With Russian troops based in Crimea in a face-off with Ukraine’s army, amid condemnations from Western political leaders, comparisons to the Cold War were pretty inevitable. No, Vladimir Putin probably won’t make this the first step in a return to the days of Mutually Assured Destruction, but it *might* be. It’s the worst crisis Europe has seen in the 21st century and that’s a good reason to count down the best classic Cold War movies to keep us occupied while Ukraine is… well, occupied.
7 – From Russia with Love
Few on-screen characters played their part in the Cold War as many times as James Bond, and the conflict underlay most of Ian Flemming’s stories through to the fall of the Berlin Wall. Few are a match for his second outing, however, which features defections, Russian assassins, and poisoned shoe spikes.
6 – Good Bye Lenin!
The only entrant on this list set after the Berlin Wall fall, Good Bye Lenin! follows Alex (Daniel Brühl), an East Berlin resident whose fiercely communist mother wakes up from a coma after the end of the war. Terrified that the shock of the truth might be enough to kill her in her fragile state, he sets about painstakingly recreating the Berlin she knew and loved. If you don’t mind watching something in a foreign language, this is a classic.
5 – Thirteen Days
One of the elements that’s come to define the Cold War was the sense that nuclear war could break out at the drop of the hat, and that’s what Thirteen Days is all about. This dramatization of the Cuban Missile Crisis combines a great cast (Kevin Costner, Bruce Greenwood, and more) with an understandably tense plot – even though you (hopefully) know how it ends.
4 – Rocky IV
We’ve already praised it for having some of the best fight scenes ever, but this boxing classic is a great Cold War film too. Its international boxing battle between Stallone’s Rocky and Dolph Lundgren’s Russian Ivan Drago somehow manages to turn a boxing match into a pivotal moment in the conflict.
3 – The Manchurian Candidate
If imminent destruction was one major element of the Cold War, then paranoia was the other, and that’s where The Manchurian Candidate excels. Its brainwashing plot gets to the heart of the Cold War fear that Soviet spies were everywhere, working to destroy the US from the inside. Just make sure you catch the 1962 original, rather than 2004’s disappointing remake.
2 – Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy
Another spy movie, but this time a slightly more recent one, and a classically British take on the war. Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy adapts John le Carré’s novel of the same name, a complex tale of the hunt for a mole at the very heart of the British Secret Intelligence Service. Watch the 2011 Gary Oldman film, and then track down the 1979 Alec Guinness miniseries – you don’t want to miss either.
1 – Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the War
Finally, no Cold War list would be complete with Dr. Strangelove. The Stanley Kubrick masterpiece is a cutting deconstruction of the conflict that manages to wrestle comedy from the most terrifying elements of the Cold War. You owe it to yourself to watch this if you haven’t already – and to watch it again if you have.
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