Top 15 Movies Programmers Should Watch

This is a follow up to my list of documentaries programmers should watch. Movies are a bit different since they don’t always have a direct connection to programming but have a lot to do with hacker lifestyles. Most of the movies in my list are oldies but goodies. Enjoy!

  1. Matrix (1999)
    I’m sure you’re not surprised that this is my top pick. If you are a programmer and you haven’t seen this movie then something is terribly wrong with you. Or maybe you just don’t like movies.
  2. Tron (1982)
    This use to be my top pick until Matrix came along. It’s old but the content is still good. The funny thing is this has a lot in common with the Matrix. In this movie the programmer gets zapped into the computer world. The effects used in this movie were a big deal back in the day.
  3. Primer (2004)
    A movie about a group of geeks building a startup in a garage that takes a strange turn. This is the type of movie you have to watch a couple times to understand but it’s worth it. I like subtle sci-fi movies like this.
  4. Pirates of Silicon Valley (1999)
    Probably the best movie about how Apple, Microsoft and the rivalry between them got started. This movie even impressed the real Steve Jobs. He even had the actor that played him in the movie kick off one of his his Macworld keynotes. If you haven’t seen this then you need to fire up Netflix right now and enjoy. Probably only available as DVD though.
  5. Ghost in the Shell (1995)
    This not your average cartoon. If you’re into anime then this is a must see. My guess is if you like anime you’ve seen this already but for those new to anime then this is a good start.
  6. The Social Network (2010)
    If you can get past the many inaccurate parts of this movie in relation to the real world Marc Zuckerberg then this movie will be entertaining. I do like the fact that they did get the hacking in the movie right. It’s not easy to make programming fun to watch on screen but they pulled it off a bit in this movie. It kinda helped my wife understand what I do.
  7. Girl with the Dragon Tattoo (2011)
    A hacker movie that takes on the dark thriller genre. It’s based on the popular novel about a hacker girl with social issues helping a journalist solve a murder mystery. Here’s the original Swedish version (2009) of the movie. This should be a trilogy but it doesn’t look like the US version will continue. The Swedish version was made into a trilogy.
  8. Sneakers (1992) This is a hacker movie that stars Robert Redford, Sidney Poitier, Dan Aykroyd and the late River Phoenix. Even Mary McDonnell, who later played President Laura Roslin in Battlestar Galactica, has a role in this movie.
  9. Office Space (1999) By far the best programmer comedy movie out there. The only other movie I watch more than this one is probably The Matrix.
  10. War Games (1983) Probably the most popular hacker movie from the 80s. Pure fiction but it probably convinced a lot of people that kids can somehow start wars from home using computers.
  11. Weird Science (1985) The only other comedy movie on this list. Staring Anthony Michael Hall who was in a lot of movies I enjoyed from the 80s and is also in Pirates of Silicon Valley. Also look out for Bill Paxton and young Robert Downey Jr. There’s not much hacking in this movie but if you were into programming when you were young like I was… one of your dreams was being able to use your skill to create what the kids in this movie created.
  12. Catch Me If You Can (2002) I know, this movie has nothing to do with programmers. But it has a lot to do with hacking. Social engineering is a way to hack humans and this movie is all about that. Based on a true story which makes it even more interesting. It stars two of the biggest names in Hollywood, Tom Hanks and Leonardo DiCaprio. More importantly its directed by Steven Spielberg.
  13. Tron: Legacy (2010) This movie falls short of a good story but it makes up for it with great visuals and a cool soundtrack. Plus I got a thing for Tron and this sequel includes some of the original actors.
  14. Takedown (2000) Now this is a controversial one. Based on the life of famous hacker Kevin Mitnick, this movie attempts to tell the story of how Kevin became a world famous hacker. But it’s filled with holes and doesn’t really tell the real story. So if you are a Kevin Mitnick fan then just like The Social Network try to ignore the inaccurate depiction of the real person. If you do that then this is a decent movie. If you want to know the true story of Kevin then read his book.
  15. Antitrust (2001) I don’t know why I like this movie. It kinda sucks but I keep watching it. Maybe it has something to do with the jabs at Bill Gates or the dot com hype. Most likely is probably because it reminds me of my dot com days. I really shouldn’t like this but I do. Let me know what you think.

There it is! I left out crapy movies like Hackers and The Net but if you liked those movies or others then let me know. Maybe you can convince me to change my top 15.

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