New Oppenheimer documentary announced — just in time for the first director’s birthday

The documentary, to be released in July, explores the continuing impact of Oppenheimer’s legacy on the Laboratory’s science and mission today

April 19, 2023


Get ready! This July, the National Security Research Center (NSRC), Los Alamos National Laboratory’s classified research library, will release a new, unclassified documentary about J. Robert Oppenheimer, the Lab’s first director and leader of Project Y under the direction of Manhattan Project leader Gen. Leslie Groves. The movie is currently scheduled to be premiered for employees on July 26, after which it will be made available to the public.

Watch the trailer

Experts tell the story

“The Lab is in a unique position to tell this story, thanks to our historic collections, which actually began as Oppenheimer's wartime technical library during the Manhattan Project,” said Brye Steeves, director of the NSRC. “Oppenheimer’s legacy is part of our legacy today. The work that he began underlies our contributions today to our nation's security.”

The approximately hourlong documentary tells the story of Oppenheimer’s life at the Laboratory using notes, photos and films from the NSRC’s special collection and through interviews with the Laboratory’s past and present leadership, historians, physicists and biographers. Interviewees include current Laboratory Director Thom Mason; former Director Charlie McMillan; Kai Bird, author of the Oppenheimer biography “American Prometheus”; Jim Kunetka, author of “The General and the Genius”; and recently retired U.S. Senate staffer Tim Rieser, who was instrumental in vacating the revocation of Oppenheimer’s security clearance, among others.

Just in time for Oppie’s birthday — and the Laboratory’s 80th anniversary

The release of the documentary trailer is just in time for what would have been Oppie’s 119th birthday on April 22. It also coincides with the Laboratory’s 80th anniversary, which is also celebrated in the month of April. 

It was many birthdays ago, when J. Robert Oppenheimer was only 38 years old and had no previous administrative experience, that he accepted responsibility for a national security mission of unprecedented scale.

His charge was to lead a team of the world’s foremost scientific minds in developing the first atomic bomb. Under Oppenheimer’s leadership, a community of more than 6,000 scientists, engineers and other personnel living and working at the top-secret lab in Los Alamos completed their task in only 27 months, delivering the world’s first two atomic weapons to the U.S. military.