You’ve seen the Barbenheimer memes, you’ve joined the bandwagon, and now you’re considering doing a double feature of Barbie and Oppenheimer like the rest of the internet. But with two films that are bound to be amazing, thanks to incredible filmmakers Greta Gerwig and Christopher Nolan, plus their pretty long runtimes (yes, Oppenheimer is actually three hours long), you’re probably wondering: Should you see Barbie or Oppenheimer first? Well, the answer to that isn’t so simple.
If you haven’t heard about the Barbenheimer craze, both movies had a July 21 release date, and film fanatics were quick to jump on the jokes. The films could not be more different: Barbie is a fantasy comedy backed by a huge corporation, with bright colors and a focus on feminism. Oppenheimer, on the other hand, is a pretty grim biopic thriller about J. Robert Oppenheimer, inventor of the atom bomb. They do have similarities, though, in that both films feature figures who shaped American history and culture, so honestly? I think it is worth seeing both.
The casts and filmmakers of both Barbenheimer movies have also had a lot of fun seeing the jokes, and encourage a double feature, too. Even though Nolan’s relationship with Warner Bros., who made Barbie, has soured, leading him to release Oppenheimer under Universal, he and the Oppenheimer cast are loving the memes, as seen in an interview with IGN. “I think for those of us who care about movies, we’ve been really waiting to have a crowded marketplace again, and now it’s here and that’s terrific,” Nolan said.
The cast was also asked which film to see first. Emily Blunt was torn: “Maybe Oppenheimer on the Saturday? Friday night? I don’t know,” she said. Matt Damon, on the other hand, suggested to IGN that fans “knock out” Oppenheimer first, probably since it’s so long.
Gerwig chimed in on the situation in an interview with The Hollywood Reporter, saying, “I think you’ve got to see what the experience is, Barbie then Oppenheimer, Oppenheimer then Barbie. I think you’ve got to take all of the journeys.” If you’re down to go back to the theater a second time, this might be the way.
Issa Rae, who plays President Barbie, had her own opinion in the same interview: “Obviously you should see Oppenheimer first and then cleanse your palate with Barbie,” she told THR. “I want to end my weekend, I want to have mimosas and drinks and cocktails after Barbie, I don’t want to like sulk.” Fair enough!
As someone who saw both films, here’s my two cents: I saw Barbie first, and was definitely left feeling some fatigue during Oppenheimer. Sitting in the theater for about five hours, not counting previews, is a lot, so if you were hoping to focus in on all the little details in Oppenheimer, you’ll either want to see Barbie first or make sure you have enough sugar and caffeine in you to avoid falling asleep.
However, Barbie ends on a much lighter note than Oppenheimer does. If you’d rather leave the theater with a smile than a solemn feeling, Barbie is a mood-booster that you may want to save for last. Both orders have their pros and cons, so my honest advice is to ask yourself which film you actually care about more, and see that one first. (You could also take Cillian Murphy’s advice and just flip a coin.)
Either way, if you’re planning to do both films in a day, you’ll probably want to dedicate an entire day to the movies rather than squeezing it in after work on a weekday (my personal mistake). I was in the theater until 1:30 a.m. and exhausted, plus doing both films back to back didn’t leave a lot of time for my friends and I to ruminate on the big questions each film is grappling with, as well as our favorite scenes, characters, and easter eggs.
Give yourself at least an hour in between, if not more, for a bathroom break and to go grab an actual meal that isn’t just popcorn. Movies do start late sometimes, thanks to previews, and if you’re not planning enough of a gap in the middle to account for lines in the restrooms and at the concession stand (because tons of people will also be doing a double feature, so you can expect bigger crowds), you might end up missing the first few minutes of your second film.
Of course, most people will probably see the two films separately, and that works fine as well. No matter which order you choose, you’ll be blessed with two conversation-starting films that are each sure to be a cultural reset in their own right. Have fun, and remember: Barbenheimer forever.