In the early 1980s, the Cold War was shown on the big screen as seen through teenagers in the film War Games.
Written by Walter F. Parkes, Walon Green and Lawrence Lasker, the film focuses on David (Matthew Broderick) a computer-obsessed teen who hacks into a US Military supercomputer by accident, starts playing a game but its much more than a game.
Wanting to change his grades and his friend Jennifer’s grades (played by Ally Sheedy) in the school computer system, David hacks in and after that achievement starts to give himself another challenge, to hack into a bigger company.
He comes across secret war games while trying to hack into computer companies in California, including one designed by one of his heroes, scientist Dr. Stephen Falken. David correctly figures out the secret password to start playing the game, acting like he is the Soviet Union in the game.
His hacking leads the FBI to show up and bring David into custody, taking him from Seattle to Colorado to NORAD HQ, where the computer he has hacked into is located. He is grilled by NORAD scientist Dr. John McKittrick (Dabney Coleman) who believes David is a traitor and wants him to confess. David begins to realize that the game is still going on, and that the computer believes America is going to be attacked.
David escapes from NORAD and gets Jennifer’s help to find Dr. Falken, knowing he is the only one who can help stop the game, and prevent NORAD from attacking the Soviet Union.
Directed by John Badham, War Games made for US$12 million and was first shown out of competition at the Cannes Film Festival in May 1983. In June 1983, the film was released by United Artists to good reviews and over the next few weeks, a successful summer box office.
Making almost $80 million in the US with reviews saying the film was “a complete original” and “an entertaining thriller”, and was nominated for three Academy Awards for Best Original Screenplay, Sound and Film Editing.
And during the 1980s Cold War, this film showed how new technology and fear collided into a compelling on-screen thriller.