Just because we’re hackers doesn’t mean we have to stare at the command line all day long. Why not have a little fun? Following is a comprehensive collection of the most interesting, educational and often thrilling documentaries there are about hackers. Let’s have a look.

1. Pirates of Silicon Valley (1999)

This is a semi-humorous biographical film about the men who made the world of technology what it is today, their struggles during college, the founding of their companies, and the ingenious actions they took to build up the global corporate empires of Apple Computer Corporation and Microsoft Inc. It is the story of the rise and clashes of Bill Gates and Steve Jobs. (Technically this is a ‘docudrama’, not a documentary)

2. Freedom Downtime (2001)

Computer hackers are being portrayed as the newest brand of terrorists. This is the story of a hacker named Kevin Mitnick, imprisoned without bail for nearly five years. Freedom Downtime tries to uncover the reasons why the authorities are so scared of Mitnick as well as define what exactly he did. Surprisingly, no real evidence is ever presented by the authorities to back up the sensationalist claims in mass media. But when a Hollywood studio decides to make a movie about Mitnick’s life through the eyes of one of his accusers, hackers turn to activism to get their message out. Through interviews with relatives, friends, lawyers, and experts in the computer and civil liberties arena, a picture of a great injustice becomes apparent. A cross-country journey uncovers some realities of the hacker culture as well as the sobering fact that so many technically young adept people are being imprisoned.

3. The Code (2001)

The Banks brothers, Ned, a keen aspiring journalist and Jesse, young hacker artiste, are investigating on the fringes of the next big story. They become embroiled within a big meaty research project: Big Money - Top Secret and learn there are people who are being damaged and/or silenced along the way.

4. Code 2600 (2012)

As we struggle to comprehend the wide-spanning socio-technical fallout caused by data collection and social networks, our modern culture is trapped in an undercurrent of cyber-attacks, identity theft and privacy invasion. Both enlightening and disturbing, CODE 2600 is a provocative wake-up call for a society caught in the grips of a global technology takeover.

5. Revolution OS (2001)

While Microsoft may be the biggest software company in the world, not every computer user is a fan of their products, or their way of doing business. While Microsoft’s Windows became the most widely used operating system for personal computers in the world, many experts took issue with Microsoft’s strict policies regarding licensing, ownership, distribution, and alteration of their software. The objections of many high-profile technology experts, most notably Richard Stallman, led to what has become known as “the Open Source Movement,” which is centered on the belief that computer software should be free both in the economic and intellectual senses of the word. Eventually, one of Stallman’s admirers, Linus Torvalds, created a new operating system called Linux, a freely distributed software which many programmers consider to be markedly superior to Windows. Revolution OS is a documentary that examines the genesis of the Open Source Movement, and explores and explains the technical and intellectual issues involved in a manner understandable to computer aficionados and non-techheads alike.

6. Hackers Are People Too (2008)

Hackers do laundry. Hackers like movies. Hackers are people and could be your neighbors, your brother, your friends. Presenting a portrait of the hacking community, created by the community themselves, this film breaks down negative stereotypes by letting hackers show you that they are really no different from anyone else. Delving into areas such as the way hackers think, what is hacking, hackers in the media, and women in the security/hacking field, this film will have you questioning your ideas about what a ‘hacker’ really is.

7. We Are Legion: The Story of the Hacktivists (2012)

WE ARE LEGION: The Story of the Hacktivists, takes us inside the complex culture and history of Anonymous. The film explores early hacktivist groups like Cult of the Dead Cow and Electronic Disturbance Theater, and then moves to Anonymous’ own raucous and unruly beginnings on the website 4Chan. Through interviews with current members - some recently returned from prison, others still awaiting trial - as well as writers, academics and major players in various “raids,” WE ARE LEGION traces the collective’s breathtaking evolution from merry pranksters to a full-blown, global movement, one armed with new weapons of civil disobedience for an online world.

8. The KGB, the Computer and Me (1990)

In 1986, astronomer turned computer scientist Clifford Stoll had just started working on a computer system at the Lawrence Berkeley Laboratory when he noticed a 75-cent discrepancy between the charges printed by two accounting programs responsible for charging people for machine use. Intrigued, he deduced that the system was being hacked, and he determined to find the culprit. This is the re-enactment of how he tracked down KGB cracker Markus Hess through the Ethernet to Hannover, Germany, as is told in his best-selling book _ The Cuckoo’s Egg: Tracking a Spy Through the Maze of Computer Espionage_ (1989). Stoll has become a celebrity for being, as he terms himself, “a computer contrarian.”

9. Hacking Democracy (2006)

The film the voting machine corporations don’t want you to see. HACKING DEMOCRACY follows investigator/grandmother, Bev Harris, and her citizen-activists as they set out to uncover how America counts its votes. Proving the votes can be stolen without a trace culminates in a duel between the Diebold corporation’s voting machines and a computer hacker - with America’s democracy at stake.

10. Citizenfour (2014)

In January 2013, Laura Poitras started receiving anonymous encrypted e-mails from “CITIZENFOUR,” who claimed to have evidence of illegal covert surveillance programs run by the NSA in collaboration with other intelligence agencies worldwide. Five months later, she and reporters Glenn Greenwald and Ewen MacAskill flew to Hong Kong for the first of many meetings with the man who turned out to be Edward Snowden. She brought her camera with her. The resulting film is history unfolding before our eyes.

11. We Steal Secrets: The Story of WikiLeaks (2013)

A documentary that details the creation of Julian Assange’s controversial website, WikiLeaks, which has facilitated some of the largest leaks in history.

12. TPB AFK: The Pirate Bay Away from Keyboard (2013)

An intellectual freedoms documentary based around the interpersonal triumphs, and defeats of the three main characters against the largest industry in the known universe. The media industry.

13. War for the Web (2015)

Do we have the right to free speech? The right to privacy? The right to security? The same rights that have protected our democracy for generations are now in jeopardy in the most unlikely of places: online. The Internet may appear to be an open forum, but behind closed doors, a war is being waged between corporations and governments for control of the virtual universe, affecting the way we access the Internet, the content we can post, the sites we can see, and the security of the data we send. The harsh truth is that few of us possess any real knowledge about how the Internet works. Though the United States invented this marvel, our complacency has put this country behind. As technology advances, our infrastructure has declined. As the world becomes more connected, our rights have become more restricted. It’s time to take a stand. In this fight for our online rights, who will win the War for the Web?

14. Downloaded (2013)

A documentary that explores the downloading revolution; the kids that created it, the bands and the businesses that were affected by it, and its impact on the world at large.

15. Steal This Film (2006)

Steal This Film is part one of a series, documenting the movement against intellectual property produced by The League of Noble Peers and released via the BitTorrent peer-to-peer protocol.

16. Deep Web (2015)

A feature documentary that explores the rise of a new Internet; decentralized, encrypted, dangerous and beyond the law; with particular focus on the FBI capture of the Tor hidden service Silk Road, and the judicial aftermath.

17. DEFCON: The Documentary (2013)

DEFCON is the world’s largest hacking conference, held in Las Vegas, Nevada. In 2012 it was held for the 20th time. The conference has strict no-filming policies, but for DEFCON 20, a documentary crew was allowed full access to the event. The film follows the four days of the conference, the events and people (attendees and staff), and covers history and philosophy behind DEFCON’s success and unique experience.

18. DSKNECTD (2013)

An exploration into how smart phones, social media, and the Internet are profoundly changing the way we interact and experience each other - for the good and for the bad.

19. The Hacker Wars (2014)

A hacktivist is a person who uses technology to bring about social change. “The Hacker Wars” - a film about the targeting of hacktivists, activists and journalists by the US government. There is a war going on - the war for our minds, “The Hacker Wars”. The government needs to control information. The film follows the information warriors who are fighting back, and it depicts the dangerous battle in which hacktivists fight for information freedom. Hacktivists impact the world in a new way by using the government’s information against itself to call out those in power. Meet the hacktivists: “weev”, Barrett Brown, Jeremy Hammond. They try to change the world and sometimes they go to jail.

20. Hackers Wanted (2009)

In 2003, a crew from Kevin Spacey’s TriggerStreet production company appeared to interview Adrian Lamo. It was a brief talking-head piece on an unrelated documentary. No big deal. Or so everyone thought. The shoot went as those things tend to do, everyone shook hands, and one of the crew asked offhandedly “So, what would you do if the feds came for you, Adrian?” Adrian just laughed. 90 minutes later, he wasn’t laughing - his voicemail informed him that he was a fugitive from the FBI. The resulting events were caught on film for days on end before becoming: “Hackers Wanted”.

21. The Secret History Of Hacking (2001)

The Secret History of Hacking is a 2001 documentary film that focuses on phreaking, computer hacking and social engineering occurring from the 1970s through to the 1990s. Archive footage concerning the subject matter and (computer generated) graphical imagery specifically created for the film are voiced over with narrative audio commentary, intermixed with commentary from people who in one way or another have been closely involved in these matters.

22. Zero Days (2016)

Documentary detailing claims of American/Israeli jointly developed malware Stuxnet being deployed not only to destroy Iranian enrichment centrifuges but also threaten attacks against Iranian civilian infrastructure. Adresses obvious potential blowback of this possibly being deployed against the US by Iran in retaliation.

23. The Singularity (2012)

Humanity is approaching an inevitable moment in our history when we will be able to create computer systems with greater-than-human intelligence, bio-engineer our species and re-design matter through nanotechnology. These future technologies will transform the course of civilization. THE SINGULARITY sidesteps the sci-fi cliches about robots versus humans, presenting an intellectually thrilling debate that begins with a basic question: What kind of humans do we want to become?

24. The Internet’s Own Boy: The Story of Aaron Swartz (2014)

The story of programming prodigy and information activist Aaron Swartz. From Swartz’s help in the development of the basic internet protocol RSS to his co-founding of Reddit, his fingerprints are all over the internet. But it was Swartz’s groundbreaking work in social justice and political organizing combined with his aggressive approach to information access that ensnared him in a two year legal nightmare. It was a battle that ended with the taking of his own life at the age of 26. Aaron’s story touched a nerve with people far beyond the online communities in which he was a celebrity. This film is a personal story about what we lose when we are tone deaf about technology and its relationship to our civil liberties.

25. Terms and Conditions May Apply (2013)

Terms And Conditions May Apply examines the cost of so-called ‘free’ services and the continuing disappearance of online privacy. People may think they know what they give up when they click ‘I Agree’ on companies like Facebook and Google. They’re wrong.

26. BBS: The Documentary (2005)

Through eight episodes, director Jason Scott covers the 25 year history of the Dial-Up Bulletin Board System, a modem-connected computer system that let others connect to a computer over a phone line and leave messages and trade files. Containing 200 interviews, episodes mostly consist of elaborate montages of dozens of people composing a narrative.

27. Good Copy Bad Copy (2007)

Good Copy Bad Copy (subtitled “A documentary about the current state of copyright and culture”) is a 2007 documentary film about copyright and culture in the context of Internet, peer-to-peer file sharing and other technological advances, directed by Andreas Johnsen, Ralf Christensen, and Henrik Moltke. It features interviews with many people with various perspectives on copyright, including copyright lawyers, producers, artists and filesharing service providers.


So, what do you think? Did I miss anything? Let me know and I’ll add it to the list :)



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