WarGames (War Games) (1983)



Critic Consensus: Part delightfully tense techno-thriller, part refreshingly unpatronizing teen drama, WarGames is one of the more inventive -- and genuinely suspenseful -- Cold War movies of the 1980s.

Movie Info

In War Games, a young computer hacker (Matthew Broderick), thinking he's checking out a new video game, inadvertently breaks into the Pentagon's missile-defense system and challenges the computer in a game of Global Thermonuclear Warfare. Of course, Broderick hasn't begun a game, but has unwittingly made the first move in World War III, and if he doesn't beat the computer, the world will suffer untold nuclear destruction.

Rating: PG
Genre: Drama, Action & Adventure, Mystery & Suspense
Directed By:
Written By: Lawrence Lasker, Walter F. Parkes, Walon Green, Walter Parkes
In Theaters:
On DVD: Apr 28, 1998


as McKittrick

as Jennifer

as Gen. Beringer

as Pat Healy

as Conley

as Beringer's Aide

as Mr. Lightman

as Mrs. Lightman

as Stockman

as Radar Analyst

as Ayers

as Corporal in Infirmar...

as Radar Analyst

as Commander

as Deputy

as Technician

as Capt. Knewt

as Airman Fields

as Mr. Liggett

as Boy's Vice Principal

as Jim Sting

as Malvin

as Sgt. Schneider

as Nurse in Infirmary

as Airman

as Guard

as Flight Pilot Leader

as Vice Principal Secre...

as Travis

as Boy in Arcade

as Newscaster

as Sgt. Sims

as Major Ford

as Maj. Wenstin

as Norad Officer

as Falken

as Mr. Lightman
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Critic Reviews for WarGames (War Games)

All Critics (38) | Top Critics (7)

Classic humanist-didactic filmmaking, effectively presented as a thriller.

Full Review… | July 30, 2013
Chicago Reader
Top Critic

To me, the most enjoyable aspect of WarGames is when David is at work on his computer system. There's something wonderfully nostalgic about watching a guy play with such antiquated machinery and recognize that it was [once] considered state-of-the-art.

Full Review… | April 30, 2009
Top Critic

John Badham solders the pieces into a terrifically exciting story charged by an irresistible idea: an extra-smart kid can get the world into a whole lot of trouble that it also takes the same extra-smart kid to rescue it from.

Full Review… | March 26, 2009
Top Critic

As tense and effective now as it was 25 years ago. The worry back then was more about Soviet missiles than about credit card identity theft, but good filmmaking techniques haven't changed.

Full Review… | March 14, 2008
Denver Post
Top Critic

The first half has a sardonic edge to it, but the more seriously the movie takes itself the sillier it gets.

Full Review… | January 26, 2006
Time Out
Top Critic

As a premise for a thriller, this is a masterstroke.

Full Review… | October 23, 2004
Chicago Sun-Times
Top Critic

Audience Reviews for WarGames (War Games)

A teenage computer hacker accidentally starts a World War III simulation with a military supercomputer.
In the oeuvre of "the machines are winning" films, like Dr. Srangelove, Or How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb or The Terminator, Wargames ranks among the best of in this genre. If that's not enough, in the oeuvre of Cold War era peace films, like Fail Safe and The Russians Are Coming, the Russians Are Coming, Wargames's message fits witth the best of these as well. Without being terribly preachy, the film deftly expresses these two sentiments -- the over-determination of technology on our lives and the stupidity of Cold War era foreign policy. Particularly, "I was going to learn to swim" was a very nice touch.
Matthew Broderick was such a great actor in his younger days. He was so understated. His work was similar to a young Dustin Hoffman, and while his recent work has fallen off slightly, it's always great to revisit Ferris Bueller's Day Off, Biloxi Blues, and this film, Wargames to see how great he was.
I found the plot predictable, and the bit with Falken and the helicopter was too deus ex machina for my tastes.
Overall, this is a very good film about concepts that remain relevant today.

Jim Hunter

Super Reviewer


Stephen Falken: What you see on these screens up here is a fantasy; a computer enhanced hallucination! 

"Is it a game, or is it real?"

Wargames is a classic thriller that stars a young Matthew Broderick. It's a quick paced film that uses the cold war to good effect. It isn't a perfect movie, nor is it an amazing movie, in my opinion. What it is though is a fun film. It's entertaining, it's occasionally funny, occasionally thrilling, and it does have a brain. It's involving, but not quite as involving as I initially thought it would be. In the end, I rather enjoyed it though.

David is an intelligent high schooler, but also an under achiever. He spends most of his time on the computer and has gotten pretty good at hacking into systems. When he tries to hack into a gaming computer to steal some of its games, he accidentally gets into a military one. When he sees a list of games he decides to play Global Thermonuclear War. What he thinks is just a game turns into a real life situation when NATO thinks the Soviets are attacking. Is it a game, or is it all too real?

The movie definitely suffers a bit with its age. It's dated for sure, and some of the acting isn't the best. Had I watched this in 1983, I probably would have appreciated it a whole lot more. Watching it for the first time in 2013, it all seems extremely silly, but still fun. There's nothing here that makes me want to say anything too harsh about the film, but there's also nothing that makes me want to declare it as one of the best movies of the 80's as many like to claim. 

This is worth a look if you're one of the few people who haven't seen it. It's worth it for a young Matthew Broderick and its involving story about cold war hysteria and computers vs. human beings. 

Melvin White

Super Reviewer


A really exciting and funny movie. Was it trying to be to be funny, who knows, but it was. The pure stupidity of these characters was funny to me. The plot was actually good, and really interesting. I think a lot of people check it out.

Jim Careter

Super Reviewer

WarGames (War Games) Quotes

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