There are plenty of niche movie genres out there - road comedies, spaghetti westerns, Brenden Fraser films - all have their merits and their own special place in any true cinephile's heart.
Today, we’re going to dive deep into the ridiculously specific micro-genre of cybersecurity movies and hacker films.
Why computer security movies? Why not?
Internxt knows the importance of strong cybersecurity. And as security professionals, it’s our job to know every little thing about our industry, including the movies romanticizing cyberspace. Plus, cybersecurity is an extremely modern issue, it’s insanely relevant. Technology, and the computer sciences especially, have all but taken over the world.
We are more at risk now of cyberattacks and corporate surveillance schemes than ever before, so why then are there so few good movies about cybersecurity? Ponder on that for a bit. But don’t worry, it wasn’t easy, but we’ve compiled every single cybersecurity movie worth its runtime.
Before we get into the list, let's lay a few ground rules:
- Let’s be clear, every cybersecurity movie on this list is worth a watch, trust us.
- There are no movies dealing with AI or artificial intelligence - that’s its own nano-genre.
- We like Keanu Reeves. Deal with it.
- Don’t blame us for all the 90’s movies. Apparently, it was the golden age of hacker and security film.
- There are plenty of movies that didn’t make our list like Blackhat, Jason Bourne, Live Free or Die Hard. It’s nothing personal, we just didn’t think they were either that good or cybersecurity-ty enough. But hey, that’s showbusiness!
Grab some popcorn, put on your comfy clothes, and hit play! Here’s our list of security movies and hacker films that totally don’t suck:
The original, 1982 version, not the kinda-remake Tron: Legacy, though that flick is pretty solid too. We have to give credit where credit is due, the OG Tron is a fantastic and insanely original film.
A computer hacker, played by Jeff Bridges, gets sucked inside a computer and is forced to compete in various games with the help of a plucky computer program in an effort to defeat a villainous piece of software known as Master Control. The visuals are still visually stunning and the soundtrack is super rad. A true classic.
Computer whiz kid Matthew Broderick stumbles into WW3 by hacking into the US nuclear weapons system. Yeah, it’s as goofy as it sounds.
Highlighting the dangers of lax cybersecurity while also showcasing the potential of computers in a time long before anyone really thought much of them. War Games is cheesy but entertaining enough to keep you invested. Young Matthew Broderick really was something special, huh?
The Social Network
The story behind the monster, this security movie is a well-made piece of a film telling the origin story of the privacy nightmare that is Facebook.
While dealing more with the human side of the social platform's inception rather than the technical specs, The Social Network is an eye-opening look into the mindset of the creators of one of the biggest technology companies in the world. Spoiler: they weren't that great of guys.
Had to sneak one Bond movie into the list, and yes, it’s a Pierce Brosnen one. The Russians are doing Russian things again and have gotten their hands on the secret codes to a satellite weapon system capable of knocking out power with electromagnetic blasts.
Pretty light on cybersecurity but the film does show how entangled satellites have become with computer systems. Complete with a memorable female villain with a cool name - Xenia Onatopp - and some Sean Bean screen time, GoldenEye is the best Bond movie of the Brosnan era. There, we said it!
Who said all of these movies have to be in English?
23 is a gloriously 90s movie that just feels right. Based on a true story, Karl Koch, played by August Diehl, picks up a computer and eventually starts hacking his way through government and military security systems. He gets mixed up with the wrong people and gets in a tangle with the KGB in East Berlin.
We don’t want to give too much away, but this security film is a real sleeper and a real good watch. Check it out - if you're ok with subtitles.
Nukes, finance, terrorists, and hacking meets John Travolta, Halle Berry, Hugh Jackman, Don Cheadle! We know, right? How could it ever turn out to be a bad security movie?
Basically, there is a whole bunch of corporate money stashed away in a government account and John Travolta leads a rogue counter-terrorist group trying to break through some serious encryption to get all that sweet cash so he can continue his “righteous” war on terrorism. He enlists a hacker, aka Hugh Jackman, to help and Don Cheadle tries to shut the whole thing down.
Sort of blurring the lines between good and bad guys, Swordfish is an unapologetic action movie with an ok plot and almost too many good actors. If you're into over-the-top action movies, you’ll dig this movie. Plus, Travolta always makes for a fun villain.
Harrison Ford is a gem.
While it’s no The Fugitive, Firewall is similar. Like all good Ford movies, Harrison is a good guy forced to do bad things in order to save the people he loves, or get justice, or put something in a museum. Harrison is a security advisor who’s coerced into robbing the bank he was supposed to protect after his family is kidnapped.
Touching on the vulnerabilities surrounding online identity and unauthorized access to digital systems, Firewall should be on every well-rounded security movie list. The film also gets serious bonus points for casting Paul Bettany as the antagonist. The guy is a criminally underrated actor who deserves way more love.
Another thriller, but this one is with Sandra Bullock! America’s sweetheart is a computer analyst who stumbles onto a government conspiracy. Proving no data is safe online, this security film is chicken soup for the Bullock fan’s soul.
Hackers is about, well, hackers. Young Angelina Jolie and the beloved Matther Lillard (Shaggy from the live-action Scooby Doo) are hackers trying to stop a malicious computer virus created by an evil hacker all while being chased by the Secret Service for hacking. Essentially, it’s a security movie about hacking.
What if this whole blog post is just a simulation? But seriously, if you haven’t seen The Matrix yet, what have you been doing with your life?
Just watch it. Keanu Reeves is the chosen one and Laurence Fishburne is there and they have to enter a simulation to defeat a cyber-intelligence that rules the world and it’s directed by the Wachowskis and it's kind of a big deal. Just watch it.
Has Keanu ever made a bad movie? That’s not rhetorical either, we genuinely want to know if he has?
While not his best, Johnny Mnemonic is classic Keanu. Keanu is a courier who uploads a data package right into his brain and has to fight off the Yakuza as he struggles to make his delivery before the pizza’s free. What was once science fiction, the merging of humans with computers, is now not such a crazy concept.
Fun fact: a mnemonic is something that assists with memory and it is also a type of passphrase used for encryption. The more you know!
Set in Portland before Portland was cool, Antitrust is another security movie about a programmer, led by the actor who plays the brother in Cruel Intentions, stumbling onto a corporate conspiracy. The kicker? Tim Robbins is the bad-guy boss and he’s a treat.
Ghost in the Shell
Who said all of the movies on this list had to be live-action? No one, that’s who!
We're not talking about the new-ish remake starring Scarlett Johansson here. We’re talking about anime. Sure it’s in Japanese, but that adds to the charm. Ghost in the Shell is a cyborg police lady who is hunting down a notorious hacker, known as the Puppet Master, with her partner in tow. Don’t let the animation stop you from enjoying this masterpiece of a film.
Anime gets a bad rap, but it’s often insanely original, interesting, and well written - unlike almost everything coming out of Hollywood these days.
Directed by man, the myth, the legend Darren Aronofsky, this film is pure art. We’re not even going to tell you what Pi is about. Do yourself a favor and see this film.
Speaking of hacks, The Conversation stars Gene Hackman. Get it?
But in all seriousness, this slow-burn is a bonafide hit through and through. Written and directed by Francis Ford Coppola, the story revolves around a surveillance specialist hired under mysterious circumstances to keep an eye on a couple. Things get crazy when Hackman discovers the pair’s lives may be in danger.
A chef’s kiss of a hacker film.
Robert Redford, Sydney Poitier, Dan Akroyd, River Phoenix, and David Strathairn. Yeah, big names all over this film. A well-balanced thriller centered on a security team blackmailed to scoop up a box capable of decoding any and all encrypted information on Earth. A bit cliche, sure, but a dependable watch nonetheless.
Who Am I
Who Am I is another lesser-known German film full of twists and turns involving a group of hackers trying to gain fame and recognition. Dare we say, a cult classic?
Ok, this one is not worth a watch but it needed to be mentioned. Masterminds is basically Die Hard set in a school and instead of Bruce Willis, the hero is a computer-loving kid named Ozzie.
So why are we mentioning this stinker of a security movie? Sir Patrick Stewart is the villain and he’s got a pencil-thin mustache that is to die for. You’re welcome.
If you liked this post, make sure to check our list of the best cybersecurity podcasts too! You won't regret it.