The Day the Earth Caught Fire (1961)

Unrated  |   |  Drama, Sci-Fi, Romance  |  May 1962 (USA)
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Ratings: 7.2/10 from 3,160 users  
Reviews: 61 user | 65 critic

When the USA and Russia unwittingly test atomic bombs at the same time, it alters the nutation (axis of rotation) of the Earth.



(written for the screen by), (written for the screen by)
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Won 1 BAFTA Film Award. Another 1 nomination. See more awards »
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Complete credited cast:
Jeannie Craig
Bill Maguire
Edward Judd ...
Peter Stenning
'Jacko' Jackson - Night Editor
Bernard Braden ...
'Dave' Davis - News Editor
Reginald Beckwith ...
Gene Anderson ...
Arthur Christiansen ...
'Jeff' Jefferson - Editor
Austin Trevor ...
Sir John Kelly
Edward Underdown ...
Dick Sanderson
Ian Ellis ...
Michael Stenning


Hysterical panic has engulfed the world after the United States and the Soviet Union simultaneously detonate nuclear devices causing a change to the nutation (axis of rotation) of the Earth. Written by Fernando <>

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis


The INCREDIBLE becomes Real! The IMPOSSIBLE becomes Fact! The UNBELIEVABLE becomes True! See more »


Drama | Sci-Fi | Romance


Unrated | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:





Release Date:

May 1962 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

The Day the Earth Caught Fire  »

Box Office


£200,000 (estimated)

Company Credits

Production Co:

Show detailed on  »

Technical Specs


Sound Mix:

(Westrex Recording System)


(with tinted sequences)

Aspect Ratio:

2.35 : 1
See  »

Did You Know?


As the earth heats up Bill McGuire asks for information on the melting point of "everything from steel to my glass eye". Leo McKern did in fact have a glass eye. See more »


Only the extreme left-hand side of Peter Stenning's article "If you find your TV set has developed a nasty measle rash" is about sunspots, as per the dialogue. The remainder is a review of a newly-released book on jazz, referencing John Dankworth and Benny Green. See more »


[Bill asks Peter what is bothering him]
Bill Maguire: It's the kid, isn't it?
Peter Stenning: You ought to see the way they're bringing him up, Bill. It'll be the right prep school next. And then the right boarding school. And by the time they finish with him, he'll be a right bowler-hatted, who's-for-tennis, toffee-nosed gent, but he won't be MY son.
Bill Maguire: Oh, I don't know. That bad blood of yours is bound to come out.
See more »

Crazy Credits

There are no end credits whatsoever (not even a "The End" caption); merely a fade to black. See more »


References Annie Get Your Gun (1950) See more »


Camptown Races
Composed by Stephen Foster
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User Reviews

An underrated sci-fi classic
30 March 2004 | by (Pompton Plains, NJ USA) – See all my reviews

This 1961 classic is truly underrated. Performances by Janet Munro and the great Leo McKern (Rumpole of the Bailey) are quite good, and Edward Judd, whose career is introduced in this movie come together to create a create a sense of building tension as the audience finds out the reason for the strange changes in weather.

Judd plays his character a little roughly, but that is to be understood, given his problems with his divorce and visitation with his young son.

Leo McKern's dialogue and facial expressions are superb and create the perfect persona of the seasoned veteran science writer who interprets and unravels the mystery for us.

Janet Munro, who died prematurely in her thirties gave a very acceptable performance for a young starlet, who keeps reporter Pete Stenning (Judd) at bay, then feeds him the critical information that blows open the story. I have two copies - One I taped from TV in the 80's, and another that I bought new. My sci-fi collection wouldn't be complete without it.

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