Dr. Strangelove

Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb (commonly known as Dr. Strangelove) is a 1964 black comedy film directed by Stanley Kubrick, starring Peter Sellers and George C. Scott. It was loosely based on Peter George’s Cold War thriller novel Red Alert, a.k.a. Two Hours to Doom. The movie Dr. Strangelove satirized the nuclear scare.

The story concerns an unhinged United States Air Force general who orders a first strike nuclear attack on the Soviet Union. The movie follows the President of the United States, his advisors, the Joint Chiefs of Staff and a Royal Air Force officer as they try to recall the bombers to prevent a nuclear apocalypse, as well as the crew of one B-52 type bomber airplane as they attempt to deliver their payload.

In 1989, the United States Library of Congress deemed the film “culturally significant” and selected it for preservation in the National Film Registry. It was listed as number three on AFI’s 100 Years… 100 Laughs.

The central plot of the movie revolves around the fears of many people during the 1950’s and 60’s in America. The Cold War between America and the USSR was at its height. The threat of nuclear war was always imminent with the armies of both sides on high alert. However, there was much fear about the safety of these new weapons. Both armies had enough nuclear weapons to destroy each other completely. Both sides were able to penetrate the other’s defenses and deliver the killer blow. Also, both sides would have enough warning of an attack before it hit, to strike back fully. The result is what was known as “Mutually assured destruction” or “nuclear stalemate.” If the Cold War did turn hot then both the USSR and USA were guaranteed to be completely destroyed. It was in the interest of both sides to prevent the war from starting. Neither side could win. A nuclear war could only have losers.

This meant that the main fear for Americans was not the Russians, but of themselves. What if some idiot accidentally or maliciously launched a bomb against Russia. It would spell the end of the world. The movie tells of an American general who does just this, ordering his aircraft to attack. The president of America and other staff then try in vain to stop the attack before Russia strikes back.

Awards and honours

The film was nominated for four Academy Awards and also seven BAFTA Awards, of which it won four.

Academy Awards nominations:

  • Best Actor in a Leading Role: Peter Sellers
  • Best Adapted Screenplay: Stanley Kubrick, Peter George, Terry Southern
  • Best Director: Stanley Kubrick
  • Best Picture

BAFTA Awards nominations:

  • Best British Actor: Peter Sellers
  • Best British Screenplay: Stanley Kubrick, Peter George, Terry Southern
  • Best Foreign Actor: Sterling Hayden

BAFTA Awards won:

  • Best British Art Direction (Black and White): Ken Adam
  • Best British Film
  • Best Film From Any Source
  • UN award.

In addition, the film won the best written American comedy award from the Writers Guild of America and a Hugo Award for Best Dramatic Presentation.

Kubrick himself won two awards for best director, from the New York Film Critics Circle and the Italian National Syndicate of Film Journalists, and was nominated for one by the Directors Guild of America.

American Film Institute recognition:

  • 1998 – AFI’s 100 Years… 100 Movies – #26
  • 2000 – AFI’s 100 Years… 100 Laughs – #3
  • 2005 – AFI’s 100 Years… 100 Movie Quotes:
    • “Gentlemen, you can’t fight in here, this is the war room.” #64
  • 2007 – AFI’s 100 Years… 100 Movies (10th Anniversary Edition) – #39