The Day After (TV Movie 1983) Poster

(1983 TV Movie)

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A voice from the other side of the ocean
olgaginger21 June 2007
Scrolling through the comments, I was impressed with the number of people from the USA, who said that this movie really scared them, when they first saw it. In fact it is not surprising. Well, I am Russian, yet it scared me too.

But first, a little preface. I was in the second grade (appr. 1982), when I first heard about the nuclear war. We had a number of lectures on it - of course the information was adapted so that 8-9 year old kids could understand it. We were impressed, but childhood has a wonderful gift that lets you quickly forget what was bad. So during the only false alarm that was held in our school the whole lot of students and tutors were brought out into the schoolyard, and we all stood in lines and through snowballs at each other imitating air bombing, and there was a feeling of excitement everywhere. The fact is, that many of us treated the threat as something so-far-away-that-it's-not-worth-worrying-about.

The movie was shown on out TV once only (with all the necessary precautions like "don't let nervous people see it"). Well, to say that I was terrified is to say nothing. For what it did, was that it made the threat so ordinary - and so real. Though for me it happened on the other side of the planet, you could easily imagine that the same thing would happen in my own country - and no fools - it would be absolutely THE SAME.

For some period thereafter I became slightly phobic ("Ma, what's that roar over our house, it's too low for a plane heading to the nearest airport"). But now I regard it as a good experience, because it made me think. I got a clear understanding that this COULD happen. I guess there was quite a big number of people in our country with the same understanding, and together with the threatened people from other countries they prevented the whole thing from happening right then. Hope the plain old common sense will help prevent the nuclear apocalypse in future.

P.S. Recently I saw the movie one more time, and it stirred the same emotions, as it did in my childhood. A great movie, that's all I can say...
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A lesson with images
sparks4019 February 2005
I was a naval aviator deployed aboard the USS Ranger (CV-61) when I first saw this film. The show had aired back in the States some time before the film reels (this was before video tape decks were commonplace) were flown out to our Battle Group, so we knew that the telecast had had a big impact on the American public before we had the chance to view it.

That didn't matter. The film had as great, and possibly even more of, an impact on those of us out on the "tip of the spear" as it did on those back home. The military characters seen in the film were not actors -- they were contemporaries of ours, some even familiar faces -- so we felt a true connection to the story. The tension between the US and the Soviet Union was real and nobody knew better than we how nasty things could get in a short period of time. Even as we watched the film over the ship's closed circuit television system, Soviet military units were intent on locating and targeting our Battle Group. Our job, our daily routine, was part of the story, which emphasised the point that we were responsible for keeping the peace and to not allow events to escalate as we all feared could happen.

The reaction I remember most from this film was worry for family back home. -SPOILER- The one airman who left the silo area to reach his family before the missiles arrived displayed a sentiment that we all felt. No one aboard our ship would shirk his duty, but we all understood the sentiment that once duty is done, family is foremost in mind.

The argument could be made that the film was rife with error, but I maintain that it ultimately succeeded in what it was designed to do...make people seriously consider the consequences of nuclear war. That point was not lost on those of us aboard the Ranger at the time. While I watched the film again just recently (21 years after the first viewing), the lesson was still not lost. We may or may not be vulnerable to such a massive strike as what was feared back in the 1980s, but nuclear terror is still a very real possibility. It is as imperative now, as it was then, that we ensure that this type of calamity is never visited upon anyone, especially those about whom we love and care.

Yes, better special effects would make from some jaw-dropping images, but would that improve upon the film's message? In my opinion, no.
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Appropriately Bleak
seltzer26 August 2000
I, like many of my age, saw this when it originally aired as a class assignment. It had a great impact on me, as the cold war was still going strong and the threat of a nuclear war was something that people still thought about. The movie may not be the greatest ever made, but the acting is more than adequate, especially from Jason Robards, and the script was far better than any other movies made for television at that time. I recommend it to anyone, even those with a low tolerance for grossness (radiation sickness is shown in progressive stages, and it is not pretty). It's dark, depressing, and if you get into it you will definitely need to follow it up with a musical or cartoons just to lift your spirits again. Still, the subject matter is not something that can be portrayed positively even at a tv-movie level of realism.
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No thanks, I think I'll skip "Threads"....
Rusty-615 October 2000
Warning: Spoilers
Like many of the viewers here, I watched this movie when it first aired on TV, I was in junior high school. I remember the TV stations and media warning people not to watch it alone, and to not let little kids watch. I remember the little 'discussion groups' about it at school the next day. The main image that was left in my mind was almost everyone being vaporized when the bomb hits, and their skeletons showing through for a moment (especially the couple on their wedding day- that must have been kind of a drag).

I was home from work sick a few months ago, and had nothing to watch. The movie hadn't started too long ago, and I figured what the heck, it would probably be interesting to see how 'dated' it looked, and how it wasn't even remotely scary anymore (especially since I wasn't 14 and impressionable, and one of the least of my worries as an adult is a nuclear war-I remember being scared it would happen on a regular basis for weeks after seeing the movie as a kid). I remember thinking that all the warnings to viewers were just really good publicity stunts by the networks to get people to watch. Maybe it would even be 'campy', right? Ha-ha! No.

I watched the movie with only mild interest at first, but got more and more upset as it went on. This movie has not lost any of its impact, but actually disturbed me much more as an adult. Maybe its because I am now grown up, married, know how short life really is, and have more of a realistic idea about how horrible life would really be 'the day after'. I was actually shocked at how graphic and scary the movie was, especially to have been shown on prime time TV in the early 80's, even when watching in the middle of the day. There's a truly chilling scene when a main character has been in a bomb shelter too long and completely loses it, to bolt outside. She's so far gone that she just twirls around happily, as if she came out and the land they lived on looked exactly the same. Instead, the sky is grey, ash covers every surface, every single bit of plant life is dead, and the family dog and all the livestock lie flyblown and rotting (there is dead silence, expect for the sound of flies surrounding the bodies) another scene set in a hospital, there was a huge jump that made me hit the ceiling and left me muttering, "Jesus Christ!" afterwards.

There are other images that I couldn't get out of my head for a long time, such as one of the last scenes where a man visits his ex-girlfriend in some sort of shelter for the radiation victims. They both end up sobbing, and the camera keeps pulling back until you see the other dead and dying people surrounding them number probably closer to the thousands than the 50 or so you thought were in the shelter at the beginning of the scene. It just keeps getting more and more depressing, grim, and scary, until the last incredibly depressing scene, which is made even sadder and more emotional because you see a character obviously insane and dying who you thought might be one of the ones to make it. Afterwards, I think I ended up having to watch "Hairspray" or something equally cheerful to cheer myself up and get my mind off it before I could take a nap.

I always heard how "Threads" made "The Day After" look like an after school special, and had been looking for a copy for a long time (since when I hear that a movie is shocking and upsetting, it usually makes me want to see if it can live up to the buzz). I finally found a store that carries it, but you know what? After getting nightmares after seeing "The Day After" as an adult, I think I'll just pass on "Threads"...
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A good film - critics are missing the point.
germanman2 July 2002
I first saw the film as a high school student attending a Department of Defense school in Germany in the early 1980's. The film was shown in school and it scared the bejeeezus out of me and many of my fellow students. We were dealing with Red Army Faction terrorism, car bombs, bomb threats at school and only a few hundred miles from the border to East Germany. The concepts were quite accurate: if the eastern bloc came over the border, then the ONLY NATO response could be to fight a delayed retreat, blowing up roads and bridges as the US and Nato forces were pushed back and most of Germany would have fallen to the Eastern Bloc before any offensive action could have been taken. The scenario leading to the nuclear attacks are quite real and plausible.

The critics say the film was not graphic enough (they prefer things like Threads) or too graphic (prefering more subtile films like Testament ). There is no need to be totally graphic and accurate in portraying the events. Yes, we know it would be worse. But the goal is not to gross everyone out. We want younger audiences to see the film too - and that would never happen with something like theads. Likewise, a mored emotional but action lacking film would not draw in the audiences. The purpose was to 'get the point accross' and I think it did that very successfully - bad acting, flubbed lines, stock footage and all. It showed enough of the circumstances surrounding the events for those who had some education in things could recognize issues and say,"Yes thats right" while not being overly graphic so that only adults could see it.

If you want to see an action movie about nuclear war or you want to see a touchy-feely emotional treatment of the losses due to war - this film is not for you. The purpose of this film is to show what nuclear war may be like (in a very superficial way) and to remind everyone that it must NEVER happen again. Back in the early 1980's with the Soviets under a rotating leadership of old hardliners and the US with Ronny talking smack - the threat was very real and the reality check this film delivers was needed. It doesn't play as well in the year 2002 - but you must remember when a film was made when you see it.
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My Nuclear War film is better than your Nuclear War film.
HyperPup27 December 2002
I only stopped by to comment on this film after discussing Threads on another board and seeing how much of a beating it The Day After was getting. Having seen this during its premiere and Threads almost a year later I will say this. No matter how poorly the effects or the acting, or how graphic and extravagant the visuals were all these films serve one purpose. To educate us on the value we have as creatures that not only have control over our individual destinies but the destiny of our world and the lesser species. To show us what the cost would be, no matter how graphic and obscene. The Day After, Threads, Testament, The War Game, Failsafe, Wargames, and all the other media programming that has shown us the horror of nuclear war. Each has its strengths and flaws, its highs and lows, but the message inherrently remains the same.

So why is there any discussion of the differences? To debate the flaws and merits of one horror in many variations is pointless, for they are all important, all special and all as relavant today as they were when they were first created. Perhaps we have learned nothing?
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A very controversial, but excellent film
Innuendo6102018 February 2002
This film originally aired as a TV movie back in 1983 in the United States. It depicts the effects of nuclear war on the citizens of the Kansas City area. In the film, during the actual attacks, a lot of raw footage of nuclear blasts and explosions is used, but no computer enhanced special effects were needed in this film to get the point across. The point, being of course, that nuclear war is horrible. The movie was aired to show leaders of nations in the world what would happen if nuclear war was ever waged. When this film was first aired, Cold War tensions were high and the fear of nuclear war was very imminent. Though the events in the film are very powerful, a disclaimer at the end of the movie even tells the viewers that the events depicted in the film are far less worse then what would actually take place in a real nuclear war.

I feel that the plot was created well. The film shows what happens before the attacks, the actual attacks and then what happens after the attacks. The attacks were not shown too soon after the movie began but well into the movie and built up enough to show a lot of drama. The acting is very good, in my opinion. The late Jason Robards plays the lead role and a few other familiar faces take part as well (Steve Guttenburg, John Lithgow). The writing is fair, but not bad for a made-for-TV movie.

Overall, the movie is very excellent and places itself very positively in my book. It was a very controversial film for its time and it did scare the hell out of many people (truthfully, it did shake me up a little the first time I saw it). It's really not for the kids, even though it was a TV movie, because the scenes of the nuclear blasts and radiation sickness aren't very light.
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Too late to duck and cover
wanretire10 August 2006
When I watched this TV movie in 1983, I was 34 years old. I thought this really could happen. I remembered when I was 13 years old during the Cuban Missile Crisis. I tried not to feel the seriousness of that scenario, but all the adults around me, I can actually remember seeing the fear in their faces. My teacher at school was unbelievable. She stood in front of class and put her face in her hands and said it doesn't look good. She said she didn't think anybody would survive another week. In 1983, I was working as a administrative assistant. My boss was a retired staff sergeant from the USAF. The day after watching the movie, I went to work and talked briefly with my boss about the movie. I looked at him and said something like this cannot happen, someone or some people need to keep this from happening. He looked at me and said maybe so, but we're ready. I was expecting something a little more compassionate. I'll never forget that.
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Best Attempt to Portray a Nuclear War I've seen
braceyws22 November 2004
I just finished watching this movie for the first time and had to give a comment. I was only 5 when this movie came out and don't remember seeing it, but growing up next to a military base, the threat of a nuclear attack, although remote was in the back of our minds.

While this movie is not perfect (they should have had a couple less story lines going), this movie is the best attempt to show what was previously a very realistic scenario. While it's very toned down from what would actually happen after a nuclear attack, showing people out in the middle of nowhere trying to survive or just showing everyone die in a matter of a few days would not have had the same impact. This movie shows as graphically as could be shown on US network television a glimpse of the horror of nuclear war. The special effects and makeup are very good for a made for TV movie in 1983, impressive actually. The attack is shown is a very shocking and realistic manner (other than lessening the actual size of damage that would occur). The aftermath makes you realize that the lucky ones were those that were instantly vaporized. Although they don't show it, you realize that all of the characters that fought for so long against radition poisoning were not going to make it much longer. It shows many sides of human nature that would come to the surface under such circumstances and hints towards even worse ones that couldn't be shown. Although the cold war is behind us, these weapons are still around and there will come a time someone wants to use them. Everyone should see this movie to give them at least a small glimpse at why we can never allow that to happen.
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"The Day After" is still scary
djmoore20 April 2006
Warning: Spoilers
I remember when I first saw this movie on ABC in 1983. I had just turned 10 when it was aired. I am from Omaha,Nebraska and at the time Strategic Air Command at Offut was in full swing. Spoiler Warning:

I remember the first scene was at Offut as the Air Force guys were boarding a huge plane talking in all of this military jargon and things I couldn't understand. Later on when the missiles started to go off, I was real scared as it meant the Russian missiles were on the way. Since this movie takes place in my part of the world, it really hit home. I remember all too well all of the suffering and death that only a few button pushes caused. Ever since then I hated nukes. When the bombs hit it was stupefyingly scary. What made it so scary is that it could really happen. I saw it again last year and it still has the same effect after 22 years.
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Disturbing movie
OlliBLN11 January 2004
Kansas City and the small town Lawrence in Kansas. A day like everyday else, during the early Cold war 80s. Soviet troops and troops from GDR are attacking West-Berlin, later on West-Germany. Beginning of 3rd Worldwar. After using nuclear bombs in Europe, the both super nations USA and USSR made a cruel decision, nuclear strikes against each other.

The story shows the life of an average american town before, during and after the strike. As supermarkets are run over, people try to get save in their homes, parents try to reach their children on camp holidays or keep on discussing and up to the strike, still don´t believe, that it really happens.

The strike, the death of Kansas City.

The day after, people in poisoned, radioactive enviroment, people, try to save themselves in their homes against radio activity, a hospital, unable to help the people, which are looking for help.

The special effects are blamed as old fashioned, but they are not the main actors here.

What may be unluckily, that many different persons and their stories are told in a movie of not even 2 hours. A little bit to much characters or less time, to develop them, to give them space to let their story live.

But still a disturbing movie about the results of a nuclear war, that nobody can survive.

After watching this movie nobody really can tell, that he didn´t know anything!
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mattkratz13 July 2001
This movie can never be outdated. One of the two scariest non-horror movies I have seen (deliverance is the other), this movie portrays a realistic (if to a lesser degree) of what could happen if there ever were a nuclear attack. Gosh, did it ever scare me! It made me think, too. I still rank is as an excellent film, even though it has been so long since I saw it.

*** out of ****
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It's later than you think
govegove15 April 2003
If you think this movie's theme is outdated, think again. The Doomsday Clock has moved ahead three times since the end of the Cold War. From a press release: "Chicago, February 27, 2002: Today, the Board of Directors of the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists moves the minute hand of the `Doomsday Clock,' the symbol of nuclear danger, from nine to seven minutes to midnight, the same setting at which the clock debuted 55 years ago. Since the end of the Cold War in 1991, this is the third time the hand has moved forward."

I watched this movie again a few weeks ago, after seeing it on TV as a ten-year-old kid. While some of the story-lines were painful (e.g. the soon-to-be-wed farmer's daughter whining when dad caught her sneaking off to have sex) this was a well-done movie showing the effects of nuclear war on middle america.

While maybe you can knock this for it's dramatic quality, I think it holds together as an honest story. Some of the criticisms I've read below don't hold together. The story *is* clear about the effects that happen at different distances from ground-zero. The Russians nailed Kansas because of the missile silos there. And it is honest about human nature: in the aftermath lots of people help, like the doctor, but others kill for food or land and there's plenty of panic and anger to go around.

This movie made an impression on me when I saw it as a kid and also now as an adult. And for those out there knocking it--remember this: The Day After made the people of the United States realize what kind of horrible toys their leaders are dealing with. It sparked the movement against nukes. We need a similar movement today--because people have forgotten, or don't think nuclear weapons are a threat. But the United States is now researching new, tactical nukes which, if smaller, will still result in fallout poisoning people unlucky to be in the neighborhood. Just like the kids in Iraq that get to breath the Uranium dust from our tank-busting weapons.

I wish we had more movies like this, and like _Traffic_, that bring painful realities to life and make people think.
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Still Scary
sora-212 March 2001
This movie aired recently on the USA network and I saw it for the first time since I was ten years old. Although I did not find myself experiencing nightmares when I went to bed that night, as I did seventeen years ago, I still found the movie's message delivered clearly and with solid dramatic impact.

Upon close analysis, there are flaws, both technical and on the creative end. The post-bomb world seems far too well-lit at times in light of the "nuclear winter" theory. And (as the film's disclaimer says) the actual results are much, much grimmer. Seven years ago I visited Hiroshima and Nagasaki, and the photos, accounts and newsreel footage taken of those who survived are absolutely horrifying.

Some of the plot point devices and characters seem far too constructed (or perhaps outright contrived): Steve Guttenberg and his girlfriend and their tearful reunion, the dying doctor played by Jason Robards returning to the ruins of Kansas City for a final farewell to his home (and wife who died in the explosion). But the acting is strong, and Nicholas Meyer's largely low-key direction (often with no music) hammer home what is the film's message - loss. Not just the typical message that everyone loses in (nuclear) war, but illustrating what would be lost: loved ones, your home, your way of life, simple human dignity. And that it would be lost forever. For me, one of the most chilling lines is when Steve Guttenberg says to his girlfriend, "There's not going to be any phones."

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A movie that hits home (literally)
gomizzou729 March 2002
I am a native of Kansas City (KS) and I remember watching this for the first time when I was a kid. There are so many apocalyptic movies made yet so few that attempt to look at the perspective of small-town America. For me, hearing that towns such as Sedalia, Kansas City, Independence, and Lawrence being obliterated, I had nightmares. Maybe someone in Los Angeles didn't have the same feeling but it made me very aware of how easy this could happen. Very thorough movie for being low-budget.
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Reaction to a nuclear attack in Kansas/Missouri
trepessa31 January 2015
Warning: Spoilers
If one reads the background on the making of this movie they would know it took a hatchet job before it could air. They did use footage from actually nuclear explosions, but some they had to create because of the government in the US and the censors. Things were different in the 80s from what they allow now in the 21st Century. It was long enough originally to be a miniseries. They didn't believe people could handle the truth although they portrayed enough to cause many to be panicked.

The acting was very good and the impact as well. It would be nice if they could piece this together and rebroadcast it in total. It is a reality check for most these days. This is only a small part of what could happen if there was a nuclear war. It tries to show that in no uncertain terms should anyone contemplate nuclear war. These are not atomic weapons but much more than that. The Day After, we would be our own worst enemy. It would be survival of the fittest and the ones who prepared for the worst. The fact that this movie only has a rating of 7 is unconscionable. It should at least be at a 9. It wasn't the fault of those who wrote the script and produced this movie that the government and the sensors caused it to be edited the way it was. This is why there are varying running times because when released for public purchase, certain versions had different running lengths and some that went to other countries. This movie is well worth watching to get an idea of what would happen after the initial strike. It is well done and all involved did a great job of acting and showing the drastic affects of nuclear war and the subsequent nuclear winter and contamination. It is still apparent that many have no idea about the consequences of a nuclear attack or how to survive. I don't think that has changed since they made this movie. Everyone should watch this and quit looking for goofs because they had numerous advisers on every facet of the movie. The movie should leave most people in tears so be prepared.
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Beautiful but absolutely frightening movie
TheBlueHairedLawyer26 October 2014
Warning: Spoilers
I'm a big fan of horror movies, and I came across this one, which isn't at all a horror movie, at a horror video store. I asked the cashier why it was labeled as such. He told me he'd seen this sci-fi tragedy and that it was far more shocking and disturbing than anything Stephen King or John Carpenter can come up with, so I bought it.

The Day After follows several people/families in Kansas, mainly Russell Oakes, a doctor at the Kansas City hospital. He tries to call his family when suddenly several nuclear bombs are released, knocking him over in his car as a blinding flash of light goes off. Buildings are demolished beyond recognition, factories are blown away. Cows and horses are vaporized until their shadows glow. A little boy is blinded when he stares directly into the flash.

While this is undoubtedly one of the most disturbing moments, the worst is yet to come as the survivors begin to fall into rapid dementia and death from the radiation. One man, Stephen, tries to rescue a girl who is crazily running through the radioactive outdoors in what I can only describe as a "cheerful depression". It's highly disturbing, and the parents are heartbroken when they have to explain to their children that their pet dog will die because it can't come in the house. The only one able to find hope is Dr. Oakes, who, poisoned and dying from radiation, arrives at his old home and finds a family living in the charred remains of his home, offering him food and crying with him.

Only one other movie have I seen more terrifying than this one, and that's Threads, a U. K. set movie that came out a year later. The Day After makes nightmares come alive, with its haunting soundtrack and excellent acting.

When I asked my friends to watch it, they said to me, "why the f*ck would I want to see that? The Cold War is over, nobody will ever drop a bomb on Cape Breton Island!" If only they knew that in the wrong hands, a bomb could go off ANYWHERE, at ANY time, with no warning and no places to hide.
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What if? – A good look at the Cold War and horrors of nuclear disaster
SimonJack14 September 2013
"The Day After" is a film of historical value. It shows a good slice of life in middle America during the Cold War. And, of course, its message about war and disaster in the nuclear age is clear. The visuals are excellent. The acting, cinematography, makeup, direction and all technical aspects of the film are very good.

It was just six years after this movie came out that the Berlin Wall came down at the start of the collapse of the Soviet Union. By 1983, when this film was made, the Soviets had greatly built up their military armament under Leonid Brezhnev. But even his reign at the head of the USSR (1964-1982) was after the worst scares and threats of nuclear war. The most dangerous time of the Cold War was from its start at the end of WWII – under Josef Stalin, through Nikita Kruschev in October, 1964. Kruschev sent Russian tanks to put down the Hungarian Revolution in November 1956. He was at the helm of the USSR during the Cuban Missile Crisis in October, 1962. And it was during his rule that the Berlin Wall went up, beginning on Aug. 13, 1961.

The placing of this movie in the U.S. heartland was significant. It was here that the U.S. had two major defense systems that it hoped would be the greatest deterrents to nuclear war. The first was the Strategic Air Command (SAC) headquartered at Offutt Air Force Base south of Omaha. As the movie noted, that was about 190 miles north of Kansas City. SAC was established in 1946 and was deactivated in 1992, after the fall of the Soviet Union. SAC had several bases around the U.S. with long-range bombers equipped to deliver nuclear bombs to the USSR.

And, from 1961 until its end, SAC operated an Airborne Command Post out of Offutt. For the next 30 years, an airborne command center would be aloft over the central U.S. at all times. The first aircraft fitted and used for such duty was the EC-135. By the 1970s, the Air Force acquired B-747s for this task. The airborne command rotated so that the active command aircraft would never be caught on the ground or in the air near any U.S. site that might be a target for Soviet missiles.

The second defense system was the installation of some 1,000 Minuteman missiles. These were housed in underground silos across several states – from Montana to Missouri. "The Day After" shows this aspect very well. The Minuteman Missile program began in 1961 and has had three upgrades of replacement missiles. Many of the original sites were abandoned and turned back to landowners after strategic arms reductions. But a decade into the 21st century, the remaining U.S. missile defense force included some 450 third generation Minuteman missiles.

Besides these aspects, this film is also of interest to me for personal experiences. After attending college one year, I worked on a survey crew in the summer of 1961 to lay the cable for missile silos in southeast Nebraska. These were Atlas missile sites to protect one of the SAC bases – at Lincoln. That base, since closed, then had 120 long-range bombers. Then, by early 1962, I was a paratrooper stationed in West Germany. The U.S. and NATO were replenishing their military forces that had been allowed to decline after WWII occupation ended in 1957. The rebuilding was triggered when East Germany began putting up the Berlin Wall in 1961. At the same time, the Soviets were increasing their forces along the Czech border. In this movie, that's where the Russians invaded West Germany through the Fulda Gap. In my first months in Germany, we took part in combined military maneuvers and war games along that border. Our units had border guard duty and we laid land mines. We also had the then-secret Davy Crockett tactical nuclear weapons. The movie script has an account of three nuclear devices exploding over Russian troops that had invaded West Germany.

It may be hard for people born in the last few decades to grasp the time and circumstances of the Cold War. But, besides our experiences growing up under the very real threat of nuclear war in the 1950s and 1960s, many of us have met people who lived under Soviet oppression. Should we not trust their words and take their warnings to heart about such tyrannies?

While serving in Germany, I met another paratrooper who was from Hungary. He had been a student in Budapest during the Hungarian Revolution in the fall of 1956. He had tossed Molotov cocktails at Russian tanks, and later escaped to the West where he joined the U.S. Army. He became a friend and later flew to the U.S. to take his citizenship test, and be sworn in as an American. Calmer, wiser leaders have been the rule among the world's military powers the past few decades. But now we have smaller countries with nuclear capabilities. Pray that reason will continue to outweigh radical ideology so that we never have a nuclear disaster like that in "The Day After."
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Classic Television or in Cinema!
Syl18 October 2012
The Day After sparked plenty of controversy in 1983 as it aired on ABC television. This film stars an all-star cast as Jason Robards, John Lithgow, John Cullum, Bibi Besch, Georgeann Johnson, Steve Guttenberg (probably his best performance to date), Jobeth Williams, and Amy Madigan. This is an ensemble piece with realistic special effects to show and detail the nuclear devastation following the missiles explosion in Kansas. The film spends the first hour like any other disaster film in preparing the main characters for the eventual loss of life later on in the film. When the nuclear missiles explode, it's horrifying but amazing even in 1983. Somehow the aftermath is equally devastating as everybody tries to rebuild or survive with low amounts of food, aid, and medical assistance. There are plenty of haunting images of mass graves, injured masses of people, and devastation all around. You wonder why you want to survive it all. This film reminds us how nuclear bombs can destroy and devastate people, animals, and the environment.
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You have to pay attention
sneezewhiz29 November 2002
The movie is designed as a vignette, to show the effects of a 1980s nuclear war on a college town in Kansas, an area not on a primary-targets list.

Virtually all communication is cut off to the outside world, and except for a radio broadcast message from the US President, we have no idea how the rest of the world is faring, and since all relief efforts appear to be local, centered around the University of Kansas campus in Lawrence KS, we must assume the devastation is worldwide.

The timespan of the movie runs from a day or so before the disaster through several weeks in the various places where people take shelter, to a few weeks after the survivors emerge. The viewer sees things gradually getting worse.

We see humanity survive, but it doesn't look too good for humankind.

"Threads" was produced in the UK about the same time, the early 1980's being a time of high fear after Reagan's "Evil Empire" speech. The British movie was much more factual and documentary-like in it's production, and more graphic, but it ended on a more hopeful note. At the end of "Threads", some 15 years after the holocaust, there are people and a society of sorts.

"The Day After" does not end as hopefully.
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Realization of the future
Robert_duder30 December 2004
Warning: Spoilers
The Day After was unfortunately a TV film. Had they had the budget and special effects and another half hour or so onto it they would have made an incredible, powerful, film presence that would have gotten across their message so strongly. For what they had to work with on Television and the time it was made the film is powerful in it's own right and leaves an extreme lasting impression.

As with most disaster films the layout is much the same. We are introduced to several of the main characters and their "normal" lives, their future plans, where they are going and what their doing. During all this the world is in a state of possible panic as The Soviet Union threatens to invade Germany and attack the United States. The US has created a blockade to Germany but the Soviets are threatening to cross it. Basically they are recreating another Cuban Missle Crisis. The soviets do cross it and at some point both countries ready their nuclear missiles. Without ever known who fires first both nations fire on each other. The film focus's mostly on one small area in Kansas where there are missile silo's which are targeted by the Soviet missiles. Three nuclear bombs release in enormous mushroom clouds causing devastation and complete and utter destruction. Our main characters are separated from anyone they knew or loved and the world they knew is gone forever. Now they must survive the best way they know how until survival is not an option.

The cast of the film is quite weak. It's quite typical of a TV movie to take the TV actors who might not necessarily fit the roles right. Jason Robards has done so much Television it's overwhelming but his performance in this film was sub standard until the end. I must admit that towards the end of the film he really showed some skill. John Lithgow who is an incredible actor especially during this time as he had his amazing performance in the world according to Garp under his built, he is completely underused in this movie. He is barely a presence and I think he would have done better to play the lead character over Robards. Two of the stand out performances in the film is from John Cullum and Steve Guttenberg. Although due to the amount of characters in the film they don't get a lot of storyline time but both these guys give a powerful sad performance and really make us feel it.

The devastating, horrifying part of the movie is the actual explosion of the nukes. Done on short budget I am sure they manage to make a disturbing imagery of total utter destruction and everything it would take in it's path. It almost brought me to tears watching it. The real key to this film, the powerful part of it is the fact that it makes it feel so damn real. It's like you're there with each of these people and in a short amount of time you feel the horror for them and the scenery is breathtaking in a completely other kind of way. The movie right from square one is perfectly believable and that's really where it's power comes from...this COULD happen!! I think a remake of this film would do very well and until then I think anyone should check this film out just to support the anti war movement when it comes to Nuclear weapons. One of the great lines in the movie is quoting Albert Einstein, "I don't know how WW III will be fought but I know how WW IV will be...with sticks and stones..." Watch this film! 7.5/10
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A shattering, utterly horrifying movie experience
funnygy21 February 2002
A lot of negative ink has been given over the years to "The Day After". People say it is either too harsh, or too soft. People say it is too "sentimental" and is just a soap opera hiding behind a disaster film front. They say it is "unrealistic".

While everyone is entitled to their opinion, I frankly feel that the vast majority of such comments are unfair. This film's producers, especially director Nicholas Meyer, were attempting to show something that had really never been shown before: an honest, realistic depiction of an actual nuclear attack, presenting both the immediate horror of the moment of impact, and also the devastating aftermath, as the survivors try to live normal lives that can never again exist. Before this film, most references to nuclear war in popular film was limited to how such a war would create mutant monsters.

I feel strongly that "The Day After" succeeds in the two goals of the producers described above. The "ground zero" scenes are unforgettable. I am reminded of the first time I saw the film. During its initial airing in 1983, I was not allowed to watch it (I was only 7 at the time), though I did get to see it when it was re-aired in 1988. I was not fully aware of what really happened in nuclear warfare; I just thought that the bomb produced a hell of an explosion, and that was it. Needless to say, I was shocked to see people being incinerated in the blink of an eye, and being consumed by rolling walls of flame. Trust me, once you see these scenes you will NEVER forget them. And as for one of the chief criticisms of the film - that some of the "bomb footage" is actually taken from 1950's government films of nuclear tests, well, what do you expect? Nuclear holocausts are not an everyday occurrence. Granted, an even better depiction of nuclear destruction is seen in "Terminator 2", but "The Day After" was made for TV almost a full decade before "T2", and had neither that film's technology nor budget. And the notion that these scenes do not show enough is to me simply ridiculous. I saw MORE than enough in this film to convince me that nuclear war is the worst invention man ever came up with.

Furthermore, the aftermath depicted in the film also gets the point across. Life after such a disaster would not be worth living. As in Stephen King's "The Stand", the persons killed in the disaster are the lucky ones, not the survivors. Those who live through the explosion try to keep life going, but they soon either succumb to radiation sickness, or, as depicted by the farmers trying to figure out how to grow crops in hopelessly contaminated soil, realize that life will be limited to however long you can live on canned food.

One final note I wish to respond to is the criticism that the film is like a "disease-of-the-week" film, because it centers around regular-joe characters. Those who make comments like these are missing the point. The filmmakers were trying to say that, while it is the politicians and military leaders who call the shots, it is the regular people who will suffer the consequences of their governments' decisions. Take the scene where the President gives a radio address. The President, who is at least partially responsible for this mess, is safe, secure and comfortable in a bunker somewhere; the lowly commoners he was supposed to "protect" listen to him speak in a shattered land, their lives, their property, everything around them eternally ruined. Anyone who wishes to see anything crueller than this must be sadist in my opinion.

That said, the film is not perfect, either. It tries to present too many characters and thus carries too many subplots. Also, while it is understandable that the story should be set up before the bomb drops, the film takes a bit too long to get going.

In closing, "The Day After" has a message. Some people may not agree with the message, others (like myself) think it is one of the most important messages that can be sent in a world where none of us seem able to get along with our fellow man. View the film for yourself and see what you think.
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Pretty nightmarish stuff that will stick with you
callanvass16 September 2013
The Day After is a movie that I had trouble getting out of my mind. It's full of realistic nightmarish images that chilled me to the bone. This is NOT a pleasant film. This is about devastation and nuclear destruction, and it's not very fun to watch. It doesn't have the budget to pull off stuff like many disaster movie do, but this one doesn't need it. I was scared enough as it was. That is one of my biggest fears in life, a nuclear holocaust. I was first exposed to this movie when I was younger, and it scared the living wits out of me. Even after multiple viewings, it's still an extremely harrowing experience which is tough to endure. Jason Robards is excellent as the lead. He did a really good job as the every day man. Steve Guttenberg & Jobeth Williams do well in their respective roles and add great depth to the proceedings. My only real complaint is that sometimes the pacing is a tad off, but I get why they did it. They wanted to augment the feeling of dread

Final Thoughts: it's hard to write a review for this one without spoiling it, but this is a powerful film for a movie made for Television. If you can find it, seek it out. It'll stick with you

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Still frightening after all these years (poor DVD features though)
gvf19 August 2004
Warning: Spoilers
I first saw the movie around 1987 when it was first shown on German TV (while at movie theaters across Germany, the movie had a "12" rating and I was only 10 at the time). And I remember that even then, in 1987, it sparked up quite a discussion the following day at school. I grew up in the Hanover area, which is some 60 miles west of the former East German border and cities like Helmstedt and Wolfsburg (in the movie, they play a vital role in the prelude to the main standoff between the U.S. and Russia). This made the whole scenario especially chilling for us.

"The Day After" is the definitive anti-war movie of the early 1980s. For the first time, the nuclear holocaust was not portrayed as some military think-tank scheme with a focus on rank-and-file leaders and the goings-on at the Oval Office. This film is about people like you and me and their everyday struggle in a world that all of a sudden offers nothing more to live for. Civilization is almost brought back to the stone age, there is death and destruction everywhere, and those who were spared by the nuclear fire are fading away as their health visibly deteriorates **spoiler alert** (perhaps the most disturbing scene is where a church community is gathered for service in a pretty much no longer existing church building and the pastor holds his sermon thanking the lord).

This is truly not a feel-good film to enjoy with a six pack while you are having your buddies over. It is a chilling account of what it could have been like had there really been a full-scale nuclear war between the two superpowers. But even today, with the Cold War long gone, this movie touches you and will send shivers down your spine not only during the scenes where the bombs go off. It does so because the different elements (plot, narration, acting and screenplay) go so well together.

The special effects in the scenes where the nuclear strike takes place, well, that's a different story. Naturally, they are 1983-style, when CGI was little more than three random letters of the alphabet. But this does not take away the film's credibility at all.

I bought the DVD because to me this film is a must-have for any collection of all-time movie classics. Sadly, I bought a shortened version that you can find in stores in Germany (and maybe in the U.S. as well or whatever your whereabouts). It only has 115 minutes (the original one is 126 minutes) with several not-so-unimportant scenes cut out. Not that I would really care for more on that, but the nuclear blast scenes have been edited as well. And then there's the virtually non-existent extra footage that you have really come to expect even for classic movies (am I right?). The DVD only features a few text files, mainly giving you the biographies/filmographies of the main actors.

Sound and image on the DVD are alright considering that we're talking about a 21-year-old made-for-TV film here. It comes with a 4:3 TV-format picture and with mono sound. The picture sometimes lacks contrast and sharpness. It all does have kind of a high-end VHS feel to it. Let us kindly overlook this fact.

So, all in all, the movie is a timeless classic that has not lost any of its authenticity over the past 21 years - if you want to buy/rent the DVD, however, make sure you get the original 126-minute version!

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Not as "weak" as some people would have you believe
Yorkie4 February 2003
Having just seen this film, for the first time, and read much criticism of it here, I have to say that whereas some of the criticism is justified, much of it is not. Easily as scary, if not more so, in the attack scenes than its UK counterpart "Threads", although with a somewhat weak aftermath which does make it look more like a soap opera, it still portrays the subject matter well. I have to say that the political plot appears rather confusing, but these films are often that way to keep the viewer thinking.

I still say "Threads" is better, and "Testament" far more subtle, but this is incredibly worthy nonetheless.

I only wish I had seen this sooner, but it was very difficult to obtain in the UK.
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