Movies With Computers

We can all recall movies that have computers in them as main 'characters' (2001: A SpaceOdyssey comes to mind). Here are some movies that show computers more or less as they really existed, or as society, or filmmakers, thought they existed.


Desk Set
The first (1957) cinematic romantic triangle involving a man, a woman and "The other woman" -- a computer. Great Hepburn-Tracy interactions as usual.

The President's Analyst (1967)
James Coburn is Dr. Sidney Schaefer who finds that someone is out to kill him. I can't discuss the role played by the computer without spoiling the fun.

Colossus: The Forbin Project (1969)
A sophisticated computer has a mind of its own and links up with its Soviet counterpart. A somewhat preachy Cold War flick. The computers look pretty much the way everyone expected them to look back then.

The (original) Thomas Crown Affair (1970)
Faye Dunaway decides to check airplane passenger lists to flight to Switzerland over the past year in order to see if any frequent passengers fit her profile of the bank robber. Her detective friend says "We can use the computer". One of the next scenes shows some IBM card shuffler spit out a small pile of cards. Potentially historically accurate, assuming they had the right info online in the first place. Some of those card shufflers could do simple selection like that all by themselves, without burdening the mainframe.

The Computer Wore Tennis Shoes (1970)
One of the Kurt Russel "Medfield College" Disney flicks from the late 60's and early '70s. in which Kurt Russel's brain is networked (through a freak accident) with the school's mainframe. This, of course, makes him the school's College Bowl whiz kid and also a target for Gangsters who are using the mainframe to run a numbers racket.

All the Presidents Men (1976)
Most of the movie takes place in a 1970s era newsroom. Forget about the watergate story, the most amazing thing is the total LACK of computers. Everyone is typing on these archaic machines that have keyboards but PAPER comes out. Plus, the heros pore through PAPER telephone books from around the country and a box of PAPER library lending records.

A Small Romance (late 70s)
A young girl gets her stepdad (who is an international businessman) to give her time on the computer 'for a school project'. He sets her up with one of the computer's keepers. She apparently has a program which allows her to pick horses at the Parisian raceway. The system's administrator is portrayed as a poorly-socialized recluse with his own cryptic method of playing the ponies.

The Black Hole (1979)
Disney movie starring V.I.N.CENT. (Vital Information Necessary CENTralized) http://us.imdb.com/Title?0078869

Superman III (1980)
Ouch. I guess this isn't really, as the top of this page says, movies that show computers more or less as they really existed, or as society, or filmmakers, thought they existed. Mind you, I think this page is drifting helplessly toward the rocks, arms flailing ... (or something)

Tron (1982)
See TronMovie, AlanKayIsTron

WarGames (1983)
Shall we play a game? asks WOPR (War Operation Plan Response), the NORAD supercomputer, while it thrums impressively. Apparently a pun on the name of the real NORAD computer of that time, BURGR.
I've always liked movies like WarGames, where a computer is used to crack a password/access code, and somehow the computer figures it out one character/digit at a time. This is generally accompanied by a display showing characters cycling randomly, but becoming "solid" one at a time. And the humans know that it will take the computer exactly 60 seconds to break the code. --KrisJohnson

Strange Brew (1983)
The villains keep all of their incriminating evidence on an Atari-sized databank. Doug ("How's it goin' eh?") accidentally presses the right key code and all of the evidence pops out - on 8" floppies. Bob and Doug think they are bootleg records and try to play them on their stereo.

Electric Dreams (1984)
Miles buys himself a state-of-the-art computer that starts expressing thoughts and emotions after a having champagne spilled on it. Things start getting out of hand when both Miles and Edgar (the computer) fall in love with Madeline, an attractive neighbour.

D.A.R.Y.L. (1985)
A Data Analyzing Robot Youth Lifeform escapes from the lab and gets adopted. The military tries to capture him, but he manages to escape again to live happily ever after. (Sorry for giving away the plot.) During his period of captivity, researchers are stunned to learn that he prefers chocolate icecream over vanilla - apparently the AI can learn.

No Way Out (1987)
The pentagon mainframe and additional workstations is working on enhanceing a blurry polaroid-photo, meanwhile our hero Kevin Costner is using the equipment searching a foreign gift by *printing* all records, and then glimpse through the whole. Hehe, he could have used some SQL. (But he would've been discovered as a spy when he pronounced it Ess-Kew-El instead of 'Sequel' thereby ruining the plot.)

Jurassic Park (1990s)
The moral of the story: people who rely on a computer system to protect themselves should have manual overrides, failsafes and backup systems. The little girl utters something like "It's a Unix system!" when she tries to lock down the control room. (Not very realistic though - she should have spent the next ten minutes poring over man pages...) The 3D environment she uses is actually a real piece of SiliconGraphics software - see http://www.csse.monash.edu.au/~lloyd/tildeImages/Film/JPark/ .
(Personal pet peeve: Using a Cray for DNA and a Thinking Machines (massively parallel computer) for security is backwards. And neither would be a good choice for security anyway, as security in a nature park is not a problem requiring heavy computation.)

Wayne's World II (1990s)
When the geekette from the planning office goes over to waynestock, she's carrying a copy of "The Unix Programming Environment". Garth notices, and then says "It's the Unix book. Cool"

Terminator 2, Judgement Day (1991)
EasyMoney? ... the kid "John Connor" inserts a stolen ATM card (or card simulator?) with a RibbonCable? attached and has a portable gadget that runs PIN values until it hits the right one. Later, he uses it to break security when the whole building is locked down (let's see, insert random mag card, magically find PIN -- none of the other cards needs a PIN -- and override the security privilege system). Of course. Did I mention the NeuralNet? ("learning computer")? With a write protect switch? Gotta get me one of those.

The Paper (1994)
Most of _this_ movie takes place in a 1990s era newsroom. There's a computer on every desk, and the guy who was on the Bill Cosby Show gets a really fancy computer which allows for a mockup of the front page.

Clear and Present Danger (1994)
For me, the most ridiculous movie/computer moment ever. Acting DDI Ryan asks one of the CIA techies to crack DDO Ritter's account. The techie softly, reverently, says, "...whoa. We're way beyond birthdays now. I'm gonna hafta write a ...very...special...program for this one." Just the way he says it makes me crack up. Then he turns to his green-CRT terminal (this in the mid-'90s) and starts banging away, while fragments of TrashEighty BASIC and such fly across the screen, and tape autoloaders dance in the background. Sheesh. -- MikeSmith

Hackers (1995)
Features an uber-MainFrameOsaur called a "Gibson" (ho ho) with a ridiculous 3D interface, the HackerManifesto? by TheMentor?, a bunch of old textbooks about UNIX security, phreaking and endless heaps of misapplied tech jargon.

GoldenEye (1995)
JamesBond? teams up with a programmer to stop villans in league with yet another programmer.

OfficeSpaceMovie (1999)
Saving...

Swordfish (2001)
The hero creates CryptographicAlgorithms? by rotating spectacular ThreeDimensional? shapes with lovely textures on a machine with at least 5 monitors. (This entry was corrected, please watch the movie before summarizing it. Originally, this listing said, "The hero breaks CryptographicAlgorithms?". He was hired to create an encryption code.)

National Treasure (2004)
The hero contaminates someone's fingertips with invisible but UV-reactive dye, so when he plays a UV light over a keyboard he can see what letters she typed as her passcode. Of course, he just has to anagram the letters to guess what the password is, because nobody ever uses random numbers and letters as their password in a high security installation!

Firewall (2006)
Harrison Ford stars as a security expert forced to defeat his own security scheme! Hijinks ensue.

Computers-in-movies Smells

-- SavasAlparslan

I don't recall which movie it was, but a very recent one had a big flashing notice and a loud voice saying "Sending email, sending email!" Ludicrous. It was supposed to be a techno-thriller, too.

My Lexmark Z22 printer comes with a print manager that shouts "Printing started!" and "Printing complete!" and "Out of paper!".

For more of this sort of thing, see http://www.moviecliches.com/cliche1.html

Also see HollywoodOs (any particularly silly computer behavior above is a candidate to be copied to that page, but the two pages otherwise serve distinct purposes).


CategoryMovie

EditText of this page (last edited March 12, 2011) or FindPage with title or text search