Computer hacking isn't really a spectator sport, so movies will embellish hacking scenes with funky visuals, inane jargon, and supercomputers that run on magic and prayer. Here are 10 of the most awesomely groanworthy keyboard-smashing scenes.
Fortress occurs in a dystopian future where Christopher Lambert and his wife are jailed for violating the regime's one-child policy. The movie has many classic bits, particularly the scene in which the cyborg warden spies on the inmates' sex dreams. Another great sequence is the film's final hacking sequence. John Brennick (Christopher Lambert) and D-Day (Jeffrey Combs) upload "D-DAY'S REVENGE VIRUS" just before John's wife gets an unanesthetized C-section. Also note the system's wonderfully hamfisted password "CRIME DOES NOT PAY."
Jurassic Park (1993)
As a gang of bloodthirsty velociraptors bear down on our heroes, a middle schooler finds the gumption to hack Jurassic Park's entire computer system. Hey, it was programmed by the mailman from Seinfeld. What did you expect?
Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann: Gurren-hen (2008)
In this anime film, the villainous Lord Genome accomplishes a "super hack" by becoming a sprinting 8-bit mescaline bender. It's so profoundly strange that you forget that Lord Genome is a head in a jar.
Lawnmower Man (1992)
The final sequence of Lawnmower Man was impressive for the 90s but looks remarkably hokey nowadays. Jobe (a.k.a. Jeff Fahey a.k.a. Lapidus from Lost) is a hyper-intelligent virtual being who has given up his humanity to become pure information (indeed, his physical body rots away like a giant month-old meringue). Jobe becomes trapped in a mainframe and tries to hack his way out by punching polygons as if he was playing Starfox. James Bond hops in a gyroscopic carnival rides to distract Jobe from the bombs he's planted. Jobe overreacts and crucifies him. For more VR silliness, check out Jobe's sex fiasco and this death scene from Lawnmower Man 2.
Plucky Matthew Broderick hacks into a NORAD supercomputer, mistakes it for a videogame, and almost starts World War III. By telling the computer to play tic-tac-toe against itself, Ferris teaches the machine that global thermonuclear war is very bad. Nostalgia requires me to have a soft spot for this flick, but the whole premise makes Small Wonder look like a documentary.
Hackers is so painfully dated it rules. This movie aspired to be a cyberpunk classic but instead comes off as Neuromancer 2: Electric Bugaloo. Just witness this Prodigy-fueled hacking battle between "Crash Override" (Johnny Lee Miller) and the enigmatic hacker "Acid Burn" — they're fighting with fonts and shitty homepage graphics! This major motion picture is so disingenuously anti-authoritarian that it may have well been directed by McGruff the Crime Dog. Also, real hackers vandalized the Hackers site to protest this film's overall silliness.
Independence Day (1996)
Jeff Goldblum and Will Smith fly into an alien vessel in a 50-year-old space junker, upload a computer virus in less than 5 minutes, and lo! Everything's compatible! You'd think a race of malevolent extraterrestrials would invest in a better firewall, but I bet that's the big twist in ID42. (On a side note, whenever I see a Roland Emmerich movie, I like to pretend they all take place in the same universe.)
The Core (2003)
In this scene, "Rat" (DJ Qualls) gives Aaron Eckhart free long-distance for life...using nothing but a Wrigley's wrapper, an early 2000s cell phone, and a song in his heart.
Superman 3 (1983)
In Superman 3, Richard Pryor steals the rounded half-cents that don't go into employees paychecks — just like Office Space! In a movie where Superman gets totally shithoused and fights his subconscious in a garbage dump, it's saying a lot that the most implausible detail of the film is that a megacorporation's security override command is "OVERRIDE ALL SECURITY."
Hugh Jackman has 60 seconds to hack the Department of defence while a nubile lady named Olga blows him. If Hugh fails, Vinnie Jones will blow his brains out. Incidentally, this is how any respectable computer science graduate program handles its doctoral exams.
Much thanks to Lindsay Wolfe for the awesome research.