30 Harrowing Movies About Nuclear War

List Rules
Vote up your favorite movies that feature nuclear war or the possibility of nuclear warfare.

There are few things more terrifying than all-out nuclear war. The pure destruction that follows the tell-tale mushroom cloud has been a source of fascination for new and classic Hollywood movies. The dramatic films on this list often tend to be post nuclear war movies - while the thrillers keep us on the edge of our seats right up until a hero prevents an impending nuclear attack. The Peacemaker and Fail Safe are great examples of these nail-biting thrillers; but if you're looking for a satirical film about nuclear war, you'll want to check out Stanley Kubrick's Dr. Strangelove. With so many thought-provoking films about nuclear warfare, it'll be difficult to determine which one should top the list. That's where you and your votes can help.

Vote up the movies that you think handle the subject matter best and vote down the ones that you would suggest other Rankers should skip. If you're looking to stream one of these movies right away, look for Outside the Wire on Netflix. HBO Max, Amazon Prime, Apple TV+, and Paramount+ are also great options for streaming these movies.


  • Fail-Safe is a 1964 Cold thriller film directed by Sidney Lumet, based on the 1962 novel of the same name by Eugene Burdick and Harvey Wheeler. The film features performances by veteran actors Henry Fonda, Dan O'Herlihy, Walter Matthau and Frank Overton. Fritz Weaver, Dom DeLuise and Larry Hagman made their early roles. In 2000, the novel was adapted again as a televised play, starring George Clooney, Richard Dreyfuss and Noah Wyle, and broadcast live in black-and-white on CBS.
    • Actors: Henry Fonda, Walter Matthau, Larry Hagman, Dom DeLuise, Dana Elcar
    • Released: 1964
    • Directed by: Sidney Lumet
  • Threads
    Photo: Threads
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    Threads

    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 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.
    • Actors: Reece Dinsdale, Karen Meagher, Rita May, David Brierly, Nicholas Lane
    • Released: 1984
    • Directed by: Mick Jackson

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  • Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb
    Photo: Dr. Strangelove Or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb
    A film about what could happen if the wrong person pushed the wrong button -- and it played the situation for laughs. U.S. Air Force General Jack Ripper goes completely insane, and sends his bomber wing to destroy the U.S.S.R. He thinks that the communists are conspiring to pollute the "precious bodily fluids" of the American people.
    • Actors: Peter Sellers, George C. Scott, Keenan Wynn, Slim Pickens, Peter Bull
    • Released: 1964
    • Directed by: Stanley Kubrick

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  • Fat Man and Little Boy
    Photo: Fat Man and Little Boy
    Assigned to oversee the development of the atomic bomb, Gen. Leslie Groves (Paul Newman) is a stern military man determined to have the project go according to plan. Groves selects J. Robert Oppenheimer (Dwight Schultz) as the key scientist on the top-secret operation, but the two men clash fiercely on a number of issues. Despite their frequent conflicts, Groves and Oppenheimer ultimately push ahead with two bomb designs -- the bigger "Fat Man" and the more streamlined "Little Boy."
    • Actors: Paul Newman, Dwight Schultz, Bonnie Bedelia, John Cusack, Laura Dern
    • Released: 1989
    • Directed by: Roland Joffé

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  • Barefoot Gen is a war drama anime loosely based on the Japanese manga series by Keiji Nakazawa. Directed by Mori Masaki and released in 1983, it depicts World War II in Japan from a child's point of view revolving around the events surrounding the bombing of Hiroshima and the main character's first hand experience of the bomb.
    • Actors: Takeshi Aono, Katsuji Mori, Kōichi Kitamura, Taeko Nakanishi, Issei Miyazaki
    • Released: 1983
    • Directed by: Mori Masaki
  • The Peacemaker
    Photo: The Peacemaker
    Two trains collide in rural Russia, one of them housing nuclear weapons that go missing after the wreck, and the U.S. government is alerted. Nuclear specialist Dr. Julia Kelly (Nicole Kidman) believes that there will soon be a terrorist attack, so Lt. Col. Thomas Devoe (George Clooney) joins Dr. Kelly as they try to track down the warhead-stealing culprits. They learn that Yugoslav terrorist Gavrich (Marcel Iures) has his hands on the weapons, and he's plotting a devastating attack on New York.
    • Actors: George Clooney, Nicole Kidman, Marcel Iures, Aleksandr Baluev, Rene Medvesek
    • Released: 1997
    • Directed by: Mimi Leder

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