A thread on Twitter inspired me to rate nuclear war movies. "Nuclear war" is being loosely interpreted here.
This is the best, not solely because of the iconic humor, but because it's also somewhat realistic. Fun fact, the B-52 cockpit was mocked up based on a single photo of the then new plane, sparking an investigation to see if something had been leaked. The trials and travails of the bomber crew are probably what B-52 crews would have faced going in to nuke Russia. Fighters, surface-to-air missiles armed with nuclear warheads, and the need to divert to alternate targets. Russia did have a Doomsday Machine, not to destroy the world, but to give the "go codes" if the leadership was dead, known as "Dead Hand." General Turgidson's argument to just go ahead and execute a full strike is much better than what was suggested in the next movie.
The plot is similar to Dr Strangelove but serious. There is the original version, which had to be rescheduled to avoid conflicting with Strangelove's release and a 1990s black and white version, filmed and televised live, with George Clooney. Both are comparable. Some plot points are implausible, such as the phone calls to the plane with the president and the pilot's son. If my son called me and begged me not to start WWIII, there is no way I'd think it was some Commie trick. Too implausible. And the president's decision at the end? See above.
Technically a TV episode, "The Shelter" is a famous episode, parodied by the Simpsons, in which the neighbors beat down the doctor's shelter door in a Little Red Hen style parable. Filmed in the early '60s when the fear was at its height, the tension is real. Jack Albertson is great in it. Real details like CONELRAD show up. This is a lesson in OPSEC.
The President is a total waffle who must have been based on Jimmy Carter. Even Biden has more stones than that guy. Talk about fiddling while Rome burns. I wanted to climb in the TV and physically harm Martin Landau. A male/female B-52 pilot crew would not be sleeping together, and if they were, and the others knew, SAC would have shat a brick. The whole "drama" in the cockpit? That's not how the military works and I wasn't even in the Air Force.
The Day After
In my opinion, this is the most realistic and best drama (vs Strangelove). Hell, this is a straight-up horror film with nukes as the off-screen villan. Most of this is from the civilian's perspective. Documentary footage from the Looking Glass plane and a missile silo during the launch phase is included in the film. I like this film because it adequately builds up the tension of a mounting war crisis until it goes nuclear. Probably what a 1980s nuclear war would have looked like and my mind flashed back to it in February when Putin decided to invade Ukraine. The special effects sucked, but it was 1980s made-for-TV and I thought the radiation sickness and destruction was a little over the top. Even so, it is a good reminder that being in the Midwest downwind of nuclear missile silos is a BAD idea.
Technically a post-apocalyptic film. Better than "Mystery Science Theater 3000" Quality, but not much. Sorta like a Fallout video game in movie format. Not a bad '70s post-apocalyptic flick. I think I had a toy version of the Landmaster that came from a garage sale. The Landmaster alone is worth seeing plus it has that quirky mutant vibe in it.
On The Beach
I think I saw a few minutes of it on TCM or something and gave up. Slow and classic golden-era wooden acting. Book is way better and far more depressing.
Book is million times better. Tom Clancy goes into his usual level of detail, even about how nuclear weapons work. The movie replaces Muslim terrorists with neo-Nazis because the usual reasons. Clancy's plot is dumbed down and twisted until it sucks. James Earl Jones was a better Greer. Nuclear detonation scene was pretty bitchin' though.
Short version: the UK gets totally spanked. And they will. Country will have 5 minutes of warning, if that. The post-attack survival situations seem realistic and plausible. The post-apocalyptic part seems dark and dramatic for thematic purposes. A bit dismal and overwrought in my opinion.
This is an animated film taken from what we'd call a graphic novel today. Could me mistaken for a children's film. An elderly couple basically ignores the war crisis in the background, then prepares last-minute using real UK MoD/Home Office advise. The husband does fairly well for being elderly and unprepared. For an animated film, it is painful in some scenes. It does not have a happy ending as the couple is not prepared to survive the fallout. Excellent in the respect of illustrating how the unprepared and unlucky will be screwed.
Dirty bomb movie. Slow and limited perspective. You can tell it was low budget because the camera never seems to leave the house. Stopped halfway through.
Not much war stuff seen on camera. Basically the aftereffects in a small town. I felt it was too slow and played too much on emotions. But it does realistically show fallout! I think this is more of a film about loss than it is nuclear war.
Implausible. Nuclear war takes to long from the warning. This is basically a suspenseful romance movie.
There really aren't any good nuclear war movies. All kinda fall flat in the "war" department. Some attack scenes are better than others, but none have scratched the itch I have. You'll have to read books. Read mine or Dean Ing's "Pulling Through."
Author Don Shift
Don Shift is a veteran of the Ventura County Sheriff's Office and avid fan of post-apocalyptic literature and film who has pushed a black and white for a mile or two. He is a student of disasters, history, and current events.