The Physical Release Of Oppenheimer Proves The Importance Of Physical Media


Over the past couple of years, I’ve become more adamant about the benefits of physical media. Not only do I like just having a bunch of movies on a shelf for display, but I’m very aware of how temperamental studios are with allowing access to their films. In an age where streaming services are the biggest games in town and they can effortlessly take down a movie and prevent anyone from ever seeing it again, limiting what films an audience can even see, physical media has become a more and more important part of my role as a film critic. I’m collecting the movies that I think are worthwhile and deserve preservation. I can’t collect every film in the world, but I can collect a curated library of quality cinema. And now I can say that Oppenheimer is in my library.

I bring this up because recently Christopher Nolan made several major statements about Oppenheimer’s Blu-ray release and how you should own it to make sure that “no evil streaming service can come steal it from you.” In recent years, Christopher Nolan has become much more outspoken in preserving the theatrical experience, going so far as to leave Warner Bros. over their alterations to Tenet’s release strategy during the COVID-19 pandemic and shopping Oppenheimer to different studios. Say what you will about the man and the self-important status he imposes on his art, when he has a vision, he has a vision and he sees it through to the end.

With all of this talk about the high quality of the Oppenheimer Blu-ray, as well as my own adoration of the movie, I was able to secure a copy of the Blu-ray thanks to Universal to try and see if Nolan’s praise for his film’s physical release was worth the hype or not. There were a ton of special features that were claimed to be on the Blu-ray, but if I’m going to be honest, for as much as I may love having a physical release of a film, I don’t really look much at the special features of a film. I’m not particularly interested in how a movie is made. I only really care about the final results. That being said, I was curious about one thing about the creation of Oppenheimer; I wanted to see how they replicated the Trinity test and depicted a nuclear explosion with practical effects. So for the first time in years, I decided to watch the special features of a film to get my answer.

Oppenheimer Blu-Ray

Director Christopher Nolan speaks in celebration of the OPPENHEIMER Home Entertainment release, Universal Pictures presents the World Premiere of THE STORY OF OUR TIME: THE MAKING OF OPPENHEIMER at the Linwood Dunn Theatre in Los Angeles , CA on Monday, November 13th, 2023
(photo: Alex J. Berliner/ABImages)

In general, I love the amount of content that’s available here. While other physical media releases may only include a handful of special features, Oppenheimer’s physical release goes into detail on virtually everything you would want to know about the production.  Of course, there’s the cast and crew providing their own commentary on how they developed their own characters, but there’s far more you can learn by watching the special features here. Want to know about the history of Oppenheimer and how his life served as the foundation for the film? There’s a section for it. Want to know how the score was as impactful as it was? Composer Ludwig Goransson details their process of crafting the film’s soundtrack. And most importantly for me, I saw how Nolan and his team were able to replicate the Trinity test without CGI. And it was worth it for that feature alone.

I don’t recall the last time I ever really became this invested in learning more about a film. I think it may be the intermingling of film and history, but I watched all of the special feature sections and just marveled at the production of the film. There’s a genuine passion and craft that’s on display in all of these features and it feels like Nolan went above and beyond to make sure that this would be the definitive Oppenheimer experience.

But one of the biggest challenges that Nolan had in bringing the film to home media was preserving the theatrical experience within your own home. When I saw the film in IMAX over the summer, it was the first time in years I had decided that IMAX was the way to go for viewing the film and I was floored by it at moments. So translating the film to a smaller screen would probably have diminished the power of the film in some areas, but I think that the film translated well to home video. I admit, I didn’t give the film my undivided attention when I was watching it a few days ago (I had Thanksgiving to prep for after all), but it sounded exactly like I remembered it and the Trinity test was just as impactful and marvelous as I remember.

Oppenheimer Blu-Ray

Cillian Murphy is J. Robert Oppenheimer in OPPENHEIMER, written, produced, and directed by Christopher Nolan.

And that’s pretty spectacular in its own right. I can now say I own a copy of Oppenheimer that captured everything I remembered and loved about the movie. And I own it! I’m not beholden by Paramount, Warner Bros, or any other company that can and will restrict when I have access to this film. It’s now in my collection and as long as I have a Blu-ray player somewhere in my house, I can watch the film whenever I feel like it and without having to pay any extra fees for it. I bought it once, it’s mine now, plain and simple. I will encourage anyone and everyone who is a fan of the film, and from what I can tell there are a lot of fans given that it grossed nearly $1 billion at the box office, to pick up the physical release of the film. I would probably steer them to the Blu-ray just so they have access to all of the nifty special features here, but owning any version of the film is fine in my eyes.

It’s rare for me to advocate like this, but Guillermo del Toro is right when he says that owning physical media is a responsibility. I hope that any and all films are able to get snazzy physical releases like this and that streaming services see the artistic value of having physical copies of their titles made available. Some probably won’t, like Netflix, but a man can dream. Now excuse me while I pre-order my Criterion Collection copy of Pinocchio.

Jesse Lab
The strange one. The one born and raised in New Jersey. The one who raves about anime. The one who will go to bat for DC Comics, animation, and every kind of dog. The one who is more than a tad bit odd. The Features Editor.