The ideological tension between the U.S. and the USSR during the Cold War is a key ingredient in hundreds of movies. Are you the Film Buff Who Knew Too Much? Find out if you can name the movie based on the plot description with this quiz.
Released in 1962, this movie starred Frank Sinatra as a man who'd been brainwashed and programmed to assassinate the president of the U.S.
"The Fog of War"
"The Manchurian Candidate"
"The Manchurian Candidate" stoked Cold War fears of the U.S. being subverted by Communist agents.
A British spy infiltrates the Communist Party in East Germany as part of a plot to spread false information. When he is revealed to be a British agent, all seems lost — but maybe that was all part of the plan.
"The Spy Who Came in From the Cold"
"The Spy Who Came in From the Cold" is based on a novel by John le Carre.
A vacuum salesman is recruited to be a British secret agent in Havana, Cuba. He doesn't actually do any spy work though; he just invents other agents and enemy plots to make himself seem important and make more money. The scheme grows out of his control.
"Man on a Tightrope"
"Our Man in Havana"
Alec Guinness, whom most people today know for playing Obi-Wan Kenobe, starred in "Our Man in Havana."
The Cold War is inseparable from the oppressive fear of nuclear war. It even affected Superman, who frets about whether to save humanity by removing all nuclear weapons while battling a nuclear monster in this movie, which is not especially well-liked.
"Superman IV: The Quest for Peace"
"Superman IV" pitted Supes against the Nuclear Man and his own self-doubt.
A young man working at a defense contractor becomes disillusioned with the actions of the CIA and recruits a drug dealer friend to sell top secret information to the Soviets. It's all based on a true story.
"The Falcon and the Snowman"
The title "The Falcon and the Snowman" comes from the code names adopted by the two men, who were into falconry and dealing cocaine, respectively.
This movie is another John le Carre adaptation, this time about British agents in 1970s London striving to ferret out a Soviet double agent working among them. It stars Gary Oldman and had previously been adapted as a BBC series.
"On Her Majesty's Secret Service"
"Good Night, and Good Luck"
"Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy"
Oldman earned a best actor Oscar nomination for "Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy."
Two ballet dancers who had defected in opposite directions (U.S. to Russia and Russia to U.S.) meet in Leningrad in the Soviet Union where they work together to escape to the U.S. with their loved ones.
"White Nights" features dancing sequences by co-stars Gregory Hines and Mikhail Baryshnikov.
A general sends bombers to drop atomic bombs on the Soviets, and everyone, including the president, spends the rest of this biting satire trying to stop the attack, even though they're not allowed to fight in the war room.
"Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb"
Stanley Kubrick's Cold War classic "Dr. Strangelove" highlights the absurdity of nuclear aggression.
A writer comes to post-World War II Vienna to meet a friend only to find the friend has recently been killed. He's plunged into a murder mystery involving a Soviet woman and a dastardly plan to sell diluted drugs on the black market.
"The Maltese Falcon"
"The Third Man"
"The Third Man" is one of the greatest noir movies of all time.
Sometimes Cold War fears were sublimated into stories about aliens or hopes for world peace — or both, like in this science fiction classic about an alien and his robot assistant who come to Earth calling for an end to nuclear hostilities, or else they'll end them for us. Klaatu barada nikto.
"The Day the Earth Stood Still"
The title "The Day the Earth Stood Still" refers to the alien shutting down all electrical power on Earth as a demonstration of his sincerity (and ability to make good on his threats).
This superhero movie based on an '80s graphic novel is about a splintered team of heroes investigating a series of murders, leading to a fake alien invasion designed to unite humanity and avoid a nuclear war. It's a noble end but at a terrible cost.
"The Butterfly Effect"
"The League of Extraordinary Gentleman"
"Watchmen" is based on Alan Moore's graphic novel of the same name.
Possibly the first "U.S. is invaded by the Communists" movie, this 1952 film is about people in a bar who gradually realize the invasion is happening and come to regret that they didn't do more to prevent it.
"Invasion USA" is on the nose as far as titles go.
This devastating animated movie shows an older British couple preparing to survive a nuclear assault and its aftermath and failing to do so. David Bowie and Roger Waters are among the well-known artists who contributed to the soundtrack.
"Dancer in the Dark"
"When the Wind Blows"
"When the Wind Blows" is undoubtedly one of the most depressing movies ever made. It's painful to even think about ever watching it again.
The plot of this 1964 thriller seems chillingly plausible even in a post-Cold War world: A junta works to depose the president because it disagrees with his plans to sign a nuclear disarmament treaty with the Soviets. It stars Burt Lancaster and Kirk Douglas, as well as Ava Gardner, one of several actors to appear in multiple movies in this quiz.
"Break in the Circle"
"Seven Days in May"
The events of the movie take place over "Seven Days in May."
Another science fiction movie transforms Cold War fear into an alien menace. This time, researchers at an Arctic base find themselves trapped with a murderous creature. The movie ends with the ominous "watch the skies!" tagline, which might be a reference to fear of Soviet bomber or missile attacks.
"Battle of the Worlds"
"The Thing From Another World"
"The Thing From Another World" has been remade several times, with some of the remakes classics in their own right. But the 1951 version is surprisingly terrifying.