Cyberpunk Review » War Games

February 13, 2006

War Games

Year: 1983

Directed by: John Badham

Written by: Lawrence Lasker & Walter F. Parkes

IMDB Reference

Degree of Cyberpunk Visuals: Very Low

Correlation to Cyberpunk Themes: Medium

Key Cast Members:

  • David Lightman: Matthew Broderick
  • Jennifer Katherine Mack: Ally Sheedy
  • Dr. John McKittrick: Dabney Coleman
  • Dr. Stephen Falken: John Wood
  • Rating: 7 out of 10

    DVD Cover


    Overview: War Games is a wonderful 80s film that captures both the cold war fears and the budding hacker mentality. Mathew Broderick plays a geek teenager named David, who has fun hacking into open modems to noodle around with unidentified computer systems. He finds one computer that likes to play chess. Eventually, he finds this computer also likes to play Global-thermonuclear war. Unfortunately, while playing, he unknowingly starts the Strategic Air Command computer’s countdown to thermo-nuclear war.




    This movie is lots funnier when we consider the DoD IT fuckups from the late 70s in building computer-based command and control systems such as this. Twice, in the middle of the night, President Carter got racked out of bed to be told that the Soviets had launched - only a minute later to be told, “Sorry, it was just test data” that was being run on their new $100 Million dollar computer system. After the second such instance, President Carter made it known that he no longer found this amusing. Unfortunately, the designers of this system in their infinite wisdom had the specifications written so that test simulations had to be performed on the live system. For obvious reasons, this is about as bad an idea as has been considered, let alone implemented. They ended up having to spend an additional 50 million to build a test system, that was thereafter known as “Bozo the Clone.”




    The Bottom Line: It is definitely a stretch to call War Games cyberpunk. The only thing that makes it so is the pre-Terminator plotline concerning the Military’s attempt to allow machines to manage key decisions for society and the hacker subplot. While not as dystopic as Colossus - the Forbin Project (still awaiting review), the theme is executed competently, especially when combined with what was then the advent of the hacker movement. This is well acted, and for the most part, a decent “pre-cyberpunk” style movie.


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    Tags: cyberpunk movie review Wargames


    August 20, 2006

    amberlita said:

    Yeah, definately stretching the definition of cyberpunk here, but I”m not going to complain about you adding a postive review of this movie. Always been a favorite of mine. “Joshua” is a cool likening to HAL from 2001, which is maybe as questionably cyberpunk as this film. :D

    August 21, 2006

    SFAM said:

    Hi Amber, yeah, I agree. This is pretty borderline. I only include it because it has hackers, the development of sentient AI, and a serious negative impact of technology on humanity. But yeah, the visuals are non-existent, and its not near future, etc.

    January 1, 2007

    TG da JF said:

    I definetly loved it and considered it cyberpunk from the first looks on his computer system… I mean his room. I just consider it cyberpunk because of the hacker, the protagonist.
    He practically is a CyberPunk: a teen hacker!

    January 16, 2007

    SFAM said:

    Hi TG, at the time of this movie (or right afterwards), there was very little difference in the terms “hacker” and “cyberpunk.” These have sort of morphed to be something different now. I agree that Broderick can be considered a cyberpunk.

    April 13, 2007

    calz said:

    this movie is not cyberpunk…its trashy teen adventure…sorry.

    lawnmower man is more cyberpunk than this…still not really though.

    June 19, 2007

    Halakron said:

    Lawnmower is a joke !

    Cyberpunk to me, like any other genre/style, is in the mind.
    That’s why hacker and cyberpunk is almost interchangeable. Althought Cyberpunks have a tendency toward certain fashion style the thing that drive them most and drive them closer to each other is the rebelious spirit to have unconditional freedom. These attitude is I think what shape their dark outlook and vision because we all know unconditional freedom ia a myth.

    The thing that makes this movie doubtfull for me is that the hacker UNintentionaly compromised the network. Had it been about screwing the authority I’d give full vote that this is a cyberpunk movie regardless of the visual thingy.

    SFAM said:

    Hi Halakron, I see your point, but I don’t think Cyberpunk as a genre props up an infallible hacker trope very often. More often, the hacker is someone barely scraping by from one impending disaster to another - often letting their overconfidence continually over-reach. This mindset sort of works here as well, as David Lightman successfully hacked into the DoD net, but had no idea the consequences.

    October 18, 2007

    Fidget said:

    WarGames is prelude to the same future as that presented in the Mona Lisa episode of The Outer Limits. Soon to be tech life forms will use existing role models such as these as a crash course in morals necessary to run a world. The opening scene with Michael Madsen facing John Spencer
    at the launch decision board in the ICBM silo says it all before the movie even plays. Cyber is here, ,mainly, of courage. The Lemays and their airburst 25MT fusion never had their chances to fly over the Pole and launch. Life continues, thanks to calm technology and John Spencer’s character Jerry. Play Cyberpunks, but realize the unbiased machine will be looking for answers in your time.

    October 27, 2007

    sandy said:

    Jack Clinton played one of the guards in the movie WarGames.
    Does anyone have any information on him?

    February 6, 2008

    Anonymous said:

    this is dose m8

    September 30, 2008

    Stormtrooper of Death said:

    I hope, that the new version of Wargames that will be on screen 2009/2010, will be good, and not a poor done version of the original.

    Did you know that the set of the movie Wargames (the control centre), was the most expensive set of the movie and that the real american army, was jealous at the movie set. Officers on NORAD (real thing) said: Gosh, we wished, we had such powerfull computer systems as in that fiction movie…

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