The space race, the cold war, the sexual revolution, and the rise of consumerism were all aspects of post-war culture and essential ingredients to the changes in society that would follow. Dive deeper into the cultural history of sex, atomic paranoia, and shiny new prizes with these four great documentary films- currently streaming on Netflix!
Hugh Hefner: Playboy, Activist, Rebel (2009) Hugh Hefner's professional success and personal exploits have influenced American culture and sexual politics since the 1950s. This documentary examines the pajama-clad titan's long reign in the public's consciousness. Through interviews and footage, the film chronicles Hefner's journey, from the founding of Playboy magazine -- and the launch of the sexual revolution -- to his support for a wide range of progressive causes. Interesting segments on black-listed artists, free speech, jazz, Playboys Penthouse, and notions of liberation.
Heavy Petting (1989) Famous baby boomers who lived through the Sexual Revolution recall their sexual awakening during the squeaky-clean 1950s. The hilarious recollections -- courtesy of David Byrne, Laurie Anderson, Spalding Gray, Sandra Bernhard, Abbie Hoffman, William S Burroughs, Allen Ginsberg and others -- are accompanied by kitschy clips of '50s sex ed videos. Obie Benz's witty, fast-paced documentary was a Grand Jury Prize nominee at the 1989 Sundance Film Festival.
The Atomic Cafe (1982) A chilling and often hilarious reminder of Cold War-era paranoia in the United States, this film artfully compiles newsreel footage, government archives, military training films and 1950s music into a singular cinematic experience. Also covered are Washington's Communist witch hunt, the historic trial of Julius and Ethel Rosenberg, and the sagely prophetic comments of President Dwight D. Eisenhower.
Affluenza (1997) This tongue-in-cheek in style, sharp-edged social commentary produced for PBS takes an in-depth look at the social effects of America's love affair with materialism and boundless consumption of resources. Hosted by NPR's Scott Simon, Affluenza examines the high price of the high life.