Hollywood has successfully created an incorrect stereotype in the minds of the audience when it comes to hacking. The formula for this is very simple; take a black computer screen, words that seem look something like MS-DOS, a random assortment of technology jargon that might not make any amount of sense and an actor who can type fast, very fast. In reality, hacking can be very different and far simpler than this. Computers making weird noises, abstract screens and flashing lights is probably not what an average hacker sees when they are doing their job. This shortfall for understanding the mechanisms of hacking is not confined to the low budget movies but even to some of the more popular blockbusters.
Most Ridiculous Hacking Scenes
This list lists down 8 movie scenes where any hacker would go ‘Oh my god’ and facepalm themselves, knowing very well that this is not how it is done.
1. The Core
Phreaking or also known as Telephone Hacking was a common use prior to the computerization of telephone calls. It was a method by which hackers could get free long distance calls by simply humming a tone into the phone. This has long been deemed dead after the advent of computer technology. In this 2003 movie, a hacker by the name of The Rat gives Aaron Eckhart’s cell phone free calls by phreaking the phone using a Wrigleys wrapper to modulate his voice. The fact that the movie is set in the year of 2003 and that The Rat phreaked a cellphone, makes this a highly impossible hack that too with the added simplicity and calmness with which it was done.
2. Jurassic Park
Ok, so kids are smart and they can know more about technology than their parents. But can they control the main computer system of an entire company without having any prior knowledge whatsoever? Jurassic Park would like you to think so. In this scene, Velociraptors are attacking the humans and power is down. In order to get rescue, they need to restart the power which can only be controlled by the main computer system. Nobody in the room knows how to operate one, but hang on, the teenage girl definitely knows! And how does she know may you ask, because it is a Unix system! For those who are unaware, Unix is an operating system, much like Windows but simply knowing how to use a Unix system means that you know how to operate the main software of Jurassic Park? The ridiculousness does not end there, not only does Lex manage to navigate through the software but she also manages to correctly identify the file (god knows how) and manages to restore the power. It is a little too much for the audience to expect from a teenage girl and judging by the way she holds her mouse, she might just be using a computer for the first time ever.
Who thought that the most famous spy movie in the world would have some ridiculous scenes on technology? Well it does actually. In this scene, a Russian hacker, Boris, is seen hacking into the CIA systems but gets caught and his access is denied. In the real world, this would be a difficult spot to get out of but not for the amazing Boris. He simply types ‘Send Spike’ and hey presto! We wish it were that easy to hack into the systems and even get out of it if caught.
A movie that is made solely on the concept of hacking, surely they would know a thing or two about this, right? Wrong! This movie tries to harness our illiterate knowledge of hacking and puts it all together into one movie to make us believe in it and praise the creators for their immense knowledge. The movies facts on hacking are so bad that actual hackers vandalized the movies promotional website soon after its release to protest against the inaccuracies shown in the movie. There are two scenes that stand out as the biggest sore points in the entire movie that have earned it a spot on this list. In one of the initial scenes, a hacker by the name of Crash Override hacks into a TV network station and changes the program being telecasted. Another hacker, Acid Burn learns of Crash Override’s infiltration and they both battle it between themselves for supremacy. The most ridiculous part is the automated VCR changing machines fighting between themselves to denote that hacking war going on between the two.
The stupidity of the movie doesn’t end there. In another scene where a hacker is trying to locate a file on the hard drive of another computer, a visual 3D rendering of the hard drive is shown with lights zipping randomly, binary numbers falling a whole lot of tech jargon that doesn’t make sense. The fact that they made a 3D rendering of the insides of a hard disk and expected the hacker to navigate through as if they are in a game is completely ridiculous and hilarious at the same time.
Swordfish is another epic hacking movie that lives on the lack of knowledge of technology of the audience by the makers of the movie. The hopeless bright coloured screens that Hugh Jackman constantly works on with the very stereotypical technology fonts does little to connect this movie even mildly with reality. The depiction of a virus is a brightly colour gem stone of some sorts, a depiction that probably tries to gain some ‘wows’ from the audience but ended up being a complete dud.
The most outrageous scene is where Hugh Jackman is forced to hack into the Department of Defense website, after having some tequila and whilst a girl is giving him a blow job and within sixty seconds. The sixty seconds is the most outrageous bit even after John Travolta admits that the best hackers in the world need sixty minutes to complete this. The fact that he is giving him 1/60th of the time is utterly ridiculous to even a non-hacker to know it.
Another James Bond movie manages to feature on this list but the sad part being that the culprit here is Q. Now Q is supposed to be the smartest guy at the MI6 with immense knowledge about technology and gadgets. In Skyfall, however, it seems Q’s character has been influenced by the stereotypical hacking movie that Hollywood loves so much. In this scene, Q is going through the villains laptop and they somehow manage to see encrypted data as a visual web. Fancy graphics, numbers whizzing and tech fonts is what Bond and Q get to see. Who has ever heard of data having a visual representation in form of a complex web of lines and numbers? And when they finally manage to decrypt the data (a process that can spark another debate in itself) shows another fancy rendering of the London tube network. An epic failure for Mr. Bond once again.
This movie should ideally feature right on top of this list but since it was made way back when the knowledge of computers were very limited, it can be passed off as being imaginative about the future. The movie shows a teenage kid, Matthew Broderick hacking into NORAD and thinking that he has found the server of a game company. He gets access to all of the nuclear missiles and thinks that he is playing some sort of game between USA and USSR. The whole idea of a child playing a game on NORAD and the entire concept of the movie being extremely outlandish with the usual added computer graphics makes this one very hopeless technology movie.
8. Enemy of the State
When you take a picture, the image is in 2D. That means that the way you are seeing the image is the only way to do so, but that is not the case in this movie. With scene having Jack Black, you might think that there is some humor or joke attached to it but turns out that they are actually serious about it. The scene shows Jack showing his colleagues a recording from a surveillance camera, then manages to somehow rotate the image by 75 degrees (it actually is supposed to be 180 degrees considering the direction he rotated in) and shows them the other side of the image. He then proceeds to zoom in on the image and then ‘enhance’ which magically makes the image high definition and more understandable. The fact that they took so much effort because a shopping bag had a bulge which appears to be holding something considering the shadow and the light falling on it is utterly ridiculous. I can’t imagine how much time Black must have wasted on this to even discover this tiny fact from surveillance footage.
In the defense of the movies, hacking in real life is quite static, slow and boring and replicating that on screen would probably not go in the interest of the movie. It is probably the reason why directors create visual impressions, geeky sounds and showcase fast typing to make it look very cool and intense. Another culprit is the complete lack of computer knowledge to showcase hacking in a correct manner which eventually leads the makers of the movie in using their own imagination and end up creating something completely disconnected from reality. So the next time you see the usual clichés on screen, be sure to know that this is not actually how hacking is done. I hope you enjoyed the post.