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WarGames (1983) Poster

(1983)

Trivia

Jump to: Director Cameo (1)  | Spoilers (11)
According to John Badham, the jeep trying to crash through the gate at NORAD and turning over was an actual accident. The jeep was supposed to continue through the gate. They added the scene of the characters running from the jeep and down the tunnel, and used the botched jeep stunt.
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The NORAD command center built for the movie cost $1 million, making it the most expensive set ever constructed at the time. The producers were not allowed into the actual NORAD command center, so they had to imagine what it was like. In the DVD commentary, director John Badham notes that the actual NORAD command center isn't nearly as elaborate as the one in the movie, calling the set "NORAD's wet dream of itself."
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The studio had the Galaxian (1979) and Galaga (1981) arcade machines delivered to Matthew Broderick's home. He practiced for two months to prepare for the arcade scene.
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The WOPR, as seen in the movie, was made of wood and painted with a metal-finish paint. As the crew filmed the displays of the WOPR, Special Effects Supervisor Michael L. Fink sat inside and entered information into an Apple II computer that drove the countdown display.
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The tunnel and exterior used for the entrance into NORAD is located in Griffith Park, Los Angeles, California. The same tunnel was used to enter and exit Toontown in Who Framed Roger Rabbit (1988), and in the climax of Back to the Future Part II (1989).
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The movie includes the first cinematic reference to a "firewall," a security measure used in computer networking and Internet security.
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The scene in which Matthew Broderick is picked up by the FBI was filmed at a 7-Eleven in Big Bear Lake, CA. As of 2019, the 7-Eleven and the State Farm insurance agency next door are still there. The older "hut" style McDonald's to the west of the 7-Eleven has been replaced with a modern McDonald's.
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Lawrence Lasker and Walter F. Parkes made friends with many hackers and security experts while doing research for the film. They later wrote Sneakers (1992), another film featuring hackers and security experts.
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At the time, the main NORAD command center was located deep within Cheyenne Mountain. The main command center is now at Peterson Air Force Base in Colorado Springs, Colorado, but Cheyenne remains an alternate.
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This movie inspired Congress to create the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act of 1984. Representative Dan Glickman (D-Kansas) opened the proceedings by saying, "We are gonna show about four minutes from the movie 'WarGames,' which outlines the problem fairly clearly." A House committee report said "'WarGames' showed a realistic representation of the automatic dialing and access capabilities of the personal computer."
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The computer in David's room is an IMSAI 8080. According to the person who supplied the computer, Matthew Broderick saved a shooting day by figuring out a programming sequence for the keyboard on his own after instructions were lost.
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David Lightman was inspired by real-life hacker David Scott Lewis, who isn't allowed to discuss whether he ever hacked into a military computer.
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The writers' main inspiration for the character Professor Stephen Falken was Cambridge Professor Stephen Hawking. He was originally approached to appear in the movie, but declined because he didn't want the producers exploiting his disability.
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The crew built the command center with 12 giant monitors. According to Visual FX Supervisor Michael L. Fink, "Those kinds of screens didn't exist." The monitors were rear-projected, similar to the way live backgrounds have been inserted into movies since the 1930s.
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The largest hacker convention in the world is called "DEF CON," an homage to the film. It's been going on since 1992.
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A video game version of this movie was made in 1984 for the ColecoVision, Commodore 64 and Atari 8-Bit Computer. The game started out greeting you as Professor Falken and you would play a game of Global Thermonuclear War. Your objective was to stop nuclear war from occurring by protecting the country with various military vehicles and weapons in a set time limit without reaching Defcon 1.
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The release of this film resulted in a substantial spike in interest in computer hacking and a commensurate increase in actual penetration of computer systems. As a result, the industry was forced to make several seemingly obvious changes like creating accounts with default rather than no password on newly installed systems. This is because prior to the film's release, it was just assumed most computer systems would only be accessed by authorized persons and the odds of someone breaking in was felt to be vanishingly low except for high value systems such as banks or the military.
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Hacking wasn't actually illegal when this movie came out. That didn't happen until the Computer Misuse Act of 1990.
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Barry Corbin ad-libbed most of his lines.
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The computer seen in the black and white film of Falken is made up from components of an IBM AN/FSQ-7 Combat Direction Central, built in 1954 to protect the United States from Soviet bomber attack. It was the largest, heaviest computer system ever built, weighing 250 tons and taking up an entire floor of a bomb-proof blockhouse. Components of decommissioned systems were sold for scrap, and bought by film and television production companies who wanted futuristic-looking computers. The components used in this film were previously used in films including The Time Tunnel (1966) and The Towering Inferno (1974).
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Falken's home was built on a sound stage at MGM Studios. Most of the set pieces are from Little House on the Prairie (1974) and old dinosaur movies.
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The huge door into the underground Cheyenne Mountain complex looked very similar to the actual door, as seen during a December 1987 media tour. The biggest difference is that it opened the opposite direction.
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In 1983, NORAD Computer System (NCS) used 1950s-era systems. After this movie came out, visitors on the NORAD tour constantly asked to see the modern computer rooms. Partly because of that, color displays (mostly on Sun workstations) started replacing the older equipment. Incidentally, NORAD only detected threats. Strategic Air Command handled responses to threats until 1992. A line from the general actually says "get on with sac. Have em warm up the bullpen"
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The computer name, WOPR, was a joke based on BRGR, a real computer NORAD once used to predict war strategies.
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The computer used to break into NORAD was programmed to make the correct words appear on the screen, no matter which keys were pressed.
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Matthew Broderick's father, actor James Broderick, died just a few days before production on this film wrapped in November 1982.
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The 20 Grand Palace arcade in the film was a real video arcade just north of Los Angeles in Woodland Hills. It is now a furniture store.
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The film was shot partly in Washington State. The NORAD HQ set was built in the Cascades. The Oregon airport was really Boeing Field, and Goose Island is really Anderson Island in the southern part of Puget Sound.
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Graphics on the large NORAD war room screens were rendered in advance by an HP 9845C desktop computer running BASIC. In 1982, the 9845C was comprised of a base with built-in keyboard and a 14" color monitor. It cost of about $90,000 in 2019 dollars, and weighed about 100 pounds. The graphics resolution was not high enough to project onto a large screen or be filmed directly, so a high-resolution monochromatic display was connected. The images were filmed from the display, one frame at a time, one color at a time, using filters for red, green, and blue. The process took about 1 minute per frame of film.
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When David has his computer dial random phone numbers in his search for Protovision, the telephone numbers listed on the screen do not start with the usual fake "555" exchange. However, "311" is set aside for special purposes, like "411" and "911".
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The dinosaur film that Professor Falken shows to David and Jennifer is One Million Years B.C. (1966), featuring the work of Ray Harryhausen.
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This film was shown to President Ronald Reagan at Camp David in the summer of 1983. He reportedly loved it but also took on-board the message about the dangers of an outside influence affecting the US military via computer misuse and in 1984 he started proposing a draft to make such an act a criminal offense and for the military to start investigating potential weaknesses as depicted in the movie.
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Crosby Stills & Nash submitted a song for the soundtrack, originally from their "Allies" album, called "Wargames." It was edited out of the film at the last second, but United Artists used the video, featuring footage for the film, as a promotion video that played on MTV.
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At the beginning of the movie when the Air Force guys are starting their shift, a sign on the wall reads, "Anyone Caught Urinating in This Area Will Be Discharged"
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The part of Professor Falken was originally written with John Lennon in mind for the role.
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At the start of the first NORAD Command Center scene, many large white springs are visible on the floor. These are the set designer's concept of seismic base isolation springs, a common means of protecting structures from earthquake damage. In the case of the underground NORAD bunker, the springs would isolate some kind of foundation platform from the cave floor.
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The touch-tone sequence to reach the President from NORAD control center is the famous "da da da dum" from Ludwig van Beethoven's Fifth Symphony. These four notes are also the letter V in Morse Code, used variously as a symbol of victory and peace.
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The film is still a favorite in Silicon Valley. Google held a 25th anniversary screening in 2008.
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John Badham wanted the WOPR to have flashing lights to give it personality.
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There were several nuclear launch close calls that influenced writers Lasker and Parkes to create the scenario of WarGames, including an incident at NORAD on November 9, 1979 when information on a training simulation tape concerning soviet sub launches was accidentally fed into the warning system and for six minutes the American military complex went into high alert. Only after no soviet missiles were detected by the PAVE PAWS early warning radar system did the U.S. stand down. Training simulations were accordingly moved off site of NORAD after this incident. In the movie, one of the scenarios fed to NORAD operators by Joshua is an influx of encroaching soviet missile subs.
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In the Director's commentary, one of the writers says that the writers got the DEFCON numbers wrong. He was referring to the lighted signs that have the vertical arrangement of numbers, in which the number 5 is at the top and the number 1 is at the bottom.
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There are so few unique positions in the game of 3x3 Tic-Tac-Toe that even the slowest early 1980s era personal computer would have been able to enumerate them all within seconds, and so know the game was "cooked" (unwinnable).
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The ferry that David and Jennifer catch is not to Goose Island, Oregon, it is the Anderson Island Ferry in Steilacoom, Washington.
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The video arcade where David is playing in the early parts of the movie was located on the southwest corner of Ventura Boulevard and Quakertown Avenue, in Woodland Hills, California. That building is now a furniture store.
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In the first scene, Jerry mentions the phrase "Om ma ni pad me hum," an ancient Sanskrit mantra. The six syllables remind the speaker of the six Buddhist perfections: generosity, ethics, patience, diligence, renunciation, and wisdom.
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When John Badham took over as director he changed the photographic process. It's possible to see changes in the frame lines between old and new footage.
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The word that Mr. Lightman asks Jennifer about, "tumulus", is defined as "an ancient burial mound".
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The dual 8-inch floppy drive is an IMSAI FDC-2, the monitor is a 17-inch Electrohome, the keyboard is an IMSAI IKB-1, and the 1200 baud modem (on top of the monitor) is a Cermetek 212A relabeled with the name "IMSAI". The acoustic coupler prop was added for visual effect only.
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When the message for the tour group in NORAD is activated, the sound effect that plays is from Galaga (1981).
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The delegation from the city of Birmingham, Alabama, visiting NORAD is a tribute to director John Badham's hometown.
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The magazine in which David sees the Protovision advertisement is an issue of "Creative Computing", a popular home computer magazine that was founded and published by David H. Ahl between 1974 and 1985. The article preceding the advertisement is a frequently regular column called "Logo Ideas", which instructs on the LOGO programming language for drawing computer graphics.
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When David comes home the day after the NORAD computer break-in, the newscaster on the television is talking about a prophylactic recycling center.
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The opening scenes feature a very early performance by Michael Madsen, who later starred in films including Free Willy, Reservoir Dogs, Species and Kill Bill. John Spencer, the other actor in that scene, starred for several seasons on The West Wing, L.A. Law, and other movies and TV shows.
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Actor John Wood provided the voice for Joshua/WOPR. This is made apparent towards the end of the movie when Falken is talking to Jennifer and David, after he plays the dinosaur movie. Although the computer voice is enhanced mechanically, the inflection of Wood's voice and the computer are spot on.
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The medals displayed on General Beringer's uniform are: Air Force Distinguished Service Cross, Silver Star, Legion of Merit, Distinguished Flying Cross, Air Medal, Presidential Unit Citation, Air Force Outstanding Unit Award, American Defense Service Medal, American Campaign Medal, European-African-Middle Eastern Campaign Medal, World War II Victory Medal, Army of Occupation Medal, National Defense Service Medal, Air Force Longevity Service Ribbon, two Croix de Guerre ribbons, and four additional foreign decorations. He has no medals for service in the Vietnam War, very unlikely for an Air Force General in the 1980s. The ribbon spread in 1983 would mean Beringer had at least 42 years of active service, and was at least 60 years of age. Barry Corbin was 43 at the time.
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The harmonica music was added at the last minute. Composer Arthur B. Rubinstein says it's the one thing fans always remember about the score.
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The producers designed the offices with glass windows to show off the expensive command center set.
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The writers based General Beringer on General James Hartinger. Hartinger was the Commander in Chief of NORAD in the early 1980s.
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WOPR goes through more than 150 possible scenarios in Global Thermonuclear War, including Zaire Alliance, Gabon Surprise, and English Thrust.
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Two methods for breaking into a computer network have names derived from the movie: "wardialing" (trying every phone number in an area code to find computers or servers), and "wardriving" (searching for available wireless networks from a moving vehicle).
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Broderick and Sheedy would both go on to star in big John Hughes movies; Sheedy in The Breakfast Club (1985), and Broderick in Ferris Bueller's Day Off (1986).
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The computer display showing "Game Time Elapsed" and "Game Time Remaining" is framed in a bezel with stenciled labels reading "GST", "TEP", "SIM", and "TTG". These are standard acronyms used with electronic, and other, test equipment. Respectively, they stand for Ground System Test, Test Evaluation Plan, Scientific Instrumentation Module, and Time To Go.
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The Tic-Tac-Toe scene was used as part of a montage for the "Hard to Explain" music video by The Strokes.
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This movie was hugely influential, and many other movies and TV shows have used the kid-hacking-into-the-government-computer plot as a result of this. Diff'rent Strokes, Facts of Life, Silver Spoons, and the movie Hackers (1995) are just some examples.
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David's house is actually located on South Arden Blvd. in Los Angeles.
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The tunnel that David, Jennifer and Dr. Falken are running through is not at NORAD, Colorado; rather, it is the tunnel at the Griffith Park Observatory in Los Angeles.
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Jennifer and David ride a Derbi Variant moped. It's a Spanish motor scooter.
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Included among the American Film Institute's 2001 list of 400 movies nominated for the top 100 Most Heart-Pounding American Movies.
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Ally Sheedy auditioned for the role of Jennifer for four months before being cast.
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Matthew Broderick later worked with John Wood in Ladyhawke (1985), and with Dabney Coleman in Inspector Gadget (1999).
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Matthew Broderick's film debut.
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One version of the script had an early version of WOPR named "Uncle Ollie", or OLI (Omnipresent Laser Interceptor), a space-based defensive laser run by an intelligent program, but this idea was discarded because it was too speculative
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ProtoVision being located in Sunnyvale California may be a tribute to Atari, which installed the first PONG arcade game in Andy Capp's Tavern in Sunnyvale in August 1972.
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The original title was "The Genius".
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The red, white and blue helicopter in the first external NORAD scene is a classic Bell 206 JetRanger.
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The phone number that David used to call the NORAD WOPR computer was 399-2364.
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David changed the biology grade for Jennifer to avoid summer school. In Ferris Bueller's Day Off (1986), another student said Ferris, played by Broderick was going to get him out of going to summer school.
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According to his obituary, Stephen Falken died on June 23rd, 1973.
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Ally Sheedy and Barry Corbin were both recurring characters on Hill Street Blues when this movie came out.
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As in Matthew Broderick's movie Ferris Bueller's Day Off (1986), both mothers are real estate agents.
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Sheedy and Badham would work together again in Maid to Order in 1987; also in Short Circuit in 1986.
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Tom Mankiewicz says he wrote some additional scenes during shooting which were used.[9]
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The name Joshua is the same as the computerized mobile mechanical arm in Demon Seed (1977).
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During General Beringer's "You're full of shit" scene, the object he takes out of a red and white package and places in his mouth is Red Man chewing tobacco.
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Dr. McKittrick's password to log into the WOPR is "7KQ201 McKittrick".
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In the Cold War-themed board game "Twilight Struggle" there is a card named WARGAMES. The flavor text for the card says "How about a nice game of chess?" which is obviously an homage to the movie.
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Surprisingly, there was only one sequel to this movie; the direct-to-video WarGames: The Dead Code (2008).
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The keypad lock tones heard when the guard unlocks the infirmary door are the tones used by touch-tone telephones. The tones heard correspond to dialing 222333 on a touch-tone phone.
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In the opening scene of the movie, the launch code is DLG2209TVX.
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It is actually possible to win a game of tic-tac-toe. However to win both players would have to make illogical choices, I.e. not going for the centre square first.
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At the beginning of the film, the camera shows the missiles about to launch with a list of coordinates, presumably the targets. They are: -W130.97 N48.72 -W142.13 N54.88 -W125.77 N27.91 -W147.36 N45.64 -W131.21 N49.11 All Pacific Ocean coordinates off the North East portion of the US and Canada land mass.
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The computer playing Global Thermonuclear War with David Lightman is called the WOPR, which is an acronym for War Operation Plan Response.
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The airplane reservations to Paris were made for August 18th.
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When David jumps on Jennifer's scooter and she says something like "Hop on", her voice is dubbed in.
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The film was a subject of a court case between MGM/UA and Thorn EMI as Thorn EMI sued MGM-UA over an breached agreement that Thorn EMI would get the international rights as Thorn EMI had a agreement with Sherwood Productions. But MGM/UA won the case which meant that UIP distributed the film.
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When Cabot and Watson are getting out of the helicopter at the NORAD complex at the beginning of the film, if you look closely, you can see that they are stunt doubles and not the actual actors Dennis Lipscomb and Kent Williams. This was probably because of the ill- fated helicopter accident/ crash that occurred a few months earlier during the filming of Twilight Zone, the Movie.
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Director Cameo 

John Badham: recorded voice on the pocket tape recorder in the infirmary and dubbing John Wood's voice in the helicopter scene.
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Spoilers 

The trivia items below may give away important plot points.

David makes a joke directed at his teacher about asexual reproduction. Director John Badham said some of the crew didn't know the punch line, and laughed out loud, and it was left in the sound track. The classroom response is clearly adults laughing out loud.
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When McKittrick shows David around the war room, David asks him about working with Professor Falken, saying, "He must have been pretty amazing, huh?" because Falken is officially dead. McKittrick replies "Well, he's a brilliant man, a little flaky," revealing that Falken is not dead.
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In the original script, NORAD ends up giving David a part-time job, and he works as McKittrick's assistant, just as McKittrick said he started out as Falken's assistant.
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When Falken starts the film for David and Jennifer, he says "Are you sitting comfortably? Then I'll begin." That's the opening line from Listen with Mother, a BBC radio program for children which ran from 1950 to 1982. Falken's son Joshua likely would have listened to the program.
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The original director was Martin Brest, and several scenes he shot are still in the movie. He was fired due to creative differences. He has stated that the police control center in Beverly Hills Cop (1984) is a scaled-down version of the NORAD control center layout.
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The movie is a central plot device in the book "Ready Player One" by Ernest Cline. The protagonist must re-enact the movie playing the part of David, line by line, to unlock a door.
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The possible war scenarios Joshua runs in Global Thermonuclear War include: U.S. First Strike, USSR First Strike, NATO/Warsaw Pact, Far East Strategy, U.S. USSR Escalation, Middle East War, USSR China Attack, India Pakistan War, Mediterranean War, Hong Kong Variant, SEATO Decapitating, Cuban Provocation, Atlantic Heavy, Cuban Paramilitary, Nicaraguan Preemptive, Pacific Territorial, Burmese Theaterwide, Turkish Decoy, Angentina Escalation (possible misspelling of "Argentina Escalation"), Iceland Maximum, Arabian Theaterwide, U.S. Subversion, Australian Maneuver, Sudan Surprise, NATO Territorial, Zaire Alliance, Iceland Incident, English Escalation, Middle East Heavy, Mexican Takeover, Chad Alert (repeated twice), Saudi Maneuver, African Territorial, Ethiopian Escalation, Turkish Heavy, NATO Incursion, U.S. Defense, Cambodian Heavy, Pact Medium, Arctic Minimal, Mexican Domestic, Taiwan Theaterwide, Pacific Maneuver, Portugal Revolution, Albanian Decoy, Palistinian Local (possible misspelling of "Palestinian Local"), Moroccan Minimal, Czech Option, French Alliance, Arabian Clandestine, Gabon Rebellion, Northern Maximum, SEATO Takeover, Hawaiian Escalation, Iranian Maneuver, NATO Containment, Swiss Incident, Cuban Minimal, Iceland Escalation, Vietnamese Retaliatio (possible misspelling of "Vietnamese Retaliation"), Syrian Provocation, Libyan Local, Gabon Takeover, Romanian War, Middle East Offensive, Denmark Massive, Chile Confrontation, S. African Subversion, USSR Alert, Nicaraguan Thrust, Greenland Domestic, Iceland Heavy, Kenya Option, Pacific Defense, Uganda Maximum, Thai Subversion, Romanian Strike, Pakistan Sovereignty, Afghan Misdirection, Thai Variation, Northern Territorial, Polish Paramilitary, S. African Offensive, Panama Misdirection, Scandinavian Domestic, Jordan Preemptive, English Trust, Burmese Maneuver, Spain Counter, Arabian Offensive, Chad Interdiction, Taiwan Misdirection, Bangladesh Theaterwid (possible misspelling of "Bangladesh Theaterwide"), Ethiopian Local, Italian Takeover, Vietnamese Incident, English Preemptive, Denmark Alternate, Thai Confrontation, Taiwan Surprise, Brazilian Strike, Venezuela Sudden, Maylasian Alert (possible misspelling of "Malaysian Alert"), Isreal Discretionary (possible misspelling of "Israel Discretionary"), Libyan Action, Palistinian Tactical (possible misspelling of "Palestinian Tactical"), NATO Alternate, Cypress Maneuver (possible misspelling of "Cyprus Maneuver"), Egypt Misdirection, Bangladesh Thrust, Kenya Defense, Bangladesh Containmen (possible misspelling of "Bangladesh Containment"), Vietnamese Strike, Albanian Containment, Gabon Surprise, Iraq Sovereignty, Vietnamese Sudden, Lebanon Interdiction, Taiwan Domestic, Algerian Sovereignty, Arabian Strike, Atlantic Sudden, Mongolian Thrust, Polish Decoy, Alaskan Discretionary, Canadian Thrust, Arabian Light, S. African Domestic, Tunisian Incident, Maylasian Maneuver (possible misspelling of "Malaysian Maneuver"), Jamaica Decoy, Maylasian Minimal (possible misspelling of "Malaysian Minimal"), Russian Sovereignty, Chad Option, Bangladesh War, Burmese Containment, Asian Theaterwide, Bulgarian Clandestine, Greenland Incursion, Egypt Surgical, Czech Heavy, Taiwan Confrontation, Greenland Maximum, Uganda Offensive, and Caspian Defense.
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Both this movie and Ferris Bueller's Day Off (1986) involve the main character, played by Matthew Broderick, breaking into his school's computer system. In WarGames, Broderick changes his biology grade. In Ferris Bueller' Day Off, Broderick changes the number of days he has skipped school.
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When David first makes contact with the WOPR, in response to the question about what happened to Professor Falken's account, David types his response, "People sometimes make mistak."
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The launch code that Joshua "figures out" for himself at the end of the movie is: CPE 1704 TKS.
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Dabney Coleman plays the bumbling bully Dr. McKittrick in Wargames. It is a role Dabney Coleman frequently plays in Hollywood: the villain. In fact Coleman spent years and years playing jerks in Hollywood; from this part, to the bully director Ron in Tootsie; to Buffalo Bill on his own TV show of the same name; to the racist Fred Tanner on Diff'rent strokes; the arrogant sexist bigot Franklin J. Hart on 9 to 5; these characters were all bullies and villains. The only part Coleman played that was not a bully was when he played the imaginary spy Jack Flack in Cloak and Dagger, and when he played Bill Ray in On Golden Pond. But he is still thought of mostly as a villain in Hollywood. At least in Wargames he and Matthew Broderick reconcile at the ending and he becomes a nice guy; unlike in 9 to 5 when he is sent to the Amazon at the ending and killed off by the natives.
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