Top 6: Computer Movies

Posted in Top 6 at 4:59 am by Sam

Our Top 6 list for Episode 16 is about the best movies about computers. Computers are not normally cinematic, and sometimes ridiculous things are done to make them so (see the great programming scene in Swordfish, wherein a swivel chair turns programming into a spectator sport). But once in a while, a great movie is made about computers, and, as we’re nerds, they have a particular appeal for us.

What are your favorite computer movies?

As always, we recommend listening to the episode before reading further.

  1. Office Space (1999)
  2. 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968)
  3. The Matrix (1999)
  4. Blade Runner (1982)
  5. War Games (1983)
  6. Sneakers (1992)
  1. Hot Millions (1968)
  2. Sneakers (1992)
  3. Desk Set (1957)
  4. Tron (1982)
  5. Colossus: The Forbin Project (1970)
  6. The Net (1995)


  1. Grishny (156) said,

    January 16, 2007 at 10:39 am

    Thanks for taking me up on my suggestion last week and cluing us in on the Top Six Topic in advance. As I suspected, I enjoyed listening to the Top Six even more than usual while listening to see how my own picks lined up with yours.

    Sam, I laughed at you too when you picked the Net. I did have that on my long list of all the computer movies I could think of, but I crossed it out almost immediately. I’ve only seen it once and I can barely remember it. The only movies on my list that got discarded quicker were Superman III and The Computer Wore Tennis Shoes.

    My list only lined up with either of yours once; my number two was the same as Stephen’s, 2001. I also thought about including 2010 in my list since it deals with the reawakening and repairing of HAL, but he’s not so much a major character in it so I left it off.

    My list also had Tron and Wargames on it, but in different locations. My other choices were different. As I mentioned to Sam a few days ago when I ran into him in RinkChat, I had trouble coming up with enough “strictly computer” movies that I liked to fill in six slots, so I did more “cheating;” three of my picks are robot movies.

    Here’s my personal top six:

    1. Tron
    2. 2001
    3. Bicentennial Man
    4. The Terminator Movies
    5. D.A.R.Y.L.
    6. Wargames

    I saw Tron when I was eleven, I think. I’ve always loved this movie, and I completely don’t understand where Stephen is coming from in his criticisms of it. The plot seems fairly obvious to me and so do the “rules” of the world. I was a little puzzled during the podcast though because Sam kept referring to the “humans” in the computer world. There’s only one human character who enters the computer world in the movie, Flynn. Everyone else he interacts with while there is a program, although most of them do have human counterparts in the real world.

    Sneakers should have made my list, and Wargames probably shouldn’t have. I’ve seen both but only once, and I barely have any memory of the latter. I thought of Sneakers but for some reason I didn’t really think of it as a “computer movie.”

    I put down all three of the Terminator movies in one slot because I wasn’t really thinking of the different incarnations of the Terminator killing androids as The Computer, but rather the SkyNet computer that is the over-arching villain of all three movies that keeps sending these extensions of itself back through time to kill people.

    I guess I have a soft spot for android movies. D.A.R.Y.L. was one of my favorite movies as a kid, so it had to make my list. As for Bicentennial Man, I actually have a much higher opinion of the original story and the novelized version (called “The Positronic Man”), but despite the movie’s departures from the source material I still like it a lot.

    I’ll miss the Top Six next week, and I hope you’ll remember to clue us in again in two weeks when it returns!

  2. Stephen (221) said,

    January 16, 2007 at 10:52 am

    Oh, and to those who asked for a heads-up on the next Top 6 list before the episode airs, there is no Top 6 next week. It’s a Very Special Episode of All Movie Talk, and we won’t have our usual segments.

  3. Parker (16) said,

    January 16, 2007 at 11:55 am

    Props for the 2001 mention. I’m not a big fan of the movie in general, but seeing HAL 9000 was the first time I realized that artificial intelligence might not be a wholly good thing. Glad to see The Matrix on there too. Is Office Space really *about* computers? I’ll let it slide though, in support of cathartic hardware demolition.

    I would add Terminator 2: Judgment Day to my personal list. It’s a great movie that’s a lot more intelligent than most people give it credit for. It was The Matrix before The Matrix.

  4. Grishny (156) said,

    January 16, 2007 at 12:20 pm

    While I do love T2, I don’t “get” your statement that it was “The Matrix before The Matrix. In what way?

  5. Parker (16) said,

    January 16, 2007 at 12:51 pm

    Artificial intelligence becomes sentient, revolts against the humans, launches global war. Humans organize a resistance, using technology of their own to overthrow the machines. Both action movies. Both show a dark, dystopic future. Both feature an unstoppable computer/program as the main villain (T-1000 vs Agent Smith). Both involve an unwitting hero coming into his own to save the world (John Conner vs Neo). Pretty similar to me.

  6. Grishny (156) said,

    January 16, 2007 at 3:12 pm

    Okay, I see what you’re getting at now. I’ve even commented to people before that The Matrix and the Terminator movies could even take place in the same continuum, with the Matrix films being what might follow if the humans in the Terminator movies ultimately lost their war. I guess I was just trying to see how they compared on a different level or something. Or maybe my brain was just on standby when I read your initial comment and I should have rebooted it before replying. :)

  7. vballgirl (4) said,

    January 16, 2007 at 6:35 pm

    The first one I thought of was The Net. Sandra Bullock is a great actress and I was so impressed with her computer knowledge and savvy. It’s rather disconcerting to know that our technology could mess with your life like that.

    Another one I liked was Andromeda Strain. I know, I watched it not too long ago and hmm. I saw it when I was young and it was about my speed for thrill then. :- )

    Sneakers was one of the first ones we bought on DVD. We didn’t share it with friends and family due to the language in it. Wouldn’t even notice it today with the digression of what’s said on TV now. Great plot, actors and lots of humor!

    The Thirteenth Floor was mind-bending virtual reality and not mentioned so far. Don’t remember too much about the movie, except that it was hard to follow.

    Disclosure had a very cool computer spot in it where Douglas goes through the virtual hall to find files and info. Not strickly a computer movie though.

    Would Spy Kids count? They were more in a video game, right? Colorful, fast action, and kid friendly.

    I deeply respect people who are on the cutting edge of the computer world. One of the only computer movies I couldn’t even stay awake to finish was the Odyssey.

  8. Rifty (64) said,

    January 16, 2007 at 11:37 pm

    I’m probably misremembering, because I saw the movie once a LONG time ago, but wasn’t the virus in The Net written by a guy who stuck it on this Red Disk, and it was started by putting the Disk into the computer and then hitting escape initiated the virus?

    I seem to recall Sandra Bullock at the end inserting the disk in the bad guys computer and either tricking them into hitting Escape, or doing it herself, thus destroying their network, and freeing her identity or something like that.

    Wasn’t that how it worked, or am I just misremembering?


  9. vballgirl (4) said,

    January 17, 2007 at 4:11 am

    This is how I remember The Net: Sandra Bullock’s job was to fix computer viruses. When she was directed to a particularly fatal one, she copied it on a disk for a buddy of hers who collected such viruses. The bad guys, who owned a computer protection service, realized they could be exposed, so they sought to “erase” the people that knew of the virus. Through a series of events, the disk she’d mailed came to be in her possession once again and she was smart enough to use it against the bad guys and notify the FBI. And she lived happily ever after.

  10. Ferrick (140) said,

    January 17, 2007 at 12:24 pm

    I’m so glad you both mentioned Sneakers. I hadn’t thought of it for this list but it is one of my favorite movies. It isn’t a great movie but it is one that I always enjoy watching because it is so much fun. Fun concept, fun actors, fun script and takes place in San Francisco and the Bay Area. It just has a great feel all around. But, if you don’t like computers, you might not like it. It is possible that the actors could save it but it does fit your computer movie theme.

    As for Tron, I saw it in the theatre and LOVED IT. Of course, I was 8 years old, so it was more about the light cycles and discs and video games for me and my friends. I saw it many times as a kid. When I saw it several years later, I not only liked it for nostalgiac reasons but because I understood the computer terms. It isn’t overly complex and I wouldn’t call it a classic but, like Sneakers, I enjoyed it because I thought it was fun. And I think Sam is right in that it was made at the right time.

    Is it true that they are re-making Tron or am I just imagining that I heard that? I don’t think I would want to see a new version. Like Charlie/Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory, the fascination with the original movie as a kid can never be topped and will most likely fall way short.

  11. Sam (405) said,

    January 17, 2007 at 1:34 pm

    I haven’t heard that it’s being remade. There was a “Tron 2.0″ game a few years back.

    Of course there’s no way a remake would work. The original film is entirely dependent upon the technology it was made with. Upgrading to modern visuals would be a remake in name only. Going retro to attempt to emulate the older technology today misses the point.

  12. WarpNacelle (48) said,

    January 17, 2007 at 4:40 pm

    Since Sam put “The Net” on his list, I will risk scorn and shame by mentioning one of my favorite computer movies “The Lawnmower Man”.

    Yes, I enjoy this movie because I love the idea of how Virtual Reality takes over Job to become, what he feels is, his true reality - or a better reality. I love the contrast between realities and is a “virtual” reality better then “actual” reality.

    Also, I vote thumbs up for “Sneakers” as well. I constantly watch that movie and never get tired of it.

  13. Dave (130) said,

    January 18, 2007 at 12:38 pm

    As a completely random side note, “Discs of Tron” was also known as “Tron: Deadly Discs” in some releases of the game. And the version where you stand inside the cabinet, as seen on this page is clearly superior to the non-stand-inside version.

  14. Dave (130) said,

    January 18, 2007 at 12:45 pm

    Sam, you lose all geek cred by hating Office Space and liking The Net. Just because Sandra Bullock is in a movie doesn’t make it good. :-P

  15. Sam (405) said,

    January 18, 2007 at 2:44 pm

    Hey, I never said The Net was a good movie. I merely said I liked it.

  16. Grishny (156) said,

    January 19, 2007 at 10:08 am

    Hey, he never said you said it as a good movie. He merely said you liked it.

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