Pop Culture | Movies | 80s

How 'WarGames' Freaked Out Ronald Reagan And Ticked Off The Military

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It's hard to believe today, but when it was released in 1983 WarGames - a silly little sci-fi movie starring Matthew Broderick - absolutely terrified the leader of the free world.

Public enemy number one.KitGuru

For those of you who missed this genuinely fun movie, it stars Broderick as computer hacker David, who accidentally hacks into NORAD's top secret threat-detection computer the WOPR, inspired by a real NORAD machine named the BRGR - get it? Whopper, burger? Of course, while trying to play games on this computer, David accidentally triggers a thermonuclear war.

In a race against time to stop the WOPR before it destroys the world, David recruits his classmate Jennifer (Ally Sheedy) and a reclusive scientist named Falken (John Wood). Our hero manages to sneak into NORAD's headquarters where he famously foils the WOPR by making it play Tic Tac Toe against itself over and over.

Yes, really.Critical Commons

It sounds silly (and it is) but most people didn't know a thing about computers back in 1983, so the situations described in the movie seemed totally plausible. As it turns out, even President Ronald Reagan panicked after watching the movie during a vacation at Camp David.

The Reagans at the Camp David movie theater in 1984About Camp David

Reagan seemed to get a lot of policy ideas from movies, because the nuclear apocalypse film The Day After also made him rethink his stance on nuclear weapons.

After seeing WarGames, Reagan just couldn't stop talking about the movie and recommending it to his friends in Congress. He even asked Joint Chiefs of Staff head John W. Vessey Jr. what his take on the movie was, and his surprising response led to a number of big changes for America's nuclear defense system...

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