Oppenheimer: The Filming Locations of Christopher Nolan’s 12th Movie 

Updated On: July 19, 2023


In cinema, certain films capture our imagination and surpass the boundaries of mere entertainment. Movies by the visionary Christopher Nolan are known to have such an impact. Oppenheimer is Nolan’s much-anticipated twelfth feature cinematic masterpiece written and directed by him. 

This highly anticipated biographical drama delves into J. Robert Oppenheimer’s life, the scientist who led the creation of the atomic bombs that were dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, ending World War II. With Nolan at the helm, renowned for his thought-provoking films, the movie will transport viewers back in time and offer a glimpse into Oppenheimer’s life and the moral dilemmas the scientists involved in the project faced.

Produced by Universal Studios, this IMAX-shot movie promises to be a thrilling and immersive cinematic experience. With a release date set for 21 July 2023, Oppenheimer has already turned heads with its captivating trailer, star-studded cast, and authenticity to a significant historical event. If you still haven’t seen the trailer, watch below for a sneak peek of what’s in store.

Oppenheimer | Official Trailer

Let’s start by briefly recapping the film’s plot, cast, and directing before delving into the filming locations.

The Plot

Oppenheimer is a biographical thriller based on the life of physicist J. Robert Oppenheimer, the “father of the atomic bomb.” The movie is based on the Pulitzer Prize-winning book “American Prometheus: The Triumph and Tragedy of J. Robert Oppenheimer” by Kai Bird and Martin J. Sherwin. 

The film retells the story of Oppenheimer’s role in the World War II Manhattan Project, which led to the birth of the first atomic bomb. Even though the army offices of the project were based in Manhattan, Oppenheimer and his team chose a remote location in New Mexico called Los Alamos, referred to as “Site Y”, to maintain secrecy while working on their new weapon.

Oppenheimer will transport us back to the 1940s to one of the most significant events in American history to witness the terrifying implications of nuclear war and its horrific impact on humanity. The film portrays Oppenheimer’s acknowledgement of the destructive power he unleashed upon the world with his catastrophic creation and the sorrow and trauma that drenched all the scientists involved in the project after realising the countless lives lost.

Oppenheimer is not just a recounting of historical events but a powerful exploration of the moral complexities of this historical event and the consequences of scientific advancements, making it a thought-provoking and intense watch. 

The Cast

The film is a British-American co-production starring Cillian Murphy as J. Robert Oppenheimer along with Emily Blunt cast as Oppenheimer’s wife, Kitty, Robert Downey Jr. as Lewis Strauss, Florence Pugh as Jean Tatlock, and Matt Damon playing Lieutenant General Leslie Groves, the engineer who supervised the development of the Manhattan Project. Other stars include Rami Malek, Michael Angarano, Benny Safdie, Josh Hartnett, Kenneth Branagh, Dane DeHaan, and Dylan Arnold. We cannot wait to watch the work of art that will unfold by these iconic stars under Nolan’s direction. 

The Director 

Oppenheimer Christopher Nolan In cinema, certain films capture our imagination and surpass the boundaries of mere entertainment. Movies by the visionary Christopher Nolan are known to have such an impact. Oppenheimer is Nolan’s much-anticipated twelfth feature cinematic masterpiece written and directed by him. 
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Renowned director Christopher Nolan will definitely bring his unique directorial skills to this project to deliver an informative and captivating cinematic experience. Nolan is a true maestro with the rare gift of seamlessly blending the art of storytelling with an unmatched command of precise cinematic techniquesEvery shot, every frame, and every camera movement is purposeful, adding layers of depth and enhancing the storytelling experience. With his canny vision, he weaves works of art that keep audiences at the edge of their seats from the opening frame to the closing credits.  

Filming Locations

One of the most intriguing aspects of Oppenheimer lies in its selection of filming locations. Through careful attention to detail and dedication to historical accuracy, most of the film’s settings are accurate to real places in Robert’s life, providing a window into Oppenheimer’s extraordinary odyssey and the historical events that shaped his life. Filming in the actual location lends authenticity to the movie. It enables the cast, crew and audience to immerse themselves in the atmosphere Oppenheimer experienced firsthand. 

Filming of Oppenheimer began in February 2022 and wrapped up in May 2022 and it took place in various cities in the USA, including California, New Jersey, and New Mexico. Let us take a tour of the exact locations.

Santa Fe and Los Alamos, New Mexico, USA

Lights, Camera, Action at Los Alamos! For historical authenticity, Nolan took the filming to the secretive grounds of Los Alamos, known as Site Y. This is where the brilliant physicist J. Robert Oppenheimer and his team conducted their groundbreaking experiments that led to the creation of the atomic bomb. To recreate the essence of this pivotal location, the production team went the extra mile and constructed a custom set. From now, we can expect an immersive experience that will transport us back to the exact context in which the events unfolded.

As the cameras rolled, the film captured iconic sites such as the Oppenheimer House, where J. Robert Oppenheimer and his family resided during their time in Los Alamos. This historical gem and other Manhattan Project-era buildings like the Los Alamos National Laboratory, Civilian Women’s Dormitory, Lamy Train Station, and Fuller Lodge added more authenticity to the production.

Venturing beyond Los Alamos, the filming stretched to the neighbouring city of Santa Fe, perfectly simulating the ambience, essence, and landscapes during the Manhattan Project era. Other nearby regions, such as Abiquiu, Santa Clarita, and Sierra Madre, were filmed. 

Another notable highlight was the recreation of the Trinity test, the site where the first atomic bomb was detonated. Because of Nolan’s commitment to authenticity, he avoided using Computer-Generated Imagery. The scene was filmed in the deserted sandscapes of the Los Alamos region. Los Alamos and its surrounding areas were the perfect canvas for Nolan’s vision, bringing to life the birth of nuclear weaponry.

10 Hidden Gems in Los Alamos That Will Blow Your Mind!

If you visit Los Alamos, we would like to tell you that wonders and adventures await around every corner! Nestled in the scenic landscapes of New Mexico, this funky town is not just about atomic history. From intriguing museums to stunning natural landscapes, Los Alamos offers diverse experiences that will leave you in awe. Let us uncover the top 10 places to visit in this extraordinary destination!

Hike to New Heights at the Bandelier National Monument

Lace up your hiking boots and enter a world of ancient wonders at Bandelier National Monument. Climb rugged canyons, hike along the old trails, especially the Tsankawi trail, while pondering on the intricate petroglyphs etched into cliffs by the Ancestral Pueblo people and connect with their rich cultural heritage. It’s a glimpse into the past like no other! Don’t forget your camera!

Unleash Your Inner Scientist at the Bradbury Science Museum

Ignite your curiosity at the Bradbury Science Museum, where science comes to life! Engage in interactive, hands-on exhibits and mind-boggling experiments, try virtual reality simulations, and learn about the fascinating history of Los Alamos’ scientific achievements.

Bridge back to the Atomic City at the Los Alamos Historical Museum

Delve into the fascinating history of Los Alamos and discover the secrets of the Manhattan Project, tour its secret labs, learn about the town’s evolution, and explore exhibits that bring the past to life at the Los Alamos Historical Museum. It’s an enlightening journey back in time!

Step back in Time at the Manhattan Project National Historical Park

Teleport back to the era of the atomic bomb and explore the fascinating exhibits that shed light on the world-changing events that unfolded here. Walk in the footsteps of brilliant minds, unveil the mysteries behind the Manhattan Project, witness historic sites, and gain insights into the remarkable scientific breakthroughs that shaped the course of history. 

Indulge in Artistic Delights at Fuller Lodge

Enter the heart and soul of Los Alamos — Fuller Lodge, a historic building that served as the dining hall of the Manhattan Project’s scientists and has played a central role in Los Alamos’ community for decades. Currently, it is an art gallery showcasing the work of more than 100 local and regional artists. It is such a beautiful place to stroll in! 

Embrace Nature and Serenity at Ashley Pond Park

Take a leisurely stroll around the serene pond, picnic amidst lush greenery, and enjoy the tranquil, peaceful atmosphere. A perfect site for relaxation!

Treat your Eyes at the Los Alamos Nature Centre

Soak in the natural beauty of Los Alamos from the Los Alamos Nature Centre, which is perched on a canyon with extraordinary vistas of the Jemez Mountains. You can explore the educational, interactive exhibits and learn about local wildlife via the wildlife observation room while enjoying the breathtaking mountain views amidst the pristine greenery and soaking in the tranquillity of the surroundings. Embark on guided nature walks to discover the stunning landscapes surrounding the town. The award-winning building is a paradise for nature enthusiasts! 

Trek Through the Jemez Mountain Trail

If you are an outdoor enthusiast, embark on a scenic drive along the Jemez Mountain Trail. This picturesque route takes you through stunning landscapes, including majestic mountains, lush forests, and natural hot springs. Stop by the breathtaking Valles Caldera National Preserve for a truly awe-inspiring experience.

Unleash Your Adventurous Spirit at Pajarito Mountain

For the adventure buffs, this is for you! Get ready for an adrenaline-fueled experience at Pajarito Mountain, a premier ski resort on the eastern slopes of the Jemez Mountains in Los Alamos. Hit the slopes during winter for thrilling downhill skiing, or visit during summer for exhilarating mountain biking and scenic chairlift rides.

Satiate Your Love for Nature at the Santa Fe National Forest

We left the best till the end! Immerse yourself in the wonders of nature, where breathtaking landscapes and outdoor adventures await. Embark on scenic trails that lead you through ancient forests, towering mountains, and picturesque valleys. Discover hidden waterfalls, observe diverse flora and fauna along the way, and breathe in the crisp mountain air. Whether you’re seeking a peaceful picnic spot, a thrilling backpacking excursion, or a scenic drive with panoramic vistas, Santa Fe National Forest is a nature lover’s paradise offering an escape to the natural wonders and pristine wilderness that New Mexico has to offer. 

University of California (UC), Berkeley, California, USA

Lights, Camera, Action at UC Berkeley! Another iconic location served as a backdrop to capture the essence of the physicist’s academic life during his tenure as a professor from 1929 to 1943. 

The production team made immense efforts in visually transforming the modern-day campus to match the campus in the 1940s, to transport us to the era when Oppenheimer walked those hallowed halls. From LeConte Hall, where Oppenheimer’s real-world office at UC was located, to Campanile Way, the road leading to his building, every corner of the campus became a stage for the film’s captivating story. Murphy, playing the titular character, was spotted shooting outside Wheeler Hall and the main library, which received a makeover with new lampposts.

Additional scenes were filmed in Berkeley, outside the UC campus. The trailer offers glimpses of Edwards Stadium, but we will wait and see what they shot there.

University of California, Los Angeles, UCLA, California

Lights, Camera, Action, at UCLA! The filming didn’t just stop at UC Berkeley. Still, it also found its way to UC Los Angeles’ campus, where Oppenheimer himself once taught, capturing the essence of the physicist’s time there and his lectures in the iconic building. Florence Pugh, who portrays Jean Tatlock, a physics professor and Oppenheimer’s love interest, was also spotted with Murphy filming at UCLA. 

It is interesting to note that UCLA has a long history of being a favourite filming location, with numerous movies and TV shows being shot on campus. In fact, UCLA has portrayed Harvard more times than Harvard has portrayed itself on screen! The gothic beauty of Kerckhoff Hall has been featured in well-known films like “Legally Blonde” and “Scream 2.” So, next time you walk through the UCLA campus, keep an eye out for familiar locations that have graced the silver screen. From academia to Hollywood magic, UCLA has become a star in its own right.

Filming also extended to the greater Los Angeles area, where Matt Damon and Emily Blunt were seen filming in various spots, such as the Millennium Biltmore Hotel and Sierra Madre.

Princeton University Campus, New Jersey

Princeton University Campus min In cinema, certain films capture our imagination and surpass the boundaries of mere entertainment. Movies by the visionary Christopher Nolan are known to have such an impact. Oppenheimer is Nolan’s much-anticipated twelfth feature cinematic masterpiece written and directed by him. 
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Lights, Camera, Action at Princeton! After World War II, Oppenheimer’s journey took him to Princeton, New Jersey, where he became a school director. Nolan captured this phase of his life with scenes shot on the Princeton University campus. Murphy, Damon, and Downey Jr. were spotted filming in different corners of the campus, including the iconic East Pyne Library archway. The streets of New Jersey also set the stage for additional scenes, adding authenticity to the scientist’s post-war life.

So, brace yourself for a back-in-time, thought-provoking cinematic masterpiece that blends biography, history, drama, and the enthralling storytelling of Christopher Nolan. We are sure that, with Nolan’s touch, we will not just watch a movie on 21 July. Oppenheimer will leave us thinking and contemplating for a while about the ethical implications of power, war and the moral dilemmas that go hand in hand with scientific advancements. Lights, Camera, Action, Nuclear History!

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