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“Barbenheimer” As the Ideal Double Feature

Why these two opposing movies make for a perfect cinema experience.

Barbie/ Warner Bros Oppenheimer/ Universal Pictures

By now, we’re all sure to have heard the jokes about the “Barbenheimer” double feature. See Oppenheimer for the laughs; see Barbie for the human introspection. Watch Barbie first to ensure you end your day on a high note with the movie about the atomic bomb. “Barbenheimer” is an event so widely joked about it would seem that these films only work together in the most online and ironic sense, but in truth a Barbie/Oppenheimer double feature just might be the perfect movie viewing experience. Let’s review why:

The Directors


“Barbenheimer” was made possible by respective directors Greta Gerwig and Christopher Nolan. Nolan, known for films such as The Dark Knight trilogy and Inception, opts for specific editing, cinematography, and character to create movies made for the theater experience. He certainly is not the kind of filmmaker whose movies inspire a night in at your house. Why watch the bomb in Oppenheimer explode from your couch when you can watch it at the cinema? If you were to ask someone why they went to see Oppenheimer in the theater, you’re sure to get some variation of “because it’s a Nolan movie”. Enough said. So successful is he that most would consider him not just a director of the 21st century, but one of the directors of the 21st century.

Christopher Nolan
Credit: Shutterstock/Denis Makarenko


The hype for Greta Gerwig’s Barbie seems to have come in part from her directorial popularity, which grew exponentially following the films Ladybird and Little Women. The former has a special place in my heart, somehow having been able to reflect my own girlhood and my adolescent relationship with my mother even while being written and directed by a total stranger. In many ways, particularly through evoked emotion, Gerwig crafts experiences just as Nolan does, and no experience thus far in her career has been as anticipated as Barbie. The detail noted by Gerwig in this movie is not only meticulous but comes from a place of understanding and connection with her audience. It also comes from a place of personal passion shared with Nolan himself.

Greta Gerwig
Credit: Shutterstock/DFree

So why see “Barbenheimer” back to back? Well, for starters, because it was made by two directors who care deeply for their craft and who care about sharing such a craft with all of us in turn. To see both together is to see a contrast in style bound by the common grounds of movie enthusiasm. These films are perfect together because their genesis is the same.

The Stories

Listen, are these stories really all that different? Okay, yes, on the surface they are. One movie is about a doll learning to be human and the other is about the man who created a means of ending humanity. When you see it written out like that, it almost appears that these movies are polar opposites. Marketing in this regard doesn’t help, as the characters of Barbie and Oppenheimer seem to be at war with each other in every theater you walk into. Still, for the sake of convincing you to do a double feature, it is worth exploring how these two stories are alike.

Oppenheimer, Oppenheimer plot, Oppenheimer cast
Credit: Universal Pictures

Oppenheimer tells the tale of humanity’s own detriment to humanity. It tells of the consequences of knowledge and good intent, and capability. While this seems a far cry from the plot of Barbie, Gerwig’s own acknowledged Catholic roots should be noted as an influence on her film. Barbie and Ken are on their own journey to acquire knowledge in a less-than-perfect but real world, and how they each choose to wield this knowledge has a serious impact on their home, their friends, their society, and themselves.

Credit: Warner Bros

Is it a reach to say these movies are equally deep reflections of humankind and each other? Maybe. Is it appropriate to say that these movies have deliberate depth? Of course. Do you find it ridiculous that I’m even trying to compare them? Don’t answer that. If you’re not sold on my feeble attempts to connect these stories to each other, then go see them back to back for the sheer fun of an exploding bomb and dolls running wild in Los Angeles.

The Strikes:

News of Barbie and Oppenheimer in 2022 brought about the optimistic cries that “cinema was back”. If you’ve kept up with the film industry at all this year, you’d know that writers and actors alike are now on strike. Such events beg the question: is cinema going away again? I can’t answer that. I can’t even imagine what our media is going to look like moving forward, nor do I wish to.

So why do the strikes matter in regard to this silly article which seeks to get you to waste an entire day on these movies? Look, I love movies. I love everything about them and a bitter pill for me to swallow is other people not liking them the way I do. Maybe you don’t care about these directors. Perhaps you also don’t care about these scripts. You especially might not care about what these directors are trying to say with these scripts.

But everyone likes entertainment. It’s hard to tell now what our entertainment will look like in the coming months and years. Why do a double feature of these two films? Because we don’t really know when such an event will happen again. These movies are such ideal companions in part because of the circumstances under which they were released. Their existences in cinema history, strikes included, will forever be tied to one another simply by virtue of the day on which they were given to the public.

Worth It?

Is it really worthwhile to see the “Barbenheimer” double feature in theaters? I certainly think so. If nothing else, go to celebrate the return of cinema no matter how brief that return may be. Go to experience camaraderie with those around you or to simply get out of your house. View these films to appreciate (or critique, your prerogative) the work of two notable and unique filmmakers. Watch them so that you can tell your grandkids you were present for the great “Barbenheimer” event of 2023. Go to see what these films can offer to each other and to ourselves, if anything at all.

Movies are great. Movies in theaters are even better. Barbie and Oppenheimer are perfect together because they are both so different and so similar. Together they have elicited an excitement seemingly lost for film. It is only fitting that they now be seen together too. Also, theaters have great air conditioning and popcorn is delicious. What more persuading could you possibly need?

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