It might not seem that way to anyone who enjoyed their youth at a later time, but growing up as a kid in the early 80s was pretty cool.

Yes, times were tough, but what made it all magical was that us kids stood on the cusp of the computer age – we were getting clunking, huge computers in the classroom, computer studies went onto our school curriculum and suddenly everything seemed possible.

Allied to that was the fact that the world’s filmmakers quickly latched onto this craze, bringing us the likes of Tron, The Last Starfighter etc.

But naturally computers, with their air of mystery, were never going to be portrayed as the good guys all the time (see Tron for example) – and Wargames continues that trend.

After a tense nuclear launch opening sequence (that stars a young Michael Madsen) which we later find was just a simulation, we are thrown into the hurly-burly life of schoolboy David Lightman, played by Matthew Broderick.War_Games_poster-392x600

Lightman is the archetypal original computer geek, converting his bedroom into a whirring mass of machinery.

Due to spending so much time perfecting his keyboard skills, Lightman is slipping behind in his other school subjects.

No matter though, as he is able to hack into the school’s computers and change his grades, keeping his parents sweet in the progress.

Desperate to get a glimpse at the next wave of computer games from software company Protovision, David sets about hacking into their system to take a look.

Wouldn’t you know though, he somehow instead hacks into the nation’s defence computer systems, and suddenly he is taking on the role of the Soviet Union to play Global Thermonuclear War against the United States.

Trouble is, the States think these attacks are for real and begin preparing retaliatory strikes.

With the world on the brink of meltdown, disaster is averted when the pretence is revealed and all seems fine.

But, naturally the super computer ‘Joshua’ thinks the game is still on and before long the world stands on the edge of obliteration once more.

Can Lightman, who has been chased down by the CIA, help save the day?

Well, the fact that I am writing this years later should give that away, but this is a rollicking good adventure nonetheless.

The beauty of Wargames is that, sure it reeks of early 80s, but it has lost none of its charm.

Broderick is fantastic as Lightman the likeable geek, in many ways laying the foundation for his turn as Ferris Bueller a couple of years later.

He also has an excellent foil in fellow 80s icon Ally Sheedy, with the pair enjoying real chemistry on screen.

The pacing from director John Badham is perfect, with the film fairly crackling along once the lead players are introduced early on.

There is humour, thrills, a bit of romance and potentially evil giant computers (that even speak in a Stephen Hawking-esque voice) – surely everything you want in a film?

And if that wasn’t enough, Lightman spends a chunk of his time playing Galaga in his local Seattle games arcade – surely one of the best coin-ops ever invented (and a game I still play on my i-phone).

Anyone who has read the ace recent novel Ready Player One will know just how revered Wargames is by the central characters in it and I am firmly in that camp.

A genuine 80s classic.

 

About The Author

Simon Fitzjohn

Simon is a journalism tutor in London, who also just happens to be a movie fanatic, with a craving for the darker side of cinema. He has written two books, one on the horror films of director Bob Clark (2014) and the other on the history of the character Norman Bates (2015). His third book, on the work of British exploitation director Pete Walker, is due in 2017.