The Nuclear Holocaust: The Impact Of ‘Threads’ (1984) 35 Years Later

If you thought Chernobyl on HBO was tough, get ready for Threads.

I wasn’t aware of this film until recently. I was searching through Shudder and came across this random title called Threads. I looked at the general synopsis, and it sounded like a mockumentary… and I’m all for mockumentaries. I was pleasantly surprised to find that it was a narrative film as well. The main plot of the film is about what a country would do to survive a nuclear attack after conflict between US and Soviet Union erupts.

The film was directed by Mick Jackson who went on to have an excellent career directing films including Volcano, The Bodyguard,  L.A. Story, and Temple Grandin. Karen Meagher starred in the film. She was also in a little movie called 28 Weeks Later. Dr. Who alumni David Brierly was also in the film.

If you got the stomach for it, Threads is a highly rewarding viewing especially if you’re like me and love a mix of mockumentaries and narrative.


Documentary style account of a nuclear holocaust and its effect on the working class city of Sheffield, England; and the eventual long running effects of nuclear war on civilization.

After some research, one fact I learned is how it shocked both BBC and US audiences when it was released, because at the time, a nuclear war is what citizens feared. Also, there are so many science fiction movies that dealt with the aftermath of a nuclear war between the ’70s and ’80s. This is one that stands out among the crowd.

After it first aired on the BBC, it was not widely reviewed by critics, but those who saw the picture agreed that it was a hard task to pull off. The New York Times wrote this about the film:

“[The film] is not a balanced discussion about the pros and cons of nuclear armaments. It is a candidly biased warning. And it is, as calculated, unsettlingly powerful.”

The Guardian also had high praise for it, called it a masterpiece and writing:

“It wasn’t until I saw Threads that I found that something on screen could make me break out in a cold, shivering sweat and keep me in that condition for 20 minutes, followed by weeks of depression and anxiety.”

One thing we can agree on is that the Cold War era and post 9-11 times are very similar. In the ’80s, everyone was on edge, always expecting a nuclear war would begin. It was such an excruciating thought in people’s minds, like terrorism is now, especially with groups such as ISIS and the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. There was, and still is, a real paranoia of terror attacks on American soil. The movies and shows around this topic have the same impact of the Cold War and a possible nuclear war between countries.

If you want a refresher on the Cold War, I highly recommend watching the fantastic FX show, The Americans. As a culture, irrational distrust seems to finds its way back to us in different shapes and forms, from the unreal amount of gun violence now to the serial killers in the ’70s. I find it important to experience films like Threads to see how suspicion grows in a society. Of course, you can also experience paranoia on general war in movies like Apocalypse Now and Full Metal Jacket. Its nerve-wracking.

Watch Threads Right Here!

Even after I first watched Threads, I was left shocked and stunned, staring at the screen, which doesn’t happen often. The last time it happened to me was when I first saw the original Martyrs. It takes a different kind of film to have me shivering the way Threads did.

Other recommended nuclear holocaust films:

Dr. Strangelove 

A Boy and His Dog

Planet Of The Apes (1968)

The Road (2009)

Red Dawn (1984 – pre-nuclear bomb, but still)

Zardoz (so bad its good)

If you know any trivia or more first reactions you would like to share with us, please do. We would love to hear your thoughts as well.

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