Movies are a powerful part of our modern culture and influence us in ways we seldom think about—from the clothes we wear to the music we listen to...even our career choices and how we think about them. Over the years technology has played an ever bigger role in our lives, and that’s been reflected in films of the past 40 years. But as technology has become a thematic element, exploiting it and securing it has also emerged as a major part of film, and that’s had a profound influence over the years on both the technology and cybersecurity industries, both as a source of inspiration...or as just something to laugh about or have fun with.
So which are the movies that have come to have an outsized influence on our industry? We humbly present our list of the top 15 Must Watch Cybersecurity Movies For Cloud Security Pro’s.
Disagree with one or have an idea for something we missed? Join the conversation on social media and let us know.
15 Must Watch Movies For Cloud Security Pro’s1. Hackers (1995)
Yeah yeah, we know. It’s bad. The clothes, the rollerblades, the cartoon viruses. But, you shouldn’t discount how influential this movie was—however cool it may be to scoff at it now. Granted, while you can’t stop a computer virus by simply typing “cookie”, Hackers introduced a romanticized version of hacking to the first generation of digital natives, especially since it debuted alongside books like Masters of Deception. By positioning Zero Cool and his “hack the planet” pals as the antiheroes using their powers for good, the film had a hand in shaping the white hat ethos embraced by many security professionals today.2. Sneakers (1992)
Sporting an all-star cast, this forgotten 90’s gem is a throwback to the past. Basically the only movie to turn penetration testers into heros, the movie features the old school cool of phone freaking and not-quite-accurate understanding of how computers work that only the 90’s could deliver. This movie is another one that inspired a generation of security pro’s to reimagine what a computer could be capable of.3. Oceans 11 (2001)
While not technically a cybersecurity movie, Oceans 11 is a great example of how an organized and determined group can leverage social engineering and physical security flaws to compromise security systems. Plus, the movie has aged remarkably well.
4. Wargames (1983)
It turns out challenging a military computer to a game of tic-tac-toe can lead to the apocalypse. But we would argue that Matthew Broderick’s character helped make the idea of being a computer prodigy cool and accessible to the Gen X’ers who would later go on to be the first true dedicated security professionals.
5. The Matrix (1999)
If you think about it, the Matrix Trilogy is really just a bunch of movies about the world’s worst cybersecurity. Despite being reduced to living in squalor—literally living in the sewers, humanity is able to repeatedly hack into The Machine’s network via a vulnerability that The Machines never get around to patching, establish persistence in their insanely advanced VR, and eventually bring the whole system down from the inside. That CISO is definitely having a bad day.
6. The Net (1995)
Coming hot on the heels of Sandra Bullock’s turn in Speed, The Net hits different now than it did back in 1995. While sorta plausible back then, the idea of cyberterrorists using complex intrusion techniques to hold companies' data hostage and create real world consequences seemed kinda fantastical. In 2021...well….not so much. But at least ransomware hasn’t devolved into complex murderous conspiracies involving large software companies. That we know of.
7. Terminator 2 (1991)
There’s certainly an argument that Terminator 2 should be sitting at the top of this list. While everyone’s focus is on Arnold and the T1000, what gets lost is that Judgement Day and the events that follow (or precede? Time travel, right?) result from an AI’s ability to breach most of the world’s computer systems. As our world moves increasingly towards automation, T2 stands as a cautionary tale, especially with regards to explainable AI. Afterall, humanity’s downfall is linked to trusting computer systems who’s decisions and capabilities aren’t fully understood, even by its creators.
8. Catch Me If You Can (2002)
There isn’t a single computer in Catch Me If You Can. But cybersecurity professionals should still watch the movie to fully understand the power of social engineering. While it’s part of pretty much everyone’s annual cybersecurity training, the movie does a great job of showcasing how convincing a bad actor can be, and why everyone should follow a “trust but verify” mindset.
9. Tron (1982)
Being a software engineer has never seemed quite as cool as Kevin Flynn made it look in Tron. This insanely influential movie still informs art, industrial design, and music today-- but at its heart it’s really a tale of a hacker battling against an evil corporation and the power-hungry virtual-intelligence hidden inside it’s servers.
10. Enemy of the State (1998)
The 90’s were a good time for conspiracy theories. From The X-Files to VR.5 (anyone remember that one-season Fox gem?), to Enemy of the State, there were plenty of tales of government gone bad out there. But Enemy of the State stands out as one that hits plausibly close to home. As more consumers were exposed to powerful technology, there was a growing awareness of how much data about our lives was exposed on the internet and how that data could be manipulated by either illicit or state-sanctioned actors. This film has stood the test of time, especially today when concerns about data privacy have become all too real.
11. Jurassic Park (1993)
There’s probably not a cybersecurity practitioner in the world that hasn’t at some point felt like Samuel L. Jackson’s character in Jurassic Park. Locked out of the system and desperate to get things back online, he’s reduced to all-nighters, chain smoking, and crushing coffee while trying everything under his power to save the park. Fortunately, most of us won’t meet a grisly end as a velociraptor meal while trying to reset the system.
12. Johnny Mnemonic (1995)
Would you let a dolphin hack your brain? Based on a story by William Gibson– who coined the tern cyberspace, btw– the movie hasn’t necessarily aged well (like most dystopian-genre movies of the mid-90’s), but it's definitely worth a watch for the concepts alone. The idea of hacking a brain wasn’t new (see Ghost In The Shell below), but the idea of a world so saturated in information that it creates a disease and the implications for cybersecurity definitely gives you some food for thought.
13. Ghost In The Shell (1995)
An anime classic, this movie is both an entertaining action flick as well as a meditation on what it means to be human, the definition of consciousness, and unintended consequences, and more. It’s also a great expose of the danger of poor cybersecurity in an increasingly interconnected world—especially as technology focuses more on the home and wearables.
14. Office Space (1999)
Hidden inside this dark comedy about the existential void that is the cubicle is an examination of the insider threats you could face from disgruntled employees with a little computer know-how. In this case the bumbling scheme involves directly stealing money, but could have just as easily involved theft of IP or more malicious activities. The highlight of the movie for any security pro should be when the characters are surprised at how easy their scheme is to execute, done by simply uploading a homewritten program into an unsecured workstation.
15. Skyfall (2012)
Yes, we’re rounding out this list with a Bond movie, and no—it’s not about a Bond gadget. Instead, we’re thinking about when Q plugs the villain's laptop in the MI6 system for analysis. He pours himself a cup of tea into his “Q” Scrabble tile mug and sits back with a smug look on his face to watch his security engineers go to work. He then helplessly watches in horror as his system is infected with a virus that effectively shuts down MI6. This is the government-level equivalent of plugging a random USB someone on the subway gave you into your workstation.
Did we miss any movies you’d recommend? Let us know on social media.
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Tag(s): cloud security
Brian Thomas is the head of content marketing at Uptycs, and has 15 years of experience as an advertising creative, copywriter, and more recently as a content marketing leader specializing in tech and security. Prior to Uptycs, Brian led content marketing operations for Lenovo's software division and headed up content...
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