High-tech stuff and thrillers always make for a good movie combination. Add to that the story of a deadly pursuit, like being in a game, and the movie gets more interesting. What if unlikely people are caught in the high-tech but high stakes game? Then that sounds like the plot for the 2016 film Nerve.
Nerve features high-tech stuff alright, but it’s actually our garden variety smartphones that are in use here. What’s interesting in the film is that the smartphone becomes a gateway to a deadly game played over the internet. Worse, the players are teenagers with guts who don’t think right sometimes.
Nerve features an online game called “Nerve” where you either sign up to become a watcher or a player. Watchers drive up the popularity of people who choose to be players. And what do they play? Dares that start from harmless pranks to law-breaking stunts. If you win a dare, you are rewarded with real money. What if the dare becomes deadly? It’s interesting how today’s daily technology, and people’s behavior towards it, became the subject of a popular teen flick. But other movies like Nerve have also taken this track before. Check them out!
The 1995 film Hackers, starring a very young Angelina Jolie alongside Jonny Lee Miller, is in this list of movies like Nerve because of three things: the internet, teens who use it deftly, and a game of deadly pursuit.
While the film looks a bit outdated by today’s standards, this one is still worth watching because of those elements mentioned. Plus this is also one of the earliest films to feature rebels of the digital age.
The story revolves around a teenager who’s a whiz at hacking standard computer systems anywhere, like in offices, governments, and schools. In his new school, he meets certain kinds of geeks-weirdos who look like rebels. It turns out that they’re all hackers, like him. He slowly joins their underworld life.
But during one of their hacking competitions, one of them accidentally downloads sensitive information. And this info could turn deadly for them. It turns out that they encountered a great hacker who’s set to wreak real-life havoc, and have the hacker teens blamed for it.
Try to watch this and hey, go easy when they mention “diskette,” okay? High-five if you (still) know what that is!
2. The Game
If you like thrillers by David Fincher, then you’re sure to love The Game. Granted that this film doesn’t use heavy technology that much, the sci-tech here is part of the initial set-up that makes the deadly game possible.
Starring Michael Douglas, this 1997 film is about a rich banker who’s rather detached and lonely as a person. His younger brother, played by Sean Penn, gifts him with a special ticket to access a company that designs specialized games for grown people.
It all starts innocently, until strange things start to happen IRL, or in real life. Soon, these strange things start to become deadly for the banker. All this time, he still thinks it’s just a game. Or is it, really?
The director of Fight Club, Gone Girl, and The Social Network sure knows how to turn things around for us. That’s why this film of his belongs to this list of movies like Nerve. Press play and see!
“It’s not about who’s got the most bullets. It’s about who controls the information.”
By that classic line alone, we know that Sneakers should be in this list of movies like Nerve. It’s all about control in the digital age, and who rules in this Knowledge Society we now live in. That’s what the teens in Nerve discovered. This is what the adults in Sneakers faced.
Watching this 1992 film might feel outdated at the start. But seeing the storylines unfold here, it’s evident that the issues tackled in the film are as relevant as the issues we currently face in today’s wired world. Information, after all, is the new key to power.
Furthermore, Sneakers is about a former fugitive, a 1960s hacker earlier termed as a sneaker, who turned over a new leaf in the 1990s. He has a team of IT-tech guys who try to break into computer systems of companies, to test the system viability. The government tracks him down, though, and recruits him and his team to recover a high-tech “weapon” from enemy hands.
What that “weapon” is and how it will be used is the great reveal that makes Sneakers very much ahead of its time. And the reveal is what makes it belong in our time. Go watch it to see why!
4. Tron / Tron Legacy
Talk about being a human in a game, try seeing the film Tron to know what it feels like. You can actually both see one after the other, starting with the 1982 original Tron film and following it up with Tron: Legacy released in 2010.
Now that’s a lot of time in between those films! But we still consider both to be as entertaining and as intriguing as the film we’re featuring. So yes, the two earn their spot in the list of movies like Nerve, just for having the nerve to delve into the computer age that deeply!
The first film is about how a software engineer in the ‘80s tried to hack into the system of his former workplace, a computer company that he suspects stole some of his video game design projects. He suspects that there’s more to it, and he’s right. The company has created a kind of artificial intelligence world in a virtual reality set-up. The engineer later gets inserted into this game – and it is a deadly one.
The second film features the software engineer’s son, now a grown man, getting a signal from the video arcade that his father used to run. He discovers that there’s a special game there, and he gets access inside of it. And it turns out that his lost father is trapped inside that game.
5. Ender’s Game
The sci-fi space-set film Ender’s Game features teenagers being trained as space cadets in order to fight alien invaders. The 2013 film stars Asa Butterfield as Ender, and Harrison Ford as the colonel who mentors Ender harshly.
This film is on our list of movies like Nerve because it, too, features young people in control and command of technology. While Nerve has the teens there controlling today’s gadgetry (the smartphone) while surfing today’s tech structures (the internet), Ender’s world is slightly more advanced than this. But the emotions and effects remain the same.
Ender is a highly gifted kid who has a knack for military strategy. That’s why he got sent to the combat school where training kids meant using computer-simulated game-like scenarios to prepare them for battle. But Ender gets a huge surprise later on, as his training develops and unfolds.
Like the teens in Nerve, Ender also tries to play with the scenarios simulated in their training games. But when games imitate life later on, will Ender survive as a player? Watch it and see!
6. Source Code
What if you felt you were being played, only to find out that people manipulating technology put you there to solve a real-life bombing? That’s one way of looking at the 2011 film Source Code.
Starring Jake Gyllenhaal as Capt. Colton Stevens, he wakes up to find himself inside the body of another man. It turns out that he is actually inside a computer program called the “source code” where the military could insert his consciousness into the being of another human, within the last 8 minutes of that human’s life. Therefore, Stevens will be inside the body of a soon-to-be-killed man.
Now why did the government do that? It’s a new high-tech way of solving a crime. This crime is the bombing of a train, and Stevens’ mission is to see who among the passengers is the culprit bomber.
This film belongs here in the list of movies like Nerve because, even though it doesn’t feature a game, it plays out like one – with equally disastrous results if not prevented. It’s like the Groundhog Day of the computer hacking world, so go check it out.
7. Open Windows
What if you became an unwitting witness to a would-be crime, designed as a contest of sorts? This is what hooks audiences to the film Open Windows.
The 2014 film stars Elijah Wood, who plays a webmaster named Nick. He apparently won a contest to meet his favorite star named Jill. His website is actually a fan site for this celebrity. However, her manager informs him that the contest is canceled, and so is the meet-up.
But things later turn differently when the manager gives Nick a hacked access to the actress’ smartphone. This means he can see what she’s doing, and even hear her conversations. It’s tempting to be a voyeur, but Nick tries it out at first.
Soon, this simple peeping tom act becomes a more active role, as Nick finds himself interfering with Jill’s life. But it turns out that someone is playing her, and playing him, using technology to control them both. And for those reasons – and more – this film counts as one of those movies like Nerve.
8. The Net
The 1990s might have been the infancy of the internet for most of us, but Hollywood was eager and raring to explore this information superhighway as early as then. This is why we get films like 1995’s The Net, starring no less than Hollywood A-lister Sandra Bullock.
The film is about a work-from-home computer analyst named Angela Bennett who got access to sensitive illegal information concerning high government officials. As she accidentally stumbled upon this, her life suddenly turned for the worse.
Because she virtually lives online due to her work and her personal preferences, computer hackers were able to trace her. It turns out that she got access to sensitive information and evil people want to retrieve it. They try to threaten her in the most effective way for someone like her: being victimized by identity hacking and identity theft.
This film belongs here in the list of movies like Nerve because of their online-offline parallelisms. Both films deal with online goings-on that have deadly consequences offline. Plus, Bennett had to run for her life when the evil forces went after her online and offline as well. Where will you run or hide?
Whether the characters are teenagers or adults, the results of handling fast technology and bumping into evil people who manipulate it remain the same. Go see how this one plays out.
9. Eagle Eye
What if you were living innocently one day, only to be pulled into a deadly game that involves high-tech computers, the government, and playing for your life? That is basically the premise that the film Eagle Eye presents.
This 2008 sci-fi techno-thriller stars Shia LaBeouf as Jerry Shaw, a college dropout whose Air Force-serving twin brother just died. However, he soon finds himself in the middle of a mysterious situation when he suddenly receives phone calls from an unknown woman.
Meanwhile, a single mom also receives the same phone calls as Jerry. The two of them are later paired together by circumstances seemingly controlled by technology around them. And the woman on the phone seems to be in control of everything.
Later, things get complicated when Jerry finds himself being framed for something he didn’t do. The single mom is also being coerced when her son became the unwitting decoy to an elaborate staging of a deadly disaster. Soon, the FBI is on their tail, as things start unfolding more.
Being a film where technology is controlling people and circumstances around them qualifies this film as one of the techno-themed movies like Nerve. Like the teen thriller, we follow two characters as they try to unravel what’s happening to them. So go check it out!
If you think high-tech computer hacking and teens behaving badly are just popular this century, wait ‘til you hear about a few movies that appeared in the 1980s. Specifically, take a look at the film called WarGames.
This 1983 film stars a teenage Matthew Broderick who plays high schooler David. He’s into computers that early, and of course he’s into video games. He’s also a hacker who can infiltrate his school computer’s systems to change his grades.
Trouble starts for David when he accidentally gets access to a list of upcoming computer games. He gets denied to play some games, and fellow hacker friends find ways for him to gain access. Once he does, he designs to start a game of nuclear warfare.
Unknown to him, he hacked into a different computer that has nuclear warfare simulation systems. Only this time, his hack is read as a real-life command which could start an actual nuclear war!
Oh, teens and their computers! It’s because of this complication that qualifies WarGames as one of those movies like Nerve. While these smart teens perceive what they see on their digital screens as games, these games could have actual real-life deadly consequences when played. Go watch it to see what happens!