Oppenheimer Parent Guide
The three hour runtime is exhausting, but the film tells a complex story with plenty of finesse and polish (and some unnecessary nudity)..
Parent Movie Review
The world of theoretical physics is a strange one, and J. Robert Oppenheimer (Cillian Murphy) is a pioneer on the cutting edge. As America prepares to enter World War II, it becomes apparent that the Nazis are at least two years into an atomic weapons project, and there is no doubt about their willingness to use any weapon, however lethal, to further their goals. It is essential that the Allies create a nuclear weapon before the Nazis, and as far as General Leslie Graves (Matt Damon) is concerned, their best hope at out-competing Germany’s scientific might lies with Oppenheimer. He’s tasked with putting together a team of the most brilliant scientists available to the Allies and building the bomb that could end the war.
That’s not the only fight: America and the Soviet Union may be allied against Germany, but the ideological differences between the powers guarantee that even victory in the Second World War won’t bring an end to global conflict. Tight operational security and paranoia hinder the project and cause schisms between scientists, politicians, and general officers. Successfully building the bomb may be a requisite for ending the current war, but it’s becoming apparent that it is laying the groundwork for the next one – one which could very well destroy the planet.
First things first: This movie is every minute of three hours long. By now, you’re familiar with my opinion about movies that push past two hours, so I’ll spare you another tirade, but suffice to say, I’m not best pleased. On the basis of logistics alone, you’re almost guaranteeing that a large percentage of the audience is going to miss approximately five minutes of your movie when they take an urgently needed bathroom break. There was certainly a steady tide of people wandering in and out of my screening. If you’re going to make movies like this, you need to have a scheduled intermission to prevent these departures. But that’s not really my point because I think this movie might have an excuse. Long films give directors the opportunity to pursue multiple storylines and perspectives, which in a film about an issue this complicated is an asset. Nolan takes advantage of the opportunity and provides an impressive, entertaining, thought-provoking experience which confronts big topics and bigger ideas. I don’t feel like the movie wasted my time, and I’m glad I saw it. I still think it could stand tighter editing.
Nolan is, as ever, a very capable director, and the final film reflects an appropriate level of polish. You might be looking forward to some Nolan-sized explosions, but the film is far more about Robert Oppenheimer as an individual than about the consequences of his work. Of course, there are a few stunning fireballs in the film, but this is a dramatically focused biopic, not a nuclear test footage reel. You can watch those on the internet anytime you want to give yourself some nightmares.
Fireballs aside, Oppenheimer is a poor choice for younger audiences, mostly due to some surprising sexual content (including visible breasts and buttocks), near-constant drinking and smoking, and a smattering of profanity. I will say, however, that 9 f-bombs in a three hour movie almost turns into a rounding error, and your biggest concern is by far going to be the nudity – or straining the limits of your bladder after drinking that super-sized soda.
Directed by Christopher Nolan. Starring Cillian Murphy, Robert Downey Jr., Florence Pugh. Running time: 180 minutes. Theatrical release July 21, 2023. Updated July 20, 2023
Watch the trailer for Oppenheimer
Rating & Content Info
Why is Oppenheimer rated R? Oppenheimer is rated R by the MPAA for some sexuality, nudity, and language
Violence: The creation of nuclear weapons is a significant part of the film. A character has terrifying visions of a nuclear holocaust, complete with burned bodies and radiation sickness. Someone attempts suicide by drowning. There are frequent mentions of bombing raids and associated deaths and injuries.
Sexual Content: There are two sex scenes that include visible breasts and buttocks. Breasts are also visible in non-sexual contexts.
Profanity: Profanity includes nine sexual expletives, four scatological curses, and infrequent terms of deity.
Drugs/Alcohol: Alcohol is consumed in social situations and in an addictive context. Alcoholism is a recurring issue in the film. Characters frequently smoke cigarettes, as is historically accurate for the time period.
Page last updated July 20, 2023
Oppenheimer Parents' Guide
What were the ongoing results of America’s use of nuclear weapons against Japan? What evidence exists to suggest this use was necessary? How has nuclear testing affected other populations? What risks are associated with maintaining nuclear weapons?
Nuclear arsenals pose a risk to every living thing on this planet. What arguments exist to support their continued existence? What are some of the issues involved in nuclear disarmament? Who, both nationally and individually, benefits from nuclear weapons?
The film raises interesting questions about the role creators have in the ongoing use of their creation, a particularly interesting question at a time when both actors and writers are on strike. (This isn’t a major question, just a reminder to support the labor that creates the media you care about.)
Loved this movie? Try these books…
On the Beach by Nevil Shute Norway and A Canticle for Liebowitz by Walter M. Miller Jr. both provide a fascinating fictional look at the world after a nuclear war.
This film was adapted from American Prometheus: The Triumph and Tragedy of J. Robert Oppenheimer by Kai Bird and Martin J. Sherwin, which won the 2006 Pulitzer Prize.
Related home video titles:
Other films about the threat of nuclear weapons include The Sum of All Fears, Thirteen Days, On the Beach, The Day After, and of course, the inimitable Dr Strangelove: Or, How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb. Films about Cold War politics more generally include Bridge of Spies, The Courier, Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy, The Manchurian Candidate, The Hunt for Red October, and Star Trek: The Undiscovered Country.