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.