This month marks the 30th anniversary of the release of the iconic 1980’s film Top Gun – the highest grossing film of 1986, and a movie that seemingly defines the term “Cold War film” with it’s macho swagger and high tech military hardware.

Tom Cruise_Top Gun

With the popularity of current films and TV shows centered on the Cold War it’s not surprising that Top Gun has been getting so much attention in the mainstream media. Nevertheless, and though I very much enjoyed Top Gun there were many other 1980’s Cold War themed films that are often overlooked, and in many ways every bit as good. And if one were to put together a list of the best of these movies it would be incomplete without at least one of the following films:

War Games

War Games_NORAD War Room

A high school student who accidentally hacks into a NORAD supercomputer to play a simulated game of thermonuclear war instead nearly triggers World War III

The good: Original, fast paced, and entertaining – it was a superb movie. The film was so realistic that it even prompted President Reagan, to question US vulnerability to cyber attack and task the N.S.A. with studying the issue. The report that ended up coming out of this study was hardly reassuring.

The bad/ugly: The director messed up Galaga , interspersing sound effects with on-screen action that did not go together. In another scene F-15’s are mistaken for F-16’s – a total cold war no-no.



firefox_Clint Eastwood

Clint Eastwood plays a U.S. pilot who is covertly infiltrated into the Soviet Union to steal a game changing jet fighter invisible to radar, faster than anything else in the sky, and which can be partially controlled by neural link.

The good: Dark, gritty, and featuring an action packed ending. In many ways the film is Top Gun’s closest competitor, given the similarity in it’s focus on high tech aerial warfare.

The bad/ugly: The special effects, though enjoyable at the time, do not hold up nearly as well as Top Gun’s scenes featuring actual front line military aircraft. Though to Firefox’s credit it attempts to portray what a Soviet military aircraft would look like, whereas Top Gun relies on U.S. manufactured aggressor squadron aircraft as stand in’s for actual Soviet Mig’s.

The Living Daylights

Living Daylights Poster

James Bond is led to believe that General Pushkin, the head of the KGB, is systematically killing British and American agents. But in an ensuing adventure taking Bond across Europe, North Africa, and Afghanistan he finds out reality is not what it seems.

The good: Perhaps the most underrated James Bond movie ever, and perhaps the most overlooked Bond. The film’s action scenes hold up much better than those in Bond’s that came even a few years before, and Dalton provides a much needed corrective to Roger Moore’s camp.

The bad/ugly: Maryam d’Abo’s Kara Milovy was far too weak of a Bond girl for a movie with pretensions of returning Bond to his grittier roots following the Roger Moore era.

In addition to the three films listed above one could add in any number of films including:

Rambo, First Blood Part’s II and III (the stick fighting scene at the start of the third Rambo installment was a classic and perhaps the best part of the movie), Rocky IV, Spies Like Us, Red Heat, Red Dawn, Invasion U.S.A., and so on…into the realm of classic B-movie late night viewing fare.

Is there something I missed? Feel free to join the conversation via the comments section, Facebook, or Twitter.