6. Barefoot Gen (1983)
Mori Masaki’s heartbreaking anime is a solid title to have in your back pocket if you ever feel like following up Nolan’s wartime drama with a different viewpoint of the devastation wrought by Oppenheimer’s creation and its lasting effect on the Japanese people. Based on the traumatic childhood memories of Keiji Nakazawa, who was just 6 years old when the first atomic bomb was dropped on his hometown of Hiroshima, “Barefoot Gen” provides a child’s-eye-perspective of WWII through the lens of a resilient young boy whose life turns upside down at a moment’s notice.
Viewer discretion is advised: nothing can prepare you for the absolutely brutal 10-minute-long sequence in which a high-pitched tone announcing the initial blast of the bomb is immediately followed by the sickening sight of burned flesh, melting skin, disintegrating bones, and entire buildings and neighborhoods being wiped out in the blink of an eye. And if any of that somehow doesn’t send shivers to your spine, try double-featuring it with “Grave of the Fireflies” if you feel like falling into a super-cynical slump.
7. Fail Safe (1964)
While rarely mentioned in the same breath as cinema studies standards like “12 Angry Men” and “Network,” Sidney Lumet’s heart-racing Cold War thriller, in which a fatal technical malfunction mistakenly sends an order to an American bomber plane to drop the bomb on Moscow, deserves a place alongside them.
Simmering tension and paranoia build to a fever pitch as Henry Fonda’s distraught U.S. President scrambles to prevent the attack, negotiate with the Soviets, and avoid the same atomic catastrophe the world had narrowly dodged two years prior; turning brief telephone exchanges between Washington and the Kremlin into nerve-racking negotiations with unimaginably high stakes. Due to unfortunate timing and messy legal disputes, “Fail Safe” remains in relatively obscurity compared to “Dr. Strangelove” — Kubrick’s “Barbie” to Lumet’s “Oppenheimer” that stole its thunder by satirizing an almost identical doomsday scenario earlier that very same year. But if you’re looking to go beyond the basics after “Oppenheimer”, this Atomic Age classic will keep your heart racing throughout.
8. Miracle Mile (1988)
Steve De Jarnatt’s revolting cult classic is the sort of unpredictable, go-for-broke rollercoaster of a movie that is best experienced going in with as little prior knowledge as possible.
Without delving too much into spoiler territory, suffice it to say that what seemingly begins as an offbeat ’80s romantic comedy à la “When Harry Met Sally” about a simple-minded Los Angeles middle-aged guy (Anthony Edwards) who finally meets the girl of his dreams (Mare Winningham) and prepares to go on a late-night date doesn’t take too long to switch gears and reveal its true colors as something stranger and darker: a disaster movie that explores how ordinary people react under extreme pressure in the face of impending doom. Not a single moment in this 88-minute Trojan horse of a movie goes to waste, playing as a cut-to-the-chase thriller with a dose of surreal humor that spares no gruesome detail for the viewer, being better for it.
9. When the Wind Blows (1986)
The looming threat of nuclear annihilation and its catastrophic aftershocks continued to hang over everyone’s head well beyond 1945 into the waning days of the Cold War when the Soviets moved into Afghanistan and Reagan and Thatcher were sworn in, as bluntly depicted in this British tearjerker based on Raymond Briggs’ graphic novel of the same name.
Consisting of a stream of ordinary vignettes chronicling the everyday life of an elderly couple going about their daily routines in their little cottage in rural England, mostly unaware or concerned about the imminent enemy nuclear attack that has been launched and currently heading their way. Not a film for the faint of heart, “When the Wind Blows” paces itself leisurely — slowly but steadily digging its nails into the mind of the viewer and leaving an unforgettable mixture of shock, horror and grief.
10. Fat Man and Little Boy (1989)
Up until Christopher Nolan tried his hand at the Manhattan Project this year, you had to go all the way back to 1989 to find the last major Hollywood production to dramatize the historic events leading up to the development and successful testing of the atomic bomb at Los Alamos Laboratory, New Mexico.
Much like “Oppenheimer”, Roland Joffé’s period piece provides insight into the decision-making behind the Manhattan Project, recounting the many challenges, unexpected setbacks and thorny power struggles that General Leslie R. Groves (Paul Newman), J. Robert Oppenheimer (Dwight Schultz) and their team of physicists had to overcome until the Trinity Test on July 16, 1945. Though nowhere near as ambitious, far-reaching and well-rounded as Nolan’s take, 1989s “Fat Man and Little Boy” works well as an informative curio to decompress after watching “Oppenheimer” that bodes fairly well at depicting the agonizing guilt tormenting almost everyone involved.