BARBIE vs OPPENHEIMER: Who Won the Barbenheimer Showdown?

One of the biggest weekends in Hollywood history delivered everything audiences hoped for and more. Barbie and Oppenheimer are both critical and box office hits. More importantly their combined force has reignited the public’s love affair with going to the movies.

But we know it’s not enough to simply enjoy each film for what it is. Only a fool would let themselves appreciate two distinct works of art on their own merits. I mean, they had the audacity to come out on the same day! That kind of confrontational release schedule, which was pretty common not that long ago, is basically begging very smart people to declare one a winner instead of celebrating that each is elevating the other while also lifting the entire medium and industry. And since we’re not idiots we’re pitting each film head-to-head in a scientific, totally objective, totally serious Barbenheimer showdown. And we’re doing that with categories that apply equally to both films.

Margot Robbie's Barbie looking worried split with Cillian Murphy's Oppenheimer in a hat and suit
Warner Bros./Universal Pictures

Best Explosion

In a matchup this tough it’s always nice to start with a layup. Obviously this goes to the movie which features an explosion of neon-pink. Advantage: Barbie

Barbie stands with her back facing us as she waves at all the Barbieland dream houses
Warner Bros.

Best Use of Color

This is another easy category to hand out. Only one is partially shot in black-and-white, making all of its scenes in color really stand out in comparison. A classic case of “less is more.” Advantage: Oppenheimer

cillian Murphy in a hat with a cigarette dangling from hhis mouth in Oppenheimer
Universal Pictures

Best Costumes

Barbie has great costumes, absolutely. But they’re mostly based on toys lots of people have purchased. That pre-existing template likely made it super easy to recreate countless extravagant, stunning, memorable looks. Meanwhile, Oppenheimer needed clothes covering a span of nearly 40 years, from 1924 to 1963. During that time men went from wearing dark suits and hats to slightly different dark suits and hats. And it’s not clear they even have cameras back then. Talk about a tough assignment! Advantage: Oppenheimer

Cillian Murphy in a hat and suit surrounded by other men in Oppenheimer
Universal Pictures

Most Times Saying the Movie’s Title

People say “Barbie” a lot in Barbie, but they also say “Oppenheimer” a lot in Oppenheimer. We tried to count each instance but lost track of both after roughly 20 minutes, so this analysis is maybe a little less objective than we’d like. Considering people sometimes chant or call him “Oppy,” whereas no one ever calls her “Barb,” we feel good about which one is probably correct. Advantage: Barbie

Best Musical Number

Tough break for Oppenheimer. Despite being three hours long, director Christopher Nolan inexplicably didn’t find room for a single musical number. Will that cost the movie at the Oscars? It definitely won’t help. Meanwhile “ I’m Just Ken” will likely take home three or four Academy Awards on its own. Advantage: Barbie

Best Use of a Line From the Sacred Hindu Text the Bhagavad Gita

We swear this is true: nothing said in Barbie comes directly from the Bhagavad Gita. No, not even anything Weird Barbie says We can’t believe it either! Advantage: Oppenheimer

Cillian Murphy as Oppenheimer from Oppenheimer Opening Look movie trailer
Universal Pictures

Second Best Use of a Line From the Sacred Hindu Text the Bhagavad Gita

More like “Now I am become repetitive, the repeater of words,” amirite? But a technical win is still a win, so… Advantage: Oppenheimer

Smartest Lead Character

Who adds a random “J” to the start of their name for no reason? Oppenheimer was literally no Einstein. Meanwhile, Stereotypical Barbie was busy saving her world with a genius plan while the “brilliant” scientist was busy blowing up his. Advantage: Barbie

Margot Robbie's Barbie in a pink and white dress stands between Simu Liu and Ryan Gosling's Kens on the beach
Warner Bros.

Biggest Crybaby (In a Good Way)

Some of Barbie‘s best, most emotional, most important scenes feature its lead character crying. Advantage: Barbie

Margot Robbie's Barbie in pink and a cowboy hat with a single tear running down her face
Warner Bros.

Biggest Crybaby (In a Bad Way)

How many people in history have had the sitting U.S. President call them a “crybaby” in the Oval Office? Gotta be a small list. Advantage: Oppenheimer

Oppenheimer (Cillian Murphy) touches his head, deep in thought of the horrible thing he'll unleash.
Universal Pictures


Uh oh. Our thorough, all-encompassing categories—meticulously designed to fairly compare a heartfelt, lively comedy about an iconic toy that explores what it means to be a woman and a grand, somber biopic about one of the most consequential and complicated scientists in history—resulted in a final score of 5-5-1. You don’t need to be an astrophysicist to know that equals a tie. We haven’t been this disappointed since we found out the patriarchy isn’t just about horses. Better add one more category to break it.

Best Existential Crisis By a Main Character About How Their Life Hurt So Many People

Advantage: Push

Margot Robbie's Barbie in blue split with Cillian Murphy's wind streaked face in Oppenheimer
Warner Bros./Universal Pictures

Dang. Looks like there’s no clear “winner” in our big Barbenheimer showdown.


Cillian Murphy's Oppenheimer in all black split with Margot Robbie's Barbie in pink
Universal Pictures/Warner Bros

…Is it possible no one “won?” In fact, is it actually childish to evaluate art in a binary way that diminishes movies into arbitrary winners and losers? Should we instead focus on each film’s deep themes that get to the very nature of what it means to exist and how we help shape the world we live in? In fact, aren’t the real winners everyone who loves movies, because we got two excellent, star-studded original films by talented directors on the same day?

Yeah, maybe. But we’re going to go see both movies a few more times just to be sure.

Mikey Walsh is a staff writer at Nerdist. You can follow him on Twitter at  @burgermike. And also anywhere someone is ranking the Targaryen kings.

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