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80's Nuclear War Movies

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Despite a long list of popular songs about nuclear war, few films succeeded in using it as a central theme. Several B-grade films were set in post-nuclear war environments but only a handful managed to turn the popular subject into box office success.

  • Mad Max 2 (1982, The Road Warrior)
  • War Games (1983)
  • Octopussy (1983)
  • The Terminator (1984)
  • The Day After* (1984)
  • One Night Stand** (1984)
  • Mad Max 3 (1985, Beyond Thunderdome)
*The Day After was a US telemovie, but it did have a theatrical release outside of North America in 1984. Its aim was to demonstrate the effects of a nuclear war on a US town.

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**One Night Stand (1984) is an Australian independent film with a limited release and is set in Sydney during the lead up to a nuclear war. Also, the excellent New Zealand film "The Quiet Earth" doesn't qualify as the world wasn't wiped out by nuclear weapons, but it follows some of the same apocalyptic themes.

The period 1983-84 saw a peak in this tiny genre of filmmaking. Of the films that made an impact, three were sequels/franchises (Mad Max 2, 3 and Octopussy). Given the 80s obsession with nuclear annihilation, it still remains an oddity that this list is sp short. A quick visit to the Top 100 films of 80s shows that people were more into adventure, fun and aliens.

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