What’s the Best Movie About Hackers? (Book Review)

I often get asked the question: What’s your favorite hacker movie of all time?

I’ll answer that question at the end of this blog, but as you ponder your many options, you may want to get a copy of the helpful guide called Hacker’s Movie Guide: The Complete List of Hacker and Cybersecurity Movies. The 2022-2023 edition came out earlier this month, and is available here.

Here’s the high-level description from the book’s Amazon page:


Hackers Movie Guide is the most complete list of hacker and cybersecurity movies from 1956 to present. Most of the movies have a central theme around hacking. Others have a certain character or enough footage on the subject matter to be included. Connor Morgan, co-author of Hacker’s Movie Guidedove deep into Hollywood, and then launched himself into cyberspace, in order to produce an unrivaled list of movies.

“’My whole life has been wanting to be more like movie protagonists, who are younger, poorer or weaker, having to overcome Goliath, but having brains that think outside of the rules,’ writes Steve Wozniak, co-founder of Apple, in his Foreword. ‘I have always been for the young and powerless, the consumers vs. the producers. This is almost always the theme ascribed to hackers in movies. The young hackers use their brains for good and fairness. We all take their sides in these movies.’

“’For me as a young woman seeing a character of a teenager hacker girl in a movie changed the course of my life,’ says Keren Elazari, whose TED talk about hackers has been viewed by millions, translated to 30 languages, and is one of the most watched talks on TED.com on the topic of cybersecurity.

“’I believe there is a hacker inside each one of us. Watch a movie and release your inner hacker. It might even change your life,’ says Steve Morgan, co-author of Hacker’s Movie Guide.

MORE ON CO-AUTHOR STEVE MORGAN

I first learned about this hacker movie book from co-author Steve Morgan, who is the founder at Cybersecurity Ventures, editor-in-chief at CybercrimeMagazine and executive producer at Cybercrime Radio.

I have always been impressed with the work that Steve does with Cybersecurity Ventures and CybercrimeMagazine, and especially their reports and industry metrics and projections, such as this one. When I heard that Steve was co-author of this movie guide, it made total sense to me that he took on this challenge and offers this resource that looks backwards, along with his extensive works of him that look forward. He is also very passionate about helping the cybersecurity community as a whole.

Here is what he said to me when we discussed the book: “Pop culture is the best way to recruit young people to a field that desperately needs them…The book is sort of a help-wanted sign for the cybersecurity industry. We are hoping to attract people of all ages from all walks of life with the book. Hackers, the good kind, are heroes. Everybody in our field is fighting cybercrime and we are heroes in our way. When I was in high school, ‘HAL’, the supercomputer from 2001: A Space Odyssey got me hooked on technology which led to cybersecurity.”

FOREWORD BY STEVE WOZNIAK, AND OTHER MOVIE GUIDE SURPRISES

Reading through this guide, what immediately jumps out at you is the interesting (and surprisingly detailed) foreword offered by Steve Wozniak, co-founder of Apple, Woz U, and Efforce. (Steve often goes by the nickname “Woz.”)

He walks through his upbringing and how he got interested in computers and technology.

Here is one excerpt from Woz: “I myself seek the unusual in life, not riches or powerful people. I seek the amazing things that you wouldn’t believe exist and that they would make movies about. I seek things that are supposedly impossible. Sometimes, but not always, you can accomplish the impossible if you struggle to find the ways.”

I also like the fact that the guide offers movies that go all the way back to 1956. This journey through time (in movies) shows how technology has changed, and even what people thought the future would look like 60-plus years ago.

I was intrigued by the many quotes from industry experts on their favorite hacker movies and on how those movies impacted them. Here are three examples:

“When War Games was released into theaters, I was blown away. It wasn’t just the action and intrigue of the story that fascinated me but also the idea that a kid with a computer could truly make a difference in the world. I mostly played video games on my computer but after War Games, I began exploring BBS (Bulletin Board Systems) using my trusty acoustic 110 baud modem (same as the one that Matthew Broderick’s character used) to log into networks all over the world and communicate with like-minded kids and adults. I spent many years immersing myself in hacker culture, which is why I was so thrilled to meet and interview David Scott Lewis, the man who inspired the main character in War Games years later for my podcast.” —Scott Schober, author of HackedAgain

“This is an awesome guide … and contains, happily, one of my all-time favorite hacker movies, Ferris Bueller’s Day Offwhich has the life-defining line: ‘If you don’t stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it.’” — Jen Easterly, director of the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA)

“Movies that feature ethical hackers fighting back against evil and wrong-doers can engage, entertain, and recruit tomorrow’s talent. These movies are vital to our recruiting efforts. The movie that convinced me that computers would be a major part of my future? WarGameyes It came out right around the time that President Reagan called the Soviet Union an ‘evil empire.’ We all worried what the Cold War could bring next. Matthew Broderick played high schooler David Lightman, who is using his him skills to play a computer game before it’s released and ends up infiltrating a facility. I don’t want to spoil it for those who have not seen it. Get your popcorn, kick up your feet, and see the movie that inspired me to continue with my high school programming classes!” — Theresa Payton, former White House CIO, author, and star on the CBS TV Show “Hunted”

MY FAVORITE HACKER MOVIE

Like Theresa Payton and Scott Schober, my favorite (and most impactful) hacker movie in the guide is War Games.

I remember watching that the first time in 1983 when it came out, and it had a similar impact on me as many others. I loved the movie and saw it multiple times. In fact, it increased my desire to work for the National Security Agency, which is where I first entered the security industry a few years later.

Join the conversation on LinkedIn and share your favorite hacker movie here.

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