On Friday, Chris Hemsworth sets down Mjölnir to take on a far less realistic role than that of a god living on another world – this world’s greatest computer hacker. In Blackhat, Hemsworth plays Nicholas Hathaway, an imprisoned computer genius who just so happens to be the only man who can stop a worldwide conspiracy, and so he’s released on the condition that he helps the U.S. and Chinese intelligence agencies in catching a mysterious bad guy. Based on the trailers, clips and commercials, he also happens to be great with a gun and built for action, and to top it all off, he ain’t too hard to look at, am I right, ladies?
Directed by Michael Mann, who says that his hackers are “the real thing,” Blackhat looks like your standard cookie-cutter Hollywood story of the big bad gubment getting into a ton of trouble, only to be bailed out by an unlikely ally who also happens to be a troublemaker. But more than anything, this is a movie based around one of my all-time favorite tropes – the super-sexy or hunky cyber-criminal who ends up saving the world. Not all movie hackers are portrayed like this, mind you, but these movies are only at their best (read: hilariously worst) when the actor portraying the computer genius is so unrealistically attractive that you can’t even focus on the movie, because you’re just sitting there yelling, “Seriously? People’s Sexiest Man Alive is the only guy who can decode the green mess on the screen and grumble, ‘Jakarta’? Get the f*ck outta here.”
In honor of Blackhat – an action movie being released in the January box office graveyard, which means the studio has all the faith in its success – I have assembled my own team of handsome researchers and sexy scientists to create this very important ranking of movie hackers that will get us all hot and bothered.
20) Jamie Harrold, The Score
Lives in his mom’s basement? Check. Yells at her when she calls down to him? Check. His computer area is a mess? Check. He looks like he hasn’t been outside in weeks? Check. He can break into whichever security system that the master thief requires access to? Check. There’s nothing sexy about Harrold’s hacker. He’s just a genius with a computer, sitting back and collecting a large amount of money from Robert De Niro. Learn how to dress, cyber-chump.
19) Wayne Knight, Jurassic Park
The greatest hackers or computer geniuses are typically those who are motivated by wealth, just as Dennis Nedry was willing to rip off Jurassic Park and put lives at risk to line his own pockets. As far as looks, style and swagger, though, Dennis was a bronto-sore-eye, if you get what I’m uploading to your hard drives. But the biggest rule of them all for you aspiring hackers out there is don’t get killed before you can spend your money. Especially by a dinosaur. That’s pretty embarrassing.
18) Alan Cumming, Goldeneye
A Russian geek with plenty of attitude and bravado, a love for riddles, and a thirst for attacking the free world from behind a firewall? Boris Grishenko was a perfect James Bond mini-villain, a gifted antagonist who was too conceited to see his flaws. Chief among them was a bad haircut and horrible shirt game. A real hacker needs to dress the part, perhaps a slim-fitting suit or something a little more modern and trendy.
17) Ilan Mitchell-Smith, Weird Science
If this ranking was based purely on computer giftedness, Wyatt (and maybe Gary) might have been the first dork inducted into the Movie Hacker Hall of Fame. The guy not only managed to manipulate time and mass through a dial-up connection, but he created Kelly LeBrock, who was some sort of a cyber-sorceress with the power to turn a human man into a talking frog turd. But because this is heavily based on looks and sex appeal, Wyatt and the bra on his head are coming up short.
16) Jimmi Simpson, White House Down
While White House Down was arguably the best film released in 2013 (and possibly the history of modern cinema), the biggest flaw was the world’s greatest hacker… Skip Tyler. You’re going to give us THE WORLD’S GREATEST HACKER, a guy who can sit in a room filled with monitors and make them all share one image (I can’t even set my desktop wallpaper), all while wearing a cool leather coat and having a quirky trait like sucking on a lollipop, and his name is… Skip Tyler? Is this dude aiding in the theft of nuclear launch codes or delivering your paper? Also, his death was really embarrassing for the hacker community. A lot of points left on the table by… Skip Tyler.
15) Seth Green, The Italian Job
Not only was Lyle the real Napster, but he was also able to hack into an entire city’s traffic grid and cause car accidents by directing traffic through stoplight manipulation. But that’s amateur hour. He typed a message to the traffic control people across a series of screens with the revelation that what we thought we knew about Napster wasn’t true at all. Stealing music was just a red herring! As for looks, though, well… the real Napster had to use the world’s loudest stereo system to forcibly remove a woman’s clothing, so he was kind of a sex criminal.
14) Matthew Broderick, WarGames
Movies like WarGames were very irresponsible, not because they spread the irrational terror of impending Cold War doom that Hollywood magnificently profited on in the 80s, but because they made a young Burnsy believe that he could hack into the school’s computers and, with a few clicks, change his grades to all A’s. WarGames was also hilarious because while we mock movies like Divergent and The Hunger Games today for their stupid “Only the smart, sexy young people can stop the mean adults!” plots, it helped blaze the trail for young adult nonsense (although Red Dawn was the foundation). That said, David was such an adorable scamp of a hacker who saved the world from the mess that he unknowingly started.
13) Eric Bogosian, Under Siege 2: Dark Territory
Sweaty, loud and mean, Travis Dane was the perfect stereotype of the disgruntled former government employee seeking revenge for his firing. However, he was also a huge idiot. First of all, if someone offers you a billion dollars to destroy the East coast and you retrieve the codes that you need to fire the super-secret satellite weapon, just fire the damn weapon. More importantly, when you find out Casey Ryback is on the train you hijacked, blow everything up (Katherine Heigl included) and get your ass out of there before he karate chops you into a million pieces and proves that brawn always beats brains. This is a mostly superficial exercise, though, and Travis Dane looked like a lizard with curly hair.
12) Justin Long, Live Free or Die Hard
It’s one thing if you’re a super cool hacker living in the Big Apple, accepting huge sums of money from exotic women in exchange for algorithms that can cripple complex security systems. But when you’ve got the all-American, John Q. Everyboy charm of Justin Long’s Matt Farrell, you’ve got a chance to win the heart of Lucy McClain if her father can keep you alive against the world’s best-trained cyberterrorists. Sorry, today’s biggest action stars, but in a post-Y2K world, the hackers are getting all the babes.
11) GQ, What’s the Worst that Could Happen?
I completely forgot that this movie existed until it aired on a random cable channel the other day, and I just had to include the movie’s hacker, Shelly Nix, on this list. For starters, he has my favorite movie hacker talent of all-time – he can basically just type some sh*t and he immediately has the headshot and itinerary of the CEO’s assistant. Also, as he boasts in one scene, he can shut down AOL for an hour if he felt like it. Remember AOL? But much more importantly, this guy was like the hip hop hacker, and the guy who played Shelly (who goes by just GQ) is a fascinating human being.
10) Ryan Phillippe, Antitrust
Was Milo Hoffman really a hacker? I say yes, because in order to stop the plot concocted by the evil Nuke LaLoosh, Milo had to access secret files on the NURV computers. But it doesn’t matter because underneath those glasses that prove that he’s incredibly smart and nerdy enough to develop software is a face so boyishly handsome that it makes hard drives overheat. In fact, Antitrust should have won an Oscar for costume design the way they made Ryan Phillippe look so hideous with those glasses.
9) Skeet Ulrich, Track Down (AKA Takedown)
This movie told the story of the infamous American hacker Kevin Mitnick, except instead of using the truth about his arrest for computer-related crimes, director Joe Chappelle and everyone else involved made the whole thing seem a lot more intense and dramatic. In fact, a documentary was even produced to tell Mitnick’s real story, because he was so disappointed in Hollywood’s awful take. But what’s most important about this film is that it starred once-upon-a-brooding-hunk Skeet Ulrich as this guy:
That’s like Brad Pitt playing Brad Garrett. Except it’s a guy named Skeet.
8) Robert Redford, Sneakers
Even in the 1960s, when there were only, like, three computers in the entire world, hackers were ruggedly handsome. Martin Bishop never lost a step, despite having gone into hiding for so many years after his young, anarchist days of stealing from the man and giving to the poor. But once his old partner showed up with plans to destroy the world’s economy, Martin had to use his incredibly handsome intelligence to not only stop Cosmo but also make sure that the NSA didn’t use the all-powerful black box to spy on everyone. About that… bad news.
7) Pierce Brosnan, The Lawnmower Man
Dr. Lawrence Angelo was a hacker… OF THE MIND! He was able to manipulate a subject’s brain by using virtual reality, which in the 1990s was supposed to be the future of how we viewed pornography on our computers. However, what Dr. Angelo had in devilish good looks he lacked in competence, because he accidentally turned his human subject, Jobe, into a telekinetic murderer. Oops! Oh well, at least the very good-looking Dr. Angelo was able to settle down with a nice, new family in the end, while Jobe moved on to possessing the world’s telecommunication systems.
6) Julianne Moore, Assassins
The production of Assassins, written and almost abandoned by the Wachowski siblings, ranks right behind Tango & Cash in terms of Sylvester Stallone movies that imploded due to studio meddling, but without it we might not have ever had The Matrix. That’s always worth pointing out, because I’m really quite fond of this silly movie that featured Stallone and Antonio Banderas as rival hitmen. Stallone’s Robert Rath had to protect his vague love interest and computer hacker Electra for whatever she was hiding on that old 90s disk. It was probably a prototype for a new Carmen Sandiego game, because that was about the extent of my computer knowledge back then.
5) Keanu Reeves, The Matrix
Speaking of the greatest movie that the Wachowskis ever gave us, Neo was such a great good-looking hacker that he was actually known as THE ONE to other hackers who had managed to escape the giant surge protector that humanity had been plugged into by our robot overlords. What always struck me as odd about The Matrix, though, was why Neo was so quick to jump into a relationship with Trinity without even trying to use his knowledge of how fake everything to have one awesome night at a fancy strip club or take the entire Dallas Cowboys cheerleading squad home with him. I mean, if you have the power, use it, man.
4) Jeff Bridges in Tron and Garrett Hedlund in Tron: Legacy
What’s better than one grizzled, good-looking computer genius? A grizzled, good-looking computer genius whose son is also grizzled and good-looking and has to enter his computer world to rescue him, while also saving the isomorphic algorithm and bringing her into the real world. And of course she’s ridiculously sexy, too, because if you’re going to create people within your computer’s fantasyland, they can’t be fatties or fuglies.
3) Sandra Bullock, The Net
A good hacker knows how to break into systems and steal information. A great hacker knows how to shut down systems and bring entire governments trembling before them. But an awesome hacker doesn’t even know she’s really a hacker until she has one of those movie moments when she realizes that she has to tap into the system and launch a virus that will not only stop the cyber-terrorist mastermind before he can sneak into a corporation’s system and steal all of its valuable information and secrets, but also help her get her life back after they stole it from her. *exhale* And if she can kill the bad guy in the process, and look fantastic while doing it, that only helps boost the score that much more.
Look at her – while people are surfin’ waves, she’s surfin’ the Net!
2) Angelina Jolie, Hackers
As far as hacking movies go, you’d expect a movie actually called Hackers to be the most ridiculous of them all when it comes to the hacking, and you’d be right. Everyone in this movie had awesome nicknames like Zero Cool and Acid Burn and Razor and Blade and, when I pretend that I was in the movie, King Donkey Punch. There was roller blading and an awesome techno soundtrack that reminded us that the future of 1995 had everyone dressing like robotic Jetsons characters. But when it came to Acid Burn, Zero Cool wasn’t the only totally rad hacker trying to win her encrypted heart. A whole generation of Number Crunchers was already head over heels for young, weird Angelina Jolie.
1) Hugh Jackman, Swordfish
I bet there are a lot of ladies out there who would love it if Stan tapped into their mainframes, AM I RIGHT? But seriously, aspiring sexy movie hackers, if you want to climb to the top of the floppy disk pile and be the absolute best at your game, you don’t need to be the best-dressed guy with the flashiest car and most expensive computer. You do, however, need to be very attractive, look good in a t-shirt and jeans, know how to outrun the FBI on foot and government assassins in a car, and be able to hack into any computer system known to man, all while someone with really bad hair plugs has a gun pointed at your head and a blonde woman with a sad father performs oral sex on you.
More than anything, though, you have to be able to look at multiple computer screens and cheer like you’re watching a sporting event while little cubes float around the screens. Oh, and bonus points for being an adorable dad who rescues his daughter from her drug-addicted porn star mom, who was murdered in the name of freedom.
In conclusion, Swordfish is such an awesome movie. The bar’s high, Blackhat.