Skip to main content

Is Oppenheimer Based on a True Story?

Cillian Murphy in a hat as Robert Oppenheimer

Oppenheimer, the first film that Christopher Nolan will release after his split from Warner Bros (over the studio’s Covid-related simultaneous release schedule) is coming to theaters next summer, in July 2023. The historical drama boasts a star-studded cast, with Cillian Murphy as the titular J. Robert Oppenheimer, alongside Kenneth Branagh, Florence Pugh, Robert Downey Jr, Gary Oldman, Emily Blunt, and Matt Damon (to name just a few!) The story focuses on Oppenheimer and the rest of the team that made up “the Manhattan Project” and those responsible for creating atomic power.

Is it based on a true story?

Yes, Oppenheimer is based on the biography of J. Robert Oppenheimer titled American Prometheus: The Triumph and Tragedy of J. Robert Oppenheimer, and written by Kai Bird and Martin J. Sherwin. Oppenheimer was a theoretical physicist and part of the infamous “Manhattan Project”—the World War II undertaking that helped create the atomic bomb. Oppenheimer is often referred to as “the father of the atomic bomb.” The book’s title refers to the myth of Prometheus as mentioned in the September 1945 issue of Scientific Monthly which famously described Oppenheimer and the Manhattan Project’s work as: “Modern Prometheans have raided Mount Olympus again and have brought back the very thunderbolts of Zeus.”

Oppenheimer was present at the Trinity test in New Mexico, where the first “A-bomb” was successfully detonated. He famously described his reaction to the successful test by quoting the Bhagavad Gita: “Now I am become Death, the destroyer of worlds.” Which proved all too true when those bombs were then used on Hiroshima and Nagasaki in Japan to widespread devastation.

After the war ended, Oppenheimer used his position as Chairman of the General Advisory Committee within the United States Atomic Energy Commission to lobby for international control of nuclear power and against nuclear proliferation and a nuclear arms race with the Soviet Union. He also ardently opposed the development of the hydrogen bomb, which would eventually lead to an infamous hearing in which his security clearance was revoked over his ties to the Communist party. Eventually, however, he was awarded the Enrico Fermi Award by John F. Kennedy and Lyndon B. Johnson.

Oppenheimer is set to release in theaters on July 21, 2023 so make sure to keep checking back for updates!

(Image: Universal Pictures)

Want more stories like this? Become a subscriber and support the site!

 —The Mary Sue has a strict comment policy that forbids, but is not limited to, personal insults toward anyone, hate speech, and trolling.—

Have a tip we should know? [email protected]

Filed Under:

Follow The Mary Sue:

Brittany is a lifelong Californian (it's a big state, she can't find her way out!) who currently resides in sunny Los Angeles with her gigantic, vaguely cat-shaped companion Gus. If you stumble upon her she might begin proselytizing about Survivor, but give her an iced coffee and she will calm down.