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Theatrical release poster
Directed by John Badham
Produced by Leonard Goldberg
Written by Lawrence Lasker
Walter F. Parkes
Starring Matthew Broderick
Dabney Coleman
John Wood
Ally Sheedy
Barry Corbin
Music by Arthur B. Rubinstein
Cinematography William A. Fraker
Studio United Artists
Distributed by MGM/UA Distribution Co.
Release date(s) June 3, 1983 (1983-06-03)
Running time 114 minutes
Country United States
Language English
Budget $12,000,000
Gross revenue $128,178,531
Followed by WarGames: The Dead Code

WarGames (1983) is an American thriller film written by Lawrence Lasker and Walter F. Parkes and directed by John Badham. The film starred Matthew Broderick in his second major film role, and featured Ally Sheedy, Dabney Coleman, John Wood, and Barry Corbin.

The film follows David Lightman (Broderick), a young hacker who unwittingly hacks into WOPR, a United States military supercomputer programmed to predict possible outcomes of nuclear war. Lightman gets WOPR to run a nuclear war simulation, originally believing it to be a computer game. The simulation causes a national nuclear missile scare and nearly starts World War III.

The movie was a box office success, costing US$12 million but grossing over $74 million after five months in the United States. The film was nominated for three Academy Awards. A sequel, WarGames: The Dead Code, was released direct to DVD on July 29, 2008.



During a secret simulation of a nuclear attack, one of two United States Air Force officers is unwilling to turn a required key to launch a missile strike. The officer's refusal to perform his duty convinces systems engineers at NORAD that command of missile silos must be maintained through automation, without human intervention. Control is given to a NORAD supercomputer, WOPR, which is programmed to predict possible outcomes of nuclear war.

David Lightman (Matthew Broderick) is a bright but unmotivated Seattle high school student and computer hacker. After receiving a failing grade in school, he uses his IMSAI microcomputer and modem to hack into the district's computer system using an unsecured password. He then changes his grade and does the same for his friend and classmate Jennifer Mack (Ally Sheedy).

After seeing an advertisement for a set of forthcoming computer games, Lightman has his computer dial every number in Sunnyvale, California, in an attempt to find its system. When later reviewing the results, he finds one of the systems does not identify itself, which he finds intriguing. After trying a few commands he succeeds in finding a list of games, starting with general strategy games like chess, checkers and poker, but then progressing to titles like Theaterwide Biotoxic and Chemical Warfare and Global Thermonuclear War. More intrigued than ever, Lightman continues to try to hack into the system without success.

Lightman enlists the aid of two older hackers, who explain the concept of a backdoor password and suggest tracking down the "Falken" referenced in Falken's Maze, the first game listed. Following this lead, Lightman discovers that Stephen Falken was an early artificial intelligence researcher, and from there tracks down every lead he can find on the man's life. He learns that Falken had a son, Joshua, and subsequently uses this name as a password to gain access to the unidentified system.

Unknown to Lightman, the Sunnyvale phone number was cross-connected and is actually connecting him to WOPR in the Cheyenne Mountain military complex. WOPR was originally programmed, in part by Falken, to run simulations on various warfighting scenarios and attempt to find winning strategies. The list of "games" Lightman found were the various scenarios. Lightman glibly starts a game of Global Thermonuclear War, playing as the Soviet Union, selecting Las Vegas and his home town of Seattle as first-strike targets. WOPR starts running a simulation of a missile attack on the NORAD displays, leading the human military attendants to believe that actual Soviet nuclear missiles are inbound.

When they investigate, they determine that WOPR is running a simulation and defuse the situation. The phone line and backdoor password are removed to ensure the event does not reoccur. However, unknown to NORAD, WOPR continues to run the simulation in an attempt to trigger the scenario and win the game. WOPR continuously feeds false data such as Soviet bomber incursions and submarines deployments to the humans at NORAD, goading them into raising the DEFCON level and pushing them toward a retaliation that will start World War III. News of the events leaks out to television and Lightman learns the true nature of his actions when a news broadcast makes light of the situation later that day. He is soon tracked down and arrested by the FBI and taken to NORAD.

Upon seeing the alarms on their screens Lightman quickly concludes that WOPR is behind them. He tries to tell this to Dr. John McKittrick (Dabney Coleman), one of the WOPR programmers. McKittrick is unconvinced and when he leaves to discuss the issue, Lightman tries to stop the simulation from a terminal in his office. Upon being discovered, Lightman is taken away and locked up in the infirmary.

Lightman escapes confinement and is able to leave NORAD by blending in with a tourist group. With Jennifer's help, he makes his way to Oregon, where Falken (John Wood) has retired after the deaths of his wife and son and now lives under a new identity. Lightman and Jennifer find that Falken has become despondent and believes the world is inevitably on a path to nuclear holocaust. The teenagers convince Falken that he should return to NORAD to attempt to stop WOPR (which Lightman calls "Joshua").

Meanwhile back at NORAD, WOPR stages a massive Soviet first strike with hundreds of missiles, submarines and bombers. With all available evidence suggesting the attack to be genuine, the staff begin to set in motion the preparations for a retaliatory strike. Falken arrives with the others just in the nick of time and is able to convince military officials to cancel the counterstrike and ride out the "attack" which indeed turns out to be nonexistent. At this point WOPR starts an attempt to launch a counterstrike on its own, using a brute force attack to crack the launch code for the U.S. nuclear missiles. Without humans in the silos as a safeguard, WOPR could trigger a mass launch. Attempts to stop WOPR prove useless as all attempts to log in and order the countdown to cease result in the operators being locked out. Disaster is narrowly averted when Falken and Lightman successfully direct WOPR to play tic-tac-toe (which was hidden by Falken during programming and left off the list of games) against itself. This results in a long string of draws, forcing the computer to learn the concept of futility. WOPR cracks the missile code but before launching, it cycles through all the nuclear war scenarios it has devised, also finding they all result in stalemates ("WINNER: NONE") due to mutually assured destruction. WOPR observes that nuclear warfare is "a strange game. The only winning move is not to play". WOPR then casually offers to play "a nice game of chess," and relinquishes control of NORAD and the missiles.




Development on WarGames began in 1979, when writers Walter F. Parkes and Lawrence Lasker developed an idea for a script called The Genius.[1] It was about "a dying scientist and the only person in the world who understands him — a rebellious kid who's too smart for his own good."[1] Lasker was inspired by a television special presented by Peter Ustinov on several geniuses including Stephen Hawking. Lasker said "I found the predicament Hawking was in fascinating — that he might one day figure out the unified field theory and not be able to tell anyone, because of his progressive ALS. So there was this idea that he'd need a successor. And who would that be? Maybe this kid, a juvenile delinquent whose problem was that nobody realized he was too smart for his environment."[1] The concept of computers and hacking was not present in this early iteration.[1]

The Genius began its transformation into WarGames when Parkes and Lasker met Peter Schwartz from the Stanford Research Institute.[1] "There was a new subculture of extremely bright kids developing into what would become known as hackers," said Schwartz.[1] Schwartz made the connection between youth, computers, gaming, and the military.[1] Parkes and Lasker came up with several different military-themed plotlines prior to the final story.[1] One version of the script had an early version of WOPR. Named Uncle Ollie, or OLI (Omnipresent Laser Interceptor), it was a space-based defensive laser run by an intelligent program. The idea was discarded in preference of WOPR because it was too speculative.[1]

David Lightman was modeled on David Scott Lewis, a hacking enthusiast Parkes and Lasker met.[1][2] Falken was inspired by Steven Hawking with the appearance of John Lennon. Lennon was interested in the role.[1] General Beringer was based on James V. Hartinger, the then-commander-in-chief of NORAD who Parkes and Lasker met while visiting the base.[1]

Martin Brest was originally hired as director but was fired after 12 days of shooting because of an on-set tiff with the producers.[3][4] Brest was replaced with director John Badham. Several of the scenes shot by Brest remained in the final film. Badham said that "[Brest had] taken a somewhat dark approach to the story […] and the way it was shot, it was like [Broderick and Sheedy] were doing some Nazi undercover thing. So it was my job to make it seem like they were having fun, and that it was exciting."[5] According to Badham, Broderick and Sheedy were "stiff as boards" when they came onto the sound stage, having both Brest's dark vision and the idea that they were going to get fired in their minds.[5] Badham did 12–14 takes of the first shot to loosen the actors up. At one point, Badham decided to have a race with the two actors around the sound stage with the one coming last having to sing a song to the crew. Badham lost and sang "The Happy Wanderer", the silliest song he could think of.[5]


WarGames was nominated for three Academy AwardsBest Cinematography (William A. Fraker), Sound (Michael J. Kohut, Carlos de Larios, Aaron Rochin, Willie D. Burton) and Writing, Screenplay Written Directly for the Screen (Lawrence Lasker, Walter F. Parkes). The film was screened out of competition at the 1983 Cannes Film Festival.[6]

The scenes showing Lightman's computer dialing every number in Sunnyvale led to the term "war dialing", a technique of using a modem to scan a list of telephone numbers to search for unknown computers, and indirectly to the newer term "wardriving."[7]

Author David E. Hoffman, in his 2009 book, The Dead Hand describes a similar real-life incident in June of 1980, where a US military computer chip failed, triggering a full missile alert which passed through two stages of possible retaliatory action against the Soviet Union before it was discovered to be a false alarm.[8]

Video games

A video game named after the film was released for the ColecoVision in 1983. It played similarly to the NORAD side of the "Global Thermonuclear War" game, where the United States had to be defended from a Soviet strike by placing bases and weapons at strategic points. A real-time strategy game that was very loosely related to the movie was released for the PlayStation and PC called WarGames: Defcon 1 in 1998. The movie also inspired the Introversion game DEFCON.[9]

Sequel and possible remake

In November 2006, pre-production began on a sequel, titled WarGames: The Dead Code.[10] It was directed by Stuart Gillard, and starred Matt Lanter as a hacker named Will Farmer facing off with a government supercomputer called R.I.P.L.E.Y.[11] MGM released the sequel directly to DVD on July 29, 2008 along with the 25th Anniversary Edition DVD of WarGames. To promote the sequel, the film returned to selected theaters as a one night-only 25th Anniversary event on July 24, 2008.[12]

It was reported in February 2009 that Leonardo DiCaprio is looking to produce a reboot of WarGames.[13]

See also


  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l Brown, Scott (2008-07-21). "WarGames: A Look Back at the Film That Turned Geeks and Phreaks Into Stars". Wired. Retrieved 2009-05-01. 
  2. ^ Takahashi, Dean (2008-08-12). "A Q&A that is 25 years late: David Scott Lewis, the mystery hacker who inspired the film "War Games"". VentureBeat. Retrieved 2009-05-01. 
  3. ^ Tate, James M.. "Eddie Deezen Interview". Cult Film Freak. Retrieved 2009-03-15. 
  4. ^ Erickson, Hal. "Martin Brest: Biography". Allmovie. Retrieved 2009-03-15. 
  5. ^ a b c Simon, Alex (2008-08-02). "John Badham: The Hollywood Interview". The Hollywood Interview. Retrieved 2009-05-01. 
  6. ^ "Festival de Cannes: WarGames". Retrieved 2009-06-22. 
  7. ^ Patrick S. Ryan (Summer 2004). "War, Peace, or Stalemate: Wargames, Wardialing, Wardriving, and the Emerging Market for Hacker Ethics". Social Science Research Network. Retrieved 2008-04-02. 
  8. ^ Hoffman, David E. The Dead Hand ISBN 978-0-385-52437-7, Published by Doubleday 2009
  9. ^ Delay, Chris. "Detonating Introversion's Defcon". Game Developer Magazine. Retrieved 2009-06-02. 
  10. ^ WarGames 2 at the Internet Movie Database
  11. ^ "WarGames 2 Casting". Stax. IGN. Retrieved 2006-11-09. 
  12. ^ Fathom Events' WarGames event
  13. ^ Sciretta, Peter (2009-02-16). "Leonardo DiCaprio To Reboot WarGames?". /Film. Retrieved 2009-05-01. 

External links


Up to date as of January 14, 2010

From Wikiquote

WarGames is a 1983 film about a teenager who unintentionally hacks into a war-simulating computer at NORAD, causing the US to panic over a seemingly impending Soviet nuclear strike.

Directed by John Badham. Written by Lawrence Lasker and Walter F. Parkes.
Is it a game, or is it real?taglines


Dr. Stephen Falken

  • Now, children, come on over here. I'm going to tell you a bedtime story. Are you sitting comfortably? Then I'll begin. Once upon a time, there lived a magnificent race of animals that dominated the world through age after age. They ran, they swam, and they fought and they flew, until suddenly, quite recently, they disappeared. Nature just gave up and started again. We weren't even apes then. We were just these smart little rodents hiding in the rocks. And when we go, nature will start again. With the bees, probably. Nature knows when to give up, David.
  • I loved it when you nuked Las Vegas. Suitably biblical ending for the place, don't you think?
  • We're just three miles from a primary target, a millisecond of brilliant light, and we're vaporized.
  • We will be spared the horror of survival.
  • John! Good to see you. I see the wife still picks your ties.
  • What you see on these screens up here is a fantasy; a computer enhanced hallucination!
  • General, you are listening to a machine. Do the world a favor and don't act like one.

David Lightman

  • Protovision, I have you now.
  • Hey, I don't believe that any system is totally secure.
  • [to Dr. Falken] This is unreal! You don't care about death 'cause you're already dead! I know a lot about you. I know you weren't always like this. What was the last thing you cared about?
  • [to "Joshua"] Come on. Learn, goddammit.

General Beringer

  • We've had men in those silos since before any of you guys were watching "Howdy Doody"! Now, for myself I sleep pretty well knowing those boys are down there.
  • Mr. Mckittrick, after very careful consideration, sir, I've come to the conclusion that your new defense system sucks.
  • Goddammit, I'd piss on a spark plug if I thought it'd do any good!
  • Gentlemen, I wouldn't trust this overgrown pile of microchips any further than I can throw it.
  • Flush the bombers, get the subs in launch mode. We are at DEFCON 1.
  • Get the ICBMs in the bullpen warmed up ready to fly- get me the president on the horn!


  • Joshua:Shall we play a game?
  • Nigan: He does fit the profile perfectly. He's intelligent, but an under-achiever; alienated from his parents; has few friends. Classic case for recruitment by the Soviets.
  • Jim Sting [to Malvin]: Remember you told me to tell you when you were acting rudely and insensitively? Remember that? You're doing it right now.
  • McKittrick: Excuse me, sir. We can't send these men back to the President of the United States with a lot of head-shrinker horseshit!
  • Computer technician: Put X in the center square!


Mr. Liggett: Alright, Lightman. Maybe you can tell us who first suggested the idea of reproduction without sex.
David: Um, your wife?

Malvin: I can't believe it, Jim. That girl's standing over there listening and you're telling him about our back doors?
Jim Sting: [yelling] Mister Potato Head! MISTER POTATO HEAD!! Back doors are not secrets!
Malvin: Yeah, but Jim, you're giving away all our best tricks!
Jim Sting: They're not tricks.

Mr. Lightman: This corn is raw!
Mrs. Lightman: I know, isn't it wonderful? It's so crisp!
Mr. Lightman: Of course it's crisp! It's raw!
Mrs. Lightman: No, it's terrific! You can just taste the Vitamin A and D in here. It's great!
Mr. Lightman: Could we have pills and cook the corn?

Jennifer: [Stephen Falken] wasn't very old, was he?
David: Oh, he was pretty old, he was 41.
Jennifer: Wow, that is old.

Joshua: Shall we play a game?
David: Oh!
Jennifer: I think it missed him.
David: Yeah. Weird isn't it? Love to. How about Global Thermonuclear War.
Joshua: Wouldn't you prefer a good game of chess?
David: Later. Right now lets play Global Thermonuclear War.
Joshua: Fine.

David: What is the primary goal?
Joshua: You should know, Professor. You programmed me.
David: Oh, c'mon. What is the primary goal?
Joshua: To win the game.

David Lightman: Is it a game... or is it real?
Joshua: What's the difference?
David: Oh wow.
Joshua: You are a hard man to reach. Could not find you in Seattle and no terminal is in operation at your classified address.

Stephen Falken: Are either of you paleontologists? I'm in desperate need of a paleontologist.
Jennifer: No, we're high school students.
Stephen Falken: Pity.

Stephen Falken: Nature knows when to give up, David.
David: I'm not giving up. If Joshua tricks them into launching an attack, it'll be your fault.
Stephen Falken: My fault? The whole point was to practice nuclear war without destroying ourselves; to get the computer to learn from mistakes we could not afford to make. Except, that I never could get Joshua to learn the most important lesson.
David: What's that?
Stephen Falken: Futility. That there's a time when you should just give up.
Jennifer: What kind of a lesson is that?
Stephen Falken: Did you ever play tic-tac-toe?
Jennifer: Yeah, of course.
Stephen Falken: But you don't anymore.
Jennifer: No.
Stephen Falken: Why?
Jennifer: Because it's a boring game. It's always a tie.
Stephen Falken: Exactly. There's no way to win. The game itself is pointless! But back in the war room, they believe you can win a nuclear war.

David: I can't swim.
Jennifer: You can't swim?
David: No, I can't, all right, Wonder Woman? I can't swim.
Jennifer: Well, what kind of an asshole grows up in Seattle and doesn't even know how to swim?
David: I never got around to it, okay? I always thought there was gonna be plenty of time!
Jennifer: Sorry.
David: I wish I didn't know about any of this. I wish I was like everybody else in the world, and tomorrow it would just be over. There wouldn't be any time to be sorry about anything. Oh, Jesus! I really wanted to learn how to swim. I swear to God I did.

David: Joshua called me.
McKittrick: David, machines don't call people!
David: [shrugs] Yours did.

McKittrick: See that sign up here - up here. "Defcon." That indicates our current "def"ense "con"dition. It should read "Defcon 5," which means peace. It's still on 4 because of that little stunt you pulled. Actually, if we hadn't caught it in time, it might have gone to Defcon 1. You know what that means, David?
David: No. What does that mean?
McKittrick: World War Three.

General Beringer: Who's first and how soon?
Major: Sir, the WOPR indicates initial impact points as the 43rd Bomb Wing at Loring, the 319th at Grand Forks, and Alaskan Air Command headquarters at Elmendorf.

General Beringer: Mr. McKittrick, after very careful consideration, sir, I've come to the conclusion that your new defense system sucks.
McKittrick: I don't have to take that, you pig-eyed sack of shit.
General Beringer: Oh, I was hoping for something a little better than that from you, sir. A man of your education.

Joshua: Greetings, Professor Falken.
Stephen Falken: Hello, Joshua.
Joshua: A strange game. The only winning move is not to play. How about a nice game of chess?


  • Is it a game, or is it real?
  • Where the only winning move is NOT TO PLAY.


External links

Wikipedia has an article about:

Simple English

WarGames is a 1985 film starring Matthew Broderick and Ally Sheedy and directed by John Badham. The film follows a computer hacker named David Lightman (Broderick) who breaks into a NORAD war games simulation computer that he thinks is really the computer for a computer game company. Lightman begins a series of events that could start World War III. The film was nominated for three Academy Awards and was a big hit. It continues to be popular.



The film begins with two air force officers in a nuclear missile silo who are ordered to fire the missiles in the silo. The officers believe the order to be real and begin to fire the missiles. One of the officers decides not to fire and so the US government replaces all the men in the missile silos with computer control.

computer like the one used by David in WarGames]]

David Lightman (Broderick) is a smart high school student and computer hacker that at first limits himself to changing his and a girl whom he likes a lot, Jennifer's (Sheedy) grades from failing to passing grades: Lightman being smart but not motivated at school. A little while later David uses his IMSAI 8080 computer to dial many phone numbers and finds a backdoor into a NORAD war games simulation computer called WOPR (nicknamed the Whopper). At first David is looking for new computer games to download and play and believes that the WOPR is actually the computer of a company that makes new computer games. After finding a list of games on the computer decides to play a game. WOPR (who is an Artificial Intelligence computer) asks David for a password and after doing some research on the computer's creator Professor Steven Falken he guesses that the password is named after the creator's dead son, Joshua. After logging in using the correct password, W.O.P.R. believes David to actually be Dr. Falken whom the computer had believed to be dead. The computer (which David now calls "Joshua") asks him if he would like to play a game. David selects the game "Global Thermonuclear War". Doing so starts off a series of events that will end up taking the World into World War III unless it is stopped.

The television news later reports that the USA went on high-alert due to a computer error leading David and Jennifer to wonder if they had caused the problem. David throws away the evidence of his calling Joshua but the computer calls David back. David then asks Joshua if the game it is playing is real or not, Joshua relies "what is the difference?" At this point David learns that Joshua is not a computer game companies' computer but a government one and is actually is playing the game for real. He hangs up but Joshua calls him back, leading David to remove the cord from the back of his telephone. David is then arrested by the FBI and taken to NORAD to answer charges of espionage. David tries to explain that he was not trying to be a spy, but he is not believed. Using things found in the medical office in which he is locked, David escapes from NORAD on a bus load of visitors to the facility. After David escapes he telephones Jennifer (using Phreaking skills) to ask her to buy him an airplane ticket so he can go and see Falken and get his help in stopping Joshua. Joshua meets him and together then both go off to convince Falken to help them stop World War III.

Professor Falken has in fact resigned from NORAD because he believes war will happen no matter what any one does. Jennifer and David try to convince him to help them explain to NORAD that this is just a game that Joshua is playing. Falken tells them that it is not worth it as it may only buy them a few years but war will still happen. He explains that they are lucky because he lives only a few miles from a primary target and that they will die in a instant. David and Jennifer decide to try to stop the game anyway and try to leave the island. Finding no way off the island since the last ferry has left, Jennifer says that they should "swim for it". David admits he can't swim. Professor Falken shows up with a helicopter and together they all go to NORAD.

Inside NORAD Falken tells them it is all a game and they decide to allow the missiles that the Soviet Union has reportedly fired to land to see if it is real or a game. The computer screens show the missiles landing but no missiles actually land. This convinces NORAD that the whole thing was not real. Joshua, however, decides to crack the launch codes and fire the USA's missiles for real. David and Falken try to get Joshua to stop the firing and eventually succeed when Jennifer mentions the word "games". After many tries they get Joshua to play tic-tac-toe against itself in an effort to teach it the meaning of futility (a word meaning that there is no point to doing something, or that doing so will not help). Joshua tries every game of tic-tac-toe possible and then tries the same thing with every scenario within the Global Thermonuclear War game. Joshua then learns that war can not be won, and stops the game ending the threat of World War III.


The film was a hit. It was nominated for three Academy Awards. The film had a production budget of $12 million and had gross revenues of over $120 million making it a high earning film.

Cult status

WarGames has a cult following amongst computer users and fans of the 1980s. The film led to the development of the term war dialing (the calling of phone numbers looking for computers to connect to and hack).


  • Matthew Broderick - David Lightman
  • Ally Sheedy - Jennifer
  • Dabney Coleman - McKitrick
  • John Wood - Steven Falken
  • Barry Corbin - General Baringer

Other links

  • Cheyenne Mountain
  • Wargaming
  • Artificial intellegence

Other websites


  1. Lawrence Lasker, Walter F. Parkes, Walon Green (1982). Wargames: The Screenplay. ISBN 1593001207. 


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