The 1990s saw a wave of cyberpunk (and cyberpunk adjacent) films: Lawnmower Man (1992), Johnny Mnemonic (1995), The Net (1995), Strange Days (1995), eXistenZ (1999), and The Matrix (1999). And, Angelina Jolie’s first major film, Hackers (1995).
Hackers was an over-the-top joke to anyone who knew anything about computers, the internet, or hacking at the time. Roger Ebert would comment: “I took the computer stuff in the film as seriously as the archeology in Indiana Jones.”
But it’s still a fun film to watch, especially to see the beginnings of the hero/villain characterizations of hackers in film and popular culture and the ridiculous lengths Hollywood will go through to try and making hacking look interesting and exciting to non-techie audiences.
You youngsters won’t believe us, but there was a time when people didn’t even know what the internet was. Let’s flashback to the early-1990s when people were just learning how to register domains. New users were learning to install their AOL CD-ROMs to dial into services and check their electronic mail. These were halcyon days where the value of information at scale hadn’t been truly realized and exploited.
Enter Hackers, a wild and crazy dive into the subculture the movie not only failed to influence, but instead heavily mischaracterized and depicted as juvenile and almost entirely criminal.
This action-adventure flick tells the story of a group of teenage hackers who have to clear their own names before they are arrested for crimes they didn’t commit. The movie bombed at the box office, bringing in $7.5 million against a $20 million-dollar budget.
Those things don’t matter, because they left us with an over the top depiction of hacker culture at the height of the mythos’ origin. But that doesn’t matter either, because seriously, you just need to see this movie.
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