Movies for Teaching ITGS

The following movies and documentary films may be helpful for teaching some aspects of the ITGS course. They can be used to provide examples of social and ethical issues which can be used as a basis for classroom discussion, or to highlight developments in technology. They will also be of interest to students who are passionate about technology and wish to extend their learning. These films are all rated U, PG, or 15.

Documentary Films

King of Kong DVD cover

The King of Kong: A Fistful of Quarters | | Instant Video

Of the three video game playing documentaries here, this is my favourite. King of Kong delves into the VERY strange world of video game world records, which sometime comes across as a soap opera with its "evil" characters and its allegations of cheating and conspiracy. This can be a useful film for discussing video game addiction - some of the scenes where Wiebe continues playing despite his young child needing his help in the background, are quite worrying.
Updated: 2014-11-07
High Score DVD cover

High Score | Instant Video

Another documentary about video gaming, this time covering the Atari classic Missile Command. Bill Carlton attempts to beat the 20-year old record of 80 million points, by playing a single game lasting over 48 hours. This is interesting (and relatively short) viewing, and opens the door for discussions about video game addiction and related ITGS impacts.
Updated: 2014-11-07
Ectasy of Order DVD cover

Ecstasy Of Order: The Tetris Masters | | Instant Video

Another documentary about video games world records, though the players here come across as slightly more balanced and diverse than those in High Score and The King of Kong. This is a well made documentary and is more accessible than the other two video games documentaries here.
Updated: 2014-11-07
Beyond the Game DVD cover

Beyond the Game

This award-winning documentary focuses on professional video gaming and features several world champion players. We follow Fredrik Johansson and Manuel Schenkhuizen as they compete in various competitions including the World Cyber Games. Unlike some of the other documentaries here, Beyond the Game does not really pass judgment on professional gaming but instead provides a very interesting insight into these young men who dedicate their lives to games-playing.
Updated: 2014-11-07
Second Skin DVD cover

Second Skin

Second Skin follows seven players of Massively Multipler Online Role Playing Games (MMORPGs) including EverQuest II and World of Warcraft and the effects their gaming has on their personal lives. For some players the online world is a gateway to romance; for others, their unbroken dedication to playing costs them everything. The documentary also features contributions from doctors and members of OLGA (On-Line Gamers Anonymous) - a programme designed to help video game addicts kick their addictions.
Updated: 2014-11-07
Great Robot Race DVD cover

The Great Robot Race: The DARPA Grand Challenge | | Amazon Instant

This excellent documentary charts the progress of several teams in the 2005 DARPA Grand Challenge: the challenge to build an autonomous vehicle capable of driving itself through over 200 kilometres of Nevada desert. This is an excellent resource for teaching the HL Artificial Intelligence, Robotics, and Expert Systems topic. A shorter version of the documentary is also available online for free.
Updated: 2014-11-07
Revolution OS DVD cover

Revolution OS |

This documentary traces the origins of the Linux operating systems and the Free Software movement. It is useful for helping students understand some of the key differences between FOSS and commercial software, as well as highlighting just how extensively open source projects are used (for example, the Apache web server). The documentary relies heavily on interviews however, and showing segments of the film is probably the best approach.
Updated: 2014-11-07
Triumph of the Nerds DVD cover

Triumph of the Nerds |

Triumph of the Nerds is a documentary about the history of the computer industry, featuring interviews with many prominent figures, including Bill Gates, Steve Jobs, and Steve Wozniak. Although it does not deal with ITGS social and ethical issues, the film provides a very interesting insight into how the computer industry was born and developed, and manages to do so while being very funny and entertaining.
Updated: 2014-11-07
History Channel DVD cover

The History Channel: Modern Marvels - The Creation of the Computer

Charts the development of the computer in The History Channel's typical style. Note that his documentary is a few years old now (2005), so it does not deal with the latest developments. However, this itself could be a good point for classroom discussion, asking students to think about what developments have occurred since the film was produced and how they have affected society. Students could also be asked to predict how technology might develop in the future.
Updated: 2014-11-07
Web documentary


Web, by director Michael Kleiman, is a fantastic documentary film for ITGS classes. It takes a refreshing look at Nicholas Negroponte's One Laptop Per Child (OLPC) project, with a clear, thoughtful, and detailed examination of the Internet's impact on society. The film focuses on Lidia, a young girl in the remote village of Palestina in the Peruvian Amazon, and the effect of the OLPC on her, her family, and her village.

I found that by focusing on one small village the film provides a much more intimate and detailed account of the effect on technology and will give ITGS students concrete examples that are great for discussion. As well as raising the obvious issues of Equality of Access, the film raises many issues related to Globalization and Cultural Diversity - in one scene Liana's class start their own Wikipedia page about their village, and in another Liana introduces her father to Google for the first time. The effect of introducing the Internet to this remote village - both positive and negative - is something that could be discussed in class for a long time afterwards.

Web is currently only available online. It can be purchased or rented, and there is also a free trailer available: Web (2014).

Updated: 2014-12-06
Citizen Four DVD

Citizen Four | | Instant Video

Citizen Four is an academy-award winning documentary about former NSA contractor Edward Snowden, who in 2013 leaked classified information which led to revelations of global surveillance by the NSA, GCHQ, and other intelligence agencies. The documentary primarily features interviews conducted with Snowden in a Hong Kong hotel room by journalists Laura Poitras , Glenn Greenwald, and Ewen MacAskill. These are interpersed with archive footage of press revelations and government responses.

The documentary focuses primarily on the moral and philosophical implications of a surveillance state which, although quite abstract, can make for great classroom viewing material for ITGS students. The documentary works well when tied in with the myriad news articles that have been written on the subject and a discussion of how technical capabilities can often develop quicker than legalisation and understanding of their social implications.

Updated: 2015-05-26

Feature Films

Enemy of the State DVD cover

Enemy of the State | | Instant Video

Another film that addresses the abuse of technology, particularly surveillance and database technology - this time by government forces. Will Smith plays a lawyer who is tracked down - using all manner of sophisticated surveillance technology - by NSA agents after a video tape he possesses. This film covers many of the issues dealt with by The Net but in slightly different and more modern context.
Updated: 2014-11-07
The Conversation DVD cover

The Conversation | | Instant Video

The Conversation is Francis Ford Coppola's classic psychological thriller starring Gene Hackman as a somewhat paranoid surveillance expert. Although the surveillance in The Conversation is generally unrelated to information technology, it raises major issues about the impacts and side effects of runaway surveillance, as well as the dangers of interpreting data obtained in this way - issues which are every bit as relevant in today's society. Viewing The Conversation could be a good lead-in to a classroom discussion about issues such as the NSA surveillance scandal and how far governments could and should go in their data collection efforts.
Updated: 2014-11-07
Blade Runner DVD cover

Blade Runner | | Instant Video

In 2019 megacorporations such as the Tyrell Corporation have created replicants - organic robots which are virtually indistinguishable from humans. Recognising the potential dangers these replicants pose to humans, they are banned from Earth. Harrison Ford is a Blade Runner - an agent sent to track down rogue replicants who defy the ban. Blade Runner examines many issues related to the development of robotic and android technologies, including the benefits and problems they may create, ethical and moral issues related to the creation of 'life', and issues relating to human-machine interaction.
Updated: 2014-11-07
The Net DVD cover

The Net | | Instant Video

An old film (it features floppy disks!), but a good one for ITGS discussions. Sandra Bullock finds herself "wiped from existence" and given a false criminal record after stumbling into a criminal gang. This is a good film for discussing databases, ITGS issues such as data integrity, privacy, and security, and the increased trust that many in society place in computer systems.
Updated: 2014-11-07
Surrogates DVD cover

Surrogates | | Instant Video

An interesting science fiction film set in a world where people never leave their homes - instead, they control robotic surrogates that perform all of their actions for them, look just like them, and protect humans from damage. This is a good film for opening discussions about virtual worlds, psychological, health and other impacts, and the limitations on the development of robotics.

Surrogates can be purchased or rented. There is also a free trailer available online: Surrogates.

Updated: 2014-11-07
Pirates of Silicon Valley DVD cover

Pirates of Silicon Valley |

This dramatization of the history of Microsoft and Apple is quite well regarded. Although it does not tie into ITGS social and ethical issues it does, like the documentary Triumph of the Nerds, provide an interesting insight into how technology arrived at where it is today.
Updated: 2014-11-07
Eye in the Sky DVD

Eye In The Sky | | Instant Video

Eye in the Sky is a military-legal drama, starring Helen Mirren as a Colonel at the centre of a Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV) attack on terrorists in Nairobi, Kenya. Although much of the film focuses on the ethical questions surrounding premeditated strikes and collateral damage, there is a strong undercurrent of ideas relating to drone technology and the opportunities is creates. The film also features cutting edge technology such as miniature drones (including a hummingbird and a tiny beetle), which do not exist at the moment but have certainly been mooted. These inclusions makes Eye in the Sky a useful discussion starter for ITGS lessons.
Updated: 2016-07-07
Snowden DVD

Snowden |

Oliver Stone's film covers Edward Snowden's life from working in the US Army and applying to the CIA, to joining the NSA. The story culminates, of course, in his leaking of classified document to the press.

Snowden is faster and more action based than documentaries like Citizen Four. That said, unlike many films based on real events, it doesn't tend to dramatize or composite storylines or characters. For ITGS students this is a good thing, as it provides plenty of factual material to work with. The technical details about how mass surveillance is performed and a discussion of the larger impacts are not quite to the level required by ITGS students, but they should provide a good basis for classroom discussion and debate.

Snowden didn't really win a large amount of praise when it was released (many felt the film played it too safe). However, I found it quite entertaining and it certainly generated quite a discussion in my class after we had finished watching it.

Updated: 2017-04-14