I've noticed that there is a reoccurring theme of sci-fi movies that solve problems by using nukes:

  • In Sunshine (2007), the solution to our dying Sun was to send the entire Earth's payload of nukes to give it enough energy to apparently keep the fusion process going on.

  • In The Core (2003), the solution to our Earth's core that has apparently stopped spinning was to send nukes to the center of the Earth to "kick start" its rotation.

  • In Armageddon (1998), the solution to an asteroid that's going to hit Earth is to drill a hole in the asteroid and send a nuke inside it to split it in half to divert the two pieces away from hitting Earth.

Why do science fiction writers love to use nukes to solve Earth crises?

  • 2
    Your first question is fine, but the second is asking for a "list of works", which are considered off-topic here (the FAQ has details), so I've edited it out. If you disagree, please roll the change back (but you'll likely get close votes because of that part of the question).
    – Tony Meyer
    Apr 7, 2011 at 9:38
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    It is interesting to note that in all 3 of your examples, the use of Nukes would not solve the problem. In the first, you'd see no effect (the sun is really really really big) in the second you'd see a very limited effect if anything at all (Earth is big too) and in the last, you'd either see no effect or turn the bullet of an asteroid into a shotgun blast.
    – DampeS8N
    Apr 7, 2011 at 12:03
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    @DampeS8N - Those first two are especially egregious. All the nuclear weapons on earth would release less energy than the sun does in a nanosecond. Providing rotational energy by exploding something in the middle of a rotating object is...profoundly misguided. (Put it on the edge, and make sure the explosion escapes sideways, for goodness' sake!)
    – Rex Kerr
    Apr 7, 2011 at 22:41
  • The bomb in Sunshine wasn't a conventional nuke. It was a future type of bomb. It sparkled before it explodes.
    – Chloe
    Dec 11, 2013 at 6:16
  • @Chloe Note that even then, it's completely illogical (to the point of turning the movie into fantasy rather than SF) to think there can be a Terran-made source of energy that can even compete with the tiniest bit of energy from the sun, since the sun is the source of all our power (as The Galaxy Song aptly goes :) ). So no, "a future type of bomb" just doesn't cut it!
    – Andres F.
    Apr 5, 2014 at 16:49

5 Answers 5


The nuclear weapon is prominent in our culture. For 7 decades, nuclear power has stood as the ultimate destructive force we can unleash.

The destruction of Hiroshima and Nagasaki left an impression on the lives of a generation, effecting everyone in the world in a way that even the moon landings didn't. A single weapon, possibly launched by a single man, brings destruction that can only be described as biblical in scope.

The device also emits radiation, which has been very poorly understood by the common layperson for over half of those 7 decades. So the god-device we used is also magical.

Humans also tend to think in terms of plateaus. In general, we don't talk about something wiping out a 10-foot circle. We say a grenade can kill a room, a bomb can kill a house, or a building, or a city block. Bigger bombs can kill a city, or a county, or a state. We don't understand scale, we understand metrics. The bombs dropped to end WWII killed cities, wiped them from the face of the earth.

Until a device which can kill a county or a state is actually used, the human psyche will continue to think of the nuke as the biggest, baddest, most terrifying weapon imaginable.

Therefore, it's understandable that it is used to wipe out powerful foes (Like the Stargate movie) or strike back at nature (Armageddon). It's also understandable that we would seek to use it in constructive manners (Sunshine, The Core) - after all, anyone can DESTROY. As has been the case since man first tamed fire, it's not until you can turn a destructive force towards constructive ends that you truly master it.

In short, SF uses nukes to destroy our enemies, and speaks to our desire to master the monster we unleashed so that we, as a people, can move on.

  • Grate answer! I wanted to combine something similar to that with my answer, but unfortunately I'm not as fluent as @Jeff.
    – HuBeZa
    Apr 7, 2011 at 12:33

I'm guessing that's because it's the most well-known "doom's day device". I think it is used often due to lack of creativity. The A-bomb is a magic solution, a kind of Deus Ex Machina if you will, to solve all humankind problems. Hey, if it (allegedly) brought the great war to a halt it should function as a decent Cylon detector.


The reason that nukes are used (imo) because they are the only explosives strong enough to do some damage with our current technology level. In the meantime it still gives a mystery because while we can use atom bombs we dont use its full potential yet. So it gives room to improvement and imagination.


I say we take off and nuke the entire site from orbit, it's the only way to be sure.

And we all know how well that worked.


The biggest N-bomber I recall was John Sheridan of Babylon Five fame. He had become famous/infamous for the only Earther victory in the Earth Mambari war, by luring the Dark Star near an N-mined asteroid. Then he used a giant warhead, enhanced by the fusion core of a white-star ship to blow up the capital city of the shadows. Then he used one in the final battle to piss off the Vorlons. The only time he didn't use one was during the battle to retake Earth.

  • Well, he used nukes in war scenarios over and over. That kind of usage doesn't need much of an explanation. You need something that goes boom. You grab a nuke. Apr 9, 2011 at 2:33

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