Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb (1964)

Peter Sellers plays three separate roles in Stanley Kubrick’s mordant Cold War comedy in which insanity and political manoeuvrings lead to nuclear meltdown.

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Alternative titles

  • Dr. Strangelove Alternative
  • How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb Alternative


“The theme that emerges from Dr. Strangelove is the plight of fallible man putting himself at the mercy of his ‘infallible’ machines and thus bringing about his own destruction.”
Gene D. Phillips, International Dictionary of Films and Filmmakers, 1990

Stanley Kubrick originally intended a straight adaptation of Peter George’s novel Red Alert, a chilling thriller about a paranoid American general initiating a nuclear bombing mission over the USSR. But he saw the absurdity behind the retaliatory strategy of Mutually Assured Destruction (MAD) and decided to film it as a comedy.

In an acting tour de force, Sellers plays the British officer attempting to apprehend the psychotic general (Sterling Hayden), the US President trying to smooth things over with his Soviet opposite opposite number, and the eccentric Dr Strangelove, a German émigré scientist with an autonomous Nazi arm and wild ideas about the post-apocalyptic world.

Much of the action of Kubrick’s jet-black satirical masterpiece occurs within the cavernous War Room at the Pentagon, a space indelibly imagined by production designer Ken Adam.

Sidney Lumet’s Fail-Safe, made the same year, is a more sombre treatment of a similar story, with Henry Fonda playing the president.

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