Atomic Bomb Predicted Before It's Time

Written literature that predated the atomic bomb made references to man creating a weapon that could set the sky on fire.

H.G. Wells book The Time Machine written in 1895 talked about the surface of the Earth being burned by man made fire. He later wrote The World Set Free in 1914 and it clearly describes the atomic bomb.

When Did A Nuclear Bomb First Appear?

The Trinity nuclear test of the first atomic bomb was conducted on July 16, 1945. What is the date of the film that first featured a destructive weapon of on this kind of scale, and did that film predate the Trinity test?

I'm looking for the answer with the earliest film showing or discussing a bomb that can destroy a city.

Big Bang

  • This is a potential list question, unless it turns out there is none or only one.
    – Oliver_C
    Jan 26, 2013 at 10:47
  • 6
    You could turn it into a First Appearance question. An answer to that question will automatically give you an answer to this one.
    – Oliver_C
    Jan 26, 2013 at 10:52
  • The idea of some apocalyptic weapon was certainly foreshadowed in literature before the bomb. H G Wells wrote more than one story where a war destroyed civilisation. The Time Machine, The Shape of Things To Come, for example. If these were made before 1945 as movies they might count. (Things To Come was a movie in 1936 but it isn't clear how explicit its portrayal of the weapons used in the war were).
    – matt_black
    Feb 24, 2017 at 10:02

4 Answers 4


After some research, the earliest movie I could find, which features a nuclear holocaust (and the survivors) is a 1951 movie, Five, which means that it did not predate Trinity nuclear tests

I find it very difficult to cross-validate this, though I referred to List of Nuclear Holocaust Fiction on Wiki, to start with.

The movie entry for articles on this movie, on TCM, speaks about this movie, as being the first to depict nuclear holocaust...

It is remembered today as the first film to portray life after a nuclear holocaust; later this theme was approached by major studios in big-budget films such as The World, the Flesh and the Devil and On the Beach (both 1959).


The episode Going Home from the Private Snafu series, completed by mid 1944, features a weapon which obliterated a Japanese island.

The movie was not released. The actual rationale is not known for sure, but the similarity between the fictional weapon and nuclear weapons is listed as a possible reason that the movie wasn't released, and a postscript added to the movie gives that as the reason.

Although made in May, this never saw release. It was shelved because of the portrayal of a super-bomb in it. It was thought to be too close a hint at the top secret atom bomb we were developing at the time.


The movie The Day the Earth Stood Still(1951) discusses atomic bombs.

In the movie, the alien Klaatu comes to earth on a goodwill mission. He has concerns that Earth might be destroyed by other alien civilizations, concerned for their own safety, in the wake of mankind inventing Nuclear Power.

  • 2
    Release date of five is April 25, 1951 which is earlier then release date of The Day the Earth Stood which is Still September 28, 1951
    – Ankit Sharma
    Jan 31, 2013 at 10:22
  • 3
    Somebody has an eye for details.... [chuckles]. Jokes apart, I would keep my answer here in spite of the 5 month gap between the two as I believe it somehow adds to the knowledge base.
    – Sayan
    Jan 31, 2013 at 10:26
  • Agreed...!!!!!!
    – Ankit Sharma
    Jan 31, 2013 at 10:28

Destination Moon (1950) was the second serious film about a scientifically plausible trip to the moon and helped start the 1950s science fiction movie trend. A low budget film Rocketship X-M was rushed into production and depicted a moon flight that missed and ended up on Mars (oops!).

On Mars they find ruins of an advanced society that are highly radioactive, suggesting that a long ago atomic war destroyed Martian civilization.

Rocketship X-M was released on 26 May 1950.


This precedes both Five and The Day the Earth Stood Still.

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