- Joshua, the government computer, in response to David's (Matthew Broderick) request to play Global Thermonuclear War.
New York Times - 06/03/1983
"...Entertaining....[Broderick is] very appealing..."
Variety - 05/11/1983
"...A terrifically exciting story charged by an irresistible idea for today's young audience..."
Total Film - 01/31/2013 4 stars out of 5 -- "What keeps it remarkably fresh is an unpatronising approach to what is ostensibly a kids' thriller..."
In director John Badham's WARGAMES, Matthew Broderick stars as David Lightman, a young hacker who accidentally logs on to the Department of Defense's network. Thinking that he's found a cool new computer game manufacturer, David plays checkers, chess, and other more intriguing games like Global Thermonuclear War. Realizing that their system has been tampered with, military operatives arrest him. However, the computer continues to play the "game" of thermonuclear warfare without David and generates the very real threat of World War III. In an attempt to prevent global disaster, David and his girlfriend, Jennifer (Ally Sheedy), search desperately for the scientist who designed the system before the goverment computer initates a full-scale nuclear war.
A landmark of 1980s cinema, WARGAMES was keenly tuned into its time. Computers remained a relative mystery in the early 1980s, as they were used primarily by large corporations and government agencies, but not by many individuals at home. The general public had already been warned of the danger of computer takeover in 1968 with 2001: A SPACE ODYSSEY and this paranoia grew as computers became more popular. The threat of communist takeover and nuclear war loomed large in the collective consciousness, before the fall of the Berlin Wall and the end of the cold war. Video games had become highly popular, however, and for a generation of Pac-Man and Space Invaders players WARGAMES combined the country's deepest fears with its biggest fantasies. Badham's suspenseful film brings those fears to light in an exciting, fast-paced film with a great cast (Broderick, Sheedy, John Wood, Barry Corbin, Dabney Coleman) and excellent special effects.
Matthew Broderick stars as David Lightman, a teenage computer whiz in the 1980s who causes an international nuclear crisis when he hacks into the U.S. Defense Department's computer system. Director John Badham's film is a finely wrought, edge-of-the-seat thriller that helped to define a generation of young video game players and computer geniuses living under the threat of nuclear war. A state-of-the art set and huge computer headquarters created an atmosphere of science fiction fantasy as well as real technological mastery.
The exteriors were all filmed in western Washington state. The NORAD HQ set was built in the Cascades, and the Oregon airport was really a Boeing field. Goose Island is really Anderson Island in Washington (in the Southern part of the Puget Sound). The last ferry off the island really was at 6:30 in the evening, and visitors were really stuck there if they missed it.
The NORAD Command center built for the movie was the most expensive set ever constructed at that time, built at the cost of one million dollars. The producers were not allowed into the actual NORAD command center, so they had to imagine its interior.
WARGAMES was Matthew Broderick's first feature film.
Although she had appeared in many television movies, WARGAMES was also Ally Sheedy's first feature film.
In the movie, Broderick's character hacks into his high school computer system and changes his grades. His character performs that same feat in FERRIS BUELLER'S DAY OFF.
The studio had Galaga and Galaxian machines delivered to Broderick at home, where he practiced for two months to prepare for the arcade scene.
Director John Badham actually took over the film from Martin Brest. A few of Brest's scenes remain in the final film.
Kevin Costner turned down the lead role for a part in THE BIG CHILL, which was eventually cut.