Hack the Planet, if Your Arthritis Permits: HACKERS Turns 20

by Sharon Mineo

In today’s edition of “don’t you feel old,” that illustrious cinematic ode to hackers called, well, Hackers, turns 20 this year. Oh, 1995, the year that brought us everything from Clueless and Too Wong Foo to Showgirls and Bad Boys. Over-the-top camp, color, and weird proto-modern graphics ruled the day, and Hackers was no exception. With an absurd plot, ridiculous outfits, and trippy graphics that even I knew bore no resemblance to anything anyone who was ACTUALLY hacking something would see, Hackers still manages to be a delight of guilty pleasure cinema.

Our cooler-than-cool cast of teenage tech misfits includes our hero Dade, aka Zero Cool (Jonny Lee Miller), who as a kid was arrested and made national news for causing the biggest computer crash in history, and was prohibited from using a computer until his eighteenth birthday. He reaches his majority having not learned his lesson, and immediately begins hacking into the local TV station to celebrate being online again. While there he encounters rival hacker Acid Burn (Angelina Jolie), who turns out to be Kate, a student at his new school. Hiding his former identity with the new moniker Crash Override, he soon meets fellow students and hacking bros Joey (Jesse Bradford), Cereal Killer (Matthew Lillard), Lord Nikon (Laurence Mason), and Phreak (Renoly Santiago). Naturally, the crew happens upon a huge embezzlement-ecological-disaster-virus scheme concocted by villain-with-a-god-complex The Plague (Fisher Stevens) to extort money from the mega-corporation he works for. Of course nobody but Crash, Acid Burn, and their crew can stop him. And will “Crash” and “Burn” find romance along the way?? (Spoiler alert: yes.)

Hackers is just ridiculous and fun (and ridiculous). It introduced us to pre-serious-actress Angelina Jolie, and gave us her first of many marriages, to co-star Miller. It reminds us of a time when Matthew Lillard was a thing (full disclosure: in the Hackers/Scream/SLC Punk! era, I definitely had a crush). It depicts a time when hacking wasn’t mainstream, and posited a world where hackers were harmless, plucky glam punks who used their powers for good, as opposed to the reality of the day when hackers were still socially awkward schlubs holed up in basements instead of out partying at weird in-line skate raves. It’s a pre-Matrix aesthetic, except people are generally happy and smile occasionally.

Whether you’re in the mood for a blast from the past or just a campy-fun way to spend an evening, possibly after imbibing the substance of your choice, you can’t go wrong with Hackers.


The only feature beyond the original theatrical trailer is a 3-part documentary called “The Keyboard Cowboys,” which includes new interviews with cast members including Stevens, Lillard, and Penn Jillette, as well as some of the behind-the-scenes crew to give insight on those oh-so-’90s fashions and visual effects.

The Hackers 20th Anniversary Edition Blu-ray is now available from Shout! Factory.

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