When in doubt, fall back on the old standby. Filmmakers have found nukes a reliably effective way to end the world ever since Nagasaki. Not just reliable, but maybe even fun. Australians in 1959’s On the Beach lived it up while they waited for the radioactive fallout that had killed the rest of the world to drift south. The atmosphere in the war room as the bombs fall in Dr. Strangelove (pictured) is strangely comical, even without the climactic pie fight initially envisioned by director Stanley Kubrick.
The poster for 1975’s A Boy and His Dog, in which a young Don Johnson and his telepathic pooch scavenge the post-apocalyptic landscape for food and sex, featured a mushroom cloud adorned with a smiley face. Even in Kevin Costner’s somber, oh-so-serious epic The Postman, the hero is no muscle-bound messiah, just a Shakespearean actor who, between monologues, manages to restore civilization just by re-instating mail delivery. As Costner’s Hamlet-quoting hero might say – not just about nuclear annihilation, but about any of the doomsday scenarios envisioned in the movies – ’tis a consummation devoutly to be wished.