Dec 25, 2013

Must See And Read: Hacker Movies And Novels

What got me started into hacking was partly the thrill of knowing more about computers than most people do and partly the image I got from hackers by main stream media and pop culture. I started to dive into hacker culture and to read up about the roots of hacking. In this article I just want to quickly drop off my personal list of favorite hacker movies and hacker / cyberpunk novels. Maybe you can draw some inspiration for post-christmas presents?

Must see hacker movies

The movies are in no particular order. They all have their strenghts and weaknesses and contributed their fair share to hacker culture as we know it today.

Hackers (1995)

I just love this movie. Shot in the 90s, it got (zero) cool nicknames, dumpster diving, shoulder surfing, school pranks and Angelina Jolie in it. Did I mention the roller-girl scene in the club? If you want to experience this club-feeling in real life, attend a nightly party at Defcon. Hackers (1995) catche the feeling of the upcoming computer-era very well.

Ghost in the Shell 

The manga as well as the anime have some very interesting ideas and concepts about cyberspace and artificial intelligence in it. Besides its relevance for hacker culture, Ghost in the Shell's success has had a big impact on the increase of manga and anime popularity worldwide.

Johnny Mnemonic

Again a movie from the 90s. Roughly based on a short story of William Gibson, it describes a very cyberpunkish, dystropian world. Not only does it feature a rather rusty Keanu Reeves but it also does have Dolph Lundgren as a crazy street-preacher in it. And not to mention a lot of the internet / cyberspace as it had been envisioned in the 90s as a bonus!

The Matrix Trilogy

There it is. If you talk about hacker culture, you can't get around the Wachowski brother's master piece which set new standards for mind- and reality-bending movies. The first part has brilliant martial arts shots and makes you question reality. The second part has its bright moments (especially the fighting scenes) and the third part is the part which is usually disliked by most people. If you haven't watched the trilogy, go watch it now. I'm serious, go watch it now.

Blade Runner

As Ridley Scott's first Hollywood movie, Blade Runner smoothened the way for cyberpunk movies in cinema. It tells the story of artificial humans called Replicants that start to question their own existence and start to struggle for independence. Although it has aged in many ways, Blade Runner is still a great movie and has had big influence on a lot of other pieces of art of pop culture, main stream media and hacker culture.


Takedown tells the story of the hacking battle between Kevin Mitnick and Tsutomu Shimomura. It is based on real events. The actor for Mitnick is far away from the real Mitnick and the story itself is a little boring but since Kevin Mitnick is one of more popular hackers out there it is worth the time watching it.

Must read hacker novels

The novels are in no particular order. I cover different genres here from science-fiction over science-fact to cyberpunk. What I find interesting is the depiction of cyberspace and the twisted picture of (information) technology these novels present.

Neuromancer, Count Zero, Mona Lisa Overdrive

The Neuromancer trilogy from William Gibson was a game changer for the cyberpunk genre. The Matrix (remember the movie up above?) is what the cyberspace is called in Gibson's dark future world. People can connect their brains directly to the Matrix and start surfing in the depths of mankind's common visualized consciousness. The hack of Case, one of Neuromancer's main protagonists, is the archetype for a lot of Shadowrun's Runs.

Snow Crash

Ever wondered why Cyberpunks (the guys you can find in a lot of EBM / Darwave / Gothic clubs) wear these funny goggles on top of their heads and pretend to have colourized dreadlocks? This book is the reason why. People put on their goggles and with some technical magic happening they can access a virtual 3d reality. Besides its dark main theme the novel is quite funny to read.

Daemon, Trojan Horse, Zero Day

I put these three together because I see a lot of similarities between them. They are all categorized as science-fact and have their technical moments. Although the three novels have very different storylines, they are similarly enjoyable as a read. They are set in today's world and create threat scenarios derived from technological problems we are currently facing. The authors are or were IT-consultants and know their craft pretty well.

Ghost in the Wires, The Art of Intrusion, The Art of Deception

All three written by Kevin Mitnick, the books illustrate a certain part of hacker culture and hacking history very lively. Mitnick is a controversial person and you can think of him what you want but his books are fun to read and are especially recommended if you just got started into hacking.

Who did not make it

There is a bunch of more movies and novels which deserve to be watched or read. For the sake of keeping this article rather short I won't elaborate on brilliant pieces of art like 23, War Games, Halting State or the Shadowrun universe. 

TL;DR: Hackers (1995), Ghost in the Shell, Johnny Mnemonic, The Matrix, Blad Runner, Takedown, Neuromancer, Count Zero, Mona Lisa Overdrive, Snow Crash, Daemon, Trojan Horse, Zero Day, Ghost in the Wires, The Art of Intrusion, The Art of Deception

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