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Hackers is a 1995 American thriller film, directed by Iain Softley and starring Angelina Jolie, Jonny Lee Miller, and Matthew Lillard. The screenplay, written by Rafael Moreu, is highly influenced by the hacker and cyberpunk subcultures. The film follows the exploits of a group of gifted high school hackers and their involvement in a corporate extortion conspiracy.

Plot Summary

In 1988, Seattle youth Dade "Zero Cool" Murphy (Jonny Lee Miller) is arrested and charged, at the age of 11, with crashing 1,507 systems in one day and causing a single-day 7-point drop in the New York Stock Exchangemarker. Upon conviction, he is banned from owning or operating computers or touch-tone telephones until his 18th birthday.

Shortly before Dade turns 18, his mother (now divorced) takes a new job in New York Citymarker. Upon turning 18, Dade calls a local television station, dupes the security guard into giving him the modem's phone number (using a tactic known as social engineering) and successfully hacks into the station's computer network, changing the current tv program to an episode of The Outer Limits. However, Dade is "attacked" by a hacker on the same network, (who goes by the handle "Acid Burn") and is eventually kicked off. During the conversation, Dade identifies himself by the new alias, Crash Override.

Dade enrolls Stanton High School, where he meets the beautiful Kate Libby (Angelina Jolie), who is responsible for taking him on a tour of the school. After being told of a "pool on the roof" (which results in Dade and several other students being locked on the roof during a rainstorm) and learning that Kate is "Acid Burn" a feud erupts between Dade and Kate. Their eventual hacking duel, which spans most of the film, is judged by Kate and Dade's mutual friends in the hacking community, The Phantom Phreak, Cereal Killer and Lord Nikon.

The real trouble erupts when Joey Pardella (Jesse Bradford), the younger, novice hacker of the group, successfully breaks into an oil company supercomputer to prove to the rest of the group that he is an elite hacker. In order to validate this feat, he downloads part of a garbage file. Unfortunately, the company's IT employee Hal (Penn Jillette) detects this unauthorized entry into their systems and summons computer security officer Eugene "The Plague" Belford (Fisher Stevens) to deal with the problem. He realizes that the file that is being downloaded can prove that The Plague is stealing money from the company via salami slicing. The Plague enlists the US Secret Service to recover the file by claiming that it is the code to a computer virus that will capsize the company's oil tanker fleet.

What follows is a frantic race against The Plague and the Secret Service to exonerate the hackers before Belford can unleash the virus causing a worldwide ecological disaster.


Hackers was the first major film to star future Academy Award winner Angelina Jolie, and also helped to launch the career of Matthew Lillard. The cast included:


The school scenes are filmed in Stuyvesant High Schoolmarker and the surrounding area in the TriBeCamarker neighborhood of Manhattan.

Cultural influences

The protagonist, Dade Murphy, is based on Robert Tappan Morris.

The film quotes the Hacker Manifesto (written by Loyd Blankenship, also known as The Mentor) from Phrack magazine, issue 07, file 03 in 1986. In the film, the character reading the manifesto was holding a copy of 2600 magazine, not Phrack.

The film makes a brief allusion to the Macintosh's launch phrase as Phreak exclaims "Yo...this is 'insanely great,' it's got a 28.8 bps [sic] modem!" upon seeing Kate's new laptop during the party.

The game briefly featured in the film was a video prototype created during development of Wipeout.

The quote written by Dade in his Advanced English class is from Allen Ginsberg's famous poem, "Howl".

The English tagline (Their Crime is Curiosity) is taken from a line of the Hacker Manifesto ("My crime is that of curiosity"), published in Phrack magazine, issue 07, file 03 in 1986.

Hacker Dave Buchwald, also known as Bill From RNOC, worked as a technical hacker consultant on set and behind the scenes, coaching the cast and assisting the crew during pre-production and filming.


The music soundtrack was released in 3 separate volumes over a number of years. The first volume was composed entirely of music featured in the film (with the exception of Carl Cox's "Phoebus Apollo"), while the second and third are a mix of music "inspired by the film" as well as music actually in the film. Among others, the song "Protection", by Massive Attack featuring Tracey Thorn of Everything But The Girl , plays during the scene where Angelina Jolie's character is on a balcony during the party setting, and the song does not appear on any of the three soundtracks.


Roger Ebert gave the film three out of four stars and wrote, "The movie is smart and entertaining, then, as long as you don't take the computer stuff very seriously. I didn't. I took it approximately as seriously as the archeology in Indiana Jones". In her review for The New York Times, Janet Maslin wrote, "Despite her sullen posturing, which is all this role requires, Ms. Jolie has the sweetly cherubic looks of her father, Jon Voight". In his review for the Los Angeles Times, David Kronke wrote, "All this is courtesy of the short-circuited imagination of Rafael Moreu, making his feature screenwriting debut, and director Iain Softley, who hopes that if he piles on the attitude and stylized visuals, no one will notice just how empty and uninvolving the story really is. All the sound and fury in the world can't disguise the fact that yowling music, typing montages and computer animation do not a gripping finale make". In his review for the Washington Post, Hal Hinson wrote, "As its stars, Miller and Jolie seem just as one-dimensional—except that, in their case, the effect is intentional". In his review for the San Francisco Chronicle, Peter Stack wrote, "Want a believable plot or acting? Forget it. But if you just want knockout images, unabashed eye candy and a riveting look at a complex world that seems both real and fake at the same time, Hackers is one of the most intriguing movies of the year".

See also


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