The Atomic Café (1982) is an acclaimed documentary about the beginnings of the era of nuclear warfare. It was created entirely from a broad range of archival film from the 1940s, 1950s and early 1960s – including newsreel clips, television news footage, U.S. government-produced films (i.e. propaganda), advertisements, television and radio programs.
The filmmakers opted to not use narration and instead they deployed carefully constructed sequences of film clips to make their points. Though the topic of atomic holocaust is a grave matter, the film approaches it with black humor.
Much of the humor derives from the modern audience's reaction to the old training films, such as the ‘Duck and Cover’ film shown in schools.
The film was released in April 1982. Its release coincided with a peak in the international disarmament movement and the film received much wider distribution than was the norm for politically-oriented documentaries.
It became a classic and greatly influenced documentary filmmaking.