By CSDH Staff
There are two major industries constantly pushing the envelope on progress and innovation: Hollywood and computer science. If you’re a person who loves both, then we’re betting that your ideal movie night includes something on this list!
From Google parodies to futuristic thrillers and everything in between, keep scrolling for the 30 best movies about computer science.
#1. The Matrix
Topping our list of the best computer science-themed movies is The Matrix. This classic film follows Neo, a computer hacker who follows a beautiful stranger into a forbidding underworld only to find out that the world he knows is actually “an elaborate deception of an evil cyber-intelligence.” Released in 1999, The Matrix won four Academy Awards and inspired another three films.
#2. (tied) The Imitation Game
The Imitation Game is a 2014 film that tells the true story of Alan Turing, a mathematical genius who invented the computer whilst trying to crack the German Enigma code during World War II. Starring Benedict Cumberbatch and Keira Knightley, The Imitation Game was nominated for eight Academy Awards, and won the Oscar for best adapted screenplay.
#2. (tied) The Internet’s Own Boy: The Story of Aaron Swart
The Internet’s Own Boy is a documentary film released in 2014. The doc recounts the story of Aaron Swartz, a programming prodigy and information activist who died by suicide at age 26. The Internet’s Own Boy was a hit on the film festival circle, and was even nominated for the Grand Jury Prize at Sundance. Hackers on Planet Earth (HOPE) named The Internet’s Own Boy as the Best Hacker Film of 2014.
#4. Ghost in the Shell
Ghost in the Shell is an animated film known in its original Japanese as Kôkaku Kidôtai. The film revolves around a cyborg federal agent named Maj. Motoko Kusanagi as she trails an elusive hacker known as “The Puppet Master.” Ghost in the Shell received a number of nominations and awards, including a World Animation Celebration award for Best Theatrical Feature Film. In 2017, the film was adapted into a live-action blockbuster starring Scarlett Johansson.
#5. 12 Monkeys
12 Monkeys is a 1995 blockbuster starring Bruce Willis, Brad Pitt, and Madeleine Stowe. Based on a popular French film, 12 Monkeys takes place in a world ravaged by a man-made disease set loose from a computer-controlled facility. Willis’s convict character is sent back in time to gather information about the virus and save (what’s left of) humanity. At the 1996 Academy Awards, Brad Pitt was nominated in the Best Supporting Actor category for his performance.
Citizenfour is a 2014 documentary by Laura Poitras. The film follows Poitras as she travels to Hong Kong to meet with Edward Snowden, the former computer intelligence consultant who leaked highly classified U.S. documents. Very well received by both critics and audiences, Citizenfour was awarded the 2015 Academy Award for Best Documentary, Feature.
Taking place in the near future, Her follows a lonely writer who develops a relationship with an operating system specially designed to meet his every need. The thought-provoking film stars Joaquin Phoenix, Amy Adams, and Scarlett Johansson. Her was nominated for a number of awards around the world, including five Academy Awards. Though it ultimately lost the award for Best Motion Picture of the Year, it did win the Oscar for Best Writing, Original Screenplay.
#8. (tied) The Social Network
The Social Network recreates the controversial story of Harvard student Mark Zuckerberg as he creates Facebook. Written by Aaron Sorkin and directed by David Fincher, The Social Network has an A-list cast which includes Jesse Eisenberg, Andrew Garfield, Justin Timberlake, and Rooney Mara. The film won three Academy Awards, including the Oscar for Best Writing, Adapted Screenplay.
#8. (tied) Ex Machina
Ex Machina is a popular and thought-provoking sci-fi thriller about a young programmer who is chosen to take part in a ground-break experimenting involving a high advanced humanoid A.I. Ex Machina stars Alicia Vikander, Domhnall Gleeson, and Oscar Isaac. The film garnered more than 160 nominations worldwide, including a BAFTA nomination for Best British Film and an Oscar nomination for Best Writing, Original Screenplay.
Moneyball is based on the true story of Billy Beane, the general manager of the Oakland A’s baseball team. In a controversial, ground-breaking, and completely unique move, Beane assembled an entire team using computer-generated player analyses. Moneyball stars Brad Pitt and Jonah Hill. The film was nominated for six Academy Awards, including acting awards for Pitt and Hill, and the award for Best Motion Picture of the Year.
#11. Minority Report
Though it was made in 2002, Minority Report still feels futuristic and edgy. The Steven Spielberg-directed blockbuster takes place in a future in which a special police force arrests would-be murderers before they even commit a crime. All seems well until an officer from the force is himself accused of a future murder. Minority Report stars Tom Cruise, Colin Farrell, Samantha Morton, and Max von Sydow.
#12. Source Code
Source Code stars Jake Gyllenhaal as a soldier who wakes up in an unfamiliar body only to find out he is part of an experimental government program. Things get even more urgent and confusing when the soldier is tasked with finding the bomber of a commuter train. Michelle Monaghan and Vera Farmiga also star.
#13. Who Am I: No System is Safe
Who Am I: Kein System ist sicher in its native German, this 2014 crime drama follows a young computer genius named Benjamin, who is invited to join a mysterious hacker group that wants to be noticed on the world stage. Who Am I won a slew of German awards upon its release, including a Bavarian Film Award for Best Direction and a German Camera Award for Best Cinematography.
Pi is a 1998 film directed and co-written by Darren Aronofsky. The film stars Sean Gullette, Mark Margolis, and Ben Shenkman, and tells the story of a paranoid mathematician as he searches for a key number that will unlock nature’s universal patterns. Pi was well received by critics on the film festival circuit, and the Film Independent Spirit Awards gave Aronofsky the 1999 award for Best First Screenplay.
#15. We Are Legion: The Story of the Hacktivists
We Are Legion is a documentary about a group of “hacktivists” collectively known as Anonymous. The film traces the history of the group, and presents their beliefs and inner workings. The film was an official Festival Favorite at SXSW in 2012. The Writers Guild of America nominated it as one of the Best Documentary Screenplays of the year.
Snowden is the 2016 biographical crime drama about Edward Snowden and the NSA’s illegal surveillance techniques he leaked to the world. The film was written by Oliver Stone, and stars Joseph Gordon-Levitt as Snowden. Shailene Woodley, Melissa Leo, and Zachary Quinto round out the all-star cast.
#17. Pirates of Silicon Valley
Pirates of Silicon Valley is a made-for-television miniseries that first aired in 1999. Starring Noah Wyle, Anthony Michael Hall, and Joey Slotnick, the film dramatizes the history of Microsoft and Apple. Pirates of Silicon Valley was nominated for five Primetime Emmy Awards, including Outstanding Casting, Outstanding Writing, and Outstanding Made for Television Movie.
#18. Steve Jobs
This film is a biographical drama released to audiences in 2015, four years after the icon’s death. The film stars Michael Fassbender as Jobs, plus a slew of other stars like Kate Winslet, Seth Rogen, and Jeff Daniels. Written by Aaron Sorkin and directed by Danny Boyle, Steve Jobs earned Fassbender and Winslet acting nominations at the BAFTA Awards, Oscars, Screen Actors Guild Awards, and more.
#19. A.I.: Artificial Intelligence
In this twist on the classic Pinnochio tale, a highly advanced robotic boy yearns to become “real” in order to be loved by his human mother. A.I.: Artificial Intelligence was written and directed by Steven Spielberg, and stars Haley Joel Osment as the little boy, David. The film — which was nominated for two Academy Awards — also stars Jude Law and Frances O’Connor.
In the 1992 film Sneakers, a security pro is haunted by his past as he undergoes the task of retrieving a particularly important item. The movie stars a number of big names, including Robert Redford, Dan Akroyd, and Sidney Poitier. Poitier was nominated for an NAACP Image Award for his work on the film, while the Edgar Allan Poe Awards rewarded Sneakers with a nomination for Best Motion Picture.
#21. War Games
Though there have been some spin-offs and remakes, there’s still nothing quite as good as the 1983 original. In War Games, a high school student finds a back door into a centralized military computer. Confusing reality for game playing, the young man nearly starts World War III. Matthew Broderick stars as the student, David, while Ally Sheedy co-stars as his friend, Jennifer.
Primer is the 2004 sci-fi thriller about four young entrepreneurs who find themselves struggling with what to do with a new invention of theirs that has taken on a life of its own. The film stars Shane Carruth (who also wrote and directed the movie), David Sullivan, Casey Gooden, and Anand Upadhyaya. Primer was nominated for awards at a variety of film festivals, including the Independent Spirit Awards, the Gotham Awards, and the Sundance Film Festival.
#23. Middle Men
Middle Men is a crime dramedy about internet pioneer Jack Harris, and his struggles with morality as he navigates the new world he’s created and the many con men, mobsters, and addicts who seem to want a piece. The movie stars Luke Wilson as Harris, plus Giovanni Ribisi, Gabriel Macht, James Caan, Kelsey Grammar, and an impressive list of other stars.
TRON is a 1992 classic action-adventure film about a computer hacker who is abducted into the digital world. Once there, he is made to take part in a series of gladiatorial games, his only escape from which is to team up with a heroic security system. This cutting-edge film stars Jeff Bridges, and received two Academy Award nominations.
#25. TRON Legacy
In this 2010 sequel to the aforementioned TRON, Jeff Bridges returns as beloved character Kevin Flynn. But this time, when Flynn disappears inside his own created digital world, his son Sam follows him in to save him. Garrett Hedlund stars as Sam, and Olivia Wilde and Michael Sheen also star.
Swordfish is the classic action-drama film about Gabriel Shear and his covert counter-terrorism unit known as Black Cell. In order to free up the money Shear wants to fund a war against international terrorism, he hires a convicted hacker called Stanley Jobson to help. John Travolta portrays Shear, while Hugh Jackman appears as Stanley. The film also stars Halle Berry and Don Cheadle.
Takedown is a biographical crime drama based on the true story of the capture of computer hacker Kevin Mitnick. Released in 2000, Takedown stars Skeet Ulrich as Mitnick, along with Russell Wong, Donal Logue, Master P, and Amanda Peet.
#28. The Internship
The Internship is a comedy film directed by Shawn Levy and written by Vince Vaughn and Jared Stern. Vaughn and Owen Wilson star as Billy and Owen, two salesmen who manage to garner coveted Google internships. There, they find themselves competing against a group of young tech geniuses and a beautiful woman played by Rose Byrne.
In Hackers, a group of computer hackers is blamed for creating a virus meant to capsize five oil tankers. The 1995 crime dramedy stars Angelina Jolie and Jonny Lee Miller, plus Jesse Bradford and Matthew Lillard. Though Hackers wasn’t a favorite amongst critics upon its release, the movie has become quite popular in later years.
Rounding out our list of the best movies about computer science is Untraceable. In this 2008 crime thriller, Diane Lane appears as Jennifer Marsh, an FBI agent who is given the task of hunting down a seemingly untraceable serial killer who posts live videos of his victims. The film also stars Colin Hanks, Billy Burke, and Mary Beth Hurt.
We hope we’ve inspired you to include some great computer science-themed movies in your next movie night!