Just a quick review and links to watch both online for free without signing up to anything. I’d never seen “The Day After” or “Threads” until a few days ago. They are American and British made-for-TV films from ’83 and ’84 respectively. They both attempt to realistically portray the aftermath of nuclear explosions on their own people, and in order to sway humanity from considering using these horrible weapons on a civilian population.

Both films are excellent, and it’s worth comparing and contrasting a bit, but even more valuable is just to absorb the double impact of the two films.


I found the British attempt put out by the BBC more frightening because of its gritty realism. It seems more like an unfolding documentary, and less like you are watching actors or a movie. Parts are nearly unwatchable because they are so brutally, unflinchingly factual about personal suffering of the most intimate variety.

I learned about “Threads” from a video someone made on YouTube about the best horror movie. “Threads” is NOT a horror movie at all, but as the fellow argued, there is a palpable horror as the events unfold that few horror movies — which traffic in fantasy — could hope to rival.

You can watch “Threads” in a good quality version online here [only some countries, including America]: https://tubitv.com/movies/531445/threads?start=true

You can watch at your own discretion. Consider that film critic Peter Bradshaw from The Guardian said of the film, “It wasn’t until I saw Threads that I found that something on screen could make me break out in a cold, shivering sweat and keep me in that condition for 20 minutes, followed by weeks of depression and anxiety.

Screenshot from “Threads”

The Day After

The American nuclear aftermath made-for-TV movie is also grueling, and does a much better job of some of the effects. For example, it attempts to create visuals of nuclear explosions, whereas “Threads” just uses flashing lights to indicate a blast. Somehow despite being the slightly older film, it seems much newer. “The Day After” has famous famous actors in it, including Steve Guttenberg and John Lithgow, whereas the BBC version used people I for one did not recognize. The American version is clearly a film and the experience is watching a film. “Threads” is more harrowing for it’s undiluted immersion in the content which doesn’t let you feel like you are watching a fictitious film. Us Americans needed to put bassoons, french horns, and clarinet in the score, which if anything add a sentimentality that distances us from the raw substance. That, however, is mostly a device in the beginning, and as the film progresses it only gets better.

You can watch “The Day After” here: https://www.dailymotion.com/video/x88sxqq [note, without commercials]

The film was apparently originally 3 hours, and it got cut down to 2 because, among other things, “ABC censors severely toned down scenes to reduce the body count or severe burn victims”. I think the network did us a disservice there, because the intent of the film was to warn us what the aftermath of a nuclear war would be like.

Screenshot from “The Day After”

It worked anyways and even the standing president, Ronald Reagan, wrote in his diary that the movie was “very effective and left me greatly depressed”, and that he changed his mind on the extant nuclear war policy because of it. The film was also shown on Russian TV in 1987.

Both films are remarkably relevant to today’s nuclear threat, and it is worth our time as film and art aficionados to view these works, if we haven’t already, and even to share them.

Both films showed rather stunningly that we don’t need a biblical hell when we can create one of our own, and inflict it upon ourselves here on this Earth. All we need is some science, politics, and self-destructiveness in order to craft the most lethal brew imaginable of heroic stupidity?


6 replies on “The Classic Post Nuclear Apocalypse Made-for-TV Movies

  1. Funny but not funny that we have both been prompted recently to look at these two depictions of a general nuclear exchange. A project for someone, maybe me, maybe not, would be to catalog all the movies/TV from 1945 to the present with nuclear Armageddon as theme or starting point. In the 50’s Aliens and nukes seemed to share the screen. They were going to save us from ourselves.

    Can’t blame the great unwashed ignorant mass of humanity. Can’t blame Doctor Kevorkian either. This vast suicide machine was conceived, built and operated by our best and brightest. Excuse me, murder device….Kevorkian had the consent of his victims/patients. Were we ever asked?


  2. Thanks for the links. I loved The Day After and Red Dawn. Thinking back I think it was Hollywood’s subtle suggestion that the Gipper was going to get us all killed in a nuclear holocaust. Both sides seem to be less worried about it nowadays.

    The government did above ground tests for years. I found it interesting the number of cast that died from cancer from the movie The Searchers. They filmed just miles from a heavily used test site.

    Liked by 2 people

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