The film was part of a 1980s cycle of films about atomic bombs and nuclear warfare which had started in 1979 with The China Syndrome (1979). The films included Silkwood (1983), Testament (1983), Threads (1984), WarGames (1983), The Day After (1983), The Atomic Cafe (1982), The Manhattan Project (1986), Whoops Apocalypse (1982), Special Bulletin (1983), Ground Zero (1987), Barefoot Gen (Barefoot Gen (1983)), Rules of Engagement (1989), When the Wind Blows (1986), Letters from a Dead Man (Dead Man's Letters (1986)), Memoirs of a Survivor (1981) and The Chain Reaction (1980).
The science projects and kids in the background of the science fair scenes were actual NYC middle school students with real science projects which were submitted to the NYC borough-wide science fair. These scenes were filmed over a three-day period at the Penta Hotel in NYC on 33rd St.
Dr. Matthewson's line, "fellow sons of bitches," is a reference to original Manhattan Project scientist Kenneth Bainbridge. Following the first successful test explosion of an atomic bomb on July 16, 1945, Bainbridge said to fellow project scientist J. Robert Oppenheimer, "Now we are all sons of bitches."
Several technicians are seen wearing shirts reading "Cayuga" on the back. Cayuga Productions was the name of Rod Serling's company that produced The Twilight Zone (1959). Ithaca, NY, is the home of Cornell University. "Cayuga" is the name of the lake on campus.
Paul's science class nemesis Roland invented the Internet as his science fair project. This movie was made ten years before the Internet reached widespread public notoriety.
Early in the film Paul sees his mom reading a book she describes as "just another novel". Later in the film when the helicopter arrives over the house, the camera shows the book is by Frederick Forsyth, and the title is "The Fourth Protocol", a fiction book that involves a compact nuclear weapon. It was made into a film released in 1987, The Fourth Protocol (1987).
John Lithgow was also in The Day After (1983), in which he has to deal with the aftermath of a full global nuclear war between the United States and the Soviet Union.
Both Cynthia Nixon and Christopher Collet attended Hunter High School in New York City and were one grade apart.
The main theme of the score is, fittingly, based on the Christmas carol "The First Noel".
The high school used in the movie was actually not in Ithaca, NY, but was Suffern High School in Suffern, NY.
During the scene where they are cutting the bomb flashtube wires, the time left on the timer when the wires are cut is 7:16:45, which was the day of the first atomic bomb test.
During the opening credit sequence, a DeLorean automobile is clearly visible, a possible nod to Back to the Future (1985) which had been released the previous year. Both movies' plots revolved around plutonium.