Oppenheimer’s Rotten Tomatoes Bucks A 21-Year-Old Nolan Trend, Is Secretly Even Better Than It Looks

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Summary

  • Oppenheimer’s critical acclaim and high scores on Rotten Tomatoes prove that audiences were eager to see Christopher Nolan’s biopic and that it was worth the hype.
  • The Top Critics score of 96% for Oppenheimer is Nolan’s highest score to date and shows that the movie resonated strongly with influential critics.
  • Oppenheimer’s dark and complex storytelling, blending elements from Nolan’s past films, explores weighty ethical questions and delves into the consequences of decisions made during a historical event.

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While Oppenheimer’s Rotten Tomatoes score was already impressive, the critical consensus recently ended a decades-long trend for director Christopher Nolan’s movies. Oppenheimer’s impressive opening weekend proves that audiences wanted to see Christopher Nolan’s biopic of the famous physicist, and the movie’s rapturous critical recreation proves there was good reason for its success. Oppenheimer received almost universally positive reviews, with some critics calling it the best movie of 2023 so far. Cillian Murphy’s performance in the title role has been called career-best work, while Nolan’s direction has been praised for both its invention and its measured reserve.

While there is some criticism of the movie, most of the major discourse surrounds questions like whether Oppenheimer should have depicted Hiroshima and Nagasaki’s bombings. While the ethical and moral qualms of the biopic are up for debate, no one is denying that Oppenheimer is a super movie in technical terms. That said, Christopher Nolan’s movies have never struggled with critics. However, they have sometimes proven more popular with Critics than Top Critics on Rotten Tomatoes. Nolan hasn’t had a film that proved more popular with Top Critics than Critics since 2002.


Oppenheimer’s Top Critics Score Is Higher Than Its Critics Score, Nolan’s First Time Since Insomnia

Cillian Murphy Oppenheimer standing amidst a cheering crowd in Oppenheimer.

Nolan’s more divisive efforts, like 2014’s Interstellar and 2005’s Batman Begins, fared significantly better with Critics than Top Critics on Rotten Tomatoes. In contrast, Oppenheimer’s Critics score is 94 percent, but its Top Critics score is 96 percent. While Oppenheimer’s critical acclaim has been impressive in general, this is a particularly notable achievement. Nolan’s last movie with a Top Critics score that beat its Critics score was 2002’s Insomnia, which earned 94 percent from Top Critics and 92 percent from Critics. As if that weren’t enough, the feedback gets even better for Nolan when the data is analyzed more closely.

Movie

Critics Score

Top Critics Score

Oppenheimer

94%

96%

Tenet

69%

68%

Dunkirk

92%

91%

Interstellar

73%

66%

The Dark Knight Rises

87%

79%

Inception

87%

84%

The Dark Knight

94%

88%

The Prestige

76%

63%

Batman Begins

84%

68%

Insomnia

92%

94%

Memento

83%

N/A

Oppenheimer’s 96 percent score with Top Critics is also the highest score of Nolan’s career so far. Meanwhile, Oppenheimer’s 94 percent score from Critics is currently joint-highest with 2008’s The Dark Knight. While The Dark Knight was a huge hit with critics upon release, none of Nolan’s subsequent movies could quite recapture its critical acclaim. However, Oppenheimer’s adaptation of American Prometheus successfully outdid Nolan’s entire oeuvre to date, with the biopic matching The Dark Knight’s Critics’ score while also giving the director the highest Top Critics score of his career.

Why Oppenheimer’s Rotten Tomatoes Score Is So Good (Especially With Top Critics)

Cillian Murphy as Oppenheimer with ratings stars and the rotten tomatoes fresh logo

Oppenheimer’s Rotten Tomatoes score is so impressive because the movie plays into many of Nolan’s strengths. An ambitious, non-linear story of lethal ambition and its human cost, Oppenheimer blends the twisty storytelling of The Prestige with real-life inspiration. The philosophical questions of The Dark Knight trilogy are rendered far darker and more complex as Oppenheimer takes viewers inside the room where decision-makers decide whether or not to decimate a civilian population via atomic bombing. Meanwhile, Dunkirk’s war story receives a heavier, more ambiguous expansion with Oppenheimer’s grim study of a man wrestling with his instrumental role in one of history’s greatest atrocities.