SOTW Companion: Nuclear Apocalypse In Media

In Episode 320’s Sounds of the Week the guys mentioned movies and TV shows that centered around a post-nuclear apocalypse setting. As promised we’ve compiled a list of suggestions with their availability.



On the Beach (1959): Based on the 1957 novel by Nevil Shute, which focuses on people living out their final days in Australia post-World War III. Starring Gregory Peck, Fred Astaire, Ava Gardner and Anthony Perkins. Available for purchase at Amazon and may be available for rent through your local library. There is also a version of the file made in 2000 for Showtime, starring Armand Assante, Bryan Brown and Rachel Ward. This version is available for purchase through Amazon, and you may find decent versions of it on YouTube.


Threads (1984): A production by the BBC, a nuclear exchange between the NATO and the Warsaw Pact nations occurs and England is devastated.  The film follows multiple characters around England leading up to and then dealing with the aftermath including a long lasting nuclear winter. This is thought by some critics to be the most bleak of all nuclear war fiction.  A version is available on YouTube but higher quality versions can be purchased on eBay or Amazon.


The Day After (1983): A made for TV event that received massive ratings across the US, this is essentially the American version of Threads.  It follows several families in and around Kansas City which is one the sites of what appears to be a full scale nuclear war after Soviet forces act in West Germany. Starring Jason Robards, John Lithgow, and Steve Guttenberg, the images of a nuclear strike and the horrifying life for the survivors had a lasting impact on millions of Americans including President Reagan.  A version is available on YouTube.


Deterrence (2000): While campaigning in Colorado, the President is trapped with a few key staff members at a restaurant during a blizzard.  Without warning, Iraqi forces attack a neighboring nation and the the President is compelled to react with unusually harsh force, sparking a debate over the use of nuclear force and ultimately putting the US and allies at great risk.  This low budget film stars Kevin Pollak, Timothy Hutton and Sean Astin hasn’t aged especially well but does leave the audience (and characters) asking if a nuclear launch would ever be worth it.  Deterrence was discussed on the podcast as an example of the nuclear football and the chain of command.


When the Wind Blows (1986): A nearly comedic animated story of an older British couple clumsily prepping for the Cold War to turn hot in the countryside turns grim when it is revealed any precautions would be in vain during nuclear winter.  The charming but tragically naive couple try to make the best of it using their memories of the London air raids from WWII as assurance they will survive only to learn too late their biggest problem isn’t going to be a lack of power or resources, but nuclear fallout and radiation.  The soundtrack includes works from David Bowie, Roger Waters, Genesis and others.  This heartbreaker is available on YouTube.  


Jericho (CBS 2006-2008)

Jericho is the gold standard of Post Nuclear television. Set in the small town of Jericho, Kansas, Jericho depicts the reaction of the town’s residents and their efforts to survive when major cities across the country are destroyed by nuclear weapons. All episodes are available on Netflix


The 100 (CW 2014 – Present)

Set 97 years after a worldwide nuclear holocaust, the only known survivors live in a structure in space called The Ark which is 12 space stations that have come together. A canary crew of 100 children who were imprisoned for various crimes are sent back down to Earth to determine if the land is habitable. They soon find out that not everyone on Earth died and there is a tribal society who threatens their existence. Seasons 1-3 are available on Netflix and Season 4 premieres Wednesday Feb. 1st.

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