Hackers (film)

Hackers (film)

Infobox Film
name = Hackers

imdb_rating =
5.7/10 (12,734 votes)
imdb_id = 0113243
writer = Rafael Moreu
starring = Jonny Lee Miller
Angelina Jolie
Jesse Bradford
Matthew Lillard
Fisher Stevens
Renoly Santiago
Laurence Mason
director = Iain Softley
producer = Michael Peyser
distributor = Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer
cinematography = Andrzej Sekula
released = September 15, 1995 (USA)
runtime = 107 min.
country = USA
language = English
budget =
music =
awards =
Infobox movie certificates
United_States = PG-13 (certificate #33561)
United_Kingdom = 12
Canada = PG
Denmark = 13
Germany = 12
Australia = M
Singapore = PG
Ireland = 15
Netherlands = 12
Argentina = 13
Spain = 13

"Hackers" is a 1995 film that follows the misfortunes of the young hackers Dade Murphy ('Crash Override'/'Zero Cool', played by Jonny Lee Miller), Kate Libby ('Acid Burn', played by Angelina Jolie) and their friends. It was written by Rafael Moreu and directed by Iain Softley.

The movie Hackers failed to make a profit at the box office but has developed a cult following from its video release. It contains numerous inaccuracies, among them that metaphorical and graphical sequences are used as a substitute for the real actions involved in hacking and systems administration.

It is the first major film to star future Academy Award winner Angelina Jolie, and helped to launch the career of Matthew Lillard.

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 Exchange. Upon conviction he is banned from owning or operating computers or touch tone telephones until his 18th birthday. Shortly before Dade turns 18 his divorced mother Lauren Murphy (Alberta Watson) takes a new job in New York City. 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 television program to an episode of "The Outer Limits". However, Dade - now calling himself 'Crash Override' - is attacked by hacker 'Acid Burn' on the same network and is eventually kicked off. Dade enrolls in the prestigious 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) a feud erupts between Dade and Kate. This feud, which spans most of the movie, is umpired by Kate and Dade's mutual friends in the hacking community, Emmanuel Goldstein a.k.a. Cereal Killer (Matthew Lillard), Ramon Sanchez a.k.a. Phantom Phreak (Renoly Santiago), and Paul Cook a.k.a. Lord Nikon (Laurence Mason).

The real trouble erupts when Joey Pardella (Jesse Bradford), the younger, novice hacker of the group, successfully breaks into the supercomputer of a petroleum company, Ellingson Mineral Corporation, to prove to the rest of the clique that he is more than a mere script kiddie. In order to validate this feat, he downloads part of a garbage file. Unfortunately, the company's IT staff detect this unauthorized entry into their systems and summon computer security expert Eugene "The Plague" Belford (Fisher Stevens), himself an amoral Greyhat hacker, to deal with the problem. After investigating the matter, however, The Plague realizes that the seemingly innocuous file that was downloaded is more than just a garbage file - he himself has been using it as a hidden location from which he has been running an illegal program for years, stealing money from the company via "salami slicing". Knowing a hacker would instantly recognize the tricks of the trade and his otherwise cleverly disguised handiwork, The Plague resolves to cover his tracks. He creates an insidious virus "The DaVinci Virus" (parodying the real life Michelangelo Virus) and installs it across Ellingson's entire network, then enlists the Secret Service to arrest Joey, dismantle his equipment and confiscate the file for him. In order to "motivate" Ellingson and the Secret Service in this matter, The Plague's virus leaves a message: unless Ellingson allocates five million US dollars into a numbered bank account within a week, the virus will capsize a large portion of Ellingson's automated tanker fleet, causing a global ecological catastrophe. The full source code for the virus, The Plague claims, is located in the file, and he will need it in order to track down and fully disable the virus that Joey allegedly distributed throughout the system.

When the file is not found, however, due to some quick thinking on Joey's behalf, he is released pending a trial regarding the many other illegal warez discovered in his possession. He brings the disk (hidden in a cigarette carton in the ceiling grating of his bedroom) to Phantom Phreak. Phreak realizes that Joey is being watched by Secret Service agents and both flee. Knowing he will probably also be arrested, Phreak hides the disk, then later calls Kate from jail and pleas for her to do whatever possible to figure out what's on the disk so they can clear their names. Kate and Dade put their competition on hold as Dade, Kate, Cereal Killer, and Lord Nikon attempt to decipher Joey's garbage file. However, after Kate asks Dade to make a copy of the disk, Plague demands his file back, threatening to change Dade's mother's criminal records to include drug offenses and parole violation, so that she will be arrested and incarcerated without trial, and then change them back, effectively making her "disappear." Dade reluctantly complies. After a marathon midnight brainstorming session, Dade, Kate, Nikon and Cereal Killer have figured out what the file contains: portions of the source code to a computer worm, planted within the Ellingson computer system, that has been stealing a few cents from each transaction Ellingson makes. At this point, the worm has stolen over $21 million. Upon realizing that in order to clear Joey and Phreak, they need to know who planted the worm, at which point Dade reveals that he knows that Plague is behind it, that he gave him the disk, and that Plague came to him because Dade, as Zero Cool, was his first suspect.

Desperate to stop Plague's plans, Dade plans to hack into Ellingson's Gibson supercomputer where the file is believed to have originated. Dade and Kate raid Ellingson's dumpster for discarded Ellingson memos to collect passwords, Cereal Killer poses as a telecom worker to install a wiretap, and Nikon poses as a delivery boy and wanders into Ellingson's cube farm, memorizing passwords as workers type them in. While listening in on the wiretap, they discover that Plague has told the Secret Service that Ellingson has been hacked again, and subsequently the four of them are scheduled to be arrested at nine the following morning. Trying to get more help, they ask for aid from hacker personalities Razor and Blade, who run a late-night pirate TV show entitled "Hack the Planet." They tell Kate and Dade that they will need more than just a pair of media icons; they will need a vast hacker army. The next morning, the four of them make their way to Grand Central Station, but not before first causing a multi-car accident that keeps the Secret Service at bay. Plague, meanwhile, has been made aware of their attempts and begins fending off their virus attacks. Plague calls Dade to tell him that he has traced their calls and sent the Secret Service to Grand Central, and warns him to flee if he wants to avoid jail. Dade rebuffs him, and Plague severs Dade's connection. Just in time, however, Razor and Blade's "hacker army" arrives, as hackers from around the world begin launching viruses at the Gibson. Joey finds the original file, copies it and then the collective hackers crash the Gibson. Just then, Dade and company are arrested.Dade surreptitiously throws the new disk in the trash, and yelling, "They're TRASHING our rights!" informs Cereal Killer, hiding amongst the crowd, where the disk is hidden.

As Richard Gill prepares to give another press conference, his feed is cut, and his image is replaced with that of Cereal Killer, who reveals the entire plot: the Da Vinci virus is nothing more than a ruse, to distract from the $25 million Plague was stealing from the company. Plague attempts to escape incognito, posing as Charles Babbage, but he is arrested aboard a flight to Tokyo. Finally in the clear, Dade and Kate go on a date together, and "Mess with the Best, Die like the Rest," as were the terms if Dade had won their contest. They sneak onto a pool on the roof of a skyscraper, where they see the lights on several neighboring skyscrapers spell out "Crash and Burn."


The protagonist, Zero Cool, 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". Also, the name of one character, Emmanuel Goldstein ("Cereal Killer"), is borrowed from the pseudonym of Eric Corley, one of the editors of "2600" (Corley got the name from George Orwell's "1984"). Corley helped advise the filmmakers on the hacker subculture, but remains a critic of the film's accuracy.

The film also 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 racing game briefly featured in the movie was a video prototype created during development of Wipeout. The movie also includes a fictional pirate television show called "Hack the Planet".

Film notes

* "Hack the Gibson" is a phrase used in the movie that refers to the hacking of a Gibson supercomputer, a fictional brand of supercomputer probably referring to science fiction author William Gibson, father of the cyberpunk genre and coiner of the term "cyberspace". It is used colloquially to impugn an achievement, particularly as regards to computers (for example, "Brian thought he was totally hacking the Gibson but ended up formatting his hard drive instead").
* The real name of Matthew Lillard's character, Emmanuel Goldstein, is taken from George Orwell's novel "1984", which Goldstein mentions at one point during the movie; the fact is also alluded to in a dream sequence when an image of Agent Richard Gill tells The Phantom Phreak (also known as Ramon Sanchez) that "I'm watching you." Emmanuel Goldstein is also the pseudonym of Eric Corley, who was a technical consultant for the film. A copy of Corley's "2600" also appears briefly hanging on a wall during the movie.
* "The Outer Limits" episode briefly seen and heard earlier in the film is The Architects of Fear.
* 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, 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.
* Laurence Mason's character Lord Nikon was given the name because of his photographic memory. Also, logos and design similar to those of Nikon are displayed at various points in the movie.
* 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.
* The handle Crash Override is taken from Flash Override, the highest priority level in the Autovon system.
* The handle Zero Cool is also the name of a Michael Crichton novel.
* The handle The Plague is taken from a member of a hacker group called Masters of Deception (MoD).
* Hacker Bill From RNOC, also known as Dave Buchwald, worked as a technical hacker consultant on set and behind the scenes, coaching the cast and assisting the crew during pre-production and filming.
* From the DVD release booklet:

"Hackers Hacked! When MGM/UA set up a [http://web.archive.org/web/19981201235406/www.mgmua.com/hackers/ website] for Hackers, it was like dangling candy in front of a child. Soon after the site was established, [http://web.archive.org/web/20000229152611/www.mgmua.com/hackers/inventory/hacked/index.html it was hacked] ! A group calling itself the Internet Liberation Front managed to 'doodle' all over the photograph of Hackers stars Angelina Jolie and Jonny Lee Miller, and replaced verbiage, 'this is going to be an entertaining, fun promotional site for a movie,' with 'this is going to be a lame, cheesy promotional site for a movie!' The studio decided to maintain the site during the theatrical run of the movie in its altered form."

However, this is often said to be a publicity stunt by the marketing people involved rather than anything to do with the film.


Label: Edel America
Original Release Date: June 25th, 1996 (U.S.A.)


# "Original Bedroom Rockers" by Kruder & Dorfmeister
# "Cowgirl" by Underworld
# "Voodoo People" by The Prodigy
# "Open Up" by Leftfield
# "Phoebus Apollo" by Carl Cox
# "The Joker" by Josh Abrahams
# "Halcyon & On & On" by Orbital
# "Communicate" (Headquake Hazy Cloud Mix) by Plastico
# "One Love" by The Prodigy
# "Connected" by Stereo MC's
# "Eyes, Lips, Body" (Mekon Vocal Mix) by Ramshackle
# "Good Grief" by Urban Dance Squad
# "Richest Junkie Still Alive" (Sank Remix) by Machines of Loving Grace
# "Heaven Knows" by Squeeze

Non released tracks

Some musical pieces were not released on the official soundtrack, but do make a significant impact on the movie, such as the 'worm hacking' scene and the music around and in Grand Central Station
# "Protection" by Massive Attack
# "Inspection Check One" by Leftfield (Released on Hackers 2: Music From And Inspired By The Original Motion Picture "Hackers")
# "Original" by Leftfield (Released on Hackers 2: Music From And Inspired By The Original Motion Picture "Hackers")
# "Combination" (suggested title) by Guy Pratt
# "Grand Central Station" (suggested title) by Guy Pratt
# "Real Wild Child" (Wild One) by Iggy Pop, this song is sung by Joey under the shower

oundtrack: Hackers 2

Full Title Hackers 2: Music From and Inspired by the Original Motion Picture
Label: Edeltone
Original Release Date: October 21st, 1997 (U.S.A.)

Tracks (from Hackers 2)

# "Firestarter" by The Prodigy
# "Toxygene" by The Orb
# "Little Wonder (Danny Saber Dance Mix)" by David Bowie
# "Fire" by Scooter
# "Narcotic Influence 2" by Empirion
# "Remember" by BT
# "Go" by Moby
# "Inspection (Check One)" by Leftfield
# "Cherry Pie" by Underworld
# "To Be Loved (Disco Citizens R&D Edit)" by Luce Drayton
# "Speed Freak [Moby Remix] " by Orbital
# "Get Ready to Bounce [Radio Attack] " by Brooklyn Bounce
# "Offshore [Disco Citizens Edit] " by Chicane
# "Original" by Leftfield

oundtrack: Hackers 3

Full Title Hackers 3: Music From and Inspired by the Original Motion Picture
Label: Edeltone
Original Release Date: September 21, 1999 (U.S.A.)

Tracks (from Hackers 3)

# "Why Can't It Stop" by Moby
# "Godspeed (BT Edit Mix)" by BT
# "Absurd (Whitewash Mix)" by Fluke
# "Quiet Then" by Cloak
# "I Am Fresh" by Monkey Mafia
# "Phuture 2000 (Radio Edit)" by Carl Cox
# "An Fhomhair" by Orbital
# "Fashion (Ian Pooley Mix)" by Phunky Data
# "Psychopath (Leftfield Mix)" by John Lydon
# "Stop & Panic" by Cirrus
# "Strong In Love" by Chicane
# "Hack The Planet" by Brooklyn Bounce
# "Diskette" by Simon Boswell
# "Launch Di Vinci" by Simon Boswell

ee also

* Sneakers (film)


External links

* [http://corky.net/scripts/hackers.html "Hackers" transcript]
* [http://web.archive.org/web/19981201235406/www.mgmua.com/hackers/ Original MGM/UA website] (on [http://archive.org Archive.org] )
* [http://web.archive.org/web/20000229152611/www.mgmua.com/hackers/inventory/hacked/index.html Hacked website] - Original MGM/UA website after defacement by the Internet Liberation Front (on [http://archive.org Archive.org] )

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