Oppenheimer: Ending Explained (Spoiler Warning)


Christopher Nolan’s blockbuster hit, Oppenheimer is one of the best movies of the year, and it comes with a chilling ending. Here’s everything you need to know. (Click here to read our non-spoiler review.)

Oppenheimer has had additional drama, with the film going toe-to-toe with another eagerly anticipated summer blockbuster – Barbie. Both films are already open for viewing and both received outstanding applause from the general audience. So it’s time to dig into the movie’s emotional ending. Warning: Spoilers ahead!

Oppenheimer is about lots of different things. On the surface, this film revolves around the creation of the atomic bomb and the toll that took on the subject character the director of the Manhattan Project. However, if one goes deep into the central theme, this film is about loyalty; what it means to be loyal to your country, family and friends, as well as how you react when that loyalty is questioned.

One can see that this theme rolls off right deeply after the bomb has been dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Oppenheimer can be seen as full of regret, and uses his reputation as the “father of the atomic bomb” to try and influence the government policy, pushing for weapons control rather than the manufacture of more bombs, something that does not go down well in the corridors of power. But anytime you are doing something never done in the whole history of humanity, there is risk, moral questions, unintended consequences and the possibility of building a monster even Dr. Frankenstein could not have imagined — or stopped.

So Strauss (Robert Downey Jr.) had set a trap to remove Oppenheimer’s security clearance in accessing the atomic bombs, ruining his reputation by questioning his loyalty to America. This trap had worked when Oppenheimer’s re-application for the same clearance was being denied.

Reaching full circle

The way the movie is structured means we don’t know who set the wheels in motion for Oppenheimer’s downfall up until the climax when it was revealed that Strauss has been the one that sets the trap in motion, consequently bites him back at the end of the movie. Strauss missed out on the Cabinet role he so desires.

Early on in the process of trying to create the weapon, that they naively said would end all future wars, Oppenheimer and his colleagues were faced with the possibility that it may destroy everything they had come to know. The math presented the possibility that it could trigger a chain reaction until everything and anything was gone. This terrifying prospect is something we see playing out in Oppenheimer’s mind constantly as he imagines the world being consumed by fire, the sound of screams swallowing up everything around him in a frightening fashion.

While Oppenheimer tries to run from what he has created, the reality is that it has forever and fundamentally changed life for the worse. A scene where he gives a speech after the bomb is dropped is meant to be victorious, but it is horrifying as his delusions are obliterated. He tries to pretend this is something to celebrate only for us to hear the screams louder than ever before, see the flesh melting off of the faces of the audience, and even observe the body of someone burned beyond recognition crumble beneath his foot.

The people in the room may not have been consumed by a hellfire of their creation, but the people in the room may not have been consumed by a hellfire of their creation, but countless others had because of their actions. Their world was technically still intact, but for so many others it was snuffed out in an instant. Everything they had ever been and could be was now gone forever. No matter how much Oppenheimer tries to futilely undo what he has done and argue against the further use of atomic weapons, it is Pandora’s box that unleashes destructive forces he cannot close back up once he has pried it open.

At the beginning of the film, when viewers are first introduced by Strauss, he’s visited Oppenheimer at Princeton University and is taken to Einstein, who is standing by a pond. Oppenheimer leaves Strauss behind to discuss something with Einstein. After a moment, Einstein walks away, passing Strauss, looking very upset about something. Initially, Strauss – as well as the viewers – are led to believe that Oppenheimer talked badly about Strauss to Einstein, something that makes him resent Oppenheimer and be one of the reasons why he tries so hard to take him down.

This film ends with the answer to a question that has been looming around – what did Oppenheimer say to Albert Einstein during the exchange at the Princeton University that Strauss could not hear but had caused such annoyance to him. And surprisingly as it turns out, had nothing to do with him!

Instead, Einstein talks about how he was rejected by the science community for expressing his concerns and warns that the same will befall Oppenheimer. During this conversation, we flash forward to him being awarded by the White House, having been disowned by the government, just as predicted by Einstein.

They then briefly discuss Oppenheimer’s work with the bomb, with him stating his belief that the Manhattan Project had started a chain reaction that will destroy the world. As we reached the end, we are shown a look of horror on Oppenheimer’s face as he considers what he has done. Images of the word’s expanding nuclear warfare flash across the screen. Missiles being launched into the sky and a view of Earth from space where it becomes engulfed in flames quickly spread across the globe. Oppenheimer then closes his eyes, and the screen cuts to black.


  • acapdenza

    A lawyer moonlighting as a writer. Acapdenza is passionate about fiction and non-fiction movies and series, whether it's part of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, Star Wars or even Christopher Nolan's epic biopic Oppenheimer.

7 thoughts on “Oppenheimer: Ending Explained (Spoiler Warning)

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