WarGames: A Look Back at the Film That Turned Geeks and Phreaks Into Stars

It was the year Ronald Reagan called the Soviet Union an “evil empire”; the year the United Nations implored the Russians to withdraw from Afghanistan; the year ABC aired The Day After, a TV movie about the wake of a nuclear attack on the US. In the midst of all this came WarGames, a fizzy little thriller about looming Armageddon. It’s a deceptively simple story: High schooler David Lightman (played by 21-year-old Matthew Broderick) is a digitally proficient goofball who wants to play an unreleased computer game — and impress a pretty girl (Ally Sheedy). So he does something most Americans didn’t have a word for back then: He starts hacking. Little does he know, the “computer company” he’s infiltrated is actually a military installation running a missile-command supercomputer called the WOPR (War Operation Plan Response), and the game — Global Thermonuclear War — is real. Naturally, only David can stop it from setting off World War III.

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