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Best Cold War Books

Five of the Best Books from and about the Cold War

the third manSimply the finest of the Cold War movies from the Cold War, The Third Man “is a British cinematic icon: from director Carol Reed, author Graham Greene and starring Joseph Cotten, Alida Valli and Orson Welles. Set in post-war Vienna, the film noir features some of cinema’s most memorable set pieces — the chase through the sewers, the enormous ferris wheel, the elm-lined cemetery…and Anton Karas’ zither score, a worldwide phenomenon in itself.”

Produced in the early days of the Cold War in a city divided between the West and Soviets, this Cold War movie established the noir atmosphere of those that followed and launched some enduring Cold War film themes, such as the innocence (or hubris) of American characters and the cynicism of the Europeans.

Dr StrangeloveThe best comedy among Cold War movies about the Cold War is Dr. Strangelove, Or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb. The film’s description — “Psychotic Air Force General unleashes ingenious foolproof and irrevocable scheme sending bombers to attack Russia. U.S. President works with Soviet premier in a desperate effort to save the world” – fails to do this brilliant satire justice. From one of the great film directors, Stanley Kubrick, and starring the hilarious Peter Sellers (the Pink Panther) in multiple roles…

The manchurian candidateThe Manchurian Candidate movie takes Cold War movie paranoia to a new level based on threats to America from outside and within (the book, seen below, tells the story with broader satire.) “Eerie, shocking, daring, thrilling and mesmerizing, The Manchurian Candidate will leave you breathless (People)! Featuring an all-star cast, including Angela Lansbury in an Oscar®-nominated performance, this chilling and controversial (Leonard Maltin) film may be the most sophisticated political satire ever made (Pauline Kael). When a platoon of Korean War G.I.s is captured, they somehow end up at a ladies garden club party. Or do they? Major Bennett Marco (Frank Sinatra) can’t remember. As he searches for the answer, he discovers threads of a diabolical plot orchestrated by the utterly ruthless Mrs. Iselin (Lansbury) and involving her war hero son (LaurenceHarvey), her senator husband (James Gregory) and a secret cabal of enemy leaders.”

Visit our sister site for revelations on the Cold War’s “real” Manchurian Candidates, and fascinating Cold War film noir movies about Korean War POWS.

the lives of others

Cold War Movies: Honorable Mention & Newer Films about the Cold War

Produced years after the Cold War, The Lives of Others paints a harrowing picture of the communist East German surveillance state during the Cold War. It puts critical Cold War issues in a human context and also provides an interesting perspective on today’s debate in America over the proper role of national security surveillance. Certainly current US policies are nothing like what the communists did. But at what point should we be worried they are going too far? This is a superb Cold War movie. “This Oscar(R)-winning thriller (Best Foreign Language Film, 2006) tells the erotic story of an East German couple whose every intimate moment is being monitored by the Secret Police hoping to learn information that could destroy their lives.”

the baaderThe Baader Meinhof Complex tells the dramatic story of this German terrorist group and probes the complex and often less-than-admirable motivations of its members. Filmed decades later, this Cold War movie focuses on the allure of communism, or at least an idealized version of it, to some young people in the West. Historical research has now revealed the substantial Soviet support of communist terrorists during the Cold War. This Cold War film works at times as a thriller and also provides insights on the attraction of violence for certain people. It’s definitely not for kids.

“Germany 1967: The children of the Nazi generation have grown up in the devastation their parents created. They vowed fascism would never rule again. In their fight for freedom they lost themselves in the cause and ignited a revolution around the world. Meet the original faces of terrorism, the Baader Meinhof Group, in this Academy Award- and Golden Globe-nominated film.”

the third manA funny period satire about the Cold War –suitable for mature tweens and above — is now available. One, Two, Three is an underappreciated comedy set in Cold War Berlin, starring James Cagney and directed by Billy Wilder (Some Like It Hot.) Netflix and FREE streaming for Amazon prime members; also available on DVD/DHS.