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Barbie Vs. Oppenheimer: The Ultimate Showdown

Barbie Vs. Oppenheimer: The Ultimate Showdown

By: Spencer Pfaff Opinion

Barbie Vs. Oppenheimer; The Ultimate Showdown


The “Barbenheimer” craze has been immense since early 2023, and it shows no signs of slowing down. News articles are

still being written about them, and both movies are still topping the box office well into their sixth week in theaters. The phenomenon originated from the release date of the two movies being announced for the same day. According to the Associated Press, American Multi-Cinema (AMC) saw 20,000 members book back to back showings of the two movies, further enhancing the extreme popularity of the films. 

Oppenheimer Synopsis

“Oppenheimer Poster” courtesy of Universal Pictures

Oppenheimer is a dramatic and existential biopic following the life of J. Robert Oppenheimer played by Ciillian Murphy, who is the father of the atomic bomb. Starting from his life as a student in London, and progressing all the way to his old age, where he received an award for his work on the Manhattan Project. Along the way, Oppenheimer meets several historically significant people of the 20th century, including Albert Einstein played by Tom Conti, President Truman played by Gary Oldman, Niels Bohr played by Kenneth Branaugh, and General Leslie Groves played by Matt Damon. Oppenheimer is selected by General Groves to lead the Manhattan Project. Years after the success of the Trinity Test, Oppenheimer is dragged through a sham trial, orchestr

ated by Lewis Strauss played by Robert Downey Jr. for potential communist allegiances, in which he has to deal with the consequences of his creation on the world. 


Barbie Synopsis

Barbie, while on the surface appearing as a light-hearted comedy starring everyone’s favorite doll, is no less existential than Oppenheimer. Barbie grapples with the reality of being human and Ken struggles to find his identity in one of the greatest musical performances of the past 100 years. The movie starts with Barbie, played by Margot Robbie, living in Barbie land, where everything is perfect. Bar

“Barbie Poster” courtesy of Warner Bros.

bie begins to question her own mortality, so she decides to take a journey to the real world in order to find out why she feels this way. Unbeknownst to her, Ken, masterfully played by Ryan Gosling, joins her for the ride. In the real world, Barbie seeks out her owner to get to the root


of her problems, while Ken finds out about the patriarchy. Barbie, while trying to find her owner played by America Ferrera, runs into Mattel, the company which owns Barbie which is run by the CEO played by Will Ferrell, and a chase ensues. Barbie manages to get back to Barbie land, only to find that Ken has instilled a patriarchy of the Kens. Barbie formulates a plan to turn the Kens against one another. While they’re fighting, Barbie reinstates the Barbie led government, and everything ends happily ever after.


While it is apparent that these are two very different movies, created for two very distinct audiences, and by two very talented directors, the film world demands an answer to the question; which is better? Just keep in mind that this answer is definitive and whatever is said here is fact, and should be treated as such. So, without further ado, let us begin.


Both of these films have striking visuals whether it be the toy-like wonder of Barbie land, or the apocalyptic inferno of the atomic bomb in Oppenheimer. I’m going to give the best visuals to Oppenheimer, as Barbie spends a lot of its time in the real world which is somewhat bland compared to Barbie land. Oppenheimer has a never ending series of beautiful landscapes and of course the unforgettable, haunting imagery of the atomic bomb. 


Sound is a very underrated aspect of movies, but I feel that sound can make or break a movie. Sound, for the purposes of this comparison, includes music/score as well as sound editing. Barbie has some undeniable hits on its soundtrack, “I’m Just Ken” immediately comes to mind, but outside of those songs there is little to note. On the other hand, Oppenheimer has not only a spectacular score composed by Ludwig Göransson, but also amazing sound editing, particularly with the atomic bomb which leaves you in suspense, and then absolutely obliterates your eardrums. Oppenheimer wins this one, but it does hurt me to go against “I’m Just Ken.” 


While the main character of J. Robert Oppenheimer is very deep and well fleshed out, all the other characters in the movie lack much depth. Barbie, on the other hand, has two deep and well fleshed out characters, each with their own arcs. So, by sheer numbers, Barbie takes the category of best characters. 


The plots are where these movies really differ. Barbie is a more linear story filled with humor whereas Oppenheimer is very bleak and nonlinear, jumping between different points in time. This method of storytelling makes the movie, while interesting, oftentimes very complicated and hard to follow. Oppenheimer tends to drag, especially towards the end, so best plot goes to Barbie.


These movies both target very different emotions, and they both achieve them with flying colors. Oppenheimer aims to make you leave the theater terrified and hopeless, whereas Barbie aims to make you leave the theater optimistic and hopeful for the future. Both of these films achieve these goals so it comes down mainly to personal opinion. Looking at it as objectively as possible, as an average movie goer, I believe Barbie wins this one, as the general audience would probably favor feeling happy over feeling depressed most of the time. 


Both of these films are clearly fantastic, and I highly encourage watching both of them, preferably more than once each. However there can only be one winner, and Barbie takes the cake. According to the chart, the public of RCHS agrees. There’s a reason that “Barbie” comes first in “Barbenheimer”. 

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About the Contributor
Spencer Pfaff
Spencer Pfaff, Reporter
Spencer Pfaff is a junior at Rockbridge County High School. This is his first year writing for the Prowler. He is an accomplished swimmer, placing sixth and seventh at the Virginia Class 3 State Championship meet in both the 50 and 100 freestyle. He achieved all-district third team in the 50 freestyle. Pfaff is also on the academic team and involved in Model UN. He is also a member of the National Honor Society. During his freetime, Pfaff enjoys watching TV, of which his favorite shows are “The Office”, “Breaking Bad”, and “Arrested Development”. His favorite subject in school is History, so he is currently taking AP US history. 

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