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The 5 best hacker movies, according to cybersecurity experts

Ray Fernandez

May 22, 20246 min read

The 5 best hacker movies according to cybersecurity experts: Header image

Hacker movies are a subculture all their own. Despite the increasing role that technology has over the world and the state of cybersecurity, good hacker movies are hard to come by. Whether it’s due to technical and awareness gaps or lack of public interest, the film industry seems to be playing catch-up when it comes to making hacker movies, with some being incredibly unrealistic. 

However, there are a couple of gems out there that have changed the way we perceive hackers in our modern world. These great artistic creations and representations have inspired new and old generations while presenting hard issues to debate.

The top 5 hacker movies that experts love

Here are the top hacker movies of all time (documentaries not included), according to cybersecurity experts. 

1. Sneakers (1992): The most chosen hacker movie by experts 

Image of Sneakers (1992) movie poster.
Sneakers movie poster. Source: Wikimedia Commons, CC license.

The movie most commonly cited by cybersecurity experts in Moonlock’s survey was the 1992 Robert Redford film Sneakers.

And what’s not to like? This movie was ahead of its time, considering that it came out in the early 90s, when hacking was a world reserved mostly for tech-savvy professionals.

Sneakers is a classic caper flick where a ragtag team of reformed hackers and ex-spies (led by Robert Redford) moonlight as security consultants for what they believe is initially a covert branch of the National Security Agency (NSA). However, as the movie progresses, they uncover the truth — the organization behind it all has another agenda.

Sneakers is a smart, thoughtful movie that balances the techie talk with a storyline that is engaging and full of suspense,” Hanno Ekdahl, Founder at Idenhaus Consulting, LLC — a company that provides expertise in identity management and cybersecurity — told Moonlock. “The movie never dumbs down the tech, and at the same time, it is amazingly accessible.” 

“The actual hacking is a bit dated, but it does rely on social engineering to compromise accounts, which is a real and persistent threat today. Most interestingly, the movie describes a mathematical shortcut that can defeat the complex cryptography that protects highly sensitive systems.” 

“While this ‘hack’ hasn’t materialized, quantum computing poses a similar threat and will defeat modern password protections,” Ekdahl said. “This movie predicted how much the world has come to rely on information security and how important cybersecurity is to protect us.”

Erin Kelley, CIO of Fortium Partners, a technology leadership-as-a-service company, agreed. 

“Unlike most Hollywood hacker films, Sneakers is rooted in real cybersecurity principles. And the cast is outstanding. I use the clip of ‘beating the lock’ as an example of social engineering in presentations.”

2. WarGames (1983): The highest-rated sci-fi hacker film

Image of Wargames official poster.
WarGames official poster. Source: Wikimedia Commons, CC license.

In the competition for the greatest hacker movie of all time, few can ignore WarGames. This 1983 sci-fi movie has undeniably left its mark.

Michael Hasse, Cybersecurity and Technology Consultant, shared his reasons for why WarGames stands out from all the rest. 

“Without a doubt, WarGames. It is something of a statement on the human condition that 30 years later, we still have highly sensitive systems connected insecurely!”

Experts from Phonely, a digital anti-scam telephone service provider, also cited WarGames as a hacker movie that stands out. 

“While it’s not as flashy or action-packed as some of the other films, it was a relatively accurate portrayal of computer hacking for its time.” 

WarGames takes hacking to the highest level of security. In this flick, a young 1980s character plays “Global Thermonuclear War ” with a supercomputer, nearly sparking WWIII.

“It’s grounded in the early days of personal computing and demonstrates some plausible hacking techniques and concepts, considering the technology available at the time,” Phonely experts said. 

3. Mr. Robot (2015–2019): The most realistic hacker series

Image of Mr. Robot poster.
Mr. Robot poster. Source: Wikimedia Commons, CC license.

Sure, we are discussing “best movies” here, and sure, a television series isn’t technically a movie, but Mr. Robot is just so good that it deserves to be in the top 3 of this list. 

Mr. Robot dives into the dark world of hacking through Elliot Alderson, a brilliant but troubled cybersecurity engineer by day and vigilante hacker by night. The hacking exploits — unlike most hacker movies — are surprisingly realistic.

Mykhailo Pazyniuk, Malware Research Engineer at Moonlock Lab, explained how the realism plays a big part in the quality of the series. 

“(Mr. Robot is) the only cybersecurity series I can think of where they at least installed Kali Linux for filming and entered real commands in the Terminal.”

But Mr. Robot is not just about realist hacking. The creators present issues like the psychological toll of technology, as the main character struggles with mental health. 

Mr. Robot shows the struggle of man against the system while quite accurately depicting hacking tools and approaches,” Pazyniuk said. 

4. The Imitation Game (2014): The best historical hacking movie 

Image of the The Imitiation Game poster.
The Imitation Game poster. Source: Wikimedia Commons, CC license.

Forget hacking firewalls, exploits, and phishing. This movie tells the story of Alan Turing, the pioneer we can thank for the birth of computers, and his mission to build machines to code-break Nazi encryption communications to win the war.  

The Imitation Game throws viewers back to a time when UK Intelligence Services agents recruited Turing and a team of brilliant minds to crack Enigma, the supposedly unbreakable Nazi code machine. At the center of this film, and almost a character in its own right, is the machine that Turing created for the task at hand, known as the bombe.

Kseniia Yamburh, Junior Malware Research Engineer at Moonlock Lab, broke down what makes the film an unquestionable masterpiece.

“Although the film contains inaccurate artistic additions, I like that it demonstrates in plain language how advanced this encryption device was at the time. I also like the Enigma story because it points to the human factor, emphasizing that without the mistakes of the Enigma operators, the code could have remained undeciphered until now.”

5. The Fifth Estate (2013): Top biopic hacker movie

Image of the poster of The Fifth Estate.
Poster of The Fifth Estate. Source: Wikimedia Commons, CC license.

Yes, we said no documentaries, but The Fifth Estate is not a documentary. It’s a biopic film, and it’s about none other than Julian Assange.   

The Fifth Estate is a biographical film about the founder of WikiLeaks and his path toward revealing the secrets of governments and large companies,” Pazyniuk, Malware Research Engineer at Moonlock Lab, said. “I like that it shows both sides of the coin, including how the disclosure of state secrets can affect the country as a whole and the mood in society.”

In the movie, Julian Assange, played brilliantly by Benedict Cumberbatch, is a rebel with a cause who joins forces with the idealistic tech whiz Daniel Domscheit-Berg (Daniel Brühl). Together, they launch WikiLeaks — a digital David slinging rocks against the Goliath of government secrets. 

A culture of anonymity and a thirst for truth is the main theme of the film, as the WikiLeaks founder fights for transparency, taking dark turns as he stumbles upon a treasure trove of classified intel. 

The Fifth Estate exposes a real world of murky alliances, government persecution, and the fight for the free flow of information, all wrapped up in a suspenseful package.

Final thoughts

The world of cybersecurity is a fascinating one, and filmmakers have taken notice. While some films prioritize flashy action sequences and outlandish hacking techniques, others strive for a more realistic portrayal. This list, compiled from the insights of cybersecurity experts, highlights movies that achieve a balance between entertainment and accuracy.

In a world more and more dependent on digital technologies and impacted by cybersecurity, we expect new hacker movies to set a high bar, seamlessly blending realism with captivating stories. We hope that the quest for the perfect hacker movie will continue.

Ray Fernandez Ray Fernandez
Ray has been covering tech and cybersecurity for over 15 years. His work has appeared on TechRepublic, VentureBeat, Forbes, Entrepreneur, and the Microsoft Blog, among others.