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'Hackers' Still Feels Like the Perfect 90s Film

The visuals, fashion, characters and subtext of 'Hackers' are so much fun to go back to.

by Danielle Riendeau
May 29 2018, 3:56pm

All images courtesy MGM

This weekend, when a dear friend was in town visiting, we took a nostalgic trip through our earlier years and played a bunch of Full Throttle, followed up by a screening of Hackers, one of my all-time favorite movies. Watching it feels like visiting an old friend: you know every scene, most of the lines by heart, all of the ridiculously gif-able moments, and still, still, when you watch it at 2am, you have a kind of heart-to-heart with it. You notice new things. See subtleties and nuance in each sequence.

At least, I do. And I know I’m not alone.

Hackers was formative for me as a teen (I didn’t see it right in 1995, but a couple of years later, as a teen), especially as a queer teen. No, it’s not really explicitly a queer movie (outside of the fashion, and maybe Ramon/Phreak, who may actually be queer in the text), but the fashion, the colors, the anarchic spirit, and every single thing about Angelina Jolie’s performance is teasing queer identity. Indeed, this was the era where the young actress was publicly, proudly dating women, at a time when it was extremely uncommon for performers to be out at all. This was pre-Ellen.

At the very least, it’s a movie about young people rebelling against authoritarianism and old tropes about identity, and having an extremely good time while doing it.

It’s also an unapologetically cheesy movie, filled with lines about “righteous hacks” and the absolutely wonderful, nonsensical visual language used to portray hacking—a bunch of wild cyberpunk-style buildings. Dare we forget the single most gif-able moment in cinematic history? And lord alive, remember the early build of WipeOut that features as the “cool video game” in the pivotal club scene?

Is it perfect? Hell no. There’s that scene where all the boys in the little hacker club are creeping on Acid Burn while she tries to get laid in her own damned bedroom, and some language we would super not use today to describe non-gender conforming folks in the prank call hack.

But aside from some quibbles, I love this movie. I love how corny and dated it is, because it’s so earnest and earns its wacky aesthetic in every scene. I love its characters, kids who were finding their way in a changing world. And man, I love the soundtrack.

How about you, dear readers? Is there a very 90s movie (or any nostalgic era for you) that you love to revisit? Sound off on the forum!