ISO: Terrible computer movies of the 70s-80s
January 16, 2015 12:32 PM   Subscribe

I am in search of movies from the 70s and 80s which feature now-hilarious computer technology as a major part of the plot. We're scraping the bottom of the barrel here, can you help us find another barrel?

Assume we've got your well-known classics covered - WarGames, Tron, etc. What else can we be watching that is further off the beaten path? If it helps calibrate your recommendation meter, Electric Dreams hit the perfect sweet spot of ridiculous computer technology and Evilspeak was thinking in the right direction too. I love Colossus: The Forbin Project maybe more than life itself. This does not have to be a good movie and in fact it's better if it's a trashy cult film, but it should be amusingly trashy.

The 70s-80s aren't a hard boundary, we can creep a few years into either of the surrounding decades, but it should be, say, pre-Hackers.

Bonus points for things that are available streaming (Netflix, Amaxon, YouTube, whatever) but I'd like to cast a wide net here and then we can narrow down what's actually available.
posted by Stacey to Media & Arts (31 answers total) 21 users marked this as a favorite
You may want to watch this montage. Colossus is great.
posted by johngoren at 12:33 PM on January 16, 2015

How about the typewriters and pneumatic tube interfaces of Max Headroom?
posted by jbickers at 12:35 PM on January 16, 2015 [1 favorite]

Johnny Mnemonic is right at the edge there.
posted by Buttons Bellbottom at 12:38 PM on January 16, 2015

Demon Seed (1977) has to be on your list. It's trash, but it takes itself so seriously.
posted by bonehead at 12:38 PM on January 16, 2015 [3 favorites]

Jumpin' Jack Flash is one of my great guilty pleasures and features Whoopi Goldberg using early IMs to help save a trapped spy. Lots of silly typing into screens/stupid password guessing.
posted by vickyverky at 12:41 PM on January 16, 2015 [6 favorites]

If you'll allow terrible robots too: West World (1973) and The Stepford Wives (1975) (but not the just terrible remake in 2004).
posted by bonehead at 12:44 PM on January 16, 2015 [1 favorite]

The problem is your computer is a wimp. - Weird Science

Also: Computer is your friend - Revenge of the Nerds.

(both might be too obvious, but worth looking at.)
posted by dirtdirt at 12:44 PM on January 16, 2015

It might be a stretch (video game tech vs. computer) but might The Last Starfighter fit the bill?
posted by killy willy at 12:45 PM on January 16, 2015

A little early, but The Computer Wore Tennis Shoes is breathtaking.
Superman III is the classic.
The sentient bomb from Dark Star is astonishing, as is the ship's computer, Mother.
Um, it's sort of hidden, but the villain in Zardoz is a computer called The Tabernacle.
The citadel's central computer in Logan's Run is pretty important to the film.
ROK, the computer that malfunctions in Airplane II
posted by maxsparber at 12:46 PM on January 16, 2015

Deadly Friend (1986). A less well known Wes Craven: the trouble with robot zombies.
posted by bonehead at 12:48 PM on January 16, 2015

As I recall the computer shots in Cloak & Dagger (1984) were pretty terrible. And I think Strange Brew (1983) actually had quite a bit of computer buffoonery, for some reason I can't quite recall.
posted by Joey Buttafoucault at 12:57 PM on January 16, 2015 [1 favorite]

It's not a movie but here's Peter Parker 'trying basic' on his new crime computer. (Edit: Oh yeah, neither is it a major part of the plot. Sorry!)
posted by popcassady at 1:06 PM on January 16, 2015

Overdrawn at the Memory Bank. Baby Raul Julia! Is the only redeeming feature!

(MST3K version)
posted by Lyn Never at 1:07 PM on January 16, 2015 [5 favorites]

IIRC Remo Williams has tons of wonderfully terrible computer tech including Wilford Brimley as a l33t government cybersleuth.
posted by Esteemed Offendi at 1:29 PM on January 16, 2015

The Net with Sandra Bullock is pretty hilarious, it's from the "THEY'VE HACKED INTO MY SANDWICH!" school of omniscient Big Brother. It's 1995, and the start of the Internet boom, which to me makes it perfect for your purposes.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 1:36 PM on January 16, 2015 [3 favorites]

Far beyond your time frame, but I remember an important twist in Runaway Jury (2003) hinged on the plot point that John Cusack's character used an iPod as a portable hard drive for some secret data or something.
posted by Leontine at 1:38 PM on January 16, 2015

The Lawnmower Man (1992, but pre-Hackers).
posted by Invisible Green Time-Lapse Peloton at 1:42 PM on January 16, 2015 [2 favorites]

Computer Beach Party!
posted by Otis at 1:44 PM on January 16, 2015 [2 favorites]

If you want to browse images of interfaces, Access Main Computer File could provide more leads, or for deep digging, TV Tropes collection of Magical Computer tropes.
posted by filthy light thief at 1:50 PM on January 16, 2015

Terry Gilliam's Brazil features computers with tiny tiny Cathode Ray Tube monitors magnified by Fresnel lenses.
posted by radwolf76 at 1:55 PM on January 16, 2015 [2 favorites]

> Terry Gilliam's Brazil

Is intentionally done in that quirky style. I think the OP is more looking for examples of films that were marketed as sleek and futuristic but aged poorly.
posted by Invisible Green Time-Lapse Peloton at 2:03 PM on January 16, 2015 [1 favorite]

Michael Crichton time!



The Andromeda Strain

(if you love Colossus you'll adore all the mainframe stuff in this one)
posted by JoeZydeco at 2:11 PM on January 16, 2015 [4 favorites]

Chopping Mall / Killbots
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 2:56 PM on January 16, 2015 [1 favorite] is the ship's computer, Mother

That's a different ship -- Mother is the computer in the Nostromo (subject, along with HAL, of this recent FPP).

Not movies, but late-60s TV -- you'll encounter some goofy computer tech in The Prisoner, especially in The General episode.
posted by Rash at 2:57 PM on January 16, 2015

Space 1999 (previously) brings the pointless computer beeple-boople in a TV show. My favourite episode is Brian The Brain, or it least what I can remember of it from hiding behind the sofa was my favourite ...
posted by scruss at 2:58 PM on January 16, 2015

R.O.T.O.R. has some laughs.

If you're up for TV, The Six Million Dollar Man is very funny now.
posted by heatvision at 3:19 PM on January 16, 2015

I'm actually in the local chapter of the Fans of Brainstorm. It's centerpiece is a computer system, and it's deliciously late-70's early-80's. It's also Christopher Walken's finest work.
And Natalie Wood's final film.
posted by eclectist at 3:48 PM on January 16, 2015 [2 favorites]

If the robot classic "Short Circuit" isn't already on your list, it should be!
posted by jrobin276 at 4:25 PM on January 16, 2015

Can only find this clip, but if a TV show works for you and you can find it, I give you Marlo and the Magic Movie Machine
posted by Mchelly at 4:53 PM on January 17, 2015

real genius??
posted by goml at 3:07 PM on January 18, 2015

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