evil figures in The Net aren't far behind. Sneakers (discussed on the previous page) is not without some complexity, and features a more textured, ambiguous portrayal of hacking than the caricatures in Goldeneye and The Net, which were released three years later.

No longer was the hacker seen just as a harmless character pulling off Rube Goldbergian stunts; the hacker was now a dark antihero capable of causing serious destruction.

Sometimes thrust into the world of hacking against their will, at other times eager participants, movie hackers began to reshape the general public's view of the underground community alternatively as dark conspirators and sympathetic protagonists.


Three hacker-themed films made their way to the silver screen this year.


James Bond, always ahead of his time in terms of technology, enters the hacker realm in this installment of the series. In this scenario, Bond battles post-Soviet foes: the Russian mafia and a corrupt Russian military, aided by a self-important Russian hacker.

The hacker, a former computer programmer at a research outpost in Siberia, helps the mob steal a high-tech armored helicopter and a satellite weapon that can disrupt computers and electronics over hundreds of miles.

As in other Bond films, the villains are all arch, and the Russian hacker in particular comes to represent the new threat of the info-warfare era.

The film was the first to show a black-hat hacker employed by an enemy army, perhaps as a nod to the 1986 real-life incident involving German hackers who broke into U.S. military systems for the KGB.


The first movie to focus solely on the hacker community, Hackers features a ragtag group of teenage hackers caught up in the evil plot of a black-hat hacker who threatens to release a massive destructive computer virus in order to extort money. The hackers fight off the federal agents who are chasing them, and at the same time they try to halt the evil hacker's plan.

While the hackers in the film are depicted as highly skilled, they're not all particularly intelligent, and they're shown randomly breaking into systems driven only by that age-old teenage motive: boredom.

This movie gave the public its first glimpse of hacker minutiae, such as the handles they adopt, and the sense of community that the underground provides them. Hackers was also the first film to show a female hacker, played by Angelina Jolie (who, not surprisingly, became an object of fixation for many real-life hackers).

Trivia: Emmanuel Goldstein, the name of one character in the hacking group, is a nod to the pseudonym of Eric Corley, publisher of the real-life magazine 2600: The Hacker Quarterly. Corley himself took the handle from a character in George Orwell's novel 1984. Corley served as a consultant for Hackers.

The Net

As more personal information gets stored on computers, identity theft becomes a growing problem, especially for the main character of this film.

Just hours before Angela Bennett (Sandra Bullock), a reclusive, agoraphobic computer expert, is scheduled to leave for vacation, she receives an odd program from a friend she knows only through the Internet. When she later hears that the friend has died mysteriously, she realizes the program contains hidden information for which her friend was probably murdered.

When the murderer discovers that Bennett possesses the program, he alters her entire identity by creating an elaborate, electronic criminal history in her name. Forced to run from authorities who believe she's a dangerous outlaw, Bennett must determine what the information in the program means and prove her innocence before the authorities find her.

Hollywood hackers often don't bear much resemblance to their real-world kin. The Net features some classic examples of the over-the-top notion that hackers can do absolutely anything, like steal data from distant PCs that aren't attached to a network. Bullock's character also seems to put about a gig of data on a typical 1.4MB floppy disk--listen kids, even a SuperDisk can't handle that.

As happens with many "high-concept" movies, nobody involved with writing, directing, or acting in this film seems to actually know how to use a computer. They don't seem to know the difference between an IP and a PI, and ... it's funny. Unintentionally so.

The Matrix

In this film, released on the eve of the 21st century, the fear of computers controlling the world takes on an even darker tone than what 2001: A Space Odyssey proposes.

Thomas Anderson (Keanu Reeves) leads a double life. By day he manages the computer network of a large corporation, and by night his alter ego--the notorious computer hacker Neo--kicks in and spends the dark hours hacking.

One night Neo encounters a famous hacker online who goes by the name Morpheus. When Neo agrees to meet Morpheus, thinking the pro might clue him in to some new hacking technique, Neo discovers that Morpheus is actually the leader of an underground gang who is fighting for control of this manufactured existence we call reality.

Morpheus and his group recruit Neo to fight an even more menacing threat than federal agents: a malicious software "agent" that can kill using only its mind.

The philosophical and biblical undertones of the film reflected the ambivalence that the public had come to feel toward the rapid adoption of technology in all aspects of life.


The hacker as corporate watchdog is the theme of this movie, which borrows concepts from many of the hacking-related films that preceded it.

On his college graduation day, Milo Hoffman (Ryan Philippe) receives a call from billionaire technology CEO Gary Winston (Tim Robbins), inviting Hoffman to work for his company. Only after Hoffman agrees to work on Winston's project--a network of supersensitive communications satellites--does he learn that Winston is using the satellites to spy on competitors.

Ruthlessly eliminating anyone who attempts to thwart the completion of his project, Winston has one of Hoffman's college friends murdered. Hoffman then uses his hacking skills and knowledge of the network to take control of the satellites and halt Winston's plan to put competitors out of business.

While the movie failed miserably at the box office, it offered a new twist in a classic context: corporations hiring skilled hackers, and a small-scale hero fighting an evil tycoon and his empire (a thinly veiled Microsoft in this case).

Male TV Hackers

* Chuck Bartowski (Zachary Levi) in "Chuck"

* Micah Sanders (Noah Gray-Cabey) in "Heroes"

* John Connor (Thomas Dekker) in "The Sarah Connor Chronicles"

* Juan Carlos "Juice" Ortiz (Theo Rossi) in "Sons of Anarchy"

* Kerr Avon (Paul Darrow) in "Blake's 7"

* Lone Gunmen in "The X-Files"
--> Melvin Frohike (Tom Braidwood)
--> Richard "Ringo" Langly (Dean Haglund)
--> John Fitzgerald Byers (Bruce Harwood)

* Lucas Wolenczak (Jonathan Brandis) in "SeaQuest DSV"

* Marshall J. Flinkman (Kevin Weisman) in "Alias"

* Morris O'Brian (Carlo Rota) in "24"

* Mr. Spock (Leonard Nimoy) in "Star Trek"

Female TV Hackers

* Abigail "Abby" Sciuto (Pauley Perrette) in "NCIS"

* Angela Bennett (Brooke Langton) in "The Net"

* Barbara Gordon/Oracle (Dina Meyer) in "Birds of Prey"

* Bonnie Barstow (Patricia McPherson) in "Knight Rider"

* Chloe O'Brian (Mary Lynn Rajskub) in "24"

* Chloe Sullivan (Allison Mack) in "Smallville"

* Cindy "Mac" Mackenzie (Tina Majorino) in "Veronica Mars"

* Penelope Garcia (Kirsten Vangsness) in "Criminal Minds"

* Theora Jones (Amanda Pays) in "Max Headroom"

* Rachel Gibson (Rachel Nichols) in "Alias"

* Sydney Bloom (Lori Singer) in "VR.5"

* Willow Rosenberg (Alyson Hannigan) in "Buffy the Vampire Slayer"

2000s Movie Hackers

The original research was completed in the middle of 2008, so further movies will be added to this list.

Fifteen movies in the list appear so far from the 2000s, including one portraying the life story of Kevin Mitnick (Skeet Ulrich) entitled Takedown (2000), sometimes known as Hackers 2 or Track Down. A number of movies featured the theme of the protagonist being forced into stealing money; including Hugh Jackman in Swordfish (2001), Ryan Reynolds in Foolproof (2003), and Harrison Ford in Firewall (2006). Insider threats are featured in; Antitrust (2001), Cypher (2002), and Storm Watch (2002). Finally several movies in this part of the list are sequels to movies already in the list; The Net 2.0 (2006), Die Hard 4.0 (2007) and WarGames 2: The Dead Code (2008).

Takedown Kevin Mitnick
Bait Bristol
Swordfish Stanley Jobson
Antitrust Milo Hoffman
Cypher Morgan Sullivan
Storm Watch Nick Chase
Foolproof Kevin & Sam
The Italian Job Lyle
The Core Theodore Finch
Serenity Mr. Universe
Firewall Jack Stanfield
The Net 2.0 Hope Cassidy
Breach Robert Hanssen
Die Hard 4.0 Matthew Farrell
WarGames: The Dead Code Will Farmer

1990s Movie Hackers

Interestingly the 1990s feature the most hacker movies so far, twenty in total. Significant entries include; The Matrix (1999) with Keanu Reeves as Thomas Anderson aka “Neo” who discovers the true nature of reality, Sneakers (1992) with Robert Redford as Martin Brice a hacker who has been on the run from the government since 1969, and Jurassic Park (1993) which features lead computer programmer Dennis Nedry (Wayne Knight) undertaking an insider attack on the InGen security system. A co-star in Jurrasic Park, Jeff Goldblum went on to star as David Levinson in Independence Day (1996), who hacks into an alien computer system using an Apple Macintosh Powerbook. The dangers of computers being used to steal someone’s identity are examined in several movies in this decade including; The Net (1995), Twilight Man (1996), and Enemy of the State (1998). Finally, a movie that seems to have strong resonances in the hacker community is Hackers (1995) featuring Jonny Lee Miller and Angelina Jolie as Dade Murphy and Kate Libby, two teen hackers who must defeat a computer virus written by an evil genius.

Sneakers Martin Brice & Cosmo
The Lawnmower Man Jobe Smith
Jurassic Park Dennis Nedry
Goldeneye Boris Grishenko
Johnny Mnemonic J-Bone
The Net Angela Bennett
Hackers Dade Murphy & Kate Libby
Mission: Impossible Luther Stickell
Twilight Man Hollis Deitz
Independence Day David Levinson
Speed 2 John Geiger
Masterminds Oswald Paxton
Enemy of the State Edward Lyle
eXistenZ Allegra Geller
The Thirteenth Floor Douglas Hall
Office Space Michael Bolton & Samir Nagheenanajar
Netforce Will Stiles
23 Karl Koch & David
The Matrix Thomas Anderson & Trinity & Morpheus
Pirates of Silicon Valley Steve Jobs & Steve Wozniak & John Draper

1980s Movie Hackers

The 1980s included the seminal hacker movie WarGames (1983), featuring Matthew Broderick as David Lightman, a young hacker who accidentally hacks into a military computer which could result in a nuclear armageddon. Another eleven movies are included on the list from the 1980s including another appearance by Matthew Broderick as the eponymous hero of Ferris Bueller's Day Off (1986) where he remotely deletes records of his absences from the school computer. Highlights of hacker movies from this decade include a salami slicing attack featured in Superman III (1983), and hacking into ATMs in Prime Risk (1985).

Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan James T. Kirk
Tron Kevin Flynn
Superman III Gus Gorman
WarGames David Lightman
Prime Risk Julie Collins
Real Genius Lazlo Hollyfeld
Weird Science Gary Wallace & Wyatt Donnelly
Jumpin' Jack Flash Marty Phillips
Ferris Bueller's Day Off Ferris Bueller
Terminal Entry Bob
Bellman and True Hiller
Die Hard Theo

1970s Movie Hackers

Interestingly only one movie from the 1970s successfully made it into the list based on the criteria outlined above, that movie is Star Wars (1977). As mentioned previously, Star Wars features several scenes where R2D2 hacks into the Death Star computer systems and does everything from locating Princess Leia in the Detention Block, to controlling the garbage compactor. An honourable mention must go to The Conversation (1974) featuring Gene Hackman as Harry Caul, a paranoid surveillance expert, who is hired to monitor a couple's conversation and becoming increasingly worried over the actual meaning of the conversation. The movie does feature a range of themes that parallel the hacker scenario, but since no computer hacking is actually featured, it is not included on the list. Ironically a screenshot from this movie does feature in a later entry in the list, Enemy of the State (1998).

1960s Movie Hackers

Two movies from the 1960s feature in the list, Hot Millions and The Italian Job. Hot Millions features Peter Ustinov as Marcus Pendleton, a con-man just out of prison, who impersonates a computer programmer and gets a job in a large organisation where he begins to send claim checks to himself in various guises at addresses all over Europe. The Italian Job is a heist movie concerning a group of English thieves who steal $4 million worth of gold arriving in Turin, Italy. They recruit Professor Simon Peach, portrayed by comedian Benny Hill, a computer expert who takes control of the Turin traffic control system to create a massive traffic jam.

1950s Movie Hackers

Although no movies finally did appear on the list from the 1950s, several were considered, most notably was Desk Set (1957) starring Spencer Tracy and Katherine Hepburn. Tracy plays Richard Sumner, a computer expert who is installing a new computer system EMILAC into the research department of a large media organisation. That department is run by Bunny Watson, played by Hepburn, who is resistant to any innovations that may jeopardise the employment of her staff. Watson and her staff discuss ways in which they can destroy, or hack into, EMILAC, but don’t take any action, so this movie cannot be added to the list.

Hackers and Hollywood

This blog is designed to record all portrayals of hackers and computer scientists in the media, including movies, television and books.

This work follows on from a paper submited to "International Journal of Internet Technology and Secured Transactions".