The Best (and Worst) Password-Hacking Scenes in TV

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The Best (and Worst) Password-Hacking Scenes in TV. 12345Proxy disclaimer
The Best (and Worst) Password-Hacking Scenes in TV. 12345Proxy disclaimer

“I’m in !”

This phrase is often proclaimed after a couple of keyboard clicks and a dark screen follows a nonsensical sequence where a protagonist “hacks” into a system—not by technical prowess, but by inferring a password from convenient environmental hints.

Take the oft-cited scenario where a character, confronted with a password-protected computer, glances at a nearby fisherman painting and correctly deduces “fishing” as the key to entry, as exemplified in the film Batman & Robin.

Password Hacking Trope: A Dive into Unreality

This approach erroneously presumes that users setting their computer passwords lacks discretion, which might occasionally be true. Alternatively, the password-guessing cliché might be a contrived plot device, a deus ex machina, that effortlessly eliminates obstacles for the protagonist, undermining audience intelligence.

In practice, haphazardly attempting to guess passwords is an exercise in futility, typically resulting in either lockout or frustration. Even with a simple password derived from personal data, like a birthday or child’s name, deducing it within a handful of attempts is nearly impossible.

Consequently, the importance of robust passwords remains critical; these should be lengthy, intricate, and seemingly arbitrary.

The characters in our curated films might benefit from more secure passwords. However, other elements, including social engineering, also influence security. With that in mind, let’s delve in—be aware of potential spoilers!

Effective password-cracking depictions in film and television.

WarGames (1983)

Starring Matthew Broderick before his iconic role in Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, WarGames chronicles the adventures of high schooler David, who accidentally hacks into a military computer thinking it’s a video game.

Early on, David hacks his school’s network to alter his grades, exploiting the insecurely stored password “pencil,” which the school regularly records in a predictable location.

This depiction scores points for its realism regarding poor password management practices.

National Treasure (2004)

Nic Cage delivers one of the standout entries on this list.

In a pivotal scene, cryptographer and historian Benjamin Franklin Gates (Nic Cage) and his associate Riley (Justin Bartha), a computer specialist, endeavor to decode the password for an access panel outside the National Archives preservation room.

Their audacious goal is to pilfer the Declaration of Independence. Dr. Abigail Chase (Diane Kruger), an unsuspecting archivist at the National Archives, has inadvertently transferred a chemical residue onto certain keys of the security panel, namely: A, E, F, G, L, O, R, V, Y.

While Riley employs a program to search for anagrams, Gates deduces that “Valley Forge”—a nod to the seminal American Revolution encampment—is the password, realizing that Chase pressed “E” and “L” twice.

This scene earns accolades for its entertainment value above all.

Sneakers (1992)

Featuring a stellar ensemble with Robert Redford, Sidney Poitier, Dan Aykroyd, and Ben Kingsley, “Sneakers” is a riveting blend of action, comedy, and tech heist-thriller.

Security expert Martin Bishop (Redford), commissioned by the NSA to recover a highly classified black box, confronts various challenges. In a pivotal scene, Bishop’s crew must infiltrate a facility guarded by voice recognition security.

They focus on Werner Brandes (Stephen Tobolowsky), whose vocal imprint grants access. To capture his voice pattern, they concoct a ruse: Liz (Mary McDonnell) woos Brandes on a date, coaxing him into uttering the necessary phrase, “Hi, my name is Werner Brandes. My voice is my passport. Verify me.”

The film deftly illustrates the efficacy of social engineering in the realm of espionage.

Mr. Robot

Need I say more, it’s Mr. ROBOT

Bad password-hacking scenes in film and television.


In the second season’s premiere, “A Scandal in Belgravia,” Holmes acquires Irene Adler’s phone. Adler, a dominatrix, entrusts Holmes with her phone due to looming peril.

Predictably, the device is secured, flashing the message: “I AM _ _ _ _ LOCKED.” Holmes eventually discerns the code “I AM SHER LOCKED,” and reprimands her for selecting a predictable password influenced by her emotional attachment to him.

While the revelation is ingenious, it borders on being overly contrived.

Batman & Robin (1997)

There’s a reason it has a 3.8 IMDB rating

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