Us vs. Them: The Cold War Movies Quiz


By: Staff

4 Min Quiz

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About This Quiz

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 Manchurian Candidate" stoked Cold War fears of the U.S. being subverted by Communist agents.


In this '80s action movie, Colorado high school students unite to defend America against a Soviet invasion. Wolverines!

"Red Dawn" starred Patrick Swayze.


A Russian submarine captain goes rogue and heads for the U.S. Is he defecting or planning an insane nuclear attack?

"The Hunt for Red October" was both the first Tom Clancy novel and the first movie based on a Tom Clancy novel.


When a hacker connects to a supercomputer designed to simulate nuclear war, he thinks it's a game and almost starts World War III.

"A strange game. The only winning move is not to play." That classic line is from "WarGames."


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" is based on a novel by John le Carre.


This black-and-white 1964 movie, directed by Sidney Lumet, is full of tension as officials and politicians work to avoid a disaster when a series of errors causes a nuclear first strike.

Lumet's direction of "Fail Safe" has the intimacy and claustrophobia of a play in a small theater.


British superspy James Bond goes to Turkey to help a beautiful woman defect from the Soviets.

Tatiana Romanova came "From Russia With Love."


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.

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" 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 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.

Oldman earned a best actor Oscar nomination for "Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy."


An aggressive U.S. submarine captain stalks a Soviet sub near Greenland, accidentally destroying it with an errant torpedo. He and his crew are subsequently obliterated by Russian nuclear weapons.

"The Bedford Incident" is fictional, but it's still a dark and chilling Cold War tale.


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 U.S. Air Force Vietnam veteran undertakes a difficult mission into the USSR to steal an ultra-advanced fighter jet with stealth capabilities and mind-controlled weapons systems.

"Firefox" starred (and was produced and directed by) Clint Eastwood.


A family that's been living in their bomb shelter since the Cuban missile crisis emerges into the modern, post-Cold War world.

Yes, it's Brendan Fraser and Alicia Silverstone in "Blast From the Past," one of the few outright comedies in this quiz.


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.

Stanley Kubrick's Cold War classic "Dr. Strangelove" highlights the absurdity of nuclear aggression.


A well-known game show host's real-life claims that he was a CIA assassin the whole time is the basis of this offbeat comedy/thriller.

Chuck Barris, host of "The Dating Game," is the subject of "Confessions of a Dangerous Mind."


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 Third Man" is one of the greatest noir movies of all time.


This bleak TV movie depicts Kansas residents struggling to survive the immediate aftermath of a nuclear war.

"The Day After" remains the highest rated TV movie ever broadcast.


Yet another bleak movie about a postapocalyptic world, this one features Australians committing suicide in the face of impending radiation death and is based on a novel.

"On the Beach" is not a terribly uplifting movie.


A world-famous boxer is challenged by a menacing Russian fighter, who kills the American fighter's trainer in the ring prior to the final showdown.

It's Rocky Balboa versus Ivan Drago to avenge the death of Apollo Creed in "Rocky IV."


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 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.

"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.


A double agent lurks inside this thriller about a submarine searching the Arctic for a scientific research station and the top secret satellite photos the crew hopes to find there.

"Ice Station Zebra" is based on an Alistair MacLean novel.


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.

"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.

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.

"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.


Kevin Costner stars in this dramatization of the events of the Cuban missile crisis.

It's "Thirteen Days" of tension and fear.


A complicated spy versus spy tale, this movie has British agents deciphering a mysterious audio tape while on the trail of a missing scientist and stars Michael Caine.

"The Ipcress File" turns out to be a method of brainwashing captive scientists.


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