Love science fiction movies, where people are threatened by an AI created by cybercriminals, where only smart but also marginalized or underground programmer nerds can save our world?
Then we’ve got something for you: Our top 10 absolute must-see hacker movies and series on true and fictional stories about hacking and cybersecurity. Sometimes decades old, they show a world which long since seems to be a reality.
Why are hackers a real threat?
Whether you’re banking online, dealing with public authorities, streaming movies, organizing your leisure activities, or finding a partner, we do loads of day-to-day things online without so much as a second thought.
However, increasing digitization has also brought with it a huge increase in cybercriminality, which we’re always hearing about in the media. The mass sending of phishing emails with the aim of stealing users’ log in details and clearing out their bank accounts is just one example of very real threats posed by hackers.
In general, you could say that they’re specialists in IT security, online privacy, data security, public policy, or national security.
How can you protect yourself from hackers?
Thankfully, there are a number of steps you can take to protect yourself from phone hacking attacks — but there’s no guarantee that you won’t ever fall victim to a cyberattack. That’s because fraudsters are using increasingly sophisticated methods.
Let’s start with the easiest step of all: Always keep your operating system and the programs and apps on your devices (laptop, PC, Mac, smartphone, and tablet) up to date. That’s because every update usually also plugs recently discovered security holes.
We’d also urge you to install a tried and tested antivirus app on your devices — something we recommend in practically every blogpost, which is why we won’t dwell on it here.
Cybersecurity solutions can help make hacker attacks more difficult
Use a security solution — like Avira Free Security. Such a solution can help you keep an eye on your devices’ security, online privacy, and performance. With a few clicks, it scans your device and can quickly provide information about possible cyberthreats.
But let’s get down to our hacker movie suggestions!
The Italian Job
Charlie Croker is a master thief. Together with his accomplices Lyle, Handsome Rob, Left Ear, the logistics mastermind Steve, and his father’s mentor John, he has just stolen $35 million worth of gold bars in a sensational heist in Venice.
However, the logistics mastermind and supposed friend Steve turns out to be a ruthless traitor who shoots John and drives the other accomplices into the ice-cold water of a glacial lake in their jeep. One year later, Charlie manages to pick up Steve’s trail again. The killer is holed up in a well-guarded mansion in Los Angeles. But no alarm system, no security guard, and no bloodhounds — no matter how vicious — can stop the thieves who have been done out of what’s theirs.
This series is about Elliot Alderson (Rami Malek) who suffers from anxiety disorder and maintains personal “relationships” solely by hacking into other people’s computers at night. He doesn’t do this with malicious intent or for voyeuristic motives; rather, Elliot wants to protect people. During the day he works at an internet security company, which of course doesn’t mix well with his nightly work.
And then a certain Mr. Robot recruits him for an underground organization that wants to employ technological know-how to rise up against the corporations of the United States.
What’s special about the fictional series Mr. Robot is that the makers brought in IT experts to credibly explain topics such as data protection and information security to us.
The first season of the series, released in 2015, won a Golden Globe and you can watch it on YouTube as well as Amazon Prime.
You’ve probably heard the name Edward Snowden before. The former employee of the US National Security Agency (NSA) uncovered the incredible amounts of data the secret service collects about allied foreign governments and US citizens, and gets it to the world.
His story is considered one of the most important of a whistleblower from government circles of our time, and there are many documentations and reports on this case. The movie Snowdenׅ is based on true facts and covers topics such as computer security, online privacy, data security, government surveillance, public policy, and national security.
The 2000 fictional movie Takedown is also known as Hackers 2, Hackers 2: Takedown, Operation Takedown, or Track Down and tells the story of the arrest of the hacker Kevin Mitnick, who, among other things, uses social engineering methods to hack servers.
For years, Mitnick has been on the run from federal agents while using the latest digital technologies to illegally break into countless computers and IT systems and gain access to sensitive and valuable information. However, when he infiltrates the system of leading cybercrime expert Tsutomu Shimomura, a near-epic chase through cyberspace begins between two cyber geniuses.
Released all the way back in 1982, this movie can definitely be considered a milestone in the history of the science fiction genre. It depicts a world where the boundaries between human and machine no longer exist and AI (artificial intelligence) is becoming more and more powerful.
The ruthless leader of a media empire, Ed Dillinger, steals from his programmers to appropriate their software. When the computer genius Flynn is also robbed by him, he decides to break into Dillinger’s computer network to prove the theft. But Dillinger possesses a self-evolving Master Control Program (MCP) — an emotionless AI that controls cyberspace. When Flynn and some programmer friends try to hack the system, the increasingly powerful MCP catapults him into the digital world dominated solely by programs. Flynn’s only chance to escape this hostile environment is the TRON program, which he must use to penetrate the heart of the MCP.
Released in 1993, this all-star-cast movie follows a group of computer experts who call themselves “Sneakers” and conduct planned break-ins to test the security systems of various banks — all of whom make a good living.
But then their leader Martin Bishop (Robert Redford), with his dark hacking past, is pressured by two NSA agents to accept a dubious assignment. He reluctantly agrees to help his people procure a secret decryption machine owned by a mathematical genius. The supposedly simple assignment turns into a leap into a viper’s nest, because nothing is what it seems, leading to Bishop and his team getting caught up in a conspiracy.
The first Matrix movie was released in 1999 and the movies that followed in 2003 and 2021 also broke box office records. It’s long since become one of the must-see movie classics.
A hacker called Neo is contacted via the internet by a mysterious underground organization. The leader of the group — wanted terrorist Morpheus — lets him in on a secret that is hidden from the human race: “Reality as we experience it is only an illusion. In truth, we have long been ruled by a sinister virtual force — the Matrix. Their agents already have Neo in their sights and are trying everything to eliminate him and, in doing so, the underground movement.
The young Zero Cool (Jonny Lee Miller) is considered a living legend on the hacker scene. Because this computer freak caused all kinds of damage during his forays into the cyberworld — including on Wall Street — he’s not allowed to go near a computer again until his 18th birthday.
When Acid Burn (Angelina Jolie) appears on the hacker scene and gets close to Zero Cool’s ingenuity with her incredibly fast PC, he breaks all the rules, because he can’t stand the fact that someone has toppled him from his throne — and he also wants to prove to the young woman that he’s the best.
Of course, this makes the police spring into action and, to make matters worse, the industrialist and cybercriminal The Plague attempts to lure Dade and the other hackers into a nasty trap. Zero Cool and Acid Burn must team up in this movie, which was released in 1996, to fend off a large-scale conspiracy.
The Fifth Estate
Released in 2013, The Fifth Estate, a real-life political thriller, stars Benedict Cumberbatch as WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange.
Together with his closest confidant and collaborator, Daniel Domscheit-Berg (Daniel Brühl), Assange develops the WikiLeaks website, thereby changing the way information is distributed worldwide. They see their site as a disclosure platform for people who want to publish secret information anonymously to reveal political, social, and economic corruption. Assange and Domscheit-Berg quickly become world-renowned activists. However, when they find the largest trove of secret documents in American history, the two get into a fight about the basic direction of their work. They are increasingly in the public eye, but also in the permanent focus of governments and secret services, and so the question arises as to how far you can go when publishing secret documents.
This movie from 1983 is set during the Cold War, when computers — and gigantic data networks like the Internet — weren’t as widespread as they are now. The global population therefore had great respect for the power of such computers and, above all, was afraid of what they could do.
The movie is about David, a high school student with a special talent for computers and video games. When he hacks into a computer system to play a new unreleased video game, he unintentionally connects to a military supercomputer. This gets out of control and there is a threat of actual nuclear war. Of course, only David can prevent the atomic end of the world.
Nobody can prevent all instances of cybercrime or identity theft.
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¹ For recovery assistance, contact Customer Service (Mon-Fri 9am-4pm). An identity recovery specialist will then call you back within 48 hours.