Follow TV Tropes


Film / Dr. Strangelove
aka: Doctor Strangelove

Go To
Theatrical poster by Tomi Ungerer.

"Gentlemen, you can't fight in here! This is the War Room!"
President Merkin Muffley

Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb is a 1964 Black Comedy film directed by Stanley Kubrick. The plot is largely taken from the 1958 novel Red Alert by Peter George, who co-wrote the film's screenplay with Kubrick and Terry Southern. (The same plot, played straight, is used in Fail Safe, which coincidentally enough was another Columbia Pictures release from the same year.)

One day during the Cold War, U.S. Air Force Brigadier General Jack D. Ripper (Sterling Hayden) goes a little funny in the head and does a silly thing: he orders all the B-52 bombers under his command to carry out a surprise nuclear first strike against the Soviet Union, then puts his entire air base into lockdown, ordering all outside communications cut; all radios confiscated (so that Communist infiltrators can't receive outside commands); and all troops to immediately fire upon anyone who tries to enter the base, even if they appear to be fellow Americans (because they will surely be those wily Communists in disguise). Ripper's aide, British Group Captain Lionel Mandrake (Peter Sellers), tries to talk sense into him but soon realizes that the general has gone right out of his pointy little head, believing that only he stands in the way of a Communist plot to contaminate Americans' "precious bodily fluids" via fluoridated water.

At the Pentagon, U.S. President Merkin Muffley (also Peter Sellers) holds an emergency meeting in the War Room with his top advisors. While the Joint Chiefs of Staff chairman, General Buck Turgidson (George C. Scott), views the crisis as an opportunity to hit the Russkies where they live once and for all, the President's wheelchair-bound, ex-Nazi science advisor, Dr. Strangelove (Peter Sellers again), and the Soviet ambassador (Peter Bull) both warn Muffley that any attack on the USSR will trigger the Doomsday Machine: a computer programmed to detonate buried cobalt bombs that will kill nearly all life on Earth's surface with their radiation over the course of months if the Soviet Union is attacked (or if any attempt is made to disable the Doomsday Machine). So the President gets on the hotline and desperately attempts to convince the drunken Soviet premier that the imminent attack is merely a silly mistake while the military tries to call the bombers back.

The film was supposed to be released in November of 1963, but was held back until January of 1964 to distance it from the JFK assassination. Also in the cast are Slim Pickens as Major T. J. "King" Kong, who commands one of the bomber crews; Keenan Wynn as Colonel Bat Guano, who heads the Army unit ordered by Muffley to attack Ripper's base; and James Earl Jones (making his screen debut) as Lieutenant Lothar Zogg, the bombardier for Kong's crew.

In 2023 it was announced that this film would be adapted into stage for London West End by Armando Iannucci, set to open in Autumn 2024 with Steve Coogan as lead, coinciding with the 60th anniversary of the film.

Not to be confused with Doctor Strange, or with '60s MLB player Dick "Dr. Strangeglove" Stuart.note 

Mein Führer! I can trope!

    open/close all folders 


  • 555: Burpleson 3-9180 is the number of the booth phone from which Group Captain Mandrake is calling the President to try and stop the bombers from attacking Russia.
  • Accidental Pervert: Col. "Bat" Guano, heading an Army division that fought its way into an Air Force base, takes British military attaché Group Captain Mandrake to be "some kind of deviated prevert" who killed the commanding general for "finding out about his preversion and organizing a mutiny of preverts" — most likely on the evidence of his odd accent and uniform.
  • Action Bomb: Major T.J. "King" Kong rides the nuke down to its destination below, thereby causing the Soviets' doomsday device to detonate and end the world.
  • Adaptation Title Change: Dr. Strangelove was based on the novel Red Alert.
  • Appeal to Force: The point of the Doomsday Machine. Not that it does the Soviets any good in the long run.
  • Apocalypse How: Planetary and likely Total Extinction: "Obviously, you've never heard of Cobalt-Thorium G. When they are exploded, they'll create a doomsday shroud, that would circle the earth for ninety-three years!"
  • Apocalypse Wow: The Doomsday Device, while "We'll Meet Again" plays.
  • Apocalyptic Montage: The film ends with a montage of nuclear explosions, famously set to Vera Lynn's "We'll Meet Again."
  • Armed Farces: The militaries of the world (specifically that of the US and Russia, but it's meant to target militaries and politicians in general) are satirized throughout the movie.
  • The Artifact: A pastry table seen in one scene refers to the original ending, a colossal pie fight, which was deleted from the film's final cut for being too farcical. The fact that a joke was made about the President being "struck down in his prime" by one of the pies didn't help its cause since the JFK assassination had just taken placenote .
  • Artistic License – Gun Safety: General Ripper, who really ought to know better, fires his Browning M1919 .30 caliber machine gun from the hip while holding it by the barrel. In Real Life, he would be unlikely to hit anything at medium-to-long range and would probably burn his hand off in the process.
  • Artistic License – Physics: Major Kong reading the profile for Wing Attack Plan R states that a 30 megaton nuclear device will be used to hit their primary target, while a 20 megaton target can be used to destroy a secondary target. The biggest nuclear weapon in the US arsenal at anytime in history had a yield of 25 Megatons.
  • "Ass" in Ambassador: After asking for a Cuban cigar and being offered one from Jamaica, the Russian ambassador snaps, "No, I do not support the work of imperialist stooges." He's countered, "Oh, only Commie stooges, huh?"
  • Attack Pattern Alpha: Delivered via Sealed Orders — Wing Attack Plan R, which is removed from a whole safe full of attack plans. This was Truth in Television.
  • Baby Factory: Dr. Strangelove's nuclear war survival plan calls for there to be a group of survivors, including "our top government and military men." To better facilitate this trope, there would be "a ratio of, say, ten females to each male" and "the women will have to be selected for their sexual characteristics, which will have to be of a highly stimulating nature." Naturally, monogamy will be "regrettably" abandoned, it being "a sacrifice required for the future of the human race."
  • Bait-and-Switch Comment: General Ripper goes on a Motive Rant explaining the need to stand against the rampant infiltration of Russian communists into America. An audience familiar with the intrigue of the Cold War immediately assumes he's talking about attempts by Russian spies to infiltrate and control the U.S. government, but his last two words reveal he's really worried about Russians controlling his bodily fluids.
  • Beneath the Earth: The future of mankind After the End is to dwell in underground facilities and fallout shelters for almost a century — quickly leading to an Adam and Eve Plot and oaths of eternal vigilance by those who think that "we must not be allowed a mine-shaft gap."
  • Beneath the Mask: General Ripper is the picture of sanity, even while ordering his men to carry out a massive nuclear attack under false pretenses. There is not a single moment where he lets the mask slip, until he finally decides to let Mandrake in on the "secret" of the communist plot he thinks he's uncovered. After that, combined with the approach of outside troops, he (mentally) goes down the drain very rapidly.
  • Better to Die than Be Killed: General Ripper does this, which is all the more hilariously ironic given that the threat is all in his own demented mind.
  • BFG: General Ripper keeps an M1919A4 machine gun in his golf bag!
  • Big Bad: General Jack D. Ripper starts the entire affair by ordering the strike on Russia.
  • The Big Board: Trope Namer. A gigantic, electronic strategic map of the USSR.
  • Bilingual Bonus: Dr. Strangelove's name used to be Merkwürdigliebe before he moved to the US and had it changed. Merkwürdigliebe translates as "strange love."
  • Black Comedy: The film ridicules the military and political figures who are squabbling in the face of a crisis their policies created, even as it shows the grim consequences their foolishness will have for the entire human race.
  • Blipvert: The original trailer.
  • Bombers on the Screen: The primary purpose of The Big Board is to track the B-52 bombers bound for targets in the Soviet Union.
  • The Brigadier: Group Captain Mandrake.
  • Bunny-Ears Lawyer: Dr. Strangelove is a brilliant former Nazi with a severe case of alien hand syndrome: his right hand gives the Hitler salute without his control, takes extreme effort to force back into his lap, and occasionally attempts to strangle him, among other things. The War Room leaders are so dependent on his expertise that they are willing to overlook his bizarre behavior.
  • Casual Danger Dialog: Imagine, if you will, the American president speaking over the telephone to the Soviet premier in an extremely timid, friendly voice:
    President Merkin Muffley: Now then, Dmitri, you know how we've always talked about the possibility of something going wrong with the Bomb... The Bomb, Dmitri... The hydrogen bomb! ... Well now, what happened is, um... one of our base commanders, he had a sort of... well, he went a little funny in the head. You know, just a little... funny. And, uh... he went and did a silly thing... Well, I'll tell you what he did: he ordered his planes... to attack your country. And- well, let me finish, Dmitri... Let me finish, Dmitri... Well, listen, how do you think I feel about it? Can you imagine how I feel about it, Dmitri? Why do you think I'm calling you? Just to say hello? ... Of course I like to speak to you! Of course I like to say hello! Not now, but any time, Dmitri! I'm just calling up to tell you something terrible has happened... It's a friendly call. Of course it's a friendly call! Listen, if it wasn't friendly, you probably wouldn't have even got it.
  • Central Theme: "War is the continuation of sex by other means."
  • Characterization Marches On: Muffley retains some minor but inconsistent characterization. Early on, Peter Sellers faked cold symptoms to play up the character's apparent weakness in a comic fashion. Kubrick ultimately found it inappropriate and aimed for a more straight performance. However, the President's cold from early takes is still evident but intermittent in several scenes.
  • Chekhov's Gun:
    • General Ripper's pistol, which he dramatically unveils to threaten Captain Mandrake. He leaves the Browning Machine Gun with Mandrake as he steps into the bathroom, but not before handing him his coat and giving the camera a glimpse of the pistol stuffed into his pants...
    • The CRM-114 alphabetic code, OPE, is shown to the audience as the crew of the Leper Colony prepares for Plan R. Only later is it revealed that OPE was selected because of Ripper's infatuation with "Purity of Essence" and "Peace on Earth."
    • Miss Scott, Turgidson's secretary, is seen briefly as the centerfold model in the Playboy magazine which Kong is reading at the start of the film.
  • Chewing the Scenery: Most of...well, Strangelove himself's lines.
    • Animals...vill be brred...and SLAUGHTERED... HAAAAAA! (wrestles with own arm) MEIN FUHRER! I CAN WALK!!!
    • Stanley Kubrick actually tricked Scott into doing this (as General Buck Turgidson). For each scene he told Scott to go completely over the top in the first few takes, before playing it straight in the later ones, promising to not use the earlier, wilder ones. (He lied.) Kubrick wanted Turgidson to be a completely silly, ridiculous character, and Scott wasn't comfortable playing the role that way, taking himself a little too seriously and putting his pride over the needs of the film and the wishes of its director. ...Kubrick gets what Kubrick wants.
  • Chiaroscuro: The War Room is lit this way.
  • Chromosome Casting: The film has precisely one female in the movie, a secretary, who is also a Playboy centerfold model.
  • Chummy Commies: Despite activating the Doomsday Machine, the Soviets did this only because the original General Ripper ordered a nuclear attack, and the "trigger" for the machine was automated. Also, both national leaders do their best to avoid a nuclear war.
  • Cigar Chomper: Ripper.
  • Code Name: MGD135 is the code the wing receives on the CRM 114 to initiate the attack on Russian targets (Wing Attack Plan R).
  • Colonel Badass: Thoroughly averted: Group Captain (RAF for Colonel) Mandrake is a bit of a wimp and fails to properly stand up for himself when around other domineering American officers, while US Army Colonel "Bat" Guano does not even understand his own mission, and is instead obsessed with eliminating "preverts."
  • Come Back to Bed, Honey: General Turgidson is called to the War Room, leaving his girlfriend protesting. In keeping with the overall theme of the movie he tells her, "You just start your countdown, and ol' Bucky'll be back before you can say 'BLAST OFF!'"
  • Comically Missing the Point: The Movie.
    • After being informed of the badness of the Doomsday Machine, a world-ending device, Turgidson's first reaction is, "Gee, I wish we had one of them doomsday machines."
    • Also played with by one of the moments shortly afterward, as Turgidson gleefully details the last bomber's chances...then realizes they're screwed if the bomber succeeds.
    • Another Turgidson one comes when Plan R is in danger of causing the end of the world, and he says that the reliability of it (and the psychological screening process given to those who can enable the plan, whose whole purpose is to prevent this situation from ever happening in the first place), shouldn't be written off after a "single slip-up."
    • DeSadesky is going to be trapped with the US officials or left to die in the upcoming radioactive wasteland. He still sneaks photographs of the Big Board after this is a foregone conclusion, even though the photos would be obsolete and he'd die long before he could deliver them anyway — symbolic of the pointlessness of the war, and its probable continuation.
  • The Comically Serious: Pretty much everyone, but General Ripper and Col. "Bat" Guano take the cake.
    • Deconstructed by Roger Ebert in his essay on the film:
      Dr. Strangelove's humor is generated by a basic comic principle: People trying to be funny are never as funny as people trying to be serious and failing. The laughs have to seem forced on unwilling characters by the logic of events. A man wearing a funny hat is not funny. But a man who doesn't know he's wearing a funny hat... ah, now you've got something. The characters in "Dr. Strangelove'' do not know their hats are funny.
  • Compensating for Something: The entire message in one sentence: "Men make war to prove they have big dicks, and it'll destroy the world now that there are nuclear weapons." In particular, General Ripper launches World War III specifically to compensate for his own sexual impotence, which he has blamed on the Soviets through Insane Troll Logic.
  • Crazy-Prepared:
    • Ambassador DeSadesky accuses General Turgidson of trying to plant a Spy Cam on him and is later shown with another spy camera. This means that either Turgidson always carries a spy camera in case of such an eventuality, or the Russian ambassador carried two spy cameras.
    • The survival kit carried by the crew of The Leper Colony. There's a season's worth of MacGyver material in there (not to mention that you could have a pretty good weekend in Dallas Vegas with all that stuff).
    • The collection of Attack Plans kept in a safe aboard each B-52 provides instruction for every possible scenario that could be played out in a nuclear exchange. Truth in Television.
    • General Ripper, (emphasis on crazy) commander of an Air Force base, casually carries a machine gun in his golf bag, handy for additional holes.
    • In his binder marked, "Targets in Megadeath," General Turgidson had a study ready for "this eventuality."
  • The Cuckoolander Was Right:
    • General Turgidson comes off like an unhinged, paranoid goofball, but darned if he isn't right about the Russian ambassador spying in the War Room.
    • Doctor Strangelove is right about why building a doomsday machine as a defensive measure and not telling anybody about it is a terribly bad idea.
  • Curb-Stomp Battle: The base's defences are overwhelmed by an elite airborne division.
  • Cut Himself Shaving: Guano ironically lampshades it against Mandrake when he is informed of Ripper's death.
  • Dancin' in the Ruins: While he's relatively restrained about it, Dr. Strangelove seems quite pleased to have the opportunity to put his survival plans into action. General Turgidson also sees the bright side of having a harem of women with whom to start repopulating the world.
  • Deadpan Snarker: Mandrake, as the Only Sane Man, gets designated snarker status for this film. Strangelove himself has his moments as well.
  • Death by Adaptation: Life on Earth as we know it! In the novel Red Alert, the lone bomber fails to destroy its target and nuclear catastrophe is averted.
  • Decapitated Army: "Plan R" is designed to defy this contingency: if Washington leadership is incapacitated, regional commanders have the authority to launch a counter-attack. Ripper exploits this by telling his base soldiers and the B-52 bomber command that Washington has been wiped out and ordering them to nuke their targets in the Soviet Union.
  • Deliberately Monochrome: By 1963, color was the standard. The black-and-white photography was a deliberate artistic choice.
  • Determinator: Major Kong is dead set on delivering his payload no matter what gets in the way. Just when everything seems aligned to finally bomb their target, the bomb gets stuck. But no, Kong will try to drop that bomb even if it's the last thing he does.
  • Dirty Communists: Satirizing this trope is one of the central tenets of the film, but the Soviets themselves are openly lampooned as well.
  • Disaster Dominoes: A very long row of dominoes falls, resulting in the end of the world.
    • Arguably the first domino to fall was the invention of nuclear weapons in the first place. But it carries on from there:
      • 1. The decision of the United States to have nuclear-armed bombers patrolling in constant readiness to launch an immediate nuclear attack on Russia.
      • 2. The conception and implementation of Plan R, giving a lower-echelon commander the potential authority to order a nuclear strike.
      • 3. The failure of the military to successfully screen for mental health issues, allowing an unbalanced individual like General Ripper to reach such a command position.
      • 4. The order to attack being given when the planes were already at their fail-safe points, meaning they will proceed instantly to their targets without requiring a second order to proceed.
      • 5. The planes encrypting their radios, making communication with the planes without a three-letter code (known only to the commander who issued the attack order) impossible.
      • 6. The base commander sealing off his base, making communication with him equally impossible.
    • The Americans then decide to pursue two courses of action:
      • 1. Enter the air base by force and reestablish contact with General Ripper.
      • 2. Inform the Russians of the situation, and try to assist them in shooting down the American bombers.
    • Despite all of this, the worst case scenario would still be "merely" the destruction of Western civilization due to an unintentional nuclear war... if not for the fact that the Russians:
      • 1. Had built a "Doomsday Machine" designed to eliminate all life on Earth if it detects a nuclear attack on Russia.
      • 2. Designed the machine to trigger automatically if any attempt is made to deactivate it.
      • 3. Had activated this machine a few days before declaring its existence to the world.
    • The Russians successfully shoot down four of the bombers by the time the Americans successfully enter the air base and find the encryption code, enabling communication with the remaining bombers and the issuing of the recall command. All bombers turn around except for one: it was not shot down by Russian air defenses, but only damaged, and the damage destroyed its radio equipment, making communication with it impossible (a further domino is that the aircrafts have no "do not bomb if you are incapable of receiving a recall message" regulation). The Americans urge the Russians to concentrate all their air defenses around the bomber's primary and secondary targets. However, unbeknownst to both sides, the damaged aircraft is also losing fuel, and diverts to the nearest target of opportunity. At this final moment, it seems the world may still be saved: the electronics fail and the bomb fails to eject. However, the aircrew manages to repair the system in the nick of time, and the bomb falls on the Russian base and explodes... resulting in the end of the world.
  • Disc-One Final Boss: General Ripper is the Big Bad who kick-starts the entire plot. However, he ultimately chooses death over capture roughly two-thirds of the way through the film. The remaining time is spent trying (emphasis on trying) to stop Major Kong and his flight crew from delivering the bomb that will set off the Doomsday Machine.
  • Disproportionate Retribution:
    • Pretty much what sets the plot in motion. General Ripper orders a nuclear strike against the Soviet Union because he was unable to perform sexually (and, due to his unshakeable faith in his own virility, believes this must be due to a Soviet water fluoridation conspiracy).
    • The Doomsday Device is designed and built to respond to an attack — any attack of any magnitude — with the detonation of so much salted nuclear ordinance that Earth's surface will be sterilized of all life with the possible exception of the cockroach.
  • Does This Remind You of Anything?:
    • The opening scene, of a B-52 re-fueling in mid-air (which really looks like two planes screwing), set to an instrumental version of "Try A Little Tenderness," no less. Interestingly, it was taken from stock footage that title sequence designer Pablo Ferro simply discovered and made one of cinema's most memorable opening scenes.
    • A more subtle form of symbolism: chewing gum represents the upcoming war. Mandrake forlornly fidgets with a stick of chewing gum while sitting on Ripper's couch, while Turgidson gobbles down stick after stick of gum with aplomb.
  • Doomsday Device: The Trope Namer; the film begins with a narrator describing a Soviet superweapon rumored to be in the Arctic. It turns out to be a computer network designed to automatically deploy dozens of super-radioactive nukes at the moment of a nuclear strike on Russia. The upside is that it can respond to nuclear attack without human input, the downside is that it won't respond to the Russians when it wants them to not destroy the world.
    Gen. Turgidson: Gee, I wish we had one of them doomsday machines!
    Strangelove: We briefly investigated making a similar machine ourselves. Based on the findings of the report, my conclusion was that this idea was not a practical deterrent...for reasons which at this moment must be all too obvious.
  • Double Vision: Scenes with Strangelove and Muffley in the same frame are either in long shot (the whole table) or with one character shot from behind.
  • Do Unto Others Before They Do Unto Us: Ripper claims he's giving the US the best kind of head start he can.
  • Downer Ending: Despite the best efforts of both the Americans and Russians, Major Kong's bomber doesn't receive the recall order since their radio equipment was damaged in a missile strike and, with their fuel running low, they decide to bomb a closer target of opportunity, instead of one of their assigned targets where the Russians are waiting to shoot them down. This triggers the Russians' Doomsday Machine, which will render the Earth's surface uninhabitable for nearly a hundred years and force what's left of mankind to live underground until then. The final scene is a montage of nuclear detonations accompanied by the song "We'll Meet Again", implying that even long after we're all dead, whoever comes next will still be finding disgustingly stupid and petty reasons to kill each other. And yet, it still remains hilarious.
  • Dressing as the Enemy: Ripper informs the personnel of the Air Force Base that "commie enemies" may pull this, and the defenders discuss it later when the forces sent by the US President are attacking them.
  • Dueling Works: Fail Safe was also made from the same source material, but plays it straight.
  • Dumbass Has a Point: When Mandrake is trying to reach the President by placing a collect call, he's told they won't accept, so he tries bumming 55 cents off of Guano...who rightfully points out "You don't think I'd go into combat with loose change in my pocket, do you?"
  • Dying Moment of Awesome: Riding a nuke all the way to the target, whooping and hollering like a cowboy all the way down, and ending the world is about as awesome as a death gets! It's one of the most memorable (and parodied) scenes in the film.
  • Dysfunction Junction: Part of the hilarity of the movie is that practically no one in American and Soviet high command is right in the head to deal with the crisis, minor Only Sane Man moments aside. Understandable, as their dysfunction is what created the crisis in the first place.
  • Dystopia Is Hard: The secretive nature of the Soviet Union means that they keep everything under wraps...including their doomsday device, whose purpose of deterrence can only work if people know about it!

  • Either/Or Title: The film's full title is Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb. A well-known (and well-parodied) example.
  • "End Is Nigh" Ending: Played for Laughs. The President and other members of his cabinet discuss how best to organize the survival of American society and perv out that this means they will need to have sex with many women and figure out they cannot allow the Russians to outdo them, while a montage of multiple nuclear explosions gets "We'll Meet Again" played as background music.
  • The End of the World as We Know It: The Doomsday Machine goes off and will wipe out all human and animal life on the planet's surface.
  • Enemy Mine: President Muffley brings the Soviets into the loop as soon as he is informed of the peril. Turgidson is dismayed, instead urging that the United States launch an all-out attack now that Ripper has committed it to war.
  • Everything Explodes Ending: The film ends in this precise manner, in a very Black Comedy sense.
  • Evil Chancellor: Dr. Strangelove essentially marginalizes Muffley and seduces Turgidson in the climax, seizing power himself.
  • Exact Time to Failure: Justified, as a crewman on the bomber calculates how much flying time they have left after the missile explosion causes a fuel leak. Even then, he has to adjust his timetable when the fuel leak grows mid-flight.
  • Explain, Explain... Oh, Crap!: When President Muffley asks General Turgidson whether the remaining bomber has a chance to reach its target, Turgidson enthusiastically describes the crew's skill and technique and concludes by declaring "Hell, ye—!... y—...y—..." — realizing the implications.
    • Another example occurs early in the film when Group Captain Mandrake realizes that General Ripper has gone insane.
    Mandrake: I'm not quite sure I follow your way of thinking, sir. I mean, if a Russian attack was in progress, we would certainly not be hearing civilian broadcasting.
    Ripper: You sure about that, Mandrake?
    Mandrake: Yes sir, quite sure.
    Ripper: Well, what if it's true?
    Mandrake: Well then, I still don't quite know what you're getting at, sir. I mean, if a Russian attack was not in progress, then your use of Plan R — in fact your order for the entire wing — would be...(Beat)...Hmmm. Well sir, I would say that there is something dreadfully wrong...somewhere.
  • Extremely Short Timespan: The film takes place over less than a day, the time it takes for an airborne B-52 on forward pre-alert condition to reach its objective deep in Russia.
  • Failsafe Failure:
    • The Doomsday Machine is deliberately Fail Deadly. Otherwise, it wouldn't be much of a Doomsday Machine, as Strangelove points out. Unfortunately, the Soviets didn't tell anyone about the device before the film takes place. As Strangelove once again points out:
    "But, the whole point of a Doomsday Machine is lost...if you KEEP IT A SECRET! WHY DIDN'T YOU TELL THE WORLD, EH?!"
    • As it turns out, they were planning on revealing the information to the world the following Monday, rendering it a complete liability in the interim.
    • Muffley was assured by Turgidson that "Plan R" had safeguards against a rogue launch. Turgidson is reluctant to admit the failure and argues its reliability shouldn't be written off after a single incident.
  • Fanservice: Precisely one female character appears in this movie: General Turgidson's mistress and secretary, heard in one scene and seen in a bikini in another. She also appears on a Playboy centerfold.
  • A Father to His Men: When the base falls, Ripper feels let down and remarks that the soldiers were like his children. It rings as true as anything else he says. Mandrake manages to obliquely mock him.
    Mandrake: I'm sure they all died thinking of you, every man jack of them...Jack.
    • Major Kong is also an example, telling his men that they all deserve promotions and citations regardless of their race, color, or creed.
  • The Film of the Book: This was based on a novel by Peter George called Red Alert and was originally conceived as a straightforward drama. During the development of the script, Kubrick and company realized the potential for satire in the story and completely overhauled it. George subsequently wrote a Novelization of the finished film: a Recursive Adaptation.
  • Fog of War: The Soviets are unable to detect the last B-52, The Leper Colony, because it is flying so low. The Americans urge them to concentrate the search around the assigned targets, but the crew switches them for a target of opportunity due to low fuel, and flies at low altitude to escape detection.
  • Foil:
    • Ripper and Turgidson are both high-ranking generals. One goes rogue and has intimacy issues, the other stays loyal and is clearly a horndog; the twist comes in their mannerisms. While Ripper is crazy, he sounds calm, collected, and soft-spoken. Turgidson makes a lot of rational points, but he is a stirred Large Ham who sounds deranged. Judging by the body language and demeanor of both men alone, Ripper would look the saner one.
    • The energetic warmonger Turgidson also acts as a more direct foil to the mild, meek, and emasculated President Muffley.
  • Forever War: Implied. The jingoist generals and advisors are planning After the End schemes to maintain the status quo of the Cold War, and prevent Soviet expansionism and a "mine-shaft gap." Reinforced by the use of "We'll Meet Again" over the final Apocalyptic Montage.
  • Freud Was Right: Invoked by the film itself, as a central theme of the movie is the portrayal of sexual symbolism as more than symbolism. Kubrick transparently paraphrases Clausewitz as in "war is the continuation of sex by other means."
    • It turns out that Ripper's real motivation for launching nuclear war is to make up for his impotence
    • "Bat" Guano thinks everything is some kind of "preversion," and ironically his stupidity carries some meta-truth.
  • Freudian Slip: Strangelove, when selling Muffley on the idea of surviving in mineshafts, accidentally calls him, “Mein Fuhrer.” He completes his whole sentence, but corrects himself afterward: “I’m sorry, Mr. President.”
  • From Bad to Worse: Anything that could go wrong in the prevention of the end of the world, does.
  • Funny Foreigner: Peter Sellers portrays two such characters: a stuffy British military commander, and the former Nazi expert Dr. Strangelove, both of whom speak in heavy accents.
  • Gallows Humor: Given that it was made against the real-life backdrop of the Cuban Missile Crisis, in which nuclear war was a genuine possibility, much of the film's humor would have qualified at the time. Many contemporary viewers called "Dude, Not Funny!" — to the point that some scenes had to be cut or edited.
  • Gambit Pile Up: General Ripper, Premier Kissov, and Dr. Strangelove all have competing plans that lead to the film's events.
  • General Ripper: Trope Namer, obviously. Air Force Brigadier General Jack D. Ripper, commanding officer, Burpelson Air Force Base, becomes paranoid and launches an illegal attack on the communist USSR on his own initiative, hoping to force World War III into motion while the balance of power still favors the United States.
  • Gendercide: Implied after the end. With the nuclear holocaust imminent, government leaders plan to hole up in mineshaft shelters with ten women for every man. Gen. Turgidson is very excited at this prospect, provided the US doesn't suffer a "mineshaft gap."
  • Genius Breeding Act: Dr. Strangelove proposes a plan for surviving nuclear war that involves preserving the best of humanity in bunkers. Men would be chosen based on their leadership capabilities and wisdom, women based on their appearance and reproductive capacity. The government figures, all of whom are men, are immediately on board with this plan.
  • Golden Mean Fallacy: Spoofed when General Turgidson tells the President that if they execute his nuclear strike plan, only millions of people will be annihilated instead of billions, which isn't too bad. (This "joke" is later used more seriously in Watchmen.) At this point, Buck also doesn't yet know that the Soviets have a Doomsday Machine, which means his proposed first strike would not cripple their capabilities and everyone would still die.
  • Godzilla Threshold: The situation is so dire that President Muffley is perfectly willing to give the Soviets all the intel they could ever need to shoot down his own country’s bombers and avert nuclear genocide.
  • Gone Horribly Right:
    • Kubrick’s primary aim in making this movie was to satirize nuclear deterrence theory by demonstrating the inherent craziness of consciously abdicating control over nuclear weapons. Plan R is established to ensure the US has second strike capability even if the President and executive branch are eliminated in a nuclear strike. General Ripper takes this to its extreme conclusion by deciding the President should be denied nuclear authority altogether, and that the military (i.e., General Ripper) should decide when to start a nuclear war. From there, Plan R works perfectly, as the pilots shut off all communication with the US and focus on their targets in the Soviet Union. Likewise, the Doomsday Machine works exactly as planned: automatic and irrevocable nuclear retaliation against the United States following an initial nuclear attack.
    • Within the context of the film, employing Strangelove for his scientific acumen leads to the downfall of American democracy.
  • Good Smoking, Evil Smoking: A perplexing example with Dr. Strangelove himself; when he tries to enjoy a cigarette, his Evil Hand keeps trying to remove it from his mouth. This is almost certainly an oblique reference to the Nazis' attempts to discourage smoking because they thought it was detrimental to people's health.
  • Go Out with a Smile: Major Kong certainly had a blast for his last ten seconds alive!!!
  • Government Drug Enforcement: What General Ripper fears fluoridation has become.
  • Grey-and-Gray Morality: The Americans and Soviets aren't that different. Despite the crisis being told from the American point of view (which allows for a more direct satirization of the Western power), neither side is really meant to be the good guys, as they both indulge in highly morally questionable behavior (the Soviets build a Doomsday Device, which is bad enough, only to compound things by not telling the Americans about it, while the American Plan R is simply a manual Doomsday Device that's also designed to fail in a deadly fashion, and they're using an obvious Nazi as a science advisor). They try to avert the catastrophe, yet each side is just as scheming or conniving or manipulative as the other, constantly harping on about various "gaps" (missile, doomsday, mineshaft, etc.), and even after causing The End of the World as We Know It, they just can't take a step back, look at themselves, and wonder how much of this is their own fault.
  • Here We Go Again!: At the end of the film, it's clear that both sides are preparing to continue the Cold War after the surviving humans emerge from the mineshafts. The Americans are worried about a "mineshaft gap," while the Soviet ambassador takes pictures of the War Room.
  • Hiroshima as a Unit of Measure: "Each B-52 can deliver a nuclear bomb load of fifty megatons, equal to sixteen times the total explosive force of all the bombs and shells used by all the armies in World War II."
  • Hitler Cam: Gen. Ripper is shot this way during the scene where he delivers his insane rant about "our precious bodily fluids."
  • Hollywood Darkness: Early in the film, an establishing shot of Burpleson Air Force Base. It's easy to miss, given the heavy use of chiaroscuro throughout the film, except for visibly bright window lights and the airfield floodlights being lit.
  • Hope Spot:
    • Mandrake finds the code to recall the planes, and it gets through to them. The world is saved! Except not, because the Leper Colony's radio got busted when the Soviets attacked the plane and they didn't receive the code.
    • Just when a nuclear holocaust seemed to be averted because Major Kong's bomb dropping mechanism got stuck, here he comes to fix it manually...
  • Horror Doesn't Settle for Simple Tuesday: When the radio operator checks the code in his book, one can briefly see "Valid: 13 September 1963" on the top of the page. Yep, you guessed it — the date was Friday the 13th.
  • Hotline: Not actually the Moscow-Washington line, but rather an ordinary phone. Which is even worse. Considering the nature of the ensuing conversation, as well as the entire film itself, that is very, very likely intentional.
    • To be specific, the Americans tried to get the Soviet premier on the hotline, but were unable to reach him. The Soviet ambassador recommended they try a Moscow exchange number, as the premier was apparently out partying "off the books"—"the Premier is a man of the people, but he is also a man, if you take my meaning."
    • Also subverted after the air base is successfully captured—Mandrake tries to use a hotline to SAC to communicate the recall prefix code, but the network (and the phones) have all been shot up or shut down as part of the fighting, meaning Mandrake has to use a pay phone to place a long-distance call to the Pentagon. And they won't even accept the charges for a collect call.
  • Hypocritical Humor:
    • No fighting allowed in the War Room!
    • SAC's motto "Peace Is Our Profession" is offhandedly highlighted by the camera angle several times: when Ripper explains how he's "preventing" World War III with his first-strike, and later when the soldiers are fighting for the base.
    • Turgidson being both a religious man and, assuming he's married, an adulterer in the same phrase while he is talking to his secretary/mistress. If he's not married, he's just committing a different sin, fornication rather than adultery.
      • When Ambassador DeSadesky gives a number to reach Premier Kissov with an explanation that implies that the Premier is with his mistress rather than at the office, Turgidson calls Kissov "a degenerate atheist commie".
    • The Soviet ambassador not supporting "imperialist stooges." He's quickly called out by the person offering him the object of offense (a Jamaican cigar) when the man says "Only Commie stooges, eh?" Note that the ambassador had asked for a Cuban cigar before being offered the Jamaican cigar.
  • Ignored Epiphany: Both the Americans and the Soviets implemented doomsday schemes which have accidentally resulted in the end of all life on the planet. An emergency plan is quickly conceived to send a few people underground to live in mineshafts for 100 years to prevent the extinction of the human race until the radiation disperses. However, rather than realizing humanity will be lucky if it survives at all, and that it was the geopolitical and ideological competition and paranoia which led to this in the first place, both sides almost immediately begin making plans to "out-breed" the other while they wait underground in the mines, and make plans to stash away weapons for the inevitable war which will occur when they emerge.
  • Improv:
    • Kubrick used three cameras to shoot his Dr. Strangelove scenes so the best material could be edited together. Most famously, much of the hotline telephone monologue is said to be improvised, as is the behavior of his Evil Hand in the second-to-last scene.
    • When Sellers is doing the aforementioned evil hand scene, you can see Peter Bull (Ambassador De Sadesky) trying his hardest not to burst into fits of laughter, complete with shaking and much biting of the lip.
    • In the final scene, Dr. Strangelove suddenly stands up and screams "I can walk!" delightedly. Supposedly, Sellers forgot that Strangelove was supposed to be a cripple and shouted out the line to cover his mistake.
  • Inappropriate Pride: When the President asks Gen. Buck Turgidson if the sole surviving plane can reach its target, he enthusiastically says that with their training, they absolutely could make it. This is actually a bad thing, as it would trigger The End of the World as We Know It due to a Doomsday Device for mutually assured destruction. And Turgidson is aware of this.
  • Insane Troll Logic: What led Ripper to first suspect the Communists of trying to "sap and impurify all of our precious bodily fluids" through fluoridation: "a profound sense of fatigue, a feeling of emptiness followed." So sex = loss of 'essence'! Fluoridation starts in 1946 = part of postwar commie conspiracy! It all makes sense! The commies are, of course, immune to their own plot, as they only drink pure vodka and would never, under any circumstances, drink water in the first place.
  • Interrogated for Nothing: When General Ripper is realizing he's about to be arrested for treason and tortured for the recall codes, he suddenly asks Mandrake if he's ever been tortured as a war prisoner. Mandrake explains that he was captured and tortured by the Japanese during World War II. Ripper quietly asks him if he talked, but he explains they didn't seem to want any information; in fact, he believes it was just their way of "having a bit of fun." Ripper kills himself shortly afterward. It's all funnier than it sounds.
  • Interservice Rivalry: A light example is when Muffley orders the Army to take Ripper’s base. Turgidson notes that the Air Force personnel there are going to be ready to fight and will inflict heavy casualties, but the Army General in charge of the operation disregards this by saying his soldiers can "brush them aside." The audience never really gets a sense of how many people die in the battle on either side, but the Army does eventually take the base, much to Ripper's chagrin.
  • In-Universe Factoid Failure: The Soviets started building a doomsday device when they learned from The New York Times that the US were working on a similar device. President Muffley calls that preposterous as he never approved such a thing. While getting your intel from a newspaper is ludicrous, it's not entirely baseless because some kind of preliminary study was indeed made; Dr. Strangelove clarifies that the American device was just a concept that was rejected for being impractical.
  • Irony: Of the comedic variety, as the auto-destruct button "got hit and blew itself up."
  • Irrevocable Order: The entire plot, as the general puts the base on lockdown. Played with in that they do manage to revoke it, but by then, the final plane is too damaged to receive the recall.
  • Jerkass Has a Point: Everything General Turgidson says sounds deranged, but it's mostly factually correct.
  • Just Before the End: The film takes place at the climax of a Lensman Arms Race and ends with the doomsday device destroying the world.
  • Just Plane Wrong: Averted: not only was the B-52 correct in exterior shots (save for casting the shadow of a B-17, the camera plane), the B-52's cockpit avionics shown, especially the arming console, were so accurate that the Air Force freaked out (the bomber's interior was still classified). As it happened, Kubrick and his crew had simply done an amazing job of extrapolation.
  • Kubrick Stare: General Ripper.
  • Lampshaded Double Entendre: "Premier Kissov is a man of the people, but he is also a man, if you get my meaning."
  • Large Ham:
    • George C. Scott originally gave a subtle portrayal of Colonel Turgidson. Before filming each scene, Kubrick would tell him to do a few takes really over the top to help entertain the crew and warm up for the "real" takes. Almost the entire performance that made it into the film was made of these "practice" takes. It works. It works so hard. Notably, Scott was very upset at which takes were used, as he had been assured that his "serious" takes would be the ones used, vowing to never work with Kubrick again, although he also admitted that he had to admire Kubrick's ingenuity and sheer audacity in playing that trick on him.
    • Dr. Strangelove in dealing with his "evil hand." Even Turgidson is sitting there silently dumbfounded at Strangelove's behavior.
  • Left It In: This is how Stanley Kubrick managed to convince George C. Scott to be so over-the-top in his role as General Turgidson. Scott wanted to play him as a noble yet tragic character despite the film being a comedy. So Kubrick would encourage him to do "warmup" takes in preparation for the real thing. The over-the-top takes thus were used in the actual movie, and hilarity was held by all, except Scott.
  • Leitmotif: 'When Johnny Comes Marching Home' plays whenever Major Kong's B-52 appears. It could, knowing Kubrick, also be a musical Double Entendre on the much, much darker 'Johnny I hardly knew ya'.
  • Lensman Arms Race: The Doomsday Weapon was built by the Soviets to attain an unsurpassable upper hand over the Americans. However, General Ripper launches his attack on Russia before the weapon is announced, creating the Foregone Conclusion to the movie. Furthermore, a nuclear holocaust can't stop the arms race, because now the Americans have to move people into mine shafts as they wait out the radioactivity on the surface. Fearing the Soviets will move more people into mine shafts and have superior numbers when they emerge, Buck Turgidson declares, "We can't allow a mineshaft gap!"
  • Let No Crisis Go to Waste: Turgidson's initial suggestion: commit to a full attack while the Americans have the upper hand and win the Cold War. This is exactly what Ripper was planning, of course.
  • Marked Bullet: The bombs in the bomb bay of the B-52 have "Hi There!" (this is the one Kong rides to his death on) and "Dear John" scrawled on them.
  • Meaningful Name: Just about every name in the film contains some sort of joke or innuendo, mostly playing on the film's theme that war is fueled by masculine sexual urges.
    • General Turgidson is a horndog whose name refers to a "turgid" erection.
    • General Jack D. Ripper is motivated by sexual frustration (he's afraid of losing his "essence" through ejaculation) to spread destruction and is named for the misogynistic serial killer Jack the Ripper.
    • A merkin is a pubic wig (sometimes used in Real Life when faking a full-frontal nudity scene with an actress) which used to be worn to present the appearance of healthy pubic hair after having to shave the real stuff off in order to rid one's self of lice or crabs. "Muff is a slang term for a woman's private parts. Thus, President Merkin Muffley is a bald pussy.
    • The target for the bomber is Laputa. La puta is Spanish for "the whore." Doubles as a Shout-Out to Gulliver's Travels.
    • The Russian ambassador's name DeSadesky refers to the outrageous Marquis de Sade, trope namer of the sexual tendency.
    • "Strangelove," being the namesake of the film, references the strangeness of the film's "sex through war" theme.
    • Group Captain Mandrake is named after a root once thought to be an aphrodisiac. This doesn't have a direct connection to this Only Sane Man characterization, but it is rather less extreme than the daffier characters.
    • The Soviet Premier is named Kissov ("kiss off").
    • Colonel "Bat" Guano is "batshit" insane. His Meaningful Name is lampshaded by Mandrake, who asks him if his name is real. What's really surprising is that the name was improvised by Sellers.
  • Military Alphabet:
    • Most famously "Wing Attack Plan R for Romeo." Also used by the bomber crew. Major Kong's accent could be a shining example of why a phonetic alphabet is useful.
    • General Ripper uses "R for Robert" when speaking to Mandrake on the phone. The Royal Air Force commonly used a different phonetic alphabet (including R for Robert) until adopting the NATO standard in the late 1950s — shortly before the events of the film. Since Group Captain Mandrake is a former RAF fighter pilot, Ripper may use it for Mandrake's convenience. Or maybe it's only an oversight filmed before someone could do the research. Romeo, being the name of a famous lover, fits better with the film's theme.
  • Milkman Conspiracy: General Ripper tries to start nuclear war with the Russians over one such conspiracy. While tampering with our water supply would be a good way to deal a lethal blow to major population centers in the United States, Ripper comes to the conclusion that the Russians are doing this because when he tried having sex his "essence" was denied exit from his body. If he had seen people dying or getting sick from drinking water then there would be some validity to Ripper's claim, but as it stands, the General brought on nuclear war with Russia just because he couldn't get it back up after intercourse.
  • A Million Is a Statistic: General Turgidson enthusiastically reports an unofficial analysis for the contingency summarizing that the United States would suffer reduced megadeaths (20M vs 150M) if they capitalize on the situation and commit to a full attack.
  • Mockumentary: An early script was a documentary made by aliens using Found Footage from a post apocalyptic Earth.
  • Mood Dissonance: It's hard not to root for the crew of The Leper Colony, even with the knowledge that when they succeed, they've doomed the world.
  • Mood Whiplash: The mood changes quite considerably between various scenes, possibly as an artifact of the film's production history, possibly entirely deliberately from start to finish. In any case, while (for example) The War Room scenes are obviously satirical, many of those at the air base (and especially the combat sequences) are played dead serious. Then there is the bomber crew on their mission, with their scenes for the most part bombastic (and just slightly over the top) war drama with patriotic music; younger viewers might be reminded of Verhoeven's Starship Troopers in its more restrained sequences. Altogether, it's a weird mixture—though it certainly works.
  • Mr. Exposition: General Turgidson and Doctor Strangelove are advisors who explain most of the strategical and technical details to the President, and to the audience by extension.
  • Mutually Assured Destruction: Turgidson thinks it can be averted with a pre-emptive strike since the United States has a five-to-one missile superiority. Enforced once the Doomsday Machine comes into play as an involuntary Suicidal Cosmic Temper Tantrum.
  • My God, You Are Serious!: Major Kong's first reaction to being told Plan R is to tell his crew to stop horsing around. He sobers up really quickly.

  • Names to Run Away from Really Fast: Whoever thought that putting a General Jack D. Ripper in control of the nuclear launch codes was a good idea?
  • Naturalized Name: Dr. Strangelove is a German immigrant. When Turgidson mentions that the name "Strangelove" doesn't really sound German, another character reveals that it was originally "Merkwürdigliebe" (literally means "strange love"), but he anglicized it after moving to the US.
    Turgidson: Well, a Kraut by any other name, eh, Stainsley?
  • Never My Fault: General Turgidson set up the "human reliability tests" that cleared who would be high up enough in the military to potentially call for a nuclear strike as part of Plan R. When Turgidson is informing the president of the crisis, he's transparently trying to both shift blame away from himself and downplay the seriousness of the situation. Despite the fact that the Human Reliability Tests were meant to prevent this situation from ever occurring (and therefore the program has indisputably turned out to be a complete failure) Turgidson almost sounds like his feelings are hurt when the President rightly calls him out on it.
    Turgidson: Well, I don't think it's fair to condemn the whole program because of a single slip-up, sir.
  • Newhart Phone Call: The conversation between President Muffley and Premier Kissov. We only hear President Muffley's side, but from the way he has to keep explaining things in simple terms and nudging the conversation back on topic, it's clear that (as the Soviet ambassador warned) Kissov is thoroughly drunk.
  • No Celebrities Were Harmed:
    • President Muffley has some similarities to Adlai Stevenson II, who lost two presidential elections to Dwight D. Eisenhower, whom John F. Kennedy named to be America's ambassador to the United Nations, and who was at the time considered thoroughly decent but also rather wimpy. Reportedly, Stevenson found the similarities Actually Pretty Funny. No, scrub that — Adlai found it absolutely freaking hilarious!
    • Gens. Ripper and Turgidson could both be seen as caricaturing different aspects of real-life USAF General Curtis LeMay. Ripper also draws inspiration from Army General Edwin Walker, who distributed John Birch Society literature to his troops and became a right-wing demagogue after resigning.
    • Strangelove himself has aspects of several real-life nuclear scientists, but his obvious (if never stated) Nazi past specifically evokes Wernher von Braun. Arthur C. Clarke, who knew both Stanley Kubrick and Wernher von Braun, reported that Kubrick once asked him to "tell Wernher I wasn't getting at him." Clarke adds, "I never did because, firstly, I didn't believe him, and secondly, even if Stanley wasn't, Peter Sellers certainly was."
    • Other scientists upon whom the Strangelove character was based were Herman Kahn (who originated the idea of the "Doomsday Device" in his book On Thermonuclear War), Edward Teller and John von Neumann. While many assume Henry Kissinger was an inspiration, Kubrick and Sellers both denied it, and Kissinger's background (he was neither a rocket scientist nor an ex-Nazi) wouldn't fit the character anyway.note 
  • No Ending: Dr. Strangelove suddenly stands up out of his wheelchair, screams "Mein Führer...I CAN WALK!" and the film suddenly cuts to a series of atomic explosions to the tune of Vera Lynn's "We'll Meet Again."
  • No Off Button: The Doomsday Device will automatically detonate if anyone attempts to shut it off. In this case, the designers of the device built it like this intentionally, and to them it made sense. It's meant as the ultimate, permanent deterrent to nuclear warfare. If there were any way to stop it once it's turned on, it wouldn't be able to carry out its function. It wouldn't have needed an off switch if not for a few miscommunications.
  • Noodle Implements: The survival kit — which was based entirely on real Air Force survival kits from the Second World War.
  • No Sense of Personal Space: As Ripper gets drunk, he starts getting uncomfortably close and hands-on toward Mandrake, suggesting a possible explanation for his sexual issues.
  • Nothing Personal: Used in the second sense: "You just can't expect a bunch of ignorant peons to understand a machine like some of our boys — and that's not meant as an insult, Mr. Ambassador."
  • A Nuclear Error:
    President Muffley: Now then, Dmitri, you know how we've always talked about the possibility of something going wrong with the bomb. The BOMB, Dmitri. The hydrogen bomb. Well now, what happened is, uh, one of our base commanders, he had a sort of...well, he went a little funny in the head. You know. Just a little funny. And uh, he went and did a silly thing. Well, I'll tell you what he did. He ordered his attack your country.
  • Oh, Crap!: Three Explain, Explain... Oh, Crap! realizations:
    • Under normal circumstances, a commander would be proud of his own units getting to its target against all odds. In this scenario, it means the end of the world as we know it. Gen. Turgidson misses this point for a while, gushing on about the toughness and skill of the surviving B-52 bomber and its crew. Finally, Pres. Muffley cuts in and asks directly (on reaching the target and dropping a bomb, even through the entire Soviet air defense grid), "Has he got a chance?" Turgidson: "Has he got a chance? HELL" Turgidson's realization face is priceless.
    • Mandrake puzzling out why there are no emergency broadcasts on the radio and realizing, while talking with Ripper, that Ripper has gone mad and launched the wing on his own initiative.
    • Ambassador DeSadesky, when his superiors tell him that the Doomsday Machine has just been installed.
      DeSadesky: The fools...the mad fools!
  • One-Liner, Name... One-Liner:
    Gen. Turgidson: Do you realize what kind of security risk this poses? He'll (Ambassador DeSadesky) see everything! He'll see the big board!
    President Muffley: That is precisely the idea, General. That is precisely the idea.
  • The One Thing I Don't Hate About You:
    • Mandrake laments his treatment in a Japanese POW camp, but admits that the Japanese do make bloody good cameras.
    • Downplayed by Turgidson, who despises the Russians but tries to balance the scolding with a fair compliment.
      Turgidson: The Russki talks big, but frankly, we think he's short of know-how. You can't expect a bunch of ignorant peons to understand a machine like our boys. And that's not meant as an insult to you, Mr. Ambassador. I mean, we all know how much guts the average Russki's got. Look at all of them the Nazis killed off; they still wouldn't quit!
  • Only Sane Man:
    • Mandrake, at the base; Muffley, in the War Room; and most ironically, the bomber crew (save, perhaps, for Kong).
    • Played with Strangelove himself. Despite the Alien Hand Syndrome, there's a brief scene with the president demanding to know who would create a doomsday device; the camera lingers on Strangelove, calmly smoking in the shadow, the president off-screen. A few minutes later, Strangelove casually suggests the mine shaft survival plan and a new system of government, including who lives and who dies. For all intents and purposes, he takes over the US government right then and there, in front of its actual leaders, who are oblivious. Nobody said the Only Sane Man has to be a good person. He looks and speaks like a Looney Tunes character, but everything he says is coldly rational.
    • DeSadesky considers himself one among the Soviet leadership, and despite his quirks, he's not very off in that regard, calling his colleagues "fools" upon hearing they did implement the Doomsday machine, much to his dismay. (Though he still wastes his time on photographing the big board even after it's clear that the nuclear holocaust is already happening.)
    • Muffley is also clearly a sane man, with a clear understanding of how horrible the situation is, but is woefully incapable of handling it.
  • O.O.C. Is Serious Business:
    • Strangelove's Large Ham behavior is so distracting that it's jarring during a brief shot of him in shadow, calmly smoking while the others wonder who set up the Soviet doomsday device, underscoring that Strangelove is the new shadow leader of the western world.
    • Turgidson spends much of the film acting like a belligerent and loud jerk, but clams up when he realizes the world may end.
  • Ooh, Me Accent's Slipping: Peter Sellers' portrayal of American President Muffley noticeably lapses into English pronunciation during the Doomsday scene. The supposedly Soviet Ambassador (played by the also-British Peter Bull) was a lost cause from the beginning.
  • Opening Scroll: The film opens with an opening scroll which is a basic disclaimer telling patrons that the film is a cautionary tale.
  • Operation: [Blank]: Turgidson tells the President that the bombers in Ripper's wing were airborne "as part of a special exercise we were holding called Operation Drop-Kick."
  • Oral Fixation: General Ripper is a Cigar Chomper. The Freudian aspect is to some extent lampshaded (or at least made all the more obvious) by his obsession with, um, "precious bodily fluids." Also, Turgidson chews on gum like crazy.
  • Orchestral Bombing: And what a bombing.
  • Organ Autonomy: Dr. Strangelove's right hand has a mind of its own, down to attempting to strangle him and snapping off Nazi salutes.
  • Our Presidents Are Different: Merkin Muffley is no Jack Kennedy. President strawman for the most part, Peter Sellers and caricature go hand in hand, taken to the extreme during the phone call with his Russian counterpart. The man is compassionate and softspoken, but he comes off as weak, which is underscored by his baldness, poor eyesight and voice, affected by a cold in some scenes. To his credit, he's able to shut down Turgidson's gung-ho suggestions and is a Reasonable Authority Figure who takes the right decisions. These Hidden Depths are modeled after Adlai Stevenson's.
  • Parody Names: The BLAND Corporation, a parody of the Real Life RAND Corporation. Talk about a Bland-Name Product.
  • The Password Is Always "Swordfish": Mandrake is able to guess the Override Command code because Ripper's Madness Mantra led to it being written all over his office.
  • Permission to Speak Freely: General Turgidson asks the President for permission to speak freely, then proceeds to actively question the Russians' grasp of technical know-how, visibly angering the present Russian ambassador by calling them 'ignorant peons'.
  • Plot-Demanded Manual Mode: The iconic image of Major Kong Riding the Bomb doesn't occur because of a death wish on Kong's part. The broken electrical wiring controlling the bomb bay doors is located just over the bomb, so in order to reach it to repair the wiring, he has to sit on the bomb. He finally manages to make the repairs just as the plane is over the target, so when the doors open and the bomb is released, he's still sitting on its nose.
  • Pointless Doomsday Device: The Soviets activated the Doomsday Machine before they told anyone about it, eliminating the whole point of its role as a deterrent from nuclear war. Dr. Strangelove points this out, and the Soviet ambassador counters that they were saving its announcement for a special occasion (See As You Know above).
  • Poor Communication Kills: Mandrake has problems reaching the president to recall the bombers, and he finds a payphone, but doesn't have enough pocket change and has a brief issue with British vs American terms. Finally, one of the bombers cannot be recalled via the Override Command because its communication system has been destroyed. Armageddon ensues. Of course, the Soviets didn't tell the world about their Doomsday Device because their premier "loves surprises" and they were planning on revealing it as a surprise soon. It's even enforced by Big Bad General Ripper, whose first action in launching his nuclear attack on Russia is ordering his staff to hand over all their radios (so they won't know he's lying and that the Russians aren't actually attacking).
    • Interestingly, while the Pentagon stated that pretty much the entire scenario depicted was absurd and could never happen (which has since been debunked by academics, see The Other Wiki for details), they did decide that the pay phone scene raised some important questions about whether information could be gotten to the right people fast enough in an emergency.
  • Pragmatic Villainy: The United States ruled out building a nefarious device like the Soviet Doomsday Device only because they realized that such a device is not a practical deterrent and could come back to bite them hard.
  • Product Placement: The Coca-Cola machine. It (literally) gave its all to help in what turns out to be a futile attempt to avoid a nuclear winter.
  • Properly Paranoid: General Turgidson on the Russian ambassador, who takes a photo of The Big Board with a camera disguised as a pocket watch (or a pocket watch with an integrated camera) at the end. It's ambiguous if the miniature camera really was his or if Turgidson actually planted it on him, but the ambassador does turn up with a miniature camera later on.
  • Public Domain Soundtrack: Every scene of the bomber crew is accompanied by an orchestral arrangement of When Johnny Comes Marching Home Again/Johnny I Hardly Knew Ya, two folksongs which share a tune, but very different tones.
  • Punny Name: Many of them.
    • General Jack D. Ripper is self-explanatory.
    • A merkin is a pubic wig often seen in burlesque. "Muff" is slang for vagina. With President Merkin Muffley, the film basically admits that one of its most well-meaning characters is, in schoolyard terms, a bald pussy.
    • Guano is bat droppings collected for use as fuel, so Col. "Bat" Guano = "batshit," i.e. insane.
    • "Alexei de Sadeski" just puts a stock Russian suffix on "de Sade".
  • Quintessential British Gentleman: Group Captain Mandrake.
  • The Radio Dies First: Invoked by Ripper with the base lockdown; he even impounds civilian radios. Straight example in the CRM-114, the communications device onboard the "Leper Colony."
  • Radio Silence: General Ripper issues radio silence on his airbase, making his men think that they're under attack. After Captain Mandrake, while shutting off his own radio, discovers that civilian stations are still broadcasting music, he gradually begins to realize that there is no emergency at all, and Ripper is deliberately trying to fool the airbase into starting World War III.
  • Realistic Diction Is Unrealistic: Averted with a vengeance. It's especially noticeable in President Muffley's phone call to the Soviet premier, like a cross between Sickeningly Sweethearts, No, You Hang Up First, and Casual Danger Dialogue, projecting a ridiculous image of Muffley.
  • Reality Is Unrealistic:
    • The B-52 scenes were filmed in Britain. The film crew thought that Slim Pickens was dressed in costume and putting on the 'Texan' accent, and someone on the crew expressed surprise when he spoke that way after a shoot and continued wearing the cowboy getup, until being informed that that was the way he normally spoke and dressed. He wasn't 'putting on' an accent or character, that's just literally who he is.
    • Slim's accent wasn't even Texan, but rather "California Okie," an odd blend that occurred when Dust Bowlers relocated from Oklahoma and North Texas to California during the Great Depression. It has since died out in its "true" form, but has influenced most modern California accents, especially NorCal.
  • Reasonable Authority Figure: President Merkin Muffley acts like a wimp, but isn't gung ho about nuclear annihilation, keeps a level head in spite of the events that have spiraled out of his control, and tries to be as diplomatic as possible.
    • Mandrake is also this, opposing General Ripper's more heavy handed actions, repeatedly asking for the codes to call off the bombers, and after Ripper's suicide, he tries to contact the White House with the codes.
  • Red Alert: General Ripper puts his base on Condition Red.
  • Red Right Hand: Dr. Strangelove's uncooperative right hand, which is so iconic that the real-life disease it's based on is sometimes referred to as "Strangelove Syndrome."
  • Renegade Russian: Inverted. The villain is an American renegade who launches a nuclear attack on the Soviets without authorization.
  • Repeating So the Audience Can Hear: Occurs on and off during the conversation between President Muffley and Premier Kisov as Muffley tries to nudge the conversation back on topic after Kisov's drunken digressions:
    Oh, that's much better. Yes. Fine, I can hear you now, Dmitri. Clear and plain and coming through fine. I'm coming through fine too, eh? Good, then. Well then, as you say, we're both coming through fine. Good. Well, it's good that you're fine, and — and I'm fine. I agree with you. It's great to be fine....
  • Revised Ending: The film famously had an original ending where everyone in the War Room breaks into a pie fight. Stanley Kubrick decided not to end a black comedy with a farce. (Note there are pies on the table in the room.)
    • There was apparently a scene during the pie fight where Muffley takes a pie to the face, after which Turgidson would cry out, "Gentlemen! Our gallant young president has been struck down in his prime!" This was too close to the assassination of JFK for comfort, as the scene had been filmed before the tragedy.
  • Riddle for the Ages:
    • The spy camera General Turgidson claims to find on the Russian ambassador. Did Turgidson really plant it on him, as the ambassador claims, or, given his use of a real spy camera to photograph the big board at the end, was it really his and he was accusing Turgidson of planting it on him it as plausible deniability?
    • What was Strangelove's plan that he wanted to share before yelling "Mein Führer, I can walk!"?
  • Riding the Bomb: Major Kong delivering his payload and wildly whipping his Stetson hat around as he plummets to a thermonuclear death and a blaze of glory is the Trope Maker.
  • Room Full of Crazy: The doodles General Jack D. Ripper writes out on a sheet of paper (Peace On Earth, Purity Of Essence, POE) are not only a key to understanding his conspiratorial paranoia but also an important clue to figuring out the all-important "Recall Launch" code that can stop World War III.
  • Rousing Speech: Parodied. To the crew of a B-52 on a nuclear bombing run into Soviet territory:
    Major Kong: "(...) [T]his thing turns out to be half as important as I figure it just might be, I'd say that you're all in line for some important promotions an' personal citations when this thing's over with. That goes for every last one of ya, regardless of your race, color, or your creed. Now, let's get this thing on the hump. We got some flyin' to do."
  • Rule of Symbolism: An odd example, the table in the War Room has a green top, like a poker table, implying the leaders are gambling and bluffing with the human race. It doesn't show on screen, as the movie is black and white, but Kubrick insisted on it anyway.
    • The film's rated PG and pretty inoffensive compared to what's in movies today, but still Strangelove has been seen as an allegory of sex "from foreplay to explosion." The film is loaded with sexual imagery and innuendo, mostly phallic symbols and sexually-charged character names. The opening sequence of B-52s being fueled in midair looks a lot like planes having sex, and the background song is "Try a Little Tenderness." Then, of course, there's the famous image of Kong riding the bomb. It's probably no coincidence that the bomb looks an awful lot like a giant penis sticking between Kong's legs. (The airmen have written "Dear John" and "Hi there" on those bombs.) And let's not forget the series of massive explosions that destroy the earth, which, in a certain light, seem about as orgasmic as a thing can be. Maybe the film is trying to show all the Cold War posturing and build up of nuclear arms as a massive case of a penis-measuring contest. The whole thing is about males not feeling sexually potent or virile, and generally trying to prove how tough they are. The scene where Gen. Ripper explains to Mandrake the first time he ever became aware of the "Commies" draining his precious bodily fluids seems to support that idea. It's also probably no coincidence that Ripper is named after Jack the Ripper, the infamous murderer of prostitutes who had some weird sexual proclivities, like, oh, murdering prostitutes for example.
    • Strangelove has a black-gloved arm that he can't control. The black glove belonged to Kubrick, who wore them on the set to protect his hand from the hot lights he was handling. Sellers thought it would be a great prop for Strangelove, and it also reminded him of the black-gloved mad scientist in Fritz Lang's 1927 film Metropolis.
  • Sanity Slippage: Kubrick's thumbprint:
    • General Ripper at some point in his backstory, as he was able to pass the safeguard tests, and Turgidson and Mandrake are surprised by his sudden behavior.
    • Dr. Strangelove's Nazi vein comes back enthusiastically at the end, where he becomes an unambiguous Mad Doctor.
  • Scientist vs. Soldier: Admittedly, everyone is equally unsuited for addressing the threat, but the titular doctor actually acknowledges the Cobalt-Thorium G bomb as a horrific risk to all life everywhere, while General Buck Turgidson wistfully wishes that the US had one of their own.
  • Sealed Orders: The bomber crews only unseal their targeting orders after the attack command is given.
  • Secondary Character Title: The good doctor is a memorable character, to be sure, but definitely not the main one.
  • Secret Test: Mandrake remarks that the Pentagon is going too far in testing their readiness, and one of the crewmen (the one played by James Earl Jones) speculates that it's a test — "give the go code, and see who would actually go." Major Kong rejects that possibility.
  • Sensor Suspense: When the missiles are approaching the nuclear bomber.
  • Serious Business: Inverted. It's the audience who gags at the enormity of the implications. The majority of the characters — either by circumstance or by training — are so tunnel-visioned that they comically miss the bigger picture.
  • Sex Is Evil: General Ripper's insane conspiracy theories came about after experiencing confusion over sexual intercourse. He didn't know what a refractory period was, and thus interpreted his post-coital exhaustion as the woman stealing his "vital essence."
  • Sex Is Violence: The film's central theme is men fulfilling sexual urges through war. General Ripper unleashes Armageddon in an act of insane paranoia brought about by sexual frustration. On the other hand, General Turgidson is saner than Ripper, but he's still a horndog whose trip to the War Room prevents him from having a sexual dalliance (presumably an affair) with his secretary. He's soon roused to lusting for war once it becomes clear that the nation has few other options.
  • Sexy Secretary: Turgidson's bikini-clad playmate, Miss Scott.
  • Shoot the Shaggy Dog: A film about the dangers of nuclear Armageddon that ends with, of course, nuclear Armageddon.
  • Short Title: Long, Elaborate Subtitle: Dr. Strangelove: Or, How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb
  • Shout-Out:
  • Shown Their Work: The movie is filled with references to military life and quite obscure research. Also subverted. What the cockpit of a B-52 looked like was classified, so Kubrick and crew just made what a B-29 would look if the plane was shaped like a B-52, based on only one photo of a B-52's cockpit. They were so close to being exactly correct that they were briefly investigated to make sure there was no spying going on! Also, all the procedures inside the aircraft (e.g. going through the checklists) are absolutely believable.
    • Also, the combat scenes could easily pass as actual war footage, with the exception of Gen. Ripper hip-firing a M1919 machine gun (but then again, he is crazy).
  • Silly Reason for War: One of the darkest examples ever: Ripper is willing to drop nukes on the Soviet Union and start World War III (not realizing that this will trigger the Doomsday Machine) because he's blaming the Russians for his sexual impotence.
  • Skewed Priorities: When Muffley calls to warn him of the impending attack. Kissov seems more deeply concerned that Muffley doesn't like him as a friend and would rather spend time chatting with him socially.
  • Slave to PR: Turgidson suggests to capitalize on the mistake and do a full scale attack. Muffley shuts this down with an aversion of Would Be Rude to Say "Genocide". Turgidson slaps back.
    Muffley: You are talking about mass murder, not war [...] I'm not going down in history as the greatest mass murderer since Adolf Hitler.
    Turgidson: Perhaps it might be better, Mr. President, if you were more concerned with the American people than with your image in the history books.
    Muffley: General Turgidson, I've heard quite sufficient from you. Thank you very much.
  • Sliding Scale of Gender Inequality: The film has precisely one female in the movie, a secretary who is also a Playboy centerfold model.
  • The Smurfette Principle: Miss Scott is General Turgidson's mistress and the only female character in the entire movie. Too bad she doesn't get enough screen time to develop a personality.
  • Soundtrack Dissonance:
    • The ending montage, of course.
    • In-universe, the playing of pleasant civilian music over the radio during a supposed nuclear attack is what clues Mandrake into Ripper's lie.
  • Soviet Superscience: Subverted. The characters initially react as if it were a big feat and the ominous name alone reinforces this perception, but Strangelove points out that the Doomsday Machine is within the means of even the smallest nuclear power.
  • Spared by the Adaptation: In the novelization, General Ripper escapes from the chaos at Burpleson on his private plane rather than commit suicide.
  • Spy Cam: The Russian ambassador is accused of trying to take pictures of the War Room using a camera disguised as a pack of cigarettes. The ambassador claims that the spy camera was planted. It turns out that the ambassador may have been telling the truth — his spy camera was disguised as his pocket watch (unless you believe that the ambassador brought two hidden cameras with him).
  • Stealth Pun: Dr. Strangelove is strangled by his glove.
  • Stiff Upper Lip: Mandrake for a while, until "Bat" Guano's obstructionism makes him lose it.
  • Stock Footage: The film opens using stock footage of a KC-135 refueling a B-52 and closes using archive footage of atomic bombs exploding.
  • Straight Man: Peter Sellers plays two of these, oddly enough. His third role more than makes up for it.
  • Strawman Political: President Muffley is a well-meaning but ineffectual liberal (look-up the meaning of "merkin," or, for that matter, "muff"), and General Ripper and Turgidson are insane "John Bircher" conservatives.
  • Stupidest Thing I've Ever Heard: Pronounced by Major Kong during his initial incredulous reaction when the crew receives the go ahead codes for "Plan R."
  • Suicide Mission: The crew of the damaged Leper Colony can either turn back, with a slim chance of reaching safety, or press on to certain death. And then Major Kong rides the bomb to oblivion, making it a literal suicide mission for him in particular!
  • Superweapon Surprise: The Doomsday Machine, "as you know, the Premier loves surprises." It was meant to be announced the following Monday.
  • Survivor Guilt: President Muffley discusses it paraphrasing Khrushchev; won't "the living envy the dead?" Strangelove easily dismisses the concept.
  • Sword of Damocles: The Doomsday Machine was meant to act as a deterrent by way of mutually assured destruction...or at least this was the plan. General Ripper's machinations set it off less than a week before Russia was going to announce its existence.
  • Taking You with Me: The Soviets build a network of cobalt bombs capable of annihilating all life on Earth. They will be set off automatically if anyone makes a nuclear attack on the USSR. Unfortunately, they failed to tell anyone. They were planning on announcing it on the following Monday, because "the Premier loves surprises."
  • Theme Naming: Almost all of the major characters' names have sexual connotations:
    • The title character is self-explanatory.
    • General Jack Ripper is named after a serial killer who targeted prostitutes.
    • Colonel Mandrake is named after a plant which, in many mythologies, is said to encourage fertility or childbirth.
    • President Merkin Muffley: his first name "merkin" is the term for a pubic wig. "Muff" is a slang term for female genitalia.
    • Ambassador DeSadesky is named after the Marquis de Sade, a French nobleman infamous for his violent and blasphemous sexual fantasies.
    • Soviet Premier Kissoff, whose name evokes "kissing."
    • Major "King" Kong is named after a monster known for its uncontrollable, destructive fascination with a human woman.
    • General Buck Turgidson's first name evokes the thrusting/bucking of intercourse. "Turgid" is a term meaning "swollen" or "firm," usually in reference to an erection.
    • One of the bases the American bomber is targeting is "Laputa." In Spanish, "la puta" means "the whore" or "the bitch."
  • This Is a Work of Fiction: The US version has this kind of disclaimer: "It is the stated position of the U.S. Air Force that their safeguards would prevent the occurrence of such events as are depicted in this film. Furthermore, it should be noted that none of the characters portrayed in this film are meant to represent any real persons living or dead." Actually a subversion or a false reassurance since it conveys the stated position of the Air Force about the subject but not the acknowledgement of the filmmakers, and most of the main characters are definitely caricatures of real life figures.
  • This Is Not a Drill:
    Ripper: Group Captain, I'm afraid this is not an exercise.
  • Those Wacky Nazis: Dr. Strangelove is portrayed as a comically bizarre weirdo who is revealed to be completely insane at the very end of the film. He's gleeful that the Soviet and American world order is going to end in nuclear hellfire, completing what the Nazis couldn't do, and his plans for a post-apocalyptic humanity are ideal for Might Makes Right fascism to reign supreme.
  • Throwing Off the Disability: "Mein Führer! ...I can walk!"
    • It would have been subverted in the original ending, where he collapses immediately afterwards.
  • Truth in Television:
    • A 2014 article in The New Yorker by Eric Schlosser confirmed what many had long suspected: that despite the disclaimer placed in front of the movie and the scorn heaped upon its plot by the military establishment at the time, for many decades it was entirely possible for someone other than the US President to launch a nuclear first strike without authorization.
    • The 24-hour B-52 squadrons within 2 hours of their targets inside the USSR? They were part of Operation Chrome Dome.
    • Fears that the Russians are trying to corrupt American institutions through other means, on the other hand, are alive and well on both sides of the aisle (though they'll often disagree on which institutions they're gunning for.)
    • Ripper's paranoia about water fluoridation was based on real conspiracy theories about the effects of fluoridation, some of which persist to this day on both extremes of the political spectrum, minus the "vodka-drinking Russians did it" part.
    • The babbling about a "doomsday gap" and a "mineshaft gap" was a nod to alleged "bomber gap" of the mid-1950s and rhetoric from the 1960 presidential campaign when John F. Kennedy had attacked Nixon and the Eisenhower Administration for allowing the Soviets to open up a "missile gap" between themselves and the United States (in fact, the USA actually had more missiles). This kind of discourse would continue in the seventies with the so-called "Cruiser gap."
    • The fact that Strangelove is obviously a former Nazi isn't far-fetched. The US imported/impressed many German scientists after World War II (as did the Soviets, for that matter), the most famous being Wernher von Braun, who designed the V2 rocket for the Nazis and later turned his talents to designing missiles for the Army and NASA. It was his design team's Saturn rockets that ultimately took humanity to the moon in 1969, and von Braun himself became a minor media celebrity in his own right.
  • Try Everything: Gen. Turgidson explains that they're trying every possible permutation for the CRM-114's prefix code to issue the recall order, but with over 17,000 possible prefixes (17,576 precisely), it'd take three days to transmit all of them. They've got less than two hours to issue the order.
  • Two-Keyed Lock: The pilot, bombardier, and electronic warfare officer each have to operate the first and second safety switches to arm the bombs.
  • Unaccustomed as I Am to Public Speaking...: Major Kong reckons he ain't much of a hand at makin' speeches, but ends up delivering a pretty solid one anyway.
  • Unbuilt Trope: The movie created General Ripper. However, the Trope Namer isn't a bombastic military man and acts calm, collected, and suave. The keyword being "acts." Ripper's ability to hide his nervous breakdown from the psychological evaluations, Mandrake, and everybody else is what allowed him to be in the position of power he needed to be in to set his demented plot into motion. The news of his insanity is a shock to everyone involved. Buck Turgidson could be seen as the more standard version of this trope, with his loud threats against Communism, but was (wisely) ignored by the diplomatic President Muffley. Ultimately, Turgidson comes to realize the disaster that will unfold.
  • Understatement:
    • General Turgidson gets several of these in quick succession when he informs the President of the United States that General Ripper, a lower-echelon American military commander, has ordered a nuclear attack on the Soviet Union without the approval or knowledge of the White House or the Pentagon.
      • When the President asks how General Ripper could possibly order such an attack, Buck says:
        "Although I hate to judge before all the facts are in, it's beginning to look like General Ripper exceeded his authority."
      • The President questions how the Human Reliability Tests didn't catch General Ripper's burgeoning psychosis:
        "Well, I don't think it's quite fair to condemn the whole program because of a single slip-up, sir."
      • Buck advocates following General Ripper's lead and to launch an all-out nuclear attack on Russia:
        "Mr. President, I'm not saying we wouldn't get our hair mussed. But I do say no more than 10 to 20 million killed, tops."
    • When the President is talking with the Soviet Premier, he attempts to describe what Ripper did.
      "...One of our base commanders, he had a sort of...well, he went a little funny in the head. You know. Just a little funny. And uh, he went and did a silly thing..."
  • Unwitting Pawn: The crew of The Leper Colony. Poor guys are just following orders. They don't know that the guy who gave them has lost it.
  • Unusually Uninteresting Sight: As Strangelove's right arm throws Nazi salutes and tries to strangle him, no one else reacts to this, as if they see it all the time and are completely used to it. Or perhaps they're just so perplexed by it that they don't even know how to react.
  • Vengeful Vending Machine: Col. Guano has to shoot a Coca-Cola vending machine to get change for a crucial phone call to the President. He gets Coke squirted in his face.
  • Viewers Are Geniuses: The "survival kit" includes, among others, nylon stockings. While this can be lost to today's audience, in the '60s soldiers were issued nylons — to wear under their uniforms for warmth.
  • Villainous Breakdown: General Ripper is calm and in control for much of the film, but toward the end, he starts to seem visibly unhinged and disheveled. It begins when he starts explaining his motivations and sexual impotence to Mandrake and only grows worse as his base is seized. When his men surrender and he realizes he's going to be tortured for the recall code, he reaches his wits' end and kills himself.
  • Visual Innuendo: There are a number of phallic and sexual images throughout the film to highlight its theme of sexuality.
    • The famous opening credits sequence of planes refueling in a way that looks like sexual congress, especially that between dragonflies.
    • General Ripper is particularly fond of compensating for his impotency with enormous cigars (and a machine gun).
    • Major Kong straddles the strikingly tubular bomb just before it explodes.
  • Vodka Drunkenski:
    • Even though we hear only President Muffley's side of the conversation, it's quite obvious that Premier Kissov is sloshed out of his gourd. It's explained earlier when DeSadesky warns Muffley beforehand of an intoxicated Kissov.
    • General Ripper asks Mandrake if he has ever seen a Russian drinking water and then "concludes" that they only drink vodka.
  • The War Room: The Trope Codifier (just see the Trope page). A huge, elaborate set designed by Ken Adam. Also sparked the most famous quote from the movie.
    President Muffley: Gentlemen, you can't fight in here! This is the War Room!
  • Water Source Tampering: General Ripper has a paranoid belief that there is a Communist conspiracy involving water fluoridation which will lead to contamination of everyone's "precious bodily fluids" (i.e., sexual fluids).
  • We Will Meet Again: The memorable final montage plays the song of the same name over images of atomic explosions, implying the two superpowers are destined to trade blows ever after.
  • Wham Line: Setting aside the evident parodic elements at this point in the film, it can still be argued that General Ripper has a logical reason for his behavior, as he spends every moment utterly calm and polite. Mandrake (and the audience) only start to realize he's insane with this line:
    "Mandrake, have you ever seen a commie drink a glass of water?"
  • Whatever Happened to the Mouse?: A table full of pastries is visible in the War Room in some scenes. It was meant for the original Food Fight ending, and thus would have been a Chekhov's Gun instead.
  • What Were You Thinking?: Dr. Strangelove angrily asks the ambassador why the Soviets didn't tell the world about their Doomsday Device before activating it. He meekly replies it was supposed to be a surprise for the Premier.
  • Windmill Crusader: Ripper, for his belief that the Russians are using water fluoridation to "sap and impurify our precious bodily fluids."
  • World Gone Mad: Every single group of people are various sorts of insane, incompetent, and/or incapable of focusing on the important subject at hand...except for the bomber crew, who are all well-trained and manage to adapt to the various obstacles in their path. Too bad they're the one group that desperately needs to fail to avoid global annihilation.
    • Mandrake isn't too bad, either. He manages to figure out the recall code and get the attack canceled...except for one plane...
  • Xanatos Speed Chess: Despite Kissov bungling the announcement of the Doomsday Machine and General Ripper going off half-cocked, Strangelove essentially takes over the US government shortly after the climax of the film, with none the wiser.
  • You Are Too Late: Instead of stopping the attack that would set off the doomsday weapon, the characters fail and a small amount of the population has to flee to underground bunkers in order to survive.

We'll meet again, don't know where, don't know when,
But I know we'll meet again some sunny day...


Video Example(s):

Alternative Title(s): Doctor Strangelove


Dr. Strangelove

[Trope Maker] Maj. Kong manages to unjam the bay doors to allow the atomic bomb to be dropped onto a Soviet target. Unfortunately, the bomb was immediately dropped with him still seated on it.

How well does it match the trope?

5 (27 votes)

Example of:

Main / RidingTheBomb

Media sources: