Network: ABC
Director: Nicholas Meyer
Stars: Jason Robards, JoBeth Williams, John Lithgow, Amy Madigan, Steve Guttenberg

To fully appreciate The Day After’s power, one has to put the film in its proper context. In 1983, ABC’s massive television event depicted a nuclear missile attack with such intensity and cold-heartedness that the network immediately followed its broadcast with help-lines for viewers to call into if they were too emotionally distraught to function by film’s end. And it wasn’t like viewers has a choice, either; as the story goes, teachers required their students to watch the movie as a homework assignment.

Revisiting The Day After today, it’s understandable if folks chuckle a little bit at such a melodramatic anecdote; before the destruction commences, the film’s characters are all quite hokey interpretations of America’s heartland types, an obvious maneuver on the producers’ part to scare good ol’ boys and girls in the audience. Once the bombs drop, however, The Day After settles into an alarming, quasi-horror movie demeanor that’s darker than your typical made-for-non-cable movie.