It’s important to start this off by admitting that Hollywood has never been the best at portraying programming movies. From unrealistic hack scenes to the downright ridiculous portrayal of the average programmer, there’s a lot that the movie industry should learn from actual programmers.
However, that doesn’t mean every single Hollywood movie portrays programming and programmers wrongly. Some are so worryingly accurate that programmers can relate to them almost instantly.
If you’re looking to watch a Hollywood movie as a programmer, you’d want to see something about your work that you can relate to. Since we’re also programmers and fans of the movie industry, here are some of the best programming movies you must watch before this year ends.
The Social Network
The Social Network was a movie written to portray the founding days of Facebook social media and how it struggled with lawsuits. While there have been considerable criticism and skepticism over the accuracy of the movie’s contents, it’s hard to criticize the coding scenes in the movie.
Don’t get me wrong: there are times when programmers do downright ridiculous things, but you don’t expect to see that very often. Compare that to your average Hollywood hacking movie where the tech nerd compromises a bank’s security system in seconds and you’ll understand why it’s a realistic movie.
The Social Network was released in 2010 to mixed reviews from critics. Mark Zuckerberg didn’t quite like the movie, but that doesn’t take away from its charm. If you’re a software engineer intending to create a startup and are on the lookout for the best programming movies to watch, The Social Network is a compelling option.
The Imitation Game
If you’re remotely interested in the history of computers, you should know about Alan Turing. Alan Turing’s name served as inspiration for the Turing test, which is formerly also referred to as the imitation game. The movie is so named since it’s a test to ascertain if a machine is as smart as a human.
The Imitation Game is a look into the life of Alan Turing, spiced up by the well-written story. It follows the experiences of the cryptanalyst and his team, as they tried to decode German messages during the Second World War. The Imitation Game is certainly one of the most entertaining historical thrillers to watch for programming inspiration, making it one of the best programming movies.
While I doubt that there’s a programmer alive that’s yet to watch The Matrix, it’s still worthy of being among the best programming movies to watch in 2023. When it was released in 1999, the concept of the matrix sounded crazily believable to a lot of people, up to the point where many believed the world might be a simulation.
Thanks to the depiction of cyber anonymity and complicated hacking in the movie, The Matrix has inspired lots of people to consider programming as a career. Also, if you’re looking for inspiration to build a tech product, what’s a better inspiration than seeing a movie depicting the fact that you’re simply living in a simulation?
WarGames is not your typical programming movie; it’s a technological thriller from 1982, depicting a teenage hacker casually accessing a US military computer designed to execute nuclear attacks against the Soviet Union. However, the primary storyline doesn’t give off as many programming vibes as the regular life of the protagonist, David Lightman.
What’s cooler than using your home computer to access and change your grades, and also that of your friend? It’s even more surprising when you consider that this movie was released in 1982, at a when virtually no school in the United States uses computers to collate and store grades.
Back to the main story of the movie, David plays the Global Thermonuclear War game as the Soviet Union, targeting cities in the United States with nuclear weapons. This development led to David’s arrest and interrogation by McKittrick, who thought he works with the Soviet Union.
Eventually, David Lightman was able to escape detention to go find Falken, the original creator of the W.O.P.R program. After some convincing, David was able to get Falken to help with stopping the nuclear war by forcing the computer to play tic tac toe against itself multiple times. The technicalities make it one of the best programming movies out there, and a must-watch for every programmer.
We Are Legion
If you’re interested in the workings of the online hacktivist group Anonymous, you should consider seeing this documentary film. It’s a scripted story of Anonymous, written and directed by Brian Knappenberger, and it runs for an hour and a half.
The film describes the motivations of the largely anonymous group, some of which include police brutality, online censorship, and copyright abuse. It follows some of the hacktivism protests that the group has participated in, both offline and online.
While the film’s reception isn’t anything groundbreaking, it didn’t have a particularly critical reception either. With a 73% approval rating on Rotten Tomatoes and a 66% rating on Metacritic, it’s certainly a documentary that’s worth your time.
Just like We Are Legion, Code Rush is more of a documentary than an actual movie, and it follows the life of Netscape engineers as they rush to ready the source code of Mozilla for release. The documentary featured many Netscape employees, including Stuart Parmenter, a 16-year-old volunteer.
The documentary is freely available to watch on YouTube, and it’s only a few minutes short of being an hour long. It includes many useful quotes for a programmer, some of which will shape your perception of programming and development in the long run.
Also, you’ll understand just how much some people are willing to sacrifice to meet their goals. Project Code Rush doesn’t only inspire you to build stuff with your programming knowledge, it also shows that you mightn’t be as dedicated as you should be, seeing people sacrifice useful family time for a project.
For fans of the cybersecurity aspect of the industry, it’s hard not to know Kevin Mitnick. Kevin is a convicted American hacker that spent half a decade in prison after his high-profile arrest in 1995 for numerous computer-related crimes.
Takedown only focuses on the pursuit and eventual arrest of the cybersecurity expert, and it was released in 2000 in Finland. This movie didn’t make it to US cinemas until 2004, no thanks to many controversies about the status of the movie. That isn’t even surprising, given that the movie itself is one of the least controversial aspects of Kevin Mitnick’s life.
Fast forward to today, Kevin Mitnick runs the Mitnick Security Consulting firm. Aged 58, he concerns himself majorly with developing intrusion prevention systems, while spreading awareness about the importance of cybersecurity and how individuals and organizations can keep themselves safe.
While those are all respectable things to do, it’s unlikely that people will pay much attention to them. He’ll mostly be better known for being the inspiration for one of the best programming movies of all time, albeit not in a good way.
While excessive movies might be a legitimate way for a programmer to waste time, it’s also one of the best ways to spend your leisure time. To make movies remotely interesting, they should also be about your passion, which in this case, is programming and computer science.
This article explores some of the best programming movies to watch in 2023 and why they make this list. From movies that follow a real-life hacker to movies that explain the inside story of the creation of Facebook, this list is simply exhaustive.