Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.

In the ’90s, Hollywood took computer hacking to the next level of absurdity

Photo: Universal Pictures

From Jurassic Park to Office Space, films in the 1990s were peppered with plot lines based around computer hacking, seemingly all of which featured random keyboard tapping, unnecessary video game-like 3-D interfaces, and everyone yelling “Hack the Gibson!” for some reason. Computers were exciting, hacker culture was cool, and almost none of it was remotely accurate.

In part two of his ongoing series about hacking on film, Rich Haridy at New Atlas explores the quintessentially ’90s approach to the new and exciting world of computer systems. On his trip through the decade, Haridy examines the hacker evolution from loner nerd characters of the 1980s to rave culture infused black-hats of the 1995 movie Hackers. Plot lines range from the laughably absurd—like hacking Steven Seagal’s Apple Newton in Under Siege 2: Dark Territory—to the mundane yet realistic depiction of uploading a computer virus in Mike Judge’s Office Space.

Whether the Hollywood version of hacking was accurate or not, it didn’t deter the young audiences in the movie theater. By the end of the decade, as Haridy notes, “a whole new generation of hackers raised on Hollywood hacking movies were starting to become active.” How did this newly informed generation affect the depiction of hacking in the next century? We’ll have to wait for the third part of Haridy’s series to find out.


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