United States Secretary of Defense Michael Bergstrom commits suicide after being informed that he has tested positive for HIV.
Angela Bennett is a systems analyst from Venice, California who telecommutes to Cathedral Software in San Francisco. Her interpersonal relationships are almost completely online and on the phone, with the exception of forgettable interactions with her neighbors and visits to her mother, who is institutionalized with Alzheimer's disease and often forgets who Bennett is. Bennett's co-worker Dale sends her a floppy disk with a backdoor labeled "π" that permits access to a commonly used computer security system called "Gatekeeper" sold by Gregg Microsystems, a software company led by CEO Jeff Gregg. Dale and Bennett agree to meet, but the navigation system in Dale's private aircraft malfunctions and it crashes into a tower, killing him.
Bennett travels to Mexico, on vacation, where she meets Jack Devlin. After seducing Bennett, Devlin pays a mugger to steal her purse as they walk along the beach. He chases the mugger into the foliage and roots through the purse to find the disk before shooting him. He takes Bennett out on his speedboat to kill her as well, but she finds his gun and confronts him. While fleeing with the disk and Devlin's wallet, Bennett's dinghy collides with rocks, destroying the disk and hospitalizing her. She is unconscious for three days.
When Bennett wakes up, she finds that all records of her life have been deleted: She was checked out of her hotel room, her car is no longer at the airport parking lot, and her credit cards are invalid. Bennett's home is empty and listed for sale. Moreover, because none of the neighbors remember her, they cannot confirm her identity. Bennett's Social Security number is now assigned to a "Ruth Marx", for whom Devlin has entered an arrest record by hacking the police computer system. When Bennett calls her own desk at Cathedral Software, an impostor answers and offers Bennett her old life back in exchange for the disk. She contacts the only other person who knows her by sight, psychiatrist and former lover Alan Champion. He checks her into a hotel, offers to contact a friend at the FBI, and arranges to have her mother moved for her safety.
Using her knowledge of the backdoor and a password found in Devlin's wallet, Bennett logs into the Bethesda Naval Hospital's computers and learns that Secretary of Defense Bergstrom, who had opposed Gatekeeper's use by the federal government, was misdiagnosed. Fellow hacker "Cyberbob" identifies π with the "Praetorians", a notorious group of cyberterrorists linked to recent computer failures around the country. Bennett and Cyberbob plan to meet, but the Praetorians intercept their online chat. Bennett escapes from Devlin—a contract killer for the cyberterrorists, but the Praetorians kill Champion by tampering with pharmacy and hospital computer records. After Bennett is arrested by the California Highway Patrol, a man identifying himself as Champion's FBI friend frees her from jail. She realises he is an impostor and escapes again.
Now wanted for murder, Bennett hitchhikes to Cathedral's office where, using her impostor's computer, she connects the cyberterrorists to Gregg Microsystems and uncovers their scheme; once the Praetorians sabotage an organization's computer system, Gregg sells Gatekeeper to it and gains unlimited access through the backdoor. Bennett emails evidence of the backdoor to the FBI from the Moscone Center and tricks Devlin into releasing a virus into Gregg's mainframe, undoing the erasing of her identity. During a battle on the catwalks of a convention center, in which Devlin accidentally kills the impostor (the real Ruth Marx), Bennett ambushes Devlin with a fire extinguisher, causing him to fall to his death. Bennett reunites with her mother, and the conspiracy is exposed, with Jeff Gregg being arrested by the FBI.Sandra Bullock as Angela Bennett
Jeremy Northam as Jack Devlin
Dennis Miller as Dr. Alan Champion
Diane Baker as Mrs. Bennett
Wendy Gazelle as Ruth Marx
Ken Howard as Michael Bergstrom
Ray McKinnon as Dale Hessman
Robert Gossett as Ben Phillips
Wren T. Brown as Trooper
In October 1994, Bullock committed to filming The Net from mid-January through April 10, 1995. The Net was filmed in San Francisco's Moscone Center and Macworld on January 5, 1995, as well as at Washington, D.C. locations in April 1995.
With an estimated budget of $22 million and a release date of 28 July 1995, The Net earned $50,727,965 in domestic box office. Including foreign markets, the film grossed $110,627,965 worldwide, with an additional $23,771,600 in United States rentals.
Based on 47 reviews, it has an average score of 5.1 out of 10 on Rotten Tomatoes with 36% of critics giving positive reviews. Roger Ebert gave the film three out of four stars. Owen Gleiberman, writing for Entertainment Weekly, complimented Sandra Bullock's performance, saying "Bullock pulls you into the movie. Her overripe smile and clear, imploring eyes are sometimes evocative of Julia Roberts".
Spinoff TV series and sequel
The film spawned an American spinoff TV series starring Brooke Langton as Angela Bennett.
A sequel named The Net 2.0, starring Nikki DeLoach as Hope Cassidy and directed by Charles Winkler, son of Irwin Winkler, was announced in February 2005. It was released direct-to-video in 2006, and was about a young systems analyst who arrives in Istanbul for her new job to find that her identity has been stolen.