In 1983, a young hacker finds that an online game turns serious in the sci-fi drama War Games.
Starring Matthew Broderick and Ally Sheedy, War Games was written by Lawrence Lasker and Walter F. Parkes and directed by John Badham.
The film’s premise was focused on a teenager – David (Broderick) who has hacked into the school district computer system to change his and his friend Jennifer ‘s (Sheedy) grades.
David then tries to find a way to hack into a computer game company in California by using a modem to dial random phone numbers in sequence.
He inadvertently finds the number for an online system, which asks him to play a game. Little does David know that he has hacked into a NORAD supercomputer, which has started a missile countdown against the Soviet Union, not just a game.
David realizes that the game is a real-life war game after seeing TV reports. The FBI arrest him and bring him to NORAD to be questioned by Dr. John McKittrick (Dabney Coleman) who is the head of systems for NORAD and thinks David might be a Soviet spy.
David escapes NORAD and goes to look for scientist Stephen Falken (John Wood), who created the online game and many of NORAD’s systems, hoping to convince him to help end the game and the possibility of war.
As David tries to end the game with Falken’s help, while trying to avoid the FBI and NORAD, a strike against the Soviet Union is imminent.
First screened at the Cannes Film Festival in May 1983, the film was released in North America in June 1983. Made with a budget of US$12 million, the film was a box office success, making almost US$80 million at the box office.
With many critics accolades, War Games was also nominated for three Academy Awards – original screenplay, sound and cinematography.
President Ronald Reagan, a friend of Lasker, had the film screened at the White House and his interest in the film and its themes led to NSDD 45, the first Presidential Directive on computer security.