Many Hollywood films played on the big screen are devoted to computer science, whether fiction or not. Computer-related movies have been produced since the 1960s to engage viewers in the exciting complexities of the tech world. Whether they’re based on real incidents or make-believe virtual realities, these films can provide hours of fun for computer science majors. You may even learn new technologies, terms, and tactics you’ve never seen before. So, grab the popcorn and press play to enjoy these five great movies for computer science enthusiasts.
Starring Jonny Lee Miller and Angelina Jolie, “Hackers” is a techno thriller following the life of teen hacker genius Dade “Zero Cool” Murphy. At 11 years old, Dade is arrested for hacking 1,507 computer systems and making the Stock Exchange plummet. Law enforcement bans him from using computers until he turns 18. Seven years later, Dade enrolls at a new high school and joins a group of mischievous hackers. When the friends hack into Ellingson Mineral Company’s network, they discover nefarious plans for unleashing a disastrous virus. Computer science students will enjoy the thrill of watching these hackers try to save the day.
Debuted in 1983, “WarGames” is a computer science fiction film set during the Cold War that was nominated for three Academy Awards. This movie follows a young hacker prodigy, David Lightman, who inadvertently accesses WOPR, a supercomputer for the U.S. military. After mistaking the program for a game, David runs a nuclear war simulation that nearly starts World War III. Computer science students will then watch as David races against time with the FBI to regain control of missiles and bombers prepared to launch. The cast includes Matthew Broderick, Ally Sheedy, and Dabney Coleman.
3. The Matrix
Perhaps the most popular computer science movie, “The Matrix” was released in 1999 and praised for innovative visual effects with four Oscars. The science fiction classic follows a computer programmer named Neo (Keanu Reeves) who discovers reality is actually a complex computer simulation. Machines running the Matrix are harvesting people as an energy source to grow more powerful. Neo joins forces with Morpheus and his freedom fighters to fight against the machine’s enslavement. Any computer science students interested in artificial intelligence will adore this movie as well as “The Matrix Reloaded” and “The Matrix Revolutions.”
“Antitrust” is a 2001 cyber thriller drama telling the story of Milo Hoffmann, a gifted computer programmer who lands his dream job at a prestigious Portland firm called NURV. The CEO Gary Winston believes Milo is the perfect fit for completing the company’s global communication system, Synapse. Quickly after starting, Milo becomes suspicious of the program’s source code and discovers his boss has a covert, ruthless method to dispatch antitrust issues. Starring Ryan Phillippe, Tim Robbins, and Rachel Leigh Cook, this movie shows computer science students the dark, dangerous side of the industry.
Featuring a star-studded lineup of Hugh Jackman, John Travolta, Halle Berry, and Don Cheadle, “Swordfish” is a 2001 action thriller. The film centers on Stanley Jobson, an ex-con recently released from prison after infecting the FBI system with a computer virus. Although on parole, Stanley is recruited for his supreme hacking skills into a secret counterterrorist team called Black Cell. Stanley’s suave new boss, Gabriel Shear, needs him to bypass strong encryption on a DEA dummy corporation to get $400 million and finance their war against global terrorism. Students watching this film will learn the immense power of their computer science education.
Cracking open textbooks isn’t the only way to satisfy your computer science passion while earning your degree. Computer science movies can take you on thrilling adventures unveiling codes, software, and viruses lurking in the Web. Along with these five great movies for computer science enthusiasts, you could also check out “Tron,” “Reboot,” “The Net,” and “Pirates of Silicon Valley.”