The Manhattan Project--2016 A to Z Theme

Always a work in progress--welcome to my blog...

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Nuclear Apocalypse Films (#atozchallenge)

Cover of "The Day After"
Cover of The Day After

The films that I'll be listing in my April postings will not necessarily be films that I'd call my favorite films, but they will be favorites in the genres I'll be naming.   The A to Z genres are very specific micro genres as opposed to the broader genres like action, romance, or comedy.

      One thing that World War Two brought us was the nuclear apocalypse/radioactive mutant genre of films.  These were some of the films that played a big influence on me as a film viewer during my childhood and continue to fascinate me to this day.   Giant insects, revived prehistoric creatures, and zombies have all been part of this genre.

       My focus will be the attack and aftermath as depicted in movies.  Here are some of the films in this genre that I have particularly enjoyed:

On The Beach (1959)-- I first saw this at the drive-in theater with my parents when I was a kid.  I didn't totally understand it all, but I knew enough to have this film etch itself into my memory.  The last people on Earth after a nuclear war are in Australia.  A U.S. submarine crew checks out the California coast but there is no one to be found.  They return to Australia where the remaining humans prepare for the end.  It's still a powerful movie.

Panic in the Year Zero (1962)-- Another film I saw at the drive-in with my parents.   In this movie, a typical American family from Los Angeles heads out for a fun camping trip and ends up fighting for survival in the aftermath of a nuclear attack.  This film freaked me out when I was young and I loved it.  It's still a pretty good film to watch.

This Is Not a Test (1962)-- In this curious relic of its time, a group of travelers on a desolate stretch of highway learn of a nuclear attack that is underway.  This is a low-budget psychological drama with no effects, but it's an interesting study of how people respond in time of disaster when there is little information available to them.  I had never seen or heard of this film until fairly recently.

Planet of the Apes (1968) -- Most of you probably know about this film, but I won't say anything about it for those who don't.  If you have not seen this original version, check it out and you'll understand why I've included it in my list.

The Day After (1983)-- Originally released as a TV movie, but it's available on DVD.  This film is an excellent depiction of a nuclear attack on the United States and what happens afterwards.  The film created quite a sensation when it debuted.  It's still worth a watch for those who are interested in this genre.

Testament (1983)-- A film originally intended for PBS, but first received a theatrical release in theaters before being shown on television.  No big effects here, but a good story.  A small California community is isolated after a devastating world nuclear war.  The citizens try to make sense of what's going on elsewhere as the effects of radiation begin taking its tragic toll.  The story focuses on a mother trying to help her family survive in the bleak aftermath.  Mothers especially will find this a heartbreaking film to watch.   Look for a small role by a young Kevin Costner.

       Which of these have you seen?    What other films about nuclear apocalypse can you recommend?  How has the threat of nuclear war affected you in your life?

Enhanced by Zemanta


  1. I remember watching The Last Day. I was 18 and it freaked me out.

    Hugs and chocolate,

  2. The Road Warrior!
    More recently, The Book of Eli.
    I always thought The Day After was all Hollywood. That same year, a British film called Threads came out that was much more gritty and realistic.

  3. I can't recall any of these films, but may have well seen them as up til 1968 used to go to the cinema often.
    Good post as usual.


  4. I remember "The Day After" and it having a huge impact (sorry...) on me. We turned the TV off, and looked at each other, and I was bawling, and it just made me so grateful we were all safe, alive, and well. A very young (18) Engineer-to-be hugged me tight and said, "If that ever happens, I'll take care of you." I believe he will. He's The Engineer now, mad inventor, and part McGyver. I'd add the TV series Jericho to your list. It's available on netflix.

    Tina @ Life is Good
    Co-host, April 2013 A-Z Challenge Blog
    @TinaLifeisGood, #atozchallenge

  5. The first one I remember watching was Damnation Alley. Not a very good movie, but it had Jan Michael Vincent.

  6. Almost a full circle. When these movies were first being released people talked about building bomb shelters because nuclear bombs were a real threat. Now we face those threats again (real or implied)

    I have seen several of the ones you listed. Planet of the Apes (looking back) had a decent script

  7. On the Beach was a fantastic book too. One movie I remember as a kid was called Them. It was about ants which had mutated to huge monsters. Very scary.


  8. Shelly -- I'm not familiar with The Last Day.

    Alex-- I've heard a lot about Threads but can't recall whether I've seen it.

    Yvonne -- These kinds of films are typically rather depressing.

    Tina -- Aww! What a lovely Day After story.

    L Diane -- Yes, I remember seeing Damnation Alley and it was pretty bad.

    Moon-- Nuclear threats are in the news again, but it doesn't seem as though most people are taking them as seriously as back in the early 60's.

    Jo -- I used to love the giant mutant films.


  9. I saw 'On the Beach' well after it was made and at a time I was old enough to be scared to death.

  10. At last! Two movies I've actually seen and two movies I still remember: On The Beach and Planet of the Apes.

  11. I was thinking Book of Eli.

    I'm really enjoying your blog this month, Lee. I'm finding a list of films I want to check out when the blogging slows down a bit!


  12. Not my favourite kind of genre if I'm being honest with you Lee. Maybe it hits a little too close to home with fears that I have, great post though.

  13. Faraway -- In On the Beach the frightful aspects of the film are present with a subtlety that is highly effective.

    Choki -- Thanks!

    C. Lee -- Yeah, but you knew Fellini and that scored big points in your favor.

    Susan -- I'd forgotten about Book of Eli and that's a film that I own on DVD. It's a good one.

    Yeamie--Nuclear war is a frightening prospect.


  14. I only know the Planet Apes, only because I stayed away from watching the other movies,just not my favorite type. Just the other day I was explaining to my children (24 and 21) how growing up during the Cold War era was a little odd. We always had in the back of our minds that the two Super Powers could cause the 'end of the world' if they wanted to. What I found even more amazing is how my children said they learn very little about the Cold War in school, they still only tend to get as far as WWII. I think it is time to get a little farther in the teaching and I say that as a former Social Studies teacher knowing just how hard it is to get all the material taught. Goodness, didn't mean to ramble Lucy from Lucy's Reality

  15. Are any of these films North Korean? Nuclear apocalypse? They should be.

  16. Haven't really seen any of these except planet of the Apes. I think the specter of nuclear war drove their popularity back then.

  17. I saw The Day After as a kid and it left a huge scar. I had nightmares for ten years, literally, after seeing that film. We lived on a farm and I had a recurring dream that the fields all around us were on fire and it was quickly closing overtaking our house. I was so relieved when the Cold War ended. It just felt like we had finally survived. Now I'm an adult and reality is much scarier. Thanks for the memories. ;) I would actually really like to watch the film again all these years later. I will definitely check out some of the others you mention here. Jennifer a.k.a. Urban Gypsy Girl

  18. I remember The day After on TV and how it scared the CRAP out of me!

  19. I don't think I have seen any of these except for the Planet of The Apes. The twist at the end was simple and powerful for its time.

    The Road Warrior series was intriguing and enjoyable. And I really liked the Book Of Eli just recently.

    I am going to have to queue up some of the ones you listed for watching as I too enjoy this genre of film.

    Chuck at Apocalypse Now

  20. I'm behind! (on more than my A to Z posts lol)
    I have some movies to catch up on ... AFTER April.

    Trisha Faye

  21. Lucy-- I'm surprised that kids even make it to the 20th century in school.

    Michael - The North Korean threat may be the new genre. Wasn't the recent remake of Red Dawn about North Korea invading the U.S.?

    Robin -- What? Annihilation no fun for you?

    Susan -- The specter of nuclear war seemed to hang over everything in the 50's and 60's.

    Jennifer -- The Day After probably would have been pretty scary for kids then as it was kind of graphic and intense.

    Nancy -- It was a big deal when it came on TV.

    Chuck -- I think you might appreciate the films on this list.


  22. Trisha -- I'm about 40 years behind I think. I'll probably never catch up with my life.


  23. For someone who claims to love the apocalyptic genre, I've only actually seen one of these: Planet of the Apes. I feel an overwhelming need to go add movies to my netflix queue!!

  24. Heather-- If you enjoy the apocalyptic genre you may enjoy some of these films. (It seems kind of weird to refer to "enjoyment" in the context of this topic).


  25. I usually don't like disaster movies, but these older ones are some of the best. The newer ones tend to be pretty dumb.

    #atozchallenge, Kristen's blog:

  26. Kristen -- I like that the older films focus a lot on the drama and create a scene without the extreme special effects. Although I do like the effects as well.


  27. I remember being absolutely shocked at the end of the Planet of the Apes. One of those movies where I never saw that coming. Great movie.


Go ahead and say something. Don't be afraid to speak your mind.
I normally try to respond to all comments in the comment section so please remember to check the "Email follow-up comments" box if you want to participate in the comment conversation.

For Battle of the Bands voting the "Anonymous" commenting option has been made available though this version is the least preferred. If voting using "anonymous" please include in your comment your name (first only is okay) and city you are voting from and the reason you chose the artist you did.

If you know me and want to comment but don't want to do it here, then you can send me an email @ jacksonlee51 at aol dot com.