Top Ten Atomic Movies
These movies have to do with the BOMB! Yes, the BOMB in capital letters, as in a nuclear device. The appeal or thrill in this type of movie comes from the remnants of the Cold War or our fear of stuff blowing up. Yes, that’s right, our innate, natural fear of something exploding in a puff of smoke has led us back to this type of movie over and over again. Of course, an “atomic” movie can be science-based, action-based, or full of a lot of other things related to a big, fat BOMB. Were some of these movies bombs?
10. Broken Arrow (1996) = This crappy John Woo film stars crappy John Travolta and crappier Christian Slater. It is also essential 90s schlock, if you like that sort of thing. An atomic bomber goes out of control, so the pilot bails out and says, “Screw this, I’m going home”, letting the plane crash into a mountain. Unfortunately for everybody, John Travolta turns out to be a bad guy and he is there to annoy people. After watching this movie, I realized that anyone could get a job in Hollywood.
9. Space Cowboys (2000) = I saw this god-awful movie because it had Clint Eastwood in it, and I wasn’t ready for Clint Eastwood in space. People, this isn’t Interstellar, this is Clint Eastwood arguing with a bunch of young people for two hours. And it has a lot of old people jokes. A LOT. Clint redeems himself in a fairly weak ending, but there’s never any explosions, nukes, and not one Cold War joke. Some nukes need fixing up in orbit, so they send the old guy up to crash them into the Moon. The Moon didn’t explode by the way.
8. Superman IV: The Quest for the Bomb (1987) = Unlike most movies on this list, this movie is actually ABOUT the bomb. Superman wants to save the world from the nuclear threat, and deliver peace in our time. This movie is so anti-bomb that the villain is named “Nuclear Man” and one scratch from him gives you a “nuclear sickness”, making you puke up your breakfast. Yuck. Anyway, the movie ends when Superman decides NOT to clean up the Earth after all, and allows us to blow ourselves up if we so choose. How nice of him.
7. Godzilla (1954) = This wouldn’t be an Atomic Top Ten without mention of Godzilla. Should this be #1? #2? Come on, it’s overdone. A bomb causes a monster and there’s a big allegory. Yeah, we get it. Actually, the original Godzilla is pretty darn good, and it can be analyzed a number of crazy ways. I like that part. And Godzilla stepping on stuff. Gotta love that part too.
6. The Peacemaker (1997) =This is another typical 90s action movie. And guess what? Some smart Americans have to step in to help the clumsy, downtrodden Russians, who misplace some bombs. Actually, a bomb GOES OFF in this movie, nuking Russia. George Clooney walks in with sunglasses and gets the bomb back to civilization. After reading this description, you might think this film is racist and you might be right, except Clooney’s biggest ally is a Russian. It’s too bad he’s shot and replaced by Nicole Kidman. Actually, maybe that’s a good thing.
5. Planet of the Apes (1968) = Charlton Heston is so broken up about the BOMB (in caps) that he falls to his knees and sobs like a baby, “You blew it up! You crazy bastiches!”. Nothing beats that ending. Well, except for the last four on this list.
4. True Lies (1998) = We’re back with some fun 90s stereotypes, and this time, some Middle Eastern terrorists steal a BOMB. To be honest, this one has effects that still hold up today and you can sometimes still find it on television. Pretty good for a 17 year old movie. The action comes from Arnold Schwarzenegger and the comedy comes from Tom Arnold, in his best movie. It’s not Arnold’s best, but people still love it for some reason.
3. WarGames (1983) = This is one of my guilty pleasures, but it still has a LOT of the tropes you can see in most of the other movies on this list. Only this time, we have a bunch of young people worried about the BOMB (in caps). That’s right, a couple of kids start carrying on because they think the world might blow up. Forget political intrigue and gun battles, this one is more primal than all that. It’s about a kid who accidentally sets an egg timer to blow up the Earth and he feels scared. Matthew Broderick stretches his performance and shows anxiety. Pretty good job.
2. Thunderball (1965) = Most of the early James Bond movies are about the BOMB (in caps) in some way. Some guy has a bomb, some guy steals a bomb, and some guy has a nuclear submarine—that’s James Bond for ya. It goes on and on. This one has the villain-steals-bomb cliche, but it’s so visually stunning that I don’t care. And it has Sean Connery. This is the film that cemented the James Bond formula for the next 20 sequels. Good for it.
1. Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb (1964) = This is a movie I could watch a lot, if only to snicker and think I’m smart for getting the jokes. Seriously, it is pretty good, and Peter Sellers puts on a classic performance. This movie has the guts to make fun of the BOMB (in caps) and all the crazy situations from Cold War politics. It’s pretty funny that way. Peter Sellers gets the joke.