Fallout 4 launched earlier this week, sending endless hordes of gamers into underground bunkers of blissful immersion. Many will emerge, blinking, into the sunlight, wondering how they could have possibly spent upwards of 100 hours exploring the vast wasteland. Others may never see the sun again, doomed/blessed to become a denizen of the dystopian, irradiated future forever.
If you haven’t heard of Fallout, chances are you might have been locked up in a bunker of your own for the past few years. This newest installment of the series finds you in the year 2077, although not the 2077 we’ll see in 62 years. Instead, this future looks like the 1950s by way of every science fiction magazine cover from that era.
Soon after the game begins, you’re handed a jumpsuit tucked away safe and sound inside Vault 111. Which becomes your home for 200 years while you are blissfully unaware as a meat popsicle. When you wake up, the place is deserted and everything above has turned into a desolate, radioactive world. That’s life.
But this isn’t meant to be a game review. In short: Fallout 4 is wonderful and amazing and you should go out and buy it. There’s so much to explore and see, like Boston after it sizzled. Instead this list is meant to accompany the game like a paired cocktail for the experience. So when you hit the pause button and take a break from dystopia, you can expand the experience with these four films.
Blast from the Past (1999)
This movie truly is a blast from the past: and from an era when it seemed like Brendan Fraser was starring in just about everything. He must have enjoyed the oddball man out of time storyline of 1992’s Encino Man, because there’s a lot of similar stuff happening in this movie.
But what the movie does capture perfectly is the 60s Cold War paranoia that nuclear bombs could fall at any minute. It was a time when everyone was trained to duck and cover, and people could and did plunk down fallout shelters right into their own backyards.
That’s where Blast from the Past comes in. Christopher Walken and Sissy Spacek play a very untypical 60s couple, with Walken being a genius scientist afraid of the red scare and Spacek his slightly kooky, pregnant housewife. Unbeknownst to friends and neighbors, Walken has been building an enormous bomb shelter under the house, and during the Cuban missile crisis they flee underground.
When a jet fighter accidentally crashes on top of their home, Walken is convinced that it was a nuclear bomb, and the shelter is sealed for 35 years to protect the inhabitants from the radiation. That’s where they give birth to a baby boy, and raise him in an bizarrely idyllic environment, raising him with the hunky-dory, okey-dokey ideals of the 1950s.
The the timer goes ding on the vault door three decades later, a golly, gosh, gee-whiz Brendan Fraser emerges in search of a good, healthy woman and to bring back supplies for the shelter. He meets streetwise and sassy Alicia Silverstone, and you can probably figure out what happens next.
It’s a fun little movie that actually does a great job illustrating what a vault-dweller in Fallout probably feels like when they roll back the door onto the charred wasteland. And to help prepare you for the horror you’ll face, Blast from the Past ends with a Randy Newman song. shudder
Book of Eli (2010)
At its heart, Fallout 4 is a game about exploring the wasteland in search of better loot, which should in turn give you a better chance at survival. There’s another overarching storyline that I won’t spoil here, but that’s despite that you’ll quickly get addicted to shootin’ and lootin’. One reason you’ll need so much loot is that there’s a new crafting mechanic this time around that allows you to build a shelter of your own and fortify it so you can hunker down and live.
Looting things in games in both a boon and a curse. It’s a boon because you never know what you’re going to find. Sometimes you’ll unexpectedly find something entirely awesome. Anyone who has played Diablo or Borderlands can tell you that. But you will also find a lot of completely worthless crap. But because of the “Hmm, I might need this later” attitude that most gamers develop, that means you’re going to be packmuling a lot of useless junk around. Which is why I should have named my vault-dweller Fred Sanford.
Enter The Book of Eli, where Denzel Washington’s titular character wanders the wasteland in search of… loot. Like your hero in Fallout 4, he does have a goal he’s trying to achieve. But in the meantime it’s a whole lot of “Hey, what’s in this abandoned house?”, “Is this corpse carrying anything useful?” and “Hmm, this grizzled old shopkeeper might sell something I need.” Thankfully your in-game Pip-Boy electronic gadget never runs out of juice and can even tune in radio stations with snappy tunes, unlike Eli’s iPod.
Besides the love of loot, there are a lot of other similarities between Fallout 4 and The Book of Eli. You get ambushed while wandering. You find towns run by maniacal crazy people. Ammo is extremely scarce, as is food and water. And a lot of things want to kill you. But Eli has a few things that Fallout doesn’t: Denzel Washington, Gary Oldman, and a truly fantastic score by Atticus Ross. You’ll find that all of these things blend perfectly into a cinematic accompaniment to your gaming experience.
Despite the fact that nuclear bombs have destroyed civilization as we know it, much of the peppy, vim and vigor outlook of the pre-irradiated world of Fallout survives throughout the game in the form of advertisements, comic books, and the can-do perspective of your Mr. Handy-brand robot Codsworth who has somehow survived 200 years of… not much.
It’s the same sort of chipper temperament that the eponymous little robot Wall-E brings to the devoid of human existence Earth in Disney/Pixar’s wonderful tale of dystopian robo-love. Despite the fact that he’s one of last remaining sentient things on the planet, besides his pet cockroach, he remains ever true to his programming, continuing to collect, compact, and stack trash into skyscraper-sized piles.
But over the years, Wall-E ended up developing a few quirks. He has outfitted his little shelter with tons of collectibles and turned himself into a true hoarder. He’s even scavenged other units for parts so he can self-service. Early on in Fallout 4, one of the quests will give you access to a suit of Power Armor. Just like little Wall-E, you’ll need to keep that armor serviced and repaired in order to keep going.
But while you’ve scavenging the badlands, you’ll find yourself falling into the same sort of reverie that overcame Wall-E. You’ll discover the innate beauty that exists, even in devastation. You’ll stumble across a skeleton holding a pistol, and wonder how it got there. Just before looting it, of course. You’ll survey vast abandoned cities that somehow look appealing before shouldering your burden and pressing on with your “job.”
If you need to bolster your wanderings through someone you can identify with, Wall-E can empathically empower your Fallout game while you watch.
Dr. Strangelove or How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb (1964)
Many people point to Stanley Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey as their favorite film from his portfolio. But for many people (myself included) it’s Dr. Strangelove, which the word “zany” adheres to perfectly. Besides having one of the best movie trailers ever, there is just so much to love in this movie. First of which is Peter Sellers in three different roles.
In fact he was supposed to play four, including Air Force Major T.J. “King” Kong, but he was worried he wouldn’t get the Texas accent right. Apparently he trained with screenwriter Terry Southern and began shooting scenes as Kong, but an injury kept him from sitting in the cramped cockpit set, and the role went to Slim Pickens. Today it’s impossible to imagine anyone except Pickens riding that bomb, while Sellers measly three(!) other roles are uncannily good.
Where Fallout focuses on the experiences of one vault-dwelling individual, Dr. Strangelove takes you behind closed doors and puts you into the war room (what an awesome set) where inane decisions are made by a handful of people. Over the top characters like Sterling Hayden’s General Jack D. Ripper, George C. Scott’s General Buck Turgidson and Keenan Wynn’s Colonel Bat Guano all feel like characters that could easily cross over into the world of Fallout. Meaning they’re all entirely batshit crazy.
But don’t worry, you will run into completely deranged nutjobs in Fallout as well. But you aren’t privy to the machinations going on deep in the industrial-military complex in the game, which is why Dr. Strangelove is a perfect complement. You can imagine crazies like this dooming us all through their inept action and braggadocio, probably in a war room that looks a lot like the one in this movie.
Now, I’m roughly 12 hours into Fallout 4 right now, so there’s no telling what waits around the corner. I’m hoping that I do run into someone straight out of Kubrick’s masterpiece, because they will seem entirely at home in this game. It’s a fitting homage of sorts to each and every one of the films in this list, along with many others. That even includes the ever-tempting, low-hanging fruit of Mad Max: Fury Road. But we thought it would be fun to highlight an esoteric group of movies that accentuate the Fallout 4 experience, and keep the spirit alive.
At least until the next Super Mutant kills you.