With rhetoric between President Trump and and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un escalating, some people worried about the advent of nuclear war. Filmmakers, long fascinated with nuclear conflict, have tackled the idea of this fallout numerous times, from comedies and dramas to documentaries and teen TV series.
If movies are where you turn for understanding or perspective during world events, here are five films worth watching available to rent or stream that take on the topic.
On the surface, the 1983 film is about a too-smart-for-his-own-good teen, played by Matthew Broderick, who almost causes World War III by hacking into NORAD, thinking it's a video game company. But it has deeper messages about the pointlessness of nuclear conflict. The heroes of the film prevent catastrophe not through force, but by convincing the computer on the verge of bombing the Soviet Union – to win the "war game" Broderick's character accidentally started – that no one can win in a nuclear war.
Stream it on Cinemax.
2. Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb
The Stanley Kubrick film is one of the few portrayals of nuclear conflict that successfully offers a comedic and satirical take on the subject, a tricky balancing act. The 1964 movie, starring Peter Sellers and George C. Scott, remains one of Kubrick's best and most incisive films.
Stream it on Starz.
3. Fail Safe (1964)
This film premiered not long after the Cuban Missile Crisis and starred Henry Fonda as a president attempting to avoid nuclear war after a mistake. Directed by Sidney Lumet, it uses the tropes of thrillers of the era to dramatize the tension and anxiety of standing on the brink of conflict. Stephen Frears (Philomena) directed a TV movie remake in 2000 starring George Clooney.
4. Thirteen Days
While many films were influenced by the Cuban Missile Crisis during the Cold War, this film from 2000 presents an account of the actual crisis. Kevin Costner and Bruce Greenwood star in the fictionalized drama, portraying what went on in President Kennedy's administration during those tense days.
5. Terminator 2: Judgment Day
Visions of nuclear apocalypse are weaved in with action, drama and thrills in director James Cameron's sci-fi sequel, in which Sarah Connor (Linda Hamilton) is driven by her need to prevent humanity's downfall. The 1991 film is an instance of nuclear fears used more for entertainment, but it is an intriguing and inevitably hopeful story.
Honorable mention: The Day After and The War Game.
The Day After is a 1983 TV movie that imagined the U.S. devastated by nuclear war and had huge cultural impact in the Reagan era. The War Game (1965) is a harrowing documentary-style drama which imagines a U.K. town after a nuclear attack and is shocking in its realism. Neither film is currently available to stream, but DVDs are available to purchase from online retailers.
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