Oppenheimer: Release Date, Cast And Other Things We Know About The Christopher Nolan Movie

Cillian Murphy in Oppenheimer
(Image credit: Universal Pictures)

There are few 20th-century scientists whose names are as recognizable or carry as much weight as J. Robert Oppenheimer (also known as the “father of the atomic bomb”), the theoretical physicist at the center of the Manhattan Project. In a few months’ time, the historical figure from World War II who changed the world in the blink of an eye, will get the biographical drama treatment with none other than Christopher Nolan in the director's chair.

If this is the first you’re hearing about Oppenheimer, which has a cast featuring Cillian Murphy, Emily Blunt, Robert Downey Jr., and Matt Damon, worry not, because we have an extensive list of things we already know about this Christopher Nolan movie, his 12th directorial effort, and second film set in the Second World War. This includes, but is not limited to, the release date, the rest of the actors set to appear, and how the visionary filmmaker pulled off what could be the most daring on-screen explosion with old school, practical effects. 

Cillian Murphy as Oppenheimer in Christopher Nolan's Oppenheimer

(Image credit: Universal)

Oppenheimer Will Be Released Theatrically On July 21, 2023

Going back to the 2008 release of The Dark Knight, all but two Christopher Nolan movies (Interstellar and Tenet being the exceptions) have been released in the month of July. And, now it looks like that tradition will continue a little longer when Oppenheimer begins its theatrical run on July 21, 2023, as has been announced by Universal Pictures. 

Cillian Murphy in The Dark Knight Rises; Emily Blunt in Wild Mountain Thyme; Robert Downey Jr. in Zodiac; Matt Damon in Ford v Ferrari

(Image credit: Warner Bros.; Lionsgate; Paramount Pictures; 20th Century Fox)

The Oppenheimer Cast Includes Cillian Murphy, Emily Blunt, Robert Downey Jr., And Matt Damon

To lead his next project, Nolan has turned to Cillian Murphy, who is set to portray J. Robert Oppenheimer in his sixth collaboration with the filmmaker since being cast as Dr. Jonathan Crane in 2005’s Batman Begins. Only Michael Caine has worked with Nolan more over the years, though Murphy could eclipse the eight appearances by the acting legend, who announced his retirement in 2021. Murphy will be joined by his A Quiet Place Part II co-star Emily Blunt, who will take on the role of the famed physicist’s wife, Katherine Oppenheimer, according to Deadline.

But, that is just the beginning of the Oppenheimer cast, as the highly-anticipated biographical drama will also see the likes of Robert Downey Jr., Matt Damon, Florence Pugh, Rami Malek, Jason Clark, Jack Quaid, Kenneth Branagh, Josh Hartnett, Matthew Modine, Josh Peck, and even Gary Oldman, who is set to portray former United States President Harry S. Truman, as reported by Deadline

Cillian Murphy looking at an atomic bomb in Oppenheimer

(Image credit: Universal Pictures)

Oppenheimer Will Follow The Man At The Center Of The Manhattan Project And The Creation Of The Atom Bomb

In September 2021, word began to circulate that Christopher Nolan’s next project would be centered on J. Robert Oppenheimer, though details were being kept under wraps at the time. A lot has changed since then, and Variety has confirmed that Oppenheimer will center on the man who headed up the Manhattan Project, the iconic group of scientists and military leaders who developed the first atom bomb, a technology that was used to the destroy the Japanese cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, and all but ended World War II in August 1945.

The epic drama is based on Kai Bird and Martin J. Sherwin’s Pulitzer Prize-winning book, American Prometheus: The Triumph and Tragedy of J. Robert Oppenheimer, with the screenplay adapted by Nolan himself. 

Cillian Murphy in Oppenheimer

(Image credit: Universal Pictures)

The Oppenheimer Trailer Is Full Of Drama, Atomic Bombs And Massive IMAX Shots 

A little less than half a year after Christopher Nolan gave the world its first look at Oppenheimer in the form of a one-minute teaser trailer, the director released a proper, and more in-depth trailer that showed the scope and scale of the film’s narrative and recreation of some of the most consequential moments of the 20th Century: 

The trailer, which features its fair share of drama, existential questions, tension, explosions, and massive IMAX shots, serves as a reminder of both the subject material that will be explored in Oppenheimer and also Nolan’s dedication to his craft, which can be compared to that of the physicist at the center of his latest production. 

An explosion in Oppenheimer

(Image credit: Universal Pictures)

Christopher Nolan Recreated An Atomic Explosion Without The Use Of CGI 

Christopher Nolan has a habit of pulling off massive set pieces with practical effects, with the 747 scene in Tenet and the utter destruction of Gotham General Hospital in The Dark Knight being two of the biggest examples (he didn’t actually destroy Heinz Field in The Dark Knight Rises, however). And so it should come as no surprise that Nolan insisted on recreating the Trinity nuclear test without the use of CGI, a challenge he discussed in a December 2022 interview with TotalFilm (via GamesRadar): 

I think recreating the Trinity test [the first nuclear weapon detonation, in New Mexico] without the use of computer graphics, was a huge challenge to take on. Andrew Jackson – my visual effects supervisor, I got him on board early on – was looking at how we could do a lot of the visual elements of the film practically, from representing quantum dynamics and quantum physics to the Trinity test itself, to recreating, with my team, Los Alamos up on a mesa in New Mexico in extraordinary weather, a lot of which was needed for the film, in terms of the very harsh conditions out there – there were huge practical challenges.

If anyone is up to the task of recreating one of the most significant moments in modern science, it is Nolan, who has proven time and time again he’s one of the best at making sense of madness and creating iconic cinematic moments better than just about anyone else. 

Cillian Murphy in Oppenheimer

(Image credit: Universal Pictures)

Universal Is Releasing Oppenheimer, The First Christopher Nolan Movie Not Distributed By Warner Bros. In More Than 20 Years

Starting with the 2002 release of Insomnia, every Christopher Nolan movie has been distributed by Warner Bros. That relationship, however, began to sour following the 2020 release of Tenet and studio’s decision to make all of its 2021 movies available on HBO Max the same day as in theaters, with Nolan later saying he would be “unlikely” to work with Warner Bros. in the future.

While it remains to be seen if the breakup will stick as the years go by, Nolan has already moved, and will take his talents to Universal Pictures. In September 2021, TheWrap reported that Oppenheimer (which was still untitled at the time) would be the first Nolan film in more than 20 years to not be released by Warner Bros.

Scientists build an atomic bomb in Oppenheimer

(Image credit: Universal Pictures)

Oppenheimer Has A Production Budget Of $100 Million, With The Same Being Spent On Marketing  

Oppenheimer has a production budget of $100 million, which is the smallest out of any of Christopher Nolan’s movies since The Prestige, which cost Warner Bros. approximately $40 million to produce (not counting marketing), per BoxOfficeMojo.

According to The Hollywood Reporter, when Nolan was meeting with various studio heads in 2021 to see where he would take his next project, Universal Pictures agreed to the $100 million production budget as well as an equal marketing spend, which will bring the entire project up to around $200 million by the time everything is said and done. But, that’s not all Universal gave Nolan…

As part of that same deal, Universal agreed to give the filmmaker 20 percent of the first-dollar gross (meaning he’ll start making money as soon as the first tickets are sold), a guaranteed 100-day theatrical run, and a blackout period in which the studio cannot release another movie three weeks before or after Oppenheimer begins its theatrical run. 

A lone soldier standing in Dunkirk

(Image credit: Warner Bros.)

Some Of Christopher Nolan’s Go-To Collaborators Are Working On Oppenheimer

In addition to working with Cillian Murphy and other actors in the Oppenheimer cast, Nolan will also be calling in some of his other go-to collaborators for work behind the scenes. In October 2021, Deadline announced that Nolan’s wife and co-producer, Emma Thomas, would be working on the film, as would Charles Roven, who produced the Dark Knight trilogy.

Cinematographer Hoyte van Hoytema, who served as the director of photography of Nolan’s previous three films, will be sitting behind the camera once again for the director’s upcoming project. Editor Jennifer Lame and composer Ludwig Göransson, who previously worked with Nolan on Tenet, will both be back for their second production with the filmmaker.

Cillian Murphy in Oppenheimer's first teaser

(Image credit: Universal Pictures)

Oppenheimer Will Be Shot On IMAX 65MM And 65MM Large-Format Film

It should come as no surprise, but Christopher Nolan plans to shoot Oppenheimer on a combination of IMAX 65mm and 65mm large-format film, a common practice by the exacting director going back to The Prestige in 2006. During his discussion with Total Film (via GamesRadar) in December 2022, Nolan also revealed that he worked with Kodak and Fotokem to develop a large-format black-and-white film for Oppenheimer, stating that results were both “thrilling and extraordinary.”

Expect to hear more about Oppenheimer, and potentially see some of that highly-anticipated Trinity nuclear test footage in the coming months. Until then, take a look at all the other 2023 movies that are scheduled to come out while we wait for what could be one of the biggest movies of the summer blockbuster season.

Philip Sledge
Content Writer

Philip grew up in Louisiana (not New Orleans) before moving to St. Louis after graduating from Louisiana State University-Shreveport. When he's not writing about movies or television, Philip can be found being chased by his three kids, telling his dogs to stop barking at the mailman, or yelling about professional wrestling to his wife. If the stars properly align, he will talk about For Love Of The Game being the best baseball movie of all time.