When most of us hear the word “hacker,” we picture some nerdy guy in a dreary basement, plugging away at his keyboard.
But Hollywood has its own imagination. Cybersecurity movies across the decades have dragged the clichéd computer nerd out from the dark and given him a reboot. From empowered female programmers to nearly autonomous AI networks, security threats are hitting the big screen with a fresh face.
Here are five movies about cybersecurity that any security professional should add to their must-watch list:
1. The Matrix
Most of us have at least heard of this Keanu Reeves classic, but do you remember anything besides “which pill, red or blue?”
Played by Reeves, Neo is a computer programmer who sets out to rescue humanity from being trapped inside of a simulation reality game called “The Matrix,” which distracts players in their minds while their bodies are used as an energy source.
Released back in 1999, this film was set in a dystopian future, but as technology continues to evolve with each passing decade, it poses the question, “is this type of artificial intelligence that far-fetched?”
2. V for Vendetta
This 2005 movie was set in the dystopian future—just like The Matrix—except instead of artificial intelligence tricking humans, the British government runs the show.
Authorities place a strict curfew on citizens after a dangerous virus outbreak, desperate to contain it. Anarchists, however, don't believe there really is a virus and team up with a young woman (played by Natalie Portman) to hack into the British television networks to incite a revolt.
In light of the COVID-19 pandemic, V for Vendetta strikes home—bringing the real fear of a situation like this to life. In the film, we get a taste for the type of power a hacker can obtain by breaching and commandeering public media.
3. WarGames: The Dead Code
We’re taking it back a few decades to 1983. This classic cybersecurity movie is about two teenage boys who accidentally gain access to a U.S. military supercomputer. Thinking it’s just a new computer game with an attractive female cartoon named Ripley calling the shots, they program her to drop a simulated bomb strike on Philadelphia.
The only problem is that it’s no game. The program was designed by Homeland Security to execute a nuclear war on the Soviet Union, and the teenage boys just sent a real-life bomb—The Dead Code—on the American city, which could kill 100,000 people.
This Academy Awards-nominated flick is still relevant today, given all the technology we’ve since developed to support our military. It can teach us that even young hackers can be powerful and that they have the power to use their tech know-how for both bad... and for good!
Someone killed a young woman over 40 years ago, and one man set off to discover who-done-it. He hires a trusted journalist for the job (played by Daniel Craig), because of his keen desire to dig deep for the truth.
The journalist teams up with a grunge female hacker—a lady with an interesting back tattoo of a dragon—to help him uncover clues. Together they unveil dark family secrets, which make them targets of their own.
In this cybersecurity movie, you’ll sneak a peek into some ways hackers get in, such as by decrypting messages, and more. You’ll learn about security, all while watching an upbeat thriller!
5. Ex Machina
What would happen if artificial intelligence were so “smart,” so evolved, it truly developed consciousness like a human brain? In Latin, deus ex machina roughly translates as "a god from a machine," and in this thriller, we see what an extremely sophisticated AI could be capable of.
A young cybersecurity programmer is tasked with evaluating just how advanced this near-human AI—named Ava—really is. As he goes deeper, he finds it’s a really fine line between human and machine.
This movie shows you the emerging power of AI and machine learning, as well as the kind of power this technology could have if it went uncontrolled.
Welcome to Our Cybersecurity Community
If you learn anything from watching these movies, we hope that cinematic media is one way to make learning about cybersecurity entertaining and engaging.
Here at Living Security, we strive to do just that: to make learning about security exciting. That’s why we developed the Living Security Community, where we talk about all things cybersecurity.
Ask our community your questions, share interesting posts, and engage with fellow security professionals—for free! From cybersecurity awareness ideas, tips, tricks, and stories to even your favorite cybersecurity movie, no topic is off-limits. Check it out today.
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