Should You Watch ‘Barbie’ or ‘Oppenheimer’ First? The Only Right Way to Experience Barbenheimer

Greta Gerwig and Christopher Nolan’s films both open this weekend

Margot Robbie in :Barbie" (Warner Bros.) and Cillian Murphy in "Oppenheimer" (Universal)
Margot Robbie in :Barbie" (Warner Bros.) and Cillian Murphy in "Oppenheimer" (Universal)

There are few things right now that are as all-consuming, culturally, as Barbenheimer.

The shared release date of both Christopher Nolan’s brooding biographical epic “Oppenheimer” and Greta Gerwig’s bubbly toy adaptation “Barbie,” was something that instantly stoked the internet’s imagination (and the excitement of amateur Photoshop artists). The two movies couldn’t be more different, with vastly different approaches to their respective marketing campaigns, but in the eyes of those online, they are side-by-side, inexorably linked. This is the cinematic event we’ve been waiting for. And it’s finally here.

Of course, the big question remains: in what order do you watch the movies? We think we’ve got the correct order. And we’re more than happy to share it with you.

What is Barbenheimer?

Barbenheimer, as it has been dubbed by the fans online, is the idea of watching both “Oppenheimer,” starring Cillian Murphy as the father of the atomic bomb, and “Barbie,” the cutesy satire starring Margot Robbie, on the same day. It’s sort of like when you were a kid and you mixed different flavors of soda at the fountain to combine some unholy union. Just like Cherry 7-Up and Orange Fanta were joined, so too were “Barbie” and “Oppenheimer.”

Are people actually doing this?

They are. Thousands of people, in fact. AMC reported that 40,000 tickets to both films in one day had been purchased by its A-List members, essentially creating a double-feature all their own. It might be one of those rare internet memes that actually translates into actual dollars.

How long does it take to watch Barbenheimer?

If you went from one right to the other, it would be a little more than five hours (maybe closer to five-and-a-half, with all the trailers and Nicole Kidman interstitials). “Oppenheimer” clocks in at three hours, while “Barbie” is a little shy of two hours. But rarely will you find two times that align so naturally, so factor in some milling around the mall time in between and you’re looking at spending at least six hours with your favorite theoretical physicist and astronaut/politician/superstar dreamboat.

What is the proper way to do Barbenheimer?

There is only one proper way: “Oppenheimer” first, then “Barbie.” It’s as simple as that, really.


“Oppenheimer” is wonderful; it’s easily one of the best movies of the year and certainly Nolan’s biggest triumph. But it is also a huge downer, ending with one of the most somber notes of maybe any movie ever. If you’re not on the verge of tears (or some grand existential/philosophical crisis) by the movie’s final moments (and general sentiment), then you probably haven’t been paying attention. “Shattering” was a word that someone used to describe the movie, which is apt. Maybe you don’t want the threat of mutually assured nuclear annihilation on your mind as you head into the movie’s breeziest movie, but “Barbie” is such a candy-colored force of nature that even your darkest thoughts will be obliterated (and turned into glitter). But from our perspective, “Barbie” is the perfect pick-me-up. It’ll get you back and into high spirits. It’s the perfect one-two punch!

Anything else?

Honestly, “Oppenheimer” is best watched without concessions. Munching on Milk Duds or enjoying a giant, footbath-sized Coke just shouldn’t be a part of the movie, since it is so long and dense and full of characters that leaving to use the restaurant or refill your popcorn bucket would put you behind the eight ball. You’d return, flummoxed and enraged, spending the rest of the movie’s run time trying to figure out where you left off and what big actor is playing what esoteric historical figure. “Barbie,” however, invites the playfulness of concessions. She’s just as bubbly as your soda! So when you finish with “Oppenheimer,” treat yourself to a trip around the concession stand. You’ve earned it!

“Barbie” and “Oppenheimer” are both in theaters now. Remember to Barbenheimer responsibly.