February 29, 2024

The End of ‘Oppenheimer’ Explained, by Director Christopher Nolan

  • Warning: Spoilers below if you haven’t seen “Oppenheimer”.
  • The end of the world we live in is a chilling reminder of the actions of J. Robert Oppenheimer.
  • Director Christopher Nolan told Insider what he wants viewers to think when they leave the theater.

Like all Christopher Nolan films, “Oppenheimer” ends with a powerful ending. On this one, in particular, moviegoers will think deeply about the world we live in today, and how the father of the atomic bomb, J. Robert Oppenheimer, changed it forever.

Insider spoke with Nolan about the ending of his latest film. This is what happens in the last scenes and how they make you feel, according to the director himself.

2 things are revealed before the final shots of the film

The first crucial revelation is that Lewis Strauss (Robert Downey Jr.) secretly arranged the hearings that led to Oppenheimer (Cillian Murphy) being stripped of his security clearance as a member of the Atomic Energy Commission’s General Advisory Council.

The film shows that Oppenheimer felt humiliated by Strauss years earlier when he made a harsh remark about Strauss while speaking at a public nuclear hearing. As a conflict, Strauss saw these trials, which ruined Oppenheimer’s reputation, when he dropped his own microphone on his way to a cabinet position in President Eisenhower’s administration.

However, things backfired for Strauss, who was denied the story.

Robert Downey Jr. as Lewis Strauss i "Oppenheimer."

Robert Downey Jr. as Lewis Strauss in “Oppenheimer.”

Melinda Sue Gordon / Universal Pictures

The second reveal calls back to an earlier moment from the film.

Earlier in the story, long before the hearings, we see Oppenheimer and Albert Einstein (Tom Conti) talking at a pond after Strauss offers Oppenheimer to head the Institute for Advanced Study.

We only see the conversation from Strauss’s point of view, which is distant from us. We cannot hear what is said.

But when Einstein leaves Oppenheimer and walks past Strauss, without speaking to him, the egotistical Strauss believes that the two said something rude about him. him.

The ending reveals that conversation. He had nothing to do with Strauss.

In their conversation, Oppenheimer reminds Einstein of some years before when he gave Einstein his findings that setting off the atomic bomb could set off a chain reaction, setting the world on fire and destroying it.

Thankfully, that didn’t happen.

Or did?

Einstein and Oppenheimer talking in Oppenheimer movie

(CD) Tom Conti as Albert Einstein and Cillian Murphy as J. Robert Oppenheimer in “Oppenheimer.”

Melinda Sue Gordon/Universal

Oppenheimer tells Einstein that the creation of the atom bomb will, in fact, destroy the world as we know it due to nuclear war.

Einstein, shocked, walks out, straight past Strauss without saying a word.

The film then cuts to many years later. Oppenheimer is an old man, receiving an award from the president and praise, just as Einstein predicted he would. A “forgiveness” less for him and what was put through and more for “them,” he told Oppenheimer.

Then come the final moments of the film.

The final shots of the film are chilling

We are shown an extension of a shot from earlier in the film where Oppenheimer looks up at a giant nuclear missile.

The extended shot shows not one missile, but a series of them. They are sent into the sky.

We see a view of the Earth from space, areas of the world are on fire. Nuclear war is destroying the planet.

Cillian Murphy standing next to an atomic bomb



Insider asked Nolan why he would end the film in such a chilling way. He admitted he wasn’t ready to talk about the specific shots yet, but he did comment on their meaning.

“The ending was one of the first things that defined me in how I was going to write the script and everything in the film adds to that,” he said. “I’m on record as saying that I see Oppenheimer as the most important person who ever lived, and the ending is intended to reflect that.”

“He is someone whose actions changed the world irrevocably,” he continued. “Like it or not, we live in his world and we always will. And the ending is designed to reflect that and make that clear to people.”

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