Oppenheimer (film)

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Oppenheimer is a 2023 epic biographical thriller film about the life of J. Robert Oppenheimer, a theoretical physicist who was pivotal in developing the first nuclear weapon as part of the Manhattan Project and thereby ushering in the Atomic Age. It won 7 Academy Awards, including Best Picture.

Written and directed by Christopher Nolan.
The World Forever Changes.
  • Members of the security board, the so-called derogatory information in your indictment of me cannot be fully understood except in the context of my life and my work.
  • Oh-penheimer, Op-penheimer; whatever way you say it, they know I'm Jewish.
  • [in response to being asked if he met Werner Heisenberg after leaving Europe] No, not in person no - but you might say that our paths crossed.
  • Is light made up of particles or waves? Quantum mechanics says it's both. How can it be both? It can't. It's paradoxical, and yet, it works.
  • [Ernest] Lawrence, you embrace the revolution in physics, can’t you see it everywhere else? Picasso, Stravinsky, Freud, Marx...
  • I’m committed to thinking freely about how to improve our world. Why limit yourself to one dogma?
  • We’re all simple souls, I guess.
  • [to Lawrence] It’s not your people they’re herding into camps. It’s mine.
  • I don't know if we can be trusted with such a weapon, but I know the Nazis can't.
  • [to Groves] You didn’t hire me despite my left-wing past, you hired me because of it. So you could control me.
  • We’re theorists. Yes? We imagine a future, and our imaginings horrify us. They won’t fear it until they understand it, and they won’t understand it until they’ve used it. When the world learns the terrible secret of Los Alamos, our work here will ensure a peace mankind has never seen -- a peace based on the kind of international cooperation that Roosevelt always envisaged.
  • [to Szilard, referring to the atomic bomb] Just because we’re building it doesn’t mean we get to decide how it’s used.
  • Don't underestimate the psychological impact of an atomic explosion. A pillar of fire ten thousand feet tall, deadly neutron effects for a mile in all directions from one single device, dropped from a barely noticeable B-29. The atomic bomb will be a terrible revelation of divine power.
  • Once it’s used, nuclear war, maybe all war, becomes unthinkable.
  • Is anyone ever going to tell the truth about what's happening here?
  • America and Russia may be likened to two scorpions in a bottle, each capable of killing the other, but only at the risk of his own life.
  • If atomic weapons are to be added to the arsenals of a warring world, then the day will come when people will curse the name of Los Alamos.
  • [to his counsel, Lloyd Garrison] Only a fool or an adolescent presumes to know someone else’s relationship, and you’re neither, Lloyd. Kitty and I, we’re grown-ups. We’ve walked through fire together, and she’ll do fine.

Katherine "Kitty" Oppenheimer

  • The world is changing. Reforming. This is your moment.
  • You sit there, day after day, letting them pick our lives to pieces. Why won’t you fight?
  • [to Oppenheimer] You don’t get to commit the sin, then have us all feel sorry for you that it had consequences.
  • The truly vindictive are as patient as saints.
  • [referring to who is behind Oppenheimer's "security hearing"] Wake up! It is Strauss! It’s always been Strauss, and you know it. Why won’t you fight!?
  • [to Oppenheimer, referring to Teller] You shook his fucking hand?!
  • You think because you let them tar and feather you that the world will forgive you? They won't.
  • Genius is no guarantee of wisdom.
  • You don’t know scientists like I do, counselor. They resent anyone who questions their judgement, especially if you’re not one of them.
  • [referring to Los Alamos] Robert built that damn place. He was founder, mayor, sheriff all rolled into one.
  • [referring to the hydrogen bomb] If it could put us ahead again, the President of the United States needs to know about it. And if there’s a possibility that the Russians know about it from a spy at Los Alamos, then we’ve gotta get going.
  • [referring to Oppenheimer] A lot of scientists blame me, but how was I supposed to protect him?
  • Survival in Washington is about knowing how to get things done.
  • Amateurs seek the sun. Get eaten. Power stays in the shadows.
  • Oppenheimer wanted to own the atomic bomb. He wanted to be the man who moved the Earth. He talks about putting the nuclear genie back in the bottle. Well I'm here to tell you that I know J. Robert Oppenheimer, and if he could do it all over, he'd do it all the same. You know he's never once said that he regrets Hiroshima? He'd do it all over. Why? Because it made him the most important man who ever lived!
  • He wanted the glorious insincere guilt of the self-important to wear like a fuckin' crown, and I gave it to him.
  • J. Robert Oppenheimer the martyr. I gave him exactly what he wanted. To be remembered for Trinity. Not Hiroshima, not Nagasaki. He should be thanking me.
  • I did what was right for this country. They don’t want me in the Cabinet Room? Maybe they should just invite Oppenheimer instead.
  • Quantum physics is not a step forward; it is a new way to understand reality. Einstein's opened the door, [and] now we are seeing a world inside of our world; a world of energy and paradox that not everyone can accept.
  • Algebra is like sheet music. The important thing isn't, "can you read music," it's "can you hear it."
  • The power you are about to reveal will forever outlive the Nazis, and the world is not prepared.
  • We have to make the politicians understand: this isn’t a new weapon, it’s a new world. I’ll be out there, doing what I can, but you.. you’re an American Prometheus - the man who gave them the power to destroy themselves - and they’ll respect that. Then, the work really begins.
  • [to Oppenheimer] You're the great improviser, but this you can't do in your head.
  • You drop a bomb, it falls on the just and unjust. I don't wish for the culmination for three centuries of physics to be a weapon of mass destruction.
  • [to Oppenheimer] When you speak, they hear a prophet. When Strauss speaks, they hear themselves...a prophet can’t be wrong. Not once.
  • [to Oppenheimer] Take off that ridiculous uniform. You’re a scientist.
  • You drown in ten feet of water or ten thousand, what’s the difference? We can already drown Russia, and they know it.
  • Why go through all this against a man who’s accomplished what Dr. Oppenheimer has? Look at his record; we have an A-bomb and a whole series of it, and we have a whole series of Super bombs. What more do you want? Mermaids?
  • So here we are, lost in your quantum world of probabilities and needing certainty.
  • [to Oppenheimer] About the only thing you and I share is a disdain for mathematics.
  • You’ve served America well, and if this is the reward she has to offer, then perhaps you should turn your back on her.
  • [to Edward Condon] You have just the rights that I give you - no more, no less!
  • [referring to the Chevalier incident] I’ve seen so many versions of it. I wasn’t confused before, but I’m certainly getting there now.
  • Robert, we’ve given them an ace. It’s for them to play the hand.
  • I think one of the wisest things I ever did was when I selected the director of Los Alamos.

Kenneth Nichols

  • Dr Oppenheimer, the fact that your security clearance is proving difficult to obtain is not my fault. It’s yours.
  • [to Oppenheimer] It’s important you not maintain or renew any questionable associations.
  • You’re a politician now, Robert. You left physics behind many years ago.
  • Would the Japanese surrender if they knew what was coming?
  • J. Robert Oppenheimer, sphinx-like guru of the atom. No one knows what you believe! Do you?
  • [referring to Oppenheimer] I have always assumed, and now assume, that he is loyal to the United States. I believe this, and I shall believe it until I see very conclusive proof to the opposite.
  • In a great number of cases I have seen Dr Oppenheimer act in a way which for me was exceedingly hard to understand. I thoroughly disagreed with him in numerous issues, and his actions, frankly, appeared to me confused and complicated. To this extent, I feel that I would like to see the vital interests of this country in hands which I understand better and therefore trust more.
  • [referring to Los Alamos] Who could think straight in a place like that? Everybody will go crazy.
  • History will judge us, Robert.
  • [to Oppenheimer] You’re the great salesman of science. You can convince anyone of anything - even yourself.


  • Opening Text: [Greek Proverb] "Prometheus stole fire from the gods and gave it to man. For this he was chained to a rock and tortured for eternity."
  • Jean Tatlock: Don’t alienate the only people in the world who understand what you do. One day you might need them.
  • Enrico Fermi: [referring to the hydrogen bomb] It's a weapon of attack with no defensive value.
  • Haakon Chevalier: Robert, you see beyond the world we live in. There’s a price to be paid for that.
  • Lilli Hornig: It’s no longer the enemy who are the greatest threat to mankind - it’s us. Our work.
  • Phillip Morrison: But how do we justify using this weapon on human beings?
  • Henry Stimson: [referring to the firebombing of Tokyo] I worry about an America where we do these things and no one protests.
  • George Kistiakowsky: [referring to the Trinity Gadget] A month of my salary against ten bucks says it lights.
  • Harry S. Truman: [to Oppenheimer] You think anyone in Hiroshima or Nagasaki gives a shit who built the bomb? They care who dropped it. I did. Hiroshima isn’t about you.
  • David Hill: The views I have to express are my own, but I believe that much I have to say will help indicate why most of the scientists in this country would prefer to see Mr. Strauss completely out of the government.
  • Vannevar Bush: No board in this country should sit in judgement of a man because he expressed strong opinions. If you want to try that case, you can try me.



J. Robert Oppenheimer: You're talking about turning theory into a practical weapons system faster than the Nazis.
Leslie Groves: Who have a twelve month head start.
J. Robert Oppenheimer: Eighteen.
Leslie Groves: How could you possibly know that?
J. Robert Oppenheimer: Our fast neutron research took six months. The man they've undoubtedly put in charge will have made that leap instantly.
Leslie Groves: Who do you think they put in charge?
J. Robert Oppenheimer: Werner Heisenberg. He has the most intuitive understanding of atomic structure I've ever seen.
Leslie Groves: You know his work?
J. Robert Oppenheimer: I know him. Just like I know Walter Bothe, von Weizsäcker, Diebner... In a straight race, the Germans win. We've got one hope.
Leslie Groves: Which is?
J. Robert Oppenheimer: Antisemitism.
Leslie Groves: What?
J. Robert Oppenheimer: Hitler called quantum physics "Jewish science", said it right to Einstein's face. Our one hope is that Hitler is so, so blinded by hate that he's denied Heisenberg proper resources, because it'll take vast resources. Our nation's best scientists working together. Right now they're scattered.
Leslie Groves: Which gives us compartmentalization.
J. Robert Oppenheimer: All minds have to see the whole task to contribute efficiently. Poor security may cost us the race. Inefficiency will. The Germans know more than us anyway.
Leslie Groves: The Russians don't.
J. Robert Oppenheimer: Remind me, who are we at war with?
Leslie Groves: Somebody with your past doesn't want to be seen downplaying the importance of security from our communist allies.
J. Robert Oppenheimer: Point taken, but no.
Leslie Groves: You don't get to say no to me.
J. Robert Oppenheimer: It's my job to say no to you when you're wrong.
Leslie Groves: So you have the job now?
J. Robert Oppenheimer: I'm considering it.
Leslie Groves: I'm starting to see where you got your reputation. My favorite response? "Oppenheimer couldn't run a hamburger stand."
J. Robert Oppenheimer: I couldn't. But I can run the Manhattan Project.

Edward Condon: Why would we move out to the middle of the desert for two to three years?
Leslie Groves: Why? How about because this is the most important fucking thing to ever happen in the history of the world!

Leslie Groves: Why don’t you have a Nobel Prize?
J. Robert Oppenheimer: Why aren’t you a General?
Leslie Groves: They’re making me one for this.
J. Robert Oppenheimer: Perhaps I’ll have the same luck.
Leslie Groves: A Nobel Prize for making a bomb?
J. Robert Oppenheimer: Alfred Nobel invented dynamite.

J. Robert Oppenheimer: Since when are you British?
Klaus Fuchs: Since Hitler told me I wasn't German.

Leslie Groves: What did Fermi mean by “Atmospheric ignition”?
J. Robert Oppenheimer: Well we had a moment where it looked like the chain reaction from an atomic device might never stop. Setting fire to the atmosphere.
Leslie Groves: Why is Fermi still taking side bets on it?
J. Robert Oppenheimer: Call it, “gallows humour”.
Leslie Groves: Wait, are we saying that there's a chance that when we push that button we destroy the world?
J. Robert Oppenheimer: Nothing in our research over three years supports that conclusion. Except it’s the most remote possibility.
Leslie Groves: How remote?
J. Robert Oppenheimer: Chances are near zero.
Leslie Groves: Near zero?
J. Robert Oppenheimer: What do you want from theory alone?
Leslie Groves: Zero would be nice.
J. Robert Oppenheimer: [Looks at his watch] In exactly 1 hour, 58 minutes, we’ll know.

[at a meeting of Manhattan Project scientists, and U.S. officials regarding the use of nuclear weapons against Japan]
Ernest Lawrence: Is there no way to demonstrate a bomb to Japan to provoke surrender?
Leslie Groves: We intend to demonstrate it in the most unambiguous terms. Twice. Once to show the weapon's power, and a second to show we can keep doing this until they surrender.
Henry L. Stimson: We have a list of twelve cities to choose from. [he crosses off one city] Sorry, eleven. I've taken Kyoto off the list due to its cultural significance to the Japanese people. Also, [chuckles] my wife and I honeymooned there. It's a magnificent city. Let me make this simple for you, gentlemen. According to my intelligence, which I cannot share with you, the Japanese people will not surrender under any circumstances, short of a successful and total invasion of the home islands. Many lives will be lost, American and Japanese. The use of the atomic bomb on Japanese cities will save lives.
J. Robert Oppenheimer: If we retain moral advantage.
Henry L. Stimson: How so?
J. Robert Oppenheimer: Well if we use this weapon without informing our allies, they'll see it as a threat. And we'll be in an arms race.

[The final scene of the movie, which finally reveals what Oppenheimer actually said to Albert Einstein by the lake. The conversation starts as Oppenheimer catches Einstein's hat.]
Albert Einstein: (Laughs) Thank you.
J. Robert Oppenheimer: Hello, Albert.
Albert Einstein: The man of the moment. You once held a reception for me, in Berkeley, you gave me an award.
J. Robert Oppenheimer: Yes.
Albert Einstein: You all thought I had lost the ability to understand what I had started. So the award really wasn’t for me, it was for all of you. Hm? Now it’s your turn. To deal with the consequences of your achievement. And one day, when they’ve punished you enough, they’ll serve you salmon and potato salad. Make speeches. Give you a medal. Pat you on the back, tell you all is forgiven. Just remember, it won’t be for you. It will be for them.
[As Albert speaks, Oppenheimer's future is shown on the screen, where he actually is awarded by the US Government. Even Edward Teller congratulates Oppenheimer. He reaches out to shake Kitty's hand, but she ignores it with a cold stare at him. Back in the present day, the words of Einstein hit Oppenheimer with a horrific realization.]
J. Robert Oppenheimer: Albert, when I came to you with those calculations, we thought we might start a chain reaction that would destroy the entire world...
Albert Einstein: I remember it well. What of it?
J. Robert Oppenheimer: [Last Lines] I believe we did.
[Einstein's face falls with horror as the realization of Oppenheimer's words dawns on him.]



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