The Atomic Cafe (1982)



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Movie Info

This film recounts a defining period of 20th century history and serves as a chilling and often hilarious reminder of cold-war era paranoia in the United States--artfully presented through a collage of newsreel footage, government archives, military training films, and fifties music.

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Critic Reviews for The Atomic Cafe

All Critics (25) | Top Critics (4)

Viewers old enough to remember "duck and cover" drills and homemade fallout shelters (and suits!) will get a special charge out of "Atomic's" many archival gems.

Aug 10, 2018 | Full Review…

The Atomic Café at times feels like an essay film, but its points come across cumulatively, subtly.

Jul 31, 2018 | Full Review…

The film fails to offer even the barest social context for its material.

Feb 9, 2006 | Full Review…
Time Out
Top Critic

Deserves national attention.

Aug 30, 2004

While some of the specific elements of The Atomic Cafe were already passe at the time of the film's release in 1982, the prevailing spirit of Loader and the Raffertys' documentary remains just as potent.

Dec 20, 2018 | Rating: 8/10 | Full Review…

The Atomic Cafe provokes a surprising number of laughs, from a soundtrack of awe-inspiringly tasteless '50s pop songs to its extracts of horribly acted army films warning of Commies on the home front.

Oct 10, 2018 | Full Review…

Audience Reviews for The Atomic Cafe


This is easily the most bizarre documentary I've ever seen. Most documentaries use interviews, have a host who guides people through the film (example, Morgan Spurlock in "Super-Size Me"), and have some form a commentary with a narrator. "The Atomic Cafe" is very different. This film is made up entirely of newsreels and propaganda films to tell the story of the world after the atomic bomb and the paranoia of the Cold War. The only alterations the film makers have made is some editing and subtitles so we know who the people are. That's it. The rest is up to the viewer to gather for themselves. I know a lot about this period in history and some of the footage in this is almost as funny as it is disturbing. For example, a happy kids film with a cartoon turtle mascot who cheerfully reminds us "When you see the flash, remember, duck and cover, duck and cover, duck and cover!" If you want to kill an hour and a half, give this a shot. It can get a bit slow at times, but its definitely worth watching.

Jacob Ethington
Jacob Ethington

Super Reviewer

great document of the paranoia of the nuclear age with some of the blackest humor possible. made entirely from archival footage of atomic blasts, scary news reports and pretty hilarious civil defense propaganda full of misinformation. there are some upsetting scenes of blast victims as well. this would make a great double bill with strangelove

Stella Dallas
Stella Dallas

Super Reviewer

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