Five Films That Went Nuclear

Given the recent troubling situation with North Korea many of you probably feel atoms bombs are the last thing you want in entertainment. But those of you like me who find themselves watching the original music video for 99 Luftballons over and over again on YouTube, might be going in the opposite direction. For those of us in the latter camp, these five pictures are unfortunately quite topical at the moment.

Godzilla (1954) The Japanese creature feature grew out of the psychic scars left by the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.  Godzilla, King of all Monsters, is originally awoken and driven on land by hydrogen bomb testing. The devastation he inflicts on Japan are an allegory for the atomic age and the specter of a force of ultimate destruction far beyond the powers of man to control.  The message proved so potent that it pawned arguably the best known and most celebrated monster movie franchise of all time.

Dr. Strangelove (1964)  This Stanley Kubrick directed satire imagining an unhinged general ordering a nuclear first strike on Russia, is universally the most hilarious black comedy of all time. Peter Sellers played three different roles including the titular character and is unrecognizable in each of them, but credit must also be given to the iconic performances of George C. Scott as jingoist General Buck Turgidson and Slim Pickens as Major T.J. It also coined such classic lines as ‘gentleman-there’s no fighting in the War Room,’ and ‘I wish we had one of those doomsday devices!’ No other film before or since has captured the madness of the Cold War so perfectly.

The Day After (1983)  This movie originally made for TV, speculates about a possible exchange of nuclear fire between the United States and the Soviet Union concentrating on the residents of a small town in Kansas. Starring John Lithgow, Steve Guttenberg, Jason Robards, and JoBeth Williams it was seen by a record breaking total of over 100 million and ignited a national debate.

The Atomic Café (1983) Full disclosure; I first became aware of this particular documentary because my mom dated one of the directors. The Atomic Café takes the approach of black humor to its subject matter as it covers the beginnings of the nuclear age. Using newsreels, interviews, government propaganda films, pop culture depictions, and more from the 40’s to the early 60’s. It was named Best Documentary by the Boston Society of Film Critics and nominated for a BAFTA award. It currently holds a 100% fresh rating on the Tomatometer.

War Games (1983) This American sci-fi classic stars a very young Matthew Broderick and Ally Sheedy as a pair of fun loving teens who accidentally hack into a military supercomputer and trigger a countdown to WWIII. Also starring John Wood as the computer’s cynical, disillusioned creator, War Games has become one of the most beloved films of the 80’s and most influential. It was nominated for three Academy Awards and holds a 93% fresh rating on the Tomatometer.

Top photo: Wikipedia

About Winnefred Ann Frolik (155 Articles)
Winnefred Ann Frolik (Winnie for short) was born and raised in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. She completed the International Baccleareate program at Schenley High School and then attended the University of Pittsburgh where she completed a double major in English Literature and Creative Writing. After graduation she spent a number of years working in the non-profit sector and it was during that phase in her life she moved to D.C.  Winnie co-wrote a book on women in the U.S. Senate with Billy Herzig.  She enrolled in a baking program in culinary school and worked in food services for a while. She currently works in personal services while writing for Woman Around Town and doing other freelance writing projects including feeble personal attempts at fiction. Her brother is a reporter in Dayton, Ohio so clearly there are strong writing genes in the family.  She lives in Pittsburgh, PA, with two demanding cats.