Faux software interfaces in film

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Access Main Computer File is a marvelous celebration in images of (mostly phony) computer user interfaces from Hollywood. Once there, mouse over the pictures to see the movie name and year. Notably absent is the instant messaging screen from Pretty In Pink's library scene. Above, Weird Science (1985) and Tron (1982). (Thanks, Jess Hemerly!)

And in a similar vein, there's the classic "Let's enhance" montage of faux image enhancement scenes in movies.



  1. Nothing from “Highlander”?

    Erik, isn’t there any heat in here?

    No. Heat’s bad for the circuits.


    So what you got here, Brenda is a guy who’s been creeping around since at least 1700. Pretending to croak every once in a while, leaving all his possessions to kids who’ve been corpses for years and assuming their identities.”

  2. Some of these aren’t faux: the Netscape Navigator 3.0, for example, looks legitimate.

    They’re missing the fantastic table-sized touch-screen interfaces from the Daniel Craig “James Bond” films and one of (the second I think) Miss Congeniality films. My friends and I totally lost track of the plot when one of “M”‘s briefings in the former started to get into the interface porn.

    Also no “IronMan” interfaces such as the little clicky-tiles file-transfer interface used where Pepper Potts is copying Stane’s secret files.

    And what of the information hierarchy parsing interface for the Hitchhiker’s Guide To The Galaxy from the last movie?! Loved those unfolding directories!

    1. That’s why the post reads, “images of (mostly phony) computer user interfaces.”

  3. Not a movie, but I kept waiting for Holly from the Red Dwarf to smile at me at the bottom of the page ^^

  4. The first one I thought of was Revenge Of The Nerds and they have it. That was my first eye opener where I knew it was total BS and you could not do that on a computer. He manages to program this complex animation sequence with a few key strokes.

    It’s much more interesting finding the ones where they did some research and are using real commands and software, like in the Matrix.

  5. I have a friend here in Toronto that worked for a web design company that specialized in building websites for commercials and movies. Anytime they needed shots like above he would get called in to whip something together. It drove him crazy because the producer could have this vision of how hacking into an FBI database should look like. “I see blinking things in the corner and a giant logo just off to the right. Can you make that logo bigger?”

    It drove him crazy building crappy websites that really did nothing except flip to page 2 when the hacker submits the form on the website.

    Hacker 1: “Were you able to get in?”
    Hacker 2: “No problem. I will use my my master world hacking password. I’m in”.

    David J.

  6. Both the cult classic Battle Royale and the first season of the tv show 24 used Litestep for some onscreen computer interfaces — of course, neither asked the Litestep dev team or the artists of the particular themes used if they were okay with it.

    1. I’ve found that Asian films often just use real interfaces. I can’t even think of any Asian film where they made something up (though I’m sure there are some) unless it was set in the future, and I’ve seen tons of Asian films.

      I do understand why they make stuff up, so that it’s easy for the audience to quickly see what’s going on. Even non-tech-savvy people can spot the fake or simply ridiculous interfaces, though.

      As for asking Litestep permission… um, pretty sure it’s fair use to use computer interfaces like this! I can’t even imagine how this would cause any problem re: copyrights, or anything else.

    1. That line is often brought up – but I don’t see what’s wrong with it, a Unix / Unix-like system is most likely going to have pretty much the same generic commands.

  7. Hand in hand with this trope is the “problem solver” character who is the nerd/tech geek who is hip but subserviant to the action hero in nearly all new “action” TV series.

  8. JIMWICh is absolutely on the money: Bounty Bear was the best (beast) of the best.

    I am searching . . . Got him!

  9. *ahem* …Technically the screenshot from ‘Dune’ would be a rendering of a nonbinary or micropagination (ie: human readable) image, since all thinking machines or computers would have been destroyed during the Butlerian Jihad. Just saying, :)
    -Essay on the Fineness of the Split Hair Ch. 6, OC Bible.

  10. The ‘computer game’ in Van Sant’s Elephant is completely faux. He commissioned my son and a friend to write it. It reponds to user input, but it only does what you see in the film. Up close the two figures being shot at look a bit like Matt Damon and Ben Affleck (from Good Will Hunting.) Visual pun intended.

  11. That 3d “flying around your files” interface in JURASSIC PARK was a demo filesystem navigator for Silicon Graphics IRIX machines. I had it on the Indigo 2. 3d interfaces get old really fast.

  12. Brings to mind the graphics in the control panel of a flying police car in Blade Runner which Ridley Scott reused in the escape pod of the Nostromo in Alien.

  13. I hate when computers constantly make noises and beeps whenever anyone does anything to it. If my computer made a noise every time I clicked on something or was loading something or typed something, I’d murder it. The noisiest computers exist in movies…

    Also, the cell phone screens on the TV show Dexter are ridiculous.

    1. I recall reading on the blog of Leverage creator John Rogers (http://kfmonkey.blogspot.com) that Leverage initially had silent computers. When the episodes were show to test audiences they felt the scenes were really “flat” without them.

  14. Is “Access Main Computer File” an obscure movie quote? I swear I’ve cringed at that line somewhere before.

    1. What, no shots of the ludicrous hacking-the-alien-ship bit from Independence Day?

      It was in there if you scrolled down far enough.

  15. Conspicuously missing is a couple scenes from Runaway (1984), especially the intro credits with Tom Selleck using a fakey-looking CMOS layout editor. I have the film on divx, maybe I should upload that screenshot.

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