Blog Home - Archives

Scarecrow on Seattle: WARGAMES

In appreciation and recognition of Seattle's long and illustrious film history, we are proud to partner with the Seattle Office of Film + Music to bring you reviews of movies made in the Pacific Northwest with an emphasis on how these films showcase the region's many filmable locations.

Wargames (1983)

Like any good 80s teenager, David (Matthew Broderick) Lightman would rather spend time at a video arcade setting new high scores on Galaga than be at school. Even though his biology teacher threatens him with an F, David has a sneaky nerd trick up his sleeve that guarantees a passing grade. You see, David is a computer hacker, which was a fairly new concept in 1983. Heck, back then most people had barely heard of the Internet let alone hacking. David is clever enough to break into the school's database and greedily boost his F up to an A. He even shows off his skills to a perky new female friend/love interest named Jennifer (Ally Sheedy). Eager to play some new video games, he attempts to break into yet another computer database by finding a backdoor in the system's firewall. Little does David know that he is actually connecting to a newly installed NORAD computer called WOPR, and while he thinks he is playing a game called Global Thermonuclear War his antics nearly cause a real global thermonuclear war. David and Jennifer soon find themselves on the run from government agents while simultaneously trying to stop WOPR from completing the game and unleashing World War III.

Oddly enough, even though the film is set in Seattle and much of it was made in Washington State, there are only a few shots of Jet City. Most notable are a couple of quick establishing skyline views from West Seattle. While seeking information from some nerd pals, David and Jennifer traverse the University of Washington campus past the Glenn Hughes Penthouse Theatre to Kincaid Hall. The most recognizable non-Seattle footage occurs while David is on the run from the feds when the resourceful lad hotwires a payphone at a gas station just out of Darrington (with Whitehorse Mountain looming in the background). Local transportation locations include Boeing Field and the Steilacoom Ferry Terminal (also used in last week's film Adventures in Spying), where David and Jennifer catch a boat to the fictional Goose Island, Oregon (in reality, Anderson Island). There are several Washington scenes that were impersonated by California, including David's video arcade hangout and a 7-11 where he gets nabbed by some FBI agents. In the film's most confusing scenario, at least from a location standpoint, David's high school is clearly labeled Snohomish High School and parked in front is a bus with "Seattle School District" stenciled on its side. But Snohomish definitely isn't in the Seattle School District and, even weirder, it isn't even Snohomish High School! The actual building is an imposter school located in El Segundo, California. Even though its technology seems quaint by modern standards, Wargames was way ahead of its time. Amongst other technological foresights, it celebrated hacking, the importance of the Internet, and contains the first cinematic reference to a firewall. Most notably for us locals, it predicted Seattle's important position in the world's dot-com future.

-Spenser Hoyt


To post a comment, please login.