Hindsight is 20/20, especially when discussing movies that deal with bleeding-edge technology, so it takes a year or ten to determine what films prove relevant versus the ones that just seem to be terrible. Well, we don’t have the luxury of hindsight (yet) for very recent films, but that won’t stop us from making fun of older films that got the technology all wrong, misapplied it, or are just too cheesy to let of the hook, even if their technological assumptions aren’t so bad.

There are a number of technological films that have stood the test of time (Sneakers, The Matrix), but they’re few and far between. For the most part, these films are relatively thoughtless cash-ins on the zeitgeist, as you’ll see from the entrants on this list.


In Masterminds, kids are hacking into secure networks. (I promise the reason behind their hacking doesn’t warrant mentioning.) The entirety of this film treats hacking like a game or contest, a playful nuisance that companies don’t take seriously.

Case in point: This clip, which shows that the network has found an illegal intruder in its network. Rather than terminating the connection with the hacker, the system inexplicably gives him two minutes to find a valid entry into the server. Because hackers deserve a second chance immediately after being caught.

And though the site does try to track the location of the hacker, it kindly informs the hacker of this fact as well. Which doesn’t make a whole lot of sense, but these types of movies rarely do.


Didn’t you know that most computer experts look like Jonny Lee Miller and Angelina Jolie? They totally do. Also, it wouldn’t be a cliché hacker movie (it’s called Hackers, after all) if the characters didn’t use handles like Acid Burn, The Plague, The Phantom Phreak, and Cereal Killer. Hot stuff.

While there are many unbelievable moments in the film that subscribes to the adage “Hackers can do anything at all, because everything is tied to computers,” what takes the cake is the last hack in the film. While relaxing on a building rooftop, the hackers look out at the Manhattan skyline and see the words “crash and burn” spelled out in building windows. That’s a pretty silly use of time and energy. Also, it’s completely f*cking impossible.

The Lawnmower Man

One of the biggest questions tech-heavy movies fail to answer is “why?” Why is virtual reality needlessly shoehorned into computer programs? Of course, there’s no good answer beyond “It looks cool, and it’s the early 90’s, so everyone wants to see it,” but that was apparently reason enough for the producers.

The Lawnmower Man follows a scientist/doctor-dude, played by Pierce Brosnan, who uses virtual reality to make a developmentally disabled man smart. However, the blessing comes with a curse, and pure evil is UPLOADED DIRECTLY TO THE MAN’S BRAIN!

The VR sequences are so clunky it’s laughable, as is the thought that virtual reality would change the world. It might yet one day, but for right now, as The Lawnmower Man demonstrates, it’s merely a tech innovation that moviemakers and tech-geeks seemed way too eager to jump on.


(video not embeddable, available here)

It’s impossible to discuss unnecessary virtual reality segments and not include Disclosure, a film in which Michael Douglas is wrongfully accused of sexual harassment by his new boss and former girlfriend, played by Demi Moore. His journey to produce the truth leads to him being “locked out” of the system, forcing him to hack his way into a very convoluted and wildly unnecessary virtual reality filing system that works just like Finder or My Computer, but requires a helmet and a lot of walking. Again, the film refuses to examine the “why?” of the existence of such a silly system, but it looked cool in the 90’s, so people ran with it. Now it just looks ridiculous.

I could have just said that the name of the firm in the film is called “DigiCom,” and that would have gotten my point across just fine. The coolness of DigiCom’s Seattle office (before the tech boom made awesome rehabbed offices cool), shows that the production team was a lot more prescient when it comes to interior architecture than to technology. Unfortunately, Disclosure isn’t a movie about interior architecture, it’s a movie about technology.


Swordfish seems to have its technology all above-board. Sure, cracking into a government system in 60 seconds, in a crowded nightclub and receiving a blowjob is a bit lofty. The balance of the hacker gymnastics in this film may not be grounded in sound technological data, but it’s not laughable like many of the other techniques in the film.

However, the premise that Travolta and Co. could embezzle $9.5 billion dollars from the US government WITHOUT GETTING CAUGHT is a pretty absurd leap to make. Granted, they just keep pretending to blow themselves up, and the government goes “Oh. They’re dead now.” But I’m guessing that the US would exercise a little due diligence.

Also, the fact that this film came out about four months before 9/11 makes it and its technologies seem as though they come from a different era. To think that Al-Qaeda henchmen could be hacking into the government from a Manhattan nightclub is pretty damn unfathomable.

Also: Halle Berry’s breasts.


To be fair, the concept of being “online” in 1983 would have been foreign to most every person in America, including many who probably worked on WarGames. Because it happened in the nascence of the computer age, we’re willing to forgive the myriad errors this movie makes. However, hindsight (and a dose of common sense) tells us that a kid probably wouldn’t be able to change his grades in high school via computer, much less accidentally set off a global nuclear holocaust.

The premise of WarGames is that humans can’t be trusted to determine if and when the United States should implement a nuclear attack, so we logically put all that power and responsibility on a software program. It turns out the software is really, really stupid, and it recognizes a teenager playing a game as a nuclear threat.

The program is finally “taught” that no one wins in a nuclear showdown, and of course they teach the computer this lesson by having it play tic-tac-toe over and over again. Which I would think would just piss it off more, but that’s why I’m not a software programmer from the early 1980’s. Or AM I?