Enlarge / Ars marks the 75th anniversary of the nuclear bomb with a look at how the complicated legacy of this world-altering event has been reflected in film and television. (credit: Film collage by Aurich Lawson)
This year marks the 75th anniversary of the first atomic bomb. Just before sunrise on July 16, 1945, in a secluded spot in a central New Mexican desert, a prototype bomb nicknamed "Gadget" was hoisted to the top of a 100-foot tower and detonated. The blast vaporized the steel tower and produced a mushroom cloud rising to more than 38,000 feet. The heat from the explosion melted the sandy soil around the tower into a mildly radioactive glassy crust now known as "trinitite." And the shock wave broke windows as far as 120 miles away.
After the Trinity test, Richard Feynman recalled finding his colleague, Robert Wilson, sitting despondently amid the celebration. "It's a terrible thing that we made," Feynman remembered him saying. Hans Bethe famously observed, "The physicists have known sin. And this is a knowledge which they cannot lose." It's often said that physicists became so intent on the intellectual challenge of building an atomic bomb that they lost sight of the profound implications of what they were creating.
Those implications became all too clear on August 6, 1945, when a gun-triggered fission bomb dubbed "Little Boy" fell on Hiroshima, killing an estimated 70,000 to 130,000 people. Three days later, the implosion-triggered "Fat Man" was dropped on Nagasaki, adding another 45,000 human casualties. The United States won the war but at a horrific cost. The world has been haunted by the prospect of a devastating nuclear apocalypse ever since—and so has TV and the movies. So to mark this somber occasion, we've compiled a watch list of films and shows that we feel best reflect the complicated legacy of the atomic bomb.
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