Hacking the Gibson and Other Sweet Portrayals of Hollywood's Kickass Internet

Movie producers must get so excited whenever a script calls for the illicit hacking of mainframes or the breaking of encryptions or even the ho-hum downloading/uploading of a file. For the big budget moviemaker, it's no longer about the fireballs and the mercy kill and the 2.5 seconds of contractual nipple. The real money shot is the inside of a computer. Entire movies are made just to show a fleeting glimpse of Internet World, which tends to look like LA at night - all producers go up to Mulholland Drive at 2 in the morning, drunk messes that they are, and look out over the city and go, "This is it! This is my Internet!" It happens so often Los Angeles County renamed the Mulholland Scenic Overlook to Internet Visualization Point - but this is a problem of course, because cyberspace will never be fun to look at unless it totally kicks ass.

Submitted below for your approval is my evidence.


You can thank Tron for setting the bar so very high in 1982. In Tron, you are physically in the computer and once there, the possibilities are endless. Here's a list of some of the things you can do in the Tron-iverse:

  • You wear a glow in the dark bike helmet
  • You ride bikes
  • You play frisbee

The World Inside a Computer Where Man Has Never Been is actually my front yard when I'm 8. 

Terminator 2.

T2 was released at the tail end of the age when Computers Could Do Anything Without Explanation and it envisioned a future where Computers Kill Humans. The present did not have the technology required to produce advanced assassin cyborgs and liquid metal anamorphs, but it did accommodate for plugging an Atari Portfolio (for Chrissake) into an ATM for unlimited dollars.

In 1991, ATMs were the Internet. John Connor's amazing proto-laptop was the best part of this movie if you're too old for allowance and too young for a job because this, more than the Terminators and the time travel was the thing that made us realize the future is now. By December, every kid's wish list said Hoverboard Terminator Money-Getting Computer Thing. 

Oh, and they're for real.

The Net.

This movie was made by people so unfamiliar with technology that the best poster they could come up with was Sandra Bullock running away from a computer.

We're repeatedly told over and over again that Sandra Bullock is "the best" software person around (sort of like how Patrick Swayze is the best bouncer around in Roadhouse) and why shouldn't we believe them? She has an ergonomic keyboard and those are like, 30 bucks. The movie repeatedly uses Internet and Computer interchangeably, as in "someone got on my Internet somehow!" or "they got to you through the computers!" In the end, we know her fake identity is erased from The Evil Net when a picture of her face slowly dissolves, as if by acid, from her monitor. Nice.

Johnny Mnemonic.

After The Net, computers shoot for the moon and never come back. Sci-fi and Cyberpunk make it so you'll never see a realistic computer ever again. Enter Johnny. If you've seen this movie, you've witnessed Keanu Reeves discovering his niche of wearing suits, jacking in and doing Cyber Karate. This is the best version of it though, because it's the first movie in which a hacker has to HACK HIS OWN MIND. Double Snaps. Remember Virtual Reality? Johnny Mnemonic does. 


This is what a dial-up connection looks like if it were a street you were rollerblading on, which is what the hackers in Hackers had and did. According to Hackers, every computer in the world is networked and ready to be taken like a virgin bride. The Hacker Elite (or hax0rz 1337) in the movie do awesome things like have friendly hack-offs, wear mesh shirts and Hack the Gibson, which is Earth's Most Super Computer. Incidentally, it's protected by these two guys:

But now that I think about it, why wouldn't you want the world's awesomest computer to be guarded by a magician and the dude who invented Johnny 5? Anyway, our hacker protagonists talk about Hacking the Gibson like they're Shredding a Gibson (it's just that cool) and once they do, it looks like this.

Ew, talk about a money shot. Sick Boy is totally dripping with Internet! Gross. What a weird idea, right? not really, n00b.

The Matrix.

Cuz this guy IS the Internet! It's Johnny Mnemonic again, but this time his name is Neo and he's so powerful, his hacker skillz are like diplomatic license plates that let him do anything at all up to and including fighting, flying, and bringing people back from the dead. Computer people love Tron and take movies like Hackers with a fat grain of chuckle salt, but they are generally quick to dismiss The Matrix for its computery bits. The reason is because the movie claims the cyber-scape is actually our waking life, so no need for fancy visualizations, brah! It looks just like this.

Or this.

Same thing, you know? It somehow managed to be over-ambitious and totally lazy. 


Swordfish made no sense but it built on the failures of The Net by adding nudity, sports cars, guns, and a bullet-time explosion. Thanks, The Matrix! It's 2001 and ones and zeroes are full-blown sexy so producers made a movie featuring super rich hacker playboys who build worms and trojans while guzzling wine and pounding keys like Geoffrey Rush in Shine. In one scene, Hugh Jackman gets a beej whilst hacking. How does Swordfish see the Internet? Oh, you mean The Series of Cubes? Watch Wolverine totally Git-R-Done.

And that's AOL Keyword: Swordfish, if you want more info.