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critics 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. Read critic reviews

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Movie Info

High school student David Lightman (Matthew Broderick) unwittingly hacks into a military supercomputer while searching for new video games. After starting a game of Global Thermonuclear War, Lightman leads the supercomputer to activate the nation's nuclear arsenal in response to his simulated threat as the Soviet Union. Once the clueless hacker comes to his senses, Lightman, with help from his girlfriend (Ally Sheedy), must find a way to alert the authorities to stop the onset of World War III.

Cast & Crew

Matthew Broderick
David Lightman
Dabney Coleman
Dr. John McKittrick
Ally Sheedy
Jennifer Katherine Mack
John Wood
Dr. Stephen Falken
Barry Corbin
Gen. Jack Beringer
Juanin Clay
Pat Healy, McKittrick's assistant
Kent Williams
Cabot
Leonard Goldberg
Executive Producer
William A. Fraker
Cinematographer
Tom Rolf
Film Editor
Angelo P. Graham
Production Design
Jerry Wunderlich
Set Decoration
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News & Interviews for WarGames

Critic Reviews for WarGames

All Critics (44) | Top Critics (11) | Fresh (41) | Rotten (3)

  • Like a man drawn to the edge of a cliff by the lure of the abyss below, we're secretly obsessed by the apocalypse. Moralists may claim that WarGames is more exploitation than warning, but it's still an exciting, giddily entertaining movie.

    January 1, 2020 | Full Review…
  • The chase sequences with government agents are tame but the film builds to a tense (and witty) conclusion at the Cheyenne Mountain nuclear bunker in Colorado Springs.

    July 31, 2015 | Rating: 4/5 | Full Review…
  • Classic humanist-didactic filmmaking, effectively presented as a thriller.

    July 30, 2013 | Full Review…
  • 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.

    April 30, 2009 | Rating: 3/4 | Full Review…
  • 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.

    March 26, 2009 | Full Review…
  • 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.

    March 14, 2008 | Full Review…

Audience Reviews for WarGames

  • Jan 23, 2019
    WarGames is just a fun, tense, well-paced thriller and slice of early 1980's cold war Americana. Really well cast, with super likeable young stars Matthew Broderick and Ally Sheedy, matched up against always perfectly smarmy Dabney Coleman with a dash of Barry Corbin's military moxie. This movie belongs in a time capsule of 1980's classics. The music is well done, the supporting cast is terrific. It even feels somewhat plausible that a young, gifted underachiever could accidentally hack into the U.S. military computer to play a fantasy wargame, and instead almost start world war III. Nothing was more terrifying at that time than the prospect of WW3. This is simply an underrated, enjoyable thriller that helped launch both Broderick and Sheedy, and is better than several other cold war thrillers of that era. I never get tired of watching Broderick outsmart federal officials with his ingenuity.
    Mark H Super Reviewer
  • Jun 14, 2015
    This is such a great film. It's pretty cheesy at times (it was made in the 80s after all lol). But WarGames is still a great film...great premise, story, and pacing. The cast is pretty good, as are the special effects for their time. This is also kind of random, but I like this film for its significance to the modern classic book Ready Player One. Unrelated really, I know, but I still appreciate the tie-in. Anyway, check this out.
    Stephen S Super Reviewer
  • Dec 17, 2014
    Even though outdated and preposterous by today's standard, Wargames featured a solid cast, well written story. sensible direction and brilliant acting from 80s movie stars like Broderick and Sheedy.
    Sylvester K Super Reviewer
  • May 12, 2013
    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 H Super Reviewer

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