Tuesday, May 26, 2015

10 Best Computer Hackers in Movie History

Every clued-up movie criminal or counter-criminal needs a good hacker, right? And as technology in the real world has advanced, so the potential to create more interesting, elaborate and possibly plausible computer hacking plotlines has increased. The hackers in these stories aren’t just geeks stuck behind desks, either. Sometimes they help save the world, while occasionally they’re hell-bent on destroying it. But whether they’re working for good or bad, mental rather than muscular strength tends to be paramount. Here’s a look at ten of the most memorable hackers in movie history.

angela bennett
Image: YouTube/Liisa Jokinen

10. Angela Bennett – The Net (1995)

The story in director Irwin Winkler’s 1995 cyber-thriller The Net saw into a now-familiar future world of telecommuting workers – and online relationships replacing face-to-face communication. Academy Award-winner Sandra Bullock plays Angela Bennett, an introverted computer expert who works from home and has practically no interaction with people in person. However, while attempting to clean up what she thinks is a computer virus, Bennett gets entangled in a game of cyber-terror, murder and identity theft that’s all too real and present. As things hot up, she uses her skills to access a hospital’s computer system and gather information. Somehow, she finds a desperate will to survive as she fights to regain her identity and expose the conspiracy into which she’s been plunged.

italian job
Image: YouTube/paramountmovies

9. Lyle – The Italian Job (2003)

Successfully pulling off the classic movie heist often requires a crack team of experts working in several different fields, and that can include everyone from the getaway driver to the more modern computer hacker. In director F. Gary Gray’s 2003 remake of classic 1969 British caper movie The Italian Job, one such team of pros steals $35 million worth of gold bars from a vault in Venice, Italy. The team is then double-crossed by one of their own, Steve (played by Edward Norton), who heads off to Los Angeles with the loot. Playing his part in the team’s revenge scheme and subsequent escape, Lyle – portrayed by Seth Green – hacks into the computers that control L.A.’s traffic lights. He also uses his computing abilities to determine in which one of three armored trucks Steve has stashed the gold, and the team regain their twice-stolen spoils.

raoul silva
Image: YouTube/SonyPictures

8. Raoul Silva – Skyfall (2012)

With Daniel Craig’s turn as the latest Bond came a more serious and somewhat grittier tone for the movies – and with it possibly a darker set of criminal adversaries. In the most recent installment, 2012’s Skyfall, directed by Sam Mendes, Bond faces Javier Bardem’s former MI6 operative-turned-cybercriminal Raoul Silva. Silva’s intimidating glare, deadpan manner and interesting hairstyle make him stand out as a Bond villain, but it’s his sexually intimidating, homoerotic interrogation of Bond during one particular scene that really turns tradition on its head. As for his hacking activities, well how does masterminding access to MI6’s database from M’s own PC and triggering a massive explosion strike you? And what about fixing it so that when Q tries to hack into Silva’s machine, the intelligence service’s security systems are breached and the evil genius makes his escape. Yes, Q, “He hacked us.” He definitely hacked us.

matt farrell
Image: YouTube/Telephantasm

7. Matt Farrell – Live Free or Die Hard (2007)

In 2007, long-suffering detective John McClane (perennially played by Bruce Willis) was back for a fourth run-out as the wrong guy in the wrong place at the wrong time. The movie, of course, was Live Free or Die Hard, directed by Len Wiseman. This time, McCLane is one of several police officers charged with bringing in hackers who might be responsible for cracking into the FBI’s Cyber Crime Division network. McLane picks up Matt Farrell (played by Justin Long) – a hacker who’s inadvertently been programming for the wrong team – and the real bad guys soon attack the unlikely duo. Said criminals are professional killers employed by a cyber terrorist who is planning a massive attack on U.S. computer networks. Long is also known for playing the “Mac” character in Apple’s “Get A Mac” commercials, which may have boosted his computing credentials with nerdier moviegoers.

Image: YouTube/Yamilka González

6. Stanley Jobson – Swordfish (2001)

In Dominic Sena’s 2001 big-budget thriller Swordfish, Hugh Jackman plays paroled hacker Stanley Jobson, who seems keen to turn his life around following a stint in jail for the crime of infecting and disrupting an FBI surveillance system. However, crime boss Gabriel Shear (played by John Travolta) is desperate to find the right hacker to help him steal $9.5 billion from a top-secret U.S. government reserve fund. Gabriel’s test for Stanley? Accessing a government network in less than a minute while at gunpoint and getting head. Naturally, he passes with flying colors. The movie features an impressive list of Hollywood names, among them Don Cheadle and Halle Berry, as well as Travolta and Jackman. And, guaranteeing the movie was a hit with certain fanboys, Swordfish contained the first topless scene of Berry’s career – seemingly a thinly-veiled, but nonetheless successful, attempt to garner attention for an otherwise forgettable film.

wargames 2
Image: YouTube/movieclips

5. David Lightman – WarGames (1983)

In John Badham’s 1983 Cold War-themed sci-fi movie WarGames, Matthew Broderick plays high school computer whiz kid David Lightman – a boy not averse to hacking into his school’s network to up both his grades and those of a classmate. Using a bulky home computer and a backdoor password, Lightman unwittingly hacks into the top-secret system that controls America’s nuclear weapons. Believing he has hacked into nothing more than the system of a computer games company, Lightman decides to play “Global Thermonuclear War,” without realizing that he’s on the verge of triggering World War III. Disaster is averted when Lightman uses a game of tic-tac-toe to teach the computer program the principle of mutually assured destruction, where “the only winning move is not to play.”

the matrix
Image: YouTube/TheMatrixFan314

4. Neo – The Matrix (1999)

Keanu Reeves played dual roles in hit 1999 sci-fi blockbuster The Matrix, which was scripted and directed by the Wachowski Brothers. In one realm the character is computer programmer Thomas Anderson, while in the “real world” he goes by the hacker alias Neo – a man, the bad guys tell us, is “guilty of virtually every computer crime we have a law for.” When a mysterious character named Morpheus (played by Laurence Fishburne) offers Anderson the chance to understand what “the Matrix” is all about, Anderson soon discovers that his “reality” isn’t real at all. And while some of the other hackers on our list might be content with a computer and a modem, Neo gets bonus points for taking the direct route and plugging himself directly into the virtual world using a port situated in the back of his head.

Image: YouTube/movieclips

3. Cosmo – Sneakers (1992)

Phil Alden Robinson’s 1992 caper Sneakers featured an impressive ensemble cast of Hollywood stars, including greats like Robert Redford, Sidney Poitier, Dan Aykroyd and Ben Kingsley, as well as then-rising star River Phoenix. Hackers Martin Brice (played by Redford) and Cosmo (portrayed by Kingsley) start out as students with good intentions, using their computer skills to move conservative finances towards more liberal ends. At the beginning of the movie, the police bust into their room and Cosmo is detained, but Brice escapes because he is getting pizza at the time. Later, the pair end up pitted against each other. Brice, now known as Martin Bishop, heads up a team of security systems specialists, while Cosmo has become involved with organized crime following his time in jail. Though the movie got mixed reviews, it was a box office hit that made more than $105 million.

kevin flynn
Image: YouTube/Henry Heriorh

2. Kevin Flynn/Clu – Tron (1982)

In Disney’s Steven Lisberger-directed 1982 cult sci-fi classic Tron, Jeff Bridges plays software engineer Kevin Flynn, but he’s also the face of hacker program Codified Likeness Utility (Clu). Flynn designed Clu, and he uses the program for various hacking tasks, even “correcting” his bank statement. Flynn is a computer wizard trying to find evidence that his colleague Ed Dillinger (played by David Warner) took his videogame designs. However, an AI computer program written by Dillinger employs an experimental laser to transport Flynn into the digital realm. With its integration of computer-generated imagery and live action, Tron was a pioneering movie. The film’s influence led Pixar animation chief John Lasseter to comment, “Without Tron there would be no Toy Story.” A sequel, Tron: Legacy, which also starred Bridges, was released in 2010.

lisbeth salander
Image: YouTube/VISO Trailers

1. Lisbeth Salander – The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo (2009)

Lisbeth Salander is the unforgiving agent and hacker with a photographic memory from Swedish writer Stieg Larsson’s Millennium series. Salander first appeared in Larsson’s 2005 book The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo; and her first on-screen appearance was in the 2009 Swedish film based on that first novel, in which she is played by Swedish actress Noomi Rapace. In the movie – directed by Niels Arden Oplev – Rapace portrays the traumatized, asocial and introverted Salander as a quiet and moody character who seems to use her tattoos, piercings and short temper as a kind of self-defense, to stop anyone getting too close. Salander is forced to team up with reporter Mikael Blomkvist (played by Michael Nyqvist), and she finds a kindred spirit she can trust – as well as someone whose computer she can hack into to gather vital clues about the string of horrible murders they are trying to solve. In 2012, Rooney Mara received an Oscar nomination for her portrayal of Salander in David Fincher’s 2011 version of the film.


  1. Who can hack time? Hackerman can (Kung Fury)