Oppenheimer Called Out By Spike Lee For Failing To Include One Key Scene

By Chad Langen | Updated

Matt Damon and Cillian Murphy in Oppenheimer

Spike Lee, the renowned director behind powerful films like BlacKkKlansman, has never hesitated to share his opinions on the works of his contemporaries, regardless of their stature in Hollywood. In an interview with The Washington Post, Lee discussed Christopher Nolan’s war epic Oppenheimer, pointing out an element he felt was lacking. While he acknowledged the film’s cinematic excellence, Lee expressed a wish for the movie to have showcased the devastating impact on the Japanese, poignantly noting, “People got vaporized.”

“If [‘Oppenheimer’] is three hours, I would like to add some more minutes about what happened to the Japanese people. People got vaporized. Many years later, people are radioactive.”

Spike Lee

Spike Lee’s comments on Christopher Nolan’s Oppenheimer were notably restrained compared to his past critiques of other directors and their work. He holds Nolan in high regard, referring to him as a “massive filmmaker” and emphasizing that his observations aren’t criticisms.

Regarding the omission of the nuclear bombings’ impact on Japan, Lee said that he believes that Nolan possesses the influence to have included that aspect if he so desired.

“It’s not like he [Christopher Nolan] didn’t have power. He tells studios what to do. I would have loved to have the end of the film maybe show what it did, dropping those two nuclear bombs on Japan.”

Spike Lee

Despite not portraying the profound aftermath of the two nuclear bombings in Japan, Oppenheimer achieved phenomenal summer success, raking in over $930 million globally. It stands as Christopher Nolan’s third top-grossing film, surpassed only by 2008’s The Dark Knight and 2012’s The Dark Knight Rises.

cillian murphy
Cillian Murphy in Oppenheimer

Impressively, this success came even as it faced stiff competition from Barbie, another major summer blockbuster released on the same day.

Not only did Oppenheimer triumph at the box office, but it also received overwhelming acclaim from critics and audiences alike. With an impressive score of 93 percent from critics and 91 percent from general viewers on Rotten Tomatoes, its impact is undeniable. Furthermore, the film has likely garnered around 12 Oscar nominations, including nods for best picture and best director.

“Understand, this is all love. And I bet [Christoher Nolan] could tell me some things he would change about ‘Do the Right Thing’ and ‘Malcolm X.’”

Spike Lee

Oppenheimer paints a vivid picture of J. Robert Oppenheimer, the brilliant theoretical physicist who stood at the forefront of the American endeavor to birth the atomic bomb. Set against the tense backdrop of World War II, the film dives deep into the Manhattan Project, showcasing not just the scientific achievements but also the high-stakes politics and pressures surrounding it.

Yet, at its heart, the story reveals the weighty ethical dilemmas and personal challenges faced by those pushing the boundaries of destructive power.

Christopher Nolan’s film, which is based on Kai Bird and Martin J. Sherwin’s 2005 biography of Oppenheimer, goes beyond mere historical events, offering a glimpse into Oppenheimer’s own inner world, riddled with conflict and contemplation.

Despite the looming significance of the 1945 bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, the film, echoing Spike Lee’s observation, refrains from depicting the atrocities, centering instead on its protagonist’s emotional journey. It’s a narrative choice that left viewers pondering the profound implications of human actions and the costs of innovation.

Oppenheimer debuted on July 21 and continues to be screened in theaters globally, though a release date for Japan has yet to be set. Christopher Nolan took the helm as both the writer and director of the film. The stellar cast features talents such as Cillian Murphy, Emily Blunt, Robert Downey Jr., Alden Ehrenreich, Scott Grimes, Jason Clarke, Kurt Koehler, Tony Goldwyn, John Gowans, Macon Blair, and Harry Groener.