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The 9 worst tech movies of all time

By Manav Tanneeru, CNN
  • We polled experts to gather a list of the worst tech movies (not sci-fi) of all time
  • Movies about technology -- evil hackers and so on -- seem to fail more often than not
  • Our list includes Sandra Bullock's "The Net" and, yes, "Weird Science"
  • What movie would you add to this list or remove from it? Comment below
  • Movies
  • Hollywood
  • Technology

(CNN) -- Sometimes terrible movies -- the ones with such bad acting, dumb dialogue and cheesy special effects that they're unintentionally hilarious -- are the ones we remember the most.

No genre is immune, but movies about technology -- ominous Web sites, evil hackers and so on -- seem to fail more often than not. Maybe that's because it's hard to dramatize someone sitting at a computer. Maybe it's because Hollywood doesn't understand tech.

So that got us thinking about the worst tech movies ever made. Not science fiction movies, with their planet-killing asteroids, journeys to the Earth's center, and homicidal dinosaurs, but movies about the digital world. Movies with technology that, even by Hollywood standards, is ridiculous.

For help, we enlisted some people who either know about movies or technology or both: Steven James Snyder, a film critic for Time magazine's Techland; Matt Atchity, the editor-in-chief of Rotten Tomatoes, the movie site; and Sidney Perkowitz, a physicist at Emory University and the author of "Hollywood Science: Movies, Science and the end of the World."

"There are good movies that have bad tech in them," Atchity says. "And then there are bad movies with bad tech."

Read Steven Snyder's list of the best sci-fi movies of the decade

Bad movies, bad tech -- here's our list, which is by no means comprehensive or definitive. You probably have strong opinions about what movies should and shouldn't be on this list. So, post your comments below and we just may include them in a future story.

Antitrust (2001)

Ryan Phillippe is a computer whiz kid who's hired by NURV, a software company led by a guy named Gary Winston (played by Tim Robbins). Winston has ambitions of constructing a giant communications system which will transform the world.

Winston -- a character who appears to be based on Microsoft's Bill Gates -- turns out to be a ruthless man who'll "stop at nothing" to launch his project.

Milo learns the meaning behind the movie's tag line: "A good idea can get you millions. A great idea can get you killed."

Despite the argument it makes about open source software, what earns the movie a spot on the list is the absurdist ends it takes the stereotype of the evil, massive tech corporation bent on destroying anyone in its path.

My favorite line in the movie, to quote Winston: "This business is binary. You're a one or a zero -- alive or dead."

Feardotcom (2002)

Four people in New York City die within 48 hours of visiting a Web site where a sadistic doctor, played by Stephen Rea, tortures women before killing them.

All four die of what they fear most: One dies in a car wreck, another is swarmed by insects and so on.

Detective Mike Reilly (Stephen Dorff) and researcher Terry Holt (Natascha McElhone) are charged with tracking down the killer.

"Promise me one thing, that you won't visit the site," Terry asks of Mike. We all know he will. And if the subtext of the dangers of Web voyeurism weren't blatant enough, all four victims are shown bleeding from the eyes.

"What could have been a pointed little chiller about the frightening seductiveness of new technology loses faith in its own viability and succumbs to joyless special-effects excess," wrote Lisa Schwarzbaum of Entertainment Weekly.

The most absurd part of the whole movie? You'd think the movie's Web site would be Nope. It's actually

Hackers (1995)

The movie has become something of a cult classic since its release more than a decade ago.

There's one decent thing about 'Hackers' and that's Angelina Jolie
--Matt Atchity, Rotten Tomatoes

Angelina Jolie is "Acid Burn" and Jonny Lee Miller is "Zero Cool" and they're both hackers. They and their friends come across an evil hacker, "The Plague" (played by Fisher Stevens), who is skimming money off a faceless, multinational corporation.

He frames the kids, the kids fight back.

"There's one decent thing about 'Hackers' and that's Angelina Jolie," Athchity says. "The rest of the movie is a nightmare."

Independence Day (1996)

Sure, this summer blockbuster starring Will Smith is pure popcorn fun. It's the ending that leaves some people scratching their head.

An alien race invades Earth and methodically begins destroying the planet. The end seems imminent until Jeff Goldblum writes a computer virus that damages the alien ships and saves the day.

So, let's get this straight: An alien species whose technology seems centuries ahead of humankind, with ships whose shields render nuclear missiles ineffective, are vulnerable to a computer virus?

"And you're telling me this guy can suddenly decipher the programming minutiae of a completely alien life form that's got an alien language?" Atchity says.

Of course, says one of my co-workers. "It's Jeff Goldblum, he's a genius."

Johnny Mnemonic (1995)

It's 2021 and Keanu Reeves is a data courier. He carries the information -- 80G, enough to fill a few iPods -- in his head.

On his last job before retirement, he agrees to transport some vital information from Beijing to Newark. The twist? The amount of data in this upload is too much for his head and he must download it before he dies.

And, of course, the bad guys want the information too.

"Keanu Reeves has too much information [in his brain]?" wonders Atchity. "That can't be possible."

The movie also stars Henry Rollins, Ice-T, a dolphin ... and Dolph Lundgren as a born-again hit man who's obsessed with Jesus.

"It is a disaster in every way," wrote Caryn James in The New York Times' review.

But honestly, I enjoyed this movie when I saw in the theater years ago. And I still can't stop grinning about it.

The Lawnmower Man (1992)

Based on a short story by Stephen King, this is one of the first movies about virtual reality.

The plot revolves around Jobe Smith, played by Jeff Fahey, who is an innocent, mentally challenged gardener.

A scientist (Pierce Brosnan) experiments on Jobe with intelligence-enhancing drugs and virtual reality to increase his mental ability. It works, until it all goes wrong.

"It's a legendarily bad film," Atchity says. "It was based on a Stephen King story, but the only thing it has in common is the title."

Oh, and, there's a sequel.

The Net (1995)

Sandra Bullock is Angela Bennett, a computer expert who debugs software, orders pizza online and vacations with her laptop. She's sent a floppy disk -- remember those? -- with a program to examine and before you know it, she's unwittingly exposed to a grand criminal conspiracy.

The bad guys, who want the disk back and who can apparently do anything they want (like causing a plane crash), erase her identity and make her a fugitive.

"The absolute worst film ever about the Internet is the one whose brain trust couldn't come up with a better title than 'The Net,' " wrote Christopher Null in PC World Magazine last year.

Atchity sees the movie as a cautionary tale of sorts.

"If you don't want your parents or grandparents on the Web, have them watch this movie and they'll be terrified," he says.

Swordfish (2001)

John Travolta is a crook who wants to get his mitts on $9.5 billion locked away in a DEA account. He brings in Hugh Jackman, an expert hacker down on his luck, to break in to the government's computer.

The more entertaining scenes of the movie involve Jackman trying to figure out how to hack some computer or another.

"I think a lot of people would argue that watching someone sitting around programming a computer is really boring," Atchity said. But, Jackman is "drinking wine, and acting like he's in some kind of concert or something."

"This beat-the-clock set piece, tricked out with dazzling computerized bells and whistles, is one of the movie's desperate attempts to transform the tedious task of computer hacking into a sexy activity," the New York Times' Stephen Holden wrote at the time.

"[Jackman] stirs up further excitement by dancing around like a mad cowboy to conjure up his brainstorms. Who knew that typing could be so intense?

Weird Science (1985)

It's difficult to put "Weird Science" on this list. After all, it's a 1980s film directed by John Hughes, which has a certain cachet. It has Bill Paxton as obnoxious older brother Chet. And I even watched the TV show based on the movie when it was on years ago.

But, really, two teen-aged boys using a computer to create the ideal babe?

"Maybe computers still seemed somewhat magical back in 1985," Perkowitz says. "[It's] the only way to explain how two dateless teen-aged boys, desperately trying to program a computer simulation of a woman, end up with Lisa, a living, breathing and totally beautiful creation with supernatural powers."

OK, so "Weird Science" isn't that bad. Maybe we're simply being bitter that none of us ever managed to use our computer skills to create Kelly LeBrock.