Hackers

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Hack the planet!

A 1995 movie about a small group of underground computer hackers who discover a scheme being run by the security chief of a large corporation. In a prologue flashback, lead character Dade Murphy, age eleven, is found guilty of crashing 1,507 computers. Fast forward seven years, where his mother has just moved both of them to New York. Dade, reluctantly at first, falls in with a new hacking crowd. One of the hackers breaks into a supercomputer where, in a Contrived Coincidence, he downloads a virus/worm program that the aforementioned evil security chief is using to steal many millions of dollars. In response, the security chief tries to frame the hackers for both the theft and a planned environmental disaster. Thanks to assistance from hackers world-wide, our heroes manage to prevent the disaster, clear their names, and Dade gets the girl.

Hackers is known for referencing top-of-the-line computers of the time (now horribly, horribly outdated) and unrealistic depictions of hacking, but it nevertheless remains quite entertaining. It's also notable as one of the earliest roles for Angelina Jolie. While real computer hackers will sneer at the movie in public (except for those who find the Did Not Do the Research to be funny as HELL), secretly they desperately wish that it were true: it's a world where hackers are slim and trendy, hackers save the world from evil corporations, and most importantly, Angelina Jolie ditches her jock boyfriend for a hacker.


Tropes used in Hackers include:
  • Anti-Hero: Our heroes are, after all, guilty of numerous computer crimes, many victimless and harmless, others not so much. They're just not nearly as malicious as the bad guys.
  • Big Damn Heroes: Razor and Blade get their moment, leading an army of hackers from around the world.
    • Blessed with Suck: Actually, what he says is "It hurts", and he seems to be being literal. When he spends a day skimming passwords from glancing at peoples' keyboards as they type, he literally gets a headache from trying to sift through all the data he's retaining.
  • Cyberpunk Is Techno: The soundtrack (released over three volumes) was pretty much a pantheon of 90's electronic music.
  • Did Not Do the Research: On purpose. The hacker hired by the studio as a technical adviser wanted to see how much BS he could spin, all of which was unquestioningly accepted. That hacker was none other than Eric Corley (a.k.a. Emmanuel Goldstein), founder of the legendary hacker magazine "2600: The Hacker Quarterly". "It's got a 28.8 bps modem!" He meant Kbps, right? 300 bps wasn't all that great even in 1985, much less 1995.
    • Also, "Habeas Corpus" has absolutely nothing to do with dead bodies.
      • The legal concept, no. However, literally translated from Latin, according to The Other Wiki, it means, "you may have the body." So, kinda.
    • They did some research - the "P6 chip" they mentioned was the soon to be launched Pentium Pro processor, however it never made it to laptop platforms (and on closer inspection the laptop in question was a Mac), wasn't RISC, and wasn't as fast as they seemed to think it would be.
  • Dueling Hackers: Part of the climax.
    • Earlier, the duel between Crash and Burn.
  • Everything Is Online: Including school sprinkler systems.
    • Actually, the sprinklers don't have to be online, just controlled by the school's local network. Dade's shown using school computers to alter his class schedule, so obviously they're hooked into the school network (probably to image the drives from school servers).
  • Expecting Someone Taller: A Running Gag. Whenever Dade confesses he used to be Zero Cool (his hacker alias when he crashed 1507 computers), the other hacker says, "I always thought you were X." Where X is black/a girl/some defining feature of the other hacker.
  • Funny Background Event: When the FBI agent is being interviewed on the news, he is going on about how hackers are dangerous criminals, while the guy they just arrested can be seen in the background sucking his thumb.
  • Gondor Calls for Aid

Anarchists of the world, unite!

  • Hollywood Hacking: The Movie. Not just Rapid-Fire Typing, but in spinning phone booths with VR goggles!
  • Hot Mom: Dade's mom is still pretty good looking.
  • It's Personal: Dade, having an existing criminal record, avoided getting involved... until The Plague threatened his mother.
  • Kick the Dog: Does the FBI really raid hacker dens with SWAT teams and rip computers apart to the individual boards?
    • Yes, they actually do.
    • Actually, to make this trope title more literal, in real life Dade's dog almost certainly would have been executed by the hit squad no-knock raiding his home.
  • Meaningful Rename: The whole point to hacker handles.
    • Dade got arrested ("crashed") but now he's back ("override").
      • Also , 'Lord Nikon', to reference the hacker's photographic memory'.
  • Mobstacle Course: The heroes use the crowds at Grand Central Station to their advantage against the FBI who are coming to arrest them.
  • Ms. Fanservice: Kate
  • One Phone Call: When Ramon gets arrested.
  • Online Alias: Most people use two word phrases, like Acid Burn or Crash Override.
  • Photographic Memory: Lord Nikon has one. Among other things, he has memorised the addresses and phone numbers of every girl at the party they attend.
  • Portmanteau Couple Name: Played with, as parts of Dade's ("Crash Override") and Kate's ("Acid Burn") handles come together to make an amusing title. ("Crash and Burn")
  • Playful Hacker: There's even a quote from Loyd Blankenship's famous "Hacker's Manifesto".
  • Rapid-Fire Typing: every main character in the movie does this, but one particular scene is notable: when Dade uses Kate's new computer and the camera shows us that he's operating several Viewer-Friendly Interface programs at blinding speeds.

Kate: "I hope you don't screw like you type."

  • Romance on the Set: Leads Jonny Lee Miller and Angelina Jolie got married after the movie's release, but divorced a few years later.
  • Rule of Cool: Since a realistic movie about how hacking works would be agonizingly boring to everyone but hardcore hackers, the movie pretty much runs on this.
  • Samus Is a Girl: For the first half of the film, neither Dade nor the audience know that Acid Burn is actually Kate Libby.
  • Shout-Out:
    • Kate's boyfriend refers to Dade and his friends as 'Leopard Boy and the Decepticons.'
    • Cereal Killer's real name is "Emmanuel Goldstein," likely a reference to 2600 founder and editor Eric Corley, who himself uses the name as a reference to the figurehead enemy of Big Brother in George Orwell's "1984."
    • Plague's alias in the aircraft was "Mr. Babbage." Charles Babbage was credited as the originator of the concept for the programmable computer.
    • The elite supercomputers of the movie are called "Gibsons" which is a nod to William Gibson.
    • You talkin' to me?
  • Spell My Name with a "The": He's "The Plague," not "Mister Plague." (At which point, Penn follows up with "Mister The Plague")
  • Tech Marches On: 28.8 Kbps used to be fast. No more.
  • The Password Is Always Swordfish: Or at least it is when whoever chose the password Did Not Do the Research.

The Plague: Someone didn't bother reading my carefully prepared memo on commonly-used passwords. Now, then, as I so meticulously pointed out, the four most-used passwords are: love, sex, secret, and... GOD. So, would your holiness care to change her password?

  • The Nineties
  • Two-Person Pool Party: How Dade and Kate celebrate their victory.
  • What Happened to the Mouse?: Phreak's last appearance was his phone call to Acid Burn, and he's never mentioned directly.
  • Wrongful Accusation Insurance: Although the heroes stopped the tankers from capsizing and exposed Plague's embezzlement scheme, they had to trash a supercomputer to do it. Apparently, the FBI didn't bother prosecuting them for that.
    • Fridge Brilliance! Not only had "The Plague" been plotting to steal millions of dollars and cover his tracks with a global environmental and economic catastrophe - he'd used the Secret Service as his henchmen in the process! And the Secret Service had been attempting to spin the arrests into a hacker Witch Hunt on national television when Cereal exonerated them to the entire planet. They had caught the heroes moments too late to keep them from Saving the World. The Secret Service's own personal D-Day had just become the new Watergate! Imagine that the FBI had arrested Woodward and Bernstein for treason, then attempted to spin it into restart the McCarthy trials just as others released the papers exposing Nixon - actually it's worse, Nixon was President, The Plague was a (falsely) rehabilitated crook! This is about the only way to justify Wrongful Accusation Insurance - smear the cops so badly that if they try to hold you the public will either laugh or lynch them. Agent Richard Gill, hardass agent in charge of the operation, screamed "SON OF A BITCH!" for a reason.