As a boy in that decade we were always looking for new games to play, video games were relatively new and we alwas a 1983 film starring  Matthew Broderick and Ally Sheedy.  This was perhaps one of my favorite films to come out of the 80’s.  For those of us that grew up in the seventies and eighties nuclear war was a real possibility.   Whether by accident or intentional, this film brought those fears to the center stage!l had to have them!

The Plot Line :

During a surprise drill of a nuclear attack, many United States Air Force Strategic Missile Wing controllers prove unwilling to turn the key required to launch a missile strike. Such refusals convince John McKittrick and other systems engineers at NORAD that missile launch control centers must be automated, without human intervention. Control is given to a NORAD supercomputer known as WOPR, programmed to continuously run war simulations and learn over time.

David Lightman, a bright but unmotivated Seattle high school student and hacker, uses his IMSAI 8080 computer to break into the school district’s computer system and change his grades. He does the same for his friend and classmate Jennifer Mack. Later, while war dialing numbers in Sunnyvale, California, to find a computer game company, he connects with a system that does not identify itself. Asking for games, he finds a list that starts with chess, checkers, backgammon, and poker, as well as titles such as “Theaterwide Biotoxic and Chemical Warfare” and “Global Thermonuclear War”, but cannot proceed further. Two hacker friends explain the concept of a backdoor password and suggest tracking down the Falken referenced in “Falken’s Maze”, the first game listed. David discovers that Stephen Falken was an early artificial-intelligence researcher, and David guesses correctly that Falken’s dead son’s name (Joshua) is the password.

Not knowing that the Sunnyvale phone number connects to WOPR at the Cheyenne Mountain Complex, David starts a game of Global Thermonuclear War, playing as the Soviet Union and starts targeting American cities. The computer starts a simulation that briefly convinces the military personnel at NORAD that actual Soviet nuclear missiles are inbound. While they defuse the situation, WOPR nonetheless continues the simulation to trigger the scenario and win the game, as it does not understand the difference between reality and simulation. It continuously feeds false data such as Soviet bomber incursions and submarine deployments to NORAD, pushing them into increasing the DEFCON level and toward a retaliation that will start World War III.

David learns the true nature of his actions from a news broadcast, and FBI special agents arrest him and take him to NORAD. He realizes that WOPR is behind the NORAD alerts, but because he fails to convince McKittrick, who suspects David is working for the Soviets, he faces espionage charges. David escapes NORAD by joining a tourist group, and with Jennifer’s help, travels to the Oregon island where Falken lives. David and Jennifer find that Falken has become despondent and believes that nuclear war is inevitable, and that it is as futile as a game of tic-tac-toe between two experienced players. The teenagers convince Falken that he should return to NORAD to stop WOPR.

WOPR stages a massive Soviet first strike with hundreds of missiles, submarines, and bombers. Believing the attack to be genuine, NORAD prepares to retaliate. Falken, David, and Jennifer convince military officials to cancel the second strike and ride out the attack. WOPR tries to launch the missiles itself using a brute-force attack to obtain the launch codes. Without humans in the control centers as a safeguard, the computer will trigger a mass launch. All attempts to log in and order WOPR to cancel the countdown fail. Disconnecting the computer is discussed and dismissed, as a failsafe will launch all weapons if the computer is disabled.

Falken and David direct the computer to play tic-tac-toe against itself. This results in a long string of draws, forcing the computer to learn the concept of futility and no-win scenarios. WOPR obtains the launch codes, but before launching, it cycles through all the nuclear war scenarios it has devised, finding that they all result in draws as well. Having discovered the concept of mutual assured destruction (“WINNER: NONE”), the computer tells Falken that it has concluded that nuclear war is “a strange game” in which “the only winning move is not to play.” WOPR relinquishes control of NORAD and the missiles and offers to play “a nice game of chess.”


Social Media

Wargames is a Facebook page about the movie itself.  It’s basically just an MGM ad for the film but it does have over 50K in likes (even myself).  It does stay on topic and so do most of the guest replies.




The are not a lot of fan sites (that I could find).  There are loads of reviews or pages that would allow you to buy the film but I do not promote the advertising of anything (except my other web sites) so you will have to find these ones on your own, sorry!


The Cast : Matthew Broderick | Dabney Coleman | John Wood | Ally Sheedy | Barry Corbin


Article credits include Wikipidea, Youtube, Imdb and my own recollections of the show