Hollywood has portrayed the “coder” and “hacker” character in movies and TV shows for years, but realism has never exactly been the operative word in their character descriptions. Most programmer characters are either rife with stereotypes or saddled with zero character development and a set of unexplained coding skills allowing them to hack their way into just about anything. Though of course that doesn’t mean they’re not supremely entertaining to watch.
We ranked each coder on a scale of 1-10 Gibsons (from the movie “Hackers”) from relatively believable to outlandishly ridiculous.
Theodore Donald “Rat” Finch, “The Core” (2002)
Actor: D.J. Qualls
Coder Skills: Hacks a cellphone for free long distance using only a gum wrapper, can “hack the planet” by keeping global disaster news off the Internet, hacks Project DESTINI mainframe, releases “Virgil” mission data to the world.
Quirks: Cannot code effectively without an unlimited supply of “Xena” tapes and Hot Pockets.
Best Quote: “One Zero One Zero Zero. With that I could steal your money, your secrets, your sexual fantasies, your whole life. Any country, any place, any time I want. We multitask like you breathe. I couldn’t think as slow as you if I tried.”
Plausibility Level: 3/10 Gibsons. Nowadays, any hacker who needs Xena to get in the zone is in serious trouble.
Stanley Jobson, ”Swordfish” (2001)
Actor: Hugh Jackman
Coder Skills: Infected the FBI with a computer virus, writes a worm that steals government slush fund money from a world bank, hacks a U.S. government system in 60 seconds.
Quirks: Likes leather jackets and outdated band t-shirts, forbidden from “touching” a computer as part of his parole, gets to see a topless Halle Berry.
Best Quote: “I’m happy with what I’m wearing, thank you.”
Plausibility Level: 2/10 Gibsons. Hugh Jackman has never and will never be a believable hacker.
The main dudes of “Silicon Valley” (2014-Present)
Actors (from left): Kumail Nanjiani, Martin Starr, Thomas Middleditch, Zach Woods, T.J. Miller
Coder Skills: Compression algorithms, Java and Scala coding, and systems architecture.
Quirks: One of them is an illegal alien from Canada, one has a penchant for ‘shroom-fueled Vision Quests. They all live together in an “incubator” house.
Best Quote: “Steve Jobs was a poser. He didn’t even write code.”
Plausibility Level: 10/10 Gibsons. They’re socially awkward, wear hoodies and can’t talk to girls. Sounds about right.
Skye, “Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.” (2013-Present)
Actor: Chloe Bennet
Coder Skills: Hacked governments to publicly reveal classified data. Tracked Centipede financial transactions to locate the secret base where they held Agent Coulson. Various “hacking” and “encrypting” activities for S.H.I.E.L.D.
Quirks: May or may not be of Alien origin. May be in love with a Hydra operative.
Best Quote: “All right, All right. I get it. I didn’t go to your stupid S.H.I.E.L.D Hogwarts or whatever.”
Plausibility Level: 2/10 Gibsons. On top of never explaining how she codes or hacks anything, she may not be a human and is far too good-looking.
Neo, Trinity, Tank, Link, and pretty much every non-machine character from ”The Matrix” (1999), ”The Matrix Reloaded,” (2001) and “The Matrix Revolutions” (2003)
Actors: Keanu Reeves, Carrie-Ann Moss, Marcus Chong, Harold Perrineau
Coder Skills: Thomas “Neo” Anderson is an infamous underground hacker before taking the red pill and being unplugged. As “operators,” Tank and Link navigated the Matrix, made objects appear out of thin air, and coded escape routes in the convoluted futuristic programming language that makes up the Matrix.
Quirks: Lived in an apocalyptic wasteland where machines have enslaved the human race in a virtual reality prison. Neo could fly and basically become a superhero within the Matrix. *Spoiler alert*: He also turned into a rainbow.
Best Quote: Trinity: “Where’s Neo?” Link: “He’s doin’ his Superman thing.”
Plausibility Level: 5/10 Gibsons. Yes, they can code things out of thin air in a virtual dystopian world. But given new wave of VR tech, their skills aren’t as implausible as they seemed 15 years ago.
Chloe O’Brian, “24” (2001-2010, 2014)
Actor: Mary Lynn Rajskub
Coder Skills: B.S. in Computer Science from UC Davis. A CTU analyst who over the course of the series has hacked, tracked, located, encrypted and coded Jack Bauer out of more tight spots than she can count.
Quirks: Notoriously snippy and snarky toward coworkers, but has a soft spot for Jack Bauer. She’s socially awkward, and since Jack went “off the grid” at the end of the series has become a punky London hacktivist.
Best Quote: “What’s with you and the breathing? Is that your solution to everything?”
Plausibility Level: 8/10 Gibsons. The unexplainable computer feats she accomplishes on a daily basis are shaky, but she backs it up with plenty of jargon and sarcastic retorts. A loyal, aggressively Type-A personality working in counter-terrorism.