Growing up in Kansas, there were military bases all around us.

Army and Air Force bases were nearby, and a wing of 150 Minuteman II missiles stood ready just across the border in Missouri.

All that military hardware made a great background for ABC in 1982 when it brought a film crew to the area to film "The Day After" in Kansas City and at the University of Kansas in Lawrence. The movie, which aired in 1983, left millions of Americans depressed and downright afraid of what nuclear weapons might do to us — if they were ever used.

One of those affected was President Ronald Reagan, who wrote in his diary that the movie left him “very depressed.” Reagan later credited the movie with convincing him to pursue the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty.

But "The Day After" wasn’t the only sobering piece of TV or cinema that illustrated a world where nuclear weapons have been used again. In fact, since the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, nuclear weapons have played a central role in dozens, if not hundreds, of movies and TV series.

Over the next few months, we’re going to tell stories about the people who keep us safe from nuclear weapons, about the people who design and build them — perhaps even about the men and women who still sit in bunkers not unlike the ones in Missouri near where I grew up, ready to push the button if they’re called.

We’re calling our project The Nuclear Family. We’ve already published our first story and we’ve recently published a timeline on the development of nuclear weapons and subsequent efforts to control them.

But nuclear war is strange. Nuclear-armed powers have risked confrontation, but the threat of mutually assured destruction has kept warheads in their silos. So the only way we have of understanding it is through Hollywood. And we thought, what better way to start the conversation about nuclear weapons than by talking about nuclear movies. If you have a favorite nuclear-related movie — leave it in the comments below.

In this history-making movie, viewers are treated to a day in the life around Lawrence, Kansas, a college town in middle America. Students go about their business, airmen at nearby Whiteman Air Force Base stand alert with their Minuteman II missiles and doctors perform surgeries and treat patients at hospitals in the area. The American Dream.

Then, a confrontation between the Soviets and the West spirals out of control — tactical nukes are launched, then regional nukes, then a full-blown nuclear exchange breaks out between the Soviet Union and the US. The movie shows the aftermath of war — radiation sickness, total destruction and the collapse of civil society.

This brilliant political satire focuses on a nuclear conflict between the US and the Soviet Union. In it, a lone Air Force general moves to launch a US first strike on the Soviet Union, which would then almost assuredly trigger a nuclear response from the Soviets.

The movie follows efforts by the president and other military staff to abort the strike, while documenting one particular B-52 bomber crew as it delivers its weapons over the Soviet Union. Ultimately, the Soviets reveal they have constructed a doomsday device that will ensure the annihilation of all living creatures on Earth within a few months of any nuclear strike.

In "On the Beach," the crew of the last American nuclear sub is operating under Australian command after a global nuclear exchange of unknown cause has wiped out all life in the Northern Hemisphere. The radiation circling the globe is moving south, meaning humanity surviving in Australia will eventually die as well. The Australian people are issued suicide tablets, so they might end their lives without suffering through radiation poisoning.

Meanwhile, the sub crew is dispatched on a final mission, to check on the source of an unknown communication signal coming from the US — in hopes that some way has been found to survive. They’re also tasked with seeing if there might be some habitable place on Earth. Ultimately, however, no such place or means of survival are found.

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"WarGames" imagines a world where a computer has been given full control of the US nuclear arsenal, and it nearly starts a nuclear war after it mistakes a simulation for reality. The story seems almost more real now than it did back then.

After a young computer whiz (we’d probably call him a hacker today) gains access to the WOPR — a national defense computer system — and starts a war simulation that begins to run on its own. The only way to stop the simulation, and to stop the WOPR from launching the nuclear weapons, is to teach the computer about unwinnable situations. And it takes the computer whiz finding the WOPR’s inventor to do just that.

When nuclear weapons were carried primarily by bombers, and warning time was measured in hours instead of minutes, it was hoped that America’s big cities could evacuate their populations before a nuclear weapon was detonated. The city of Portland went so far as to do a full-scale evacuation test in 1955 — and that test was the basis of "A Day Called X."

The docu-drama follows real-life Portland residents as they follow the city’s evacuation plan. Everything is neat and tidy — meant to convince Americans that evacuation is possible, easy and could save your life. The movie ends without any actual attack taking place, but an announcer appears on screen to implore other Americans to develop a plan for surviving a nuclear attack.

From PRI's The World ©2016 PRI