The 15 Best Hacker Movies You Should Have On Your Radar

Forget about Sith Lords, monsters, and demons for a moment. In the 21st century, no movie villain is scarier than a powerful hacker. At a moment's notice, you could lose your money, your property, your identity, or your reputation. Anyone that has been hacked knows how challenging the recovery process can be.

Hollywood has been intrigued by the hacking world for a long time. It's pretty amusing to look back at how early computer programming was depicted in older films. Hacking is a major component of the 1969 crime caper classic, "The Italian Job." While the idea of rewiring a computer's programming may have been groundbreaking when the film was released, the premise of "The Italian Job" is almost laughable by today's standards.

It's amazing to see how Hollywood has evolved its depiction of hacking. The beloved USA Network series "Mr. Robot" showed the modern infrastructure of the internet through the eyes of a freedom fighter, and many recent releases were praised by real hackers for their authenticity. However, a hacking film doesn't have to be realistic to be fun. The 1995 film "Hackers" bears very few similarities to what hackers are like, but it became a cult classic regardless.

Make sure to check out these 15 hacker movies.

The Matrix

"The Matrix" is one of the most groundbreaking science fiction films ever made. The beloved 1999 classic combined Eastern philosophy, eye-popping visual effects, incredible martial arts stunt work, and technological anxieties into a unique premise. "The Matrix" spawned three sequels and countless imitators. You don't have to look very far to see how much "The Matrix" has influenced today's films. There are still movies that attempt to replicate the "bullet time" visuals or the neo-noir aesthetic.

One of the reasons that "The Matrix" has remained so entertaining over the years is that it justifies its 1990s aesthetic within the context of the story. In the simulated reality of "The Matrix," the computer program is trying to emulate what life may have looked like in 1999. Although everything appears to be normal, Neo (Keanu Reeves) begins to notice gaps in his reality. Anytime he experiences deja vu, it is because "The Matrix" accidentally ran a program for a second time.

"Neo" is a codename that the office worker Thomas Anderson takes on as his hacker name. His hacking skills are what attract the attention of the resistance leader Morpheus (Laurence Fishburne). Morpheus believes that Neo is "The One," a messiah that will save humanity from technological dominance. These themes of artificial supremacy were particularly scary in 1999 because of the ongoing fears about Y2K. The film serves as a perfect time capsule for that era.

WarGames

There is more than enough reason to be scared of hackers. However, Hollywood has also shown how hackers can become heroes. It sometimes takes someone willing to break cybersecurity laws to save the world from a potentially devastating situation. 

Matthew Broderick gave one of his best performances ever as hacker David Lightman in the 1983 thriller "WarGames." David is a high school slacker who has never taken advantage of his intelligence. David would rather tinker with his computer than spend time in a classroom. He hacks into his school's firewall and changes his grades. However, David's hacking skills land him in serious trouble. David hacks into a mysterious program that he thinks will give him access to computer games. He doesn't realize that he has broken into NORAD's wartime simulation program.

After he gains access to WOPR, NORAD's supercomputer, David engages in a game of "Global Thermonuclear War." The computer begins a simulation that NORAD personnel believe to be a real Soviet attack. He is forced to help the United States government prevent a nuclear war. Although the depiction of hacking may feel out-of-date today, "WarGames" shows the strategies that hackers use to solve problems. The computer programs themselves have changed over time, but the fragility of world politics has remained the same.

Blackhat

Michael Mann is one of the greatest crime movie directors of all time. In all of his films, Mann adapts his style to what is relevant at the time. His 2015 film, "Blackhat," explores the terrifying prospect of a cyber-terrorist who is hell-bent on watching the world burn.

"Blackhat" opens with one of the most terrifying sequences that Mann has ever created. A coordinated hack detonates a nuclear plant in Hong Kong and collapses the Mercantile Trade Exchange in Chicago. The world's financial infrastructure is immediately thrust into chaos. Neither the FBI nor China's People's Liberation Army have the resources to track down this elusive threat. However, Chinese Army Capt. Chen Dawai (Leehom Wang) comes up with a risky plan. He recruits convicted hacker Hathaway (Chris Hemsworth) to help them find the rogue hacker before he strikes again.

Hathaway was imprisoned for hacking into a bank's firewall. He is cagey about working for the government but agrees to help so that he will be set free. Hathaway teams up with Capt. Dawai's sister, Chen (Tang Wei). They travel the globe in search of the cyber-terrorist.

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo

Lisbeth Salander is one of the most iconic female protagonists in modern fiction. She is the protagonist of the "Millennium" novel series by Swedish author Stieg Larsson. Lisbeth is a detective and computer hacker who exposes evil men for their crimes. She is a feminist icon. The "Millennium" books were first adapted to the big screen in 2009 with the Swedish film "The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo," starring Noomi Rapace as Lisbeth. Rapace returned for two sequels, "The Girl Who Played with Fire" and "The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet's Nest."

Anytime there is an American remake of a beloved international film, fans have a good reason to be skeptical. However, David Fincher's 2011 remake of "The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo" was even better than the first adaptation. Fincher fleshed out Lisbeth's investigation in more detail. Lisbeth (Rooney Mara) and her partner, journalist Mikael Blomkvist (Daniel Craig), work together to solve the mystery behind the disappearance of a wealthy girl named Harriet Vanger. Their search leads them to Vanger's ruthless grandfather, Henrik (Christopher Plummer).

Even though the film is almost three hours long, "The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo" never loses its aura of intensity. Mara delivers a transformative performance as Lisbeth. Lisbeth will go to any lengths to expose Harriet's kidnappers, even if it means hacking into the government's computers. Fincher uses the hacking sequence to reveal aspects of Lisbeth's personality. Her desire for justice is compelling.

Mission: Impossible

The "Mission: Impossible" series is one of the greatest action movie franchises of all time. Throughout the six films, Tom Cruise has risked his life on multiple occasions by performing dangerous stunts himself. Between fighting on the edge of a cliff, shattering his ankle, hanging on to the side of a plane, and climbing the tallest building in the world, it seems like Cruise will do just about anything for an exciting scene. Anticipation is high for the upcoming two-part sequel, "Mission: Impossible — Dead Reckoning."

The "Mission: Impossible" saga has evolved. Although the series is now best known for its jaw-dropping action sequences, the original film from 1996 is a more contained neo-noir thriller. Director Brian de Palma took advantage of emerging technology and explored the world of hacking. Ethan Hunt (Tom Cruise) is blamed for the death of his team after the IMF (Impossible Mission Force) is compromised. To clear his name and find the real killer, Ethan must infiltrate the CIA's supercomputer. The sequence in which Ethan breaks into the government facility is one of the film's most iconic moments.

Ethan's intelligence makes him a unique protagonist. While Ethan takes advantage of the various gadgets at his disposal, he does not rely on them. His knowledge of computer programming allows him to track down arms dealer Max (Vanessa Redgrave). Ethan has to find a secret list containing the names of active IMF agents before Max does.

Live Free or Die Hard

Throughout the "Die Hard" franchise, John McClane (Bruce Willis) faces off against terrorists, criminals, and mercenaries. However, in 2007's "Live Free Or Die Hard," he has to go up against a new and terrifying threat: hackers. The fourth film in the franchise follows an older McClane, who searches for the cyber-terrorist Thomas Gabriel (Timothy Olyphant). Gabriel infiltrates the United States infrastructure and threatens to disable all of the government's computers throughout the nation.

McClane knows how to beat up bad guys, but he's not prepared to fight a faceless enemy. McClane is forced to team up with the young hacker Matt Farrell (Justin Long). Giving McClane a sidekick could have ruined the film, but Willis and Long have great chemistry. Both characters are forced to recognize each other's skillsets. McClane doesn't know anything about cyber-crimes, and Matt is useless in a fistfight. McClane grows to begrudgingly respect his younger companion.

Even though "Live Free or Die Hard" is the only film in the franchise that was rated PG-13, it contains all of the same intensity that made the original film a classic. McClane is no longer fighting for just one building. He has to save the entire country. Although the stakes are higher than ever before, they are also personal. McClane wants to reunite with his estranged daughter, Lucy (Mary Elizabeth Winstead).

Jason Bourne

The "Bourne" series is one of the darkest action franchises of the 21st century. Compared to the campy style of action films from the 1990s, the "Bourne" films explore latent conspiracies within the military-industrial complex. The first three films in the saga develop the backstory of David Webb/Jason Bourne (Matt Damon), a former soldier who was brainwashed as a CIA assassin. The fourth film, 2012's "The Bourne Legacy," centers on a new character, Aaron Cross (Jeremy Renner), but Damon returned for the fifth installment in the series.

In "Jason Bourne," the titular character is forced to reckon with his past after learning information about his father. Bourne's ally, Nicky Pearsons (Julia Stiles), works with a group of hackers to expose the government's covert operations. After Nicky is killed, Bourne searches for the whistleblower Christian Dassault (Vinzenz Kiefer). Dassault is investigating the government's association with tech CEO Aaron Kalloor (Riz Ahmed), who created the enigmatic Deep Dream social network.

Snowden

Oliver Stone is one of the most controversial filmmakers of his generation. Stone has never been afraid to tackle divisive political topics. He has created films centered on the JFK assassination, the Watergate scandal, the Vietnam War, 9/11, and financial instability. In 2016, Stone directed a biopic of CIA whistleblower Edward Snowden (Joseph Gordon-Levitt). In 2013, Snowden exposed the National Security Agency's surveillance of American citizens.

Stone admires Snowden's actions. The film explores how Snowden's service in the military gave him a strong sense of patriotism. Despite his love for his country, Snowden grows skeptical of his government. He realizes that the surveillance measures violate the personal privacy that Americans are ensured by the U.S. Constitution. Facing no other option, Snowden leaks the information. He is forced to go on the run with his girlfriend, Lindsay Mills (Shailene Woodley). If you're willing to go along with Stone's perspective on the situation, "Snowden" offers some interesting insights into recent history.

The Social Network

Facebook didn't just change the way that people interact with each other online. It became the defining form of communication in the 21st century. David Fincher's 2010 masterpiece, "The Social Network," is the film that defined a generation. Fincher doesn't exclusively focus on Mark Zuckerberg's (Jesse Eisenberg) court cases. He shows the reasons why Zuckerberg continues to be one of the most controversial public figures in recent memory.

At the beginning of the film, Zuckerberg hacks into Harvard University's student database. He aims to get revenge on his ex-girlfriend, Erica Albright (Rooney Mara), who broke up with him earlier in the evening. Zuckerberg creates a social website that compares female students based on their physical attributes. This sequence provides important context for the film. In the closing moments, Zuckerberg reflects on the same feelings of attraction and resentment that he felt towards Erica when he was a teenager.

Citizenfour

While Oliver Stone's "Snowden" film is a dramatized depiction of the story, the 2014 documentary "Citizenfour" features interviews with the real Edward Snowden. There are not many other documentaries in recent memory that have captured history as it unfolds in such a vivid way. "Citizenfour" took home the Academy Award for best documentary feature. Regardless of how you feel about Snowden's actions, "Citizenfour" allows the famous hacker to tell his story in his own words.

"Citizenfour" explores what drove Snowden to leak classified information and how he collaborated with journalists to tell the story. During his work for the NSA, Snowden realizes that the government has enacted a secret security network to monitor potential terrorist threats in the wake of 9/11. Snowden explains why he felt that he needed to share this information. Under the codename "Citizenfour," Snowden connects with the "The Guardian" writer Glenn Greenwald. Greenwald conducts a private interview with Snowden in Hong Kong.

Tron

Although we're still waiting for a truly great video game adaptation, the 1982 science fiction classic "Tron" found a fun way to integrate computer games within a high-concept premise. Computer programmer Kevin Flynn (Jeff Bridges) is transported into "Tron," the video game that he helped create. Kevin has to use his programming skills to escape back to reality. The game's villain, Sark (David Warner), attempts to hack into the Master Control Program and destroy the "users" that created him.

While the video game sequences use visuals that are now out-of-date, "Tron" is still a fun throwback to retro gaming. It's a great nostalgic adventure for those who grew up with classic games and shows the type of strategies and problem-solving skills that gamers still use. Kevin has to outwit Sark by playing through the levels of the game. The 2010 follow-up, "Tron: Legacy," continues Kevin's adventures into the world of 21st century gaming.

Pi

Few filmmakers can capture anxiety quite like Darren Aronofsky. While Aronofsky's films often contain shocking moments of violence, the perpetual tension that he creates is even more terrifying. All of the hallmarks of Aronofsky's filmmaking style can be traced back to his 1998 directorial debut, "Pi." The film follows computer programmer Max Cohen (Sean Gullette), who searches for a pattern within the mathematical constant, Pi.

Max struggles to apply his logical approach to problem-solving in all aspects of his life. He is both confused and disturbed to find that there is no meaning within the madness of the world. As Max attempts to control his environment, he fears that he is being followed. Aronofsky doesn't make it entirely clear which events are real and which are just in Max's head. The influence of "Pi" can still be seen today. "Mr. Robot" creator Sam Esmail cites Aronofsky's neo-noir classic as a major influence on his hacking series.

Enemy of the State

Political thrillers that focused on government conspiracies were incredibly popular in the 1970s. Tony Scott's 1998 film, "Enemy of the State," is a throwback to this classic era of cinema but with a modern twist. The film shows how surveillance has evolved with the advent of modern technology. When "Enemy of the State" was first released, Scott didn't realize how prophetic his story of an NSA conspiracy would seem today.

When Congressman Phil Hammersley (James Robards) is murdered by NSA agents, the footage is captured on a camera in a public park. Biologist Daniel Zavitz (Jason Lee) watches the disturbing events and decides to share the information with the public. The NSA tracks him down, but before Daniel is killed, he passes along a disc with the recording to lawyer Bobby Dean (Will Smith). Dean works with private security agent Brill Lyle (Gene Hackman) to uncover the real threat.

Office Space

Who hasn't messed around on the computer while they are at work? Part of the reason that Mike Judge's 1999 comedy, "Office Space," is so beloved is that audiences can relate to the characters' resentment of their day jobs. Peter Gibbons (Ron Livingston) has grown infuriated with his grueling job as a computer programmer at the software company Initech. He decides to take advantage of his employer's laxness, and get out of having to do any real work.

Peter and his friends Michael Bolton (David Herman) and Samir Nagheenanajar (Ajay Naidu) decide to hack into Initech's accounting network. Although they only want to shave off fractions of pennies for a slow accrual, they accidentally end up stealing $300,000 all at once. Peter eventually decides to take the fall for the crime but fate intervenes. "Office Space" ultimately has an uplifting message. After the Initech office burns down, Peter starts a new job as a construction worker, which he enjoys.

Ghost in the Shell

The 1995 film "Ghost in the Shell" influenced many science fiction classics, including "The Matrix." American remakes of anime films are rarely successful, but the 2017 version of "Ghost in the Shell" does a great job at adapting the visual style into a live-action setting. There are enough differences from the original film to make the new version unique. Director Rupert Sanders captures the haunting nature of the original film's neo-noir dystopia and its relentless action sequences.

The "Ghost in the Shell" story explores whether artificial beings are capable of independent thought. After she experiences disorienting flashbacks to events that she doesn't remember, A.I. counter-terrorism bureau Section 9 Maj. Mira Killian (Scarlett Johansson) begins to question her humanity. As she tracks down the hacker Kuze (Michael Pitt), Killian learns that her memories were taken from a human woman. She infiltrates Section 9's computer to learn about her past.