Viewing your Watchlist and recommended content requires Javascript

  • PG
  • Drama, Thriller
  • 1983
  • 114 mins

War Games

War Games

Synopsis

The young Matthew Broderick stars in a computer-related nuclear thriller that's as effective as it is appallingly dated..

About

WarGames harks back not only to a different decade but to a different age: one in which "modem" was among the most modern of terms and any computer with serious brain power was the size of the average family car.

John Badham's taut thriller is a reminder that the 80s was a technological stone age as well as the time of big hair. But while it might leave you feeling smug about how far we've come, WarGames is sufficiently engaging and tense to seem frightening rather than funny. That it is such a good film is made more amazing still by the fact it stars almost nobody famous and original director Martin Brest (the man responsible for Gigli) was fired midway through shooting.

Looking pretty much the way he looks today, Matthew Broderick was just 21 and a veteran of only one feature film when he was cast as 16-year-old computer nerd David Lightman. When David accidentally hacks into a government super-computer, he nearly sparks off a nuclear war. Naturally, the American military are pretty concerned about this. But they're even more concerned when said system, codename WOPR, finds itself unable to distinguish between the war-game David wanted to play and the real thing.

Sharply scripted by Walter F Parkes and Lawrence Lasker (who also penned hacker fest Sneakers), WarGames might be aimed primarily at young boys but it never for a moment excludes either girls or adults - it's as if Badham realised that the machines at the heart of his story could benefit all mankind, and not just the members who were shy around the opposite sex. The unstarry cast also helps keep attention focused on the frankly terrifying story. Both Broderick and love interest Ally Sheedy are very natural while, among the adults, Dabney Coleman, Barry Corbin and John Wood excel as military top brass, bonkers General and enigmatic scientist respectively. And be sure to keep an eye out for a young Michael Madsen as one of the guys in the silo in the opening scene.

Admittedly, there's none of the bleakness and little of the black comedy of, say, Dr Strangelove. But compare WarGames with much of what passes for teen entertainment today and you wish that more filmmakers would download its winning formula.

Cast & Connections

  • Actor: Ally Sheedy, John Wood, Maury Chaykin, Matthew Broderick, Barry Corbin, Kent Williams, Dabney Coleman, Juanin Clay, Joe Dorsey, Eddie Deezen, Dennis Lipscomb
  • Director: John Badham
  • Screen Writer: Walter F Parkes, Lawrence Lasker
  • Producer: Harold Schneider
  • Photographer: William A Fraker
  • Composer: Arthur B Rubinstein

In a nutshell

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.

Latest from Film4...

  • Film4

    The Five-Year Engagement

    Jason Segel and Emily Blunt are Tom and Violet, a happy couple whose plans to marry become increasingly hopeless. Co-starring Chris Pratt and a host of sit-com favourites, expect sincerely romantic moments amongst Segel's signature frat boy humour.

    On Film4: 4 Aug 9:00PM

  • Film4

    Maidan

    Documentary portrait of the winter 2013/14 Ukrainian demonstrations in Kiev against the pro-Moscow presidency of Viktor Yanukovych and for a greater integration with Europe.

  • Channel 4 Blog

    Guests announced for Film4 FrightFest 2015

    Barbara Crampton, Rick Wakeman, James Cosmo, Toyah Willcox, Neil Marshall and Bernard Rose amongst dazzling array of guests set to re-animate FrightFest... Scream Queen legend Barbara Crampton is F

  • Channel 4 Blog

    Toby Amies on The Man Whose Mind Exploded

    Ahead of the TV premiere of The Man Whose Mind Exploded, Film4.com editor Michael Leader speaks with director Toby Amies about his fascinating documentary about the friendship he forged with the colou

Register with Film4.com

Personalise your Film4 experience

  • Set film reminders
  • Build your watchlist
  • Get film suggestions

or Register

Share