War Games

Directed by John Badham & Martin Brest
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The Independent Culture

War Games is a 1983 suspense film starring Matthew Broderick in his second major film role.

The movie was a box office success, costing US$12 million but grossing over $74 million after five months in the United States.

David Lightman is a high school computer hacker, who uses his 1970s vintage IMSAI microcomputer and modem to perform automated searches for systems connected to the public phone system, which he then cracks. After seeing an advertisement for a new game company in Creative Computing magazine, he has his computer dial every number in Sunnyvale, CA in an attempt to find their system. However, instead of the game company he finds some sort of military system, which he then hacks in to. After gaining access he starts a game of global thermonuclear war. The system is actually a NORAD military artificial intelligence computer system called WOPR, originally intended to run wargame simulations. Unbeknownst to anyone involved, WOPR continues "playing" the game and sets in motion preparations for a real attack against the Soviet Union. With the aid of the machine's creator (Wood), disaster is narrowly averted when the hacker manages to teach WOPR about the futility of war by getting it to play endless drawn games of tic-tac-toe against itself which segue into cycles through all the nuclear war strategies that WOPR has devised. WOPR then learns that "the only winning move is not to play".


John Badham

Martin Brest


Lawrence Lasker

Walter F. Parkes


Matthew Broderick … David Lightman

Dabney Coleman … Dr. John McKittrick

John Wood Professor … Stephen Falken

Ally Sheedy … Jennifer Katherine Mack

Barry Corbin … General Jack Beringer


  • The studio had a Galaga and a Galaxian machine delivered to Matthew Broderick's home, where he practiced for two months to prepare for the arcade scene.
  • The computer used to break into NORAD was programmed to make the correct words appear on the screen, no matter which keys were pressed.
  • According to John Badham, the scene of the jeep trying to crash through the gate at NORAD and turning over was an actual accident. The jeep was supposed to continue through the gate. They added the scene of the characters running from the jeep and down the tunnel and used the botched jeep stunt.