After months of hype, Oppenheimer (2023) was released in theaters on July 21, 2023. The World War II-era film covered the development of the atomic bomb, which went on to devastate the Japanese cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, and is slated to become one of the year’s top releases. If you enjoyed Oppenheimer and are looking for similar movies, here are a handful of atomic-bomb related ones to check out!
Fat Man and Little Boy (1989)
Starring Paul Newman and Dwight Schultz, Fat Man and Little Boy (1989) is the first movie on our list to cover the development of the atomic bomb. Beginning in mid-1942, the film covers the progress of the Manhattan Project, and provides a look into the somewhat complicated working relationship between Col. Leslie Groves and J. Robert Oppenheimer.
Mixing real-life historical events with creative license, Fat Man and Little Boy was criticized for its portrayal of the development of the atomic bomb. There have also been criticisms regarding the casting of Schultz as Oppenheimer. That being said, Newman puts on a great performance as Groves, helping save the movie from itself. It’s for that reason that we’ve included it on our list.
Rhapsody in August (1991)
Taking place after the atomic bomb Fat Man was dropped on Nagasaki, Rhapsody in August (1991) is a movie that elicits a lot of emotions. Starring Sachiko Murase in the lead role as Kane and featuring Richard Gere as her nephew, Clark, the film covers how families moved on following the devastation of the American attack.
Speaking about the movie in 1990, director Akira Kurosawa said, “I have not filmed shockingly realistic scenes which would prove to be unbearable and yet would not explain in and of themselves the horror of the drama. What I would like to convey is the type of wounds the atomic bomb left in the heart of our people, and how they gradually began to heal.”
Following three generations of a Japanese family in post-war Japan, Rhapsody in August received mixed reviews, with some critics calling the film out for covering the atomic bombing as an American war crime, while failing to discuss the war crimes Japan committed in the Pacific Theater and in China.
Black Rain (1989)
Not to be confused with the American movie of the same name, Black Rain (1989) is a Japanese release about the aftermath of the atomic bomb being dropped on Hiroshima in August 1945. Based on the book of the same name by Masuji Ibuse, it provides audiences with a sincere and detailed look at the after-effects of the bombing on innocent families.
Not a film for the faint of heart, Black Rain presents what happened in Hiroshima in graphic detail, using firsthand and written accounts to show just how much the attack impacted those living in the Japanese city. One account discusses the bodies of those who perished, describing the “skin peeling off just like that of an over-ripe peach, exposing the white fat underneath.”
Dr. Strangelove (1964)
Arguably one of Stanley Kubrick‘s most popular movies, Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb (1964) doesn’t discuss the atomic bombs dropped on Japan, but, rather, looks at the nuclear age during the Cold War. While not based in WWII, it carries with it the same themes and discussions that were occurring during that time.
Dr. Strangelove centers around a paranoid US Air Force general who orders a nuclear strike against the Soviet Union, leading to efforts by the president of the United States to prevent what could become an all-out nuclear war. Unlike the other movies on our list, Kubrick chose to tackle this rather difficult and serious topic in a satirical and comedic way, and it became his highest-rated release.
The Beginning or the End (1947)
Released less than two years after the end of the Second World War, The Beginning or the End (1947) covers the Manhattan Project and the atomic bombing of Hiroshima. Starring Brian Donlevy, Tom Drake, Barry Nelson, Robert Walker and Warner Anderson, it included a host of Vintage Hollywood names.
The movie originated as a project by Donna Reed and her high school science teacher, Edward R. Tompkins. Along with showing the authorization of the Manhattan Project and the creation of the atomic bomb, it includes the dropping of Little Boy by the crew of the Boeing B-29 Superfortress Enola Gay, under the command of Col. Paul Tibbets.
Upon its release, The Beginning or the End received mixed reviews, with many criticizing its distortion of a number of historical events. Its production crew included two scientists who worked at Los Alamos and a number of US military personnel. Veterans who served in WWII even starred as the crew of the Enola Gay, to help with what authenticity was kept.
The Bedford Incident (1965)
The Bedford Incident (1965) might appear to be an outlier on our list of atomic bomb-related movies – and you’d technically be right. The film isn’t about destruction at the hands of an atomic bomb, but, rather, by nuclear torpedoes at sea. That being said, we believe it deserves a spot, simply because it accurately reflects several real-world incidents that occurred during the Cold War, albeit with a bit of creative license.
The movie centers around Eric Finlander, the captain of the US Navy destroyer USS Bedford who’s determined to chase a Soviet submarine out of Greenland’s territorial waters. What follows in an intense game of cat and mouse that ends in explosive fashion.
The Bedford Incident also features one heck of a cast; Sidney Poitier, Donald Sutherland, Richard Widmark and Martin Balsam are just a few of the noteworthy names to make an appearance.
Fail Safe (1964)
Another film based during the Cold War, Fail Safe (1964) starred a true veteran of both Hollywood and the Second World War, Henry Fonda. Based on the 1962 novel by Eugene Burdick and Harvey Wheeler, it centers around the panic that ensues when a group of US Air Force bombers travels to Moscow to bomb the Soviet Union. Not wanting the aircraft to launch a nuclear strike, the President of the United States, played by Fonda, does all he can to recall the crewmen.
While it received favorable reviews, Fail Safe didn’t perform at the box office, likely due to the release of Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb the same year. Despite this, we think it’s a movie that needs to be on everyone’s to-watch list, as it does a good job at portraying a Cold War-era nuclear crisis.
Above and Beyond (1952)
Closing out our list of atomic bomb-related movies is Above and Beyond (1952). Starring Robert Taylor and Eleanor Parker, it focuses on the story of Col. Paul Tibbets and the events that surrounded him becoming involved in the dropping of Little Boy on Hiroshima.
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Mixing Tibbets’ work with the US Air Force with his relationship with his wife, Lucy, Above and Beyond garnered positive reviews from both critics and audiences. Along with being named to the National Board of Review’s (NBR) top 10 list of the year, the film was also nominated for two Academy Awards.