Hacking in films has been a mainstay since the ’90s when the internet got first introduced. In most cases, the hacker is some god-like individual who can get into any top secret file they want in a matter of minutes. In reality, there’s quite a bit more to it than that. It isn’t as easy as typing vigorously down onto a keyboard while staring at a computer screen.
At its worst, it produces moments that take even the average viewer out of a movie. No one likes having some instant ‘I Win’ button because it marginalizes the rest of the plot. Thankfully, there have been a few movies that treat the profession with plenty of respect.
10 Ridiculous: Sandra Bullock’s Angela Bennett Found A Magic Link That Allowed Her To Take Control Of A Website
In most movies, hacking is treated with some respect. In The Net, there is none at all. Instead, Angela Bennett can access a magical link built into every single website that lets her take control of it.
The whole premise that the entire internet has a backdoor that can be accessed through a floppy disk is beyond ridiculous, even by ’90s movies’ standards. The only notable thing about the movie is that it predicted the ability to order pizza online.
9 Believable: Wargames Overcomes A Silly Plot & Has One Of The More Believable Hackers In Movies
Hacking into a gaming company that’s actually NORAD and playing a game with a supercomputer that nearly leads to World War III is a plot that very easily could have gone astray. It’s honestly shocking that it didn’t, given how outlandish it is.
Somehow War Games ended up being both entertaining and a fairly accurate portrayal of what hacking would look like back in the ’80s. There were no instant ‘I Win’ buttons, and Broderick’s David Lightman had to work to compromise NORAD’s security systems.
8 Ridiculous: Sneakers Features A Black Box That Can Hack Into Anything Instantly & Makes All Its Hackers Seem Ridiculous
Movies have a horrible habit of introducing MacGuffins that can destroy the world with the snap of someone’s fingers. It’s usually an excuse for action to take place, but that doesn’t make it any less ridiculous.
Sneakers doesn’t quite go that far, but it does introduce the Black Box, a device that can hack into anything within a matter of seconds. No matter how talented a person, such software would never exist, and it marginalizes all of the hackers in the movie, making them all seem ridiculous.
7 Believable: The Opening Of Hackers Depicts Use Of Social Engineering Techniques By Zero Cool
The opening to Hackers led people to believe they would get a real depiction of hacking on the big screen. The methods Zero Cool used weren’t far off from what real-life hackers or con artists use to gain information. While it ended up only a glimmer of reality as the rest of the movie was rather ridiculous, it was a moment that was believable.
It’s a shame the rest of the movie couldn’t follow suit. Most of the other rebellious hackers didn’t feel grounded in reality at all.
6 Ridiculous: Jack Stanfield In Firewall Looked Clueless While Effortlessly Hacking Into Bank Accounts
’90s movies did some off-the-wall things with the internet, mostly because it was still new and unknown. The movie Firewall was very much in that vein, except it had one glaring issue, the movie was made in 2006.
It felt like the writers had no idea how computers worked as Ford was hacking and transferring large sums of money without any issue at all. Worst of all, he looked like he had no idea what he was doing, and that’s not something you can afford from an actor. They, at the very least, need to sell the senselessness of their actions.
5 Believable: 23 Was Based On Real Life & Realistically Showed The Spiral Of Karl Kooch
Movies based on true events aren’t always rooted in reality, and liberties always get taken. 23 does some of that, stretching certain truths to create a better story. What it doesn’t do is make the hacking ridiculous.
Nothing Karl does is out of the realm of possibilities, and while he does end up hacking into government defense servers, he does it while in the KGB. It’s a nice change of pace from a one-man hacker army that many films go with.
4 Ridiculous: Swordfish Had Stanley Pulling Off Ridiculous Feats While Under An Absurd Amount Of Pressure
Swordfish is ridiculous as a film for more reasons than the hacking sequences. John Travolta is hammy as can be, and it’s filled with over-the-top action scenes. What’s worse is the hacking in the film. When Hugh Jackman’s Stanley gets recruited, he’s forced to hack into a secure government defense network in a minute.
If that isn’t enough, he does it all under the pressure of a gun being pointed at his head. It’s so over the top like the rest of the movie. There’s no way someone could ever focus, much less hack under those circumstances.
3 Believable: Lisbeth Salander Embodied The Look Of Rebellion & Uses Her Hacking Skills To Make A Living
As far as appearances go, Lisbeth Salander may have the most noticeable hacker look. Everything about her attire reeks of rebellion, something that Hackers tried and failed with in their movie.
As for her talents, she plies them in a way that helps make her money from Milton Securities. Nothing she does ever seems out of the realm of possibility, and she’s one of the most grounded hackers in cinema.
2 Ridiculous: Lex Murphy Hacks Into Nedry’s Security Systems & Reboots The Park
While most of the movies mentioned before were strictly hacker-related movies, Jurassic Park always deserves mention for its hacking scene. Admittedly, a movie about genetically engineered dinosaurs shouldn’t be thought-about too hard. The scene doesn’t detract from the greatness of the movie either, but Lex rebooting the park made no sense.
Nedry’s program mystified chief engineer John Arnold, a man whose whole job revolves around computers. Yet, somehow a middle schooler can crack the code? It’s just so silly.
1 Believable: Sadak Was An Exceptional Modern-Day Hacker In Blackhat
As a film, Blackhat was muddled, and at times, difficult to keep up with due to how technological things got. It didn’t help that it’s impossible to buy a hacker looking like Chris Hemsworth. That said, the villain of the movie was well done and completely believable.
The way Sadak managed to hack banks in the film through a compromised USB drive was pretty genius. Michael Mann made sure he knew what he was talking about with the movie because Sadak felt like a true cyberterrorist.
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