Antonin Carette

A journey into a wild pointer

Computer science facts, in movies

Posted at — May 8, 2016

I love watching movies. I see almost four of five movies per week, without any subject restriction. One of my favorite movie director is David Fincher. He is the director of Se7enPanic RoomFight Club or Gone Girl. But, above those ones, for me, David Fincher is the director of The Social Network.

The Social Network takes part of my ten prefered movies ever. The direction is awesome, actors are awesome, music is awesome and… it talk about tech! I love movies which talk about technologies, especially how the director has represented the computer science’s complexity, and see if facts are true or not.

Since Wargames, hackers are strongly represented in movies: HackersSwordfishFirewallHackers 2BlackHatComputer ChessEx MachinaLive Free or Die HardThe Fifth Estate,… and pretty soon Snowden!

These movies are popular in the pop-culture, but mostly are poor in real computer science’s things and/or hacker culture. You can just differenciate two sort of hackers: white hats (hack for science and for security things) and black hats (sort of evil thing of hacking). Most part of hackers are white hats, and do the things right (remember that, if you are a computer programmer, you are also a hacker).

Today, in movies, hackers are representated as bad guys dressed in black, have some social problems, type some (bad) C/C++ code in an unknown interface (in maybe just 10 seconds - world record!) and drink a lot of soda. Movies talking about “hackers” as black hats are, to me, pretty bad movies (even if the visual and scenario is great).


Very funny to see that movies screenwriters and directors thinks again with stereotypes, and don’t make some researchs before… This is zero sense. I don’t know if you are aware with TV-shows, but I strongly recommend you Mr. Robot, one of the best TV-show I have ever seen: the direction is perfect, the scenario is great (as if the first character is build from hacker’s stereotypes) and hacking and computer science appearances are relevant.

Some science-fiction movies play with computer science and enhance the domain, like Tron or Minority Report. In 1999, The Matrix imposed machines as leaders and dictators, artificial intelligence as the final intelligence and humans as slaves. Also, for the Human race, the virtual life is just cooler than the real world during the time that their energy is drained to put on new machines in the real one… Pretty optimistic screenplay! The story of the Matrix saga is pretty cool and the world that this saga built is just awesome. Also, I invite you to take a look at The Animatrix - an animated treasure!

There are not many good movies talking about IA and force you to think about the place of the machine today. We can cite for example 2001, a Space OdysseyWargamesEx MachinaGhost in the Shell (the original movie and the original sequel), Blade RunnerHer,…

Fiction is just Fiction

To finish, there is the bad good idea that we can just adapt the story of a great figure of the computer science domain at theatre. In rare occasions (The Imitation Game), don’t forget that these movies are fiction movies! You can find some historic facts in these movies, but the truth is not there! You will not learn some things about Julian Assange watching The Fifth Estate, the truth about the relation between Jobs and Gates in Pirates of Silicon Valley and, as the video trailer shows, Snowden will not be as credible as the reality to tell the story of the Snowden’s leaks… You have to be warn before to watch these movies, and do not hesitate to ask or to search by yourself about the truth in the (pseudo) tech’ movie you are watching (Reddit is really useful for that).

What else?

Ok, so now you want to watch some movies about tech’ but you don’t know which? This is a short list of movies, documentaries and TV-Show to watch: