Horror is often most effective when it addresses shared societal fears, and since the Cuban Missile Crisis, fear of nuclear annihilation has never been completely out of mind. In today’s turbulent geopolitical climate, fear of nuclear war has surged in ways not experienced since the 1980s. There are more movies that exacerbate our shared fears of nuclear annihilation than you might realize.
To that end, Top Tenz has assembled a terrifying video list: 10 Little Known but Genuinely Disturbing Films About Nukes! Give it a spin and let us know what you think in the Comments section! What are some other nuclear war movies that deserve a shout out?
Related Article: Top 15 Horror Movies That Will Devastate You Emotionally
If you can’t stream, the 10 lesser-known movies about nuclear war are listed below the video, along with their respective trailers and synopses. Enjoy!
It is just another day in the small town of Hamlin until something disastrous happens. Suddenly, news breaks that a series of nuclear warheads has been dropped along the Eastern Seaboard and, more locally, in California. As people begin coping with the devastating aftermath of the attacks — many suffer radiation poisoning — the Wetherly family tries to survive. Led by mom Carol (Jane Alexander), the clan tries to support each other even as they take in other stranded survivors.
Der Dritte Weltkrieg aka World War III (1997)
This mock documentary uses archival footage, interviews and reports taken out of context and staged interviews to highlight a possible escalation into a nuclear war. In this feature, tension in East Germany, and an uprising triggered by a visit by Gorbachev sees a successful military coup taking place in the USSR. Western actions against brutal crack-downs on civilians involved increases tension between the sides, finally resulting in nuclear war.
Trinity and Beyond: The Atomic Bomb Movie (1995)
A compelling history of the USA’s atomic and hydrogen bombs. Includes previously classified and unreleased footage of how these weapons were developed. William Shatner narrates.
The Day After (1983)
In the mid-1980s, the U.S. is poised on the brink of nuclear war. This shadow looms over the residents of a small town in Kansas as they continue their daily lives. Dr. Russell Oakes (Jason Robards) maintains his busy schedule at the hospital, Denise Dahlberg prepares for her upcoming wedding, and Stephen Klein (Steve Guttenberg) is deep in his graduate studies. When the unthinkable happens and the bombs come down, the town’s residents are thrust into the horrors of nuclear winter.
Pisma myortvogo checloveka aka Dead Man’s Letters (1986)
The world after the nuclear apocalypse. Pale light lits the scenery of total destruction. The surviving humans vegetate in wet cellars under the nuclear winter. But somehow human spirit still sees somewhere the dim light of a new and better future. The next generation starts the walk towards a new life.
When the Wind Blows (1986)
In this hand-drawn animated tale, elderly married couple Hilda (Peggy Ashcroft) and Jim Bloggs (John Mills) have their quiet, simple lives in the English countryside interrupted when they learn of an impending nuclear attack. Not completely understanding the gravity of their situation, Hilda and Jim react archaically and insufficiently after the attack — and the film takes a dark turn as the radiation begins taking its toll on the unsuspecting couple.
Kuroi Ame aka Black Rain (1989)
Mr. and Mrs. Shizuma, and their niece Yasuko make their way through the ruins of Hiroshima, just after the atomic bomb has dropped. Five years later, Yasuko is living with her aunt and uncle, and her senile grandmother, in a village containing many of the bomb survivors. Yasuko does not appear to be affected by the bomb, but the Shizuma’s are worried about her marriage prospects, as she could succumb to radiation sickness at any time.
Hadashi no Gen aka Barefoot Gen (1983)
Gen and his family are living in Hiroshima as Japan nears the end of World War II. Gen’s father has come to believe that the war is unwinnable, thus earning the wrath of the town officials and, in turn, discrimination from the rest of their neighbors. Shunned by the local merchants and tradesmen, food becomes scarce for Gen and his family. All these concerns soon pale, however, as the American military begins its final assault on Japan with the unleashing of its terrible new weapon.
The War Game (1965)
In this British documentary, a hypothetical Chinese invasion of South Vietnam triggers a new world war between East and West. In the town of Rochester, Kent, the anticipation of a nuclear attack leads to mass evacuations. When a stray missile actually explodes, the ensuing firestorm blinds all those who see it. It’s not long before the fabric of society is ripped apart owing to radiation poisoning, a lack of infrastructure and rioting for food and other necessities.
Young lovers Ruth (Karen Meagher) and Jimmy (Reece Dinsdale) decide to get married after Ruth unexpectedly gets pregnant. But their quiet lives in Sheffield, England, are threatened when the Soviet Union and the United States go to war. After a nuclear attack destroys a NATO base 20 miles from Sheffield, the town falls into chaos. Ruth and Jimmy are separated as the fallout spreads. Ruth must struggle to survive alone in the post-apocalyptic landscape.