There are a surprising number of movies about computer programmers, whether it’s a sci-fi movie about a simulated reality or a biopic about one of the most influential inventors of all time. Surprisingly, amongst all the superhero movies, multiplexes are actually filled with computer programming-related films.
That’s especially true now, as though it was once a novelty, audiences are now living in the computer-driven world that the movies from the ’80s and ’90s predicted. The difference is, movies have shifted from cyberpunk action flicks about hacking to true stories about hacking.
10 The Fifth Estate (2013) – 6.2
The Fifth Estate follows Julian Assange (Benedict Cumberbatch), a real-life activist and programmer who created WikiLeaks. The film follows him as he creates a platform where any anonymous user can leak government secrets, but his life is turned into a thriller in the movie.
This is also likely part of the reason why the film isn’t as acclaimed as others on this list, as it relies more on melodrama and less on hard facts, especially considering there’s so much history to tell. Cumberbatch clearly has a thing for playing programmers, as not only is he the lead in The Fifth Estate, but he also plays Alan Turing in The Imitation Game too.
9 The Internship (2013) – 6.3
Movies about computer programmers tend to be overly serious, but The Internship, on the other hand, is a comedy about two idiots who somehow nab a programming internship at Google. It’s one of the few movies with good use of product placement, as the entire film is about how great Google is.
Though there are much better quality comedies out there, any enthusiastic programmer would love The Internship just because of how it shows off Google’s campuses. Between the Google bicycles and the sleep pods, the movie is an advertisement that works.
8 Swordfish (2001) – 6.5
Swordfish is essentially a mix between The Matrix and Ocean’s Eleven. And just like The Matrix, the 2001 movie has a cyberpunk aesthetic with its leather-clad protagonists and hackers, and even the green color scheme is the same.
Just like Ocean’s Eleven, the movie also follows a team of bank robbers, but in order to steal $9.5 billion, they need the best computer programmer they can get their hands on. It isn’t the most beloved film in the world, but Swordfish is an interesting and unique take on a heist movie, and the late ’90s aesthetic is fun to rewatch.
7 Tron (1982) – 6.8
Tron is a fascinating movie for programmers to watch for many different reasons. First of all, the movie follows Kevin Flynn, a computer programmer and video game developer who ends up getting transported into the software that he was designing.
The mainframe of the software is a whole world full of fascinating effects and action. And above all else, Tron is one of the very first movies in history to use extensive CGI, paving the way for essentially every Hollywood movie that’s released today.
6 WarGames (1983) – 7.1
Though it wasn’t the most critically acclaimed movie on its release, WarGames was actually way ahead of its time. The movie follows a young hacker who gains access to a supercomputer belonging to the United States military.
In recent times, hackers have become a serious threat, as there’s so much personal information they can gain access to. And as kids are getting computers as gifts at younger and younger ages, WarGames and its main character, David (Matthew Broderick) predicted the future. There’s also a fun parallel between WarGames and another Broderick-starring ’80s movie, Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, as Ferris also uses a computer to hack into his school’s register database.
5 Steve Jobs (2015) – 7.2
Steve Jobs is the first of two movies about programmers written by Aaron Sorkin, as the screenwriter also penned The Social Network. But the way Sorkin writes about two of the most famous programmers is unique, as he’s more interested in them as imperfect human beings than he is in their revolutionary inventions.
Steve Jobs and Jobs were released at the same time, with the latter being another biopic about the Apple founder. But the Sorkin-written, Danny Boyle-directed movie came out on top, and that’s partly thanks to its structure. The 2015 film has a three-act structure, wherein each focuses on a different product launch.
4 The Social Network (2010) – 7.7
Though it depicts one of the most famous self-made billionaires, Mark Zuckerberg, in a less than complimentary light, The Social Network is still one of the most inspiring movies for programmers to watch. The movie follows the Facebook founder as he builds the website, spending most of his days coding. When he isn’t partying, that is.
The movie follows Facebook as it goes from a tiny idea of the Winklevoss twins to 500 million users. And since the social media website now has close to three billion users, fans are still waiting for The Social Network 2.
3 The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo (2011) – 7.8
Just like The Social Network, The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo is directed by David Fincher — as if this wasn’t obvious from how glossy the movie looks and the similarly icy score from Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross. But they have one other similarity, as both of the lead characters are programmers.
More specifically, Lisbeth Salander is a computer hacker who aides Mikael in uncovering a murder. It’s not always easy to watch, but satisfying when Lisbeth gets revenge on her attacker.
2 The Imitation Game (2014) – 8.0
If it wasn’t for Alan Turing, there wouldn’t be any programmers, as he was responsible for all but creating the computer. Some think The Imitation Game didn’t deserve a nomination for Best Picture at the Academy Awards, but the on-screen portrayal of the real-life scientist’s role in World War II couldn’t be more compelling.
The Imitation Game also depicts Turing’s personal life after the events of World War II, as he was subjected to chemical castration for being gay in the 1950s. Though he invented the computer and was a genius, he had a heartbreaking ending, as does the movie.
1 The Matrix (1999) – 8.7
The Matrix is a perfect example of cyberpunk and it is highly stylized with its leather jackets and shades. Before he became Neo, Mr. Anderson was simply a computer programmer called Thomas, but what follows is a ground-breaking high concept about a simulated reality that’s full of explosive action.
The fourth movie in the series, The Matrix Resurrections, will be released later in 2021. And in the trailer, Neo has no recollection about what The Matrix is, so he may well be a programmer once more.
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