15 Best Hacker Documentaries of 2024 (Must-Watch List)

15 Best Hacker Documentaries

If you’re looking for a comprehensive list of the best hacker documentaries of all time, you’ve come to the right place.

These hacker documentaries give you a behind-the-scenes look at the movers and shakers that have taken the world by storm with just a few clicks of their keyboards.

We create a list of our favorites by breaking them down by category and detailing each film so you can better understand the rabbit hole you’re about to enter.

So, before you sit back, relax, and step into the mind of a hacker, consult our list of the best hacker documentaries on the web.

We’re ready if you are.

Best Hacker Documentaries Categories

For your browsing pleasure, we split the best cyber security documentaries into the following categories:

Hacktivism and Digital Activism Documentaries

Not all hacktivists are bad, but not all are good, either; most would say they inhabit a morally nebulous middle ground. You can decide for yourself when watching one of these cyber security documentaries about hacktivism and digital activism.

1. Don't F**k with Cats: Hunting an Internet Killer

Don’t F**k with Cats is a story of a gang of Internet sleuths that came together to identify a man who posted videos of himself killing kittens.

Since these disturbing videos suggested that the man in question was capable of committing more heinous acts in the future, the Internet decided to band together to find out who this person was and stop him before causing more harm.

Despite piecing together his identity, address, and providing the authorities with evidence of the crimes he committed, the police opted to do nothing.

Ultimately, the cat killer, Luka Magnotta, went on to murder an international student named Justin Lin, dismembering him and mailing parts of her body to elementary schools and headquarters of political parties.  

While it’s disheartening to know that there are people capable of such acts, it's also interesting to see how, by using OSINT clues in his videos, these activists were able to determine the killer’s identity and location.

A warning: this documentary isn’t for the faint of heart.

2. We Are Legion – The Story Of The Hacktivists

We Are Legion traces the origins of the famed hacktivist group Anonymous. The cyber security documentary gives a rare glimpse into the most influential hacktivist group in the world while examining its impact on movements and protests around the world.

The film examines how Anonymous played a role in several events, organizations, and movements, including the Habbo raids, the Hal Turner raid, Project Chanology, the Epilepsy Foundation, the Sarah Palin email hack, Operation Titstorm, the Visa, MasterCard, and PayPal DOSS attacks, the Arab Spring, and Operation Anti-Security.

It’s a great watch if you want a broader understanding of how hacktivism impacts the world around you.  

3. The Internet’s Own Boy: The Story Of Aaron Swartz

The Internet’s Own Boy follows the story of computer scientist, hacker, and information activist Aaron Swartz. Swartz was a programming prodigy who co-founded Reddit and developed the popular web feed format RSS that we often use for aggregating news.

But more than just a gifted coder, Swartz was committed to fighting for open access to information for all. This fight ultimately led him to download thousands of academic journal articles from JSTOR.

The film follows the fallout and his arguably unjust persecution for this “hack,” which included two counts of wire fraud and 11 violations of the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act.

The documentary argues that Swartz, who ultimately took his own life before going to trial, was a hero and a martyr.

4. The Social Dilemma

Perhaps the best digital security documentary on Netflix, this film takes a look at the unethical techniques social media companies use to addict users to their platforms.

It explores the three insidious goals of social media companies like Meta and Google: to have users endlessly doomscroll, ensure they consistently use the platforms, and generate as much ad money as possible.

The wider cultural impact of social media is discussed by several leading technologists and ethicists, such as Tristan Harris, a former Google design ethicist who founded the Center for Humane Technology.

It’s important that you watch this film and understand the strategies social media companies use to manipulate your behavior and what you can do to fight back.

5. Hackers Wanted

The documentary explores why hackers become hackers, the importance of cyber security, and takes a closer look at grey hat hacker Adrian Lamo’s upbringing, philosophy, and hacking achievements.

This documentary asks where the line is between a good and bad hacker, arguing that even if certain hackers are seen as bad, they’re still necessary to advance society.

Many leading cyber security and tech experts are interviewed throughout the course of the film, but perhaps none more famous than Steve Wozniak.

The History and Evolution of Hacking Documentaries

How did we evolve from using whistles from Cap’N Crunch cereal to hack public telephones to modern-day forms of hacking? Explore the recent history of hacking by watching one of these hacking documentaries.

6. 21st Century Hackers

21st Century Hackers is a documentary geared towards educating laymen on the different types of hackers and their most common hacking tools and techniques, teaching the viewers about the difference between white, black, and grey hat hackers.

It traces the origins of white hat hackers, takes a look at the creation of bug bounty programs, and details the rise of cyber security and its role in keeping users safe.

The documentary is accessible and a must-watch for anyone but especially those new to the world of cyber security. It makes clear the importance of cyber security and the role we can all play in keeping ourselves safe from harmful online attacks.

7. The Secret History Of Hacking

The Secret History Of Hacking takes a closer look at three hackers: John Draper, Steve Wozniak, and Kevin Mitnick.

In the film, we see these three internet scoundrels being interviewed as they take us on a tour of their most successful hacks as well as the consequences of their actions.

It’s interesting to see how the hacks evolve decade by decade. Over time, despite technological advances, hackers can still outwit their victims through ingenuity, tools, and new techniques.

Cyber Security and Cyber Warfare Documentaries

Hackers aren’t just creating malware to disrupt companies or individuals anymore. Nowadays, organizations and even countries commit acts of cyber warfare, as discussed in the documentaries below.

8. Cyberbunker: The Criminal Underworld

One of the best cyber crime documentaries on Netflix, Cyberbunker tells the story of how an organization of hackers hosted many of the most notorious sites on the dark web.

It all begins when a computer whiz named Xennt moved to rural Germany and set up shop in a NATO bunker. He then offered hosting services to any and all types of websites, promising the absolute freedom to post and sell what they pleased.

The documentary tells of the horrors that the site caused, the cyber war that ensued, and how local, federal, and international groups banded together to take down Xennt and his cyberbunker.

This documentary provides valuable insight into how the darknet works, the websites it hosts, and the illicit activity it enables.

9. Web Warriors

Web Warriors is a Canadian documentary aimed at helping viewers understand how prevalent cyber conflict is and the many ways it impacts the world around us by following a number of black hat hackers.

A decent portion of the film is focused on the story of 15-year-old hacker, Michael Calce (aka Mafia Boy), and how he was able to shut down the likes of Yahoo, Amazon, CNN, and Dell.

The documentary also sheds light on the ever-increasing risks and frequency of cyberwarfare as well as the most common hacking groups aided and abetted by governments and their hacking toolkit.

More than anything, this film demands viewers to wake up and start taking seriously hacking as a weapon of warfare.

High-Profile Cyber Crimes and Cyber Attacks

Chances are you’ve heard of some of these cyber crimes. Now it’s time to understand them on a more intimate level.

10. Dark Web Fighting Cybercrime

There’s a lot of secrecy surrounding the dark web, and that’s just how its users want it. This documentary sheds light on the dark web as it follows the IBM Security team, taking viewers on a tour of this mysterious virtual realm.

Going even further than that, this documentary shows us how companies like IBM are preventing and responding to cyber security attacks. Although this documentary can sometimes come off as overly promotional, its value lies in understanding the precise steps major companies like IBM are taking to protect users and respond to threats in real time.

It's a behind-the-scenes look that will help viewers better evaluate whether they want to pursue a career in a Security Operations Center (SOC) team.

11. The Great Hack

The Great Hack details the drama surrounding the Facebook-Cambridge Analytica data scandal. Cambridge Analytica was a political consulting firm that worked on psychological and political campaigns around the world. By leveraging data collected online, it manipulated people to act and believe in ways that pushed forward its clients' agendas.

Cambridge Analytica put this nefarious skill to use during the 2016 US elections. The film goes on to show how the company illegally harvested Facebook data without user consent which it then used to help its client, Senator Ted Cruz, in his run for president.

The Great Hack is a story about how big data is collected and used to sway the opinions of the masses. It’s a story about data privacy, data ownership, and how so much of our information is already on the web and easily accessible to those seeking to use it against us.

This is a must-see if you’re concerned with data privacy and how to better protect your online information.

12. WannaCry: The History of Marcus Hutchins

In May 2017, thousands of computers around the globe became infected with ransomware later known as WannaCry. Then, by accident, a malware researcher named Marcus Hutchins discovered the kill switch and put an end to this global threat.

The film discusses the impact of WannaCry and how Marcus Hutchins swiftly put an end to it. Saving the world from this malware made Hutchins a celebrity, and the tabloids learned more about him and pried into his past life as a hacker. This led the FBI to get involved and ultimately arrest Hutchins for previous hacks he had played a part in.

The film asks viewers to judge Hutchins on the totality of his actions, painting a detailed and nuanced picture of his good and bad deeds.

13. Kill Chain: The Cyber War on America's Elections

Government officials have erroneously said over and over that voting machines cannot be hacked because they’re not connected to the Internet. Kill Chain shows that this assertion, along with many others, is wrong.

This documentary was filmed prior to the 2020 US general elections to demonstrate the vulnerabilities found in election technology and the risks it poses to US democracy, showing how vulnerable election infrastructure is.

The documentary is a must-watch for all Americans, especially those working in the government or cyber security industry, and can play a role in shoring up election security.

Hacking Culture and Community

What does it mean to be a hacker? Where do hackers gather, how do they communicate with one another, and what does a shared hacker culture look like? These are all questions the following documentaries seek to answer.

14. Def Con: The Documentary

Def Con is the world’s largest hacking conference. It’s held annually in Las Vegas and for one weekend every year, it’s home to the most cutting-edge technology, the most skilled hackers, and a fair share of debauchery.

Def Con: The Documentary gives an inside look at the origins of Def Con and how it’s grown over the years. You’ll watch interviewees, organizers, and the most badass hackers around show you what it’s like to attend the wildest IT conference in the world.

If you plan on attending Def Con, watching this documentary is the only way to prepare for what awaits you in Vegas.

15. Guardians Of The New World

Guardians Of The New World takes a deep dive into hacker culture and shows viewers that the Internet isn’t the safe place some of us think it is.

It takes us back to the 70s as it explores the emergence of hacker culture before quickly pivoting to explore how hackers fight malevolent governments in the attempt to keep the Internet as accessible and private as possible.

This documentary humanizes hacker culture and seeks to understand the difference between ethical and unethical online activity.

Conclusion

Now that you know the best cyber security documentaries, you only need to decide which one to watch first.

With each film categorized and summarized, we’ve made it easy for you to quickly comb through the best of the best and choose a documentary that will awaken your inner hacker.

If you want to learn hands-on ethical hacker skills, we encourage you to enroll in the StationX Accelerator Program. Here, you’ll have access to over 1,000 courses and labs, one-on-one mentorship, career support, and a community of cyber security professionals.

To learn the skills the hackers in these documentaries use, we recommend signing up for the following courses:

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  • Spencer Abel

    Spencer is part cyber security professional and part content writer. He specializes in helping those attempting to pivot into the vast and always-changing world of cyber security by making complex topics fun and palatable. Connect with him over at LinkedIn to stay up-to-date with his latest content.

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