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5 Ways We See Steve Jobs Because of the Movies

5 Ways We See Steve Jobs Because of the Movies

No one knew the power of perception better than the late co-founder of Apple, Steve Jobs. First, he was the hippie that gave the computer a soul. Then, his Mac was David to Bill Gates’ Goliath-sized Windows OS. By the 21st century, Apple’s iPod, iTunes, iPhone, and iPad ending up shaping the world and forever linked “genius” to a lower case letter.

But Jobs himself? He didn’t code, he wasn’t an engineer, and nearly all of Apple’s groundbreaking features were done first on other products. Go ask the team at Xerox about the Macintosh. MP3 players existed years before the iPod. Yet Steve Jobs was the man who always had “just one more thing” to reveal at an Apple launch, which made them events like no other. Was it him that we adored? Or were his products the best part of him?

Over the years, he’s been spoofed on SNL, The Simpsons, South Park… you name the show and there’s an image of a guy wearing a black turtleneck promising the world. Still, Hollywood has a hard time capturing Jobs in a way that feels as unique as he was. Until now. Like a sweet new iOS update, the latest attempt to capture that man in the machine finally nails it. Previously there had been no less than four features focused on his life. Does that make Steve Jobs, which opens across the country this week, the iPhone 5?

Here’s what we’ve learned about Steve Jobs from films and documentaries. Are we in reality distortion mode? Read on: it’ll be insanely great.

Charming Steve.


PBS’ two part mini-series Triumph of the Nerds, hosted by Infoworld writer Robert Cringely, focuses on the very beginning of the personal computer revolution, and ends with the release of Windows 95. By far the most informative of all the films listed, this was also the first time most people saw the interview with Jobs where he famously proclaimed, “The only problem with Microsoft is they just have no taste.” The rest of the Jobs interview would be released after his death in Steve Jobs: The Lost Interview.


Mean Steve.

Noah Wyle as Steve Jobs and Anthony Micheal Hall as Bill Gates in Pirates of Silicon Valley

“What is this… ‘Windows’?!”, exclaims a confused, angry Jobs (played by Noah Wiley) to an innocent-acting Bill Gates (Anthony Michael Hall). For many, the cheesy made-for-TV movie Pirates of Silicon Valley was the first time freethinker Jobs came across as being downright awful to his loyal-to-a-fault employees. Jobs questioned a lot too, like whether or not a paternity test result of 94%  was proof that he was in fact the father of baby Lisa. Did he name his failed Apple II follow-up after her, or did it just stand for “Local Industry Standards Association”?  The surprise was that geeky Gates would end up the villain in this film, not Jobs.


Hunky Steve.


If there was ever an actor to portray Jobs’ barefoot, flower power side, it was Ashton Kutcher. Kutcher really does look and sound like the late 70s version of Mr. Think Different in Jobs. This small film is really just a TV movie in disguise, but Kutcher does a solid impersonation.


Man of Contradictions Steve.

jobs Man in the Machine

Right after his HBO doc on Scientology, Going Clear, filmmaker Alex Gibney went for the same shock value with a less than kind look at Jobs personal life in Steve Jobs: The Man in the Machine. Here, Jobs is presented as a guy who sought enlightenment by traveling to Tibet while at the same time, could never let go of his massive ego. This doc boasts a ton of interviews by those who knew him.


Complex but Sympathetic Steve.

Steve Jobs

Did Steve Jobs just need more joy in in life? In Steve Jobs, Aaron Sorkin’s script (based on the biography by Walter Isaacson) centers around three launch events: The Macintosh in 1984, The Next in 1988, and the iMac in 1998. Director Danny Boyle shot each event with different stock, 16mm, 35mm, and finally digital. The films plays like as unintentional companion to Pixar’s Inside Out, as Jobs is confronted by the key people in his life thirty minutes before he’s set to go onstage: John “the man who fired Jobs” Sculley (Jeff Daniels); Steve’s right hand woman, Johanna Hoffmann (Kate Winslet); de facto Jiminy Cricket and old friend, Steve Wozniak (Seth Rogen); and his daughter Lisa. Michael Fassbender doesn’t look or sound like Steve Jobs, but he captures him in a way no other film has before with startling complexity. Not to be missed.


Are you going to see Steve Jobs this weekend or will no one capture Steve Jobs like the man himself? Sound off in the comments!

Feature Image Credit: Universal
Images credits: PBS, TNT, Universal, Magnolia Pictures, Universal

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