WarGames (1983)

USA, 1982
35mm film, 70mm film, Metrocolor, 1.85:1
Dolby [35mm prints], 70mm 6-Track [70mm prints]
Dolby Stereo, English
Reviewed at The

An American science fiction film directed by John Badham. Lawrence Lasker and Walter F. Parkes wrote the script for the film in the summer of 1980 at the same time that a real-life incident – not made public until September 1981 – was unfolding at the (North American Aerospace Defense Command) headquarters in Colorado. It was 0at a time of heightened tensions between the superpowers and on 3 June 1980, NORAD officers were alerted to a supposed mass Soviet missile launch by their real-life . Hundreds of B-52 bombers were scrambled to their fail-safe points until senior generals convened a “missile display conference” and realised that the computers were malfunctioning. It was just the most serious of 147 such incidents between January 1979 and June 1980.

Plot Summary

A teenage computer hacker accidentally gets into the super-computer given control over U.S. nuclear missiles. Innocently playing games with the computer, he comes close to unknowingly starting a third world war.


Directed by: John Badham
© MCMLXXXIII [] by United Artists Corporation
United Artists presents a Leonard Goldberg production, a John Badham film. Produced in association with Sherwood Productions
Executive Producer: Leonard Goldberg
Produced by: Harold Schneider
Written by: Lawrence Lasker & Walter F. Parkes
Director of Photography: William A. Fraker
Editor: Tom Rolf
Music by: Arthur B. Rubinstein
Sound Mixer: Willie D. Burton
Wardrobe Supervisor: Ray Summers
Makeup: Perry Michael Germain, Brenda Todd
Hair Stylist: Lynda Gurasich
Visual Effects Supervisor: Mike Fink
Production Designer: Angelo P. Graham

Matthew Broderick (David)
Dabney Coleman (McKittrick)
John Wood (Falken)
Ally Sheedy (Jennifer)
Barry Corbin (General Beringer)
Juanin Clay (Pat Healy)
Kent Williams (Cabot)
Dennis Lipscomb (Watson)
Joe Dorsey (Conley)
Irving Metzman (Richter)
Michael Ensign (Beringer's Aide)
William Bogert (Mr Lightman)
Susan Davis (Mrs Lightman)
James Tolkan (Nigan)
David Clover (Stockman)
Drew Snyder (Ayers)

Alternative Titles

Gry wojenne – Polish title
Háborús játékok – Hungarian title
Jeux de guerre – French Canadian title
Jocs de guerra – Catalan Spanish title
Jogos de Guerra – Brazilian, Portuguese title
Juegos de guerra – Argentine, Mexican, Peruvian, Spanish title
Karo zaidimai – Lithuanian title
Paihnidia polemou – Greek title
Ratne igre – Serbian title
Sotaleikit – Finnish title
Válecné hry – Czech title
– Japanese title
War Games – Kriegsspiele – West German title
Wargames – Danish title
Wargames – Giochi di guerra – Italian title

WarGames: The Dead Code (2008)


Cinéaste vol.13 no.1 (1983) pp.42-43
“Badham's direction gives the plot all the speed and narrow-minded precision of a cruise missile, and incidentally covers up the logical and thematic loopholes. The film is not a serious study of adults under stress, and some viewers may even wonder what became of the two Air Force officers whose unseemly conduct during a test drill they thought was real comprises the pre-credits opening sequence. Perhaps they weren't deemed interesting to the adolescent market. Few will wonder why the hell NORAD didn't simply check David's story with a call to Falken or a “chat” with “Joshua,” or why they simply didn't sever vital connections when they had time. Scientific plausibility is not the film's strong point and to insist on it would be to judge Nancy Drew by the standards of the KGB or MI-5. As a charming entertainment for and the stray adult, the film is masterful, and as a light-hearted warning about the tyranny of things over humanity, WarGames is superb. After seeing it, you will surely want to take up “Joshua's” invitation to “play a nice game of .” – from an illustrated review by Lenny Rubenstein

Motion Picture Product Digest vol.10 no.25 (1 June 1983) p.99
“This latest variation on the humans-against-malevolent machine story so dear to the hearts of science fiction aficionados is cleverly conceived and worked out. It exploits to the hilt the current craze for video games and computers and so ingeniously does it do what it sets out to do that it seems foreordained – programmed so to speak – to become one of the summer's top box office hits. The only ones who conceivably might not like it are the more serious-minded anti-nuclear adherents who could well think that the subject is too grim for such flippant treatment in the interests of an “adventure” suspense film. […] It's all wildly far-fetched, of course, but director John Badham […] and his technical associates and actors […] go at it as if all that happens could indeed be in the realm of possibility. Everybody has great fun with the flashing and whirling computers in the control room while still playing the plot-line straight (with some corny jokes thrown in to relieve the tension).” – from a review by Richard Gertner

Stills no.8 (September/October 1983) p.82
“It seems a joint fault of scripting […] and direction […] that the bigwigs come across as so dunderheaded. A lesson should have been learned from E.T. or The China Syndrome in tension-building by having officialdom coolly remote or equally concerned – at any rate behaving credibly. In WarGames, the worst offender is the redneck general in charge of the war room, but it doesn't help to have Dabney Coleman, with such a potent comedy image from 9 to 5 (reinforced by Tootsie) playing seriously (it would seem) the man in charge of the programme. […] WarGames becomes one of those Disney-style pictures of twenty years ago when kids were always smarter than adults and only they (or animals could save the day). Ironically, in this context, WarGames shows up Disney's own recent ponderous attempt o make a drama out of computer games, the complicated and expensive Tron. But typical of the overall softness of this new film is the final message about , spelt out repetitively on the large display screens in the film: ‘inner: none' and ‘The only winning move is not to play'. No argument – but no great impact.” – from an illustrated review (Programmed Destruction) by Allen Eyles

Screen International no.405 (30 July 1983) p.21 (UK)
“This has a very close affinity with every tale of adventure that has ever featured a boy or girl hero who eventually proves cleverer and more resourceful than adults too puffed up with their own importance to listen to the wise words of youth. In the old days of juvenile fiction these young heroes might have called on the assistance of a magic wand or some such; David has no need of such artificial aids since he outwits the master computer by teaching it to apply its own programmed logic. It is science fact rather than science fiction. JOSHUA the computer has not taken over as a god nor is it evil. It has been programmed to be cleverer but not to be wise; happily it has the facility to learn fast and not repeat the mistakes that man repeats with each new generation. Once again John Badham proves himself to have a dazzling ability to create mass audience entertainment that can be enjoyed for its pace, excitement and humour but also respected for the human interest of well drawn characters and the uplift of plots that show hope for the future of mankind.” – from an illustrated review by Marjorie Bilbow


American Cinematographer vol.64 no.9 (September 1983) pp.64-67, 82-87 – article
American Cinematographer vol.65 no.4 (April 1984) pp.39-40, 42 – illustrated article
Cahiers du Cinéma no.354 (December 1983) p.53 – review
Cinéaste vol.13 no.1 (1983) pp.42-43 – illustrated credits, review (by Lenny Rubenstein)
Cinema Sessanta n154 (November/December 1983) p.58 – review
Cinématographe no.96 (January 1984) p.51 – review
City Limits no.98 (19 August 1983) p.26 – review
Convergence vol.7 no.1 (Spring 2001) pp.25-33 – article (Virtual practices, complex epistemologies by Monica Hulsbus)
L'Écran Fantastique no.35 (June 1983) pp.14-17 – article
L'Écran Fantastique no.40 (December 1983) pp.26-40, 45-46 – illustrated interview with John Badham
Empire no.135 (September 2000) p.112 – illustrated review (DVD by SB)
Empire no.176 (February 2004) p.162 – illustrated article (Classic scene)
Film Review no.598 (October 2000) p.56 – illustrated review (Wargames by Gareth Wigmore)
Films and Filming no.349 (October 1983) p.30 – review
The Hollywood Reporter vol.276 no.42 (9 May 1983) p.7 – review
Jeune Cinéma no.156 (January 1984) pp.42-43 – review
Monthly Film Bulletin vol.50 no.595 (August 1983) p.223 – credits, review
Motion Picture Product Digest vol.10 no.25 (1 Jun 1983) p.99 – review
New Musical Express 28 January 1984 p.21 (UK) – review (In the can by Richard Cook)
Photoplay vol.34 no.9 (September 1983) pp.14-15 – illustrated article (How far from the truth is WarGames? by Ken Ferguson)
Retro no.21 October/November 1983) p.22 – review
Score Filmmuziek Magazine no.44 (September 1982) p.6 – note
Screen International no.405 (30 July 1983) p.21 – review
Starburst no.63 (October 1983) pp.24-28 – illustrated interview with Matthew Broderick
Starburst no.265 (September 2000) p.90 – illustrated review (Reviews: DVD file)
Stills no.8 (September/October 1983 p.82 – illustrated review (Programmed Destruction by Allen Eyles)
Time Out no.678 (18 August 1983) p.39 – review
Time Out no.680 (1 September 1983) p.31 – review
Variety 11 May 1983 p.20 – credits, review

Aurum Film Encyclopedia: Science Fiction by Phil Hardy (ed) p.385; 386
The Films of the Eighties by Douglas Brode pp.97-99 – illustrated credits, review
The Films of the Eighties by Robert A. Nowlan and Gwendolyn Wright Nowlan p.621-622
Horror and Science Fiction Films III by Donald C. Willis p.303-304
Nuclear Movies: A Filmography by Mick Broderick p.97
Omni's Screen Flights/Screen Fantasies: The Future According to Science Fiction Cinema – illustrated article (WarGames and the Real World by John Badham)

Other Sources
British National Film and Video Catalogue vol.22 (1984) – review