52 user 38 critic

The Atomic Cafe (1982)

2:25 | Trailer
Disturbing collection of 1940s and 1950s United States government-issued propaganda films designed to reassure Americans that the atomic bomb was not a threat to their safety.
2 wins & 1 nomination. See more awards »



Learn more

More Like This 

Documentary | History
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.9/10 X  

A documentary presenting mankind's most ambitious effort at perfecting the means to its own annihilation. Featuring newly unclassified atomic test footage.

Director: Peter Kuran
Stars: William Shatner, Edward Teller, W.H.P. Blandy
Ground Zero (1987)
Action | Drama | Mystery
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 6.4/10 X  

A second generation cameraman in Australia finds evidence that his father had filmed a nuclear test that allowed aboriginies to be exposed to and killed by radiation. He begins a search for... See full summary »

Directors: Bruce Myles, Michael Pattinson
Stars: Colin Friels, Jack Thompson, Donald Pleasence
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 5.3/10 X  

Set in a bleak future where roving gangs of children terrorize city streets, and reality is often an illusion.

Director: David Gladwell
Stars: Julie Christie, Christopher Guard, Leonie Mellinger
Whoops Apocalypse (TV Series 1982)
Comedy | Sci-Fi
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.3/10 X  

A light-hearted look at the final week before doomsday. American President Johnny Cyclops is trying to run a re-election campaign while dealing with the Russians, a deposed Shah needing to ... See full summary »

Stars: Barry Morse, John Barron, Ed Bishop
Special Bulletin (TV Movie 1983)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.7/10 X  

A TV reporter and cameraman are taken hostage on a tugboat while covering a workers strike. The demands of the hostage-takers are to collect all the nuclear detonators in the Charleston, SC... See full summary »

Director: Edward Zwick
Stars: Ed Flanders, Kathryn Walker, Roxanne Hart
Action | Drama | Sci-Fi
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 5.4/10 X  

An earthquake in rural Australia causes a dangerous leak at WALDO, a nuclear waste storage facility. Heinrich Schmidt, an engineer badly hurt in the accident, knows that the leak will ... See full summary »

Director: Ian Barry
Stars: Steve Bisley, Arna-Maria Winchester, Ross Thompson
Sci-Fi | Thriller
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 6.2/10 X  

A high school prodigy builds an atomic bomb with stolen plutonium to win the 45th National Science Fair and expose a nuclear weapons lab posing as nuclear medicine in Ithaca NY.

Director: Marshall Brickman
Stars: John Lithgow, Christopher Collet, Richard Council
Dark Days (2000)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.8/10 X  

A cinematic portrait of the homeless population who live permanently in the underground tunnels of New York City.

Director: Marc Singer
Stars: Marc Singer
Testament (1983)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 6.9/10 X  

The life of a suburban American family is scarred after a nuclear attack.

Director: Lynne Littman
Stars: Jane Alexander, William Devane, Rossie Harris
The Bomb (TV Movie 2015)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.6/10 X  

See how America developed the most destructive invention in human history - the nuclear bomb - how it changed the world and how it continues to loom large in our lives. Hear from historians... See full summary »

Director: Rushmore DeNooyer
Stars: Jonathan Adams, John Andersen, Hal Behl
Barefoot Gen (1983)
Animation | Biography | Drama
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 8/10 X  

A powerful statement against war, Barefoot Gen is a disturbing story about the effect of the atomic bomb on a boy's life and the lives of the Japanese people.

Director: Mori Masaki
Stars: Issei Miyazaki, Catherine Battistone, Yoshie Shimamura
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 6.9/10 X  

Political intrigue and murder occurs when the English town of Portsmouth is sealed off by the military during the eve of World War III.

Stars: Anna Calder-Marshall, Kenneth Cranham, Amanda Fawcett


Cast overview, first billed only:
Paul Tibbets ... Self (archive footage)
Harry S. Truman ... Self (archive footage) (as President Harry S Truman)
W.H.P. Blandy W.H.P. Blandy ... Self - Commander of the Bikini Test (archive footage) (as Vice Admiral W.H.P. Blandy)
Brien McMahon Brien McMahon ... Self (archive footage) (as Sen. Brian McMahon)
Lloyd Bentsen ... Self (archive footage) (as Rep. Lloyd Bentsen)
Owen Brewster Owen Brewster ... Self (archive footage) (as Sen. Owen Brewster)
Julius Rosenberg ... Self (archive footage)
Ethel Rosenberg ... Self (archive footage)
Val Peterson Val Peterson ... Self - Director of Civil Defense (archive footage) (as Gov. Val Peterson)
Lyndon Baines Johnson ... Self (archive footage) (as Sen. Lyndon B. Johnson)
Lewis Strauss Lewis Strauss ... Self - Chairman, Atomic Energy Commission (archive footage) (as Lewis L. Strauss)
George Molan George Molan ... Self (archive footage) (as Cpl. George Molan)
George Portell George Portell ... Self (archive footage) (as Tech Sgt. George Portell)
Jerry Schneider Jerry Schneider ... Self (archive footage)
Sergeant Weaver Sergeant Weaver ... Self (archive footage)


A compilation of 1960's films about what to do in case of a Nuclear attack and the effects of radiation, also footage of troop tests of the exposure to an atomic bomb. Written by Michael Edwards <medwards@gate.net>

Plot Summary | Plot Synopsis


Not Rated | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:

View content advisory »






Release Date:

29 October 1982 (Finland) See more »

Also Known As:

The Atomic Cafe See more »


Box Office


$300,000 (estimated)

Opening Weekend USA:

$4,098, 5 August 2018

Gross USA:


Cumulative Worldwide Gross:

See more on IMDbPro »

Company Credits

Production Co:

The Archives Project See more »
Show more on IMDbPro »

Technical Specs


Sound Mix:


Aspect Ratio:

1.33 : 1
See full technical specs »

Did You Know?


Footage was sourced from three main repositories. They were the National Archives of the USA, the American Library of Congress and Pennsylvania's Tobyhama Army Base. See more »


Civil defense film: Be sure to include tranquilizers to ease the strain and monotony of life in a fallout shelter. A bottle of 100 should be sufficient for a family of four. Tranquilizers are not a narcotic, and are not habit-forming.
See more »


Referenced in Late Night with David Letterman: Episode #1.23 (1982) See more »


Pictures at an Exhibition
Written by Modest Mussorgsky
Performed by Charles Mackerras conducting the The Philharmonia Orchestra (as the New Philharmonia Orchestra)
Courtesy of Vanguard Recording Society, Inc.
See more »

Frequently Asked Questions

This FAQ is empty. Add the first question.

User Reviews

History Repeating
4 November 2004 | by ayse_hamidSee all my reviews

Watching Atomic Café is like witnessing history repeating, since the scenes are a compilation of bits and pieces from pre-existing films taken from government and education films from the '40s and '50s. As a compilation film, Atomic Café has resulted in a totally new film that is much richer and more meaningful than the sum of its parts.

Atomic Café, will be more understandable if we are familiar with the roots of its historical material. As a history film, Atomic Café takes us to experience three levels of time. The first is the internal time, the Cold War, communism versus the free world, when propaganda about the atomic bomb was made to persuade the people that only nuclear weapons would protect them from the "Evil Empire". The period of the'Nuclear Free' movement comes next. And thirdly, the present time, when the world is changed but has to face the same irony that still is just as relevant today, the fear of weapons of mass destruction.

In the beginning, the film appears to be a straightforward history of America's development and use of atomic weapons. Historical footage is used to add credibility to the information presented. The power of the bomb is demonstrated by showing dramatic footage of the Trinity test; interviews with Bikini Islanders, and preserved eyewitness congressional testimony of atomic bomb veterans. The impact of the weapon is documented through footage of the bomb victims. The intention is not to make us become objective about certain issues, rather it 'is designed to make us question the nature of the information presented' (Freeman Reading Packet, 108).

The film uses unique techniques. It is like a collage that 'sacrifices the conventions of continuity editing and the sense of a very specific location in time and place that follows from it to explore associations and patterns that involve temporal rhythms and spatial juxtaposition' (Nichols, 102). It is all about editing raw material and splicing segments? of military training films, civil defense films, archive footage, interviews, newsreel material, and fifties music. Many sequences are edited to show the most ridiculous side of the duck-and-cover drills and how naïve the Americans were at that time. To make it more derisive the film shows how the military training films were so amateurishly acted and misleading, such as the scene about the beauty of the H-bomb. I believe that the filmmakers have made their point in choosing all the footage for the film. Perhaps the intention is to challenge and deprive the intended message of the original footage.

If we take a look in more detail, Atomic Café chooses and juxtaposes its various elements to support its point-of-view. One of the examples is the continual references to radio receivers. Perhaps it is a symbol that is used to invoke the idea of the power of mass media. The intention is 'to sensitize us to the danger of uncritical media consumption' (Freeman Reading Packet, 110). It is so ironic to see how people in the '50s could be so passive that they believed in every single thing that they heard about the atom bomb on the radio. We can see from the footage how people became so afraid and escaped to their shelter after hearing that a bomb was launched. Perhaps fear had taken such control of these people that the more frightened they were, the more they were easily persuaded.

I guess it would be a great mistake to ignore the political message that is contained in the film. Maybe for some viewers this is just a gimmick about the Cold War and things that happens during the '50's. But really, Atomic Café gives us an historical perspective for reconsidering the effect of the issues of war, nuclear warfare and weapons of mass destruction.

16 of 21 people found this review helpful.  Was this review helpful to you? | Report this
Review this title | See all 52 user reviews »

Contribute to This Page

Free Movies and TV Shows You Can Watch Now

On IMDb TV, you can catch Hollywood hits and popular TV series at no cost. Select any poster below to play the movie, totally free!

Browse free movies and TV series

Recently Viewed