This one article was originally published on .cult by Eli McGarvie. .sect is a Berlin-based developer community platform. We write about all things career, create original documentaries and share countless other untold stories from developers around the world.
Last year we compiled a list of the best hack movies, and of course the next logical step was to catalog the coolest movies and series about developers. So after spending hours and hours of screen time watching all these so-called “developer movies” over the past two decades, I’m pretty sure I have a solid list of movies that will meet most of your expectations (I heap).
The criteria for meeting this list were pretty straightforward, the movie (or series) had to feature a programmer as a protagonist (or antagonist), not a supporting character like the ones used to hack the mainframe (looking at you Mission Impossible).
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Without taking any more of your time, here are my top 10 picks for the best developer movies and series I’ve seen.
1. The Social Network (2010)
The Social network, more like the non-social network if you ask me… I can’t wait to live in a pod and eat bugs in the Metaverse. But that has nothing to do with this movie, which is actually very, very good. Directed by David Fincher and written by Aaron Sorkin (who is a legend), it tells the story of Facebook from the perspective of its founders, Mark Zuckerberg, Eduardo Saverin and Sean Parker.
Whatever your feelings are towards the tech giant and its stellar record of user privacy, I think you’ll love this film, as it’s not a glorification of Zuckerberg, but a true story of friendship and betrayal. And the story is made even better with a great ensemble of actors including Jesse Eisenberg, Andrew Garfield, Justin Timberlake and Armie Hammer – Hammer plays the Vanwinkle twins and, fun fact, loves to play eat people.
The dialogues are great, the soundtrack is exciting and the coolest thing is that all these guys are still around today. The Winklevoss twins love crypto, Zuck testifies in front of Congress, and Sean Parker sits on Spotify’s board.
2. Matrix 4 (2021)
Yes, just kidding, this is movie waste.
3. Tron: Legacy (2010)
I only found out recently (yesterday) Tron Legacy is a sequel. How did I not know? I always assumed it was the Disney spin-off of the Tron arcade game I played in high school when the teacher gave us access to the computers.
This one is pure nostalgia, bright lights and animation – but I still think it’s a fun movie. It’s about Sam Flynn (played by Garrett Hedlund), the son of the technical genius and software engineer from the first film, Kevin Flynn (Jeff Bridges). Sam is dragged into his father’s video game-like world in search of his long-lost father, and is immediately thrown into digital combat scenarios and motocross racing as he discovers the hidden secrets of his father’s past.
4. The Fifth Estate (2013)
The reviews on this have been mixed, but I mostly enjoyed the film because it’s still relevant and Julian Assange still makes headlines and pisses politicians off, even from his prison cell. The Fifth Estate takes you back to the founding of Wikileaks, the now infamous website that publishes news leaks and classified media from anonymous sources. As you’ll see in the film, it started with two programmers on laptops in Berlin and ended with Assange’s subsequent arrest, which I believe is still going on.
This is not a spoiler, but if you pay close attention you can see the characters constantly drinking Club mate (a terrible drink but typical Berlin), which I thought was a very funny Easter egg.
The film is based in part on a book written by the Wikileaks co-founder who appears to have had a falling out with Assange, so keep that in mind when you watch it. Anyway, this whole movie revolves around the moral gray zone of privacy and political ethics, similar to what we saw with Edward Snowden and the NSA files.
Assange was a programmer, and his partner in crime Daniel Domscheit-Berg was also a programmer. So of course you will see a lot of programming and gain insight into the technology that underlies Wikileaks and its anonymous activities. Regardless of your take on the whole Wikileaks situation, I think we can all agree that there’s something cool about a small group of programmers and hackers exposing governments for what they really are.
5. Ex-Machina (2014)
Ex machine is focused on AI and stuff like that Elon Musk has been warning us for years. The film is not specifically about programming, but about a program (AI) and a programmer, and their interactions.
A programmer from a huge technology company wins a competition and gets to spend a week with the CEO of the technology company. He’s taken to this Alaskan retreat (in the middle of nowhere, really) to meet his reclusive boss, only to find out he’s not there to chill, but to take part in a strange experiment with the world’s first AI (similar to what Google does with DeepMind…). This AI takes the form of a beautiful robot girl (Google, take notes) and I’m sure you can imagine what happens next…
6. Office Space (1999)
Office space is great and, even though it is two decades old, the underlying message is still relevant to many people today. And it’s meme gone to hell, so if you haven’t seen the movie, you’ve probably seen one of those, ‘if you could just do that, that would be grrrrrreat’, memes.
This one is about a programmer who hates his boring office job and one day decides not to work anymore. Don’t quit or anything, just don’t show up for work or just care. It’s a really funny movie and if you’ve ever worked in a corporate environment you’ll appreciate the humor and characters even more. Useless managers, obnoxious water-cooler jargon, cringing department birthday gatherings — it encompasses everything that’s wrong with that soul-sucking suit and tie environment.
7. Silicon Valley (2014-2019)
Silicone Valley is an original HBO comedy series about a group of programmers in Silicon Valley who start a technology company around a new compression technology. It’s like the big bang theory if it’s made for adults who understand nuance and don’t need a laugh track to motivate them for jokes written for an audience with the collective IQ of a chimpanzee.
It’s also HBO and created by Mike Judge (Office space and King of the Hill), so they can get away with dark humor, sexual innuendo, and the f-word (if that’s still taboo these days) — which makes the show that much more entertaining in my opinion. But it’s clearly not everyone’s cup of tea…
Anyway, there are six seasons to binge on, so if you have some time to spare and want to sit back and laugh at characters with huge personalities talking about programming and startups, plus the overly tech cliques of Silicon Valley companies like Google and Experience Facebook, then this is the show for you! ALWAYS BLUE.
8. Mr. Robot (2015-2019)
Anarchist hackers. Need I say more? Mr Robot was kind of an underground series when it first launched, I didn’t know many people who knew about it because it didn’t feature any major stars (Rami Malek was barely known at the time). Since then, it has clearly become infamous and has won a number of awards. While it doesn’t share the same budget as other series, it’s really well written and quite original and thought-provoking.
I thought it had a Matrix vibe to it in the first season. You have a cybersecurity engineer, Elliot (Rami Malek), who has been pulled from his corporate world into the shadowy underground of exposing corporate corruption with a team of anarchist hackers, while dealing with delusions and paranoia that overlap to create a mixed create reality. I think you’ll also love how the VP of Engineering is portrayed, similar to many managers I know.
9. Snowden (2016)
I’m not a big biopic guy, so Snowden was never on my radar, but I forced myself to check it out this week just because it kept popping up and had pretty high reviews. Surprisingly, I really enjoyed it. The lead-up story (his professional and personal life) was as interesting as what we now know about NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden.
Snowden was directed by Oliver Stone, who also did platoon and Wall Street, and it includes a bit of Nicolas Cage’s bombastic acting that we’ve all come to love. You will find similarities between this movie and The Fifth Estate because they deal with similar topics like digital privacy and government overreach. But because Snowden has a very different background from Assange, it focuses more on a personal moral dilemma than on ethics and journalistic integrity.
I also didn’t know Edward Snowden was 29 when he blew the lid on the US government. I can barely expose my ex-wife for cheating, let alone the entire industrial-military complex.
10. The IT Crowd (2006-2013)
The IT people is a classic you’ve probably seen, but I’m still adding it to this list for anyone who may have missed this British sitcom. Obviously IT help desk is not the same as programming, don’t worry, I know full well that you guys are haters! I’ve included it for two reasons: first, it adds some comedic relief to this otherwise serious catalog of movies, and second, it rounds out this list to a nice ten.
The IT crowd is a British sitcom about two tech geeks who work for Reynholm Industries. They get a new supervisor who has no technical background and together they find themselves in a lot of hilarious situations. Maybe you have The . seen Mighty Boosh or Toast of Londonit has a lot of familiar faces and similar situational humor, which is a breath of fresh air compared to comedies nowadays.
These developers movies and series are not in any particular order, they are just in my top ten. I’ll let you decide which is the best of all time (if any). And if I’ve missed a really good one or if you just completely disagree with my opinion, give me a call, I’m sure there’s plenty of room to expand this list.
What is that? Looking for wise, meaningful developer entertainment set in this universe? Well you can check out some of Honeypot’s documentaries for developers or this list of documentaries we together. Or maybe you want to relive the thrill of the first Matrix? Not this cold soup we recently delivered (Matrix 4), but something more hacker-like? Then view the Best hacker movies to watch.
I hope you enjoy the flix ️
- 1 1. The Social Network (2010)
- 2 2. Matrix 4 (2021)
- 3 3. Tron: Legacy (2010)
- 4 4. The Fifth Estate (2013)
- 5 5. Ex-Machina (2014)
- 6 6. Office Space (1999)
- 7 7. Silicon Valley (2014-2019)
- 8 8. Mr. Robot (2015-2019)
- 9 9. Snowden (2016)
- 10 10. The IT Crowd (2006-2013)