Is This The Most Terrifying Movie Ever Made?

This mid-80s masterpiece still traumatizes every one of its viewers because its events are suddenly much more likely

Keith McNulty

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Karen Meagher as Ruth Beckett in Threads

As an eleven-year-old child, I have an enduring memory of a series of films broadcast by the BBC in the UK in August 1985 to commemorate the 40th anniversary of the atomic bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Part of this series was the first British TV screening of The War Game, an academy award winning pseudo-documentary of a nuclear attack on Britain which was made 20 years prior but which had been deemed too disturbing to broadcast by the then nanny-state. Also featured was the 1983 ABC movie The Day After, which has been credited by some sources as playing a role in changing Ronald Reagan’s policy on Soviet relations and arms control.

But both these movies pale in comparison to the one I really wanted to see: Threads. Not that I ever got to see it — despite my appeals, my parents had decided I was not ready for viewing this kind of material. In many ways I am thankful to them, because when I did finally see it almost 20 years later, I could not help but wonder what that could have done to an 11-year-old boy living at the height of the arms race who suffered from recurring nightmares of nuclear annihilation.

When Threads was finally rebroadcast by the BBC in October 2003, I finally sat through the most disturbing and frightening two hours of TV that I have ever and possibly will ever experience.

What was ‘Threads’?

Shot on a shoestring budget, so much so that Rice Krispies and tomato ketchup were used to create body burns, Threads was a joint production commissioned by the BBC and Nine Network Australia, and saw its first broadcast in the UK on 23rd September 1984. This was a time of heightened Cold War tension, just before the era of Gorbachev, where Reagan’s ‘Evil Empire’ speech the year before had put the USSR on high alert — in fact, a NATO military exercise in 1983 called Able Archer very nearly resulted in a full-scale Soviet retaliation.

The movie depicts the city of Sheffield, England, and follows the lives of two families brought together by an unplanned pregnancy. This initial storyline serves as a…

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Keith McNulty

Pure and Applied Mathematician. LinkedIn Top Voice in Tech. Expert and Author in Data Science and Statistics. Find me on LinkedIn, Twitter or keithmcnulty.org