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Hollywood Goes To War

Films of war: Cold War

Crimson Tide (1995)
Director: Tony Scott. Starring: Denzel Washington, Gene Hackman, Matt Craven, George Dzundza, Viggo Mortensen. A combination of one-dimensional but enjoyable performances, lots of high-tech nonsense taking place onscreen, and mechanistic movie-making at its loudest and most seizure-inducing. Gene Hackman and Denzel Washington play nuclear submarine officers squaring off over the former's apparent intention to do some unauthorized damage to an enemy. Tony Scott (Top Gun) directed, bringing his luster and pop commercial sense to go with all that Simpson-Bruckheimer eye candy.

  • See the Internet Movie Database's film profile
  • The Day After (1983)
    Director: Nicholas Mayer. Starring: Jason Robards, JoBeth Williams, Steve Guttenberg, John Cullum, John Lithgow. Audiences are briefly introduced to a representative cross-section of American life, including a doctor (Jason Robards), a young bride-to-be (Lori Lethin), a graduate student (Steve Guttenberg), and an academic (John Lithgow), before the Bomb hits nearby Kansas City. The ensuing destruction is utterly horrific, but a few manage to survive to struggle vainly with rising radiation levels and the slow, inevitable collapse of society.

  • See the Internet Movie Database's film profile
  • Dr.Strangelove: or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb (1963)
    Director: Stanley Kubrick. Black comedy about a group of war-eager military men who plan a nuclear apocalypse.

  • See the Internet Movie Database's film profile
  • Fail Safe (1964)
    Director: Sydney Lumet. Starring: Dan O'Herlihy, Walter Matthau, Frank Overton, Ed Binns, Fritz Weaver, Henry Fonda, Larry Hagman. Fail Safe, made within a year of Strangelove and at the height of cold war atomic anxiety, posits a similar nightmare scenario. A U.S. bomber is accidentally ordered toward Moscow, ready to drop its load. The U.S. president (Henry Fonda) and various military and congressional leaders must then scramble to deal with the disaster. The movie enters unexpected territory in its final minutes; conditioned for feel-good endings, viewers are still genuinely shocked by the plot turns in the final reels. The climax comes as a sobering slap in the face, intriguingly staged by Lumet.

  • See the Internet Movie Database's film profile
  • The Fourth Protocol (1987)
    Director: John Mackenzie. Starring: Michael Caine, Pierce Brosnan, Ned Beatty, Joanna Cassidy. Frederick Forsyth wrote the novel and screenplay for this story about a plot to stage an enormous nuclear accident in England, a catastrophe so large that its source can never be identified but will lead to assumptions that America is behind it. Michael Caine plays an aging intelligence agent who picks up clues that the ingredients for such an apocalypse are being smuggled piece-by-piece into the Britain--but he cannot seem to get his superiors to care. Caine is outstanding in a role that seems tailor-made for him, and Pierce Brosnan is very good as the Russian agent working undercover in England to effect the planned tragedy. The film perfectly captures a spreading suspicion and resentment toward superpower adventurism, even though such sentiments are, in fact, being exploited by the bad guys.

  • See the Internet Movie Database's film profile
  • The Hunt for Red October (1990)
    Director: John McTiernan. Starring: Sean Connery, Alec Baldwin, Scott Glenn, Sam Neill, James Earl Jones, Joss Ackland. The Hunt for Red October stands alone as a uniquely exciting adventure with a fantastic costar: Sean Connery as a Russian nuclear submarine captain attempting to defect to the West on his ship.

  • See the Internet Movie Database's film profile
  • Iron Eagle (1986)
    When Doug's father, an Air Force Pilot, is shot down by MiGs belonging to a radical Middle Eastern state, no one seems able to get him out. Doug finds Chappy, an Air Force Colonel who is intrigued by the idea of sending in two fighters piloted by himself and Doug to rescue Doug's father after bombing the MiG base. Their only problems: Borrowing two fighters, getting them from California to the Mediteranean without anyone noticing, and Doug's inability to hit anything unless he has music playing. Then come the minor problems of the state's air defenses.

  • See the Internet Movie Database's film profile
  • On the Beach (1959)
    Director: Stanley Kramer. Radioactive fallout from a nuclear war has wiped out the entire northern hemisphere. With fallout expected momentarily, the Australians review their lives, establish new relationships and prepare for their tragic demise. 135 min.

  • See the Internet Movie Database's film profile
  • Red Dawn (1984)
    Director: John Milius. Starring: Patrick Swayze, C. Thomas Howell, Lea Thompson, Charlie Sheen, Darren Dalton, Jennifer Grey A fantasy about a Soviet takeover of the United States and a band of ragtag adolescents who metamorphose into freedom fighters.

  • See the Internet Movie Database's film profile
  • Strategic Air Command (1955)
    Director: Anthony Mann. Starring: James Stewart, June Allyson, Frank Lovejoy, Barry Sullivan. Piloting a nuclear-armed bomber becomes just another suburban occupation in this flag-waving propagandist film from the coldest era of the cold war. Jimmy Stewart is a baseball star once an ace WWII bomber pilot. The Strategic Air Command, then and now America's main nuclear strike force, inexplicably finds itself short-staffed and recalls the aging Stewart to active duty.

  • See the Internet Movie Database's film profile
  • Top Gun (1986)
    Director: Tony Scott. Starring: Tom Cruise, Kelly McGillis, Val Kilmer, Anthony Edwards, Tom Skerritt. Jingoism, beefcake, military hardware, and a Giorgio Moroder rock score reign supreme over taste and logic in this Tony Scott film about a maverick trainee pilot (Tom Cruise) who can't follow the rules at a Navy aviation training facility. The dogfight sequences between American and Libyan jets at the end are absolutely mechanical, though audiences loved it at the time. The love story between Cruise's character and that of Kelly McGillis is like flipping through pages of advertising in a glossy magazine.

  • See the Internet Movie Database's film profile
  • War Games (1983)
    Director: John Badham. Starring: Matthew Broderick, Dabney Coleman, John Wood, Ally Sheedy, Barry Corbin. A young computer whizz kid accidentally connects into a top secret super-computer which has complete control over the U.S. nuclear arsenal. It challenges him to a game between America and Russia, and he innocently starts the countdown to World War 3.

  • See the Internet Movie Database’s film profile
  • Sources: The Internet Movie Database


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