Threads - Nuclear Attack - UK 80's Drama

The acclaimed drama ‘Threads’ (originally broadcast in 1983) which deals with two ‘ordinary’ families dealing with a nuclear attack on the UK was recently shown on BBC4 in the UK.
It is terrifying stuff and brought back that feeling of impending doom that even i as a 9 year old felt back then.

I remember waking up from nightmares about Nuclear attack and getting the fear everytime a news broadcast came on in in the very late night.

After reading Comments for Threads on IMDB, where people share their memories, i just wanted to ask what your memories of that Era were.
check out the comments from IMDB

I also found this site
which has the text of the leaflets that they UK Govt. distributed at the time.

I found Threads much scarier and more convincing than the US film The Day After (both are available on videotape), but I think the scariest Tv-movie about nuclear war is still Peter Watkins’ The War Game, made in Britain in the 1960s. I understand that they finally have shown it on TV there.

Terrifying film. I watched it in school. Between that and “The Day After” I went quite off nuclear war.

I saw it when it was shown on US television (maybe TBS), but only remembered parts of it. Yes, I remembered being freaked by it, but not specifically why.
Then I found a copy at my local used book store for $2.50. I watched it, and realized just how much scarier it is. I now really would like to find a copy of The Day After to rent and watch it - so I can see why that one really didn’t scare me so much.

I really wanted to be able to watch this. But I couldn’t. I was struck with the horrible realization that this might be the the one with the cat.

If it is, I saw it when I was very, very young and have been scarred forever by this movie. (It could also have been “The Day After”- but the shock is still the same.)

I saw it on BBC when it came out - pretty scary - although given that it was sheffield (which looks bombed at the best of times) not THAT scary.

I second the comment above - the War Game is much more frightening.

In fact the most frightening thing I have seen from that era is the Protect and Survive government information film. Now that is scary.

I saw this relatively late in life, and I’m glad I was introduced to it.

AnnaLivia, yes, it is the one with the cat.

It prompted an interesting dicussion the other night with my SO - growing up in Australia in the early 80’s I was terrified of nuclear war and night after night went to bed thinking it would start while I slept. I even wrote to Reagan and Gorbachev, in my best handwrwiting, asking them to cease and desist developing nuclear weapons. Ah, the naive political perspective of a 9 year old!

My man is British, and was quite surprised that I felt this way, being all the way over in Australia and not exactly a prime target.

Then again, the history of nuclear testing etc. in the centre of Australia might have had something to do with it.

I was afraid it was, Ping.

Well, the BBC helped to make a life-long anti-war protestor out of me.

Knowing that, though, I’m glad I didn’t watch it again. But now at least I know what’s wrong with me.

I did the same thing for many years - I lived in the southeastern US, where spring and summer evening thunderstorms are common. Someone made the comment that if a nuclear war started, there would be flashes to the east (ok, it was probably one of my brothers and he was probably making it up), but those nights with thunderstorms, I’d lay in bed and see the flashes (not really knowing which way was east from there) and be positive that the war was starting.

Threads was pretty wrenching, but the one that shattered me was Testament. Jeezopete. I’ve never been tempted to re-watch either movie.

I too was terrified of nuclear war. Back when I was a kid, we lived near a sawmill. In those environmentally-unenlightened days, they burned waste wood in big incinerators with grills on top. Sometimes the ash would float out and fall down in the neighborhood. I was always afraid it was fallout, and that we were all going to die.

(BTW, I watched Threads on TBS back in the 80’s. It was shown late at night. In an absolutely inspired bit of programming, they showed Harvey right after it. I stayed up even later to watch Harvey, and to try to clear my mind of the images from Threads.

I too was terrified during that period. Duriung the period when the US bombed Libya they tested the air raid siren on the roof of my school without telling anyone first

That was a moment of terror so profound that nothing I have experienced since has come close.

The year Threads was shown, I was on a walking holiday in the Peak District. Had been out of civilisation for a week, and standing on a hill above a small town, we heard the sirens being tested, without knowing it was a test. I truly, truly though it was the end of everything.

Let’s not forget When The Wind Blows, an animated film dealing with an elderly couple (who lived through WW2) who try to survive in the English countryside following a nuclear attack. Helluva sad film that.

Oh God, the cat… Jesus H. Wesley tapdancin’ Christ. I’d forgotten about that cat.

Not half as stomach-churning as seeing the boy Michael’s ultimate fate in the finch cage, however.

I haven’t seen The Day After in its entirety, only small clips of it, and it just doesn’t seem like it was anywhere near half as scary as Threads. I’m trying to remember if I’ve seen Testament or not - I remember a film about an exurb of Los Angeles slowly crumbling to pieces after a nuclear war. Was that it?

And I haven’t seen The War Game, either, nor do I plan to. Fail Safe, for the pure tension, and Threads, for its pull-no-punches style, were more than enough for me. Tho’ I did read the graphic novel version of When the Wind Blows many years ago.

I saw it the first time in showed on BBC, I was about 7.* The images from that movie are stuck in my head to this day. It had a profound effect on me, and how I view war.

  • I have no idea what my parents were thinking letting sensitive little me see it.

And don’t forget Damnation Alley. I though that George Peppard and Jan-Michael Vincent would never get past those giant mutant scorpions!

I remember Damnation Alley! That scene where the guy drops the mannequin to distract the scorpions, yeah…

Re. Watkins’ “The War Game” - even if the BBC has not released a video or whatever, a CND group or similar could get hold of a copy. I first saw it at a CND group showing, though the Beeb did eventually broadcast it MANY yars after making it.

Yeesh. Yeah, Threads made The Day After look like a walk in the park. I’ve been trying to track down a copy of Testament and The War Game for quite a while, and haven’t managed it yet.

(In fact, I only just found a videotape of Threads earlier this year at the library.)
I’ve developed a morbid fascination for the subject, somehow, despite all the nightmares it’s given me over the years. I think it’s the fact that, as others have mentioned, the idea that we very well could have blown the tits off the planet was no great stretch of the imagination.

I seem to recall reading about a flock of geese, or somesuch, setting off a DEWline radar alert, and pushing us up to Defcon 2 before the whole thing was sorted out, back in the mid eighties.
As bad as my nightmares were, back when, they absolutely pale in comparison to the (thankfully rare) night terrors that lurk in my brain nowadays.

Y’see, I was 10 in 1980, and grew up with this fear for myself and what might happen to me and my friends in the event of a large scale nuclear exchange. It was rough to deal with, but you either tuck it into the back of your head, and try not to dwell on it, or live in a bunker in the back yard.

But I’ve got a daughter now. When the odd “blinding flash of light” nightmare strikes nowadays…

I’d like to be able to scrub those dreams out of my brain with steel wool.


Yep Threads scared the crap outta me and left me with nightmares etc. The movie of When the Wind Blows is truly heartbreaking.

Funny story. My mother was a teenager during the Cuban missile crisis. because of the hightened tension in the world at that time the Irish broadcasting group (RTE) decided to do a test of the “3 minute warning”. They announced that the test would be over TV and radio. My mother was unaware of this test.

She walks into the house with 3-4 younger siblings in tow and misses the beginning of the test. She hears something along the lines of “The missiles are in the air. Please find cover immediately”. She gathers up the kids and drags them crying down down the road to a local pub which she knows has a cellar. She bursts into the pub, tears and snot streaming from all of them and starts screaming that the bombs are on the way and they’re all going to die. It took the guys in the pub a while to calm her down. The fact that they were laughing constantly didn’t help matters. She still gets stick for this all these years later.