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Oppenheimer ending explained

Cillian Murphy portrays one of the most complex figures in American history in Christopher Nolan's exciting new movie. Let's examine the Oppenheimer ending.

Oppenheimer ending explained

What happens in the Oppenheimer ending? It’s fair to say that J. Robert Oppenheimer is a difficult figure in American history. He was hugely important in bringing quantum physics to the States and then ran the Manhattan project during World War Two, leading to the detonation of the first atomic bomb.

The story of Oppenheimer is full of nuance and moral quandaries, so it needed one of our best directors to tell it in movie form. Fortunately, Christopher Nolan stepped up, with Cillian Murphy installed in the title role. With the help of some very impressive 70mm IMAX filming, it’s a visual and emotional spectacle, as we explained in our Oppenheimer review.

We’re still reeling from one of the most hotly anticipated new movies of 2023, but let’s dive into the Oppenheimer ending and talk about where Nolan chose to end his spin on the life story of one of America’s most complicated historical heroes.

Oppenheimer ending explained

Oppenheimer ends by showing the hearing at which he is stripped of his security clearance, while also showing that the architect of that hearing, Lewis Strauss, has his Cabinet post rejected.

The movie unfolds as two narratives. The majority of the film tells Oppenheimer’s story, while a black-and-white parallel tale follows the 1959 Senate hearing around Lewis Strauss (Robert Downey Jr) being nominated as Secretary of Commerce in President Eisenhower’s Cabinet.

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We find out that Strauss disliked Oppenheimer for several reasons, including a humiliating comment he made towards Strauss in a previous hearing. Strauss also believes that Oppenheimer said something to Albert Einstein (Tom Conti), which soured Strauss’s reputation with the famed scientist.

This led Strauss to organize what amounted to a kangaroo court, ensuring Oppenheimer would lose his security clearance as a result of his political history with the Communist Party. The board unanimously finds that Oppenheimer is a loyal citizen, but denies him the renewal of his clearance.

Strauss’s nomination seems primed to pass through, until testimony from scientist Dr Hill (Rami Malek) reveals his personal vindictiveness towards Oppenheimer. Strauss becomes the first Cabinet appointment in 30 years to be denied, with John F. Kennedy among those opposing him.

Robert Downey Jr as Lewis Strauss in Oppenheimer

In the wake of the security hearing, Oppenheimer’s wife Kitty (Emily Blunt) criticizes her husband for allowing himself to be politically beaten up in public. He simply declares: “We’ll see.”

The narrative then flashes back to that pivotal chat between Oppenheimer and Einstein. We learn that Strauss wasn’t even mentioned in the conversation, which focused on Einstein telling Oppenheimer that he would now have to deal with the consequences of his work during the war.

We see an older Oppenheimer being lauded at a ceremony, while Einstein’s prediction rings out that he should “remember, it won’t be for you, it’ll be for them” when he gets these plaudits. The duo then recall the period when calculations suggested the chain reaction of an atomic bomb could continue endlessly and destroy the world.

Oppenheimer, in the midst of political uncertainty over an increasingly powerful nuclear arsenal, says he isn’t sure that the destruction of the world didn’t happen anyway.

Cillian Murphy as J Robert Oppenheimer in Oppenheimer

Now that the Oppenheimer release date has arrived, along with the Barbie movie release date of course, it’s time to get your Barbenheimer on with the best movies of the year. We’ve got the info you need on the Oppenheimer age rating and the Barbie movie age rating, as well as answering the big question: Should I watch Oppenheimer or Barbie first?

We’ve also explored the unlikely link between Tenet and Oppenheimer and looked into why the Barbie movie’s body diversity couldn’t have come at a better time.