…I mean, think about it. All the detonation of nuclear bombs ever seems to do is to spark an environmental catastrophe (The Day After, Godzilla), or just prove completely ineffective against the foe it’s used against (Independance Day, War of the Worlds). All the other nukes seen onscreen are held by villains, and those are almost always stopped from detonating just as the bomb timer reaches “0:01” (or “0:07,” in a certain series of films).
In fact, the only times I can think of nuclear weapons successfully being deployed by the good guys are in the twin “asteroid movies,” Armageddon and Deep Impact. But surely there are others…right?
In Independance day they destroyed the alien mothership with a nuke after getting inside it, but I understand what you are talking about. Its a very common plot, the big miltary guys ignoring the heros advice and reacting with a super weapon that only makes things worse.
Thanks for the correction; I’m quite embarassed that I misremembered that sequence of events so badly.
I’d still like to think that the nuke would have worked and worked well had they been allowed the opportunity to drop it - maybe it still serves as a counter-example in some small way to the increasingly prevalent cliche that bold, direct action only makes things worse.
Actually, on reflection, my account wasn’t entirely accurate, either.
The reactors going out of control was indirectly through the action of the marines, when they shot up the cooling facility while fending off aliens and when the drop ship crashed (also because of alien interference), damaging the system enough so the survivors couldn’t shut the reactors down.
Adding to my Babylon 5 comment, Sheriden also used a nuke in the B5 movie “Thirdspace”. There’s a megacool moment when he opens a secure locker on the station filled with metal containers covered with the yellow nuclear warning symbol. Then he has to deliver the nuke by flying across open space with a jetpack of some kind while a huge battle rages around him.
Generally, just letting the good guys nuke away their problems would be unsatisfying from a narrative standpoint. It’s like letting them push a “Win” button. Thus, when they work, it can only be after some laborious effort to deliver them (e.g., Independence Day, Babylon 5 and the asteroid movies). In Aliens, having the nuke effectively get set accidentally, and thus imposing a time limit on the action, maintains the momentum of the story much better than simply having the characters get back to the ship and then anticlimactically blast the place.
There’s also a certain anti-nuclear subtext in place though (in Hollywood? Perish the thought!), which, regardless of one’s politics generally, seems ridiculous in the context of things like alien invasions. Sending fighters to attack a 15 mile-wide spacecraft with air-to-air missiles was comparable to sending cops to destroy the New Orleans Superdome with their handguns. The fact that the fleet of ships was systematically incinerating cities made the professed fear of collateral damage simply absurd, and the single tactical nuke ultimately used would probably not have been sufficient against a target of such size even without alien forcefield technology protecting it.
If I had been President Pullman, I’d have been saturating the bastards with every nuclear bomb and missile we culd dig up. A 50kt Lance missile hit didn’t make them flinch? Let’s try a dozen 200Kt MIRV’d ICBM warheads, with a 9 Megaton B-52-delivered cherry on top. Plus I’d have had the Russians on the phone (and who’d have thought they’d be so timid as to need my encouragement) asking them to launch some of their serious multi-megaton hate our way.
Harm to the environment? Arguable. But if ever a situation merited a scorched earth policy… scorched “Earth”, in fact…
It doesn’t help the situation, but in the movie True Lies, the bad guys successfully detonate a nuke in the Florida Keys. It’s probably the first movie where the bad guy’s nuclear bomb actually gets to go off.
No way, unless you define “bad guys” in a very narrow sense. Off the top of my head, Dr. Strangelove and one of the Planet of the Apes’ sequels had bombs successfully set off by bad guys.
By the way the Babylon 5 scene described by Bryan Ekers is definitely from Thirdspace. A Call To Arms was the pilot for the Babylon 5: Crusade series, I believe. It mostly featured the new Excalibur class destroyer, which was a direct ripoff of Starblazers. (It has a super-powerful main gun which, when used, disables the ship for one minute. Such a convenient plot device.)
Not even close. In Dr. Strangleove (1964), the insane Brigadier General Ripper orders the 34 bombers under his command to attack the Soviets. Thirty are recalled, three are shot down, but one gets through and manages to nuke its target, with Slim Pickens ridin’ all the way to ground zero.