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WarGames (War Games) (1983)



Average Rating: 7.6/10
Reviews Counted: 38
Fresh: 35 | Rotten: 3

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.


Average Rating: 6.9/10
Critic Reviews: 7
Fresh: 5 | Rotten: 2

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.



liked it
Average Rating: 3.3/5
User Ratings: 51,180

My Rating

Movie Info

Once more, a wise-guy teenager tries to prove he's smarter than any adult-and nearly destroys the whole world in the process-in WarGames. Computer-game aficionado Matthew Broderick inadverently taps into a hush-hush Pentagon computer, then proceeds to inaugurate his favorite game, "Global Thermonuclear War". What we know, but Broderick doesn't, is that the Pentagon, hoping to eliminate the chancy "human element" in the event of an actual war, has given its computer total, irreversable control


Drama, Action & Adventure, Mystery & Suspense

Apr 28, 1998


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All Critics (38) | Top Critics (7) | Fresh (35) | Rotten (3) | DVD (12)

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

July 30, 2013 Full Review Source: Chicago Reader
Chicago Reader
Top Critic IconTop 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.

April 30, 2009 Full Review Source: ReelViews | Comment (1)
Top Critic IconTop 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.

March 26, 2009 Full Review Source: Variety
Top Critic IconTop 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.

March 14, 2008 Full Review Source: Denver Post
Denver Post
Top Critic IconTop Critic

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

January 26, 2006 Full Review Source: Time Out
Time Out
Top Critic IconTop Critic

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

October 23, 2004 Full Review Source: Chicago Sun-Times
Chicago Sun-Times
Top Critic IconTop Critic

What keeps it remarkably fresh is an unpatronising approach to what is ostensibly a kids' thriller, and a set of ideas (remember when Hollywood used them?) that rightly consign all the cradle modems and dot-matrix printers to the margins.

July 30, 2013 Full Review Source: Total Film
Total Film

Slick and suspenseful, though a little heavy-handed.

July 30, 2013 Full Review Source: TV Guide's Movie Guide
TV Guide's Movie Guide

This inventive nail-biter is very much a product of its time -- blending the arms-race unease of the early 1980s with the beginning of the home-computer revolution -- but it still manages to both grip and entertain.

July 30, 2013 Full Review Source: Radio Times
Radio Times

Time might not have been kind to the look of WarGames, but with nuclear war still a very real threat, the picture's ability to manufacture suspense remains undimmed.

July 30, 2013 Full Review Source: Film4

It's far too simplistic for comfort -- and downright dangerous if it makes anyone think today's self-destructive forces will bow jovially out of sight as soon as we grown-ups loosen up a little.

July 30, 2013 Full Review Source: Christian Science Monitor
Christian Science Monitor

Memory makes the heart grow fonder, even when you're blowing up the world.

June 5, 2013 Full Review Source:

As a Cold War message movie and cinematic descendent of Fail-Safe, WarGames examines the inherent danger in favoring technology's cool logic and situational calculations.

August 8, 2011 Full Review Source: Reel Times: Reflections on Cinema
Reel Times: Reflections on Cinema

In many ways, John Badham's intriguing tale was prophetic.

May 11, 2011 Full Review Source: EmanuelLevy.Com

Suspenseful Cold War tale with teen gamer in control.

January 2, 2011 Full Review Source: Common Sense Media
Common Sense Media

In this sage satire, warfare is boiled down to the inanities of tic-tac-toe

June 3, 2010 Full Review Source: CinePassion

What works best about it works still: it's a paranoid film with an ambiguous ending.

November 9, 2008 Full Review Source: Film Freak Central
Film Freak Central

One of the early films to warn about the dangers of hackers and the possibilities of computers controlling our lives.

February 10, 2008 Full Review Source: Ozus' World Movie Reviews
Ozus' World Movie Reviews

The film hasn't nearly the despair of Dr. Strangelove, but it retains the same underlining moral questions in its portrayal of these unimaginable dilemmas.

July 19, 2007 Full Review Source: Projection Booth
Projection Booth

Dated now, due to computer tech, but still tense.

June 1, 2005

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.
May 12, 2013
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. 
January 25, 2013
Melvin White

Super Reviewer

Overrated teen sci-fi flick starring Matthew Broderick is good, but not enough. It is like watching Ferris Bueller play tech-y rather than hooky, and it tries to add some humor, but it usually fails.

The last few moments of WARGAMES are the best of the entire film. It is filled with algorithmic logic and obfuscated equations (do I need to make myself sound like I'm part of the Mental Floss staff?), but it still is pulse-pounding, witty fun, with a twist. Still, the rest of the film is stiff, and the critics were generous.
October 16, 2011

Super Reviewer

    1. Gen. Beringer: Well hell, I'd piss on a spark plug if I thought it would do any good!
    – Submitted by Ryan W (13 months ago)
    1. Falken: W.P.O.R.: A strange game.The only winning move is not to play. How about a nice game of chess?
    – Submitted by Andrew O (14 months ago)
    1. Falken: Did you ever play tic-tac-toe?
    2. Jennifer: Yeah, of course.
    3. Falken: But you don't anymore.
    4. Jennifer: No.
    5. Falken: Why?
    6. Jennifer: Because it's a boring game. It's always a tie.
    7. Falken: Exactly. There's no way to win. The game itself is pointless! But back at the war room, they believe you can win a nuclear war. That there can be 'acceptable losses.'
    – Submitted by Stefan G (15 months ago)
    1. Falken: General, you are listening to a machine. Do the world a favor and don't act like one.
    – Submitted by Kyle F (16 months ago)
    1. Falken: Open gate, walk through gate, close gate.
    – Submitted by Paul M (20 months ago)
    1. David: [typing] People sometimes make mistakes.
    2. Joshua: Yes, they do.
    – Submitted by Geoff T (2 years ago)
View all quotes (8)

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Latest News on WarGames (War Games)

August 22, 2011:
The WarGames Remake Has a Writer
MGM hires Noah Oppenheim ("Jackie O") to pen the script.
June 27, 2011:
Seth Gordon Talks WarGames Reboot
Calls making it a "cool challenge."
June 24, 2011:
MGM Wants Seth Gordon to Reboot WarGames
How about we just play a nice game of chess instead?

Foreign Titles

  • WarGames (DE)
  • WarGames (UK)
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