Dr. Strangelove: or How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb Parent Guide
One of the most brilliant satires ever put to film.
Parent Movie Review
The 843rd Bomber wing, consisting of a few dozen B-52 bombers equipped with nuclear weapons, has just been activated. Brigadier General Jack Ripper (Sterling Hayden) is sending his planes to their prearranged targets inside of the Soviet Union – without provocation or orders from President Merkin Muffley (Peter Sellers). While Ripper’s aide, RAF exchange officer Lionel Mandrake (Peter Sellers) tries to convince him to recall the bombers, the President and his defense staff, including General Buck Turgidson (George C. Scott) scramble to find a way to prevent the bombers from reaching Russian airspace.
When the President contacts Soviet Premier Dmitry Kissoff, he learns that the situation is even more urgent than they would have believed. The USSR has developed a Doomsday device, which will cause enough nuclear detonations to make the entire planet completely uninhabitable for centuries if any nuclear strikes occur on Russian territory, and it cannot be disabled. With the help of Russian Ambassador Alexei de Sadeski (Peter Bull) and the mysterious former Nazi Dr. Strangelove (Peter Sellers), it is a race against time to save the world. Meanwhile, ignorant of the situation on the ground, Major “King” Kong (Slim Pickens) and his B-52 crew prepare their nuclear arsenal, flying towards complete destruction…
Dr. Strangelove is an incomparable giant in Cold War films. With this biting satire masquerading as a serious war film, director Stanley Kubrick relentlessly lampoons the insanity of the nuclear age, pointing towards the madness of politicians, generals, and their unfortunate underlings as the world marches towards an irradiated apocalypse. The film is as tragically relevant today as it was on release in 1964, despite the nominal end of the Cold War and the radical changes in the geopolitical landscape in the years since.
Thankfully, the film is hysterically funny, which takes some of the anxiety out of the subject matter. Peter Sellers is brilliant in each of his three roles, from the avuncular and bumbling Lionel Mandrake to the overwhelmed President Muffley to the bizarre titular Doctor. The real fun is with George C. Scott who, if James Earl Jones is to be believed, never intended the film to be a comedy. As the story goes, Kubrick tricked Scott into doing comedic “practice” takes, which he fully intended to use in the film, reassuring Scott that the film would be far more serious. How this worked I’ll never know, but the result is incredible.
The film is, miraculously, broadly suitable for family audiences, apart from a few scenes of distant war violence and some remarkably vague sexual references. I saw the film first when I was maybe 9 or 10, and while I found Peter Sellers grotesquely funny, I couldn’t really puzzle out the Cold War intricacies – jokes about a “mineshaft gap” don’t really make sense when you never heard about the missile gap. I’d recommend waiting until your kids are a little more familiar with this part of history before introducing them to the all too recognizable antics of this cast of fiends, maniacs, and goons. Context is key to satire, and without it, you’re just watching a black and white war movie.Directed by Stanley Kubrick. Starring Peter Sellers, George C Scott, Sterling Hayden. Running time: 95 minutes. Theatrical release January 29, 1964. Updated July 30, 2022
Watch the trailer for Dr. Strangelove: or How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb
Dr. Strangelove: or How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb
Rating & Content Info
Why is Dr. Strangelove: or How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb rated PG? Dr. Strangelove: or How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb is rated PG by the MPAA
Violence: Individuals are briefly seen struggling with one another. Several people are killed in combat. A man commits suicide off-screen. Nuclear explosions are seen.
Sexual Content: There are several instances of sexually suggestive dialogue with no on-screen activity. A man is shown reading Playboy magazine, and a model is seen in a suggestive pose with no graphic detail. A scantily dressed woman is seen in a man’s room.
Profanity: There are infrequent uses of terms of deity.
Alcohol / Drug Use: Adult characters are briefly seen drinking and frequently seen smoking tobacco.
Page last updated July 30, 2022
Dr. Strangelove: or How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb Parents' Guide
What is Mutually Assured Destruction? Who pioneered that theory? What were the consequences of that line of thinking? What other theories determined the course of the Cold War?
Dr. Strangelove is a former Nazi who was picked up by the US government after the war. Which real-life Nazi officials were co-opted by the United States? What was Operation Paperclip? What are the ethical issues around using Nazi research and personnel?
Brig. Gen. Jack Ripper is paranoid about the fluoridation of water. What is water fluoridation used for? Are there any documented ill effects? How has the public debate around fluoridation imitated Ripper’s paranoia? What other public health efforts have been hampered by conspiratorial thinking?
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Fans of director Stanley Kubrick should enjoy 2001: A Space Odyssey, The Shining, Full Metal Jacket, or Paths of Glory. Audiences looking for that Cold War thrill should try films like Thirteen Days, Bridge of Spies, War Games, The Hunt for Red October, The Courier, and Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country, as well as the documentary Meeting Gorbachev.