List Envy
List Envy
Mar 10, 2020
29: Top 5 films about computers
Play • 1 hr 4 min


Nick Moreton

Coder, teacher, punk, tea lover.

Mark is joined by podcaster and self-confessed computer nerd Nick Moreton, to talk about films where people talk about mainframes and UNIX systems.

There are quite a few swears in this episode, and more than a little discussion about a mutual friend, co-host of Nick’s podcast and Mark’s, and previous List Envy guest, Jon Hickman..

Honourable mentions

Nick’s picks

In order of discussion:


This 1995 cyber thriller starring Jonny Lee Miller and Angelina Jolie is essentially the only film Nick wanted to talk about, which he describes as being like the Matrix but if someone spilled coloured paint all over it. It also has exactly the kind of depiction of a computer system you would expect from a mid-90s film.

The Social Network

This 2010 Fincher/Sorkin collaboration is Nick’s second pick because it tells the simple story of someone who created something in their bedroom that then went on to change the world.

The Internet’s Own Boy

This 2014 documentary tells the story of Aaron Swartz, to whom we as Internet denizens owe a debt of gratitude we’ll sadly not get the chance to repay. He co-founded Reddit and helped architect the Creative Commons licensing framework, worked with John Gruber on the text system Markdown, and was involved in the spec that is used to deliver podcasts to millions of people every day.

Wreck-it Ralph

This 2012 CGI kids’ film from 2012 makes Nick’s list purely on merit… no ironic liking here. It’s got video game nods, good performances and a simple, solid storyline. What’s not to love?

Jurassic Park

This 1993 blockbuster might not, at first glance, seem to be about computers. But think about it… it’s a UNIX system, you know this. Like all good films about computers in the 90s, there’s a 3D operating system, unnecessary bleeps and bloops and animation that, had the developers spent as much time on park security as they had on taunting other developers, they might have saved that guy from being eaten off of the toilet.

Mark’s picks

In order of discussion:

The Matrix

Mark’s first pick is a film he knows almost by heart, to the point of being more than a nerd about it. It took him a few go-rounds to fully grok — as the cyberkids say — this ’99 classic, but grok it he did.


Proving that the mid-to-late 90s is where all the best computery films happened, eXistenZ is a less-than-mainstream adventure through a fully realistic virtual reality game. There are tropes to watch out for if you’re familiar with gaming, and a decent cast.

The Net

Mark was probably in his second year of secondary school when this Sandra Bullock cybercrime thriller came out. Mark didn’t really know much about the Internet when the film came out, but neither did the writers.

Ex Machina

This sizzling near-two-hander between Domhnall Gleeson and Oscar Isaac — with a stand-out performance by Alicia Vikander — makes Mark’s list for its drama, acting, staging, and tension.

Flight of the Navigator

If you’re unfamiliar with this Disney adventure from 1986, think 2001: A Space Odyssey, but more fun, and for kids. David is a boy who gets taken up in a tiny, beautiful shiny ship, and whips around the world at high speed.

More of Nick Moreton

You can keep up with Nick on Twitter, and listen to his running podcast, You Don’t Look Like a Runner


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