Barbenheimer & Oppenbarbie: The Unlikely Mashup Taking The Internet By Storm

Upcoming films, Barbie and Oppenheimer, couldn't be more different. Greta Gerwig promises to transport us to childhood fantasies filled with shiny, plastic fantastic dreamhouses. Meanwhile, Christopher Nolan's movie is what nightmares are made of, as a dark biographical thriller about J. Robert Oppenheimer, the physicist who developed the nuclear bomb.
Yet, here I find myself — along with tens of thousands of other moviegoers — feeling the urge to watch both films consecutively on the very same day, thanks to a trend coined on TikTok: Barbenheimer or Oppenbarbie.
While their genres, themes and cinematography differ drastically, these two blockbusters happen to premiere on the very same day, July 20. At first glance, it appears that all it's taken is this somewhat trivial similarity to drive the unlikeliest of viewers to rearrange their schedules during a random week of July, just to get the best of both worlds. But there's more to this phenomenon than meets the eye.
Barbie and Oppenheimer are the perfect match for a movie marathon at your local cinema. The question of which one to watch before the other is another consideration in itself, which I'll get to later. They work so well together because they're two of the most highly-anticipated films of 2023, capitalising on personalities that have made an undeniable mark on history and human interactions in their own ways.
The hype surrounding both movies has been second to none. From clothing, beauty and lifestyle brand collaborations to a star-studded global cast tour, the promotion for Margot Robbie's Barbie is virtually inescapable at this point, tapping into childhood nostalgia and driving us to invest in all things Barbiecore. The buzz around Oppenheimer speaks for itself. The universal reverence for Nolan's filmmaking legacy commands attention, as does a high-profile cast that includes Matt Damon, Cillian Murphy, Robert Downey Jr and Rami Malek. The biggest talking point is that Nolan creates a nuclear explosion scene without using CGI, which is again a testament to the lengths he'll go to to create an unforgettable original setting.
In a time when FOMO couldn't be more real and TikTok leaves no spoiler unturned, how can you possibly miss the chance to watch both movies on release day, and revel in the fanfare of it all at the same time?
As my WhatsApp group chat goes into overdrive, my friends and I have plenty of things to consider. Which film do we watch first? Which cinemas are even screening both films at times that suit our preferred order, and what will we wear?
If you've jumped on the Barbenheimer bandwagon, you're watching Barbie first. You're not fazed that a screen of all shades of pink will be overshadowed by a darker colour palette and explosions when you watch Oppenheimer straight after.
But if you're like me and choosing the Oppenbarbie option, you've decided to plunge into the darkness of Oppenheimer first, before relieving the doom and gloom with a pastel-filled escape to Barbieland. I can imagine us sipping on espresso martinis in Gold Class to kick off the moody movie date. Then, as we take off our trench coats to reveal our all-pink getups underneath, we'll kick back with a round of umbrella-lined margaritas, or sugary-sweet frozen Coke and choc tops.
While there's speculation about which movie will trump at the box office, it's a huge win for the film biz as a whole. Last year saw movie-goers slowly acclimatise themselves to going back to an in-person cinema off the back of the pandemic, but it's undeniable that this is the first true cinematic "event" to take hold around the world in years — and the ticket boom can only help the industry.
"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," Christopher Nolan told IGN.
Meanwhile, Oppenheimer star Cillian Murphy also responded to the craze.
"My advice would be for people to go see both, on the same day," he told Spanish publication La Vanguardia, explaining that "if they are good films", then that's a win for cinema.
The best thing about watching these worlds collide is that both remind us that rules don't matter. As Barbie star Kate McKinnon said to Vanity Fair this week, her suggestion is to watch "Barbie, then Oppenheimer, then Barbie again. And then maybe just [eat] some pizza".
And on that note, I shall return to my WhatsApp group... because now that I think of it, how's #Barbenheimerbarbie with a side of super supreme for a girls' day out?
Want more? Get Refinery29 Australia’s best stories delivered to your inbox each week. Sign up here!    

More from Movies