Film Forum

What Hollywood gets right (and wrong) about Silicon Valley

The late Steve Jobs is once again front and center as a character in Oscar-winning director Alex Gibney’s scrutinizing new documentary: “Steve Jobs: The Man in the Machine.” Via Magnolia Pictures.

The late Steve Jobs is once again front and center as a character in Oscar-winning director Alex Gibney’s scrutinizing new documentary: “Steve Jobs: The Man in the Machine.” Via Magnolia Pictures.


When Hollywood finds a lucrative genre or idea (i.e. superheroes) it tends to grab it and hold on to it for a while. Recently, Silicon Valley has been no exception.

Since he passed away in 2011, Steve Jobs has been the subject of over-stylized and recycled themes of multiple tech-inspired films. On closing night of the 2015 Fresno Film Festival, Oscar-winning filmmaker Alex Gibney’s new documentary, “Steve Jobs: The Man in the Machine” will present a true, unflinching look at the man we all think we know.

In its attempts to place the tech culture and its innovative icons on the big screen, most Silicon Valley films have seen critical success while others . . . not so much. Here’s a trio of some of those flicks.

“The Social Network”

Of course, it would be a betrayal of recent memory to not start off this list without Jesse Eisenberg’s Oscar-winning role as Facebook’s founder, Mark Zuckerberg.

Although prolific director David Fincher’s flick was panned by Zuckerberg himself, most critics and fans enjoyed the thrilling chronicle of the social revolutionary’s trend-setting startup.

Based on the New York Times bestseller, “The Accidental Billionaires: The Founding of Facebook, A Tale of Sex, Money, Genius and Betrayal,” the film details Zuckerberg’s rise out of his Harvard dorm room to his immediate success and subsequent fallout with close friends and partners.

The screenplay was penned by Aaron Sorkin — creator of hits such as “The West Wing” and “The Newsroom” — and features nothing less of his signature biting and fast paced dialogue.

Most movie fans will notice the film also features a cast of then up-and-coming stars such as Andrew Garfield, Armie Hammer, Rashida Jones and Rooney Mara.

“Pirates of Silicon Valley”

Although unfamiliar to most outside of tech geek circles, this 1999 TNT original movie is one of the few to depict the rivalry between the two most well-known figures of the industry: Steve Jobs and Bill Gates.

Adapted from Michael Swaine’s book, “Fire in the Valley: The Making of The Personal Computer,” the Emmy-nominated drama details the beginning of Jobs and Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak’s relationship, the rippling effect of previously stated rivalry with Gates and the development of the personal computer.

While Wozniak gave approval to the dramatization of their start, Jobs criticized the film’s events and its script. Famously though, Jobs did compliment Noah Wyle’s uncanny portrayal and brought him out during his keynote address at the 1999 Mac World Expo.

And in case you’re wondering who played Bill Gates, it was none other than Anthony Michael Hall. Gotta love the ’90s.

“Startup.com”

While most Hollywood productions now depict a Cinderella fairytale of tech startup success, this 2001 documentary shows what happens if Cinderella never even made it to the ball.

The doc follows two Internet entrepreneurs as they attempt to make their startup, govWorks, a sustainable success. Unfortunately, the site doesn’t survive the dot-com bubble burst in 2000, but does their partnership?

A tale of misfortune and bad timing, this company’s history is a great reference point for up-and-coming tech moguls.

Yvette Mancilla studies multimedia journalism at Fresno State. She currently serves as the Filmworks marketing intern.

Every second Friday of the month, Fresno Filmworks screens first-run independent and international movies at the historic Tower Theatre.