I have a younger partner who does infosec - she's never seen Hackers and I skimmed it, thinking about showing it to her. It's fun, but it's aged poorly to the point that it'd be too cringe to show her. Sneakers, in contrast, has aged really well. It's the only film I've seen that "gets" the hacker ethos, its culture and history... and has relatively realistic depictions of hacking (a lot of social engineering, research and a bit of computer hacking).
A lot of fantastic actors, and a real treat to see one of the handful of films River Phoenix did (taken far too soon).
Sneakers is an unambiguously fantastic thriller with god tier cast.
But Hackers is a classic too and always meant as over the top fun. I don't think it's aged badly, it was ludicrous at the time too. It's now a period piece that captures the imagination of the moment. If you can't find joy in people hacking while roller blading as The Prodigy blasts man... I don't know, shame. The 90's sure feel like a lot more fun than today. There are a lot of things that work in the film and have stayed with me over the decades. Whether it's Joey at AA for computer addiction, everyone geeking out over a laptop, "ugly red book that won't fit on the shelf" or "It's in that place I put that thing one time".
I absolutely love Sneakers, but I think you're writing Hackers off too easily - my experience is that it's widely loved within the infosec community, not because it's accurate in any way (it is extremely obviously not) but because it captures what people want hacking to be. You should absolutely watch it together, and if she hates it you should just blame me.
No way, definitely watch Hackers! It's actually a really great capture of the kinda wild computing/hacker culture of the 90's, super on-point aesthetically. Plus the plot is pretty fun. It's a super cult classic for a reason, and gets so many things right. The cheesiness is actually not too bad and IMO a key part of the charm. There are some really cool scenes too.
I showed Hackers to my girlfriend a few years ago. I am a software developer who has seen it multiple times. She isn't into computers at all and had never seen it before. But we both really enjoyed it. It's a fun movie that fantastical enough to be fun and engaging while grounded enough to be believable. The less-realistic parts didn't break the immersion for her but were a source of amusement for me that didn't ruin the overall experience
I own it on DVD and just watched the special feature a couple weeks ago. It was really interesting to hear them talk about the research for the script, including getting Prof Adelman (the A in RSA) to consult on the lecture the mathematician was giving, and even to draft slides for him to present, which were not used in favor of projecting a sea of equations on a white background
There are other cool tidbits in there, they got an phreaker (sp?, phone hacker) who had done time in prison to consult as well. His nickname irl was Captain Crunch, and when they sort through the guy's garbage (the guy who's office they need to break into, played by the same actor as Action Jack Barker in Silicon Valley), they pull out a captain crunch box
The term you're looking for is "phone phreak". There's another reference to John Draper (Captain Crunch) early in the movie. When they are playing Scrabble, one of the words is SCRUNCHY - and the S and Y are separated from the rest of the word at first, so you see CRUNCH.
John was also a technical consultant for the film and appears in the documentary on the DVD.
For those who don't have it yet, I definitely recommend getting the DVD for the special features.
(The cheapest seller is GRUV which happens to be Universal Pictures.)
I’ve always seen “phreaker” on 80’s era BBSes. This is the first time I’ve seen “phone phreak”. Maybe regional differences in us old school nerds?
I've bought from GRUV once, it was an obvious bootleg so never again.
Sneakers and Wargames were in the position when studios had the desire to not dumb down the plot or the fact that since computers were so new that they could be introduced in such a manner and be a compelling part of the narrative. Even when Hackers had people from the 2600 magazine consulted for production you can see that they weren't really listened to. The only really popular shows that stressed realism in hacking / software were Person of Interest and Mr Robot.
Well, PoI said some of the right things, but everything was too easy, frankly. So, I'd say just Mr. Robot.
POI and Mr. robot's hacking situations were both too easy but relative to Mr Robot yes POI was extremely more easy. I was more speaking to technical accuracy that was actually in the writing of the script (but for POI it was glossed over how to make the AI work and Mr Robot just made good situations that someone could actually do). But, at least POI and Mr Robot were trying.
The other fun fact is Sneakers that is beloved by both an entire generation of the IT security and intelligence/signals community .
For a lot of us it was another nudge into both the blue and red sides of the security equation.
> The fact that they got Redford, Poitier, Aykroyd, and many other greats made it shine.
Reminder that Poitier died fairly recent: January 6, 2022 (at 94).
Sneakers and War Games (and also Tron) are great.
We're running a consensus protocol bounty challenge for TigerBeetleDB inspired by them , with our distributed database simulator also being called The VOPR.
I've been looking for the pool on the roof since I was about 8 or 9 years old.
Thanks for the list!
I get the feeling dang has a sweet spot for Sneakers, too ;)
I think if you draw a venn diagram of 'Hacker News users' and 'people who loved Sneakers' it would be close to a circle, at least beyond a certain age.
1) Then Donald Logue got famous, and I'd be the idiot yelling "that's Gunter Janek!" at every episode of Grounded for Life.
2) I can't look at that screenshot and not hear "I leave message here on service but you do not call"
3) RSA's Adleman was the science advisor for the movie, so I'd guess he snuck in the Asiacrypt poster from the beginning
I have it on Laserdisc and will definitely look for this next time I watch!
Edit: had to check. Yup, its there on LaserDisc... https://files.catbox.moe/l031en.jpg
AWESOME! Thank you!
This word salad from Janek and Harry Dean Stanton's recitation of "The Repo Code" in Repo Man are some of the two best rifs on word play I've heard in my lifetime. I've never seen the full text of Janek's speech - thank you!
I went to quote it at one point and the only copies I found online were truncated and wrong... So I rewatched the movie just to transcribe it. :)
I've got Sneakers on DVD and the asiacrypt '91 poster is there.
... when you accessed the "about", it says (or better said) 30 years ago: "... Just remember that, in today's complex world, having no more secrets can be just as hazardous as having too many ...". Yup, ahead of its time. Nice.
IMDB has a list of filming locations, as it does for most movies. Including the correct bridge.
Nice! It's funny, of all the times I've visited IMDB I somehow never noticed this feature. Thank you for pointing it out.
IMDb is owned by Amazon.
I watched both sneakers and three days of the condor recently. Sneakers is an OK Hollywood movie but I fail to see the reverence it has. The technical details of the physical security systems are nonsense.
Condor is a better movie. It still suffers a bit around the Condor Cathy relationship.
While Sneakers is make believe, condor resonates today. The speech about oil is pretty spot on. The whole idea of releasing to the papers is a movie trope, but the antagonist casts doubt, “will they publish the story” We know today that the press is a propaganda arm of the government and the answer is probably no. They will not publish the story.
> The technical details of the physical security systems are nonsense.
Which parts are nonsense?
The details of the "man trap" (including the voiceprint) are straight out of a late-80s Computer Security book I found at a garage sale last month:
There's another section of the same book that describes ultrasonic motion detectors that work more or less like the ones in Cosmo's office.
All of the other details I can think of offhand make me think the filmmakers did their research at least enough to get to the level of "it's plausible that someone would sell a security product that worked this way even if no one actually did in 1992", but I work in information security, not physical security.
FWIW, I'm ordering Three Days of the Condor right now. Thanks for mentioning it.
As a random aside, Day of the Condor is Kevin Mitnick’s favorite movie. Mitnick was probably the most famous hacker in the world at the time Sneakers was being cast.
That's really cool. Turner's phone company background was a very interesting facet of his characterization. I'm sure it was to many a Sneakers-like experience.
Personally I liked this factor, and the Higgins character, enough that I outlined some fanfic in which Higgins quits the agency and convinces Turner to help him out on various freelance jobs. I thought they made a very rationally-sympathetic pair in the film.
It's the social engineering that makes it timeless, but the A-list acting makes it watchable. (Plus Stephen Tobolowsky's ad-libs.)
Indeed! The best of which is Redford trying to get in the office cumbersomely holding a cake and balloons while Phoenix comes in to frazzle the guard.
True for me, too. I was 20 then and undecided between lawyer and computer science. Easier choice after seeing the movie.
Heh. I saw it at a younger though still impressionable age, and just absolutely loved (and continue to love) that movie, and somehow wound up going down that other route.
No regrets, though. Plus at least I can do a pitch-perfect recitation of the spliced together voice authorization prompt.
same re. voice id recitation :)
Love it. For me that movie was TRON. I was 6(?) years old and I knew computers were for me.
Yeah this was absolutely the case for me, except with Hackers. Same age, I think. Good times :) Maybe not entirely different direction, but it had a huge effect on me and was downright inspiring.
You're not the only one.