Did you watch "The Day After" when it first aired and what did you think of it?

I watched it recently. I quite like it. I don’t think it’s as good as Threads, the UK nuclear war drama from around the same time, but it has its moments. I’m curious what dopers who are old enough to recall it when it aired thought about it at the time. How big a deal was it when it aired? What are your opinions of it in retrospect?

It was a huge deal when it aired - I was in high school at the time, and many teachers assigned it as required viewing. I refused to watch it because I pretty much always thought nothing like it would ever happen. Haven’t watched it to this day, and have no interest in doing so.

Interesting you should ask this - I hadn’t thought of this movie in years but I saw a copy of it in a store earlier this week.

I saw it when it was broadcast in 1983. It was heavily promoted by ABC at the time. My main recollection is that it was a little too melodramatic and I didn’t feel it lived up to its pre-broadcast hype.

I was about 22 and a freshman in college when it first aired. What’s strange is that I was just thinking about the movie a couple of days ago and now you happen to mention it here. I got extra credit for freshman sociology for watching it and doing the ubiquitous 750-word essay on it. It was a big deal—heavily hyped and anticipated. I’d say it was almost as big a deal as Roots was in the seventies. I’m pretty sure I have a really crappy off-the-air VHS to DivX copy somewhere. I should watch it again for old time’s sake.

Didn’t watch it. I was working in home video at the time and didn’t give a hoot about broadcast TV.

Funny thing, I’ve always wanted to watch it!

Watched it.
Thought it was liberal bullshit. (If they had gone in to more justification for the nuclear exchange, it would probably have been conservative bullshit.)

I watched it - it was interesting in part because I’d just moved to KC at the time. I liked it, but I think I remember getting a bit bored by the end.

My youngest brother was a senior in college. We talked about it a bit - I was quite surprised when he said that if he knew missiles were flying, he’d head towards a major city, not wanting to live through the aftermath.

I was a little kid (10 years old) when it first aired. It scared the shit out of me. I had nightmares about nuclear war for months afterward.

I watched it as a teenager. I thought that the people in the movie were not portrayed realistically. Their reactions were far too passive IMHO.

I was living in Kansas City at the time. Prior to filming I saw a casting ad, a call for extras. I wanted to go try out but my mom was in the ICU at Kansas Medical Center and I was living there at the hospital and didn’t want to leave her.

When it aired I thought it was good, though I thought the TV movie Special Bulletin, which aired earlier that year, was much more realistic and much scarier. Both Testament and Threads were better too, but those were little seen (at least in the US). The Day After certainly had its moments and sparked debate.

It was shown at the height of the cold war and fueled fears that a nuclear attack could happen at any moment. I think it was a real eye-opener for most people at the time who didn’t even think about the consequences of what “nuclear war” meant. Looking back, that was the single moment where national opinion turned against the idea of the Cold War and the US started taking real steps to end it.

Didn’t watch it. I was a senior in high school. There was a childhood to ruin. I was too busy for shit like that.

Not a very good movie. It would have been forgotten if not for the political furor.

I watched it when it aired in '83, along with several friends, all of us teenagers at the time. It had a big effect on me, though I’m not sure about the others. We didn’t talk about it much after that night.

Probably the general attitude was, Yes, something like that could certainly happen in our lifetimes, and there’s not much anyone can do about it. There didn’t seem any way out of the nuclear arms race. And the kind of scenario depicted in the film — a needless crisis over West Berlin — fit in with my feeling that if World War III with the Soviet Union ever happened, it wouldn’t be over our longstanding differences in political ideology, or invasions of each other’s territory. It would just be an absurd and tragic avalanche of bad decisions by the particular men in power at the time, who would no doubt feel justified every step of the way.

I’ve seen Threads as well, but won’t try to rate the two films against each other. They’re both good in their own ways. One thing Threads does that The Day After doesn’t is show the long-term aftermath of the war — which is chilling. If you only saw The Day After, you could be left with the impression that although many millions of people have just died, and will continue to die, and although life is going to be a tad rough and dirty for a while, still, some sort of “rump” version of modern civilization will eke its way through. No doubt the next generation will be back on electricity and playing video games before you know it.

Threads of course doesn’t allow any hope for that.

Yes, I didn’t see Threads but I had seen On the Beach a few years earlier. That gave a much grimmer image of a nuclear war than The Day After did.

The Day After seemed to think the audience needed to be told that a nuclear war would be a bad thing. It was 1983 - was that really news?

I saw it when it aired and was quite impressed. Since then I’ve seen Threads, which I think was much better.

I seem to recall watching it with a group of friends and mocking it mercilessly, but that’s how we watched pretty much everything. I don’t remember it as particularly scary or dramatic or even very interesting.

I agree with Bytegeist that TDA left the viewer with the impression that the bulldozers were about to start clearing the rubble by the end of the movie.

Within the past month I read Whitley Strieber’s and James Kunetcka’s Warday, about the after-effects of a limited nuclear exchange between the US and USSR in 1987. The USSR managed to hit three cities - NYC, DC, and (gulp), my hometown of San Antonio, TX and wiped them off the face of the earth. In addition, they also hit the missile sites in North Dakota, Montana, etc.

The US did pretty much the same to the USSR (nobody really knows as communications within vast swaths of Russia have ceased to exist), and the only thing that kept the war from going total holocaust was that the EMP effect destroyed most of the missiles and made them useless - only the first part of the first strike occurred. Very compelling, the novel makes The Day After look rather uninformed.

I think it was a huge deal. I’m not real sure because I worked as a reporter in the broadcasting industry at the time and it was sure a huge deal there, but if it was elsewhere, well, I don’t know.

I had to watch it, though, and my thoughts were that On The Beach had done the job better. I think the emotion in OTB was fueled by real fear; by TDA that fear had been neutralized. The fact that they had better special effects was irrelevant.

I watched it when it was first on and didn’t like it. I thought it actually glamorized nukes by making the bombs themselves the stars of the show. The special effects included showing peoples’ skeletons through their bodies made visible by the light from the blasts - real gee whiz, look-at-what-we-can-do stuff. I thought the plot was cheesy - typical TV movie stuff.

The movie Testament, also about nuclear war, came out the same year as The Day After. I thought Testament was much better - more emotionally gripping and less melodramatic than The Day After. All these years later I still count one scene in Testament as one of the most devastating things I’ve ever seen in a movie.