Mushroom Clouds: 5 Nuclear Explosions in Movies

Saturday, January 7 by Joseph Gibson

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There's something very visually compelling about mushroom clouds. They're skinny at the bottom and in the middle, and they explode at the top, much like, uh, a muffin or something. But there haven't been as many movies featuring nuclear explosions as you might think, given the enormous drama inherent in them. But here are a five of them, for your viewing pleasure from within your underground nuclear Armageddon bunker.

"Dr. Strangelove."

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The threat of nuclear annihilation hangs over every scene of "Dr. Strangelove," which is kind of weird when you consider how funny it is. The madcap comedy is one of the great "sick jokes" in movie history, and it ends with a massive bang, as Slim Pickens literally rides a nuclear bomb to the ground, which in turn activates an evil "Doomsday Device" that promptly destroys all life on Earth. Heh heh.

"Fail-Safe."

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The plot of Sidney Lumet's horrifyingly depressing Cold War thriller was close enough to "Dr. Strangelove" to inspire a lawsuit, but this movie is about as far as you can get from a comedy. It deals with the scenario of an accidental "go-code" for a nuclear strike being transmitted, and United States President Henry Fonda's efforts to stop the strike. It ends with both Moscow and New York City in absolute ruins in order to prevent full-scale nuclear war. Heh Heh? No.

"Terminator 2: Judgment Day."

Luckily for everyone in the world, the nuclear explosion in "Terminator 2" is just a nightmare experienced by Sarah Connor. But it's the kind of nightmare that acts as a portent for things to come, unless Connor and friends can change the future. The sequence, showing men, women, and children reduced to blistering cinders after a nuclear explosion is widely praised as one of the most realistic nuclear attacks ever captured on film.

"The Sum of All Fears."

Released only months after 9/11, the Tom Clancy action thriller "The Sum of All Fears" features a nuclear strike on an American football game by neo-Nazi terrorists. This was considered an odd choice for what was supposed to be entertainment at the time, but the sequence is pretty well-done, with an emphasis on showing the real effects of such a weapon.

"Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull."

Probably the most-hated nuclear explosion scene in movie history, the universally-loathed sequence features Dr. Jones surviving the explosion's effects by hiding inside a small refrigerator. A word of caution: Most scientific experts agree that stowing yourself inside a refrigerator is NOT a sufficient way to survive the effects of a nuclear blast. Do not try this at home.