5 Cold War movies to watch as US-Russian tensions rise amid invasion
About thirty years after the end of the Cold War, tensions between the United States and Russia are escalating after Moscow launched a full-scale invasion of Ukraine more than a month ago.
In light of that, here are five Cold War films that were made while it was in progress and capture some of the spirit of that era – from the competition that drove the space race to the generalized nuclear anxiety:
The Hunt for Red October (1990)
Based on a Tom Clancy novel of the same name and starring Sean Connery and Alec Baldwin, “The Hunt for Red October” follows Captain Marko Ramius (Connery) on the Soviet Union‘s nuclear submarine “Red October.” as he heads to the United States.
The United States fears an attack, but CIA analyst Jack Ryan (Baldwin) suspects Ramius of leaving the communist regime. Ryan must prove it – as Soviet officers try to manipulate America into sinking the submarine.
“Many military thrillers, especially those set during the Cold War era, rely on stereotypes and big, crude motivations to drive their stories forward,” famous film critic Roger Ebert wrote in 1990. by suggesting how easily men can be wrong, how seductive false assumptions can seem, and how enormous consequences can sometimes hang only by thin threads.”
“The Hunt for Red October” is available to stream on services including Amazon Prime and AMC+.
War Games (1983)
“WarGames” mixes science fiction and Cold War, following David Lightman (Matthew Broderick), a teenage hacker who spends most of his time messing around at home on the computer. Lightman accesses what appears to be a game, “Global Thermonuclear War”, but eventually realizes that it is not a game at all – it is a system run by a Pentagon supercomputer capable of launching nuclear strikes.
After accidentally starting a deadly war game between the Soviet Union and the United States, Lightman must find the original programmer, Dr. Stephen Falken (John Wood), if he is to prevent a nuclear disaster.
“War Games” is a very 80s film filled with suspense and drama that draws on Cold War-era nuclear fears while weaving in the growing computer revolution of the time. Decades later in this revolution, with Russia and Ukraine both weaponizing digital tools, the film’s potentially destructive hacking and technology seem all the more relevant.
The film is available to stream on services such as Amazon Prime and AMC+.
The Good Things (1983)
“The Right Stuff” addresses the space race between the Soviet Union and the United States, chronicling American efforts to push first pilots and then astronauts to greater speeds and heights from 1947 to 1963 when that the Soviets put first a satellite and then a man in space.
Based on a book of the same name by famed journalist and writer Tom Wolfe, the film follows groundbreaking pilots from Chuck Yeager (Sam Shephard), who broke the sound barrier, to Alan Shepard (Scott Glenn), who was cast as one of the first NASA astronauts and became the first American to reach space.
“The Right Stuff” is available to stream on Amazon Prime.
Seven Days in May (1964)
“Seven Days in May” tells a fictional story about military leaders who plot to overthrow the President of the United States for backing a nuclear disarmament treaty because they fear the Soviet Union will not deliver on its end of the bargain.
The film stars Kirk Douglas and Burt Lancaster and tells a gripping story of political intrigue and conspiracy theories amid the ever-present fear of nuclear disaster.
“Seven Days in May” is available on Amazon Prime.
Dr Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb (1963)
Considered a timeless classic of the Cold War era, “Dr. Strangelove” is a hilarious dark comedy produced by legendary director Stanley Kubrick.
In the film, Brigadier General Jack D. Ripper (Sterling Hayden) of the US Air Force decides to attack the Soviet Union with a bomber armed with a hydrogen bomb, based on suspicion that the Soviets poison the American people. Learning that his attack could unleash a much larger Soviet doomsday machine, US President Merkin Muffley (Peter Sellers) and his advisers, including a nuclear scientist and former Nazi named Dr Strangelove (also Sellers), attempt to prevent a nuclear apocalypse.
The hugely entertaining story became an instant classic. A 1964 New York Times review said the film was “one of the cleverest and most incisive satirical thrusts on the clumsiness and craziness of the military that has ever been on the screen”.
“Dr. Strangelove” is available to stream on Amazon Prime.