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WarGames Poster by James White

(WarGames poster by James White)

I’m using the term “hacker” very loosely here, but here are six of my favorite hacker-related scenes from films of the 1980s and 1990s. Ready to hack the mainframe and jam with the console cowboys in cyberspace?

1. WarGames (1983)

David Lightman (Matthew Broderick) uses his IMSAI 8080 microcomputer to hack into the school’s computer system to change his and Ally Sheedy’s bad grades.

2. Revenge of the Nerds (1984)

I don’t know that this one is technically hacking, but it’s close enough. Gilbert Lowe (Anthony Edwards) impresses Judy in the computer lab with his skills at creating animated avatars without any kind of visible interface. You have to admit, that is pretty impressive!

I love Gilbert’s quote from this scene:

Some people, they can create with their hands, but when you’re working with a computer, you gotta build something with your mind. If you’re good, you can do something no one’s ever seen before. It’s a definite high.

(Note: This clip claims to be R-rated, but I assure you, it is absolutely safe for work. If the embed is not working you can watch it here.)

3. Weird Science (1985)

John Hughes’ Weird Science was definitely one of those movies that inspired me to learn about computers. I still haven’t figured out how to generate an ’80s era Kelly LeBrock from my laptop yet. I tried wearing the ceremonial bra on my head and everything!

Here’s the scene where Gary Wallace (Anthony Michael Hall) and Wyatt Donnelly (Ilan Mitchell-Smith) create Lisa (Kelly LeBrock) on their Memotech MTX512:

So what was Lisa anyway? An android? A hologram? Some kind of god? She seemed to have god-like powers, right?

4. Jurassic Park (1993)

Ray Arnold (Samuel L. Jackson) tries to access the security grid which has been password protected by Dennis Nedry (Wayne Knight). “Ah ah ah. You didn’t say the magic word!”

5. Ghost in the Shell (1995)

Unlike the Revenge of the Nerds clip, this one actually is NSFW (for animated nudity). In this scene the elusive hacker known as the Puppet Master, inhabiting a damaged cybernetic body, delivers a thought provoking monologue comparing life to code.

l submit the DNA you carry is nothing more than a self-preserving program itself. Life is like a node which is born within the flow of information. As a species of life that carries DNA as its memory system man gains his individuality from the memories he carries. While memories may as well be the same as fantasy it is by these memories that mankind exists.

Probably my favorite part of this scene are Dr. Willis’ bionic hyperspeed typing hands!

ghost in the shell robot typing fingers

6. Hackers (1995)

Hack the planet! Sure this movie is wildly inaccurate and comically outdated at this point, but whatever, it’s an enjoyable piece of nostalgia for me. It certainly made logging into AOL seem a little more exciting at the time.

In this scene Jonny Lee Miller’s character Dade Murphy (a.k.a. Zero Cool, a.k.a. Crash Override) hacks into a TV station.

Real hackers hated this movie, as I’m sure can imagine. The official website was even hacked by a hacker group called the “Internet Liberation Front.” You can still see the hacked version archived here.

Hackers Movie Website Hacked

Bonus: RiffTrax: 90s Cyber Thrillers

For more 1990s hacker nonsense check out Rifftrax’s half-hour special dedicated to ’90s internet movies featuring Hackers, The Lawnmower Man, and The Net.

Here’s the trailer:

It’s only $3.50 and well worth the purchase. Buy it here!

Interested in learning more about the history of hacking and how to keep your personal data secure? Check out The Hitchhiker’s Guide to Hacking, a cool interactive infographic inspired by Douglas Adams’ The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy.

Click the image below to view it.

The Hitchhiker's Guide to Hacking

Do you guys have any favorite hacker scenes? Please let me know in the comments!