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Movies and the Mind of a Programmer

I'm always very interested in the sociological aspects of being a programmer.  Are there essential personality traits that all good programmers share?  Do all good programmers like science fiction?  Can you learn to program, or is it something you're born with?  Are programmers inclined toward math and/or physics?  Are programmers romantics?

I think a lot of insight into someone's personality can be gained by examining his/her favorite movies. 

What are your favorites, and do you think they're your favorites *because* you are a programmer?  Are there certain movies that most programmers love?

Here are mine:

1  The Family Man
2  Planet of the Apes
2  Monty Python and the Holy Grail
3  Twelve Monkeys
4  Fight Club
4  Vanilla Sky
4  Requiem for a Dream
5  Andromeda Strain
6  Se7en
7  Schizopolis
8  The Deer Hunter
9  Lost Highway

Wednesday, May 21, 2003

You might find any such analysis suffering from a poorly defined subject.  All programmers are not the same, and all programming is not the same.  I don't just mean skill or language here, the focus of programming can vary greatly.

Consider: One programmer works on data mapping / relationships / databases while another works on lighting algorithms for a game engine while another works on a tool to help enforce business rules in a sales environment.

These are different brain spaces (I'd argue), and as such I would expect you to find very different groups in each one - and even differences within the groups.

That said, its still an interesting thought.

Wednesday, May 21, 2003

I think it's a VERY interesting thought.  Here are some of mine in no particular order:

Enemy of the State
Legend of Baggar Vance
The Ref
Primal Fear
Planes, Trains and Automobiles
The Sixth Sense
The one where Bruce Willis saves the world from an asteroid...can't think of it

Wednesday, May 21, 2003

In order of rememberancing:

Good Will Hunting
Razor's Edge (Although I haven't seen it in years)
Requiem for a Dream
Schindler's List
Apollo 13
Band of Brothers
The Color of Money
When we were kings

Wednesday, May 21, 2003

I just came across this: yesterday.  About half of the "Geek Celebs" listed a comedy.

Wednesday, May 21, 2003

What?  Five posts and no one has even mentioned:

Revenge of the Nerds.

Wednesday, May 21, 2003

Here's my list of all time favorites:
Glengary Glen Ross
Swimming with sharks
Wall Street
Usual Suspects
Resovior Dogs
Pulp Fiction
Saving Pvt Ryan
Band of Brothers
Full Metal Jacket
The Patriot
Forrest Gump

Wednesday, May 21, 2003

All good programmers listen to Pink Floyd.  Well, at least they *used* to.

nuff said
Wednesday, May 21, 2003

I doubt there's much of a consensus between software people and movie taste, because they are not all that similar. Aside from a preponderance of men, I'm not sure there's many trends that eare consistant across IT people.

That said, I seem to like crime movies a lot:

Things to do in Denver When You're Dead
Boiler Room
12 Monkeys
John Cusack's comedies ;)
Suicide Kings
Dark City

Mike Swieton
Wednesday, May 21, 2003

For what its worth, I _tried_ to sort the list in order of my first viewing:

- Oh, God! (1977)
- Indiana Jones (All three)
- Tron
- 2001
- Alien
- StarTrek II: The Wrath of Khan
- Jaws I
- Aliens
- 2010
- Star Wars (Episodes IV, V, VI)
- The Breakfast Club
- Some Kind of Wonderful
- Bladerunner (Original only)
- Die Hard (I and II)
- Terminator 2
- Fire In The Sky
- Back To the Future: I ,II, III
- Silence of the Lambs
- The Bridges of Madison County
- Se7en
- 12 Monkeys
- The Blair Witch Project
- The Usual Suspects
- Braveheart
- Fight Club
- Magnolia
- The Matrix (Enter, Reloaded)
- Almost Famous
- Gladiator
- A.I.
- Memento
- A Beatiful Mind

Heston Holtmann
Wednesday, May 21, 2003

Most good  developers may be obsessive compulsive about something or other.

But I don't make lists.

Simon Lucy
Wednesday, May 21, 2003

Simon Lucy... you make lists...

Everyone makes lists, except for the _insane_ ones.

Simon Lucy, i suspect you just doesn't write them down for us to read!

Heston Holtmann
Wednesday, May 21, 2003

Ok, I obsessively don't make lists.

Actually, given any question of the form 'Give me a list of your favourite/preferred/worst/nightmare'  and my mind will become blank.

Simon Lucy
Wednesday, May 21, 2003


You like AI, really?

Did you leave before the end?

Ged Byrne
Wednesday, May 21, 2003

I've never made an effort to think about what are my all-time favourites, but just quickly running through my list stored on, I've picked the movies that stood out from the last 3-4 years of movie watching.

Clockwork Orange, A
Fight Club
Ghost Dog: The Way of the Samurai
Krieger und die Kaiserin, Der
Lola rennt
Mulholland Dr.
Nueve reinas
Requiem for a Dream
Wo hu cang long
Y tu mamá también

Interstingly, looking at this list I can see some common aspects between some of the films.

Wednesday, May 21, 2003

I agree 100% with Lou's response.

As for favorite movies, I do like certain movies in a particular genre (science fiction, comedy, action, etc.) better than others, however, I am not going to waste my time posting them here.

One Programmer's Opinion
Wednesday, May 21, 2003

Yeah, but he likes the original Bladerunner too. (this is a cheap indefensible shot, but I couldn't resist).

I have and like AI on DVD, but it does mean I can stop it before the end.

Simon Lucy
Wednesday, May 21, 2003

you have  a point... i actually had to _think_ to remember more then 1/2 of my list... then i decided to sort it which took even more time.

All this obsessive-compulsive list building happened because it is still more interesting then my current programming task of refactoring a large portion of my existing VB6 project to work with a new API library!

_more procrastination follows_

this whole movie-programmer thing is going nowhere.. except that it reminds me of an interesting question regarding story telling through movies..

Theoretical New Movie Question/Idea:
  I wonder if it would be possible to write/produce/create a special kind of movie story that is seperated into two parts (Pa and Pb) so that you can release each part at the same time in the theaters but the viewer experiences a different overall story-line depending on which part you watch first!

PaPb <> PbPa

You would have to see both parts for either part to make any complete sense, yet the order you watch them in has a dramatic effect on the conclusions you draw from the film?

Or is this not possible because we are limited to experience things in a time-linear fashion.

I got this idea after combining thoughts from two things
- reading "Cryptonomicon" by Neal Stephenson
- watching "Memento" and reading

Or am I one of the _insane_ ones?

Heston Holtmann
Wednesday, May 21, 2003

I didn't realise I was contagious, sorry about that.  Cool name though Heston.

On separately arrangeable narratives, I've been trying to think of a novel that had that kind of structure (see now I have two gumption leakages, reading this stuff and thinking about it).  I haven't thought of one exactly like that, that you could read from the middle to the end, then beginning to middle and vice versa.

There's a novel that would appear on some list of mine, were I ever to make one, which I won't, called Dhalgren by Samuel Delany Jnr which wraps around at the end to the beginning.

The story remains the same, though perhaps if the reader perservered and read it continuously they would read it differently.

I think it might work, though the elements would have to be quite simplistic, perhaps something along the lines of Loot with the multiple endings.  A whodunnit that you begin either after the murder or before would certainly be interesting.

Simon Lucy
Wednesday, May 21, 2003

Yes i actually enjoyed A.I., mainly because the last 1/3 of the film (the future part) offered a _true_ science fiction closure.  I really wish Spieldberg (and Kubrik, RIP) do/did more sci-fi.

- Minority Report; was VERY good!

A better explantion for my liking of A.I. is for some _morbid_ reason.. i really enjoy movies that go the extra mile and actually attempt to extend the story beyond a time after the human race is 100% extinct!

Stories during post "Human Extinction" really intrigue me!

I think this is the crux of why Phillip K. Dick based stories/moves are so popular with Sci-Fi lovers, they questions human existance!

Heston Holtmann
Wednesday, May 21, 2003

While still on the sci-fi topic, Everyone should read this short Asimov story if they haven't. I think it was linked on /. a while back!

The neet thing is that "The Last Question" short story seems to touch on the _faith topic_ and also contains that element of "Human Extinction" I like so much!

Heston Holtmann
Wednesday, May 21, 2003

I was 13 or 14 when I first read it and was amazed...  His best IMHO followed by Bicentennial Man.

Wednesday, May 21, 2003

Nobody's mentioned Wargames and The Last Starfighter! They may not be great movies by today's standards, but they were staples for me and my nerd mates when we were growing up!

Darren Collins
Wednesday, May 21, 2003

No one's mentioned Princess Bride yet?


Wednesday, May 21, 2003

The Truman Show

Full name
Wednesday, May 21, 2003

in no particular order -

Failsafe (actually not a very good movie from a strategic/technical perspective in terms of how the scenarios would play out for real, but was very "important" to me at the time I saw it. Really fostered a philosophical fascination with concepts of duty, man vs. machine, and it was probably the last time -- in 61-62 or so -- that Dom Deluise was relatively 'thin'!)

Andromeda Strain
Forbidden Planet
Crimes of Passion
Body Double
Dracula (the 1930's original)
King Kong (again, the 1930's original) - and no, I didn't see it when it first came out --- not quite that old.
The Fountainhead
Real Genius
12 O'Clock High
The Longest Day
It! The terror from beyond space-the orig. 1958 release (what the whole Alien(s) series is based on)
The entire original B&W 'Outer Limits' series
Colossus-The Forbin Project
Rio Bravo
...and a bunch more.

As far as correlations among movie choices and programmers, I suspect about the only correlation you'd find is between programmers and so-called "chick-flicks", and the correlation would be negative. I'm seeing a pretty broad mix of themes in my own list (which isn't even all listed above) as well as what others have written.

Wednesday, May 21, 2003

1. Shanghai Noon
2. The Great Muppet Caper
3. The Blues Brothers
4. The Jerk

Wednesday, May 21, 2003

Shawshank Redemption
Dead Poets Society
Brassed Off
Full Monty
Star Wars except 1
Kurosawa's Yojimbo & Sanjuro
Children of Heaven
Office Space
Usual Suspects
Black Hawk Down
Das Boot

Thursday, May 22, 2003

A few random favourites off the top of my head:

Hi Fidelity
Brain Dead
Chariots of Fire
Star Trek First Contact (gotta love the Borg)

And some more after a bit more thinking...
When We Were Kings
Breaking Away
The Hidden
Notting Hill
Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon
Lord of the Rings (Fellowship of the Ring)

Hmm, pretty heavy bias towards sci fi/fantasy and sports oriented moves (chariots, kings, breaking away).

Peter McKenzie
Thursday, May 22, 2003

shawshank redemption
lock, stock and 2 smoking barrels
road trip
good will hunting
seven samurai
almost all steve mcqueen movies
office space
clint eastwood movies
quentin tarintino's movies
gone in 60 seconds
ocean's 11
training day

that's it from the top of mu head

Prakash S
Thursday, May 22, 2003

Movies known to enthuse codemonkies...

- Trickiness/cleverness:  The Usual Suspects
- Competent teamwork:  Sneakers, Seven Samurai
- Misunderstood lone gunman:  The Professional/    Léon, La Femme Nikita, To Kill a Mockingbird
- Abstract: Serial Experiments Lain (hip references to BeOS and Knights of the Lambda Calculus!), Pi, Run Lola Run, Cube, Memento, Dancer in the Dark
- Camp or silly:  Antitrust, Army of Darkness, Hudson Hawk, Hackers, Happy Gilmore, Swordfish, Spanking the Monkey
- Innocent action:  Arnold Schwarzenegger movies, Raiders of the Lost Ark, MIB

Thursday, May 22, 2003

I just watched Schindler's List (2nd time).  Can't believe I balled my head off.  Weak. lol.

'The Matrix' goes w/o saying.

"All good programmers listen to Pink Floyd."

That comment makes my evening. :)

Brian R.
Thursday, May 22, 2003

Regarding novels that can be read in two versions the one that immediatlely springs to mind at this time in the morning is "Rayuela" by Julio Coratazar. I don't know if the English translation is still in print though.

Incidentally looking through these lists of things to see on the big screen I can see why programmers spend so much time in front of the small one :)

Stephen Jones
Thursday, May 22, 2003

Lock, Stock & 2 Smoking Barrels
Long Good Friday
Usual Suspects
Get Carter (original)
The Thing
+ a shit load of others

in no particular order
Thursday, May 22, 2003

The thing I hated so much about AI was that there was an outstaning 90 minute film in there screaming to get out.

That, and the terse efficiency of the original short story.  A whole future and the full range of human emotions conjured through so few words.

Ged Byrne
Thursday, May 22, 2003

Haven't posted here much before, but it's a good lunchtime question, so here's a few (only ordered in that I've tried to put the ones I've not seen mentioned here much already at the top):

anything by Hal Hartley (Trust, Simple Men etc)
Drowning by Numbers
The Big Sleep
Annie Hall
Miller's Crossing (still my fave Coen brothers)
Lord of the Rings
Fight Club
Usual Suspects
Sixth Sense
Pulp Fiction
Bill and Ted's Excellent Adventure

I'm sure as soon as I post I'll remember a whole other set that I should have picked instead. Seems to be a predominance of crime / trick endings is the only link I can see.

Thursday, May 22, 2003

that interview scene with the the BJ on one head, and a gun on the other, has got to be as high pressure as you get.

Die Hard
Crimson Tide
Romeo must Die
Pulp Fiction

Thursday, May 22, 2003

<boring thought>

I think the pretty similar films listed here by everybody, including Quentin Tarantino films, Darren Aronofsky films, and Fight Club for recent ones, and Breakfast club and others for 80's movies , has to do with us not being programmers, but i think it has to do with the fact that we are pretty much the same age group.

</boring thought>

Thursday, May 22, 2003

has to do with us not being programmers

should read:

has nothing to do with us being programmers...

Thursday, May 22, 2003

You guys might all be interested in this article.  A lot of the above favourites resonate strongly.

Tom (a programmer)
Thursday, May 22, 2003


If you cried, you bawled your head off. If you balled your head off, that means something completely different. Believe me, it does.

David Clayworth
Thursday, May 22, 2003

- Rounders
- American History X
- Swimming With Sharks (has to be listed again it was so good)

Heston Holtmann
Thursday, May 22, 2003

Dear David,
                    How do you know what he did on the back seat? And why do you think he had to see it twice?

Stephen Jones
Thursday, May 22, 2003

Am I the only one addicted to '30's and '40's movies?

1).  His Girl Friday - the funniest movie ever made.

2).  Bringing Up Baby - ditto!

3).  Mr. Blandings Builds His Dream House - an underappreciated gem.

4).  42nd Street - With the immortal line, "Hey, that's 'Anytime Ann'!  She only said 'No' once, and then she didn't hear the question!"

5).  Stagedoor - The calla lilies are in bloom...

6).  The Awful Truth

7).  The Big Sleep

8).  Casablanca

Okay, some newer ones:

State and Main  - "Why does it have to be an old mill?"

Go! - Watch at least 20 minutes, or you'll be fooled.

Eyes Wide Shut - Kubrick's masterpiece, although I hated it the first time I saw it.  Like all of Kubricks movies, no one likes it now, but in 20 years it will be loved.

Momento - Of course.

Life is Beautiful

I could go on and on...

Spaghetti Rustler
Thursday, May 22, 2003

Ooo.  Rounders.  Good one.

Robert Rodriguez movies
Indiana Jones movies
Back to the Future movies

and Bad Taste.

Paul Brinkley
Thursday, May 22, 2003

Oh my God, how could I forget:

Miller's Crossing - "What's the ruckas?"


Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon

Dr. Strangelove - PBF.

Spaghetti Rustler
Thursday, May 22, 2003

My other favorites are in the Mockumentary category:
This is Spinal Tap
Best in Show

I haven't seen "A Mighty Wind" yet, but it looks good from the previews.

Thursday, May 22, 2003

Blues Brothers (which came up on the Matrix thread)

Sergeant York (about faith in war time)

Time Bandits (a bunch of dwarfs who steal a map from God that allows them to travel through time and end up in this kid's bedroom and...well you just have to see it)

Tonari no Totoro (English: My Neighbor Totoro; visually stunning anime without stuff blowing up)

Shall We Dance? (movie reflecting the life and aspirations of the Japanese salaryman)

Hoosiers (small time Indiana basketball)

...for starters

Jim Rankin
Thursday, May 22, 2003

D'oh!  I missed Best in Show!  Fred Willard rocks!

Jim Rankin
Thursday, May 22, 2003

MovieList := TMovieList.Create();
MovieList.Sorted := False;

- The Life of Brian (Monty Python)
- Monty Python and the Holy Grail  (Monty Python)
- The Meaning of Life (Monty Python)
- When Harry Met Sally
- Forget Paris
- An American in Paris
- The Lord of the Rings I & II (and I know I'll love III, too)
- Willow
- Spaceballs (Mel Brooks)
- History of the World (Mel Brooks)
- To Be Or Not To Be (Mel Brooks)
- Robin Hood - Men in Tights (Mel Brooks)
- Shrek
- Monsters, Inc
- Ata-me (Pedro Almodovar)

I'm sure I'm forgetting some more.

There's a couple of movies I love, but I've never found their names:
- Walter Matthau is a hitman hired by the mob to take out a witness before he goes to court. Jack Lemon is trying to get his wife back (she ran off with the director of a sex clinic), and he stays in the room next to Walter.
- A WWII movie, about a group of soldiers trying to beat the US Army to a small town which has several million dollars in gold in a bank. It has several known faces, incl. Clint Eastwood.
- Another WWII movie, about a german fortress on the top of a mountain, reachable only by cable car.

FreeAndNil( MovieList );
"Suravye ninto manshima taishite (Peace favor your sword)" (Shienaran salute)
"Life is a dream from which we all must wake before we can dream again" (Amys, Aiel Wise One)

Paulo Caetano
Thursday, May 22, 2003

[All good programmers listen to Pink Floyd.  Well, at least they *used* to. ]

Yup, they used to teach this to jr. hackers by issuing them the anthology along with their new machine. I got one and never looked back ;-)

Ian Stallings
Thursday, May 22, 2003

Kelly's Heroes
Where Eagles Dare

don't know the name of the Jack Lemmon movie
Thursday, May 22, 2003

Caught this one way late, in no order:

Local Hero
Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy (finally on VHS/DVD)
Smiley's People (finally on VHS/DVD)
HEAT (the Pacino & De Niro version)
Le Mans
Grand Prix
Dr. Strangelove
Fail Safe
The Bedford Incident
Le Femme Nikita (original Euro version)
The Professional (original Euro version)
Bob Roberts
Wag the Dog
American Beauty
The Big Easy
House of Cards (BBC series) + sequels
Revenge of the Nerds (PBS Series) + sequel
Most any porn from Andrew Blake

Mitch & Murray (from downtown)
Thursday, May 22, 2003

Correct me if I'm wrong, but this isn't exactly a cross section of the top grossing movies... I don't think your average person would list the moves that have been listed here.

Something tells me there is some validity to the question.
Thursday, May 22, 2003

Wow, here goes

1. animal house
2. cabaret
3. the usual suspects
4. Good Fellas
5. The empire strikes back

Daniel Shchyokin
Friday, May 23, 2003

Briefly going through our webcaches reveals programmers by far prefer movie01.mpg and any short take that contains the string "jenna" in it's title.

Just me (Sir to you)
Friday, May 23, 2003

All times list:

Amarcord (italian movie)
Tin Drum
Apocalypse now
Godfather 1,2,3
Betty Blue
Good, the Bad and the Ugly
For a Few Dollars More
Fistful of Dollars
Third man
Monty Python's Meaning of Life

And of course Pink Floyd is the music. (with ocasional the clash and sex pistols)

Saturday, May 24, 2003,

The most mentioned films so far are:
12 Monkeys
Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon
Fight Club
Lord of the Rings
Pulp Fiction
Requiem for a Dream
Usual Suspects

Comparing this to (I assumed with no facts, that most posters here are male) with the exception of Pi, 12 Monkeys and Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon all the above appear in the Top 50.

Saturday, May 24, 2003

The IMDB comparison is valid, but I'd like to see the movies that got the MOST ratings rather than the movies that got the highest rating.

After all, one vote for a movie with a 10.0 score would beat all of those.
Tuesday, May 27, 2003

"9  Lost Highway"

Wow, I thought I was the only person who liked that movie...

For those of you who are prompted to see Brazil by other replies (highly recommended, directed by Terry Gilliam of 12 Monkeys and Monty Python fame), make sure you see the full version, not the "edited for US audiences" version.

Something not mentioned which would be in my top 10 would be Baraka.

Gordon Hartley
Wednesday, May 28, 2003

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