Movies That Help Us Understand the Internet Better

If you’re interested in getting up to speed about our not-too-distant digital past, the films below are kind of a primer. Watch these movies about the internet to learn about the major players of the past (and sometimes present). You’ll also get an introduction into some of the more pressing issues we deal with online today. 

The Internet’s Own Boy: The Story of Aaron Swartz (2014)

? Top Documentary Films

Free and open access to the Internet. Data privacy. Owning your data. These may seem like current issues, but programming wunderkind Aaron Swartz was fighting on behalf of all this stuff more than a decade ago. This movie follows his life, his work on several major programming platforms, his advocacy, and his untimely death. A good movie to discover how so many of believe the Internet could be. 

We Are Legion: The Story of the Hacktivists (2012)

Digital Films
? IMDb

Ever wonder why online collective Anonymous wears those Guy Fawkes masks? This film gets into that and more. We Are Legion explains how “hacktivism” developed, who some of the original players were, and the motivations behind their digital activism.

The Great Hack (2019)

? The New York Times

Ah, Cambridge Analytica. How did this relatively unknown company become powerful enough to affect elections worldwide? What has been the fallout for those who worked for and with the company? Similar to the media coverage the movie’s subjects have received, quite a bit has been written on the impact of this documentary as well. 

Roll, Red, Roll (2018)

Digital Films

This disturbing documentary about the sexual assault of a high school student in Steubenville, Ohio might seem an odd one to include in this list. But the secrecy around the case ultimately put hacktivist group Anonymous on the general public’s radar. Disgusted by the lack of attention being paid to the case, Anonymous leaked a tape implicating the rapists. From that point, the town of Steubenville became known for more than just its high school football program. Recently, our founder joined the Avalon Theatre as a panelist for a discussion about this movie and how rape culture affects young people today.

Catfish – The Movie (2007)

? IMDb

You may have heard of MTV’s wildly successful show Catfish. Well, this is the movie that started it all. After a strange encounter online, Nev Schulman, then working as a photographer, turns amateur investigator in order to determine just how real some of his online connections are. 

Citizenfour (2014)

Digital Films
? IMDb

This film follows Edward Snowden and several journalists as they attempt to deal with the fallout for exposing evidence that the National Security Agency was allegedly spying on foreign entities. While the focus of the film is on Edward Snowden, Citizenfour is also about government surveillance generally.

We Live in Public (2009)

? IFC Center

In the late ‘90s, Internet entrepreneur Josh Harris sought out New Yorkers for a social experiment: he would film nearly 100 people as they lived and worked in a large, Japanese-style capsule apartment building — underground. Cameras would allow the “residents” to be filmed and to watch each other as well. The goal? To show how humans would willingly give up their privacy for the sake of human connection. He was clearly onto something, as the earliest wide-reaching social media platforms were launching at the time.

The Net (1995)

Digital Films
? Collider

#GenXWarnedYou! It may have been released in the mid-nineties, but this movie creepily foreshadowed our current issues around hacking and privacy.

So there you have it — your cinematic primer on the good, the bad, and the ugly sides of digital. Hopefully, these films help you better understand how the past shaped our current digital landscape. Many of the people profiled in these movies are still working in digital spaces, contributing to the Internet we use now. 

If you’re wondering how to safely and effectively use digital applications in your organization or business (or just want to hang out and talk tech movies!), give us a shout! We’re always happy to help.