Christopher Nolan’s latest epic Oppenheimer has earned accolades as well as healthy revenues. The biopic of J Robert Oppenheimer’s stewardship of the world’s first nuclear weapon programme and the fallout of the bombs dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki in 1945 has rekindled interest in the physicist as well as other films and documentaries on the wider subject of nuclear warfare. This list includes Stanley Kubrick’s Dr Strangelove, which takes a decidedly different view on the business of bomb-making.

Kubrick’s comic masterpiece is available to rent on Prime Video. Filmed in lustrous black and white, Dr Strangelove is set during the Cold War between the United State and the former Soviet Union. But the film’s cross-eyed view of out-of-control militarism makes it suitable for any country, and every age.

The inimitable Peter Sellers, who never met an accent he couldn’t master, plays three characters, each distinct from the other. Sellers is the shambolic British air force officer Lionel Mandrake. Sellers is the dour-faced American President Merkin Muffley. And Sellers is Dr Strangelove, a former Nazi scientist who is advising the Americans of nuclear deterrence.

A misdirected command results in the possibility of an attack on the Soviet Union by American planes bearing hydrogen bombs. General Tom Ripper (Sterling Hayden) has become unhinged by all the talk of Russians bent on destroying Americans. In the beautifully designed War Room, Merkin Muffley tries to make sense of the situation along with his Chief of Staff Buck Turgidson (George C Scott). The wheelchair-bound Dr Strangelove is brought in to advise the gathering.

Dr Strangelove (1964).

The wackily named characters, comic-book plotting and increasingly deranged nature of the discussions are not as unbelievable as they seem, when we consider that nations have nearly gone to war or needlessly launched military campaigns over trifles. Dr Strangelove’s diamond-sharp satire is aimed most pointedly at the hubris of men who are totally incapable of handling the power to destroy millions of lives. Apart from sending up all-knowing experts who coolly roll out outlandish ideas, Dr Strangelove satirises every known villain in the James Bond spy movie universe.

Unlike Oppenheimer, there is no waffling here about what bombs do to those who make them and have the power to use them. Christopher Nolan is frequently described as one of Stanley Kubrick’s cinematic heirs. But unlike Kubrick, Nolan hasn’t displayed a sense of humour – yet.

In Oppenheimer, the nuclear weapons test is the film’s visual centrepiece. In Dr Strangelove, which was responding to Cold War-era paranoia, the nuclear warheads are called Hi there! and Dear John.

Also read:

Start the week with a film: ‘Following’ is where it all began for Christopher Nolan

Stranger than Strangelove: how the US planned for nuclear war in the 1950s

‘Now, I am become Death, the destroyer of worlds’: Truth and lies in Oppenheimer’s Gita moment