'Hackers' Still Feels Like the Perfect 90s Film


#1

This weekend, when a dear friend was in town visiting, we took a nostalgic trip through our earlier years and played a bunch of Full Throttle, followed up by a screening of Hackers, one of my all-time favorite movies. Watching it feels like visiting an old friend: you know every scene, most of the lines by heart, all of the ridiculously gif-able moments, and still, still, when you watch it at 2am, you have a kind of heart-to-heart with it. You notice new things. See subtleties and nuance in each sequence.

At least, I do. And I know I’m not alone.

Hackers was formative for me as a teen (I didn’t see it right in 1995, but a couple of years later, as a teen), especially as a queer teen. No, it’s not really explicitly a queer movie (outside of the fashion, and maybe Ramon/Phreak, who may actually be queer in the text), but the fashion, the colors, the anarchic spirit, and every single thing about Angelina Jolie’s performance is teasing queer identity. Indeed, this was the era where the young actress was publicly, proudly dating women, at a time when it was extremely uncommon for performers to be out at all. This was pre-Ellen.

At the very least, it’s a movie about young people rebelling against authoritarianism and old tropes about identity, and having an extremely good time while doing it.

It’s also an unapologetically cheesy movie, filled with lines about “righteous hacks” and the absolutely wonderful, nonsensical visual language used to portray hacking—a bunch of wild cyberpunk-style buildings. Dare we forget the single most gif-able moment in cinematic history? And lord alive, remember the early build of WipeOut that features as the “cool video game” in the pivotal club scene?

Is it perfect? Hell no. There’s that scene where all the boys in the little hacker club are creeping on Acid Burn while she tries to get laid in her own damned bedroom, and some language we would super not use today to describe non-gender conforming folks in the prank call hack.

But aside from some quibbles, I love this movie. I love how corny and dated it is, because it’s so earnest and earns its wacky aesthetic in every scene. I love its characters, kids who were finding their way in a changing world. And man, I love the soundtrack.

How about you, dear readers? Is there a very 90s movie (or any nostalgic era for you) that you love to revisit? Sound off on the forum!


This is a companion discussion topic for the original entry at https://waypoint.vice.com/en_us/article/bj3v3d/hackers-90s-movies

#2

As much as I love this movie (which is a lot), it would’ve been 1000% better if everyone wasn’t going through a “Matthew Lillard is a legitimate actor” phase at the time they made it.

#HackThePlanet


#3

Hackers is legitimately one of my favorite movies and I love it so much.

Phreak is definitely queer in some way and I always thought that he and Nikon were gonna live happily ever after together


#4

But… Matthew Lillard is a legitimate actor. Evidence: Twin Peaks. Are you saying that isn’t a perfect performance?

As to extremely '90s movies (that also sure do have some bits that are hard watching looking back on them with current standards), I’ll add Strange Days (released a month after Hackers).


#5

I have convinced so many different friends to watch this film with me and none were able to enjoy it, even ironically. Their loss, I suppose.

Kate’s dream about Dade in a leather (spandex?) one piece was a real sexual awakening for me. It’s just a split second, but I think about that split second a lot.


#6

I love Hackers to pieces and frequently go back to it to rewatch it. Last year, in the midst of Tim Soret’s embarrassing cyberpunk takes during and a bit after e3, I thought a little bit about how cyberpunk narratives intersect with some of the grimier ideologies that permeate silicon valley, which led to this epiphany about the “duel” over control of the TV network at the start:

Hackers opens with the kind of narrative that has become emblematic of Silicon Valley: its protagonist is a young, misunderstood wunderkind whose disregard for authority is dwarfed only by his technical prowess, and he is persecuted by a world that will never understand him. Way Too Many police clad in tactical gear descend upon and arrest 11-year-old Dade Murphy for crashing over 1500 computer systems in a single day. (A big deal in 1988, I guess.) Murphy is banned from using a computer until his 18th birthday. We flash forward seven years and Dade celebrates his birthday by hacking into a TV network (of course). Murphy takes control of the tape switching system and changes the currently airing show (a white supremacist ‘America First’ broadcast) to an episode of The Outer Limits. Dade smirks, his victory reflected in his mirrorshades. The victory is short-lived when another hacker calls him out for trespassing on their domain. The two cyber-tussle, and Murphy loses the fight when the other hacker kills his connection. An exchange that originally began with the veneer of fighting for social justice (get this white supremacist garboman off my fucking TV) immediately jettisons those stakes in favour of a struggle over who controls the platform. The fact that Acid Burn (Murphy’s rival and later love interest) was apparently unconcerned with the fact that her TV station was spewing utter garbage never comes up: not from Dade, and not from Lord Nikon or the Phantom Phreak: the two people of colour on the crew of hackers Murphy joins. What mattered was that the platform was Acid Burn’s by right of technological knowhow. Content doesn’t matter as much as controlling the dominant pillars of discourse does.


#7

I… have never seen Twin Peaks

I will give him credit for doing an admirable job picking up for Casey Kasem as the voice of Shaggy in the newer Scooby Doo shows and movies. But nothing, NOTHING, will make up for his performance as a repressed nephew/caretaker who is sleeping with his Aunt Carol Burnett on an episode of Law & Order: SVU.


#8

I am all about that Point Break here. Surfer robbers sounds like a Surf Ninjas situation, but it’s so much more than that. It’s preposterously well-made, and sweet lord do I love Patrick Swayze as Bodhi.


#9

Can I interest you in Point Break, but instead of surfers, they are really into cars?


#10

I can’t think of any candidates for movies like that from the 90s off the top of my head, so I’m intrigued to hear what it is.


#11

I can only assume that OP has not seen Surf Ninjas, because nothing in this world is as outrageously 90’s as that film.

Leslie Nielsen, Rob Schneider, Ernie Reyes Jr. AND Sr. Partially funded by SEGA with an ACTUAL GAME GEAR in the movie?!?

I literally made an account so I could sing the praises of this horrible/incredible/amazing work.


#12

aw dang it was 2001, which is basically still the 90s?


#13

I think the only movie that could touch Hackers’ 90’sness is Gregg Araki’s Splendor, but as far as the actual question of where my 90’s happy place is, it’s definitely Clueless. I could watch Clueless any time.


#14


#15

I love this movie so much. To me it totally encapsulates not just the 90s as a period in time, but the IDEAL of what the 90s was. It’s almost rear window into what we think of the 90s being… even if it wasn’t exactly that.


#16

My favorite under-mentioned detail in this movie is that their NYC Midtown stock footage is just old enough that the MetLife building is still the Pan Am building.

Also the Asian twins that are hackers but also own a dance club towards the end of the movie totally inspired the Asian twins that are hackers but also own a dance club in the 1997 game Shin Megami Tensei: Soul HACKERS. Deal with it. :stuck_out_tongue:

Fun trivia: The Hackers soundtrack was so popular that there are “soundtrack” CDs released titled Hackers 2 and Hackers 3. There are no sequels to the movie, the soundtrack was just popular enough that it got these follow ups.

But this lead to some funny situations like the dogshit thriller Antitrust, when bootlegged it often gets the title “Hackers 3” stuck to it.


#17

Those soundtracks are absolute fucking legends for EDM of the era.


#18

The Hackers soundtrack is the reason I got into Electronic Music, that soundtrack was the thing I listened to the most in late highschool/early college.

Also I can’t get over how much I love their bootups that are basically the movie’s equivalent to a wrestler’s entrance theme.


#19

Soundtrack is soooo, so good. Cowgirl? Classic! Voodoo People? Classic! But Orbital takes the cake for sure