Things would get murky in the '70s as the Cold War momentarily, uh, cooled, but really, movies were just winding up for the berserk main event in the '80s.
Looking at the 1980s film slate, you wouldn't be insane to assume Hollywood resurrected Joseph McCarthy, loaded him up with speed, and asked him to write all the movies. The paranoid fantasies just get bigger and sillier as you move from Red Dawn to Rocky IV to Rambo: First Blood Part II. But if you ask scholars, it's an ex-actor who shoulders much of the blame. "You have this time in the '70s, where there's even a grudging discussion of detente," says Bryn Upton, a professor at McDaniel College and author of Hollywood and the End of the Cold War. "When Reagan gets elected, of course, it spins 180 degrees in the other direction. Reagan amps up Cold War rhetoric, and does it in a way that is a little cartoonish and I think that winds up being reflected in our films. I mean, the original Red Dawn is just outlandish in its audacity."