This is a curated list of films and documentaries related to the internet, programming and hacking. If you are a web developer or consider yourself a problem solver you will probably enjoy them. These films contain historical and philosophical content on subjects related to programming, the internet, the evolution of human consciousness, activism, social action, environmental causes, open source and free software movements.
The Internet’s Own Boy: The Story of Aaron Swartz (2014)
The Internet’s Own Boy follows the story of programming prodigy and information activist Aaron Swartz. From Swartz’s help in the development of the basic internet protocol RSS to his co-founding of Reddit, his fingerprints are all over the internet. But it was Swartz’s groundbreaking work in social justice and political organizing combined with his aggressive approach to information access that ensnared him in a two-year legal nightmare. It was a battle that ended with the taking of his own life at the age of 26. Aaron’s story touched a nerve with people far beyond the online communities in which he was a celebrity. This film is a personal story about what we lose when we are tone deaf about technology and its relationship to our civil liberties.
Project Code Rush – The Beginnings of Netscape / Mozilla Documentary
Code Rush is a documentary following the lives of a group of Netscape engineers in Silicon Valley. It covers Netscape’s last year as an independent company, from their announcement of the Mozilla open source project until their acquisition by AOL. It particularly focuses on the last minute rush to make the Mozilla source code ready for release by the deadline of March 31 1998, and the impact on the engineers’ lives and families as they attempt to save the company from ruin.
Revolution OS (Linux History)
The film begins with glimpses of Eric Raymond, a Linux IPO, Linus Torvalds, the idea of Open Source, Perens, Stallman, then sets the historical stage in the early days of hackers and computer hobbyists when code was shared freely. It discusses how change came in 1978 as Bill Gates, in his Open Letter to Hobbyists, pointedly prodded hobbyists to pay up. Stallman relates his struggles with proprietary software vendors at the MIT Artificial Intelligence Lab, leading to his departure to focus on the development of free software, and the GNU project.
Torvalds describes the development of the Linux kernel, the GNU/Linux naming controversy, Linux’s further evolution, and its commercialization.
Raymond and Stallman clarify the philosophy of free software versus communism and capitalism, as well as the development stages of Linux.
Michael Tiemann discusses meeting Stallman in 1987, getting an early version of Stallman’s GCC, and founding Cygnus Solutions. Larry Augustin describes combining GNU software with a normal PC to create a Unix-like workstation at one third the price and twice the power of a Sun workstation. He relates his early dealings with venture capitalists, the eventual capitalization and commodification of Linux for his own company, VA Linux, and its IPO.
Brian Behlendorf, one of the original developers of the Apache HTTP Server, explains that he started to exchange patches for the NCSA web server daemon with other developers, which led to the release of “a patchy” webserver, dubbed Apache. Frank Hecker of Netscape discusses the events leading up to Netscape’s executives releasing the source code for Netscape’s browser, one of the signal events which made open source a force to be reckoned with by business executives, the mainstream media, and the public at large. This point was validated further after the film’s release as the Netscape source code eventually became the Firefox web browser, reclaiming a large percentage of market share from Microsoft’s Internet Explorer. The film also documents the scope of the first full-scale LinuxWorld Summit conference, with appearances by Linus Torvalds and Larry Augustin on the keynote stage.
The Collective Evolution III: The Shift
Are we in the midst of major revolution? a Shift in consciousness? The Collective Evolution III is a powerful documentary that explores a revolutionary shift affecting every aspect of our planet. As the shift hits the fan, people are becoming more aware of the control structures that prevent us from experiencing our full potential. CE3 uses a different level of consciousness and scientific facts to bring clarity about the shift while dispelling myths about our true nature. It offers practical steps that we can implement right now to transition out of survival mode and into our more natural state of peace and co-operation . CE3 includes fascinating interviews with revolutionary speakers and people who are already opting out of the current socioeconomic system. The film examines hidden technologies and exciting alternatives for a bright limitless future. This is the most exciting time in the history of our world.
We Are Legion – The Story of the Hacktivists
The film was written and directed by Brian Knappenberger and features the story of Anonymous assumed to stem from the imageboard 4chan. It also outlines major turning points and “operations” in their history. Angered by many diverse issues such as copyright abuse, police brutality, online censorship and would-be web controllers this loosely affiliated collective of hacktivists have organised both online and offline protests, cyber attacks on foreign governments during the Arab Spring movement and provided technical support to the Occupy movement. They see themselves as activists and protectors of free speech, and tend to rise up most powerfully when they perceive a threat to internet freedom or personal privacy.
We Steal Secrets: The Story of WikiLeaks
A documentary that details the creation of Julian Assange’s controversial website, which facilitated the largest security breach in U.S. history.
Hack, Hacking & Hackers – In the Realm of the Hackers
In 1989, two Melbourne teenage hackers known as Electron and Phoenix stole a restricted computer security list and used it to break into some of the world’s most classified and supposedly secure computer systems. So fast and widespread was the attack, no-one could work out how it had happened – until one of the hackers called The New York Times to brag.
Ten years after their arrest, this dramatised documentary uncovers not only how they did it but why. It takes us headlong into the clandestine, risky but intoxicating world of the computer underground.
Citizenfour chronicles the revelations by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden that burgeoned into the wider NSA spying scandal. The Guardian and the Washington Post simultaneously began publishing Snowden’s leaked information in June 2013, with both publications winning a Pulitzer prize in 2014 for Public Service journalism. The film’s title derives from the pseudonym Snowden used when he first anonymously contacted Poitras.