Jul 19, 2023, 1:16pm EDT
North America

‘Barbenheimer’ reviews are in. Here’s what critics say

Ryan Gosling and Margot Robbie promoting Barbie, and Christopher Nolan and Cillian Murphy at the Oppenheimer premiere.
REUTERS/Mike Blake / REUTERS/Maja Smiejkowska

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The News

“Barbenheimer” is almost upon us.

The dual release of Barbie and Oppenheimer, which hit theaters this Friday, has become a cultural phenomenon, generating endless memes and a (mostly) playful rivalry between fans of the two movies.

Reviews for both movies are starting to come out. Here’s what critics are saying.

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  • Greta Gerwig’s Barbie currently has a Rotten Tomatoes score of 90%, and has gotten mostly positive reviews. Critics praised its humor, production design, and acting; with NPR’s Aisha Harris calling it ”a hoot, a feast for the eyes and ears.”
  • Some reviews were more mixed. Between the humor, the more serious moments in the film “feel politically hollow,” The Hollywood Reporter’s Lovia Gyarkye wrote. “The muddied politics and flat emotional landing of Barbie are signs that the picture ultimately serves a brand.” The Wall Street Journal’s Kyle Smith took issue with how Barbie handled its feminist themes, saying its script is “like a grumpier-than-average women’s studies seminar.”
  • Christopher Nolan’s Oppenheimer, which tells the story of the “father of the atomic bomb,” got overwhelmingly positive reviews, most of which praised the film’s epic scale, visuals, and performances, and the way Nolan examines the legacy and contradictions of Oppenheimer. David Rooney of The Hollywood Reporter called it “heady, historically curious and grounded in gravitas,” while NME’s Paul Bradshaw said it was “a monumental achievement in grown-up filmmaking” and possibly Nolan’s best film.
  • Variety’s Owen Gleiberman found most of the movie gripping but said he was let down by the movie’s “big bang,” when the atomic bomb is tested. “The terrifying awesomeness, the nightmare bigness of it all, does not come across.” And after that, Gleiberman wrote, “a certain humming intensity leaks out of the movie.”
  • It’s not just on social media: The Barbenheimer craze is real. AMC said 40,000 members of its AMC Stubs loyalty program have bought tickets to see both movies on the same day. Barbie is predicted to edge out Oppenheimer at the box office, perhaps explaining why Nolan was reportedly frustrated that the films are coming out on the same day.