What Is Barbenheimer? The Movie Event of the Year Explained

After months of waiting, the movie event of the year is finally imminent: Barbenheimer.

If you’re unfamiliar with this string of letters, then congratulations! Your internet usage has not yet irreparably damaged your brain chemistry. In the simplest terms, Barbenheimer — or less commonly, Boppenheimer — is a double feature of the movies Barbie and Oppenheimer, both of which hit theaters on Friday, July 21.

While Barbenheimer began as an internet phenomenon, the memes seem to be translating into real-world success. Two weeks before the two films’ release Date, AMC Theatres reported that more than 20,000 people bought advance tickets to see both movies on the same day. One week later, that number had doubled to 40,000.

According to Puck cofounder Matthew Belloni, Barbie is tracking for a $110 million opening weekend, while Oppenheimer is headed for $49 million. “This may only be the beginning,” AMC Theatres exec Elizabeth Frank told Variety on Monday, July 17.

But how did Barbenheimer become such a big deal? Allow Us Weekly to explain.

What Is Barbenheimer?

What Is Barbenheimer- The Biggest Movie Event of the Year - Explained

Warner Bros. Pictures/YouTube

Barbenheimer is the fan-created nickname for the simultaneous release of Greta Gerwig‘s Barbie and Christopher Nolan‘s Oppenheimer on July 21, 2023. There are no similarities or overlaps between the two films except for their release date, though it’s safe to assume that neither Universal (which is producing Oppenheimer) nor Warner Bros. (which is producing Barbie) wanted to compete with Mission: Impossible — Dead Reckoning Part One, which debuted on July 12.

Why Is Barbenheimer a Thing?

There is no definitive answer for why movie fans have latched onto the idea of a Barbie and Oppenheimer double feature, but many theories abound. The most obvious one is that the two films seem diametrically opposed in every way. Oppenheimer is the moody, brooding tale of the man who created a weapon that could destroy humanity, while Barbie is all hot pink, glitter and John Cena as a Mermaid Ken. Nolan, king of the austere epic, is behind Oppenheimer, while Gerwig, known for female-focused instant classics like Lady Bird, is helming Barbie. Oppenheimer is dark and Barbie is light, and that’s all the internet needs to know before going wild with memes.

Do Barbenheimer Actors Know About Barbenheimer?

Seemingly, yes. In June, Barbie‘s official Twitter account shared a photo of Gerwig and star Margot Robbie posing in front of an Oppenheimer poster with their tickets for the competing movie. (The post also included photos of the duo with tickets to Mission: Impossible and Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny, but the Oppenheimer snap was obviously most important.)

Meanwhile, Cillian Murphy, who plays Robert Oppenheimer in Nolan’s film, said he’s absolutely going to see Barbie and is thrilled by the double release. “I mean, I’ll be going to see Barbie 100 percent — I can’t wait to see it,” he told IGN days before the Barbenheimer drop. “I think it’s just great for the industry and for audiences that we have two amazing films by amazing filmmakers coming out on the same day. Yeah, you can spend the whole day in the cinema — what’s better than that?”

Reports circulated that Nolan was mad about his film competing with Barbie, but he later said that’s not the case. “Summer, in a healthy marketplace, is always crowded, and we’ve been doing this a long time,” he recently told IGN. “I think for those of us who care about movies, we’ve been really waiting to have a crowded marketplace again, and now it’s here and that’s terrific.”

What’s the Best Order to Watch Barbenheimer?

What Is Barbenheimer- The Biggest Movie Event of the Year - Explained

Universal Pictures/YouTube

This is a matter of intense debate among Barbenheimer enthusiasts, some of whom claim using the phrase “Barbieheimer” means you’re seeing Barbie first while “Oppenbarbie” means you’re starting with Nolan. In order to decide, you must ask yourself these questions: Do you want to start the day with a fizzy comedy or a three-hour epic about mankind’s impending doom? Would you rather end your night with an atomic bomb or Ryan Gosling in a denim vest? It’s an impossible choice that each individual must make on their own. (This reporter has chosen a boozy brunch screening of Barbie followed by a meal break and an evening viewing of Oppenheimer.)

Can I Buy Barbenheimer Merch?

Officially, no, but unofficially, very much yes. There are tons of variations of Barbenheimer T-shirts available online, including one that is half pink and half black with a mashup of the two films’ logos across the front. One design shows a swimsuit-clad Barbie observing a nuclear explosion in the distance, while yet another shows Robbie and Murphy dressed as their respective characters and greeting each other on a film lot.

How Is Tom Cruise Involved?

The seventh Mission: Impossible hit theaters over a week before Barbenheimer, but one report claimed that Cruise was upset his new movie would lose its IMAX screens to Oppenheimer just nine days after release. Cruise himself, however, has outwardly expressed support for both Oppenheimer and Barbie, sharing photos of himself holding tickets to each movie as well as Indiana Jones. “This summer is full of amazing movies to see in theaters,” he tweeted earlier this month. “Congratulations, Harrison Ford, on 40 years of Indy and one of the most iconic characters in history. I love a double feature, and it doesn’t get more explosive (or more pink) than one with Oppenheimer and Barbie.”

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