The Corner

Film & TV

On Cold War Movies

Sean Connery in Hunt for Red October (Paramount Pictures)

So David French launched a fun debate on Twitter by asking what the best Cold War movie was:

I like Hunt for Red October. I even put it sixth on my list (though I could see moving it down a bit further). Here was my list, in order:

The problems with all such lists are obvious. Personal tastes vary and all that (or as Bill Buckley would say, “De gustibus non est disputandum.”). But there are other considerations. As one fellow pointed out on Twitter, is the issue whether it’s the best movie about the Cold War or the best war movie set during the Cold War?

Then there’s the question of what the film actually says about the Cold War. One of the reasons I put Dr. Strangelove third is that it is a biting satire about anti-Communism. For many people — overrepresented in Hollywood, I think it’s fair to say — the Cold War was a fundamentally silly struggle, made absurd (in the philosophical or ethical sense) by the threat of nuclear war. I don’t see it that way. Soviet Communism was profoundly evil and presented a dire threat to American national security and to the cause of freedom everywhere. The Lives of Others — which Bill Buckley said was the best movie he ever saw and ranked by many here as the best conservative film ever made — was profound commentary on the evil of Communism.

Of course, one can object that it should therefore be the best anti-Communist movie, not the best Cold War movie per se. Reasonable people can disagree about that. But I stand by my decision.

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Jonah Goldberg, a senior editor of National Review and the author of Suicide of the West, holds the Asness Chair in Applied Liberty at the American Enterprise Institute.

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