Hacking is a hot topic right now. With cybercrime, encryption debates and data breaches increasingly in the headlines, the general public has never been more aware of digital security and Hollywood is set to go big on the theme with the biopic on Edward Snowden.
In anticipation of Oliver Stone's movie about the infamous NSA whistleblower, set to be released in the US next month, IBTimes UK has listed seven other films and documentaries you should watch right now. Of course, Hollywood has been notoriously bad at understanding how computers actually work but in these examples we think they've got it spot on... give or take a trojan.
While the release of 'Snowden' promises to be a "politically-charged, pulse-pounding thriller", Citizen Four takes a rather different approach. The documentary, directed by Laura Poitras who won an Oscar for her work, depicts the meetings between the rogue NSA analyst and journalists from The Guardian. A tense look behind the curtain of how the actual Ed Snowden evaded the US while sitting calmly in a hotel room.
Enemy of the State
Okay, we know. But minus the video tapes and floppy disks, this Will Smith-starring thriller is largely remembered as the movie that successfully predicted the privacy vs security debate. It's got everything you would expect – rogue NSA spooks, political scheming and government intrusions into civil liberties. Yes, it eventually trades in the exposition for the action, but in terms of the underlying themes, Enemy of the State is a solid offering.
We are Legion: Rise of the Hacktivists
Showing the evolution of the Anonymous hacking collective, from internet chatrooms to the world stage and back again, We Are Legion compiles interviews not only from computer experts and university researchers but also the hackers themselves. Directed by Brian Knappenberger, the documentary provides the true story behind one of the most famous masks on the planet.
We Steal Secrets: The Story of WikiLeaks
A controversial pick, if only because WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange has since denounced the film as distorted and opportunistic. Yet despite this, the Alex Gibney-helmed documentary still provides what is arguably the best view into the inner workings, past troubles and future woes of the most famous whistleblowing organisation on the planet.
Die Hard 4.0
When you think of hacking, Die Hard is probably not the first film that comes to mind. However, it earns a place on the list for depicting the crazy notion of the 'firesale' – a vaguely humorous hacking plot orchestrated by the typical 'baddie' to destroy the entire US infrastructure in an attempt to steal millions of dollars from the US Federal Reserve. Warning: You will not learn how to hack by watching this film - but you may still enjoy it.
Like Inception, it's a movie that features less computer hacking and more reality hacking. Of course, it eventually turns into a typically gung-ho action movie (and don't mention the sequels) however this first film in the Matrix trilogy raises some salient questions on the nature of reality and the role of computer systems and artificial intelligence in our lives.
It's highly likely this movie is responsible for how the world now perceives hackers – young, hunched over a computer and always wearing sunglasses inside. And despite being outdated, Hackers remains a classic. It's got a great cast and a cheesy plot, it's got contrived computer viruses and secret service agent chases – and as a result remains a fun watch to this day. Sure, anyone who knows about cybersecurity will roll their eyes at this pick, but it's a guilty pleasure and you know it.
Notable exceptions: Of course, there are so many films out there that could have been on this list, these include: Swordfish, WarGames, The Story of Aaron Swartz, Mediastan, Mr Robot (TV) and eXistenZ and Deep Web. Notable exclusion: The Net.